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Blog of L.V. Lane

New release date 11th July Amazon, and available now through direct order!

Read the first three chapters below...

Beautiful cover art by @softdraws

Chapter 1

Ada

“Git me some supper, daughter,” my father slurs as he bangs open the door and staggers into the tiny room we call home.

It has been a long day, and I’m chilled to the bone, my threadbare clothes and worn shawl having offered no protection from the frigid sleet that pelted me during my walk home.

I’m exhausted after working all day for a pittance at the fish markets of Bleakness. I’ve not had a chance to light even a small fire.

My father’s limited patience won’t allow for that now. He backhands me when I do not move swiftly enough for his liking, sending me bowling into the table. The corner stabs my hip, and I gasp as it catches a bruise—just one of many from his constant abuse.

I hate my father.

I hate my life.

Yet this pitiful residence—this hovel—but a single room is a million times better than sleeping on the streets.

I hasten to fetch the pitcher I brought home and collect bowls and spoons from the shelf. Supper tonight, as it often is, has come via the pauper’s kitchen—vegetable and fish stew—and some bread the baker’s lad slipped to me as I passed his shop at closing time. It was burnt on one side and would usually be tossed away, but he will often save any spoiled bread for me, for he knows my situation.

I don’t have any coin. The money I make gutting fish goes straight to the local tavern via my father’s pockets. I tried keeping a bit aside once and copped a beating for my trouble.

I set a bowl in front of him as he slumps into the single rickety chair at the table shoved against one wall. Next, I pour stew for us both and slice up the bread, placing some beside his bowl. He grunts as he rips off a chunk of the burnt bread and dunks it into his stew.

My brief smile is one of quiet victory that I gave him the worst of the bread.

My lip throbs where he hit me—my hip throbs too. My fingers ache from gutting fish all day. The stench is all up in my nose, making me want to hurl the other bowl of stew at the wall.

Only, I’m hungry; so although I’m sick of the sight of fish, I take my bowl and a crust of bread to the corner of the room where I have my bedding nook. It’s not much: a few layers of old blankets with some straw underneath to provide a little padding, with a grubby curtain that can be pulled across to offer a token sense of privacy.

My father eats his food in silence. The only good thing about him drinking is that he will be asleep once he finishes his food, snoring loudly in his bed.

Sometimes, I wish he’d never come back; that he’d fall into a gutter—drunk—and stay there with the rest of the filth where he belongs. But I’m not stupid. I know that his protection is better than being alone.

For this is Bleakness: a city under a cloud of despair where the strong prey on the weak. My father is a vile man who spends our small earnings in the local tavern on a Friday and Saturday night, yet he is stronger than me and shelters me from worse predators. He works in the infamous slave markets, doing the bidding of the Blighten masters. Human prisoners are gathered from the far corners of the world and then brought here for distribution or sale. Common sense has always kept me away from that area, but everyone who lives here is aware of the shady dealings and despair traded in the underground complex by the docks.

As I finish my food, I hear the scrape of the chair and the shuffle of footsteps as my father lumbers to his bed. I rise, rinsing off the chipped crockery before I wash up.

By the time I have set our tiny home to rights, the rattle of his snores fills the room.

I unbuckle my shoes, which have seen too many repairs and won’t last me through this coming winter, remove my woolen dress, and, blowing out the candle, slip underneath the thin blankets.

My breath makes a cloud before my eyes, and I shiver, willing warmth into my body. It is dark save for a shaft of moonlight that spills through the small, dirty window.

Closing my eyes, I wish myself away.

I’ve never seen a forest in person, but at the very top of the warehouse where I prepare fish, there is a small attic window and, on a clear day, you can see over the city wall to the distant mountains with thick forests lining the lower slopes.

Bleakness has no trees, only the wood that comes from them. It is hard to imagine what it is like to be underneath the canopy of trees, but I envision a magical place that does not suffer from the smell of fish nor the scent of tar and sweat, a place where creatures I have never met exist, like rabbits, deer, and wolves.

Tucked in the corner underneath my rough bed is an old picture book that I found dropped in the gutter near one of the fancier houses in the city. A few pages have been ripped, but the rest are whole, if a bit grubby. In summer, when there is still evening light, I hide in my bedding nook and trace my fingers over the forest pictures. Although I can’t read the words, I make up a tale to go with the images on the pages.

I often wonder how someone’s trash came to be my most prized possession, an innocent storybook that has become a source of joy and bitterness in me. I want such a life, yet I understand it shall never be for me, that I am doomed to spend forever here under the shadow of my father’s abuse, gutting fish, taking a beating, and fearing what comes next.

I’m getting older, a woman now, and sometimes I see my father’s cronies leering at me.

My father only laughs when it happens.

At some point, one of them will do more.

At some point, my father might let them.

I have no mother or recollection of her, even distant, to which I might cling. Only my father and his ready fists.

The sound of his snoring is familiar. How I hate that sound. How I hate the man.

