Saturday, June 30, 2012

Book Promotion: Blood Guilt by Marie Treanor (Guest Post)

I'd like to thank Roxanne @ Bewitching Book Tours for giving me this opportunity to participate in the BLOOD GUILT Book Promotion and I'd like to welcome Marie Treanor to ABTB!

(Blood Hunters, Book 1)
By Marie Treanor
eBook coming 5th June 2012

The first of a new vampire romance series, a sequel to the Awakened by Blood trilogy.

Natural enemies, deadly attraction…

Mihaela, a fearless vampire hunter secretly haunted by loneliness and childhood tragedy, finds it difficult to adjust to the new world order where vampires are not always the bad guys. She's taking a much needed vacation in Scotland when she sees a little boy being chased through the streets of Edinburgh. Rescuing him brings bigger problems - two vampires from her past: Gavril, who killed her family; and the reclusive and troubled Maximilian, gifted Renaissance artist and one-time overlord of the most powerful undead community in the world. Maximilian once saved her life and now needs that favor returned.

The earth moves for Mihaela in more ways than one. From Scotland to Budapest and Malta, she  races against time to prevent a disastrous, vampire-induced earthquake and save an innocent yet powerful child – all while fighting a dreadful attraction to Maximilian, her only ally, whom she can’t afford to trust. For Maximilian, the hunter becomes a symbol of renewed existence, as he struggles to accept his past and rediscovers his appetite for blood and sex - and maybe even happiness.

About this Author: 

Marie Treanor lives in Scotland with her eccentric husband and three much-too-smart children. Having grown bored with city life, she resides these days in a picturesque village by the sea where she is lucky enough to enjoy herself avoiding housework and writing sensual stories of paranormal romance and fantasy.

Marie Treanor has published more than twenty ebooks with small presses, (Samhain Publishing, Ellora’s Cave, Changeling Press and The Wild Rose Press), including a former Kindle bestseller, Killing JoeBlood on Silk: an Awakened by Blood novel, was her New York debut with NAL.



Guest Post by Marie Treanor:

My Blood Hunters by Marie Treanor

Phew! This is my final stop on a fun and hectic blog tour to celebrate the release of BLOOD GUILT, the first book in my new Blood Hunters series. Christina, thank you for having me here!

Since it’s the end of my tour, I thought I’d go back to the beginning, and talk about the characters who inspired the story: Mihaela, and her fellow vampire hunters.

First of all, I should say that although it should be able to stand alone, Blood Hunters does follow on from the Awakened by Blood trilogy (Blood on Silk, Blood Sin and Blood Eternal, published 2010-2011), where my vampire hunters first appeared as the heroine Elizabeth’s mentors and friends. Towards the end of the trilogy I began to get distracted by those hunters, and as the story moved forward in my head, beyond Blood Eternal, I realized the hunters were telling it. So, I plan to give several of them the opportunity to do so.

First up is the brave but unhappy Mihaela in Blood Guilt. Mihaela has a terrible tragedy in her past: as a child, she watched a vampire kill her parents. She was only saved by the same fighting spirit that makes her such a good hunter. But now her dauntless character is obsessing a vampire with his own damaged spirit, reminding him how to fight back. The mysterious, once ambitious Maximilian, gifted artist and reviled betrayer once ruled the strongest vampire community in the world, then existed in self-imposed isolation for over a century. He saved Mihaela’s life at the end of Blood Eternal. She’s still coming to terms with that.

I like Mihaela. She hides her loneliness and her natural desires for stability, a husband and family beneath unswerving duty. She’s strong, loyal, capable and humorous, and she never whines when life goes against her. She just fights back until she wins. She isn’t even afraid of death. What does frighten her is the temptation of her powerful physical desire for Maximilian…

Next, in Blood of Angels, out probably in January 2013, is Mihaela’s colleague Istvan, the quiet, scientific hunter with the unexpected past. Istvan was a juvenile delinquent, a car thief and burglar until, while robbing a house, he came across vampires attacking the owner’s son and saved his life. Now Istvan is a dedicated and feared hunter, who’s dragged his profession into the technical age. While recovering from a horrible vampire attack, he sets about inventing his most ambitious gadget yet: an instrument for storing and magnifying the supernatural power of vampires. To learn what he needs, he soon finds himself embroiled in a battle of wits with sexy vampiress and nightclub owner, Angyalka.

And then, there will be Konrad’s story. Konrad is the most troubled hunter of all, part hero and part villain who can’t accept the new regime in which humans will gradually be persuaded to accept the existence of vampires. Konrad’s past is horrific, and he’s preparing to make an equally horrific mistake if he can’t be stopped…

So there you have the potted biographies of my hunters at the beginning of the series. By the end, there will be a lot more to add! For now, let me know in the comments which character intrigues you and why – I’d love to know!

FBF Book Spotlight: Point, Click, Love by Molly Shapiro

Point, Click, Love
by Molly Shapiro
Published December 20th 2011 by Random House Publishing Group

Best friends and fellow midwesterners Katie, Annie, Maxine, and Claudia are no strangers to dealing with love and relationships, but with on...line dating and social networking now in the mix, they all have the feeling they’re not in Kansas anymore. Katie, a divorced mother of two, secretly seeks companionship through the Internet only to discover that the rules of the dating game have drastically changed. Annie, a high-powered East Coast transplant, longs for a baby, yet her online search for a sperm donor is not as easy—or anonymous—as she anticipates. Maxine, a successful artist with a seemingly perfect husband, turns to celebrity gossip sites to distract herself from her less-than-ideal marriage. And Claudia, tired of her husband’s obsession with Facebook, finds herself irresistibly drawn to a handsome co-worker. As these women navigate the new highs and lows of the digital age, they each find that their wrong turns lead surprisingly to the right click and, ultimately, the connection they were seeking.

3 Signed Copies will be given away on Friday, July 6, 2012!

Click Here to Enter:

What is FBF?

It's simple. Every Friday, Free Book Friday gives away free books!

That's right. Each week, FBF features a new author with an exclusive author interview podcast or written Q&A and host a drawing to win free signed copies of his/her book.

All you have to do to enter to win each week is sign up using the entry form on the left sidebar. Winners are chosen at random and posted on the site every Friday morning. Hence the name, "Free Book Friday!"

Friday, June 29, 2012

Tour: Bitten Shame by Olivia Hardin (Guest Post)

This past weekend I visited the museum where I worked for about a year and a half when I was first out of high school. It’s made me pretty nostalgic the last several days. I don’t like to dwell on regrets, but there are certainly a lot of things I wish I’d known when I was younger.

5. Words Hurt; Hurtful words from those we care about hurt the most. I have been struck by the story of the school bus monitor who was teased to the point of tears by some very nasty children this past week. When I was in elementary school I had a male teacher who I really liked. Not “like, like” but I really enjoyed his class. I thought he devoted some extra attention to me too that year. But one day I wrote a very hateful poem questioning his “sexual orientation.” He was noticeably effeminate. It got a lot of laughs as it was passed around the room. But he didn’t laugh when it made its way into his hands. I will never, ever forget that look on his face. I really wish I had known how much my little prank would hurt him.

