Tuesday, March 21, 2017

What I'm Reading Wednesday: "The Mark of the King," by Jocelyn Green

Welcome to What I'm Reading Wednesday! This week, I'm reading a new book in my favorite genre: historical fiction. I've read about a hundred pages of this novel, and so far I LOVE it! It's extremely well-written and historically researched, and tells a unique and absorbing story. Take a look!

The Mark of the King
by Jocelyn Green

After the death of her client, midwife Julianne Chevalier is imprisoned and branded, marking her as a criminal beyond redemption. Hoping to reunite with her brother, a solder, she trades her life sentence for exile to the fledgling French colony of Louisiana. The price of her transport, however, is a forced marriage to a fellow convict.

New Orleans is nothing like Julianne expects. The settlement is steeped in mud and mosquitoes, and there is no news of her brother, Benjamin When tragedy strikes, she turns to military office Marc-Paul Girard for help, but does he know more about her brother than he will admit?

With her dreams shattered, Julianne must find her way in this dangerous land, where only grace -- and love -- can overcome the stigma of the king's mark upon her shoulder.

About the Author:
Jocelyn Green inspires faith and courage as the award-winning author of numerous fiction and nonfiction books, including Wedded to War, a Christy Award finalist in 2013, and The 5 Love Languages Military Edition, which she coauthored with bestselling author Dr. Gary Chapman. Jocelyn lives with her husband and two children in Iowa. Visit her at www.jocelyngreen.com.




Disclosure: I won a complimentary copy of this book in a contest. This post contains my Amazon affiliate link, and I will receive a small commission on purchases made through my link.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Cover Reveal: "Chasing Eveline," by Leslie Hauser


Chasing Eveline
by Leslie Hauser
Published by: Pen Name Publishing
Publication date: July 11, 2017
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
Sixteen-year-old Ivy Higgins is the only student at Carmel Heights High School who listens to cassettes. And her binder is the only one decorated with album artwork by 80s band Chasing Eveline. Despite being broken-up since 1989, this rock band out of Ireland means everything to Ivy. They’re a reminder of her mom, who abandoned Ivy and her dad two years ago. Now the music of her mom’s favorite band is the only connection she has left. 
Even though Ivy wavers between anger and a yearning to reconnect, she’s one-hundred percent certain she’s not ready to lose her mom forever. But the only surefire way to locate her would be at a Chasing Eveline concert. So with help from her lone friend, Matt—an equally abandoned soul and indie music enthusiast—Ivy hatches a plan to reunite the band. 
The road to Ireland won’t be easy, though. And not just because there is no road. Along the way, they’ll have to win over their Lady Gaga-loving peers, tangle with some frisky meerkats, and, oh yeah, somehow find and persuade the four members to play a reunion gig. It’s a near-impossible task, but Ivy has to try. If she can’t let go of the past, she’ll never be able to find joy in the present.


Author Bio:
Leslie Hauser is a YA writer and middle-school teacher. She has a B.A. in English from UCLA and a master’s degree in Educational Administration. She was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, and currently resides in Los Angeles, California, with her dog Mr. Darcy. 
When Leslie is not living in fictional worlds inside her head, she runs all sorts of distances, tortures her body at CrossFit, and DVRs entirely too many television shows. She dreams of one day returning to the Midwest to live on a farm. Or perhaps owning a cookie delivery service. 
Her debut novel, Chasing Eveline, releases 2017 from Pen Name Publishing.


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Friday, March 17, 2017

Arizona Forever Book Blast: Giveaway for a $50 Amazon Gift Card or PayPal Cash



Arizona Forever by Jaclyn M. Hawkes

Dr. Jessie Benn has everything—except Mr. Right.

There’s only one problem.

The one guy who intrigues her is completely wrong.

She’s a veterinarian specializing in horses with a thriving practice nestled between her family’s Arizona ranches, looking for a nice, dependable guy who can take her to the eternities.

He’s a visiting Australian business tycoon who’s just a touch bitter, a touch wild, and way more than a touch fascinating.

What’s a girl to do?


What Readers Are Saying About Jaclyn’s Books:


Jaclyn M Hawkes ROCKS!

I love all of her books! This was another great story that had it all; great characters, fun, happiness, love, suspense, sadness, triumph, family, and joy.

I'm not worried about letting my teenage daughters read anything Jaclyn writes.

Thanks for another great read and please keep them coming! ~Karen

Fantastic as always!

Fantastic, magnificent and beautifully written.

Amazing!

I have never read a book before that had me captive from the beginning. I cried, have laughed and felt her deep grief and confusion. What a wonderful book and a wonderfully exceptional writer. I can't wait to read more of Jaclyn Hawkes books! ~Lorraine

I love the way she writes!

I love it!

A fun read that warms your heart and makes you feel just as awesome as the characters!

Jaclyn Hawkes was delightful!

A love story with depth and characters you want to meet.

I find myself reading halfway into the night if I don't set a reminder to stop and sleep when I get her new books. ~Janie

Be sure to read Jaclyn’s other books

Journey of Honor: A Love Story
The Outer Edge of Heaven
The Most Important Catch
Healing Creek
Rockland Ranch Series
Peace River
Above Rubies
Once Enchanted
For Joey
Warrior’s Moon
The Sage After Rain
After the Wind
Wildflowers and Kisses


Excerpt - Arizona Forever

Prologue


Six year old Jessie Benjamin did what she always did when she was afraid—she ran to her big brothers. Hurrying, she went two doors down the hall to Josh’s room where her other brothers, Brennan and McCade, would most likely be as well. It was where the four of them usually met whenever there was something wrong. Only this time, she knew something was really wrong because her brothers didn’t smile and tease her before they gathered around her like they usually did. They swallowed her into their jostling group hug, but this time there was the same scary feeling here in Josh’s room that she could hear in her parents’ raised voices coming from their room further down the hall.

She couldn’t tell what they were fighting about. She only heard a word here or there, her mother’s voice loud and angry, while her dad’s had calmed down to sad and almost pleading. This bickering had been going on for a couple of days now, but nothing like tonight’s fighting. It was so strange. Her mother got fussy pretty often, but her dad never got like this. Ever. He was typically calm and soft spoken. Even when someone did something big, like when Brennan broke the garage window, he never got too riled. Whatever this bortion thing was her mother was hollering about had made him truly upset.

Jessie looked up into the serious faces of her brothers and hid her own face against Josh’s chest. She wished her mother would calm down. That shouting couldn’t be good for the baby in her mom’s tummy. They’d just found out she was expecting. Jessie was praying it was a girl and couldn’t have been more excited for anything! Ever since she was little, she’d imagined she had this little blonde sister named Jennifer who did everything with her. She’d even dreamed about her and it felt like she’d waited forever. Even a baby brother would be wonderful!

The fighting spilled out of their parents’ room into the hallway and her father almost seemed to be begging as he said, “Please, Clara, don’t do this. Just hang in there four more months. Even three and a half. Then you can leave and won’t ever even have to see it. I know it’s your body, but please ... It’s my baby too.”

Storming past Josh’s bedroom door, her mother shouted something they all clearly heard, “I’ll do what I want! It’s my body! In four months I’ll have missed the two biggest shows of the season. I missed shows for years to get the four we have. They’re plenty. It’s too much to ask that I do it again. This was your mistake, Ken—not mine! I shouldn’t have to pay for it and you can’t make me!”

The front door slammed and a moment later Jessie heard a car squeal away and then there was only silence. For some reason, that scared her more than the arguing. Finally, her dad went into his office and stayed on the phone with someone for a long time and when he came out, he actually looked like he’d been crying. Of course, that couldn’t have been true. Dads didn’t cry. But he looked like it.

That night, after everyone else was gone to bed, Jessie snuck into Josh’s room and sat on his bed and whispered, “Josh, what are they fighting about? What does bortion mean?” He was almost ten. He would know.

