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The allure of the beautiful young woman as a sacrifice is one that has long been a part of storytelling. From the virgin sacrifice given to calm the monsters/gods to the child who is tithe in fairy stories to a member of their party sacrificing themselves so that everyone else can continue their quest, there are all kinds of examples of women as sacrifices in fantasy fiction. Often, they are rescued by a dashing prince or a cunning wizard or some other male archetype furthering his own story. Not here. In Sacrificed, these young women's salvation comes in the form of other women, and together, they rewrite the end of the tale on their own terms.

With The Solstice Kiss, Lorena is marked by the pagan goddess Awilix and told she is to be prepared to sacrifice herself to the goddess on the night of the summer solstice, six months away. But as the date approaches, Lorena is plagued with doubt—Awilix could be what she claims, but she could also be a demon intending to devour her soul! In a village committed to Following the Old Ways, the young virgins are rounded up and a candidate selected to be sacrificed to a vengeful dragon. Kassandra is the unlucky selection this time, but she fears how the dragon will react when it learns she had shared a night of passion with her dearest friend Rebekah, and is no virgin after all. Song faces her Sacrificial Destiny when she is accepted as tribute by the dragon Farcloud, who deems her worthy of survival and allows her to serve. Song is reluctant at first, but when Farcloud reveals she also has a human form named Isaronel, Song's desires are kindled, and her service no longer seems a burden. The Spellbound servant Imogen is bound to the sorcerer Linn and charged to care for a captured rebel girl who is to be prepared for a sacrifice to an entity from the beyond. But when Imogen refuses and escapes with the girl, Linn focuses all his power on tracking them down, and now no longer cares which girl falls under his knife!

The visions started the night of the winter solstice, the moon high in the sky. Frightened, Lorena sat up in her small cot in the observatory, perspiring despite the chill that had crept into the room. But for her gasp, the night was perfectly silent, so silent that she could hear her heartbeat like the pounding of drums.

Lorena felt the presence in her room like the warmth of a summer breath, the slightest caress of air across her skin. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw motion: the silken movement of a cat, the graceful ruffle of an eagle's wing on the air. She blinked, trying to figure out why such images had come to her. She was a biologist, but she rarely thought in terms of natural description.

Her heart pounded in her chest; fear made her senses come to life. She could feel the breath of the creature as it paced toward her. There was a raw, feral, smell to it, the sort of smell that made her reptile brain gibber in fear. She pulled the covers up over her naked body, shivering despite their warmth.

The moon shone on the creature as it moved into view, shimmering on its skin with a thousand muted colors. It was a woman, but like no woman Lorena had ever seen before. She was sturdily built, naked but for the feathers she wore. Lorena's breath caught. She was a supernatural creature, a goddess even, more beautiful than Lorena could have ever imagined. She was taller than Lorena by at least a foot, her long legs and curves accentuated by the moonlight.

The goddess leaned over her, pulling the covers back. Tracing lines of fire down Lorena's sternum, her ethereal fingers brushed Lorena's skin. Between her breasts. Touching her heart. The fire burned in Lorena's belly, radiating downward in gentle strokes of pain and pleasure, and she lay back on the bed, moaning despite herself.

The goddess' feathered headdress shimmered in the moonlight. She smiled, teeth sharp and gleaming. She leaned over and licked Lorena's stomach, her tongue as rough as a jaguar's. "Come to me on the summer solstice."

She left, disappearing and leaving Lorena gasping for air. The memory of the goddess' touch made her moan. Nothing relieved the need that grew inside her.


Lorena woke the next morning convinced it had been a dream, a sinful dream brought about by her desires, by the loss she felt at Sophia's impending wedding. There would be too much wine at the wedding. Her heart would be filled with the sourness of seeing her lover in white, smiling happily at a man.

When she pulled off her night shirt, she saw the marks. The five cuts on her abdomen ached with the memory of the goddess' touch. Drops of her blood stained her shirt, lines like unholy stigmata. Yet she couldn't bear to consider the goddess' touch as unholy.  Despite her Catholic fear of pagan idols, the Goddess' presence had been pure and hungry. She had never felt something so real, so immediate, as the goddess' presence. Nothing in her religious experience compared with the lust she had felt, the sheer desire that burned through her.

She tried to ignore the memories of the sensation as she showered and dressed. Putting on a slip, she glanced at the bridesmaid's dress. Sophia was just being cruel. The dress was turquoise with silver beading that trailed down from the bodice to the hips. It was a flattering dress, one that Lorena suspected Sophia would have liked to see on her in another circumstance. She ran her hands down her hips and felt a flare in the marks on her abdomen.

-- from "The Solstice Kiss" by Vivian Caethe

0 - jj at Rainbow Book Reviews
"This anthology is simply brilliant. Each story is complete and beautiful on its own. They all swept me away and left me amazed, exhilarated, and gasping for more! And the cover art illustration was astoundingly captivating. It expressed the essence of the first story to perfection. Sensuality is highlighted, but bravery is extolled. This anthology is not to be missed!"




53,800 words

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F/F, fantasy, dragons, magic, religious themes


Della R. Buckland
Jason Allard
Meri Benson
Vivian Caethe