Katherine’s place is the same as any woman’s—on the shelf next to the dresses and bolts of cloth. When she’s sold to a warlock, life grows even bleaker. Her new owner is as old and rancid as he is cruel, driving her to do the unthinkable: run.
Nothing prepared her for being on her own. And she’s definitely unprepared for the warlocks hunting her down. But she must stay one step ahead because if caught, the best she can hope for is death.
Serena knows a few simple things. She will always be owned by a warlock. She will never have freedom. She will always do what her warlock wishes, regardless of how inane, frivolous, or cruel it is. And if she doesn’t follow the rules, she will be tarnished. Spelled to be bald, inked, and barren for the rest of her life—worth less than the shadow she casts.
Then her ownership is won by a barbarian from another country. With the uncertainty that comes from belonging to a new warlock, Serena questions if being tarnished is really worse than being owned by a barbarian, and tempts fate by breaking the rules. When he looks the other way instead of punishing her, she discovers a new world. The more she ventures into the forbidden, the more she learns of love and a freedom just out of reach. Serena longs for both. But in a society where women are only ever property, hoping for more could be deadly.
“You’ve been owned your entire life. It's hard to change from that even if it’s what you want.”
There’s a burning behind my eyes that grows and spills onto my cheeks. He pulls a handkerchief from his pocket and hands it to me. After I take it, his hand lingers on mine. It’s soft. Not his skin, though. His skin is rough with callouses, but the way he touches me. Gentle, so unlike the way other men grab and pinch and slap.
“It’s clean.” His words startle me from my thoughts.
It takes me a moment to realize he’s referring to the handkerchief. I dab my tears and laugh. “I didn’t know tarnished carried handkerchiefs. I thought you weren’t allowed anything except your clothes and materials you need for whatever job you are assigned.”
He smiles, warming me. “One thing about tarnished. Always be prepared.”
“All tarnished or just you?” I offer the handkerchief but he waves me away.
“Keep it. You need it more than I do.”
I fold the handkerchief and tuck it carefully in my pack. “Thank you.”
Janeal Falor lives in Utah where she’s finally managed to live in the same house for more than five years without moving. In her spare time she reads books like they’re nuts covered in caramel and chocolate, cooks whatever strikes her fancy, and enjoys the outdoors. Her husband and three children try to keep up with her overactive imagination. Usually they settle for having dinner on the table, even if she’s still going on about the voices in her head.
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