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Elemental Rain, 1

Her past is postage due and centaurs are ready to collect.


Through Rain and Missing Mantaurs is a dark fantasy most daring and eccentric. A tale not for the faint of heart. Pony is a bipedal half-breed centaur with no desire to waste tears on a past she can't remember. She's busy enough with her mail routes and package deliveries, and of course, floundering through hot-cold love affairs with the high class courtesans Mardyth and Lullaby.


The mundane drudgery of her life shatters when Konstantine Bywater takes over as Lightfoot Delivery's new boss. He asks questions she can't possibly answer, and stirs up a tragic past better left dead and buried.


But running away is no longer an option. Not when Kon and his minions accuse Mardyth of an unspeakable crime. With her lover's life at stake, Pony won't stop until she uncovers not only the truth of Mardyth's innocence, but the truth of the past as well.



Release Date: Thursday, December 3 2020

ASN: B08MC6M6NK

Cover Artist: Hanna Hetmanchuk

Length: 116,000

Genres: dark fantasy, epic fantasy

Pairings: MMF, MM

LGBTQ+ Identities: gay, poly, bi

Keywords/Categories: fantasy, dark fantasy, epic fantasy, gay, poly, polyamorous, bi, bisexual MM, MMF, centaurs, half-breeds, half-centaur, elves, gods, magic bow, unusual jobs in fantasy books, lost heirs, memory loss, mail carriers, only one of her kind

Warnings: mentions of rape, torture, violence, and incest.

Goodreads

Liminal Fiction


Buy Link

Amazon US ǀ Amazon UK ǀ Amazon CAN

Kobo ǀ iBooks ǀ Angus & Robertson ǀ B&N ǀ Indigo


Originally published in 2013, and 2015, this is a heavily revised third edition, but it's always had the same title.



Guest post

There’s Stubborn and Passive Characters, Then We Have Pony


In Through Rain and Missing Mantaurs, my main character is Pony. She lives in a gritty world of what some readers have dubbed transgressive fiction. It’s not for the faint of heart or those with minds closed to all the possibilities of what a fantasy world is.


Pony is half human, half centaur. No, she doesn’t have a centaur’s body—at least not anymore. She’s bipedal, like a human. She looks human, except for a few details. She has a centaur’s crest sprouting from her center scalp. She’s got a tail she uses as a belt to hold up her trousers. Also from the waist down, she’s got a nice thick coat of horsehair. Her toenails are also striped gray, like some horse hooves.


Pony’s job is to run. She used to deliver mail to burgs, hamlets, and outposts out in the wilds, but now she’s earned a cushy route within the city. But she’s still running. From herself, from life, and from her past.


From a young age, she’s been conditioned to avoid conflict. All of it. For her own safety, and survival. It’s become so ingrained within her, that it’s become her primary nature. Enforcing that is that she’s a half breed. She can’t draw attention to herself. She’s learned to be passive in most situations.


So when her past comes in search of her, she balks. Freezes. Ignores it, hoping it’ll go away. Because it brings more pain than her current lifestyle. So she continues to run from it, and herself. It’s what she’s good at. Besides, the pain is just another day. Safe in her own little world.


This has made for a complicated story that some find impatience with, but it’s all part of the plot arc and characterization.


Passive characters fascinate me a bit more than extroverted characters whose actions are predictable. I love reading between the lines to discover the motivations of the so called ‘quiet ones’. What makes them act the way they do? What will it take to completely jar them from their numbness? They cling to a routine so ordinary until they’re pried out of it with virtual dynamite by world-altering events because there’s no other choice left.


So far, most of my main characters have been passive. It allows the story to carry them along until the point where it’s a make it or break it moment. My novels aren’t a wham, bam, thank you and then it’s over. They’re meant to pull you in and engage the reader into spending some time, some place, so very far away. And that’s what interests me the most. To get completely lost in a fantasy novel. And that, for me, is what makes characters so fascinating and real.



excerpt

Saddle-sweating, horse-humping, gods-cursed bastards! The rumors were true. Shit! Bad luck must be in love with me or something. Maybe it could give Mardyth lessons.


Arms pumping high and heart hammering in her parched throat, Pony pushed to reach her top speed. The rumble of centaur hooves behind her vibrated both earth and air. She absorbed those rumbling shock waves into her svelte, bipedal runner’s body. And knew her two human legs—versus their four equine ones—would not be enough.


Still, she would try.