At her question, Josh began to cry. He pulled Jessie into a gentle hug. When he could finally speak, he said so softly and so sadly that Jessie could hardly hear the words that shattered her world into pieces, “Dad says it means Mom’s going to have the baby taken out of her tummy and then it will die, Jessie.”

Chapter 1


21 years later

Jessie slid onto the bench on the edge of the soccer field beside McCade and gave an exaggerated sigh of exhaustion as she began to unlace her cleats and said, “Man, you schooled me out there this morning, Muck. I thought I had you until that sweet juke before the half and then I was toast. My calves are killing me!”

McCade smiled and batted at her blonde ponytail. “That’s what you get for working too much and playing too little. Juked by the king of jukage!” He reached a hand over her head to fist bump Brennan who sat on the other side of her sucking on a water bottle. “She’s getting old and slow, Bren. Adulthood’ll do that to ya if you let it!”

Brennan stopped drinking and squirted her in the face with the water bottle. “I don’t know. She’s still got some moves of her own. You forget she scored on me like I was standing still. She even got around Suki. And you know she’s got some moves.” Brennan winked at his wife Suki and McCade rolled his eyes.

Jessie opened her mouth to catch some of the water Brennan was squirting, then smiled and said, “Twice. That would be twice I scored on you, bro. And that second one was world class. Christiano himself would have been jealous. Old and slow? I may be overworked and under played, but I’ll always be younger than the three of you. And we did win. I love this deal where the winners get taken to breakfast.” She pulled off her socks and wiggled her toes. “It’s already insanely hot out here. You two seem to be buying a lot lately. I’m having blueberry waffles. Think they’d care if I walked into the Wagonmaster bare footed? My feet can’t face shoes yet. They need air.”

As if on cue, all three of her brothers held their noses and Josh’s wife, Lucy, laughed from where she was standing beside the bench. “Just ignore them, Jessie. They’re only sore losers. Nice toenails, by the way. Love the polka dots.”

Jessie stretched her foot out to admire her pedicure. “They are cute, aren’t they? Ryley did them for me yesterday while I was finishing my patient log. You have a very artistic son.”

Josh turned to her from the other end of the bench with a look of horror. “You let my son paint your toenails? Jessie!”

Jessie laughed. “What? He did a great job for a three year old. Well, once I’d showered the excess polish off my skin. For awhile there it looked like I’d been attacked by an ax murderer with a foot fetish. But he did much better on his own toes. I think mine gave him some practice. His didn’t look nearly so gory.”

This time it was Lucy who was horrified. “You let him paint his own toes, too? Jessie! That’s a terrible thing to teach a little boy. You are never babysitting again!”

“Okay. Fine. I won’t do it again. Don’t ground me from your kids. They’re my favorite nephew and niece.”

“They’re your only nephew and niece.”

Jessie stood up and picked up her bag. “True, but they’re still my favorites.”She gave a wide smile. “So ... Hustle up people. I’m starving and my fans are waiting. I have a 7:30. Justison is bringing in that boneheaded buckskin gelding of his with the speed index of 106.”

Josh grimaced. “Some fan. He’s likely to try to kick your head off. Justison thinks if they try to strike, they’re just feeling good and ready to run.”

McCade shook his head as they headed to their trucks. “There’s probably nothing wrong with the horse. Justison just needs an excuse to visit Doc Jessie again. Don’t take any of his crud, Jess. You know how he is.”

At the restaurant while they waited for their food, Josh began fooling with his phone. After a second, he gave a low whistle and then said, “Unbelievable! You know that guy from my mission, my friend Riordan Kane? From up in Brisbane? The one we taught forever and got to be such good friends with, but he would never join even though he basically agreed with all the principles. He’d had that LDS girlfriend who had played him so bad and he always said it all sounded great, but he’d already been baptized and didn’t need to do it again. Remember he came over for a visit a couple years ago? Elder Burton says the Wall Street Journal reported that he’s selling his company for $168 million dollars! Holy crud! That’s a hunk of dough! He’s only like twenty-nine years old! How does a guy do that?”

Brennan only shook his head as he built sugar packets into a cube. “Apparently very deliberately. You said he was a business machine. Didn’t you say he was ruthless? He was in software, right?”

“Oh, I don’t know about ruthless. Well, actually, yeah, he was pretty ruthless in business. But I don’t think he’d always been that way. He’s a nice guy. I think he started out developing the software of some of his computer geek friends, but somewhere along the way he became ruthless. Awhile back his girlfriend, who he thought he was going to marry, started sleeping with the enemy—literally. So he wiped the other guy out. Apparently his company was built on solid technology, mostly phone apps I think, and it snowballed.”

Brennan nodded. “Yeah. I’d say it pretty well snowballed. Why’s he selling?”

“Who knows why Riordan Kane does anything he does? You’d think he had it made, but he doesn’t seem very happy sometimes. Last time I talked to him he distrusted every woman on the planet. Talk about your disenchanted. He had tons of money, no smile, and no idea of his purpose in life.”

Brennan raised his eyebrows. “I’d say if you built a company to $168 million dollars before your thirtieth birthday that you had some purpose in life.”

“Well, that seemed to be his only purpose. Other than to fish. He does like to fish. I hope once the sale is final he throws himself into something else and doesn’t just go all billionaire playboy. That’s the last thing Riordan needs. He’ll never join the church.”

Lucy patted his hand. “Relax, honey. It’s hard to go all billionaire playboy with only a paltry $168 million. He can hardly do much damage on that pittance.” She smiled at him. “Didn’t you say he was coming to the National Stock Show and bringing his fancy reining horse?”

Josh put his phone away and grinned. “He is. He’s bringing a guy named Quinn something, who’s some famous goalie for a pro soccer team over there. Riordan got him into reining as well. He says Quinn is a maniac.”

Jessie accepted her plate of blueberry waffles from the server, smiled her thanks and then said sweetly, “Well, you’d better not have them stay at your house then. That’s all Ryley would need is an aunt who lets him paint his toenails and a resident maniacal pro soccer goalie for role models. My, but this breakfast bankrolled by the losers looks wonderful, don’t you think, Lucy?”

Lucy smiled just as sweetly. “Indeed it does, Jessie. Bon app├ętit, Bren.”

Author Jaclyn M. Hawkes
Jaclyn M. Hawkes grew up in Utah with six sisters, four brothers and any number of pets. (It was never boring!) She got a bachelor’s degree, had a career and traveled extensively before settling down to her life’s work of being the mother of four magnificent and sometimes challenging children. She loves shellfish, pizza, the out of doors, the youth, and hearing her children laugh. She and her incredibly handsome husband, their younger children, and their happy dogs now live in a mountain valley in northern Utah, where it smells like heaven and kids still move sprinkler pipe.


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Ends 4/4/17

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Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Lucky Leprechaun Giveaway Hop: Enter to Win "The Beautiful Pretender," by Melanie Dickerson (Paperback)!

Welcome to the Lucky Leprechaun Giveaway Hop hosted by Mary at BookHounds! When you're done entering my giveaway, be sure to hop around to the other blogs listed in the linky at the end of this post for the chance to win more books or gift cards!

For my giveaway, I am offering one lucky winner a paperback copy of The Beautiful Pretender, by Melanie Dickerson! I really liked this book (read my review here), and am now passing this book on to someone else to enjoy!

The Beautiful Pretender
by Melanie Dickerson
YA Fiction
Thomas Nelson

About the book:

What happens when a margrave realizes he's fallen in love with a servant?

The Margrave of Thornbeck has to find a bride, fast. He invites ten noble-born ladies from around the country to be his guests at Thornbeck Castle for two weeks, a time to test these ladies and reveal their true character.

