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Winner 2015 sexiest steampunk book award
How do you choose who lives and who dies?
Alchemist Amelia Rimos has just discovered the cure for the Undead. Being naïve and vulnerable, she does not realize the Undead have their targets set on her.
Happening upon a tall, dark, exotic man named Michel Gauthier, he saves her from becoming a victim, thrusting her into a game of cat and mouse. Amelia realizes being an Alchemist is not in her best interest when she befriends him. Is Michel as sincere as he seems or does he have an ulterior motive?
When her life cannot be more complicated, John Hawthorne interjects himself into Amelia's life and shifts it completely upside down. He informs Amelia she has the key to their survival. Soon, she will realize the Undead are not the only monsters in the world…
Amelia will find herself in a stalemate: She will be forced to choose between destroying her evidence and saving the man she’s grown to love or destroying over half the population of the world, including the love of her life with it.
The sound of a struggle erupts from the side of my coach. My heartbeat speeds up, and standing frozen in place, my eyes roam the area in hopes of seeing what is happening… before it sees me. Vampires are plentiful in our world; however, as an Alchemist, it is my duty to protect the humans from attacks. If I am attacked… “Well, I can’t think about that right now.”
Taking in a deep breath, and pushing the thoughts of a vampire attacking me by the lab out of my mind, I take a few steps toward my coach. “Henry?” I call for my driver, “Are you alright?”
Tentatively, I reach inside my bag. My fingers search for a vial of liquid sun. Years ago, when becoming a master at my craft, the best decision I made was creating this solution. As the Undead burn from the inside out, their bodies explode as if the sun was actually shining from within.
Clutching it tightly in my grasp, I think for a moment I might break the glass within my grip. Slowly pulling it out of my bag, I take another tentative step forward. “Henry? Please talk to me!”
Suddenly, a growl pierces the night air, followed by a figure moving so quickly, I am afraid I might have imagined it. A scream pierces the night from somewhere nearby and I drop the liquid sun on the ground where it explodes at my feet. I cover my mouth with my hand to keep from screaming along with whoever is being tortured. Panic and fear build quickly and I am afraid I may pass out from the adrenaline rush I am experiencing. I take a few steps back when a man peers from around the side of the carriage.
A necklace, a ring, a child…There is always a price one is willing to pay.
Laila sees her impending death in the mountains of straw waiting to be spun into gold. Faced with the impossible, she makes the impossible decision to survive, no matter what the cost.
A shadowy stranger sees an opportunity for vengeance. Born to a nightmarish destiny that crushed and embittered his faith in humanity, he devotes himself to dealing in dark desires and desperate souls, and Laila’s is ripe for the trade.
When the stranger asks his price, Laila is bound by blood and magic to pay. His own heart was never supposed to be part of the deal, but when honor drives Laila to break their bargain, he ends up tangled in his own web of deceit and destruction in a desperate attempt to save her life. In the black of night, there are no fairytales, only choices.
One choice makes a queen. One choice consumes a soul. It’s a roll of the dice in a game where love is everyone’s undoing.
Spin, Genevieve Raas’ debut fantasy novel, is a twisted, sexy retelling of one of Grimm’s classic tales and the first book in the Spindlewind series.
Mountains of straw filled the room from floor to ceiling. Heavy stones crushed all hope. A rat scuttled along the wall’s edge. Water dripped from small cracks. Darkness abounded except for the dim light from a small torch. In the center of the room, amid the golden slopes, stood a simple wooden spinning wheel. Baskets of empty bobbins were strewn all around, waiting to be filled by the girl who was supposedly able to spin straw into gold.
“I think it is very clear what I want you to do,” the king hissed. “If by tomorrow morning you have not spun the straw into gold, well, I’m sure your head will fit quite nicely into one of these baskets instead.”
My blood ran cold. It is one thing knowing you will die, but another completely to hear about the disposal of your remains.
“Spinning straw into gold is impossible! I could never do such a thing. No one can!” I pleaded.
“I suggest you figure it out. Spin for your freedom. That will be your prize. Otherwise, I will kill you and have your carcass nailed to a stake so the entire kingdom will see what I do to liars.”
I grew dizzy and thought I might vomit. My limbs shook, and I couldn’t stop thinking that death awaited me in the morning. I slumped against the spinning wheel, scrabbling to hold onto it and losing my footing as the wheel betrayed me and rolled, sending me stumbling into the straw. The king only laughed, and it made me hate him more than I knew possible.
“Don’t look so glum! I know my methods may be harsh, but I do what’s necessary to get the results I desire. You seem to need some motivation, and I have learned that death is the greatest motivation of all.”
He gently ran a finger down my throat, “But I must admit, it would pain me greatly to sever such a beautiful neck.”
My stomach twisted as a shiver ran through my body, blood draining from my veins. I was forced to double over in agony, unable to breath. I wrapped my arms around my middle and dry heaved.
“Come, come, I’m sure it won’t come to that,” the king said, his lips cracked in a terrifying, gargoyle grin. “I suggest you focus your energy on the task at hand rather than self-pity if you want to be done by morning.”
