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Excerpt for The Spellbound Anthology by , available in its entirety at Smashwords



SPELLBOUND

(A Short Story Anthology)



Presented by D. L. Biranen

Copyright © 2018 D. L. Biranen





No part of this book may be reproduced, or stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or of the author. This eBook is licensed for your enjoyment only. It may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this with others, please purchase additional copies for each individual. If you are reading this book and did not purchase it, or if it was not purchased for your use only, please return it to smashwords.com and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.



Copyright © All Authors Named in This Book: D. L. Biranen, C. N. Obinna, Ciana Joy, Louisa R. Griffins, Ihuoma Emmanuel

All rights reserved. The stories in this book are the property of their authors, in all media both physical and digital. No one, except the owners of this property, may reproduce, copy or publish in any medium any individual story or part of this anthology without the expressed permission of the authors of these works.



5 alluring short love stories that'll leave you spellbound

5 enchanting protagonists you'll love to love

5 passionate authors you'll enjoy knowing

And a bonus short story

All in one piece!

Get ready to be gripped . . .



Click on these titles and let us take you on a mind-blowing journey



Spellbound, #1: Spellbound

Author: D. L. Biranen

Description: Content with being single, Prince Grayson of Elslair thinks he's barricaded his heart from unwanted visits by maidens, and has no interest in his parents' attempts to fetch him a bride. But when he meets a mysterious maiden in the forest, he aches to make her a part of his life.



Spellbound, #2: Hearts and Misses

Author: C. N. Obinna

Description: To Adam Macaulay, Love only existed once: years ago. He'd kept his heart locked, hoping to one day find his first and only love. He did, but soon found out that absence doesn't really make the heart grow fonder.



Spellbound, #3: Love Doesn't Care

Author: Ciana Joy

Description: When love happens, nothing else matters. This story is centered on Elsie and Kelvin, two people from different worlds who decide to close the gap between them and fight for their love. There is an adage that says, 'love conquers all'. Will their love be enough to convince Elsie's father, a wealthy senator who is not ready to release his daughter to someone without an influential background? Flip through the pages and find out.



Spellbound, #4: Finding Wonder

Author: Louisa R. Griffins

Description: When childhood acquaintances meet again after years of separation, the feelings that have dwelt in them for so long come to the surface. Jonathan Drake, an antisocial billionaire finds a long-awaited companionship in the eyes of Marissa Greene.



Spellbound, #5: Falling Petals

Author: Ihuoma Emmanuel

Description: Elumer, a young lad in a land of different beliefs and customs, gets exposed to love and the raw changes that come with it. When family, religion, and distance meddle with his love life, he fights back for what he wants.





Spellbound, #1

SPELLBOUND

By D. L. Biranen



Dedication



This book is dedicated to my best friend whom I call Chu-chu(berry).







A Cinderella Inspired Short Story . . .



***

Grayson McFarland hid behind a tree almost three times his size. The tree bark was harsh against his tender skin, but he didn't seem to notice. And even if he did notice, there was nothing he could do. He had not gathered enough boldness to come out of hiding just yet. His gaze traveled past rows of trees and were fixated on his item of interest: a girl, not just any girl, but one who'd held him spellbound since he saw her two days ago.

He'd first seen her on a Monday, he recalled. He'd left home to take a stroll around the forest and get acquainted with nature, and had ended up getting intrigued by a lady who had not even for once glanced in his direction.

Grayson had never been entranced by a girl, and his parents would be overjoyed to know that a girl had occupied his mind for the past few days. They'd been trying to get him hooked with princesses—the most beautiful ones—but their efforts had never been fruitful. The twenty year old Prince of Elslair had apparently barricaded his heart from unwanted visits by maidens. Or so he'd thought.

He watched her from a distance, a smile tugging at the corners of his lips. Singing a beautiful song, his lady of interest gathered some fruits into a basket. He sang along in his heart:

Look at her, she's free

She can do just whatever she wants to do

She can go just wherever

Doesn't care if it's far

She's up for every adventure

She'll cross every sea

The world is hers to explore

She sails high 'nd low

'Cause she's queen

Nothing to hold her back

Nothing to lose

She's the queen of the world.

He knew the lyrics all too well, for it was the same song she'd been singing the first day he met her; the same song that had made him aware of her enchanting presence. The mysterious maiden held him spellbound in more ways than one.

Yes, he found her mysterious. Her palms hid behind black gloves, and she was clad in a lackluster floor-sweeping black gown that was no different from the one she'd worn every other day. He hated to admit it, but her dress was as shapeless as a sack. Hell, it wouldn't even be fitting for an old hag to clothe herself in the likes of it.