Avelina is only responsible for two things: making sure her deception goes undetected and avoiding being selected as the margrave's bride. Since the latter seems unlikely, she concentrates on not getting caught. No one must know she is merely a maidservant, sent by the Earl of Plimmwald to stand in for his daughter, Dorothea.

Despite Avelina's best attempts at diverting attention from herself, the margrave has taken notice. And try as she might, she can't deny her own growing feelings. But something else is afoot in the castle. Something sinister that could have far worse -- and far deadlier -- consequences. Will Avelina be able to stop the evil plot? And at what cost?


About the author:
Melanie Dickerson is the author of The Healer's Apprentice, a Christy Award finalist and winner of the National Reader's Choice Award for Best First Book. Melanie earned a bachelor's degree in special education from the University of Alabama and has been a teacher and a missionary. She lives with her husband and two daughters in Huntsville, Alabama.

Follow her on:
Website | Twitter | Facebook | YouTube

Enter through the Rafflecopter form below for the chance to win a paperback copy of The Beautiful Pretender!

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Now hop around to the other blogs participating in this hop for the chance to win more great books or gift cards to purchase them!





Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book to facilitate my honest review and will mail this book out to the winner of this giveaway.

Spotlight and Giveaway: "Shadow of Whimsy," by Ann Hymes

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Shadow of Whimsy: A Cape Cod Love Story by Ann Hymes

Publication Date: June 15, 2016
Secant Publishing
Hardcover, Paperback, eBook
Genre: Contemporary/Women's Fiction/Literary

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Several generations of one family have lived, loved, and lied at Whimsy Towers, a unique oceanfront house in Chatham, Massachusetts. Strong women who refuse to be suffocated by marriage have found excitement and refuge in this house filled with artists and parties. Love surfaces in unexpected ways.

The newest owner, Theresa Alston Crandall, has just inherited the property and leaves her too-predictable husband in Virginia to spend time on the Cape and unravel family secrets and history. She swims, reflects, explores, and watches dramatic cloud formations float high over the ocean as she sorts through the choices in her path forward.

Romance arrives in the form of a young widower and landscape gardener with an awesome pickup truck, who likes Theresa’s dog and provides temptation to stay at Whimsy Towers. Tips of tree branches dance with the weight of birds that seem to scream warnings of danger, and the churning ocean disrupts family continuity.

Theresa learns how her Southern grandmother came to buy a storm-weathered New England house and how loveless marriage is not a mandatory life style. The final decision feels just right.

"In her debut novel, Hymes presents a conflicted young woman who is beginning to question her humdrum existence. From grief and loss to forgiveness and redemption, Hymes does not hold back. The author steers clear of predictable outcomes in this unexpected story, providing ample romantic suspense and witty prose to keep the reader turning pages. Chock-full of rich descriptions of the New England coast, as well as surprising scandals and an adorable dog named Gypsy, the book should satisfy even seasoned beach readers. A captivating and uplifting tale best suited for fans of meaningful beach-town romances." -Kirkus Reviews

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Kobo

About the Author

03_Ann Hymes

Ann Hymes is a retired real estate broker and mother of two grown daughters. She has a B.A. in English from Mills College and an M.A. in English from Washington College. Her published work includes creative nonfiction. An active international volunteer, including service in the Peace Corps in the 1960s, Ann lives in St. Michaels, Maryland.

Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, February 27
Kick Off at Passages to the Past

Tuesday, February 28
Spotlight at The Lit Bitch
Spotlight at What Is That Book About

Wednesday, March 1
Review at Books, Dreams, Life

Thursday, March 2
Review at A Chick Who Reads

Friday, March 3
Spotlight at Cafinated Reads

Monday, March 6
Review at Svetlana's Reads and Views

Tuesday, March 7
Review at Book Drunkard
Spotlight at A Literary Vacation

Friday, March 10
Review & Interview at The Book Junkie Reads

Tuesday, March 14
Spotlight at Susan Heim on Writing

Wednesday, March 15
Review at Book Nerd

Thursday, March 16
Spotlight at CelticLady's Reviews

Tuesday, March 21
Spotlight at Just One More Chapter

Friday, March 24
Review at Blushing Babes Are Up All Night

Giveaway

Five copies of Shadow of Whimsy: A Cape Cod Love Story are up for grabs during the blog tour! To enter, please click the link below.

Rules

– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on March 24. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open to residents in the US only.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
– Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

Shadow of Whimsy


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Project Emergence Release Day Celebration and Giveaway


PROJECT EMERGENCE by Jamie Zakian releases today! If you haven’t yet heard about this wonderful book by Jamie Zakian, be sure to check out all the details below.

This blitz also includes a giveaway for a DVD of Passengers, US Only, or the complete eBook set of Fire in the Woods, International, courtesy of Month9Books. So if you’d like a chance to win, enter in the Rafflecopter at the bottom of this post.


About The Book:

Title: PROJECT EMERGENCE
Author: Jamie Zakian
Pub. Date: March 14, 2017
Publisher: Month9Books
Format: Paperback, eBook
Pages: 292

An ancient Hopi myth says people arrived on tiny silver pods that fell from the sky.

But the truth is far more terrifying.

Two-hundred fifty-eight teens are sent from a dying Earth to a terraformed Mars as part of the Emergence Program, mankind’s last hope before solar flares finish off their planet and species. Among the brave pioneers are sixteen-year-old Joey Westen and her twin brother, Jesse.

After only minutes in space, something triggers a total ship lock down.

With the help of their roommates, the Matsuda twins (notorious hackers and shady secret-keepers), Joey and Jesse stumble onto an extremist plot to sabotage the Emergence Program.

But Joey and Jesse didn’t travel to the deepest pits of space and leave their mother behind to be picked off in a high-tech tin can. They’ll lie, hack, and even kill to survive the voyage and make it to Mars.


Excerpt:

Beads of sweat formed between Winslow’s palm and the device, but he held tight. All his screens, which provided invaluable data, sat as black as the infinite cosmos before him. Flying blind, in ancient throughways created by … only God knows who -- it unsettled and disturbed the mind. 

However, the bowed windshield provided him a spectacular view without the instrument panel aglow. Leaning over, he searched for the orange glimmer of Earth, but after ninety minutes in hyper drive, the scorched planet was far from view. The bright streaks of distant stars overshadowed any hope of glimpsing home.

“Do you really think that woman can stop the … ” Natalia glanced around then leaned in to whisper, “attack.”

“We’ve made it farther than all the other expeditions. That gives me hope,” he replied softly.

“We had a great run though, didn’t we?” Natalia smirked as she tucked a stray hair behind her ear. 
“Remember that time—”

“This sounds an awful lot like a goodbye speech, Kozlov.”

“Ooh, Kozlov,” Natalia drawled. “You haven’t called me by my last name since I was a cadet. Geez, you must be serious.”

“We have to have faith.” Winslow looked to the men and women stationed at the far end of the control room, then to the shining rod in his grasp. “The human race can’t end with us; we’ve come too far. We have to persevere.”

“You know. After you told me about the other ships, I almost resigned from this voyage.” Natalia turned her chair from the control panel, facing him. “Do you know why I didn’t?”

Winslow clicked his chair around, staring at Natalia. A pink tinge flushed her cheeks, her nails drumming out a steady beat on the armrest. She looked so anxious. Risky test flights, solar flares, bombs, nothing shook her nerve so far. Yet right now, her lips trembled.

“I’m in love with you, Gerald. If we’re gonna die in thirty minutes, I thought you should at least know that.” Her eyes darted away, and she repositioned her seat.

His jaw dropped open. He tried to speak, but his words bunched in his throat. Natalia stole a glance and a hard thump rattled his chest. He never noticed that sparkle in her blue eyes, which gleamed against her olive skin, until now.

