I’m with Tori over at her blog…with guests! And prizes!
Visit us! Come try and win stuff!
Now… I’m kinda tired of my friday flashbacks and my brain is a mess. Finished a book this week and trying to get my brain in gear for the next phase of this project (don’t ask)… so instead, we’ll TALK books.
Today’s Grimm Guest… Anne Hope…don’t forget to read down to the bottom for info on entering for today’s giveaway and for information on how to enter for the Grimm prize I’m giving at the end.
“It looks like a painting.” Jenny gazed at the lighthouse perched on a shelf of ultramarine blue and burnt umber rocks, as they circled San Juan heading for the harbor.
“That’s Lime Kiln Lighthouse.”
Kelp and driftwood floated at the foot of the bluff, framing the shoreline. The cool salt water breeze kissed her face, left a salty taste on her lips. “It’s so beautiful, and so lonely.” The tall, solitary structure, set against gray mountains and encompassed by blue sky and water, reminded her of Daniel—solid, quiet, admired from a distance. How sad that something so enthralling should be so isolated.
“We’ll reach Friday Harbor soon.” Daniel steered the boat, his back turned to her, his expression vacant.
She was happy he’d let her come with him, even if he had only invited her because he’d felt sorry for her. What an enigma he was. Yesterday when they’d danced she’d sensed a connection between them. There was nothing indifferent about the way he’d held her, the way his fingers had stroked her back, the way his hand had clasped hers. But today miles separated them. She might as well have been alone on this boat.
She absorbed the sight of him. His features seemed chiseled in stone. She longed for the gentleness of the man who’d comforted her late at night when the nightmares had risen to ensnare her, the man who’d helped her decorate a Christmas tree and who’d held her in his arms so tight she hadn’t known where her heartbeat ended and his began.
“Do you come here often?” she asked above the deafening whoosh of the waves.
“Once a week,” he replied.
A gust of wind whipped his hair, raising it from his face. Briefly, she caught a glimpse of the scars he went to great lengths to conceal. White grooves dug into his flesh, crisscrossing his cheek. Her fingers itched to trace them, to heal them with the loving care of a tender touch. But she couldn’t. Daniel didn’t want her looking at him, let alone touching him.
As they rounded the island they drew nearer to Friday Harbor, where a line of fishing boats and pleasure yachts floated patiently. Seagulls screeched overhead, flapping their wings as they spiraled above the bustling port. A brilliant procession of boats, decorated in shimmering Christmas lights chugged around the harbor. Jenny leaned over the bow, impressed by the sight.
Her face must have reflected her enchantment, for Daniel said, “It’s the annual Parade of Lights.”
The whole town—what she could see of it—twinkled with a rainbow of Christmas lights. “It must look incredible at night.” She felt as if she’d stepped into one of those gleaming villages people placed under their Christmas trees.
“I don’t know. I’ve never seen it.”
They finally managed to dock. Daniel secured his boat, and Jenny followed him to an old red brick building facing the waterfront. A short, plump man with round glasses and prominent cheeks came to greet them.
“Daniel, I was starting to worry. You’re late.” The man slapped him amicably on the arm. “In the four years we’ve worked together you’ve been like clockwork. I can usually time your arrival to the minute.”
“Sorry, Saul. We got stalled by the parade.”
“Ah, they hit the water earlier in the day this year.” Saul’s gaze settled on Jenny. Surprise spread across his round face. “You two came together?”
Daniel’s stoical expression faltered. “This is Jenny, my assistant.”
“Is that what they’re calling ’em these days?” Saul cackled at his own remark, winking at Daniel.
Heat suffused Jenny’s cheeks, perspiration pearling in her joints. This Saul had taken one look at her and known what she was. Not an assistant, but a hired companion.
He can’t know, she reassured herself. Only she and Sam Leland were aware of their deal. Guilt sank like a bucket of rocks to settle at the pit of her stomach.
“The shipment’s in my boat. Can you send a couple of guys to help me unload?”
Thank God Daniel had steered the conversation away from her. Even though the pragmatic side of her brain told her she was overreacting, her crushing conscience made her foolishly paranoid.
