The Nymph’s Labyrinth
The Nymph Series Book 1
The Nymph Series Book 1
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Publisher: Crimson Romance
Date of Publication: 12/31/12
Word Count: ~60k
A world shrouded in mystery and intrigue, the Sisterhood of Epione must not be exposed.
A Shape-shifting nymph, Ariadne, is tasked with keeping the truth of her group’s existence and their ancient mysteries far out of reach of an American archeologist and his troublemaking son. When forgotten and forbidden passions are awakened, Ariadne is forced to make a choice—fall in line and continue to be overrun and pushed down by the sisterhood, or follow her heart and put everyone’s lives in danger.
Can Ariadne have the man she loves or will the pressure and secrets of the past keep her from her heart’s desire?
The Nymph’s Labyrinth Chapter One
Shoveling dirt in a dark, forbidding hole was the last place Ariadne Papadakis wanted to be. She used the trowel in her hand as a weapon to scrape the clay away. A drop of sweat trickled down the ancient black tattooed snake on her arm, past her elbow, over the serpent’s weaving body, and stopped at the base of her wrist as if it was afraid to enter her palm where the head of the snake was poised for attack.
The city of Gournai sat at the base of a Cretan hill, a blister of light in the callous night. Ariadne could remember when the town had been nothing but a few villas and a market, perfectly rural—a great location for a secret. Now it bustled with modern life and somewhere within the public maze, sat an archeologist who wanted to expose the Labyrinth she and her sisterhood of nymphs had kept hidden for so long.
How had Beau Morris found their secret…a secret that had been hidden for thousands of years? She couldn’t know for sure, but now she had been ordered to deal with the consequences of his action.
Earlier that day, while Ariadne had been working at the museum in Heraklion, a braying couple from Alabama had been amongst the handful of visitors. They had laughed at the bare breasts of the statue of Epione, the snake goddess. They had snickered and made jokes of the serpents that graced her arms and her ample breasts. They never paused to consider what the woman had once meant to so many and still meant to Ariadne’s sisters and all nymphs. They had just laughed and gawked at the oddity before them. Stupid Americans.
Did no one revere what is sacred anymore? Had culture changed that much?
Ariadne pushed the thoughts from her mind. There were some things about the modern world that she just didn’t understand, and Dr. Morris’ ardent desire to destroy the nymph culture by exposing the secrets of the Labyrinth was at the top of her list.
Couldn’t he just leave some things alone?
If he found the Labyrinth, the artifacts would sit in the museum, and like the statue of Epione, be pointed at and mocked—or they would be misused. The sacred Labyrinth needed to stay exactly as it was, hidden from science, from prying eyes, mocking laughs, and greedy hands.
She jabbed the trowel into the hard earth.
The trowel-marked square walls around her seemed to move in a little closer as Ariadne worked. She swallowed back her fear as she looked up at the night sky. When she was done, she could get out of this place and never come back.
Her gaze fell to the exposed light gray column at her right. For a moment she stared at the moonlit carved stone, it reminded her of the thousands of years that had passed since she had been born. Each year brought a new challenge, a new set of problems. She ran her finger against the arid dirt and brought her fingers to her nose to smell the burnt sage, the citric aroma of oranges, and a hint of olive.
To have an archaeologist sticking his nose where it didn’t belong was an invasion tantamount to war. Subterfuge was the game and nymphs had thousands of years of practice.
The ocean breeze picked up and with the scent of salty air, came the dank, putrid scent of forbidden secrets. A hooded crow called out, announcing the arrival of night and sordid undertakings, and pushed Ariadne back to work. She needed to complete her task and get out of the depths. She needed to get back to Heraklion, back to normalcy and out from under her sisters’ command.
The tip of the trowel struck gray volcanic ash and Ariadne stopped. The top of the Minoan-era dirt sat exposed and vulnerable. Ariadne grabbed the box beside her and pulled off the cardboard lid. After she slid on a pair of latex gloves, she lifted the tiny skull and placed it in the hole.