But these weren't what made her mysterious.

Her hair was dark as midnight, straight as a ruler, and its tip hung just above her waist. It seemed to have never met a razor.

But this wasn't what made her mysterious either.

What made her mysterious was the way her hair formed a solid curtain, perfectly concealing her face. It seemed as though the wind was scared to ruffle her hair. He'd been watching her for two days and was yet to catch a glimpse of her face. He knew she would be a sight to adore, and it pained him that he still had not found the courage to speak to her.

He didn't know what he wanted; friendship or courtship, but he did know that speaking to her would sure be worth it. Hell, he was a prince and could have anything he wanted. At times like this, he couldn't help but wonder why he had not inherited even an ounce of his father's courage. Walking up to a girl shouldn't be this hard for anyone, especially a drop dead gorgeous prince who happened to be every maiden's daydream.

Clearing his throat, he stepped out of hiding and inched his way toward her. He’d intended to be stealthy, but the crunching of dry leaves underneath his knee-length leather boots alerted the maiden of his presence.

She gasped, and his heart lurched in response. Without turning around, she darted off, seeking to escape him as though he were a hideous monster. Red apples rolled out of her basket, leaving a trail behind her, but she ran on without slowing her stride.

"Wait!" Grayson shouted after her, trying to catch up. It’d been close to a decade since he last ran, and he knew it was futile to try to catch up with the maiden. He hoped though, that she would halt and give him a chance to speak.

His breath hitched and his lungs burned. His loud heartbeat and an overpowering shortness of breath slowed him down, but he ran on.

“Wait!” he yelled. “Wait, please. I won’t hurt you.”

A tree branch grabbed the skirt of the maiden's dress, forcing her to halt. Grabbing a fistful of her dress, she tugged at it, but the tree branch held on to it.

Grayson drew nearer to her. He raised his hands and showed her his palms, wordlessly assuring her she was safe with him. "Hey, I can help."

If she tugged at her dress any further, it would rip. Grayson would be pleased to watch her ruin the sack of a cloth, but as a gentleman he was obliged to help a damsel in distress.

She pulled at the dress once again, ripping off its rim that had been caught by the branch.

Grayson had held out a hand, stepping forward to stop her, but the harm had already been done. The maiden resumed her race, and he bolted after her, paying no attention to the ground.

His foot got caught underneath a log of wood on the ground, and he tripped. He fought to regain his footing, but still he tumbled over and his buttocks landed heavily on the ground.

"Ouch!"

The maiden froze at the sound of his anguished cry. She turned to look at him, and a tingling sensation flooded his veins as their eyes met. She tactfully angled her head in a way that concealed her identity behind her hair. Turning away from him, she ran off.

But Grayson had already seen her eyes. They were amber.

He smirked. "Quite mysterious, aren't you, my lady?"



***

When Grayson McFarland returned to the forest the next evening, he was certain he would find the maiden. He hid in his usual spot, listening for her footsteps. He was cautious to stay well hidden because he knew she would be at alert after what had happened the previous day.

Darkness was starting to spread across the sky, and there was no sign of Grayson's mysterious lady.

Perhaps she wouldn't show up after all.

He sighed. He'd spent the previous night practicing how to approach her.

Perhaps she would never return to the woods because she saw him as a threat? His heart trembled when he thought of that.

"Darn it!" he muttered, slamming his palm into the tree bark. "I should call it a day."

He turned to leave.

But he halted as a familiar singing voice sailed into his ears from a distance.

Gluing his back to the tree bark, Grayson grinned. His maiden was here.

Her voice drew nearer, filling him with warmth. He had resolved in his heart to get close to her today, and would not settle for less. His heartbeat picked up pace as he thought about a way to approach her.

He imagined stretching out his hand. "Hello, beautiful. I am Grayson McFarland, Prince of Elslair."

He shook his head. "Can we be friends?"

No, he doubted she would even let him get close enough to speak to her. She would flee the moment he approached her.

"Halt!" he imagined saying. "By order of Grayson McFarland, Prince of Elslair."

He heard her gasp.

His heart froze, and he thought she'd caught him. He stayed immobile, waiting for her to speak or bolt.

"Cursed twig!" she cursed.

Grayson peeked at her and found her squatting. The fruits she'd gathered had fallen to the ground, so she leisurely picked them up.

Grayson smiled as he saw an opportunity. She had her back to him; that was an advantage.

