Published by Berkley Trade on April 5, 2011
Since she was an orphan, Mona Lisa has always known she was different as a Mixed-Blood daughter of the Monère, and she rules her domain in the Louisiana Bayou with a fierce determination. However, her life takes a perilous turn when her mind starts playing tricks, and everyone around her seems to be hiding something.
When Roberto Carderas, a dangerous drug lord of mixed Monère heritage, arrives in Cozumel to eliminate a rival, he discovers an even greater prize on the island – Mona Lisa. She is the first female Monère he has ever encountered, and her vulnerable state, having lost her memory, makes her an easy target for manipulation.
Roberto convinces Mona Lisa that he is her protector and soulmate, leading her to believe in a false reality. Despite the efforts of her devoted lover Dante, Mona Lisa thwarts all attempts at her rescue. As Roberto’s treacherous plan unfolds, Dante hopes that his touch will reignite Mona Lisa’s memories and save her from the clutches of her captor.
With the truth of her past buried deep within her mind, and escape seeming ever more unlikely, Mona Lisa and Dante must fight for their lives against a dangerous adversary who will stop at nothing to possess her.
This is my first Monere novel and I loved it. There’s a touch of everything, with suspense, action, romance, and some sizzling hot sex scenes all wrapped into a fast-paced, thrilling story line. I thoroughly enjoyed the interactions between Mona Lisa and her men. They are a little bit sweet, a little bit funny and a whole lot of sexy. I can’t wait to run out and get the earlier books in this series to find out how it all started!
— Clare, TwoLips Reviews, 5 rating, A Recommended Read!
Dante is a saber-tooth shifter and he loves Mona Lisa with all of his heart. When he finds out that she has not only come looking for him, but that she is in the hands of a dangerous drug lord, he will stop at nothing to get his beloved back…Sunny has spun a tale that is intriguing, luscious, dangerous, passionate, and adventurous. This story of a half-blood who has become queen against all the odds is a unique book that takes you to a realm beyond the norm. On top of the interesting plot, you have these vibrant characters that seem to illuminate the tale from within and give the scenery extra brilliance.
— Danielle, Coffee Time Romance, 4 cups
Sexy Half-Monere drug dealers, Wild Monere shifters with their crazy Queen, Amnesia and a surprise turn of events that will turn Mona Lisa’s world upside down, again! All that makes Mona Lisa Eclipsing a book full of adventures, sexiness and emotions and twists that I, as a huge fan of this series, have been waiting a long time for.
The sword whistled toward me in sharp descent, almost too fast for a human to see. But not for a part human, part Monère, and whatever else part thing I was, which was, oh yeah, that’s right—demon dead.
I parried, feinted to the left, then thrust to the right. “Gotcha!” I crowed as I tapped Edmond smartly on the ribs.
My young partner lowered his sword, rubbed his side, and grinned as I did a small victory dance. With protective padding and dulled weapons, he could afford to grin. Practice was much more civilized and far less bloody than real life would have been.
“You didn’t let me score on purpose, did you?” I asked suspiciously.
“No, milady,” Edmond said. “You’ve gotten better than me, sure and true.”
“You hear that?” I said smugly to the big guy watching us, Nolan Morell, our sword-master instructor. “I’m better than Edmond now.”
“Progress, indeed, milady,” Nolan agreed blandly. “You can defeat an eighteen-year-old boy.”
“An eighteen-year-old Monère warrior-in-training who has been practicing with the sword since he was ten, whereas I have been swinging a practice blade only for three months,” I corrected.
“And no longer just swinging but thrusting and parrying, attacking and counterattacking now,” my stern instructor relented with a brief smile that quickly faded. “But your footwork is still sloppy, your crossover too slow—”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah.” I dismissed the oncoming lecture with a careless finger wave. “Indulge me for a moment. Let me enjoy my brief glow.”
Both of them waited a couple of seconds as I rested, sucking in deep breaths.
“Enough glow, milady?” The dryness in Nolan’s voice could have rivaled the finest aged wine.
I straightened. “Sarcasm doesn’t become you, Nolan.”
His tone, if anything, became even drier. “I will be sure to take note of that, milady. Now let us continue. En garde!”
We practiced for another twenty minutes concentrating on footwork, then finished up the session with more challenging blade work. Whatever Edmond lacked in skill, he made up for in exuberance as the multiple sore spots where he had tapped me attested. Of course, I’d delivered quite a few whacks myself, I thought with satisfaction.
