Have I ever mentioned my friend M. Leighton? I’m sure I have. She’s funny and witty and zany and tall like me. We often refer to ourselves as Amazon women. But we do it with love, because we are talking about ourselves. And then we quickly compliment each other by saying that we’re also svelte, gorgeous and amazing. Hey- artists are sensitive. 🙂
Anyway. My amazing, svelte, gorgeous friend M. Leighton just released book 3 in the Madly series. And I LOVE this series. I have from the very first novelette. It’s just…magical. Here’s the cover of Madly and the Jackal:
How deep does love run? Deeper than the ocean? Deeper than memory? Deeper than magic?
Following their plan to save Atlas, Madly and Jackson return the spirit of Wolfhardt to his prison beneath the sea. But even the best laid plans couldn’t account for the surprises they find. This time, Lore aren’t their only challenges.
Madly is special in ways no one could have guessed and dark forces seek to control her. They want her power, but first they must weaken her. They need her beaten. Vulnerable. Near death. And alone. But that task isn’t an easy one with Jackson at her side. The strongest of their kind, the only way to separate Jackson from Madly is to destroy his love for her, to erase it from his mind. And his heart.
Is it possible to steal Jackson’s love from Madly? Or is their love the only truly unbreakable thing?
* * *
Sounds good, right? To get the full gist, I should probably tell you that Madly and Jackson are Mer. And while I don’t usually like Mermaid stories, I fell in love with Madly. Ms. Leighton, my friend and fellow Amazon, provided a couple of excerpts, too. Yay! So check these out:
Opening my eyes so I didn’t have to “see” through my mind, I found that I was nearly blind. It was almost completely dark inside the cave. If it weren’t for the dappled spots of pale light refracting off the waterfall, I wouldn’t have been able to see at all.
“So, what now?” I asked, feeling pleased with myself over my accomplishment. However, reality was soon to intrude upon my pleasure.
“Madly,” Jackson began, his tone causing my stomach to fill with dread. “You know our plan to rescue Truly is out of the question now, right?”
“No, it’s not. I know we’ve missed our meeting with Aaron, but I could try and contact him. Or my father. We could—”
“It’s over Madly. We’ll have to try again later. Not only is Leviathan looking for us, and most likely not for polite conversation, you’re not safe down here. Not even with your father in your own house. No one should’ve known we were here. No one but the four of us.”
“But who… I mean, how… we didn’t…”
“I know, I’m confused, too. But what we do know is that, right now, the only people who can be trusted are in this room.”
I wanted desperately to argue, to defend my father vehemently, but I couldn’t. Jackson was right. Something was wrong.
“You know my father would never—”
“I’m not suggesting that he’d do otherwise, Madly. I’m just saying there are things going on down here that we didn’t account for. Now that we have more information, we can try something else when we bring the next Lore back. But right now, I have to get you out of here.”
“Jackson, I can’t leave my—”
“You have to. You know that. You don’t have a choice.”
When I started to challenge that point, Jackson quickly continued. “Not really. You’re the best chance Atlas has and you know it.”
Feeling the hopelessness of the situation crowding in on me, I fought the tears the prickled against my eyelids. Although I didn’t say a word, didn’t make a sound, Jackson knew what I wasn’t saying.
“Come here,” he said, opening up arms that I could barely see.
Emotion tightening my chest, I walked into Jackson’s embrace and laid my head over his heart. Within his strong hold, nothing felt hopeless, everything felt possible, and I needed a big dose of that optimism.
As he stroked my hair and spoke softly, I felt the world slowly return to rights.
“We’ll stay here for a while tonight in case Leviathan is still looking for us. Then, in a few hours, we’ll find a distraction we can use to get us past the shield. Once we’re back in Slumber, we’ll find the next Lore and return them. By then we’ll have a plan and we’ll save your family and the rest of Atlas.”
It sounded so logical, so simple. So…do-able. “Promise?” I mumbled quietly, knowing he could make no such promise.
I raised my head to look up at him. He traced his fingertip from my temple down my cheek to my lips, brushing them lightly. Bending his head to mine, he whispered across my mouth, “Trust me.”
His kiss was like a warm breeze, barely there, and then he lifted his head to stare down into my eyes. I couldn’t see him clearly, just the bits and pieces the shimmering light illuminated. It made the water droplets on his skin and in his hair glisten like diamonds, even the ones that clung to his lashes.
“Don’t do that,” he groaned quietly.
“Do what?” I asked, genuinely confused.
“Look at me like that.”
Desire rippled through me. “Like what?”
“Like you want to lick all the water off me.”
“Is that how I’m looking at you?” I knew I was being coy.
“You know it is.”
“So what if I do? What if I want to touch my tongue to every drop of water on your skin? Is that such a bad thing?” As I spoke, I leaned back a bit further and let my eyes rove his face and chest. A single droplet ran from the hollow of his throat down the center of his chest. Reaching out, I caught it on the tip of my finger and stuck it in my mouth. I heard Jackson gasp seconds before he crushed me to him.
His lips on mine were flames that spread through me like wildfire. His arms tightened around me. One big hand splayed between my shoulder blades, the other on my butt. Both pulled me toward him, pressing me against him in the most intimate way. I could feel his hardness against the soft part of my belly and lava poured down my legs.
