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Book Blast for Jenny Holiday – The Likelihood of Lucy

GFBB 5.27.15BLURB: London, 1815

Trevor Bailey is on the cusp of opening the greatest hotel in London. His days as a gutter snipe are behind him, as he enjoys a life of wealth, society, and clandestine assignments as a spy in the service of His Majesty. Until one tumultuous night churns up the past he’d long left behind…

Turned out by her employer for her radical beliefs, Lucy Greenleaf reaches out to the man who was once her most beloved friend. She never expected that the once-mischievous Trevor would be so handsome and gentleman-like and neither can deny the instant attraction.

But Lucy’s reformer ways pose a threat to the hotel’s future and his duties as a spy. Now Trevor must choose between his new life and the woman he’s always loved…

Excerpt: Who was this man? He was the Trevor of her youth, yet he was not. The boy would not have touched her like that. Would not even have noticed her face long enough to bother with a dab of pudding gone awry. The boy had reserved that sort of intense scrutiny for lock picking and cake filching.

The man, by contrast, was causing her stomach to feel like little wings were fluttering inside it.

It was almost as if she wasn’t in the room, which was ridiculous because of course she was. It was her lip he caressed. But he stared so intently at her mouth that the encounter seemed somehow to be unfolding between him and it without her presence mattering at all.

She lifted herself onto tiptoes, and the tiny birds inside her took off, a great flapping flock of them. They were propelling her toward him, and she wasn’t in charge anymore. She pressed her lips against the spot of chocolate near the corner of his mouth. If she’d thought the chocolate tasted sinful before, she’d been naive. The tang of his skin magnified it, made it magnetic.

“Lucy,” he rasped, his lips moving against her skin as he spoke her name. She waited for more, for him to cry halt. He did not. So she remained where she was, her lips pressed against the corner of his mouth but not moving, the roar of blood in her ears a rushing waterfall.

Beneath her mouth, his jaw clenched, became hard like iron, and his breath, already short, took on a ragged quality. Warmth pooled low in her belly like that chocolate, liquefied and hot. Every second they stood there, unmoving, something coiled more tightly inside her. It was almost painful, but it was impossible to imagine stepping away.

He moved only an inch. Less than an inch. His lips grazed hers, and though they barely touched hers, the warmth in her belly became fire. How was that possible? They weren’t even kissing, not really, and yet she felt as if she were at the gates of Bedlam.

A thought crept in. She tried to push it away, but it persisted. This is why Mary had fallen victim to her bouts of suicidal behavior. This—this unnamable compulsion—would grow and grow until it took over, displacing everything else, everything that made her herself. Unlike Mary, she wasn’t capable of producing great works of philosophy with the potential to change the world, but she did have a life. A hard-won life she’d made for herself through sheer force of will. Trevor was helping her—she’d had no choice but to permit it given his logical argument that their arrangement would benefit them both. But she needed to remember why she had agreed to stay only for six months. Because men were dangerous—even him. Even Trevor. Perhaps especially him.

So she stepped away.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~

BIO: Jenny Holiday started writing in fourth grade, when her awesome hippie teacher, between sessions of Pete Seeger singing and anti-nuclear power plant letter writing, gave the kids notebooks and told them to write stories. Most of Jenny’s featured poltergeist, alien invasions, or serial killers who managed to murder everyone except her and her mom. She showed early promise as a romance writer, though, because nearly every story had a happy ending: fictional Jenny woke up to find that the story had been a dream, and that her best friend, father, and sister had not, in fact, been axe-murdered. From then on, she was always writing, often in her diary, where she liked to decorate her declarations of existential angst with nail polish teardrops. Eventually she channelled her penchant for scribbling into a more useful format. After picking up a PhD in urban geography, she became a professional writer, and has spent many years promoting research at a major university, which allows her to become an armchair astronomer/historian/particle physicist, depending on the day. Eventually, she decided to try her hand again at happy endings–minus the bloodbaths. You can follow her twitter accounts @jennyholi and @TropeHeroine or visit her on the web at jennyholiday.com.

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Sarah Woodbury – Guardians of Time

I’m thrilled to have historical, fantasy writer Sarah Woodbury as my guest today speaking about real Welsh heroes and giving away a free ecopy of her latest release. In my mind, Wales is the quiet country. I’m Welsh but don’t know very much about their history. So how about her new book? Well, here are some reviews:

“I just finished reading this book and loved it. I especially like reading about how the modern knowledge is slowly transforming medieval Wales/England. The plot and characters kept me engaged throughout. I would recommend this book and can’t wait to get the next one!”

“Sarah Woodbury once again manages to pull us into the dual lives of the characters we know, 21st century commoners who are 13th century royals/nobles, while at the same time enriching the world that she has created by expanding the role of secondary characters and seamlessly introducing new ones who undoubtedly will be adding to the ongoing saga.”

And don’t we all want to be the royals when we think back to medieval times? How is this newly released book doing on Amazon? Very well! Take a look:Sarah Woodbury rankAnd now Sarah:

Writing Fantasy into Historical Fiction

Wales … snow covered mountains, deep lakes, hundreds of miles of coastline, and a long and brutal history of rebellion and conquest.

I love history and reading about history, but real history often ends badly for the heroes.  Consequently, when a story involves a main character who dies an unpleasant and premature death, it can be difficult to craft a tale that is an enjoyable read.  This is particularly true of books set in medieval Wales.

Few endings have had a greater impact on the progress—or lack thereof—of a country than the death in 1282 of Llywelyn ap Gruffydd, the last Prince of Wales.

With his death, King Edward I of England set about eliminating Welsh language, culture, and history to the best of his ability, even to the point of expunging any mention of the Welsh royal court from public documents.  He took the crown, the piece of the true cross, and even the title, Prince of Wales, which from then on would be bestowed on the eldest son of the King of England.

My After Cilmeri series takes the ambush and murder of Llywelyn ap Gruffydd, throws in some time travel, and asks what if?  What if Llywelyn survived?  And what might then happen to the two teenagers who save him?

Orson Welles once said, “If you want a happy ending, that depends, of course, on where you stop your story.”

My problem is that I don’t want the story to stop where it does—with the death of the hero.  The history and death of these great Welsh heroes are tales that desperately needed someone to rewrite them.  Or at least I thought so.

And so I did. 

Sarah Woodbury coverGuardians of Time, the ninth book in the After Cilmeri series, was released on May 19, 2015.

BLURB:  Christmas 1292.