The sweltering heat weighed heavy. Her ratty brown and tan courier’s tunic clung like a starving tick. Rocks and pebbles further split the threadbare soles of her worn-out boots as she pounded down the rutted road. She grimaced at the sweaty slap of calloused arches sliding around in rotted footwear that could fall apart any day now.


Pony squinted at the onslaught of bright blue sky. Her brain cooked in its own juices as the summer sun withered the forest corridor. Her brown hair slipped from its limp topknot; stray strands plastered her sunburned cheeks. It was almost too hot to breathe. Too dry to live. And the damn fools giving chase wanted to die of heatstroke right alongside her.


As it always did in situations like these, Callum’s unfavorable input surfaced to harass her. Stupid, gods-damned centaurs—worthless scraps of horsemeat to toss to the dogs. Her former guardian’s mantra, though crude and offensive, might hold slivers of truth. It was most certainly stupid to be running full-out in this blistering heat. At any other time, she might’ve been curious about this, her first ever centaur encounter.


Just to say she’d finally met one.


Give a lecture about overexertion in extreme weather.


Maybe engage in some harmless flirting.


To finally decide, once and for all, that Callum was right about them.


Or wrong.


But not when this chase proved that they were hunting for courier blood.


Any courier’s blood.


Keep running. Don’t look back.


She looked back.


Six tall shapes, the merging of man and equine. Hooves kicking up clouds of rising dust. The whip of long, flashing manes. The distance between them shrank with each passing second.


Her mail satchel, empty except for the meager bait of Escape Plan Number Two, bounced against her spine. Slung across her chest and anchored into the strap of her mailbag, a dozen small throwing blades awaited use. The large knife hanging at her hip, anchored at her thigh, allowed slight consolation.


Escape Plan Number One took the form of the few coins she couldn’t spare; the bits of metal jingled in her trouser pocket, muffled by a scrap of cloth.


Your job is to run, but hold strength in reserve. Callum’s voice echoed in the back of her mind. If cornered, kill without hesitation or remorse.


Okay. Good advice. She was good at running. That was all she ever did.


Pony crushed dry cracked lips between her teeth. Escape Plan Number One never failed. But would this tactic work on centaurs?


Wait. She had to revise that. Would Escape Plan Number One work on murderous, marauding centaurs who’d probably noticed she was a half-breed suffering through the last few days of her estrus?


If Callum were alive, he would’ve wagered against her.


Might as well give the plan a go, Horsemeat.


She sensed the distance closing between them. Imagined their hot breath blowing down the back of her neck. Their tall, bizarre forms hovering over her. Their hands tearing at her tunic to confirm the hidden tail braided and wrapped around her waist like a belt…


Pony shook off the terror. No time to panic.


Dipping into her trouser pocket, she pulled out several bronze skull coins and flung them over her shoulder. It was back to rummaging through garbage cans when she got home. The currency thudded along the highway and pinged off rocks. On her old southern routes, tossing money always worked with the undesirables skulking around looking for a mark.


The thundering sound of hooves sped up and deepened. Pony ground her teeth. All right, so they weren’t after money. Not typical highwaymen then. Why couldn’t they be greedy bastards like everyone else?


Escape Plan Number Two.


Reaching into the mailbag, Pony pulled out the four carrots she’d pilfered from the company stables. She glanced at the vegetables, shrugged, and took a bite out of one. Then she proceeded to fling the orange darlings over her shoulder in two-second intervals.


High-pitched squeals of disgust and indignation answered.


Oh well. It’d been worth the try. Maybe they weren’t all animal after all. Or maybe centaurs were fussy eaters. Maybe she should’ve grabbed a salt brick instead. Then she could’ve brained them with it.


Escape Plan Number Three then.


The road continued to bend, the thick forest jutting into her direct line of sight. She darted for the ferns and scrub brush. Towering pines blotted out some of the sun’s glare—for a few seconds she was running blind.


Two centaurs armed with longbows jumped out in front of her. The younger one took aim at her heart.


Horseshit! She was speedy, but not quick enough to outrun a flying projectile. Gulping, she dropped into a slide, feet first. Gravel tore open her calloused palms and ripped holes into the back of her trousers.


Great. Bleeding in several places, and now she had clothes to repair. “Arggh!” She slammed slick fists to the ground. “What’s wrong with you swag-bellied tail-waggers? You’d shoot one of your own?”



