Authors: Abigail Drake
|The Wild Rose Press, Inc (2016)|
Former Junior Miss Kentucky Emerson Shaw won pageants using martial arts as her talent and Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War” as her guide, but a painful secret leads her to the University of York, and puts her in the path of tattooed and pierced bad boy, Michael Nightingale.
Michael is a Traveller, part of an ancient line of mercenary gypsies who protect the world from vicious monsters called the Moktar. When Emerson gets attacked, she has no choice but accept Michael’s offer of protection or face certain death.
Traveller society, full of outdated rules and ridiculous superstitions, isn’t a good fit for the headstrong Emerson. Traveller women aren’t allowed to fight. Traveller women aren’t allowed to win. Traveller women aren’t allowed to leave. But Emerson will do what she must, even if it means losing the one person who matters most.
Michael glared at me, threw some bills on the table and stomped out of the shop. Like an idiot, I grabbed my backpack and followed him.
He walked quickly through The Shambles, dodging pedestrians and umbrellas with ease. I wasn’t quite as lucky. The rain poured down, filling the street with puddles. Michael wore combat boots and jeans. I had on a useless pair of flats and no jacket. It only took seconds for me to be soaked to the skin and miserable. In minutes, I looked like a little blonde drowned rat.
I’m pretty fast, even in slippery shoes, and I was motivated. I kept him in my sights until he reached a side street at the end of The Shambles that led down a narrow lane. I was only half a block away when he turned and looked at me, his eyes locking with mine, and disappeared.
He hadn’t walked away. He hadn’t moved. He’d been there one second, and gone the next. Running as fast as I could, I reached the spot where I’d last seen him and looked down the lane and on either side of the street. My ribbon flew out of my hair, blowing away in the wind as I slid on the wet cobblestones and nearly fell. I skidded to a halt, realizing I hadn’t been fast enough. It was a dead end, and he was gone.
Praise for Abigail Drake
won third place
in the 2014 Pennwriters Novel Beginnings Contest.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales, is entirely coincidental.
COPYRIGHT © 2016 by Wende Dikec
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission of the author or The Wild Rose Press, Inc. except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews.
Contact Information: [email protected]
Cover Art by
The Wild Rose Press, Inc.
PO Box 708
Adams Basin, NY 14410-0708
Visit us at www.thewildrosepress.com
First Black Rose Edition, 2016
Print ISBN 978-1-5092-0569-1
Digital ISBN 978-1-5092-0570-7
Published in the United States of America
This book is dedicated to my lovely husband,
who slays all the monsters for me
and makes everything possible.
“He was as nervous as a long tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs.”
If Michael Nightingale had been a dessert, he would have been decadent, dark, and sinful. Something high in calories and definitely unhealthy, but completely and utterly irresistible.
I met him because of a craving for pastry, but falling for him had nothing at all to do with carbohydrate addiction. I knew he would be bad for me, dangerous even, but I took one look at him and just couldn’t help myself. Like a rich chocolate torte or a cake covered in ganache, I craved him.
Mrs. Betty Burke, the round little English lady who owned the teashop near our flat, tried to warn me about him. When I asked her about Michael, pretending to know him from one of my classes at the university, she saw right through me.
“You should stay away from him, Emerson,” she said as she poured my tea.
“Because that one is trouble, and trouble is the last thing a nice lass like you needs.”
I didn’t listen. I never listened. That may have been part of my problem.
Mrs. Burke’s shop sat on the edge of The Shambles, the historic district of York. She called everyone “pet” and “love” and made the best scones in town.
The cobblestone streets of The Shambles had spurned modernization and remained delightfully narrow and uneven, with buildings jutting out at odd angles and touristy shops sitting next to old pubs and fancy restaurants. My favorite place in a city filled with dozens of quaint little nooks and crannies
The first time Michael walked into her shop I’d been eating one of Mrs. Burke’s famous scones and almost choked. His gaze had skimmed the tables, but if he saw me coughing up pastry, he certainly didn’t acknowledge it. He sat down at a tiny table by the window and never even noticed my existence.
He seemed rough, with his bad attitude, piercings, and tattoos, and he should have frightened me, but he didn’t. Something about him tugged at me, like he possessed the pull of a giant magnet I’d seen once at a science museum, and I was nothing but a big lump of scrap metal. I couldn’t explain or understand it, but I felt an instant rush of attraction for him as soon as he walked through the door.
I should have stayed away from him, but I’d never been a person with a great deal of common sense. Grandma Sugar, the lady who’d helped raise me back home in Kentucky, often said I didn’t have the good sense God gave a goose. She may have been right, because even weeks after my first Nightingale sighting, my interest had not abated even one tiny bit.
Just this morning, I’d woken up extra early to make sure I didn’t miss him, rushed off to the tea shop, and parked myself at the table with the best vantage point for viewing his entrance. He’d be there in a few minutes, sit at a table next to the window, stick his nose in a book, and ignore me completely. That, sadly, was the highlight of my day.