“Sure, I’ll send them right out.” Saul smiled at Jenny. “You come back again soon.”
“That’s up to Daniel.” Stealing a glimpse of him, she noted the firm clasp of his hands, the darkness cloaking his eyes. He had no intention of bringing her back, unless it was to escort her to the ferry that would carry her out of his life.
Jenny had never much believed in prophecies, but that moment she had a vision. She saw herself standing on the deck of an open ferry, staring at the fading silhouette of a dark-haired man, feeling her heart break with each new wave that crashed against the hull as she floated further and further away. Floated back to Prospect Valley, to Leo, to self-effacement. If she went back there, the glitter inside her that made her the person she was would dim and die. She’d become a robot wearing human flesh, a programmed machine, with all emotion banned from her life.
Perhaps she would have been able to live that way before, but not now. Not after tasting peace, security. Not after savoring the warmth of Daniel’s kindness. She’d never thought a man’s presence could be so comforting. Before Daniel, Jenny had believed men inspired only fear, submission. But Daniel made her feel protected, cared for. He gave her hope, and she hadn’t had that in a very long time.
As they stepped outside, she eyed the numerous restaurants and cafés dotting the waterfront, all outfitted with glimmering lights. Although the small town wasn’t crowded, the sight of bikers and pedestrians filling the quaint streets was a welcome change from Daniel’s secluded cottage. “Can we stay and walk around town?”
“No.” Daniel’s reply was curt and dry, almost frantic. He seemed out of his element here amidst society—tense, uneasy. “We have a deadline to meet.”
Jenny understood. She caught the real reason in the way he averted his eyes. He wore the unworthiness he felt the same way he wore his scars. As much as he tried to conceal it, it was a part of him and it refused to stay hidden.
In a few minutes they’d boarded his boat and pulled away from the dock, Daniel skillfully bypassing the parade. Jenny leaned back against the railing, watching him. He seemed anxious to get away, eager to drift on to the wide, flowing ocean.
“Why are you staring at me?” He hadn’t as much as slanted a glance her way and yet he’d sensed her gaze.
“Just wondering why you feel so uncomfortable around people.”
He looked at her then, taken aback. “I don’t. I told you we have work to do.”
She approached him, placing her hand on his shoulder. “You don’t have to pretend with me. I understand how you feel. I just don’t understand why.”
He stared at the rippling water, his expression unreadable. “Please don’t touch me.” His voice was gruff, strained.
“Why not? Don’t you like being touched?” Boldly, she ran the back of her index finger across his right cheek. He jerked away as if she’d grazed him with a burning flame.
Compassion squeezed her heart. “What happened to you, Daniel?”
A light drizzle began to fall, but the sun continued to shine. Up ahead on the distant horizon a rainbow glowed. She’d never seen anything so magnificent—a prism of sparkling color diving into the boiling waves.
“Maybe you should go below deck.”
She shook her head. “No, I don’t mind the rain. I don’t get to see a view like this everyday. Isn’t it incredible? How two total opposites can form something so breathtaking?”
Daniel didn’t reply. He just continued staring blankly ahead. Moving to his left, she did something terribly brazen. She touched the hair that veiled his cheek, brushing it aside. In an instant his fingers clenched hers. “What the hell are you doing?” Panic flared in his voice.
“I just—I wanted to see your face.”
Realizing how tightly he clasped her hand, he loosened his grip, releasing her. “Don’t ever do that again.” His clipped, non-negotiable tone delivered the message loud and clear.
In the past, Jenny would have backed off, retreated into silence, but not now. “Why not? What are you so afraid of?” she asked. Then, unable to stop herself, she added, “You’re the most beautiful person I’ve ever met.”
Her words touched him; she could tell. His taciturn expression vanished, and for a brief instant before doubt set in, she sensed he almost believed her. “Beautiful? Have you looked at me?”
“More than you know.”
Something blazed in his eyes that made her gut clench and heat stir in her belly. To her delighted surprise, he raised his hand, tenderly cupping her face.
He was going to kiss her.