He ground his hips into mine and his moan tickled its way all the way up my tongue, sending a shiver down my back. Reaching up, I threaded my fingers into his short hair and held him close, wishing he could devour me, and I him. I ached for Jackson in ways I’d never ached for anyone, ached for him in places I didn’t know could ache in such a way.
I was panting, rubbing my body against Jackson’s when he tore his mouth away from mine and held me at arm’s length. I could hear his heavy breathing. I could feel his desire for me like a thickness in the air. It filled the cave, warmed my skin.
I tried to smile brightly, but felt it falter. I reminded myself that if there was anyone who could fix it, it was Jackson. I was fairly certain there was little he couldn’t do if he set his mind to it.
Clinging to that knowledge like a lifeline, Jackson and I stepped out of the cave and into the vastness of the ocean. Within a fraction of a second, our tail fins had reformed and we were speeding through the water. Jackson kept me close to his body as we moved, whether for my comfort or my safety I wasn’t sure. Either way, I appreciated it.
We swam for quite a distance before I began to feel oriented, recognizing several landmarks as we passed. I wondered about the magic used to keep the cave entrance and canyon cloaked. I’d never encountered magic like that before, magic that could be concealed from my bracelet, from my senses. I concluded that it had to be ancient magic, put in place by the older generations, possibly even someone from the High Council.
When Jackson stopped suddenly, all thoughts of that curious magic left my mind, replaced in an instant by the task at hand and the inherent peril of it.
“What’s the matter?” I asked in a hushed voice.
Jackson didn’t respond right away. His sharp blue eyes scanned the waters around us like an eagle scans the sky. I looked out, trying to see what he saw, hear what he heard, feel what he felt. Although nothing seemed out of the ordinary to me, I knew Jackson was sensing something. His tension tickled my nerves from head to toe as if he were strumming them like guitar strings.
“Madly, don’t ask questions. Swim that way,” he said, pointing off to our right. “Don’t stop. Don’t look back. Don’t worry about me. I’ll find you. Just swim. Now!”
Grabbing me around the waist, Jackson gave me a push for a head start before he turned and darted off like a bullet, cutting through the water in the other direction.
Confused and a little scared, I did as he instructed. I ignored the thought that there was only one portal in the shield and that it did not lay in this direction. I ignored the thought that the further Jackson was from me, the harder it would be to maintain his invisibility. I ignored the thought that I wouldn’t know when to summon the whale or if I still needed to. I ignored all my screaming instincts and did only what Jackson asked.
So I swam.
Straining with all my power to keep Jackson’s appearance concealed, I reached out for any whale in the vicinity, thinking absently that I believed I could feel one. Without taking away from Jackson, I let my own visibility shine through just enough that I could confuse the whale and draw it closer then I put my appearance back under wraps. It was all I could do, the best I could hope for.
When the alarms sounded, I wasn’t sure if I had triggered them or if the whale had stumbled into them. I felt the disorienting, debilitating effects of them instantly. I managed to keep enough of my wits about me to pray that Jackson was safe and that he would get away. I wasn’t sure whether it was a good sign or not when the alarms were silenced less than a minute later. I recovered quickly, but it was with great unease that I resumed my swim. How could I get out when the portal lay in the other direction? What if I got trapped? What if…
My thoughts swam faster than I did as I focused on my trust of Jackson. It wasn’t until I began passing the familiar landscape of the waters outside Slumber that I slowed. How had I escaped the shield? Was there another portal?
I had so many questions, but at that moment, none of them mattered. My worries were tightly focused on one thing, one person, as I scanned the shadows of the deep—looking, listening, feeling. Jackson was nowhere. I couldn’t sense him at all.
Swallowing the lump in my throat, I started to swim back toward Atlas when the memory of Jackson’s voice stopped me. It rang clearly in my head, as if I were hearing him say the words again, right at my side.
Don’t look back…I’ll find you.
With an unbearable emptiness burning in my chest, I turned from Atlas and made my way toward shore. Without Jackson.
* * *
Does anyone else need a fan? Just me? Oh, okay. Whew. Anyway. Little Madly is growing up and this book is filled with HEAT. Keep a fan at finger’s length when you’re reading it, trust me. Did I mention that I’ve had the pleasure of reading this book already? Yeah, I have. And like any of M’s other books, this one was A-MAY-ZING. This is my official take:
In this third installment of the Madly series, M. Leighton ramps up the heat because little Madly is growing up. At the end of book two, we saw that Jackson and Madly declared their love for each other. In this book, they start out happy and together. But as life tends to do, they are tested. Their love itself is tested and Madly’s emotions are tested in a BIG, HUGE way.
One of the most interesting things about the Madly books is that M. Leighton brings in the mythical Lore. In this book, the villain was from Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. How original is that?? So cool. Anyway, Jackson’s love is eventually taken from him… and in effect, from Madly. It’s a dark and scary place for her, because she only just was able to truly own Jackson’s love. And now it’s gone. She has some tough decisions to make. But like the true Mer princess that she is, she makes the right ones. And the ending? I think the ending is perfect for this book. Is it 100% Happily-Ever-After? Nope– and I’m happy about that- because that just means that there will be more Madly books. But the ending was certainly happy enough to make me sigh in relief. Ultimately, this book is one of M’s finest. I would recommend it to anyone.
I hope everyone has a fabulous Thursday!!