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SHADOWED LOVE, BOOK TWO
By Kinley Baker
Genre: Fantasy Romance
Publisher: Crescent Moon Press
When invaders brutally massacred the women and children of the Varner, Caleb witnessed loss and destruction on a scale few can comprehend. As the leader of a race on the brink of extinction, his only hope for survival is gaining acceptance into the Shadow Shifter Kingdom. Struggling with new customs, he meets Tabitha, a woman who challenges his limits.
Refused the right to join the king’s guard because of her gender, Tabitha must be stronger than the men to prove she deserves to be the first accepted female Warrior in the kingdom. She believes Caleb will help improve her abilities, until she learns her goals conflict with the foundation of his culture.
When the realm is attacked, Tabitha and Caleb must come together not only to fight, but to find the strength to win against an evil with the potential to destroy everything they revere most--including each other.
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Right before entering the next clearing, Caleb caught a flash of color contrasting against the green. He paused, moving aside a few leaves so he could peer through the opening. His attention caught on a tantalizing sight.
A woman moved in a dance of lethal grace with her eyes closed. She swung her blade with the skill of someone long trained. Challenging only the air around her, it was clear she strived to improve her form.
Her beauty was only enhanced by her bare, capable arms. The sleeveless shirt and pants she wore were nothing like the robes of the Shadow Shifters’ traditions. Her biceps and triceps flexed, illuminating well-formed muscles.
Amusement slid through him. This was the first time he’d ever seen a woman with a blade. And he couldn’t help but admire her. Part of him knew he should admire no female other than his aroha, his fated mate. But the other part of him was intrigued by this display of warrior patience.
The women of his people had never been trained in battle. It was Caleb who had failed to protect them. The female in front of him didn’t look like she needed protection, and the concept baffled him.
A man should always stand between a woman and a fight. And if they failed to protect as Caleb had his own people, then the man should carry that weight around forever, and the guilt, just as he did.
Need for redemption soaked into his veins. Perhaps he could help this female improve her form to make up for his other failures.
“You’re dropping your left side,” he said, moving out from behind his cover.
Her head whipped around, her sword following with force. The very tip aimed toward his heart. Five feet separated him from the lethal point. He was not yet in danger so his gaze trailed from the sharp blade to connect with her gaze.
Honey-colored eyes clashed with his. Awareness shot through him. He did his best to hide his response. His entire world shifted, the foundation reforming in the blink of a second. The change. The moment every man of the Varner desired. The finding. Of the one woman meant to be his mate.
How many times had he imagined this moment?
The warrior woman was his aroha. His body pulsed to life. For the first time his lust awakened in response to another, just as the old tales stated. His muscles tensed, everything inside him urging him to act, urging him to brand. He was ready to make her his.
The fire in her eyes held him back. As well as the vivid distinction that this woman with a sword was far from a delicate female of the Varner. From his experience the past two years and the difficulty of fumbling his way through foreign cultures for the same length of time, he knew it was better to keep his revelation to himself. For now. She might not sense the connection like he could, like the women of the Varner had been able to.
His fascination overwhelmed the new ache in his groin. She was extraordinary. He’d never seen another woman like her. Fierce and strong with steel in her gaze. Beautiful, mighty . . . his. The core of him roared that this miraculous creature belonged to him.
“Who are you?” She jabbed her blade forward an inch.
He barely kept from smiling at her demand. “You’re dropping your left side when you turn.”
Her chin jutted up. “Are you such a fine warrior that you feel yourself worthy of dispensing unsought advice?”
“Some would say.” He moved closer to her.
She tensed, but didn’t attack. Perhaps it was the foot and inches of his height advantage that stalled her.
The sun shining through the trees bestowed a glow off her light brown hair, giving her an ethereal aura. Strong features curved with womanhood invited him to touch.
His hand almost reached toward her before he stopped himself.
Every inch of him yearned to claim his woman, his destined mate, his aroha.
His fingers ached to touch her and make sure she was real. Even if it was only to correct her sword form. Could he really have found the woman he’d searched for all of his adulthood after thirty-three years of living? He needed to brush her skin and make sure he wasn’t fantasizing. Although he knew this must be real because he had never imagined a woman like her.
He closed the distance between them.
“What are you doing?”
“Showing you how to keep your side up.”
After hesitating, she finally lowered her blade. “They say we aren’t supposed to speak with men from the Varner. The villagers call you giants.”
“We aren’t much different from you. And I’ve never seen a female Shadow Shifter train with a sword. I don’t think you’re a woman who abides by the rules.”
Was that a flush in her cheeks? He moved around to direct her arm. When he hovered near her, his front almost touching her back, she glanced over her shoulder warily. He kept himself far enough away so she couldn’t feel the press of his male interest. He ignored the flustered feeling inching up his spine. He’d never been snared by a woman’s scent.
