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I Belong


Fantastic Fables: The Shattered Court by M.J. Scott

Beautiful woman sleeping among fairies

Please welcome author M.J. Scott here today! The Shattered Court is the first novel in The Four Arts series. This is a fantasy/paranormal romance series. This novel was released on April 28, 2015 from ROC/Penguin books! Please enjoy her twist on Sleeping Beauty below!

**Don’t forget to enter the giveaways running all month long! Click here to check out these great giveaways!**

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Lady Sophia Kendall, the heroine of The Shattered Court, comes into her magic in an unexpected way. One that leaves her with unexpected power. And an unexpected stubborn streak that’s only going to get her into trouble. Particularly when she can’t resist stealing a moment or two with the handsome Cameron Mackenzie….

“This is farther afield than I was planning on going, milady,” Cameron Mackenzie said, reining in his horse.

Beside him, Lady Sophia Kendall also halted on her pale gray mare and threw him a coaxing smile. “Just a bit longer. I’m not ready to go back.” Her smile widened. “Besides, don’t you want a little time alone?” She looked at the hill in front of them. It wasn’t high but the trees covering its crest hid the view of what lay beyond.

Cameron frowned at her. “I think being alone has gotten us into enough trouble.”

She laughed at him. “Exactly. It’s not like it can get worse. Half an hour more. Then we’ll turn back. It’s barely noon.” She pressed her legs into the mare, urging her on before Cameron could argue. The horse went willingly, seemingly as glad to be free of the confines of fields and stables and civilization as Sophie herself.

As they reached the top of the hill, Sophie turned back in her saddle to check that Cameron was following.  He was, big form easy on his brown stallion. He was smiling though, so she knew he wasn’t that upset by her willfulness. She turned back and that was when she saw it.  The valley below and the massive ring of thorny bushes. Hillthorns. Bigger than she’d ever seen them. The branches bare and brown, the wicked black thorns spiking wildly. It wasn’t the season for the vines to flower but even without blooms, they were twined together so thickly that she could barely make out what they were covering. Except it had to be something. Hillthorns needed support.

“What in the name of the Goddess?” She waited for Cameron to reach her. Pointed when he did. “Any idea what that is?”

His brows lifted as he followed the direction of her arm with his gaze. “No.”

“Where are we exactly again?” Sophie said. They’d been somewhat sneaky in their outing, traveling by portal to the north before hiring horses from a livery that Cameron knew of.

“It’s the edges of the Scarp land. But I don’t remember that,” Cameron said. “I would have said we were near the…” he trailed off

“Near what?”

“The Fitzmartin holdings. The last Barron died without an heir years ago. The family left. Or so I’d heard. But they had a manor house. A big one.”

“One about the size of that?” Sophie jerked toward the thorns.

Cameron’s frown had returned. “Maybe. But I don’t know what would make hillthorn grown over a house like that. We should go.”

But Sophie was looking at the mass of thorns. As she studied them, she thought there was a faint shimmer in the air around the bushes. Magic. “I want a closer look.” She urged her mare forward, coaxing the horse as fast as she dared down the other side of the hill.  She was near the outer edge of the thorny mass and off her mare before Cameron caught up to her.

“Sophie, stop.” The voice was like a whip crack. He reached her a few seconds later.

“It’s magic,” she said.

“What kind of magic makes thorns close around a house?”

“Earth magic. Which is convenient. Seeing as I’m an earth witch.”

“An earth witch who isn’t supposed to be using her magic. One who isn’t trained.”

“I have to try,” she said.

“Why? These thorns have been here a long while by the look of them. They’re perfectly happy as they are.”

“Call it a feeling.” She stretched out a hand and Cameron caught at her wrist.

“Sophie, please.”

She tugged her hand free, gently. “Don’t worry.” Then she grasped the nearest vine. A shudder of power ran through her. Earth magic. Strong.

Well, it might be strong but so was she. Her hand tightened as she followed the line of power, got it’s measure and then wrapped her will around it. The vines around her shuddered and twisted, the sound like souls groaning. But they didn’t part. She pulled her hand back, eyes narrowed as she studied the hillthorn.

“Satisfied?” Cameron asked.

“No. I’m just getting started.” More power that was what she needed. And she, unlike other earth witches, had alternatives. She needed more force. Blood magic. Blood magic took emotion. Anger. Or pain. She looked at one of the massive thorns, its dagger sharp point glinting at her in the sunlight. Fine. Pain it would be.

The Shattered Court

“Don’t interfere,” she said to Cameron and then slammed her hand down on the thorn before she could stop herself. Pain blossomed like fire through her hand and up her arm, dizzying in its force. For a moment she feared she would faint but then in the wake of pain, power rose and she gathered it to her and flung it like a bolt of lightning through the thorns. To her surprise, a swathe of the vines about five feet wide crumpled to dust. Including the thorn in her hand. With the vines gone, they were standing in front of a gate. The iron on the wood looked rusty but she wasn’t about to let that stop her.

Cameron didn’t say a word at first. Just reached for her hand and bound his handkerchief around it. Then he nodded at the gate. “I take it we’re going inside?” He sounded resigned.

“Seems a waste not to.” She ignored the throb in her hand. “Do you want to try the gate?”

The iron bar in the latch took a little coaxing but Cameron, also a blood mage, one who knew how to control his powers far better than she, wrenched it open. “Stay behind me,” he said as he dragged the gate open.

He shouldn’t have worried. The yard they stepped into was deserted. Also knee deep in weeds. Cameron hacked a path to the front door with his sword. The door itself yield more easily than the gate had.

Inside the door a servant lay asleep. Dusty and asleep.