A wisp of brown hair fell from behind her ear, and his heart skipped faster. He looked to his watch, his hold on the jammer tightening. Only twenty minutes left. What-ifs and could-bes didn’t much matter anymore, these were most likely his final moments.

He unfastened his safety belt, scooting to the edge of his seat. A smile threatened to invade his lips, but he held a straight face. The shuffle of crewmembers faded as he pulled the lever beneath Natalia’s seat, spinning her chair to gaze upon her face. An unexpected flutter ran through his stomach with her stare, her smirk. It drew him in, brought him to one knee. Their lips found each other, and he kissed her, softly, under the glow of starlight.

About Jamie: 

Jamie Zakian is a full-time writer who consumes the written word as equally as oxygen. Living in South Jersey with her husband and rowdy family, she enjoys farming, archery, and blazing new trails on her 4wd quad, when not writing of course. She aspires to one day write at least one novel in every genre of fiction.

Giveaway Details:
1 winner will receive a DVD of Passengers, US Only.

1 winner will win the complete FIRE IN THE WOODS eBook set, International.

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Friday, March 10, 2017

Get Olivia Hardin's Bend-Bite-Shift Collection for 99 Cents!

Copy of The Collection

Get the first volume of the Bend-Bite-Shift Collection for just 99 cents!

That's 5 books for 99 pennies, but it's only available for a short time!

AMAZON

And if you're a Kindle Unlimited Reader, you can get all 10 stories of the Bend-Bite-Shift Series FREE! Not in Kindle Unlimited? No problem. Just click HERE to try it at no cost!

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Magic divides the human and faery realms, yet love may be a power strong enough to break any bonds... but in the process it could destroy them all.


Pain, joy, death,life, magic. All of it fits…


In this collection you'll get:

Witch Way Bends
Devan Stowe has only one thing on her mind: shutting down her father's child trafficking business. Her determination sets her on a journey to discover her true strength and the one man she was destined to love. In his arms, she'll unlock an amazing gift that will free her from her past and open up a future full of magic, faeries and more things than she ever imagined possible.

But no good deed goes unpunished, and Devan's quest may have deadly consequences not only for her, but for those she cares most about.

Bitten Shame
Jill Prescott returned from self-imposed seclusion to help save her best friend Devan's life. Throwing herself into Devan's problems and bringing an evil organization to its knees might just be the distraction she needs to keep living without the only man she's ever loved. Her life changed forever when she was hired to spend a week with Doc Massey. On the day she became a vampire her youthful innocence ended, but Doc's love rescued her from being consumed by the darkness. The shadow of that former life continues to loom over her, keeping her from realizing her own self-worth. Running from her past only brings her closer to a destiny that is inextricably connected to what she is trying to escape...

Every gift has both a reward and a price, because All of it fits. . .

Tell a Soul
He's the dependable one. The strong and steadfast one. Still, there's one woman who has always turned his firm resolve on end. Langston is surprised beyond belief to find Kristana again, and this time without a husband. Has fate finally given them the chance to be together? Kristana can't escape her intense attraction for the strange giant Langston, but the murmuring voices in her head are threatening to drive her mad.

Can she find a way to trade one torment for another and thereby find true love?

Shifty Business
Gerry Hinton thought she had the perfect career as an operative for the Company. Her next assignment should have been another "mission accomplished", but hell was delivering hand baskets that day. When a little girl gives a mysterious silver box to Gerry, her world self-destructs. Suddenly under constant mental attacks, the only person who can save her is her partner, Nicky -- but nothing comes without a cost.

Secrets buried deep in the past begin to rise, threatening everything she holds dear.

By Blood and Benevolence
Viktor has battled the darkness his entire vampire existence. His wife and the life they made together manage to keep him from the brink of despair, but it's always near the surface. A strange and dark encounter at a party unleashes his repressed past, overwhelming him with memories of his cruel maker and lost love.

His sanity is challenged when a mysterious dhampir arrives on his doorstep with information that will cause him to question everything he thought he knew.


About the Author

olivia hardin pic b&w.jpg

When Olivia Hardin began having strange movie-like dreams in her teens, she had no choice but to begin putting them to paper. Before long, the writing bug had her, and she knew she wanted to be a published author. Several rejections plus a little bit of life later, and she was temporarily “cured” of the urge to write. That is, until she met a group of talented and fabulous writers who gave her the direction and encouragement she needed to get lost in the words again.

Olivia’s attended three different universities over the years and toyed with majors in Computer Technology, English, History and Geology. Then one day she heard the term road scholar, and she knew that was what she wanted to be. Now she “studies” anything and everything just for the joy of learning. She's also an insatiable crafter who only completes about 1 out of 5 projects, a jogger who hates to run, and she’s sometimes accused of being artistic.

A native Texas girl, Olivia lives in the beautiful Lone Star state with her husband, Danny and their puppy, Bonnie.

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And if you love her books, join Team OH!

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

What I'm Reading Wednesday: "Gilded Cage," by Vic James

Welcome to What I'm Reading Wednesday! If you loved The Red Queen or Hunger Games, you'll enjoy the book I'm reading this week!

Gilded Cage
by Vic James
NOT ALL ARE FREE.
NOT ALL ARE EQUAL.
NOT ALL WILL BE SAVED.

Our world belongs to the Equals—aristocrats with magical gifts—and all commoners must serve them for ten years.

But behind the gates of England’s grandest estate lies a power that could break the world.

A girl thirsts for love and knowledge.

Abi is a servant to England’s most powerful family, but her spirit is free. So when she falls for one of their noble-born sons, Abi faces a terrible choice. Uncovering the family’s secrets might win her liberty—but will her heart pay the price?

A boy dreams of revolution.

Abi’s brother, Luke, is enslaved in a brutal factory town. Far from his family and cruelly oppressed, he makes friends whose ideals could cost him everything. Now Luke has discovered there may be a power even greater than magic: revolution.

And an aristocrat will remake the world with his dark gifts.

He is a shadow in the glittering world of the Equals, with mysterious powers no one else understands. But will he liberate—or destroy?

About the Author:
Vic James is a current-affairs TV director who loves stories in all their forms. Her programs for BBC1 have covered the 2016 U.S. residential election and Britain's EU referendum. She has twice judged The Guardian's Not the Booker Prize,. Gilded Cage is her first novel, and an early draft of it won a major online award from Wattpad for most-talked-about fantasy. She has lived in Rome and Tokyo, and currently lives in London.

vicjames.co.uk
@DrVictoriaJames
Facebook.com/VicJamesAuthor



Disclosure: I borrowed this book from the library. This post contains my Amazon affiliate link, and I will receive a small commission on sales made through my link.

Release Tour and Kindle Fire Giveaway: "Ruby and the Beast" by Ditter Kellen



Ruby and the Beast
by Ditter Kellen
Genre: Paranormal Romance, Fantasy


After the sudden death of her father, Ruby Atwood is forced to drop out of college to care for her younger brother. Deep in debt and on the verge of desolation, Ruby resorts to some shady dealings on the streets of New Orleans, in order to put food on the table for her small family. Until one night in a dark alley, she discovers a hideous beast she could never have imagined in her darkest nightmares.
Cloaked in darkness, the Beast prowls the back alleys of New Orleans, lonely, savage and bereft of hope, his demon clawing at him. With the man responsible for his curse now dead, the Beast seeks out the only other person who can satisfy the demon within -- the man’s daughter, Ruby Atwood.
Trapped, with nowhere to run, Ruby quickly realizes she must use her wits to stay alive or face certain death at the hands of a monster. But the more she tries to escape, the more she is drawn to the Beast. Desire and fear clash, creating an unforgettable story of hope, trust and a love found only in fairy tales...
**Releases April 4, 2017!!**


Ditter Kellen has been in love with romance for over twenty years. To say she's addicted to reading is an understatement. Her eBook reader is an extension of her and holds many of her fantasies and secrets. It's filled with dragons, shifters, vampires, ghosts and many more jaw-dropping characters who keep her entertained on a daily basis.
Ditter's love of paranormal and outrageous imagination have conspired together to bring her where she is today ... sitting in front of her computer allowing them free rein. Writing is her passion, what she was born to do. I hope you will enjoy reading her stories as much as she loves spinning them.
Ditter resides in Florida with her husband and many unique farm animals. She adores French fries, and her phone is permanently attached to her ear. 

