Read The Emperor's New Nightingale Online

Authors: Angela Castle

Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Romance, #Fantasy & Futuristic, #Science Fiction & Fantasy, #Science Fiction, #Space Opera

The Emperor's New Nightingale

BOOK: The Emperor's New Nightingale
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THE EMPEROR’S

NEW NIGHTINGALE

 

 

 

by

 

 

Angela Castle

 

 

 

 

 

Published by

Angela Castle

www.angelacastle.net

 

 

 

 

Copyrigh
t
2013 by
Angela Castle

 

Warning: The unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this copyrighted work is illegal. Criminal copyright infringement, including infringement without monetary gain, is investigated by the FBI and is punishable by up to 5 (five) years in federal prison and a fine of $250,000.

 

Names, characters and incidents depicted in this book are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental and beyond the intent of the author or the publisher.

 

No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.

 

 

 

Credits

Cover Artist:
Gemini Judson

Editor:
Duncan Carling-Rodgers

Copy Editor: Dennis Hays

 

 

Printed in the Australia

 

 

Acknowledgement
s

 

LAST ROSE OF SUMMER – Written by Rob Halford and Glenn Tipton

 

MEMORY – Written by Andrew Lloyd Webber

 

KISS ME – Written by Matthew Slocum

 

BLEEDING LOVE – Written by Jesse McCartney

 

WHEN YOU BELIEVE – Written by Stephen Schwartz

 

MY HEART BELONGS TO YOU – Written by Hayley Westenra

 

HALO – Written and composed by Ryan Tedder, Evan Bogart and Beyonce Knowles

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Other Books by
Angela Castle Available on Amazon:

 

 

Beast Planet 1
: Captive Surrender

Beast Planet 2: Captive Salvation

 

 

 

D
edication

 

To all my wonderful readers

Your wonderful encouragement

Helps me to keep writing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter One

 

Julie Beasley stared at the little, white card in her hand before glancing up at the tall, handsome, blue-eyed man who gave it to her.

‘Nightingale Intergalactic Singing Competition
;’
on the flip side of the card was a city address and a time for later this evening.
Intergalactic?
She narrowed her gaze at the obviously crazy, albeit good-looking, man.


It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. You sing very well and I see you’re very pretty.”

She gaped at him before narrowing her eyes in suspicion. She didn’t care how good-looking the man was.
He must have lost his mind to think I’m pretty
. However, a more worrying thought pressed on her mind.


How on earth did you hear me sing?”

It was true, she loved to sing. She did it constantly and unconsciously, but mainly in her own little apartment and when she was in the shower, where her voice echoed off the tiled walls. She had not sung in front of an audience since she was a child at her grandmother’s church.

“Your window was open as I walked by.”

Great
—the handsome man was a Peeping Tom and a pervert.
Why did it always have to be the good-looking ones?

She sighed
inwardly. Unless he climbed the broken fire escape and crawled around the ledges, there was no way he could be peeping at her.


You make a habit of listening in through windows, then? You know the singing might not have been mine.” She attempted to inch around him, but he blocked all of the front steps of her rundown building.

“Instinct.”
He smiled down at her.


Thank you, but I'm not looking for a singing career. I live in the real world where one has to work hard to earn a living.”

His expression morphed into one of sympathy.

“I understand having to work hard. This competition could help ease your financial burden. The winner gets a prize and wealth beyond their dreams. Hell, even the runner up gets a large cash prize.”

Julie pursed her lips, feeling
the weight of her financial burden. Three years of hospital treatments to battle her mother’s cancer left her with a hefty debt. She struggled to pay the rent on her tiny apartment and buy meals once the fortnightly payments were met. She knew some dreams were nothing more than that—just dreams.

She needed
some extra funds, but she wasn’t going gamble her time and money on some wasted venture.


I’m sure it sounds wonderful for someone who has the time to indulge in such fancies. Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to get to work.” She tried to give back his card. He waved her hand away, ignoring her words, as he continued.


