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The Dark Spawn exclusive excerpt!

I’m so excited that The Dark Spawn will be here next Thursday! It seems like I’ve waited such a long time for this book to finally be published and now it’s almost here! Truly, it’s a book that exceeded my expectations as I wrote it.

It was always meant to be a ‘darker’ book. With the House of de Velt, it could be nothing else, but now we were dealing with Jax de Velt’s eldest son. He’s half-Jax, half-Kellington, so although Cole looks like Jax and kind of acts like him, he has his mother’s sense of right and wrong. And feeling. He feels all the feels!

Enter Corisande de Bourne, a smart and feisty lady in her own right, and we’ve got a hell of a couple.  Here’s a fun excerpt to whet your whistle:

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With a little lamp burning weakly against the darkness, Corisande made her way to the end of the stone stable where the old, chipped trough was half-buried in the ground. Holding the lamp aloft so she could get a better view, she knelt down to inspect the northern part of the trough where the bluish-green moss grew. There was quite a bit of it and she began pulling it off, collecting a goodly handful of it.

“So this is where you went.”

Startled by the voice, Corisande looked up to see Cole entering the stable. On her knees, bent over the mossy trough, she straightened up to face him.

“Were you looking for me?” she asked. “I apologize if you had to hunt me down, but there is a soldier with an infected boil and as strange as it sounds, the moss on this trough is known to cure skin wounds. I must tend to the man.”

He put up his hands because she sounded apologetic that she’d left the hall to do what was clearly a more important duty.

“There is no need for apologies, my lady, truly,” he said, coming closer. “I was not looking for you. I came to see to my horse, who seemed to have an odd gait today. I wanted to see if he has developed a lameness, so the fact that you are here is purely coincidental.”

That was a lie. An utter, complete lie. Cole had seen her leave the hall and he’d followed. He’d spent the entire evening listening to Alastor when his mind was really on the man’s daughter as she hovered on the fringes of the great hall, making sure the meal ran smoothly. He kept wishing she would come and sit at the dais, but she didn’t. Instead, she had departed the hall and a younger girl with similar features joined the table, but she seemed to be quite interested in Essien, much to the man’s horror.

But Cole didn’t have time to laugh about it.

He was focused on the lovely Lady Corisande.

When she left, he left, using the same excuse he’d just given her to relief himself of the table. God only knew why he had followed her. He still didn’t know. All he knew was that after their brief conversation earlier that day, she was lingering in his thoughts, subtly but unmistakably.

Curiosity, more than anything, had brought him into the stable.

He was wondering why she fascinated him so.

But Corisande didn’t seem to suspect anything was amiss with his weak excuse. At least, he thought it was weak. To make it appear stronger, he headed over to the stall where his fat, black stallion was tethered, contentedly dozing.

“I am sorry to hear about your horse,” she said as he went to the stall. “I could make a mustard plaster for the leg if you think it would help.”

Cole slapped the beast on the rump, pretending to eye the hind legs. “That is kind of you,” he said. “Is healing animals among your talents, too?”

Moss in one hand and lamp in the other, Corisande wandered over to the stall. “My mother was a great healer,” she said. “Her knowledge in herbs and medicines was unsurpassed. She taught me what she could, so I know a little something about healing men and animals.”

“And you enjoy it?”

She looked at him as if surprised by the question. “I do,” she said. “There is something satisfying about helping a man regain his health. Or helping a horse with a lame leg.”

She smiled as she said it and Cole smiled in return. “And it will be greatly appreciated,” he said, thinking he should probably look like he was examining the legs, so he bent over and began feeling carefully around the fetlocks. “I’ve not met many women with a talent for healing. In fact, I cannot recall one. Usually it is a man’s profession unless the woman is a midwife. I assume you do that, too?”

Corisande watched him gently squeeze the legs of the horse. “I have delivered two babies in my life,” she said. “Midwifery is an exacting profession and, frankly, not something I prefer. For an unmarried young woman, it is a little unseemly.”

He glanced at her. “That is the most shocking statement I have heard today, in a day of many shocking events.”

“What do you mean?”

“That you are unmarried.”

“Why?”

He stood up and looked at her. “Because you are beautiful and clearly accomplished,” he said. “You should have a line of men outside the gatehouse, waiting for their turn to woo you. But given you have older brothers, I would wager to say that they have scattered that line of men before it gathers. Protective brothers do that.”

Corisande laughed softly. “Is that because you have chased away your sisters’ suitors?” she asked. “It takes one to know one, as it were?”

He shook his head firmly. “Christ, they can have them,” he said dismissively, moving to the other side of the horse. “In fact, I go from village to village trying to pay men to take my sisters away, although the eldest one is already married. Allaston married a Welsh warlord a few years ago.”

“Allaston,” she repeated. “That is a lovely name. And you mentioned the other two were Effie and Addie?”

He bent over another leg. “Allaston, Effington, and Addington,” he said, grunting as he lifted the hoof. “My mother’s name is Kellington, so those were the names she insisted on naming my sisters. But we call them Allie, Effie, and Addie.”

Corisande leaned against the stone wall of the stall, watching him inspect the hoof. “You speak fondly of them,” she said. “Not many brothers do that. I am fortunate that my brothers and I get on well. I do not know what I would do without them.”

He dropped the hoof and stood up. “To get on well with siblings says something about one’s character, I think,” he said. “It speaks of the capacity to be tolerant, to consider others, and to appreciate the strength of family bonds. I am sure your brothers would kill for you, just as I would kill for my sisters. I consider myself fortunate to have such a family.”

She cocked her head as she listened to him. “Most men do not speak that way of their families,” she said. “That is a rare trait.”

“What trait?”

“That you love your family.”

He frowned, but it was all for show. “Bah,” he said. “They are pests, all of them, although my brothers are good lads. And my father is the greatest knight in the realm.”

“And your mother?”

He looked at her. “She is my rock.”

*********

You’re really going to love the rest of this scene, so make sure your copy is reserved –  this is a giant book, much bigger than most books I’ve written over the past couple of years, so you’re going to want to read it. So much de Velt goodness! So much romance!