Ditter Kellen is giving away a Kindle Fire at the end of each month until the release date! 








Monday, March 6, 2017

Secrets of a Reluctant Princess Blog Tour with Guest Post and Signed Book Giveaway


Secrets of a Reluctant Princess by Casey Griffin
Publication Date: March 7, 2017
Publisher: Entangled Teen

At Beverly Hills High, you have to be ruthless to survive…


Adrianna Bottom always wanted to be liked. But this wasn’t exactly what she had in mind. Now, she’s in the spotlight … and out of her geeky comfort zone. She’ll do whatever it takes to turn the rumor mill in her favor—even if it means keeping secrets. So far, it’s working.

Wear the right clothes. Say the right things. Be seen with the right people.


Kevin, the adorable sketch artist who shares her love of all things nerd, isn’t exactly the right people. But that doesn’t stop Adrianna from crushing on him. The only way she can spend time with him is in disguise, as Princess Andy, the masked girl he’s been LARPing with. If he found out who she really was, though, he’d hate her.

The rules have been set. The teams have their players. Game on.


Goodreads

Purchase Links:
Google Play | BAM | Chapters | Indies | Amazon | B&N | Kobo | TBD | iBooks

GUEST POST FROM THE AUTHOR

High school is a time when many people struggle to fit in. What was your experience in high school?

Wow, high school. What a time in anyone’s life. You’re going through so many changes, both physically and mentally. You face all sorts of new challenges as you move from childhood to adulthood, all the while, trying to overcome all those hormones. Can you say “awkward”?

But looking back, I had a pretty good experience in high school. Sure, it had potential for disaster written all over it. At the time, it felt like one wrong move and the world would collapse like the precariously piled junk you refused to clean off your bedroom floor. I think teenagers are always doubting themselves in some way, always feeling uncertain. I was particularly hard on myself. My saving grace was the people I surrounded myself with.

Honestly, I think most students in my school got along—except for your occasional scrap. My graduating class was pretty supportive of each other, but there are always those few. Every school has them. You know, the troublemakers, the bullies, the ones that could make your life miserable. Did I always avoid humiliation? Did I always make the best decisions? No. But the thing that got me through it was my friends. I surrounded myself with good people and positivity.

If I could give anyone advice on surviving high school, it would be just that. If you radiate positivity, you will receive it in return. Surround yourself with good people and good things. Seek out the positive, and it will overcome the negative.



About the author:
Casey Griffin can often be found at comic conventions on her days off from her day job, driving 400-ton dump trucks in Northern Alberta, Canada. As a jack of all trades with a resume boasting registered nurse, English teacher, and photographer, books are her true passion. Casey is a 2012 Amazon Breakthrough Novel finalist, and is currently busy writing every moment she can.

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads

Giveaway Information:

• One (1) winner will receive a signed copy of Secrets of a Reluctant Princess + a tiara!

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Friday, March 3, 2017

Announcing Book of the Month's March Selections and Promotions!

**This post contains affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links.

Book of the Month's March selections are here! The BOTM team has chosen some amazing books this month and are very excited to offer Marlena by Julie Buntin as an exclusive selection -- only available at Book of the Month! They have also teamed up with Laia Garcia (Deputy Editor, Lenny Letter) and Leigh Haber (Books Editor, O Magazine) as judges this month.

March Book Selections

Marlena by Julie Buntin - Judge: Steph Opitz
**A March Book of the Month Exclusive -- only available through BOTM!**

All Grown Up by Jami Attenberg - Judge: Laia Garcia (Deputy Editor, Lenny Letter)

Exit West by Mohsin Hamid - Judge: Leigh Haber (Books Editor, O Magazine)

Dead Letters by Caite Dolan-Leach - Judge: Sarah Weinman

The Stranger in the Woods by Michael Finkel - Judge: Liberty Hardy

March Promotions
1-month membership for $5
3-months membership for $9.99 per month + free BOTM tote

Give the gift of reading at bookofthemonth.com




Cover & Chapter Reveal for "Blood Road" by Amanda McCrina + Giveaway


Today, Amanda McCrina and Month9Books are revealing the cover and first chapter for BLOOD ROAD, which releases April 25, 2017! Check out the gorgeous cover and enter to be one of the first readers to receive an eGalley!!

A quick note from the author:

The funny thing about historical fiction -- or historical fantasy, in this case -- is that it often reveals more about the present than it does about the past. It provides a lens through which we can understand and contextualize our own experiences. BLOOD ROAD is a tribute to my love of Roman history, but it’s also very much a product of its time. It’s a story about corruption and injustice and empire and a young soldier who stands up and resists, and writing it gave me the opportunity to ask hard questions about my own present and the part I play.


Title: BLOOD ROAD
Author: Amanda McCrina
Pub. Date: April 25, 2017
Publisher: Month9Books
Format: Paperback, eBook
Pages: 329
Find it: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | TBD

Nineteen-year-old Torien Risto has seen dissidents dealt with before. He knows the young local girl who just knifed him will hang for assaulting an Imperial officer, unless he can stop it.

Someone inside the provincial government is kidnapping Imperial citizens and selling them across the desert to the salt mines, silencing anyone who tries to intervene. The girl’s brother is one of those who has been taken. Rejected by the corrupt courts, she’s waging a personal war against the Empire.

Determined to save her life, Torien sets out in search of answers on the Salt Road, the ancient trade route running deep into the heart of a desert—territory claimed by the hostile Mayaso tribe.

Now, Torien is no longer sure where his own loyalty lies, or how far he will go to break the cycle of tyranny, political bullying, and social injustice in an empire that seals its borders in blood.



Excerpt




CHAPTER ONE




He could see the sky in pieces between the tenements, bruised purple now with dusk.




At first he was glad for the darkness, because it meant they would be firing the beacon in the lighthouse at the point. He leaned on his saddle-horns, craning his neck to look down the narrow cross streets, trying to catch a glimpse of the great light burning in the distance. By means of the lighthouse he could reorient himself. But the cross streets twisted away into deep shadow between the tenement blocks, and there was the irksome thought at the back of his mind that if they had wandered so far into the city as not see the lighthouse, then they had wandered so far as to be where Imperial control was more a matter of theory than practice—at least at night.




Earlier, when the young summer sun was glaring white in a blue- glaze sky and the air under the awnings still and close and hot enough one could feel one’s skin baking in it—the tenements shut out the harbor breeze—the streets had seethed with people: sellers of figs and dates and pomegranates and honeyed almonds and goats’ milk and flavored ices and sour wine; and potters and silversmiths and leatherworkers and basket-weavers at their shopfronts; and housewives browsing the market stalls; and slave girls with water in sloshing panniers over their shoulders; and naked children playing sticks-andhoops along the foot-stones; and now and then a mounted official in white linen, shouting and swearing until the crowd shuffled aside to let him pass. Now in darkness they were alone in the street. It was as though the rest of the city had died with the sun. The air was dry and rapidly cooling, heavy with silence like a bated breath. He would not mind the darkness if not for the silence. In a city such silence was unnatural.




“Do you suppose they’ll look for us?” Alluin said. “Or just wait until our bodies turn up in an alley in a week or so?”




“I imagine they’ll expend the effort for me, if they wouldn’t otherwise trouble about you.”




“So there is some benefit to your acquaintance, after all.”




