Flash Sale on Fantasy Novel: Root


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Excerpt from Root:

Dancing, Kemla felt the heat pour forth, burning without consuming, the familiar sensation she lived for and loved. She lifted her hands aloft, palms up. Flame-red fae began to cavort in the palms of her hands. Kemla knew these Red fae well. Smokeytoes, Blaze, Sootsy…

Then, to her surprise, the Red fae abandoned her. Sparking away on blazing wings, they rode the wind a short distance and landed on the hands of Dindi, who had been mirroring every move of her Fire Dance. Shocked, Kemla stopped dancing. Dindi didn’t. While Kemla watched, open-mouthed, the Red fae began to gather around the serving girl.

“What are you doing?” Kemla shouted at the Red fae.

Dindi, unable to see the fae, must have thought Kemla was addressing her, the stupid little goat-head. She stumbled to a stop and began to stutter some idiotic response.

“I was just practicing…”

The Red fae, still flying around Dindi, grinned at Kemla.

“How dare you mock me!” Kemla ordered them. “Get out of here!”

“I wasn’t mocking you, Kemla!” Dindi blurted. “I was just…”

“Shut up!” Now she did glare at Dindi. “Don’t you have something else to do? I believe I asked you to re-sew the porcupine quills on my costume. Did you finish that yet?”


“Then why are you dancing? You forget yourself, Dindi. You aren’t really a Tavaedi. You’re a serving maiden. Your only job is to serve us. And by ‘us’ I mean the real Tavaedis. Remember?”

Dindi lowered her head, tears in her eyes. “Yes, Kemla.”

“Then go fix my costume. Now!”

Everyone was watching them. No one interfered. Dindi scurried away, sniveling like a baby. The Red fae circled Kemla. They whispered, in sibilant voices that cackled like fire, “She’s better than you. No matter what you do to her, she’s better than you. And everyone knows it…”

Kemla swatted them away, furious at their betrayal. All her life, the Red fae had loved her best. They belonged to her. Yet, as usual, they were sneering she wasn’t good enough for them. They had told her such things all her life. You think you’re so good, mortal girl, but you’re nothing. You call that dancing, human? We’ve seen beavers dance better than that. You couldn’t burn in the middle of a forest fire, useless human. She knew their games and tossed their insults right back at them. But this latest slap in the face, to prefer some nobody like Dindi… it was too much.  Unable to resume her dance, rattled by the faery taunts, she stomped over to her friends Margita, Dalora and Yalena. Like the rest of the troop, they had watched the whole ugly fight unfold, giggling.

“Can you believe her nerve?” Kemla asked loudly.

“She’s outrageous,” Margita agreed at once. The others piped in with their consent.

Except, Yalena ventured, “But why do you hate her so much?”

“I don’t hate her.” Kemla tossed her long, dark hair over her shoulder. “If you had stepped in a cow pie and found dung clinging to the bottom of your sandal, wouldn’t you want to wipe the stink off? That’s what she is. Dung trying to cling to me and copy me all the time. I just can’t stand the stink. She should never have been allowed to join the troop. She has no magic! She’s not a real Tavaedi! It isn’t right.”

The other women bleated enthusiastic agreement.

“Abiono should make her leave,” Margita said. “Maybe if we all told him we feel that way…”

“He wouldn’t do it,” Kemla said. “For some reason, back when we were in Yellow Bear, Zavaedi Brena asked him to accept Dindi into the troop. Probably just because Dindi was friends with her precious little daughter Gwenika. Who was spoiled fruit, by the way.”

“Really?” Dalora and Yalena, who hadn’t heard this gossip because they hadn’t gone through Initiation in the same year as Kemla and Margita, leaned forward. “But we thought you liked Brena’s daughter.”

“No, no, you’re thinking of the older one. Brena had two daughters. The older one was our kind of people, a good basket all around. Her younger sister, Gwenika, Dindi’s friend, was another matter. That tramp would unlace her legwals for anyone. And guess what happened.”

Too embarrassed to say it out loud, Kemla leaned forward and whispered the salacious truth to Dalora, who whispered to Yalena, who shrieked with laughter.

“By the Seven Faeries! You aren’t serious!”

“Oh, yes.” Kemla smirked.

“Who would be friends with a tart like that?” Dalora sniffed disapprovingly in Dindi’s direction. “Only another tart.”

“If one of our girls did that, Abiono would kick her out of the troop,” Yalena added.

“True,” said Kemla. “But Dindi isn’t exactly a fishing-net for male attention, so I don’t see…” She paused. Her gaze slid to Tamio. “Of course, an open jar is just waiting for an opportunity to spill her juice, isn’t she? She just needs someone willing to drink.” She smoothed her tunic and flounced her hair. “I think I need to return to practice now.”  

She crossed the clearing to where the male dancers rested. Her eyes never left Tamio. He looked up, raised a cocky brow, and returned her regard with an open leer.

“Changed your mind, sweet apple? Ready to grind out a little fertility with me now?”

The other young male dancers laughed.

She forced a sugar smile. “I’m ready to practice our duet now. I was being childish before. Accept my apology. Dance with me.”

His surprise soured to suspicion. Nonetheless, he stood and joined her in the center of the clearing. Abiono, who had been speaking quietly with some Greens, noticed them and looked taken aback.

“Well, well, good,” he said. “Yes, this is good. Start at the…”

“Why don’t we start here.” Tamio stepped close to her and snaked his arm around her waist. He jerked her body flush against his. “This is my favorite part of the dance.”

