• Toni Cox

International Bestselling Author

I'm still trying to comprehend the enormity of what this title means. Four years of hard work has gone into this, and I have worked with some incredible people to achieve it.

Most of all, though, thank you to everyone who has supported Playing With Fire along the way and has made this possible.

We are still waiting to find out about our results about the USA Today Bestseller List, but we won't know until Thursday. There is only a slim chance for us, but even if we don't get it, we have already achieved Top 100 in seven different categories ~ and that's just in the American Amazon store.


It has been an incredibly busy year for me so far, and with the release of Playing With Fire behind me, I'll be taking my life out of the fast lane for a while, and concentrating on polishing my skills.

I have several big releases planned for next year, some of which I have already started to write, but I want to give you the very best books I can give you. The next three months are for me to study, continue with my worldbuilding, and plotting, plotting, plotting.

There are exciting times ahead, and I wish I could release my books as fast as I can think them up but alas, the writing process takes a little longer. Let's just say you have some good books to look forward to ~ and yes, there will be dragons!


New Release by Sian B. Claven


For those of you who don't know, Sian is my #AuthorBestie and we pretty much do everything together. We have been writing together for just over three years now and I am incredibly proud of how far she has come as an author.

Today marks the day of the release of her 15th book, and boy is it a #MustRead.

I stopped reading horror when I was in my teens, and only picked up my first horror book again when I met Sian. She eased me back into the genre with her YA Horror "Ensnared", but let me tell you, "Buried" is a far cry from that.

This latest work from Sian is everything you expect from a true horror story, and this is one book you do not want to read in the dark...or alone...or in a confined space.

So, if you need a little scaring in time for Halloween, one-click yourself a copy now.


Buried


Home is where the heart is ... or the hatred.

You can feel the love and care someone puts into their home just by walking into it. Equally, you can feel the hatred and malice when you step into a home where dark deeds have been done.

Alex and his team of so-called paranormal investigators are given the opportunity of a lifetime when they are able to film inside one of the most haunted, and cursed, locations in their area. The Jackson Mansion. The thing that makes this mansion truly unique is that it is built completely underground. Determined to uncover the dark secrets of the mansion's past, and prove himself a notable investigator, Alex doesn't care what it takes. The mansion, however, has other ideas, as well as some rather restless occupants.

Paying it forward


I have another author friend who is also part of a box set, which released today. While we were working so hard on Playing With Fire, Jo-Anne Joseph helped us out wherever she could. Today is my chance to return the favour.

The authors in this set are also trying to hit the USA Today Bestsellers List, so let's help them out by one-clicking your copy today.

Prophecy of Magic is now live and it's THE Paranormal Romance and Urban Fantasy box set of the moment.

Prophecy of Magic


Dangerous fates, mysterious curses, twisted fairy tales, and doomed prophecies...

Explore new worlds in Prophecy of Magic: a collection of over twenty urban fantasy and paranormal romance novels curated especially for the genre's biggest fans!

These stories include all of your favorite mystical creatures, from gods and angels, to vampires and fae, to shifters, demons, witches, gargoyles, and more! With so much magic involved...what could possibly go wrong?

Including stories from several New York Times and USA Today bestselling authors as well as fresh new voices in fiction you've yet to meet!

Prophecy of Magic will captivate fans from the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina to American Gods.

Don't miss the chance to hold magic in your hand.


Recommended Reads







Before we get to the Promos ~ where you can grab your free & discounted books as usual ~ I just want to let you know that right at the end of my blog you'll find the first chapter of The Wolf of Ashford Manor, which is my story in the Playing With Fire Box Set.

So if you would like a little taste of it, scroll down to the bottom, and read away.


Promos












The Wolf of Ashford Manor


Chapter 1

Patrick stood at the edge of the precipice of white cliffs, and gazed out over the ocean, staring at the distant continent across the water; the ship he had stepped off earlier was already out of sight.

Too long had he been away from home.

He now turned his back on those distant shores, burying deep within the memories of the last three years.

He strode out powerfully, his long legs steeled from the years in the war. He had miles to go to Ashford and would not reach it for several days. There would be inns along the road, and he hoped to find accommodations there for the nights.

After a good day’s march, Patrick readjusted his weighty satchel and stepped off the rutted road to allow a wagon to pass. The two heavy draught horses snorted uneasily as they went by him. He looked up into the sky and realised night would be upon him soon.