He departed, his shadow retreating behind him up the spiral staircase, leaving me alone to my kingdom of straw. A fresh wave of panic rippled through me as a thunderous bolt and lock echoed down from the iron door. I was sealed in. Entombed.
Frantically, I waded into the sea of straw to find a way out. One had to exist, it just had to be unearthed. A million sharp little ends pricked my skin, but the straw was too deeply packed against the walls for me to reach them. Refusing to surrender, I dove my hands within the thick jungle of twigs until I felt the cold stone beneath. I ran my hands quickly along the deep grooves of mortar, searching for some opening, some forgotten crevice that might lead to freedom. The needle-like straw bit my fingertips and scratched my hands until I stained the yellow twigs red with blood.
I would’ve kept searching until my hands were nothing but bone and sinew, the drive for survival hammering in my chest. However, as the hours passed, I finally began to accept the truth. There was no passage, no crevice, no way out except the heavy metal door atop the staircase.
I was completely trapped.
Resigned, I fell down into the straw. I put a hand to my neck, imagining the cold blade slicing my flesh, and then my head toppling down from the executioner’s stand until it lay at the feet of the king. Lifting his trophy to a cheering crowd, he would remind them all of the penalty for boasting a lie.
The flicker of light danced across the treacherous landscape, my vision clouded by tears as the scenario played through my mind without end. Blade. Blood. Cheers.
If only my father had kept his mouth shut!
Wiping my eyes, I imagined the color of the straw growing more vibrant, the torchlight causing it to appear as burning flames.
My heart pounded. I saw a way to escape the fate chosen for me.
One spark from the torch would set the entire room ablaze, the inferno engulfing my body along with the mountains of straw, robbing the king the joy of his example.
I stared at the torch. The flames licked at the air, desiring to be fed. I could only imagine how quickly my skirts would ignite. Curious of the sensation of what burning to death would be like, I let my hand hover over the fire. Scorching pain flooded over my skin, causing me to gasp in surprise. It would be savage, but at least the results would be assured.
The king would return to nothing but ash.
It seemed such an easy thing to decide. Breathing slowly, I took the torch from the wall and marched towards the nearest hill of straw. The flames rejoiced at the feast waiting beneath them. Closing my eyes, I prepared to take destiny in my own hands. All I had to do was release my grip, and the nightmare would cease.
“Now why would you want to do a silly thing like that?” an amused voice asked behind me.
I spun around, shocked and confused as to who would be speaking to me in this locked cell. The torch slipped from my grasp and fell towards the straw, but a hand snatched it out of the air before it lit everything in flames.
“Determined to be stupid,” the voice grumbled.
I expected to see one of the king’s guards checking on my progress. Instead, I found a most peculiar man. He couldn’t have been more than eight-and-twenty. Black hair framed a defined face with a pale complexion. He was tall but thin, wearing a tight fitting black doublet and pants. A white shirt peeked out of his collar and sleeves. Though his mouth smiled, his gray eyes held storms.
“Who…who are you?” I asked.
“Obviously someone who is keeping you from making a rather poor decision,” he quipped, walking towards me with a firm step and placing the torch back where it belonged. “You must really hate it here to be so desperate to burn yourself up. You do know there are more pleasant ways to kill oneself?”
He stared at me, waiting for an answer. I was unable to reply, still trying to comprehend how this strange man was down here with me at all.
With a shrug, he moved past me over to the spinning wheel. He ran his long finger down the wheel, turning it and producing a happy purr from the machine.
“You see, I sensed you might be in need of some assistance. You must forgive the impertinence, but that’s what I do, and by the looks of things, it appears my instincts were correct.” His penetrating gaze chilled me.
“Are you here to rescue me?” I asked. It sounded stupid even as I said it, but I could see no other reasonable question to ask.
He laughed. “In a manner of speaking, though I think it might be in a different way than you are hoping.”
In an instant, he was standing before me, my eyes hardly able to follow the speed with which he moved. My heart hammered in a new flush of panic. What sort of man was this?
Placing a hand over his own heart he gave a small bow, continuing, “I’m here to offer my services. I just happen to have quite the talent for spinning straw into gold.”
For three seconds I felt I had been granted a miracle. But hard, cold reality stopped such foolishness, reminding me that this stranger’s offer was not feasible.
“You mock me. How do you expect me to believe something so impossible?” I demanded. “No one can do that.”
“You are the logical sort, aren’t you? I like that,” he said, nonchalantly plucking a twig from my hair, inspecting it under his slender nose. “If logic is what you desire, then you must realize it is already quite impossible that I am down here with you at all, and yet, here I am! I defy reason. Don’t you think you at least owe me the courtesy to prove my skill?”
It aggravated me unreasonably that his point was valid. I hadn’t heard one click of the lock or squeal of the hinges announcing his entrance. Somehow, he’d managed to appear out of thin air.
“All right,” I agreed, still hesitant as to his means and motives, but viscerally curious to watch his reaction when he inevitably failed.
He was already positioned at the spinning wheel before the words left my mouth, stretching his fingers. There was not a single indication of doubt or trepidation in his manner. Poise emanated from him.
“Prepare to be dazzled,” he smirked, removing a bobbin from one of the baskets and slipping it into place with an odd kind of delicacy.