“If not for my acquaintance, you’d be just finishing the first course at the officers’ dinner.”




It had been his idea to explore the city. Alluin was city-born and indifferent—all cities were the same when you got down to it; there came a point when unwashed bodies and stray dogs and bad wine in dirty shops ceased to be as interesting as bed. But he, Torien, still had 3 Blood Road a provincial awe of big cities—an itching, impatient need to see and hear and know. He had been determined not to idle away his time in Modigne behind the fort walls. True that he and Alluin had no more than a smattering of bastardized Modigno between them, and that Modigne was a rabbit’s warren of nameless, ancient streets, built and overbuilt in incongruous layers—in daylight that had seemed far less important than it did now. In daylight it had been enough to know he was an officer of the Imperial army, and a Vareno nobleman, with sufficient coin on his person for any foreseeable difficulty and a sword at his hip in the event his coin should fail. It was remarkable how in darkness one saw things more clearly.




Certain things, anyway—other things than the way back to the fort or the direction of the harbor light.




The street, so narrow now that Alluin had to rein in his horse and fall in behind, plunged into a honeycomb of tight-packed adobe huts, each no wider than the span of Torien’s arms, joined to its neighbors by rickety wooden ladders running an uneven line from flat rooftop to flat rooftop. He took the downward slant for a good sign: he knew, from studying the maps on the wall of the headquarters at the fort, that Modigne, built as it was along a volcanic crater, went down to the ocean like the insides of a bowl, and so for the street to be sloping downward meant it must be working its way however haphazardly to the harbor.




He leaned on the saddle-horns, lifting himself a little to see if he could pick out the lighthouse below.




There was a rustle on the rooftop above. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw a darker shadow take shape against the darkness. He recognized the glint of metal in time to jerk around in his saddle, hauling on the reins as he turned. He took the blade in the back of his left shoulder rather than in his throat.




He had braced for it and did not slip from the saddle, though for a moment he thought he might: his knees, pressed against the horse’s ribs, went as weak as water. He lost the reins from his left hand. Above him, he heard very clearly the patter of footsteps as the knifeman fled across the rooftop for the nearest ladder. Just as clearly, he heard the thin cry and the muffled thump as the knifeman lost his footing on the ladder and fell back to the roof.




Silence followed.




Torien brushed away Alluin’s hand and propped his right shoulder against the wall. He nodded to the hut. “Bring him,” he said—calmly, though his heart was pounding. “That fall won’t have killed him.”




He saw Alluin’s face as a pale blur in the darkness. “Tor—”




“It’s nothing. It’ll wait. Our friend won’t.”




In truth, his knees were still trembling, and he was speaking through clenched teeth because he knew if he unclenched them they would chatter. There was blood seeping through his tunic and jerkin, and he was conscious, as he hadn’t been at first, of the knife blade sunk to its hilt just beyond the cuff of his shoulder. His body was revolting against the thought, sickness threatening in the pit of his stomach.




Lamplight blossomed inside the hut. Low voices filtered out through the reed curtain in the doorway. Torien dipped his chin again, with effort. Alluin swore and swung from his saddle and drew his sword. He pushed into the hut through the curtain, and Torien heard him issuing orders in a clumsy hybrid of Modigno and Vareno—heard the crash of pottery breaking, the scrape of wood dragging across stone, a child’s whimper. A moment later, Alluin’s head and shoulders and sword hand emerged above him from inside the hut. Alluin pushed himself up on his hands from the opening, landing lightly on his feet on the roof. Picking up his sword, he vanished beyond the roof edge.




Torien leaned carefully back against the wall. He glanced down the street. There were no other doorways lit, no other sound than the clatter of Alluin’s hobnailed boots on the rooftop above. In Choiro, there would have been a crowd by now. Modigne lay as still and silent as a plague city.




Alluin reappeared at the roof edge. He had sheathed his sword. He was handling the knifeman along by the shoulders—no, not a man, Torien thought, certainly a boy: he came barely to Alluin’s chest. His arms and legs, silhouetted black against the sky, were thin, stick-like things around which his tunic fluttered shapelessly.




Torien pushed up from the wall and gathered himself together and dismounted. The ground was springy under his feet. He wavered for a moment as his heels touched, swallowing back the sickness. There was a ringing in his ears. He blinked in the sudden brightness of lamplight as Alluin flung aside the curtain in the doorway and shoved the boy before him out into the street. Behind him the hut’s occupants—a man and a woman and an assortment of half-dressed children—gathered silently in the doorway to watch.




The boy had stumbled and fallen in a heap of skinny limbs and wool rags. He caught himself on his palms. He adjusted the cap on his head and sat back awkwardly, keeping his knobby legs to the side. In the dim light, Torien could see enough to know the left ankle was broken. There was blood dribbling from the boy’s nose, and he was sucking breath low and softly through his teeth. His eyes darted over Torien’s face, lingering for a moment at Torien’s shoulder. He looked quickly to the ground. He was, Torien judged, eleven or perhaps twelve—not yet old enough to face execution for an assault upon an Imperial soldier. He would go to a slaver’s block instead. There would be an examination to determine the guilt of his family.




He caught Alluin’s eye and jerked his chin to the sullen family in the doorway. “Wine if they have it. Water otherwise—and something passable for bandage cloth.” The pain had started, and he was leaning into his horse’s shoulder for balance.




The woman in the doorway said something in Modigno. He recognized the word for wine. He said, “What did she say?” Alluin’s Modigno was bad, but better than his own.




“They have wine, but it’s for a wedding,” Alluin said, “for her sister’s wedding—I think.”




He was irritated and impatient now. “Water, then. Tell them I’d have paid for wine.”




Alluin stood at his shoulder and unbuckled his cuirass while the woman went into the hut. “Do you want to do this inside?” he said. His voice was quiet.




“Not until I know he acted alone.” Torien nodded to the boy, who had sat motionless all this while, studying the ground as though he were reading something written there. “You. You speak Vareno?”




The boy looked up incuriously into Torien’s face. He had determined not to speak: Torien could see as much from the set of his mouth, the hollowness of his eyes. His thin brown hands were clenched to fists on his lap.




From the doorway, the man spoke up in rapid Modigno.




“He’s reconsidered about the wine?” Torien said. The shoulder was hurting fiercely.




“He says he knows her family,” Alluin said.




“Whose family?” There was a moment’s silence in which he suddenly understood.




“A girl,” he said, stupidly. “He says he knows her family and will tell us where she lives,” Alluin said.




“Also, he would appreciate very much his lord’s kindness if his lord would consider a pittance in return for the service.”




The girl flung up her head suddenly to spit at the man’s feet. The man seemed embarrassed. He hunched his shoulders and looked at his hands. The woman came out from the hut with a water jug and a cloth. She held them out to Alluin at arm’s length, making a quick, nervous gesture with her hands. Alluin shook his head. “Hold them. Quedas—hold them, you understand?”




“Give them to me,” Torien said.




“Don’t give them to him,” Alluin said. “He’ll drop them when I do this.”




He jerked the knife from Torien’s shoulder. Torien folded to his knees. The street swam around him. He heard Alluin’s voice as though it were carrying to him underwater. He shook his head. Alluin was prying the cuirass from his shoulder and tugging the jerkin down his arm. The night air through his blood-soaked tunic was sharp and cold; he shivered. The girl’s eyes were on him. She was watching with the same flat-eyed incuriosity. There was blood trickling over her lips from her nose, but she made no move to wipe it away.




“Her ankle,” Torien said. For some reason, her silence shamed him.




Far above him Alluin said, patiently, “What?”




“Tie up her ankle. And tell the Modigno he can show us where she lives, because I don’t trust the word of a coward.”




