The day has arrived. All three books in the Prince of Whispers Trilogy are now available in print and ebook!
In celebration of yesterday’s release of Reign of Wicked Temptation, allow me to share the first chapter here for your enjoyment. It’s on sale for 99 cents until August 11th. Grab your copy now. But remember, this cannot be read as a stand alone!
I’ve listed some content forewarnings beneath the blurb. This prince isn’t for everyone. Please proceed with caution. No readers under 18 years old. (This book contains explicit language, adult situations, and violence.)
Darkness hangs over the King of Meradin. Crispin suffers, unaware of the fate of his queen and his most loyal companion. His rage simmers beneath the surface threatening to consume the kingdom and what little remains of his soul.
Nothing is what it seems and he can trust no one. With Ruby and Henry missing, Crispin refuses to address anything besides recovering what belongs to him. He vows the kingdom will not rest until the queen and his trusted steward are returned unharmed.
Crispin’s past actions have led him to this point, and he must face the consequences before peace can be restored to the land. True change comes from within. In order to save Ruby, he will need to make the ultimate sacrifice.
***Author’s Note: If you’re not a fan of anti-heroes with dominating and questionable morals, explicit intimate scenes, or graphic language and violence, then this may not be the book for you. For a complete list of content forewarnings, please visit kirstensblacketer (dot) com and click on the Jen Bradlee tab in the menu.***
A scream pierced the darkness. Henry gasped and coughed, a familiar metallic taste burning his tongue. He groaned and pressed his hands against the cold stone floor. His body ached worse than it ever had after sparring or a long day in the saddle. Worse than when he and Crispin took down a band of thieves on the border, and he earned himself a scar on his side as payment for his good deed. The pain hung heavy around his shoulders, pinning him to the floor. The abrasive stone cooled his cheek. Even as he struggled to right himself, his limbs refused to cooperate.
Henry took several deep breaths and rested, willing his body to function. Where was he? Flashes of the altercation in the forest flickered in the back of his mind. Riding along the moonlit road. The wagon blocking their path. The raiders.
“Ruby!” Henry shouted with the effort it took to push himself up. Where was she? Had they taken her? Killed her? Where was he? The questions trudged through his mind, slowed by the haze of pain radiating through him. His head pounded like a hammer against an anvil, and his limbs ached with heaviness, protesting with every movement. Whoever took them captive must have beat him while he was unconscious. Never before had he experienced such agony ripping him apart from the inside.
The room contained a bed along the wall and a pot in the corner. Try as he might, he could not focus on the items in the room. He blinked attempting to clear his vision. Henry touched his face, covering his swollen right eye. The blur cleared into solid forms. He made a conscious effort to keep his injured eye closed and surveyed the room once more.
A prison cell. The sliver of light came through a thin slat in the solid wooden door held in place with iron hinges. Gripping the edge of the bed, Henry pulled himself up but stumbled at the tightening pressure around his ankle. He jerked his feet, dragging a chain across the stone. Manacles bound his feet, fastened to the wall by a chain.
Fighting against the restrictive bonds, Henry managed to pull himself up and sit on the bed. Another scream pierced the silence. His heart pounded harder, sweat formed on his neck, sliding over his skin and sending a shiver down to his bones.
Henry leaned against the wall in an effort to regain his balance. Nausea overwhelmed him. Had he anything in his stomach, it would have spilled with little resistance. He braced himself as the waves slowly subsided. He pressed his eyes closed, fighting off the instability of his vision. It reminded him of the sea voyage to France where he spent most of the trip bent over the rails unable to stand or eat. This was no voyage. This was far worse than he could have ever imagined.
He licked his cracked lips, tasting the blood caked upon them. He moaned at the sting and longed for the sweet, refreshing kiss of a mountain spring or a dram of mead, anything to quench his thirst and clear his mind.
Another scream echoed from beyond the door and gripped his soul. Ruby.
Ignoring the protests of his body and the limits of his chains, Henry shot off the bed and lunged for the door. The manacles snapped tight, bringing him to an abrupt halt and slamming him down onto the ground. Jarred, Henry struggled to his feet, bracing his hand against the cold stone wall.
Murmured voices filtered through the narrow slat in the door. He could make out nothing but the low cadence of two distinct voices.
“Release me, you sniveling bastards!” Henry shouted. His voice broke mid-curse, hoarse from disuse and thirst.
“You live. What a pity. I had a wager you would die during the night.” A deep chuckle filtered through the slat.
Henry glared with his good eye trying to glimpse his captor, but he saw nothing but a shadow against the wood. “Where is she?”
“The queen is no longer your concern.” The man’s tone implied his malicious intent toward both of his captives.
“If you harm her, I will eviscerate you and leave your rotting carcass for the crows,” Henry growled. His hands balled into tight fists.
“You waste what little breath remains in you.” Even though he could not see the man’s expression, pleasure reflected in his words. “If you persist, I shall be forced to punish the queen for her guard’s inability to follow direction.”
Even though he never relayed Ruby’s state, Henry took this information as a sign she was not dead as he feared. He inhaled deeply, allowing this small shred of hope to fill him with a steadying peace.
“Whatever game you play at, you will not win. The king will come for her.” Henry chuckled at the horrifying image his words brought to mind. Crispin would certainly come, and he would show no mercy. “He will slaughter you with pleasure, as well as anyone who follows your direction.”
“He is inept and consumed by childish, petty distractions.” His captor sounded bored. “The queen and the kingdom are no longer his. History will regard him as nothing more than a stain on the royal bloodlines of Europe.”
“The people of Meradin are loyal to King Crispin and Queen Eleanor.” Strength infused Henry. “This act of treason will not stand.”
Coarse laughter met his statement. “Once the people see the man beneath the crown for what he truly is, a selfish, deceitful imposter hellbent on his own personal gratification at the expense of those around him, they will turn their hearts.” The amusement faded. “Even after he used you for his own perverse pleasure, you stand steadfast in his service. Such loyalty is misplaced.”
A chill coursed through Henry. “My loyalty is mine to do with as I see fit.”
“And your body, does that also belong to you, or does your king control it as well?” The faceless villain tormented him.