Time travel has meant many things to Meg, David, and Anna over the years, but regardless of the circumstances, it has always been about saving lives: their own, their family members’, their friends’.

This time, it’s a combination of all three.

EXCERPT: Anna kept her eyes fixed on Math, whom she could see through the window as he stood outside the bus. His tousled black hair was wet from the rain, and she was noticing only now that she couldn’t do anything about it that it had grown longer than she usually let it. She reminded herself to give him a haircut when she came home.

Then she smiled at him, though she felt her eyes fill with tears as she did so.

Anna had said goodbye to her boys earlier, not wanting them here to witness whatever came next. Cadell had stood solemnly before Math as he’d explained that David was taking the adults to Avalon and that Cadell would need to protect his cousins in their parents’ absence. Bran knew she was taking a trip, which Anna did occasionally. Usually, it was to medical clinics in the region or to collect herbal remedies from across Britain, some of which were remarkably effective and rivaled—or even were better than—modern drugs. Unfortunately, none could address her mother’s cancer or Shane’s.

Lili and Bronwen had also remained behind with Arthur, Gwenllian, and the twins, none of whom needed to see what happened with the bus—whatever that might be.

It was already later in the afternoon than David had anticipated leaving. They were coming off a large Christmas feast in the hall at the university in Llangollen. The party had been for villagers, students, visiting scholars, and bus passengers alike, in lieu of any celebration up at the castle tomorrow. David was hoping that people, in general, wouldn’t mind that the feast had been held on Christmas Eve instead of on Christmas Day.

The festivities had actually begun before noon, but while they’d intended to spend a couple of hours at the gathering, they hadn’t planned on it being nearly dark by the time they set out. This close to the solstice, the sun set at 3:30 in the afternoon. Yet Anna and Math hadn’t felt they could leave until the feast was well and truly over. At least none of them had to stay to clean up—one of the many perks of being part of the Welsh royal family.

Anna blinked back her tears again, and when they wouldn’t stay away, closed her eyes and pressed her fingers to the corners, willing herself to remain calm. She was about to face death for something she believed in. She was no more willing than David to leave the risk to others.

“Hi there.”

She opened her eyes to find Math right in front of her, this time inside the bus. He sat down next to her, fumbling with the unfamiliar seat belt buckle.

Anna gaped at him. “What—Math, no—you’re supposed to be regent in Papa’s absence.”

“You’re not glad to see me?”

“Of course I’m glad to see you.”

Math smirked. “So then don’t tell me to get off the bus. I’m coming with you.”

“You can’t!”

Math tsked through his teeth. “I asked you once if you would return to Avalon if you could, and you said you weren’t going anywhere without me. At the time, I told you that I had no intention of giving you a choice. What kind of husband would I be if I let you go alone now under these circumstances?”

Anna put her head on his shoulder while at the same time reaching for his hand. She didn’t know what to say, because of course she wanted him with her. But it was reckless and irresponsible of him. And yet, it was only as reckless and irresponsible as David and Papa were being.

Math patted her hand. As she straightened up again, she saw that he and Papa were gazing at each other.

“Did you speak with Goronwy about the change in plans?” Papa said.

“He told me to go. He knows what to do,” Math said.

Anna could see the man in question standing outside the bus, his arms folded across his chest and his mustache bristling even in the rain, which—typically for late December in Wales—had started to fall more heavily. Some years it snowed by late December, but not so far this year.

Math squeezed Anna’s hand where it rested on his thigh. “I’m looking forward to finally seeing what’s on the other side.”

“I am too.” David touched Jane’s shoulder. “I think it’s time.”

Shane and Jane’s husband, Carl, sat farther back in the bus with the other passengers. Even though this was David’s plan, everyone had loudly shouted down any notion that he should drive the bus. He’d never learned to drive properly, since he’d been just fourteen when they’d come to Wales ten years ago, and he had driven only a few times since then.

Anna would never have dared to suggest that driving a city bus into a cliff wall was beyond her brother. She wasn’t sure if anything was. But if he tipped the bus over before they reached the wall, it might not be enough danger to cause them to time travel, and then they’d be stuck trying to figure out a way to right it before returning to the beginning and going through the whole procedure again.

Nobody wanted that. Since Jane was the mechanic, and since they were traveling in large part for Shane’s benefit, she’d taken on the task.

“Yes, sir.” Jane started the engine, which roared to life and then settled into a well-oiled purr.

“Nice.” David straightened, resolve in every line of his body.

“Wait a minute!”

Anna shifted in her seat to look behind her, and her mouth fell open to see Bridget, a woman in her mid-twenties and the last person Anna would have expected to see rising to her feet and gathering her gear. Her red curly hair framed her face in its usual untamed mane, and her green eyes gazed stonily ahead at David.

Like everyone else who’d come to the Middle Ages on the Cardiff bus a year ago, it had taken time for Bridget to adjust to the medieval world. But as the year had progressed, she’d done better than most. Back in Avalon, Bridget had worked in a shop in Cardiff, and as with Callum, her arrival in the Middle Ages had clarified her purpose in a way the vicissitudes of modern life had not. She’d rejected the malaise of some of the other travelers her age, and made the best of a bad situation.

She’d come to the Middle Ages with little formal education, though Anna knew her to be intelligent and more well-read than many university graduates, thanks to her local library and the internet. Bridget had a strong working class background, which meant she’d connected with the regular English folk in Shrewsbury, Callum’s seat, better than Anna or Cassie ever could.

Her secret power was that she was a knitting aficionado, a skill that had been developed in the Middle East for luxury items in silk, cotton, or linen, but hadn’t yet reached much of Europe. Shortly after Christmas a year ago, Bridget had set up shop in Shrewsbury, which was the wool capitol of western England, using start-up funds given to her by Callum.

She’d begun producing knitted woolen products, among them hats, mittens, scarves, and sweaters—one of which David was currently wearing. Before spring, she’d hired three employees, and by autumn, with demand growing by leaps and bounds, she’d employed ten.

What’s more, Callum had seen qualities in her that had been lost on her society in her old life and turned her shop into the clearing house for his spy network. Rather than having informants make the trek up to the castle to deliver news, thus revealing themselves to anyone who might wonder what business they could have with the earl, they now brought their news to Bridget. In turn, Bridget passed what she learned on to one of Callum’s lieutenants: Samuel, the sheriff of Shrewsbury; or Peter Cobb, his right-hand man. Or so she had done until today.

Bridget marched up to David. “What’s this about Mark coming back here with you?”

