For my continuing Spooktober blog exchange with my fellow authors, here's Helen Johannes, featuring her fantasy romance BLOODSTONE.
Helen C. Johannes writes award-winning fantasy romance inspired by the fairy tales she grew up reading and the amazing historical places she’s visited in England, Ireland, Scotland and Germany. She writes tales of adventure and romance in fully realized worlds sprung from pure imagination and a lifelong interest in history, culture, and literature. Warriors on horseback, women who refuse to sit idly at home, and passion that cannot be denied or outrun—that’s what readers will find in her books.
blood. A beastly Shadow Man. A beauty, lost in the dreaded Wehrland, where
magic is more than legend and dragons might not all be dead.
What if looking at the face of the man you loved meant death?
Years ago, warrior Durren Drakkonwehr was cursed by a mage. Now feared and reviled as the Shadow Man, he keeps to himself, only going to town to trade rare bloodstones—petrified dragon's blood—for supplies. Though he hides his face, he can't hide his heart from the woman who haunts his dreams...
Needing bloodstones for a jewelry commission, Mirianna and her father journey across the dreaded Wehrland where the beast-men roam. When their party is attacked, only the Shadow Man can save them. Strangely drawn to him, Mirianna offers herself in return for her father's rescue.
Living in the ruined fortress with the Shadow Man, Mirianna slowly realizes that a flesh-and-blood man—not a fiend—hides there in hoods and darkness. But are love and courage enough to lift the curse and restore the man?
“Perhaps we can share your fire.”
In the joy of finding her father, Mirianna had forgotten Rees and Pumble, the two men the Master of Nolar had given her father as escort. And even that dark being which stood somewhere behind her and drew Rees’s stony glare. The Master of Nolar’s man still sat his horse, and his hand hovered near his bow. Beside Rees, Pumble stood, sweating, his fingers twitching over the hilt of his sword. She turned slowly in her father’s arms.
“I said,” Rees repeated, “perhaps we can share your fire, this time...Shadow.”
The Shadow Man stood at the rock ledge, his body as motionless as a bat captured by the sun. His hand rested on the hilt of the sword in his belt, and between his gloved fingers something glinted red. His hood revealed only a drape of cloth where his face should be, yet she knew underneath every inch of that which passed for face was turned on Rees, and the air between them stretched to a brittle thinness.
“Do with it as you please,” he said at last. “The boy and I were just about to leave.”
“Wait!” Tolbert put Mirianna aside. “I need—”
“Bloodstone?” The black hood swiveled. Her father stiffened under the weight of the invisible regard. “There is no more bloodstone, old man. Go home, while you still can.”
Tolbert shook his head violently. “But Ulerroth—”
“Ulerroth is a fool,” said the voice that vibrated along Mirianna’s nerves. “And so are you, if you stay another day in the Wehrland.”
A stallion’s shrill scream punctuated his words.
The Shadow Man spun. Below the rock ledge, the tethered horses milled, huffing. The blind boy clung to the pack mare’s halter, his face a pasty white. “Sir, I think I smell—”
“Krad!” Rees coughed, recoiling from a wave of stench that stole Mirianna’s breath.
“They must have followed us!” Pumble wheezed.
“Fools!” The Shadow Man’s faceless gaze raked from Rees to Mirianna. “I should damn you all to Beggeth, but the Krad will see to that soon enough.” He turned. “Gareth, free the horses!”
“Wait!” Tolbert said as an unearthly, high-pitched clamor erupted from the woods below. “What about us? What do we do?”
Only the hood rotated, cocking with exaggerated deliberation. “Why, you die, old man.”
Her father blanched. His grip on Mirianna’s arms faltered.
She saw the Shadow Man turn, saw the muscles of his thighs bunch as he prepared to leap down the hillside, saw, in the corner of her eye, shapes gathering along the tree line below, horrible shapes she’d seen only hours before rushing at her from a darkened clearing. With a shudder, she broke from her father’s grasp.
“Please!” She reached out to the black sleeve. “Help us!”
He recoiled at her touch like one snake-bitten. The sudden, sharp focus of his regard staggered her, but she backed no more than a step. No matter how he terrified her, he’d helped her once. She’d been led to him again, and not, her instincts told her, without reason.
“Please,” she repeated. “Help us. I—we’ll do anything.”
His voice was a whisper that caressed flesh. Mirianna’s stomach quivered. Her breasts tingled. Her mouth grew even drier. Without thinking, she slid her tongue along her lips. Vaguely, she wondered what she’d done. And why time seemed suspended, as if everyone but she and the Shadow Man had been cast in stone and all sound arrested. All sound except the taut, guttural repeat of his question.
Connect With Helen
Email Helen at firstname.lastname@example.org