He thought of tiptoeing to meet her, but on a second thought, he walked confidently. Crouching, he picked up an apple.

The maiden sprang to her feet. "Who are you? Why are you after me? Please, don't hurt me."

Her voice quivered with fear, and she kept her gaze fixated on the ground. Her voice was one he'd never get tired of listening to.

"Hurt you?" Grayson asked. "Why would anyone do that? I mean why would I? I'm not a monster."

He dropped the apple into her basket.

She stepped back. "Please, just go away."

"Hey, I'm not a monster, I assure you. I just want . . . "

What did he even want? He had no idea. He combed through his hair with his slender fingers and let out a sigh. Talking to a maiden should never be this awkward.

"Look, can I use your company?" he asked.

She shook her head. "No, no, please don't ask that of me. I am not allowed to talk to you."

"Me?" he asked. "Do you know me?"

He regretted his question right away. Of course she knew him; everyone did. He was a prince after all, the third most important person in Elslair.

"No," the maiden said. "I've never seen you before."

Although her answer startled him, he bottled up his emotion and watched her speak on.

"I'm just not allowed to talk to anyone. My mother will kill me if she hears I spoke to a man. I'm not even allowed to look at you."

Grayson chuckled. "Are you kidding me, lady?"

"Please, just go away!" she yelled. "Stop stalking me. My mother will know I saw someone. She'll punish me gravely. Please . . . "

It was improbable that she was joking. Grayson knew at this point that she was dead serious. She was visibly trembling.

Although he could not see her face, he could deduce through her voice and her physique that she was a teen. She was probably sixteen or seventeen, but definitely not eighteen.

"You don't have any friends, do you?" he asked.

She shook her head.

He smiled, reaching out his hand for a shake. "Congratulations then, you have just made your first friend."

"Are you deaf, sir?" she asked. "Or is it that you are so eager to get me into trouble with my mother?"

"Of course not," he said. "Why—what?"

"Please, just leave me alone. Forget we ever met."

"It would be impossible to forget talking to you."

"I should be home by now."

"Fine then, I'll walk you home."

"No!" she shrieked. "No, you can't do that. You'll get me into trouble."

Grayson smirked. He knew at this point that he had her wrapped around his finger. "Well, my lady, you don't have many options. It's either you let me walk you home, or . . . "

He trailed off. He wanted her to speak before he continued.

"Or what?" she asked.

He smiled broadly. "Or you dance with me."

After a few pensive moments, she sighed softly. "If I dance with you, you must let me go and never bother me again. You must forget we ever met, ever talked, ever danced."

Grayson smiled inwardly. No way in hell would he agree to that.

"Shall I have this dance?" he asked, bowing.

"Just get on with it already!" she snapped.

Grayson swallowed a lump of uncertainty. He had never danced with a girl, and was uncertain about the first step to take.

Letting his uncertainty melt away, he held her hand in his. His other hand tentatively snaked around her, pulling her a tad closer. He'd seen dancers pose this way, so he knew he was on track. The swaying, he believed, would come naturally.

And it did.

The traditional ballroom dance was a tad awkward and forced at first, but after the first few steps, the awkwardness died down, and they danced gracefully, with a fluidity that made it seem like they'd spent a lifetime rehearsing the dance.

It was true after all, that with a great dancer, anyone—even a rock—could dance. They swayed back and forth, slowly and rather romantically, to a music playing in their heads.

He'd requested for a dance with the hope that he'd be able to catch a glimpse of her face, but it was even more impossible because she exerted more effort in concealing her face. The ease with which she tactfully stayed hidden, even at such close proximity, baffled him beyond imagining. He longed to see those beautiful amber eyes once again.

She seemed so distracted, so engrossed in the dance, and he was tempted to part her hair and behold her beauty. But he knew that would ruin the chance of ever being her friend.

Being with her made him feel complete. He'd always known that something was missing in his life. Although he had everything, there had always been a gaping hole, a depressing void he'd always overlooked. But being with her made the void nonexistent. If he could have a chance to dance with her every other day, his life would be paradisiacal.

She fitted her head in the crook between his neck and shoulder, where it felt more comfortable. Although this position made him give up on seeing her face during the dance, he wasn't complaining. He savored their closeness. Her face was against his skin, and he ached to be as close to her as he could get.

He'd end the dance with a dip, and she would be unable to hide her face then. He smirked at his intelligence.

He shifted his attention to the texture of her skin. She felt so soft and fragile in his arms, making him want to protect her from the person she was so afraid of. She was unmistakably a damsel in distress, and he would be her knight in shining armor if only she let him.

