“Those who never face something that could break them will never know the satisfaction of finding yourself whole and triumphant on the other side.”
Anastasia, an epic, must-read, dark fantasy romance from bestselling author Sophie Lark is available now!
Anastasia is the princess no one needs: the fourth daughter born to an emperor without a son, and the only royal lacking a magical gift.
Until she collides with a young Cossack rebel, changing both their lives forever.
Damien is taken from everything he knows and raised as a ward of the Romanovs.
Anastasia develops a strange kind of magic shared only by the Black Monk Rasputin.
While her power grows in secret, boosted by forbidden contact with Damien, Anastasia makes a mistake with terrible consequences.
Fate grants her a single chance to set it right… but saving what she lost may cost everything she loves.
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Keep reading for a look inside Anastasia!
All sorts of beautiful and stylish people frequented the Gezirah, yet this girl yanked his head around like she’d hooked a finger in his mouth and pulled. It was something in the way she moved, gliding above the corner of his page like she was underwater and everyone else in dry air.
Husani wondered if she was a dancer. She wore embroidered slippers and silk trousers with a head wrap of the same material. Her glossy dark hair hung loose underneath, black as an Egyptian’s though her skin was fair.
She took a seat at the bar, just three down from Husani. With all the empty chairs, she could easily have taken a seat by the window overlooking the fountains. Her eyes met his as she slipped onto the stool. She tucked a strand of hair behind her ear. Her hands looked smooth and soft as cream. Husani could imagine her making shapes with them like a belly dancer.
She asked the bartender for a gin and tonic. Her voice was lower than he expected and sounded close, right in his ear almost. The little hairs on the back of his neck stood up. He could feel every shift in the air.
Even Monto, who’d been serving drinks at the hotel for thirty years, couldn’t help staring.
“On the house,” he muttered.
Husani wanted to tell the woman she’d gotten the only free drink he’d ever heard of out of Monto. He’d love to tell her just about anything but never would have had the guts if she hadn’t turned and looked right at him. Her velvety eyes slid over the spine of his book.
“I’ve read that one.”
She said it like a secret, like they might be the only two who’d ever read it. Husani was dying to reply with something brilliant but his brain had emptied out like a sieve. He hadn’t realized he was even holding a book anymore.
“Did you like it?” he blurted. His voice cracked like a kid’s.
The girl only smiled.
“Immensely. I love a good disguise.
”“Are you an actress?”
That voice …it’d be wasted on a dancer.
“A writer, actually.”
She might as well have said she was the goddess Isis. Writers were the source of everything he loved best.
“What do you write?”
“I’d love to hear some.”
Now her smile was both warm and approving.
“I’m glad you know that poetry ought to be heard, not read.”
Husani felt tipsy, as if he’d been drinking much more than mango juice.
Rashly, he said, “I might like to be a writer. Someday.”
“The man who waits for ‘someday’ waits all his life …” She swirled her straw lazily, her nails lacquered red.
“I’ve written a few things. Just scribbles, really. But sometimes, once in a while, there’s a line I think could turn into something …”
“And what do you do when you’re not writing?” she said in that lilting, teasing voice. He found himself leaning closer to her, the way a plant will grow toward a window.
“You’re looking at it right now.”
She raised an eyebrow.
“Drinking mango juice?”
“No.” He flushed, wishing he were allowed to have a proper drink. He’d have ordered a gin and tonic himself, and then they’d have had all the more in common.
“I’m …well, let me show you.”
He took his chance to slide off his stool and slip onto the one directly next to hers.
He put his hand close to her glass.
She leaned in, lips parting slightly. He pressed his palm against the side of the tumbler. The drink frosted over in an instant, so cold that a curl of condensation rose in the air like a ghost of a breath.
“So beautiful. Like lace …” She trailed one dark red nail against the side of the glass where the frost had formed shapes. She raised the glass to her lips and sipped gin so cold it must feel like a thousand tiny blades down her throat.
“Incredible,” she said, almost in a growl.
A shiver ran down Husani’s spine. Something else happened in his trousers that forced him to press his knees together and turn toward the bar. He was sweating, and he turned up the cold automatically.
The girl let out a sigh, her shoulders relaxing.
“Much better. Is that you?” Her eyes closed with pleasure.
“Yeah.” His voice was steady now, confident. “The ice, the frozen sherbet, and all of this …”
He swept his hand around to indicate the entire hotel at a perfect seventy-two degrees at all times, a literal oasis in the desert no matter the temperature outside.
“Remarkable,” the girl murmured. “I’ve never seen that kind of range.”
Husani thought he might just jump off a bridge to keep impressing this woman. The way she looked at him made him feel ten feet tall.
“What’s that accent?” he said. “Are you …Italian?”
“Further away than that.”
Her smile showed only the edges of her teeth. Husani couldn’t stop looking at her mouth.
He’d never been in love but he was starting to think he’d like to try it. Surely it was destiny how this girl appeared all alone just as the sun was going down. Husani was only allowed to leave when the heat of the day had all bled away.
He saw a vision of the two of them walking hand in hand down the plaza with strings of colored flags overhead, bathed in sweet hookah smoke and the music seeping from the doorways of the tea shops. She could recite one of her poems to him in that voice that felt like fingers stroking through his hair, and he might possibly have the courage to read her a few lines of a story in return.
“Have you seen much of the city yet?” he asked her. “The spice bazaar or the hanging gardens? I could show you, I’ve lived here all my life …”
“Could you really? I haven’t seen anything yet.”
Her smile was like fireworks in his head.
His mind leaped far ahead of any reasonable reality and ran straight through a kiss or even a night together, all the way to them curled up in a little flat on the north side of the city, writing all day long while eating sun-warmed figs and laying on cushions with their bare feet entwined.
He saw this vision so clearly that it almost seemed to float in the air before his eyes. When he snapped back, the woman hadn’t seemed to notice.
For more information on Sophie Lark’s books and where to contact her, visit her website: http://bit.ly/3VpdJ3S