A Curse of Shadows and Ice, an all-new steamy and magical fantasy standalone romance from USA Today bestselling author Catharina Maura writing as C.A. Maura is available now!
From USA Today Bestselling Author Catharina Maura comes a Beauty and the Beast retelling featuring a cursed emperor, a princess who possesses forbidden magic, and a marriage that could save them all.
Princess Arabella of Althea is left no choice when Felix Osiris, the Shadow Emperor, threatens to overthrow her country unless she agrees to marry him.
When she learns his empire is cursed and she’s destined to set them free, they come to an agreement: help him minimize the curse’s effect on his people, and he’ll let her go.
As Felix teaches Arabella how to control her forbidden and volatile magic, her feelings for him turn from hatred to passion… and she realizes that she must break the curse, or she’ll lose him forever.
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“Help me undress,” I tell her, turning to face her. I might have told her that I won’t exercise my rights, but I have every intention of tempting her into touching me.
She glares at me, but her cheeks are crimson and her eyes are roaming over my exposed chest and abs. She takes a step closer, her hands trembling as she grabs the lapels of my uniform and pushes it down my shoulder.
I watch her closely, wondering what she’s thinking. Does she find my body repulsive? Most people do, yet somehow I find myself wishing she’s different. My jacket falls to the floor and she moves her hand lower, placing it on the waistband of my trousers. Fates. Her touch is affecting me more than I expected. I’d only intended to antagonize her a bit, but it looks like it’s me that’s suffering now.
“Go check the bath’s temperature,” I tell her instead. She pulls her hands away and I let my eyes fall closed, praying for composure. Would this have been easier if she wasn’t so beautiful? If that chemise wasn’t sheer in the candlelight?
“The temperature is fine,” she tells me as I finish undressing, unable to hide my desire from her. Her eyes widen as she watches me step into the tub, and I sigh in relief once I’m hidden from her. Is that what the priests refer to as karma? Is this instant punishment for trying to entice my wife?
“Come here,” I tell her, not willing to admit defeat.
She kneels beside me, her breathing uneven and her face a deep crimson. It only makes her more beautiful. It makes me wonder what she’ll look like underneath me.
I hand her the bar of soap, and she takes it with shaking hands. I expected her to refuse and walk out, but there’s more curiosity in her eyes than anything else. If I’m not mistaken, there’s a hint of desire too. It’s faint, but it’s there. For me.
I thought she’d run the bar of soap over my skin, but instead she lathers it in her hands before putting it down. I’m tense as she places her hands on my shoulders, taking her time to massage in the soap.
“You’ve done this before?” The mere thought of her touching another man has me seeing red.
“Not for anyone but you, but I’m quite familiar with the concept of bathing.”
I bite back a smile, hiding the fact that I tremendously enjoy her wit. I doubt she realizes that no one would ever dare joke around with me. I thought I’d find being married a nuisance, but it fills a void I didn’t realize existed.
“Join me,” I murmur.
Her hands pause their movement, and I turn toward her, wrapping my hands around her waist and lifting her in before she has a chance to decline. She gasps when her body is submerged in the water, her white chemise rapidly becoming see-through.
“Felix!” she shouts, and I force myself not to smile at the outrage on her face.
“It’s easier for you to clean me when you’re in here with me,” I tell her, keeping my face carefully blank. She stares at me, as though she’s trying to ascertain if I’m being truthful, and I feel bad instantly. This is new to her. It’s not just me, and marriage, but this entire environment. She takes away the loneliness I’ve always felt, but in return I’m only giving her misery and discomfort.
“I apologize,” I tell her. “You needn’t do this.”
She rises to her knees between my legs and shakes her head. “You’re my husband,” she whispers. “I want to be the one who does this for you. I don’t believe you’re quite the monster you think you are, despite the viciousness that continues to leave your lips.”
Her words disarm me, and I lean back to watch her. She places her hands on my chest, palms flat, her wet chemise sticking to her body and outlining her magnificent body. I can’t remember the last time I desired a woman as much as I do my wife.
I wrap my hands around her wrists, keeping them in place. “I…” I’m not sure what I’m even trying to say.
I’m not like most men, Arabella.
I’ll hurt you.
Run, while you still can.
Don’t let me in.
I let my eyes roam over her face, her body. She’s perfect. I didn’t realize it when I first saw her in the Mirror of Pythia, but she’s the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen. Her long dark hair and those honeycomb eyes. Those lips that I want another taste of. She’s beautiful, but it isn’t just her looks. It’s the energy she exudes. I’ve never met anyone quite so pure. It makes me want to corrupt her. Own her. Defile her.
I lean in, and her eyes fall closed, her breathing a little more rapid. Her chest rises and falls, her hard nipples on display for me.
I had no intention of trying to break this curse through love. It sounds ridiculous to me — it always has. But with Arabella, I find myself hoping for the impossible.
About Catharina/C.A. Maura
USA Today Bestselling Author Catharina Maura writes Paranormal Romance and Fantasy as C.A. Maura, and Contemporary Romance as Catharina Maura.
She has a weakness for fated mates, true love, fairytale retellings, and happily ever afters. Cat currently lives in Hong Kong, and you can find all her latest updates here: https://hi.catharinamaura.com/bio
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