Bits 'n Bobs Author Blog
Two things have helped Nicole cope since the murder of her husband. One is running her detective agency, and the other is her guardian angel Mira. When Mira is killed by a demon, Nicole accepts the help of Ridge, a long haired, cigar smoking diamond in the rough with wings. Things go from bad to worse when a replacement guardian cannot be found. She has to trust Ridge, which is tricky when she realizes there are no demons or angels, just parasitic aliens that humans have built the myths of these celestial beings around. Ridge isn’t an angel or a devil, but an alien half breed known as a Midworlder. He is also way too sexy for his own good, or is it her own good?
“Please don’t drop me, please don’t drop me,” Nicole repeated as she closed her eyes. She didn’t like flying in planes, let alone being dragged through the night sky by an oversexed scruffy angel who was too hot for his own good. Or was it her own good?
“I won’t let you fall. Look around before we go over. I reckon you’ve guessed the events of tonight aren’t the way we normally do things. Humans aren’t meant to be aware of our flying through the night sky which means I can’t let you remember any of this.”
She took a deep breath and opened her eyes. His face was close to hers as he gripped her tight around her waist. It was too dark to read what he might be thinking from his expression. His lips were so close and her own were parting at the thought he might kiss her. She trembled, but not from fear anymore and hoped he couldn’t read her mind. They were being hunted and she wanted a kiss, no she longed for it. He had to be putting the thoughts in her head.
She needed to get her mind off him so she gazed down at San Francisco. Her adopted city stretched out below with steep streets reaching down to the harbor, while the lights on the Golden Gate Bridge shone in the distance, reflecting on the water below. She smiled as a tear flowed down her cheek. She had never seen it this way before. For a moment she forgot others were after them or after her in particular. She peeked over Ridge’s shoulder and glanced back over his wings as they glided through the sky. Three dark, winged shapes were following and could be seen against the light of the full moon. Maybe the full moon could explain why strange things were happening, because this was like staring at a scene from a horror movie, except it was real.
The shapes of their pursuer’s bodies blurred. She turned back to the city but the lights of San Francisco were disappearing. In the moonlight she focused on the face next to her. Ridge smiled and touched her cheek with his.
“It’s okay. I’m gonna get you a new guardian and all of this will go away. I won’t let anyone hurt you.”
She didn’t want a new guardian, she wanted Mira back. It went dark and reminded her of when she went adventure-caving in Australia. The absolute darkness of underground where not even a trickle of light breaks through, no matter how hard you look. She couldn’t see Ridge anymore, but the closeness of him and the darkness amplified the sound of his wings. For a moment they were all that existed in the universe. His lips touched hers and her mouth opened to him only to have him pull away. Did he mean to do that?
“I suggest you close your eyes and give your mind over to me,” he whispered.
Nicole shook her head and tried to get herself back to reality, whatever that was. “I’m not going anywhere with my eyes shut after tonight, and from what I’m picking up at times your mind seems a bit murky to let you in again.”
“Suit yourself darling, but don’t blame me if you pass out.”
Pain sliced through her temple. She squeezed her eyes shut and instinctively hugged Ridge tighter. His thoughts were in her head again telling her to relax, but this time it wasn’t working. She tried to hold down the rising alarm of what would happen next. Somehow she had an inkling it wasn’t going to be good.
* * *
http://tinyurl.com/kvph4dc amazon link for Unknown Protector
This week's Thursday Threads spotlights Neva Brown's (mostly) sweet contemporary romance, A Pretty Penny.
Buy Link: Amazon
Clayton Brandt knows the cost of a woman but he never knew the value of a woman until Penny, quiet, efficient, and determined, invades his workplace then his life.
Penny, inadvertently, sets off a chain of events that threatens her life and the happy-ever-after that she hoped for with Clayton.
How they navigate through government agents’ plans, vindictive women's plans, and their vastly different upbringing to find common ground to nurture a love that clings through all the troubles and trials takes the reader on a compelling vicarious journey.