If only.

She suddenly stopped dancing. "I must go now. My mother . . . "

She slipped out of his arms and stepped away from him. He prayed she wouldn't sprint like she had the other day.

"Please, may I know your name?" he asked. "I'd like us to meet again . . . to do this again . . . someday."

She picked up her basket, and he grabbed her left hand just as she made to flee. She snatched her hand out of his hold, stripping it of its black glove.

Grayson's eyes bulged as they feasted on her ungloved hand.

Her fingers. . .

He blinked to make sure he had seen correctly, and in the split second he'd closed his eyes, she fled.

"Inara!" a hoarse feminine voice called.

The maiden ran in the direction of the voice, her dress flaying in the wind.

Inara? That was her name?

"Wait!" Grayson shouted after her. He knew it would be pointless to try to catch up, so he made no attempt to. He watched her as she ran to meet a maiden her age and they sprinted off. With the maiden’s pitch black hair and slender build, she and Inara looked quite identical from behind. Grayson would be fooled if they were dressed in matching dresses and he was asked to choose his Inara from behind.

Grayson smiled. "Inara."

He gently held her glove like it were an egg and would crack if he held it tightly. Raising it to his nose, he sniffed it like it were a rose. It did smell like a rose. He made a mental note to return the glove when next he saw her.

She needed the glove to conceal the lifelong mark of inhumanity her left hand bore.

Her ring finger had been chopped off, barely even leaving behind a stump.

Grayson had never beheld a more disturbing sight. He wondered who could have cut off her finger and why. Was it the same person she was so afraid of?

Her mother?

He recalled her words and the way her voice had wobbled with fright.

'My mother will kill me if she hears I spoke to a man. I'm not even allowed to look at you.'

'My mother will know I saw someone. She'll punish me gravely. Please . . . '

'Are you deaf, sir? Or is it that you are so eager to get me into trouble with my mother?'

'I must go now. My mother . . . '

He had heard tales of evil parents cutting off their children's fingers to force them into obedience. For close to a decade, his father the king had tried hard to stop such bestiality in the land.

Whoever had chopped off the maiden's finger would have to pay for such gross malevolence.

Now, Grayson had a reason—other than mere attraction—to keep stalking the maiden. He needed to rescue her from an apparent slavery.

He would not rest till the offender faced the wrath of the law.



***

"Wow, Gray!" Reynolds exclaimed. "Are you sure you didn't conjure up this girl in your head?"

Grayson had been conflicted about telling anyone about Inara. He'd finally opened up to Reynolds Alexander, his cousin, who had come to spend a few days with him. They had been born on the same day, and would be twins if they shared the same parents. Still, they were as close as the most identical of twins could ever be.

After listening to Grayson talk on and on about his maiden of interest, Reynolds still wasn't convinced of her existence. He had spent the past few minutes arguing that Inara was just a fragment of Grayson's imagination.

Reynolds continued to voice out his disbelief. "You possibly didn't expect me to believe a thing like this, or did you?"

"I assure you she does exist," Grayson argued.

"Right. And you are attracted—"

"Intrigued," Grayson corrected. "I am intrigued by her. She's the most fragile maiden I have ever beheld, and yet she seems strong enough to war with the world."

"For a maiden to breach your barricaded heart, she must be pretty strong." Chuckling, he added, "Perhaps a descendant of the Greek Amazons."

"I want to prove to you that she exists," Grayson said. "You must come with me to the forest. She goes there every evening to gather some fruits."

"Why are you so interested in me meeting your mysterious maiden?"

"I just want to prove to you that she isn't a fragment of my imagination but a real person."

"And perhaps you're hoping I'd have a word with her on your behalf because you are totally—blindingly enamored. I am many things, dear brother, but I do not interfere in matters of the heart."

Grayson smiled. "Alas, when did I ever ask that of you?"

Reynolds returned Grayson's smile and they proceeded to the door. Thinking to himself, he shook his head. "I would never have believed that Grayson McFarland was so big in the stalking slash enamoring scene."

Grayson led Reynolds to the forest and they waited at steep side behind a tree. They were careful to make no noise so Inara would be unaware of their presence when she arrived.

Grayson pulled out her glove from his pocket and eyed it longingly. He would return it to her today.

"Is that hers?" Reynolds asked.

Grayson nodded. He sucked in a deep breath. "I'd give anything to dance with her again."

But it might be a long time before he even saw her again.

