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Wealth, fame and a real-life romance she never expected—seventeen-year-old Vaughn Bennett lands it all when she agrees to become a pop star’s fake girlfriend in this smart, utterly addictive novel from #1 New York Times bestselling author duo Erin Watt
Under ordinary circumstances, Oakley Ford and Vaughn Bennett would never even cross paths.
There’s nothing ordinary about Oakley. This bad-boy pop star’s got Grammy Awards, millions of fangirls and a reputation as a restless, too-charming troublemaker. But with his home life disintegrating, his music well suddenly running dry and the tabloids having a field day over his outrageous exploits, Oakley needs to show the world he’s settling down—and who better to help him than Vaughn, a part-time waitress trying to help her family get by? The very definition of ordinary.
Posing as his girlfriend, Vaughn will overhaul Oakley’s image from troublemaker to serious artist. In return for enough money to put her brothers through college, she can endure outlandish Hollywood parties and carefully orchestrated Twitter exchanges. She’ll fool the paparazzi and the groupies. She might even start fooling herself a little.
Because when ordinary rules no longer apply, there’s no telling what your heart will do…
“Please tell me every girl in there is of legal age.”
“Every girl in there is of legal age,” I dutifully repeat to my manager, Jim Tolson.
Truth is, I have no clue if everyone’s legal. When I came home last night from the studio, the party was already raging.
I didn’t take the time to card anyone before grabbing a beer and chatting up some eager girls who proclaimed that they were so in love with my music that they sang it in their sleep. It sounded vaguely like an invitation, but I wasn’t interested. My buddy Luke took them off my hands and then I wandered around trying to figure out if I knew even a quarter of the people in my house.
I ended up counting seven, tops, that I actually recognized.
Jim presses his already thin lips together before taking a seat in the lounger across from me. There’s a girl passed out on it, so he’s forced to perch on the end. Jim once told me that the biggest hazard of working with a young rock star is the age of his groupies. Sitting this close to a bikiniclad teenager makes him visibly edgy.
“Keep that line in mind in case TMI asks you about it on the street today,” Jim warns.
“Noted.” Also noted? Avoid any celeb hot spots today. I have zero desire to be papped.
“How was the studio last night?”
I roll my eyes. As if Jim didn’t have the studio tech on the phone immediately after I left, replaying the track. “You know exactly how it was. Crappy. Worse than crappy. I think a barking Chihuahua could lay down better vocals than me right now.”
I lean back and stroke my throat. Nothing’s wrong with my vocal cords. Jim and I got that checked out with a doctor a few months ago. But the notes that were coming out yesterday lacked…something. All my music seems flat these days.
I haven’t recorded anything decent since my last album.
I can’t pinpoint the problem. It could be the lyrics or the rhythm or the melody. It’s everything and nothing, and no amount of tweaking has helped me.
I run my fingers over the six strings of my Gibson, knowing my frustration must show on my face.
“Come on, let’s walk a little.” Jim dips his head toward the girl. She looks passed out, but she could be faking it.
With a sigh, I set the guitar on the cushion and rise to my feet.
“Didn’t know you liked walks on the beach, Jim. Should we start quoting poetry to each other before you propose?”
I joke. But he’s probably right about putting some distance between us and the groupie. We don’t need some yappy fan talking about my music block to the tabloids. I give them enough to talk about already.
“Did you see the latest social media numbers?” He holds his phone up.
“Is that an actual question?”
We stop at the railing on my wraparound deck. I wish we could walk down to the beach, but it’s public, and the last time I tried setting foot on the sand in the back of my house, I came away with my swim trunks torn off and a bloody nose. That was three years ago. The tabloids turned it into a story about me getting into a fight with my ex and terrorizing young children.
“You’re losing followers at a rate of a thousand a week.”
“Sounds dire.” Sounds awesome, actually. Maybe I’ll finally be able take advantage of my beachfront property.
His perfectly unlined face, courtesy of some of the best
Swiss knives money can buy, is marred by irritation. “This is serious, Oakley.”
“So what? Who cares if I lose followers?”
“Do you want to be taken seriously as an artist?”
This lecture again? I’ve heard it from Jim a million frickin’ times since he signed me when I was fourteen.
“You know I do.”
“Then you have to shape up,” he huffs.
“Why?” What does shaping up have to do with making great music? If anything, maybe I need to be wilder, really stretch the limits of everything in life.