Giveaway

Jeanne is giving away a $20 Amazon gift card with this tour

Direct Link



The author

Jeanne Marcella writes dramatic, and often character driven fantasy fiction not for the faint of heart. Quests, adventure, danger, and the grit of living are foremost, but relationships and mild romance might also share the pages.


Granted unlimited access to books at a very early age via the library, she quickly acquired a fondness for creating her own stories through word and drawing. She was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area.


Author Website: https://www.aforgeofphoenix.com

Author Facebook (Personal): https://www.facebook.com/JeanneMarcellaAuthor

Author Facebook (Author Page): https://www.facebook.com/aforgeofphoenix

Author Twitter: https://twitter.com/AForgeOfPhoenix

Author Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/aforgeofphoenix/

Author Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/jeannemarcella

Author QueeRomance Ink: https://www.queeromanceink.com/?s=Jeanne+Marcella

Author Liminal Fiction (LimFic.com): https://www.limfic.com/mbm-book-author/jeanne-marcella/

Author Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Jeanne-Marcella/e/B00DGNU5KI/





Nine tales of magic, love, and a little fairy dust: A military posting at the Rapunzel Tower to avoid war in The Tower; a Brownie that just wants to do something right in Cleanly Wrong; a dream of love unfulfilled in A Heart’s Dream; saving the victims of an evil witch in The Red Apple Witch; a boy who just wants to go to the ball in Cinder-Elle; a cursed kingdom and search for lost love in The Curse; a thief and his fairy godparent with different ideas about love in Happily Ever After; a lightning strike, a lost egg, an ancient battle, and love at first spark in Thunderbird; and a prince trapped, knowing his true love will never save him in The Beast.



Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: 01/04/2021

Heat Level: 2 - Fade to Black Sex

Pairing: Male/Male, Male/Male Menage

Length: 141700

Genre: Fantasy, LGBTQIA+, betrothed, Brownies, disabilities, fairy godmother, fairy tales, folklore, genderfluid, knights, magic/magic users, men with children, military/soldiers, psychic, psychic ability, royal ball, royalty, shifters, soulmates, sweet, teacher, war, wedding, wizards

Goodreads


Buy Link

NineStar Press Book2Read



the excerpt

Excerpt from the first story, The Tower


“And now, Prince Haines will pick the person who will be honored with the Rapunzel Posting!” General Darien called out loudly, his parade voice easily carrying over the noise of a few hundred men and women enjoying the annual feast. The room immediately quieted. Every year the officers and select few enlisted who were receiving an honor came together for a thank-you and award ceremony, but only every seven years was the Rapunzel Posting awarded.


Ishiah watched as Prince Haines stood from his place on the dais, where all the highest officers had been seated for the ceremony, and walked around the table until he was standing in front of the plinth holding a golden bowl. The bowl was easily deep enough for a baby to bathe, solid gold, and encrusted on the outside with gemstones, and it matched Prince Haines’s outer appearance perfectly. Haines had golden-colored hair he kept pulled back from his face with a ruby-colored ribbon. His hand, as he lifted it above the bowl and hesitated there as if to drum up more drama, had a gemstone ring on every finger.


Those in the room held their collective breath as Haines dipped his fingers into the golden bowl. For the last seven days, the plinth and bowl had been standing in the entrance to the officers’ mess hall where any officer interested in the Rapunzel Posting could drop a slip of paper into it with their name on it. Ishiah had walked around that bowl before and after every meal for seven days straight. He hadn’t put his name in, but he hadn’t needed to. He was just as capable of reading the winds of his political fate as anyone else in the kingdom.


It was with no surprise to Ishiah that Haines pulled out a piece of paper and read out: “First Lieutenant Ishiah Fitzsimons!”


The room didn’t erupt into cheers as it would have for someone who actually wanted the post. Even the lowest enlisted man or woman in the room knew who Ishiah was. Fitz, meaning bastard child of royalty, and Simons, meaning the child of King Simon. Born to a mistress not even two months after Haines’s own birth, Ishiah was a constant reminder of the king’s infidelity to the political animals in the kingdom. He was also a second potential heir to the throne. With Prince Haines trying to solidify his status now that his wife was pregnant, Ishiah knew it was inevitable that he would be shuffled off somewhere. It was only a coincidence that the Rapunzel Posting had come due this year, and the convenience of it must have made changing all the slips of paper in the bowl to carry his name instead of the rightful candidates a worthy endeavor.