For the first time since their first encounter, she didn't show up. And for the next few days, the two cousins kept visiting the forest, hoping to see her, but it seemed as though she had suddenly disappeared from the land.

Grayson was starting to question her existence. Perhaps Reynolds had been right about her being an imaginary being.

But the glove . . .

He raised it to his lips and kissed it softly. It smelled of her; it was a soft yet intoxicating scent he couldn't seem to have enough of. It gave him the strength to keep holding on to the hope of seeing her again.

"Perhaps we should relax and look forward to the ball," Reynolds suggested.

Grayson's parents had organized a ball with the belief that a fair maiden would catch his eye. Although he had told them not to, they had gone ahead with their plan. They'd organized two other balls in the past, but he had attended none. And the thought of attending the next ball had not even crossed his mind.

"I am not interested in getting a wife," he retorted.

"You're not, huh?" Reynolds advanced to Grayson who stood beside his bedroom window, staring outside with indifference. Patting Grayson's shoulder, he said, "Look, Gray, every maiden is to be present at the ball. It's the king's order. I'm sure she will be there."



***

Every eligible maiden was to be present at the ball. It was the king's order, thus Reynolds was right to believe his mysterious maiden would show up.

It was the day of the ball.

Grayson sat majestically beside his parents. He didn't want to be here, but he had to endure watching overly excited maidens try so hard to win his favor.

He'd been observing every maiden at the ballroom for no less than an hour, but none looked like his Inara.

Maidens had tried to dance with him, but he had turned them all down. He would dance with no one but Inara.

He raised a goblet of fine wine to his lips and sipped it leisurely, with his gaze fixated on the door.

He sipped his wine again, assuring himself she would come. Every maiden had to obey the king's order. Failure to do so would be an act of defiance, and no one wished to defy the king.

The queen turned toward Grayson. "May I have the honor of dancing with the Prince of Elslair?"

"The prince does not wish to dance, your majesty," Grayson said.

"You can't deny an old woman a chance to dance with her only child, Grayson," she said. "It's not proper."

Old woman? Queen Margarette was anything but an old woman. She had seen no more than three decades, and still had her youthful vigor intact.

It had been close to a decade since Grayson last danced with his mother. He'd be honored to indulge her.

The queen's eyes twinkled like excited stars. "Shall we?"

Grayson smiled. "Sure, your majesty."

Rising to his feet, he took her by the hand and led her to the dance floor.

"We should do this more often, son," she said, positioning herself for the dance. "It would be a shame for the prince to be as stiff as a monument when he finally decides to dance with a lady."

Smiling, Grayson sank into retrospection. If only she knew. He lifted his eyes toward the entrance just in time to see a maiden walking in hand in hand with her mother.

He gasped. "Inara."

His hands slipped away from his mother and his feet found their way to the maiden. His eyes were transfixed on her, and not even the stares of dozens of eyes all around the ballroom could free him from her spell. Although he'd never seen the face of the maiden who'd stolen his heart, he believed the maiden before him was no one but her.

"Inara?" he asked.

Smiling shyly, she looked away. There was no mistaking it was her. Her hands were gloved, as always. Her long hair was as onyx as he remembered. It held a luster that could only mean she'd oiled it. He was pleasantly surprised. He admitted to himself that she looked different. Gorgeous. That was the only word to describe her.

Without a word, he took her by the hand, and without requesting he danced with her. She obliged. He could tell she wanted to be with him just as much as he wanted to be with her.

She'd felt soft and fragile in his arms when they'd danced the other day, but today, she seemed a tad different. Her sways were less gracious than he remembered. But he wasn't complaining. He concluded she was awkward with crowds. He had no doubt she was his Inara. Her eyes were as amber as he remembered. It had to be her. She stole glances at her mother as they danced. Her disposition was far from calm and relaxed.

Grayson looked back at Inara's mother. He caught a smile on the woman's face, far from the wolfish visage he'd expected.

He recalled Inara's fear. 'My mother will know I saw someone. She'll punish me gravely. Please . . . '

Something didn't seem right.

"Are you okay?" he asked Inara.

He needed to hear her voice. She'd only said a few words to him on their previous meeting, but her voice was one he could never forget.

Once Inara opened her mouth to speak, her gaze darted to her mother, and Grayson caught a stern look in the woman's eyes. Shutting her mouth, Inara nodded.

Grayson could smell a bold threat in the air. He suddenly didn't feel like dancing anymore. "It's stuffy in here."

He grabbed Inara's hand and led her toward the exit to have a word with her. He was eager to take her somewhere secluded, away from her mother's watchful eye, where she could be herself.

