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First pages

TENTS R US

“What are you doing today, Scarlett?”

“I can’t believe you’re asking me that question, mum.”

“Don’t you think you’re a little old to be going to the fair?”

I don’t bother answering, and instead I head out into the garden to watch dad. He’s been cleaning the car all morning, just like every Saturday, before he drives into town. Usually it doesn’t annoy me that he’s slow, but today I need to be out of here. I’ve got a fair to see!

The Nottingham Goose Fair is all I’ve thought about for the last month. It’s why I love October. Well, that and my birthday.

Since leaving college in May, I’ve been unsure whether to go to University or not, and I’m taking a year out until I decide. I’m almost nineteen and a “responsible person” as my mother says. “You need to grow up,” she tells me, but the kid in me slams her foot to the floor and screams NO! Could it be my inner child clinging onto life? That it refuses to accept that I’m all grown up and must leave daydreams behind? There’s only one way to find out...and I will...just as soon as dad finishes cleaning the bloody car!

Before mother can give me any more jobs, I sneak to my room to wait impatiently. I’ve already changed my top three times and am still not happy about the pink shirt I’m wearing. Having flame-red hair kinda clashes with everything, and the safest color is black. I’m never out of it.

After swapping pink for black and re-tying my hair in a pony, I’m done. Maybe.

“Scarlett!”

“Coming, dad!”

Finally! We’re ready to go. I’ve not run down the stairs so fast in ages.

Dad’s getting the last of his instructions from mother. I feel sorry for him. He’s so sweet, and mum can really nag.

I can see those eyes rolling, dad...even though you’re not doing it physically.

“Don’t be late home, Scarlett; you promised to help with Mrs. Daltry’s laundry. You know she relies on us.”

“Yes, mother.” I didn’t actually roll my eyes...I swear! But I did think about it.

“Come on, dad. Half the day is going to be over before I get there.”

I give my dad my widest smile and show off my dimples. He’s such a pushover, which is only one of the reasons why I love him. If I don’t want to get the bus into town, I only have to ask and he jumps. I know what you’re thinking--spoiled brat, right? Nope.

He does it because he doesn’t want me to get the bus. He worries, and it gives him an excuse to get some peace and quiet away from mom. And he can enjoy his pipe without being nagged about the smoke.

“See you later, sweetheart.”

Dad gives mother a kiss, but I’m on my way to the car. I don’t need another lecture. You know the one I’m talking about--“keep your hands on your bag and don’t let it out of your sight...don’t talk to any strangers...don’t eat too much candy floss.”

Yup, she thinks I’m twelve.

“DAD!”

He’s still trying to get away and finally manages to free himself.

“Sorry, sweetheart. You know how your mother likes to fuss.”

“Don’t I!”

“Let’s get going then.”

We’re off! Now when I say that, I mean we’re actually on the road and moving--slowly--but moving nonetheless. I love my dad. He rocks. But...I wish he would drive just a smidgen faster. I know he’s being safe and all that, but it’s going to be dark by the time we get into town.

My dad is the greatest dad in the whole world. It’s possible every kid thinks that, I know, but I really mean it. He’s got the blackest hair I’ve ever seen and even though he’s in his fifties, there’s not a single grey hair. Weird or what? His eyes are blue and stand out against his dark hair. They’re kinda soft and gentle. Hard to explain but when he looks at me, even when he’s trying to be strict, I smile because he couldn’t look mean if he tried. I love my dad.

I love mother too. She can be overprotective, like all mothers. She drives me nuts when she nags and comes into my room without knocking, but she’s okay most of the time. She’s a bit younger than dad and she’s still a looker. I’ve seen photos from when she and dad were younger and she was stunning. Her hair’s a bit weird though too--it’s silver. She has green eyes; that’s where I get mine from. But my red hair? I have NO idea!

