Mona Lisa Craving
Publisher: Berkley Trade
Release Date: January 2, 2008
Monére, Children of the Moon Series#5
From the time she was an orphan child, Mona Lisa knew she was different—but she never knew how different. As daughter of the Mixed-Blood of the Monère, she has arrived to rule a new domain in the Louisiana Bayou. Now, under the full moon, she’s feeling a new and uncontrollable surge—and an instinctive new craving…
Dante, the warrior son of a healer, was cursed by the high priestess to endure a never-ending cycle of life and death, born and reborn into an ever-diminishing bloodline. Someone shares one of his past lives. Her name was Mona Lyria. Back then, on the moon in another world, she was his victim. Today, she is Mona Lisa. This time, she is his savior. Dante’s wish is to die by her hands to end his cursed existence. But she feels fate has given them both a second chance. For even stronger than her craving for blood is her craving for what every Monère female desires, and needs…to bear life. Now she has found her mate. But with this blessing could come a new curse under the shadow of a new moon.
“In Sunny’s third seductive tale of magic and romance (after 2007’s Mona Lisa Blossoming) among the shape-shifting alien race known as the Monère, young mixed blood Queen Mona Lisa embraces her sexuality as a means of healing…. Suspenseful twists promise more heart-throbbing surprises in the next installment of this haunting erotic fantasy series. (Jan.)
— Publishers Weekly
“The latest chapter in the Monere series is a pulse-pounding erotic adventure. It’s narrated in first person by the heroine in a strong yet emotional voice. Sunny creates a fascinating world that’s violent and sexual.”
— Gail Pruszkowski, Romantic Times, 4 Stars
“Oh, my, Sunny, why have you addicted me? You awakened me to the world of the Monère and Mona Lisa, made a love for these characters bloom within me and now you have me craving more and more of Mona Lisa and her extended family… I DID…NOT…WANT…IT…TO…END. MONA LISA CRAVING is a truly excellent read.”
— Lory Martin, Fresh Fiction
“This was the first book of this series that I have read and let me say I am now completely hooked!…Sunny is one of my new favorite authors and I have the other books already ordered. MONA LISA CRAVING grabbed my attention from the first page and didn’t let go until the end. Even now, I can not stop thinking about it, wondering what happened after the epilogue. This book was very hot and sexy, but the sex scenes did not pull away from the story line, as many other stories do. Rather they added to the sexual tension that made the story so intriguing. I found myself weeping with Dante’s character and felt Mona Lisa’s aching emptiness. It is this kind of connection that makes a book truly wonderful!”
— Jennifer, Enchanting Reviews, 4.5 Enchantments
“In this storyline, Mona Lisa gets a much needed healer for her group, but it could be at a great price for everybody involved. The book also delves more into her desire for a child and her engagement to Lord Halcyon, the Demon Prince of Hell…definitely erotic fantasy at its best. I am anxiously awaiting the next book, Mona Lisa Darkening, which is scheduled for release in January 2009.”
— Rachel Smith, Bitten By Books
“Strap yourselves in for one hell of a joyride! This is Mona Lisa like you’ve never seen her. Sunny does an amazing job of creating these characters and their lives, and making it all so realistic. This is by far, my favorite installment in this series. Mona Lisa is always so strong and always seems to know exactly what she wants, and this time around, she’s more vulnerable. I love seeing this aspect of the character. It’s not just Mona Lisa though, her lovers and friends are in for a shocker too, and lives will never be the same…From plot line, romance, and passions to the amazing job Sunny does in making this world so realistic, MONA LISA CRAVING is a must read for any fan of the paranormal, and it’s definitely one I’ll recommend to everyone I talk to!“
— Amanda Haffery, Romance Junkies, 5 Blue Ribbons
“Sunny’s Monere, Children of the Moon series, is unique, captivating and sexy. The next book in this series is called MONA LISA CRAVING, and it is everything you come to expect from Sunny and more…another remarkable addition to Mona Lisa’s saga…Without giving too much of the plot away, I will say that you are going to be in for a real eye opener when you see just how Mona evolves in this story…Those who are following this amazing series are going to be shocked at the degree of intensity this book takes on. That’s why I urge you to become familiar with the previous books. It’s remarkable to see how Sunny grew as an author from her first book to this book. I love not only the eroticism of the story, but also how the plot and characters are constantly evolving. There’s a whole other world Sunny created in her Monere, Children of the Moon series, and I invite you to become a part of it. I highly recommend MONA LISA CRAVING.”