Once again, she turned to look at her mother. Grayson noted. They seemed to be discussing with their eyes, in a language he could not grasp.

He heaved a sigh of relief as they stepped out of the ballroom and embraced the fresh air outside. Inara gripped the balustrades and looked up at the full moon. She didn't for once glance in Grayson's direction and seemed to have forgotten his presence.

"I'm glad you came," Grayson said. Turning her to face him, he tilted her face upwards so her eyes were fixed on his. "Inara, I've been longing for another opportunity to see you. I visit the forest day after day, hoping to see you."

Inara's brows darted upward and her eyes widened.

Grayson chuckled. "Yeah, I know I sound like a hopeless romantic."

He reached into his pocket and pulled out her glove. "Here. I wanted to see you again so I could return this.

"Thank you," she said, her voice a breathy whisper.

"May I?" he requested.

Nodding, she tucked her hair behind her ear and offered him her left hand. Grayson took her hand in his. Just as he made to strip off the glove she currently wore . . .

"Stop!" her mother screamed, storming toward them. Her eyes darkened like furious clouds.

Grayson paused. "Is there a problem, madam?"

"Clarissa Devin." Advancing to him, the woman outstretched her hand for a handshake. She seemed uneasy.

Grayson stared at Clarissa's outstretched hand. He would have to let go of Inara's hand to accept the handshake, and he had no such intention.

Instead, he nodded. "It's a pleasure meeting you, Mrs. Clarissa."

"The pleasure is all mine," she said. Flashing him a brief smile, she turned toward Inara. "I apologize, Prince Grayson, but I'll have to steal Inara away for a moment."

She gripped Inara's hand and pulled it away from Grayson's. But just before Inara's hand slipped away from his, he felt her fingers. They were . . . complete?

Impossible, he thought.

"Who are you?" he asked. Without awaiting an answer, he yanked off her glove and was taken aback at the sight of her five fingers.

He looked back at her face. She was definitely not his Inara. But she'd pretended to be. And her mother had readily starred in the beguiling drama. Who were these people?

At this stage, he didn't care about anything anymore. Waiting for his Inara would only bring him heartache because she would not show up, and he might cross paths with yet another imposter.

Storming into the ballroom, he announced, "Sorry, everyone, this party is over!"

He thought briefly about Mrs. Clarissa and her daughter. His mind's eye zoomed in on the girl's physique, and he concluded she must have been the girl who'd called Inara in the forest. She shared similar features with Inara in a way that suggested they could be sisters. Mrs. Clarissa had to be Inara's mother, the woman who'd cut off her daughter's finger to force her into obedience. Of course she'd carefully selected her ring finger to ensure that no man found her worthy of wearing his ring.

Now, Grayson could clearly see why the woman and her daughter had fooled him into believing he'd found his Inara. They must have somehow discovered Inara had met the prince, so the woman had come with her favorite daughter with the hope of beguiling him. She’d apparently tried to stop him from taking off her daughter’s glove just so he wouldn’t know of their grand foolery.

If his deduction was right, then his Inara was in grave danger. He hoped they hadn't hurt her already. Eager to save his damsel in distress, he marched toward the exit, ignoring the hushed whispers around him and his parents’ disgruntled voices.

"Grayson McFarland, not another step!" his father barked.

Grayson halted. He knew his parents were heartbroken that he'd disappointed them once again, and he understood their hurt. But this wasn't why he'd halted.

He'd halted because in the doorway stood Reynolds, and with him was a maiden; a teenage brunette. There were no words to describe her beauty and splendor. Just one look at her enchanting amber eyes and he felt his life soar toward completeness.

This was his Inara.

"This party is just getting started," Reynolds said.

Grayson smiled. He advanced toward the maiden, calculating each step. Slipping her hand away from Reynolds', Inara ran to embrace Grayson. He hadn't seen this coming, and was taken aback by her straightforwardness as opposed to the backwardness she'd displayed on their previous encounters.

She burst into tears. "Please, save me from her. Don't let her hurt me again."

Grayson hugged her warmly. "You are safe, Inara. She will never hurt you again. And I assure you she will pay for all she's done to you. You have my word."

He gave her a moment to assimilate his words, after which he asked, "Do you want to dance with me?"

She chuckled. "Do you?"

"Yes, Inara."

"Then do me the honor, my prince."

Her voice was like fine wine, intoxicating him so he could think of nothing else. He'd give anything to hear it for the rest of his life. Once again, their togetherness made him feel complete. Before her there was nothing, and he didn’t want to go back to being nothing. He craved getting used to the luster she had introduced his otherwise plain life to. And at that moment he knew he wanted her to be a part of his life; he would make her his.