Through a tear in my nook curtain, I can see the tiny window and the pale moon. The same moon looks down upon a distant forest where rabbits and foxes play. It is the same moon for a poor girl in Bleakness or a princess in a fancy castle.

I wear rags and have holes in my shoes that I have repaired more times than I can count, while I imagine a princess wears silk gowns and eats cake. Yet we live under a single moon, and, somehow, that connects us.

My lip still throbs, and so does my hip. My hands and feet are cold. My lips are permanently cracked from the harsh weather and life, and my hands are covered in nicks as I try to work faster to prepare more fish, which lends itself to mistakes. I feel ground down by life, and although I try to claw out of this terrible pit and make a couple more coins that I might hide from my father, nothing I do is enough.

I am trapped by circumstances, by my place of birth, and a cruel father who uses up what little I have. That there is worse in this city terrifies me and makes me feel trapped even more.

Sometimes, I imagine running down the streets, all the way to the gate, and then through it. Out—running and running until I find the forest.

Only I’ve never been to the gate. The only places I go are between here and the fish markets, and I don’t linger in between.

The gate seems impossibly far away.

The forest even moreso.


 

My sleep is fitful, and when I rise and peer out the tiny window, I see rooftops blanketed by snow. I don’t like snow much. It is cold and wet, seeping through the holes I’ve repaired in my shoes and making my toes numb on the short walk from home to the fish market.

The sun has barely risen, and the clouds are low, dark, and billowing. Yet the snowy blanket makes this ugly city look beautiful, and I find wonder in that.

How can such a lost place hold such heartbreaking beauty?

I want to soak it up, store it in my heart, forget how it makes my toes numb and the biting chill waiting for me outside that will sting the cracks in my lips and find the weak spots in my winter shawl.

“What are you gazing at, lass? Put yer shoes on. We need to go.”

I turn to find my father shrugging into his coat.

I frown. He is usually gone by now.

“Shoes, lass,” he grunts.

A strange premonition of danger increases my heart rate. I hasten to do as he says lest I incur his wrath or fist. No sooner have I buckled my shoes and snatched up my woolen shawl than he fists my arm and directs me toward the door.

“Don’t give me no trouble, Ada.”

Fear seizes my heart as he swings open the door and thrusts me through the gap. He doesn’t let go all the way down the rickety stairs and along the passages, even when we are out in the snow.

“Where are we going?”

I’m freezing already. The sky is dark and heavy looking, and little snowflakes touch against my skin and melt as I’m marched down the cobbled streets that are already white from the falling snow. He ignores me. There is an emptiness in his eyes. I don’t meet his gaze often, but as he stops to let a cart go by and turns to look down at me, I know a new level of fear.

“Old enough,” he says, his gaze raking over me critically, “to earn me some decent coin.”

Horror lodges in my throat, robbing me of my voice as the cart passes. Then he continues dragging me with him, his fingers locked tight on my arm.

“No!” I beat at him and try to pry his cruel fingers away.

He shakes me. “Quieten down, lass. Draw attention, and you’ll regret it.”

The dread that settles in the pit of my belly tells me I will regret not fighting more, for I recognize the route he brings me is not to the fish market, but somewhere far worse. A swift blow to my stomach takes the fight and breath from me. Tightening his grip on my arm, he continues on. His steps are brisk, and I stumble, tripping here and there. Not that he cares.

As an imposing stone building looms before us, my anxiety soars.

“No, please. I will work harder. I can make more coin.” The pitiful words pour out of me. I want to tell him to rot in hell, but my pleas turn desperate and continue to fall from my lips.

His laugh is nasty. “Yer asking for a sound beating if ye keep up this backtalk. Don’t want to leave more marks on yer face lest it lower yer worth, but there are other places I can beat as will help ye keep ye trap shut.”

He’s my only source of protection, but now he’s about to betray me. I question what I did wrong. Maybe I could have worked harder… or left and tried things on my own. I tell myself he can’t really mean to do this and that I’m mistaken, but he’s already dragged me into the building. And as he nods to the two beta males standing at a door and stalks straight into an office, I can deny the truth no more.

He thrusts me forward and slams the door shut behind us.

A dirty, barred window lets weak winter light in from the left. Directly opposite the door, a bald man sits behind a sturdy wooden desk. His jowls are heavy, and his eyes have a greedy, unpleasant quality as they rake over me. A pipe hangs from the side of his mouth, and the air is clouded by the sweet scent of tobacco and the stench of stale sweat. The chipped desk surface bears a messy jumble of scrolls, a broken pipe, a leather tobacco pouch, and a small string-bound sack. Two more men, rough-looking, stand flanking his desk.

“The lass is ready, Bone,” my father says. “Ye promised me good coin.”

Bone, the man behind the desk, inspects me as he puffs on the pipe. I’m shaking. I would try to run, despite the two thugs, but my father is holding my arm tight enough to make my fingers numb.

“Ten.”

“Ten?” My father sneers. “Fifteen, and not a penny less.”