Awestruck and wondering how a rodeo producer managed to have such a grandiose personal jet, Penny jumped in surprise at the clipped, commanding voice behind her. She turned and focused on the imposing man who extended a lean, hard hand for her to shake as he towered over her.
“I presume you’re Wilma’s little friend.”
His emphasis on “little” implied so much more than the fact that she was only five foot two, one hundred five pounds. She stiffened.
“I’m Penelope Ann Jones. And, yes, Wilma and I are friends.”
“I’m Clayton Brandt, your boss.” His icy stare chilled her from head to toe.
“Are you another of her projects, or can you do a day’s work for a day’s pay?”
Her haughtiness probably added to his irritation, but she wasn’t about to cower before this arrogant tyrant.
Stretching her neatly clad body and raising her eyes from his chest to his cold, gray eyes, she answered with an indifferent tone.
“I can do the work Wilma said would be expected of me, sir.”
She bit her tongue to keep from adding that she had a master’s degree in finance, held a CPA license, and had worked as a secretary all the way through college. Just because she had been following the rodeo did not make her incapable, just besotted with love.
He curtly dismissed her. “Get buckled up. The pilot is ready to take off.”
His woodsy scent and the feel of his hand still lingered in her memory. From her luxurious lounger, she continued to watch. He frowned at Wilma. His words became clear enough for Penny to hear.
“I thought we got through your ‘mother hen’ phase a few years back. Where did you find this one?”
Wilma’s longsuffering look made Penny strain to hear the reply.
“The ‘mother hen’ periods as you call them passed a long time ago. Penny is different. She was Jason’s wife, but none of our family even knew they were married. They’d been married almost a year when that bull killed him.”
“Then she’s a rich young widow. Why does she need to work?”
“Things aren’t quite what they seem. Jason never got around to changing his will and never had her sign a signature card to draw on his account at the bank. Being his usual distracted self, he just gave her cash. She had money but no permanent financial security.”
“So I guess you’re paying her bills. No wonder you want to put her to work.”
“Clayton, she was my baby brother’s wife and was ‘holed up’ in that fifth wheel at a trailer park with nothing but crackers and peanut butter. She’s smart and willing to work. You know I wouldn’t ask you to hire her if I didn’t believe she could do the job.”
He scowled at Wilma as she added, “I’d bet six month’s wages she’ll do a good job.”
“You may not have six month’s wages if she messes up. I don’t suffer fools and lazy people, as you well know. Right now, she looks like both to me,” he growled.
Penny let her eyelids shut completely at the hostile sound of his voice. A surge of adrenaline made her ears ring and her muscles twitch. Her anger churned, and her thoughts raced. Just who does this aging Adonis with a Neanderthal attitude think he is? Wilma thinks he hung the moon, and he acts like she is just some inconsequential employee when, in reality, she shields him from all kinds of thorny situations every day. She’s always telling me about the mountain of work she does to smooth the way for him. What an insufferable man!
I'm so excited to announce The Highlander's Tempestuous Bride (Gilda's story) is the winner of this week's Creme de la Cover contest by InD'tale!
She will get her spot in a quarter-page ad in the May issue of InD'tale magazine, and is now entered in this month's cover competition!
I would love to see her advance to the annual Rhone awards, so if you'd like to vote, here is the link:
Welcome back to Medieval Monday. Today Jenna Jaxon is visiting with
the third book in her Time Enough to Love Series. Enjoy!
Blurb: When death holds sway in the world, can even the greatest love survive?
Finally in France, Alyse and Thomas return to their roles as courtiers to Princess Joanna. Their passion for one another continues to smolder hot and deep—until one fateful encounter changes everything.
During a formal banquet, Alyse must share an intimate dance with Geoffrey, her first love. His searing touch proves Alyse’s love and desire for him is as strong as when they first met. Tormented by this revelation, Alyse is bitterly torn between the love of her life and her love for her husband.
Into this agonizing situation, the disaster of the Black Death rears its head, decimating the princess’s retinue and threatening all their lives. Alyse, Thomas and Geoffrey must try to save the princess from the ravening disease but at a dire cost to themselves. With her world plunged into chaos, Alyse struggles with her feelings for both of the men she loves. But which love will survive?
