This month, I thought I'd share the making of The King's Thief Artwork.
Cynthia Hlady did a fantastic job of bringing my characters to life and she's such a talent to work with.
I've fully enjoyed her enthusiasm and taking the reins of this project to make it fully alive.
I also wanted to do something fancy-smansy with my blog this month so, I'm experimenting with the features. Thus... slideshow!
*applause & cheering*
Below you'll get to see the first sketches and the finals to get an insight into what went into these beautiful paintings. And I do mean paintings. Cynthia was allowed to go with whatever medium she wanted and she chose to go with acrylic *I believe*. So what you see here are actual paintings.
Each illustration depicts a scene in the book. Can you tell which ones?
Until next time...
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Lady Dauphine keeps a secret that could restore her country from the clutches of Randish rule.
Yet the noble woman hides under the profitable guise of her courtesan business far from home. For what can one woman do against the zealous lot of religious leaders that hold Quenarre, and all its people, hostage? Only her cousin and the man who saved her life twenty years ago know her true origins.
Though not born from nobility, Chartan LeBeau commands royalty with his demeanor, subdue arguments with the language of silent intimidation, and keep the affections of the last royal descendant of the true king of Quenarre. Yet all his talents do not convince his future queen turned temptress to return with him and command an army to take back her throne. Reverting to his former station of thief, he steals Lady Dauphine and sails for the land of her birthright. But when thief and future queen learn of a court mage’s capture, he tells her to turn back while he attempts a rescue.
Despite “orders” to sail back, Lady Dauphine grows into the leader Quenarre needs in order to save a dear friend thought lost to the cruel Randish Theocracy
Excerpt from The King’s Thief
© 2017 S.N.McKibben
Seducing a man is harder than one might think. Especially if that man is Chartan LeBeau.
I don’t know why the King of Thieves returned to Xaxyia after twenty years, but I recognized him the moment his doe-skin, silver-tipped boots graced my hall.
Already he was gathering attention from my girls. Being the good courtesans that they were, each woman tried to attend him.
A small sense of satisfaction rippled through my chest when he rebuffed them all and headed straight for me. I wondered if he remembered the night he whisked me away, by my uncle’s command, saving me from death. It was the last time I ever saw the King of Quenarre, my uncle. Chartan was one of two people who knew my true origins.
Still, Chartan was dangerous.
I stayed in my chair, frozen by the beauty of him. Long legs, a perfect bulge below his V-shaped torso, hidden behind a rogue’s cape and hood. If you looked carefully, you’d find his riches within his tailor with clothing of soft fineness but not audacious gold. The King of Thieves flaunted nothing.
Though not born from nobility, Chartan knew how to command royalty through his demeanor, subdue arguments with the language of silent intimidation, and keep my affections, though I hadn’t seen him for two decades. Wooing a master seducer such as myself was not easy. He should have been a military commander, but for one reason or another he chose to remain a thief, one that caught the eye of a king… and me, a former Quenarre noblewoman.
I smiled to calm the flutter in my heart and stood to greet him. Perhaps he would not know me after all this time, but even if he suspected, I would not give my identity away easily. I knew the art of pretense now. “Dear Sir, thank you for coming to Courtesan’s guild. How may we pleasure you?”
His eyes were hidden, but his lips curved down slightly at my informal greeting. Coming to a full halt, he bowed. Then his smooth accent had my thighs clench together. “Lady Dauphine, may we speak in private?”
My stomach detached from my belly and came rushing up to my heart. But my smile grew wider, hard as it was to keep from it. “I’m sorry my dear, but I don’t entertain new customers.”
Chartan scanned the room. “I have something of import to discuss with you. I’m not interested in your services.”
I laughed. “That’s the tactic you wish to take. I assure you we are all discreet here. Perhaps you would like to speak to Lady Glen?” He’d better not. Straining to keep from shaking, I motioned to Lady Glen as she passed by. Hearing her name, she immediately came over.
Chartan waved her away. “No, this is for you only.”
“Oh, I bet it is.” I sat, showing I was not some pithy girl to shove around.
He leaned down to my ear and whispered. “I know who you are, Lady Dauphine of Quenarre, noble princess of the house Rouelle. I escorted you to safety here before the overthrow of our King. Do not chuff me off.”
It was not the first time I’d been threatened, nor would it be the last. He would not get away with blackmail. Nor would he see me panic. I kept my heart slow and retorted, “Then you will expose yourself.”
He stood and chuckled.
My nose flared, and I looked up at him. His waist was at the perfect height to unbutton his pants and bring him to his knees, the way a woman who knows what she’s doing can. Our eyes locked. Damn if I am going to give in to him. He infuriated me with his half quirk of a smile, that arrogance. His scent beat at my control.
