The Darkly Luminous Fight For Persephone Parker By Leanna Renee Hieber

By SMW Staff

Excerpt: Percy awoke in a large room she did not know.

Upright in a strange bed, thin nightgown askew upon her shoulders, a black cloak that had been wrapped around her body was cast back against the sheets. Tiny flecks of ash remained lodged in the cuffs of her meagre sleeves. She squinted, her pale, sensitive eyes straining against bright light. French doors covered in lace curtains led onto a terrace. Beyond, a few trees and chimneys were visible in the dense morning fog. The room was full of rich furnishings, fresh flowers and finery. Percy had never set foot in a room so regal. All that she recognized in the moment was her own colourless flesh. That, she was sure, was uniquely of her own time and peculiar existence in the year she knew to be 1888.

A tall clock near the bed chimed eight in echoing tones. Works of gilt-framed art on the walls seemed illuminated by their own paint, the distinct style of Miss Josephine Belledoux, a friend of her dear Prof— Her heart seized. Where was he? “Alexi!” Percy gasped, batting locks of ivory-white hair out of her eyes.

“Percy,” came a rich voice from behind her.

With a rustle, the thick velvet duvet was tossed aside. Percy turned to behold a formidable man who was older than she, singularly breathtaking, and…sharing her bed. Her veins flooded with incapacitating heat.

Alexi groggily rose to a seated position at her side. His striking figure, ever clad in various fabrics of black and the occasional grey, was in a state of uncommon disarray. A delectable sound escaped him as he reached for her hand and brought it to his lips, kissing the ring that had so recently betrothed her to him. It wasn’t a dream. True, they’d just survived a nightmare, but she’d emerged from the other side victorious—and his.

The line of his sternum, the graceful curve of his collarbone, was glimpsed through the open neck of his clothing. This previously hidden treasure heightened her feverish temperature. The hem of his signature scarlet cravat clung limply to his collar like a stream of stage blood. The purpling bruise around his neck reminded her of the night’s horrific events. She’d never seen him so disheveled, and she’d never allowed herself such an intense flood of emotion at the sight of him.

She choked, overcome. Mere months ago, she could never have imagined this strange fairy tale: to have gone from an awkward student, trembling in this man’s presence, to waking beside him as his intended. She found her awkwardness now layered with smoldering heat, making her feel all the more constrained and breathless; delicious torture.

“Do forgive the bold act of lying next to you, Percy,” her beloved murmured. “But after last night I was too exhausted to keep watch and, dare I say, too covetous to be out of reach.”

“If I’d awoken alone, Alexi, I’d have screamed for you something terrible.” She glanced about the room. “Where are we?”

“The grand estate of Lord Elijah Withersby.”

“Ah. Are the others here? Your…Guard?”

“Yes.”

“Oh, goodness.” Percy felt her face flush a mottled pink. “They don’t suppose you and I have…?”

“No dear,” Alexi could not hold back a smirk. “They do not imagine your modesty in jeopardy, if that’s what concerns you.”

“Ah. I…well, I wasn’t sure if I ought to be embarrassed before your friends.” She gave a nervous laugh.

“No, but… As the pleasures of holding you close are such a recent revelation, might your fiancé indulge his newfound heaven again?” What started as a polite request finished as a demand.

Percy bit her lip, hard. “Please,” she breathed, and collapsed against him clumsily. He wrapped his arms around her, breathing slowly in as she relished his nearness. She dared to press her pale lips to the bared portion of his breast.

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