— Julie Kornhausl, Romance Reader At Heart, Top Pick Rose
“Master storyteller, Sunny, brilliantly moves forward with her erotic urban fantasy Monère series in Book #3, MONA LISA CRAVING…. Lyrically gifted author, Sunny, has done it again penning an enthralling tale with beloved characters (human and unhuman) so well drawn she brings them to life. Although primarily a paranormal series, MONA LISA CRAVING will appeal to romance readers on every level and will also leave them craving the next installment of Sunny’s phenomenal Monère series.”
— Patricia Rouse, Rouse’s Readers Groups
“Mona Lisa Craving is an awesome book that will blow your socks, starting from the very first page. Sunny has done a masterful job in this third book of the Children of the Moon series. It will engross you and capture your imagination so completely that it will make you a die-hard fan of Sunny herself and of this series in particular. Mona Lisa is a flawed woman who is constantly struggling to stay on top of all the nuances of the Monère culture without losing the common sense that growing up among humans has given her. It is interesting to experience the emotional dance that Mona Lisa is involved in with Dante, who is the main love interest in this installment of the series. Dante is a tortured hero by any measurable means. This quality will make him endearing and hateful at the same time since it pits him against Mona Lisa while needing her to break the curse that tortures him. I must admit that I loved this book so much that halfway through the third chapter I immediately ordered the previous books in the series, which I haven’t read. Mona Lisa Craving is fantastic book that will snare you and leave you eagerly waiting for the next book in the series. Do get yourself Mona Lisa Craving as its an action-packed book that is guaranteed to make you a fan of Sunny and the Children of the Moon series!”
— Sabella, Joyfully Reviewed
“Mona Lisa Craving is a powerful read. The characters keep the storyline moving consistency. There are some stunning moments involving Mona Lisa and her mother that I considered quite impressive in the aftermath of events. Sunny is a masterpiece author that sketches creative scenes lending great detail to the demons. I got so caught up in the story that it was hard to stop reading.”
— Cherokee, Coffee Time Romance, 4 Cups
“Having just recently been introduced to the Monére and spending sleepless nights because of them, I was thrilled to have been able to preview Mona Lisa Craving. I was not disappointed…I have been impressed with the complexity of the series from the beginning and am amazed at the new threads that were woven into the whole in this installment. I cried myself silly when I read this and see that as a mark of a great writer, one who makes you feel for the people they have created. I look forward to more in this universe and can only hope that Sunny is able to continue without boundaries.”
— Serena, Fallen Angels Reviews, 5 Angels
“The only word to sums up MONA LISA CRAVING by Sunny is “wow!” Reading this author’s books is like watching an orchestra. Every section is completely in tune with the next and Sunny is the conductor. This book is another winner…The love scenes between Dante and Mona Lisa are scorchingly hot and so incredibly touching. A snappy heroine, Mona Lisa with her clever wit and always-sarcastic mouth fits this role to a tee. Sunny has an incredible sense of irony (like her heroine, Mona Lisa), she catches you off guard during some extreme moment and you cannot help but crack a smile. As if she and the reader are sharing a private joke between themselves. Sunny also has an incredible sense of humor along with an incredible ability to write scenes that the best Sci-Fi movies would envy.”
— Barb, TwoLips Reviews, 5 Kisses, Recommended Read
“Fans of this erotic fantasy saga will appreciate this powerful entry…Once again it is the secondary characters that provide strong support to the plot which makes this an endearing tale…MONA LISA CRAVING is another winner.”
— Harriet Klausner, 5 Stars
“Readers have a reason to be excited with this continuation of the Monère: Children of the Moon series…Sunny manages to take the storyline in a direction that one doubts anyone could have foreseen. We are kept at the edge of our seats for suspenseful situations, teased with ephemeral memories, sighing over the emotion and loyalty of characters that we grow to love, and revelling in the scenes of eroticism. She reaches deep into a past that she makes real to us in a most impressive manner….MONA LISA CRAVING is a complete page-turner so be ready to set aside enough time to go from start to finish. It can be read as a stand-alone book, but really one would want to begin with the first story of the series MONA LISA AWAKENING and work one’s way through.”