David glanced down the bus towards Mark Jones, the man in question. He was one of the former MI-5 agents who’d come with Anna and her mother on the bus from Cardiff and had found a place in the Middle Ages working for Callum. As Anna watched, Mark raised his shoulders in an elaborate shrug and mouthed the word, sorry.

David looked back to Bridget, hesitating before answering and clearly stalling so as to give himself time to figure out how to reply. Bridget kept her gaze fixed on him, and finally he said, “It was the only way to get him on the bus, short of handcuffing him to a rail.”

“You didn’t tell me I had that choice,” Bridget said.

Peter, who’d remained standing near David at the front of the bus, put out a hand to her shoulder. “It’s going be okay, Bridget—”

Bridget flailed out her right arm, smacking his hand away. “Don’t patronize me.”

Eyebrows in his hairline, his mouth forming a whoo, Peter put up both hands, palms out, and stepped back. “No, ma’am.”

That didn’t appease Bridget in the way Peter might have been hoping for because Bridget turned her glower on him. “I don’t suppose you’re staying either.”

Peter’s eyes shifted nervously towards David and then back to Bridget. “Er … no.”

Bridget swung back to David. “So why do I have to come at all?”

“I suppose, when it comes down to it, you don’t.” He cleared his throat. “But you have to be really sure this is what you want because I’m not doing this again. If you get off this bus, you’re living in the Middle Ages for the rest of your life.”

Bridget turned to look again at Peter. “Are you coming back for sure?”

Peter fell back on his military training, clasping his hands together behind his back and standing at parade rest. “Yes.”

“Do you promise?”

Peter looked at her warily. David’s eyes were flicking between the two of them, a slight smile on his lips, and then he shifted forward and lowered his voice. “Bridget, I will bring him home if it is at all possible for me to do so.”

Bridget chewed on her lower lip, studying Peter, who had the look of a man who knew that something was going on, but he wasn’t sure what that something was.

“What?” he finally said when she still hadn’t moved from her spot—about six inches from where he was standing.

By way of an answer, Bridget took the lapels of his coat in her fists, tugged on him so he had to bend towards her while she stood on tiptoe, and kissed him full on the mouth.

To his credit, Peter responded instantly, wrapping his arms around her and pulling her to him so he could return the kiss properly.

Everybody around them burst into laughter, even David, though he rolled his eyes at Anna when the kiss went on longer than a few seconds. Finally, Bridget and Peter let go of one another, moving apart enough for their gazes to meet.

Whatever Bridget saw in Peter’s eyes seemed to decide something for her, because she nodded, turned to David, and poked him in the chest with one finger. “Okay. I’m holding you to that.” Then she picked up her hat, gloves, and backpack from where she’d left them on a nearby seat, marched down the aisle to the back door, and left the bus.

Peter’s normally pale face had flushed all the way to the roots of his dark blond hair, which he still kept extremely short for ease of care, and his expression was stunned—probably not only at the kiss but also at Bridget’s subsequent departure.

“What just happened?” he said.

Grinning wildly, Darren clapped him on the shoulder. “If you don’t know the answer to that, my friend, you truly are a hopeless case.”

Callum gripped Peter’s upper arm. “You should get off the bus. Follow her.”

Peter glanced in the direction Bridget had gone and then cleaned the window of steam with his fist in order to peer through the glass. “Don’t you need me?”

“We could use you, it’s true,” Callum said.

“But do you really want to leave it like that?” Cassie said from behind him. “You want to be with her, right?”

“Of course, I do.” Peter straightened to look at Cassie. “I’d get off this bus in a heartbeat if—” He broke off, his eyes moving now to David’s face.

“If what?” David said.

Peter took in a breath. “If I didn’t feel obligated to you, sire.”

David shook his head. “For the last few hours, I’ve had a nagging feeling in my stomach about how few of us are remaining behind. I didn’t say anything because it would be unfair of me to ask anyone to sacrifice the opportunity to go home, but it would relieve my mind very much to know you were here holding the fort.”

Peter puffed out his cheeks and released a breath but didn’t answer.

“Speak, Peter,” Callum said.

Anna had spent enough time with Peter over the last year to know that the command was necessary. It wasn’t so much that his upper lip was British stiff. He was perfectly talkative when it came to work or an investigation he was conducting for Callum. But he was one of those men who had a particularly hard time conveying to anyone else what he was feeling. For him, showing no emotion and speaking little was ingrained.

He managed it this time, at least to Callum. “Yeah, I’ll stay. I’m glad to stay. I was dreading going back almost as much as Bridget, though I didn’t realize it until right now.” He turned to Darren. “Call my parents. Let them know I’m alive.”

“I’ll tell them you’re working undercover in Botswana,” Darren said.

Peter nodded. “That will make sense to them.” He blew out another breath and looked around at his friends. “Good luck.”

“The sooner you get off this bus,” David said, with a smile splitting his face, “the sooner we can get this show on the road.”

Peter followed the path Bridget had taken, and David hit the intercom so the people on the second level could hear him too.

“Folks, in a minute we’ll be on our way. Just as a reminder of what’s going to happen so nobody is surprised: the road winds down the hill, and then it will straighten out and head directly towards the bottom of the cliff. Jane’s going to get going as fast as this old bus can travel on a gravel road. We plan to hit the cliff wall at speed, and Jane has promised not to put her foot on the brake.” He cleared his throat. “I’d like everybody to fasten their seat belts. The ride might get a bit bumpy.”

He paused, releasing the button and studying the faces in front of him. Then he activated the intercom again. “If this doesn’t work, I’m sorry. It’s been an honor.”

And with that abrupt comment, he turned around and placed both hands on the dash in front of him.

Anna knew her brother. His voice had been thick with emotion there at the end, and he’d cut off any further speech because he didn’t want anyone else to know how he was feeling. As Jane shifted into first gear and started down the hill, Anna met her mother’s eyes. Mom was clutching Papa’s hand the same way Anna was holding Math’s.

They didn’t speak as the bus safely navigated the first two switchbacks, and then the bus started down the straight stretch, picking up speed and jostling everyone as it went. The bus wasn’t designed for gravel roads, even one hardened and smoothed as this one had been. Rain pounded on the roof and ran in rivulets down the windows, at a slant because the wind was whipping too and the bus was going fast.

“Mother of God,” Math said.

“I can’t let David do this alone.” Abruptly, Anna unbuckled her seatbelt and staggered towards the front of the bus. She steadied herself with one hand on the metal bar that ran from floor to ceiling behind the driver’s seat and grabbed for David’s arm with the other.