But…haven’t I done that already? I feel like I’ve drunk, smoked, ingested and experienced nearly everything the world has to offer in the past five years. Am I already the washed-up pop star before I hit my twenties?
A tinge of fear scrapes down my spine at the thought.
“Because your label is on the verge of dropping you,” Jim warns.
I practically clap like a child at this news. We’ve been at odds for months. “So let them.”
“How do you think you’re going to have your next album made? The studio’s already rejected your last two attempts.
You want to experiment with your sound? Use poetry as lyrics? Write about things other than heartache and pretty girls who don’t love you back?”
I stare sullenly at the water.
He grabs my arm. “Pay attention, Oak.”
I give him a what the hell are you doing look, and he lets go of my arm. We both know I don’t like being touched.
“They aren’t going to let you cut the record you want if you keep alienating your audience.”
“Exactly,” I say smugly. “So why do I care if the label drops me?”
“Because labels exist to make money, and they won’t produce your next album unless it’s one they can actually market. If you want to win another Grammy, if you want to be taken seriously by your peers, then your only chance is to rehabilitate your image. You haven’t had a record out since you were seventeen. That was two years ago. It’s like a decade in the music business.”
“Adele released at nineteen and twenty-five.”
“You aren’t fuckin’ Adele.”
“I’m bigger,” I say, and it’s not a boast. We both know it’s true.
Since I released my first album at fourteen, I’ve had unreal success. Every album has gone double platinum, with my self-titled Ford reaching the rare Diamond. That year
I did thirty international tour stops, all stadium tours, all sellouts. There are fewer than ten artists in the world who do stadium tours. Everyone else is relegated to arenas, auditoriums, halls and clubs.
“Were bigger,” Jim says bluntly. “In fact, you’re on the verge of being a has-been at nineteen.”
I tense up as he voices my earlier fear.
“Congratulations, kid. Twenty years from now, you’ll be sitting in a chair on Hollywood Squares and some kid will ask their mother, ‘who’s Oakley Ford?’ and the mom will say—”
“I get it,” I say tightly.
“No. You don’t get it. Your existence will have been so fleeting that even that parent will turn to her kid and say, ‘I have no idea who that is.’” Jim’s tone turns pleading. “Look,
Oak, I want you to be successful with the music you want to make, but you have to work with me. The industry is run by a bunch of old white men who are high on coke and power. They love knocking you artists around. They get off on it. Don’t give them any more reason to decide that you’re the fall guy. You’re better than that. I believe in you, but you gotta start believing in yourself, too.”
“I do believe in myself.”
Does it sound as fake to Jim’s ears as it does to mine?
“Then act like it.”
Translation? Grow up.
I reach over and take the phone from his hand. The social media number beside my name is still in the eight digits.
Millions of people follow me and eat up all the ridiculous things my PR team posts daily. My shoes. My hands. Man, the hands post got over a million likes and launched an equal number of fictional stories. Those girls have very vivid imaginations. Vivid, dirty imaginations.
“So what’s your suggestion?” I mutter.
Jim sighs with relief. “I have a plan. I want you to date someone.”
“No way. We already tried the girlfriend thing.”
During the launch of Ford, management hooked me up with April Showers. Yup, that’s her real name—I saw it on her driver’s license. April was an up-and-coming reality television star and we all thought she’d know the score. A fake relationship to keep both our names on magazine covers and headlining every gossip site on the web. Yes, there’d be hate from certain corners, but the nonstop media attention and speculation would drive our visibility through the roof. Our names would be on everyone’s lips from here to
China and back again.
The press strategy worked like a charm. We couldn’t sneeze without someone taking our picture. We dominated celebrity gossip for six months, and the Ford tour was a smashing success. April sat in the front row of more fashion shows than I knew actually existed and went on to sign a huge two-year modeling contract with a major agency.
Everything was great until the end of the tour. What everyone, including me, had failed to recognize was that if they threw two teenagers together and told them to act like they were in love, stuff was going to happen. Stuff did happen. The only problem? April thought stuff would continue to happen after the tour was over. When I told her it wouldn’t, she wasn’t happy—and she had a big enough platform to tell the world exactly how unhappy she was.
“This won’t be another April thing,” Jim assures me.
“We want to appeal to all the girls out there who dream of walking down the red carpet but think it’s out of reach. We don’t want a model or a star. We want your fans to think you’re attainable.”
Against my better judgment, I ask, “And how do we do that?”