— Lil, Love Romances Reviews, 5 Hearts
“Ultimate Paranormal. MONA LISA CRAVING by Sunny is another hit with me. It is an achingly beautiful story that will make you cry! Even so, I can hardly wait for her next book. Sunny has the uncanny ability to make the reader comfortable with any situation, no matter how diverse from the norm.”
— Lori Sears, The Romance Readers Connection, 4 ½ Stars
I remembered how I died.
But it was the other memory, the memory of how all my people had died, that utterly devastated me. And the memory of the tool of their destruction. Damian…and myself.
Dante came to me as he had come all the nights before at the gloaming of the day. I studied him as he entered the sitting room where I had sat and waited for him for over two long hours, and gazed at him with memories both old and new. I saw him as he was now—young, easy, relaxed. Happy, even. And over that reality, I saw the monster in my dreams, the cold, burning eyes, the merciless face. I saw the bloody swing of the sword, heard the shrieks, the wails of my people as they died. It was as if ghostly images of the past clung and superimposed themselves over the slimmer body and younger face of the man before me.
I had not known that the curse Dante bore had come from me.
I’d cursed him. And I wondered if I had cursed myself as well. You could not invoke such a thing without some of it coming back upon yourself.
I searched that face, looking for evil. But could not find it in him unless I saw it in myself also. He had killed, as I had killed. Sought vengeance, as I had sought vengeance in the end. We had simply used different means. Was his choice any better or worse than mine? I did not know. Both things that we had done were horrendous. I could see that, understand that in my mind. I’d reached that fair and logical conclusion after two hours of careful thought, deciding how to proceed. But my body was less logically governed. Coldness pervaded my body when he stepped through the door, and an almost wild, wrenching fear seized me. It was a reaction not governed by reason or will.
A riptide of primitive instinct sent my control splintering away, and I overset my chair, sent it crashing to the floor as I hastily stood and backed away from him like a wild animal trapped.
He stopped. Froze still. And that easy happy light that had filled his eyes upon seeing me died away. All the warmth seeped out, leaving his eyes like pale, glimmering ice.
Seconds ticked by. A long, suspended moment of silence and ghosts, of life and death and everlasting rebirth.
“You remembered,” he said. Two words that sounded the death knell of everything that might have been.
I nodded, feeling everything I had resolved die away beneath the primitive scream of horror and rage, of sorrow and pain choking my throat, trying to claw its way out of me.
I could not forgive. I could not forget.
I could not bear to be in his presence.
My body was equally torn between fleeing him, and attacking him. Tearing him apart.
Something closed in him like the audible shutting of a door. His eyes dropped away from mine, and his head lowered.
“We go to High Queen’s Court tomorrow,” he said in a low, quiet voice. “Can you bear my presence for one more day, or would you have me leave now?”
He was asking whether I was banishing him as a rogue, or if I would allow him to re-enter our society legitimately. Asking as if it did not really matter to him what I chose to do.
Now. I want you gone now! my body screamed. But the words that came out of my mouth in a hoarse, strained whisper were, “Tomorrow. You can stay until tomorrow.”
He bowed and left.
For a long time afterward my body continued to tremble.
The next night we went to High Court. The private jet took us there swiftly. I knew that logically, but those several hours locked together with Dante in the plane seemed endlessly long. When we landed, I practically leaped outside. Only when in the open space was I able to feel calmer.
We were settled now in the suite of rooms at the manor house that I had come to think of as mine. The Morrells had been given guest rooms on another floor as per my request. An unusual request that Mathias, steward of the Great House, had complied with without a flicker of expression, although his eyes had widened a bit when he had first caught sight of Nolan and Hannah. By his reaction, I knew that he recognized them.
Other Queens and their entourages had arrived, many whom I’d never seen before. It was a full house, I noticed, as we entered the dining hall, which seemed to be the main gathering spot for now, at least until High Court convened in the next hour. I’d brought all of my men but for Chami, who I had asked to stay behind to watch over Thaddeus, Tersa, and Jamie—my Mixed Blood flock—and Rosemary. Eyes glanced curiously at me, but it was the powerful giant beside me who drew the most attention, the most stares. Amber, my Warrior Lord.