4. I am not mathematically stupid. I don’t know when I decided that I was mathematically stupid. I couldn’t figure numbers in my head (actually, sometimes I still can’t.) I actually like math. Geometry and algebra are fun to me – if only those pesky calculations would come naturally off the top of my head. But they don’t and so I just thought I was dumb. And because of this, I chose not to pursue science in college. Now that is dumb. I always found geology fascinating and if I could just have whispered in that “younger me’s” ear and told her how “un-dumb” she was in math, maybe I’d be in some sort of geology field today… or not. But maybe finding a reason to believe more in myself would have encouraged me to be a writer even sooner.

3. Beautiful is “being”. I have always been a big girl. In high school especially, I had lots of extra pounds. These days I’m actually more active and keep myself trimmer and healthier, but in school I was teased and called “Fats” by a group of guys in some of my classes, The teasing always “tickled” in the back of my mind and kept me from feeling pretty. The older I get, whether I put on a few extra pounds or take a few off, I have learned that “being” beautiful, makes me beautiful. If I feel it, then I am it. And that’s a great thing indeed.

2. Don’t be afraid to love. I learned this lesson in 1998 when my eighteen year old sister died suddenly. There’s not a conversation I have with a family member since that day that does not end in I love you. I remember after Cori died that I tried to recall if I had said it enough. She and I were entirely too much alike and we found ferociously – we loved the same way. Her heart was beautiful and perfect and I miss so much how she used to cling and touch and hug me to the point that I would want to shove her away. So love! Love more, love bigger, love stronger, love always.

1. Writing is a part of my soul. Until about a year and a half ago I had stopped writing. It was almost a 10 year hiatus. Now that I’m doing it again, it seems like a part of me has sparked back to life. When I go a few days away from my WIP I feel needy, lost, in a fog. It’s a part of me that cannot be excised. It has empowered me, made me feel stronger, more independent. I just feel MORE of me now.

So, although there are lots of things (many more than I’ve put here) that I wish I had known, the truth is the journey has and continues to make me strong. I can’t complain. I’ve been very lucky and the bumps on the road behind me have toughened me up for the bigger ones that are likely ahead of me.


Find Olivia's books:

Witch Way Bends is Available at Amazon

Bitten Shame is Available at Amazon ~~ Barnes & Noble ~~~ Smashwords

You can also get autographed paperbacks of both books from Olivia’s blog.

Olivia Hardin realized early on how strange she was to have complete movie-like character dreams as a child. Eventually she began putting those vivid dreams to paper and was rarely without her spiral notebooks full of those mental ramblings. Her forgotten vision of becoming an author was realized when she connected with a group of amazingly talented and fabulous writers who gave her lots of direction and encouragement. With a little extra push from family and friends, she hunkered down to get lost in the words. She's also an insatiable crafter who only completes about 1 out of 5 projects, a jogger who hates to run, and is sometimes accused of being artistic, though she's generally too much of a perfectionist to appreciate her own work. A nativeTexasgirl, Olivia lives in the beautiful Lone Star state with her husband Danny and their puppy Bonnie.

Connect with her Online

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Book Promotion: The Earth Painter by Melissa Lee (Review+Guest Post)

I'd like to thank Roxanne @ Bewitching Book Tours for giving me this opportunity to participate in the THE EARTH PAINTER Book Promotion and providing me a copy of the book to review. And I would like to welcome Melissa Lee to ABTB!

Title: The Earth Painter
Series: Painter #1
Author: Melissa Lee
Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Supernatural Fiction
Elements: Immortals
Publisher: Crushing Hearts and Black Butterfly Publishing
Format: PDF
ISBN: 9780615634753
Release Date: August 28, 2011
Source: Tour Host {Bewitching Book Tours}
Rating: 5/5

Tagline(s): ~NONE~

Summary: The Sculptor was alone. The world was gray, as it always had been.

And then the Sculptor said, “It is time…

Time for color,

Time for more,

The beginning.”

With a word, three sculptures became aware. And they needed to paint.

There was Ocean, Sky, Land, and Life all painted into place.

Then it ended, just as quickly as it started. Then the painters were no longer needed.

But they were still…AWARE.

And it was in this awareness that the battle began. And continues.

When a self-conscious young woman discovers the boy in drama class is actually the immortal who painted the world into being, she becomes the target of another painter who could shatter not only her new sense of hope, but her world, as well.


When Holly's father loses his job, her and her family move to her parent's hometown. Now Holly is starting at a new school and dreading every minute of it. But when she enters the theater for her drama class, she sees a boy sitting on the stage who no one else seems to notice. Thus begins Holly's emotional journey of self-discovery and finding a love that just may break her heart.

The Earth Painter is like an artistic version of the creation myth. There is the Sculptor (the Creator, God) who created a giant sphere, bit it was devoid of life or color. So he created three beings known as Painters. Each Painter had an assigned area--Walden paints the sky, Fritz paints the water, and Theo paints the earth (these are reminiscent of the Greek gods Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades). The Painters gave the world for and the Sciences--Physics, Astronomy, Biology, Geology, and Chemistry--gave the world function. But no Painter is to paint humans, that is strictly left to the Sculptor. Painters are not invisible, but they are to remain unnoticeable and not draw attention to themselves.

Now since Painters are basically unnoticeable, it brings about the question of why Holly noticed Theo without him drawing her attention to him. Only the Painters, Sciences, and their creations can notice each other without trying--and since human creation is only by the Sculptor's hand--what could possibly cause Holly to notice Theo? She can't see the other Painters or any of the Sciences without notice being brought to them. I had an inkling about the cause of this once a certain lost painting was mentioned, and I was right when it was revealed at the end.

Holly's mother is a character that annoyed my so much that, if I could have jumped into the pages of the book myself, I would have slapped her while yelling, "Grow up, woman!" I can't stand adults who behave like children in the sense of causing low self-esteem in their kids through verbal abuse and bullying--not to mention throwing tantrums when they don't get what they want. I really enjoyed seeing Holly grow out of her self-esteem issues and stand up to her mother, instead of allowing her mother to continue walking all over her.

Holly still retains some of those issues, though, when it comes to Theo. She develops feelings for Theo, but being a Painter, Theo can't feel human emotion. This leaves Holly confused, heartbroken, but still curious. There is a kiss that occurs that resulted in something so unexpected and surprising that the cliffhanger is going to leave me really curious about what will happen next. I can't wait to read the sequel to The Earth Painter!

Book Trailer: 

About this Author:

Melissa Lee is a wife and stay-at-home-mom of 3 young boys. She’s been making up stories in her head for as long as she can remember but only got serious about it in 2007, after reading Twilight and rediscovering her own dreams to write. Finally, she put her Journalism degree to use and started writing and hasn’t stopped since. She has studied fiction writing at various conferences, and from numerous writing coaches.

She signed her first contract with Crushing Hearts and Black Butterfly Publishing in 2011.


