Authors: Suzanne M. Sabol
Table of Contents
A BLUSHING DEATH NOVEL
SUZANNE M. SABOL
SOUL MATE PUBLISHING
BY SUZANNE M. SABOL
THE BLUSHING DEATH SERIES
A Pool of Crimson
Sliver of Silver
SUZANNE M. SABOL
Cover Design by Rae Monet, Inc.
This book is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places, and incidents are the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, business establishments, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
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Published in the United States of America by
Soul Mate Publishing
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Macedon, New York, 14502
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I would first like to thank my editor, Debby Gilbert. I appreciate your support and your investment in Dahlia and in me. I love working with you and being a part of Soul Mate Publishing.
I would also like to thank my critique group; Eva Siedler, Jenna Grinstead, Randi Flynn, Sarah Zettler, and Kathleen Groger. You have helped me look at my writing in new ways and expanded my horizons with your support and friendship. You are all wonderful writers and partners in crime.
I would also like to thank, as always, my husband Ross. You have become a partner in my writing and career. You suffer through the rough spots with me and help work out the kinks. You even give each one a funny name to ease my tension. I appreciate how you don’t let me take everything so seriously. Luigi’s castle, as you’ve dubbed it, is better because of you. The princess has been saved and Dahlia has powered up. What ever comes next in fiction and in life, we’ll work it out together.
New Orleans, 1850
“I know you’re out there,” her father bellowed.
Milagra jumped and bit her bottom lip as she tried to hold as still as she possibly could. She’d heard that same sharp tone from her father before, many times since her mother had died.
“Come out!” he ordered.
She didn’t see anyone, couldn’t see who he was talking to, but she heard them. A rustle of leaves in the breeze, a soft mocking laughter in the night air, and the constant thump of more than two hearts beating in anticipation told her that she and her father were not alone. The hair on her arms stood on end as the air around her seemed to change, pricking with energy.
She narrowed her gaze on the small sliver of moonlight shining just a bit brighter next to her father. An outline of a man shimmered, flickering as the image came into focus. The light shifted to something solid in the darkness, like stepping from a dream into reality. She didn’t think she’d ever seen anyone so tall as her father but there a man stood, several inches above her father’s gargantuan height.
The man was odd, nothing like she’d ever seen before. His skin was the soft green of spring moss, shimmering in the moonlight, and the scowl thinning his lips lit his yellow eyes with anger. Thick fabric flowed down to the ground, too heavy for the midsummer heat. Hidden beneath the thick cloak, the icy blue moonlight gleamed off the hilt of a sword strapped at his hip. Clasping her hands behind her back, Milagra forced herself not to reach out and touch it. Her father wouldn’t approve.
She attempted not to stare but the green man was so pretty with hair longer than hers, shimmering in the moonlight. His eyes sparkled a wonderful golden yellow that shone bright as the sun. She found herself smiling as a tingling feeling of wonder and delight eased through her body.
“Go back to your Mistress,” the strange man almost snarled. Even in anger, his voice tinkled and rang like church bells on Sunday morning. “I’m sure she’s wondering where you are, Cordero.”
Milagra didn’t understand why everyone was so angry all the time. She just wanted everything to be as it was before her mother had gone to heaven. Everyone had been happy then; her father had played with her, smiled at her . . . noticed her.
“I need your help,” her father begged. The desperation in his tone made her stand up straighter and listen. Her blood raced, making her skin heat with worry. Her father never begged. “I need distance from her. Marabelle’s designs are her own but I have my own plans,” he growled.
“You are her servant, Cordero,” the stranger bit out, sounding sad, almost defeated. “Her designs are your designs.”
“I don’t care about Marabelle’s ends. I will destroy them all as they destroyed my Juliana and Milagra,” her father spat out.
“Papa?” Milagra squeaked, her voice small. She hadn’t gone to Heaven, as her mother had.
“What do we have here?” the green man asked, crouching down to meet Milagra’s eyes. His gaze softened, meeting her wary stare with a small upturn of his lips.
Milagra stepped forward on light, soundless feet and closed the distance between them. The man’s voice was kind and gentle, soothing in a way her father’s hadn’t been for some time. Milagra had almost forgotten what gentle sounded like, having been so long since her father had spoken to her with anything but hostility.
“What are you doing out here so late at night, darling?”
She opened her mouth to answer but her father cut her off with his harsh tone and a firm hand on her shoulder.
“She’s an abomination!”
Milagra sniffed back tears but her shoulders shivered with the sobs she’d learned to keep quiet. Hot tears slid down her cheeks and she brushed them away with the back of her gloved hand. Milagra wiped and sniffled, trying desperately to hide how much her father hurt her but couldn’t stop the tears from coming.
