A Change of Season
Self-published Re-issue | September 7, 2012
Seasons of Pleasure Series, Book 5
This title is part five of the Seasons of Pleasure series, but is written to stand-alone. You do not need to read the first four novellas to follow this one. The rest of the Seasons of Pleasure series is currently out-of-print, but will be re-issued in the future.
Moira suffers from psychic attacks that bring not only pain, but also visions of a man named Dain d’Ange into her mind. Dain is the cursed thirteen lord of Aeoli, a man they say killed his wife with the chaotic and dark magick he possesses.
Desperate to find a cure for her attacks, she travels to Aeoli and its cursed thirteenth lord. The harsh winter closes in on her and she soon finds herself trapped with a man who is every degree as chilly as the season.
However Moira senses that Dain isn’t always cold, and she vows to discover the heat that lies under his frigid exterior. It doesn’t take long for her coax the man from the monster.
When Dain’s brother Killian arrives, Moira finds herself seduced to both of their beds and is soon lost in a web of carnal pleasure. She also finds herself lost to Dain because as time passes she discovers she loves him.
But as the mystery of her attacks and of Dain’s history unravels, keeping him will be difficult…..
“With sexually adventurous characters, a thoroughly liberal view on monogamy and sensual scenes straight out of the Kamasutra, this fantasy Romantica novel is not for the coy or generalist romance reader, but for the bold connoisseur with, let’s call them, selective tastes. Neatly compressed into 115 competently written pages, this makes for an intense read… Ok, let’s talk about sex! It’s steamy, it’s naughty and there’s lots of it.” —All About Romance
New Ecasia, Nordan territory—the year 1288
The cup slipped from Moira’s fingers and crashed to the wooden floor of her home. Pain speared through her mind, bringing her to her knees. She braced her hands on her thighs and concentrated on the broken cup, breathing in through her nose and out her mouth. Her head felt broken, too, as though her mind had split like the cup and the shards grated against each other in an effort to put itself back together. Nausea welled up and she swallowed hard in an effort to force it away.
The episodes got worse with every passing day. She clenched her fists, realizing there may be no way to stave them off before they consumed her. She’d thought the last herbal concoction she’d made would suppress the image flashes, but they obviously hadn’t helped in the least.
The pain faded along with the last lingering picture in her mind’s eye. With a growing sense of dread, she gathered up the broken pieces of the cup and stood. Moira laid them on her table and sank down into one of the rough-hewn chairs that flanked it. The fire in the hearth glowed merrily—in direct contrast to her emotions—and chased away the insidious late autumn cold that slipped under the crack of her cottage door and through the edges of her shuttered windows.
Her bed stood in the corner, made up with a multicolored quilt and several pillows that villagers had traded her for her herbal remedies and counseling. Dried herbs hung from the wooden rafters above her head.
Her house was not well appointed or large, but it was snug, warm and safe and she didn’t want to leave it, especially not in obedience to the compulsion that so relentlessly pursued her these days.
This Lord Cyric. Goddess protect her. Deep dread accompanied the mere whisper of his name on her lips or the image of his face that seemed burned into her mind’s eye. His eyes were gray as the cloud-filled night sky and bereft of soul. The set of his jaw, the thin press of his lips, his razor-sharp chin. All of his features she saw with her every breath and would give anything to banish them.
She shivered in revulsion. Why did perceptions of the man fill her mind so often these days, accompanied by the sharp pains through her temple that could bring her to her knees? The Powers, the Goddess Ariane and the God Anot, had been screaming at her to leave the cottage and travel, likely toward this repulsive stranger. The more she resisted, the stronger the compulsion grew. This man had an aura of evil. Why would The Powers want to endanger her?
It had to be a mistake, she reasoned.
Moira stood, took her gray woolen coat from its peg by the door and drew it over her shoulders, then picked up the bucket that stood beneath it on the floor. Better to put his image from her mind. Better to go on about her life as though these attacks did not plague her, as though The Powers were not commanding her to seek out a man whose very name felt synonymous with death and destruction.
She needed water to wash with, and to cook. She had wood to gather and remedies to brew. It was past time she got on with her day. The wind snatched her breath away as she left her cottage. It blew the door shut behind her with a violent crash. Early morning gloom coated the forest in murky hues and the boughs of the trees creaked in the chill wind.
Moira was born of a family line connected to the Lady Sienne and Lord Marken, and as a direct descendent of their firstborn child, Galen, she’d inherited a healthy dose of magick. It had been the Goddess Ariane’s gift to the first born of New Ecasia when she’d lifted the curse.
She’d moved out to the forest after the latent magick within her had manifested itself. Her powers of empathy had grown so great that living close to others had been noisy and emotionally excruciating.
At least in this part of the territory of Nordan people accepted her magick. In some regions of Sudhraian Territory, deep in the southern part of New Ecasia, the magicked ones were not considered blessed, but cursed. Aye, it’d been meant as a blessing, a gift, but in some of the still backward parts of the former country of Sudhra, magick was considered the mark of evil.