Bone sets his pipe aside and nods to the thug on his right, who steps forward, a menacing glint in his eyes. I try to shrink back, but my father keeps a firm grip. All too easily, the thug grips my bodice and tugs, tearing it down and exposing me to his eyes.

My free hand flies there. He slaps it away and steps to the side, allowing Bone to look me over. Heat fills my cheeks, the shame and humiliation of being exposed like this before strangers, while my father waits in anticipation of more coin.

“I’ll give you twelve,” Bone says. “Best I can do. Been a lot of fresh meat, and prices are down. She might look better after she’s been cleaned up. Some like ‘em skinny,” —he shrugs— “but most prefer a little more flesh on the bone.”

A long silence follows as my father mulls this over. My heart pounds in my chest as I pray he might find this deal unacceptable and decide to send me back to work.

“Fine,” my father says.

I feel the heat leech from my face as the second thug surges forward to take my father’s place.

“Father, no,” I cry, clinging to his coat before my fingers are snatched away.

He doesn’t spare me a glance. He is already holding his hand out so Bone can drop a small pouch into it.

I fight with everything I have. The thugs barely notice. They don’t even bother to subdue me with their fists. Nothing I do stops them as they take me from the room and down a long, sloping stone corridor.

The stone walkway is lined on both sides by doors, behind which I hear sobbing. They stop at one. The man on my right takes a giant keyring from his pocket. He jangles a key in the lock before swinging the sturdy wooden door wide.

I’m thrust inside. The door slams shut, and I hear the jangle of the key again before their footsteps move on.

I sink to my knees, numb, trying to work out what I did wrong that my father would do this—trying to make sense of this. My dress is ripped down the front, but that humiliation seems of little consequence as I grapple with the enormity of my fate.

Hearing shuffling, I lift my head to find another girl approaching me from a shadowy corner. She is blonde and pretty, with freckles across her nose. Her dress is still whole, and although grubby, I can see immediately that it is good quality wool. She kneels beside me and puts her arm around my shoulders.

“I’m Betsy,” she says.

“Ada,” I reply. That is all I can manage before a sob breaks from my chest.

She draws me closer, and I hear her crying too. We cling to one another, strangers brought together through terrible circumstances.

“My pa runs a tavern,” she says. “Someone snatched me off the streets as I returned from the market. He’s going to get us out. I promise you.”

I wish I had the kind of father that might come for me. But mine is very different: the kind of man to sell out his only child.

I wish I could believe her words.

I wish I could cling to the hope that they raise in me, but I fear that it is false.

We hold one another in the frigid cell, awaiting our fate.


 

Chapter 2

Callum

I’m roused from my sleep by a gentle hand shaking me.

I blink my eyes open to find my father leaning over me. It is the middle of the night and the room is dark save for the moonlight spilling through the window.

My father is fully dressed.

I frown and rise slowly to a sitting position, my heart thudding as I realize what this is about.

My father is a blacksmith, but he’s also known as a sympathizer to those involved with the rebellion against the orcs. Bleakness lives under a cloud. There have been many occasions when my father left our home in the night. My ma would stay with me when I was younger, and I never knew what was happening. It was only after she passed, and I’d be taken to stay with a neighbor on those nights, that understanding came, and I would wait, terrified, until he returned home.

Sometimes there’d be bruises. One time, he came back with a broken arm. His hammer was always bloody, and I’d know that he’d done violence in the name of the cause.

I swallow thickly. “I’m coming with you.”

He shakes his head.

“I’m a man now. I’ve been for a while. Let me come with you, whatever it is.”

I see the softening in his face before he nods once. “Dress quickly, lad. And bring your hammer.”

My blood pounds fast and heavy through my veins. I shake as I shove my feet into my pants, rip my nightshirt off over my head, and quickly don my shirt and a heavy leather jacket. I thrust my feet into boots and rake my hand through my hair.

Fuck. This is happening. I am really going to get involved. I want to. I burn with anger at the injustice that shrouds this city. For the most part, the orcs leave us alone. Yet we are all aware of a dark underworld that is part of Bleakness. My father has helped with many tasks, from smuggling people out of the city to passing information on, and even freeing slaves from the markets.

I fetch my hammer from the workshop. It’s sturdy and heavy. I had a smaller one when I was a lad. As my skill grew, the hammers I used got heavier. Working at a forge all day apprenticed to a blacksmith builds muscle and strength. This is a full-size hammer now and I wield it every day.

But I’ve never wielded it in violence—I’ve never needed to. Sometimes, though, when I go to bed of a night, I’ve imagined myself at my father’s side, helping him to right the many wrongs this city is renowned for.

Now, I will finally play a part.

“Come with me,” he says. We head out the back of the house and into the cobbled alleyway. He’s quiet, and I follow his lead. What I don’t expect is to slip into the back courtyard of the tavern that is no more than a dozen doors down and into the stables. Tim, the proprietor of The Green Man, is waiting for us. He is a human-orc hybrid who looks human save for he has pink, pointed ears, is seven feet tall and is as broad as a barn.

