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Dreams become nightmares when the Starlord controls the dimension between what is real and what is imaginary.
Samantha and John-Kuno have entered the final starlight ceremony: mutatis and they are joined in mind, body and spirit. When Sam is kidnapped, only John has the power to find her. He knows that the person responsible for stealing his beloved is the same one who has taken Harimal and the other shifters prisoner. And John knows that time is running out -- the longer he and Sam are separated the chances are Starlight Madness will destroy them. Imprisoned by the evil Starlord, Harimal and Samantha must pretend submission, and live within the dream-reality it has created for its own pleasure...
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Sam crept down the winding staircase, hugging the dank wall. The torchlight flickered, casting wavering shadows over the black stones. Her boot slid over the slime encrusted stones.
Hardly daring to breathe, with her heart thudding in her ears, she inched down, coming at last to the final step.
She shouldered open the door and halted, her eyes accustoming to the gloom. Against the wall she saw him, chained. Naked. He lifted his head as she stepped closer.
"So, master of mine, our positions are reversed. You are the one chained."
He tested the restrains and lifted his chin. "I will escape this confinement, damiselle but you, rest assured, will never escape me."
She laughed. "How I enjoy a challenge."
He almost smiled. "Then release me and enjoy the challenges I offer you."
A whip materialized in her right hand, the leather supple, but strong. She raised it, smiling, tracing the handle down his body, watching the constricting muscles of his body. Lower. She held his gaze. His grey eyes were cold, harsh, harsher than steel, colder than space.
For a moment she savored the taste of his fear.
"Human, tear the flesh from his bones. Let him scream." The dreamscape rippled with the starlord's command.
His presence was like a shadow lurking in her mind. It pried and drained, feeding on her thoughts and emotions, like a vampire.
"Ah, vampires. Such complex creatures," the starlord whispered. From, the shadows, a dark-robed creature emerged, the hem of the cloak raised across its face, so only the burning ruby eyes were revealed. Sam almost laughed at the cliché.
The cloak was cast aside and the vampire stepped closer, the torch light flickering over its face. Sam gasped. It was John; his features cold, pale, utterly terrifying in its inhumanity.
"Observe, human, this is the true vampire, not some mongrel breed, like-"
The rest of the thought was snatched back, but Sam caught the resonance. What was the starlord hiding?
"Continue with the dream, human, or the felinus will suffer."
"If you wish," Sam replied. "But indulge me. Watch this dream and see where I lead."
Sam dropped the whip and knives appeared in her hands. Assassin's knives, the same as the one Taren had gifted her-so many days, or was it now weeks ago?
"Yes, female. Peel the flesh from his skin, a slice at a time. As the assassin taught you."
Sam flung the knives away and whirled to confront the starlord. Of course he was not there. The coward never materialized, just invaded their minds with his presence and his dreams and his challenges.
"I don't want the knives or the whip. Why can't you just let me dream, why do you have to be so cruel? Do you really think that pain and pleasure are the same for me? For us?"
"How little you know of pleasure. There is a point where pain leads to the greatest pleasure."
"Beyond everything. Now, continue. I want convergence."
The dream-scape rippled.
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STARLIGHT MADNESS is a very good read, filled with passion and frustration. I went through a variety of emotions while reading. I mourned with Sam, I felt Hari's sadness and understood Kuno's agony. I can only wish that this series was in print so it could hold a spot on my keeper shelf. Hopefully there will be more episodes in this series.
Romance Junkies Reviews, RJ Blue Ribbon rating: 5.
* nominated/finalist "best romance short story, 2008" - Preditors and Editors Readers' Poll