Hey everyone! I have a special treat for you today. No, not a new fantasy romance from me – though I’m working on it! But my good friend Veronica Scott has taken a break from her stellar science-fiction romances and brought a new fantasy romance into the world for our delighted consumption.
I’m happy to have her guest post here today. Take it away, Veronica!
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Thank you so much for having my as your guest today! And congratulations on the RWA RITA nomination for Pages of the Mind, one of my favorite books.
Before we get to the exclusive excerpt, a bit of background about my new release, The Captive Shifter (Magic of Claddare Book 1. This novel is my first foray into writing fantasy romance, featuring witches and shifters in an alternate world. I actually wrote the kernel of the story back in 2010, as my first attempt to sit down and seriously aim for publication, versus ‘just’ telling stories for myself and my family to enjoy. Along the way, I got sidetracked from this manuscript by a submission call from Carina Press for romances set in the ancient world and ended up publishing Priestess of the Nile with them. That book had paranormal and fantasy elements and sent me down a path of writing more stories in the Gods of Egypt series (no relation to the awesomely awful movie of the same name!). At the same time I self-published my first science fiction romance novel and really found a home in the SFR world. So much so I’ve concentrated primarily on that genre ever since, with a few forays to ancient Egypt along the way.
But The Captive Shifter was always there in the back of my mind because I really loved the characters, Kyler the leopard shifter and Caitlyn the witch. Periodically I’d return to working on the story and had sent it to my freelance editors, so by this year it was 90% ready to go. When my current SFR novel experienced schedule delays in editing, I thought this was my perfect moment to finish the final edits on Shifter, get a gorgeous cover from Fiona Jayde and see if readers might enjoy my venture into fantasy romance. I have all kinds of sequels lined up in my head, depending on whether there’s a demand from anyone other than myself to know more about the magical world of Claddare and its people.
Concealing her own considerable magical powers, Caitlyn enters the service of the northern Witch Queen masquerading as a simple healer. Under order from her goddess, she’s searching for a magical gem stolen long ago from her own people, believed to be hidden in the massive castle. The task is daunting but Caitlyn is sure she can locate the gem and escape, bringing the prize back to the temple where it belongs. Until she meets the captive shifter and her loyalties become dangerously divided.
In payment for her past services to his people, Kyler the leopard shifter has entered into a life of servitude far from his forest home, allowing the Witch Queen to tap his magic to power her ever darker spells. Factions at Court are threatening to turn the Queen to the Shadow. Her increasing demands for magic will cut short his nearly immortal lifespan. Kyler’s resigned to his fate until the day he crosses paths with the new arrival, whose secrets and magic entice and attract both man and leopard. Has he met his mate at last?
The Queen will never willingly release him from captivity. Caitlyn’s goddess refuses to grant her any delay in accomplishing her own task. Can they locate the magical gem, fight the Shadow and win free of the Witch Queen to earn the right to be together?
The excerpt – Cailyn’s first experience with how magic is practiced in the Witch Queen’s city and how Kyler the Shifter is required to lend his support to the spell casting. As a man, he lies drugged in the center of the altar sands:
The princesses began a new chant, slowly dancing around the altar counterclockwise. Power sparked and flared, spewing purple and red starbursts in the air. The apprentices sang a capella, weaving a counterpoint to the song. Caitlyn mouthed the words, not giving them voice, certainly adding no magic. Hot anger suffused her entire body, watching Kyler used as a source of power for the purposes of others. Her heart hammered in her chest so hard she was amazed no one heard the pounding.
Fists tightly clenched, she closed her eyes, launching a mental search for him in the dreamspace, almost without realizing she’d done it.
The room, the smells and the overpowering chants faded from her consciousness.
She was standing in a small forest clearing. Long tail thrashing side to side, an agitated leopard paced at the far side of the glade. The huge cat raised its head and yowled, then resumed patrolling the tree line. Apparently scenting her arrival, the leopard spun, hunkering close to the ground, snarling, the great green eyes locked on her.
Caitlyn retreated one instinctive step as the cat stalked her, belly low to the ground.
“Kyler,” she said barely above a whisper. The cat paused for a moment, ears twitching before creeping closer. Trying to master her fear, Caitlyn shut her eyes, despite the predator stalking her. I don’t need to be afraid of Kyler. Having gotten her emotions under control, she opened her eyes to find the leopard crouched at her feet, gazing at her. She reached out with one shaking hand and the cat pushed to meet her fingers, positioning its head for her to rub. She scratched behind one black velvet ear and under the chin, rewarded by a rumbling purr.
A storm raged in the forest and lightning flashed in the skies. Winds howled through the trees over her head but no breeze wafted through the clearing, no rain fell. The ground shook with a particularly loud blast of thunder. Ears flattened, the leopard snarled at the sky, prowling away from Caitlyn as if seeking escape, yet always circling to her side sooner or later. Finally, the beast flung itself on the mossy earth, panting.
She knelt beside him, stroking the velvet ears. Caitlyn murmured comforting words while the leopard closed its eyes and burrowed closer to her, laying his head in her lap, wrapping the great forepaws around her, deadly claws sheathed.
She realized he was shivering. Small growls worked their way from his throat.
“You’re not alone, I’m here,” she said quietly. She continued to stroke the cat’s plush fur, admiring the velvet spots in the pale gray coat, tracing them with her fingertip. She kept one eye on the lightning and the swirls of power filling the air. After each crash of thunder the edge of the clearing shrunk closer.
“Queen Margred takes too much,” Caitlyn said, enraged beyond all reason on his behalf. “You’ll die if she keeps this up.” She gazed into the leopard’s glowing emerald eyes. The cat blinked first. “No spell of hers is worth your death.”
There was an iridescent shimmer in the air, like a thousand dragonfly wings, and vibration under her hands. She watched as the leopard faded, shifted, changed—until the man lay on his side, with his head in her lap and his arms curled to hold her in a tight embrace.
“I don’t care if she kills me,” he said, flat, cold. “At least then my captivity will end. Death equals freedom.”
Caitlyn didn’t know what to say to such despair.
I don’t do pre-orders (because I’ve heard too many horror stories) but you can sign up for my newsletter or follow the blog, follow me on Amazon – but you can be sure I’ll be tweeting and talking about the novel on social media when it’s available! I won’t be keeping it a secret LOL. The book will be available on all major ebook retail sites as of April 3rd and the buy links will be added to this post on my blog: https://veronicascott.wordpress.com/2017/03/23/cover-reveal-the-captive-shifter/
Author Bio and Links:
Best Selling Science Fiction, Fantasy & Paranormal Romance author and “SciFi Encounters” columnist for the USA Today Happy Ever After blog, Veronica Scott grew up in a house with a library as its heart. Dad loved science fiction, Mom loved ancient history and Veronica thought there needed to be more romance in everything. When she ran out of books to read, she started writing her own stories.
Seven time winner of the SFR Galaxy Award, as well as a National Excellence in Romance Fiction Award, Veronica is also the proud recipient of a NASA Exceptional Service Medal relating to her former day job, not her romances! She recently was honored to read the part of Star Trek Crew Member in the audiobook production of Harlan Ellison’s “The City On the Edge of Forever.”