There is another man with him. This one wears leather armor with a sword at his waist and a thick cloak over his shoulders. He is young: perhaps a similar age to me.

“Heath, thank you for coming. And you bought your lad,” Tim says, nodding at me.

“Aye,” my father says. “Callum is ready.”

“I appreciate the help,” Tim says. “This is Jacob. A former slave and now a warrior to the fairy caste who live beyond the portal. He has done this before.”

“When I heard that Betsy had been taken,” Jacob says, his voice low and steeped with fury, “there was no fucking way I was sitting this out.”

The blood drains from my face. “Betsy?”

Tim nods, his face grave. “Aye. They snatched her while she was out at the market.”

“Bastard would be stupid to snatch your daughter,” Jacob growls. “We’ll get her back, Tim, I promise you. We’ll get her back.”

My hands tremble, and I clench them lest I betray myself.

“I’ve got men waiting,” Jacob says. “We’ll meet them on the way. We need to move fast. A ship came in today with more poor bastards for their markets. We’ll free as many as possible while we get Betsy out. They’ll be running the market in two days. We can’t afford to wait in case they move her on.”

“Agreed,” Tim says.

Jacob gives me an up and down look. We are on par, height-wise, although he has muscle over me and carries himself as a warrior. He is also an alpha, while I’m a beta, and the sense of my inadequacy is sharp and sudden. Yet they have taken Betsy. I have known the lass all my life. Her mother and mine used to be friends before they both passed, and I’m shocked that she was taken.

I can only imagine the terror Betsy must be experiencing as a prisoner of the Blighten.

“You look like you know how to use that hammer at your hip,” Jacob says to me.

I nod. Not only the hammer, for I train every evening after work with my father at the bag that swings from a sturdy beam in our barn, and have done so since I was a whelp. It is with no false pride that I consider my boxing skills sharp. I have even fought in underground competitions—enough to test me but not to knock the sense out of me, as my father says.

I can handle myself.

Yet, I am not a warrior. I have heard tales of the fairy kingdoms, their rigorous training, and their combat skills. Further, as Tim just pointed out, Jacob has freed slaves before and has experience in such matters.

“Don’t be a hero,” he cautions coldly. “Follow our instructions.” He points at my hammer. “And when the fighting begins, plow that into any bastard’s head as gets in your way.”

I nod again, my throat dry and tight. This is not the same as a fight in the ring with my pa sitting on the side ready to call it if he has concerns. This is a real life situation with danger and further consequences for Betsy if I fuck up.

My father puts his hand on my shoulder. “The lad will do his bit. Callum has a good head on his shoulders… and is as strong as a fucking ox.”

“Appreciate you both here,” Tim says, his broad face lined with worry. “If anything happens to her—”

“It won’t,” Jacob promises. “We shall make sure of it… and make sure those who snatched her live long enough only to experience regret.”


 

We slip outside, using the darkened alleys rather than the main streets until we enter an old, abandoned warehouse where five soldiers stand, weapons ready.

My heart is pounding. I don’t want to fuck up—I want to help and do my part, yet I understand the danger and risks. Lest I jeopardize the mission, I listen to the instructions carefully as Jacob goes over the plan.

“There will be guards at the entrance,” Jacob says. “Ed and I will take those out quick and quiet. There will be two more at the foot of the stairs. Inside and to the left is the door to the barracks where the rest of the guards are sleeping. We need to block that door promptly lest they lend support. A dozen more guards typically walk the passages where the prisoners are kept. We will dispense with them in any way we can… The barrack door is key to this. We’re fucked if we can’t get that shut. The men they employ are thugs, and fight dirty knowing it is their necks on the line if they fuck this up. Don’t hesitate at the risk of your life and this mission.” He pins me with a look. “If any come at you, put them down.”

No more words are spoken. We understand what is at stake. It is time to act.

Jacob and a guard move forward alone toward the back entrance of the slave markets. We wait at the corner. As they reach the guards, I see a sudden flurry of movement. A faint grunt and audible crack follow before the two guards slump to the floor and are dragged inside.

Hearing a low whistle, we hurry to join them, slipping inside the door.

A cry goes up, and we pound down the stairs. On the left, the door to the sleeping quarters is open, and two of Jacob’s soldiers battle to shut it. More guards come at us from the right, turning the bottom of the narrow stairs into one big melee.

“Get that fucking door closed,” Jacob roars, slamming into a guard on the right.

My hammer is in my hand. I don’t realize my intentions until it smashes into the face of the man blocking the barrack door. He crumples backward, and we slam the door shut. One of Jacob’s men has a bar in his hand and slips it into a slot, barring the door from opening again.

Fists pound on the other side of the door.

“Good work, lad,” the soldier says.

Tim, my father, and Jacob have pushed the guards back to the right.

A soldier crouches over a fallen guard. “Check that one,” he calls to me. “See if you can find the keys.”

Before I can move to check the body, the cell on my left swings open, and a man rushes out.

I don’t have time to wonder how the door opened from within for his short, sturdy club swings for my head. As I duck under the whistling club, I notice his pants are unbuckled.