Ishiah stood from his seat at the back of the room and walked through the whispers and the tables toward the stairs that led up to the dais. He looked almost nothing like Prince Haines. Where Haines was golden, Ishiah was dark. His hair was black and was shaved tightly to his head on the sides according to military regulations, but he had allowed the wide strip on the top of his head to grow extremely long in the style of the eastern barbarians. The military allowed the enlisted barbarians to keep their ceremonial hairstyles or risk a potential uprising of the eastern territories, and many non-barbarian soldiers had chosen to copy them. Ishiah had originally done it to prove to the court that he was no prince—a prince wouldn’t dare emulate the barbarians—and had ended up liking the hairstyle enough to keep it. Tonight, his long hair was thickly plaited and the tail of the braid rested between his shoulder blades. His skin was tanned like his mother’s had been, the color of wet sand along the southern coast where his mother had been from before meeting King Simon. Only his eyes, gray shot through with blue streaks and wide in his face, proved his heritage. He shared his eyes with King Simon and Prince Haines.


Gray met gray as Ishiah climbed the stairs onto the dais and bowed to Prince Haines.


“Rise, soldier, and be honored,” Haines said loudly enough to be heard over the soft whispers of the gossipers that had begun to fill the room. “First Lieutenant Ishiah Fitzsimons, you have been honored with the posting in Rap Tower in the Zel Mountains. You hold this prestigious duty to guard our lands from the western invaders. For seven years, seven months, and seven days, you will be watching for any sign of the returning hoard, and you will be studying. The tower has been provisioned with every textbook needed so when your posting ends you will be prepared to take on the mantle of colonel and lead this army to victory!”


He paused and it took Ishiah a moment to realize Haines was waiting for a response.


“I am honored to be chosen,” Ishiah replied because that was the only thing he could say. “I will execute my duty faithfully and with diligence.” He bowed again.


“Then come, join me for a toast and some dessert.” Prince Haines gestured to the seat at the table that had remained ceremonially empty throughout the banquet. Ishiah walked over to it and stood behind the chair until Haines had retaken his seat. Ishiah sat and servants immediately entered the room bearing dessert trays.


“Congratulations, Lieutenant,” General Darien said from Prince Haines’s other side once the chatter around the room had risen enough that it would be difficult to hear what was being said on the dais. General Dairen was smiling at Ishiah, but there was a hard glint in his eye indicating he was aware of the political maneuvering that had gotten Ishiah the posting.


“Thank you, General,” Ishiah replied.


They fell silent as plates of cake and glasses of champagne were placed in front of them. Prince Haines lifted his glass first.


“To Lieutenant Ishiah, who I know will be the most successful officer to come out of the Rapunzel Posting.”


Those who could hear Haines also lifted their glasses in a toast. Ishiah took a long sip of the champagne, hoping to let the resentment he could feel bubbling up in his chest pop along with the bubbles in his drink. The dais was silent after that as they all applied themselves to their cake. Only once everyone else was distracted by other conversations did Haines fully turn toward Ishiah.


“I am sorry, Ish. I know this isn’t what you would have chosen,” Haines began, his voice soft so they wouldn’t be overheard.


“Of course it’s not, Hay,” Ishiah replied, his voice tight with the anger he was trying to keep suppressed.


Haines shook his head firmly as if he needed to brush away Ishiah’s feelings in order to finish what he had to say. “There were whispers at court. The malcontents unhappy with some of the policies Father and I have been implementing were talking about replacing us with you.”


“Hay, those whispers started the day father announced to the court that I was his child,” Ishiah replied, his anger making his words more of a growl than actual syllables. “Just admit that you’re scared and instead of coming to talk to me about a solution you hatched this scheme instead.”


“Fine!” Haines snapped, although his voice still managed to remain quiet. “Of course I’m scared. Victoria is three months pregnant and extremely vulnerable. I want my child to have a chance to be born, not murdered in the womb by some idiot who wants to put you on the throne instead of me. I only had a few options, Ish, to remove you as a threat. I could have killed you, of course, but that wasn’t an option I was willing to consider. Father suggested making you an ambassador to one of our trading partners across the ocean, but I know you would have hated that. Think about it, Ish. Seven years and you’ll come out of it a full colonel with a big enough salary and enough prestige you can settle down comfortably anywhere in the country. When General Darien suggested you as a good candidate for the posting, Father and I agreed.”