EXCERPT: Geoffrey hurried on with a suggestion. “’Twould be the work of a few moments for me to teach it you, my lady.”
It would have to serve. She shot a look over her shoulder at her husband, who nodded and laughed with the princess though his eyes were trained on her. Best get on with it then. The sooner ’twas done, the better.
“Your skill at dancing is such that you would certainly learn the steps with but slight instruction from me.” Geoffrey leaned so close his voice, against her ear made her jump and recall herself. She stepped back and looked at him.
His practiced courtier’s smile flickered at her, and she caught something deeper shining in his eyes that she fought not to see. Her heart stuttered a beat.Her body flushed with the anticipation of dancing with him again even as misgivings swirled in her mind. No good would come of this dance, but Thomas watched closely to see that she acted cordially to Geoffrey. Would that it was an act.
With a sense of heavy foreboding, she extended her hand to him. “Very well, Sir Geoffrey. What must I do first?”
He placed her hand atop his arm and led her to their place in the circle of dancers then grasped her hand to pull her around to face him.
The moment his hand touched her skin, a streak of fire shot through her. Her mouth went dry, and her gaze flew to his face. Surely he felt that as well?
He stared back, his eyes mirroring all too clearly the blaze that coursed up her arm.
Damn Geoffrey Longford.
In a daze, she looked around at the other dancers, expecting them to stare accusingly at her. As if they could see this sinful feeling that tore at her soul. At a loss for how to act, she raised her gaze to beseech Geoffrey. “What do we do now?”
’Twas an apt question for, God forgive her, at the touch of Geoffrey’s hand, all thought of her husband had fled. She was back on the deck of the Phillipa, facing him once more. Loving him once more.
Geoffrey cleared his throat, his face flushed, and said simply, “Follow me.”
Then they were twirling around the circle, hands clasped, arms touching intimately, He seemed to brand her wherever he touched. The figure reversed, and her other side was scorched as if a red-hot blade seared her. Her gaze locked onto Geoffrey’s, and the music, the dancers, the Great Hall and all its inhabitants melted away until all that was left was the whisper of his breath in her ear and the heat of his body pressed close against her.
He leaned in closer to whisper, “I must lift you now.”
Before she could grasp that staggering news, his arm went around her waist and he lifted her, twirling them around full circle. She panted, blood pounding in her temples, roaring in her ears.
They continued to dance, but she moved as though she were a doll made of rags, her legs barely able to stand. Her world narrowed to the single source of light and life that was the man who held her in his arms again. The man whose love she could no longer deny. Despite the agony of the betrayal, in the core of her being she knew neither the vows she had spoken to Thomas nor the passion they had enjoyed in his bed would ever match the intensity of love and belonging she shared with Geoffrey. As soon compare a candle’s flame to the sun.
Buy link for Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Beleaguered-Book-Time-Enough-Love-ebook/dp/B00LR5WDKC/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1420515726&sr=1-1&keywords=beleaguered
Today's Thursday Thread focus is on C.D. Hersh and the paranormal romance/urban fantasy book, Blood Brothers, Book 2 in The Turning Stone Chronicles
HEAT LEVEL: Sensual
InDtale Magazine, in their November 17, 2014 four and half star review, said ““The Promised One” takes paranormal and turns it on its ear, taking shape-shifting to a whole other level.” The unique shape shifting found in the first book of The Turning Stone Series gets even more surprising as Promised One Rhys Temple discovers his abilities surpass those of any other Turning Stone Member. Take a peek at the excerpt from book two Blood Brothers and discover what Rhys can do.
When Delaney Ramsey is enlisted to help train two of the most powerful shape shifters the Turning Stone Society has seen in thousands of years, she suspects one of them is responsible for the disappearance of her daughter. To complicate matters, the man has a secret that could destroy them all. Bound by honor to protect the suspect, Delaney must prove his guilt without losing her life to his terrible powers or revealing to the police captain she’s falling for that she’s a shape shifter with more than one agenda.
