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Cloaked by Taylor Hobbs

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  • As the Cloaked Shadow, Fawkes has made his career breaking into prisons for any contract with a large enough purse. He takes advantage of the kingdom's impending revolution by playing both sides of the conflict. Each rescue contract he fulfills turns a tidy profit until he angers the wrong duke.

    Charlotte is a criminal-in-training who yearns to crack her mentor’s guarded façade, but is unprepared to confront the depths of his dark past. As her sense of right and wrong blurs, Charlotte discovers just how far she will go for the Cloaked Shadow and the sacrifices he requires.

    Now hunted throughout the land, Fawkes must face long-buried secrets in order to survive, but they could destroy him. Charlotte risks everything, including her heart, to set Fawkes on the path to redemption.

    Will Charlotte have the strength to pull Fawkes into the light, or will she follow him into the shadows?

    Rating: Sweet
    Page Count: 308
    Word Count: 80384
    978-1-5092-2151-6 Paperback
    978-1-5092-2152-3 Digital

    Excerpt

    Chapter One

     

    Naked as the day she was born, Charlotte felt the earth’s grip tighten around her with an unyielding hold. Fighting claustrophobic panic, she tried filling her lungs with as much cold, damp air as her narrow confines allowed. Her ribs scraped against the rough stone, hands raw and oozing from dragging her body up from the sewers like an earthworm struggling to reach the surface. The tunnel was too tight, and her shallow breaths would not be enough to sustain her, to keep her conscious.

    Charlotte winced as her elbow caught a stone’s razor edge, and the warm blood that welled up caused an involuntary shiver as it trickled down her body. Maybe it will help get me unstuck, she thought, grimacing.

    By that point, the scrape only added one more to the hundreds of cuts that marred her skin, but the pain did nothing to make her regret the decision to forgo clothing. It would have gotten in the way, and scars didn’t bother her. None of it would matter if she died there anyway, lodged in the drain, as tight as a cork in a wine bottle. Charlotte wondered how long it would take for someone in the castle to discover her body. Probably weeks, if ever, because the smell of her tiny, decomposing figure would blend in with the rancid aroma wafting up from below.

    Curling her toes, she tried to find purchase to scoot herself forward up the diagonal slope. With trembling muscles, Charlotte willed herself to concentrate as she fought off another threatening cramp. A thick blanket of absolute darkness pressed against her eyeballs, making her head throb in confusion as she tried to figure out how much further she needed to go.

    What if I miscalculated? she thought. I should be there by now. She blinked hard, vision straining for a hint of light. Still nothing.

    Charlotte bit her lip, wanting to scream in fear and frustration before realizing that a strangled yell would only waste precious energy. Blood filled her mouth, refocusing her rage as she spit it out to mingle with the surrounding filth.

    Move or die, she told herself. And she really didn’t want to die.

    Reach, pull, reach, pull. It might have been Charlotte’s imagination, but it seemed that the confines of the drain were widening ever so slightly. This hope spurred her on as she clawed faster, the cold reduced to a memory as sweat slicked her skin. When her lungs expanded enough to take in her first deep breath, she almost cried with relief. The faintest hint of light appeared in front of her, a gentle flickering that shone down into the drain from above.

    With the promise of freedom so near, it took all of Charlotte’s self-control to maintain her quiet approach. If she got caught, then her journey would have been for nothing, and she might as well have sent her brother to the hangman herself.

    Finally positioning herself under the grate covering the top of the drain, Charlotte listened and waited for her opening. She could hear the shuffling of other people but was unable to distinguish if they were prisoners or guards. The sound of quiet sobbing reached her hiding place. Thunderous steps slammed on the grate overhead, startling a tiny squeak out of Charlotte’s mouth. She fervently hoped it sounded like a mouse.

    Boy!” a man roared.

    The prisoner hiccupped once, and then the crying ceased, already anticipating the rant that followed.

    “Shut yer trap, or I’ll do it for ya. Jus’ have to tell the duke you accidentally choked on yer own tongue. He won’t be pleased, but I wager he can still get some sort of information outta you tomorrow.” He chuckled. “Standin’ duty for an old fool and a whelp. Keep me up all night, and fer what? Not like they’re goin’ anywhere…” The guard’s footsteps faded away, and Charlotte heard a heavy door slam.

    Now or never, she thought, and braced herself for the next part of her plan.

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Cloaked

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