It was not just the gold medallion necklace Amber wore that proclaimed his elevated status, but the feel of his power alone. A power unmatched by any other warrior in that room. Not by Aquila or Tomas, my senior warriors. Not even by Dontaine. It was only now, in comparison to the other Queens’ guards who filled the room that I could see what others saw: that I commanded the strongest warriors here. My men’s collective strength gleamed around me like bright gemstones, sparkling more vividly than any force the other Queens had. And shining most brightly was Amber, like a raw diamond that had been chiseled free of all flaws and weaknesses, so that every facet of him gleamed now with unhidden radiance.
He was different than before, more confident. Grown into his power and authority. He wore it now with assurance and ease, a strong man with nothing to prove. With no fear that his greater strength would mark him for death by his Queen.
He was so much stronger now. Not in degree of power, that was unchanged, but with the quiet command he wielded. Two of his guards stood by his side, and two virgin lads. They were all technically from my territory, but they were really his, boys who had chosen to train under him. The two eighteen-year-old boys had come to seek service with other Queens. To give up their prized virginity to their new mistresses.
I’d worried for nothing, I understood now as we were seated at a table long enough to accommodate us all. I’d worried about Amber’s vulnerability, the tainted legacy left him by his infamous rogue father, and the fear and mistrust by the other Queens that would always be there against him because of that. But vulnerability came from inside a person. You were susceptible to hurt only if you cared what others thought of you. Amber didn’t. The only Queen’s opinion that mattered to him was mine, and he was secure in that. He was armored by the mantle of his own authority and by my trust in him. It was a rich, unknowing gift he had given to me, seeing him like this—proud and invincible to the poisonous arrows of others because of my love.
All those long, lonely nights spent apart from him were a worthwhile sacrifice, to see him like this now.
The Morells entered the dining hall, and all eyes turned to them. To the tall, bearded warrior and his healer wife that many had thought dead and departed. And to the two additions to their family—their sons, Dante and Quentin.
Here, where I had not expected it, was vulnerability.
The dining hall was a mass of patterned colors, each guard wearing the individual dress uniform of his Queen’s court. My table’s livery was gold and ivory, set against black trim. Sitting around me, my men were like an array of golden petals set around my black-gowned center.
Nolan, Hannah, and their sons wore simple clothing. There were no uniform colors declaring to whom they belonged. There had been no time, and no need perhaps, to have custom livery designed for them. They could have worn clothes that bore my Court’s colors, but they hadn’t. Probably a deliberate and cautious choice after I had requested separate quarters for them. They didn’t know if I had I brought them here and washed my hands of them already. I had left them awash in a sea of uncertainty, and as a result, they were vulnerable now in this period of transition. As they paused at the threshold, all eyes in the room watched to see at which Queen’s table they would sit. To see who, if anyone, protected them.
Nolan glanced in my direction, but with no acknowledging nod from me, no indication of what I wished, he began leading his family toward a table set in the opposite corner of the hall, farthest away from me.
A part of me wanted them to go there. To have Dante far, far away from me. Another part of me screamed that until they pledged themselves elsewhere, they were still under my care and protection.
The latter voice won.
“Join us.” My words were spoken softly. But they were easily heard by Nolan. With a grateful look in his eyes, he changed direction and headed toward us.
“You are mistaken, Nolan. It is my table where you belong, is it not?”
The voice was a low, smooth, feminine one belonging to a Queen I was not familiar with. A tall brunette with blond-streaked hair. Not the natural kind that came from sun and surf. With the Monère’s sun sensitivity, that would be very unlikely. No, these blond highlights had to have come from a bottle, from the human magic of a beauty salon. She sat in a corner table surrounded by six of her men dressed in forest green and yellow saffron. She wore the traditional long black gown of a Queen, but again, a human touch here—it was couture. One that had a label like Versace, or something of that ilk. She was a handsome woman with lovely blue eyes set in a strong, proud face. The only thing marring her features were her lips. They were too thin, making her mouth a tight, straight line indicating a rigid cruel nature or a parsimonious one. I’d be willing to bet it was both, that she was a greedy, covetous thing, and not too nice on top of that.
