About the Book
Title: Ariella’s Escape
Author: Carolee Croft
Genre: Epic Fantasy Romance
Ariella had always believed that the life of a warrior should include indulging in wine and men whenever they were on offer… And in Chaldea, the capital of the old empire, they certainly were.
Especially the man she finds in her bedchamber, a slave provided by her hosts to entertain her in any way she wishes.
But when betrayed and surrounded by enemies in a strange land, there is only one man she can trust—the slave who was meant only for her pleasure but is much more than he seems.
Demetrius had been captured in a battle at the age of fifteen, and slavery was all he had known in his adult life. When his chance for freedom comes along, his fate is bound to the noble warrior maiden whose voice and body he cannot resist. Duty calls him to return to his kingdom, but the journey will take him places that will change him forever.
Together, they make their way through a den of thieves and an enchanted elf forest, but the biggest danger of all may be their fiery attraction to each other and the secret that will draw a dividing line between them.
Enchanted by romance on page and screen, I have always tried to write my own versions of the perfect fairytale. As for real life, I believe I may have already found the man of my dreams, but I still haven’t found the dog of my dreams. Currently, I’m obsessed with Italian greyhounds. I can usually be found enjoying the outdoors or relaxing with a good book on the west coast of Canada.
Connect with Carolee:
It was strangely reassuring to know that he was not Chaldean, judging from his sun-bronzed skin, fine eyebrows and long brown hair, a shade so dark it was nearly black. And his eyes… like two pieces of a summer sky. She had always been a fool for a blue-eyed man. Judging by his elegant speech, very likely, he came from a noble lineage but was held here as a hostage to ensure peace with another kingdom.
“Then what is it, my lady?”
He sat down beside her on the bed, the scent of some innocent field flower with something more heady and musk-like tempting her to get closer to his bronzed body. She tried to discern his age… late twenties perhaps. His forehead was unlined, but there was something about him that made him appear older, a world-weariness perhaps behind his charming and carefree disposition.
There had been one or two times when she had bedded a man after less conversation than this, but this was strange territory with too many possible complications, and she could not afford to indulge herself on a whim. There was also his status to consider. As a slave, he was obviously not free in his choices, and she could sympathise with that. Ariella knew she would loathe being ordered to “entertain” guests in this manner were she in his place.
“Do my looks please you?” she asked tentatively.
“Yes,” he replied, a slight hoarseness in his voice.
His eyes scorched her, and she had to look away.
“It’s just that… I do not wish you to do this merely out of a sense of duty…” she said softly, “that is… if you did not want to…”
“My lady, I want to,” he said.
“Now tell me the truth, Demetrius,” she asked, a smile playing at the edges of her lips, “Did the king send you here to find out my secrets?”
“The truth…” he lay back, cradling his head in his hands, a pose that the huge muscles of his chest stand out even more. “The truth is, this is a gesture of hospitality. But yes, he did want me to report anything you might say in regards to the negotiations. However, I don’t believe that he was interested in any information regarding your swifthounds, so that secret is safe with me.”
Ariella burst out laughing. She wanted to playfully slap his shoulder, but she was afraid of where it may lead.
“I knew it!” she exclaimed, “But does he really expect me to spill the muckpitts to you, especially when you’ve just told me of his plan?”
“I admit, I find it rather far-fetched myself,” he replied, “but then again, when I’m embracing you in the heat of passion…” he scooped an arm under her and rolled her over to face him, “who knows what political secrets you might reveal.”
When he had first seized her in mock abandon, she laughed, but then feeling the embrace of his strong arms around her, seeing his face just inches from her own, she suddenly froze, not wanting him to let go.
“It’s doubtful I will reveal anything,” she said slowly, “but we won’t know until we try, will we?”
They lay there facing each other, and he still did not let go. This seemed so wrong, Ariella thought. She knew she was in danger here, and that this man could very well be posing as a friend to gain her trust, though she knew not for what purpose. The ease with which he confessed to being sent to her bedchamber as a spy was suspicious, or on the other hand it could mean that he was no spy at all, that he was only teasing her.
She couldn’t read much in the clear blue fount of his eyes, more liquid than fire now, except a strong yearning for closeness.
His lips were slightly open, just inches away from hers. She realized she was now beyond any reasoning. She leaned into him, inhaling that ravishingly innocent smell, and her lips just lightly touched his.
Ariella suddenly wondered if she had had too much to drink after all, for in that moment when their lips had barely touched, she felt as if his lips were the most sensuous, delicious lips she had ever kissed.
As if disbelieving her own senses, she pulled back for a moment – though a moment long enough to see he looked as overwhelmed as she was – and then her lips encountered his once more, with a more determined pressure… Ariella was completely lost in the kiss, which sent the whole room spinning and the blood rushing through her body in a furious tempest.
Ariella was supposed to enter onto the stage to begin the scene. Her hands were trembling, but she took a deep breath and commenced walking towards the low stage. One small step brought her up to Demetrius’ level, and he pretended he had just sighted her.
“What do I see?” he exclaimed, his smooth voice carrying well to the back rows, but not so loud as to be overwhelming. “Are you a spirit? A ghost sent to torment me for my misdeeds? Why do you take on the shape of one so dearly loved, who has too soon departed from this sad earthly abode?”
He had spoken his lines with great conviction, but then, just for a split second, he dropped his act and winked at her with his right eye, unseen by the audience.
Ariella took another couple of steps towards him.
“I am no spirit,” she replied.
“But I received word that you were dead…”
“That is what I wanted everyone to believe. But I did not drown. When I fell in the river, I breathed through a reed and swam away, and then I waited for you to regain your kingdom.”
The audience laughed at this facile explanation for Aurilia still being alive.
“I did so,” Demetrius continued, unfazed, “and I avenged my father’s death. Now we can be together, my beloved.”
He embraced her, and suddenly his mouth was claiming hers, and she nearly forgot where she was. After this, the dialogue ended, and it was all up to them. Ariella was breathless, from the kiss and her nerves. But she buried her face in Demetrius’ long dark hair, determined to carry on.
“We can do this,” he whispered to her.
She squeezed his hand in thanks.
Still hiding her face from the audience, she trailed kisses down his neck. The scent of his skin, which still held whatever perfume it was he had used in the palace, now mingled with sweat and the pine smell of the forest. It enticed her to lick his skin, to lose herself in his kisses and his caresses.
The thought of being watched melted away as passion coursed through her body. She was much more aware of being slowly undressed, the laces of her tunic unwound, of Demetrius removing his silken robe and pressing her against his broad chest.