Vikings meet outlaw bikers in this scorching dystopain romance from USA Today bestselling author Megan Crane.
Gunnar: Warrior. Raider. Unstoppable force of nature.
Gunnar does not believe in black magic. But if there’s a chance it might bring back his lost mate from her early death, he’ll try it. For the doomed spell to work, all he needs to capture is a virgin.
Maud was promised to the church a long time ago, though she has never felt like she belonged. She is still an innocent, but her heart has always been too rebellious. Her curiosity and her desires are too…powerful.
Yet when she encounters brooding, ruthless Gunnar, the sexual tension that flares between them obliterates any sense of duty. She’s managed to avoid surrender all these holy years. Her very soul has depended on it. But Gunnar’s iron control makes her want nothing more than to bare her heart, and submit to him completely...
“If you’re looking for something that’s going to fog up the bus windows on your commute, look no further…and the BDSM is off the chain.” (Romance and Smut)
“Wowsers! What a read!” (Contemporary Romance Reviews)
Readers will be completely captivated by Edge of Temptation, a rich, intense, deliciously dirty erotic romance.
*Full length romance, featuring a dominant hero who pushes boundaries, graphic, steamy sex, BDSM and an HEA.
To immerse yourself completely in the Edge world don’t miss these other books:
#1: Edge of Obsession
#3: Edge of Control
#4: Edge of Power (Wulf, The Raider King’s novel)
About the Author
USA Today bestselling, RITA nominated, and critically-acclaimed author Megan Crane has written a lot of books: from women's fiction, chick lit, and work-for-hire young adult novels to Harlequin Presents as Caitlin Crews. These days her focus is on contemporary romance, from small town to international glamor, cowboys to bikers, and beyond. Her Edge of Ruin novellas include Edge of Obession, Edge of Temptation, Edge of Control and Edge of Power. She sometimes teaches creative writing classes both online at mediabistro.com and at UCLA Extension's prestigious Writers' Program, where she finally utilizes the MA and PhD in English Literature she received from the University of York in York, England. She currently lives in California with a husband who draws comics and animation storyboards and their menagerie of ridiculous animals.
Read an Excerpt
The Edge of Temptation
By Megan Crane
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2016 Megan Crane
All rights reserved.
The Western Highlands
The fox changed everything.
Maud never would have considered such sacrilege otherwise.
It had been ten years since her mother and uncle had traded her to a traveling priest for winter supplies for their patched-together caravan out on a lonely stretch of the Oklahoma coast. Ten years as a novice in the Great Lake Convent, where no one had ever asked Maud directly whether or not she'd like to become a faithful nun of the church, living purely to serve the needs of its priests as directed by the divine above, because it had been expected and assumed that she was overjoyed she'd been selected in the first place. All the other girls were beside themselves.
The priests chose only the most special girls for the honor of serving the church, Maud had been told almost every day of the past decade, in one form or another. There was something inside her that only they could see that called out to all men of god, apparently, and assured them she was destined for the holy life.
Personally, Maud believed the priests had been hearing things.
That happened a lot on the Oklahoma shores of the Mississippi Sea where she'd spent the first part of her life. The waves and the seabirds and the wind that always kicked up a ruckus in all those falling-down, leftover barns from the long-drowned farms — who could hear above all that racket? She had similar concerns in the Great Lake Convent where she'd been taken to live for her first ten years with the church, filled as it was with so many young girls and chanting nuns. The relentless din of a meal in the convent had made her own ears ache sometimes.
How could anyone ever hear a call from god over all that noise? And certainly not a call for Maud specifically, given that she'd found surrendering herself to the demands of her new life far more difficult than the other girls.
Impossible, actually, though she'd tried. She'd tried and tried and tried.
Maybe she hadn't actually been called at all. Maybe the priest who'd happened upon her family's caravan had been suffering a disruptive digestive ailment rather than heeding any sort of call from on high, thirteen-year-old smart-mouthed Maud had suggested to the deeply unimpressed and unamused senior nuns in one of her catechism classes one day.
