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637 pages, Kindle Edition
First published September 1, 2020
My heart stammered as my eyes locked onto his, orbs a shade of stunning, cool amber.
“I’m doing that because I like lying on top of you.”
“Well, I don’t,” I bit out.
“That’s a lie.”
He smiled up at me, his eyes twin golden flames.
Casteel watched me sleep? Wait.
”That’s creepy,” I murmured. “The watching me while I sleep part.”
It turned his eyes from cool amber to warm honey.
The golden hue of his irises had chilled.
“It’s official,” Casteel said. “I’m going to have to kill him.”
“I don’t like the way he looks at you.”
“How does he look at me?”
“He looks at you like I do.”
The intensity in those amber eyes held me captive.
“Are you… well?” I asked. “The wound appears...quite fierce.”
“It is a very...fierce wound.”
A fawn-colored one that reminded me of Kieran but smaller, limped backward away from a knight.
I twisted toward him, ignoring the jump in my pulse as heavy, hooded, amber eyes met mine.
Casteel’s eyes were like warm pools of gold.
✦ Am I too biased to even attempt to rate this objectively? Definitely.
✦ Isn’t the rating ultimately about my thoughts and emotions and, besides, can’t it be said that if the issues did not obscure my enjoyment then they don’t truly matter to me anyhow? I believe so, yes.
✦ And did I love this? Love? I am dead.
✦ Did that love have everything to do with the romance and characters which are, in the end, the entire point of this paranormal-fantasy romance? Undoubtedly.
✦ Were the characters and romance everything I, the aromantic dark-loving I, look for when picking up romance? Unequivocally
✦ Are they particularly healthy? Not really.
✦ Do I care? Not even a little bit.
✦ Will you now be assaulted with me “level-headedly” gushing over this romance and trying to explain why it’s so special to me? You got it. *winky wink*
“Beauty, my sweet child, is often broken and barbed, and always unexpected.”
Credit: Catherine Crowley
“You’re beautiful when you’re quiet and somber, but when you laugh? You rival the sunrise over the Skotos Mountains.”
“Retribution is yours, if you want it,” he said. “And if not, I will be your blade, the thing that ends his miserable existence. It’s your choice.”
“By the way, I’m not yours,” I told him. “I don’t belong to anyone but myself. Nothing changes that.”
“What if I just wanted a piece of you? A tiny piece that belonged to me? [...] Tell me what piece of you I can have. It can be any piece of your choosing. Whatever it is, I’ll take it.” His chin grazed my cheek. “It will be my most prized possession.”
“That was a temporary loss of sanity.”
“That’s my favorite kind.”
Credit: Dominique Wesson
“Fearing what you’re capable of doesn’t mean I fear you.”
I turned to him. “Were you injured?”
“Would you fret with worry if I was?”
The corners of my lips turned down. No? Yes? “Not particularly.”
“Ouch.” He pressed a hand to his chest. “You wound me yet again.”
“He’s not wounded,” Kieran answered. “At least, not physically. Emotionally, I believe you left him shredded.”
"I am born of the first kingdom." Casteel's voice carried like the wind and snow, stroking over the knights, who all turned, one by one, to look in his direction. "Created from the blood and ash of all those who fell before me. I have risen to take back what is mine. I'm who you call the Dark One," he said, and chills danced across my skin. "Yes, I have the Maiden, and I'm not giving her back."
"All you have is me. Let me be enough." ❤️
“He was the first thing I’d ever truly chosen for myself.
I chose him because he made me feel like I was something other than the Maiden, and he saw me when no one else ever really did. He made me feel alive. He valued me for who I am and didn’t try to control me.”
"He has done things some might find unforgivable. Things that would haunt your sleep and leave you with nightmares long after you wake. He may hate being called the Dark One, but he has earned that name.’’ Kieran’s pale eyes meet mine as a shiver curled its way down my spine. "But he’s the one thing in all the kingdoms that you, and only you, never have to fear."
“Make me feel incompetent and kill more than me, Princess.”
We were only pretending.
But this felt so very real.
"Only on one condition," I said.
"You have a condition now?"