****




The Modigno walked ahead, self-consciously, shoulders still hunched in embarrassment. Alluin followed on foot, leading his horse by the reins. The girl huddled in his saddle with her hands outstretched to the horns, her face buried in the horse’s mane, her bare legs dangling limp against the horse’s belly. Torien rode at the rear. The street, which turned this way and that through the honeycombed huts, ran steadily downhill all the while, and he knew they must be close to the water because there was a stiff salt breeze rising to his face. It cut through his soaked tunic like a knife. His fingers were numb on the reins. He had knotted them in the horse’s mane to keep himself upright in the saddle.




He could have ordered the Modigno to show them instead to the harbor light, of course, or to the fort itself, and they could have delivered the girl into the prison on the hill, and very soon now he might have been enjoying the comfort of his own quarters and a skin of wine to ease the pain in his shoulder—but it might easily be a month before the girl’s case went to the governor, and he was due to report at Tasso in a week, and he had too many questions of his own to let it go like that.




Only after they had gone on for near half an hour, the adobe huts having given way to ramshackle wooden shanties and the street sunk in soft, rank mud, the air heavy with the smell of brine and rotten fish, did it occur to him that most likely the Modigno had no idea about the girl’s family and no idea where she lived—had grasped for the chance to make a quick coin and come away with more than he had bargained for, and was looking for the opportunity to dart down an alley and vanish into the night.




He had opened his mouth to say this to Alluin when the Modigno swung about suddenly and said something in his own tongue, gesturing with his hands. The shanty at his back was threesided, sheltered from the street by a tattered sailcloth curtain, unlit.




“He says it’s here,” Alluin said.




The girl shifted in Alluin’s saddle. A shudder ran through her shoulders, but she did not raise her head.




“Tell him to lift the curtain,” Torien said. He was cold and aching and the Modigno was a fool, but that was no reason to abandon caution.




The Modigno lifted the curtain. The shanty was empty. There was a fire pit dug in the bare-dirt floor, but the coals were dead.




The Modigno spoke very quickly in his own tongue, his eyes going from Alluin to Torien and back again.




“He seems to think we think he’s lied,” Alluin said. “He wants us to ask the girl.”




“Tell him the girl’s our concern.” Torien dismounted, cradling his left arm against his stomach. He was too tired for anger. Anyway, it was pointless to threaten reprisals: they would not find him again if they tried. He fumbled at his belt and withdrew a bronze from his wallet. He flicked the coin in the Modigno’s direction. “Bayas—go.”




The Modigno dropped to his heels to dig out the coin from the mud. He made a mockery of a bow as he straightened: it had occurred to him that they had been essentially at his mercy. His shoulders were straight as he walked away back up the street.




Alluin pulled the girl down from his saddle by the waist and held her before him, as easily as though she were made of straw. “I’ll have a look around. The harbor can’t be far.”




“No. We can spend the night here.”




“That shoulder needs more than water, Tor, and sooner is better. Though I appreciate your faith in my medical ability.”




“I don’t like the idea of splitting up. It won’t do my shoulder any good if you end up in the harbor with your throat cut. And I couldn’t drag myself back into a saddle right now if I wanted to.”




Alluin was silent, studying him. He had the girl’s shoulder in one hand, his reins in the other. He let go the girl’s shoulder, reluctantly. “Adienta—inside,” he said. And to Torien: “I’ll see to the horses.”




Weak moonlight filtered through the roof of the shanty, which was nothing more than a reed lattice tied down with leather strips. The girl sat down against the left-hand wall, stretching her bad leg straight before her. She watched silently and unmoving while Torien crouched on his heels at the fire pit and searched one-handed through the ashes for salvageable tinder. By the time he had built up a decent pile, and had found flint and iron to strike a light, Alluin had ducked in from the street with a saddle on each arm.




“I’d have done it if you’d waited,” he said. He deposited Torien’s saddle against the right-hand wall and sat down with his own against the rear wall.




Torien unbuckled his helmet and leaned his head back against the wall. He sat with the helmet on his lap, his eyes closed. Beyond the crackling of the fire and the rattling of the lattice in the salt breeze, the silence stretched vast and hostile. “If you speak,” he said, “it goes better for you.” He opened his eyes and looked at the girl across the fire pit. In the firelight, he could see the details of her bony bronze face. She was older than he had thought at first—older than he’d thought when he’d thought her a boy. It was possible she was fifteen. The smallness of her limbs and the sunkenness of her cheeks made it hard to tell. She was looking into the flame in silence, her eyes halfclosed, her face magnificently blank, but he knew she had heard and had taken his general meaning by the way her shoulders tightened against the wa



ll. “Tell me if there were others,” he said. “Tell me how many.”

When she said nothing, he said to Alluin, “In Modigno. Tell her if she doesn’t answer to us now, she’ll answer to the governor in court—she and her family.”




The girl jerked her chin, suddenly. “No others,” she said. “I understand what you say.” Her eyes came up to his. Her voice was low but hard. “I do it alone. No family. The cobarte he lies when he brings you. No family. He says it because he wants your coin.”




“Why did you do it?”




She turned her face back to the fire.




“Answer me,” Torien said.




“I go to the slavers anyway,” she said. “It doesn’t matter if I answer you.”




“Possibly you’ll go to the slavers. Possibly they’ll decide you’re old enough to face execution. My word means a great deal, either way.”




“I do not care,” she said.




“My word can spare you an examination.”




“I do not care.”




He glanced over to Alluin, who shrugged very slightly against the wall. Torien could sense his discomfort in his silence. He looked back at the girl. “Speak now and I’ll listen,” he said. “Come tomorrow in the city prison, it’ll be too late.”




She said nothing. He saw there was no use in it. He said to Alluin, “We’d better set a watch.”




“I’ll watch,” Alluin said. He seemed thankful for something to do.




“I’ll take it over in a few hours,” Torien said. “Wake me if you need to.”




He did not sleep. He lay against his saddle, carefully still on account of the shoulder, watching the sky through the cracks in the lattice and waiting for sleep to come, but his mind was moving on and on through the streets of Modigne, and in the silence he was restless. At length, he got up. The fire had died to embers. Across the room, the girl was huddled shapeless in the darkness. He could not tell if she was asleep. He went over to the doorway, where Alluin sat cross-legged against the corner post. “You sleep,” he said. “I can’t.”




“Your shoulder?” Alluin’s voice was tight. “You should have let me go for help, Tor.”




“It’s fine. It’s just that I can’t sleep and you might as well.”




“Next time you’ll listen to me. Next time when I say I can see enough of Modigne from the fort walls, and you say—”




“You talk like you’re the one who took the knife.”




“That’s the difference between us,” Alluin said. “I don’t have to take a knife in my back before I recognize a bad idea.”




Torien sat with his back against the post, his sword unsheathed across his lap. Through the gap between the post and the curtain, he could see the horses and the moonlit street beyond. He watched a cat come noiselessly down the street. It saw him as it approached the shanty, and it paused and watched him and went on again when it decided he was no threat. Behind him, in the shanty, Alluin was breathing long and steadily in his sleep. It was perhaps midnight or a little past. He heard a noise like a muffled laugh or a cough, and he started, fingers seizing instinctively on his sword grip. At his movement, the noise stopped. Across the room, the girl was struggling to hold herself still against the wall. Her shoulders shook with trapped sobs.




He pulled himself up to his feet, supporting himself on the sword. He crossed the room to her. She heard him approaching and drew herself stiffly up, but she did not raise her head. He knelt beside her. In the moonlight through the lattice, he could see the tear streaks on her cheeks. Leaning on the sword, he said, quietly, “Tell me why you did it.”




Another tremor ran through her shoulders. She bit her lip. Alluin’s untroubled breathing was loud in the silence.




“Give me the truth and I may be able to help you.”




She shook her head, once, sharply, her eyes squeezed shut. “You lie. I know you lie.”




“I don’t lie.”




“All Vareni lie. I know this.”