That view had been strongly and energetically discouraged. It had also started a history of displeased discussions about Maud's behavioral issues with authority figures. Soon she'd been branded sly and defiant and disrespectful no matter what she did. Traits that had brought her to the specific attention of Bishop Seph, the much -celebrated head of the Great Lake Cathedral and second only to the grand high priest himself, though no one had seen him outside his distant mountain refuge in years.
You are a disgrace to this convent, Mother Felyz had thundered at Maud in the years before Bishop Seph had taken charge of her. Often. And always with such passion her dark brown chins had wobbled alarmingly when she spoke, as punctuation.
How can I be a disgrace? You keep telling me I was called, don't you? Maud had countered in her more spirited periods, when she'd still been a first-phase novice with her hair long and carefree, and she'd found the senior nuns and their harsh rules a kind of game.
Bishop Seph had freed her of that misconception, because it was hard to have much spirit around a humorless disciplinarian like him — not that it was wise to call him such things where anyone else could hear. He didn't care for spirit. Or backtalk of any sort or any whiff of disrespect or even the faintest hint of laughter. Worse, he was merciless when he punished these offenses and he had a very, very hard hand.
But Maud hadn't known that then, in all her merry years of shooting off her mouth to Mother Felyz. If she had, she might have kept it shut. Or at least she might have tried a bit harder to keep herself off the always-in -trouble list.
It was her twenty-first year now and nothing was all that amusing any longer. Her second phase of novice training, with her hair cut short to show off the church's brand at the nape of her neck plus all those long years learning how to perform her penances to the bishop's satisfaction, could only end one of two ways at the fast-approaching June solstice.
She could give herself to the church or she could be pronounced unworthy and cast out into the desert.
Maud had decided early into her second phase of training that she really, really didn't want to die out there in the inhospitable high desert that ringed the Great Lake Valley and extended out in all directions like a barrier, protecting the church from the rest of the western kings who held the higher ground of the Rocky Mountains. The misery that woke her at night sometimes, a heavy and wet panic in her chest, was nothing but her pointless rebellion, the bishop had told her when she'd confessed it. It was her sin, weighing her down and destroying her from the inside out.
Can't you feel it eating you alive, novice? he'd whispered in her ear as he'd administered his preferred version of the daily punishment everyone claimed would sanctify her somehow. Make her whole and holy, and all the better if she choked on it.
That she was never absolved of her sins no matter how many times she confessed them was a testament to her own stubborn willfulness, the bishop assured her. On this, everyone agreed, from her fellow novices to the senior nuns to all the priests in the Great Valley besides.
You must be doing it deliberately, her roommate Edyth had told her, averting her eyes lest Maud transmit her troublemaking ways through her gaze alone. Why else would even the bishop himself be unable to clean it out of you?
But Maud had never felt dirty, the way she knew she was supposed to.
How can I possibly recommend that you enter a holy life of service and worship when the only thing you hold dear is your sinful heart? Bishop Seph had asked her during their last marathon prayer session in the days before the March equinox that marked the end of her final winter as a novice.
His long, thin face, the color of the aspen trees Maud could see from her dormitory windows, had been drawn into a faint, quizzical frown. It had made her skin prickle in warning, because that frown always, always boded the kind of serious ill that would make it impossible for her to sit for days. He'd been lounging in his massive confessional chair the way he always did, stroking the strip of close-cut hair on his chin as he watched her abase herself before him on the cold stone floor, which despite five years of near daily prayer sessions with this man she still never quite managed to do to his satisfaction. No matter what she did or said or even felt inside, he saw only defiance.
How can you serve the church fully if you cannot surrender yourself completely? he'd asked.
I want to surrender, she'd told him. She'd said it before in an attempt to avoid the worst of the penance he doled out with that gleeful look in his dark brown eyes all the other novices claimed she was wicked to say she saw there.
But that day in March, she'd meant it.
She'd been desperate. Desperate to tip herself over into that great, glorious faith that seemed to bloom so easily and so wildly in all the other novices. Desperate to live past the June solstice, no matter how little she wanted the life of a nun if it meant more years like this, naked on a stone floor trying to explain herself to a man who already thought he knew her better than she ever could.
