Title: A Perfect Curse
Author: Shereen Vedam
Genre: Fantasy Regency Romance
Who needs a prince, when you’ve got a huntsman? Nevara Wood is desperate to change her life. Plagued by shifting sight, which skews her normal vision and shows her disturbing visions, she’s always felt odd and unlovable. And she greatly wants to be loved—especially by Mark Dimas, the man she has hero-worshiped since the day he saved her life. Her only chance at happiness lies in breaking the curse that afflicts her—and all clues to the source of her torment point to a town in Southern Spain. Unfortunately, her every attempt to travel to that war-ravaged continent is impeded by the very man whose love she wants to win . . . Mark Dimas Alvaro is the last in a line of wizards charged by his ancestor, a magical huntsman, to secretly protect Nevara's family. But Mark chafes at his role because it has cost him everyone he loves, most recently his beloved brother. He is certain that if Nevara would simply stay in England and not create any unnecessary magical waves, they could both survive for another generation. Instead, his stubborn charge’s persistent investigation into her past lands Nevara in imminent danger. Mark instantly prepares to wage a magical war to protect the woman he has sworn to protect . . . and has come to deeply love. But Nevara's innocent probing has awoken an ancient evil that has held a grudge against her charmed family for three centuries. And it will do everything in its power to ensure that this princess never gets to live happily ever after . . .
Nevara had always been fond of reading. As a child, she had spent hours in a treehouse between Mark’s home and hers, dreaming of far off places as she delved into books Miguel had lent her. He scanned the spines of her latest treasures, wondering what drew the adult Nevara’s fancy.
Each title hammered a nail of fear into his chest. His mind reeled at the implication of these particular books, especially in conjunction with his dream of the lynx. He stood, now far from aroused or amused.
“Oh, my books.” She reached for them.
He whisked the volumes out of her grasp, anger simmering. Was she planning to put her life in danger by going to Spain like his misguided brother? Or was she simply curious about her homeland? With exaggerated care, he turned the volumes on their sides and read each title aloud. “Travels in Spain. The Iberian Peninsula. Seville, the Mountain City of Spain. Interesting reading matter, Miss Wood.”
She shrank at his use of her formal name. Good. They were not friends. They could never be friends. Not when he wanted so much more. “Are you perhaps thinking of traveling to foreign lands?”
“Sir Phillip, my employer, says it is quite safe to travel to the Peninsula now.”
So, she was planning to go there. He bit back an oath. “To perdition with your Sir Phillip. Have you forgotten that Miguel died there?”
“Oh, Mark, Mr. Alvaro, I am sorry about your brother. I meant to write but could not find words to convey my feelings.” Her eyes watered. “I loved Miguel too.”
“Yet you plan to put yourself in the same danger?” He wanted to shake her but did not dare touch her. A tear escaped her wet lid and the urge to kiss the drop was enormously tempting. Nevara’s wide eyes and parted lips seemed to invite him to claim her there as well. When had she become such a temptress? With effort, Mark stuck to the matter at hand. “It is best that you remain in England.”
She bent her head. “I have good reason to wish to go there.”
“Forget the reason.”
“Do you not want to know what it is?”
At her lowered shoulders, which he hoped was a sign of capitulation, he breathed a tad easier. “Where do you stay?”
“I work for Lady Roselyn. It is a live-in position.”
And with that admission, Mark’s world shattered and then reformed into a more alarming landscape. Sir Phillip, the man she had mentioned earlier, had recently married a Lady Roselyn. He remembered reading about their nuptials in the Morning Times.
Lady Roselyn was also the new head of the group of gypsies who had begun to gather in London under the auspices of the late, doomed Mrs. Beaumont. They called themselves the Rue Alliance. He had meant to relay this disconcerting news to his grandmother once he returned to Wiltshire.
But if Nevara worked for Lady Roselyn, then somehow, she had been pulled into the gypsies’ net. This boded ill for her safety. He must find a way to extricate Nevara from this group. And to do that, he must keep in contact with his charge. He could not afford to lose track of her again. But how?
When Nevara had been a child, her aunt had discouraged her socializing with other children. As a result, she had grown up a lonely little girl, with Miguel as her only friend.
Now that her aunt and Miguel were gone, had Nevara finally found friendship? Was that why she had joined with these gypsies? If so, pulling her away from them felt wrong, yet leaving her with them could be dangerous to her welfare, especially if they were encouraging her to go to Spain.
He reluctantly handed back her books. As she accepted them, the touch of their hands sent tingles shooting up his arm and she started, as if she too had felt that spark. Once again, Mark saw that isolated child in her serious brown gaze. Despite her new friends, did she still live in her make-believe worlds?
Well, this beautiful Nevara belonged in the real world, not in dreams of far off places. Suddenly, he wanted to help her to see what was right in front of her. He wanted to show her his London, which was as appealing as the cities she was reading about. More so, in fact.
What harm would it do to take her out for some light entertainment? It would also afford him an enjoyable evening. “Nevara.”
“Hmm?” She glanced up.
“The Magpie is being performed at Drury Lane this evening. Would you do me the honor of accompanying me?”
She blinked in surprise, and then a delighted smile spread over her breathtaking face. “I would love to, Mark.”
He nodded, pleased at distracting her from Spain, at least for the evening. Once she gave him her directions, he promised to call at seven sharp, and then bowed and bid her good day.
As she hurried away, a rustle in the branches of a nearby tree gave momentary warning before a crow flew in a haphazard manner toward his head. He tilted sideways to avoid a collision and the bird crashed at his feet.
El Guapo! His grandmother’s familiar. The handsome one was an odd name for a one-eyed crow, but then his grandmother had a strange sense of humor.
The bird took a moment to regain his balance. Once righted, he glared at Mark with his one good eye.
Onlookers gave him and the crow curious glances that Mark ignored. Today seemed to be a day for surprises. He bent to extend his arm. “What are you doing here, Guapo?”
The crow jumped onto his forearm and wasted a few moments complaining about Mark ruining his landing. Finally, he ruffled his feathers and shared an image of a townhouse in Mayfair, and two words: Come visit.
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Once upon a time, Shereen read fantasy and romance novels to entertain herself. Now she writes heartwarming tales braided with threads of magic and love, and mystery elements woven in for good measure. She’s a fan of resourceful women, intriguing men, and happily ever after endings. If her stories whisk you away to a different realm for a few hours, then Shereen will have achieved one of her life goals.
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