All audition entries get five hundred dollars, chosen or not. All you have to do is sing—nothing more. All competitors, who are accepted get all expenses paid and an additional five thousand dollars. Winner takes the grand prize and the losers go home with their money.”

Damn, it
does sound good
. Even an extra five hundred dollars would help her out. Her mind turned towards contemplating entering this man’s singing contest.


Are you sure all I have to do is sing? No taking clothes off?”

His grin widened, amusement sparkling in
the depths of his blue eyes.

“I swear on the galaxy itself, you will not have to do anything unsavory
—just sing.”

Still
, she hesitated. “What’s the grand prize?”

His smile was sinfully sexy. “
Wealth beyond your dreams and a contract to sing solely for the consortium's owner.”

“What is the consortium and who is the owner?”

“I’m under contract not to reveal that, only to find Nightingales to sing.”

Warning bells went off in her head. If something sounded too good to be true, it usual
was.


Thanks, but I don’t think so…”


I know you have no reason to trust me, but I can assure you this is, as you Australians say, fair dinkum. The winner of this competition is treated like an empress. I give you my solemn word.”

Julie’s jaw tightened and she narrowed her eyes at his pushy insistence.

“Look, Mr…uh...”

“Uric Weston.”

“Look, Mr. Weston, right now it's starting to look more like a nightmare than an offer of a lifetime.”

“Forgive me.” He stepped back to give her space to scoot around him. “The offer is genuine.”

She paused on the side walk, glancing back up at him. He didn’t follow, but added: “Some chances are worth taking.”

Julie didn’t like taking chances
; she relied on good, solid facts, not pipe dreams. In fact, she hasn’t ever bought a lottery ticket. Honest hard work, her mother always said, was the way to success.

She shook her head to dislodge her rampant thoughts, sparing another glance at Mr
. Weston before running down the street. The last thing she needed to be was late for work.

* * * *

Could this day get any worse?
The stranger made her miss the bus, making her jog five blocks to work, leaving her panting, sweaty, and fifteen minutes late. Her supervisor glared at her, red with anger.

“This goes on your record
, Miss Beasley. You'd better do a bloody good job and no skipping corners.”

No skipping corners!
She fought the impulse to knee the rat bastard in the balls. Her supervisor was one of the laziest workers at the hotel, always shoveling his responsibilities onto others. No doubt, he got off on ordering people around. There was nothing she could do without getting fired though so, she clenched her fists and nodded. “Yes sir.”

All throughout her cleaning shift, she couldn’t stop thinking about Mr
. Weston’s singing competition, the numbers rattling off in her head—five hundred dollars, five thousand dollars, ultimate wealth for the winner. No one would boss her around, and she would be free from debt. Maybe, she could start her own little business. All she needed to do was sing.

By the end of the day, her arms, back and feet ached. Not only that,
she talked herself into entering the Nightingale competition—going against everything she was taught.
Just take once chance, Julie.
Either way, she still had her job to fall back on.

Changing from her uniform, ignoring the hunger gnawing in the pit of her stomach, she walked seven blocks to the address on the back of the card.

A line of attractive, young women stood by the stage door, all thin, pretty and expensively dressed. Some of them held music score sheets in their hands and most of them preened like peacocks. As she watched them apply thick amounts of lipstick and mascara, Julie almost lost her nerve. She felt ill-equipped, fat and frumpy in her plain skirt and blouse. The only thing keeping her at the end of the line was the thought of the money.

Uric Weston appeared though the side door
and walked along the line of women. Some openly flirted, most likely in hopes of winning this round of the contest.

He
must have spotted her bouncing on the balls of her feet, ready to bolt through the back door. A smile lit Mr. Weston’s face when his gaze fell on her.

“Glad you could make it.” He handed her a clipboard and pen
while his blue eyes swept her from head to toe. She felt her cheeks flush with heat from his appraisal.

“I
didn’t have anything else to do this evening,” she muttered.

“Would you please fill these out, Miss Beasley?”

She nodded, not trusting her voice.

