Sunday, April 25, 2021

Book Blitz and Giveaway: Pain Seeker (The New Orleans Shade #1) by D.N. Hoxa

Title: Pain Seeker
Series: The New Orleans Shade #1
Author: D.N. Hoxa
Publication Date: April 19th 2021
Print Length: 267 pages
Genre: Urban Fantasy Romance

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Betrayed.
Defeated.
Chained.

I used to be a sister, a friend, a ruler of the elflands that belonged to my family’s House. Now, I am a prisoner of the fae, my kind’s sworn enemy since the beginning of time. They put chains around me, thinking they can keep me from breaking free and bathing in their blood. They can’t.

The only reason I stay is because I no longer need a life. My home, my family, my dignity were all taken away from me.

But I have the fae. My captor.

He is every bit the man I was taught to hate long before I knew how to love anything. To the world, he is the ruthless Winter prince who has never lost a battle against elves in his life. To me, his pain whispers other truths.

He’s a prisoner in his castle just as much as I am.

They sent him here to kill his soul.

They sent me here to kill my body.

What they didn’t see coming was that we’d find each other. And that we’d survive.

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EXCERPT:
The taste of blood and dirt on my tongue made me think that I was dreaming. The music in the back of my mind served as further proof of it.

But there was pain out there, too, and pain never lied. It gave away everything—always.

I wasn’t talking about my own body. My pain never carried much weight. I meant the pain of the people around me, close enough to tease my magic, yet far enough for me not to be able to make it out clearly. My eyes opened, and my other senses slowly came back to me. I was lying on something cold and hard—stone. My legs hurt, my arms hurt, and my throat felt like it was still on fire. I smelled worse than pigs, and my mind was so caught up in the pain around me, it took me a while to make out a clear thought.

My ears rang. The beautiful sounds of the violin coming from somewhere far away faded completely. Memories rushed back to me, replaying in front of my eyes, indifferent about what each flash did to my heart. My mouth opened wide, and a scream wanted to rip from my burning throat, but by some miracle, I held it back. I tried to dig my nails into the stone underneath me, and when that didn’t work, I dug them into my skin.

Pain. It was all I knew. It was the only thing I trusted. It was the only thing that had ever made perfect sense to me. We only felt it when we were alive, and being alive was all that mattered because only death is truly irreversible.

At least that’s what I had believed in with all my heart.

Was that why I had let my guard down?

My hand wrapped around my neck, and I coughed, my body trying to get rid of the taste on my tongue, but it was useless. That taste was long gone—it was the memory of it that scorched me now. The memory of drinking the poison I had been too much of a fool to smell or see or taste before it did what it was supposed to do—render me defenseless. Thoughtless. Unconscious.

My eyes squeezed shut as tears slipped down my cheeks. I remembered it all, and my mind played it in slow motion to torture me. It reminded me that everything I knew, everything I loved, everything I stood for was stripped away from me. It reminded me of the laughter of the people who’d done this to me, and those memories would haunt me for the rest of my days.

My home, my life, my people…they were all gone now. I no longer belonged to them.

I was completely alone.

Breathe, I reminded myself. I needed to breathe before I broke completely. Irreversibly. My heart was in pieces, my soul wept, but I was still here. I was still alive. Was there any fight left in me?

I couldn’t give up completely without knowing that, at least.

Yes, I had been betrayed. I’d been fed poison by my people, and I’d been thrown away from my own home like I was nothing more than garbage. I had sat there, surrounded by food and music and silk and laughter, and I’d been careless. I had let my guard down. What price would I have to pay for that?

I needed to know that, too.

I tried to find something to hold onto, searching for a spark of revenge or pride or stubbornness to help me hold my head up.

There was nothing there. Just disappointment and desperation.

But there was pain around me.

I raised my head, holding my breath. My memories were always going to be with me, but if I focused on the outside world, maybe they couldn’t hurt me as much. If I focused on the pain, I could make it.

So, I did. There was a lot of pain around me—physical mostly but emotional, too. I held onto it, teeth gritted, and I pushed myself up with my hands. My body was weak, my limbs barely responsive, and when I moved, something moved with me. A chain, twice as thick as my arm, was cuffed around my left ankle, and it went all the way into the stone wall.

Where was I?

The only light coming into the room was from the moon outside, at my back. And a little bit from the small windows that lined the wide door across from me. That’s where the music was coming from. And the pain.

I sat up, forcing myself to focus on everything, not to miss a detail. The room I was in had a strange shape, like a large L. To my right was a bed, half the size of the one I’d slept in my whole life. On its side, the room stretched into a smaller one, and it had a tub right in the middle of it. To my left, there was an empty desk, and two wardrobes made of dark wood, one of them half open, as if to show me that it was empty.

And to my back were three windows. Behind them stretched the most beautiful world in the universe: Gaena—my home.

The shimmering stars looked like precious gems sewn on the velvet of the sky, luring me in with their beauty. The white stone that made this entire room was cold against my skin, but I held onto the window stool, and I managed to stand up, just to look outside.

I was very high up, at least a hundred and fifty feet. Land stretched ahead, most of it covered by the night. To the left I could make out mountains tipped with snow, and to the right, the moonlight shone over acres upon acres of a forest full of trees, almost completely naked. A thin layer of snow covered the dry land between them. My gut turned when the shapes began to make sense to me. When I realized that I knew exactly where I was. My father had made me memorize the map of Gaena when I was seven years old, and I recognized the four mountains tipped with snow. They marked the beginning of the Winter Court—a faeland. The forest across confirmed it. Judging by the distance of the forest, I was close to the border of the Winter Court and the elflands of House Moneir—one of the eleven elf Houses that ruled our lands. And House Moneir was right next to my home.

My former home.

Where had they brought me?

Had they sold me, or had they given me away?

I looked down at myself and barely recognized the undergarment of the dress I’d had on at dinner last night. Or was it this one? I was covered in dirt, as if I’d been rolling in it for hours. They’d stripped me of everything—my dress, my shoes, even my hair leathers, and without them, my white hair fell down to my thighs, sticky with dirt. I touched my chest only to find it empty, and when I looked at my fingers, I was already terrified because I knew what I’d see: nothing.

They’d taken away my mother’s ring, too, the one I never took off, not even when I painted.

My eyes closed once more, tears slipping down my dirty cheeks. The sky called to me, but even its beauty couldn’t comfort me now.

I was defeated. Humiliated. A slave, chained to a wall.

The door behind me opened. I’d been so caught up in my own mind that I hadn’t heard anything moving outside it. Normally, my body reacted to the unknown by preparing me to strike against it.

This time, though, all I did was turn around and sit on the floor, back pressed against the wall, the windows right over my head.

The man who’d come in holding a gas lamp in his hand delivered the final blow to my poor heart. Even though I’d seen it coming—I knew where I was—it still took me a moment to come to terms with it.

I was not just a slave. I was a slave of the fae.

Tears wanted to keep coming out of my eyes, but I held them back. The end was near now. I would hold onto what little dignity I had left until I left this body and this world behind.

“You’re awake,” the fae said, kicking the door closed behind him.

He was covered in blood and didn’t smell much better than I did. Maybe even worse. His silver-colored armor covered his chest and his thighs, his shins and the tips of his boots completely. On his hip was the sheath of his sword, the tip of it almost touching the floor by his feet.

His face complemented the look of a murderer perfectly. His square jaw was clean shaven. Half his black hair was tied behind his head, the ends of it touching his shoulders, almost completely covered with dried blood. His eyes were the most alert eyes I had ever seen since my father was alive. They were big and wide, as black as the ravens who kept me company during some of my sleepless nights at home. The aura of magic hung onto him, infusing the air, demanding submission.

He strode to the left of the room and put the gas lamp on the empty desk before he approached me. My heart beat steady in my chest. It was almost over. I kept my eyes on him when he squatted in front of me, not close enough to be able to reach me, but with his sword, he would have no trouble finishing me off.

“Are you hurt?” he asked next, his voice completely emotionless, like he was made out of the same stone underneath us.

But it was just an act because the only thing stronger than his magic was his pain.

Physically, he was hurt in three places, but nothing that would even make him uncomfortable. But on the inside? He had so much of it, thicker than the blood coursing in his veins, heavier than the armor covering his body. Darker than the black of his eyes.

“Can you talk, elf?” he said, his brows narrowed as he looked at me. I held perfectly still.

Was he going to beat me before he killed me? He leaned a bit closer, his right hand moving toward his hip. His sword.

“Are you deaf?”

His voice didn’t rise. His eyes never showed me the disgust he must have been feeling when he looked at me. I was an elf, after all. He was fae. We were sworn enemies since the beginning of time. We were taught to hate each other long before we learned anything else. We were made to fight one another, until our blood drenched all of Gaena’s lands.

“Who are you? What’s your name?”

The question took me off guard.

He didn’t know my name. How…

My eyes closed involuntarily. Of course.

That’s why they’d stripped me down to my undergarment. That’s why my people had taken away everything, including my mother’s ring and the leathers of my hair. They hadn’t wanted anything at all to tie me to them. To tell the fae who I was, where I came from.

Because they were afraid I’d be tortured into telling my House’s secrets.

“Look at me,” the fae demanded, and I did. But I no longer could hold back the laugh that tore through the broken pieces of my heart. I laughed because in those moments, I saw everything with a clarity I rarely experienced.

They were cowards. They’d poisoned me to knock me out because they knew they couldn’t best me in a fight.

They threw me away because they were too ashamed to kill me themselves.

They put me in the fae’s hands because they knew of no other way to make sure I would die.

They did this to keep themselves from the guilt. They threw my life away because they were cowards.

And just like that, I realized the fae were no longer my only enemy.

Now, the need for revenge crawled over me. It demanded my attention, my dedication, every ounce of my will.

But now, it was too late.

“I can see why you’re in such a great mood,” the fae said. He’d put his hands in front of him again, no longer reaching for his sword. “You lost twelve people in that battle, you are my prisoner, and you’re chained to the wall. Your life is in my hands. I can see how that’s funny, too.”

I stopped laughing. Why hadn’t he killed me yet? What was going on in his mind? Where was all that pain coming from?

It drew me in like a lullaby my mother used to sing to my brother and me when we were kids. It was a beautiful ballad that spoke of lost souls and the ridiculously stupid idea of patriotism, but it reminded me of home. It comforted me. Pain always comforted me.

For a long moment, we looked at each other. He—the fae, my captor, my god as far as he was concerned. Me—the elf, the slave, the helpless.

I waited for the hate to take over my chest, just like always. It was supposed to be there, as soon as my eyes saw a fae. I was an elf, and it should have been second nature to me by now.

It still wasn’t. Even though I knew this man was going to kill me, I couldn’t hate him.

And why didn’t he look like he hated me?

The fae stood up so suddenly, I became one with the wall behind me again.

“Count your seconds, elf,” he said, going for the wardrobes on the left of the room. “Tomorrow, you’ll see your last sunrise.”

My eyes closed. Tomorrow.

I was going to be set free tomorrow.

For tonight, I rested my head against the stone, my body already numb from the cold. I watched the fae take off his armor and put it in the empty wardrobe. I watched him strip off all his clothing like I wasn’t even in the room. My mind was still shocked by the fact that he hadn’t killed me. The sight of his naked body did nothing compared to that, so all I did was watch.

Every muscle in his body was ripped. The scars on his skin burned my own, and my fingers itched to reach out to him, to touch him, to heal him. Take his pain for myself, consume it until it shocked me to life again. Because right now, I was worse than dead. I was trapped in a world that didn’t want me, a world I loved so much it paralyzed me.

But the fae didn’t care about my misfortunes. He didn’t care that I’d been betrayed by my own people. He didn’t know that the death he’d deliver tomorrow was going to be my salvation.

He just turned around with a towel in his hand and walked to the other side of the room. The cold didn’t bother him. His body was made out of it, like all Winter fae. He looked like a god like that, wearing nothing but his skin that had served as a canvas for all the battles he’d fought—and survived.

When I couldn’t see him anymore, I lay down on the stone floor again. I listened to the sound of him bathing, and I let his pain take my mind away from mine. It was beautiful and it lured me in, comforted me until my eyes closed. Maybe it was from the cold or maybe from the weakness, but it didn’t matter. I welcomed it. It would all be over soon.

Tomorrow couldn’t come fast enough. 
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
D.N. Hoxa writes paranormal and urban fantasy novels, only when she's not reading them. There are pieces of her in every story she writes, so if you've read any of her books, you already know her. She lives with her husband and their two children, and she can only write at night when everybody else is asleep.


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