Book title: Craving Beauty (Vol. 1)
Series: Wylder Tales
Craving Beauty is the first of a planned trilogy. Volume 2, Scarred Beauty, will be released December 1st, 2016. Also, a companion novella featuring a secondary character introduced in Craving Beauty, Wolfsbane’s Daughter, is available.
Author: Jennifer Silverwood
Genre: Dark Fantasy
Vynasha has spent the last four years tending her mother’s roses and looking after her nephew. The fire that killed their family has left her scarred and put Wyll on the brink of death. Soon the first frost will come down from the mountains and she knows this winter will be his last.
Until a strange beggar appears on the road, telling her of the majikal Source that can heal her Wyll. With nothing left to lose, Vynasha braves the forbidden Wylder Mountains to seek out a cure and her fate.
A lost kingdom is uncovered by an equally lost girl, but the castle is not abandoned as she believes. Shadows cloaking unseen eyes watch. Tapestries whisper from the hidden corners, wondering if the one to break their curse has come. And a hungry beast waits, ready to devour her soul.
Wind stirred and a single snowflake flew inside, gliding to the surface before her. One of the panes was open. As she approached the glass door, she took in the breadth of the balcony, stretching past the transparent wall. Mountains stood farther out and the howls that had haunted her dreams sang along with the winter storm.
She jumped and melded back into the shadows when she heard heavy footsteps. Cold terror gripped her chest as she held her breath.
A great shadow fell over her as a heavy paw hit her side with one powerful swipe. Its claws ripped through the fabric of her dress and past the flesh of her back as she was thrown up into the air. Her body collided into a wall of stone. Her head cracked against the rough surface and she could do nothing but lie in a crumpled heap after. Still, she struggled to pull herself onto her hands and knees, knowing she was about to die.
Through the roars in her ears and the howls being carried by the wind, she heard words.
The creature’s words pierced through the fog. If it wanted her to leave, perhaps it did not mean to kill and eat her after all, and this gave her a foolish hope. Somehow she found the strength to rise up and turned from the blur of dark fur bristling in the shadows. Now facing the glass balcony door, she raced onto the ledge until her hands were against the twisted railing. The balcony was higher than she’d expected, looming over the gorge between two mountains. She wondered what it would feel like to truly fly all the way to the bottom. Sobs spilled from her lips, but within she felt nothing but apathy. A fitting end to an otherwise useless life.
But she owed it to Wyll, who was waiting for her, to all those who loved her and were gone forever, to refuse the coward’s path. So she turned around slowly, deliberately to face a creature forged by fur, teeth and nightmares.
Golden eyes glared at her from the open glass door, and the moonlight abated against an ominous cloud. It stretched out a clawed foot onto the ledge. Its growl rumbled in her ears, stirring her to action.
Move, you brainless wench, an inner voice taunted her.
This was no better than jumping off the side of the mountain. Before sense could convince her otherwise, she gripped the metal railing and threw her leg up to climb over the other side. Another roar followed her heels as she began to climb further along the edge. Ice along the edge of the balcony was thick and though the creature roared behind her, she refused to stop. She must find a way down or die, and her feet desperately sought a firm hold below.
The bottom of her boot slid against the thick ice, snow blinding her vision. She cried out now of a different kind of terror as her feet hung, danced upon air, and she gripped the thin icy ledge just below the balcony. Her fingers burned as she sought purchase through the leather gloves. She slipped and her stomach lurched as wind and snow sucked and pulled her toward the abyss.
Her hands slipped off the ledge.
Claws clamped down on her arm, jerking her body as it fought against the sensation of falling and capture. Her long curls whipped wildly before her as she was lifted and dragged against stone. The pain was nearly unbearable as sharp metal clawed past the double layers of her dresses and into her flesh.
One thing was certain. She wasn’t ready to die, not until she found a way to give her nephew the life he deserved. Tears of relief squeezed from her clenched eyelids as she was lifted onto the balcony.
The beast growled as it dragged her back into the shelter of the room. She felt a powerful arm, muscle and sinew straining against her body as it tucked her against its brown mane. She was too dazed to do anything but cling to the creature in turn as it barreled through the castle. Slowly, her muscles relaxed enough for her to almost enjoy that wild rocking sensation and the thump of the beast’s heartbeat.
Sometime after, she was laid onto her back. Flashes of silvery light winked in and out of the shadows and the last sight to meet her was a pair of luminous golden eyes before she was lost once more to her dreams.
Jennifer Silverwood was raised deep in the heart of Texas and has been spinning yarns a mile high since childhood. In her spare time, she reads and writes and tries to sustain her wanderlust, whether it’s the Carpathian Mountains in Transylvania, the highlands of Ecuador or a road trip to the next town. Always on the lookout for her next adventure, in print or reality, she dreams of one day proving to the masses that everything is better in Texas. She is the author of the Wylder Tales and Heaven’s Edge series, Stay and Silver Hollow.