“Yes, why don’t we?” She pressed even closer, until she could feel the hard lines of his muscles beneath his tunic and legwals. She was pleased to see excitement flush his face. His eyes, however, narrowed, even as he began to lead her through the series of hot, quick steps of the clutch section of the Fire Dance. Hip to hip and breasts to chest, they darted forward and back across the clearing. The sequence ended in a lift and he swung her around, lifted her into the air and then bent her back over his knee. Her hair fanned down to the ground.

Instead of lifting her back immediately, he murmured, for her ears alone, “What are you up to, Kemla?”

“You wound me with your distrust.” She smiled up at him.

“Minx. I know you.” He lifted her back into another clutch, and they began to sway through another sequence, still pressed close to one another. 

Kemla leaned into his neck to whisper.  “I know all about your trophy stick, Tamio. The one with the notches.”

He released her and stared.

From across the clearing, Abiono apparently thought they had lost their place in the dance, because he began to call out advice. “Er, that was, quite, er… Why don’t we start from the first section now and….”

“Yes, let’s start that sequence over.” Kemla stepped back into his arms. “Or have you forgotten what you were up to, Tamio? Because I haven’t.”

“So you’ve heard of my stick.” Tamio thrust his hips against hers as he resumed the dance. “Good things, I hope.”

“I have to admit.” She lowered her lashes and peeked up at him. “It’s made me… curious. You aren’t like the other boys around here. You’re a man. After all those conquests, you must know how to please a woman.”

“I’ve never had any complaints.”

Boastful buffoon, she thought. Her smile grew coy. “On the other hand, I’m not sure I should trust in mere rumors. What proof do I have that you’re really the great seducer you claim to be?”

“Come with me, after practice, to the woods,” he purred. “I’ll show you exactly how I can please you.”

“I’m not so easy as that, Tamio.”

He swung her around, lifted her and bent her back over his knee again.

“What’s your real game, Kemla? It’s dangerous to tease me like this. I may forget myself.” He leaned over her tunic and tugged open the top leather tie with his teeth.

She licked her lips. “I would be the best you ever tasted, Tamio.”

When he pulled her back up to resume the close body-to-body steps, she could feel the evidence of his growing attention nudging eagerly against her thigh.

“I’m not interested in marriage,” he said. “I’ve never lied to any girl about that, and I won’t lie, even to you. I have six years left as a Tavaedi, thirteen if I make Zavaedi, and I intend to spend them on the wing. I won’t be tied to some female’s farm to help her raise a litter of brats.”

“I have no more interest in raising a family yet than you do,” she said, quite honestly as it happened. “But I do require proof that you’re the lover you boast. Think of it as a challenge. If you can seduce any girl I name, and bring me evidence that she’s surrendered herself to you, then in return, I’ll give myself to you.”

“Is that your game?” He gave a sultry laugh. “Fa, Kemla, dear, that’s too easy. Just name the girl.”


This time, he didn’t stop dancing, but his steps slowed. “The mouse? Why bother? That’s not a challenge at all.” He wagged his chin toward her friends. “How about your spicy cousin Margita instead?”

“Keep your paws off my cousin. Remember, I’ll need proof you’ve tasted her.”

“Kemla,” he frowned, “You wouldn’t make it public, would you? Is that your plan? To disgrace her?”

“Why should you care?”

“For one thing, if her clan finds out, they’ll force me to marry her.”

“They accuse, you deny. You’ve done it before.”

They continued to dance, but in silence, by rote. Tamio still frowned.

Sensing she was losing him, Kemla lashed out. “I should have known you couldn’t do it, you spitless coward. If you can’t even sway a girl like that, why should I give myself to you? I can’t believe I even considered letting you touch me.”

She shoved him away. Abiono cried out in alarm, but Kemla ignored him. She just walked away. She didn’t stop even when she reached the mouth of the cave. When her friends became alarmed and called out to her, she ignored them too. She was furious with Tamio, with herself, with Dindi, with the fae, with everyone. You just made an idiot of yourself, she scolded herself. You threw yourself at Tamio in exchange for a favor even he thinks is vile. The trees closed in around her the further she plunged into the birch wood.

Someone grabbed her arm. She swung around with a fist and almost hit Tamio.

“No one calls me a coward and then walks away from me,” he said. He alone had followed her into the woods.

“Leave me alone!”

“No, you promised me something and I’m going to collect on that promise.” He put his hands to her tunic and tugged apart the lacings, to expose her breasts.

She felt very alive. The Red fae had returned to witness the exchange. Outside the area set aside for human magic, they swarmed in the thousands. Hot, flickering willawisps wafted through the air like sparks, vicious little red hooded hobgoblins brandished pitchforks, fire-bearded snitches with coal eyes drove salamander herds from their hiding places beneath rocks to watch. She had no intention of letting Tamio take her by force. Let him but try, and she would set the whole wood on fire.

“Do you like what you see?” she taunted, opening her tunic further. “Look hard, Tamio, because it will never be yours.” She thrust her breasts forward, a move rewarded by a spasm of naked lust in his face. She snapped the folds of cloth closed. He stepped back and folded his arms. A strange pang of disappointment cooled her.

“I’ll accept your challenge,” he said. “And I’ll hold you to your word. If I bring you proof I’ve seduced Dindi, then you will be mine, willingly. I want your pledged word and a kiss to seal the bargain.”

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