“Good sir,” he called out to the driver, “would there be an inn close by?”

“Not for another twenty miles, ‘m ‘fraid.”

The horse nearest to him exhaled nervously, and the driver shifted his attention away from Patrick. Stepping back, Patrick cast another heavenward. Wispy clouds sailed across an orange-tinged sky as the sun began to set in the west. Soon the moon would rise.

Leaving the driver to calm his horses, Patrick turned away from the road and headed towards the nearby forest. A vein in his neck throbbed at the thought of spending the night within the confines of the dark trees before him.

He walked deep into the woods, well out of sight of the road. At a pebbly creek, he hung his satchel upon a high branch of a tree before slaking his thirst with the cool water.

As the light faded, Patrick gathered firewood and made a fire pit with rocks from the riverbed. He put dry moss and kindling in the centre, and then stacked some logs around it, but he did not light it. Instead, he removed his clothing, folding it neatly and arranging it next to the fire pit. His clothes were worn and faded, but clean. Although muscular, his tall body was made of clean lines, long legs and a broad chest. Years of war had made him lean and tough.

Naked, he cast an approving glance over his sparse camp and then walked away from it. Over the years that he had been away, he had learned to control himself. It had not always been easy, and until even a year ago, there were occasions where he could not trust himself. Today, however, he was in control.

Away from his camp, with the moon rising over the forest, his naked body distorted, changing shape with agonising contortions.

Breathing heavily, the werewolf’s fur bristled in the cool evening air, and he raised his snout to taste the scents on the wind. Tonight, he would hunt.

~

With blood dripping from his muzzle, the dark werewolf lay down beneath some brambles to rest. He licked his paw, content, the flesh of a roe deer having filled his belly.

As morning dawned, the wolf rose, silently padding towards the neat camp prepared the night before. After ensuring that the camp had not been disturbed, Patrick changed into his human form, reversing the contortions from the night before.

He stood for a moment, shivering and sore before he willed himself to light the fire. He washed off the blood coating his skin in the shallow creek, donned his clothes, and then warmed himself by his fire while the memory of the wolf slowly retreated from his body.

Coming back into his human form was always unpleasant. There had been times when he considered taking the wolf form permanently. Once he had remained a werewolf for several months, and it had almost cost him his humanity.

Once the shivering ceased, Patrick drank from the river and then extinguished his fire. He cleared his camp for it to appear as if he had never been there. Soon he was on the road again, striding out robustly towards his home.

He looked forward to being home. Patrick was the only son and heir of Edward Blakesley, and they had always had a close bond. From the moment he was born, his father had spent every available moment with him. When Patrick could walk and talk and understand, Lord Blakesley had undertaken the task of educating Patrick in the history of their bloodline.

It had frightened Patrick at first. Although his father never transformed in front of him until he was much older, Patrick often dreamed of beasts during the dark nights. When his mother came to comfort him, he would shy away from her, to settle down only when his father entered his room. The most important, and unbreakable, rule his father taught him was never to hurt his mother. It was one of Patrick’s biggest fears as he grew up. The werewolf rage could be difficult to control even for a grown man; for a teenager learning the skill, it was almost impossible.

Often his father would take him away on hunting trips. Patrick felt more at ease during those times, away from his beloved mother as well as the townsfolk.

During the years between eleven and seventeen, Patrick learned everything he needed to know about being a werewolf, but the principal test was yet to come. During those early years, the transformation was only partial, becoming fuller with every passing year. Patrick’s father called him a late bloomer, for Lord Blakesley had fully matured by the age of eighteen. When Patrick turned seventeen, his transformation still lacked its full intensity.

Shortly after his eighteenth birthday, however, Patrick’s demeanour changed. He became agitated, expressed anger for no apparent reason, and often fought with his parents. He could not control these feelings and, on days when he was calm, he regretted the manner in which he had spoken to his parents.

One day, his parents called him into the parlour.

“It is time, my son.”

At first, Patrick did not understand.

“I have written to your uncle in Villadiego. There is civil unrest in that country, bordering on war, but he will be glad to receive you. Your term to reach full maturity has begun. For the next two to three years, your body will undergo the most radical changes during your development. Are you ready to undertake this journey?”

