Cursed (The Vitruvian Man #1)
By Cate Masters
Publisher: Decadent Publishing (new TEASE line)
Release Date: April 21, 2013
Heat Level: Steamy
Word Count: 30,000
Giveaway: Prize is a $15 GC PLUS book swap. Contest is tour-wide, open internationally and ends Sept 23. Must be 18 years of age or older to enter.
Ten days of freedom. That’s all Fate had allotted me each year. In the streets of Venice, I could walk among them. Mingle. Belong.
During Carnevale, they had no idea who I was. What I was.
For ten days, it didn’t matter.
Until I met her.
Bruno diCesare lives alone by necessity, not choice. An experiment performed by Leonardo da Vinci, who believed having a dual DNA would grant a person immortality, used magic to render Bruno a chimera – the head of a lion, body of a dragon. The only time he can mingle with people is during Carnevale, ten glorious days of masked anonymity, frivolity and intimacy.
Melina Weaver learned fire dancing to enliven her dull existence. A scientist, her long hours at the lab leave no time for a social life. For ten days at Carnevale, she can pretend to be someone else. Someone sexy and daring, who lives on the edge.
Once she meets Bruno, her wish comes true, but everything goes terribly wrong. Beneath Bruno’s costume lurks an alpha male, but is he dangerous? Worse, can she return to an employer who sells her research to the military to make an army of efficient killers? Her only hope may lie with the man she’s just met and never seen.
Warning: This title is intended for readers over the age of 18 as it contains adult sexual situations and/or adult language, and may be considered offensive to some readers.
Light danced in his dark eyes. “I must admit, your fire dancing fascinated me. What made you choose such a dangerous skill to master?”
“The thrill of the challenge, I suppose.” It balanced the rest of her mundane life, to a degree. Mastering each new level gave her a sense of achievement, where work couldn’t.
Something flashed through his dark eyes. “Mistakes must be very painful.”
“I practiced a long time before I worked up the nerve to actually light the wands. I found the fire great incentive to focus, however.” God, her grin must be goofy, the way he stared. Such gorgeous eyes, such a deep brown they almost appeared black. He probably had rugged features, if his large hands provided any indication. Too bad he wore gloves, another barrier between them.
“Yes,” he said, “I imagine so.”
“What about you? What other magic do you know?” Oh please, can you get any more ridiculous? It sounded like a line from a bad chick flick.
The crinkle around his eyes was the only evidence of his smile, but enough to charm her.
“Lifetimes of studying the dark arts have provided me with many tricks.”
“Lifetimes?” she blurted.
He stiffened in her arms. “Pardon?”
She watched him carefully. “You said ‘lifetimes’. Plural.” And what the hell did he mean by ‘dark arts’?
Rigidity masked the grace of his movements. “I’m sure you’re mistaken.” He stared over her head as they whirled to the song’s rhythm.
Mistaken my ass. How very strange. More strange that the question upset him. He’d clammed up, and his muscles were so tense, she expected him to bolt. Better to drop it. For now. “Must have been a slip of the tongue.”
“Yes.” Relief sounded in his tone, though guarded.
This man had something to hide. How intriguing.
Here’s a guest post by the author, Cate Master’s herself.
Guest Post: Confessions of an armchair traveler
I love to read National Geographic’s Traveler magazine. It’s one of the few subscriptions I keep renewing. It takes me to all the places I can’t travel to myself. The incredibly gorgeous photos alone are enough to get the plot bunnies hopping sometimes.
Mostly, though, it’s the first-hand accounts by travelers. Always compelling, sometimes lyrical, these stories hook me every time. One article about a woman who went to Venice each year for its ten-day masquerade festival captured my attention. She practiced her unusual performance art there, and crowds loved it.
And I loved that idea! A professional female, straight-laced in her everyday life, takes up an unusual hobby – like fire dancing. Carnevale sounded like the perfect atmosphere for my heroine to let loose!
If you’ve never seen the Carnevale costumes, you should Google it. They are amazing! Beading and feathers, sometimes voluminous outfits that cover every inch, and sometimes skimpy, barely-there costumes that cover little. But they’re almost always elaborate in design. And beautiful!