A pouch appeared in his hand, and he let the contents clink before he placed the money bag between my cleavage. “That should be sufficient to avoid unpleasant speculation.”
He stepped back and motioned his hand to indicate he would follow. I was not a horse to lead. Nor a slave to his whims. But, the side of me that wanted him in my bed snuck reason and excuses to take him to my chambers. Really, what choice did I have with what he threatened? If I refused, he’d call attention to my Rouellean heritage. It wouldn’t take too much time for the rumors to fly across the land to The Randish pope. My fate would be sealed. I’d probably be dead in a matter of weeks.
Painting on my nonchalant smile, I played demure host and did as he bade. Passing my bodyguards, Luca and John, I gave them the signal to interrupt us in two minutes.
Luca nodded. My personal security were more than brutes. They understood subtly.
Down the corridor, Chartan’s smooth voice resumed battering against the stronghold of my heart. “How much time do I have before your men crash in?”
I turned up the spiral stairs and said nothing.
“I’m guessing a few minutes,” he said. “No matter. You’ll hear what I have to say.”
I wanted to grit my teeth. Damn thief.
We crossed the hallway where several of my girls were hard at work pleasuring their clients. It was impossible to pass a door without hearing the particulars of a client’s needs. The sound of a slap on flesh halted my motion. I listened at the door from where it came. If a man was being too harsh with any of my women, I wouldn’t have him back. Another slap. My hand rested on the door knob.
“You like that, hun? You like being ruffed up?” The woman’s muffled voice belonged to Lady Andrea.
“Yes.” Responded a breathy male voice. “Please, again.”
Apparently, Duke Undore paid for a woman’s stinging scorn. Good to know.
I smiled, backed away, and continued down the corridor. Chartan waited for me with piercing eyes. Taking the stairs to the second floor, I turned into the hallway and reached under my sleeve.
“Stop.” Chartan’s deep voice halted me.
“You’ve been a larcenist too long, LeBeau.” I continued to door number twelve. This was where I played with clients and teased secrets from their souls. I pulled out the iron key to my door and showed him. “I hope you hold no dangerous value in a chunk of metal.”
“Chunks of metal, as you say, have killed men before.” Chartan took the key and inserted it into the lock. He opened the door and stepped back.
As I tried to go forward, Chartan threw his arm out and waggled a finger at me. “Not yet my courtesan.” His grin didn’t reach his eyes.
The thief’s touch was my exquisite pleasure. A genuine smile parted my lips. He took me seriously. I crossed my arms and pursed my lips in defiance.
Heart tearing itself apart but understanding what I had to do, my inner most desire pleaded with me to take him to my bosom and show him he did not need all these precautions, not with me. But it would be a lie. I would go to any length to protect my identity. If I was found out as a Rouellean it wouldn’t be long before the Theocracy of the Randish would spill my blood.
Chartan freed a dagger from inside his cape and, using the tip of his blade, opened the door wide. He looked inside, up then down, and finally between the hinges of the door.
I sighed in feigned disgust, but he had every right to be suspicious. “Have a lot of enemies?”
He went inside, quiet as a stalking cat, and swept the room.
While he was preoccupied with his security check, I walked inside and closed the door—slowly. Reaching under my sleeves, I grabbed my throwing sticks, one for each hand. I positioned the thin, three-edged, dowel-like weapons ready to turn and deploy.
My movement swift, my aim true, I lobbed the blades at Chartan’s heart.
The thief deflected one and caught the other. Then, faster than I could blink, slammed me against the wall. The point of my own dagger scraping against my chin.
Despite my attempt to kill him, Chartan’s smile was hearty and his eyes sparkled to life. “My King was right.”
“You are truly the right choice.”
“To regain the crown and return Quenarre to its glory.”
His words stung.
Quenarre. My beloved home. The land that stole my life. “I’ll never return to that place.”
“You will return, and you will rule.”
Luca pounded the door open and rushed in.
Chartan flew back, hopped in the air, and folded himself forward while sailing through the open window—backward. His flight took a blink of an eye, and he was gone before John could join Luca in my room.
My personal security, Luca, eyed me up and down, checking for any harm that may have come to me. “My Lady?”
“We’ll chase after him.” Luca peered out the window.
“Don’t contemplate jumping after LeBeau.” If Luca did catch up to Chartan, I’d lose a bodyguard. “Besides, he paid for my time.”
I reached for the bag of coin Chartan had lusciously shoved down my corset.
It wasn’t there. I reached further in. Nothing. The money was gone.
My blood boiled. “Chartan!” I slammed the window sill.
LeBeau was a mile away by now, but his chuckle rang in my ears. He would not win. I would never go back to Quenarre. As for his blackmail threat… if he wanted to fight in the game of espionage, he’d found a formidable opponent.