From the look of ownership in her eyes as she gazed at Nolan and his family, and the sudden tension in Nolan’s and Hannah’s shoulders, I had a feeling that I was looking at their old Queen. The one who had not allowed them to marry. The one for whom they had faked their deaths in order to flee.
“No, milady,” Nolan said quietly, continuing to guide his sons and wife to me. “We are sworn to Mona Lisa’s service now.”
“No, Nolan?” she said with a dangerous gentleness. “That is not a word that Mona Sephina’s men ever say to her.”
Sheesh. A Queen who referred to herself in the third person. I guess you could add “huge ego” to rigid, cruel, and greedy.
Her voice changed. Became hard and whiplike. “You are mine! I have not released you from my service.”
It would have, of course, been impossible for things to go so smoothly for me. To think that just once I could come to High Court and not cause an uproar. I sighed and deliberately stepped over the line that would make this Queen my enemy.
“No,” I said, deliberately stressing the word that Mona Sephina’s men never said to her. Poor smucks. “They fled you and became rogues. Which means you lost what once belonged to you. Too bad, so sad. But,” I shrugged, “that’s our law.” Mentally, I patted myself on the back for saying our law, and not your law. See? I was getting better. “I found them,” I continued, “and now they are mine. Willingly,” I added, unable to help adding that last twist of the knife.
My words stabbed her dead on. She rose to her feet with fury. Let me tell you, that gal had a lot of inches on her. She must have stood at least six two. Taller even than Rosemary, my Amazon cook, although maybe only half her girth. Still, she was a formidable thing, solidly built, almost half a foot taller than me, and outweighing me by at least fifty pounds. And the way she held herself bespoke of a confidence that had me thinking this Queen might really know how to handle herself in a fight. Gee, I really knew how to pick ‘em.
“Thank you for reminding me of our laws,” Mona Sephina said, suddenly smiling like a cat that had just gulped down an unsuspecting canary. Nolan and Hannah froze, caught halfway between the two Queens squabbling over them.
Mona Sephina’s eyes slid from the parents to focus on the children. And the acquisitive light that shone in those blue eyes as she looked over Dante and Quentin like something that already belonged to her made my stomach clench with foreboding.
“You are right,” she said. “Once they went rogue, I lost all rights to my former master at arms…” Somehow, I wasn’t surprised at hearing Nolan’s previous rank. “…and to my healer. But not to the children they conceived while still under my rule.”
“That law applies to simple bondwomen sworn to your service,” Hannah said, speaking up in her children’s defense. “It does not apply to healers. We have more rights. Our children belong to us.”
“Unless you cast aside those rights and turn rogue,” Mona Sephina said. Vicious satisfaction layered her words. “Then all your special rights are naught. Your sons belong to me. You two boys, come here.”
“No,” I said. I was deriving more and more satisfaction in saying that word to her. I was pretty vague on most areas of Monère law. I just knew what the others told me and what I picked up, as in now. But it couldn’t be much different from human law, I reasoned. Open, as such, to any interpretation you could throw in and get away with.
“Not so fast.” I drawled in a fashion that would have made Clint Eastwood proud, lounging back in my seat as relaxed as Mona Sephina was rigid. “They are no longer rogues. They belong to me now, remember?” I watched with satisfaction as a muscle twitched beneath Mona Sephina’s eye . “As such, Hannah’s rights as a healer still hold. Her children are hers.”
“I dispute that,” Mona Sephina said. And something about the way she said it, throwing it down like a gauntlet, made it seem more significant than the mere words themselves. And, of course, it was—my intuition was good about things like that. Not in other matters, like loving and trusting someone who had freakin’ killed me in another life and slaughtered all my people. But in things like this, it was dead-on accurate.
An expectant hush fell over our dining hall audience, a collective breath held as if they were waiting for something more.
“I challenge your claim,” Mona Sephina said, and the tense, waiting stillness dissolved with an almost audible sigh.
“What does that mean?” My question was aimed at Amber, sitting beside me. He and all my men had gone deeply still.
“In matters where the law is not entirely clear, a dispute can be settled by issuing a personal challenge.”
“You mean, like where might is right, winner takes all? She wants to fight me?”