“We conjure up a normal. She starts posting to you on your social media accounts. Flirting with you online. People see you interact. Then you invite her to a concert. You meet, fall in love and boom. Serious heartthrob status again.”
“My fans hated April,” I remind him.
“Some did, but millions loved her. Millions more will love you if you fall for an ordinary girl, because each and every one of those girls is going to think that she’s their stand-in.”
I clench my teeth. “No.”
If Jim was trying to think up a way to torture me, this is absolutely it, because I hate social media. I grew up having my baby steps photographed and sold to the highest bidder.
For charity, my mom later claimed. The public gets a ton of me. I want to keep some parts of my life private, which is why I pay a couple of people a fortune so I don’t have to touch that stuff.
“If you do this…” Jim pauses enticingly. “King will produce your album.”
My head swivels around so fast that Jim jumps back in surprise. “You serious?”
Donovan King is the best producer in the country. He’s worked on everything from rap to country to rock albums, turning artists into legends. I once read an interview where he said he’d never work with a pop star and their soulless commercial music, no matter how much anyone paid him.
Working with King is a dream of mine, but he’s turned down every overture I’ve ever made.
If he wasn’t interested in producing Ford, then why this latest album? Why now?
Jim grins. Well, as much as his plastic face allows him to smile. “Yes. He said if you were serious, then he’d be interested, but he needs a show of faith.”
“And a girlfriend is that show of faith?” I ask incredulously.
“Not a girlfriend. It’s what dating a nonfamous, ordinary girl signifies. That you’re down-to-earth, making music for the sake of music, not for the sake of money and fame.”
“I am down-to-earth,” I protest.
Jim responds with a snort. He jerks his thumb at the French doors behind us. “Tell me something—what’s the name of that girl who’s passed out in there?”
I try not to cringe. “I…don’t know,” I mumble.
“That’s what I thought.” He frowns now. “Do you want to know what Nicky Novak was photographed doing last night?”
My head is starting to spin. “What the hell does Novak have to do with anything?” Nicky Novak is a sixteen-year-old pop star I’ve never even met. His boy band just released their debut album, and apparently it’s topping the charts. The group is giving 1D a run for their money.
“Ask me what Novak was doing,” Jim prompts.
“Fine. Whatever. What was Novak doing?”
“Bowling.” My manager crosses his arms over his chest.
“He got papped on a bowling date with his girlfriend—some girl he’s been dating since middle school.”
“Well, good for him.” I give another eye roll. “You want me to go bowling, is that it? You think that will convince King to work with me? Seeing me roll some gutter balls?” It’s hard to keep the sarcasm out of my voice.
“I just told you what I want,” Jim grumbles. “If you want
King to produce your album, you need to show him you’re serious, that you’re ready to stop partying with girls whose names you don’t know and settle down with someone who will ground you.”
“I can tell him that.”
“He needs proof.”
My gaze shifts back to the ocean, and I stand there for a moment, watching the surf crash against the beach. This album I’ve been working on these past two years—no, the one I’m trying to work on and failing—suddenly feels as if it’s actually within my reach. A producer like King could help me move past this creative block and make the kind of music I’ve always wanted. And all I have to do in return is date a normal? I guess I can do that. I mean, every artist has to make sacrifices for his art at one point in his life.
Erin Watt is the brainchild of two bestselling authors, Jen Frederick (
@JenSFred) & Elle Kennedy ( @ElleKennedy), linked together through their love of great books and an addiction to writing. They share one creative imagination. Their greatest love (after their families and pets, of course)? Coming up with fun–and sometimes crazy–ideas. Their greatest fear? Breaking up. Website Link
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Published by Evernight Publishing
Cover Art by Jay Aheer
MFM ménage paranormal romance
They say that when one door closes, another opens, but when Erica made her choice to stop a madman, she couldn’t have imagined the price that she would have to pay. The future she’d risked everything for has just changed forever.
The existence of the Dark Fae and their Goddess comes as a shock, but the fates have one more surprise in store for Erica and her mates in the form of orphaned twin babies who steal their hearts—but these children are not like the Fae Erica is familiar with. They come with powers that she and her husbands know nothing about. The Dark Fae council will watch over them to decide if they are capable of raising the twins, making Ben, Erica, and Leo feel the pressure of having their every move scrutinized.
When the twins’ dark powers begin to emerge, will one Fae Queen and two warrior shifters have what it takes to navigate the uncertain waters of parenting … and will the Dark Fae council agree to let them try?