Throughout my school years I suffered endlessly at the hands of bullies. Under constant threat of molestation, I tried to hide my boobs the best I could. I swear I’ll suffer when I’m older with a bad back because of how I hunched over trying to protect myself from rear assaults. By far, though, the biggest and most upsetting incidents were because of my hair. Ginger Minge was the most popular nickname, closely followed by Ginger Nut or Carrot Top. The names went with me from junior high to senior high. Each day I’d come home and beg my mother to let me have my hair cut and colored. She wasn’t having any of it.

“Stand up for yourself, Scarlett. Don’t let them push you around.”

That was easy for her to say. It was bad enough that I was a nerd because I studied, let alone standing out like a beacon. Hats and scarves were my most treasured accessories. They didn’t get me out of the limelight, but when the bullies were occupied with someone or something else, I could sneak by without being detected. I prayed for the summer. Six weeks without fear of ridicule and hair-pulling was bliss.

When I started college, things were different. College was full of other people just like me, and I don’t mean they all had red hair. Some had braces, some wore NHS glasses because their parents couldn’t afford private frames, and others just wanted to stand out with their clothing style. It seemed as though the bullies were outnumbered. College was filled with people who not only didn’t fear being labeled as different, they embraced their uniqueness. They didn’t follow the sheep. On the first day, I made a vow to myself and listened to my mother for once. I stood up to anyone who made fun of me or who name-called. Although I had promised myself once I left school and earned my own money to spend on whatever I wanted I would head to the nearest salon, when the time came I had changed my mind.

I love my hair. It’s a statement. It says...I’m here.

“I’m here!”

After a grueling forty-five minute slow drive to the Forest Recreation Ground, we arrive at the fairground. Dad pulls into the car park, and I’m about to leap out, but he grabs my arm.

“Don’t forget, sweetheart, don’t be late home. You’ll make my life hell if you’re not on the six o’clock bus.”

“I know, and don’t worry. I’ll be home for tea.”

Dad gets a quick kiss on the cheek as payment for the ride and before he has time to say anything else, I’m away. The entrance is crowded but I don’t mind standing in line. My stomach is already churning. It’s the smells--candy floss and diesel oil. What an odd combination riding the breeze, but nevertheless, I love it.

I’ve got a wide smile spreading across my face as I enter the grounds. There’s so much to see, but where to go first? The noise of music together with the engines fills my ears...I’m beyond excited.

Along the entranceway are the usual rows of tents and caravans where the gypsies promise to read your future--for a price. The inclination to visit a psychic has never been on my to-do list. It’s not that I don’t believe it’s possible to see the future, but I’m skeptical that it would be of any use. I arrive at the end of the strip and conclude the best, and probably most expensive, place to set up tent must be back at the start of the road. The last tent is tatty, faded, and quite frankly looks like a couple of old bedspreads thrown over a wooden frame. The lettering on the board leaning against a block of wood is barely readable. I can just make out a name in gold and red faded paint.

Dizelli - Psychic & Fortune Teller.

“Come in, child.”

A woman’s voice speaks from inside the tent. I don’t want this. Rudeness isn’t something I practice, but I don’t want to pay for a string of lines that start with “Your destiny waits.”

“I know what you are thinking, Scarlett...come inside. I have something for you.”

Now she has my interest. After moving the large purple rug hanging across the doorway to the side, I step inside and wrinkle my nose. That smell is not by Dolce & Gabbana.

There are candles burning all around in holders made from what looks like bones. Not attractive, I can tell you. It’s a bit dingy but there’s no way I can miss her, or I should say her hair. And I thought I had problems!

The plump lady is sitting in the middle of the floor on top of fur rugs and cushions. She’s dark-skinned and has the craziest hair I’ve ever seen--black with silver streaks. It’s wild and looks as though it’s never had a brush or comb through it.

I can’t stop gawping around the tent. There are various bones and objects dangling from the walls and ceiling. Claws. Very big claws are all tied together and I think teeth too. They’re huge so they can’t be real, right?

“Sit.”

She points at the floor in front of her and I hesitate because, well...who knows what’s crawling in those furs.

“Do it!”