The minute Captain Williams lays eyes on Delaney Ramsey, he knows she’s trouble. Uncooperative, secretive, and sexy, he can’t get her out of his mind. When he discovers she has a personal agenda for sifting through all the criminal records in his precinct, and secretly investigating his best detective, he can’t let her out of his sight. He must find out what she’s looking for before she does something illegal. If she steps over the line, he’s not certain he can look the other way for the sake of love.
Excerpt from book two of The Turning Stone Chronicles currently available in eBook on Amazon at: http://amzn.com/B00OVNFC8W
Grumbling, Rhys unlocked the door to Alexi’s house and ushered in Eli. “Don’t know why I couldn’t have stayed with Alexi in the hospital.”
“I told ye, laddie, we havetae prepare for the council meeting. They’re going tae want tae know what ye can do.”
Rhys glanced at his watch. “In four hours? It took Alexi years.”
“She hasnae the innate skill ye do. Tae draw power from the rings o’ other shifter hasnae been done in thousands o’ centuries and ye did it. Twice.”
Had his hasty decision to join the Turning Stone Society been a bad idea? But it tied him to Alexi, in multiple ways. He didn’t regret that. Rhys hung his Stetson on the hall rack and then shrugged out of his coat. “Where do we start?”
“With something ye’ve already done. Ye can try tae pull oot my life force.”
Rhys backed away, hands in the air. “No way. I’m not fond of you, but I don’t want to kill you, old man.”
“Ye’ll nae harm me. I’ll control the contact. Ye need tae do whatever ’twas ye did the first time.”
“Don’t know what I did.”
Eli stroked his beard. “Then we’ll wing it.” He held his hands out to Rhys. “Take both o’ my hands. ’Twas closed contact the first time.”
“Alexi was here. Don’t we need three?”
“Mayhaps not. Since ye have yer own ring, ye’ll have more power.” Eli waggled his hand at Rhys. “Come on, laddie.”
He slowly grasped Eli’s gnarled hands, keeping a loose grip the old man could easily break. Nothing happened. “Now what?”
“Think about my hirt pumping and see if you can will it tae slow, or race.”
Concentrating, Rhys stared into Eli’s eyes. Then he remembered the visions of the future Eli had given him in the ER while Alexi was still unconscious. He’d no desire to see terrible omens again. Quickly, he unfocused his gaze to see all of Eli’s face. The old man’s features doubled and softened.
Rhys slowed his breathing, like he had when he’d prepared to take a marksman shot on the Iraqi battlefront. The measured beat of his heart, slow and steady, thrummed in his ears. He thought about Eli, pictured his blood racing through his veins. The rhythm of Rhys’ blood pounding in his ears hiccupped, a second beat joining in. Startled, he moved his focus off Eli. The air surrounding them shimmered.
“Yer doing it, laddie,” Eli whispered in a strained voice.
The tone caused Rhys to return his gaze to Eli’s face. Gray. Like his buddies in Iraq before they died. “You okay?”
“Aye. Keep going.”
Tapping into the double heartbeats, Rhys let the rhythm drop into a muted background noise, keeping a steady focus on Eli’s face. His features doubled and then wavered. Rhys blinked, and a woman’s face appeared, partially transposed over Eli’s. Startled, Rhys tried to drop Eli’s hands but the old man gripped tighter.
“Dinna stop,” he commanded. “Concentrate.”
Rhys focused. The woman’s features shifted, and Eli disappeared completely. His grip changed, his hands becoming smaller and softer. Rhys yanked away and stumbled backward.
A woman stood where Eli had been, staring at him with a startled expression that matched Rhys’ confusion.
“By the Druid’s beard,” she said. “What did ye do?”
The woman’s form wavered for a second, and Eli appeared in her place. He staggered forward and grabbed Rhys’ shoulder, steadying himself. “Isnae there anything ye canna do, laddie?”
“What just happened?”
“Ye pulled oot my alter ego.” His knees dipped, and Rhys grabbed his elbow. “And I think a bit o’ my life force.”