He turned to address the line of women. “Hand your paperwork and any music or backing to Mr
. Erson. You will each be called through in order. Those not selected will be given their participation money on the way out.”

Julie wrote down her details on the
form, including hobbies and song choices, and frowned when it came to sexual preferences.
What the hell did that have to do with a singing competition?
She left it blank, hoping they wouldn't notice. Her plan was simple—sing her little folk tune, and then leave with the much-needed five hundred dollars. Her stomach complained when she thought about buying some extra groceries.

Julie swallowed with
just a touch of guilt. She almost felt like she was cheating them out of their money. It was one way to earn her next meal, singing for her supper.

Nervously, she watched as
, one by one, the women were called in. She strained to hear what they were singing, but no sound came through the door.

Finally, it was her turn
. Mr. Erson appeared, as tall and clean-cut as Mr. Weston, apart from his lovely, soft brown hair. Julie could almost peg them for brothers.

His gaze raked over her from head to toe and he smiled. Julie felt the heat rise into her cheeks at his open appraisal.

“Miss Beasley.” He read her clipboard. “No music?” She shook her head. “Do you need any piano accompaniment? Our pianist is exceptional and can play any song.”

“No
, thank you. I don't require accompaniment.”

His grin widened before
he studied her papers again.

“You ha
ve not filled in all the form.”

Julie met his gaze, determined and defiant.
“My sexual preferences are none of anyone’s business. Otherwise, I can leave right now.”

“You are quite right. The stage is yours
, Miss Beasley.” He stood back.

Summing up all of her courage and stamping down on her nerves, Julie walked with her head held high
through to the curtains. Sweeping them aside, she walked out into the center of the stage. The lights directly overhead made it difficult for her to see the trio of shadowy figures sitting in the fifth row. An audience of three.
I can handle that.

“When
you’re ready, Miss Beasley.”

She recognized the voice of Uric Weston.

Julie cleared her throat and closed her eyes, envisioning her mother smiling proudly at her, as she used to do when Julie sang for her.

Taking a deep breath, she let her inner music swirl into her mind and started to sing. Her voice rang out clean and clearer than the finest of bells.

'The Last Rose of Summer'

When she finished, the melody faded through the small auditorium. She opened her eyes
, waiting to be told she could go home.

“Thank you
, Miss Beasley,” Mr. Weston's voice rang out. “Could you please wait back in the holding area?”

She
walked off the stage and waited for a good five minutes and was then more nervous than she was before going on stage. All she wanted was to get her money and leave. The door swung open and Mr. Weston walked towards her with a broad smile.

“Congratulations
!”

She blinked up at the handsome man not quite believing what
he said. He smiled down at her. “I always know talent when I hear it.” He handed over a thick, yellow envelope.

“Here is your winner
’s payment and the details of where you have to be for the next stage of the competition. I've added some extra, so you can buy yourself some nice clothes. Pack for a few days and get yourself a good meal.”

Her cheeks infused with heat, embarrassed her stomach groaned loudly.

“Mr. Weston, I have a job. I can’t just pack up and leave.”

“Please
, Julie, call me Uric.” He smiled warmly. “I have the name of your employer and I’ll sort out the details. You will not lose your job, but if all works out as I hope, you may never need to return to it again.” He smiled with pure confidence.

She shook her head. There was no way her lazy boss was giving her time off.

“Trust me, I’ll take care of everything. You just take care of yourself and your wonderful talent.”

Uric gently took hold of her upper arm, escorting her to the door and back
onto the side street.


I’ll see you very soon, Julie.” With that, he closed the door, leaving her staring at its red painted surface in astonishment.

“I won.” She drew in a breath
and shook her head. “Well, at least I didn’t have to take off my clothes.” Her gaze slid to the envelope. She opened it with trembling fingers; reaching in, she slid the money partly out, gasping at the neatly bundled cash.
Five thousand dollars!
Leaving the cash inside the envelope, she pulled out a sheet of paper, glancing over the neat print.

‘Nightingale Intergalactic Singing Contest’
.
Intergalactic?
She snorted. The names they came up with these days.

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