I saw my progress in swordsmanship much as I did the ruling of my new territory and its many people—much improved. It had been half a year since I had become a Monère Queen, the Queen of Louisiana specifically. It was a mantle that had been awkward at first but was beginning to fit more comfortably. I had over four hundred people under me, Monère men, women, and children. I knew almost all their names now and their varied relationships within our insular community.
“I’m going to miss you, Edmond,” I said as we wiped down our equipment and hauled it inside.
“You have only to say the word, milady, and I will be happy to stay with you.”
And here was where the easy camaraderie that we had shared over the past few months became strained. Because what he was really asking was that I take him into my bed. That was what Monère Queens did to fresh and dewy eighteen-year-old virgin Monère boys: take them into their beds and enjoy their harmless, lusty vitality for a handful of years before they tired of them or they grew too strong, too powerful, and were kicked out of their Queen’s bed. Because then it was not mere copulation anymore, an exchange of pleasure that took place, but an exchange of power and sometimes of talents and abilities.
Awkwardness fell as the tick tock of life intruded upon us. The summer solstice was coming up, and in several months Edmond would leave his home, all that he had ever known, to seek service in another territory with another Queen, one who was willing to make him her lover—our Monère version of going out into the big, bad world. It made worry flutter in my stomach like any mother sending a kid off to college would feel, but to keep him here safe with me would be even crueler because I had no intentions of taking him into my bed. It was much too crowded already.
“Ah, Edmond,” I said, sighing. “I would be doing you a grave disservice if I asked you to stay. Find another Queen who will appreciate the gift of your Virgin Claiming. Me? I’ve got too many men lovers as it is.”
“Not enough, milady, and half of those are not even with you regularly.”
He was referring to Amber, the Warrior Lord who ruled the adjacent slice of Mississippi territory, a portion of my own domain that I had induced the High Queen’s Court to officially split off and deed over to him. I’d upgraded Amber’s status and downgraded his time with me. Gryphon, my other Warrior Lord, my first love, had died and become demon dead. He resided in Hell now but that wasn’t a barrier for me. I could visit him, was the only Monère who could, actually, thanks to that quarter human part of me: my blood was warmer than a full-blooded Monère, allowing me to survive Hell’s scorching heat. Of course, the fact that I was out of sorts with Halcyon, the High Prince and ruler of Hell, who not only happened to be my demon mate but also the sponsor of my newly dead first love . . . well, that made visiting Gryphon a bit awkward. My other lover, Dante, was missing. Of course, I’d sort of kicked him out, but I’d had a change of mind and heart. Only problem was he didn’t know that. He hadn’t come back.
“Only Dontaine is here with you now,” Edmond noted.
Dontaine—my stunningly handsome master at arms. He had stuck despite my best efforts to push him away. I seemed to be my own worst enemy.
“The others might be absent but they still count,” I said firmly.
“Still, that is only five men.”
“Only.” I rolled my eyes, my humor returning. How could it not at such an outlook. “Only five men. If I had it in me, I would blush, but my human upbringing seems to be fading more and more each day I spend with you guys.”
“And they are all old,” Edmond complained. “You should try someone younger and more tender.”
“Yuck,” I grimaced. “You make yourself sound like a piece of steak.”
A smile widened his lips. “Juicy and succulent, prime and untouched—”
“Stop, just stop. You’re turning me off steak, and if you do, I’ll never forgive you.”
The two of us shared a laugh, then in a more serious vein because I had become fond of my young practice partner, I told him with honest regret, “I cannot give you what you need and deserve, Edmond. I’m weird that way. I happen to like older guys, especially the ones I’ve chosen. And I know I may be fucked up, because I was the one to push them away, but I’m waiting for them to come back to me.”
Edmond gave me a gentle smile. “Then they surely will, milady, for I cannot see any resisting you.”
“How about forgiving me?” I asked wryly.
“That, too,” he said with an earnest kindness that allowed a glimpse of the strong and wonderful warrior he had the potential of maturing into . . . if the Queens whose beds he passed through in the next few decades of his life weren’t totally fucked-up bitches—which, unfortunately, most of them were.