Henry shook his head, reigniting the stabbing pain. “I know not what you imply with such venomous assumptions, but I am my own master.”
“You went willingly to his chamber. Indulged in wicked acts with them both freely of your own will?” Hearing it aloud brought shame and uncertainty.
“You rely far too heavily on the whispers of servants and idle gossip.” He swallowed the fear rising in the back of his throat. His chest tightened as the walls around him crept closer.
“The truth matters not. Rumors and gossip foster revolution. The people will demand a king who will not desecrate their kingdom for his own wicked desires.” The captor tisked. “’Tis better if you concede defeat. No one is coming. Death will bring the relief you crave. Freedom is merely an illusion.”
Before Henry could respond, the sound of receding footsteps echoed beyond the door.
“You son of a bitch! You will burn in hell for this, mark my words!” His throat burned from the effort he expended. He screamed and the anguish escaped, sliding off the stone and filling his soul with grief. How could he have allowed this to happen?
He should never have taken Ruby out of the castle. He endangered them all with his careless actions, and they now suffered the consequences of his poor decision. Ruby was alive, for the moment. That alone gave him comfort, and yet he knew that comfort would be short-lived. Whoever captured them had much larger plans than he first assumed.
Their captor intended to use the queen to force the king’s hand. They would take the throne by force. Blood would fill the streets if he successfully turned the people against the monarchy. Those who were loyal to Crispin would suffer.
He could not focus on something out of his control. First and foremost, he needed a way to escape and steal Ruby away from this madman.
Henry rested his head against the wall. Who could possibly want to tear the kingdom apart? There were many who disliked Crispin and wished to remove him from the throne. But none he knew of were brazen enough to invoke his wrath by taking the queen. Ignoring the pain and his thirst, Henry took what tools were given to him and replayed the events leading to their capture. If all he had was time, he would use it to the best advantage. There was always hope, even if it felt helpless. If only he could force himself to believe it long enough to survive.
With the release of The Prince of Whispers Book 3, Reign of Wicked Temptation, I wanted to share some mood boards and tropes to expect with this series. If you’d like to read more about these books and grab a copy, check out this page:
Here is a sneak peek at the second book of The Prince of Whispers Trilogy, Seduction Most Wicked. I’ve listed some content forewarnings beneath the blurb. This prince isn’t for everyone. Please proceed with caution. No readers under 18 years old. (This book contains explicit language, adult situations, and violence.) Releases on July 12th. Enjoy…but be warned, this book ends on a cliffhanger. Book 3 releases August 9th.
With Ruby by his side, Crispin Saville takes his place on the throne as King of Meradin. The first months of his reign are fraught with rumors of treason and deceit. Crispin and Henry, his trusted ally, search the kingdom to root out those who threaten the stability of the monarchy.An unexpected guest shakes the foundation of Crispin’s kingdom, setting off a series of events which could destroy not only the kingdom but his hard-won bond with Ruby.Deception runs rampant within the walls of the castle. Secrets and lies infiltrate those closest to the king. Ruby uses her influence to calm the raging tempest inside him, but his wicked heart may be stained beyond redemption. It will take more than love to save his soul and the future of Meradin.
Contains: Still Morally Gray Hero, Possessive Hero, Questionably Poor Decisions made by Secondary Characters, Dubious Consent, Explicit Sex Scenes, Mature/Graphic Language
Was Crispin dead?
The concern for her husband’s life weighed as heavily upon her as the bounty once had. Ruby wrested herself from those distracting thoughts, determined to focus on the task before her. The harvest festival would take place within a fortnight and much of the planning remained. There was no time to worry about something over which she had no control. She wandered among the tables in the great hall, her gaze skimming over the selections brought for her approval by the villagers to decorate the town.
Two moons passed since her marriage and the coronation, and still, she could not find comfort in her new position. While she knew her life as queen would not be as exciting as her life as an outlaw, it granted her small windows of opportunity to place her mark upon her kingdom without being branded a traitor. She longed for the freedom of the forest, but the path that lay before her bound her both to Crispin and the people of Meradin. This truth proved unshakable.
“Have you made a decision, your majesty?” The servant girl, Ivy, stepped forward. Her hands folded demurely in her lap, eyes downcast.
“I have not.” Ruby waved her hand across the selections. “I am indecisive. They are all beautiful in their own way. Perhaps you could offer some perspective, Ivy.”
Ivy’s gaze snapped up to meet hers. “You wish for my opinion?”
Ruby regarded her with a smile. “Aye, I trusted your judgment when it came to my trousseau, why would I not grant you the same leave when it comes to decorating for the harvest festival?”
“I am your humble servant, my queen. Truly.” Ivy hesitated when the door opened behind her and Vivienne entered the room. “I do not wish to overstep the bounds of propriety.”
“How in heaven would you selecting some garland be overstepping?” Ruby inclined her head to Vivienne who came to a stop beside her.
“I agree.” Vivienne brushed her fingers over the woven garland. “Which would you choose, Ivy?”
“This greenery would stand out the best against the individual stands with the red and gold accents. These garlands would be best around the inner and outer bailey.” Ivy itemized each piece placing it perfectly in the mind’s eye. When she finished, she bowed her head.
Ruby motioned to the other servants. “Take these with instructions for the villagers to have more made for the celebration.” The weight on her shoulders lightened with the decision. She turned to Ivy. “My thanks for your help. I am confident in your selection.”
“As you wish, your majesty.” Ivy bowed and followed the other servants out of the room bearing an armful of garlands and fabrics.
Once the solid doors closed leaving her alone with Vivienne, Ruby collapsed on a nearby bench. Longing and exhaustion clawed at her chest. She gazed at the vaulted ceiling wishing it were canopied expanses of blue sky.
“Come, my dear.” Vivienne ventured toward the staircase leading into the heart of the castle.
Ruby pulled herself to her feet wondering where Crispin’s mother intended to take her. They wove through the corridors and passed Crispin’s chambers. Her heart ached. She missed him desperately.
The day after the wedding, Henry’s family disappeared from the capital of Culver without taking their leave. They gave no indication as to the reason for their sudden departure. Even though Ruby felt nothing but relief at their absence, Crispin and Henry immediately banded together in his private chambers only to emerge and leave the castle the next morn, abandoning the tournament which was to be held in honor of their marriage. He kissed her thoroughly before leaving without a word of explanation.
