Saturday, April 21, 2012

A ROSE IN BLOOM Excerpt for Sample Sunday

I wanted to give you all another sample of A Rose in Bloom for FREE here to see if this will whet your appetite! This scene has a bit of intrigue and romance for anyone who enjoys that sort of thing. (a few of you ladies have asked me for some romance, so here it is!) This involves characters in my novels including Ganthorpe Randolph and Rose Thorne. I hope you enjoy the excerpt!

 He strode respectfully past the women gathered in the antechamber of the brothel, who were all gawking at him, and he smiled back at them with his charming grin. Then he suddenly turned to Marielle, who was escorting him to the room.
“Sorry for my delay,” he apologized as he tossed a golden coin toward her. She caught it and smiled, never even looking at it.
“A peace offering?” she asked him sarcastically, rolling the coin over with her fingers.
Cover art by William Kenney
“Of course,” he answered, bowing before her. “My Rose is a delicate flower and is not to be plucked by any but me, as per our agreement.”
“I have my own stream of coins—save it for your girl,” she answered, flinging the gold coin back to him. He caught it deftly, his hand navigating the space quickly. Then he shrugged, never really getting used to the boldness and candor of the woman. He certainly admired her business sense and merely nodded in response. She was a surprising one.
“Besides, you may need it to stem a lashing,” she added with a chuckle, knowing Rose would be none too pleased at his tardiness.
“Very well,” he finally managed to say, licking his dried lips before turning the corner of the hall and climbing the staircase to the next floor. Marielle watched as he paused at Rose’s door, removed a red rose from beneath his jacket, and then knocked lightly.
“It’s about damned time!” he heard from within, and he grinned.
Marielle quietly retreated, leaving him alone in the hallway. He opened the door and found the most recent of his infatuations sitting in a chair, drinking a glass of wine. She frowned at him as he entered and he handed her the flower.
“You are rather behind schedule,” Rose interjected, expecting some kind of explanation, but none was forthcoming.
“A rose for my Rose,” he smiled, bowing low and ignoring her remark. Then he moved in and kissed her. She shoved him away playfully before giving herself over to him. She kissed him deeply for a long moment as they fell to the bed.

“I have a proposition for you,” Ganthorpe began, as they lay next to one another a few hours later.
Rose leaned up on her elbows and stared at him intently with her gray eyes.
“I’m listening,” she told him.
Then she rolled away to sit in the chair adjacent to the bed and tasted another sip of her fruity wine. A moment passed and she placed the glass down on the desk, stood and stretched and then looked expectantly at him. Her raised eyebrows instructed him to continue voicing his current notion. He swallowed hard, fighting through the obvious distraction she presented to him, her supple body shimmering in the dimly lit room, but he was up for the challenge.
“I know that you have certain skills—”
“Well, of course I do,” she snapped, cutting him off and responding to what she thought he meant. He shook his head and continued.
“Not what I mean. You have a certain flair for… pilfering goods in the marketplace,” he observed simply, drawing an inquisitive look from her. “The Trade District, my dear,” he clarified.
She turned a puzzled look his way and frowned, not quite sure what he was talking about. It was clear that he wanted to converse, though. She pulled a light silken robe over her elegant frame and sat in the chair facing him, still unsure what he was getting at.
“You know my meaning,” Ganthorpe said, his eyes turning icy as they regarded her.
Then she panicked, sensing something serious about him that she’d never seen before. His tone was altogether different, too, and somewhat intimidating. Rose tried to remain calm, steadying her breathing, but she could not help shooting a surreptitious glance his way. She slipped a small knife out of the drawer of the table behind her, thinking the man to suddenly be other than she had originally perceived him to be.
“Is this some kind of threat?” Rose asked, wondering if she had stolen something from him inadvertently and that now, perhaps, he meant to make her pay. She’d been the recipient of many betrayals from others, promising one thing or another, but this one hurt most of all.
He laughed in response to her question as if to dismiss the absurdity of the accusation. However, her paranoia was mounting and she did not see it as such.
“Yes,” he answered, half smiling again and moving toward her.
Rose, now terrified, dove at him clumsily with the tip of her knife extended. He slid to the side, caught her by the arm and forced her slash downwards and into the goose down that filled her bedding beneath the linens. He then twisted her wrist and placed his thumb in an uncomfortable area, forcing her to relinquish the dagger.
“And no,” he finally added. He admired the speed at which she had launched the attack. Then he steeled his face again, trying to remain calm after the inevitable flood of adrenaline through his veins. “Did you mean to kill me?” he asked incredulously.
Rose nodded slightly, then shrugged and winced in pain at the wrist-lock still held in place. He hadn’t even realized he still held her and so released her immediately, moving off the bed to stand away from her.
“By the gods, girl—calm down! I’m not going to send you to Archinon!” he cried, throwing his arms up. He was referring, of course, to the home of the gladiatorial arenas in southwestern Wothlondia. That was where the law-breakers and other miscreants taken captive by the Watch were sent by caravan monthly to receive judgment for their crimes in one manner or another. King Tallaruk, Archinon’s fierce ruler, was a sadistic but fair king, Ganthorpe considered, thinking the man to be a bit like himself in this regard.
“What then?” Rose questioned him, flustered and gesturing wildly to strengthen her position.
“Keep your voice down,” he instructed in a commanding, whispered tone. He closed in on her again and stood facing her. Then he sat on the bed, beckoning her to sit too. She did so, reluctantly and vigilant, holding his gaze steadily, a tentative contemplation registering behind her gaze.
“I have eyes everywhere in this city,” he began to explain. This confused and surprised Rose at the same time.
“Who are you?” Rose asked him, whispering now.
“I am Ganthorpe Randolph—the soon-to-be-Assistant Mayor of Oakhaven,” he announced clearly to her, boasting proudly as if the deed had already happened. Then he modified his tone and spoke words meant to gauge a reaction. “That could mean a much busier schedule and a public image that may add up to less frequent visits on my part,” he went on, watching intently the expression on the young woman’s face. He noted the hint of disappointment there, for he was extraordinarily skillful at reading even the slightest change in body language or mannerisms, as well as the most insubstantial of vocal fluctuations. It was one of his many gifts.
“I am aware of these things,” Rose answered, pursing her lips and then biting the lower one as she turned away from him briefly.
“Ah, but what you do not know—and what no one but a select few know—is that I run the Thieves’ Guild, an organization of pickpockets and rogues here in Oakhaven!”
Rose spun back towards him, letting the information sink in. She recalled in the recent past having been approached by thugs and footpads on the street on numerous occasions, threatening her and worse, but she had never suffered any repercussions. She had simply ascribed their words as empty threats from wretched men. Now she was beginning to picture a different scenario.
“I want you to join us… join me,” he went on. She grimaced at first and then placed a hand to her chin in a contemplative posture for a moment, followed by a long bout of silence. “I will tutor you personally in the ways of the underworld and you will have riches beyond compare,” he added as encouragement.
“I—but, what of Marielle?” Rose asked, sincerely concerned with how her Madam might react to the news.
“I will make it worth her while,” Ganthorpe replied, smiling that wide grin that seemed wolfish to her now, with just a hint of the boyish charm that was more familiar.  “I know what it is like, Rose, to have nothing and to have to steal to survive.”
“I own enough coin now,” she lied, fending off his accusation, but Ganthorpe recognized the hint of falsehood beneath her words. He detected the slight variation in her voice, even though she’d masked it expertly. But rather than pursue that line of thinking, he shifted the focus of the conversation once more to something less antagonistic.

