Which is another point - how do you recognize the angels and demons who might be walking among us? And is it always clear which is which? In Demon Lover, the Fairytale Fantasy I co-wrote with Bonnie Dee for Samhain, the hero, Ragnorak, appears to our heroine in both guises - the angel who helps her and the demon who steals her and her child away to his underground kingdom.
Here's the opening scene from Demon Lover - which is, in fact, a re-imagining of the Rumpelstiltskin tale we've all known since childhood.
By BONNIE DEE and MARIE TREANOR
Available Now from Samhain Publishing in Print and Ebook.
Rumplestiltskin is NOT his name and this hunk’s no gnarled old goblin.
Fairytale Fantasies, Book 2
In his quest to land her a rich husband, Gwyneth’s father has gone one step too far and bragged to the king’s steward. Now she faces an impossible task: spin a room full of straw into gold by morning, or their lives are forfeit. She despairs, until a black-garbed figure offers to solve her problem for a price. One kiss.
He returns the second night, and the third. With each sensual encounter, the stakes escalate along with her attraction to her mysterious visitor. Then he claims the ultimate price—her child—and she realizes too late she’s made a deal with the king of the Underworld.
From the moment he kisses her, Ragnorak knows Gwyneth’s child will be a worthy heir for his kingdom. But with each touch, he wants more. He wants her to be queen of his strangely beautiful world—and for her to want to stay. But that will mean giving her the ultimate weapon—the power of his name.
Gwyneth has only three chances to drive her demon lover over the edge of bliss. But when the stakes suddenly shift, it’s Ragnorak who stands to lose everything…
“Is your name Charles? Oliver? Harold?” Gwyneth’s pulse pounded, and she shivered despite the fact she held the precious trump card up her sleeve. Her husband King Midas, the courtiers and soldiers all looked on, frozen as they had been from the moment the devil arrived in a thunderclap and a puff of sulfurous black smoke. Literally frozen by some magic force that thickened the air around them.
“No.” The evil being’s deep voice reverberated through the room, sending a chill down her spine and making the hair on her nape prickle. As menacing as a towering black thunderhead threaded with crackling lightning, the dark-shrouded figure dominated the throne room of the castle. Gwyneth longed to throw back his hood and behold his face just once.
“Brandon? Sylvester? Archibald? James?”
Why was she playing this dangerous game when her child’s very life was at stake? She should simply spit out the horrid name her spy had overheard and win Brea’s freedom. A demon from hell couldn’t break a deal, could he? Surely he was bound by his word.
“No. Are you prepared to concede, to pay me what you owe?” A cool voice came from the dark depths of the hood.
Gwyneth exhaled slowly, trying to rein in her racing heart. The warmth of victory swelled through her, but she willed herself not to show it with a smug smile. No point in angering her enemy.
“Is your name perhaps”—she paused and licked her lips—“Rumplestiltskin?”
There was dead silence in the room for the space of three heartbeats. Brea stirred in her cradle and gave a soft gurgle. Gwyneth glanced from the hooded figure to her husband, whose frightened gaze was riveted on the intruder.
Gwyneth knew she was correct. She’d received an eyewitness account of this cloaked demon waltzing around a campfire, gloating over her inability to guess his ridiculous name.
“Is your name Rumplestiltskin?” she repeated.
The dark being strode forward, stopping only a few paces from her and the cradle.
“No. It is not.” He reached for the baby.
For a moment, Queen Gwyneth froze, unable to fathom his answer, then she darted between him and the cradle, intercepting his black-gloved hands as they reached for her precious daughter. She snatched up Brea and clutched the baby to her breast too tightly, making the infant squawk in indignation.
“You lie! I know that’s your name. I won’t let you take my baby.”
“Madam, I never lie, and the child is mine.” He moved closer.
Gwyneth caught the familiar scent of smoke and earth that permeated his clothes. The odor should’ve turned her stomach, made her gut clench in fear, yet it instantly brought back memories of several long, dark, mysterious nights when he’d talked to her and…touched her while she spun straw into gold.
“I won’t harm her. I wish to raise her as my own.” His fingers tightened in the baby’s blanket.
“Begone, demon! I’ll never let you take her.” Gwyneth pushed away his hand.
“I would not be accused of separating a child from its mother,” he drawled. “You’re welcome to come to the underworld with us, lovely Gwyneth. If you dare to give up your wealth and title.”
“No!” Midas cried. Maybe he cared for Gwyneth and Brea more than she’d thought. More likely he feared losing the source of his riches—not that she could’ve spun one golden thread if it weren’t for the magical creature who now claimed their child in payment.
“Guards, seize him!” The king yelled quite futilely as everyone in the room, except, apparently, Gwyneth, was still frozen in place.
The black figure loomed over the queen and her child. His cloak seemed to billow in an unseen wind, and the air around them was charged as if from an approaching storm.
Gwyneth clutched Brea and stared into the depths of the hood, trying to glimpse a pair of eyes, trying to make a connection as she begged for mercy, but it was like trying to look down a well. A person might catch a glimmer of water at the bottom, but it was simply too dark to see anything clearly.
“Please, sir, leave my baby alone. I will come with you if that is what you desire, but this poor, innocent child has done nothing. Why should she pay for my unholy bargain?”
“Unholy?” A harsh bark of laughter came from the figure. “You think me some kind of devil? Well, maybe I am, but I’m not the one who was willing to give up her baby in exchange for a pile of gold.”
Neither was I. It wasn’t my fault. I was trying to save my life. Gwyneth wanted to protest and explain her actions, but excuses would not move him. She gripped his wrist, solid and strong beneath the black gloves—not an incorporeal spirit, but a demon of flesh and blood, as she well knew. She stared into the hood, searching for the face she couldn’t see, and made her offer again.
“I will come with you. I will do anything you want. Anything.”
Hope you enjoyed it!