Thursday, May 24, 2012

NEVER REGRET

Never regret. If it’s good, it’s wonderful. If it’s bad, it’s experience.

- Victoria Holt



I've always gone of on two rules in life:


1) Never regret
2) Never look back


Not a worry in the world!
Life is too short. You can't look back. All you can do is do your best. So saying that, I'm in the midst of revamping a few things...


At the moment though I have a couple of fun things coming at you...


First Daughter of Deceit is only $.99 for the next few days.
At the moment, it's only at Barnes and Noble that it's $.99. It should be on Amazon soon.


BARNES AND NOBLE, AMAZON





Whispers of a Legend, Part One- Shadows of the Past is always free.

AMAZON, BARNES AND NOBLE
THE PATH NOW TURNED
At least for the rest of the day, Whispers of a Legend, Part Two is free on Amazon. 

Don't miss out! Enjoy!
  



Wednesday, May 23, 2012

WHISPERS OF A LEGEND, PART TWO-THE PATH NOW TURNED- Here we go again!

WHISPERS OF A LEGEND, PART TWO-THE PATH NOW TURNED
Whispers of a Legend, Part Two- The Path Now Turned is free again! Today and tomorrow- May 24th and May 25th!

SHADOWS OF THE PAST
Don't forget that Whispers of a Legend, Part One- Shadows of the Past is always free on Amazon and Barnes and Noble!

Taking from one of the reader reviews-

I love a story so well-crafted as to suck me in from page one and keep me rivoted, so that when I reach the end, I feel a tinge of regret the story's over. Ms. Haynes gives her readers an opening scene that pulls one in for the emotional,romantic and danger-filled ride. This is in many ways a coming of age story with a female bent, rather than the typical male coming of age story. Kela develops and grows in an admirable, satisfying manner. Cono will make you sigh. These are the kind of characters one loves to cheer for, so much so that I can't wait for her next installment in this series. Simply loved it!


THE PATH NOW TURNED

So use this time to get your free copy of Part Two. You can get the whole series for $0.99.  Shadows of the Past and The Path Now Turned are free today while you can get Vision of Destiny for $0.99!

How about a little taste of The Path Now Turned-
Excerpt-
Chapter One

The Gift for a Euchoun

The days passed slowly. From my childhood Gunilda taught me that each day was a precious gift to be cherished, but I existed only during those days. I lived to see Cono. I dreamed of being by his side. I understood well my purpose, but the pull to be with him was strong.
The time had come. That I knew but not how to pursue the destiny I had embraced. Once more the Forbidden Forest served as a prison to me. Along my vision to the North, the mountain cliffs towered above me. In the distance I saw the rounded peaks of the mountain range covered with snow. The steep cliffs lay before me of which I could make no ascent. The simple cottage of my residence sat within the shallow canyons of grassy bottoms encircled by impenetrable foliage of the Forbidden Forest. The forest, tall and unbroken, grew thicker and taller the further one walked, but once within, all would be lost forever. There was no exit to the Forbidden Forest.
Only the winged Sordarins could enter from the sky. Unless I could find the portal used by Twiten, I would not be leaving this place. In as much, I had no choice but to wait until the call came for me to be acknowledged.
Long had my siblings, Falco and Sareta, been acknowledged for their birthright. In his absolute wisdom, King Edulf, my grandfather, deemed my path a different one. A great threat loomed before Scarladin. The legend held if threatened the Great One would send a powerful Euchoun to protect the Sordarins. This long has been my destiny. Long have I trained and endured to meet my fate.
I had hoped my days of isolation over after the battle with the Arachnideans in the desert. Fighting along side Cono, my love...my warrior, we had defeated the danger in battle. Assured without question, I would stand by the side of the one I had bonded with for never would I be more powerful than to be by Cono's side.
Yet now I waited, having been sent back to this place I could not escape. I wanted only King Edulf to send for me...to be acknowledged for my own birthright, Euchoun Protector of the Sordarins...moreover was I not also Princess to the kingdom of Scarladin?
To pass the time that eclipsed, I listened hours upon hours to Gunilda. I was not the only one to have been banished to this isolation. My old nurse's heart seemed saddened beyond my means to appease her. Yet, she turned not away from me. She spoke neither of Sareta nor of the cause in which Sareta had been born. Instead she talked to me of Witheleghe. She talked before of my mother's home, but not in the details that she recalled to me during these occasions.
She spoke to me in her language. In turn I returned our conversation with the same which seemed to please her greatly.
“You have well spent your time here in the Forest, Kela. It is time now for you to spread your wings and fly away.”
I laughed gently at her saying. “I could not leave you, Gunilda. I will take you with us when Cono returns for me. It may not be life within a castle but it will be a good life. In time who will care for my small ones. I know of no one else.”
“Cono.”
His name rolled off her lips. She breathed in deeply as if contemplating words she wanted to say. Her tired eyes met mine. “You have dreams beyond your purpose, my child. It is good. I…wish you obtain all your heart desires, but don’t forsake the Great One. Don’t lose yourself in your purpose to appease others or yourself. Have faith in your own thoughts…”
“I won’t,” I promised her although her meaning escaped me. She seemed quite intent on my actions. “All will be as it should. I know the road I walk.”
Pressing her lips together tightly, she said only, “The road you walk is not straight, my child. Remember that. All roads wind.”

If not for the knowledge that I would be recalled, I would have worried. We had been sent back to the cottage in a hurried fashion. Twiten and his students no longer resided at the old castle. Moreover, no supplies had been sent for us. Gunilda uttered not a word of complaint, but accepted our fate as she had never done before...that alone worried me.
So I dreamed. In my dreams my vision laid upon Cono. I saw clearly myself waiting on the plains of the valley, staring straight up in the sky only to have Cono swoop down upon me, taking me in his arms...taking me away, never, never to return to this place.
Foolish perhaps for I imagined in truth Twiten would return to transport us through the portal. Johannes had told to me the flight to the Forbidden Forest was long and tedious at best, but I thought constantly upon the call for my return. I cared not if it was King Edulf himself that came. I wanted only to be with my family.
To my surprise I found I began to care more for my appearance. I regretted I had been able to bring back a gown to be dressed in for my return to Yucca. Except for the gown I had on when I departed, I had only my old tunic. I prepared the best I could certain my days were numbered within my confine.
The days passed and no word came. Gunilda's words slowed, but my faith remained, fading though on the eve of my birthday. Cono’s words echoed in my heart. He would come. He would. He had promised. I slept not much that night. Dreams disturbed me. I counted the hours until the sun appeared, but disappointment laid on the horizon. When the morning dawned, I rose to the sounds of the forest, nothing more, nothing less.
Dressing with care in the early morning light, I made breakfast with the little food we had left. Certain, no hoping, I would not be forgotten. I stared out Gunilda’s window having sat her breakfast tray down before her. With effort, she sat up sighing deeply. Looking upon me, I met her eyes. I saw well pity stirred within her.
“All should have remembered, Kela. They have all around them and we are in the middle of nowhere. Banished. Sordarins! Keeping you away from sight. Does King Edulf not know you are known? It is too late to hide you nor is it needed.”
“I know not what you are saying.”
Her old dry hand reached for mine. “It is your time. No one will keep you back, except only yourself. Go, Kela, by the Shimmering Pool. You will find a present. Your legacy. Your destiny. Follow it, Kela.”
“I…”
“You don’t understand. But you will if you follow. You think I have not talked to the Wood Spirit, also. We have agreed it is time. Go.”
“Where?” My eyes lay with confusion with my nurse.
“To your heart.”
Tentatively, I eased out the room. Glancing back over my shoulder, Gunilda shooed me out with her hand.
“It is your day, my child. Your day. Worry not about me.”
My heart faltered. Gunilda spoke endearing words to me. Would Cono be by the Shimmering Pool? I hesitated for fear of disappointment.
I walked slowly over the well-worn path. My heart sank when I rounded the edge. There lay only the beauty of the Shimmering Pool. No person greeted me. My heart sank. My eyes watered. All had forgotten. Gunilda had talked nonsense. I fell down beside the Shimmering Pool.
Without action, suddenly the Pool began to swirl. The water conjured up a vision. The mist faded and a figure materialized within...a beautiful maiden with the most striking of flowing gowns. A sparkling white gown glittered in the sunlight as if stars in the night fitted to the maiden’s figure accenting it to perfection. The high waist gown cut low against her bosom. Her chestnut hair twisted back from her face but hung loose down her back. She was the most beautiful woman. I couldn’t take my eyes from her. An aura encompassed her while she walked slowly towards me closer...closer.
I sprang upward for the maiden did not cease her ascent. Startled for in the next moment, the maiden was no more and I no long wore my old tunic. No, I stood in the flowing gown from the Shimmering Pool. I stared down at my reflection, not believing my eyes. Gone was the waif of girl replaced by a lady, elegant and refine.
A voice called in the wind. It is your destiny, your fate to wear. Take this leap, Kela. Follow your path. Descend down into the Shimmering Pool for once and only once it will take you to where your fate awaits.
Turning and looking around, I scoured for the voice, but to no avail. The words echoed around me until comprehension surged within my being. Then I held no doubt, but walked straight into the Shimmering Pool.