I nodded, my heart thundering. "I don't want to pretend," I whispered. "I'm Poppy and you're Casteel, and this is real. Can you agree to that?"
His eyes drifted shut for a heartbeat, all the striking lines of his face were tense. "Always," he whispered. "Yes."
"I wasn't rocking that much!" I denied, wiggling to put space between us.
"I wouldn't advise that,' he said, voice gruff as his arm tightened.
"Squirm a few more inches lower, and I'm sure you'll find out."
Wanting to know how these people knew what Kieran and Casteel were, I twisted at the waist.
“I am,” Kieran replied.
And he was.
"Please don't fight atop the horse," Delano called out. "None of us wish to watch Setti trample either of you."
"Speak for yourself," came Kieran's droll voice.
Casteel straightened "Don't worry. Neither of us will fall. It was just a love tap."
"That did not look like a love tap," Naill commented.
"That's because it was a very passionate one," Casteel replied.
"You're about to get a love tap to your face."
"It turns me on when you're armed with something sharp."
"There is something entirely wrong with you."
He came around to my front. "But you like what's wrong with me."
The man was suddenly lifted up and tossed aside like he was nothing more than a bag of small rocks. I had no idea where he landed. All I could do was stare at Casteel.
He stood above me, his face splattered with dots of red.
“You have three arrows sticking out of you.”
“You’ve been injured. Where?” He knelt beside me, ignoring my somewhat unnecessary observation.
“I’m fine.” I sat up, my eyes glued the arrow jutting from his stomach as I sheathed my dagger. “Does it hurt?”
“The arrows.” I paused as he grasped my left arm, pushing the cloak aside. “The arrows that are sticking out of your body.”
“I don’t want to pretend,” I whispered. “I’m Poppy and you’re Casteel, and this is real.”😭 I love them. 🖤
Atlantia rose from blood and ash. We are no longer a fallen kindom. Not by any sense of the world. We haven't been for a very long time. We are a kindom of fire.
Feelings were not stagnant. Neither were opinions or beliefs, and if we stopped believing people were capable of change, then the world might as well be left to burn.
“I bet you’re one of those wolven bitches. Hear they like their women all cut up.” He made a calling sound, one used to summon a dog, and my grip tightened. “Tell me, girl. What kind of bitch are you?” He lifted the club again, and I made my move. Shooting forward, I slipped under his arm and grabbed the dirty tunic. Thrusting the dagger up, I used every ounce of strength I had to drive it deep under his chin. “I’m this kind of bitch,” I growled. The muscles under the mask pieced together by human flesh went lax as I jerked the knife free.
"I need to feel your lips on mine." He planted his hands on the carriage wall, caging me in. "I need to feel your breath in my lungs. I need to feel your life inside me. I just need you. It's an ache. This need. Can I have you? All of you?
"He is not wounded," Kieran answered. "At least, not physically. Emotinoally, I believe you left him shredded."
I rolled my eyes. "Then why ask if he's okay if he's not hurt?"
Kieran started to reply, but Casteel beat him to it. "He's a worrywart. Constantly fearing that I've been injured or that I've overexerted myself. Wanting to know if I've gotten eight hours of rest and eaten three square meals a day."
"Yeah, that's exactly it," Kieran replied drolly.
I reacted without thought, slamming my elbow into his stomach. Casteel grunted out a curse.
“Please don’t fight atop the horse,” Delano called out from somewhere behind us. “None of us wish to watch Setti trample either of you.”
“Speak for yourself,” came Kieran’s droll voice.
Casteel straightened behind me. “Don’t worry. Neither of us will fall. It was just a love tap.”
“That did not look like a love tap,” Naill commented.
“That’s because it was a very passionate one,” Casteel replied.
“You’re about to get a love tap to your face,” I muttered under my breath. Casteel curled his arm more firmly around my waist as he laughed.
"No." His forehead dropped to mine. "There is one mor thing I need. Something that I've needed for days. Weeks. Months. Maybe forever." The bridge of his nose brushed mine. "But I know you won't allow it. Not like this."
The pounding in my chest moved lower. "What…what have you needed for so long?"