I want that more than anything, she'd said. I want to surrender more than I want to breathe.
Prove it, Bishop Seph had ordered her in his sonorous and terrible voice, and Maud had tried.
She'd tried then, yet again, in his confessional chamber where she spent most of her time. She'd tried when he'd assigned her yet another public shaming in the Great Lake Cathedral at the Equinox Mass, forcing her to confess her sins to the whole congregation while he wrote them on her skin in blood-red oils that had stained her with the hateful words for weeks. Liar. Sneak. Sinner. She'd tried everything she knew to prove herself, assuming deep down that she would fail as she always did, and yet somehow she'd managed it. Or she'd managed a reprieve, anyway. No one had been more surprised than Maud when the bishop had grudgingly permitted her to travel with the rest of the novices in their twenty-first year down to the temples in the red desert, where they were to spend their last three months before the solstice in the traditional contemplation and purification rituals.
Which meant Maud was bored out of her fucking mind and hot all the damned time, but she told herself what mattered was that she was still alive. For the moment, anyway. Sweaty and thirsty and tired of being trapped in her own thoughts that led nowhere good — but alive.
And then she saw the fox.
She was out on one of the long walks that she'd sweetly informed the watchful nuns were necessary to a greater understanding of the nature of obedience when she'd seen it. Foxes weren't anything new down in the hard, high desert. As far as anyone could tell, they'd weathered the Storms that had wrecked the planet well enough, and had even thrived in all the many years since. This one had the usual oversized ears and clever red face. There was nothing particularly interesting in that, no matter how cute the little creature was. What caught at her was that it didn't run when it saw her.
Maud had walked farther than she should have today, because her obedience was a fragile thing at best. A whole lot farther than was wise, if she wanted to maintain her perfect attendance record at the evening chant — and she knew very well she had no choice but complete and total perfection in these last weeks before the solstice. The shadows were long and she knew she'd have to run to make it back to the temple, which meant she'd risk seeming out of breath and thus not sufficiently serene, as befit a holy sister of the church in this last little bit of training before surrendering herself for good.
But she hadn't turned back yet, which possibly meant she really didn't want to surrender no matter what she told herself, and she followed what wasn't even a proper path at all down a red hill covered in sage bushes.
At the bottom sat the fox. And it didn't run when it saw her coming.
It sat up straighter and cocked its little head to one side, as if it were considering her approach. Judging her, perhaps, like everyone else did.
Maud felt something crack open inside of her at that. Emotion, panic. She couldn't tell the difference anymore.
"Not you, too," she said crossly.
In the middle of an empty red desert.
To a fox.
She didn't care that it was obviously unseemly for a novice to talk to an animal at all, much less one the church considered vermin. Unclean. Or that chatting with a fox in the first place likely meant she was totally insane. As if any of that mattered this close to either her death or her total disappearance into the church system, forever.
Nuns didn't leave the church. Nuns were obedient, always. Nuns did exactly as they were told for as long as they lived. They appeared in public in twos and fours and sixes, never alone and never without at least two armed priests. They wore the gleaming white cloaks and shiny metal headdresses that set them apart and marked them indelibly as what they were — church property. They served the priests until they were in their thirties and were deemed too old to perform their holy duties. Then if they weren't called to a different position inside the church — like the teaching of the novices in the convent — they served humanity the way all fertile women did, by having as many babies as possible in whatever sort of marriage the church deemed necessary.
Nunwives were one of the church's foremost exports, the senior nuns had told the second-phase novices not long after they'd lost their long hair. Some men paid handsomely for a church-trained mate, especially older men who didn't wish to compete with all the young bucks every September for winter marriages with younger, more fertile women. These men liked the permanence of a solid mating instead, with a nunwife who knew how to serve even as she was bred. Not to mention, a nunwife purchased from the church couldn't declare the marriage over come the March equinox, the way regular women could with whatever winter marriage they'd agreed to back in September. Nunwives were forever, unless a man decided he wanted a trade-in, and then they were sent back to the church for an exchange.