“Anna! What are you doing?” The tears were gone from David’s voice. Now he just sounded horrified.

“We started this together. We’re going to finish it the same way.” Anna glared at David, daring him to send her back to her seat.

“All right.” David brought his hand off the dash and clasped her left hand in his right. “Together.”

They both stared out the front window as the cliff rose up before them.

“David.” Jane’s voice was all fear and warning.

“Keep that pedal to the floor,” David ordered.

A hundred feet. Fifty feet. People in the back of the bus and on the upper level, where they had a better view, were openly screaming now. Some were praying. Anna was screaming on the inside, her breath caught so far up in her throat it was choking her. She glanced down at the speedometer, which was in kilometers per hour. It told her they were going a hundred.

And then Mom was behind them, wedging herself between her children, her arms wrapped around their waists. “I’m here, you two.” The cliff wall was right in front of them.

Twenty feet. Ten feet.

There was no stopping now, even if they wanted to. They were going to hit the wall. An irresistible force colliding with an immovable object.

“Eyes open!” David’s voice cracked.

Anna screamed as the front of the bus hit the stones of the cliff with a resounding crash

But no, like the miracle it had always been and continued to be, instead of hitting the wall they went right through it, as if they were on a ghost bus and had become ghosts themselves. Anna could only guess what it looked like from the outside. For the first time, because she was determined to experience the traveling fully, she kept her eyes open wide as David had ordered. But the lights at the front of the bus shone into nothingness.

She clutched David’s hand, which she was still holding, felt her mom’s tight grip around her waist, and counted through the three seconds of blackness that surrounded the bus.

Then they were through to the other side—and the bus was screaming down a highway going the wrong way.

Horns blared from the two lanes of cars coming at them.

“Iesu Mawr!” Jane said, swearing fluently in Welsh as she swerved the bus to avoid the oncoming cars.

The bus’s windshield wipers flailed back and forth at high speed. It was snowing here instead of raining, with at least three or four inches already on the ground. Since the road wasn’t a true divided highway, the easiest thing for Jane to do should have been to veer into the far left lane, where cars were going in their direction, but a series of giant orange barrels barred the way. The road was under construction, and it looked to Anna as if it was being expanded into a four-lane divided highway. They were driving on the right side of the road, which of course was the wrong side for Wales.

Mom staggered away from the dash, bringing Anna with her. They collapsed into their seats, and Anna felt Math’s arms come around her waist and pull her close to him. She put her head into his chest, her whole body vibrating.

“We’re going to head right back to the Middle Ages if we don’t get off this road!” Callum had risen to his feet to stand by David, who was no longer leaning forward on the dash but had moved both hands to the metal pole behind Jane’s seat, which Anna had been holding.

“I’m trying!” An oncoming van forced Jane to careen the bus to the far right side of the road. Unfortunately, as was usual in Wales, the shoulder was about three inches wide with a stone wall buttressing it. On an American highway, they could have pulled off the road and stopped, even if they were facing the wrong way. Here, there was nowhere to go.

“As soon as you can.” David’s voice turned calm. While Callum stooped to look out the windshield, David stepped closer to Anna so he could bend forward to look out the side window of the bus above her head. “Hey, sis. Thanks.” He smiled at Anna and put out a hand to her. “It worked.”

She grasped his hand. “It did, you idiot. One more time.”

 

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#MedMonSpring with Cathy MacRae and DD MacRae with Highland Escape

A big welcome back to Cathy MacRae for this Medieval Monday with her latest release with co-author DD MacRae is Highland Escape. I’d just like to mention

MacRae MM

 

HighlandEscape_1700+AmazonBLURB: Fleeing the English army that murdered her family before her eyes, Anna Braxton rescues two young women, kidnapped by a barbaric Highland clan only to find herself unjustly imprisoned by the clan she aided. Disgusted by her treatment, she counters their belated offer of friendship with anger and distrust. But she does not count on the unexpected effect the laird’s son has on her heart.

Duncan MacGregor does not understand his da’s command to imprison the young woman who saved his sister’s life. He is more than intrigued with Anna’s skill with a bow and sword—in fact, he is fascinated by everything about her, in spite of her lack of feminine wiles. Straightforward and with a deep-seated sense of honor, Anna Braxton disrupts his entire notion of a suitable woman.

Trained as a warrior and unwilling to be any man’s chattel, Anna shuns the idea of marriage—until Duncan coaxes her into a world of acceptance and passion she never knew existed. He wants her as his wife. She will agree, but only on her own terms—conditions Duncan is not sure he can accept.

Excerpt: Neil led them through the double oak doors and into the great hall. A score or so men sat on stools and benches around trestle tables, eating. As their group walked past the seated men, a deep voice bellowed, “Wench, why are ye dressed like a man? Come here, and I will teach ye what it means to be a woman.”

He followed his taunt with a stinging swat to Anna’s backside, hard enough to propel her forward. Anger ignited Anna’s blood, accelerated by the accompanying laughter of his companions. She shot a warning look to Duncan to stay out of it, shoving his chest for emphasis.

She took a quick side step toward the man who’d hit her, bringing her knee up high to her chest. Using the momentum of the step toward this oaf, Anna released a sidekick, driving her booted heel into the center of his chest. Her stepping kick knocked the breath from his lungs with an exaggerated grunt, and sent him sprawling backward onto the floor, his head bouncing off the flagstones.

Not allowing him time to recover, Anna grasped his left hand, twisting it away from his body, locking both his wrist and elbow. Bringing one foot down on his neck and jaw, she stretched his arm out further.

“You will apologize, mongrel, or lose the use of these fingers,” she snarled.

He struggled against her hold, but she had the lock cinched tight and his struggling only caused him additional pain.

“I willnae apologize to a wench who plays at being a man!” he ground out between clenched teeth.

“As you please,” she answered. An audible snap sounded as Anna pulled his smallest finger out of socket at the second knuckle, causing it to protrude at an odd angle.

A loud yelp and an anatomically impossible curse flew from his mouth.

“Apologize!” she yelled at him.

“Nae, never!”

She responded by displacing his third finger, creating a louder snap. This time, his fellows groaned in sympathy with him, but none dared come to his aid.

Anna glanced at Duncan, who leaned against an empty table, arms folded across his chest, a smirk on his face. Only the taut muscles of his jaw belied his calm expression.  He warned off the MacGregor men with a glance and slight hand gesture. Before she could demand another apology, Duncan spoke up. “What is yer name, Graham?”

