Friday, October 5, 2012

Her Mad Hatter, by Marie Hall

As promised, here's the blurb and first chapter for Her Mad Hatter.  Now, don't just put this on your TBR pile in your head, go download it and have it on your ereader as a To Be Read!  Yep, this book is currently FREE!  So check it out, then go get your copy!  :-)

BUY LINK: Her Mad Hatter



Blurb - 

Alice is all grown up. Running the Mad Hatter's Cupcakery and Tea Shoppe is a delicious job, until fate--and a fairy godmother with a weakness for bad boys--throws her a curveball. Now, Alice is the newest resident of Wonderland, where the Mad Hatter fuels her fantasies and thrills her body with his dark touch.

The Mad Hatter may have a voice and a body made for sex, but he takes no lovers. Ever. But a determined fairy godmother has forced Alice into Wonderland--and his arms. Now, as desire and madness converge, the Hatter must decide if he will fight the fairy godmother's mating--or fight for Alice.

Chapter One -


Danika, fairy godmother extraordinaire, ran her glowing hand over a shadowy bump in the mushroom cap wall of her home. It was the hiding place for her most treasured and valuable item-- her wand. She grabbed hold of the smooth wood, the hum of its power echoing down her fingertips like the swelling vibrations of water dripping on thin metal. Worn down from years of granting wishes. She was the best at what she did. No doubt about it.

Of course that stupid fat cow- oh what was her face, the one who worked with Cinderella- thought she was the best. But honestly, what was her claim to fame? Turning a pumpkin into a coach? Or, how about making mice footmen?

Preposterous.

She was a disgrace to all the fairy godmothers out there with her ridiculous bippity-boppity-booing.
Not to mention her clientele. That simpering little doll-- a classic Mary Sue if ever there was one. Oh save me, Prince Charming, for I am pretty and cannot do a thing for myself. *Bat lashes, wiggle bottom, ad nauseum.*

Blah!

Pathetic little creature. Danika would rather gouge her eye out with a spoon. A rusty one! And... and... roughened at the edges. She humphed. That’s how much she hated the simpering princes and princesses of her world.

Thankfully, she’d never have that problem. The moment Danika had graduated from Fairy Godmother Inc.- three hundred years ago- she’d applied to work as godmother to the lowly. Since none of the other godmothers wished to work for them, they’d given her the position posthaste and left her to do her thing. Quite happily too, she might add.

Danika worked for the bad boys of Kingdom.

The degenerates; low lifes, and naughty villains. She snorted, shaking her head at how little anyone knew about her boys. Why any self-respecting fairy godmother would pass them over for an inane twit who relied on animals to do her housecleaning was beyond her. Grabbing her star-dusted cloak from off the coat rack, she tossed it over her shoulders. Glittering bits of stardust drifted to the floor.

A golden bolt of power flowed down her arm, through her fingers, and out the tip of the wand. It swirled like a flame, dousing out the candles. She shut the door behind her.

Tiny iridescent wings broke free of her vest, lifting her high into the bejeweled night. Her path cut through trees with branches thick as the fattest snakes.

Stargazers shivered at her passing.

“Thank you, Fairy Godmother!” they crooned as the stardust settled on their beautiful pink petals. They swiveled on thin green stems, lapping up the powder like a fine wine.

Danika winked, gave them a jaunty wave, and continued on. Most days she’d stop to chat, maybe sing a song or two, but tonight she traveled in haste.

Once a year, the Bad Five (the truly worst of the worst of her boys) gathered, to drink, to discuss who’d they’d plot against next, and generally muck it up together. It was perfect timing for her-- because she had five birds to kill and one stone to do it with.

Miriam the Shunned-- fairy godmother of wishes and visions-- had given Danika some sobering news last month. Either get the Bad Five hitched, or great misfortunate would befall them.

Not like Danika hadn’t made many love matches already. Her resume was quite hefty. Why just last week Mr. Fee Fi Fo Fum himself had fallen madly for the wicked witch of the West. Next month was to be their nuptials. Danika had received her invitation to the gala only today. And last month she’d introduced Tweedle-De to La-Di-Dah, sparks ignited, and Danika was fairly certain there’d be a second wedding in the future.

Danika was good at love matches when given sufficient time, but love matches weren’t as simple as poof there she is, kissy kissy, and sailing off into the sunset. Finding a perfect mate took patience and due diligence. To suddenly be told the Bad Five had less than a year to find their mates... the thought twisted Danika’s stomach in knots.

