Hello beautiful people!
Only twenty-eight short days until The Fool is released on Smashwords and its premium distributors. It’ll be for free until January 18th, and then it will be available for $0.99. I’d like to take the next few weeks to give out ARCs of the 19k novella for anyone who is interested in reading and providing advanced reviews. Advanced reviews help encourage readers to take a chance on a new author and give you a chance to read a piece before everyone else!
Such exclusive. Much secret. Wow.
The Fool is the prologue to the Games We Play serial, the first book of which will be available in 2016. It takes place over the course of one night, and is intended for mature (18+) readers only. Of course, full paranormal romance because that’s my thang.
If you are interested in requesting an ARC and will be able to either post an advanced review or a review the week of the first release (December 28th), please contact me! I’d love to have you!
Please note that if you agree to accept an ARC version of The Fool, you will not distribute it elsewhere or post any extensive spoilers (without warnings).
“You look bored.”
The observation came two hours into the night, just as Delia reached the bottom of her first drink. She’d abandoned socializing for a bit, preferring to watch the interactions between couples and groups and individuals from a safe distance off to side. Scowling, she turned on her heel to stare down the idiot who made the comment, only to find her glare losing some of its venom when she spotted him. Lounging against the wall, the man was dressed simply in a black dress shirt rolled to his elbows and a pair of pressed black trousers. He might have looked like the hotel staff had it not been for the expensive watch and the gold and purple mask. Little bells jingled with the slightest movement, and she realized he’d chosen a jester’s mask for the evening.
Who voluntarily decides to be the fool at a masquerade ball?
At least she wasn’t the only one who missed the boat on the whole “formal” shtick.
Delia raised an eyebrow at him. “Excuse me?”
His overwhelming handsomeness didn’t excuse rudeness. Delia wasn’t bored. She was working. Like a serious vampire hunter who…was sick of watching idiots get progressively drunk. And mildly frustrated that she couldn’t tell vamp from human with all the pomp and circumstance.
Pushing himself off the wall, the stranger strolled toward her, oozing casual and collected like it was his job. She tried not to let her stare linger on the sharp cut of his jawline or the tousled effect of his dark hair—or the broadness of his shoulders and the taut muscularity of his arms. Tall but not excessively wide. Physically fit without being off-putting.
“I apologize,” he offered, a hand on his chest as he bowed a little. “You look beautiful, fair creature. Fairest of all the fair creatures this night—”
“Oh my god, okay,” Delia said with a slight groan, rolling her eyes as he straightened up. His smirk did not go unnoticed. “I’d rather be bored than whatever that was.”
His mask covered almost all of his face, stopping just above his lips. The dull gold hue of the part covering his face made his eyes stand out: bright blue, almost unnervingly so. Delia’s first thought was that they were the eyes of a vamp, and her defences shot up immediately.
“What’s your name, fair creature?” He held out his hand for her to shake, and Delia quickly tucked her clutch under her arm.
“Delia,” she said as she slipped her hand into his larger one, surprised at its warmth. Vamps were cold—frigid and dead. Diseased, some said. He was definitely human, but unfamiliar to her, even with the mask—not one of the local elites, that was for sure. “And yourself?”
“What is the purpose of wearing masks if we expose ourselves, Delia?” His grip tightened.
She yanked her hand away when she realized she’d been played. Lips pressed together irritably, she turned and refocused on the masquerade guests.
Moments later, a presence hovered dangerously close, well inside her personal bubble, and she flinched when he tucked her hair behind her shoulder.
“But you can call me the Fool if you wish.”
Music drifted languidly from speakers around the dance hall, and couples whirling around the floor barely missed a beat, moving this way and that, too wrapped up in themselves to notice when the songs changed. It was a more appealing sight than the one she was used to seeing on a dance floor: Kain and his boys grinding up on drunk girls, their sense of rhythm all but absent. Most here were intoxicated, but the costumes gave a degree of modesty, and no one, as far as she could see, was mashing pelvises.
She’d had a few conversations since leaving the bathroom, but the women flying solo were more interested in finding someone to spend the evening with, while most of the men fed her the same dull lines over and over again: Why was she alone? Where was her drink? Did she know her eyes sparkled like emeralds?
Delia had just barely escaped the last guy—his breath rank with alcohol—who kept guffawing in her face whenever he cracked a joke. So there she stood, hovering on the outskirts of the dance floor, unsure of her place.
Arms wrapped around herself, she watched a nearby couple as they danced. They were both young and slim, effortlessly gliding around like they’d done it a hundred times before. Maybe they had.
She blinked quickly, bringing herself out of her daze, and tightened her grip on her clutch as the jingling of bells grew louder. The Fool had found her again.