The man on the floor continued to hurl curses, each more creative and colorful than the last, as he struggled uselessly against her hold.

“What is his name?” Duncan calmly asked the man seated nearest to him.

“Angus.”

“Angus, I would like ye to meet Anna of clan MacGregor. She has been adopted by our laird, my father, as a daughter, and is my future wife if she will have me.”

Anna shot Duncan a look of astonishment. The expression on his face showed no emotion except the silent fury he barely contained.

“I have seen her defeat six Highlanders in battle unassisted and another two warriors from my own clan. She saved yer commander’s life this afternoon. Ye might want to reconsider yer position on that apology.”

* * *

Buy link: http://www.amzn.com/ B00X60XB2U

 

Come back next Monday when Carmen Stefanescu will be visiting. See you then :)

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#8Sunday – WeWriWar May 24th The Gentle Knight

 

It’s Sunday again and that means…#8Sunday where authors post their best eight lines for WeWriWar. Enjoy!

The Gentle Knight by Ashley York

Will honor and duty eclipse their one chance for happiness?

“Brighit.” She answered for herself albeit through a clenched jaw from within the carriage.

“Ireland? You’ve taken her from Ireland?”

Brighit was surprised at his ability to name where she’d come from. She wished she were still there…any place but here. This was infuriating. She could not go out there now.

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#FoodyFriday – Oyster Quiche with Dawn Marie Hamilton

I love quiche and summer is my favorite time to make it. Oyster Quiche sounds amazing. And a press in pastry shell sounds so simple and with no clean up! I can’t wait to try this. Enjoy! 

Thanks for inviting me to share one of my favorite brunch recipes, Ashley. One of the many things I love about living in Southern Maryland is the availability of fresh oysters. Oyster season kicks into full throttle on the third weekend of every October at the St. Mary’s County Oyster Festival where the National Oyster Shucking Contest and the National Oyster Cook Off are held. http://usoysterfest.com/

Many believe quiche a French dish. My grandfather was German from the area of Lorraine, a region of northeast France bordering Germany that at various times was claimed by one or the other country. Both German and French are spoken in the region. Lorraine is where the dish originated, and the word quiche, according to the Webster dictionary, is actually a Gallicized German word.

This oyster quiche recipe is a celebration of my family roots and my life in Southern Maryland.

Press-in Pastry:

1 cup all-purpose flour

½ cup whole-wheat pastry flour

½ cup (1 stick) butter, cut into chunks

1 large egg

Filling:

6 slices bacon

½ cup sliced scallions

½ teaspoon dried tarragon (or 1 tsp. fresh tarragon from the garden)

1 pint shucked oysters, drained

1 to 2 tablespoon(s) cornstarch

2 large eggs

¾ cup half-and-half

¼ teaspoon pepper

¼ teaspoon salt

  1. In a food processor bowl, whirl the flour mixture and butter until fine crumbs form. Add egg and whirl until dough holds together. Press pastry over bottom and up sides of a 10-inch pie plate. Bake in a pre-heated, 325-degree oven until light gold, about 25 minutes.
  1. Brown bacon in a frying pan. Transfer bacon to paper towels to drain. Discard all but ½ tablespoon fat from pan.
  1. Add scallions to pan and stir until wilted. Stir in tarragon until fragrant. Spoon onion mixture over crust and spread evenly.
  1. Using a slotted spoon, gently place oysters in a bowl and mix with cornstarch to coat. (Will be messy wet.) Again, using the slotted spoon, arrange oysters over onion mixture.
  1. In a bowl, whisk eggs, half-and-half, pepper and salt. When blended, pour into crust over oysters. Break up browned bacon into pieces and scatter over top.
  1. Bake quiche in a pre-heated, 400 degree oven until custard no longer jiggles in center when pie plate is gently shaken, approximately 25 minutes.
  1. Let quiche cool for 5-10 minutes. Cut quiche into wedges to serve.

* If fresh oysters are unavailable, canned oyster can be substituted.

Enjoy!

Dawn Head Shot 200 byBio: Dawn Marie Hamilton dares you to dream. She is a 2013 RWA® Golden Heart® Finalist who pens Scottish-inspired fantasy and paranormal romance. Some of her tales are rife with mischief-making faeries, brownies, and other fae creatures. More tormented souls—shape shifters, vampires, and maybe a zombie or two—stalk across the pages of other stories. The Highland Gardens Scottish historical fantasy romance series and the Crimson Storm paranormal series are available in e-book and print. When not writing, she’s cooking, gardening, or paddling the local creeks of Southern Maryland with her husband.

Connect with Dawn Marie at:

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Discover the Highland Gardens series…

Available at Amazon and Barnes&Noble

Coming Late Summer 2015: Just Wait For Me, Highland Gardens, Book 3Dawn Hamilton Just Wait Coming 2015 200by300

The third match in the Fae Queen’s challenge is in play. Will fae magic change Stephen and Jillian’s destiny?

In the chaotic aftermath of the battle of Flodden, an injured Highland warrior makes a vow to a twenty-first century lass cast back in time by a meddling, matchmaking faerie. Stephen MacEwen promises to find a way to send her forward to her own time. But is that an oath he’ll want to keep after finding love in Jillian O’Donnell’s arms? And after saving Stephen’s life, will Jillian want to go?

No matter what the lover’s decide, Stephen’s wife—a woman who acquired the title through deceit—and an old enemy attempt to destroy the couple’s chance for happiness. Only with the help of fae allies can Stephen and Jillian overcome and earn their reward—everlasting love.

Excerpt:

9 September, 1513
Near the village of Branxton

The king is dead.

Anguish tore from her halfling soul with a fae scream that reverberated over the field of devastation like rolling thunder. Silence ensued. Men frozen in fear.

Caitrina dropped to her knees beside the redheaded warrior and ran gentle fingers along the bloodied curve of his handsome face. Damn Oonagh! Damn the fae queen! She’d refused to allow Caitrina to intervene in the politics of the mortals and prevent this tragedy.

Now, the king lay dead, fatally wounded by an arrow and a bill. Be damned the English and their nasty weapon—the bill, a staff mounted with hooked chopping blade and pointed projections. The Scots hadn’t stood a chance against the onslaught in this slippery, hilly terrain with their cumbersome pikes.

Heart broken, she cradled the man to her breast. Such greatness lost. Tears spilled unchecked onto his precious face. Too late. Even the magic tears of a Sithichean princess couldn’t revive the king.