Bastard.

I swing my hammer straight into his belly. He doubles over with a grunt, but I am already swinging it up, and his jaw breaks with a satisfying crack.

His blood splatters as he is sent crashing into the wall. Rage fills me when I consider what he was up to in that room, and as he crumples to the floor, I bring my hammer down again over his skull.

He is dead.

Somebody tugs on my shoulder. “Get the prisoners out.” A soldier presses the keyring into my palm. Another soldier surges past to liberate the slave from the cell from where the thug just emerged.

I snatch the keys up and press on to the next cell, opening the door. Wary faces greet me, and my heart breaks with pity. “We’ve come to get you out. Move quickly.” I keep going, cell after cell, praying with each one that I might find Betsy.

Yet more fighting continues ahead of me as the soldiers deal with the remaining guards. The prisoners form a line, shaken and scared, their eyes wide with worry and hope.

As I push open the next door, I see Betsy and another lass clinging to each other in the corner.

“Betsy! It’s Callum, lass. Your pa is here to get you.”

Jacob surges past me, his expression one of relief. He is followed closely by Tim, who takes Betsy in his arms, inspecting her for injury.

“We need to leave,” Jacob says. “We have cleared out this level, but reinforcements are coming.”

“Please help Ada,” Betsy cries.

“I’ve got her,” I say, coaxing the tiny, trembling lass to her feet. She is nothing but skin and bones, with straight dark hair and haunting hazel eyes. I don’t hesitate to swing her into my arms. “We’ll get you out, Ada.”

My gut clenches with fury as I notice the bodice of her dress has been torn.

“Here,” my father says. He shucks off his cloak and drops it over her, offering her warmth and modesty.

A shout alerts us to the arrival of more guards. We hasten to leave, the ragtag group of former prisoners now with soldiers front and back. There is more fighting as we take the stairs. Reinforcements may have arrived, but Jacob and his soldiers are fast and efficient and leave only bloodied bodies on the ground. Finally, we emerge into the cold streets, using the narrow back alleys to take us from the slave markets until Jacob calls a stop.

“We’ll separate here,” Jacob says. “We have a safe house for those we’ve rescued. They will be well cared for.”

“Ada must come with us,” Betsy says. “Please, Pa. Bring her with us.”

“Fine, lass,” Tim says.

“I’ll carry her,” I say. The lass is still trembling in my arms. A surge of protectiveness fills me with the need to personally see her to a place of safety.

The other former prisoners go one way with Jacob and his men. My father, Tim, Betsy, and I, with Ada, go another, taking a long and convoluted route through the city. By the time we arrive at The Green Man, the sky has begun to lighten with the onset of dawn. As we enter the tavern, the workers are aflutter, for they have been waiting in anticipation of Tim’s return.

It is only now, as two of the women who work in the tavern bustle around to help me with the poor lass in my arms, that the enormity of what I’ve just done hits me.

“Here, let me get the young miss cleaned up,” Tim’s resident cook says. She is a matronly woman with steel gray hair and a kindly smile.

I find it hard to relinquish my hold, though, and I’m shaking as I lower Ada’s feet to the ground.

“Thank you,” Ada says, surprising me when she throws her arms around my neck. “Thank you, Callum.”

The emotions that stir within me are strong and multifaceted. Tears sting the back of my eyes as the cook and a kitchen helper urge her away and fuss over her. My legs cut out from under me, and I slump onto the nearest stool.

My father comes to join me, his hand squeezing over my shoulder. “You did good, lad. I’m proud of you. We got Betsy back, and we freed many others.”

“It’s not over,” Tim says, his voice rough. “I’ve yet to pay a visit to those as dared to snatch my daughter. You can bet I’ll deal with them, too.”

“Good,” my father says. “Before the Goddess, it is their due.”


 

Chapter 3

Callum

Two months later…

It has been a busy day at the forge. A new commission came in for pickaxes for shipping out to a distant mine. It’s simple enough work, but laborious. It is a tight timeline, and we have been working long hours.

As per usual, once we finish up for the day, my pa and I spend some time training in the old barn out the back. I work on my form using the heavy bag, go through drills, and finally spar with my pa. I’m tired after the day’s work, so tonight is a short session, but I always feel better afterward, like it clears my mind.

Money is never plentiful, but there is always food on the table. Much of what we earn is invested in the raw materials and the tools we use. We make a tidy income, enough to afford a housekeeper to ensure the home is clean and who prepares supper for us if we want it.

More often, though, we head to one of the local taverns at the end of the day to chat with our friends, have a pint, and enjoy freshly prepared food.

I don’t mind the long hours and I enjoy the work. My blacksmithing skills are improving, and I can handle most tasks. My father has garnered a reputation for weapon repairs, which can be more intricate, and I’m learning that, too, under his watch and instruction. He is patient with me—a good father who has instilled a firm sense of right and wrong.