Erica stopped in the doorway and turned to look back at her sleeping babies. The Goddesses truly did work in mysterious ways, she thought. She might not have had the pleasure of birthing the twins, but they were hers. She knew it with everything in her. They were hers!
“Come on, love,” Ben whispered in her ear as he urged her to lean back against him. “Leave them to dream of all the mischief and grief they will cause us over the next few decades. Now that they’re asleep, let’s make the most of this time we have alone.”
Heat swirled within her, and she nodded. They had been Mommy, Poppa, and Daddy all day. Now it was time for Mommy to get her some.
Leo had gone on ahead to the bedroom and lit all the candles they had, creating a golden glow that made Erica look radiant when she entered moments later with Ben. The smile on her face when she looked his way still made his heart skip a beat, just as it had the very first moment he’d seen her. He would swear that if he didn’t have a shifter’s strength, the sheer joy he’d felt since bringing the babies home and seeing Erica blossom as a mother would have made his heart explode.
He couldn’t have anticipated how two small little beings could instantly repair the gaping hole that had been ripped into their souls when the Goddess Allyria had told them the price they would pay for Alefric’s demise. But here they were, starting a new journey together, albeit, this one filled with much less danger, and much more need for an endless supply of wet wipes, but certainly just as important as anything Leo had ever done in his life previous. They would love and protect these children, and they would raise them to be the kind of people who made both sides of the Veil a better place.
“You look so resolved right now, Leo. What are you thinking about?” Erica stopped in front of him to gently caress his cheek with her hand.
“Just about how lucky we are … and how lucky you’re about to get.” He leaned in to kiss her as he landed a quick smack to her jean covered ass that made her yelp and laugh into his mouth.
“Now we’re talking,” Ben said. He quickly shucked off his own jeans and stepped up behind Erica to unbutton her top, revealing her soft, perfect breasts. He gently pulled back her wrists, using her top as a makeshift rope to bind them behind her. “How do you want it tonight, baby?”
Leo could tell from the quick increase in her breathing that she was in the mood for something a little edgier than “sweet” tonight.
“Mmm, I think I know exactly what our naughty little mate is looking for, don’t I, baby?” He cocked one eyebrow at her, and her eyes grew hooded as she bit down on her lower lip, indicating that she knew exactly the type of evening he had in mind. “Ben, get on the bed, sitting with your back against the headboard. You, my love, strip off those clothes for me, now.”
(review request submitted by the author for an honest critique)
As a mother of two wonderful kids, I can relate first-hand to the grossness of an explosive diaper and the joy of feeding a youngster table food. Each instance sometimes requires a HAZMAT suit. However, despite the messiness, those times (smelly or not) are memories I never want or will forget.
In Catching Faete, Maia, Sarah, and Elena wrote the truth regarding taking care of children. Whether you have one or multiple tykes in your home, parenting is an every day learning experience. You never know what the day will bring, as Leo and Ben quickly found out for themselves. They not only had to deal with suddenly becoming fathers to twin six-month-olds but they also had to realize their babies and magic go hand in hand. Now, my kids might’ve attempted to pull a Houdini once and a while but they never actually really went poof. Thank goodness for that!
Ladies, I applaud you for portraying key elements of raising children so accurately: the messy times, the fears, and more importantly the love and true delight kids bring into our lives. You three also showed how finding alone time can be tricky with youngsters solely dependent on you but parents must and will find the time somehow because intimacy is still needed. And, oh my, how utterly delicious were their private moments!! Hello, wrist cuffs! 😉
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~One of the Top 3 Best Books of 2016 at Read Freely~
Four years ago, Emily Shea and Staff Sergeant Brett Leeds agreed to part with no strings attached. Sparks flew during their brief affair, but fate intervened, sending Brett overseas. When an unexpected pregnancy derailed Emily’s own plans, her attempts to locate Brett were soon overwhelmed by the challenges of single motherhood. Now, Brett has returned home, and Emily is forced to share her secret.
Despite feeling betrayed, Brett is determined to forge a relationship with their son, Tyler. As the former lovers battle both their inner demons and their mutual desire, another presence enters their lives—Tyler’s imaginary friend. Soon, however, the chilling evidence points to a different conclusion: a ghost has formed a dangerous connection with their son. Emily’s attempts to help both a lost soul and a friend in need spiral toward a deadly confrontation, and Brett must race to save Emily before he loses her again—forever.