After two moons passed, the only assurances of his safety she received were from the messenger relaying information to the privy council. Part of her resented him for departing with such haste and shrouding his intentions in secrecy.
Vivienne stepped through the archway leading to Crispin’s personal garden. The flowers faded on the vine, retreating from the burgeoning chill of the approaching winter. Ruby brushed her fingers over the bruised petals.
“Come, let us tarry a while.” Vivienne sat on the stone bench against the wall and gestured for Ruby to join her. “Speak to me, child. I cannot offer comfort if you do not unburden your heart.”
“My apologies.” Ruby settled onto the bench and leaned against the wall.
“I do not want your apologies, I desire to know what thoughts plague you.” Her soft voice held no censure, only concern.
“I cannot help but wonder if I have made a mistake.” She toyed with the gilded hem of her gown. “I made a much better outlaw than I do a queen.”
“You judge yourself quite harshly.” Vivienne took her hand.
“’Tis the truth. I may be of royal blood, but deep in my breast beats the heart of an outcast.” Ruby attempted to collect the chaos of her thoughts into coherent reasoning. “I cannot even make the simplest of decisions in preparation for the festival, how am I going to influence the kingdom?”
“You are adrift in an unfamiliar sea. I understand.” She nodded with sage understanding. “Even though I was raised in the court from birth, I had not been the first choice. With three elder sisters, my parents placed low expectations on my marriage ever forging a strong political alliance.”
Ruby studied her profile as she spoke. Everyone knew Queen Vivienne was the Bavarian cousin of Catherine of Valois. But these intimate details of her past were not something often discussed among courtiers. Vivienne knew better than to foster any gossip of the royal courts.
“The first time I saw Edgar, I wanted to strangle him. He paid me no mind, focusing all his attention on my elder sister, Sophia. They were engaged within a fortnight.” Vivienne chuckled at the memory. “Before they were to leave my parents’ estate and return to Meradin for the wedding, Sophia eloped with the stable master’s son. My father offered me as a replacement for Edgar’s stolen bride.”
“Against your will?” Ruby bit back the fury of indignation on her mother-in-law’s behalf.
“Not completely against my will.” Vivienne winked with a grin on her lips. “I seized it for the opportunity it was. A chance to become queen and exert some influence, even if it came through my husband. Although, I found myself floundering the first few years. Nothing prepared me for the reality of wearing the crown.”
Her story tugged at Ruby’s heart. “So there is hope for me?”
Vivienne drew her close and pressed a kiss to her head. “Aye, my child. There is hope for you still. Do not be disheartened. I shall instruct you, should you need it, but trust your intuition. It will not lead you astray.”
“How can you be so certain?” Doubt fluttered in the pit of her stomach even though the words bolstered her confidence.
“When you were in the forest living as an outlaw, which did you rely on more, your training or your intuition?”
Ruby pondered the question for a long moment, but the answer formed in her mind immediately.
“You saw my son in trouble and acted on intuition alone, relying on your training to come naturally.”
“Aye.” The reasoning behind her assessment soothed the chaos in her mind.
“Even with all the training in the world, it means nothing if you do not trust your intuition. It will guide you to the right path, as it always has before.” Vivienne’s gracious smile warmed her.
“My thanks for your words of wisdom.” The restless unease in Ruby’s soul settled leaving just a smidgen of lingering doubt deep in the pit of her stomach.
“I have faith in you, my dear. One day, you will be the regaled as the most beloved queen in all Meradin’s history.”
Ruby snorted at the statement but covered her mouth quickly. “My apologies. I did not mean to laugh.”
“You will see. One day.” Vivienne stood and brushed her hands over her fine crimson velvet skirt. “I have some things to attend. Perhaps you should take some time to rest in your chambers, you look pale. Have you been eating?”
“Aye. I have not slept well since Crispin departed.” Inside, relief washed over her. She was exhausted but did not wish to retreat from her duties. “A rest will do me wonders.”
“I understand. I shall send Ivy with some warm broth.” She paused in the doorway and glanced back at Ruby. “And do not fret, my dear, Crispin will return soon. Lord knows you will need your strength for when he returns.”
Ruby’s face warmed at the implication of her words. After their wedding night, the entire castle witnessed the ferocity of Crispin’s desire for his bride. The thought of his return left her body warm and planted a desperate ache deep inside her.
Once she reached her chambers, she freed the pins from her hair and loosened the plait before lying on the coverlet. Images of her husband floated through the haze of her memories. His wicked mouth on her skin. His teasing fingers parting her folds. His body fitting perfectly to hers. Ruby’s breathing came in shallow bursts as the restless ache consumed her.
A knock at the door pulled her from her sensual thoughts.
“My queen.” Ivy entered the room bearing a tray. “My apologies, I did not realize you were abed.”
“’Tis no matter.” Disappointment replaced the aching need. She rose from the bed and settled in the comfortable chair beside the hearth.
Ivy placed the tray on the table beside her. “Will you require anything more, your majesty?”
“Nay, I shall be quite content.” She lifted the bowl to her lips and sipped the broth. Her stomach twisted and lurched against the scent, making her flinch.
“My queen.” Ivy knelt beside her upon observing her distress. “Are you well?”
“’Tis nothing more than a passing pain.” She pressed her hand against her midsection and groaned. “The taste does not bother me, but the aroma leaves me ill. Perhaps I should have some peppermint tea.”
The maid studied her for a long moment, her sharp gaze narrowing. “I shall fetch it now.”
Ruby nodded, bracing her head in her hands. The door closed behind Ivy leaving her alone with her thoughts once more. She attempted a few more sips of the broth, but the scent became more unbearable. With a groan, she pushed it away and returned to the bed.
Lying down seemed to soothe the persistent discomfort, but removing the scent eased the churning in her abdomen even more so. Ruby rubbed her hand over her stomach. A tendril of fear crept into the back of her mind.