She had more control over her abilities now, but had grown used to living in solitude. Out in the forest, away from most people, it was quiet and peaceful. Those who valued her ability to read into their present and their past, and counsel them on what she saw would travel out to see her on a regular basis. She’d made a decent living trading on her skill so far. Moira kept her visits to the village to a minimum, only going when she needed supplies. Her family and friends, the ones who were not magick-averse, traveled to see her occasionally. If sometimes she was a little lonely, well, so be it. Everything had its cost.
She walked down the path to her well. Twigs cracked under her boots and the wind whipped her skirts around her legs and her hair into her face. She tied her bucket to the rope and drew water. Her muscles protested the movement and she rested the bucket on the stone rim of the well, staring at the rippling reflections in the surface of the water. For a moment, they mesmerized her with the shimmering in the waning light. Abruptly, they formed an image.
Blinding pain burst through her head and she fell backward with a cry. This time it was not Lord Cyric’s visage that filled her mind, but another man’s face. She didn’t recognize the rough-hewn features and eyes of pale, otherworldly shade of blue. However she well recognized the name that breathed through her mind. Though she’d never laid physical eyes on him, she knew that name and the reputation of the one who bore it. Lord Dain d’Ange. But she didn’t want to be anywhere near Lord Dain, the winged devourer of women. No woman in her right mind would.
Aye. Everyone knew about the mad Lord of Aeoli, a man also descended from the first of the magicked ones. He was an Aviat, from Lord Rue and Lady Lilane’s line. Even witch-hermits like her had heard the stories about that one.
Oh, what dangerous and tangled web of fate had the Goddess woven around her now?
His face reasserted itself in her mind with a fresh and vicious stab of pain. Blessedly, she slipped into darkness.
* * * * *
Dain knelt in the dry, rocky soil of what had once been his wife’s garden and pulled a rogue Narrdine blossom from the soil. He stood and glanced around at the weed-overgrown area. Andreea had loved her garden when she’d been alive. She’d had such a way with the plants and flowers that she and the gardeners had barely been able to keep the garden tamed because it had bloomed so profusely.
But like everything else, the garden had died when Andreea had died. The summer had turned to autumn and then the harsh, cold bleakness of Aeolian wintertime had set in. The flowers had disappeared.
So had the gardeners and the keep’s servants, the stable hands and the bulk of his men. So had most of his tenant farmers and retainers. Dain had sent most of them away, driven the rest of them from the castle. A few of the more stubborn remained yet.
And the magick. The magick that ran through his veins was an ever-present companion, reminding him of his failure, his lack of control. He dropped the blossom to the ground and walked away.
Dain passed under the crumbling stone archway separating the garden from the courtyard. The barking of his two dogs barely reached in to tickle his consciousness, he was so deep in thought, immersed in memory.
Dain looked up to see William watching him from the center of the courtyard. The middle-aged jack-of-all-trades scratched the top of his balding head. “Got a visitor at the gate.” He motioned toward the barbican.
“A visitor?” There hadn’t been a soul who’d approached Aeodan Keep voluntarily for more than a year and a half. There weren’t any who dared.
“Aye. A young woman come in from the Nordanese countryside by the looks of her clothing. She’s asking for you.”
Dain stood staring at William for a moment, dumbfounded.
“Want me to run her off, my lord?”
Dain pursed his lips. He was sufficiently intrigued to do it himself. “No. I’ll get her gone.”
Pebbles and grit crunched under his boots as he walked toward the barbican. He could see that William had left the heavy wooden door open, though the portcullis was still down. A thin, small figure stood huddled by the gate, dressed in the drab gray wrappings of a commoner. A saddled gray mare stood near her, cleaning the gravel road of a few stubborn weeds.
Blix and Athna, his large black dogs, trotted up to flank him as he approached the gate. Curiously, they did not bark or growl, as they always did with strangers. Athna gave a little whine when they approached the woman and settled down at his feet. Blix sat on his opposite side, his ears forward and lithe body alert.
He appraised the woman before he addressed her. An old, ratty scarf wrapped her head, concealing her hair, though a few blood-red strands had freed themselves to fall around her heart-shaped, pale face. Dark smudges marred the skin beneath dark green eyes. Eyes that watched him now with no small measure of trepidation. Her lips were parted and a streak of dirt marked one of her cheeks. She looked perhaps about five years or so younger than himself. Her reddened and chapped fingers gripped the bars of the portcullis.
“What do you want?” he growled at her. “We’ve no work here and we give out no charity.”
“I only beg an interview, my lord. A few hours if you can spare them.”