The ground beneath her feet moved at the thought. Or maybe it was just the boat hopping along the waves, but right now she didn’t want to think about that. She just wanted to think about the way his thumb trailed up her cheek to settle at the corner of her mouth, stroking it. Something deep and primitive told her Daniel’s kiss would be as magical as everything else about him. She closed her eyes, leaned into his wide, rough palm…
Anne is giving away one download of her book. To enter, just leave a comment below.
Remember, all comments left during the daily Grimm Giveaway are entered for the big giveaway…info here. Make sure you’ve read my disclaimer-all winners will be posted to my blog and that’s your notification. If you don’t check back…you don’t know if you’ve won. More info on the Grimm giveaway link.
Dying is hard enough… coming back to life is brutal.
I spent most of the weekend feeling awful. But the positive side? It let me read. I read three books.
I finished…(I got an ARC from Nalini...she’s so good to put up with me.)
I started & finished by Sylvia Day…(this the first historical of hers I’ve read, and I loved it.)
Also started and still reading…(Only the second book by Seanan Maguire that I’ve read, but I really like it. Second in the series…get Rosemary & Rue first.)
The last is straight UF, but it’s really good.
Okay…that’s it. What have you read lately, and my deadlines have kept me crazy…I don’t even know what’s due out soon. What do I need to be looking for?
Also, are you a writer…wondering just how an agent picks a client? Irene Goodman of the Irene Goodman Literary Agency is holding a live webinar through Writer’s Digest…info here(Yes, Irene’s my agent…she’s awesome, but I’m partial to her)
Okay… I had a pointed reminder that some people were wanting to hear from me on the last and finalllllll *sob…sniffle… noooooo* Stardoc book.
Dream Called Time.
What can I say about this book? Other than wailing over the fact that it ended…well, I guess I can say that I think SL Viehl ended it beautifully. Now, bear in mind, she took some serious fricking risks here. But oh…how she ended the series? It left me with a smile. It left me happy. It left me thinking that this was a fitting end to this series… these characters that I loved so much, Duncan, Marel & Cherijo, who had been through so much would have exactly what they needed to be happy…each other.
Coming up… and it’s so damn good. I wonder if book 3 is done yet…must go bug Carolyn more…
(part of a series… read the first book before this one…but so good) Not due out yet-about 2 weeks, so you have time to buy book 1, read book 1, and get antsy for this one. See? I timed it perfectly.
SOME SECRETS COME BACK TO HAUNT.
OTHERS COME TO KILL…
Justine Jones has lived her life as a fearful hypochondriac until she’s lured into the web of a mysterious mastermind named Packard. He gifts her with extraordinary mental powers-dooming her to fight Midcity’s shadowy war on paranormal crime in order to find the peace she so desperately craves.
But now, serial killers with unheard-of skills are terrorizing the most powerful beings in Midcity, including mastermind Packard – and his oldest friend and worst enemy, Midcity’s new mayor, who has the ability to bend matter itself to his will.
As the body count grows, Justine faces a crisis of conscience as she tests the limits of her new powers and faces an impossible choice between two flawed but brilliant men . . . one on a journey of redemption, and the other descending into a pit of moral depravity.
Loved it. And damn it… I’m stuck waiting until December for book 3.
(this is a series… some books work okay out of order-I don’t need to read in order, but these will work better that way, I think-the first one is Dying Bites)
The series is based on the idea that there are alternate worlds and an FBI profiler got pulled from our world into one where humans make up 1% of the population and golems, vamps and lycanthropes make up the other 99%. Awesome, awesome books…
Contest is now over. Winners to be posted at participating authors blogs.
Enter to win your chance at a signed book from the author and a chance to win $150 in book money from the online retailer of your choice…Read on for details…
Assassin’s Heart by Monica Burns
The laser hit his skin again from his ear down to his jaw. The pain pulled a pitched scream of agonized terror from him, and he fell backward into a black pool of nothingness—his last thought was of Ancient Rome and Phaedra running to meet him. He was home again.
He had no idea how long he’d been out, but when he awoke, everything was silent and dark. Was it nighttime in the Elysium Fields? He tried to sit up. The slight movement sent fire streaking through every cell in his body. He started to cry. The Praetorian bastardo had left him here to die. Alone. His own son.
