Cage the Darlings is an original fairy tale about a thief girl who falls in love with a blackbird shapeshifter–a magical, lesbian love story.
Only a blackbird girl can set her free…
Envy is a lucky lady with a secret vice: she’s one of the best thieves in the kingdom–something her current employer, the king himself, has no knowledge of. When one of her more audacious gambles gets her caught, Envy thinks her luck’s run out. Infuriated, the king banishes her to Bran Tower, a haunted, forgotten prison of no escape.
But, by day, a mysterious blackbird brings Envy crumbs of food–and, by night, the beautiful ghost Merle befriends her. Or so Envy thinks. When Merle, no ghost at all, reveals her terrible truth–cursed to spend daylight as a blackbird, night as the mortal woman she once was–Envy confesses, too: that she’s fallen for the blackbird girl.
But love has made them reckless in a forest of dangerous men. On the night of their planned escape, Merle is kidnapped by a band of brigands seeking the treasure of her father, the Blackbird King. Envy is brave but is now faced with an almost impossible task: to journey through the cursed forest in the hopes of saving her beloved Merle.
CAGE THE DARLINGS is a magical lesbian fantasy novel.
An Excerpt from Cage the Darlings~
“What are you afraid of, Merle?” I asked then, voice gentle. She looked down at her hands, and a long moment passed before I realized that the reason her shoulders quivered was because she was weeping. Fat tears dropped down on her clasped fingers soundlessly.
She shook her head, mumbled something. I slid down beside her on the floor, put my hands over hers. She didn’t move away from me.
“I’m sorry–I couldn’t hear you,” I whispered. “Please…”
“I’m afraid that you will despise me if you know what I am,” she said then, words slurred and thick with tears. I blinked twice, held her hands fiercer, harder, knuckles white.
“I would never despise you,” I said, words sharp. “How could you think that?”
“You have no idea what I am…” she murmured, but I didn’t let her finish.
“You saved my life,” I hissed, enunciating each word. “You have treated me kinder these past few days than I have been treated in all my years. Are you a monster, a beast, a murderer? I don’t care. I’m a thief, for pity’s sake. I haven’t a virtue in me.”
She looked up then, eyes wide and weeping. “You can’t mean that.”
I groaned, rolled my own eyes heavenward. “I know exactly what I mean, thanks ever so much,” I managed, mouth turning up at the corners. “Now, please know, Miss Merle, that you can trust me. I’m a thief, but I am the most trustworthy of my kind.” I winked.
I sat back, realizing in that moment how close I’d come to her, my face, her face…her mouth. I flushed, cursing myself as the warmth crawled up my neck to my face. Her lips were soft and grimacing, and they were lovely, as was she, while she sat there weeping, silent and piteous. I reached out, carefully brushed away her tears, tasting the salt on my fingertips.
“I’m…not a murderer,” she said then, shaking her head.
“Good to know,” I grinned, but she’d sat up straighter, hands curled in fists on her lap.
“I feel somehow that you are going to be the greatest thing that ever happened to me, Envy. Do you know that?” She watched me for a long moment, and I could see her eyes in the dark, the flash of them. It spellbound me, how they sparked. She reached forward and clasped my hands, and that was my undoing, I think. Her fervor and passion and gentleness merged together into something so all-encompassing that I felt devoured by it.
This is what I had: a book of fairy stories. A room thirty paces across. An empty trunk. A few blankets. A little table. A bed. Light.
As I interlaced my fingers with hers, as I looked up into those beautiful, sparking eyes, I knew that what I possessed was infinitely more than the confines of one small prison. Even one legendary prison.
I had her.
How was this possible? How had this happened, how had this flourished, how had this spun from the filaments of my deepest despair and the darkest moments of my life? How had this seed grown, nurtured by my tears and heartache, by the greatest mistake I had ever made?
I couldn’t ask these questions, because if I did, this tender, delicate spell circling about us, born and made from heartstrings, would shatter.
And I couldn’t bear that.
I shut my mouth, watched her. She tucked a stray lock of hair behind an ear then looked at me, eyes now not bright but burning.
“What if you knew the truth about me? Of what I am. Would you…” She broke off. “I am afraid,” she said, words small. “You are precious to me.”
“Precious…” I repeated the word, touched my lips with a finger, and then I reached out, soft, tentative, and touched her lips. “Why?” I asked then. It came out sharper than I had intended, but that was because hot tears burned at the edges of my eyes suddenly, begging to descend. I did not let them. “Why am I precious to you?” I asked her. Merle watched me, shook her head.
“I have waited so long for you,” she whispered, words heated. She breathed out, looked down at her hands.
“You can trust me,” I said then, and I reached out, placed my hand over her heart. I felt her heartbeat raging, felt her warmth, and I shuddered, closing my eyes. “You can trust me,” I repeated. “Please trust me.”
She took my hand, turned it over, pressed her lips to my palm, closed her eyes. She gripped my fingers so tightly I felt her heartbeat. “Envy, I am,” she said, slowly, carefully, “the daughter of the Blackbird King.”