She’ a bit bossy, but I’m intrigued how she knows my name so, with my chin held high, I sit as commanded.

“Your destiny awaits, Scarlett, and we have no time to lose!”

Here we go.

“Time is not on our side and you must embrace your future,” she continues.

“Okay. Is it going to be good?”

“Good is not a word I would use; however, if it is excitement you long for, you shall have it.”

You know how I roll my eyes when my mother speaks? Well, I have the same desire to do it now.

I’m fascinated, though, by the way she’s swaying from side to side with her head wobbling like one of those dogs you have on the dashboard of your car. Uh-oh...wait for it...

“You are special, Scarlett.”

Yup.

“I know you are skeptical, but you should listen to my words.”

She puts her right hand into the box by her side and pulls out a long gold chain with a medallion hanging from it.

I’m listening.

“This is for you. It is ONLY for you.”

“I really don’t have the money to pay for an obviously expensive gold necklace.”

“There is no charge. It is yours, by right.”

“Really? What’s the catch?”

We all know there is one, don’t we?

“Take it, Scarlett. Wear it when you take to your bed tonight.”

“Is it going to make my neck turn green?” I’m sorry. I just couldn’t hold it in anymore, together with a giggle.

“You will see...do as I say.”

She’s dangling the pendant right in front of my nose, and I’m drawn instantly to the image of a dragon flying over a circle on the side facing me. She twists it around and on the other side is a rearing horse, and the circle behind it is definitely the sun as it has rays coming out of it. It’s quite beautiful and not tacky at all.

“Take it!”

I do, reluctantly, because I’m still waiting for the “cross my palm with silver” line, but it doesn’t come. Instead she pushes up from the floor and sweeps the covering over the door to the side.

“Leave. Now.”

“But...”

“Go and await your destiny, Dragon Mage. We will meet again.”

I do as she asks and step outside. Glancing over my shoulder, I’m about to ask what she means by Dragon Mage, but she isn’t there and has returned inside. The pendant in my hand glimmers, and I toy with the notion of wearing it. I stash it quickly into my bag instead and try to put it out of my thoughts.

After walking away from Dizelli’s tent, there is a haze hanging around me for the rest of the afternoon. That’s the only way I have to describe it. I can’t see it or touch it, but it is there. Nothing is in my mind other than dragons, horses, and crazy hair. Yeah...she made that much of an impact on me.

Before I know it, it’s time to catch the bus home. All the things I’d been looking forward to seeing, I had missed. Odd and weird.

Even the bus ride passes without any recollection of time, and if it wasn’t for Mr. Dawson nudging me, I would have missed my stop.

As promised, I help mom with Mrs. Daltry’s laundry. Surprisingly the time flies by. Mother asks me if I had a nice day, but each word she utters goes in one ear and out the other. I’m sure it seems normal to mum because she says that’s what happens when she’s speaking to me half the time.

The zombie-like haze is still with me. I don’t remember eating. I remember chewing something but don’t recall the taste, and I swear if you asked what we had, I couldn’t tell you. Everything I’ve experienced since leaving Dizelli is a blur and is quickly fading from my consciousness, even her memorably wild hair.

The rest of the evening passes without any notice as well. It’s gone, and I sit on the edge of the bed in my pajamas brushing my hair while staring ahead--at nothing. The pendant, which I hid under my pillow, is screaming at me. I don’t mean literally, I mean inside my head. Admitting the crazy woman knew things, and that she did have something to show me, is pulling at my curiosity. Although I’m sure nothing will come of it, I eventually put the pendant on and climb into bed.

RISE ‘N’ SHINE

There’s nothing more annoying than the sound of the alarm clock--it drives me nuts. But I’m not hearing it today.

Opening my eyes slowly, I realize there’s too much sunlight in my room. Wait...I’m not in my room. Sitting up, I gawk at the surroundings. I’m dreaming; that’s the only possible answer.