But first, he would have to make her mother pay for her bestiality. Clarissa Devin would publicly face her retribution so it would serve as a warning to all who took pleasure in maiming their fellowman as a depraved act of discipline.



The End



About The Author



D. L. Biranen is the last of four children. Inspired by her brother, she has had an undying love for fiction from an age she can barely remember. Though she abstains from magic and enchantment, some of her books contain elements that most fantasy readers would love. She also abstains from explicit contents.

Her genres of interest are Young/New Adult Contemporary Romance, Historical Romance, Sci-fi Romance, and Mystery/Detective/Police Procedural books.

She lives in her country, Nigeria. When she’s not writing, she can be found listening to rock music, surfing the web for e-books to fill her library with, or surfing the web for skincare products.



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Check Out Her Other Books



A Chance for Love

A Twisted Tale Novel Inspired By Cinderella

Synopsis: The loss of Victoria Brown’s father leaves her at the mercy of her stepfamily who are bent on making her life miserable. Turning her into a pitiful maid, they force her to live a modern day reenactment of Cinderella. But they don't know that where there's a Cinderella, there's a Fairy Godmother and a Prince Charming who would do anything to bandage the damage in her life. When an arrogant new student shows up in class, Victoria hates him at first sight. She seeks to avoid him, but finds herself partnering with him in solving a mystery revolving around a ghost. And against her will, sparks fly.

Life takes a turn that rips Victoria off her innocence and places her stepmother as her footstool. Once, she'd wanted a chance for love, but all she wants now is revenge. And not even her Prince Charming can stand in her way. Will she follow her heart and let love win, or will she follow her head and be a slave of vengeance?

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Knowing Alpha

An Alpha and Beta Short Story, Book 1

Synopsis: Bethany Howell, aka Daddy's Little Princess, is your typical spoilt rich girl. For the first time, she notices Alpha Jordan, a classmate, and craves his attention. But trying to get close to him always leaves her with a broken heart.

An unknown admirer, nicknamed Mr. Anonymous, writes her letters every day. These letters always mend her heart after Alpha breaks it like it's made of glass.

Although Alpha's attitude toward her makes it clear he dislikes her, she refuses defeat and sets out to win his heart. Will Alpha ever give her a chance to know him?

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Unknowing Alpha

An Alpha and Beta Short Story, Book 2

Synopsis: Alpha shows up at Bethany’s house in a car only a millionaire can afford. She realizes he is anything but the middleclass boy she thought him to be, and is concerned about what other secrets he holds.

Series of frontal attacks inform her of an unknown enemy. To make things even worse, Alpha who should be by her side, deserts her. He returns to being his old self, the lone Alpha. Bethany finds herself unknowing the Alpha she has tried so hard to know.

Will she accept the end of their relationship, or will she struggle to unmask the secrets behind his distance?

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Spellbound, #2



HEARTS AND MISSES



By C. N. Obinna



Dedication



For Lissa, my jewel among the stars.



It was a Monday and I was getting set for another wrecking fifteen hour day at work.

My name is Adam Macaulay.

Being the branch manager for the city's second largest bank meant two things: (a) I had to pull off a monstrous ninety hour week, and (b) I had no time for anything else. Anything!

They tell you that the pressure wears off at the higher levels, so the best way to really be free is to work hard, move up fast and never look down. A big lie. If anything, it increases the pressure, with the many other equally ambitious and qualified candidates gnawing at your feet, hoping you fall off the ladder.

But in all this I never complain, for you see, the work is my life. I am thirty-five years old and accomplished (if that's the right word). I'm also single and have to intention of searching. I've been on a few dates though, blind dates and they all had one thing in common: they were disastrous.

"Could we go back to your place?" they'd ask and I'd look on confused. To do what?

"No, some other time," I'd reply and with a small graze on the cheek, and it would all end. Pretty typical.

Don't get me wrong, I have all the charms of a young rich corporate guy heading fast to the top, but just the basic stuff. I'm not smooth with the ladies simply because I choose not to. I haven't had sex in months, simply because I'm too exhausted to think about it, or maybe I'm scared.

I guess it’s a little bit more complex than that.

I stared at myself in the mirror, or should I say beyond myself. Hooked by the edge of the expensive ivory framed mirror was the picture. Her picture.

I picked it out and sat on the bed, reaching back to the few memories I had of her, something I've done every day for twenty years now.