I got to drama a little late because my AP history class ran over. Ms. Jones walked to the middle of the stage. Paint splattered overalls replaced her normal dressy style “Listen up everyone. Our scripts still aren’t here so we are going to get busy painting scenery. We have canvases ready for painting. If you are talented in art, you can work on the forest backdrop. If you are not good with a paint brush, you are not excluded from helping. You will work on the stones walls for the castle. All you do with those is paint the whole canvas gray. Then later someone from the art department will go over it to make the stone outlines.”
She was about to walk off when she remembered something. “Oh and because of her excellent performance, Holly Scruggs will be performing her monologue for the parent teacher night scheduled next week.”
I stood there for a second while people half clapped and half chanted they were glad I’d done a good job instead of them as they got busy putting on paint smocks and heading to different painting stations.
I trudged up the steps to the stage and looked at the canvas destined to be stonewalls. I sighed grateful they had something simple I could work on. Surely, I could manage painting the whole thing gray. It was bad enough when my mom yelled at me at home. I didn’t want that here in front of everyone.
I grabbed a painting smock and snapped it up before grabbing a brush to dip in the bucket of gray paint.
“Why are you painting a gray wall when you could be painting a forest?” Theo asked from behind me.
I turned around so he could see me roll my eyes. “Um…because not everyone can paint like you.”
“Tsk…sure you can. All you need is a little guidance.” Theo took my hand and dragged me to the larger canvas no one had started on. I followed without protest. I didn’t mind Theo showing off to impress me. It was kind of flattering. My heart skipped a beat.
But instead of me standing back to watch him, he stood behind me, and took hold of my right hand while nuzzling his face by my ear.
“First, let’s start with green. The forest is made of different shades of green. Green means growth and life,” he whispered. His breath tickled my earlobe. Goose bumps pimpled down that side of my body in response. He guided my brush into the paint and then across the canvas with soft gentle strokes. My eyes fluttered when he tucked strands of my hair behind my ear. I’d never been held by a boy before. The feelings and thoughts were more than I could comprehend.
 “If we mix the green with a touch of black, mix white for gray, we can create shadows.” He mixed the colors on a piece of cardboard box he held for a pallet.
We moved from side to side, up and down, covering the blank canvas with gentle strokes. His words still tickling each time he spoke. My heartbeat quickened and my breathing became a little more labored. I watched in amazement as my brush changed the canvas from white to shapeless shades of green and then into a forest thick with vegetation.
As the brush glided along the canvas, I breathed in deeply, the scent of pine trees rushed up my nose. I shook my head and tried to focus on the trees we were painting. The flat painted trees suddenly became three-dimensional. A brown and white bunny hopped into a bush and stirred the leaves, causing me to turn my head towards the motion just before a squirrel scurried up an oak tree carrying a nut in its mouth.
I swallowed and my breath caught as the trees began to surround me. For a second I was sure I was in a real forest. I could smell it. I could hear the leaves rustle while at the same time I could feel Theo still holding me guiding my brush across the canvas. My knowledge of what was true and my senses were in conflict.
Was the room spinning? My stomach was moving with it, or at least it felt like it. My mind couldn’t process what I saw or thought I saw while painting. I was sure the paint fumes were making me high. I had to get away from them. I stepped back from the canvas to get a grip on myself.
The dizziness continued and my stomached tightened. My breathing became quick and shallow. The room grew dim while stars sparkled over me. I was afraid I might faint or throw up. I pulled out of Theo’s grasp and bent over to catch my breath. Ms. Jones and some of the other students looked up to see what was wrong with me. It was bad enough to feel sick, but it would be too embarrassing to throw up or faint in front of the class.
“Holly, did you paint that?” asked Ms. Jones—her eyes wide with wonder.
I looked up at the painting. The forest was immaculate, but just a flat painting, not the real one I was sure I’d just been in with Theo.

Guest Post by Melissa Lee:

I can write thousands of words about made up people and worlds all day long, but a couple hundred words for a blog ties my brain in knots.

That’s because I am a fiction writer. Fiction writing is like breathing to me. Before I started this vocationally, I always had stories and characters in my head. They got in the way at every job I’ve ever had, making me seem ditzy. I mean you can only listen to one person at a time and how do you explain to your boss that the people in your head won’t shut up and let you do your work? That will not only get you fired but carted off in a white jacket.

Last year, while putting away laundry in my son’s room I saw a teen girl in an auditorium. She was meeting a strange but handsome young man who was an immortal in the middle of a battle at her school and she was being invited to join it. I try not to be a nosey person in general, but when people take up residence in my head, I feel like I have a right to get to know them. So I asked these people in my head questions until I found out the girl’s name was Holly and the boy’s name was Theo and he was The Earth Painter, the artist responsible for all the beauty of the land. There were 3 painters in all, one land, one for sky and one for sea. But all three had been retired and the running of Earth had been given over to beings called Sciences. They brought logic and order to the pure creativity of the painters and continue to tweak it. But Fritz, The Water Painter, was not happy with how life on Earth turned out. There’s a secret buried under the high school and Holly must help Theo protect it. 

Once I knew all that, I sat down and wrote The Earth Painter. But at the end of it, there was more to Theo and Holly’s story. That’s why I’m finishing up The Man Painter, due out November 2012. I hope you will read them and get to know the people living in my head and come to love them as I have.

The Earth Painter was read during the Wicked Wildfire Read-A-Thon

Women of the Otherworld Mini-Challenge #3

For this mini-challenge you must:

Create a post describing which of the first four books of the WOTO reading challenge that you enjoyed most so far! 

(IMPORTANT: Please include book cover, synopsis, and (Book Trailer if available) within your post) 

I really enjoyed reading from Elena's POV, so that leaves me with the first two books in the series. Of the two, my favorite is probably STOLEN (Women of the Otherworld #2), because this is when we're really introduced to the rest of the characters in the series. Also, I'm absolutely in love with Clayton, so any chance I get to read about him, leaves me swooning. I just about melt every time he says "Darling" in that accent of his. So I bet you can guess one of the reasons I like reading from Elena's POV. She's one very lucky woman. But besides that, I just love how strong Elena is, and it's cool that she's the only female werewolf in the world. She's one of a kind. I'm definitely Team Elena & Clay!!

It was in Bitten, Kelley Armstrong's debut novel, that thirty-year-old Elena Michaels came to terms with her feral appetites and claimed the proud identity of a beautiful, successful woman and the only living female werewolf. 

In Stolen, on a mission for her own elite pack, she is lured into the net of ruthless Internet billionaire Tyrone Winsloe, who has funded a bogus scientific investigation of the "other races" and their supernatural powers. Kidnapped and studied in his underground lab deep in the Maine woods, these paranormals - witches, vampires, shamans, werewolves - are then released and hunted to the death in a real-world video game. But when Winsloe captures Elena, he finally meets his match.


 Lala’s Designs

Clay and I went together like fire and gasoline—intense heat, incredible fireworks, and, occasionally, devastating destruction. I’d come to realize that was how we were. It wasn’t a calm, stable relationship, it never would be, and, frankly, neither of us wanted that. Blissful domesticity was for other people. Give us fireworks and explosions, of both the positive and negative variety, and we were as blissful as could be.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Tour: Solstice by Donna Burgess (Promo)

I'd like to thank Roxanne @ Bewitching Book Tours for giving me this opportunity to participate in the SOLSTICE Blog Tour.

By Donna Burgess

On the eve of winter Solstice, a massive flash envelopes the Earth and then there is nothing. The sun no longer shines and civilization is plunged into unending darkness. Those exposed to the mysterious flash have changed—they have become bloodthirsty, cunning, and determined to devour anyone who is not infected. They are Ragers.

In Sweden, a group of uneasy travelers hears a broken broadcast. There is hope. Something called Sanctuary waits, but it is thousands of miles away, somewhere on the shores of the British Isles.