When Ivy returned, she urged Ruby to sit up in bed and made her comfortable by propping cushions around her before providing the steaming mug of tea. The pungent mint immediately soothed her. It brought memories of her childhood with Marian and Guy to the surface. A tendril of homesickness wove around her heart constricting it. How she missed them. Perhaps she should send for Marian to come visit. She possessed ways to ease her concerns when all others failed.
“My queen, I hope this is not forward of me, but I am concerned for your health.” Ivy met her gaze directly. “Shall I send for a healer? Or perhaps the Queen Mother?”
Ruby sipped the tea. “I appreciate your concern, Ivy. But I do not wish to cause anyone undue worry on my account. I am perfectly well.”
Ivy fidgeted with the hem of her kirtle but her gaze remained steady. “Ma’am, ’tis possible you are with child.”
Hearing the words aloud voiced the fear she refused to acknowledge. Ruby pinched her eyes closed and conceded. “Aye. ’Tis a strong possibility.”
“Such news should be cause for celebration, should it not?” Ivy asked, her green eyes bright. “The king will be overjoyed at the news of an heir. The whole kingdom will celebrate!”
Ruby grasped Ivy’s hand and held it tight. Fear pulsed through her, threatening to tear her in two. “Promise me you will tell no one. Not a soul. Not until…well, until I am certain.”
Ivy took her hands between her own, her expression softening. “I promise, my queen.” A frown pulled at her mouth. “But you must at least inform the Queen Mother. She will understand your plight.”
“I will think on it.” Ruby swallowed hard not allowing herself to consider the implications of the conversation with Vivienne. “I do not wish to give her false hope.”
“A child is a blessing.” Ivy smiled, and her face transformed, revealing a hidden beauty.
“Aye.” Ruby took another sip of her tea. How had such a lovely maid escaped the notice of every man in the castle? The passing thought made her pause, but she pushed it away.
A child would be a blessing if only she could be certain of who the father was. Even though she had been faithful to Crispin, one night created chaos and conflict in her mind. Her body warmed at the memory of being blindfolded. The touch of two men. The pleasure they wrought with little effort. And the shame that stalked her every day since.
She hung her head. Could it be possible this child belongs not to the king but to his closest friend and confidant? The thought alone left her filled with a writhing agony. What if the truth somehow emerged? Was it not treason to betray the king? To tarnish the monarchy with this blatant infidelity. Would Crispin consider such a revelation treason?
“All will be well.” Ivy took the cup from her hands and set it on the bedside table. “You will see. The king will return soon and all will be well.”
“I do hope so.” Ruby settled back against the cushions and closed her eyes.
“If you require anything, I shall be in the kitchens.” Ivy retrieved the tray with the bowl of uneaten broth.
“Grammercy, Ivy. You have been a gift from heaven during the king’s absence.”
“I live to serve you, my queen.” Ivy bowed and left the room.
“What am I to do?” Ruby whispered against the coverlet, clutching the fabric tight. The sound dissolved in the empty room. “I cannot tell Crispin. I cannot tell Vivienne. Where else can I turn?”
Panic consumed her in waves. Slowly it pulled her down into the darkness of her deepest fears. If this child were not truly the heir of Meradin, what horrors would Crispin unleash upon her? Even though the events of that night were of his ministrations, his command, would he still blame her for fostering a bastard in her womb? She buried her face against the cushions.
Unable to quell the rising panic, Ruby rose from the bed and darted into the hallway. With determined steps, she wandered the corridors until she located Mina, her young maid, outside the king’s presence chamber.
“Fetch the swordsmith’s apprentice, Matthew. Have him meet me in my chambers. Quickly.” Ruby kept her voice low.
With a nod, Mina darted down the hallway and around the corner.
Ruby returned to her chamber and paced the floor near the window overlooking the inner bailey. The autumn wind rattled the thick pane of glass. Her hand settled on the curve of her stomach. Truth be told, whoever the father of this child, she would treasure it regardless. She would defend and protect it until her dying day.
A knock at the door shook her from her thoughts, and she bid them enter.
“You summoned me, your majesty?” Matthew bowed low. His young face smeared with dust and dirt. His rough hands twisted his cap.
“Aye, Matthew. I require you to travel to my mother’s cottage and bring her to the castle post haste.” A calm settled in the depths of her soul as she issued the directive.
“At once, ma’am.” Matthew bowed once more and retreated from the room.
Ruby detested using the young man as her own personal messenger, but she trusted no one more than she did the young blacksmith. She came to the aid of his family on multiple occasions and gave him a position within the castle to ensure his family a comfortable life. In response, they swore fealty to her. A fact she chose not to exploit. However, in her desperation, she required someone who could be trusted completely and knew where to find Marian.
Until she spoke to her mother, she would remain in her chamber. Vivienne would certainly be understanding and supportive if she chose to trust her with this revelation, but she required the comfort and advice of a woman who knew the depths of her soul like no one else.
Marian would know what path to take. How to best reveal the news to Crispin and the kingdom. But this conversation would entail revealing the sinful details of the night of passion spent with both Henry and her husband. Could she face the shame of revealing such information to her mother?
She bit her lip. Perhaps she had been hasty in summoning Marian, but it was too late. She would need to reveal the truth sooner or later. If anyone could understand without passing judgment, it would be her mother.
After retrieving her now cold tea, she settled before the hearth and stared into the flames. The moments drifted away until the sun set beyond the window and darkness filled her chamber. When Ivy arrived with some bread and dried fruit, she nibbled on the fare and found it fortified her without making her ill.
Before she drifted off to sleep, Matthew arrived breathless at her door. “I did as you commanded, my queen. But the cottage was empty.”
Disappointment gripped her heart but it also gave way to relief. “My thanks, Matthew. Please find something to eat in the kitchens before returning to the smithy.”
“Many thanks, ma’am.” His youthful grin infected her with hope.
Once Matthew took his leave, Ruby prepared for bed. On the morrow, she would visit her mother. Crispin was not present to dictate the boundaries of her royal prison and determine whether she could leave the castle grounds. She would take two guards and make the journey without incident.
For the first time in weeks, a sense of peace settled over her. Perhaps she merely needed to escape the confines of these stone walls. Ruby could not run forever, but she could embrace the opportunity to forget for a while.