After seven years of being out of the spotlight of the court, Ishiah would be all but forgotten by the malcontents. Haines would have cemented himself as the heir and his child as next in line. And, if Ishiah chose to live somewhere far away from the capital after the posting was over, his status as bastard son of the king would be all but forgotten.


And all of it had been neatly thrust on him in a way that left zero room for his refusal.


It took a moment for Ishiah to bury his anger again. Raising a fist toward Prince Haines would get him put in jail, which would be even worse than being put in the tower for seven years.


“You still should have talked to me about it first,” Ishiah said once he was certain his voice could remain soft enough to keep their conversation private. “Instead of springing it on me like this. Treat me like a brother, Haines, instead of like the enemy you fear I’ll be turned into.”


“You’re right.” Haines let out a heavy sigh. “You are right,” he repeated. “Forgive me?”


Ishiah frowned at Haines for a long moment before sighing himself. “Eventually, Hay. Let me be angry for a little bit longer. I expect you’ll write me weekly and that my niece or nephew will start writing me as soon as they’re able.”


“I’ll write you, Father will write you, and I’ll make certain my child will write you. Ish, this posting is an honor, you know. We make sure not just anyone is picked for this. They have to be highly recommended by their peers and their superiors. If you hadn’t been, you’d be on a ship heading for an ambassador posting instead. Please, I know you didn’t want this, but be honored you are thought of so highly.”


“I will be, Hay. As soon as the anger and betrayal fade, I will be.” Ishiah cracked a tentative smile for Haines to show he meant it. “Besides, now you’re going to have to figure out someone else for the court gossips to focus their ire on. Who will be the next family scapegoat now that they don’t have my hair or the fact that I keep showing up to court events in my leather armor to harangue you over?”


“I’ll be certain to let you know who they pick and why,” Haines replied with his own hesitant smile.


Ishiah might be angry with him, but they were still brothers. They would get through this, and in seven years who knew what the political climate and their relationship would be like.



the giveaway

One lucky winner will receive a $10.00 NineStar Press Gift Code!

Direct Link


the author

When Mell Eight was in high school, she discovered dragons. Beautiful, wondrous creatures that took her on epic adventures both to faraway lands and on journeys of the heart. Mell wanted to create dragons of her own, so she put pen to paper. Mell Eight is now known for her own soaring dragons, as well as for other wonderful characters dancing across the pages of her books. While she mostly writes paranormal or fantasy stories, she has been seen exploring the real world once or twice.


Author Links


Website: http://melleightfiction.weebly.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MellEightFiction/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/MellEight






Night Flyer, 3

When chaos strikes at the heart of Milan, it is up to Florentina’s alter-ego the Night Flyer to stop it. As Florentina and Madelena’s love deepens, so does the well of danger surrounding them. The race is on to discover the mysterious Shadow Guild and uncover who is behind the deadly rampage, but Florentina’s mission is threatened by a gang of assassins. Can the Night Flyer prevail, or will Maddie’s love be ripped from her arms?


Chaos in Milan is the third book in Edale Lane’s Night Flyer Trilogy, a tale of power, passion, and payback in Renaissance Italy. If you like action and suspense, rich historical background, three-dimensional characters, and a sweet romance, then you’ll want to complete the Night Flyer saga. Order your copy of Chaos in Milan today!


Release Date: Tuesday, December 22 2020

Publisher: Past and Prologue Press

Cover Artist: Enggar Adirasa

Length: 83,986

Genres: Historical fiction, Historical fantasy, Historical lesbian romance, action/adventure, Super-hero

Pairings: FF, a minor character's MM

LGBTQ+ Identities: gay, lesbian

Tropes: badass hero, bodyguard, class differences, families/raising kids, forbidden love, soul mates, love can heal/redemption (of an important secondary character, but not sure if that goes on the list), passing as straight, true love, rescue, secret identity

Keywords/Categories: action adventure, fantasy, historical, fantasy historical, historical Renaissance, inspirational, lesfic, mystery, fantasy-super hero and villains, ff romance, lesbian romance, lesbian, historical, gay, new release, giveaway, Italy, Milan

Warnings: fighting and battle violence

Goodreads


Buy Link

Amazon ǀ Amazon Paperback



Exclusive Excerpt

Milan, Italy, March 20, 1503


Chaos flooded the streets of Milan on Good Friday. Thousands had turned out for the procession of the cross through the wide avenues leading up to the Duomo for the three o’clock Holy Friday Mass, the Via Crucis. What was traditionally a solemn, reverent occasion was being twisted into terrifying mayhem as several men dressed in black barreled through the faithful with smoke bombs, yelling and disrupting the parade, inflicting injuries in the process. The bishop’s miter fell to one side as he toppled to the other, his brass incense ball clanging to the cobblestones and rolling away. People panicked, trying to flee in all directions at once. One of the miscreants struck the acolytes who carried the huge cross behind the unfortunate bishop; they splayed to the pavement, pinned beneath the weight of the life-sized wooden icon.