He wanted to inhale her natural fragrance and brand it to his memory. In this open area near the forest where so many aromas mingled, hers stood out—a citrus blend of foreign fruit mixed with the spicy scent of flesh dampened from exertion.
His fingers closed over her grip on the blade. He showed her how to turn without dropping her side.
“Perfect,” he said, unsure if he meant the improvement in her form or the feel of her soft flesh against his roughened palm. He freed her with reluctance.
With a little space between them, she tried again, flawlessly turning.
She frowned. “Thank you.”
“I am impressed by your skill.”
“It’s not enough.”
RUINED: Shadowed Love Book One
By Kinley Baker
Genre: Fantasy Romance
Jessa is one healing away from death. Under the thrall of her gift, the Court's Senior Healer risks giving her life in exchange for her patient's.
Vale is a rebel ruler. When his brother is killed, he's given the throne and the decree from the Court to produce an heir or lose his family's hold on the land--and his deceiving advisors aren't afraid to use murder as a weapon if their directive to stay away from the Senior Healer goes unheeded.
But Vale burns to possess Jessa. The heat between them leaves a wake of smoke, and even the powerful forces above want to bind them in a union that lasts forever. Vale taking another would be a betrayal neither could survive.
Their enemies fear a child born of such a powerful Healer and Warrior, but the true threat lies in the bond forged in shadows and fused in fire.
Book trailer on YouTube: http://youtu.be/aG2oSaUZeJM
"You." Fury burned hot under Jessa's skin as she glared at Vale. "Who do you think you are, demanding I come live in this castle? You can't just order your guards to enter a woman's home and pack up her things."
"Well, I did." Vale came around the desk and propped one hip against it, more of a threatening than casual movement.
"Someone tried to kill me. It makes sense that I have my Healer close by."
She released a pent-up breath. "Why couldn't you have explained that instead of mandating?" Silly. Her imagination had run away with her. The king needed his Healer. But the realization he didn't want her made her angrier.
"Because I didn't want to give you the option of saying no."
She most definitely would have said no.
"If you would have explained your reasoning, I would have complied. Your safety and health come first, even if I-"
"Even if you what?"
"Loathe you." She bunched her fingers into two fists, seriously tempted to hit him. For all the nonexistent pain it would inflict upon him.
"Do you?" His tone deadened with calm. "Because I can't stop thinking about you."
"That's normal." She brushed off the claim. "I saved your life."
He moved in a blur. A true Shadow Shifter. One second he stood near his desk, the next he had her in his arms, one locked around her waist and one hand tangled in her hair. Their lips almost brushed.
"I can't stop thinking about you." His murmur played down her spine, leaving a tingling trail. His scent invaded her. His voice embraced her like bare skin against satin sheets.
Her heart beat fast, her pulse jumped.
She disliked him, but didn't want him to let her go.
"Have you been thinking about me?" His soft tone feathered over her flesh.
"Only how much I dislike you." Lust pulsed in her belly.
He pulled her head back gently by her hair, so they looked straight into each other's eyes. Their bodies pressed tightly together. "Liar."
Check out Kinley’s new novella, Freed, set in the world of The Shadowed Love series
After mortal invaders slay a Shadow Shifter woman, Queen Ella knows there is more blood on the horizon. As the most powerful Sensitive in the village, Ella has always known she’s destined to save the kingdom. But her task seems impossible. She must move the Well of Souls to a new realm to save her people or risk failing the Ancestor gods.
The woman King Falon loves will never love him back, despite a binding marriage built on regal decorum. Falon’s first duty is to his people, and he only wants to provide the Shadow Shifters with a safe future. He must assert his power to gain the respect of the warriors.
Harder still, King Falon must accept the salvation of his people lies with his own Queen Ella, a woman who speaks madness... a woman he’s always loved, but hardly knows.
The Mortal Realm, 657
King Falon looked up at the darkening sky, and a heavy burden settled inside his chest. Where were their Ancestor gods?
From his castle balcony, he stared over the hills of his homeland in Northern Britain, the place the Shadow Shifters had always called home. Their history and their hearts were embedded in these lands.
The mortals had always been a danger, but his people had escaped their persecution. That was no longer the case. The martyrs wanted to annihilate the Shadow Shifters, a race who thrived in the darkness, who thrived in the shadows, who thrived in the night.
Holy believers were coming for them, without any understanding of what they attempted to fight. The Shadow Shifter village had remained protected on these hills, with their Ancestor gods watching over them. Now, their existence was threatened.
“It isn’t your fault.” The sound of Pavel’s voice came from behind him.
Falon couldn’t bear to face his oldest friend and advisor. “Then whose is it?”
“We knew we couldn’t stay hidden here forever.”