“Let’s get you seated.” Rhys led Eli to the kitchen and lowered him onto a chair. “Your alter ego is a woman?”
“Aye. And sae will yours be. All the men have female alter egos.”
“And the women have men?” That would explain the man he’d seen Alexi change from the night he discovered she was a shape shifter.
“How did ye do that?” Eli said.
“You mean you don’t know?”
“Nay. I’m hoping ye can describe it, for I’ll be wanting ye tae do it agin, but without the life force pulling part. While I can withstand it, I doubt the other council members could. We’ll not be wanting tae kill one o’ them tae prove yer a true Promised One.”
Book one of The Turning Stone Chronicles titled “The Promised One” currently available in eBook and paperback on Amazon at: http://amzn.com/B00DUMODKI
Book two of The Turning Stone Chronicles titled “Blood Brothers” currently available in eBook on Amazon at: http://amzn.com/B00OVNFC8W
Book three of The Turning Stone Chronicles titled “Son of the Moonless Night” is scheduled for release early summer 2015 from Soul Mate Publishing.
Book four of The Turning Stone Chronicles titled “The Mercenary and the Shifters” coming in 2016 from Soul Mate Publishing.
Social Media Info:
Soul Mate Publishing: http://smpauthors.wordpress.com/
Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/C.-D.-Hersh/e/B00DV5L7ZI
Genre Historical Romance
Tags Historical Romance, Scotland, Robert the Bruce, 1307 Scottish Wars of Independence, knights, chivalry
Release May 31, 2013
Scotland - 1307 – During the Scottish Wars of Independence
Gard Marschand will stop at nothing in his pursuit to regain what is lost. Concealing his true identity, he will associate with his enemies, kill his own countrymen, even sell his soul to the devil if all else fails. He will lie, cheat, steal, rape and siege his way across two countries gaining power and reputation in his malevolent wake. His determination all consuming, until King Edward commands Gard to lay siege on Ross-shire holding, where Braelynn Galbraith obliterates his single-minded purpose.
Braelynn Galbraith wants peace for her beloved Scotland, marriage to her childhood sweetheart, Callum, and a house full of children. In that order. But evil incarnate in the form of Gard Marschand, turns her life inside out and destroys all hope of a decent marriage.
Can Gard abandon his deep-seated need of revenge for a love that might just save his soul, or will he succumb to the demons that hound him and surrender to the devil within?
This week's thread is a paranormal romance by Larynn Ford, Dreams Do Come True
Book 2 in the Dream Trilogy
The vicious slaughter of cattle brings Lynzi Lancaster and her fiancé Layne Brady, a Fae raised in the human world, to the aid of his human parents. A neighbor with a grudge has returned to the area to settle a score.
Lynzi is only mildly shocked to find the tall tales her granddaddy told so many years ago about black panthers roaming the woods near their home were not only true but also had a twist, those panthers were two natured . . . werepanthers
The renegade panther believes Lynzi is a witch and threatens her life when Fae magic is performed near by. Now, it’s up to Lynzi and Layne to bring down the big cats and keep her alive.
I drew the truck door as close to me as I could get it and waited for the perfect moment. I shoved it open with all the force I had to meet my attacker head on. With a loud thud, she bounced back, and fell hard on her rump.
Thinking that reality check would take some of the fight out of her, I stepped from behind the door. It was only hopeful thinking though since she scrambled to her feet and came at me a second time. She made contact this time by clinching both hands around my neck all the while chanting some strange words. Gasping for air, I grabbed hold of her wrists and broke the hold as I spotted Boone tearing out the back door toward us. She swung a fist, and I reached up with my forearm to block the blow.
A familiar hand latched onto my waist and tugged me out of the reach of the crazed woman. The loud smack I heard but did not see delivered caused her to fly backward and land on her backside again. I straightened myself, my hands clinched into tight fists. She had to believe I had delivered the blow. Layne’s identity could never be discovered.
Boone took his protective stance in front of me. “Mena, what are you doing here? Ms. Lynzi didn’t kill Del. He was executed by panther law for everything he did to me and Jesse and Mama.”