* * * *

My eyes widened with my racing heart. The swirling motion beckoned with the promise the Spirit had made. The flowing gown blew backwards against my body while the winds picked up easing closer. I stepped forward out of the swirling air. Gasping for air, I was suddenly thrust forward. Clinching my heaving chest, I regained my composure having emerged from the stream of space. Abruptly I stood and gathered my wits until I breathed at normal pace.
The warmth of the sun greeted me. An ambiguity of laughter filled the air. In protest or acceptance, I couldn't tell. Chatter of voices encompassed my senses. Confused, I glanced around in a quick motion.
I stood in the mist of a gathering of merry makers in the middle of Yucca’s town square. I recognized it immediately for the Great Hall lay before me. The whole of the square littered with merchants and carts filled to the brim of festive celebration, bright scarves, beads, necklaces, banners and the smells…foods, flowers, people. Oh, the people!
My head swept upward. Hawk men screeched above me in the bright sky. Young women and children scurried around me. Music played in the distance. A parody of performers acted out comic scenes before me, some juggled while others sang.
Strange in dress, some wore mask to hide behind. Laughter echoed through out the market place.  Everyone seemed so happy and no one seemed to notice my abrupt appearance. My face plastered with the look of amazement. How long I had dreamed of walking these streets? An overwhelming sense of happiness encompassed me. Water welled in my eyes as I took in the sight before me.
“Excuse me,” a voice interrupted my thoughts. Turning, I found a young Sordarin who couldn’t have been much older than I. Dressed in the manner of most men around him with the leather bounding around his chest, sword to his side, a binding around his long hair, he smiled a wide grin. “I’m sorry to bother you, but are you lost? You have the look of one who might be. Perchance, I could help you find your way?”
His wings flexed. Behind him I saw a small group of amused cadets, laughing, hitting each other in their arms as if the young warrior came upon me on a dare. Pressing my lips together, I pondered a moment. How I must look! I had no escort. Was it not proper? Of course not, but I wasn’t about to let the slight oversight ruin my moment.
“My escort will be back momentarily,” I answered, not caring if he believed me or not. “Thank you for your kind offer, but you can rejoin your friends.”
He laughed a pleasant laugh. He bowed his head, “My lost.” He backed up a step, pausing for a moment. “You aren’t from here, are you? Brixtone?”
I looked strangely at him.
“Oh,” he rapidly explained, “You look as if you hold all in wonder as if you haven’t seen Yucca before and it is celebration to announce the Brixtone’s Prince attachment to our Princess.”
“I have visited Yucca,” I answered. “But it has been a long time since I have walked within this city.”
Tilting my head, I pointed toward his friends who seemed to have lost interest and began proceeding down the crowded street in the same manner as most of the multitude.
He moved toward them, but looked back at me. “You aren’t going?”
“Where?”
“To the Soaring,” he glanced upward. “It seems they are preparing.”
My look I was certain betrayed by elation. A Soaring! My eyes searched the sky. A mingling above shadowed the land below. My heart beat soundly. By the time my eyes lowered the young warrior had disappeared in the crowd. Without hesitation, I lost myself quickly in the mass of Sordarins following all to see the demonstration.

My elation exuded from my being. Oh, all good in heavin! In my wildest imagination I had never dreamed the sight before me. Banners flowed in the open air of the post surrounding the showground. Large towering perches outlaid across the field reached high into the sky. A top of the perches, Sordarin warriors guarded the people below patrolling the walkway of the perch. I found myself envious of the ones that watched from the encased boxes of the perches, surrounded by four walls with the roof open for viewing.
My attention turned toward the grounds around me trimmed with flag of Scarladin. Red and gold covered my view. Within the arena bare an encircled area filled with the most gorgeous of creatures. Women dressed in ornamental gowns. Different colors abounded as if I gazed into a rainbow. The men held to different ceremonial clothing. Sordarins dressed in full military attire. Instantly I recognized my grandfather. In the middle of the grand stand, he smiled broadly at all well satisfied with the scene before him. I discerned the others dressed formally but without wings had to be Brixtonians.
The Queen, my aunts, cousins and...I beamed upon seeing Sareta. She looked happy, smiling broadly. A glow glistened around her when she leaned over exchanging words with the one I knew to be Amicia. The faces seemed all familiar, pictures from the Shimmering Pool, but these were not pictures, but real. All the women looked stunningly beautiful to my eyes. A brief moment of self-pity swept through me.
No, I told myself. I’m here now. I’m where I belong. Soon I would take my place by my family and they would welcome me with open arms. All the years that have passed would be no more. No more training, no more hiding, I would again be Princess Kela and take my place with Cono.
My eyes fell upon Belasquita. I comprehended quickly this was her celebration, her attachment- Scarladin forging a bond with Brixtone. Cono had said the alliance was greatly needed if we to fend off the threat before us.
Then my eyes lit upon the one next to Belasquita. Even after all these years, I recognized him. So he was the Prince of Brixtone. Of course he was I reprimanded myself while I studied him. Undeniably handsome, his blond hair reflected off the sun’s rays when he took off his hat. What had he said his name was? I had forgotten. His head turned toward me. I quickly broke my glance. Silly, I thought, why would I be concerned he might know I’m here?
I reasoned I would met him soon enough. Was I not here to stay? I had only to go retrieve Gunilda, but not till after the Soaring.
“Kela.”
From behind me, my name resounded in my ear, whispered softly for no one else to hear. Swiftly, I turned. Relief flooded me…Johannes.
“Johannes,” I exclaimed. “Is this not wonderful? Where…”
His wings whipped around us scattering the crowd. No one said anything with his obvious attachment to the Royal Wing. His hand reached over and took my elbow.
“It is wonderful to see you thus…I can say I never suspected a lady under all that mulk, but come,” he said soundly. “You are supposed to follow me.”
“I don’t…” I began confuse.
Johannes walked briskly toward one of the perches. Opening the door, he nodded to the guard. “She is to view from the perch. I’ll meet her on top. Prince Falco orders.”
The large Sordarin acknowledged Johannes, but said nothing. Johannes turned to me. “Prince Falco said that you haven’t been listening to him. He picked up upon your appearance. Walk quickly up the steps. I’ll meet you at the top. I have to return.”
For a moment I hesitated. “Is he mad?”
A broad grin emerged. “No, but I would advise listening to him, my lady. And another was quite happy to hear you were within the celebration.”
With the utterance, my heart sang. I turned and raced up the stairs as fast I could although the hem of my gown hindered my efforts. Johannes stood waiting at the top.
I paused briefly catching my breath. Johannes eyed me with amusement. “You never fail to amaze me, my lady.”
Leaning over for his ears, I whispered in attempt to explain the gown. “It is my birthday. It was a present from the Wood Spirits. I was told to come, but I didn’t realize there was a celebration this day. Does it happen often?”
His hand pulled me closer to him. “I forget where you wince you come. No, not often, but this is an alliance long in the making. The King hadn’t long to match the princess. By custom a princess has to be attached by her eighteenth year. Princess Belasquita will be eighteen at the end of the next week.”
I backed away. “Eighteen,” I rasped. “I’m eighteen today, Johannes.”
He ran his hand back through his hair as if dealing with a child. “I have dealt with Cono on the fact all week and his frustration. Don’t make me do so again.”
“Of course not,” I stuttered embarrassingly, not wanting for him to see that I was pacified with the knowledge that Cono thought of me, although I suspected he well knew my feelings.
“I have already given orders for you to stay here for the Soaring,” he smiled. “I know you have seen us practice, but I believe you will quite enjoy the spectacle, but as best you can don’t call attention to yourself…please for my sake.”
I giggled like a child. I don’t believe I had even done so before. Johannes in his way alleviated my fears. I eased over to the railing, watching Johannes take to the sky once more. Cono was up there somewhere. I wished I could make out which one, but they were all mingling together. I felt eyes upon me. I gave no notice to the guards and ignored their curiosity.
Kela!
This time I heard my brother. Is this not the grandest of things, Falco? I have never seen such…
I have heard you. He answered quickly. I’m not even going to ask you now how you emerged from the Forbidden Forest. It is still there?
Funny, Falco, but it was the most amazing…
Sorry, Kela, I have to get back. Watch and enjoy. I’ll catch up with you after. Stay where you are. Understand?
I promise.
Where would I go? The one I long to see this day was with him. I gazed upward until I saw him. He broke away, just far enough away. I saw his head turned toward my direction and my heart lit up. Realizing within me at the moment nothing, nothing matter to me but Cono. I wanted nothing more than to wave in his direction, but I held all within me. I would not embarrass him this day.
From down below, I heard music, trumpets and drums, along with singing, beautiful voices blending in the air. The people look so small from my view. I laughed. The sun shone brightly. Everyone seemed happy, so happy and so was I. I was finally home.
A moment later, I saw the signal given from the King. Formation was immediate. The Challow unit aligned first. The smaller but quick unit swooped along the sides of the arena, darting through formation moves. The crowd erupted while I held my breath praying no one would fly into each other. Death would be instantaneous upon a collision, but each move, each route the Challow unit completed with precision and timing.
Without a breach of timing, the Acciptritutes swept in. I watched in amazement even though I had seen the maneuver before at the camp. Never like this. I glanced away while Cono’s unit readied. Nervousness gripped me for I had no doubt Cono would lead the Soaring. The tip of the V formation, he would swoop down to an objective on the field, a small almost invisible target, and then would break his dive at the last minute...target in hand with the unit following in sync to Cono's movements.
Looking over the area, I watched the whole of the crowd’s attention set upon the activities in the air, n’ver a movement. All eyes held to the sky, except from the corner of my eye a brief flapping from behind the royal seating.
Strange, I thought, I must have imagined it, but then another movement. I blinked. There was nothing there... but in the next instant I saw it again. Deep within me, my instincts stirred. Immediately, a connection I had never felt emerged between my warrior and myself. As if I could see from Cono’s eyes, I reacted.
The Soaring began before my arms outstretched. Cono would not relent in his mission. Diving down toward the field, faster and faster, my eyes turned from the unit and held tight to now a visible weapon, a catapult with a huge boulder on the other end. Assailants gathered around the weapon, ceaseless in their pursuit to release the rope holding the boulder tight. With a sudden force, the boulder flew free into the air, aiming straight at the diving unit.
Without hesitation, I blasted a shield which electrified the field. Cono reacted in sync with our own training. Emerging from the dive, Cono almost willed me to control the heavy object back to its origins, smashing the catapult into a million pieces. Arachnideans! The terrified assailants began to morph, but Cono's unit had already attacked.
Kela, the King!
My other hand rounded sending forth a form of protective barrier over the Royal seating. At the same moment in front of the box a Sordarin morphed into a vile creature much like I had seen in the King’s bedchamber. Suddenly I began to panic with a remembrance of the time fighting another Arachnidean within the King's chamber. Then as if reading my thoughts, I could hear and feel Cono, calming me, focusing me, until my instincts prevailed.
Kela! Follow my movements.
Pushing aside all else, except the thought of Cono, I released my shield turning instead to the Arachnid, blasting him back against the ground. Cono needed nothing else. A sword thrust straight into the murderous villain’s heart. Then all calmed.
I didn't move. My eyes glued upon the scene. Abandoning my position wasn't an option, but not another violent movement was made. The unearthly silence encompassed the whole of the arena. My eyes set upon Cono in a yellow-orange aura. He withdrew his sword. Then slowly before him, the dying creature morphed back to human form. Under his breath Cono I saw his lips move as if uttering a name. Around me I sensed activity, but I refused to contemplate my situation, my concern, my focus stood upon the field.
A hand lent to my shoulder, but it wasn't until he said my name that I turned, staring at my brother. His serious face betrayed his concern.
"I have come to ensure your safety. Step back into the tower and wait."
"I can take care of myself, Brother. I can't leave all unprotected."
"You will only be behind the walls but protected from searching eyes. I will call if you are needed. Please, Kela, we need not worry more than what’s upon us."
"What is upon us, Brother?"
"We are uncertain at the moment. Magic was used to camouflage the catapult. Strong black magic. No one noticed but you, Kela. In all the Great One sent you this day to look over us."
"No, Brother. It was the Wood Spirit for my…"
In his arrogant manner, Falco ignored my thoughts. The King must have decreed my appearance a sign from above. I wanted not to be a sign, an illusion. I desired to be real to all, but to pacify him if only for this moment. I pressed not.
"I will send Johannes up. Block the door or the roof if needed."
"Sareta?"
"Is safe."
"Let me go and stand beside Cono. I understand only that an attack has been thwarted, but a dangerous situation still threatens, Falco. Would that not discourage another such attack? Announce to all that a Euchoun protected them!"
Not yet! He thought while he flew off ignoring my questions.
He left me staring out the window frustrated beyond measure! Above me Sordarins littered the sky. Below the crowds confused. Most uncertain how to react, but frightened, panic they were not. Chants, cheers roared from the crowd. I watched all intensely, looking, searching for any sign that all wasn't as it seemed, but my eyes never left Cono.
King Edulf walked toward Cono, his exuberance not withstanding. Watching all around, if I hadn't known better I would have thought the assailant part of the celebration. Cono kneeled. The King gestured him up. The next moment Cono walked over to the body with King Edulf, nodding slightly. Then he followed King Edulf over to the stands where I saw the King order to a guard. The women stood, but suddenly Sareta broke toward Cono.
For the first time since the assailant a smile crept on my face at my impulsive sister. Sareta flung herself over the barrier and hugged my warrior. His reaction I couldn't see with his back to me, but I saw Sareta's and...Amicia's who suddenly came into my view.
Her face. I needed nothing else to know, even from the distance I stood. She glowed as he bowed his head to her. He must have said something for she blushed, prettily. I stared in disbelief. Sareta grabbed Amicia's hand and squeezed it excitedly when Cono withdrew. My attention turned from my warrior to Amicia whose eyes fixated on my warrior. Sareta leaned into her giggling in a fashion, turning to another near by, saying something that all laughed. But Amicia was in love with my warrior...Her eyes lifted upon him, but mine lay upon her. The whole of my bearing stiffened.
Engrossed in my thoughts, the figure in the sky shadowed over me without reaction until the fluttering of his wings blew around me. Taking a few steps back, Cono landed beside me. His bold eyes caught mine. Irritation dissipated with each step he took toward me.
His lips on one side lifted in way one might considered a smile. His broad shoulders glistened in the sunlight with the sweat he had exerted. His wings flexed. The shadows flying above us softened the sharp planes of my warrior’s face. His hand reached for me. I gave no resistance, uttering only under my breath.
“You were to come to me this day. I waited…then I saw this celebration in the…” Others words hung in the air for he said nothing.
Ignoring my ramblings, his arm rounded me pulling me to him. His hand caressed my face, tenderly, passionately. I felt I couldn’t breath. He bent his head and kissed me, fiercely. The power flowed between us. I leaned into him, accepting him, wanting what I wasn’t sure, but I opened myself to him, heart and soul. His mouth wandered over my lips, cheeks, brows and throat.
“Kela,” he uttered, his voice rasping my name. “I love you, Woman. With everything in me. You are part of me.”
In some dim recess of my mind, I suspected all a dream. In hypnotized fascination I said nothing. He ran his hand through my hair, freeing the bounds that held it. Falling down long passed my waist, his fingers lost in the mass of tangles.
His eyes blazing, he tightened his hold. His mouth claimed mine once more. Flows of warmth filled me, gasping as his lips burned a path down my cheek to the sensitive part of my neck. I arched back, baring my throat for him, lost in a sensation that dealt not with reason but want.
“Cono,” I whispered in a low drawing voice. His hand rounded me, pressing me against his leather bound chest. Between the material of my gown, his hands cupped my breast, sending me into a spasm of pleasure, robbing me of all reason.
“We can’t,” I uttered, though my body betrayed me. With reluctance, he broke from me. His hand lingered on my face.
“I’ll wait only until I get you back to my barrack. No more separation. Not now.”
Exhilarated! Words I had only dreamed of escaped his lips. “I have no say?” I teased.
He laughed and drew me into his arms again. “Tell me, my Euchoun. Tell me you love me.”
My arrogant, handsome, warrior!
“I love you,” I managed before he kissed me again.
His arms rounded under me. Lifting me into his arms, he prepared to fly, but as suddenly as he swept me up, he released me. My feet found the ground, but his arm held me tight to him. I sensed the change in him.
Then I heard Falco calling to me. For how long he had done so, I didn’t know but his tone lay with frustration and annoyance. The King was about to descend on us. I glanced up at Cono, worried.
“It is only a delay. King Edulf has given his permission for us to be together and for you to stay. He must only want to collect information on your arrival,” he smiled. His hand went under my chin. “I have questions also. I was only waiting until after…” he paused. “As such where did you get the gown?”
“It was a gift for my birthday,” I answered him. My eyes searched the sky for the sign of the expected entourage. “No one listens to me. I have told you that the woods hold spirits. The Wood Spirit said it was destiny, my fate to wear. You do not like it?”
His nostrils flared on a sharply indrawn breath. “I like it very much. I have never seen you so…”
“Like a lady?” I asked. Irritation now recalled. “Is that what you mean as my cousin you saw before you came to me?”
“Do I detect my Kela is jealous?” he laughed, shaking his head. “You have no rivals for my heart if that is what you ask.” Suddenly his tone altered, somber. “There is much to be made up to you, Kela. I tried to come before this day. Forgive me. Hold to me.”
“I asked for nothing but you.”
“You have me, always. We are bonded, Kela.”
Lowering my head, I stared into his eyes. In all of things I had no knowledge, but this bond, this union, I comprehended well. I would not be complete without him by my side, nor he without me.
Above me the fluttering of wings announced the King’s arrival. I recoiled back into my warrior’s arms, secure in the knowledge we were one.


Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Jerri Hines: Welcome Delilah Marvelle!

Jerri Hines: Welcome Delilah Marvelle!: Rules of Engagement Spring Fling With Books welcomes Delilah Marvelle today. This is one of the reasons I began Novel Works a little o...

Friday, May 18, 2012

Whispers of a Legend Saga on Amazon

AMAZON, BARNES AND NOBLE


Whispers of a Legend, Part One- Shadows of the Past is Free. 


The Path Now Turned is at the moment under Amazon Select. It had a couple of free days. Free is great because it allows a reader to catch a glimpse of your writing, but in the end it will be your writing that will maintain readership.


Whispers continues to be one of my favorite books to write. I wrote Whispers with the intention of following Kela's journey from a child and emerging a woman. As Gunilda told Kela, "All roads wind."  The setting is a fantasy world filled with magic, adventure and romance. The book is meant to be enjoyed hoping you feel connected to this journey she is following.


The other day someone asked me not only why I created the Sordarins, the flying warrior race, but also why only the males have wings to fly. Ah, the Sordarins, Rulers of the skies! I've come to the conclusion it had to do with when I was a child. I was raised in the country with the open skies. I watched birds fly and envied them their freedom, especially the hawks who commanded the heavens. As for why only the males take flight in Whispers of a Legend that was intentional. Scarladin is a male dominated society.


Whispers falls under the new genre, New Adult, for a reason. Kela is growing up- not a child, not fully an adult. As those of us who have gone through this phase in our lives, you know growing up is never easy. So much lies in front of us at that age- all our hopes and dreams. Saying that, mistakes are bound to happen. Rash decisions and impulses followed lead to poor decisions at times. But it is those mistakes, that form who  we become. Does it not?


There is no perfection in Whispers. All the characters have flaws of some sort as do we all, but they persevere. If I have a purpose behind writing Whispers, it is a message of perseverance. When I began writing Whispers, I was touched by all the victims of bullying within our society especially within our schools.  I wanted to deliver a message that we are all different and it is those differences that make us unique. We should relish those differences for the world needs a balance. 


Life is not fair. It never is, but its what we make of it while we are here that can make a difference in what comes behind us. Within Whispers you will find many different characters- each unique in their own way.


THE PATH NOW TURNED


The Path Now Turned is the perfect example of what I've been talking about. Decisions have consequences; mistakes will be made, but to persevere we need to learn from these experiences and to make a stand for yourself.  


VISION OF DESTINY




Enjoy the series. Coming early next year, the legend will continue once more....
Whispers of a Legend, Part Four- The Time of the Nuxvenom.  








Wednesday, May 16, 2012

THE PATH NOW TURNED IS FREE TODAY!

THE PATH NOW TURNED
The Path Now Turned is now on Amazon Select. It's FREE again today- May 17th! Don't miss out. You can get the first two parts free! The other is only $.99! Whispers of a Legend Saga:
Shadows of the Past
The Path Now Turned
Vision of Destiny

The Legend Continues...The legend, they say, is whispered within the winds along the magnificent Preda Mountain Range, the words and deeds never to be forgotten of the Time of the Nuxvenom, a time when the Sordarins crushed the impending threat, the dreaded Asmeodai, and once more Scarladin was safe. The mighty Sordarins, rulers of the sky! No, the Sordarins have slept well over the years secure in their knowledge the Great One watches over them, knowing the legends holds a mighty warrior will emerge if threatened again, born with a destiny only to defend their world. But subtle changes have emerged. Little by little fear beings to resurface that their world, their very existence is once again threaten. They look to the skies anxiously awaiting their warrior; questioning perchance if the Great One has forgotten them. I know this how? For I am the one born to defend their world. I, Kela Calledwdele, was born a Euchoun. I am their warrior.

So starts this epic fantasy...Whispers of a Legend saga. Kela Calledwdele was born with a destiny, a Euchoun with only one purpose in life...to protect. Torn between two worlds, Kela soon discovers she is the hope of both. Now she must find the courage to face the destiny fate has dictated to her.

Kela has always known what path in life she would follow. She was born a Euchoun. Half Witheleghean, a passive peaceful race where magic runs freely and the other half, Sordarin, a valiant warrior race of hawkmen who rule the sky, she knows well her parents gave the ultimate sacrifice to give her a chance to live. Yet, in so doing, they have left Kela unprepared to face the dangers that await her. Her instincts are to protect and in this she does, but in so doing it leads her into a world where she knows not whom to trust. In time her power matures and grows stronger when she bonds with a Sordarin warrior, Cono. She learns well why she holds the power. An evil as no other before, Asmeodai, has emerged but all is not what it seems as a dark cloak encompasses her family. Betrayal, distrust, treachery leaves Kela alone. She is torn by her desire for Cono and the purpose, the path, she has been given to follow. And when another emerges within her world, one who seemly wants only to help her along her path, she is pulled further away from her Sordarin.

Having proven her ability during the Payelaga Desert battle, she believes herself ready to follow her destiny beside her warrior. Fate has another path for Kela. When she discovers all she has long believed is not as it seems, the betrayal leaves Kela torn by her desire for Cono and the path she has been given to follow.

The Path Now Turned is the second installment of the Whispers of a Legend saga. Follow Kela's battle to embrace her destiny. Whispers of a Legend follows Kela along this conflicting path, where as a young woman unsure of her ability and her confidence in facing the challenges before her to where she emerges as a strong leader who learns to lean upon her own strength, to stand not behind, but side by side with her warrior.

So get your free copy today and if you get the chance- please leave a review. I would so appreciate it!

For my fans on Barnes and Noble- It was with the greatest reluctance I pulled The Path Now Turned from Barnes and Noble for three months. I know I'm already feeling the heat from doing so. But there is always Whispers of a Legend, Volume I, the print copy of all three installments, on Barnes and Noble. And if you want, you can always check it out over on Amazon for the three months. Email at carriejames.haynes@aol.com and I'll let you know the free days. I had my reasons and I apologize for any inconvience.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

ROMANCE NEVER GOES OUT OF STYLE


DAUGHTER OF DECEIT

You've heard it. Romance novels are worn out, exhausted with the lack of fresh material, and over done. The world of publishing has been inundated with all sorts of romance from contemporary to historical. I beg to differ. Romance will never go out of style.

Romances are read to confirm that love really exists. For a moment in time, a reader finds love between the pages of a novel. Reading a romance is an escape from the reality of the world around us, far away from mortgages, bills, kids' appointments, work issues... It also reminds us why we fell in love and the feeling love gives us. When we pick up a romance, we don't have to flip to the end of the book to know that everything will end happily.

Arguably, though, there is not another genre more competitive than historical romance. Why? For the same reason, women love romance. Historical romances transport us to a different time and place. Most of us have a Cinderella complex and dream of our Prince Charming and happy ever after. History allows different scenarios than what we women experience today.

Marriages of convenience or arranged marriages fascinate us. In these stories oppressed women search for the love of their life, finding it in the arms of their 'prince', undoubtedly rich and handsome. Their happily ever after!

But how hard is it to come up with something fresh and original in historical romance? This desire to come up with a unique storyline has lead to influx improbable plots and so many discrepancies.

Can a fresh story still emerge out of the midst of Regency romance? I believe so. Daughter of Deceit holds many refreshing elements. A forbidden love, mystery, and suspense.

"Love is the emblem of eternity; it confounds all notion of time; effaces all memory of a beginning, all fear of an end." Madame de Stael, French-Swiss novelist.

Blurb:

Someone wants Alyce Hythe dead…

Shunned from London society for being the daughter of England’s most notorious spy, Alyce Hythe desires only to clear her father’s name. For years, she has been hidden away from all prying eyes, given a new identity and told to forget who she was. But strange things have been happening causing old rumors to once more be whispered. 

Long has Lord Julian Casvelyn lived with guilt brought on when his brother was murdered by England’s most infamous traitor. But one eventful night has changed everything Lord Julian believed about his brother’s death. Never did he suspect the woman he has just saved from certain harm is the daughter of that man. Now Julian is caught in midst of a conspiracy and desire for that woman.

Thrown together by fate, the two search for answers long denied them and along the way discover a love that can free them both.

I added a little to my blurb. I'm tired of trying to defend my book. I firmly believe if someone opens up my book they will discover that a wonderful historical romance to enjoy. That's all I'm asking...read the free excerpt! Which you can down below- First chapter!

Chapter One

The carriage trundled through the falling darkness. Alyce braced herself on the edge of her seat while the wheels beneath her slowed. Thank all that was good! The journey had stretched on too long, far too long. Her head pounded. Her body ached from the rough roads she had traveled in a short period of time. She pushed up the blind and saw the lights of an inn, a lively inn from the looks of things.
Lights and people, more people than she had seen in the last two days. Surely this quaint inn was close to civilization. She prayed they would stay the night. She had not seen a bed in ever so long. She needed to rest and wanted never set foot into a carriage again, if the truth be known. At least not in present company.
She stared across at her companions. Dear old Uncle Munford had succumbed to travel fatigue; he slept soundly for most of the journey this day. The moment the carriage stopped, she watched his head rise from the side of the carriage. He glanced over at his wife, Emma, where in truth Alyce’s immediate worry lay.
The elderly woman sat clasping her head in her hands. Alyce feared she was about to have an attack of apoplexy. Over the last eight years of living with Aunt Emma, Alyce had come to know the signs of an eruption. Not that Alyce hadn’t expected as such, not after the week they had endured. But she had no time for an outburst. Immediately upon the carriage halting, Alyce’s hand was upon the door.
“Alyce, now don’t go and…” Uncle Munford’s words drifted off quietly. His hand rounded his wife.
“Dear uncle,” she said, using the endearment even though neither Munford nor his wife was her true relation. “You know my concern and the answers I seek do not lie in Whickhoe.”
“You know well that Colonel Tolworthy specifically ordered you to Whickhoe.”
The door opened before Alyce attempted a response, but she made no secret of her extravagant eye-roll upon the mention of her guardian. Her imaginary guardian, if you asked her. Why, over the years she had seen him only a handful of times and never for more than a week’s visit. She pulled the hood to her cloak over her head and exited the carriage to the cool night’s air.
She paused for a moment, glancing at the sign hanging outside the entrance door, and entered the Cat and the Fiddle Inn. She hadn’t the foggiest idea where they were, but she hoped it was not too far outside of London. She had to get to London.
She looked back at the bustle of an attendant on their post-chaise. Behind him there was a fresh change of horses. Oh, good Lord! Within minutes they would be on their way once more. Not if she could help it. She could not abide another minute in that carriage with her two companions. Besides, she had to get to London or at the very least send a message to Charles. She had to.
Alyce mounted the stairs and walked into the inn without a thought. Immediately, she noticed her entry seemed to garner unwanted attention. She glanced around to find several eyes inspecting her from head to toe. Her face warmed to their scrutiny. She had not the experience of staying at an inn. The bold gazes from the men and the assumptions implied by their stares unnerved her, but she couldn’t let her discomfort keep her from her intent.
She looked back over her shoulder to see if Uncle Munford followed her, but for the life of her, he was nowhere to be seen. He must be attending to Aunt Emma, she thought. She swallowed hard and gathered herself. Her eyes swept across the crowded inn, looking around the room until she found what she assumed would be the innkeeper.
Unsure exactly what was expected of her, she moved to the side of the man, a rather hefty man with round red cheeks, and asked for two chambers for the night. To her dismay, the man turned upon her, scowling. He did not bother to hide his grimace at her appearance. She wanted to bolt.
“Do you have companions traveling with you?”
 His tone did nothing to ease her anxiety. All the years she had lived under the same roof as Uncle Munford and Aunt Emma, she had learned to handle situations on her own. She had little choice if she wanted to eat or keep warm. She would handle this as well. Determined, she pushed back the hood of her cloak.
“My uncle is seeing to my aunt. She fell ill upon our journey. They will be in here in a moment, I’m certain, and will need a room.”
The man frowned. His mouth tightened while his eyes shifted over her in the most uncomfortable manner. “I get paid up front.”
Her eyes widened in mortification. She may not have been socially adept, but she knew well she had been insulted. Her body stiffened. She hadn’t even asked if the stagecoach into London stopped here. She drew herself up to her full height and mustered all her indignation over his slight. “I take from your manners you have issue with me. If that is your position, rest assured I will not bother you further…”
Her words faded when Uncle Munford entered, hunched over with his arms tightly around Aunt Emma. She walked hastily back to them.
“Done told ’em to just put up the horses. We’ll be staying. Colonel Tolworthy won’t like it one bit, but got no choice here, not with Emma so sick and all.”
“I thought as much myself and have already asked for rooms. I’m sorry, uncle, but the gentleman apparently has none available for us. We will have to continue.”
Uncle Munford shook his wrinkled, drawn face. “Can’t, Alyce. My Emma isn’t in any shape to continue. Done gone and overdone it again. Upset and all, what with the fire.”
Oh! The smell of his sour breath overwhelmed her. She wanted nothing more than to huddle in a corner and disappear. Oh, why had Lord Cranleigh insisted upon these two escorting her? She would have been better to have traveled alone! She sighed heavily. Nothing could be done differently now. She would have to make the best of it.
Alyce’s hand rested on Uncle Munford’s back. “I will not stay here, uncle. Why, that man insulted me when I tried to get our rooms!”
Her voice rose. She didn’t care. She was tired, hungry, and scared. Oh, terribly scared. Uncle Munford didn’t understand. It was why she had to get to London. Charles would understand the minute he heard about the fire. He would realize, as she did, that the fire was no accident.
“Ain’t goin’ nowhere, child. Did you tell ’em you’re Colonel Montague Tolworthy’s ward?” He glanced back at her. “You didn’t, by the look of you.”
Upon his reprimand, Alyce felt a tightness in the back of her throat that signaled tears. She fought them back, but her attempt turned futile. A moment later silent tears slid from the corners of her brown eyes.
“Excuse me,” a male voice said from behind her. “Perhaps I can be of service.”
Alyce turned. Straightaway, she recognized the man was a gentleman. Without question his presence dominated the room. The man towered over her, a good six feet in height, with a broad physique. Devastatingly handsome, he was dressed in a simple, but elegant, fashion: a gentleman of quality. But all of a sudden he looked dangerous to her when her eyes met his. For a moment she paused. Something about him seemed familiar...the eyes, the build. She had the distinct impression she had met him before, but that was quite impossible.
The man flashed a smile as if to reassure her. She wasn’t reassured at all.
“Pardon me. Let me introduce myself. I’m Lord Julian Casvelyn. I couldn’t help but overhear Colonel Tolworthy’s name mentioned. Is it Colonel Montague Tolworthy from Evermonde?”
Only half listening to the gentleman, she avoided looking directly into his eyes as she spoke, “Yes, I’m his ward, Alyce H…”
“Miss Alyce Rufford, my lord,” Munford interrupted. He gave Alyce a sharp glance to silence her and bowed his head the best he could while holding his wife in his arms. “Munford Cummings, my lord. My wife, Emma. Alyce has been in our care. Unfortunately, the cottage that had been our home burnt to the ground last week. The colonel sent word for her to withdraw to his estate. No where else to go.”
A slow smile spread across his face. “But of course not. And you tarry from?”
“A small village outside of Plymouth, Lancefield.”
“You have traveled a great distance,” his tone became abrupt and sharp. “Come. I know the colonel well. I will take care of this misunderstanding.” He turned to Munford. “Your wife is ill?”
Alyce stood silently. She watched the stranger see to their accommodations, ignoring the glances he cast her way. She wasn’t sure what was expected of a lady in this circumstance, but if the gentleman thought she was impressed with his interference, she wasn’t. She had only one thought.
Reaching into the pocket within her cloak, she clutched tightly to her letter addressed to her dear friend, Lissa. She needed desperately to get the message to Charles. Lissa would give it to him, she was certain. It was the only way she knew he would receive it. Oh, whatever was she going to do?
A moment later, the innkeeper gestured for Alyce to follow him up the stairs. She hesitated. She needed to send the letter. She glanced over her shoulder. She would never get to send it if she retired to her room.
“Do you have another issue, Miss Rufford?” Lord Casvelyn asked from behind her.
She turned to find him beside her.
“If you are concerned about letting the colonel know of your progress, rest assured I will be sending him a message shortly.”
She wished he hadn’t moved so close to her. His gaze all but skewered her and greatly unsettled her; she could feel an intensity of interest emanating from him. She stirred in response to his gaze. She pressed her lips together, unable to immediately respond. She thought how Charles would laugh at her and remind her how na├»ve she was to be affected by this stranger. It annoyed her that she was susceptible to his allure. Stop acting like a ninny!
“I believe I’m becoming indebted to you, my lord. I’m certain the colonel will be relieved to know we have made it this far, under the circumstances.” Her eyes lowered, staring at the letter. “It is my letter that concerns me. I need to have it delivered to my friend as soon as possible in London. I had hoped to post it before I left but found I was unable to.”
“You have stated you are Colonel Tolworthy’s ward. He would be greatly disappointed in my person if I didn’t care for your needs, I assure you.” He gave her another smile and seemed greatly amused at her expense. “What if I show you my good intentions? Do you want the note delivered to your friend?”
“Yes,” she said. Her manner eased slightly. “I would be so greatly appreciative. Can it be delivered immediately?”
“If it is that important to you, I will see to it.”
“She will get it tonight?” she questioned again before she handed him the letter.
“I will see to it, Miss Rufford.”
“Excuse me, ma’am,” a young lad interrupted her. “Is this all ya got?”
Alyce looked at the boy holding her valise. It must have seemed odd she had no trunks, only one valise which held all the items she could call her own. It was only by the goodness in Lady Cranleigh that she had any clothes at all. She nodded, but could not help but notice the look Lord Casvelyn directed toward her as the boy walked up the stairs. She said nothing more, but followed the lad up the stairs.
* * * *
Lord Julian Gillespie Vernon Casvelyn, the Earl of Pentilyon, and a host of all assorted titles, poured himself a glass of port. He drank down the entire contents while he pondered the information his man, Jamieson, had only just discovered on this Alyce Rufford. Still he wondered who the hell she was! To say he was taken quite by surprise when his grandfather’s name was mentioned as her guardian was an understatement. He had no doubt of her deception, for he would have well known if his grandfather had a ward.
In all, he had more questions than answers. It was no coincidence his grandfather had sent for him and now this young woman claimed to be his ward. No, he didn't believe in coincidences. He didn't believe in fate. He no longer believed in many things, not since he lost his brother, Roland. It had been eight long years since the death of his best friend...his twin. In that time he had lived with regret, guilt, and anger, with so very little to give meaning to his life and knowing his brother should have never died. The unfairness of it all!
Nor was he sure what to make of the information Jamieson had gathered. The coachmen who drove the carriage were in the employment of a baron from Lancefield, Lord Nigel Cranleigh. According to the information, Lord Cranleigh had requested the young lady be delivered to Colonel Montague Tolworthy in Whickhoe in quick measure. The men confirmed that his grandfather was indeed the girl's guardian, informing Jamieson that Colonel Tolworthy had ventured to Lancefield a few times in the past years.
 One of the coachmen also confirmed that Alyce's note was intended to go to his employer's daughter, the Honorable Mrs. Melissa Breck, with whom Alyce seemed to have been educated. Not much else had he learned other than this Alyce Rufford lived a quiet existence until the fire. The whole of the cottage where she lived burnt to the ground in the dead of night a little over a week ago. Nothing was left, and it was fortunate that no lives were lost.
"Nothing else, Jamieson? I want to know of her. Who is she? Why is my grandfather her guardian and I know nothing of it?”
“I'm sorry, my lord. I can’t answer that, my lord. All know her as Alyce Rufford, a name which has no significance to any. It is thought your grandfather owed the girl’s father, perhaps a soldier’s daughter? He brought her to Lancefield seven or eight years ago. It may have been during the time of your lordship’s brother’s death. Perhaps your grandfather didn’t want to bother you with a triviality.”
Julian pondered the situation a moment more before deciding his next move. The lady had immediately caught his attention entering the inn unattended. Upon first glance she seemed intent upon her purpose, unaware of her surroundings or the attention she caused entering alone. His thoughts were of a meeting with a clandestine lover until she lowered the hood exposing her face for all to see.
No, she had the look of one lost, glancing around the room, unsure of what she sought. Lovely, he had thought, with her thick brunette hair upswept, calling attention to those large expressive eyes. Her clothes were of quality, but quite out of style. Seeing her distress, he rose to offer help to the lady, only to be taken by surprise in hearing his own grandfather’s name mentioned. No, there was something peculiar going on here and only one could answer for him.
Julian pulled his watch out of his waistcoat pocket. Almost nine o’clock. If he left now for Evermonde he would be there well ahead of the lady. He finished off another glass and turned to Jamieson. “Prepare to leave within the hour.”
* * * *
Alyce prepared for bed. The tray of food delivered for her sat untouched. Aunt Emma lay in the room next to hers, having succumbed to the vapors. Shortly after retiring to their rooms, Aunt Emma cried for Uncle Munford not to leave her.
"Perhaps, Alyce, it would be best if I took Emma to my room," Uncle Munford uttered, trying to calm his wife. "At least for a time."
 Alyce agreed. But the walls between their rooms were thin, and she heard all their words clearly when they talked, even Aunt Emma's incoherently mumbled words.
"The Devil’s after her. Old Mistress Nancarrow warned me. She did."
"Now...now...Emma, Alyce's a sweet child. Nothin' wrong 'cept your nerves are on edge with the fire."
 "Yes. Yes. The fire. Tell me how she knew, Munford. I'll tell you. A restless spirit. You think it too. It's best we go. Leave her."
"You silly woman. You listen too much to stupid superstition. She saved us. Here, here. Calm yourself. Drink."
After listening to the conversation between Aunt Emma and Uncle Munford, Alyce came to the realization that the two of them wanted nothing more than to hand her over to Colonel Tolworthy and relieve themselves of their responsibilities as fast as possible.
Old rumors and whispers reemerged after the fire. Devil's spawn, witches' child. What more did one expect in the land of Cornish legends when Alyce suddenly appeared one day out of nowhere? Not exactly nowhere, but no place any could know.
Alyce arrived in Lancefield unannounced in the dead of night on the doorsteps of the Cranleigh's manor. She stayed only a short time at the manor before she began her life on the moors in a small cottage...a life no longer her own. Lord Cranleigh set rules for her existence within Lancefield. A new name. A new life. Introduced to Uncle Munford and Aunt Emma, she was told in no uncertain terms to accept the story of their connection to her. She could do little else. She was no more than twelve at the time, taken away from the only life she had known...the only people she had ever loved.
Lady Cranleigh made light of the rumors that rose from her appearance. The lady of the manor gave no credence to mystic legends of ghosts and demons. At the time, Alyce thought little of the others' stares upon her. She cared naught.
Over the years, the rumors died out. The whispers behind her back ceased until...until the fire. It destroyed more than the house she had lived in. The fire destroyed the illusion she had created that she could live without searching for the truth. She had tried. Charles had helped her, but his father quickly quenched her hunt for the life she had known.
Though in truth, strange things had begun to occur well before the fire, things that frightened Alyce. Dreams. She had dreamed before, but not like this. So real. So terrifying.
Alyce crawled into bed, gripping tight to the covers around her. She had no desire to be alone, but Aunt Emma was in no shape to be pulled away from Uncle Munford and the comfort she sought from the bottle. The woman didn't want to be around her.
Laying her head down on the pillow, she heard a commotion from the tavern beneath her. Downstairs the night had only begun, by the sounds of the patrons. Sleep would not come easy this night.
In truth, sleep had not come easy since the night of the fire. She shivered. The smell of the smoke hadn't left her. Sound asleep...if not for the voice calling to her.
Mary. Mary. Mary Alyce!
Alyce sprang up from the pillow. The feeling hit her - the same icy chill she had felt before. The same voice called to her, like the night of the fire. She hadn't dreamed it. She wasn't asleep. Glancing around the room, a chill encompassed her though the fire in the hearth radiated warmth. Her heart pounded. She swallowed hard. Oh, she wished Aunt Emma was with her. Maybe she should check on her.
She eased off the bed. Walking in soft steps, she grasped her night robe over the chair by the fireplace. Suddenly, she heard a sound. With a quick glance behind her, she froze. The handle of the door turned...