“Caitrina! Let us be away from here.” The brùnaidh, the Maclachlan Clan brownie, fussed at her back. “We must remove Stephen from the field before the English learn he lives and plunge a bill into his chest.”

She ignored the wee man. How would the Scots forge forward without their beloved king—with only a bairn and the sister of the despised English monarch to guide them?

“If we lose Stephen you will never regain your rightful place.”

Aye. Oonagh and her stupid matchmaking challenge must be dealt with. Caitrina released James from her embrace and eased him to the ground. “Sleep in peace, oh greatest king.”

The metallic tang of blood fouled the air. She rose and moved through the death and destruction. Oonagh had tricked her. Led her to believe after three matches she’d be free to return and live in Tir-nan-Og, the beloved faerie paradise, land o’ heart’s desire. But Oonagh had refused to reveal which match was the third and final. The one that would free Caitrina from servitude to the fae queen.

Caitrina and Munn had expended considerable energy on a third match. Only to learn Archibald and Isobell were the wrong couple. Therefore, one match remained to perform.

“Needs be we hurry!” Munn side-stepped one of the petrified English knights.

They found Stephen’s prone form not far from that of his king. Caitrina rolled him over and took stock of his injuries. Thanks be to Danu, the blond warrior would live. She cloaked the three of them in fae mist and whisked them away on the fetid breeze to the healing caves of the Gray Women.

The battlefield returned to morbid activity—an agony of pain.Dawn Hamilton HG-Series-Teaser-Now 400

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Transformation Tuesday – Never Let Yourself Feel Defeated

monkey-clipart-a2271ba88f31e0d23d563c8fc6d2a5a0We’ve been talking about transforming your routine and how you can make headway on your goals. In my work life, I’m responsible for talking folks through their career goals and aligning them with their current work responsibilities. One of the biggest issues we run into in a fast-moving company is that priorities change quickly. The goals we set for our careers can become meaningless overnight when the direction of the business changes.

For personal goals, we’re less concerned with external motivators (i.e. promotions and raises) and are more concerned with internal motivators (i.e. thirst for knowledge and personal betterment). We’re also generally less concerned with combating external forces and coming up with contingency plans. But that doesn’t mean that the unexpected will never happen. It’s very possible that something will come along that impedes your progress and prohibits you from achieving all the things on your list.

Here’s what we know so far about achievement and transforming your routine. First of all, know what you’re working towards. Make your to-do lists. Write down the things you envision for success. From there, break these things down to smaller, manageable tasks. Once you know what you’re working towards, and you have digestible tasks, you are well equipped to seize the moment.

But what happens if the moment never comes? Or if something goes wrong?Expect the unexpected.

I’ve had two big challenges in the last week that have prevented my success: an overextended hip flexor and a broken water heater. Without hot water, it makes it hard to go for a run just for the heck of it. What if I wanted to go out in public afterward? When will I be able to shower next? Better not break a sweat. With an overextended hip flexor, every yoga class becomes a potential landmine. Better not push my luck. Ultimately, I ended up feeling defeated. Without checking these off my to-do list, what was I achieving?

In order to avoid feeling defeated, reevaluate your goals. Thinking of success in a new way will help you stay motivated. Ultimately, there’s a bigger picture here. In the working world, it’s a comfortable retirement or a director level role. In your personal life, its stress management or work-life balance. Whatever you’re working towards, plug into the bigger picture. When unexpected things get in the way of you feeling successful – revisit your definition of success and ask yourself two things:

What am I working towards?

What else can I do to make that happen?

See you next Thursday.

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Victoria Adams – Circles Divided #FREE E-Copy

Please join me in welcoming contemporary romance and new adult author Victoria Adams to my blog today. She’s a new author to me so I’m excited to be learning about her right along with you :)

Tell us about your writing journey, Victoria.

I’ve been writing for a very long time. Way – waaay back – in a creative writing class in school I wrote my first book. I was first published in the 1990’s. That publisher went under. Life got in the way and I finally returned to writing and being published  4 years ago.  I write under two pen names and together they have 13 books with number 14 coming out this summer. My genre is romance – contemporary and NA.

And what’s the best thing about being an author?

Well my answer would be a lot different if I was J.K. Rowling – lol. I like getting responses from readers. The last was hilarious. She was animated because of what happened in one of my books, but she was going off to buy the next one.

Are there any characters you particularly relate to? 

Both Julie – from Circles Trilogy – and Chelsea from A Guy and A Girl – studied dance and I based a lot of their experiences from my youth and dance studies. So I guess I can relate rather closely with them.

How much time would you say you spend on a weekly basis working towards completing a book? What do you do the rest of the time? Victoria Adams

Oh – I am so not a disciplined writer. I write when the mood strikes. And when that happens it could easily be a 60 hour week. But when the mood isn’t upon me, I still spend a good 20 hrs a week doing promo, writing blogs etc.

I study Raqs Sharqi – belly dance.  I study the Egyptian style with a fabulous teacher. I also love to garden in the summer.

What are you working on now?

I’m not writing. I am working on getting a couple of my books ready to be put into print.

Tell us something we’d be surprised to find out about you?

I have a second degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do.  Yes, I study dance, but martial arts was also something that interested me.

And now we’ll get to see what you’re really like (hee hee) by the following choices you make:

-coffee or tea – neither

-dark chocolate or milk chocolate – dark chocolate

-driver or shotgun – ????

-white or red wine – neither

-cake or ice cream – cake

-the beach or the mountains – beach

Perhaps where you sit in a car is not a commonly understood term? That’s what “Driver” or “ShotGun” refers to – Driver is the driver and shotgun is the person in the front passenger side. I personally prefer shotgun so I can enjoy the ride :)

Is there anything you’d like to share with the readers?

I’m an indie author and we love and live by reviews. When you read a book – if you could pop up a quick review – Indie authors would be so appreciative. It doesn’t have to be long. It’s not a high school book report! Just a simple – I liked/loved this book. Example – this is a review I got for A Guy And A Girl –  By the end of this book I had tears running down my cheeks. (now that’s a great review!)

Victoria Adams-CDivided-750x1125Blurb: Lies, deceits and secrets – not a good way to begin a relationship.

After an ugly past forced Hunter Connolly to escape to Europe, the talented hockey player is back in North America and determined to land a position with a professional team. But he can’t hide from his past forever, especially when his beautiful classmate, Chelsea, forces him to reexamine his life. Soon, hockey is not his first priority anymore.