Comforted by her plan, Ruby nestled beneath the blankets. Soon Crispin would return, turning her whole world upside down once more. While she longed for his return and the comfort of his touch, his presence hung like a shadow over the castle.
In truth, they were still so little acquainted and newlywed. There was still much to learn from and about one another. But one thing she knew for certain. She would never be able to keep a secret from the King of Meradin. Especially not one with such monumental consequences.
Crispin has commanded your presence. Will you deny him?
Here is a sneak peek at the first book of the infamous Prince of Whispers. I’ve listed some content forewarnings at the bottom of the page. This prince isn’t for everyone. Please proceed with caution. No readers under 18 years old. (This excerpt contains explicit language, adult situations, and violence.) Releases on May 10th.
The dirt and stones scuffed his boots as he ambled down the moonlit road. Where are you when I need you, Henry? Crispin lost patience two villages ago. He had been denied a horse, so he walked from the castle he once claimed as his home. The villages near the castle knew his face, so he had wandered into the night in a dark state of mind knowing he must find shelter far from the familiar.
The glimmer of lantern light through the trees signaled a village. He sighed. Hopefully, this one had a whorehouse. He needed a warm body and a good fuck to ease his tension. He rolled his shoulders. A bath would not be remiss, either. Perhaps he could charm one from the wench he intended to persuade to share his bed. Crispin had not checked his coin, but he thought it would be wisest to save what he could.
Crispin grinned when he saw the telltale sign of a brothel. He slipped in the door and took an empty seat by the fire, waiting for service. One of the wenches approached him, sliding her hand up his arm and over his shoulder.
“What can I do for you, love?” she asked, her voice husky. She was plump and ripe, her reddened lips begging with a soft pout.
“I shall take an ale and whatever else you are offering.” He charmed her with a smile.
The wench slid into his lap and toyed with the hair curling at the nape of his neck. “With a smile like yours, ’tis a wonder you have to pay for women to grace your bed.”
“Perhaps I tire of the games that requires.” He slid his hand along her hip, under her skirt. “How about you retrieve my drink,” he whispered as she leaned against him. His fingertips glided over her cleft. “Then I can show you what other games I know.”
She moaned as he touched her. Wet and willing. He smiled. She would suit his purposes quite nicely. He removed his hand and helped her stand. She wobbled a moment before disappearing into the back to fetch his drink.
Crispin glanced around the room. Men and women mingled in various stages of undress. He chuckled. It was almost freeing for once in his life to be in a room and not be the center of attention. He noted the women’s sly looks in his direction. He grinned. Perhaps this would not be so bad after all.
The wench returned, handing him a goblet filled with amber liquid. He took the drink and downed it in one swallow. He reached up to pull the woman into his lap when she was suddenly snatched away.
“Oi, let me go,” she demanded, pulling against a tall, brawny man’s hold. He had a scar running along his right cheek and a dangerous gleam in his eyes.
“You are mine tonight.” He pulled her tight against him, his voice harsh and demanding.
“I am otherwise occupied.” She tried to jerk from his grip, but he brought her up short.
Before Crispin could interject, the back of the man’s hand connected with the woman’s face, knocking her to the floor. Eyes wide, she clutched at her cheek and scurried backward away from them both.
Crispin stood, infused with rage. Such an action was not to be tolerated. “Leave her!”
The whole room fell silent.
The man turned to Crispin, rage contorting his face. “What did you say?”
“I told you to leave her alone.” Crispin rested his hand on his dagger. “She is with me.”
“She is my whore.” The man spat on the floor. “Stay out of it.”
“Do you belong to him?” Crispin addressed the cowering woman on the floor. She shook her head vehemently. He glanced back at the man. “Seems like the lady disagrees with you.”
“Lady? She is a fucking whore.” His guffaw echoed through the room.
“That does not mean she deserves any less respect.” Crispin’s body pulled tight in response to the tension brewing in the room as it readied for a fight. He licked his lips. “Get out.”
“Who do you think you are barking orders and issuing commands? The king?”
Crispin thrust his jaw out. He grew tired of the man’s insolence. In one swift motion, he twisted the man’s arm behind him and threw his weight into his back, sending him crashing to the floor. When the man scrambled to get up, Crispin kicked his backside, knocking him over again. As the interloper attempted to stand, two men came up to them.
“Janos, go home. You have had enough to drink tonight,” one of them said. The other reached for the hulking brute’s arm, but he jerked it from his grasp.
“You and I have a debt to settle.” He pointed at Crispin then stumbled out of the building. The other two men followed him, making sure he had gone.
Crispin offered his hand to the wench, helping her to her feet. He gently moved her hand and saw the red welt below her eye where the brute had struck her. He clenched his teeth.
“Are you well?” His soft question made her relax beneath his touch.
“Aye,” she replied with a shaky smile. “You saved me. I thank you.”
“I can think of another way for you to show me your thanks.” Crispin slid his hand over the top of her breasts, cradling one in his palm. She moaned as she met his gaze.
“Of course, good sir.” She licked her lips. “It would be my pleasure.” She grabbed his wrist and pulled him toward the stairs.
A hand clamped down on Crispin’s shoulder. He turned, coming face to face with one of the men who had tossed out the rabble.
“We are going to need you to leave as well, sir.” His stern tone invited no argument.
“You cannot be serious.” Crispin shook his head in disbelief. “Can I not at least reap the reward for rescuing this fair wench?”
“Not unless you would have me summon the sheriff. We cannot allow such troublesome clients to remain in our establishment.”
Crispin bit his tongue before he betrayed his true identity. It would not do for him to be cast from his father’s house, a whorehouse, and his homeland in a single night. He swallowed his scathing retort and turned to the wench clinging to his arm.
“My regrets, darling. It seems I must take my leave.” He pulled her in for a kiss, tasting what might have been, and released her. She pouted, the disappointment evident in her expression.
“I believe I can find my way out.” Crispin glanced at the men moving to follow him. He walked out the door, drawing it closed behind him.
The night lay shrouded with a thick, misty fog, dimming the glow of the lanterns outside the brothel and encircling the rest of the small village. He ran his hand through his hair. So much for a willing woman and a warm bed. Agitated, he ruffled his hair again.
