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…
Excerpt…(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.