He grew still with horror. He wasn’t Sicari. He was Praetorian. The obscene thought pulled a cry of denial from him. His mind hovered on the brink of despair. Impossible. It couldn’t be true. But they shared the same birthmark. The whisper of truth curled through his head. He wouldn’t believe it. The bastardo was lying. A teardrop rolled over his skinned cheek, and it pulled a sob of anguish from him.
“Fotte. Fotte. Fotte.”
It was a roar of fear and helplessness, as well as a cry of agony. More tears flowed over his bared muscles, until the pain sent him back to that dark place again.
Voices filtered their way down into the pit, and he shuddered with terror. They’d come back for him. Like a wild animal anticipating more torture, he tugged at his restraints ignoring the fire that consumed his body. He wouldn’t be able to keep the figlio di puttana out of his head this time. He heard running feet, and then he smelled the soft scent of a woman. Marta?
“Sweet Juno.” Cleo leaned over him, her cool hand brushing across his forehead. Horror widened her eyes as she stared down at him. In the next instant, she spoke into her mic. “Lysander’s alive, but I don’t know for how much longer. He needs the Curavi. Now.”
He couldn’t hear the response she got, but a sudden image of Phaedra filled his head. She was here. A subtle warmth filled him as her fear and worry for him whispered sweetly across his mind. Deus, he needed her right now. Needed to feel her touch. Her hand in his, her healing—no.
The sound of feet pounded on the warehouse floor once more, and first Ares then Phaedra came into view. He’d never seen a more beautiful, yet terrifying, sight in his entire life. He couldn’t take part in seeing her lovely face marred by his injuries. Couldn’t let her see the monster inside him. Terror lanced through him as she reached for his hand. Tormented, he tugged at his restraints.
“No. No Curavi.”
Cleo clamped down on his arm. “Merda, he’s out of his mind with pain.”
“For the love of God, Cleo. Tighten those restraints.” Panic laced through Phaedra’s voice. “I can’t heal him if he’s fighting me. I’ll heal the lesser injuries first. Then we can transport him. When we’re home, I’ll…I’ll do what I can for his other wounds.”
He saw her swallow hard and recognized her fear. The idea of her taking on his injuries was a nightmare, but he knew without a doubt that when she touched him she’d be able to see all the darkness inside him. He was too weak to keep her locked out of his thoughts if she touched him. She’d see. She’d see everything because the pain was too horrible to prevent her from learning the truth.
“No,” he roared. “NoCuravi.”
The strength of his voice echoed loudly in the room, and he heard Ares utter a vicious curse while Cleo grasped his hand in a death grip. Fear and horror darkened Phaedra’s eyes as bent over him. Her mouth brushed across the ear on his unmarked cheek.
“Let me do this for you, carino,” she whispered in a sweet, gentle voice. “I’m not afraid.”
“No. Refuse the Curavi.”
He tried to shake his head as he forged through the pain and ground out the word forcefully. Couldn’t let her see. Her parents’ murder…hated Praetorians…couldn’t bear her hatred. He felt himself slipping off into oblivion and climbed up the cliff back into the pain. She’d heal him without his permission if he didn’t protest.
“Listen you dumb son of a bitch.” Cleo’s voice was harsh. “You let Phaedra heal you or I’m going to rip you a new one. You hear me?”
“No…dead already.” And he was. He was Praetorian, and if anyone found out…he’d rather die.
“Give me your hands, Lysander. With your permission, I must touch you to heal your injuries.” There was a frantic desperation in Phaedra’s voice, but it only made him clench his hands into tight fists.
“I. Refuse. Curavi.”
His voice wasn’t loud, but it was strong and determined. He heard someone nearby release a vicious sound. Ares. His Legatus pushed Cleo aside to grip his arm with force.
“Take the goddamn, Curavi, you sorry bastardo.”
Something wet hit his unscarred cheek and his gaze shifted from Ares to Phaedra. In the dim light, he could see tears clinging to her lashes. He wouldn’t hurt her. Wouldn’t let her see he was everything she hated. He loved her too much. He released a sob of pain.
“Is. My. Right. Refuse. Curavi.” Each word was a labor of effort to say.
“No,” Phaedra exclaimed violently. “I’m not about to let you die, you dumb bacciagalupe.”