Crispin stepped down onto the street when four men stepped from the darkness, surrounding him. The two flanking him grabbed his arms, while the third wrapped his arm around Crispin’s throat from behind. He thrashed against their grasp, but they were huge, hulking beasts. He was outmanned and outmaneuvered. God’s blood, teeth, and bones.
“You and I have unfinished business,” the fourth man said, stepping into the light, allowing Crispin to see his face.
“You bloody bastard.” Crispin struggled against their hold. “I will have your head for this. Do you have any idea who I am?”
“The pompous arse who stole my whore.” Contempt dripped from the man’s words. “I do not give a cock’s crow who you are.” He threw a punch, and it landed in Crispin’s stomach, knocking the air from his chest. “But you are going to pay.”
Crispin jerked, trying to break free, wheezing. The man holding his head released him but stood like a solid stone wall against his back. He had to defend himself, but there were too many of them and they were far too strong for him to take them on alone. Three more blows landed in succession, two to his midsection and one cracking across his jaw. Pain shot through him as the warm, metallic tang of blood filled his mouth.
“That the best you got?” Crispin spat. He knew it would only enrage the beast more, but he never backed down, even in the most hopeless situations.
The man threw another punch, square in the chest over his heart. Crispin thought it ceased beating with the blow. The world spun as he gasped for breath, doubling over. The men held him steady. Crispin coughed, spewing blood onto the man’s shoes. The assailant grabbed a handful of his hair and jerked his head back. He winced before narrowing his gaze. Never show weakness.
A yelp of pain from the man on his right was followed by Crispin’s sudden release. A moment later, the second man released him, clutching at his arm as he stumbled backward. The man behind them backed away as if sensing something was not right. Crispin stumbled forward, trying to catch his breath. His eyes watered from the pain throbbing in his head. He glanced up and saw the man who had been pummeling him standing as still as a marble statue. The shaft of an arrow glinted in the lamp light from where it protruded from the man’s chest. The beast pitched forward, and Crispin scrambled out of the way, slamming onto his back on the ground.
He lay there, staring up into the starlit night catching his breath. A figure stepped into his view wearing a dark cloak with the hood pulled up.
“Are you going to lay there and bleed?”
Crispin’s head pounded. Those blows must have affected him more than he had thought. Was it a woman’s voice? Surely not. He tried to sit up and wobbled at the motion.
“Help me up, damn you.” He held out his hand.
With a derisive snort, the cloaked savior helped him to his feet. Crispin draped his arm across the man’s shoulder, steadying himself.
“Come, we must away before the soldiers arrive.” The stranger’s voice was strong and steady, but it most definitely belonged to a woman.
“Wait.” Crispin protested, but the stranger pulled him deeper into the shadows.
“There is no time.” His savior helped him onto her horse then swung up into the saddle behind him. With a nudge, the beast was off, hurtling through the darkness. Crispin’s head ached. The jolting pace of the horse did nothing to ease his discomfort, but it could have been worse. The stranger’s arms around him made him acutely aware of the lithe body pressed against his back. It was a woman, he would stake his life on it. In silence, they rode into the night away from the village. He would demand answers once they reached wherever the hell they were headed if he survived the ride.
Content Forewarnings for His Wicked Whispers: Morally Gray Hero, Jealous/Manipulative Hero, Questionable Menage, Dubious Consent, Light Bondage, Explicit Sex Scenes, and Mature/Graphic Language.
Once upon a time, I had an unquenchable addiction to Tumblr and roleplaying fan fiction for multiple fandoms. Fortunately for my writing career, it was short-lived. But not before I stumbled across this gem of a blog.
Before you click that link, let me warn you. Some of those posts are highly NSFW and dark, which makes sense, considering they’re about our favorite trickster god, Loki. Proceed at your own risk. I’ve only included a tame one on my blog, but check them out later if you’re so inclined.
First, let me tell you how this blog inspired a trilogy.
There I was, minding my own business, when one of these whispers floated across my screen. I was already a fan of Tom Hiddleston and Loki, but this sparked something different in my mind.
I heard a voice speak to me. No, not speak, whisper. He convinced me to write a few of his whispers down, and from that evolved a full character: Prince Crispin Saville.
The more I explored his whispers and his character, the deeper it drew me into his world. I created Meradin, a small kingdom among the already established kingdoms of the era, placing it where Ireland, Wales, England, and Scotland all converged. Crispin vowed to rule this land even though he was not the first born son of the king. He took on a life of his own complete with strong opinions and no moral compass to guide him.
I created Henry to provide him with an external conscience at the very least. But it was Ruby who gave him a reason to mature and grow.
Alas, he does neither of these things during the course of the first book. However, books two and three provide him with ample opportunity and motivation to examine the state of his soul and set his feet on the proper path. I shall give no spoilers, but I will provide a gentle reminder that while he may be brash, selfish, callous, and spoiled…he finds redemption for all his faults in the end. But they come at a cost.
Loki heavily influences Crispin’s character. If you’re a fan of Tom Hiddleston’s portrayal of the Norse god, then Crispin will charm you. But I will reiterate my warning. He is not a good man, nor is he a moral one. There are some scenes that will leave you with conflicting emotions and a thousand questions. Fear not, there will be resolution by the end of Book Three.
This trilogy was difficult for me to write because it’s different from the other books I’ve written. The tone and theme are darker. In the beginning, the hero is unlikable. The conflict woven throughout is heartbreaking. So, after writing the first book, I chose to publish it under my pen name, Jen Bradlee, for fear it would alienate my readers.
Unfortunately, life got in the way, and I could not write the subsequent two books until last year. I never intended for it to take this long to finish.
Determined to give this series the best possible success, I revisited the first book with fresh edits, a new title, and a few adjustments. I also had pretty new covers made for all three books. Once called, The Prince of Whispers, Book One is now His Wicked Whispers, and I’m releasing it on May 10th.
Seduction Most Wicked, Book Two, releases on July 12th, and Reign of Wicked Temptation, Book Three, will release on August 9th.