They stared down at the man. “That can’t be a good thing,” Cameron said eventually.

“No,” Sophie agreed. She could feel magic again. Coming from the upper floors of the house, like a silent pulse through the air. “Upstairs, I think.”

Cameron’s mouth went flat and he drew his pistol after sheathing his sword. “All right. But then we’re leaving.”

The stairs were dusty too. And creaky. The wood of the carved bannister looked dull and dry under the dust. Like it had been untended for years.

“When exactly did the Barron die?” Sophie asked quietly.

Cameron shrugged. “I’m not sure. I just heard that he did. We didn’t come this way often.”

“Aren’t your holdings Scarp land?”

“Yes. But my father didn’t exactly let me spend much time here after I was old enough to understand what having holdings meant. He wanted me to join the Red Guard.”

They’d reached the top of the stairs. “Which way?” Cameron asked.

Sophie followed the thread of power. “Left.” Left then down a long corridor lined with massive portraits. The faces of the subjects were concealed by dust. They passed two more sleeping servants and a small gray cat likewise curled up in a corner under a ornamental table, fast asleep.

The feel of the magic thickened when they reached the very last door. Sophie reached for the handle and pushed the door open carefully.

The room beyond was a bedchamber. Richly furnished, or at least, it had been once. Now it was adorned with cobwebs, dust and tattered fabrics. But the bed, carved from the same dark wood as the bannister, wasn’t empty.

No, on it lay a young woman. Her hair was red. The same deep red as Sophie’s.  She, like everybody else they had encountered, was fast asleep.

“Earth witch,” Sophie breathed.

“Yes,” Cameron agreed. “Asleep. Just like everyone else. We should go. Tell the temple.”

“What is the temple going to do?”

“Wake her up?”

She smiled at him. “In the stories, isn’t it true love’s kiss that wakes the enchanted maidens?” Then she frowned. “Don’t go getting ideas. You’re not kissing her.” No one was kissing Cameron but her.

“I have no desire to kiss a mysterious earth witch in an enchanted sleep,” Cameron said. “That can’t end well.”

“I guess it’s up to me then.”

He gaped at her. “You’re going to kiss her.”

“Not kiss. Wake her up.”

“How?”

“If earth magic put her to sleep, it can wake her up.”

“Do you have any idea how earth magic could have put her to sleep?”

“No. But I’m going to use the old fashioned approach.”

“Which is?”

“Throw power at the problem until something happens.”

“Oh good,” Cameron said. “How do you know the whole place won’t fall down?”

“I thought you Red Guards lived for danger.”

“The simple kind. Guns. Fighting. Not magical maidens.”

“This is Anglion. Magical women are part of the deal.” Sophie moved closer to the bed, studied the woman for a moment. Her chest rose and fell slowly, just as though she was sleeping normally. But nothing about this was normal. So Sophie had to do something even if she had no idea exactly how to go about it. In the end she did as she’d done with the thorns. Put her hand on the woman’s torso and pulled the power around them both.

The moment seemed to stretch and last forever. Whatever had wrapped the woman in her sleep fought the force that Sophie applied, twisted and turned and pushed back. But Sophie could feel the ley line that ran beneath the building and she sent her will down and drew that power up. Before she set it free again to blast through the power opposing hers.

The earth witch opened her eyes. Blinked. Then screamed.

Sophie jerked back. In the distant she could hear other shouts and sounds.

“Looks like you woke up the whole household,” Cameron said. “Time to go.”

“But we need to make sure she’s all right.”

“She sounds healthy enough.” He closed his hand around Sophie’s and started for the door. “I vote she gets to rescue herself from here.”

______________________________________________________________________

M J ScottAbout M.J.:

M.J Scott is an unrepentant bookworm. Luckily she grew up in a family that fed her a properly varied diet of books and these days is surrounded by people who are understanding of her story addiction. When not wrestling one of her own stories to the ground, she can generally be found reading someone else’s. Her other distractions include yarn, cat butlering, dark chocolate and fabric. She lives in Melbourne, Australia.

You can visit M.J. around the web here: Website | Blog | Twitter | Facebook

Want to read more from M.J. Scott?

Shadow Kin Blood Kin Iron Kin Fire KinThe Shattered CourtThe Day You Went Away The Wolf Within The Dark Side

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The Shattered Court

Available April 28, 2015 from ROC/Penguin

About this Book:

First in a new fantasy series from the author of the Novels of the Half-Light City.

Entangled in a court ruled by tradition and intrigue, a young witch must come to terms with newfound power and desire—and a choice between loyalty and survival.…

The royal witches of Anglion have bowed to tradition for centuries. If a woman of royal blood manifests powers, she is immediately bound by rites of marriage. She will serve her lord by practicing the tamer magics of the earth—ensuring good harvests and predicting the weather. Any magic more dangerous is forbidden.

Lady Sophia Kendall, thirty-second in line to the throne, is only days away from finding out if she will be blessed—or perhaps cursed—with magic. When a vicious attack by Anglion’s ancient enemies leaves the kingdom in chaos, Sophia is forced to flee the court. Her protector by happenstance is Lieutenant Cameron Mackenzie, a member of the royal guard, raised all his life to be fiercely loyal to the Crown.

Then Sophia’s powers manifest stronger than she ever imagined they would, and Cameron and she are inextricably linked in the process. As a witch unbound by marriage rites, Sophia is not only a threat to the established order of her country, but is also a weapon for those who seek to destroy it. Faced with old secrets and new truths, she must decide if she will fight for her country or succumb to the delicious temptation of power.…

Click HERE to read an excerpt

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