Meanwhile, in a London supermarket, a high school English teacher from the States finds himself stranded along with a handful of students on a senior trip. Outside, hoards of hungry Ragers await, ready to tear them limb from limb. Their only hope is to find Sanctuary.

Solstice is a tale of hope, terror, survival, and finding love at the end of the World.

About this Author: 

Donna Burgess lives with her husband, daughter, son, many cats and one goofy Golden Retriever in Pawleys Island, South Carolina. When she is not writing, she can be found on her longboard, behind a good book or on the soccer field. She is the president of E-Volve Books. She holds a B.A. in English and a B.A. in Journalism and is currently pursuing her M.F.A. in Creative Writing.



Tana was disoriented by the complete darkness. It was impossible to decide what time it was—what time it reallywas. She loved the sunrise, so where the hell was it? She was a true sun worshipper, often dragging her boys out into the rays despite their protests about leaving their precious video games. At times, she found even heavy cloud cover jarring. She found the current darkness went well beyond jarring and right into bloody creepy. With no clouds in the sky, stars twinkled like fairy dust.
The similarities to any kind of fairy tale ended there. The world had become mad, and there she was, a single woman alone with two kids, trudging down the street in the freezing cold. She had deadlines to meet. The lack­ of sun and an ill child would not get her out of meeting those deadlines. How would she pay the lease? How would she put food on the table?
The lack of light was an annoyance, at most. It was an eclipse, perhaps. She never paid attention to the news networks. In a while, things would settle back into their normal routine. Aiden had a touch of flu and would have to stay home from school. He was given to serious bouts of flu a couple of times a year.
She would buy a few extra days. Self-employed web designers often begged for time. Well, the poor ones did, anyway. She wasn’t quite poor, at least not yet.
What she wasn’t used to was the inability to get through on her cell phone. She’d tried the pediatrician several times, but each call was answered with the dull beep beep of a dead signal. She wanted to sit down and rest, but the few people who were out acted funny, running back and forth, huffing and grunting. Stopping might draw attention from one of those crazies.
Aidan was small for a six-year-old, but at the moment, he was as heavy as lead. Her bedroom-slippered feet padded along the litter-strewn sidewalks, robe billowing behind her like a cape. Three steps behind, ten-year-old Davis trotted along, dressed in his Chuckie-T sneakers, Spider Man pajamas, and heavy coat.
The lack of electricity was a bigger issue than the lack of sunrise. The apartment would be freezing when they returned. Luckily, the stove was gas, so they could eat, and she could have her coffee. Even the streetlamps were out. The sidewalks were gloomy, and it was beginning to sleet. She wished for some traffic. Headlights to cut the heavy darkness would be a small comfort.
She wasn’t sure what had happened. She’d dozed on the sofa in front of a recorded episode of Being Human and was happily dreaming of becoming Mitchell’s next victim when Davis awakened her. He stood over her with his Luke Skywalker light saber. The pale blue light brightened his small face like an Avatar alien.
“Aiden’s sick, Mummy.”
She sprang to a sitting position. “Sick? Is he throwing up?”
“No. He’s breathing weird. It woke me up. When I looked at him, he looked… scary.”
 “Scary?” Tana’s mouth felt dry. “Were you holding that thing? The blue light makes everything look scary.”
“Just come on, Mum.” Davis took her hand and pulled her from the sofa, down the hallway and toward their bedroom, the light saber a beacon in the shadowy apartment.
Aidan looked worse than scary. A weird burn-like rash ran along the side of his face. Fat, shiny blisters were already forming on his check. Tana touched his forehead and found it alarmingly chilled. He wouldn’t respond when she tried to rouse him. Increasingly panicked, she dialed the family doctor. Nothing. Next, she tried emergency. More nothing.
Her Fiat was in the shop, where it stayed more often than not. There was nothing else to do but take to the street and hope to catch a cab or a bus.
She considered a blackout of the city. How terrible would it be? The looting. The crime. It would be chaos. They’d be safer locked away inside the apartment, but with a sick kid, waiting was not an option.
Outside wasn’t what she expected. There was no chaos, no looting, no raping. There was just… nothing. The feeling of complete aloneness was more chilling than the sleet and the gloom. The crunch of the ice beneath their steps and the clicking of sleet hitting the unmoving cars and the sidewalk were the only sounds aside from the wind and their increasingly labored breathing. Tana’s lips and cheeks became numb, and her teeth chattered.
“Are you okay, Davis?” she asked.
“I’m cold.”
“Me, too, baby. Just keep going. We’ll be there soon.”
Someone screamed, and she flinched, nearly dropping Aiden. A teenaged boy dashed past, sobbing. He wove between a pair of stalled cars, then glanced back at Tana, his eyes wide with horror.
“Hide,” he hissed. Then he was gone.
Tana grabbed Davis’s shoulder and pressed him back against a wall, attempting to vanish into the shadows.
Next, a burly man lumbered into view, wearing a wife beater shirt and dirty, ill-fitting undershorts. No shoes. His big stomach swayed, peeking from beneath the shirt. Drool hung from his parted lips, frozen in mid-drip.
Once the man passed their hiding place, Tana stepped from the shadows and removed the blanket from Aiden’s face. Her stomach tightened. She wanted to cry or to call out for help, but what the hell good would it do?
“Aiden?” She kissed his icy forehead. “Hang in there. Mummy’s going to get help.”
She thought she heard a soft groan. Thank the angels above! He’s wasn’t gone, at least not yet.
“Mummy?” he whispered.
“Yes. Mummy has you.”
Aiden’s eyes slid open, but something was very wrong. His irises were nearly white, the same color as his pallid face. The hollows beneath his eyes were so dark they appeared like deep bruises on his smooth, baby-round face.
Then Aiden, her sweet baby, dropped his head back until his chin pointed to the sky, and he howled. He writhed in her arms until her hold on him loosened, and he slithered to the sidewalk. Davis stepped forward, took her hand, and pressed against her side, trembling. Together, they watched as the boy struggled to free himself from the tangles of the woolen blanket.
Once loose, he stood and glowered at her. He screamed again, and Davis screamed with him.
“Hush, babies. Shh,” Tana cried.
Aiden lunged, spittle spraying from his lips. He bared his teeth and screeched again, shrill and horrifying. Tana stepped backward, pulling her oldest child with her. “Aiden. Calm down, baby!”
Behind the mad child, a slumping figure approached. As the spindly shape drew nearer, Tana realized it was only an elderly man. Dressed in what would have normally been a smart gray suit and tie, he was covered in splattered blood.
“Run, woman! They’re monsters, now!”
Aiden spun, and in a flash, he sprang and was on the stranger. Blood flew, inky in the darkness as Aiden ripped out the man’s throat.
Tana watched for a moment, frozen with shock. Then, she came to her senses, realizing she had to get her other child to safety.
“C’mon. Quickly!” She gripped Davis’s small, cold hand and fled down the street. She didn’t dare look back. The gruesome sounds told her more than she would ever have wanted to know.

