Five for Friday

Welcome back to today’s special Five for Friday on Lila’s blog, featuring as it does, a second excerpt as recompense for my forgetfulness last week, sorry I meant as a treat to her many, many fans.

Lately we have been exploring the paranormal part of Lila’s canon (the reason for which will become apparent in coming weeks). So without further ado, here’s an excerpt from Kitsune, one of her standalone paranormal erotic romance novels.

On the anniversary of Joe’s mother’s death he breaks his own rules and has a one night stand with an exotic stranger. Sakura is unlike any woman Joe’s ever met: smart, beautiful, and very quirky. That’s because Sakura isn’t like any woman he’s know before–she’s not human. Sakura’s a kitsune, a mystical Japanese fox who can take on the form of a woman, on a mission: help Joe discover his Japanese heritage and make peace with his past. They didn’t say anything about falling in love with him…

Prologue

The young Prince’s shoulders were strong from training with the katana and wakizashi. With his chin held high, he knelt, the tops of his feet pressed flat to the floor. He offered up the prayer of the warrior, though it wasn’t his place to do so. His heart longed for the powerful existence, the honor and savage beauty of the warrior, though that wasn’t what he was.
“I make the heavens and earth my parents. I have no home. I make awareness my home. I have no life and death. I make the tides of breathing my life and death. I have no divine power—”
“That is not your prayer to make.”
The young Prince looked up. A beautiful woman, wreathed in mist, stood before him. She was draped in finery, her kimono of the purest cloth, her veil shimmering white, spun from the clouds that kissed the highest mountain. The Prince rose and bowed.
The woman returned his bow, the epitome of grace in each careful movement.
“You’re not samurai, my Prince,” she said.
The young Prince didn’t want this truth. “I was meant to be.” He spoke to cover uncertainty. He was afraid this woman, so clearly a creature of great magic, knew his fears.
“You’re the heir to the Chrysanthemum Throne.”
“I have no wish to be Emperor.” This was the Prince’s most terrible secret, the God-like existence of the Emperor his greatest fear. He didn’t know that the fear, which made him wish never to lead, was that very trait which would make him a great ruler.
“That is not your choice to make. Your blood and the blood of your ancestors was spilled on the earth to secure the throne. This dictates your path.”
“No.” He filled the words with the fear and venom of youth.
“Do you know what I am?”
He looked her over once more, concentrating on her face. She was Kitsune-gao, fox-faced, with a narrow visage, close-set eyes, thin eyebrows and high cheekbones. The Prince looked at her shadow cast on the floor by the light of the lamps. The dark outline of a nine-tailed fox flickered on the floor.
“You’re kitsune, a fox spirit.”

“Yes.”
He bowed once again to acknowledge this spirit-creature with the respect she was due.
“The Inari grants me a great favor by sending his servant.”
Though his tone showed nothing but respect, his words implied a question. Why was she here?
“There is great concern for you among the spirits. The kami worry over your lack of faith.”
“I don’t lack faith.”
“Yet you think the kami gave you the wrong path.”
The kitsune moved slowly across the floor, brushing past the Prince. His nose filled with the smells of forest and sweet cherry blossoms. He watched her from beneath lowered brows, mistrusting the fascination for her that was growing within him.
“I know only what my heart tells me, and my heart is that of a samurai.”
“You were not meant for the lonely existence of the warrior. Your heart is that of an Emperor.”
“I know my heart. Your words are not true.”
The kitsune opened her mouth. Lightning and fire emerged and struck the walls. The Prince flinched but stood tall in the face of the kitsune’s anger.
“You will be the next High Priest, the tenno when your father passes through to the world beyond.”
The Prince turned his back on her.
“Young Prince, heir to the revered Emperor, you hurt yourself and all of Japan with your refusal to be who you are and to follow your heart. You hide your fear of being Emperor behind the false desire for the life of a warrior.”
A small hand fluttered to land on his back, the slim fingers cupped over his shoulder. It was a bold touch, one of great promise.
“You don’t know my spirit’s will,” he said.
“I do, and I come with an offer from the kami, a gift.”
“Gifts from the spirits must be taken with great care.”
“The Prince is wise to know this. Such wisdom is proof that he is fit to reign.”
He turned to face her, the question of the gift hanging between them. Her hand fell away when he turned, and she lifted it between them. A ball of fire, burning without heat, flicked to life in her palm. Deep in the flames the Prince could see the truths of the world, the beginning and end to all things, the rise and fall of the Chrysanthemum Throne, the heritage of honor, the culture of glory.
He stared, entranced, at the images in the flames.
“Do you see yourself in the flames, young Prince?”
“Yes.”
She closed her hand and the flames winked out. His eyes, dark and bright, met those of the kitsune.
“I’m your gift,” she whispered.
“You?”
“Yes, as wife and companion, as mother to sons and daughters who will grow strong and wise, gifted and protected by the spirits.”
“You’re willing?”
“Yes.”
“Why?”
“Because I see greatness in you, Prince. It will be an honor to be your wife.”
He cupped her cheek, made bold by the idea of possessing such a magical creature, such a beautiful woman. But the Prince distrusted her words, and the gift, though he took pains not to say so.
“Am I to have a wife who lives half a life on each side of the gate that separates the worlds? Does the Emperor not deserve a full wife?”
“I’ll give up my greatest powers to live a human life with you.”
She stepped back, folding her hands demurely in front of her.
The Prince stepped forward, wanting to touch her face once again, but he was stopped. Wind danced through the room, as strong and dangerous as that which fled down the highest peaks, forcing him back.
In the center of the tempest the kitsune stood untouched by the wind. The lamps were blown to darkness. The pale moonlight filtered through the garden arches and cast her in silver and shadow.
In the moonlit darkness the Prince watched the creature of great magic give up who and what she was. Her power evaporated from her body in waves of fire and lightning, then snaked through the air in a sensuous pattern to disappear through the torii gate that stood in the center of the garden.
In the swirls of lightning the Prince saw glimpses of her life with her sister kitsune. He had a brief moment of understanding, of truth, regarding her sacrifice.
The last of her magic fled through the gate to the world of the spirits. The kitsune collapsed to the ground, her soft shawl spilling around her.
The Prince, released from the bonds of the terrible wind, fell by her side and lifted her head to cradle it on his strong arm.
Kitsune, kitsune! Are you well? I don’t even know your name, but I know I love you. I’m sorry you’ve given up your magic for me. Kitsune, kitsune!”
At the young Prince’s heartfelt words the beautiful woman in his arms opened her eyes.
“Fear not, my future husband. I’m well, and though my greatest powers are lost, I have kept some, and will never truly lose my self.”
The young Prince raised her to her feet, steadying her. Without her great power the beautiful woman seemed small and fragile, a cherry blossom buffeted by the wind and rain.
On the day they married, he vowed to always protect her.
On the day their child was born, the earth and sky shimmered with joy, and the Prince, now Emperor, who had grown wise under the care of his beautiful wife, vowed to teach his children to live rightly. He prayed that his children’s children would learn to live the life of their heart and never be swayed from their path by fear.
But as with many wishes and prayers, the Emperor’s faded into time. The child of his child, many times removed, was taken far from the land of white-tipped mountains and lush fields of rice, where he lived a life of fear.

Read more about Kitsune here.

Other International Heat authors with Five for Friday posts include:
Bianca D’Arc,
Jambrea Jo Jones,
Mari Carr and
Rhian Cahill.

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