In some ways, life here is not so bad, yet I find myself wishing more often that I lived somewhere far from Bleakness and the Blighten. Although they take a cut of our taxes via the marshal of this district, they don’t interfere with us, nor with traders in general, leaving us to our business. Yet one can never forget them, not when the ships come in, and they march down the streets. Occasionally, trouble starts when one of the lords gets ideas of independence, but rebellions are usually poorly organized and dealt with swiftly.

The Blighten remain a cloud over us, as do the slave markets. I still think about that night we raided. It is hard to forget: it has left a forever impression upon me, and not least because of the sweet lass I saved along with Betsy.

I wash up quickly, feeling my cheeks fill with heat. Ada has been through a trauma and doesn’t need me mooning over her. I shouldn’t be thinking about her at all, but, fuck it, I can admit, I’m gone for her.

Finishing my wash, I change into a clean shirt and tuck it into my pants.

My father joins me at the entrance where our cloaks hang. “Jolly Sailor tonight, then?” he asks, grabbing his cloak.

We went to the Jolly Sailor on Wednesday. Tonight is Friday, and we usually go to The Green Man, which I consider our local as we go there more than any other tavern. Certainly, we never go to the Jolly Sailor twice in one week.

When my mouth opens and closes like a fish out of water, my pa chuckles.

My ears go red. He likes to tease me about my fixation with a certain lass.

“The Green Man it is then,” he says, with a wink.

I snatch up my cloak and drop it over my shoulders; a stupid grin on my face. Friday evening at The Green Man is officially my favorite night of the week.

Hail lashes me the moment I step out. It is always fucking cold in Bleakness. It is icy rain in the spring and autumn; in the winter, it is snow. We get a brief summer and some respite, and then it is back to the fucking awful weather again.

We close the workshop, and my father locks up. Not that there is much trouble in this part of the city. A few years ago, a gang of thugs broke in, but this is a tight-knit community, and we look out for one another. The wheelwright, who lives two shops down, saw who it was. My pa and a few of our neighbors paid them a visit, and we recovered most of our things.

And put a thumping on the idiots so they didn’t make that mistake again.

I pull my hood forward to protect myself from the stinging hail as we walk the short distance to the tavern. The Green Man is a respectable establishment. To those in the know, it is a safe place for enemies of the Blighten.

Still, the windows emit a welcoming glow, and as we step inside and the door slams shut behind us, I draw my hood back and feel the warmth from the fire.

It is heaving. But it is always busy here, especially on a Friday when everyone lets loose.

“Evening, Heath!” Tim booms from behind the bar, where he is busy pulling pints.

“Evening!” my pa calls.

I lift my hand in acknowledgment as we take off our wet cloaks and hang them on the pegs by the door.

“Looks like Pete has kept us a space over by the fire,” my pa says, rubbing his hands together. “I’ve worked up a thirst today. See if you can get us a couple of pints, lad. And some of that beef stew for supper.”

He heads toward the fire, and his buddy, Pete, and I head to the bar. The serving lasses come around, although on busy nights when they are hard-pressed to keep up with demand, I usually order from the bar to speed things up.

“Two pints of Pinkington, please,” I say to Tim as I edge between two merry sailors and a dockworker. “And we’ll have two beef stews.”

“Coming right up,” Tim says, before he calls the order to the cook.

Which is when Ada comes rushing out of the back. The raucous tavern patrons fade away as I get lost in her pretty eyes. I feel a familiar catch in my breath. She has a sensual beauty: her hazel eyes hold sensitivity, her nose a little button that turns up at the end, and her lips, full and berry red, make my thoughts sink to inappropriate places.

She looks like she’s about to speak to Tim, but her eyes slide past him and slam into me.

I’ve never been with a lass. I’m busy and don’t have much spare time… which is an excuse when the truth is I’m cursed to be shy. Unless the lass is forward, matters are unlikely to progress. I’ve thought about it often, lifting their skirts and touching them, making them moan in the way I sometimes hear when they slip out the back… Betsy offered to teach me last year. Flustered by her proposal, my ears had gotten hotter than our forge. I couldn’t look her in the eye for a month, so that was a no-go.

I’ve kissed a couple—I was sweet on Doreen from two doors down the whole of last year. But I’m going to be honest; I’ve not thought about the young seamstress once since I met Ada.

She is my first thought on waking and my last thought before I submit to sleep. After what she has been through, I’m fucking terrified that I wouldn’t know what the fuck to do and might upset her if I did something wrong… Well, I know what to do, but I’m still terrified and wish I’d let Betsy coach me with hindsight.

It is too late now. My cock is broken for all other lasses but Ada.

As the noisy tavern breaks through the spell, I recognize that we can never be.


 

Ada

The pump has broken again, and I need to let Tim know. The human-orc hybrid and proprietor of this establishment runs a tight ship (pun intended—this is a seaport, after all). He looks mostly human, except that he is the size of an orc and has pink, pointed ears.

He’s a good boss, and I consider myself lucky to have a job here. My life wasn’t always so enviable, and I appreciate my turn for the better.