Waiting on Wednesday (#27): Fever Moon: The Fear Dorcha by Karen Marie Moning & Al Rio

Waiting On Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted at Breaking The Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

This week's eagerly anticipated release is:

Fever Moon: The Fear Dorcha (Fever)
by Karen Marie Moning, 
Al Rio (Artist), 
David Lawrence (Adapter)
Expected publication: July 10th 2012 by Del Rey

An all-new Mac & Barrons story by #1 New York Times bestselling author Karen Marie Moning, marvelously adapted into a full-color graphic novel by writer David Lawrence and illustrator Al Rio

In Fever Moon, we meet the most ancient and deadly Unseelie ever created, the Fear Dorcha. For eons, he’s traveled worlds with the Unseelie king, leaving behind him a path of mutilation and destruction. Now he’s hunting Dublin, and no one Mac loves is safe.

Dublin is a war zone. The walls between humans and Fae are down. A third of the world’s population is dead and chaos reigns. Imprisoned over half a million years ago, the Unseelie are free and each one Mac meets is worse than the last. Human weapons don’t stand a chance against them.

With a blood moon hanging low over the city, something dark and sinister begins to hunt the streets of Temple Bar, choosing its victims by targeting those closest to Mac. Armed only with the Spear of Destiny and Jericho Barrons, she must face her most terrifying enemy yet.

Giveaway Winner: Hounded eBook

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Congratulations to Cathy M. for winning a copy of Hounded!

Be sure to contact me at with your email and I'll pass it along to the tour host!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Tour: Curse of the Wolf by Danica Winters (Guest Post)

I'd like to thank Roxanne @ Bewitching Book Tours for giving me this opportunity to participate in the CURSE OF THE WOLF Blog Tour and I'd like to welcome Danica Winters to ABTB!

Curse of the Wolf
By Danica Winters

For cursed, shape-shifting Veela, Gloriana, following her heart and giving her body to sexy, tortured werewolf Alexander means one thing-he will die and it will again be her fault.

Once only a man, Alexander finds himself scarred by the memories of his former life and the deceptions and lies that surround him. When a glimmer of light breaks the madness, he must let go of his misguided preconceptions and the hatred that consumes him.

On a mission for blood, they find unity in their desire for revenge, but are driven apart by their pasts. Traveling the darkest paths and fighting the very people they think they can trust, they draw closer to one another's hearts and further into danger.

Will the curse prove to be unstoppable... or is there hope in forbidden love?


Barnes and Noble
Ravenous Romance
(and will soon be available in over 10 other locations)

About this Author:

Danica Winters is an Amazon best-selling romance author based in Montana. She is known for writing award-winning books that grip readers with their ability to drive emotion through suspense and often a touch of magic. She is a member of Romance Writers of America, Montana Romance Writers, and Greater Seattle Romance Writers. She is a contributor to magazines, websites, and news organizations. She enjoys spending time with friends and family, the outdoors, and the bliss brought by the printed word.



The Devil's Angel 


A Christmas Miracle

Curse of the Wolf - CHAPTER ONE
In her human-like Veela form, Gloriana Canis was at a distinct disadvantage. Her feet pounded against the ground as she ran, she crashed through the underbrush, and tripped upon the branches that reached up to snatch her legs. With a muffled growl, she paused as she forced her body to shift into her more powerful wolfen shape.
Dashing after the intruders, she silently passed beneath the low lying branches and bounded over the roots. Her paws silently ab­sorbed the sounds as the ground blurred beneath her. She saw none of the pack that had invaded her territory, so she lifted her snout and sniffed.
The scent of the gray Werewolf was a mix of triumph, malice, and anger, but there were no traces of fear.
He’s a fool. The thieving Were should feel fear above anything else—because I soon will be upon him.
When she found the beast, she would tear at his soft flesh…the least vital parts first. Before she finished, he would undoubtedly cry for mercy, but no matter how hard he cried, or how desperately he pleaded, he would find none. The man had tried to steal Bal­dur’s Vitam Aeternam, the ring of eternal life, from her. The ring was the final memento of Baldur’s existence, of their fight for love against all odds and the curse that had taken his life. The Were who attempted to take it from her would have no easy death.
Deeper into the woods, the scent of the gray alpha Were less­ened and was replaced by the musky scent of the brown beta she had seen circling the alpha.
Her strides grew more rapid. She was close.
Weaving around a boulder, her body collapsed as the ground gave way. Her paws clawed at the soft earth, desperate to stop the fall, but the dirt crumbled beneath her touch. She yelped in fear as she clawed, but it was too late. Her body flipped into the earth’s open maw.
The stakes ripped into her soft flesh. Hot, searing pain invaded her body.
Howling, she tried to leap, struggle—anything to free her
body—but the motions only drove the stakes deeper, worsening her agony.
A fire burned deep in her flank and she caught the scent of blood on the stakes that now were wedged in her flesh. Hydra blood.
The venom pumped through her veins, she could taste the acrid poison in her mouth. Slowly her vision began to fade. She was forced to find refuge from the pain inside of her mind.
My dearest Goddess, Epione, do not let the curse of the loving Veela take me. I promise that if you let me live, I will find Baldur’s killer and make him pay. Please, please do not deliver my soul to the underworld. I must complete my task.
She could feel the sun rising in the distance. Would this morn­ing be her last?
A light illuminated the grave-like pit.
Expecting a torch-bearing lampade to lead her to the under­world, she was surprised when a tall man appeared with a flash­light in his hand. He stood at the edge of the pit, his other hand on his hip and a scowl on his face.
She growled, but as the rumble escaped her, it was replaced with a yelp.
The thief had returned to finish her.
He reached down to her and said something, but it sounded as if he was talking through water. When he spoke again, she heard him say, “Shifter, I’m Alex…” but the rest of his words were lost in the muffling pain circulating through her body.
She tried to pull away from his touch, but her paws felt like lead weights and she struggled to move.
The pain radiated from the stakes in her flesh. Unable to fight the poison any longer, her eyes closed. Her mind went black.

Guest Post by Danica Winters:

“My meaning simply is, that whatever I have tried to do in life, I have tried with all my heart to do well; that whatever I have devoted myself to, I have devoted myself to completely; that in great aims and in small, I have always been thoroughly in earnest.” (Charles Dickens, David Copperfield)

This quote, though written over one hundred years ago, defines me.  I am a woman who can be defined by my determination.  When I set myself a goal, come hell or high water, I will do everything in my power to accomplish said goal, and while doing so, I will do it to the best of my abilities.  

As a writer, my abilities have changed and grown as I write—each and every day I give myself a goal to learn something new, try a new technique, or find a new friend.  This simple goal has helped me tremendously as I create wonderful works of fiction.

It is my hope that my determination can encourage others who are just beginning, or those who are unsure of what direction they wish to take.  You don’t have to be a writer, so long as you have a dream.  Follow your heart, listen to what your dreams tell you, then give your goal everything you have and like Dickens said ‘devote yourself completely’.  

Whatever your goal, regardless if you want to become a writer or an electrician, you will be let down, you will have bad days, but if you don’t take your eyes of your goal, you will eventually attain it.  Struggle makes each and every one of us stronger, but so long as you ‘been thoroughly in earnest’, you will become empowered in knowing that you have had the strength and power to follow your dreams.

Book Blitz: Eversworn by Hailey Edwards (Promo)

I'd like to thank Roxanne @ Bewitching Book Tours for giving me this opportunity to participate in the EVERSWORN Book Blitz.

By Hailey Edwards
Series: Daughters of Askara, Book 3
Release Day: June 26, 2012
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Genre: Fantasy/Paranormal Romance

Steal the salt. Bind the grimoire. Escape the male.