Would you like to win a signed book from Monica’s available backlist*? Just leave a comment to enter. Commenting also enters you to win a $150 GC to the online book retailer of your choice (we must be able to purchase a gift certificate from within the US.) If you visit each participating author’s blog and comment, that increases your odds of winning. Visiting/commenting at each participating author blog will get your five entries. However, only one comment per blog.
Contest runs through 9/17/2010
One comment/entry per blog
Winners to be posted by 9/30/2010 on the participating authors’ blogs
You must check back at the authors’ blogs to send if you have won-if you don’t claim your prize within one week, you forfeit your prize.
Void where prohibited
Please make sure to abide by hosting author’s standard contest rules.
ETA: *please note… the contest isn’t for this book… it’s for a title from Monica’s backlist-one of her older releases… thank you!
Today is National Buy a Book Day…whether you pick up mine, or somebody else’s, can you drop into your local bookstore and buy a book? Not online, but actually visit a bookstore if you can? We’re hearing more and more about independent bookstores closing down, how Borders is having more layoffs, and B & N is shutting stores. According to writer Jaye Wells, Times Magazine actually had it listed in an article “Top Ten Things Today’s Kids Won’t Experience“… Read a Real Book… You know me, I love my ebooks, I love my Nook and my Sony. But I love my print books and I love my bookstores, too. If you’ve got a few minutes, can you hit your local bookstore and buy a book? Any book–for you, for a friend, for a kid you want to introduce to the joy of reading… **First heard about National Buy A Book Day via Jaye Wells
With demons running amok throughout the forests and mountains, a rebel army has been established to win back the land—and a new soldier has appeared out of nowhere to join them.
His name is Xan, and his past is a mystery to everyone, including Laisyn Caar—a beautiful captain in the rebel army—who is shocked by the powerful, all-consuming desire she feels in his presence.
But now isn’t the time for distraction. The future of her land—and of her people—is in her hands. On top of that, she’s been stripped of her magic—and without it she feels like part of her soul has been stolen away.
But when she discovers the dark secrets of Xan’s agenda, it will be up to her to determine whether the man she’s starting to love is a friend of her people—or a dreaded enemy…
(You’ve seen something similar or part of this, but it’s one of my fave scenes…)
That was all Lothen managed to get out before he ended up flat on his back with all of the breath knocked out of him. He lay there choking and sputtering for air. His opponent stood there expressionless. Lo came to his feet and shoved sweaty hair back from his face. “That was a dirty fucking trick,” he wheezed.
“Sometimes it takes dirty fucking tricks to stay alive,” Xan replied.
Syn stood off to the side, with her arms crossed over her chest. The man had some serious moves on him. She called out to Lo and gestured for him to leave the sparring circle. Catching Bron’s eye, she nodded toward their newest. Bron cocked a brow—she saw the question in his eyes. She answered with a smile, and as Bron entered the circle, she stripped away her weapons.
Bron kept him moving. A fellow captain, a lifelong soldier, Bron fought with speed and stealth. He’d started out as a scout, but now he was in charge of one of the combat units. He was good. He was fast. But he wasn’t as fast or as good as their new guy. Syn could only think of one other guy who fought so naturally—like it was as natural to him as breathing.
“He’s good,” Kalen murmured from just behind her shoulder.
She grinned. “Now why am I not surprised to see you here, Commander?”
“Just passing by and caught sight of our new boys. Decided to take a look.”
Calling Xan a boy didn’t fit, Syn thought to herself.
“You playing today?” he asked.
Syn lifted a shoulder. “Unless you plan to.”
Bron went flying passed them—literally. He landed with an “oomph” and lay there for a few seconds, a dazed look in his eyes. His lean face went red as he tried to breathe.
Syn and Kalen grinned at each other. Then Kalen said, “I’ll pass. Lee and I are doing some hand-to-hand tonight. I’d rather not start off injured. I’ll let you have the fun today.”
“Coward.” Syn clucked her tongue. She watched, gauging the distance, as Xan started toward Bron. As he offered a hand to the other man, Syn moved.
She went for his feet and as he went down, she slid away.