"Always," he whispered in the breath we shared. "Your heart was always safe with me. It always will be. There is nothing I will protect more fiercely or with more devotion, Poppy. Trust in that–in what you feel from me. In me."
“I don’t want to pretend,” I whispered.
“I’m Poppy and you’re Casteel, and this is real.”
“I was the Maiden, nearly groomed my entire life to remain pure and focused only on my Ascension. I was Chosen to be given to the gods, even though I never chose the life. I didn’t get to choose what I ate, when I left my chambers, or who was allowed to even touch me."
"But he was the first thing I’d ever truly chosen for myself.”
“Do you think he’ll believe us?”
“Yet another question?” Kieran leaned back, crossing his arms. “Seriously? Do you ever get tired of asking so many?”
“Apparently, you don’t, since you just asked three of them.”
“Somewhere along the way, I no longer saw her as a bargaining chip or a tool for revenge. I saw her for who she was. Who she is—this beautiful, strong, intelligent, endlessly curious and kind woman who was as much a victim of the Ascended as any Atlantians."
"I fell in love with her, probably long before I even realized I had.”
“Fight me. Argue with me. I won’t stop you. But I will not allow you to put your life in jeopardy."
“He was Casteel then just like he’s Hawke now,” Kieran stated quietly, drawing my gaze to him. “And you know that. You just aren’t ready to accept it.”
“I’m curious,” Casteel said, causing me to jump. I hadn’t even heard him approach. “What are you two discussing that has Poppy looking as if she’s five seconds away from crawling under the table?”
“Nothing,” I said.
“I was just telling her about how you have heightened physical senses,” Kieran answered at the same time as I did. “Like your ability to see better than her, and scent her arousal—”
“Oh, my gods!” I spun on the bench, swinging at Kieran, but he easily avoided my fist.
“I’m sorry.” Kieran didn’t look remotely remorseful. “I meant desire. She doesn’t like the word arousal.”
“No one wishes to chase you through a snowstorm.”
“I’d rather not be gutted by the Prince, so no.”
“The Prince will return soon.”
My favorite was when I’d said that I just wanted some fresh air. “Nothing personal, but there is literally no way I would trust you enough to crack this door open to allow even an inch of fresh air to enter your chamber.”
“So, that is why I’m offering you my aid. If you are being forced into this, I will help you escape. I will do everything in my power to ensure safe passage."
"But I will make sure you are somewhere neither the Ascended nor Casteel can ever reach you. All you have to do is tell me, and this will be over for you."
He chuckled. “Careful, Kieran,” Casteel murmured, catching my hand before I could swing at Kieran once more. “She’ll be threatening to stab you next.”
The wolven grinned. “I’m pretty sure that’s already happened.”
“I hate you,” I announced. “I hate you both.”
“Obviously, Casteel takes after his father when it comes to women with sharp objects,” Jasper commented with a snort. “I feel like I’m missing some vital information that Delano conveniently left out when he met me halfway.”
I frowned, but at least I knew where Delano had been.
“You stabbed Casteel?” Jasper repeated. “In the heart? With bloodstone. And you thought it would kill him?”
“In my defense, I felt bad afterward.”
“She did cry,” Casteel remarked.
I was going to stab him again.
"From Blood And Ash."
"We Will Rise."
#1 From Blood and Ash — 4 Stars
“There is no side of you that is not as beautiful as the other half. Not a single inch isn’t stunning.” His lashes lifted, and the intensity in his stare held me captive. “That was true the first time I said it to you, and it is still the truth today and tomorrow.”
“I’ll try to escape again.”
“I figured as much.”
“I’m not going to stop fighting you.”
“I wouldn’t want you to.”
I thought that was weird. “And I’m not going to marry you.”
"Which part confuses you the most?" he asked, amber eyes unblinking.
"It's the part where you think I would actually marry you."
“You’re welcome,” I panted. “For saving your life.” Breathing raggedly, he jerked the sword back. A wide, bloody smile broke out across his face. “Would this be an inappropriate time to let you know I’m incredibly turned on by you right now?”
“Yes.” My gaze shifted to the guard staggering to his feet behind him. “Highly inappropriate.”