Maud couldn't tell any longer what scared her more. That she might never experience any of that — no sex after all these years without it because novices owed their virginity to the church, no years of service to the priests once she was finally initiated, no purchased obedience to old men once her usefulness to the priests was done or her own fat, sweet babies someday to boost the population as all good people were called to do. That she might die out here in in the hot red dirt instead and do none of the things women were put on this drowned, ruined earth to do.
Or that she would experience all of those things, in exactly that order, no matter how she felt about any of it.
"You try being pure and good and obedient, then," Maud told the fox, and her voice sounded strange and thick in the dry air, down there in an arid red valley that seemed to buckle in the last of the day's heat. "It's easy for everyone, apparently. Except me."
The fox didn't respond.
Of course it didn't respond, because it was a fox.
Maud felt deeply and profoundly foolish for a moment. But only for a moment, because the creature still didn't turn and race off the way it should have. The way every other desert fox Maud had ever seen in this cracked-rock, barren place that might well become her funeral pyre had done at the faintest hint of a human's approach.
She wanted it to mean something.
A portent. A sign.
If she couldn't quite make herself believe in the church the way everyone around her did — and with such fervor it made her ache inside some days as she sat in their midst and tried her best to pretend — she wanted ... this. A clever fox that should have run before she'd registered it was there, but hadn't. A sign on a hot June afternoon only a scant few weeks before she was set to die, in one way or another.
In the church or because of it.
The fox's nose twitched. Its depthless black eyes seemed to glint in the harsh late afternoon sun as it burned its way toward the horizon. The fox yawned, showing sharp teeth and a remarkably pink tongue, then stared at Maud again.
If it was a sign, it was almost as incomprehensible as the priests had always been, Bishop Seph chief among them.
And that was when the creature turned and darted away, as if responding to a dangerous noise only it could hear. It lost itself in the sage and shadows, but then reappeared at the top of the next hill. Where it sat and began to clean its paws, as if it was entirely alone.
It might as well have been.
There weren't going to be any signs, Maud acknowledged then, her heart pounding for no good reason as she watched the clever little thing for a few more utterly pointless moments. There weren't suddenly going to be new choices to make. The choice had been made for Maud when she'd been eleven and the strange man dressed all in black with smooth dark skin had stood in a clearing and studied her as she'd tended the fire for her family's breakfast. She'd never seen a priest before. She'd been mesmerized by that strip of facial hair he wore, extending from his bottom lip to his chin. He'd promised her mother and uncle such riches they'd scoffed at him and turned him away, but had spent the days afterward eyeing Maud in a way that had made her skin feel itchy. When the man had returned with everything he'd promised and more, Maud's blood relatives had given her to his keeping while draped in furs, cozy and warm for the first time in their lives despite the crisp sea air.
Call me Father Tiero, the man had told her, holding tight to her wrist as he'd led her away. You belong to the church now.
And one thing Maud had learned was that the church kept what it claimed.
A fox was a fox, not a sign or a symbol of any kind. It was nothing but a wild, thoughtless animal that lived in these high red rocks where nothing else could. Its survival had nothing to do with her.
She felt a strange chill, then, even though the sun was still up and still blazing hot. The flowing sleeveless tunic and wide-legged trousers all the novices wore — in a faded shade of red Maud suspected was meant to remind them of the fate that awaited them if they were deemed unworthy at the solstice — were light and airy, the better to breathe in the arid air during the sizzling hot days. They offered little protection against the cold nights this time of year, when the novices were expected to sleep on the temple's chilly concrete floors beneath the ancient pipes and give themselves over to the discomfort for the glory of god.