Chelsea Henderson is a bright co-ed working towards her dream of being a professional dancer. She forms a unique friendship with one of her father’s newest recruits and would love nothing more than to take it to the next level. However, there’s just one small problem. He doesn’t know she’s his coach’s daughter.

Amid the deceptions, danger lurks closer than they could ever imagine. Will fate contrive to rip the young lovers apart? Or will Hunter and Chelsea have their shot at love?

Buy link – Exclusively at – http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00L2GRD1U

Excerpt:  “Come on in.” Hunter called from his spot sprawled on the floor in front of his sofa.

Chelsea walked into the living room. “Hey.”

He nodded, grabbed the remote and muted the television.

Chelsea spun a kitchen chair around and sat on it. “Okay, the silence’s killing me. I’ll start with some lame conversation and you just leap in. How was the bio midterm?”

“Passed it. Should write all my exams with a hangover.”

She tapped her fingernail on her thigh. “Guess that was the end of the conversation starters.”

Hunter levelled a glare at her. “What do you want, Chelsea?”

“I want you to sound less angry. I want to talk. I’d like to try and explain. First off, I’m so sorry the cops hauled you in.”

“No.”

“No?” Her voice squeaked.

“Todd was stalking you. The cops had no idea if it was him or me. And from the questions asked, I’d say some pretty weird things’d been happening.”

She shuddered. “I kept thinking I was being paranoid or something. But that’s not why I’m here.”

Hunter slammed a fist on the carpet. “I damn near slept with the coach’s daughter! Why the hell didn’t you tell me?”

Chelsea watched the tiredness in his eyes shift to rage. “Because… because….”

“I wouldn’t date you if I knew who you were.”

“Yea and that’s not fair.” She sat up taller and matched her gaze with his. “It’s not my fault your coach is my dad.”

Hunter closed his eyes and sighed. “I don’t know what to do, Chelsea. My head hurts too damn much to think.”

“Damn it, Hunter, I really like you. I don’t want to lose you as a friend. I don’t want to lose us.”

“I don’t know if there’s going to be an us anymore.” He rubbed his temples.

Chelsea sat behind him on the sofa, slipped her hands under his and began massaging his head.

Hunter pushed her hands away. Although it hurt him to say it, he said, “Go home, Chels. I need time to think.”

He refused to look at her. He couldn’t. He knew he’d give in, wrap his arms around her and beg her to stay.

Bio: I’m Victoria Adams. I live in Ontario, Canada with my husband and pets. We are currently attempting to tame a feral kitten abandoned in our barn. When I’m not writing, I’m out in my garden or off in class studying Raqs Sharqi (Egyptian belly dance).

I’ve been writing since I was little. As I grew up, my writing style matured and is split between contemporary romance for adults and contemporary romance for new adults.

Where to find Victoria Adams

Blog – Victoria’s Pages of Romance – http://victoriaadams.blogspot.com

FaceBook – http://www.facebook.com/victoriaadams.romancewriter

Facebook Author Page – http://www.facebook.com/pages/Victoria-Adams/244325918978641

Facebook – Books by Victoria Adams – http://www.facebook.com/CirclesTrilogy?ref=hl

Twitter – http://twitter.com/_VictoriaAdams

Website – http://victoriaadamsromance.wix.com/victoria-adams

Google+ – https://plus.google.com/u/0/101309354959026073738/posts

Wattpad – http://www.wattpad.com/user/VictoriaAdams

Plus – Triberr, Amazon Author, LinkedIn, SocialOmph, Goodreads etc

 

Giveaway – 1 lucky commenter will receive an ecopy of book 2 from my Circles Trilogy – Circles Divided.

To win – what did you do as a child? Did you take dance classes – ballet – tap – baton? Were you into sports – little league baseball, a swim team, horse back riding?

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#MedMonSpring – Kim Headlee with KASIWC

It’s Medieval Monday and my guest today is a science fiction/fantasy time-travel romance writer Kim Iverson Headlee with  King Arthur’s Sister in Washington’s Court (#KASIWC)  It’s an adaptation of A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain and original script The Once and Future Queen.

Kim Headlee KASIWC_ebook_1500x2400SYNOPSIS
Morgan le Fay, 6th-century Queen of Gore and the only major character not killed off by Mark Twain in A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, vows revenge upon the Yankee Hank Morgan. She casts a spell to take her to 1879 Connecticut so she may waylay Sir Boss before he can travel back in time to destroy her world. But the spell misses by 300 miles and 200 years, landing her in the Washington, D.C., of 2079, replete with flying limousines, hovering office buildings, virtual-reality television, and sundry other technological marvels.
Whatever is a time-displaced queen of magic and minions to do? Why, rebuild her kingdom, of course—two kingdoms, in fact: as Campaign Boss for the reelection of American President Malory Beckham Hinton, and as owner of the London Knights world-champion baseball franchise.
Written as though by the old master himself, King Arthur’s Sister in Washington’s Court by Mark Twain as channeled by Kim Iverson Headlee offers laughs, love, and a candid look at American society, popular culture, politics, baseball…and the human heart.
BUY LINKS:

Amazon Kindle:
US | UK | CA | AU | BR | DE | ES | FR | IN | IT | JP | MX | NL |

EPUB format for:
Nook | iPad/iPhone | Kobo | Smashwords 

EXCERPT:

The wench’s smile looked indulgent, if a bit saddened. “Queen Morgan, may I offer an observation?”

“Pray, proceed, Darla, as I seem to have paid for it.”

“This is about a man—the dishy one you’re always coming in here with.”

“Brilliant. Yes, the dishy one. Dishy, and treacherous.” I took a long pull of bitters.

“Lor’ love ye, madame; but all men are treacherous! If you’re lucky, that’s all he is.”

I reflected, through another draught, upon this spot of rough wisdom. Of all the men I had ever known, biblically or not, in this century or any other, the only man I could not label as “treacherous” was Sir Galahad, and we all know what happened to him. For the couple of you who might not be privy to the story: in brief, Sir Galahad drank from the Holy Grail and fell down dead, reportedly because his soul was so pure that Our Lord God bustled him straightaway to heaven. The fact that Sir Galahad had always acted so damned self-righteous that his Grail-hunting companions had wearied of his holier-than-thou ways probably had nothing whatever to do with his demise. I said:

Kim Headlee extra pic

                                                    (c) 2015 by Jennifer Doneske.