Lifting the rest of the bones one by one, she laid them beneath the skull. Ariadne thought of the child to which these bones had once belonged. She and the child must have been alive at the same time. Had she seen the little one playing in the fields or at the market? Maybe the child would like the mischievous game she was playing, but only if she was successful.
It was of no use to wonder about the past. Now these were just bones, and the child’s spirit was alive and well in the heavens.
Ariadne moved on to the ribs, lying one bone above the next. In no time, she was done. After all, the skeleton couldn’t be too perfect. This was supposed to be a body that had been resting beneath the earth for thousands of years, not a freshly sown grave.
Satisfied, Ariadne pulled the sweaty blue latex from her fingers and stuffed the gloves into her back pocket. Grabbing her trowel, she carefully pushed the soil over the body and packed it down.
The roar of a car stopped her in her tracks. Looking up, Ariadne watched as headlights bounced off the edges of the pit above her. Her heart pounded.
Damn it…Someone is coming.
Grabbing the box and trowel, she stood up. Standing on her tiptoes, she grabbed the edge of the pit and peered out into the night. A thickset man had his back turned to her as he opened the rear door of his car. For a second, she could only stare at the man, his snug American jeans, and his gray T-shirt that stretched over the well-defined muscles of his arms. He brushed his shaggy hair behind his ear.
Breaking her gaze, Ariadne stuffed the handle of the trowel in her back pocket and pushed the emptied box under her arm. The dirt from the edge crumbled beneath her fingers as she pulled away. Stumbling backward, she shoved her body into the tight space between a column and the earthen wall.
Hopefully he wouldn’t come into the pit where she was hiding. A confrontation wasn’t ideal. No, it was supposed to be in and out, as Kat had instructed.
Ariadne tried to slow her heart as she stood still, a human bridge between the memories of the past and the terror of the future. So much was at stake—her life, her culture, her species.
The car door slammed shut and crisp footsteps approached the pit. Ariadne pushed her body back as far as it would go against the crumbling wall. The tight space made her heart race faster, and a bead of sweat slid down her forehead —she was a trapped animal.
So…tight. She must stay calm.
He moved closer, and her breath quickened. She needed to get out. Though he couldn’t kill her if he found her, trying to explain her presence would be next to impossible.
Shifting was an option, to strike at him with her serpent fangs—a couple of well-placed bites and he would no longer be a problem. But to kill…it was so permanent.
I shouldn’t have come here.
She sat the box down in front of her feet and closed her eyes. Shifting was the only option.
Shuffling her feet, they scraped against the dry soil. Her eyes sprang open. The sounds of the man moving toward the pit stopped.
“Who’s there?” the man said, his smooth voice breaking the tense silence.
Ariadne didn’t answer. Holding her breath, she peered out from behind the column. A pattering rain of dirt announced the man’s entry into the pit. His thick, brown hair shimmered in the moonlight and silhouetted his V-shaped torso.
The beam of his flashlight bounced around the cave, and she pulled back, deeper into the small space.
The light moved away from her and she peered around the darkened corner. The man’s back was to her, as he faced out into the night. His feet were in front of the disturbed patch of soil, but he didn’t seem to notice. Thank the gods.
Pulling the trowel from her pocket, Ariadne sat it on the ground. Closing her eyes, her arms pulled into her sides and her legs blended together. Her teeth grew longer and sharpened in her mouth. There was a quiet thump as her clothes fell to the ground. The man turned toward the sound as her body dropped to the ground.
The light flashed above her, but he must not have seen her and he turned back.
Her smooth body snaked around the cardboard box and past the edge of the column as he pulled a bottle from his pocket and took a long drag.
The ocean wasn’t far. Beau’s body would be easy to hide.
Book Trailer: http://youtu.be/z8e3R9T9-hc
Danica Winters is a bestselling author who is known for writing award-winning books that grip readers with their ability to drive emotion through suspense and often a touch of magic.
She is also the Marketing and Promotions Manager for Books To Go Now publishing. When she’s not working she can be found in the wilds of Montana working on her patience while she tries to understand the allure of various crafts (quilting, pottery and painting are not her thing). She always believe the cup is neither half full nor half empty, but it better be filled with wine.
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