“Maybe. But I’m Cesino blood through my father’s line.”




“Then to your people you are a traitor.”




She said it flatly, without interest, as though it were as obvious as the weather, and he understood the absurdity of trying to explain to her, in that moment, how one could feel loyalty to homeland and to empire without hypocrisy. He said, instead, “I’m trying to help you.”




“Why do you want to help me?”




“I care to see proper justice done.”




“I know your justice.” She lifted her face to his, finally. Her voice was thick with anger and tears. “I know what you mean when you say justice. You take Mahlan when he does nothing wrong. I know what you mean by justice.”




The curtain rustled in a draft of cold salt breeze. Torien was on his feet and spinning to the doorway in one motion, his sword ready in his hand. Behind him, Alluin sat bolt upright, flinging aside his cloak. He drew his sword and scrambled up, his back to the wall. The figure in the doorway stood frozen at Torien’s sword point. For a moment, there was silence in the shanty. Then Torien jerked his chin over his shoulder and said, “Sit—slowly. Linta.”




He kept his blade leveled at the newcomer’s throat while the newcomer slid down beside the girl. He said to Alluin, “Light.”




Alluin dropped to his knees at the fire pit. There was another stretch of silence while he coaxed a flame from the spent tinder. In the moonlight, Torien could see the newcomer’s arms tight around the girl’s shoulders, head bowed against the girl’s head. He lowered his sword. After a moment’s consideration, he sheathed it. He turned on his heel and went to the curtain and looked out into the street. It lay empty and silent as before. The horses stood tethered at the post. He drew the curtain shut. There was a tightness in him that had nothing to do with the wound.




Feeble light sprang over the shanty walls.




“It won’t last long,” Alluin said.




“Use this.” With one booted foot, Torien prodded the bundle of sticks that the newcomer had let drop in the doorway. The girl watched him over the newcomer’s shoulder. Her face was set as hard as stone, but he saw the flicker of fear in her eyes. He crouched on his heels, facing her, the fire pit at his back. “No family? So it’s not only Vareni who lie.”




The girl said nothing. The newcomer straightened slowly against the wall and looked at him. He saw the girl’s face in near-exact duplicate, but duplicated as it would be in twenty years’ time: bronze skin prematurely lined, lips cracked by the sun, dark eyes sunken with hunger and hardship and grief. There was neither fear nor defiance in the woman’s face, but rather a resignation which shook him. “I give you what you want. Do not ask it of the girl.”




“You can give me satisfactory answers. Otherwise the girl goes before an Imperial court for sedition and attempted murder.”




The woman looked at the girl, the girl at the floor. Neither spoke, but in the firelight Torien watched the color drain from the woman’s face.




“Dependent upon her age, the penalty is enslavement or death, so I advise you to consider your answers carefully. Who is Mahlan?”




The woman was silent. The girl raised her eyes briefly from the floor.




“Silence does your daughter no good,” Torien said.




“My son. He is my son—Mahlan.” Her mouth contorted as though the name pained her.




“Where is he?”




“They take him,” the woman said. She swallowed. “This spring when the harbor open they come and take him.”




“Who?”




She said nothing. Her fingers were tight around the girl’s arms. They were bony fingers, bent and blunted from work, the knuckles swollen, the nails split. The backs of her brown hands were traced over with lines like dry leather.




“Vareni?” Torien said. “Answer me.”




The woman closed her eyes. “Of the jente.”




He did not know the word. He darted a glance to Alluin, who was sitting and watching from the other side of the fire pit. “One of the crime lords,” Alluin said, quietly.




Torien said to the woman, “This jente took your son?”




“When the harbor open, they take him.”




He supposed in her mind and in the girl’s the Imperial governing authorities were partially culpable in that they had not stopped it; and he supposed he had made more accessible a target than the jente for the girl’s retribution. It was a stupid reason to be knifed in the street, and a stupider reason to be executed. He was irritated. “You should have gone to the governor. He might have explained to you the difference between justice and vengeance before the girl need hang for it.”




“I go to your courts.” The woman flung up her head. “I am a citizen. My daughter she is a citizen. My son he is a citizen. I go to your courts for justice. They say to me I have no case, and they tell me if I am not silent then they will silence me. Always it is the same. Always you pretend you do not see, because the jente he pays you not to see. I know what is justice and what is not justice. What you hang my daughter for it is not justice, and you know this too.”




“How many others besides your son?” There was a moment’s silence. He could sense Alluin frozen behind him across the fire pit. He said, “You say always like it’s common practice. How many others?”




The woman drew up a little. Her eyes were flat, her mouth tight. She thought he was mocking her. “There are hundreds the jente take. You know—”




“I know nothing. I’ve been two days in Modigne, and despite the fact I just took a knife in my shoulder, I hope to be shipboard and gone tomorrow.” He kneaded his temples with his fingertips. “So the jente takes them—why? As slaves?”




“He sells them into the salt mines in Tasso. I hear it from the sailors.”




“And you say the governor knows and does nothing.”




Anger flashed across the sun-cracked face. “I say because I know. We tell him what happens. We tell him the jente he takes us to be slaves in the mines. We ask his protection. ‘We are citizens,’ we say. ‘Help us against the jente.’ But the ones who speak out he gives their name to the jente, and the jente he kills them or he takes them to the ships. I have seen this. The jente he kills us in the street, and your governor and your courts and your garrison they do nothing.”




“Every ship coming into or going out from an Imperial port is inspected—slave ships more closely than the rest. Every manifest is reviewed, every cargo taxed. So many kidnapped citizens would hardly escape notice. It would take more than the governor turning a blind eye. At the least, it would mean the city guard, and the harbor master and his agents, and the harbor master at Tasso, and every level of the administration at the mines. This jente can’t have bought them all.”




“The city guard always they belong to the jentes,” the woman said. “Anyway, the jente he doesn’t use the slave ships. I see it myself. In the night they put the slaves on trade ships—hundreds of slaves into hidden holds. In the day they fill the ships with jugs of wine, jugs of oil. That is what the harbor master sees. They put water in some of the jugs so it doesn’t show on the manifests that they carry water for the slaves. I don’t know about the mines.”




Torien was silent. The girl was looking at him over the woman’s shoulder—unblinking, contemptuous, as though she were daring him to call it a lie. Alluin sat motionless behind him, waiting for him to speak, because in the end the decision was his alone, but he knew Alluin’s thoughts like his own, and he knew Alluin, too, was thinking of the empty streets outside the shanty and the silence like a bated breath—fear hanging over the city like a plague.




He rocked back on his heels and got to his feet. The shanty spun as he stood. “This is what will happen. In the morning, I take ship for Tasso. You’ll go with me down to the harbor, and you’ll show me the jente’s ships, and I’ll investigate crew and cargo for myself. If I find nothing to convince me of this slaving business, then I’ll leave it for the governor’s court to decide your fate. Otherwise I’ll do what I can from Tasso to see this thing ended and those responsible made to pay for it—Modigno and Vareno alike. In any case, I swear to you I’ll see justice done. If you’ve told me the truth, you’ve nothing to fear by that.”




The woman’s fingers were tight on the girl’s arms. “I tell you the truth,” she said. Her voice was low and hard, and in it he heard what she left unsaid: that she knew the value of Vareno oaths just as she knew the value of Vareno justice. The truth made no difference to whim.




He ground out the fire under one boot heel. “I’ll take the watch,” he said to Alluin. It was perhaps four hours to dawn, and he knew he would not sleep.





Amanda McCrina has studied in Italy, taught English in Japan, and currently tutors Latin in Atlanta, Georgia. She received her BA in History from the University of West Georgia, and is now pursuing her MA. She writes stories that incorporate her love of history, languages, and world travel. She drinks far too much coffee and dreams of one day having a winning fantasy-hockey season.




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