Getting into a Parisian art school was a dream come true for Ariana, but night terrors are disrupting her sleep, making it nearly impossible to complete her coursework, and now she faces expulsion.
When a mysterious woman gives her a pendant, promising it will solve her problems, Ariana is desperate enough to try it. Instead of sweet dreams, it transports her to the Demos Oneiroi - the dream world of the ancient Greek gods - and thrusts her amidst a war between the gods. Now Ariana must choose to let the gods fight amongst themselves, or risk everything to keep their feud from spilling into the real world.
"I really enjoyed reading this. It was quick-paced with an interesting premise. I really wanted more Phobetor (who is delightful) and hope to see more of him in the future books in the series."– Tracy Erickson, book reviewer for Galleywampus
"This is a charming and lucid start to an urban fantasy series with a charming, romantic, and strongly classical feel to it. I look forward to the rest of the series."– Dave Butler, author of Witchy Eye
"The Moonflower is an enjoyable and easy read. I was drawn into the story of the shy art school student and intrigued by all of the well-drawn minor characters. There was enough description to pull me in to this new fantasy world without being overly explanatory or simplistic. At the end of the book, I was ready for more, and I eagerly await the next novel in the series."– Amazon Review
Ariana lounged on emerald and gold silk cushions by a large rectangular pool in a courtyard. A trillion stars filled the ebony sky above and around her, their light shone through the gleaming, clear crystal walls.
She never knew there were so many different kinds of stars – small and twinkling, large and glowing, blue haloed, fiery red, and pulsating white. It looked as if every star in existence was crammed into a jar with her floating at the center. It was both exhilarating and terrifying at the same time. Too bad there aren't any planets or moons in the sky. That would be spectacular! It was then that Ariana noticed something bright shining out of the corner of her eye.
A large crescent moon hung in the sky. She could've sworn that wasn't there a minute ago. How could she have missed it? Even though only a sliver was lit, it was close enough for her to see the entire sphere. The darkness across the moon was only a shade lighter than the night enveloping it, like a shadow on black velvet.
Corinthian columns made of flawless white marble framed a beautiful mosaic floor of dark blue lapis lazuli and white mother of pearl tile. Small white wild roses grew in large silver urns placed at the corners of the shallow pool, their thorny blossoming vines cascading into the water. Silk cushions, like the ones she sat on, were spread out in lazy piles between the urns.
Ariana wore a long, sleeveless Greek style gown of deep violet with a braided gold belt and her hair pulled back in an elegant chignon. Her dress clung to her body in the heat. It shouldn't be this hot, there's no sun. As soon as the thought crossed her mind, a soft cool breeze caressed her from behind.
Ariana froze. What was this place? As soon as she noticed there are only stars in the sky, a moon appeared. As soon as she noticed the heat, a breeze magically appeared. Terrifying questions flashed through her mind at dizzying speed. How can this place exist? Why was the room floating in space? Where was the breeze coming from? There shouldn't be a breeze. Heck, there shouldn't be air!
Hesitantly she looked over her shoulder and found the source of the breeze – and identical pair of handsome and muscular young men. They fanned her with a pair of large white ostrich feather fans, each on a long gold pole. When they noticed her watching them, they bowed as one and their mouths quirked into identical amused half smiles.
Wavy black hair fell to their shoulders, framing their sharp angled features and their jade green eyes held promises of pleasures that she was too embarrassed to think about. It didn't help that they wore the tiniest loincloths ever made. A washcloth would have covered more. Ariana snapped her attention back to the pool to hide her flushed cheeks. Even though she couldn't see them, she could feel their hot gaze upon her back.
Ariana pushed herself up. No sooner had she moved, two blonde girls leapt out from behind a column. They appeared to be a couple years older then her. Both wore matching white Grecian dresses that were much simpler than her own and a little too big. They were also cheerful enough to make a puppy look depressed.
"My lady, is there anything I can fetch you?"
"Would my lady like some entertainment?'
My lady? Who do they think I am? "Um, I don't need anything, thank you," Ariana replied. The twin girls' expressions sunk with disappointment.
"Chara," a kindly but authoritative voice called from behind, making Ariana jump. The girl on the left, Chara presumably, snapped to attention. "Melina," The girl on the right did likewise. "Please bring some refreshments for our guest."
An older woman with dark brown hair, streaked with grey at the temples, walked over to Ariana. She wore a dress identical to the girls' but hers was a blue so pale it almost wasn't a color. She also wore a thick black obsidian bracelet on her left wrist.
The girl dashed off through a hidden door. "Please forgive them, my lady. Their exuberance can get the best of them at times."
"That's ok. Listen, they don't need to go to all that trouble. I'm not hungry."
"It is no trouble, my lady. Serving you brings us joy," the woman said as she bowed to Ariana. "I am Zosime, the housekeeper."
Ariana stood up and shook her hand, which was awkward since her hand hung limp in Ariana's. Strange, it's like she's never shook hands before.
"I'm sorry," Ariana said quickly, afraid she had committed a social faux pas.
"There is no need to apologize, my lady. We are honored by your presence." Zosime replied smoothly with a bit of a bow. Her overly formal attitude made Ariana cringe.
"Please don't call me that," Ariana said.
"As you wish, your highness," Zosime said with a bow.
Ariana groaned. This was not what she intended. "Don't call me that either, and please don't bow."
Zosime's face scrunched in confusion. "If I cannot bow or use the proper honorifics, than what am I to call you?"
"Well, you could call me by my name."
"Oh no, I could not do that. It would not be proper."
"Ok," Ariana tried her best to sound calm. "How about you call me Miss instead."
"That I can do," Zosime smiled as she turned to leave.
" Zosime, can I ask you a strange sounding question?" Ariana blurted out. For some reason she didn't want to be alone with the fan boys.