She shifted in apparent uneasiness. “It is a delicate matter, my lord, and one that requires a large amount of careful explanation. Suffice it to say that I require a dialogue.” Her speech took him aback. She did not speak like a commoner, but as a highborn. Whoever she was, she was educated. “What demon from the Underworld could compel you to wish to spend time with me, girl? Don’t you know who I am?”
She clenched her jaw in a stubborn gesture and scowled. “Aye.”
He lifted his chin at her. “Tell me. Tell me who I am.”
“Lord Dain d’Ange, one of the Aviat thirteen rulers of the New Ecasian territory of Aeoli. You are descended from the son of Lord Rue and Lady Lilane, who was one of the first of the magicked ones. You are the lord of Aeodan Keep. When Ecasia went to war with the country of Laren’tar, you helped to lead our forces to victory. Your deeds are talked of throughout the land, carried forth by the bards. You were a hero during the war.”
Dain shook his head. “No, girl. Tell me who I really am. Tell me the dark part of the story. Tell me about what happened when I came home from the war. Tell me what you’ve been told during dark, stormy nights by your friends and your family. Tell me the horror story. Go on.”
She gripped the bars until her knuckles were white. “You are the thirteenth lord of Aeoli, some call you the cursed prince. They say you went mad from your experiences in the war and came back still afflicted by them.” Her voice lowered. “They…they say you came back and killed your wife, Andreea, with dark, twisted magick. They say when it happened every bit of glass, every window, all the pottery…shattered…just like your wife.”
“Then what in the name of Goddess Ariane are you doing here?”
“I-I’m not sure.”
“Are you daft, then?”
Her lips twisted in a slight smile. “Though there are those in my village who may debate the point, I am not daft, my lord.”
“The daft never know they are daft, girl. Others must judge. I judge that you must be insane to wish to spend your time here, alone, with me. Any length of time at all. Understand?”
“I am not daft and I do understand, my lord, but that doesn’t change my needs.”
The woman knew nothing of need. Not the way he did.
He stepped closer to the gate, raking his gaze up the length of her. He couldn’t see much under the folds and billows of her winter clothing, but he had a good imagination. Her frame appeared slight, so it went to follow that her breasts would be small with suckable little red nipples. Her sweetly smooth and creamy flesh would probably flush when she was aroused. His fingers curled a little as he contemplated holding her breasts.
Her legs were long and probably lightly muscled, perfect for wrapping around a man’s waist while he was buried balls-deep inside her pretty little pussy. He thought about how she’d taste on his tongue. How the muscles of her tight little sex would grip his finger, his tongue, his cock.
Dain shuddered in arousal, while his body responded to the images of her beneath him on his bed. How all her long red hair would spread over the pillow, how it would feel brushing over his thighs while she sucked his cock and how he could bury his hand in it at the nape of her neck and…
Abruptly, he turned. “Go,” he commanded gruffly. “Stop this foolishness and get yourself far from me.”
He stepped away from the gate, headed back to his keep and his bottle of ale. “Blix, Athna, come.” Blix looked back at him, whining, and Athna laid her great head on her paws. He turned and walked away. “Fine. Stay with the crazy woman, then,” he called back.
“My lord, please! I must talk with you. It’s of incredible importance!” she called.
Of importance to her, not to him. Though she sounded so desperate he almost felt bad for her when he turned the corner and walked out of hearing distance.
* * * * *
Moira uncurled her fingers from the bars of the portcullis and dropped her hands to her sides. Well, it hadn’t been as though she’d expected him to welcome her. She didn’t know what she’d expected, but it hadn’t been anything easy.
And it wasn’t as though she could tell him that she’d been having blindingly painful psychic attacks in which his face and name were burned into her mind. It wasn’t as though she could simply blurt out, “Who is Lord Cyric and what is your connection to him?” just like that. She felt intuitively that this situation required a subtler handling.
She stared past the portcullis, down the small road that likely led into the courtyard of Aeodan Keep. Tall, sun- and rain-kissed stone walls rose on each side of the entryway. The wind whistled down the pathway, but for that there was complete silence. For a moment she flashed to a time before. The smell of horse sweat and leather reached her nostrils and she heard the jangling of mail and horse’s hooves on the gravel road. Beyond that came the sounds of a healthy and prosperous keep, merchants shouting to each other, children crying, conversation and laughter.
With a sharp shake of her head, she snapped herself out of it. Something horrid indeed had occurred here, and it did directly involve the keep’s lord and master. But Moira had sensed no ill intent emanating from the man. She had no sense of dread when she said his name or saw his face.
He was angry. He was dark. He was consumed completely by his past. But Moira knew instinctively that he was not a danger, no matter what the bards sung. He may snarl and bark, but he would not bite. Her gut told her that. Her fear of coming here had all been for naught.
She fished a bit of flatbread out of her saddlebag, broke it in two and fed it to the two dogs through the bars. Then she stood and took her horse’s reins to lead her down the path away from the keep.
Aye, he could be pushed a little, and Moira had a strong will and much patience.