“Why must they attack during my reign? Why must this fall to me?” He sighed. “For centuries, peace existed for our people.”
New to the throne, newly wed, newly orphaned. Too many firsts weighed on his shoulders. He didn’t know how to handle the burden.
Pavel seemed to read his mind. “The Ancestors would never give you this challenge if they didn’t believe you capable of discovering a way to provide for our people.”
His friend had so much faith in bodiless apparitions. As the Spirit Teacher, perhaps Pavel had to have faith. But Falon struggled. He’d always struggled.
“That girl--” He couldn’t finish. Seeing the mutilated body of one of his people had made bile rise to his throat. His people had looked to him for answers, and he’d nearly crumbled in front of them.
“You did your duty per our traditions and honored her family.”
Falon had done his duty, but the young girl’s face. He’d never forget it.
“When do you think they’ll come?”
Pavel sighed. “After their savagery, it could be this night, it could be a fortnight. I do not have the answers.”
“We must prepare the Warriors.” To stop his people from being destroyed.
“Then you’ll fight?”
“What other choice do I have?” He glared at his friend, freeing his frustration.
“None that you see.”
“I don’t have time for riddles.”
Pavel smiled. “You never did.”
“I’ll do whatever’s necessary to protect our lands and the Well of Souls. We can’t afford to allow the mortals access to our sacred power source.”
“I trust you’ll do what you must.”
His friend might have too much faith. Falon studied their lands for another long moment, watching the sun fall into the lure of the mountains.
“Of course I will.” But when he glanced back again, Pavel was gone. He had a way of disappearing.
Falon knew he couldn’t dwell on the events of the past week. A young girl was gone, killed by bloodthirsty strangers, but the rest of his people remained. He could not allow her tragic death to befall the whole.
He strode through his private chambers to an adjoining room, deciding not to use the shadows to shift so he could take a deep breath and collect himself. After passing through the doorway, he came to an abrupt halt.
His breath caught at the sight before him. A woman of supreme elegance stood in the last flickers of light, staring out at the disappearing sun from her balcony.
Heavy, thick robes lined her luscious form. Beautiful velvet in a rich blue color fit snugly to her curves. A crown of entwined flowers sat proud atop her head. Her delicate profile showed her true regal magnificence.
Light hair curled down long and brushed against the fabric of her dress. She stood, ethereal, like an Ancestor goddess in his midst. Perfect. Untouchable. Supposedly his.
She didn’t turn to look at him, although he knew she always knew when he entered the room. This was a woman of ultimate power, the strongest Sensitive in the kingdom. And one of only a few in the village who seemed to glow with magic.
So soft. So kind. So distant.
She was his wife. His queen.
And so far out of reach. He wanted her with a desperation that made him ache. But he often thought his wanting of her would be the death of him. He couldn’t allow it to be the death of his kingdom.
“We’re expected for the evening meal.” His tone was rigid.
Her stance remained the same, as if she couldn’t hear him.
“Ella,” he said.
She didn’t move.
Ella made him question himself in a way no one ever had. As a royal and now a king, he wasn’t used to scrutiny. No one seemed able to read his shortcomings as easily as his wife.
His patience frayed. Defiance was not a battle he needed to wage this day. Especially against the one woman who was supposed to stand by him always. Newly married and he’d already learned. The wife he’d married for love would never love him back. And she’d never be on his side.
War. Ella’s blood boiled with the truth. The scent of blood drifted on the horizon. As the sun faded behind the mountains, her people’s safety faded with it. She felt this truth as surely as she felt her nails curling into her palms.
Loss. The wind swirled with it. Inevitable sacrifices lingered in their future, but she couldn’t define what they risked. Everything inside her yearned to place the pieces into a discernible pattern, something she could give to the king to use. But for the first time in her life, answers eluded her.
Were the Ancestors punishing her? She stared into the angry gray clouds and questioned. Something she’d rarely had to do. As a Sensitive, she’d always known the truth. Not now. Everything was changing, evolving, yielding, one day into the next, a whirlwind she couldn’t stop.
Despair. She could feel the pain in the air, like a blade suspended in time, destined to kill through the ages, destined to harm. A tear slid down her cheek. She was supposed to save her people. She’d always known it. But how?
About the Author:
Kinley Baker is the author of the fantasy romance series, Shadowed Love. She read her first romance at the age of thirteen and immediately fell in love with the hero and the genre.
She lives with her husband, Benjamin, and her dog, Joker, in the Pacific Northwest. Ruined, Denied, and Freed are all available now from Crescent Moon Press.
Look for a new paranormal romance series in 2013. As a firm supporter of all supernatural lifestyles, she writes fantasy, paranormal, and futuristic romances.
You can find Kinley at www.kinleybaker.com