I’m continuing the A to Z blog challenge today with an interesting letter: U.
So, I thought this was going to be a toughie–because actually, I thought of quite a few words that I LOVE that begin with U, such as UNIQUE, UNBEARABLE (an awesome word when writing kink!), UNDERSTANDING, and UNSTOPPABLE. Then there’s the coolest all literary-hobnob U words: UBIQUITOUS. (I once placed in a spelling bee with that one–no lie!)
The reason I picked UNORTHODOX is because it applies a lot to what we do in our lovely and fun niche of the world: naughty writing. In our books, we get to explore the things that other people might raise eyebrows at, or even gasp a little because of. And ohhhh my, it is so much fun!
I actually decided to start a new series with this very thinking in mind. I wanted to push myself to do something that I’d never done before…perhaps explore a few fantasies I’ve been keeping oh-so-carefully tucked into the back of my little imagination, and mash it up with one my favorite romantic themes: fairy tales. The result is a little something I’m calling the Once Upon A Sin series–and just for you, here and now, I’m going to share chapter one of the inaugural book, called Brilliant Sin. I hope you enjoy–but please share your feedback, no matter what, because this is something new for me. Very interested to know what your thoughts are…
“How dare you.”
I seethed each word at the arrogant bastard standing before me, so smug beneath his thin mustache, hands folded against his handheld screen, simply waiting for me to finish fuming. He had all the time in the world. He was the one with the facts and figures and data that sealed my doom tighter with every passing second.
He wasn’t the one being bartered to the world like a cow at auction.
He was also the one who noticed every desperate glance I stole at the darkly beautiful guard in the corner—and let me see every inch of his insolent smirk because of it.
“I do dare, dearest Zella, and you know why.” Calum was Father’s closest advisor, as responsible for many of the decisions that had built the Scepter Industries dynasty as Tavin Crown himself. This one was a notable—and dreadful—addition to that list. “You saw your father just yesterday, girl. Tell me how you think the markets would respond if they knew just how sick he really is…and that his only daughter has no suitable marriage prospects except the security guard she’s been gawking after for over a year?”
My heart surged in a mix of pride and horror as Tristan stomped forward, black waves teasing at his forehead, broad chest straining at his shirt and vest. “That guard is now the Director of Security for this entire complex, Mr. Montague.”
“Tristan!” Fear quivered my voice. Calum had ordered men dragged to the basement for less—though thank God, he seemed in a benevolent place today.
“Bravo, Mr. Pierce,” he drawled then. “An impressive feat for the housekeeper’s son. But it still doesn’t launch you anywhere near Miss Crown’s stratosphere. So send her little notes, or take a picture if you must have something for masturbation purposes, but keep your ‘steed’ far away from her ‘valley.’”
I gasped. Surged at him fast enough to get my nails into his cheek, tearing open four bright red lines of blood. “You’re disgusting!”
Calum only chuckled softly. “And you, princess, are far too valuable a piece of real estate to be plowed by a commoner.” He was ready for the second hand I lashed out, catching me by the wrist with a strength I hadn’t anticipated, considering his wiry frame. It was for the better, anyhow. If I’d gotten my nails into him this time, I might not have stopped there. I’d never understood the term “murderous rage” until now.
Without breaking composure, Calum shoved my hand down, back next to my side. “Things are grim, Zella.” He didn’t have to elaborate. I already knew that “things” meant the latest turn of the mysterious illness that had struck Father down during a fishing vacation in the Baltic. It burst the confines of my mind to think it had only been six months ago. Half a year in which my robust, loving father had transformed into something worse than a shriveled vegetable. No doctor on the planet—and we’d flown every one of the good ones here to upper New York—had been able to diagnose his debilitation.
“I know,” I told Calum in a rasp. “I know, all right?”
“Then you also know that time is of the essence. If you want your father to pass with the assurance that his legacy shall truly live on, then you must marry.”
My features crunched harder against each other—because deep in my soul, I knew he was right. I couldn’t help but seethe my protest again, anyway. “This is completely ridiculous! Women run corporations by themselves every damn day!”
Calum’s dispute was laced with even more of his sickening calm. “Corporations, Zella. Not kingdoms.”
I swung a desperate gaze to Tristan. His face was tight with everything I expected. Longing. Desire. Open lust. Devout adoration. The man who’d bettered himself for me. Who’d gone to school and learned so much, rising up Scepter’s ranks—for me. Who once, had even taken a bullet in his lead vest for me. But none of it had been good enough to ask for the chance to rule by my side—yet. In a year, he’d be running worldwide security for Scepter, a credential that would’ve earned him the right to ask father for a chance at my hand.
A year we no longer had.
A decision I had to make much faster.
Calum’s head, topped by its usual slicked-back waves, rose. He blinked with the same steel that dictated his gaze. “I have taken the liberty of comprising a short list of worthy mates.” Of course he had. “It is in your Inbox.” Of course it was. “I shall expect your top two or three preferences by the conclusion of dinner this evening.”
It really wasn’t a surprise. But that didn’t mean I had to be less enraged by it. “Dammit. I am perfectly capable of selecting my own—”
“Zella.” Calum threw up a hand as commanding as his voice. “Do not test my patience, waste my time, or insult my intelligence. You are not ‘perfectly capable’ of selecting an apple without a worm, let alone a suitor with a spine.” He paused, clearly waiting on my challenge, but what was the use? He was right about that, too. I’d only dated—if it could be called that—men who fell far short of Father’s standards, just so he’d order me to never see them again.
Just so I could buy more time for Tristan and me.
Stripped from us by a merciless twist of fate.
“Fine,” I finally spat. Rocked back on my heels and tugged back both my hands, rising to the full regal posture that had been ingrained into me since birth. “You’ll have your names within an hour. Plenty of time to contact the stud horses and tell them to grease their cocks for their interviews.”
I managed to hold back my grin. Tristan wasn’t so lucky with his snicker, but his burst was my strengthening balm. He loved my raunchy sense of humor and even had one to match it—one of the thousand ways we were perfectly matched for each other.
But dammit, the barb didn’t ruffle Calum’s feathers, either. A strange sensation sizzled across my nerves as he gave me another long, lazy blink, before stepping over and securing my chin with a brutal pinch of his hand.
“Even that is what they want to sample, dear Zella, then I suggest you let down all that golden hair, spread your pretty, silky thighs and let them in.” His groomed eyebrows arched. “A kingdom is at stake, princess. Your kingdom. Do what you must to save it, even if that means fucking a dozen trolls for it.”
He pivoted and left the room without another word or glance.
In his wake, I shivered. Swallowed to keep from crying. Then again to keep from vomiting.
Never had I hated that man more.
Or recognized the truth of his words deeper.
BRILLIANT SIN will be out in July 2015.