The crazy witch resembled a human crab scooting backward on her hands and feet, trying to stand, and regain her senses. I could almost see the steam coming from her ears she was so mad.
“You didn’t lift a finger to help poor Del and now you’ve thrown in with this witch. You will pay for what you did, Boone Weaver.” She raised her hand and started to speak in riddles again as if to cast another spell of some sort on Boone.
I moved around Boone with my shadow still covering my back. “This is your only warning, Mena. Leave this place and leave us in peace. Keep messing with me and my family and I will come after you.” I raised my arm with my fist still clinched to emphasize my point. Layne accentuated my declaration with a gust of wind powerful enough to knock her on her butt, yet again.
“I’ll get you. I don’t know what kind of witch you are but I’ll get you. And Boone, you only tasted the beginning. You’ll wish you were dead before I’m done with you. Careful what you dream, it might come true.” She scrambled to her feet and ran around the corner of the house and to the car she had left parked out on the side of the road.
“Lynzi. Are you hurt?” Layne was hovering again. “Ms. Lynzi, did she hurt you?” Boone, too. I blew out a breath. “Whew. You both worry too much.
I’m fine. Not a hair out of place.” I shook my ponytail. “Which is more than I can say for Mena.” A confident grin spread across my face as I raised my left fist and revealed my prize. Several dozen strands of frizzy, bleached blond hair had been captured in my scuffle with the witch. “Ooo, she’s in bad need of a touch up, too. Gray roots.” I made a face as I examined my reward and wondered if we now had everything we needed to do the job of eliminating Mena from our lives.
Layne’s hands clasped onto my waist, he lifted, and spun me around in mid air. After my feet were back on the ground, I propped my hands on my hips. “Layne Brady, what if someone saw that? People don’t just fly around their backyards on their own. At least not here.”
“Hey, you already got the reputation as a scary ol’ witch, so why not?” He chuckled as he took my hand and led me into the house.
“Sounds reasonable to me,” Boone chimed in.
“You two best be careful with those smart mouths. I’ll take my broomstick to the both of you.”
Buy Link: http://www.amazon.com/Dreams-Come-True-Larynn-Ford-ebook/dp/B00NULPUHO Twitter: @LarynnFord
Let's welcome Ruth A. Casie to this week's Medieval Monday with her novel, Knight of Runes
When Lord Arik, a druid knight, finds Rebeka Tyler wandering his lands without protection, he swears to keep her safe. But Rebeka can take care of herself. When Arik sees her clash with a group of attackers using a strange fighting style, he's intrigued.
Rebeka is no ordinary seventeenth-century woman—she's travelled back from the year 2011, and she desperately wants to return to her own time. She poses as a scholar sent by the king to find out what's killing Arik's land. But as she works to decode the ancient runes that are the key to solving this mystery and sending her home, she finds herself drawn to the charismatic and powerful Arik.
As Arik and Rebeka fall in love, someone in Arik's household schemes to keep them apart, and a dark druid with a grudge prepares his revenge. Soon Rebeka will have to decide whether to return to the future or trust Arik with the secret of her time travel and her heart.
Available at Amazon (http://amzn.to/14jMXOy) Nook (http://bit.ly/19FnJwr)
England ~ May, 1605
I should not have stayed away from the Manor so long. Something stirs. Lord Arik’s eyes swept the surrounding area as he and his three riders escorted the wagon with the old tinker and the woman. They sped through the forest as fast as the rain-slicked trail would allow. Unable to shake the ominous feeling of being watched, Arik remained alert. At length, the horses winded, he slowed the pace as they neared the Stone River.
“The forest is flooded. I suspect the Stone will be as well. Willem, ride on ahead and let me know what we face at the crossing.”
Willem did his lord’s bidding and quickly returned with his report. “The river ahead runs fast, m’lord. The bridge is in disrepair and cannot be crossed.”
Arik raised his hand and brought the group to a halt. “Doward,” he said to the old tinker. “We must make repairs. There’s no room for the wagon at the river’s edge. You and the woman stay here and set up camp. Be ready to join us at the bridge when I send word.”