When an exchange of stolen goods in the Feriana marketplace turns sour, Isabeau stumbles from the encounter bruised and laden with new orders to complete an even larger heist. With her child’s life at stake, there’s no room for error—or allies.

Armed with a lethal book of spells, she strikes a dangerous bargain with Roland Bernhard. Steal a shipment of salt from the Feriana colony, and she’ll have her freedom—and her daughter. It’s all she’s ever wanted. At least it was…until she runs into Dillon Preston.

Dillon is out of commission after a mine explosion, and itching for a distraction. He gets it when the female who saved his leg arrives at the colony with nothing but flimsy excuses and even flimsier attire. She’s after something, but is it him—or the salt?

Trapped in a desperate bid to gain true freedom, Isabeau is willing to sacrifice her life for her daughter’s, but Dillon has other plans. He wants a package deal, and he’s not willing to lose either female, even if it means the future king of Sere’s head will roll.

Warning: This title contains a heroine desperate to save her daughter and a hero determined to make them a family. It also includes wings, horns and other assorted appendages. 

Buy Links

Amazon            B&N

About this Author:

Hailey is a wife turned mother turned writer, who loves her husband, her daughter and alone time with her computer. Whenever southern living strikes her as too ordinary, she can be found squinting at her monitor as she writes her next happily-ever-after or with her nose glued to her Kindle’s screen. Wings and/or cupcakes are usually involved…

She loves to hear from readers. Drop her a line here.

You can also swing by her blog or subscribe to her newsletter for all her latest news.

Contact Links:





Chapter One

Realm of Askara, City of Feriana

Runes burned hot across my wrists where slave bands were inked into my skin. Inhaling the rich mélange that was Feriana on market day, I wished I was anywhere other than here, anyone other than me. Shifting my bag, I patted the bulge weighting its bottom. Good. It was still there.

As it had been the last five times I’d checked.

Guilt flavored each swallow to wet my throat. Remain calm. Impossible when my tattoos stung persistent warning. You have what he wants. All will be well.

I choked on a dry laugh. All was never well. Those who penned fairytales should be stabbed through the heart with their quill.

Pretending interest in the fresh produce, I surveyed the crowd. He was here, but where?

“Isabeau?” A firm hand tugged at my sleeve. “I asked what you thought of these dates.”

I spared them half a glance, then continued skimming the crowd. “You’ve chosen well.”

Lindsay’s smile lit the corner of my eye, and regret tugged at my conscience. She deserved more attention than I could afford to give her. I’d make it up to her later, assuming I had the chance. Procuring supplies wasn’t a priority for me, though I knew it should be. Right now, other worries occupied my mind. Such things as how willing I was to use defensive glamour if I must.

As the telltale burn of building magic scalded my palms, I supposed I’d made my choice.

Another tug at my arm swiveled my head toward Lindsay.

“I’d like to search the scarves, if I may. I had hoped to purchase a mating gift for Emma.”

Emma. What would she think if she knew my reason for being here?

Tugging at my collar, I swallowed past the sensation of her strong fingers wrapped about my throat. As acting consul of Askara, she’d wring my neck for this betrayal, and I would deserve it.

Living at the consulate with her, putting my healing craft to good use, helping ex-slaves begin new lives in either the city of Feriana or its colony…I loved that life. And it was all a lie.

Glamour crackled over my skin, but the only things I concealed were the black spell-crafting runes inked from my forearms to my fingertips. Still, the static shock of power coating my skin led others to believe my concealment was more than cosmetic, a misconception I let flourish.

Given my consulate position, most assumed I was a female Evanti hiding in plain sight.

They were wrong.

“Go.” I indicated my favorite stall. “Enjoy yourself.”

“I will.” Swiping flaxen hair from her eyes, Lindsay cast me a broad grin. Despite being a halfling, she resembled the Askaran side of her parentage more than the human. “I promise I won’t touch anything I don’t intend to buy, and I won’t break anything.” She rushed to add, “If something happened, by accident, I’d pay the damages from my wages.”

“You’re fine.” I shooed her. “I trust you.”

Trust was a broad word. Lindsay wouldn’t break any of the wares on purpose, but she was a halfling mastering self-control late in life. Enslaved in an outland mining camp since birth, she’d had no need for learning social graces, only the art of survival. Relying on the brute strength that characterized her breed saved her from playing the role of camp whore. Now she wanted more, better, and as someone familiar with the other half of the equation, I wanted that for her as well.

Hissing as my skin throbbed with renewed heat, I gasped as the impression of male lips and teeth left their damp sting on my bare neck. Roland. Sultry whispers caressed my ears, beckoned come unto your master, and I was helpless not to obey his summons. Pressure from his phantom fingers compelled me toward a figure coalescing in the shade of a billowing tent. Swirling tendrils of power cloaked him from passersby and elicited a shiver of recognition from me. Inclining his head, he acknowledged me, and his smile made my pulse race with the stirrings of genuine fear.

Fighting the urge to check my bag, I dove into the crush of bodies, and they engulfed me.

When I reached the spot where Roland had stood, he was gone.

“You kept me waiting.” Hot breath hit my nape before he shoved me against a sandstone wall. My shoulder bounced as Roland pressed into me. His hand snaked around my waist, teased the underside of my breasts, squeezing before slipping under the flap of my bag. “Is this all?”

“It’s what we agreed upon.” I winced. “Where is my proof?”

“Are you so eager to be rid of me?” He pressed a string of kisses down my throat. “Well?”

Yes. My voice was a husky rasp. “Is bedding you a requirement for obtaining my proof?”

His chuckle caused my gut to clench. Nothing good came of his laughter.

“I prefer my partners willing.” A lie wrapped in a pretty half-truth. He was accomplished in magic, as all those trained by Sereian priests were. Glamour, the root of his power, twisted minds to suit his whims. I knew, because mine bore the spiral imprint of his amusement. “Here is the proof I promised you.” He slid an envelope in my bag and waited. “Aren’t you going to open it?”

I wouldn’t give him the satisfaction of witnessing my reaction. “I trust you.”

Trust was a broad word indeed.

“This is exquisite,” Roland murmured. I glanced over my shoulder in time to see him hold his prize aloft. A fist-sized chunk of embolite sat heavy across his palm. “You did well, but this is no longer enough.”
Stomach roiling, I pushed from the wall and said again, “It’s what we agreed upon.”

“We agreed once I had control of the mine, your services would no longer be required.” His grip on the sample whitened his knuckles. “The entire point of freeing you to work for Emmaline was to monitor the Feriana colony’s mining operation and the Evanti controlling its distribution.” He struck before I saw him swing. Jagged rock hit my cheek and sliced it open. “Such an arrangement no longer benefits me since Emmaline has mated the Evanti in charge and is more protective of Harper than ever. Since he won’t negotiate for exclusive rights to the mine, alternate means of procurement are required.” His gaze met mine.

 “Wouldn’t you agree?”

I swallowed past the pain. “What do you have in mind?”

“We are eager today, aren’t we?” He pocketed the embolite. “Somewhere you’d rather be?”

Anywhere other than here. “No.”

“Good,” he said, smiling, “because you’re going on a trip.”

“I am?” I glided a wary step back.

“How is that Evanti you tended?” He appeared thoughtful. “I believe he’s called…Dillon.”

My pulse spiked at the mention of his name. “I don’t know. I haven’t seen him in weeks.”