Men, women and children, coughing and covering their eyes, could not see to escape, leaving the most vulnerable—the oldest and the youngest—in danger of being trampled. City watchmen and constables rushed into the tumult only to be pushed and squeezed as they tried to wiggle through like worms trapped in a jar.


Overhead soared another figure in black, this one gliding in on huge silk wings. From her bird’s-eye view, the Night Flyer squinted through the billows of murky smoke and angled toward one of the assailants. Zeroing in like a hawk on a mouse, she descended, pulling in her wings just before crashing into the rogue feet first. The collision knocked the vandal to the ground, and the Night Flyer wasted no time clapping irons around the man’s wrists. She yanked off his mask, displaying a masculine bearded face.


“It isn’t me!” she shouted in a gender ambiguous voice tinged with a Venetian accent. “Look—he is not me!”


The man groaned and tugged against his restraints. A few in the crowd nearest them ventured a wide-eyed stare and appreciative nod.


“Papa, Mama, look!” called a child who pointed with enthusiasm. “It’s the Night Flyer! He’ll save us.” But the stream of terrified parishioners simply flowed around them as if they were stones in the river.


Hearing more screams and spotting another billow of smoke ahead, the Night Flyer lit out in that direction, speed-weaving between pedestrians akin to a Calcio player. She spotted someone dressed in a costume similar to her own, even wearing a backpack; she was certain it contained no ingenious contraption that would allow him to fly. Anger began to sear through her veins at the deception these enemies employed as they once again planned to use her persona as their scapegoat. But there was no time for ire; the people were in danger.


She was only a few yards behind him, pushing herself to catch up, when the antagonist shoved an elderly man. In the victim’s flailing attempt to stay on his feet, he thrust out his arms, knocking a baby from its mother’s grasp. The Night Flyer spied a new wave of panicked persons running in their direction, away from the villain in black trailing smoke, and she made a command decision.


She skidded to a halt, scooped up the baby with one hand and the old man with the other just before a stampede of feet bolted over the spot where they had lain a second earlier.


“Thank you, God bless you!” gushed the mother as the Night Flyer dropped the squalling babe into her waiting arms.


“I’m all right,” snapped the grizzled senior as he pulled himself free of her grip. “No harm… hey, aren’t you the one-”


“No!” The Night Flyer cut him off definitively. “I’m not one of them, and they are not me.”


She lifted her eyes to scan the avenue and sighed, realizing that the foe was long gone.


“Hey, there’s one of the pillagers!” She detected a deep voice from behind. Glancing over her shoulder, she spotted a watchman and shook her head. The Night Flyer was the most wanted “criminal” in Milan with a substantial reward for “his” capture. It was time to run.



A few minutes later, the Night Flyer surveyed the scene below from the red clay tiled roof of a buff colored three-story brick building. Most of the crowd had flowed from the thoroughfare down side streets and alleys, but dozens loitered about, no doubt stunned and confused. In sight was the procession’s destination, the famous Duomo Cathedral, a symbol of piety and prestige for the third largest city in Europe (although Venice shared that status). She watched as one citizen helped another to her feet; the dazed acolytes assisted the bruised and battered bishop while watchmen and constables continued to search for the other trouble-makers. She recognized one of the peace officers—Salvador Sfondrati, a friend of the Torelli family. He took the attacker she had shackled into custody. She knew the rogue would tell them nothing, just fabricate a tale about an anti-papist prank to disrupt the Catholic Holy Day. But she was certain he had been hired by the same underworld organization, known only as the Shadow Guild, who had employed assassins to try to kill her precious Madelena.