Not like Danika hadn’t tried already, many times. But love was much more than chemistry; it was a melding of hearts and minds. Of seeing someone and knowing unequivocally she or he was it.

Thankfully, Miriam had owed Danika a boon. There’d been an incident several years ago, one nearly forgotten by all but Danika and Wolf. A sad affair really… Danika shook her head, shoving the haunting memories aside before they grew too strong and claimed her thoughts, now was not the time to think on that, eventually she’d have to address the wrong and pray to the gods she could make it right. But today was for her boys and thanks to Miriam’s sight Danika now knew the names of the women, the very ones her boys were destined to be with.

But she’d been shocked. Not at the names, rather at the reality of just how close she’d been to finding Hatter’s match once before. All within Kingdom knew Alice was destined for Hatter. Their story had been entwined since the very beginning; problem was of the millions of Alices in the world, ‘twas hard to know exactly which one she was.

When Danika was around a viable option her entire body would tingle. Her body had tingled many times and each time she’d been wrong. But a few years ago she’d come across an Alice who did more than make her tingle; her body had surged with power so intense that Danika had momentarily blacked out.

Her name had been Alice Hu.

Miriam had told Danika that Hatter’s true match was also named Alice Hu, great-granddaughter of the original. And Hatter had hated the original.

Flapping her wings harder, Danika tried to ignore the sick pit in her stomach. She’d agonized about this all night and finally came to the only conclusion there was: she would not tell him who the girl was beforehand.

A squawking noise broke her from her musings. Startled, she looked up and just in time too. A large white stork carrying a blue bundle in its long beak headed straight toward her.

“Stork!” she cried, and beat her gossamer wings in a furious fashion, hoping to sail clear of the sharp dagger that was his beak tip. She clutched her chest, breathing deep to calm frazzled nerves.

“Mmm, so shorry, Danika. Muss make me drop time, hiss Excellenshe will tar and feather me if I’m late.” His words were slurred, unable to open his beak too wide lest the babe drop out.

“Honestly.” Danika straightened the ends of her dress in an attempt to settle herself.

The stork didn’t pause, but he dipped his head in apology. Ruffled, but not vexed, she nodded back. He was, she supposed, in a hurry much as herself.

A tiny green fist poked out the top of the bundle.

Danika curled her nose.

She hated ogres, no matter what form they came in. Nasty little boogers they were, always smashing through trees, destroying her precious forest home with their big gigantic ham fists and warty feet.

With a shake of her head she hurried on. She couldn’t wait to see the Bad Five. Of all her charges they were her favorites and for the life of her she could never understand why more fairies didn’t feel as she did. Bad boys needed love too. Her boys weren’t dangerous— just naughty. But naughty could be very, very fun. Unfortunately, Kingdom was mostly made up of goodie two shoes with a very dim view of good and evil. They were completely unable to look beyond her boys’ slightly colorful pasts. So the Wolf had killed a time or two. Big deal. He was a wolf! What did they expect? That he’d lick his balls all day and howl at the moon?

She chuckled at the thought.

In no time she spied the lights that Leonard-- the Hatter’s pet mouse-- had hung branch to branch. She hovered in the air directly over their table. The Bad Five were already thick in their cups, laughing and eating. Danika took a moment to study her motley crew before they noticed her presence.

The Hatter, as always, slouched in his seat at the head of the table with a fist tucked under his chin. His dark eyes stared blankly into the night, distant, thinking... who knew what thoughts.

Hair disheveled, clothes ripped, but all of it with that flair of style that made it seem possible he’d contrived his appearance to look just so.

Danika had known him several years now, and each year he seemed to sink deeper and deeper into the quagmire of his mind. He needed a mate, someone to help offset the residual madness that built up like toxins in the bones without an outlet. A mate would force him to get out of his head
Wonderland was wonderful, but without a counterbalance, it could turn its inhabitants completely insane.

The man was dangerously close to irreparable damage. He’d been here too long, with no one to pull him from the cliff’s edge. And now, with Miriam’s warnings ringing in her ears, she knew he’d only a year left before the madness completely consumed him. Maybe even less. Her heart clenched— what would Wonderland be without him? Not near as fun, that was for sure.