~~ Old Jail, Cape Cod ~~
“Ma’am, he’s not allowed to be in the cells.”
Emily spun around, scanning the room for Tyler. The guide pointed around the corner and she rushed past him, mumbling apologies.
Sure enough, there was a rope hanging across the open entrances to each of the three tiny cells. It hadn’t been enough to deter Tyler, apparently. He was turned away from her, standing near the shadowy back corner. His head was tilted at an angle, as though he was listening to something intently.
An icy shiver traveled up her spine. “Tyler, you can’t be in there. Come on out, honey.”
“Coming, Mommy,” he called without turning around. He nodded toward the wall, speaking in a low voice.
What on earth was he doing? Sweat pooled under the heavy ponytail at the base of her neck even as another chill washed over her. She called him again, glancing nervously at the guide. She didn’t want to break the rules further by following her son into the restricted area.
“Now,” she commanded, leaning over the rope. “One. Two…”
Tyler backed toward her, and she caught the words “I’m sure” before he turned around and ran across the long, narrow floor of the cell. Emily bent, thrusting her hands under his arms and yanking him over the rope. She held him tight, cradling him against her heaving chest. It was too hot in here, too claustrophobic. And yet, a ribbon of cold air curled around her ankles as she carried him back toward the front entrance.
“No, Emily. I don’t want anything to happen to you.” The words slipped out, but they were true. Not much scared him, but a thread of fear trickled through his veins at the thought of her dangerous plans. Brett suddenly realized he’d do anything to protect her, at all costs.
She cocked her head, lifting her eyebrows. “Really? I find that hard to believe.”
“Stop.” Damn it. She was like some kind of gravitational force, pulling him toward her. He closed the distance between them in three long strides. “You know I care about you.”
She stood, looking up at him, her eyes flashing with challenge. “As Tyler’s mom, you mean.” The old clock on her desk ticked off the seconds as they faced off, the heat growing between them.
He pushed at the chair with a savage thrust, and it rolled away quietly on its wheels. Backing her toward the desk, he grabbed her shoulders. “As Emily,” he growled, now angry with himself. But there was no resisting it. He crushed his lips over hers, allowing his desire to take control. His body needed her—it was as simple as that.
Cobb’s Hill Cemetery, Barnstable, Massachusetts.
(review request submitted by the author for an honest critique)
I’m not sure if I truly believe in ghosts, the paranormal world; however, I admit stories concerning experiences with the other side fascinate me. Maybe I am like so many others in the world; I get a slight thrill out of being frightened regarding the possibility death isn’t the end for us all. In any rate, ghosts were real for Tyler, Emily and Brett. One lonely ghost, Josiah, made contact with Tyler during a trip to the Old Jailhouse in Cape Cod. Through Josiah’s journey to be reunited with his “lost” mother, we get firsthand knowledge of the hardships faced in the 1700’s. Poor Josiah, his story was just as touching as Brett’s backstory and his was extremely moving.
Many soldiers battle PTSD every day and live in fear of hurting the ones around them. Their battle aboard might be over but the internal war rages on. For Brett, he was not only facing life out of the combat zone but he was acclimating to the fact he had a son. I’m impressed how well Kathryn depicted the struggle for a soldier to keep the wartime demons at bay while rejoining life on US soil.
Now, though PTSD and ghosts are sensitive subjects, Kathryn didn’t falter on the sensual moments. As Brett integrated himself into his son’s life, and as Josiah moved closer to his reunion with his mom, Brett and Emily couldn’t deny the fire between them never burnt out. As a parent, I can remember those days when the kid is finally asleep and mom/dad hustle to spend some alone time together. *wink wink*
As you can see, I thoroughly loved Haunted Souls. It touched on a multitude of emotions: fear (as a parent), fear (as a soldier), love, sorrow, and joy. It was a beautiful story about being reunited with a loved one and achieving internal peace. HEA!
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~ Passionate Romance with a Paranormal Twist ~
Kathryn Knight spends a great deal of time in her fictional world, where mundane chores don’t exist and daily life involves steamy romance, dangerous secrets, and spooky suspense. Kathryn writes contemporary romance spiked with mysterious hauntings as well as YA paranormal romance filled with forbidden love. Her novels are award-winning #1 Kindle bestsellers and RomCon Reader Rated picks. When she’s not reading or writing, Kathryn spends her time catching up on those mundane chores, driving kids around, and teaching fitness classes. She lives on beautiful Cape Cod with her husband, their two sons, and a number of rescued pets.