They had discussed this many a time, and Patrick knew what to expect, yet the sudden thought of leaving had sent him into a fit of rage. With his father in full werewolf form, and his mother levelling her rifle at him, he had eventually calmed down enough to answer.

“Yes, Father. I am sorry, Mother. I shall pack my things immediately.”

~

And thus, his journey had begun three years ago. He had taken a sailing vessel across the channel to the mainland and then begged to accompany a tradesman on his trip to the Iberian Peninsula.

The tradesman carried weapons, for by then the Carlists had declared war. Patrick knew nothing of Carlists, or even much about Spain, and listened carefully when the tradesman spoke of what awaited them.

By the time he reached his uncle, Angus Blakesley, two months after his departure from his homestead in Ashford, Spain was in turmoil. Lord Blakesley’s modest villa, set deep within the farmlands and away from the town of Villadiego, lay unscathed, unlike some of the towns Patrick had passed through along his way.

“My boy, it is good to see you,” his uncle welcomed him. “I last saw you when you were but five years old.”

“Thank you for having me, Uncle.”

“It is my pleasure. Come, freshen up and then you can talk to me of home.”

They soon formed a close bond, his uncle continuing the teachings of his father. Although a likeable man and pleasant company, Patrick’s uncle was a strict and unforgiving teacher. This was best, for never had Patrick felt such rage. At times Angus locked Patrick within the cellar of the villa for days while his blood boiled within him and his body screamed in agony as it changed. Other times, however, Patrick’s rage simmered deep beneath the surface, calmed by the gentle hands and nubile bodies of his uncle’s maids.

When he was nineteen, the war had spread, foreign legions joining the fighting. With the villa and the town of Villadiego under threat, Patrick joined the Spanish military. In desperate need of soldiers, no one questioned his lineage. With his uncle by his side, he learned everything there was to learn about war, and more. Angus made him fight with rapier and lance until his body was lean and strong.

Only once Patrick had proven himself in battle as a man, and proven he could control his temper, did Angus allow him on the battlefield as a wolf.

During those times, their combined power was that of twenty men, and they would always win the battle on those days. No one ever believed those who said they saw an abnormally large wolf, and most dismissed the reports of wolves scavenging the countryside for corpses.

It was then that Patrick tasted human flesh for the first time. It disgusted and excited him at the same time. The werewolf within him had never tasted anything as deliriously delicious as human flesh before, but the human within him rebelled against the thought of feasting on another human being.

“It is what sets us apart from the ferals, Patrick.”

“Ferals?”

“Feral werewolves. Not bred of our noble line, but humans who were bitten. They are unable to show restraint and choose to remain in their wolf form. It makes them forget their human lives. I know of no beast more vicious or dangerous.”

“That is abhorrent.”

“Indeed, my boy. Those creatures are truly terrifying and are the werewolves the legends are based on.”

After serving for nearly two years, Patrick returned to the villa. Angus now concentrated on continuing Patrick’s academic education, teaching him astronomy, mathematics, Latin, and the fine art of Spanish cuisine.

Another appreciation he learned while residing at his uncle’s villa, was the delectable taste of the Spanish maidens. With his dark hair, pale skin, and sultry looks, he was never in short supply of admiring ladies. The servants at the villa soon spread the word of the handsome nephew, and the young women who tended the orchards and vineyards around the estate would often make the detour to pass the villa on their way home.

Patrick’s uncle neither encouraged nor forbid it, but rather left him to find his own way in matters of the heart and sexual fantasies. They never spoke about it, except during a lesson about reproducing and the woman bearing a son. Patrick took heed and, using his exceptional senses, would only lie with a woman if it was safe to do so.

Patrick took all his uncle’s lessons to heart and, as he grew older, he matured. The war taught him humility, honour, valour, and, above all else, to value life.

His final act on the mainland was to help his uncle hunt and kill a pack of ferals that had terrorised the town of Villadiego. A lesson Patrick would never forget.

~

It rained for most of the next day, and he cursed his lack of a horse. Patrick had decided against paying the exorbitant prices the traders charged at the harbour, but now wished he had done so.

The rutted road remained empty of carriages the entire day, and he stomped along in his sodden clothes, wishing he could abandon his belongings by the side of the road and continue the journey as the wolf. His satchel, however, contained documents for his father, as well as gifts for his mother. It also held some items he had collected while on the continent that had value to him.