I kept the pen name as an homage to the author I was then. But Jen and Kirsten’s styles have morphed into something similar, so I no longer felt the compulsion to keep them separated any longer. Although I may not publish as Jen Bradlee with nearly the frequency I do as Kirsten in the future, there will be a few stories that fit Jen’s personality much more than my own. So, I’ll keep the possibility of publishing more stories as Jen Bradlee open for the time being.
It amazes me how one simple meme can ignite a story idea that transforms into something like this: A trilogy with characters who take on a life of their own in a world of my imagination. Inspiration can be a fascinating thing.
Now, go check out that Tumblr blog if your curiosity is gnawing away at you.
If you’re looking for a wicked hero to take you on an epic adventure, join us. The Prince of Whispers awaits your presence, and when he whispers, you will come.
I have far too many projects releasing this year, but I can’t help it. These stories demand to be told. So, I’m offering a little teaser of the first chapter of the first book in my medieval trilogy. His Wicked Whispers is Book One and releases on May 10th. It’s being published under my pen name/alter ego Jen Bradlee. Without further ado, allow me to introduce you to Crispin Saville, the Prince of Whispers.
A knock sounded through the chamber. Crispin fumed. How many times must he remind them to leave him alone after the evening meal?
“I will not be disturbed!”
“Your highness.” A strained voice echoed through the solid wooden door. “The king wishes to speak with you straight away.”
His cock wilted at the mention of his father. He glanced at the door, willing the man behind it to burst into flames.
“I am coming!” He tossed the whip down and glanced at the naked wench on his bed. “Cover yourself.” He strode to the door and opened it. “This had better be a matter of life and death. I gave clear instructions I was not to be disturbed.”
“I beg your pardon, your highness.” The servant bowed. “I explained your request to the king, but he insisted you be summoned immediately.”
Crispin inclined his head, agitation clawing at his spine. “Well, I would hate to keep him waiting.” His words dripped with sarcasm.
The king only demanded his presence when he wanted something. He frowned, feeling the crease deepen between his brows. The only time anyone had use for him was when they desired something of value.
The servant led him to the king’s presence chamber and opened the doors. Crispin sauntered into the room bearing an air of boredom and disinterest. The servant closed the doors behind him as he exited. The king sat behind his desk, reading a roll of parchment, oblivious to his presence. He cleared his throat when the king continued to ignore him.
“You required me to attend you, yet you do not speak.” Crispin bit back the other words threatening to spill from his lips. Over the past several weeks, his father had shown him nothing but contempt. He had returned victorious from a quest and was met with utter disregard. He straightened, watching his father take up a quill and write upon the parchment before him. His father’s fair hair bore no sign of his age.
Crispin ran his hand through his own auburn locks. He resembled his mother, while Francis—he let the thoughts of his brother drift away and focused instead on his growing irritation with his father.
“I did.” The king spoke slowly, not lifting his gaze from the parchment before him. “You have put me in an awkward position.” He finally met Crispin’s gaze. “I am forced to make a difficult decision.”
“I am unaware of what you refer, Father.” Crispin grit his teeth.
“You know damned well what you have done!” The king rose from his seat and slammed his fist down on the massive wooden desk. He stalked around it, approaching Crispin. His dark gray eyes shone with exasperation and conviction.
Crispin swallowed hard and straightened, keeping his attention fixed on the far wall. He refused to make eye contact with his father. Why should he care what the peasants thought of him? He was the rightful heir to the throne, chosen by God to lead them. He smirked, allowing his arrogance to bolster his courage.
“She informed me she was unattached. How was I to know she was the visiting duke’s wife dressed in peasant rags?” Crispin dropped carelessly in the chair beside him, swinging his legs over the arm.
“Do not pretend you had no inkling as to her identity. Why must you constantly behave like a self-indulgent child?” The king leaned against his desk, arms crossed, his gaze narrowed on Crispin.
“Because I am—at least according to you.” He had grown tired of the lectures and his father’s constant ridicule.
“Crispin.” The king rubbed his forehead. “This is precisely why I sent Henry away. If you do not learn to control your baser impulses, I will be forced to cut you from your inheritance and give the crown to the next in line, your cousin Fredrick.”
His head snapped up at the mention of Henry and the implication of the king’s words.“Father, you cannot be serious. You would deny me the throne? My cousin, the bumbling fool, has neither the presence of mind nor the fortitude to rule a nation.”
The old man shook his head. “I have done all I can to lead you, to show you how to rule as a true king should, but you simply refuse to acknowledge the basic tenets of leadership.”
“I have done all you have asked of me, Father.” Crispin ground his teeth and shot to his feet, pacing the worn rug. “Surely you must see this is ridiculous.” He ran his hand through his hair tempted to tear it out in frustration.
The king’s gaze followed him. His lips pulled in a thin line and his face remained stoic. “I have tried to be a good king and father, but as of late, all my attention has been dedicated to appeasing nations you have insulted with your careless and selfish behavior. The people have suffered because of this, and I must set things to right. Unfortunately, disinheriting you may be the only course of action to ensure the safety of my people and the realm.”
“You cannot take what is mine!” Crispin’s voice rattled the ceiling timbers. “It is my birthright! I will have what is owed me.” He jabbed his finger at the king, punctuating each word.
“It was not your birthright; it was your brother’s!” His father’s restraint finally snapped like a dead branch beneath a boot.
“He is dead!”
His mother’s voice boomed behind him making him turn. She stood inside the door, her hands clasped before her. The dark blue gown emphasized the color in her cheeks and the dark auburn braid wrapped intricately around her head. The stern set of her lips and the concern in her eyes enhanced her regal bearing. Crispin cursed himself for not realizing she had entered the room, but then she made it a point to tread lightly until the opportune moment. He dropped his hand and met her gaze.
“Mother.” He greeted her with a slight bow. Fury still raged inside of him, boiling and roiling in his mind full of dark thoughts. He would definitely need a good, mindless fuck to release all this repressed anger. Maybe he would start a fight; sometimes that worked just as well. He allowed himself a small, wicked, satisfied grin.
“I know the gleam in your eyes, my son. It betrays the mischief in your mind.” She cocked her head and stepped closer to him, cupping his face with her palms.
Crispin leaned into her warm touch. Her unwavering belief in him touched his calloused heart, but it never swayed him. He stiffened and reached up to slowly draw her hands from his face.
