Darkness Embraced by Trish Arcangelo
Ivy traced an X on her face so he would know what she was asking. “Do you not like to talk about it?” Ivy dared, still half afraid he might come unglued and cleave her to death with one of his ghastly tools.
After several moments he replied, “They are…shame.”
“I don’t understand.”
“Scars…show warrior’s shame.”
Ivy’s heart lurched for him. “But what did you do to cause them to mark you?”
Dredd shook his head. “No more.”
His eyes grew shuttered, and Ivy could tell he was very self-conscious and uncomfortable about his scars and the reasons behind them. She let it drop, but reached out and traced one of his scars with her finger before she could help herself. Dredd grasped her wrist, pinning her with his gaze. The air between them grew heavy, and Ivy thought for a moment that he would kiss her.
She whispered, “If the goal was to mar your visage, they failed. The scars become you.”
“Nom,” He responded through clenched teeth.
Ivy’s throat felt raw with emotion. He didn’t believe her, and he didn’t want to open up to her. She scooted away from him, lying down on the fur blanket that had become her bed.
“I-vy?” He used her name for the first time since the night they met, and again it sent a thrill through her. The way he said it, clearly enunciating each syllable, stirred something within her.
She turned to look at him. “Yes, Dredd?”
“Do not touch me ’less you wish beneath me.”
Ivy did as Sloane instructed, relieved to be out of the claustrophobia of the undulating crowd in the market. She could still hear villagers screaming and could occasionally make out the words over the accompanying bangs and thuds as doors were slammed and windows shuttered. She heard “beast” and “arena.”
“Sloane, why are they so frightened? And why aren’t we running too?” Ivy whispered, peering over the table to look out at the street that was quickly becoming deserted. “Did you hear what they were saying?”
“I heard,” Sloane answered as she crawled on her hands and knees scooping up discarded produce from the ground and shoving it in her knapsack. “All their wailing means we won’t be paying for our food today.” She grinned and held up a fresh potato.
The bangs of doors shutting and locking were suddenly drowned out by much louder sounds coming from the other end of the street. These sounds had chills running up and down Ivy’s spine. Because they sounded like roars.
“Sloane,” Ivy croaked and reached for her friend.
“It’s okay, Ivy. It’s the Undefeated Ajax. Haven’t you heard the tales?” Sloane reached over and gave Ivy a reassuring slug on the arm.
Ivy shook her head slowly, unease snaking up her spine.
“Do you live under a rock? He’s the Beast of Sport that everyone has been speaking of. He has been champion longer than any other, no one can best him. He arrived in Dimm for the tournament.”
Ivy sat frozen, unable to respond as her mind raced.
“These stupid villagers will clamor to see him in the arena but quake with fear at the thought of him outside of it. Normally they treat all the Beasts as if they are royalty. But not him. They say he is more monster than man, filled with a hunger for blood that no amount of killing can quench. ” Sloane wiggled her eyebrows.
An Ajax. Could it be? Fear lanced through her at the thought. No, no it couldn’t be him. Dredd would surely never leave the Woods. But there was a piece of her, a part deep inside her that warmed with excitement at the possibility….
“An Ajax?” Ivy shrieked at her friend.
“I’m sure he’s come to the street market for the food. Novel idea,” Sloane explained so casually she might as well have been discussing the weather. “While I’m sure he’s not above eating a villager or two, the fruit is a lot less muss and fuss. Though all this incessant shrieking and wailing probably makes him think twice. The damn cry-babies are—” She was cut off as a ground-rattling roar ripped through the air.
Ivy clasped a shaky hand over her mouth as Sloane looked mildly amused at the interruption.
As she heard him stomping through the street, Ivy was torn between ducking further down in self-preservation and peeking over the table in interest. As the footfalls moved closer and finally halted about twenty feet away from where she was, her interest won out.
After peeking over at Sloane, who had finished arranging the stolen produce in her now bulging knapsack and was now braiding her long ebony waves in a plait over her shoulder, Ivy turned and slowly inched up on her hands until she could peak over their makeshift shield.
And was confronted with her Ajax. The object of every fantasy and every nightmare she had for the last two annums.
I’m going to faint….
How could this be happening? Dredd left the Dark Woods and became a Beast of Sport? Dredd was here in Dimm?
He was even more savage-looking than she remembered. He was still massive and scarred, but he was clean, clad in tight black pants and leather boots. He had grown a beard since last she saw him, it was in a long plait beneath his chin, giving him a more sinister appearance. And his eyes were so cold they made her shiver. Dredd wore an odd leather glove on his right hand, tipped with short sharp blades at the end of each finger. He scraped the blades across the top of an apple cart in an eerie rhythm as he scanned the scene in front of him. He was completely oblivious to the banquet abandoned food before him, oblivious to the screeching of the villagers, searching for something. Someone.
One thing was certain. The Ajax was not here for the food.
Q: Romance readers have a lot of choices these days. What makes Darkness Embraced stand out in the crowd?
A: Darkness Embraced is at it’s core a love story, a by-the-book (no pun intended) romance with all the passion and tension that readers expect. But it is also a journey of self-discovery. Ivy and Dredd both sell themselves pretty short at the beginning of the book. They’ve allowed themselves to be filtered down into one-dimensional roles for so long, having lost all hope. But over the course of the story they blossom, learning who they really are and how much more they are capable of.
Q: We like to include our favorite quote in our reviews of the books we read. What is your favorite quote from Darkness Embraced?
A: My favorite quote from Darkness Embraced is:
She reprimanded him half-heartedly, just because she was starting to like their dance. “I hate it when you talk about me like I’m property to be claimed.”
Dredd continued to grip the bars rhythmically, his manner intense. He called to her softly, “Not my property. My mate.”
About Trish Arcangelo
When I read my first romance novel as a teenager (Hearts Aflame by Johanna Lindsey) I was immediately hooked. I’ve been an avid reader of all kinds of romance ever since. It’s been a long time dream to write romance as well and one day I realized there was only thing stopping me from making that dream a reality….ME. I sat down and vowed to actually FINISH a manuscript. After finishing my first book, Darkness Embraced, in fall of 2013, I have since completed a second, Breakout, and currently have a few other works in progress. I live outside Austin, Texas with my husband and two dogs, our foursome being what I lovingly refer to as my “pack.” I hold a Bachelor of Business Administration degree and work in accounting & finance by day, crunching numbers when I’m not dreaming up new stories. If I’m not typing away on my laptop, I can be found spending time with family and friends, wasting way too much time on Facebook, and watching my favorite TV shows which include Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead.