Title: Masked Heart
Author: Calli Hall
Release Date: November 28th 2017
Publisher: RAWmance Publishing
Genre: Gay romance, Historical
Benedict, Duke of Lexerton, faces a problem. After his brother’s sudden passing, he is confronted with the necessity to find a spouse.
Trying to fulfill his obligation at the events of high society, he repeatedly encounters a strange woman. Who is this mysterious Madame P. and how is she connected to his brother’s death?
A gay historical thriller about forbidden passions, power and a deadly secret society.
How long had he been in the dungeon? How long had it been since his darkened eyes had seen anything other than his dark cell?
Too long. Long ago, after his voice had broken, he had given up the screaming, which had echoed back to him from the halls of this Hell. Unheard.
Now he had become like his guards, deaf to the suffering that reached his ears. He didn’t hear it at all anymore, didn’t feel the cold that ate through his bones, nor the hunger in his stomach. The rustling of the rats, the disgust at these vermin, the thirst that burned in his throat: all of this he had learned to suppress.
Only the stink in his nose had eaten into him worse than the scar on his face. He had always been sensitive to smell. Since his early childhood it had been his most highly developed sense. He used to dream of becoming a perfume maker and of creating the finest scents. He twisted his mouth ironically. Look how far these senseless dreams had brought him. He had been waiting for his execution for months.
The hope from the first week of the trial and the belief he could prove his innocence had died. They were as dead as he soon would hopefully be. Long was he beyond the phases of blind rage, hate of the unknown person, who he had to thank for all of this, as well as sadness, hope, and doubt.
He only desired the rope that would free him from this dungeon, in which a small piece of his soul broke night after night.
Thunder rumbled overhead. He only guessed at the following lightning. Not even that found a way in to illuminate his forced home. The blackness held him with an iron grip.
Bored, the prisoner broke a piece off the moldy edge of his bread. The furry nose of his roommate immediately appeared through a crack. It sniffed in every direction before the small animal made its way to him, careful and alert.
What irony. This rat and he now had the same status in the eye of society. Not much was left to differentiate between them. Both of their daily lives consisted of the hope for a little moldy bread. The squeaking of the cell door scared the dirty brown animal away. He didn’t react to it anymore. It was too late in the day for his guards to have remembered to bring him something to eat or to take him to the gallows.
Bile wanted to rise up in his throat. Quietly he balled his bony hands into fists to try to suppress the familiar shaking. He had learned not to defend himself when they set upon him, to just close his eyes and hope that it would be over soon.
On his first night in this Hell he had given up prayer, on the second night begging for mercy. However this time it was not the smell of cheap schnapps that filled his tiny room. It was as if he were suddenly standing on the deck of a ship in the eye of a storm. He could feel the powerful waves beneath him, how the ship swayed, how the rain hit him in his face and the wind tugged at his hair.
Instinctively the prisoner shook his head to shoo off the bittersweet delusions his nose was giving him. Never again would he stand on the planks of a ship.
The stranger stood quietly in the doorway.
An icy watcher was eying the prisoner’s back. Even if he couldn’t see him, he still felt him and how the sharp look penetrated beneath his cracked skin into his deepest chasms.
However, for him the eyes were not his most important means of recognizing people. Rain and sea. He tasted its scent on his tongue. Interested, his tired eyes rose to meet the visitor.