“I appreciate your concern, Mother.” He took a measured step out of her reach. “But I am a man grown, I believe I know my own mind.”
She nodded with tears glinting in the corners of her blue eyes. “’Tis what concerns me, darling.”
The king held his hand out to her, and she joined him, leaning into her husband’s warm embrace. They formed a united front. Crispin crossed his arms, irritation flooding him.
“We are sending you on one last mission to see if you truly are ready to take your responsibilities seriously.” The king spoke with confidence and conviction. “This is your last warning. Failure will result in your banishment.”
Crispin arched his brow, silently challenging his father. “Is this the worst you can do? Banish me from my home and abrogate my God-given rights.”
“I will strip you of your title, your station, and your wealth, and cast you out of my kingdom. Then you may live as you choose. As you are right now, you are unfit to wear a crown.”
His father’s words stuck like an arrow piercing his heart. How did they expect him to change overnight? Could he even change at all? Crispin refused to let emotion creep into his expression. He affected a cold mask of indifference.
“What is this mission?” His voice remained level and calm while the storm raged in his breast.
“A taste of what you can expect if you fail.”
“I beg your pardon?” Crispin glanced between his mother and father. “What will this accomplish?”
His mother spoke this time. “You will travel within our borders, unescorted and penniless, with only the clothes on your back and the people you meet for companionship.”
“And you expect me to survive when they discover who I am?”
“You are not permitted to reveal your true identity. You are to survive using only what you bring with you as a man alone against the world.” The king’s limiting instructions seemed ludicrous.
“Father, surely you jest?” Panic crept into his chest, constricting his heart with its iron grip.
“You know I am not one for games and tricks, Crispin.” He narrowed his gaze. “Those are traits you favor. I doubt they will serve you well on your mission.”
“When may I return?”
“When you have learned what it is to lead and serve in tandem. When you realize a king has duties which lie beyond these walls and his own selfish indulgences.” The king’s voice grew more passionate with each statement. “When you fulfill your destiny and become the man I know you can be.”
Crispin’s hands clenched into fists as he listened to his father’s words. He would do what he must. Deep in the corner of his mind, he realized the futility in arguing. He was not a good man at heart and refused to conform to the mold in which his father expected him to fit. He nodded even though he burned to argue the uselessness of such a challenge.
“Yes, Sire.” His jaw clenched. If he unleashed his anger now, his father would surely banish him without a second thought. It was for the best he follow their request. “Is there anything else you require of me before I take my leave?”
“Know that we do this out of love,” his mother said softly. “Be the leader we know you were born to be.”
With a stiff nod, Crispin turned his back on his parents and strode from the room without a backward glance. If they were so eager to be rid of him, who was he to defy their orders? He swiftly returned to his chamber and found himself alone.
The wench had gone. He cursed. Part of him had hoped to find her still wet and willing in his bed. He ran a hand over his face. The night had quickly turned sour.
He changed into sturdy traveling clothes and packed a small satchel with some essentials. He hoarded some coin, so he tucked what he could into his pocket for safekeeping. Strapping the belt around his waist, he buckled it and slid his sword into the scabbard. He tucked the daggers away, one into the sheath at his hip and the other in his boot. One could never be too prepared. Crispin headed for the door, snatching his heavy woolen cloak from the hook and draping it across his shoulders. He took one last, long glance at his warm bed and his opulent room then disappeared into the night.
Once upon a time, I was a baby author with big dreams. I knew nothing of the publishing industry or marketing. All I wanted to do was write my romantic adventures and bask in the glory of my success. Unfortunately, I’m still working on those big dreams, but I have learned quite a bit over the years. It’s been a growth process, that’s for sure. There have been many suggestions and recommendations from many in the industry. But there is one I embraced early in my career which I feel must be addressed now.
My pen names.
Yes, names, plural. I write under the name Kirsten S. Blacketer, but I also write similar romance under another name. Jen Bradlee.
At first, it seemed wise to have two names in order to better manage the two distinct types of stories I wanted to tell. But I quickly realized managing two names meant keeping up with two blogs, two sets of social media accounts, two emails…you get the picture. Poor Jen fell to the wayside as I poured all my focus into Kirsten over the past few years. This wasn’t the only evolution.
When I first started writing, my writer’s voice for Kirsten was much different than Jen’s. Kirsten embraced the lighter side of romance focusing on humorous banter and adventure, while Jen drifted toward the morally gray heroes, like villains and anti-heroes, focusing on their darker journey. Make no mistake, Kirsten and Jen are two halves of the same writer.
Over the past ten years, my two author voices have grown to sound quite similar. Both of them write steamy historical and contemporary romance. Both test the boundaries of expectation. And both have the desire to reach new readers, which is why I am making this announcement.
From this day forward, Kirsten S. Blacketer and Jen Bradlee will be a team, promoting each other’s work. Kirsten S. Blacketer writing as Jen Bradlee, to be specific. Kirsten existed first, but her desire to write daring, dastardly anti-heroes and redeem villains gave Jen Bradlee a voice and an outlet.
It must sound strange to hear an author speak about herself in such a manner. But trust me, I am completely sane. This is how authors are. If you’re lucky enough to have one in your life, you know. So trust me when I say, I am both writers simultaneously. I like to say Jen is the side of me you see when I’m comfortable around you. *wink* Take that as you will.
I’ll be closing Jen’s blog and posting all updates for both names under this website/blog.
If you’re curious how I chose the name Jen Bradlee, well my darlings, you’re going to have to wait for that blog post. It deserves to have its own headline and spotlight.
Why did I choose to continue publishing as Jen Bradlee instead of republishing it under my name? Well, I couldn’t stand to part with the pseudonym since it holds such a special place in my heart. I may be a sentimental fool, but it is a part of who I am.
Since I have unmasked my alter ego, I am free to announce the good news.
Jen will be releasing a medieval trilogy this summer. Crispin Saville, the famed Prince of Whispers, will be returning from his hiatus and finishing his adventure in grand style. If you’re prepared for a steamy, mysterious, romantic, and dramatic medieval adventure, then please…check it out. They’re available for pre-order now, click on the buttons for the descriptions.