Hi friends! I’m so excited we’ve got another adult high fantasy romance from Jeffe Kennedy! Congratulations to her on this newest release! She (& her assistant) was also generous enough to share – as it says – an exclusive excerpt of the book with ALBTALBS readers! Hooray!
Lady Seliah Phel can’t escape feeling like she’s one of those fairytale princesses awakened from a long slumber—except that her life is no romantic story and there’s no happy ending in sight. Though she has her magic and she’s been rescued from the depths of madness that consumed her since adolescence, Selly finds that the years she lost aren’t so easily recovered. Everyone treats her like the child they remember. To prove something—perhaps only to herself—she’s recklessly volunteered to stave off a host of monsters with only the enigmatically alluring, cuttingly sarcastic, and probably deceitful wizard Jadren El-Adrel for company.
Jadren isn’t the heroic type. In fact, he’s not much of anything. Relentlessly groomed into a shadow of a man by his sadistic mother, he’s the perfect spy and tool, with no real will of his own. When he’s stranded in the wilderness with Seliah Phel, he figures the outcome is immaterial. Live or die, it’s all the same to him. But Seliah is a different story and she isn’t like anyone else. Though he reminds himself she’s basically a child in a woman’s body, he finds it increasingly difficult to resist her artless charms and relentless curiosity.
As their predicament goes from dire to disastrous, Jadren realizes his many failures have jeopardized Selly’s future, perhaps her very life. Far from home and trapped without resources, Selly has only Jadren to rely upon—the one person she can’t possibly trust. There seems no possibility of rescue from their friends and family back home at House Phel, so Jadren and Selly must work together to survive… if they can.
Shadow Wizard Excerpt:
Jadren eyed the small clearing Selly had picked out. Yes, it was off the road, reasonably concealed from anyone passing by, and—thankfully—not a bog, which satisfied her major requirements. Nothing else made it look like a place he wanted to spend any time, however. Long ferny plant tendrils draped from the trees, waving in the evening air uncannily like spirits. He’d nearly jumped out of his skin, thinking Elal had sent some sentry spirits after them after all.
Of course, Selly had then reassured him they weren’t snakes. She’d never let him live that down. One more reason to wish his maman would die in a lake of fire. As if he needed more reasons.
“Leave off with fussing with that campfire and come assist me,” he instructed Selly. True to her word, she’d built and lit a small fire in the time that it had taken him to pace off the boundaries of the working he intended to perform. When Selly scowled at him, he held out a preemptory hand and snapped his fingers impatiently, well pleased when her amber eyes narrowed in anger. It was good for her to hate him. Then she’d spend less time trying to get into his head. Nobody needed to enter that vile, desolate landscape.
“I know nothing about building a shelter,” she protested, but she stood and came over, eyeing the square outline he’d made with twigs. “Although even I know you’ll need more wood than that.”
“Familiars should be seen and not heard,” he informed her.
“What?” she gasped, outraged. The chit had a lot to learn. Hopefully Lady Phel would spend some time polishing those rough edges. When he’d used the same line on Nic, she’d barely seemed to notice. But then, Elals were a cold-hearted lot, and he meant that in the nicest way.
“You don’t need to flap your jaws to hand over that nummy magic,” he explained with honeyed patience. “Less talking. More giving up the juice.” He wiggled his fingers at her.
He thought she might be about to refuse, but she pressed her pretty lips into a thin line and slapped her hand into his with enough force to sting. That was his girl. Nothing daunted her spirited nature for long. “I can’t wait to see this,” she muttered.
“Oh, me too,” he agreed cheerfully, then bent his attention to the twigs she’d sneered at.
“You mean you haven’t done this before?”
With a sigh for the interruption to his concentration, he glared at her. “What, built a shelter in the middle of nowhere so I could hide with a half-feral familiar from rogue hunters because I somehow ended up as a junior wizard to a fallen house so imperiled that another high house attacked it? Why no, come to think of it. I haven’t.”
“Must you always be so sarcastic?” she gritted out.
He pretended to consider that. “Yes. Now be quiet or I’ll muzzle you.”
“I’d like to see you try,” she muttered, but she said nothing more.
Focusing again on the image he’d built in his mind, Jadren carefully constructed the shelter. It didn’t need to be big, just large enough for Selly and him to sleep in without being too intimately crammed together. That was all he needed, to accidentally touch her long, lissome body during the night, fraying his already imperiled control around her. “It’s just another artifact,” he remined himself. “Basically a box. Don’t get fancy.”
“What was that?” Selly asked.
He turned a furious glower on her. “What part of ‘be quiet’ do you not understand?”
“I understand you don’t have a muzzle,” she answered sweetly, baring her teeth.
“I’ll make one,” he snapped, thumping his free hand against his chest, then pointing to the array of tool-elements he carried. “El-Adrel wizard, remember? We create enchanted artifacts. I can work up a muzzle that would stop you from speaking another word.”
“Seems like all I’d have to do is keep talking while you try to conjure it up and you’ll never get anywhere,” she replied, adding a sly wink.
Oh, she did not just say that. The old frustration welled up in him, all the methods his maman had enlisted to break his concentration, all supposedly to train him to be the very best and all unbearable to recall. “Seliah,” he said, setting his teeth and speaking through them. “if you want to wake up in the morning without a hunter’s collar throttling you as they drag you off to Sammael, would you pretty please, with cinnamon sugar and candied cherries on top, be silent?”
She opened her mouth, then closed it abruptly, gesturing at him to proceed. Finally. Taking several deep breaths, he reached again for the meditative state he could achieve reasonably well. Then, bracing himself for the sharp, fresh flavor of her, he drew on Seliah’s magic. It flowed into him with unimpeded force, unrefined, uncontrolled, like a mountain spring. It made his teeth ache with its potency—and he nearly fumbled his control in the face of the renewed vigor of it.
If drinking of Nic’s magic had been like gulping an entire bottle of potent wine, Seliah’s unfettered magic reminded him of being drowned in a lake of snowmelt while shards of silver pierced his limbs. Not that he’d ever experienced anything like that, but surely this was how it would feel. He also had frustratingly little experience working with such a powerful familiar. Now that she was getting better at not holding back, the magic flowed over him like an icy tidal wave. He grappled. Strained to shape and funnel it. Lost his hold.
Breaking his hold on her magic and on her hand, he gasped for breath as if he truly had been drowning. Dizzy with it, he bent and braced his hands on his knees, head swimming.
“Will you bite my head off if I ask if you’re all right?” Seliah spoke very quietly, as if low volume would’ve made a difference, had he still been trying to concentrate.
“I’m fine,” he bit out, making up in confidence what he lacked in believability. “Your magic is like standing under a waterfall and trying to take a sip by tipping back my head and opening my mouth.”
“When we fought the hunters earlier, you said I was tense and trying to wring magic out of me was like sucking on a dried lemon rind.”
Forcing himself upright, he gave her a weary look. “You do memorize everything I say. It would be touching if it weren’t so bloody aggravating.”
“I have a good memory,” she replied stiffly, a high flush on her cheekbones visible even in the thickening dusk. “And I’m invested in learning this stuff, so I do pay attention to what you tell me in the hopes that it will be useful information.”
“Well, there’s your first mistake,” he commented wryly. “I’m not known for being useful in any way, shape, or form.”
😄 So what did you think?! I’m excited about this new series. You can buy a copy of the book here.