Kathryn Knight (Amazon Author Page) / Twitter / Facebook / Blog
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When Ashley Riveraine jumped at the chance to travel back in time to meet her hero Alexander the Great, she never thought she would end up staying there…
Following Alexander the Great’s army on its journey across Persia, Ashley is walking the knife edge of history. As a presumed goddess, Ashley is expected to bless crops, make sure battles are won and somehow keep herself out of the history books.
Can Ashley avoid the wrath of the Time Institute while keeping the man she loves alive?
*Keep scrolling down for a sneak peek*
Alexander was never cold. He thought I was strange, covering up in so many layers of wool and silk. I thought he was crazy, walking around half naked. The Macedonians, tough mountain people, were resistant to cold and wet. They strode through the snow barefoot, or as a slight concession wore sandals. The boots had worn out after only a couple of weeks, yet they had continued to put them on long after the soles had fallen off. To make me feel better, they said. The Greeks were used to warmer weather. They huddled in their cloaks and wore boots and mittens. Most of them thought that the Macedonians, besides being barbarians, had some loose screws. The folk the Macedonians referred to as “barbarians” were Artabazus’s tribesmen from the Zagros Mountains. They were a massive group, usually tawny or redhaired, with blue or green eyes, and standing roughly seven feet tall. They were impervious to cold, or heat, or just about anything. They even survived the crazy football games Alexander organized in the snowy fields of Samarkand.
The games became a fixture that winter. A goat, hollowed out and stuffed with enough straw to make it resemble a football (well, in your nightmares maybe), was carried from one end of the field to the other. And there were roughly fifty people in the way who wanted to take it from you and run in the opposite direction. And you could never be quite sure who was playing on your team. The teams seemed variable things; one played for one team and then when the mood struck, one changed sides. There were no uniforms; if anyone tried to wear anything it was ripped off within seconds. So approximately eighty naked men and a stuffed goatskin hashed it out on a large, flat, snow covered field.
The snow was soon cleared away, and the farmer lucky enough to own the field didn’t have to worry about plowing or fertilizer for the next season. Enough blood and guts were spilled to insure a heavy crop. The villagers and the soldiers not playing lined the field and cheered. Sometimes the players spilled over into the spectators, and sometimes it was the other way around. There were people standing, sitting, eating picnic lunches, sitting in trees or on walls, and riding horses up and down the sidelines to watch. After the game, there was a big barbecue nearby. Goats and cows were grilled, and everyone ate, drank, and insulted the losers. The losers usually drank the most, bled the most, and made the most noise when they were drunk.
Usse spent hours binding, splinting and fixing up the players. He shook his head. “They get more wounds from goatball than against the opposing forces,” he told Alexander.
“Well, they keep out of trouble,” he answered, picking up a handful of snow and eating it.
I picked up some snow, too, and carefully fashioned it into a snowball. He caught me watching him, and I tried to look innocent.
“What’s behind your back?” he asked me.
“Nothing,” I said, smiling sweetly.
“Let me see?”
Well, he asked for it. Afterwards, he held me down in the snow and stuffed handfuls of it down my back. I thought that was horribly unfair and told him he was a brute.
Then we went to see what the fuss was about on the playing field. Alexander was considered an unofficial referee. Whenever there was a discussion (i.e., a huge, bloody fight), he would be called on to mediate.
This time, we arrived to find a large heap of Macedonians sitting on a small pile of Egyptians with several Greeks thrown in. The barbarians had taken the goatskin and were fighting among themselves; a lone, slightly mad Spartan was in the middle of that fray. The Bactrians and Madrians, still new to the army, were trotting around the fringes of the fight, unsure of whom they were going to help at this point, and the Persians, who prided themselves on just about everything, were jumping up and down screaming that nothing was going right. I remarked to Alexander that this was a fairly typical epitome of his army, and he nodded thoughtfully.
The players were separated, the wounded sent to the infirmary, one on a stretcher. Alexander listened as they all shouted at him at once, the words most used being, “they cheated,” and “it wasn’t fair”. After pretending to listen for five or six minutes, Alexander tilted his head to one side and in a very wise voice asked, “Who has the ball?”
There was a brief silence as everyone looked down at their hands, checked out his neighbor, then saw that the barbarians had crossed the line and were piled up on the far side of the field having a great fight over who should carry the ball back to the middle to start again. Faint cries of “you did it last time” and “it’s my turn now” floated over the frosty air.
