A hearty welcome to my fellow Maumee Valley RWA member Shay Lacy, who also happens to be a new author with Ellora’s Cave. Shay has had a marvelously successful year, having released books with Crimson Romance and Lyrical Press, among others. Today is the release day for her erotic romance quickie, Sacrificed To Ecstasy.
Content Warning: If you are under 18 or offended by male nudity, you may not wish to scroll through the excerpt.
Last week was an emotional one for most Americans watching news coverage of the Boston Marathon bombings. I applaud the news services I watched for highlighting the small acts of heroism—everyday people simply doing what must be done to save a life. People who shed thoughts of self to answer a cry of pain. People who saw a need and responded. People who did the right thing with no thought of glory, fame or compensation, or risk to self. Everyday heroes. Everyone has it inside themselves to help the world in some way.
This is what my heroine does in Sacrificed to Ecstasy. One simple, everyday woman sees a need, hears a cry, feels another’s pain and responds. I love my heroine’s heart. Rayan considers the needs of other people before her own. She empathizes with people who are suffering. I love that nothing stops her from persevering. I love that she can still dream of being more than she is now. Finally, I love that she’s a romantic, wanting a man to cherish her.
Such a man I’ve given her. Take a look and tell me this man doesn’t make your heart pound.
“Are you alone, child?” There was a note of censure in the priestess voice.
“I was traveling with my betrothed.”
The priestess caught up to Rayan and walked by her side. “My name is Elida. What are you called?”
“Meaning dawn of the sun. Where are you from, child?”
“Elderhaven, near the plains. Raiders destroyed it six months ago. My family fled with the few other people who survived. We’ve traveled since then, trying to find a safe place to live.”
“A too familiar tale, unfortunately. If only there was someone to fulfill the gods’ prophecy that could save us.”
The brown lump in the distance distracted Rayan’s attention from asking about the prophecy. Her betrothed, Faram. She waited for a stab of grief, but felt only a faint sadness, mostly for the hopes that died with him, for a purpose to her life, for a home and a man who might love her some day. She’d run farther than she’d imagined. She hadn’t known she had such speed in her. It was amazing what a person could do when they had to.
She’d been desperate to reach the mountain to save her, and in a way it had.
When they reached Faram’s crumpled form she sank to her knees beside him. Death had twisted his facial features from plain to gruesome. Scarlet soaked the tunic on his chest around the ugly hole where he’d been stabbed. He’d tried to protect her, and to some extent had succeeded. At least she could say that about him.
“I’m sorry, child. I know there is little to ease your sorrow over his loss. But you have good memories of him.”
“I only met him three days ago, when he bought me from my family.” Rayan looked up at Elida. She didn’t want the priestess to misunderstand. “I’m not a slave. My family was starving. We had no home, no work, no food. I’m of age to marry and Faram’s wife had died. He needed someone to keep his home while he traveled. I offered myself as his wife for food for my family. It was an honorable trade.”
The priestess nodded. “Many such beginnings become strong marriages. It is a pity, though, that you did not have time to create children together. Although that hope might yet be realized. You had three days, after all.”
Rayan shook her head. “We were not yet married. Faram was taking me to his village temple to be married there. I asked him to wait until after the vows were spoken.”
Elida’s sharpened gaze pierced Rayan. “You are a virgin?”
Elida shook her head. “There is no ‘of course’ in these violent times. How did you escape unscathed from your village?”
“My parents dressed my younger sister and me as boys. I begged Faram to allow me to continue the charade, but he said I was to be his wife and should dress like it.” She would not lay blame on his dead corpse.
“A virgin.” The priestess spoke in an awed tone. “Do you know Vashon’s prophecy?”
“No. We worshipped the other gods. I need to gather our belongings.”
“Yes. We should be gone from this place as quickly as possible,” the priestess agreed with startling alacrity. “We will take you with us.”
Rayan took a deep breath and dove her hands into the folds of Faram’s clothes. She wouldn’t keep what she found—she’d return it to his family. She owed it to them to report what had happened to him. She wouldn’t impose on them, but maybe they could help her find sanctuary somewhere.
The raiders had managed to steal his money belt before running her down. She’d have to ask the children if they’d found it when they searched the bodies.
She removed Faram’s ring and the few items he carried that the raiders hadn’t had time to steal—his merchant ledger, his metal fire starter, and his leather water bladder. Standing she looked around for her small bundle of clothes and the horse that carried the merchandise Faram peddled. She spotted the clothes a few feet away, but the horse wasn’t within sight in any direction. She remembered hearing it whinny in fright. It was probably halfway to the nearest village by now, if other raiders hadn’t caught it. Faram had been proud of the spirited brown beast. A more placid animal might not have wandered far or bolted. She must not speak ill of Faram now.
The children arrived as she reclaimed her bundle. With a calm moment to study them Rayan saw how poor and ill-fed they were. Their bones showed clearly under their skin. Their dingy gray clothing was stitched and patched to repair tears. She decided not to ask about Faram’s money belt. They needed it more than she did.
Rayan insisted, “It’s all right. Take anything you want. I have what I need.” She tucked Faram’s belongings into hers.
The children looked again to Elida for permission. “Do so, but hurry. We must start back to the village. These raiders might have been part of a larger group.”
As the children knelt beside Faram’s body, the priestess took a protective stance with her staff held ready. She nodded toward the children. “The boy is Barnd, the brown-haired girl Davina and the blonde is Sylvan. Their families thank you for your charity.”
“I hope they will consider it enough for food and lodging for one night.”
“Child, you can afford many years of lodging if you would fulfill Vashon’s prophecy.”
“I own nothing but clothing. Faram’s things are not mine to barter. I am a simple merchant’s daughter with no shop and no merchandise. I have nothing of value to any of the gods, especially the god of fertility. My betrothed is dead and I told you I never lay with him.”
“And that is what you have to offer that is priceless.”
Sacrificed To Ecstasy is currently available on Ellora’s Cave and soon on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other major e-book retailers.
Multi-published author Shay Lacy lives in northwest Ohio with her photographer/graphic designer husband. She loves following the man of her dreams with a camera in hand and a pen and notebook in her backpack. Sensible secretary by day, romance author by night, when not lost in her imagination, or reading a good book, she is likely researching her next book with a SWAT team ride-along or a visit to a DNA lab.