Excerpted from The Edge of Temptation by Megan Crane. Copyright © 2016 Megan Crane. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Maud is a strong woman. Her rebellious spirit has made her life as a novice nun difficult, but her punishments haven't broken her. Gunnar is a fearless raider. The death of his mate at the hand of his brothers in arms has made him bitter and vengeful. His plan is to sacrifice Maud to bring back Audra, his lover. Unfortunately things don't go according to plan. Maud and Gunnar are fascinating characters. At first look they seem to be complete opposites, but as the story unfolds I noticed how alike they are. Their physical attraction is fiery and very sexual. I liked seeing them begin to care for each other and become protective and possessive. I wished that Maud didn't lose her fierce spirit and become so docile. Gunnar is a powerful and dominant personality, but I felt she was more of a fighter. I wanted Gunnar to see what a woman he had in Maud and realize that she had his back. The setting was perfect. The world as we know it is gone. This new harsh reality was addictive. Megan Crane has written a story filled with dominant Alphas and their women. Their reality was filled with danger and deceit. Edge of Tempation is a powerful story. Just be aware that the book has adult content. I received a copy in exchange for an honest and unscripted review.
I loved the first story, so when I got the chance to read the second one I was super happy about it. And let me tell you, I don't regret reading it one bit. This story's plot is definitely something else. You got this dystopian setting where men (again) rule the world and take what they want, that of course includes women. A lot of them... Some see them as a sign of power, some for breeding, some for pleasure and some might even find love in this harsh world they live in. Edge of Temptation is quite an intriguing story that will push your limits (as a woman for sure) of comfort and morals. If you've read the first story in this series then you already know that Gunnar lost his mate a year ago and completely lost himself in his grief. And when he returned to his clan, not quite willingly might I add, he then brough with him a young woman. But what we didn't get from the first story is that the things he did had always a greater purpose, an obsession to bring back his long lost mate no matter the cost or sacrifice. And what better sacrifice than a willing virgin, a novice in training to become a nun. A woman who was trained to be submissive and good in obeying orders. Only Maud wasn't just a submissive young woman, she was a submissive with her own mind and will, a woman who wanted the full experience right down to the dirty sex that Gunnar just oozed of him. I'm not gonna give away much of the story but I will say this, Gunnar and Maud sure make an interesting and unique couple. Not that kind of a couple you would expect, so their developing relationship kept my attention and I really wanted to know how their journey would end. The most fun I had was reading about Gunnar's inner conflict, honor his vows to his dead mate or be selfish and give in to what completes him in every way. I admit, he was a real jerk when he wanted to be but his POV saved him many times from getting on my bad side. The same with Maud. On the outside she was this timid, shy, obedient woman but her real character was far more complex. She understands human desires and behaviour like no other and can therefore read those around her realy good. Also, we get to see some characters from the first book and that was enjoyable, too. I wished we got to see more of Tyr and Helena but I'm sure we'll get more of them in the following books. I can't wait to read the next couple's story and their journey. Edge of Temptation is maybe not everyones pick but it sure as heck is mine. It has action, betrayal, lots of filthy sex scenes and above all, an intriguing plot that kept my attention from start to end. Defnitely a book I'd recommend.
This is the second story in The Edge series. I really enjoyed the first book in this series, which featured the raider war chief Tyr and Helena, a woman holding a potential key to information that could tip the balance of power for those living in this dystopian world. That story featured a complete couple romance but left several plot points unanswered, to be part of a continuing story arc for the whole series. Because this story takes place simultaneously, it can be read as a standalone as the important parts of book 1 are explained succinctly when the plot lines meet up, but I do recommend reading book 1 as it was a great introduction to the overall world building of the series. Though this story also features some short explanations of the general power structures to be found, it expands on the religious aspect. In this religion, young women who become nuns are basically sexual slaves to the priests in charge, serving them in any capacity until they reach a certain age after which they become breeders to produce offspring that will be raised in the church as well. Sold into the church at age 11, it's the world Maud has grown up in , and one where her natural spirit has been beaten down but not demolished. Being a captive to Gunnar is similar to her previous circumstances except that where her own sexual responses were discouraged in the church, with Gunnar they are encouraged. The result is some highly erotic scenes between them, following a BDSM theme where Gunnar is clearly dominant and Maud fervently submissive. She is