I’m in the middle of a field and the sun is shining down on me. A chilly breeze rustles across the landscape causing the long grass I’m sitting in to waver. A shiver runs through me. Then I hear it.

There’s no annoying beeping waking me up...it’s something different--people yelling.

I get to my feet and I’m a little dizzy from jumping up too quickly, but I manage to stand. Where am I? And why are those men on horseback charging toward me?

There are seven men heading in my direction at speed. The sound of the horses’ hooves hitting the ground, as well as the shouting, is getting closer.

OH, CRAP!

There’s nowhere to hide or anywhere for me to run. Not that I could outrun them anyway. I’m ready to wake up now!

They’re drawing nearer. One of them is in front of the others by some distance, riding a white horse and waving a sword.

I am not here...I am in my bed...

I’m frozen in place and my heart is beating so hard it’s deafening. I don’t want to watch my impending doom so I close my eyes tightly while I screw up my face. I prepare to die and embrace whatever comes.

There’s a rush of wind, and dust flies into the air as the rider pulls to a halt just a few feet away.

Am I dead? Slowly, I open my eyes.

The horse is breathing hard and snorting. I can feel the warmth from his breath and body from where it’s standing. It’s restless and when the rider tugs on the reins, it stamps the ground with one hoof as if under protest. It is beautiful, though--pure white with a flowing mane that looks like candy floss.

If I keep my focus on the horse, I can stay relatively calm. I daren’t raise my eyes to look at the rider. I want to, but I can’t.

There are eyes burning into me; I can feel them. I’m going to be brave. Yes...I am...any minute now.

He dismounts and large boots land with a thud. The dry ground beneath his feet crunches as he walks toward me. I let my gaze move onto him and watch as he brushes the palms of both hands along the top of the tall grass. I’m still only looking forward, but he is at least twelve inches taller than me because when he stops, I am staring right at his chest and I see the emblem stitched into his red tunic matches one side of my gold medallion.

The smell of horse and leather instantly hits me. From somewhere deep inside I find the courage to raise my head and look up.

There’s a sea of silver hair blowing gently in the breeze. Although both sides of his head are shaved, there’s a mane of hair like that of his horse. Wide, dark eyes stare back as if studying me, but his face is expressionless.

His gaze moves from my face to my hair and he reaches out to touch it, but I jump back. I don’t know this man, and why does he think he can fiddle with my hair? He tries again, and this time I slap his hand away.

“I didn’t say you could touch my hair!”

That might not have been the smartest way to start a conversation; however, I’m not about to be pawed by a stranger. Maybe I should try something else.

“H...Hi.” What else am I going to say?

What’s odd about this dream is that everything feels so real, but it has to be a dream. There’s no other explanation.

The other riders have gathered now and are just sitting on their horses as if waiting for something. I’m not as afraid as I was, but I’m feeling cold. The breeze is whipping up stronger and clouds are intermittently blocking out the sunshine. My pajamas are not made for this kind of weather.

In an attempt to warm myself, I huddle my arms around my body, and in doing so the pendant around my neck moves and catches a ray of light.

Instantly the man’s black eyes fix on the necklace. They flit between the medallion and my face and within moments, a wide smile forms.

“Dragon Mage.”

“What did you say?”

“Come. We have been waiting for you.”

“Wait! I don’t think this is right. I mean...” I look at my surroundings in a futile search for help or someone to at least explain what’s going on. The long grass we’re in stretches wide and in the distance there are mountains but there are no familiar faces or landmarks to be seen. I’m still waiting to wake up, but it’s not happening. The image of the crazy-haired woman, as well as her words, pop into my thoughts. Maybe she wasn’t a fraud after all? I stare up at the stranger. “I don’t know where I am.”

“You are home.”

He turns and walks to his horse. After gathering up the reins, he shouts to his friends. “It is her!”

Who? Me? And there’s that name again--Dragon Mage. That’s what the crazy lady said, but I didn’t get to ask what it meant. And what is “it is her” supposed to mean? I just hope it’s not “we’re gonna have some fun with this one tonight, lads!”

