Vanity Affair

Adventure and romance lead Caitlin and Company into a lot of fantastical trouble when they fall into the business of the upper class in the city of Tras. Rumors have spread about a terrible affliction affecting only the wealthiest of the women, and one of them has hired the pair to find the source of the disease in order to cure them.

To add to their troubles, some of Asher's 'men,' those youngsters of the streets in his employ as his eyes and ears, have gone missing. Their friends and family plead with him to find them, and the trail leads them to the Angel Gates. The angels guard the numerous entrances to the catacombs of the ancient city where people go in, but they don't come out.

Their paths intertwine through forests and manor estates, and across the rugged roads of the grand city as they search for answers to their elusive questions. Along the way Cait finds herself growing closer to Asher, but shes' reluctant to admit her feelings, even to herself. Will she find him returning her love, or will her hopes turn out to be another fantasy in this strange new world?

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Publisher: Crescent Moon Studios, Inc.
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Excerpt:

I knew this world would sweep me off my feet, I just didn’t know it would happen before breakfast.
The sweet songs of birds awakened me from a long slumber. I sat up and stretched my arms above my head as I admired my new room. It had only been a week, but I could already call this little domain mine, what with the overflowing dresser drawers full of new clothes and the beautiful purple quilt that covered the bed which I had picked out myself.
Not that the quilt was needed. Like every other morning, a fresh fire burned brightly in the hearth and the room was warm, but comfortable. On the nightstand, too, stood a new bouquet of flowers, courtesy of my kind and handsome host, Asher. Their sweet aromas permeated the room, and I breathed in their scent with a smile.
I slid out of bed and walked over to the terrace window. The pajamas I wore were my ones from my old world, reminders of where I’d come from and more discreet than a flimsy nightdress.

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I opened the terrace doors and stepped out onto the balcony that overlooked a small alley. The view in front wasn’t great, but the view to my right showed off the vast port that fed and clothed the city. The sun was still freshly awakened, but fishing boats glistened on the shimmering waters a few miles out at sea. The clatter of hooves and murmurs of voices told me the city was already up and about. Another fit of stretching my arms made me yawn. A swooshing noise broke the monotony, and my peaceful morning.
The next moment I felt something grab my hand and lift me off the ground. I yelped and flailed about. A cackle made me look up. A witch, complete with long, pointed nose and a mole on her cheek, held on to me with one hand while the other grasped the handle of her broomstick. She gave another cackle as she turned a sharp right at the end of the alley and we swooped over the city streets.
“Isn’t this fun, little one?” she cooed before she erupted into more cackles.
“Thrilling, now let me down!” I insisted as I thrashed and spun in circles. The world turned topsy-turvy as the witch did a loop-da-loop and nearly ran into a light pole. I was glad my stomach was empty as it also did its own flips.
“But I’ve just begun to have fun!” the witch gleefully scolded me as we took a left at the next intersection.
I couldn’t see Asher’s house any longer, and my unfamiliarity with the streets of Tras led to a sudden spike in fear inside me. “Let me go!” I insisted as I grabbed her gnarled hand and tried to pull myself free. Her thin fingers were stronger than they looked, however, and I couldn’t make them budge.
The witch laughed again. “Silly girl! Don’t you recognize a binding spell when you see one? Oh right! You can’t see it!” Her poor joke sent her into another fit of laughter.
She wasn’t laughing for long when, on passing another large house with balconies, a figure stepped out. The person wore a long dark coat and his short sandy hair fluttered in the light breeze. His green eyes warned of trouble that the witch was too late to see.
She tried to skirt the quick figure, but the man reached out and grabbed a hold of the front of her broomstick. He gave a great yank and pointed the broom downward where it struck the floor of the balcony and broke in half. The witch was propelled forward, and I with her until the man grabbed our joined hands and wrenched my free. With a final screech the witch disappeared over the side.
I landed in a heap into the arms of my savior where I looked up into the beautiful emerald eyes of Asher and sheepishly smiled at him. “Um, good morning.”
He grinned. “You didn’t tell me you were going to go out for a ride this early.”
“I didn’t know myself,” I returned as I glanced down at the broken broom. “Next time I think I’ll take a carriage.” Then the obvious struck me, and I whipped my head back to my savior. “How’d you get here so fast?”
“Skill,” he answered as he kicked the remains of the broom over the side. A clatter followed by a groan told me it had hit its mark. “Now let’s go inside, the air here is rancid.”
He carried me into the home. The balcony led into a luxurious sitting room, and through an open door I glimpsed an equally large bedroom.
A woman stood in front of one of the settee chairs. She wore a long white dress with lace around her cuffs. A bejeweled collar with dazzling diamonds covered her neck. Her hair was pulled up in a bun so tight I wondered if the tension could spring loose and decapitate someone. Fine jewels hung from her ears and a large ring adorned her left middle finger.
“My goodness, Lord Nilogh!” the woman exclaimed, using Asher’s formal title. “What a daring rescue! And how well you handled that witch! Shall I call the police?”
“I think she has learned her lesson,” Asher assured her as he set me down on the cushion of the settee couch. He draped his large coat over my shoulders and revealed his own black turtleneck shirt and mid-arm length gloves. Asher knelt in front of me and studied my right hand, the one the witch had held. “Good. The spell was broken.”
The woman clapped her hands. “Bravo, Lord Nilogh! Bravo! Now I know you are the only one who can help me!”
“If we won’t be interrupted, you can begin your story again, Lady Ida,” Asher invited her as he took a seat in the remaining settee chair.
Her eyes flickered to me. “Are you sure-?”
Asher folded his hands together in front of him and smiled at me. “You may trust Miss Miller as much as you trust me.”
Lady Ida cleared her throat. “Yes, well, as I began to tell you, this concerns a certain cream.” She gestured to a small, round container that sat in the middle of the rectangular, wooden coffee table. “That cream, to be precise.”
“And what’s the problem with it?” Asher asked her.
“I believe it is turning me to stone.”

COLLAPSE

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