Florentina de Bossi, daughter of an inventor who had assisted Master Leonardo da Vinci, tinker for Torelli Silk and Wool, tutor to Madelena’s children, also masqueraded as the feared and loved vigilante, the Night Flyer. She had first donned the mask to carry out an Italian vendetta against Don Benetto Viscardi, the arms merchant who had killed her father in a careless act of pettiness. However, after ruining his entire business and destroying his mansion, fortune, and reputation, Florentina stopped short of ultimate revenge and allowed him to leave Milan with his life. She had never planned on continuing in the Night Flyer role, but then she happened upon an assassin on Maddie’s balcony. How did she end up patrolling the city, helping those in distress and dissuading criminal activity, anyway?


As the smoke began to clear, the architectural grandeur of the wealthy metropolis sprawled before her like a vision: shops, restaurants, lavish residences, ornate theaters, guild halls, the Piazza Duomo with its lively fountain, and the majestic cathedral itself. She thought of the art and learning promoted throughout Milan by prosperous patrons such as the Torelli family—her new family—and her heartbeat slowed to a contented rhythm. Relieved that no one had been killed or seriously injured, Florentina’s thoughts turned to home and the people she loved.


****


While you may want to read the first two books in the series, it is not necessary for you enjoy the action and romance of book three. So if you like the way Chaos in Milan begins, order it today – or better yet, select the box set! Enchanting Milan awaits…



Non-Exclusive

Madelena found herself winded by the time they departed an old dirt road to traipse through knee high grass to the dilapidated wood-plank structure with an obvious hole in its roof. She was indeed thankful for the sensible shoes. Once inside, she set down the bag containing their lunch and wineskins, and settled herself onto a wooden barrel to catch her breath. The scent of rotting hay permeated the space which offered an abundance of natural light through the open double doors, cracks between siding planks, and the gap overhead. Cobwebs draped the corners, and dry balls of petrified horse manure littered the earthen floor.


Her initial excitement was rekindled as she beheld Fiore change into the black silk tunic and tight leather trousers that never failed to kindle her passion. She brimmed with anticipation while Florentina laced the soft-soled footwear over the bottoms of her leggings. With no need of a mask and cowl, Maddie enjoyed a full view of her face and long brunette braid.


Eyes glowing, Maddie purred, “Seeing you in that attire takes my breath away and inspires me to… well,” she added blushing. “I promised to let you work.”


Florentina flashed her a grin. “Happy to please you, my dear.” Then she proceeded to race toward a reinforced portion of the rear wall and up it, running one, two, three vertical steps up the planks followed by a backflip, landing on her feet in the powdery dust. Maddie’s eyes flew wide as she had not imagined such a feat was even possible.


She witnessed Fiore scale ropes up the sides of walls, swing from one to another, hang upside-down with her ankle wrapped in a cord, and run, hop, leap, and climb over every inch of her lair. Observing the tall, lean frame of her children’s tutor pass from one athletic exploit to the next with the dexterity and strength of an Olympian set her heart racing with desire, but also terrified her. Maddie knew that she would do these same exercises at great heights and risk to her person. A fall here may hurt a little, but a fall from a three-story building… don’t think about it!


After a bit, a sweaty Florentina, breathing heavy from her exertion, walked over for a sip to drink. “Mi Tesoro!” Maddie exclaimed. “I knew you could do things, but you are truly magnificent. How did you ever-”


“Practice,” Fiore answered as she wiped her face with a cloth. “Much practice and determination.”


Next, Florentina withdrew her multi-fire crossbow from her shoulder bag. “You invented that,” Maddie said as a half statement, half question.


Fiore nodded. “It was Master Leonardo’s idea, in a way,” she replied with a shrug. Florentina then fired off eight shots in rapid succession at eight separate targets situated around the barn. Some were painted circles, others sets of clothing stuffed with straw, and a few burlap sacks filled with sand that hung from cords. Fiore retrieved her bolts and reloaded the weapon.


“You hit every one!” Maddie gushed in amazement.


“Yes, but I’ve practiced with these marks for months,” the skilled vigilante replied as though unimpressed with herself. “Moving targets or hitting them while I’m running is more difficult.” Florentina pushed the burlap sacks so that they each started to sway in different directions and at varying speeds, then raced across the barn, pivoted, and began to fire. She first shot at the moving targets, then fired at the dummies as she ran traversed the dirt floor. “See,” she said, motioning as she skidded to a halt in front of Madelena. “I hit that one in the knee—I was aiming for its shoulder. And that bag?” she motioned. “I was supposed to strike the green circle, not just anywhere on it.”