I’ve decided I’m not going anywhere and fold my arms across my chest. I might not look like a woman who is in charge of herself given I’m standing barefoot and wearing only pajamas, but sometimes a girl has to make a stand. My mother would be proud of me. Oh, crap! My mother will be doing her nut! I wonder if they’ve called the police.

“Come!”

The man holds out his hand and beckons me toward him, but I’m not budging.

“I think I’ll stay here, thanks, mate.”

He closes the space between us with just three long strides. I’m not prepared, and suddenly I’m facing his back as he tosses me over his shoulder.

“Get off me! Put me down!”

He’s as strong as an ox and pounding my fists into his back is not having any effect. What’s annoying is he’s laughing...and that pisses me off.

“If you don’t put me down right now, I’m going to...thank you!”

I’m standing on my own two feet by the side of his horse and after straightening my jamas, I smooth my disheveled hair from around my face.

“Now let’s get something clear. You don’t get to manhandle me. Got it?”

He’s wearing a very wide grin which is unnerving and oddly cute at the same time. I won’t say he’s not attractive because that would be lying, but he’s a little intimidating and I’m not sure if I’m safe. That being said, if I am in any danger, something would have happened by now, right?

Without warning he grabs me by the waist and hoists me up to sit on his horse. I’m not a featherweight by any stretch of the imagination, so he must have some power in those muscles he’s flexing because that seemed effortless. Before I can make myself comfortable, he’s jumped up behind me. I’m encased by solid muscle as he gathers the reins.

“Where are we going?” I ask nervously.

“You will see.”

He turns the horse, and we’re off. The ground between us and the mountains is disappearing fast as we gallop. His friends are riding either side of us and yelping and whooping as we go. They all look a bit “cut-throat-y” and I know I shouldn’t make assumptions based on a person’s appearance, but I’m worried.

I’m caged in. This man is keeping me in place with his body and his arms. I love riding, and fortunately I have some experience, but I’ve never ridden this fast. The wind is hitting my face and my hair is flowing behind me. I’m sure he can’t see, but he’s not saying anything. All I can hear is the wind, the sound of pounding hooves, and my heart.

I have no idea what’s going to happen. I want to say it’s going to be okay. I need to believe it’s going to be fine.

A little hope is all I have.

WELCOME WAGON

As we near the foothills of the mountains, my captor slows his horse to a walking pace. The other warriors at our sides follow his lead, and I assume he’s in charge. The men are talking amongst themselves, but I can’t hear what’s being said. Let’s just hope they’re not getting excited at the thought of sacrificing a red-haired woman at their feast tonight because that would really suck for me.

We’re travelling in single file through a path in the mountains. Both faces reach high into the sky. It’s cooler since we’re under shadow, and I’m shaking with cold. My escort tightens his hold and pulls me against his body. He’s hot. I don’t mean sexy hot, I mean literally hot. Warmth envelopes me, and I feel safe for the first time since my arrival.

A rock tumbles down the mountain to our right and scares the horse, but my protector keeps control and steadies his mount. Smoothing his hand down the side of its neck, he speaks. “We are almost home, Dagma.”

Well, at least they name their animals which is a good sign. That comforts me a little.

Another bout of rumbling begins and more debris falls ahead of us, but the horse stays true and continues on the track. There’s a buzzing in my ears which I put down to changes in the altitude, like when you’re on a plane and you start the descent. I hate that. When I flew to Spain it drove me nuts and this reminds me of that. As much as I enjoyed Spain, I don’t think I want to fly again. I know it’s supposed to be safe, but I couldn’t shake the fear and for almost all of the flight, I dug my fingernails into the arms of my seat.

The feeling I’ve got in my head now is like my brain is being squeezed. I want to yawn in order to pop my ears and do it a few times, but the fuzziness isn’t shifting; it’s getting worse.

“Can you feel that?” I turn to look over my shoulder at the rider. “Doesn’t it bother you?”