Throughout the night she’d spied that ridiculous gold and purple mask at a safe distance out of the corner of her eye. Sometimes she actually turned and looked, only to find him chatting with one or two other people.
“Delia,” he said, dipping his head cordially as he stood beside her.
She pursed her lips, noting the barely-there gap between their bodies.
She returned her gaze to the dancing couple. So elegant—hypnotic, even.
“Did you find who you were looking for?”
It took her a second to process the question, and she glanced his way curiously.
“Earlier,” the Fool continued with a nod in the direction of the garden. “You ran after someone. Did you find them?”
“No.” Delia squared her shoulders and let out a small sigh. “Just a look-alike. I don’t think the person I want to see will show tonight.”
“Pity.” The Fool sniffed, his gaze wandering the dancing couples. “Fortunate for me, however.”
She almost laughed. “Why?”
“Because now I can enjoy the pleasure of your company… uninterrupted.”
Delia forced away the incredulous look that flashed across her face, her lips threatening to turn upward in a smile, and finally faced him.
The Fool, however, continued to study the dancers, ignoring her narrowed stare.
“Does this usually work on girls?”
“What?” he asked innocently, sparing her a quick glance, a few of his bells jingling.
“This faux-formal crap you’re spouting.” She cocked her head to the side as she waited for a response.
Slowly, a smile spread across his face, lips pulling back to reveal a set of perfectly straight, perfectly white teeth. “I don’t know. Does it?”
“No,” she replied quickly, turning toward the dance floor again just before their eyes could meet. “It doesn’t.”
“Shame. And here I was thinking I’d been doing so well.”
“That’s presumptuous of you,” Delia remarked, her head tilting to one side again, mimicking the slow way the man dipped his female partner. Her fair blonde tresses tickled the floor, and they grinned at one another. Despite herself, Delia suddenly found herself grinning too.
Her skin prickled at the deep rumbly quality of his voice, but she was determined not to react to it.
“… Perhaps I can remedy that.”
She almost told him it was unlikely, all the while feeling a little guilty for her rudeness. After all, he had scared off that psychotic Donovan vamp earlier. Even if he didn’t realize it, she actually owed him. However, before she could get another word in, the Fool snapped at a passing waitress, and the woman hurried toward them with a tray of drinks in hand.
“You seem to have lost the one I brought you earlier,” the Fool noted as he handed her a glass, which Delia took almost begrudgingly. He then looked to the waitress and gently touched her arm as he said, “And if you can manage, perhaps a red wine for myself?”
“Of course, sir.” The woman gave a small nod before hurrying away, moving with more purpose than any of the servers Delia had seen all night. She raised an eyebrow at the Fool again; he wasn’t a vamp power-player, but he had to be someone important in the human world.
He caught her studying him, and then flashed a charming smile as Delia pretended to be admiring his bells.
“Champagne gives me a headache,” he told her, as if that explained the drink request.
Delia shrugged. “Sucks to be you.” The new glass of bubbly liquid, tinged with a rose-gold hue, slid down smoothly, but she vowed that this would be the last of the night. “I love champagne.”
“I know.” He then reached up and brushed his fingertip over her cheek. Delia flinched back, nostrils flaring in alarm. Even after his arm fell back by his side, she felt the warmth of his touch on her skin. “You get a little blush every time you drink it. Quite endearing.”
“Well, that’s some extra-close attention you’ve been paying to me,” she forced out, her breath catching at the intensity of his stare. She cleared her throat as she stepped back, flustered. Genuinely flustered. Because a hot guy in a stupid mask was doting on her, and Delia wasn’t accustomed to men doting on her. The guys in her history weren’t exactly the doting type.
But then again, there really was only one reason a man would dote on her…
Her blush darkened at the thought.
Toasting him with her champagne glass, she took another few steps back, alarmed that he followed slowly.
“Thanks for the drink… again,” she told him. Then, without another word, Delia turned on the spot and cut across the dance floor, not stopping until there was some distance between her and the Fool.
For a short time, she tried to distract herself with the sea of dancers, the swirl of fabric and the flash of masks slowly blending into one living, breathing organism.
Through the fleeting gaps between couples, she saw him. The Fool. Watching her from across the room, he stood quite still amidst all the twirling and whirling, through the swishes of fabric, his glass of red wine in hand. She wasn’t sure why she decided to stay there, directly across from him. Maybe it was the fact that after a night in sultry, but painful, heels, her feet finally decided enough was enough. Time to stay in one place for a while.
Delia chose to ignore the fact that every time she did try to move, her feet were like heavy stones, keeping her in place, in the Fool’s line of sight.
Interested? Contact me literally anywhere to receive your ARC!