Here is a taste of chapter one:
In love there is freedom
Jumping the low-rise stone wall that marks the outermost edge of Lone Pine Estate, the tall grass crunches beneath his feet as Jonathan lands on the other side. He takes off dashing across the open field and listens for the footfalls that give chase, then stops when they do not. With a slight glance over his shoulder, he observes her stopping behind the half wall. Her arm resting against the bark of a massive Pine tree. Spots of sunlight penetrate between the dwindling leaves, aglow her light hair, resembling shimmering stars. But her face is clouded with an emotion he can’t decipher. He looks to the heavens as the last of the dark blue hues of dawn vapors away. Then he gazes back at Lina, he wishes he could stop the clock just then. This is Lina – from the first glace, a graceful beauty, but there is an infectious speck of outlandish enthusiasm bubbling near the surface. But she is anything but graceful, he smiles to himself.
“Come on Lina!” He calls to her as she hesitates on the other side. He takes a leisurely walk back towards her. Her blonde curly hair floating on the cool breeze conjures up the feeling of freedom, even if it is just for a few fleeting moments. He doesn’t want to think about how much he is going to miss her.
The early morning rays warm against his back, glint off the buckles of his boots with each step he advances. With his fists to his hips he stands a short distance away from Lina. But her face is pale, skin clammy, and her arms tremble as they holds herself up against the tree. He chooses to not bring her condition to light, for today, is Lina’s day. A day they have planned for months, a day they stole for a slip in time – for normalcy.
Johnathan wiggles his auburn eyebrows, “Are you having second thoughts?”
She huffs, “I care not for your challenges Johnathan.”
Her face absent of any expression, she flicks her hair over her shoulder.
He leans forward. “No?” Lina’s violet eyes meet his with conviction as she lifts her skirts and says. “I cannot outrun a hunter boy wrapped up in these… these… blankets.” She remarks, pulling at the layers of her skirts. And by the way, Lina avoids his gaze, he knows she isn’t being truthful. Lina the girl who can scale trees and jump streams in a dress – she’s growing weaker by the day he realizes. And they both know why. But they both avoid the painful subject matter altogether.
Jonathan bows before her. “After you, my lady.” He motions toward the open field.
Lina snickers at that. “Do not patronize me Jonathan Junkyn.” She says while lifting her skirts just below her knees where her boots end, and climbs the little wall. One of the stones loosens as her hand leans on the edge, and she slips, tumbling face-first into the dirt, legs flailing in the air like a fat cat stuck in a mouse hole as her body summersault over the wall. His first instinct of course is to rush toward her, but Lina is up as quick as she has fallen and gives him a stern look before he can reach her. Her anger falls away and Lina bursts out laughing, “I wish I could see what I looked like from your point of view.”
“Are you alright?” He tiptoes around her, stifling a laugh, and reaches out to assist her to her feet.
“Do not dare laugh, Jonathan.” She pouts and slaps his hand away, her pale cheeks immediately taking on a rosier hue.
“You know,” He says with a faint smile playing at the edge of his mouth. He stares at her while she furiously dusts off grass and dirt from her dark blue skirts, and pulls at her white puffed-up sleeves.
He rolls his eyes, “Just take it off.”
“Excuse me?” Her voice peaks, her eyes widen.
He leans forward, expressionless. Johnathan’s hand grabs at the bottom of her skirts, as he says, “We both know what you are hiding under there, you just fell with your dress over your head.”
Lina slaps his hand away for the second time.
Johnathan pulls away, shoulders squared. “If you do that again, I am not going to be a gentleman…”
“A gentleman does not lift a lady’s’ skirt.” Lina interjects.
He in turn gives a loud snort. “You are no lady,” He backs away dodging a fist that might be coming his way. “Ladies do not wear pants, tinker with tools around the house, and they definitely do not belch during dinner.”
Lina chuckles at his list of not so ladylike habits of hers. “Well then, I guess it’s a good thing that I, sir, am nothing like the tedious ladies of the town.”
“So what will it be?” Jonathan asks as he crosses his arms over his chest. “We need to go now if we want to get back before Charmain or your mom realizes we are gone,” he jerks his head towards her outfit, “but in that dress it will slow us down.” His eyebrow arch.
With a sigh, Lina points out. “Well now that the cat is out of the bag,” she motions for him to turn around while she undoes her skirts. With his back to Lina, Jonathan unsheathes his blade and starts slicing at the tall grass around him out of boredom. As he brings a long strip of grass to his mouth his shiny blade catches her reflection while she loosens her corset to remove her undershirt. The devil he is, Jonathan Junkyn watches her in the reflection of his blade as she struggles to unlace.