Hatter took a sip of his tea. She sighed. He truly was a lovely man, with a face that seemed a kiss from the gods, a strong jaw, molten brown eyes, and a mouth made for sin. Her pulse raced. Old as she was, she was not impervious to his charms. Charms he never seemed aware of. Hatter simply was what he was.

 “Has the witch arrived yet?” The deep timbre of Gerard’s voice shivered through the cool night. He tipped his head back and chugged from the tankard he held fisted tight in his hand.

“I’m sure I don’t know,” Hook said, eyeing the French drunk with a sharp black brow.

“She’s not a witch,” Jinni sipped at his tea, “she’s a fairy. Kahar.” The last dripped from his tongue like venom.

She covered her mouth, containing the mirth that threatened to spill when Gerard’s face mottled a dark shade of red.

“I detest when you speak Chinese.”

“To vilify a man is the readiest way in which a little man can himself attain greatness,” Hatter said, never taking his eyes from some unknown spot in the distance.

Gerard’s face screwed up, as if contemplating Hatter’s words and whether to take umbrage or not. Finally the effort seemed too much for him. “Argh,” he growled, dismissing him with a flick of his wrist.

Hook rolled his eyes. “He’s Persian, you idiot.”

Gerard clenched his fist. “I can take you, une main.”

“Beauty with no brains, Calypso save us,” Hook said in a whiskey-thick drawl. “He called you an idiot, you dolt.” Never a patient sort, his silver hook tapped the table.

Tap.

The wolf’s nostrils flared. Yellow eyes narrowed to thin slits.

Tap.

A low guttural growl.

Hook’s lips twisted as he looked toward the wolf whose hackles were raised, eyes glowing with threat of violence.

Tap.

“Bloody hell!” Gerard smashed his fist into the table, knocking a silver platter full of crumpets to the floor. “Shut up,” he snarled and snatched up a roasted leg of turkey. Straight white teeth ripped into it with animal aggression.

“Oy,” a tiny squeak rang from a ceramic teapot.

Hatter sighed and flipped the lid up. Leonard popped his furry brown head out. Whiskers twitching as he said, “I’ll give ye a nibble to yer hind, I will.”

“Oh hush, rat. And why do you bother with such a stupid creature anyway?” Gerard asked, looking at Hatter and pointing his ravaged turkey leg at the mouse whose eyes bulged with indignation.

“I never,” Leonard huffed, looking back at Hatter.

Hatter patted his furry head, handed him a sugar cube, and tucked him back into his favorite cubbyhole.

The Wolf gave a gentle whuff, whether of agreement or not- it was hard to say- and continued lapping at the cream within the silver dog bowl.

“Uncivilized.” Jinni sniffed. 

His form shimmered like heat rolling off the desert sands. Cursed years ago to a semi-corporal existence, Jinni might never again know the touch of another soul. A curse Danika still worked diligently to try and reverse. Of all her boys, he was the most confusing. A naturally magical creature, he was Djinn- genie to most. With powers that rivaled her own, by all rights he shouldn’t have a godmother. But... he’d screwed up big, gotten himself cursed, lost his ability to use magic, and was now her problem to fix.

However- stubborn, difficult man that he was- he was offended by the very notion of a godmother. Which made her job all the more difficult.

Danika knew beneath Jinni’s icy exterior flowed lava. A spark so hot it consumed. If a woman could ever get into that cold heart, his passion would burn as bright as the desert land he’d hailed from. However there was still the minor problem of his near invisibility.

But she was not here for Wolf, Hook, Jinni, or even the lovely, thick-headed, Gerard.
Hatter slouched even further in his seat, his stare a mile long. Antipathy clung to him like second skin.

She tsked.

Wolf stilled, sniffed, then looked up. The others followed suit.

“Fairy godmother, here to grace us with your presence. Oh goodie.” To the untrained ear Hook’s greeting smacked of sarcasm, but she knew the raven-haired brute well.

She dropped to the center of the table, dwarfed by heaping trays of food and enveloped by the scented aroma of tea and spices.

Danika walked toward him, gossamer skirts swishing in her wake. “Were you hoping maybe for Tinker? Heard tell you had a thing for waifish blondes.” She patted the back of her bun, pointing the wand at her chest. “I could always turn myself...”

“Bollox,” he growled, but couldn’t quite hide the smile twitching the corner of his full lower lip. “I’ve a Pan to conquer, madam, so do let us hurry.”