I wore a pale brown cable knit sweater I’d bought at a store called Jumpers with a tweed mini-skirt and brown tights. It was raining, as usual, and my hair had frizzed out like crazy. The curse of a curly-headed girl. I’d pulled it back into a low ponytail and tied it with a wide, cream-colored ribbon, but there was only so much I could do.
Mrs. Burke watched as I sat still as a statue and stared at the doorway. “You’ve got it bad, don’t you?”
“I sure do.” No sense in trying to deny it.
Mrs. Burke sighed. “And you don’t even know what he is.”
I would have asked her what she meant, but at that moment, Michael Nightingale walked into the teashop, completely knocking every coherent thought right out of my brain. It had begun raining harder, and droplets of water rolled down the leather jacket that encased his broad shoulders. He wiped them away, and ran a hand over his shaved head before squeezing his long legs under his usual table. The table looked almost too small for his tall, muscular body. As the storm picked up in intensity, the sky grew dark and ominous. Because of the lights inside the shop, however, I could see his reflection in the window clear as day as he dug through his backpack and pulled out a giant textbook. It was almost as good as staring at him directly.
Mrs. Burke sighed again.
“I know,” I said softly. “It’s hopeless.”
Mrs. Burke patted my arm. “Not so much hopeless as senseless. And stupid.”
“Thanks,” I said, frowning, but she’d already moved away.
I pulled out my dog-eared copy of Sun Tzu’s
The Art of War
and pretended to read as I snuck glances at Michael. The book had been a gift from my father, eminent professor and world-renowned expert on military strategy Dr. George Shaw, and it was my own personal bible. A former Junior Miss Kentucky might not seem to have much in common with a two-thousand-year-old military strategist, but I referred to Sun Tzu’s teachings almost every single day of my life. He was my hero, my teacher, and also my guide.
He’d been by my side as I dealt with the aftermath of my mother’s untimely death. He’d supported me as I became a serious student of the martial arts, in spite of my southern drawl and petite stature. And his practicality with a hint of ruthlessness was something I employed to win countless beauty pageants. Now I used it to find a way to get Michael Nightingale to notice me. I really was ten shades of pathetic at this point.
I knew for a fact boys like him weren’t interested in girls like me. He wore leather and a permanent scowl and exuded a sense of danger. I was as edgy as a cotton ball, and my looks definitely fell into the blonde, brown-eyed, wholesome, girl-next-door category. Michael existed in a different league altogether.
He shifted his book, allowing his entire face to reflect in the glass. I swallowed hard when I realized what was actually going on. He wasn’t staring at his book. At this very moment, he watched me just as stealthily and as intently as I watched him.
According to Sun Tzu, any good warrior knows to use whatever weapons are at hand, and my hair had sometimes been called my best feature. It hung well past my shoulders, and on days when I had a few extra hours to spare and decided to straighten it, it nearly hit my bottom. I’d never straightened it for pageants back in Kentucky, though. Southern judges loved nothing better than a contestant with a head full of curls.
I wondered if Michael liked my hair as much as those judges. I twirled a lock that had come loose from my ponytail around my finger to test the theory. He watched, mesmerized, and I realized Sun Tzu had been right yet again. Every opponent had a weak point, and Michael Nightingale seemed enthralled by a something so simple it almost made me laugh. A lock of hair. Who would have thought?
Finally, after weeks of being ignored, Michael Nightingale saw me. Really saw me. I took a deep breath and blew it out slowly. Now or never.
One of the most critical elements in planning a battle is timing. I could either make the first move with Michael Nightingale, or sit here every day watching him from a distance like a creeper.
I slammed my book shut, making the woman at the table next to me jump. “Sorry,” I murmured, my cheeks turning pink.
Michael had stuck his nose back into his book, and ignored me once again. I walked over to the counter on the pretense of getting more sugar. On the way back, I paused at his table, and read the title of his book.
“Organic chemistry. That must be hard.”
Worst pick up line ever. I should have listened to Mrs. Burke and just stayed at my table and drooled over Michael from afar. I was about to run away when he looked up, knocking the breath right out of my lungs. From far away, his eyes looked blue, but up close they were the color of a clear turquoise sea.
Clear turquoise sea.
I’d moved beyond pathetic into scary.
“Why are you talking to me?”
His voice was low and rough. I blinked at him. Several times. I’d been prepared for small talk, but his question sounded more like a confrontation.
My cheeks burned as he stared at me, waiting for me to speak. I opened and closed my mouth like a fish out of water. Not my most attractive look. Between the blinking and the gaping, Michael probably thought I had serious issues. He may have been right.
I squared my shoulders, realizing I’d almost waved the white flag of defeat before the battle had even begun. I gave myself an internal slap on the head, slid into the seat across from him, set down my cup of tea, and folded my hands on the table. He raised one eyebrow in surprise. He didn’t realize I’d just made an important battle decision. The white flag had been buried in the dust. I was now on the attack.