He frowns. “I do not know of what you speak.”

“Really? You don’t have that irritating noise in your ears?”

“No. Just your voice.” He smirks.

That was rude, but funny, and I think it’s time for introductions, although he seems to know me or at least more about me than I know about him.

“What’s your name?”

“Elyan.”

“I’m Scarlett.”

“I know,” he says with a smile.

“How do you know? Why is it that you knew I was going to be here, and why did you say ‘Dragon Mage’ when you saw this necklace?”

“We were expecting your arrival. It has been foretold.”

“Who said that?”

“You will see.”

I am surely going to get a crick in my neck if I continue looking at him, but I’m prepared to put up with it. He isn’t unpleasant to look at. I’d go so far as to say he’s good looking.

He kicks his horse to step up the pace, and I face forward. We’re coming out of the mountain path, and ahead of us is open land. In the distance I can just make out some buildings.

Once clear of the foothills, we gallop the rest of the way. My arse is getting sore and I just know I won’t be able to walk tomorrow, dream or no dream!

We draw closer and there are children running toward us, waving, and shouting. I’ve got butterflies now to go along with a bruised backside. The children appear pleased to see us, and I can only hope it’s not because long-pig stew is on tonight’s menu.

Elyan slows the horse and we walk the rest of the way with children skipping along at our side. I can clearly see the wall surrounding the settlement; it’s high with a large, double gate that starts to open as we close in. Forming a line along the roadside, people have gathered to greet us. I’m worried, but excited too.

“Scarletena! Scarletena!”

I jerk my head toward the call. I know it isn’t exactly my name, but it’s close. We continue on a road that leads us between many buildings. They are one story and made of mud bricks, or at least that’s how they appear. The people I see are all well presented; their clothes are tidy, and from what I can tell, they all seem healthy. There aren’t any obvious signs of poverty, and the atmosphere is happy. Within a few moments, we arrive at what I would call the centre. Our horse pulls up, and immediately two teenage girls run to our side.

My escort dismounts and then promptly helps me down. My legs and back are stiff...and I won’t even mention my arse.

“Please! Come!” One of the girls smiles and takes my hand. I hesitate and glance over my shoulder to Elyan and he nods.

“You are safe.”

I let the girl lead me inside a building. It is deceptively large on the inside, a bit like the T.A.R.D.I.S from Doctor Who. Furs and rugs hang on the walls and litter the floor. Cushions are in abundance, and I am encouraged to sit on a stool that the young woman places in the middle of the floor.

“I will prepare a bath and bring fresh clothes.”

She starts unbuttoning my pajamas and I push her hands away.

“Stop that!”

“Sorry!”

“I don’t need a bath,” I lie. My hair is thick with dust. “Where am I?”

I give the girl my most angry face. She settles in front of me and takes hold of my hand.

“You are in Lur Neval, the home of the Nevalese people.”

“And where is that exactly?”

She shrugs.

“Am I even in England?”

She giggles.

“It’s not funny! I have no idea where I am and I want to go home now.”

“Are you sure that is what you want, Scarlett?” A voice from behind me asks.

I turn. “You!”

“I told you we would meet again. If you truly wanted to return home, you would have.”

“What do you mean?”

“There is no mysterious force keeping you here. You are here because you wish it so,” Dizelli says.

I stare at her with wide eyes. I have no comeback because inside I know she’s right. Initially I was afraid; however, since arriving in the town, I feel as though I’m meant to be here.

Dizelli smiles and points at the girl. “This is Irisa.”

She’s probably around sixteen or so and is pretty. She has intricately braided silver hair and such beautiful dark eyes that appear larger than normal.

“I suppose you already know my name?”

Irisa giggles. “Yes. You are Scarletena.”

“No, I’m Scarlett.”

Dizelli points at a nearby stool, and Irisa promptly brings it closer for her to sit.

“You are the reincarnation of Scarletena. You are special and you are here to save our dragons.”

“Dragons? Here? Are you serious?”