“She’s been contaminated by those beasts,” her father hissed, dismissing her again.
“Papa?” she called, a desperate hitch to her small voice. If she waited and loved him enough, maybe everything would be all right; maybe he could love her again. “I won’t be jittery anymore and I’ll do exactly as you say. I won’t even get sick at the full moon. Papa!” she cried, ready to do anything to make him love her again.
“Hold your tongue!” he spat at her.
Flinching at his tone, Milagra tried to suck back in the sobs wrenching her body. Tears stung her eyes, soaking her eyelashes until she couldn’t see beyond them.
“It will be all right, darling. Don’t cry,” the strange man cooed as he stood back up to his full height.
The soft lilting song in his voice helped Milagra catch her breath as the man met her father’s glare. She brushed the last few tears away, drying her cheeks with the sleeve of her gown.
“Will you deal?” her father asked.
“What do you have to barter with?” the man asked, crossing his arms over his chest in defiance.
Her father was quiet for a long moment before he answered, his voice so low and dangerous that chills sparked up her spine. “My daughter.”
Milagra’s bottom lip trembled. Her father didn’t want her! The sob she’d been holding back spilled over, racking her body in convulsions as understanding seeped into her.
Unfolding his arms and staring at her father with his mouth gaping open, the stranger’s wide eyes met her father’s with apparent disbelief in his expression.
Maybe they’d both heard her father wrong. He reminded her daily of how much she looked like her mother. He still loved her mother. Why couldn’t he love her too?
“Cordero!” the man snapped.
“She is tainted,” her father stated without even a glance her way. “Do you know what she is?” Scorn was thick in his tone as if she was something dirty.
“Aye, the girl is lycan, a werewolf.”
“She is dead to me,” her father snarled.
Milagra’s knees gave out beneath her and she sank into a sobbing heap on the dirty ground. Ignored by the two men, she threw her head into her hands and wept.
“You don’t deserve such a treasure,” the man hissed.
Milagra glanced up at the stranger through heavy tears as the green man held his closed fist out to her father.
“Take this. You’ll need a chunk of her hair to connect the two pieces and their magic. You will need to consume a drop of her blood at each moonrise. That will allow you your distance.” Thrusting several items into her father’s hands, the stranger turned to Milagra. “Your daughter is mine from this night forth and every day hence. You’ve done enough damage,” he snapped, dismissing her father with the elegant flick of his wrist.
Her father slipped the items into his waistcoat pocket, ignoring her and the green man. He turned, without a glance over his shoulder at her, and strode away.
Milagra took a pensive step to follow him.
He wasn’t really going to leave her, was he?
“Papa? Papa wait!” she called but he didn’t stop. She took another step forward.
A strong grip landed on her shoulder, and she turned to see the green man’s hand holding her back.
“Papa, please,” she whimpered. “Papa?” she begged through a sob as her heart finally shattered.
Strong arms enveloped her, lifting her off her feet and into his embrace. Milagra clung to him, crying as she wrapped tiny arms around his strong neck and through soft silky hair. She buried her face in his neck and smelled the soft scent of wildflowers.
“It’s quite alright, my darling. You go ahead and cry,” he whispered against her ear, combing long strokes down her curly hair with his gentle hand. Brushing thick strands from her face, he gazed deep into her bleary eyes. The bright yellow of his irises was like the flowers her mother had grown in the hot house. The image of her mother, so pure and vibrant in her mind, made Milagra’s sob hitch in her throat. She sniffed a few times as his smile brightened his face as her mother’s smile once had.
“Milagra. My little miracle,” he whispered. “So strong to have survived the change. You are stronger and more precious than you know.”
Sucking her bottom lip between her teeth, she worried the soft flesh until she stopped trembling.
“How old are you, dearest?” he asked.
“S-S-Seven,” she hiccupped between rasping breaths.
“Ah, such a wonderful age for dancing and wildflower picking. Would you like to come home with me, my little miracle? We have plenty of wildflowers to crown that lovely head of hair.” His sincerity warmed her down to her toes.
She glanced over her shoulder. Her father’s retreating form had already disappeared into the pitch-blackness, leaving her behind. Her father didn’t want her, and her mother was dead.
Where else could she go?
“I-I-I suppose,” she hiccupped again.
“Wonderful,” he chirped, squeezing her tight against him. “Riona will be so pleased,” he said, wiping a tear from her cheek with the pad of his large, steady thumb. “Come, Faerie awaits.”
He laughed in a grand voice that echoed through the wood and filled the night sky with his joy. The world around her blurred and before she could gasp at the colors bleeding into each other, the night and the world she’d known were gone.