He measured me for a moment longer, and I wondered why he had mentioned Dillon at all. The wounded Evanti demon had spent weeks under my care at the consulate before returning to the freemen colony on the outskirts of Feriana.

Withdrawing a handkerchief from his pocket, Roland dabbed my split cheek. “During those weeks, nothing happened between you?”

I sensed a trap but was unable to locate its mechanism. I stilled myself against the urge to strike his hand. My blood allowed his glamour to work on me no matter what our proximity. A single drop, a murmured spell, and he could find me, taunt me, anywhere. His illusionary kiss was benign compared to the power blood sparked in our connection. But why ask if something happened between Dillon and me…?

Mortification tightened my chest. “You’re a bastard.”

Of course he would spy on me, and my behavior around Dillon made heat creep up my neck.

“I assure you, I’m not. Bastards can’t become kings. You’re Sereian.” He stalked me until I backed into the wall. “You’d do well to remember Askara’s antislavery laws don’t apply to you.”

As if he ever let me forget.

When his gaze fixated on my mouth, I reminded him, “You cast me aside years ago.”

“Still bitter are we? I’m in the market for a wife.” He cupped my cheek. “And you,” he said, so near his lips brushed mine, “are a whore.” His thumb swiped over the fresh wound he’d given me, and my wince resulted in a low growl of approval from him. “Albeit, you’re a talented one.”

“You have what you came for.” I gritted my teeth as he pressed on the cut. “Leave me.”

“Not quite and not yet.” He painted my lips with blood, its copper tang curling my tongue. “As I said, the terms of our agreement must be altered. As a token of appreciation for pleasure you once gave me, for the loyalties I still enjoy, I’m offering you a chance at earning freedom.”

I gave the ringing in my ears a chance to subside. “What are your terms?”

“I want a full shipment of salt delivered to my estate.” He patted the pocket where his core sample resided. “I don’t mean this. I have no use for embolite in the rough. I want the processed salt.” He waved a dismissive hand. “The silver portion of the shipment is unimportant. Keep it if you wish. Use it to finance your new life.” His sigh rang with displeasure. “It will mean showing restraint, but it will suffice. I must have the salt. Do you understand? It’s of critical importance.”

I blinked. “Are you mad? I’d have to steal direct from the colony, and there’s an enormous difference between me pocketing core samples after they’ve been tested and hijacking an entire caravan.” I leaned into the wall for support. “The former goes unnoticed, the latter is…suicide.”

One life exchanged for the good of many. It was Harper’s credo, and I was not of the many.

“I’m sure you’ll think of something,” he murmured. “I heard Emma and Harper are visiting their siblings, on Earth.” I gave him no confirmation. He had no way of knowing where they had gone, and I wasn’t about to tell him. “They’re no doubt spreading their happy news.” His motive became clearer. “That leaves your patient in charge of the colony in Harper’s absence. I’m sure two such friends can find understanding. After all, he owes you for saving his leg, doesn’t he?”

What he implied made my cheeks burn. Of course he would spend me so cheaply.

Still, despair and hope warred within me. “And if I manage this feat…”

He tapped my wrists, and fresh pain flared. “Then you will be freed.”

I lifted my chin. “My freedom is not the only price I require.”

“So I assumed.” His pause left me breathless. “Deliver the salt, and the girl is also yours.”

A pent-up breath whistled between my lips. “Give me your word, and it’s done.”

Words held power. Breaking his promise would weaken that power. Roland wouldn’t risk it.

Not around me.

“My word is given.” He turned and black mist shrouded him. Then he was gone.

As the sting in my slave bands lessened to a dull throb, I sagged against the wall. The girl is yours. With trembling fingers, I reached into my bag and withdrew the envelope. Tucked into the crease was a lock of auburn hair with a slight curl at the end. Fishing into a different pocket, I withdrew a similar strand and compared the lengths. One hung slightly longer than the other. I held it to my nose and inhaled the violet-scented strands until hot, useless tears pricked my eyes.

I knew this was a disaster in the making, but he’d baited his trap too well for me to resist.

Footsteps warned me in time to hide my bribe. Past the wall, I spotted Lindsay barreling toward me, scanning the area where Roland had stood seconds earlier. She ducked past the tent.

“Are you all right?” She grabbed my chin and tipped my head back. “What happened?” Her voice took on a dangerous edge. “Your poor face.” She noticed my bag. “Who did this? A thief?”

“Yes.” In a manner of speaking, he was. I choked on the insane urge to laugh, to scream that freedom was within my reach, but I tamped it down. “The thief took something dear from me.” I wiped away my tears.

 “Don’t worry. I will get it back.” Taking her arm, I led her from the alley into the sun. I basked in its heat. Let it chase the chill of Roland’s presence. “Are you finished?”

“I—” She frowned at my eager tone. “Yes. I suppose I am.”

“Good.” I compensated for the slip with a wobbling smile. “Let’s go home.”

I had plans to make.

Different worlds, different colonies, but still the same damn meetings.

Responsibility weighted the air on this side of the desk. Each inhale settled heavily in Dillon’s lungs. He’d much rather occupy his usual spot by the tent flap, his gaze trained on the dunes beyond than wear the mantle of interim colony leader. Harper hadn’t done Dillon any favors by yoking him to the colony bandwagon, asking him to lead with fanfare in his absence.

Rolling his shoulders, he cast aside the niggling suspicion Harper had made the appointment out of pity. Another time he might have gloated when Harper brought in two males a quarter of his age as his replacements. Instead, it made him feel every day of his ninety-eight years. No dancing around it. He was getting old, even by their race’s standards. He should be finding a female, settling down, doing his duty to pump fresh blood, pure blood, into their dwindling race.

His leg twinged when he shifted in his seat, a reminder of how he ended up paper-pushing in the first place. Pinning his shoulders to the back of his chair kept him from leaning down and rubbing the dull ache in his calf, or where his calf used to be. His jaw tightened. No need to go there. Not now. Not while two fresh faces were staring him down, looking for signs of weakness.

While drumming his fingers on his knee, he inspected the two newest transplants from Earth. Two young males eager to taste what Askara had to offer, curious to see if their memories of enslavement held up against the new reality of this being a kingdom of freemen. Their optimism made him cringe. Then again, he’d seen the files the freeborn legion had kept on them.

They had both belonged to the sthudal slave caste, and slaves with that designation recalled their time spent in labor camps with fewer nightmares than those who wore the title of sthudai.

Dillon knew which life he would have chosen.

Better to break his back in a mine, die of hunger or thirst, than live on the end of a chain like a f**king animal, fed and watered only when his performance merited such a reward. Bile rose in his throat. He swallowed hard and ground his heel into the packed sand floor. Ruined muscle screamed in protest, but the burst of agony was his reward, his reprieve from the memories always a stray thought away from choking him. Yeah, he would have loved to have been sthudal.

Figuring he’d kept the pair waiting long enough, Dillon asked, “You two have any questions?” He lifted a cup and swallowed its tepid contents down to the grit in the bottom. His teeth crunched when he set his jaw. Damn, he’d be glad when the new aqueduct was completed.

“Yeah.” Church eyed the tent flap warily. “Is there anything out here besides sand?”