You see, as a kid growing up, I had very few friends and even fewer childhood romances, actually none until she came along. I met her for the first time in the second term of my first year in Federal High school. I was thirteen years old and a big introvert.

Frankly, I'd arrived at Federal High school late in the first term, but I didn't make any friends. Literally not one. I'd just moved into a new state with my father. It was just the two of us; I'd never known my mother so that was not much of a big deal. I was curious about her though, but I never asked.

My father, well, he was just too busy working. Too busy to even think of finding a new wife for himself and a new mother for me. That suited me.

I sat alone at my desk, scribbling in a note book. The bell for break time had gone off a few minutes ago and everyone had already swarmed out of the class. Everyone but me. I was so absorbed in my drawing that I didn't notice the person looking over my shoulders. I paused to admire what I'd just drawn, that was when I noticed the shadow. I turned around, and that was when I 'first' saw her.

They say you have to see something for a hundred times before you really see it for the first time. I'm a believer.

I sized her up, she was taller than me. Her skin was like ebony, but well polished. Her hair was done into neat cornrows and she had a sweet smile spread over her face. Her eyes danced with the vibrancy of someone without a care in the world. Her nose was small and her lips thinly built with perfection.

My eyes moved downwards; her bosoms were typical to that of a fifteen year old: round and firm-looking and her arms were folded over them, making them a little bit protruding.

I gulped and shifted my gaze to the ground. My heart hammered at twice the rate and my head hurt. It was that bad.

She actually frowned when she saw my reaction.

'Are you alright?' she asked. Her first words directed to me.

I remained tight-lipped; there was nothing in my head to prepare me for this. I was thirteen years old and hadn't had a real conversation with a girl before.

I really couldn't say anything, so I nodded.

She seemed content with that, so she moved over to my seat and sat beside me.

I began sweating.

'I'm Martha,' she said. 'Nice drawing.'

I smiled. She took the book and stared at the drawing and the place I signed my name.

'Is your name Adam?' she asked, pointing to the signature.

I nodded and summoned the courage to look up at her. It didn't work. She didn't seem to notice my odd behavior or at least she didn't show it.

'You can really draw!' she exclaimed with a sincerity that gave me goose bumps.

'Can you draw for me?' Her eyes sparkled as she said this.

'Yes,' I said. My first word to her.

'Okay.' She looked out through the window; students were beginning to come in. She stood up and then said, 'See you later.'

I was disappointed. When was later and what about the drawing? I finally had a new task.

The remaining day dragged on pretty slowly. I caught myself staring at the front left row where she sat, but she seemed like the others: oblivious of my existence. I draped my shoulders.

Pity, that was all it was, pity for the quiet kid. Unlike most kids in my position, I didn't tell my father of my little experience. Considering the fact that it was just us both in the house, one would think we were best of friends but we were more of roommates. And bad ones at that.

'Adam, how was your day?' he'd ask.

I'd pause, in the same spot, and say, 'It was good and how was yours?'

He'd then proceed into a five minute long narrative of his day, after which he would say, 'Your food is in the kitchen.'

And that was all it was, small talk between a father and son. I tried not to make him feel guilty though.

I didn't sleep that night. I couldn't sleep. I kept seeing those dancing eyes and the smile. Her face seemed right in front of me. I tossed and turned for half an hour, then I sat up. For a boy with a routine life, it sure was difficult fitting this new element into my life.

I reached for my bedside lamp and turned it on. I opened my drawer and picked out a sheet of paper and a pencil. If I planned on getting any sleep, then I had to remove that face from my mind and the only way to do that was to transfer it to the paper.

The next day was a Friday. I remember it so well. I was feeling particularly edgy. I felt like someone who'd just made a new discovery; ecstatic yet cautious. As was expected, the day moved at a crawling pace.

By the time the bell went for break time, I was already shivering. Five minutes, ten and then fifteen minutes, nothing. She wasn't in the class, I noted. I produced my notebook and tried to scribble, I wanted to see if I could recreate yesterday's scenario, hopefully. Still nothing. I then opened my notebook, leafed through it and then stopped at it. Her eyes.

I'd drawn her eyes last night and looking at it now, it had the same effect on me. I put my signature, 'Adam' and then tore the drawing out. I was about to break out of my shell.



She was sitting on a tree branch, surrounded by three other girls who were laughing and chatting away at something important to them.

I felt the wind hit the left side of my face. I was neatly dressed and I felt like an animal that was being released into the wild; an animal that had lived in a controlled setting all his life.


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