Finished Cover
  “Besides, you can’t help yourself, can you?” He asked rhetorically, already knowing the answer. For he knew exactly how she felt, as he thought them to be truly kindred souls. He was slightly older than she, but the excitement of perpetrating the heist or the pick-pocket was without comparison.
“I do have a strange desire to pilfer,” she admitted with a sheepish grin.
“Well? What say you?” he asked her, crossing his arms over his chest. Rose simply moved forward, threw her arms around his neck and kissed him.
“So, you don’t want to kill me anymore, I hope?” he asked, pushing her back to witness her reaction.
“Not at the moment,” she winked. He could not tell if the threat was truly meant behind the smile that followed. It was one of the things that had attracted him to her in the first place. He was inwardly happy at the news and relaxed again, confident that he had made the correct decision in bringing up the subject after all.
“There is nothing quite like the thrill of using your skills to relieve a wealthy merchant of his wares, eh?” he asked her again, raising an eyebrow. “Now, all I need is to teach you how to use that dagger of yours,” he added sarcastically.
“I can use one just fine,” she retorted, producing a hidden blade from somewhere beneath the loose fitting silk robe she wore and holding it to his neck. It was a very thin knife blade, like that used to skin a piece of fruit, and was small and very lightweight. She had removed the handle, leaving only the sharp steel behind. “You see, I am not without certain skills of my own.”
She pulled the knife away from his neck and tossed it on the desk.
“I see that I have underestimated you, Rose,” he smiled, obviously impressed. Her actions further supported his decision to invite her. “It won’t happen again.”
“A girl’s gotta protect herself, right?” she said, removing her robe, this time genuinely disarming herself. “Would you like to check me for further concealed weapons?”
“Truly remarkable,” he laughed as he grabbed her by the neck and kissed her hard on the lips. “A Rose with thorns,” he observed, holding her at arm’s length.
“You have no idea,” she replied. As she shoved him forcefully onto the bed, some of the goose down billowed out from the tear of her failed assault. They remained intertwined until the sun appeared from behind distant clouds in the eastern sky. 

I hope you enjoyed the sample! See you in Wothlondia! Cheers!

Please visit MY HOME PAGE to enjoy an extended reading experience, see direct links to purchase my full length novel, Covenant of the Faceless Knights, the short stories: Wothlondia Rising, and to see what else Ashenclaw Studios, LLC has in store in the future!

Cover art by William Kenney!

All maps, names and content copyright Ashenclaw Studios 2012 unless otherwise noted.

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