“After you’ve enjoyed your time with as many Queens as you can glut yourself on, Edmond, when it becomes too dangerous for you . . . you know that you can always come back here, right?” Young and dewy fresh though Edmond was now, he had only fifty years or less to play paramour to a Queen, a century at most after that to serve as guard. Then would come the grim fate of death or desertion. Because most Queens ended up killing their oldest and most powerful warriors, who became not only threats to the Queen’s authority but also potential competitors for a territory of their own should they gain enough power to attain Warrior Lord status. Either they were killed or they fled and went rogue. They were never invited back to the territory of their birth, offered a promise of safety and shelter, as I was now offering Edmond.
My words clearly stunned him.
“That is very generous, milady,” Edmond said, greatly moved. Kneeling, he kissed my hand.
“Please don’t forget,” I said, fondly tugging his hair. “You have a place to come back to, okay?”
“Yes, milady.” Bowing, he took his leave, tossing over his shoulder, “And I’ll be older then. Just the way you like!”
Impudent boy. I was still grinning when I left the locker room. Nolan still at his desk, jotting down notes in the lesson book he kept on my progress.
“Did you mean it?” Nolan asked, looking up to meet my gaze.
“About Edmond being able to come back here?”
“No. About waiting for your lovers to come back to you. About wanting them to.”
Our relationship abruptly shifted from student and teacher to the more complicated relationship of a woman facing the father of one of the men she loved. “Do you mean Dante?” I asked softly.
“Yes . . . if he can forgive me.”
“Goddess bless us. I believe it’s the other way around–as does likely he: whether you could forgive him.”
“I would hope that we could forgive each other.” There was quite a lot to forgive, on both our parts. “I keep expecting him to return, but he hasn’t. It’s been three months since he left.” Truth–since I kicked him out. “Have you heard anything from him?”
“No, he hasn’t contacted us.” A flicker of worry, quickly concealed. “But he will soon, eventually.”
**WARNING: SPOILER ALERT. For those who haven’t read MONA LISA DARKENING, skip the next 5 paragraphs.**
“Do you think . . .” A hesitant pause. “He wouldn’t try to end his life, would he?” That was my greatest fear. That he would die and this time not come back—be reborn. That was his curse, you see, laid down upon him by none other than yours truly, or who I had been anyway, this fierce Warrior Queen from long, long ago: a curse of dying and being reborn into an ever-diminishing bloodline until his family line finally ended. The number of his descendents was down to a trickle now, just him, his twin brother, Quentin, and his father and mother. But that wasn’t really the part of the curse I worried about—Quentin was even now enthusiastically sowing his seed, and Nolan and his wife, Hannah, might still yet bear more children. What worried me most was the possibility that the curse I had laid upon Dante so long ago might have been broken by the life we had created, the child that had lived so briefly within me before I lost it in a traumatic miscarriage.
It had almost destroyed Dante when I’d lost the baby. He’d taken out his grief by slaughtering all of Mona Teresa’s warriors, the Monère Queen who had injured me and deliberately caused the loss of our child. Last I’d heard, Mona Teresa still hadn’t recovered yet; few warriors had been brave or desperate enough to swear themselves into her service. If Dante had not been legendary enough before, slaying the first great Warrior Queen . . . well, he was certainly infamous now after he had single-handedly sliced and diced and viciously torn apart Mona Teresa’s thirty warriors with exceptionally cold and bloodthirsty proficiency.
Dante and I had a real complicated history, you might say. We had been enemies long ago, then lovers in my second cycle of life in a most ironic twist of fate. The wonder was not that I had pushed him away: it was why I wanted him back.
The answer to that lay in his eyes—what I had seen in them as I had cramped and bled and lost our child, his hope for ending the curse. The way he had touched me and held me with a tenderness and concern that had fractured and broken my heart even more.
I had saved him, started to love him until my memory of him, of my first life, of being killed by him, returned. Then I had feared him and pushed him away ordered him gone. And I was afraid now that he might be gone forever.
I know. I was one really messed-up gal. I pushed the men I loved away from me, and then when they left, I wanted them back. But I was aware of my issues and I was trying to change. Fate had given me a second chance with Dante, and even though I had managed to screw up the first part of it, this second opportunity was not yet over.
Please, Goddess, I prayed. If you give me another chance, I promise I’ll do my best to make it right this time.
The door opened and Hannah Morell rushed into the room. She glanced quickly at me, then fixed her gaze intently on her husband. “Dante has been seen on the island of Cozumel.”
And I discovered, to my surprise, that sometimes prayers really do work.