BOOK 3 in The Love Mark Series
Adult Fantasy Romance
Expected publication 27 OCt 2020
About 146,170 words, 414 pages
4-Flame Sensuality Rating
Due to a dark curse, the entire Graykey family has been marked for death. But Quilla Graykey has grown used to living on the run, constantly hiding and surviving under the radar of High Cliff soldiers, who’ve been sent out to hunt her down and destroy her.
So when a man bearing the mark of a High Clifter shows up on her trail, persistently tracking her, it’s really nothing new. Except she can’t seem to shake this guy. He keeps finding her, no matter how well she disguises herself. If she’s not careful, she might actually have to take a stand and fight him. Maybe even kill him.
But the handsome pursuer turns her world upside down when she discovers he’s not out to assassinate her after all, nor does he have a clue she’s a Graykey. His intentions are worse. He claims she’s his one true love, and curses, duty, or honor be damned; he’s not about to lose her. He wants to make her his happily ever after.
Used to eluding people and wanting to keep it that way, Quilla honestly has no idea how to avoid the likes of Indigo Moast.
Could this be the one evasion she can’t dodge?
I clapped my hands over my ears as another scream echoed down the hall, this one louder and closer than the last. It sounded like Mama.
When the cry stopped abruptly, I gave a thick swallow, tucked my knees up to my chest, and squeezed my eyes shut, rocking myself slowly back and forth.
I guess Mama was gone now. Just like Grandpa, Grandma, Daddy, my brother Quatro, and a handful of cousins.
I had just seen them all die.
I’d never witnessed a murder before.
And I didn’t want to ever again.
Huddled in the dirt behind the main staircase, I swiped the back of my hand across my upper lip when the slow trickle of something wet slid from my nose.
My wrist came away red and sticky.
Bleeding made sense. A hailstorm of debris had hit me pretty hard when Grandpa’s brother’s family had invaded the great dining hall by blowing out one of the sidewalls I’d been sitting near.
My palm trembled as I prodded my hair, checking for more wounds, and rubble dust fell from the ratted strands, landing on the frayed and grimy hem of my dress. As if they were lethal, I kicked the chunks of wall away with a bare, scraped toe—not sure when I’d lost my slippers—before I tucked my leg back under my skirt and returned myself to the fetal position, hugging my knees and rocking again.
Distant bellows and shrieks began to fade further away. I hummed to myself—just inside my mind though, so no one else could hear it—to block out the rest of the world.
But that didn’t help. Jolting when a shout sounded from nearby, I sucked in an involuntary gasp. Boots pounded closer. I tensed, fearing I’d been discovered. But the clanging of metal and swords slamming together told me the runner had been fleeing from someone else, and they weren’t coming for me.
I had no idea who was fighting this time. Honestly, it no longer mattered. As soon as my grandfather’s brother Orick and his family had invaded, everyone had turned on everyone else. It was impossible to know who to trust anymore. To know who was good.
One minute, Grandpa Obediah had been raising his goblet with a toast and smiling to celebrate Grandma’s birthday, then a loud boom made my ears ring.
Dust clogged my vision, and the next thing I knew, Grandpa’s head had landed on the floor, no longer connected to his body.
Utter madness followed. Brother turned against sister, husband against wife, mother against son.
I’d been so stunned watching my cousins Queen and Quote stabbing each other to death, I hadn’t even noticed my own brother Quatro charging toward me with a raised dagger until Mama had screamed a warning. I’d turned just in time to see her thrust a sword into the center of his back to stop him.
Frozen, I could only gape as the blade emerged through the front of his chest and blood bloomed across the cloth of his tunic. My mother had murdered one of my brothers. To save me.
I would’ve remained stupefied even longer, trying to process what was happening, but Mama had roared, “Run, Quilla, run!” just as Daddy rushed at her from behind, spear raised, only for Uncle Palmer to slay him with a battle-ax before he could reach her.
A whimper filled my throat. My entire family had gone insane. It could only mean one thing.
Another reaping had begun.