I come barreling out of the kitchen then come to a grinding halt. My eyes go from Tim straight to Callum, and my mind goes blank. In a glance, my gaze rakes a loving trail over his windswept ginger hair, handsome face with darker scruff on his chin, and broad, brawny shoulders.

Callum is a local blacksmith who saved me from a life of servitude and all the horrors that entails.

Not quite a blacksmith yet, I amend, but an apprentice. He is virtually a blacksmith and works for his father in their workshop at the end of the street. They come here every Friday night. It is my favorite night of the week when I can give myself new dreams for when I slip into bed at night.

I feel a blush creep over my cheeks. Betsy has been coaching me in the ways of working in a tavern, yet it is an uphill struggle when my life not so long ago consisted of treading a path between a hovel and the fish markets where I would gut fish all day until my fingers cramped and I was fit to drop. There was no time for looking at lads, especially not handsome ones with impossibly broad shoulders and large, capable hands.

Don’t think about his hands.

My blush deepens.

I tell myself to look away, but it is proving very hard. His eyes are bright and green, and his cheeks are always flushed and rosy with the weather. He has a lot of freckles on his face, and they all seem to merge, giving his complexion a golden glow. When I lie in bed of a night, I think about how he burst into the cell and told Betsy that her pa had come for her. The cell was dark, and the light from the passage illuminated him like an avenging angel, the hammer in his hand dripping with blood.

Betsy insisted that I come with her. I still thank my blessings every day that she did… that she had a pa who cared. Then Callum slipped his sturdy hammer into his belt and lifted me into his arms.

Heroes come in many guises. This one has ginger hair and a smile that could make the Goddess swoon.

I swallow. I’ve been staring for some time. There was something important I was going to say, but I can’t remember what… Oh, that’s right. The pump at the back has finally given out. Tim tried fixing it, and so did Gareth, one of the barmen here, but to no avail.

I drag my eyes away from Callum to find Tim watching me—his lips twitch. Gods, everybody knows I have a crush on Callum… which is hardly surprising when he is so handsome and, further, saved my life. “The pump has got stuck again. I’m so sorry to interrupt.”

“Aye, lass,” Tim says, turning to me and patting my shoulder. “No need to apologize. I should have had it fixed.”

Given his immense size, it still comes as a shock when he is so gentle and such a contrast to my pa… no, I won’t give that bastard any of my precious thoughts…

“Do you want me to have a look at it?” Callum offers, his eyes bouncing from Tim to me.

“Aye, would you?” Tim asks, drawing Callum’s eyes back to him. “Will promised to have a look, but he’s been under the pump.” He emits a deep guffaw at his pun.

Callum chuckles, too, and how I love that sound. “No problem,” he says. “I’ll have a look now.” He turns and raises his hand to gain his father’s attention before gesturing toward the back of the tavern. His father waves an acknowledgment and returns to talking with his friend.

“Well, supper is on me tonight then,” Tim announces with a boom—he is used to shouting over the noisy patrons and doesn’t do quiet. “Go and show him where it is, Ada.”

“This way!” I gulp as Callum slips around the back of the bar and approaches me. He is tall for a beta and broad-chested from working at the forge. The top of my head barely reaches his shoulder. Doing a quick about-face, I take him to the broken pump under the awning out the back. The lantern doesn’t cast much light, and he moves it to the nearby ledge to see better. He has been working all day, but he doesn’t seem bothered or impatient as he rolls up his sleeves… and goodness, seeing his muscular forearms emerge has me lost in a daze.

He doesn’t notice me ogling him while he inspects the mechanism.

I leave him to his business, but when I return to check on him a short time later, it is drawing water again.

“It’ll last a few days, but it needs Will to do a proper repair,” he says, washing off his hands.

“Thank you,” I say.

He rises to his full height, turning toward me with a smile. Before I can think better about it, I rise to my tiptoes and kiss his cheek.

Blushing furiously, I go to turn away; only he catches my hand, stilling my flight. His other hand lifts to cup my cheek, and his thumb brushes over the skin. I fight back the urge to flinch away, a legacy of a lifetime of abuse. For so long, the only touch I felt was delivered in anger. I remind myself that was not the norm.

“You look better now that the bruises have healed.”

My chest tightens with emotion, and I turn into his warm hand, delighting in the way the light touch stirs a flutter low in my belly.

Hearing his groan, my eyes flash open to meet his.

“I want to kiss you, Ada,” he says softly. “So badly, it hurts.”

I nod. Words are beyond me, but I want him to kiss me with equal desperation.

My breath catches as he leans down, and his soft lips brush against mine. I moan and hitch another breath as his tongue slides across the seam. I’ve never been kissed before, and I’m not sure what I should do, yet it seems natural to part for him.

His fingers sink into my hair, turning me slightly as he angles his face and deepens the kiss. My hands find his broad shoulders to steady me as the world begins to spin.

I hear a moan and realize it’s me, that I have boldly pressed closer and opened my mouth further. His tongue sweeps into my mouth, and my breath traps in my lungs. My body feels alive with energy, a heady rushing sensation that makes me tingle all over as heat pools in my lower belly.