Logan, Arik’s brother, spoke up. “I’ll keep watch here and help Doward and Rebeka.”
Arik nodded and, with the others, continued the half mile to the bridge.
“I am not pleased with this new delay.”
“It can’t be helped, m’lord. We would make better time without the wagon,” said Simon.
“I’ll not leave Doward and the woman unescorted through the forest, not with what we’ve heard lately. We’ll have to drive hard to make up the lost time.”
The frame of the bridge stood solid, the planks scattered everywhere, clogging the banks and shallows. Arik leaped from his horse onto the frame to begin the repairs.
“Hand me that planking.” Arik pointed to the nearest board.
Simon grabbed the plank and examined it. “Sir, these boards have been deliberately removed.”
Arik took the board and lifted it before him. An arrow whooshed out of the trees, and slammed into the plank’s edge. Willem pulled his axe from his belt as Arik and Simon drew their swords. In a fluid, practiced movement, Willem spun and found his mark. He sent his axe flying. The archer fell into the river and was swept downstream, Willem’s axe still lodged in his forehead. A dozen or more attackers broke through the stand of trees.
Arik tossed the board into the river and readied his sword. The enemy was poorly dressed carrying clubs and knives. There was only one sword among them. The leader. Arik’s target.
“They plan to pin us here at the river’s edge. Come, we’ll take the offensive before they form up.” They moved forward, driving a wedge through the enemy’s ragged line, forcing what little formation they had to scatter and fight, each man for himself.
A man, club in hand, rushed at Arik. Before the attacker could bring his weapon into play, Arik pivoted around him. He raised his sword high, and slammed the hilt’s steel pommel squarely on the man’s head. Arik moved on before the man’s lifeless body dropped to the ground.
Willem and Simon, on either side of Arik, advanced through the melee. Their swift continuous swordplay moved smoothly from one stroke to the next, whipping through the air. They slashed on the downswing and again on the backswing, sweeping their weapons back into position to repeat the killing sequence. The knight and his soldiers steadily advanced, punishing any man who dared to come near them.
“For Honor!” Logan’s war cry carried from the small camp to Arik’s ears.
Arik stiffened. Both camps were now under attack. He pulled his blade from an attacker’s chest. The body crumpled to the blood-soaked ground. Arik breathed deeply, the coppery taste of blood in the air. “For Honor!” he bellowed in answer. His men echoed his call, arms thrown wide, muscles quivering, the berserker’s rage overtaking them.
The remaining attackers paled and fled headlong into the forest.
Motioning to his men to follow, Arik raced toward the camp. He could hear the shouts, and cursed himself for not seeing the danger. He crested the hill and came to an abrupt halt.
Logan’s sword ripped through the air as he protected Doward. The tinker drew his short blade and did as much damage as he could. But it was the woman Arik noticed. Her skirt hiked up, she twirled her walking stick like a weapon with an expertise that left him slack-jawed. She dispatched the attackers, one by one, in a deadly well-practiced dance. A man rushed toward her, knife in hand. The sneer on his face didn’t match the fear in his eyes. She stepped out of his line of attack, extended her stick to her side, and holding it with both hands swept the weapon forward, striking the attacker across the bridge of his nose. Blood exploded from his face in an arc of fine spray as his head snapped back. Droplets dusted her face creating an illusion of bright red freckles. As he fell, she reversed her swing and caught him hard behind his knees. He went down on his back, spread-eagled. She swung her stick over her head and landed a precise and disabling blow to his forehead that knocked him unconscious.
As she spun to face the next threat her eyes captured Arik’s and held. In the space of an instant, time slowed to a crawl. Her hair slowly loosened from its pins and swirled out around her. His breath caught and his heartbeat quickened as a rapturous surge raced through his body. Something eternal and familiar, with a sense of longing, unsettled him. In the next heartbeat, she tore her eyes away, leaving him empty. Time resumed its normal pace. Another attacker lay at her feet.
Arik joined the fight.
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