It was like hitting a brick wall, she decided. A heated brick wall. She was so used to being cold, but the moment she touched him, even though her touch was an attack and not a caress, his heat chased away the chill and left her entire body suffused with warmth.
He outweighed her, outreached her, and stood nearly a head taller than she did. Which pretty much described every sparring partner she’d ever had.
That unreadable gaze of his didn’t change, but she sensed some surprise coming off him as he came to his feet. Bron was up, too, and he moved so that he stood just a little behind Syn and off to the side. It was a choreographed move—they’d done this a thousand times and they’d do it a thousand more.
“So now it is two on one,” Xan said, his voice emotionless.
“It can be a lot of fun.” Syn flashed him a cheeky smile, keeping her weight on the balls of her feet. Her heart was racing. Her skin felt warm, edging close to hot as she waited.
Xan didn’t make a move toward her, even though she stood the closest. He circled around, trying to make for Bron. Even after he had Bron back down, he didn’t engage with her. Syn lifted a brow and asked, “You do have a second opponent you have to take down.”
“I’m not putting a woman on the ground.”
“Okay.” It wasn’t the first time she’d been told that, and she’d handle it the same way she handled it every other time. The cold knot tried to settle back inside her, but it faded when she attacked him—when she touched him.
He deflected her next attack. And the next. Bron was back on his feet at that point, though, and as he moved toward Bron, Syn went for another takedown. He went down and as he did, he tried to catch her feet.
She was prepared for him though, springing away at just the last second. Xan got back on his feet, and this time, the look he shot her seemed a little bit perturbed.
“You can either spar me straight on, or I’ll keep coming at your back.”
“I’m not fighting with a woman.”
“Then get out,” she told him. She wasn’t touching him now and as she crossed her arms over her chest, the cold knot returned. “The gate’s that way. You can walk out now. If you move quickly enough, you can probably catch up to the convoy. But you don’t get to pick and choose your poison here, my friend. You do it my way, or you hit the road.”
His eye narrowed on her face. “You sound very certain of that fact.”
“With good reason.”
With the exception of Xan and Syn, everybody turned to look at Kalen as he entered the circle. He stood a few inches taller than Xan. He wore cavinir—a light, form-fitting armor that clung to a hard, leanly muscled body.
Kalen had been born a warrior, forced to become a leader. At a time when he should have been dreaming about girls and dreading his impending adulthood, he’d been on the front line of their war.
He circled to stand in front of Xan, pinning the other man with a cool, silvery gaze. “Nobody stays in my camp without proving they can hold their own. Nobody stays in my camp without showing they know how to handle themselves, without showing they know how to take orders. That includes training—you either spar with Captain Caar, as ordered, or you get the hell out.”
“I don’t believe in harming women,” Xan growled.
“It’s not about harming women.” Syn moved between them and gave Kalen a narrow look. He inclined his head and fell back, letting her handle it. There was one thing she could rely on to chase away the chill, and that was anger. Right now, it flooded her, and she welcomed it—welcomed it and channeled it.
Giving Xan a pointed stare, she said, “I’m not calling you on the floor to get hurt, Xan. Trust me, I don’t like pain, although I am used to it. But this isn’t about hurting me, hurting women. It’s called training—we all do it.”
“Then train women against women. Females are naturally weaker than males—the risk for injury to the woman is too high, even in training.”
“So this is about having a level playing field?” Syn snorted. “Sure, because we’re fighting a war where there’s always an excess of fairness.”
Xan stared at her, his black gaze unflinching. “I do not raise my hand to women.”
Syn smirked. “That’s a way of thinking that could end up with you getting hurt—in a serious way.” She glanced past him and her smile took on a decidedly devilish twist. “Bron, you’re out. Elina. Coryan.”
Elina Corsairs, long and lean, came at him from his right, a blur of movement. She was all speed and grace and as he moved to deflect her attack, the other woman came up behind him.
Coryan Holder stood at six feet and her body was nearly as broad as Xan’s. As he backed away from Elina, Coryan caught him in a wrestler’s hold and wrenched him off his feet. He went down and as one, the three women in the circle moved on him.
Elina ended up on her ass first. She would have moved back in but Syn caught her eye and shook her head.