“I have treachery aplenty in my life, Darla.” Free agents, not-free agents, other players, managers, coaches… the list seemed endless. “I do not need more from Sandy Carter.”

“But you do need his love.”

I shook my head. “With love like that…”

She was not listening, but had looked toward the line of tall windows fronting the street, across which arched the words “nnI dleiftuO” and, in a revolving pattern of white, blue, and red tube-lights, “NEPO.” I would have taken umbrage at the offense—the server’s, not the fact that the words in the windows appeared backward to my vantage—but I had imbibed too much beer to care.

Darla said, “You need his love… and he needs yours. Look.”

Join me next Monday when Cathy MacRae will be visiting with her medieval romance.

 

 

 

 

 

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#8Sunday – WeWriWar May 17th The Gentle Knight

Welcome back to #8Sunday with WeWriWar. My scene continues with Brighit hiding in the carriage after an unfortunate “revealing” and the handsome young knight thinking the worst of her. Enjoy!

The Gentle Knight by Ashley York

Will honor and duty eclipse their one chance for happiness?

They’d had a nice time breaking their fast with very little interaction at all. Cole’s offer of extra water had come as a surprise but not one she wanted to miss.

Sudden silence. Brighit held her breath.

“And what would your name be?”

“I am called Ivan.”

“And this…young lady?”

This was just getting worse and worse. His words fairly dripped derision.

 

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Foody Friday – Veronica Scott

Veronica Scott square photoThanks for having me as your guest today! Not sure I qualify as a “Foodie”, other than the facts that I do consume food and I love “Top Chef”! Here’s an easy recipe dating back to the early days of my marriage, which my grown daughters still cook today for their families. I found it in a magazine ad (I think) for Pillsbury Crescent Rolls, sorry I can’t credit the source more accurately.

Beef n Cheese Crescent Pie

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Ingredients:

1 ¼ lb. ground beef

1/3 cup chopped onion

¼ cup chopped green pepper

8 oz can tomato sauce (plain or with mushrooms)

8 oz cut green beans (drained)

¼ tsp cumin

¼ tsp garlic salt

¼ to ½ tsp salt

1 can (8 oz) Crescent Rolls

1 egg

2 cups (8 oz) shredded Monterey Jack or Cheddar Cheese (and we actually use both, to equal 2 cups)

In large frying pan, brown the ground beef with the onion and green pepper. Drain the fat. Stir in tomato sauce, cumin,  garlic salt, salt. Simmer in frying pan while making crust. Separate dough into 8 triangles. Place triangles in ungreased 9” pie tin. Press dough over bottom and up the sides to form the crust. Combine egg and one half of cheese, beat until well mixed. Spread egg/cheese mixture over bottom of crust. Spoon in hot meat mix now. Sprinkle top with remaining cheese and paprika if desired.

Bake 20-25 minutes (till cheese is a bit browned in spots)

Let stand 5 minute before cutting. Makes 5 to 6 servings.

It’s also really good reheated. My younger daughter and I quibble over the green beans – she hates them and leaves them out. I say they’re essential for the proper taste!

My most recent paranormal romance is Magic of the Nile. Here’s the story:After a childhood spent scorned and ignored by her family because of her crippled foot, Tyema was magically healed then installed as the High Priestess of his temple by Sobek the Crocodile God. But Tyema is still haunted by her memories, scarred by the abuse she endured. Despite Sobek’s protection, as an adult she’s become a near recluse inside the temple grounds…

Until Captain Sahure arrives in her remote town, sent from Thebes on an urgent mission for Pharaoh, requiring High Priestess Tyema’s help. From that moment on, her quiet, safe life is upended in ways she never could have expected. But after a whirlwind romance with Sahure, the two part as Pharaoh orders him to undertake another assignment on Egypt’s dangerous frontier, far from Tyema’s remote town.

Veronice Scott MagicOfTheNile_600x900Heart-broken, Tyema is ready to return to her life of loneliness, official duties and, now, regret. But the Crocodile God has other plans for his priestess: she must uncover the sorcerer who threatens Pharaoh’s life with black magic. Soon enough, Tyema finds herself thrown into the chaos of Pharoah’s court, neck deep in intrigue and danger. Just when she thinks she can’t take the pressures of a very public court life and her secret investigation for the Crocodile God any longer, Sahure re-enters the scene.

But is her former love there to help or to hinder? Can they resolve their differences and work together to find the dark sorcerer who threatens Pharaoh and Egypt?

Here’s a short, food-related excerpt:

Tyema was thinking herself an impulsive fool, but as she strolled through the streets with Sahure, she felt less on edge, more relaxed. Her heart beat more slowly and she could breathe without undue effort. Most of the people they encountered were strangers come to town for the religious festivities. She enjoyed the rare entertainment provided by the musicians, acrobats and dancers performing for deben, thinking perhaps she should arrange something similar when the next major festival day for Sobek occurred. With Sahure at her side, no one bothered her, not even the beggars. The few townspeople she met seemed startled to see her but bowed their heads quickly and moved on.

He bought roasted quail for them at one of the stalls and seated her on a nearby bench, going back for a pitcher of beer. “Your town is pleasant, welcoming,” he said, setting the container down before accepting the drumstick she handed him.

Sipping at the beer, Tyema smiled. “You’re too kind. I’m sure it must seem rural and ordinary to someone who’s traveled the length of the Nile or lived in Thebes.”

“I’ve been to the wilds of Kush, seen the mountains where the Nile is born, I’ve been many places and each has its own form of charm. Right now I can’t remember anywhere half so attractive,” he said with a wink. “I’m under the spell, of the town and the company.”

Feeling her cheeks grow hot with a blush, Tyema took another swallow of the beer, although she rarely drank. “I’m sure the glib words go well with the ladies in Thebes.” Oh dear, he’ll take offense at my blunt speech, but he does sound quite practiced at flattery.

Sahure was unfazed, grinning, little crinkles of amusement around his eyes. “Ah, you see right through me.” Breaking apart the quail, he offered her a succulent morsel on the tip of his knife. “Most women smile and don’t examine my words like a scribe with a messy slate.”

“I—I’m no good at social chatter,” she confessed, taking the small bite in her fingertips and carrying it to her mouth. She chewed daintily, savoring the taste before swallowing. “I’m too direct.”

“We’re conversing, Lady Ema, not chattering. And I enjoy a challenge. Clearly more diligence on my part is required, to offer you only the most exquisitely crafted compliments. Or none at all.” He took a long drink of the beer.

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