“Ravishing as always. And is that stardust? Why, Danika, you shouldn’t have dressed so formally for us.” Gerard smoldered, his words layered with sex and decadence. Promises of dark seduction and wicked nights danced in the air.

Her stomach quivered and heat bloomed in her cheeks.

He smiled and scratched his own. The rascal. She’d find a woman to bring him to his knees. Too bad Belle had fallen for the Beast- she’d seemed so perfect. But alas...

She turned on the Hatter. He looked even more bedraggled up close. His tie was undone and skewed. 
She flitted to him, attempted to tuck the dark strands of hair in his eyes back, but it was useless. Finally, she sighed.

“What has happened to you, Hatter?”

There were no emotions on his face and no smile to betray a hint of what he felt. “Life happened, fairy. 
Surely you know. Or haven’t you heard? Cursed I am. The sky is gray, the sky is light, and still the Hatter bemoans his plight.”

That voice made her think of hot nights, cool sheets, and heady moans.

A choir of mingling voices began to sing. “The Mad Hatter bemoans his plight. Oh nay, oh my, the Hatter bemoans his plight...”

“I hate those flowers. Enfer, why did you plant your abode here, Hatter?” Gerard’s French lilt grew rough with annoyance and he chucked a bone toward the garden of singing dandelions.

Shrieks resonated and then flowery roars reached a cacophonous pitch as they cursed him full of boils, warts, and pustules.

“I do wish you’d hurry this on, starflower,” Jinni said with an exotic inflection that rolled over her skin like heated honey.

Dizzy, and slightly breathless, she returned to the center of the table. Too much testosterone, too many fine pairs of eyes studying her. Heaven help the women these men paired with, they’d be the devil in the sheets for sure.

“As you know, I’m your godmother, and as such I’ve duties to fulfill.”

Mon dieu,” Gerard groaned. “Must we abide this horror every year? Be done with it, fee. It’s not worked yet.”

“Again?” Jinni crooked a brow.

Hook fiddled with the end of his mustache. A glint of something in his dark blue eyes led her to suspect he was not as opposed as the rest.

The Wolf gave a moaning growl- human in its whining undertones.

Hatter jerked. It was the first reaction she’d seen from him so far. She might have been pleased, were it not for the threat of violence that quivered through the air like the strike of a finely honed blade.
“No more. I told you last time: no more, fairy.”

She held her chin high. “And I’ve given you leeway and your space. But it is more than time to get back in the game. We will keep searching until we find your Alice. We must.” The lie settled heavy on her tongue, Alice had been already been found, and she knew without a doubt he’d be irate. Danika raised her chin. She would not give into fear though, not now.

Gerard threw himself back on the chair, causing the legs to rock precariously, and laughed. A great big booming sound that rent the night. Pigwidgeons scattered like falling rose petals in a thousand different directions.

Gerard picked his teeth. “Mates. I’m in. I’ll take three, no make that four. All blonde. Big...” he framed his chest, “and no readers.Dieux, I hate readers.” His nose curled as he grabbed his magically full tankard again.

“One will do. And that goes for all of you.” She eyed Jinni hard.

His tipped his head. “In my Kingdom we are expected to maintain a full harem, oh magnificent one.”

“Aye, well…” She stomped her foot, wagging her finger at him. “Women from Earth will not abide that arrangement. Besides,” she grinned, recalling one in particular that would be perfect for him, “she’ll be more than enough for what you need doing.”

“Earth?” Hook roared. “Never!”

The Wolf licked his lips.

“Enough, enough.” She raised her hands. “You’ll not have a say. It is my duty to see to your needs. Happy endings are not the sole domain of Prince Charming.” She bristled, remembering the heated battles between herself and her kind.

Love might never tame the beast fully, but it would certainly temper the wildness in each of them.
The Hatter’s face could have been carved from ice. He was as still as a snake ready to strike. She took a step back; he was certainly crazy enough to do it. Heart thundering, feigning a boldness she did not feel, Danika shook her head. “No, Hatter, not even your madness will affect my decision. It is as I say. When the clock strikes midnight-” She waved her wand and a golden antique clock stood before him, its metrical ticks making Hook shudder. “She will be here.”

“Science has not yet taught us if madness is or is not the sublimity of the intelligence.” Hatter’s voice was whisper soft, but full of some hidden torment.