“But still,” Maddie replied in amazement. “You hit every target, even if not in the spot you intended. That is quite astonishing.”


Florentina smiled, bent down, and placed her lips to Maddie’s. “Grazie,” she said. “Now, I want to show you something new,” she announced, a twinkle in her bright, tawny eyes. Madelena stood and followed Fiore over to where she had set her bag; the barrel was getting uncomfortable, anyway.


Fiore withdrew a polished wooden case, set it on a rickety work table, one of the few excuses for furniture in the barn, and opened it with care. “I found these when I went into the Oriental shop to acquire more opium.”


Maddie frowned. “I didn’t know you use that drug.”


“Oh, I don’t,” Fiore assured her. “Only for medicinal purposes and to subdue city watchmen without causing them any actual harm.”


“I’ve been in that shop,” Madelena commented. “They have some unusual merchandise and a few very popular items. I purchased one of those painted silk fans that are in fashion.”


Florentina nodded. “They have nice things.” Then, from the plush black velvet interior of the box, she retrieved a silver five-pointed star about three inches long. The edges appeared sharp and Fiore held it judiciously in her gloved hand.


“What is it?” Maddie asked.


“The shop owner didn’t know,” Florentina answered with a sly grin. “But I had read about these in an obscure book on Oriental weapons. It’s a Chinese throwing star. There are five in the set.”


“A throwing star,” Maddie echoed as she moved in for a closer look.


“The Spaniard threw a knife at me in the Pantheon,” Fiore recalled. “Throwing-knives are deadlier, can do more damage than these, but it is a skill that is difficult to master. With the star, I have five small blades rather than one longer one with which to hit my target. They are good to distract or throw a foe off balance. Strikes to the eye or weapon hand are debilitating and may take an enemy out of the fight. Because the tines are short and cannot penetrate deep into flesh, only a strike to the big artery in the neck or severing the windpipe in the throat can kill. I think these will prove quite useful, but I’ve only been practicing with them for a few weeks.”


With admiration and anticipation oozing through her voice, Maddie sang, “Show me.”


Florentina removed all five stars from the box and positioned herself in the middle of the barn. “Stand behind me,” she instructed as she lifted one from her left hand. “I’ve had no teacher to instruct me, so I had to guess as to how to throw them. I have developed three techniques, hoping to perfect at least one.”


Maddie withdrew, studying her partner’s every move. Florentina gripped the object horizontally in a curled hand with her thumb on top and her forefinger beneath it. Rotating her upper body from the waist, she drew her right arm back then spun, releasing the small weapon with the motion a child may use to toss a pie pan. The star whirled through the air at an astonishing speed until it lodged into the shoulder of one of the dummies. Florentina frowned. “A nuisance hit.”


“But you hit it!” Madelena exclaimed. Florentina continued to practice the move, thrusting at different targets and from varying angles, collecting the projectiles once all five had been expended.


“Semi-successful,” Fiore admitted. “Another way I have tried is a basic overhand throw.” She demonstrated by taking a star in her right hand, holding it vertically, and throwing it as one might a ball, rock, or piece of fruit. Her first attempt landed low on the target, so she adjusted the second by releasing it sooner, gaining better results. After dozens of pitches, Fiore returned to Maddie’s side. “The third method I’ve been trying is trickier, but has far greater potential. I’ll be at this a while if you want to curl up and take a nap.”


“What? And miss witnessing an act no Milanese woman has ever seen?” Maddie exclaimed. “But if you will point them in that direction,” she indicated, “I’ll sit back down over here for a while.” On impulse, she leaned in and kissed Fiore’s lips before retreating to her stool.


She has so much focus and intensity, Maddie contemplated. She is like a force of nature.



Night Flyer Trilogy

Merchants of Milan, Secrets of Milan, Chaos in Milan




Giveaway

Edale is giving away a $20 Amazon gift card with this tour

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The author

Edale Lane is the author of an award winning 2019 debut novel, Heart of Sherwood. She is the alter-ego of author Melodie Romeo, (Tribute in Blood, Terror in Time, and others) who founded Past and Prologue Press. Both identities are qualified to write historical fiction by virtue of an MA in History and 24 years spent as a teacher, along with skill and dedication in regard to research. She is a successful author who also currently drives a tractor-trailer across the United States. A native of Vicksburg, MS, Edale (or Melodie as the case may be) is also a musician who loves animals, gardening, and nature.


Author Website: https://pastandprologuepress.lpages.co/

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