“Of course I am serious. You are the Dragon Mage.” Dizelli pushes out her chin. “I am honored to be the one to bring you home to Lur Neval.”

“But this isn’t my home,” I say flatly.

“No, not yet. You will choose whether to stay or go once your task is accomplished,” Dizelli says. “But first you must bathe, and then we will feast.”

I mull it over. I am feeling skanky and at least the warm water might help soothe my aches.

“Okay, but I want to ask something first. The man I rode here with, Elyan, is he in charge?”

“No. He is the son of the Earl.”

I notice Dizelli’s mouth curl up at one corner.

“He is next in line for the Earldom. Do you like him?”

I don’t think I like where this is going. “I can’t say I like him or I don’t. He didn’t make that much of an impression on me to be honest,” I lie.

Dizelli chuckles. “Maybe after a few more days you may find he grows on you.”

“I doubt it.”

“As you wish,” she says. She turns to Irisa. “Fetch hot water for a bath and some fresh clothes. We do not want our guest to meet the Earl in her nightwear now, do we?”

The young woman giggles and hurries outside, leaving me alone with Dizelli. I want to ask so many more questions.

“I must leave you now, but do not worry. Irisa will take care of you. She will answer any questions you may have.” She pushes up from the stool and leaves.

I sit alone and look around the place that is to be my home for now. I don’t feel uneasy or afraid; I’m not sure what I feel. I do know one thing, though; I can’t wait to hear more about the dragons.

After a short time, Irisa returns with two buckets of water. It slops onto the floor as she struggles carrying them to the other room where I can see a large tin bath waiting. I think she’s going to be making a lot of trips to fill up that tub because by the time she goes to pour each of the buckets in, there isn’t much left.

Irisa leaves quickly and returns with more water. It’s amazing how we take things for granted. At home I would have just turned on the tap and hey--presto--bathtub full! No wet floor, no backache from hauling buckets.

“It is ready,” Irisa says.

“Thanks.”

I step into the room where the bath is and start to remove my pajama bottoms, and straight away Irisa takes them from me. I didn’t realize she’d followed me, and I’m surprised she watches me undress.

“Would you mind leaving the room?”

She stares at me with an open mouth. “How will I wash you?”

“I can manage that myself, thanks.”

“I will be in trouble if I do not help,” she says.

Oh, crap. I don’t want that.

“Okay, but close your eyes for a moment while I get in the bath.”

She does.

After quickly removing my knickers, I sink beneath the warm water.

I know now what a sardine feels like. The bath is barely big enough for a child, and if she hadn’t spilled most of the water as she brought it in, it would have sloshed over the sides anyway once I sat my butt down.

“I will start with your hair.”

She picks up a jug from a nearby table and scoops a little water from the tub. She pours it over my hair and once it’s wet, she starts rubbing something into it. It smells amazing.


AUTHOR Q&A

About me

I'm English and currently reside in Bulgaria with my husband and our two fur babies, Kira & Mishka. Each day I write or create art-something I do with passion. Living in rural Bulgaria gives us peace and quiet, and wine. We're surrounded by vineyards and glorious views, for which I’m truly grateful. Perfect surroundings for a writer.

Q. Is there a message in your book that you want readers to grasp?
A.
Two of the themes in Dragon Moon are timely and universal—bullying and prejudice. Scarlett has overcome being bullied, making her strong enough to confront two warring clans, advocating peace and tolerance. I hope readers come away with the message that acceptance begins with each individual.
Q. What draws you to this genre?
A.
I’ve always loved fantasy! It made me happy when my childhood wasn’t. Now that I’m an adult with all the responsibilities that entails, I’m thankful I can retreat to the fantasy worlds of my dreams and share them with others through my writing.
Q. Tell us about the cover and the inspiration for it.
A.
As a digital artist, I create covers for other authors and the basis for this cover was originally posted on my website for sale as “ready-made.” However, I loved it so much, and the model is such a perfect representation of Scarlett, I pulled it off the site and used it myself!

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