“Sure there is.” Dillon suppressed a grin when Church’s shoulders relaxed. “Didn’t you see all the tents? That’s why the colonists call this place tent city. The only buildings with walls are the clinic and the stable. You’ll get acquainted with those soon enough.” Harper would strangle him for adding, “You two arrived just in time for the winter sandstorm season. When they hit, all we can do is pack ourselves like sardines into those buildings and pray the spell crafting holds.”

Church cast one more glance past the flap to the desert beyond. “Great.” He twisted in his seat and eyed the male beside him. “Russ, you got any last requests before we’re blown away?”

Russ’s smile was faint. “What are our duties while Harper’s away?”

Scratching his cheek, Dillon admitted he wasn’t sure what to do with the pair. Until his leg mended, he was on light duty, in theory. These two had prior experience, as most legionaries did, so they knew the basics of guard duty. The rest, training them as bodyguards, hinged on Harper and Emma’s return since Dillon was a big believer in learning in the field. Sink or swim.

Until that happened… “You’ve got two choices. Our courier is swamped. One of you can train with Mason. He deserves the break.” He paused in consideration. “The other can train with Uriah, our silversmith. He oversees the extraction of silver and salt from the embolite we mine.”

At their blank expressions, Dillon exhaled on a curse. Their files expounded the fieldwork each had done for the freeborn legion, and each had service records spotless enough he felt Harper would be safe with them, but his decision to skim their locational information had just jumped up and bit him on the ass. “Where were you two working when the legion found you?”

“The outlands,” they replied in unison.

Okay, so maybe he had read their information right. “Were you in the mines?”

“No.” Church frowned. “I was a brickmaker by trade. I still am, or was, on Earth.”

Ah. That explained why Harper had picked him. As the colony expanded, so did the need for structures beyond tents they used for, well, everything. Dillon sized up Russ. “How about you?”

Russ held up ink-smudged fingers. “I was a scribe employed by an exiled noble.”

A scribe was, well, less useful. Dillon asked, “Do either of you know what progesaline is?”

“Females need it during pregnancy.” Church shrugged, signaling the end of his contribution.

Russ appeared to consider his answer. “Progesaline is a supplement females of some demon breeds require during pregnancy. Without it, they become anemic. They might die before or during childbirth, as could the children, unless they consume enough to maintain healthy levels.”

Dillon blinked. Maybe having a scribe around wasn’t such a bad idea.

“It’s found in rare salt veins,” Russ continued. “While I’ve never heard of it being found in veins of embolite, it’s certainly possible. I’d think the problem would be extraction.” He paused at Church’s scowl. “Embolite is a mineral containing both salt and silver in their natural forms.”

“Someone did his research.” Otherwise, he wouldn’t have guessed embolite over chlorargyrite. Dillon gave Russ a slow second glance. There was something familiar about him.

Russ frowned. “I’d hardly accept the position otherwise.”

“So what gives?” Church twisted in his seat. “How did Harper get such a sweet deal?”

“I’ll hazard a guess the queen’s advisors signed over this tract of land for two reasons.” Russ waited until Dillon nodded. “First, it shares a city with the vernal castle, which means it’s near enough for First Court to monitor and close enough for the queen’s troops to attack if necessary.”

“Go on.” Dillon caught himself leaning forward.

“Second, the mine had potential, enough First Court’s gift appealed to Harper and their offer wasn’t insulting. Though I bet they assumed even if he was foolhardy enough to work the mine, he wouldn’t figure out how to process the embolite and separate the silver and the salt from the core mineral. Yet he did, and he likely doubled his profits.” Russ smiled slowly. “Am I right?”

“Damn.” Church whistled. “That explains the raiders, plus the bounty on Harper’s head.”

“Right on both counts,” Dillon said, forcing his attention from Russ.

He was right, though Dillon and Harper were just drawing the same conclusions. They had guessed the only reason the queen’s advisors had given consent for Harper to take over the mine was they were certain there was nothing here worth mining. Now that Harper had proven them wrong? Yeah, they were pissed and wanted a share. Damn if Dillon didn’t find that a little bit funny.

“This colony pays its bills with the mine, and, as Russ said, we mine embolite.” No two ways about it, Harper must have told Russ. “It’s damn hard work and not worth much in the rough, if anything at all. Then Uriah works his magic and we get pure silver and pure salt. Six times more silver than salt, but silver has its uses and our salt, well, it’s almost pure progesaline.”

Russ murmured something Dillon didn’t catch because Church stood with a grunt.

“So do we pick now or what?” His back popped as he stretched. “Mason or Uriah, right?”

Good to know Dillon wasn’t the only one bored by meetings. “Yeah, have at it.”

Church didn’t miss a beat. “I’ll take Uriah.”

Dillon almost felt sorry for him. While they were the obvious match, Uriah burned through apprentices faster than he could match faces to names. Not that he tried too hard. Mostly he called them all the same thing, dier hest eirdth or eirdth for short, which was the Demonish equivalent of dirt. Those under his tutelage chose to believe he meant they were clay and he was molding them into…whatever struck their fancy. Dillon suspected Uriah meant the more literal translation of ground beneath my feet. His attitude explained why even his ex-masters had given him a wide berth. The male was a god at his forge, and he knew it. The fact a story was floating around about him flinging molten silver in the face of an Askaran noble had cemented his reputation as a bastard. Something Dillon could respect. So long as Uriah did his job, Dillon didn’t care.

“That leaves me with Mason.” Russ slanted a look toward Church that punctured his mood. “If I’m playing courier, then I guess I’ll find out if there’s any life beyond those dunes after all.”

“Now that we have that settled,” Dillon said, giving Church time to school his glower, “you’ll each pull border patrol and sentry duty. That won’t change even after Harper gets back.”

Russ frowned. “We won’t alternate day and night shifts?”

Church stilled. “Harper needs someone watching his back at night too.”

“He has someone.” Dillon stood, Church’s restlessness feeding his own. “Her name’s Emma.” Before they earned enough rope to hang themselves, he silenced their protests. “One of you will remain on perimeter duty after dayshift ends. That means frequent passes by their tent. The trick is being close enough you can keep an eye on Harper—and Emma—while giving them the illusion of privacy.” He admitted grudgingly, “No one’s more invested in Harper’s wellbeing, and few are more capable of ensuring his safety. Plus few realize what she is before it’s too late.”

Once they moved past the honeymoon period in their relationship, Harper might not need a guard beyond his mate. Emma was a halfling, stronger than most full demon males, and Harper had trained her to protect her sister, Askara’s Princess Ascendant Madelyn DeGray, since they were children. If it meant protecting Harper and Maddie, there was nothing Emma wouldn’t do.

Dillon ignored the tightness in his chest and sharpened his scowl. He wasn’t jealous.

“Fair enough.” Russ pushed from his seat. “Where do you want us?”

“Head back to your tents for now. I’m handling border patrol tonight.” No reason not to while Harper wasn’t here to bench him. “I expect to see both of you here at six.”

Russ’s gaze dipped toward Dillon’s leg, his brow furrowing, but he kept his mouth shut. Good. He just might make it here after all.

“The faster you learn your way around, the better.” Dillon crossed the tent and brushed aside the flap. “I want you two broken in by the time Harper and Emma get back.”

His first step outside blinded him. Hot air rushed into his lungs, baking them, and his tongue dried in the time it took for his mouth to open long enough to say, “Welcome to Askara, boys.”

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