“Need some help there?” He calls over his shoulder.
“You keep your eyes out for any peeping-toms.” A smile playing at her blushing lips as she stares right at him.
With a few more puffs, and the quick work of practiced fingers she manages to loosen her bodice just enough to slip her dress out from under the corset. Jonathan almost chokes on the piece of grass and spits it out, as he catches a glimpse of her breasts in the reflection of the smooth shiny surface of his blade. He drops his blade with a thump as heat rushes over his entire body. As the warmth spreads, all thoughts and time seem to dissipate with the bird’s song in the nearby meadow.
“You dropped this.” he hears her say unexpectedly from beside him. Lina passes him the blade. He sheathes it and blinks furiously trying to get hold of his senses.
Lina, the smirk still playing on her lips. “Would you mind just fastening the laces please?” Staring at her back, his eyes shift from her hand holding the laces together to the tight brown leather pants he recognizes as one of his own he had outgrown a few years ago. With a gulp his eyes quickly drop to the ground, ashamed of his thoughts as he fixates on her perfectly shaped bum and shoulders. He pulls the ribbons trying not to quiver.
With nothing more than a corset at the top, the early light and dancing shadows highlight the curve of her spine and her tanned shoulders gleaming under the rising sun. “Tight enough?” His words only but a whisper.
She nods and slowly skips away toward the line of trees in the distance.
“Your shawl Lina!” He looks back to her pile of clothes stashed beneath the tree. With his blade, he lifts the thick white frill girls’ wear under their dresses and snatches up her purple shawl.
“I don’t need it out here.” Lina twirls around in the open breeze, feeling the wind, and the sun caresses her shoulders, arms, and comb through her hair, like a swallow playing in the current of the breeze. She tilts her face to the sun feeling its glorious warmth on her cheeks, her lips, and her neck. All but one place warms up. Her Mark.
“I am afraid I have to insist.” Jonathan’s stern voice breaks through her dazed dance with the sun and the sky.
Lina stops twirling, her one eye opening slightly, she gives him a sideways glance. She takes note of him standing with his blade in one hand, her purple shawl with blue flowers scrunched up in the other. “I am to decline your insulting offer.” She opens both eyes then gives him a sneaky smile and bolts. Johnathan is quicker than she is, catching her arm and spins her toward him. Lina is petite and soft, and very flexible, twisting her way out of his grip, making it past him, and takes off with a giggle echoing into the nearby valley. But his hand pulls her by her middle.
“Lina this is to be taken seriously.” He shoves the shawl before her. Her eyes narrow on his.
“I will not take that thing seriously today!” She bellows back at him and twirls out of his grasp as if all the sorrow that awaits her has vanished. Her hair flying through the wind, her skin alight with the feel of open-air, of freedom, of life, she starts to whistle – an awful sound at that. She zigzags across the meadow, bushes and saps playfully, turning around and waving at Jonathan. Her curls like a silky, sweet-smelling cape around her.
A glimpse of Lina’s black mark on her neck catches his attention, and Jonathan storms at her, catching her firmly by her shoulders. His nostrils flare, the vein alongside his temple pulsing,
“Lina, should someone see your mark…” even though his voice is soft, his eyes dig deep into hers with urgency.
She looks down at the shawl in his hand, the touch of it on her skin making her feel sick. “All I see when I look at that thing, or when it’s draped around my neck – is death.”
His other hand still wrapped around her tiny arm, he stares at her violet eyes, scared of searching for the truth that echoes in his. Eyes that hold so much bitterness and sorrow he himself feels the weight of it.
“Have I ever for one moment in your, or even mamma’s eyes been Lina, not Lina they girl marked by death?”
He so badly desires to tell her she is being insane, overdramatic even. But he can’t, because her mark is evidence enough that death is coming for her.
A Love so Lonely, from Award-winning, International, and USA Today bestselling author, Carlyle LaBuschagne
Lina Tokar knows exactly the day she will die and the manner. Born stillborn, her parents made a deadly deal to save her life. The cost? Her father’s life in exchange for her, and on her Twentieth birthday, Prince Leif of Purgatory will reap her soul –his last pure soul to deliver unto the Queen to set him and his cursed Kingdom free…
A week before her birthday Lina and her best friend Jonathan save a mysterious warrior’s life. In return, he gifts them a piece of a powerful artifact that may help her with her problem. In one of five pieces, Lina sets forth a plan to save herself and free Prince Leif from his 700-year curse. The problem is that there are powerful men who want the artifact and will kill anyone who gets in their way and the people they love.
Easy enough for an innocent gypsy girl in the 1600’s right?
A Love so Lonely is perfect for The Originals and Six of Crows fans.
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