When I was very small, I had an aunt who would tell me the most wonderful fairy tales - all original. I grew up, as little girls do, but the magic of story still dazzles and enthralls me. On the good days, I like to think of myself as Scheherazade's sister. On the bad days - not so much.
I remain an incurable romantic who loves happy endings, heart-pounding adventure and the eventual triumph of good over evil. All hail the guys in the white hats - unless the ones wearing black are more...um...interesting?
I live in a comfortable, messy old house in the Australian suburbs. I'm small, noisy and tend to wave my hands around a lot, which can be unfortunate if the tale I'm telling happens to have explosions in it.
Blurb - The Lone Warrior
Note: The Lone Warrior is #3 in the Four-Sided Pentacle series, but it can be read perfectly well as a stand-alone.
Sworn to vengeance. Blinded by love.
Walker, a warrior shaman, has dedicated his life to the annihilation of the demons who destroyed his desert tribe. Abandoned as a child, Mehcredi, the assassin, has no concept of human relationships, no reserve, no fears, and she boldly walks through Walker’s barriers as if they were mist.
Only one thing can bend a body of steel and melt a heart of ice.
Excerpt from The Lone Warrior
Caracole, Queendom of the Isles
Death padded in pursuit, slipping through the double shadows without a sound. Like the worst nightmare Mehcredi could imagine, except this was all too horribly real. How much longer she could elude him, the man with the hunter’s face? Panting, she glanced over her shoulder at the dark figure pacing behind. As he drifted from one patch of shadow to the next, something pale gleamed where the light of the Sibling Moons tangled in his black hair. Feathers worked into a long braid, and . . . bones?
Were they finger bones?
The shock thrilled down her nerves, making her head swim and her vision blur, but her long legs carried her away at a swift, stumbling run, lurching down a narrow alley, deeper into the reeking slum the people of Caracole called the Melting Pot. Turning to fight never entered her head. Gods, she’d barely scraped through the First Circle tests as it was, and her first real commission for the Guild of Assassins had been an unqualified disaster. No, she wouldn’t have a chance.
She couldn’t hear his footfall, couldn’t detect any movement, but his presence behind her was a tangible force. Every cell in her body sensed him with the animal instinct of the hunted—his predatory focus, the grim relish with which he anticipated her death. From her left came the frantic click of claws on the cobbles, a soft whining noise. That damn dog! She might as well wave a flaming torch above her head and be done with it.
“Get lost,” she hissed, glancing around for something to throw. “Scat!” But the little animal only skittered aside, continuing to flank her.
Mehcredi twisted and doubled back. One hand pressed to the stitch in her side, she reeled around a corner and inevitably, there he stood, waiting—pitiless. He wasn’t a great deal taller than she was, but much broader. Lithe and strong and graceful, where she was long-boned and clumsy and doomed.
She opened her mouth to shriek, to plead, but long-fingered hands fastened around her throat. As he slowly increased the pressure, digging painfully into the soft flesh under her jaw, the man smiled, lips pulling back from white teeth. The expression gave him an eerie, chilling beauty. He could have been an avenging angel or a handsome demon. Either way, those elegant brutal hands were the sure instruments of her death.
Her fists flailed, punching. When that failed, she raked at his forearms with her nails, but he didn’t even flinch. Mehcredi knew she was strong, stronger than any woman she’d ever met, but it made no difference. Black spots formed in her vision, her lungs labored and cramped.
“No,” she tried to rasp. “No, please.”
From far off, as if down a long tunnel, came the sound of hysterical barking.
The man thrust his face into hers. “Now you pay,” he snarled as he sent her down into the dark. “Assassin.”
*** In this second part of the excerpt, Walker has decided Mehcredi will do penance for her crimes by working for him. He's a VERY scary guy! ***
Mehcredi snapped her fingers the way Walker had done and the dog came to her side as if the gesture were Magick. To her surprise, when she moved toward the outer doors, he trotted along. On impulse, she sank to her knees in the doorway and got a lick on the face and a blast of disgustingly hot doggy breath for her trouble.
“Ack!” She wiped her face with her sleeve. “Run away,” she hissed. “I don’t want you. Go!”
The dog retreated half a dozen steps. Reaching the shade of a ticklewhisker hedge, he sat and scratched behind one ear. Then he turned two full circles, cast a wary glance around the quiet garden and flopped down, boneless. He yawned, showing surprisingly white teeth.
Feeling strangely warmed, Mehcredi closed the doors and returned to Walker.
“Come.” He led her back into the dim hush of the sleeping house. The thick, sable tail of his hair fell past his trim waist. She’d never seen a man with hair so long.
“Why don’t you cut your hair? It must take an awful lot of looking after.”
One of those all-purpose masculine grunts.
Shoulder to shoulder, they climbed the stairs. “It’s pretty,” she persisted, “but did you know you’re going gray, just here—”
As they reached a landing, she raised her fingers to touch his temple, but he knocked her arm away. “Keep your hands to yourself, assassin!”
Unobtrusively, Mehcredi cradled her aching wrist. “Sorry,” she said, striving for dignity. “Where are the bones you wore last night? What sort are they? What are they for? You didn’t say.”
Walker came to a dead halt. When he turned, his face was expressionless, but Mehcredi found herself backing away nonetheless, until the stair rail pressed hard across the small of her back. Silent and remorseless, he followed until she could feel the warmth of his muscular body all along her front. Funny how she tended to think of him as cold, when his physical presence was hotter than anything she’d ever known.
Slowly, so she would know what was coming, Walker raised his hands and fitted them around her throat. His touch was gentle, caressing even, but she’d never felt more terrified, not even when she’d known he was going to kill her.
“Who I am, what I am, is none of your godsbedamned business,” he said softly. “You’re a cold-hearted bitch, a murderer for hire. Not a particularly good one, I grant you, but nonetheless—”
His touch was waking the bruises on her neck. They throbbed in time with her heart.
“You are not my servant, nor my student,” continued that quiet, inexorable voice. “And thanks be to Those Before, you are not my friend. Nor will you be, ever.”
He drew even closer, as close as a lover, exerting enough pressure to crack her spine over the stair rail. Absurdly luxuriant in that hard face, inky lashes brushed his high cheekbones. “You are my slave, as surely as if I bought you from a dealer in Trinitaria.” Callused fingertips drew idle patterns over her thundering pulse. “Slaves do not ask impertinent questions. Understand?”
She nodded as best she could.
His voice dropped to a sibilant whisper. “What are you, Mehcredi?”
“S-slave. Your slave.”
“Good. Do not forget it, even for an instant.” For the space of two heartbeats, he leaned even harder into her body. Then he withdrew without haste, leaving her braced against the rail, panting.
He’d already reached the third floor before she caught up with him. Despite his warning, new questions seethed in her brain. Who were Those Before? She’d never heard an oath like that.
She supposed she’d become inured to asking questions. When you found it difficult to decipher expressions, it was often the only way. Ask and be damned with a cuff around the head, a bloodied lip.
Don’t ask and be double damned.
Sister save her, she had enough problems at the moment. Mehcredi bit her tongue.
This fabulous book won the Best Erotic Romance 2011, Australian Romance Readers Association
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