“I rule that they won,” said Alexander, pointing towards the barbarians, “and the game is over for today.” He held up his hands to forestall any groans. “Everyone is invited to eat ox tonight. I shall provide the wine!”
“Hurrah for Iskander, Oh, Mighty King!” bellowed all the players, and they rushed off to wash for dinner. Except for the Spartan, face down and unconscious on the field.
Alexander and I linked arms and strolled through the crowd. The townspeople were in awe of him, and they stood back a respectful distance. The sun was going down, in a few hours the oxen would be cooked, and fragrant smoke from cooking fires tickled my nose. Someone offered us a cup of hard cider. It was steaming hot, spiced with cinnamon and sweetened with honey.
We thanked the man, whom I vaguely recognized as one of the cooks working in the army. Alexander knew his name, though, and the man turned bright red with pleasure when Alexander handed the cup back to him saying, “My thanks, Khrysbaz, your cider is better than any I’ve ever had.”
The hot drink had warmed my belly. I leaned my head on Alexander’s shoulder. “What are you thinking about?” I asked him, hearing a large sigh.
“Barsine. I’m worried. It was the sports that put her to mind. She always was one for organizing games.” He shook his head ruefully. “She alone nearly wiped out half my army when we camped near Persepolis.”
I smiled, remembering the very large, redhaired princess throwing her javelin straight through Plexis’s tent one afternoon. Plexis had been standing behind her. She’d done it on a dare. She’d also done it to drive home a point. She was telling Plexis to stay away from her husband. Plexis had turned a rather sickly shade of green and had gone to sit beneath a fig tree for a while.
Alexander turned to me and cupped my face in his hands. “Why is it you aren’t jealous of my other wives?” he asked me.
“Because I am the one with you,” I answered. “I would be jealous of anyone who took you away from me. Why ask me that now?”
He looked over my head towards the far mountains. “I don’t know. I was wondering, that’s all. I’m terribly jealous. I would kill anyone who tried to take you away from me.”
“Don’t say that,” I said, strangely affected by his words. “We love each other. For me, that’s all that matters.”
He brushed his thumbs across my lips. “I think that’s why I can’t do without you,” he said. “You don’t care about my conquests, my kingdom, or my power. You care about me, only about me. If I were a beggar you would still feel the same about me.”
“Because you would still be yourself,” I said gravely. “In your case, it’s not the crown that makes the man. You wouldn’t change if you were a king, or if you were a beggar. You are completely Alexander, no matter what.”
He kissed me, bringing a rush of heat to my belly. “I am Alexander, no matter what,” he agreed, and he laughed.
The people around us turned at his laughter and smiled. He had a contagious, rich laugh, that overflowed like a child’s. I saw wonder in many faces. Alexander tossed his purple cape jauntily over my shoulders, covering us both in its purple swathe. “I want to ravish you here, in front of everyone, as we did at the ceremony of the fields.” He felt me stiffen and laughed louder. “You’re as pink as a carnation! Just look at you blush!” And he leaned closer and whispered a few things that turned my cheeks absolutely crimson.
We barely made it into the tent, and Axiom just had time to clear out before Alexander had my winter clothes strewn all over the floor.
“What’s this?” he’d cry, as another layer was uncovered. “You have more protection than my cavalry! What? Another shift? By the gods, woman, it’s like peeling an onion!”
After making love, we lay in a comfortable tangle on his bed. I was warm; Alexander’s body radiated more heat than the brazier standing nearby. Outside, the snow had begun to fall again. The farmers were overjoyed. To them, snow was a precious gift from the gods, and hardly a day went by that I didn’t find a present of some sort left outside the tent. The people still thought I had something to do with the harvest goddess. Not that I minded. I loved finding a small wicker basket full of crisp red apples, with a light layer of snow like frosting on them, or a jug of hard cider, or a knit shawl.
Author Jennifer Macaire lives in France with her husband and three children. She lived in the Virgin Islands and used to work as a model. She met her husband at the polo club where he was playing. All that is true, but she mostly likes to make up stories.
She has published over twenty novels.
Her short stories have been published by Three Rivers Press, Nothing But Red, The Bear Deluxe, and The Vestal Review, among others. One of her short stories was nominated for the Push Cart Prize (Honey on Your Skin) and is now being made into a film. Her short story ‘There be Gheckos’ won the Harper Collins /3 AM flash fiction prize.
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