Stoically, he bore the cold and wet and marched on. He had seen worse weather than this spring rain, and the wet would not kill him.

When the rain finally stopped, he took off his clothes and dried them by his campfire while he hunted — feeding himself as the wolf while travelling was easier and more efficient than if he had to hunt on foot and then cook his food.

The next day the clouds hung low but kept their watery burdens to themselves. A brisk wind blew them southward, and the sky soon cleared. By the time he reached Oakland Forest, the sun shone brightly, and Patrick tied his jacket to his back.

Oakland Forest surrounded most of Ashford and spanned many miles in all directions. He knew this forest almost as well as his father did, for he had spent his entire childhood training within these woods.

His stride now lengthened as he followed the well-maintained road through the trees towards the town he called home. He looked forward to coming home and telling his parents of his adventures.

The sight of his birthplace set his heart to beat faster. The low manor stood between the oaks as it always had, with its wide steps leading to a narrow porch spanning the entire length of the building.

The gravel crunched beneath his feet as he crossed the yard and hurried up the steps. On the porch, he took a moment to put his jacket back on and pull it straight before he knocked on the door.

“Master Blakesley.” The servant smiled broadly as he opened the door. “What a pleasant surprise. Your parents will be happy to see you.”

“As shall I be,” he replied. “Where can I find them?”

“Your mother will be in the parlour with the ladies. Your father is out back, training a new stallion. Shall I announce you to the ladies?”

“No, Winston,” Patrick replied. “Let me freshen up, and I shall find them when I am done. It is good to see you, old friend.”

“Indeed, Sir.”

Patrick climbed the stairs to the bedchambers, smiling to himself. His father always trained his own horses, to accustom them to the smell of the wolf.

In his room, he emptied his satchel while he waited for Winston to bring water for him to wash. From his wardrobe, he took fresh clothes to wear. Winston soon arrived with the bucket of water and Patrick stripped naked. The servant took his dirty clothes away while he bathed.

Feeling refreshed, Patrick stepped into his finery - clothes he had not worn in over three years - and found them too small. Frowning, he stood in front of the looking glass, eyeing the stretched fabric.

“Would Master Patrick like something from his father’s cupboard?” Winston asked, poking his head into the room.

“Indeed, Winston. It seems I have grown.”

“And not just in height, Sir.”

Patrick struggled out of his old clothes and donned his father’s much larger garments when Winston brought them. Looking suave, he made his way back down the stairs.

He could hear female voices coming from the entrance hall, and Patrick knew his mother was saying farewell to the ladies she had over for tea. Leaning casually against the door frame, he watched them button their coats and thank his mother for her hospitality.

His mother looked good; her hair piled neatly upon her head and a flush upon her cheeks. Patrick smiled fondly, waiting impatiently to greet her. Unexpectedly, he saw a flash of dark, sparkling eyes within a pale face, and it sent an icy shiver over his skin.

Straightening, Patrick tried to get a better look, but the pale girl was whisked out of the door by the other women, and he lost sight of her. Startled, it took him a moment to realise his mother had seen him.

“Oh, Patrick,” she breathed, hand on her chest.

~

It was good to be home; the familiar smells and sounds of the manor; his father’s deep, reassuring voice; his mother’s soft, yet steady manner.

They sat around the dinner table for hours that night, telling stories of the years past. Ashford had not changed in his absence - neither had his parents - but his father noted the many changes he saw in Patrick.

Calm, confident and well-mannered were merely a few words his father used to describe him. Patrick felt awkward under his father’s praise, but his mother glowed with pride.

It had been a long time since Patrick had slept as well as he did that first night he was home.


(Disclaimer: The Playing With Fire Box Set is a Paranormal Romance with an age restriction of 18 years+. The Wolf of Ashford Manor will be published as a stand-alone novel next year slightly altered to suit readers 16 years of age.)



Reedsy Discovery ~ Elemental Rising


My epic fantasy Elemental Rising has been reviewed on Reedsy Discovery and now needs a little love from my fans to go up in rank.

All you need to do to help me is log in and click the UpVote button. No purchase necessary.

The more votes I get, the more visible Elemental Rising will become in the Reedsy store. Please, help me get my book on the front page.

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