"Of course, Miss."
"What is this place?"
Before Zosime could answer, the two bubbling blondes returned. Melina brought a silver pitcher of wine and a matching cup. Ariana could smell the wine's pungent sourness from here. Chara carried a tray heavily laden with pomegranates, dates, green figs, purple grapes, and several different cheeses.
Chara and Melina deposited their offerings on the tile floor, their faces beaming brighter than the sun. Ariana looked up to see if a sun had mysteriously appeared, but thankfully the sky remained unchanged.
The cheery duo then tried to serve her refreshments. The only thing they succeeded in doing was spilling wine on her dress and nearly poking her eyes out with fruit as they jockeyed for the best serving position. She tried to push them away with little success. Ariana felt like she was trying to fight off a hydra that grew additional limbs instead of heads. She would manage to get one of their arms away only to find two more had taken its place.
"Chara! Melina! Cease immediately!" Zosime commanded, but the girls didn't hear her.
Bits of fruit flew everywhere. Somehow the cheese knife was thrown into the air, narrowly missing her head. It landed in the wall behind Zosime, fracturing the crystal.
Juice ran down Ariana's arms, dripping onto her skirt, and pieces of cheese were ground into the cushions. When Ariana pushed the silver wine cup away from her for what seemed like the fiftieth time, it fell out of Melina's hand and landed in the pool where it swiftly sank to the bottom. Ariana had to suppress a victorious smile.
Seeing the cup sink, Melina cried out in distress and leapt into the pool to retrieve it, splashing a considerable amount of water on Ariana in the process. Ariana jumped back in shock. The water was freezing cold and soaked the entire right side of her dress. She landed on the pile of cushions which slid out from underneath her.
Ariana screamed as she fell, her arms flailed about wildly in a desperate attempt to stop her descent. She landed hard on her back, the breath knocked out of her. The cushions softened her fall a bit, but not enough. Pain shot throughout her body. Ariana groaned as she rolled onto her side and forced her lungs to work again.
"Are you injured Miss?" Zosime's voice was full of concern. Thankfully, she finally managed to call off Chara and Melina. They now stood by the wall to her left. Melina's wet and nearly transparent gown dripped heavily and formed a large puddle around her bare feet.
"Why didn't she do that earlier?" Ariana muttered to herself. She didn't want to say it too loud and risk hurting Zosime's feelings.
"I am so sorry Miss. I can send for a physician…"
"No," Ariana interrupted as she pushed herself up. "I'm fine." The last thing she needed right now was another person assaulting her. She sat up slowly, trying to hide the pain behind a calm expression. But as soon as she was upright intense pain from her tailbone shot throughout her body and she failed to stifle a wince.
Zosime gasped. "Please lie down, Miss. You will only make your injuries worse." She tried to push Ariana back down onto the cushions, but Ariana waved her off.
"I'm fine, really. I don't need a doctor, just some rest."
Zosime chewed her lip. "Forgive us for displeasing you so. Please allow us to make amends. One of the serving boys is an excellent masseuse." She beckoned to someone behind Ariana.
Ariana spun around, her sore body screaming in protest. One of the fan bearers strode forward and Ariana couldn't help but notice that his fan had disappeared along with his twin. This is getting way too weird. There's only one fan bearer, no fans, but the breeze is still here.
As he approached, his walk became stiff and stilted, his legs bent at unnatural angles. That combined with the malicious gleam in his eyes made Ariana suddenly desperate to be anywhere else.
Ariana turned back to Zosime. "I'm going to have to pass on that."
"You have wounded my pride," a rasping voice behind her said.
Ariana looked over her shoulder. The fan bearer's eyes glowed fiery red as he continued towards her. With each step, he grew a foot in size. His eyes split and multiplied into eight round glowing coals in the center of his forehead. Arms and legs split lengthwise, his torso thickened and short bristling hair sprouted across his body.
Ariana tried to look away as she slowly retreated. She didn't want to watch his grotesque transformation. She didn't want to see the massive mandibles that sprouted from his mouth or how his ears melted into his head. But despite how much she wanted to, she couldn't tear her eyes away from the terrifying sight.
The morphing fan bearer fell forward, catching himself on his extra limbs. The new angle allowed him to finish his horrifying transformation into a ten-foot tall tarantula. Ariana screamed and scooted backwards, slipping on trays and crushed fruit in her frantic retreat.
Zosime and the others didn't retreat, they gazed at the spider like it was just part of the scenery. Ariana shouted at them to run. Zosime looked over her shoulder. Zosime's back still faced Ariana as the housekeeper's head twisted around to look at her. A second later Chara and Melina did the same. The skin on their necks stretched and creased to accommodate the unnatural angle. One by one their eyes took on the same devilish glow as the spider.
She scooted backward until she hit the wall and even then her feet tried to propel her further away from the terrifying scene. Her heart was beating a thousand miles a minute. She frantically felt along the wall for a window or a door. She didn't dare take her eyes off of the monstrosities that continued to approach.
Her hand found the crude handle to the door Chara and Melina had used earlier. She lifted it and threw the door open. Ariana took one step backwards through the door and had to catch herself on the doorframe. Her foot felt nothing on the other side.
She didn't want to take her eyes off of the spider or his demonic minions, but she needed to see how far down the step was. Deciding to take the risk she glanced quickly over her shoulder and saw nothing. There was no floor, no steps, no landing, nothing but stars and empty space.
I'm trapped! Her heart leapt into her throat and tears streamed down her face. What do I do now? She had to get out of here before they ate her alive. If I stay here I'll die. If I jump, I'll die. They were almost within reach of her.
I can't stay! Ariana took a deep breath, closed her eyes and leaped over the edge.