Filled with an ache to hold him, she clenched her teeth. She could not. She had a task, and she’d see it through.

“Be... be that as it may, she will come and you will mate her.”

He didn’t seem to notice she’d spoken. “But I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep, and miles to go before I sleep.”

She frowned, looking to the others for help in deciphering some meaning behind his cryptic words. The Wolf blew air through his muzzle. Gerard only shrugged.

Hatter was worse, no doubt. There used to be a time she could at least piece together his meaning. Now- oh dear- he truly needed his mate. She knew he was tired of searching. So was she... Especially after the last Alice. The great-grandmother Alice Hu.

Danika clenched her wand tighter. What if the girl looked like the original? She swallowed hard. The last Alice had been cruel, a charlatan. She’d fooled them all. Especially Danika herself. She’d fallen prey to the girl’s outwardly loving exterior. But she’d soon learned they’d had a viper in their midst. The girl had wanted nothing more than the power of Wonderland. She’d never wanted the Hatter.

A reality made all the more sad because she’d never seen Hatter so taken. He’d made a fool of himself- in his mind anyway. He’d shown Alice the wonder and strange beauty of Wonderland, expecting her to love the talking flowers and vaporous cat-shifting loons as he did. But she’d despised it all, wanted to change everything; she’d rejected his uniqueness as madness and mocked him behind his back to others.
Once he’d discovered her deception, something in him had fractured; where once he’d been irreverent, often laughing, he’d turned moody and withdrawn.

Now Danika was set to bring him another Alice, knowing this one to be the right one, but what would he feel knowing this Alice came from that Alice? Would he even give the girl a chance? Would he hate her because of who she was? The thought made Danika sick.

If the magic hadn’t demanded Danika find him an Alice, she’d have brought him a blasted Jane and to hell with all the Alices everywhere. 

“Yes, just so.” She sighed in answer to his nonsensical ramblings.

Gerard snorted. “Only bride who’ll have him is one freshly buried. Honestly, fee, cruel torture.”
She planted hands on her hips in her best authoritative pose. Not easy for one barely 10 inches tall. “Your turn will come soon enough, Gerard.”

He shuddered, and she nodded, pleased her words hadn’t faltered. “Now off with the lot of you. Freshen up, get sober, and for the gods’ sakes, wash.” She eyed Gerard in particular.

They all sat staring at her. She glowered. “Go, I say!” And gesturing at them with her wand, she lifted them from their seats. Wolf yelped the loudest as Danika tossed them from the garden.

“Blast you, sorciere demon,” Gerard’s thick growl rose above the grumbles of the rest.

She grinned and twirled towards Hatter. He was staring at her, eyes full of pain, of hunger, of something he felt would be forever out of his reach.

“Cursed,” he whispered.

She patted his cold fingers. “Hatter, you are not cursed. We just haven’t found the one yet. But we will. I swear it.”

Danika’s words sounded sure, but in her heart she trembled. What will he do: was now the chanting mantra tattooed in her skull. She didn’t have a choice, he was unwell, and he didn’t have much time. 
She bit her lip.

“Let me be, Danika.” He stood. “I do not want a mate out of necessity, or one chosen for me by this crazy up-is-down and down-is-up world. I will not do this again.”

“I love you, Hatter, but hear me well. I’ll never stop.”

He clenched his fist, brimstone burning in the depths of his cold black eyes. Then he blinked and smiled, a slow curling grin. “Do you know, fairy?”

She frowned. “What, my dear?”

His eyes were glazed, his body swaying. “The answer to the riddle?”

Danika’s lips thinned, heart bleeding. He couldn’t even hang on to his anger before the madness claimed him.

She swallowed hard. “I do.”

“And?” He lifted up on his toes.

“Poe, dear.” She touched his bristly jaw. “Poe.”

He snapped his fingers and with a sharp nod, walked off muttering, “I knew it.”

If Miriam hadn’t told truth, if this wasn’t the right Alice, Hatter wouldn’t survive another year. Alice Hu had to be the one, because without the Hatter, Wonderland could never be the same.


*********

And in case you missed it up above, here's the link again to get your FREE copy!

BUY  LINK:  Her Mad Hatter

Thanks for checking it out and be sure to come back Monday for a sneak peak, another entire first chapter, of book two: Gerard's Beauty!

Elaina

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