Now facing Coryan and Syn, Xan grimaced. He looked between the two women, his gaze measuring.
Finally. Syn knew what sort of picture they presented. Coryan had the muscle mass to rival a man’s and her face was scarred, hardened from battle and years of a harsh life. Syn had faced that same hard life, and many of the same battles, but she was slender, not particularly tall and she looked . . . well, soft.
He’d go for Coryan next, she figured. Eliminate what he perceived as the biggest threat.
This wasn’t a new scenario for her. Too many of the men who wanted to join the rebellion showed up with preconceived notions—they were fighting a war against those that preyed on their females, and having those females involved directly in the fight went against their baser instincts.
He feinted toward Coryan but at the last minute, he changed direction. Moving too damn fast, he came for Syn. Only one thing saved her—he wasn’t used to fighting somebody half his size. She darted away, relying on her flexibility and years of experience to evade him. It was close, though. She felt the disturbance in the air ripple against her flesh. He didn’t waste any time and came at her again, harder. Faster.
Syn took his legs out from under him, but he was prepared this time, and when he went down, so did she. Trapped under his bigger body, she sucked air into her lungs.
Once more, touching him flooded her with heat, heat that suffused every fiber of her being, chasing away the chill. For the briefest moment, they were close, close as lovers, and she let herself revel in that heat, let herself feel his strength, feel all of him. But not enough . . . nowhere near enough.
Through their clothes, she could feel the heavy thud of his heart, beating so close to hers.
Then he spoke, and the spell shattered.
“This isn’t a fair fight,” he said in a monotone.
Working her hands in between them, she jabbed at his neck. He went red and gasped for air. As he went to shove away from her, she caught him between his legs with her knee.
It was utterly silent, save for the strange, choked sound he made deep in his throat as he rolled to the side. Syn came to her feet and stood over him.
“You’re damn right it’s not a fair fight,” she told him. “But then again, you can’t win a war, you can’t survive if you’re busy complaining about a fair fight.”
She moved to the edge of the circle, watching Xan from under her lashes. He recovered quick, rolling to his feet and watching her with a mix of disbelief and anger. The anger melted away, replaced by that same measuring gaze he’d focused on every other fighter he’d met in the circle.
About damn time.
“When I was ten, my mother was taken from me—she’d hidden me with my older brother, told him to keep me quiet, no matter what. I couldn’t do a damn thing to help her. All I could do was listen, helpless, as five Sirvani dragged her away from me. I never saw her again.” A knot tried to form in her throat, but she ignored it. “My father had died the year before in a raid. My brother died two years later on a scouting mission. I was just a child and I was alone. There’s nothing fair in that. But complaining about it didn’t bring them back.”
“Fighting an unfair fight will not bring them back,” he said.
“No. But it might help another girl—it has helped other girls, other boys. Innocent children. The women of this world can’t sit by the wayside, letting the men fight. If we want safety, we have to fight for it. It’s about survival, not fairness. I didn’t learn how to survive by only fighting the battles I could win. I learned how to survive by fighting the battles I couldn’t win.”
He inclined his head. “Point taken.”
Kalen stood at her back. Bron was at her right. Elina and Coryan waited patiently at her left.
But she didn’t look at any of them. She took three steps, placing her body once more inside the circle.
“Lets try this again,” she said, staring at Xan and nothing else. “We do this my way, or you leave. The next time I tell you to step into the circle and fight a woman, what are you going to do?”
A faint smile curled his lips just before he attacked.
I’m probably going insane today, since I leave tomorrow for DragonCon. Driving down, not flying. So instead of thinking up something clever and witty to blog about… why don’t all do it for me? Any questions for me?
Can be book related, writing related…doesn’t matter. Although, if it’s something that could get long, I reserve the right to answer the question in separate blog post…
By the way, I’m doing another twitter contest… if you’re twitter and you’re not following me, you might want to… if I hit 2500 followers by the time Veil of Shadows releases, I’ll be doing some sort of giveaway for a Nook (the BN ebook reader). Details here~ And, one more thing…want to read a letter from Syn, the heroine from Veil of Shadows? She’s talking about Xan, and how much trouble he was for both of us…