A ten-day masquerade ball seemed a great place for more than a mere party. In my story, you never know who—or what—the costumes might hide. And so the plot bunnies began hopping toward my hero. An alpha male with something to hide. A tortured hero who doesn’t believe himself worthy of love.
I never know what stories will come alive from reading the Traveler articles. And it’s annual trip catalog too! Now I’m working on a contemporary based on one of their expedition descriptions.
What about you? Do any magazines tend to inspire you?
I hope you’ll check out Cursed, the first in The Vitruvian Man series. And if you like it, Charmed, the second in the series, just released last week!
Here’s the blurb for Cursed:
….a cold and lonely existence….
Bruno diCesare lives in the shadows. Alone and hidden from the world, his only joy comes but once a year—at Carnevale. For ten days, he can blend in with the colorful, masked masses without revealing his true nature. But this time, he is faced with fiery temptation.
Carnevale allows Melina Weaver to be someone else–someone sexy, daring, enticing, someone who lives on the edge. It’s a far cry from her real life, with long and boring hours spent in a sterile lab. When her fire dancing arouses the curiosity of a dark and compelling stranger, she might have more excitement–and danger–than she ever imagined.
Can Bruno escape his cursed existence? Can he protect her, and can she trust him to save them both?
Ten days. The difference between bliss or desolation, redemption or remaining forever Cursed.
And an excerpt:
Melina should have stayed in her room. Finding him had seemed like such incredible luck. Now she wondered whether luck had turned against her.
That sound—almost an animal sound—had that come from him? Had she imagined it? Strange things went on during Carnevale, her online friends had said, some so inexplicable no science could explain them. She’d laughed when they warned her she might get in over her head.
The sheer strength of his muscles, the raw power beneath his clothes, thrilled her. His pace conveyed the same urgency.
Pressed to his side, nerves jangling, her foot slipped on the stone step.
In one fluid motion, he scooped her into his arms and continued hurrying along. “Are you all right?”
“Unless embarrassment leaves a mortal wound. I’m normally not so clumsy.” She settled against his broad chest. Such incredible stamina. An image pierced her mind: his muscular, naked torso above her, his hips rocking against hers. His presence overwhelmed her, and she was acutely aware of every motion, every breath.
At the bottom of the stone stairs, he set her on her feet but maintained his firm hold. “Dampness has a habit of lingering here. You’d best allow me to assist you.”
“Please.” She fitted herself against him, acutely aware of the way his body moved against hers.
“In these calle of San Samuele,” he said, “Giacomo Casanova spent his youth.”
“Calle?” She should have brushed up on her Italian.
He dipped his head closer. “Narrow alleyways.”
“Narrow and dark. I wonder how many trysts Casanova had in these alleys?” And Casanova had nothing on Bruno. Women probably flocked around him constantly. Acid flashed through her at the thought.
“Too many to recount.” He paused, then added, “If one believes the writings in his diary. His mentor, the poet Giorgio Baffe, lived just down there.”
“Mentor?” She didn’t recall Casanova writing poetry. Did Bruno as well? Or was he not romantic that way?
“Of a sort. The man who introduced Casanova to worldly pleasures.”
The way the last two words rolled off his tongue, so enticing. She glanced at the dark steps that led to deeper shadows beside the canal.
She surprised herself by steering him down there, tugging him to an abrupt halt. “Do such mentors still exist?”
He whirled her against a wall. “Why? Would you be interested?”
She let her hands wander across the contours of his chest. “You did offer to introduce me to the delights of Venice.”
The same growl as earlier rumbled in his throat, unmistakable this time. “You do like to play with fire, don’t you?”
And he knew how to ignite one.
About the Author:
Multi-published, award-winning author Cate Masters has made beautiful central Pennsylvania her home, but she’ll always be a Jersey girl at heart. When not spending time with her dear hubby, she can be found in her lair, concocting a magical brew of contemporary, historical, and fantasy/paranormal stories with her cat Chairman Maiow and dog Lily as company. Look for her at http://catemasters.blogspot.com and in strange nooks and far-flung corners of the web. Cate loves to hear from readers! Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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