used to pain, though here with Gunnar she also gets to experience accompanying pleasure. It makes for some very intense scenes between them. Some readers may find Gunnar overly harsh, but I felt he was true to his upbringing, having had no caring and affectionate female in his life to give him a positive relationship example. His mother was a camp slave. His mate Audra was a manipulative, power hungry jezebel. What made Audra important to Gunnar was that she chose him over his brother, something that never happened with anyone else, such that he feels he owes it to her to do whatever he can to bring her back from the dead. It's his one mission - and a mission that Maud can bring to fruition or to ruin. His feelings for her become very complex as she willingly submits to all his demands, wearing his collar and clearly comfortable in her role as his slave. He finds himself alternately treating her as a possession and then as a woman to be cared for, and it's the latter that creates a guilt complex in him as the time for her sacrifice draws near. I was quite fascinated with the power play between Gunnar, his half brother Wulf and his half sister Eiryn who is one of Wulf's bodyguards. They were all brought up in the same raider clan and Wulf got his current position as King by forcibly removing his father - no easy succession here. It's a violent world where danger and rumors and betrayal constantly swirl. Gunnar struggles with loyalty for the man whom he grew up with but whom he blames for Audra's death. He knows he walks a fine line by disrespecting his king in public, a line that is held tight only because of their blood relationship. The tension between Gunnar and Wulf added to the drama of the story. While Maud and Gunnar get their happy ending, the story is definitely not finished, and I'm looking forward to seeing where this story is headed next! 4 stars.
Gunnar is a ruined man in a desolate world. He might not believe in black magic, but if there's the chance it might bring back his lost mate from her early death, he'll try it. All he needs is to capture a virgin - a rare thing in his torn world - to make the doomed spell work. He does not expect the passion he feels for his beautiful captive to wreck him every time he looks at her. But sometimes temptation is just too much... Maud was promised to the church a long time ago. Yet when she encounters brooding, ruthless Gunnar, the desire that flares between them obliterates any sense of duty. She’s managed to avoid surrender all these holy years - her very soul has depended on it. But Gunnar’s iron control makes her want nothing more than to bare her heart, and submit to him completely... Review: The first words that comes to mind when I think of this book is gritty, dark and sexy. The world (at least the US) has been ravaged by natural disasters in this Adult Dystopian story. The Author did a great job of turning the US into this totally unrecognizable place and the inhabitants too. Seems everyone is out for themselves if they want to survive and using people is part of the game. Maud has been used for years. She was sold into the church, where the girls maybe technically virgins until they become nuns, but the priests are all deviants and use the girls every other way imaginable without taking their virginity. I liked Maud, I think she in someways has had it easy and in other ways is totally abused. When she escapes, she wanders into Gunnar, he is not much better than the priests for a good part of the book, at least in my opinion. Gunnar is strong, rough and does have a heart in there, but he sure does have his priorities mixed up. He wants to use Maud as a sacrifice to bring back his mate even though you can tell he has feelings for Maud and his mate by all accounts is not worthy of him, but he keeps on with this insane plan. I won't give away more the the plot and the outcomes. I will say that there is a lot of taboo things and pushing of the acceptable envelope, but I could not put this book down! It is dark, sexy and had a interesting concept for this new world. I have to go back and read the first book now! And the next book is coming out while I am on vacation, I know what I will be reading. 4.5Stars *Received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.*
Who knew that following a fox in the desert could change a woman’s life forever? Thinking it an omen when she saw the fox - she followed it. What she found was a raider who took her away from everything she had known as a Novice on her way to becoming a Nun for the church priests. Their trek from the desert, across seas and back to his home with other raiders was eye opening for both the Novice and the Raider. I was captured by this book just as much as Maud and Gunnar were by one another. Maud may have been Gunnar’s captive but by the end of the book he was just as much her captive as she was his. This was a steamy read that was definitely not vanilla in flavor. I enjoyed the strength of Maud and her ability to see Gunnar and help him to see himself again. This book is complete in and of itself. Having read book one in the series and this one I am now eager to find out if/when the lights will be turned on. I also want to find out who Wulf and his sister Eiryn will end up with and imagine their stories will be told in future books. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and look forward to reading the rest of the series as it is published. Thank you to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for the copy of this book to read for an honest review.