His lips are suddenly wrenched away, and he sucks in a breath. “Fuck,” he mutters gruffly. “I’m sorry… I didn’t mean… Did I scare you?”

“No,” I say quickly. I’m still leaning into him shamelessly with my fingers petting his shoulders. His body is big and firm against mine and makes me feel so safe.

He smiles. “Good. Because I want to do it again.”

The next kiss is far bolder. I entwine my arms around his neck and sink straight into it. I can’t get enough of him, of the feel of his lips, hungry against mine, the rushing urgency that seems to consume me until there is nothing but him.

Someone clears their throat loudly.

We break apart.

Goodness, what was I doing?!

“Don’t mind me,” Gareth says. “Just need a fresh barrel of Pilkington!”

Callum chuckles and takes my hand as we move out of Gareth’s way. “I’ve had a taste now, Ada,” he lowers his head to whisper beside my ear. “And I’m going to want another one.”


Excerpt The Wolf in My Tavern Copyright © 2024 L.V. Lane

Coming 11th July!




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Prey 1.99 US and CA - One day only!

Tempting the Orc 0.99 US and UK - Through to 24th!



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Prey: Imperium Protectors

Coveted Prey Book 1 

I am prey.

This is not pity talking, this is an acknowledgment of a fact.

I am small and weak; I am an omega. I am a prize that men war over.

For a year I have hidden in the distant corner of the Empire.

But I am running out of food, and I am running out of options.

That I must leave soon is not a decision for today, though, but a decision for tomorrow.

Only tomorrow's choices never come.

For tonight brings strangers who remind me that I am prey.

📣Content advice: Why choose omega heroine with three alpha warriors and an alpha wolf shifter. The story includes forced seduction and firm discipline using the hand and belt. Some violence and gore.

🔮Themes include a bratty omega, a generous sprinkling of spicy times, adventure, and breeding.

📗 Can be read as a standalone.

🤝Related stories: Prize and Taken.

📏Novel

 

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Tempting The Orc: Sweet Monsters

Coveted Prey Book 14

He’s my brother’s best friend.

He’s also an orc.

I’m a shifter and should be with one of my kind.

What I want is green, fierce, and savage with everyone but me.

He’s determined to resist.

I’m determined that he won’t. 

📣Content advice: MF omega wolf shifter with orc alpha half-breed. The story is consensual and includes light discipline with the hand.

🔮Themes include a reluctant hero, brother's best friend, dirty-talking orc, and a generous sprinkling of spicy times.

📖Can be read as a standalone.

🤝Related stories: Taken

📏Short story


 

The Wolf in My Tavern: Tales of Bleakness

Coveted Prey Book 22

A father should protect his daughter. 

 

Mine sold me out to predators for coin enough to pay his debts.

 

Sobbing and broken, I shiver in the cold stone cell, awaiting my desperate fate.

 

Only I am not alone, and my fellow prisoner is about to change the course of my life.

 

▪️ A poor girl sold out by her father.

▪️ A young blacksmith apprentice with secret ties to the rebellion.

▪️ A grumpy wolf shifter on a mission.

▪️ One tavern where all their stories are fated to collide.

📣Content advice: Why choose wolf shifter omageverse adventure romance with some elements of dubious consent, light discipline using the hand, bondage, mild violence, and gore.

🔮Themes include a golden retriever boy next door and a grumpy wolf shifter getting in knots over a sweet tavern wench.

 

🐺 Beast form mating

📗 Can be read as a standalone.

🤝 Related stories: Rapture and Bound to the Pack.

📏 Novel



 



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Updated: Jun 8


𝐿𝐼𝑀𝐼𝒯𝐸𝒟 𝒯𝐼𝑀𝐸 𝐹𝑅𝐸𝐸! 🆓🥳

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Innocent damsel in distress. ✅

Hot older hero who likes being called Daddy ✅

Lots of dirty talk✅

Get ready for your kindle to catch fire 🔥


In His Debt。.。:∞♡*♥


Blurb ~

Rebecca’s innocent fantasies concerning Damien Lawson, her father’s business partner and extremely hot friend, border on obsession. Until one day the two men come to blows and part ways, and she doesn’t see Damien again.


Now at eighteen, she must deal with the loss of her father and the debt he left behind.

When she fears all is lost, Damien steps in and offers to help. After so long, can she trust her father’s best friend with her life, her body, and her heart?


Only it turns out her innocent fantasies don’t come close to the reality of the dirty-talking, dominant man.


Damien can’t reconcile that the sexy blonde is his former business partner’s sweet daughter. Her father left her high dry, with debts to the kind of men who could destroy an innocent like Rebecca. Not that Damien’s going to let that happen. With one look, he’s obsessed. She needs a caring protector, and Damien’s just the man for the job.


Content Advice: Themes include praise, insta-love, spicy, breeding, age-gap, she calls him Daddy. Extra 🔥Please proceed with caution!


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