Julian had certainly not expected his day to unfold as it had. He buttoned up his coat and closed the door behind him. Jamieson had his horse saddled and readied to ride. With the weather warming, the ride wouldn’t be unpleasant. Perhaps he could settle all quickly and return to London before the week’s end. Atkinson waited for his input on the situation arising across the channel.
Walking down the hall, loud voices echoed upward from the tavern below. He would not have found much sleep this night if he stayed with the boisterous group that had arrived shortly after his encounter with Miss Rufford. Given the quite respectable reputation of this inn, he wondered why the innkeeper allowed the disruption. Perhaps he should leave Jamieson to watch over Miss Rufford. He seriously doubted that her companions would deter any issues if they arose, not that any should. At this time of night, Miss Rufford should be tucked in soundly.
Turning the corner, a movement caught his eyes. Did his eyes deceive him? He could have sworn someone made a quick entrance into the far room down the hall. Frowning, he followed the direction of the distraction. On closer inspection, he noticed the door slightly ajar. Moving nearer, he pressed the door back. Alarm crashed through him as he saw an intruder draw back his arm, clutching tightly a knife which gleamed in the firelight.
“Bloody hell!” Julian cried, rushing forward. “Halt!”
Too late, the knife thrust downward toward the bed. A loud feminine scream emerged in the dimly lit room. He lunged for the assailant, knocking him down upon the floor. The assailant pushed back. The two tumbled, but Julian was stronger. His fist pounded upon the chin of the goon. Gripping the jacket of the man, Julian pulled the man upward.
"Look out!"
Glancing back, a blow to his temple sent him sprawling. The impact sent him falling backward. Julian caught himself only to stare into a barrel of a pistol. A turmoil of movement caught his eyes. Suddenly cold water drenched him, followed by a porcelain pitcher crashing to the floor. He grasped the gun, gripping the man’s wrist, fighting desperately for control. A loud crack snapped through the chamber.
For a moment Julian felt nothing. He looked down. The sleeve to his coat scorched and torn, he uttered, “Damnation!”
Holding his arm, he watched the intruder get up and run. He pulled back his hand and saw red blood oozing from the wound. Ignoring the searing pain, he ran out the door and scrambled down the corridor. Too late; the assailant was nowhere to be seen. Footsteps pounded down the stairs. Excited shouts came, echoed from below.
Through the assembly of souls accumulating within the corridor, Jamieson emerged.
“My lord!” He raced to his side. “Your arm!”
“Yes, yes, Jamieson. Some intruders broke into that room with a knife.” Julian pointed to the open door. His voice carried over the onslaught of noise surrounding him. “Did you see them? One was a large burly fellow in a black cape. We need to…”
“There is no need, my lord.” The innkeeper pushed through the men, wearing an expression of worry. Relief replaced it. “I saw the man. He rode off with his two friends, heading on the road toward London. The scum! I’ll have my man call for the justice of the peace. The villains!”
The innkeeper attention turned to Julian’s bloody arm. He turned and snapped his fingers. “Tomais, send after the surgeon. His lordship has been wounded.”
“There is no need.” Julian eyed the man with contempt. It was too late to rectify his gratification, not with being shot. The innkeeper reached toward Julian's arm to examine the damage.
“Get your hands off of me!” Julian commanded, swinging around. “It was not me the assailants were after. It was the occupant of the room. I saw someone entered and discovered the foe stabbing the poor soul in the bed.”
Ignoring the gathering of curiosity seekers in the corridor, he skirted back into the room and looked at the bed. Feathers littered the room. Water soaked the floor, but his eyes lit on the figure by the fire. Standing in her nightgown and wrap, she looked up at him. Her face reflected in the firelight, soft and feminine, very feminine.
He didn't say anything but stared at her with thoughts running rapid in his mind...things that he shouldn't even be thinking about at this moment. She looked so vulnerable with her hair falling down her back, her figure silhouetted by the firelight, her eyes so expressive...so desirable...
His grandfather’s ward. He stepped forward toward her. Her eyes brimmed with tears and the hand covering her mouth shook.
“Are you injured?” he asked, glancing again around the chamber to ensure there wasn’t another assailant hiding. Satisfied, he looked back at her and asked again. “Are you injured?”
She spoke no words, but shook her head.
He nodded in response. Where was her aunt? Good Lord, had her companions left her alone at the inn? Then, from behind him, he heard the innkeeper enter with her companions in tow, gripping tight to each other. Julian stepped back in disgust, bombarded by the odor of rum.
One hand against the wall, the lady grasped her husband for support. “You…you. Cursed. I have always known you were cursed.” Her wrinkled old hand gripped her husband's coat. She cried, “I told you. The Devil is after her. I told you she’s marked.”
“Quiet, Emma!” Uncle Munford uttered under his breath.
The innkeeper pushed aside the two, pointing a finger at the lady. “I knew you were trouble the moment you walked in. Here I am trying to run a respectable establishment…”
“Shut up, you dim-witted simpleton! I spoke for the lady. Do you question the word of a gentleman? I would question your establishment for letting in those ruffians, wanting to harm the lady,” Julian snapped. He would have none of fostering the blame for the innkeeper’s failings upon his grandfather’s ward.
The innkeeper backed away.
“I beg your forgiveness, Lord Casvelyn. I had my misgivings, but the lot of them gave reference to His Grace, Lord Roger Sinclair. They presented his card.”
“I doubt seriously if any had connections to Lord Sinclair!” Julian uttered in a loud angry voice.
“They paid upfront,” the innkeeper said, lowering his objection. His intent turned to defend his own station. He turned to the door. “They will not bother anyone again this night. I will see to it.”
“As will my man.” Julian nodded toward Jamieson. “Let me know when the justice’s men arrive.”
“It may well be the morning before any arrive, my lord.” The innkeeper hesitated before offering the information.
Julian sighed. His frustration weighed upon each breath. The man had no desire to interrupt the justice’s sleep!
“Jamieson, the men are long gone, but go see if anyone recognized any of the assailants,” Julian commanded.
Julian watched until Jamieson disappeared down the stairs. He turned back to find the innkeeper fidgeting in the same spot.
 “If you do not want the surgeon called forth, do you need attention for your arm?” the innkeeper asked.
“Send up fresh water and a clean cloth,” Julian said, removing his hand from the wound. The bleeding had slowed. “Now, pray leave.”
“What of the lady?” The man glanced over at the silent woman and her companions in disdain. “I do not want them wandering about my property. They have caused enough commotion…”
“I would hold my tongue. My patience is worn. I will handle the situation. I expect you will take care that the magistrate is prompt in his attention to the assailants. Leave now.”
Julian dismissed the man with such firm authority that the innkeeper straightaway withdrew, taking the remaining audience with him.
Julian closed the door. His eyes fixed on his grandfather’s ward. Trouble for certain! Oh, what had his grandfather gotten himself into, becoming her guardian?
“I’ll not take her,” the old woman cried, wobbling toward him. She waved her hands in a disordered fashion. “No. We’ll all be struck dead…"
“Shut her up,” Julian demanded, turning his attention back to the problem before him. He wasted no time trying to talk sense to the inebriated old woman. He directed his words at her husband. “Take her and her ranting away from me. I will not tolerate such nonsense.”
He turned his attention back to his grandfather's ward. The lady made no effort to detain her companions.  Impatient, he gestured for her to come with him.
“Come; I will not find the answers I seek within this room.”
At first he thought she was going to protest, but her eyes fell upon his wound. She followed him timidly down the hall back into his chamber. He almost kicked the door opened. After she entered, he slammed the door soundly behind them, shaking the wall.
Julian sat on the bed. Wincing, he slid off his wet waistcoat and tore off the remnants of his tattered shirt sleeve. Upon closer examination, the bullet had only grazed him, but well scorched his arm. Not a pretty sight, it was blackened and bloodied.
“Do you want me to care for it?”
He looked over at her. In the better light of his room, he found his opinion of her changed little. She had a flawless complexion, enhanced by the silkiness of her long dark eyelashes. Her wavy long hair hung loose, framing her oval face. Brown eyes were illuminated with fear and trembles shook her. She looked like a sacrificial virgin waiting to be offered to the gods, frightened half out of her mind.
The door opened without a knock, bringing him back to his immediate needs. He turned to see a maid scurry in. She quickly bobbed a curtsy to Julian and placed a basin and bucket of water near the table by the bed. She laid clean cloths on the mattress. She hurried out, closing the door behind her, but not before giving Alyce a strange stare.
“I should well send for your aunt. It will be bad enough..."
“Neither are my true relations. If I'm not mistaken, I believe they are quite relieved to be done with me," she said bluntly.
"I find it difficult to believe that Colonel Tolworthy would have hired two such as the ones that were escorting you."
"I don't believe he cared, my lord. I haven't seen Colonel Tolworthy for two years. I have been an obligation at best."
His face fell in disbelief of her frank words. Who was this woman to talk in this manner about his grandfather?
"Miss Rufford, Colonel Tolworthy is a gentleman. No matter the obligation, he would have well seen to your needs. I'll be damned if I'll condemn the colonel’s behavior without knowledge of the circumstances. I find it even harder to believe that a young gentlewoman has assailants after her for no reason."
He grimaced upon his utterance, for in expelling his frustration he caused his arm to bleed once more. He swallowed hard not to let a groan escape in his attempt to take his damp shirt off. She moved toward him.
“Here, let me help,” she said, her attention fixed firmly on his wound. Her soft hands pulled the tattered fabric from his injury. “It needs to be washed and dressed properly.”
He leaned up, pulled his shirt out of his pants, and then unbuttoned it.  A moment later his ragged shirt lay on the bed and she began cleansing the wound.
If she was shocked to see him half-naked, she did not show it. Neither did she flinch at the sight of the gash the shot left. Calmly and efficiently, she washed and dressed the wound. Her face showed no emotion while she went through the motions.
“Are you going to tell me who attempted to kill you?” he asked.
Seemingly too shocked and frightened to endeavor to come up with another version of the happenings, she breathed out deeply, but said nothing. She kept washing. With his other hand, he stopped her.
"You stated you are Colonel Tolworthy’s ward. Since he is not here, you are left in my care. Come, you must have suspected something. You weren’t in the bed. I take it that you did attempt to disarm the scoundrels with the end result of my being drenched.”
She gazed mutely down. Refusing to accept silence, Julian looked directly at young woman and lifted her face with a firm hold. Making no effort to withdraw from him, she shifted her eyes back to his. He smiled at her, for it was impossible not to, and waited for her reply. Finally, she spoke.
“I must apologize for dousing you. It was not my intent. I meant to hit him. He was readied to shoot you. It was all I had within reach. I quite forgot it was filled with water…” She drew in a deep breath. Then, in an obvious attempt to change the subject, she said, “This isn’t proper. Far from it, my lord.”
“Without question. Highly inappropriate, but it is not often that an attempt is made on one’s life, is it? I'll make an effort to find someone to see to you after our talk. But at this time of the night, it may well be that I can only offer you this room and my protection. I will stand guard at the front door.”
She hesitated and then nodded, but offered no insight to her dilemma. Only her eyes...her eyes held fear in them. He pressed her, “Since your companions aren’t in any shape to see to your needs, it would seem the duty falls to me.”
“Oh, please, my lord, what do you want me to say? I apologize. I didn’t mean to put you into the middle of this. In truth, none of this would have happened if I had gone to London, to Lissa, as was my wish. She would see to my well-being, but the colonel’s note detailed I go straight to Evermonde. I’m certain if he realized that my welfare could be seen to by another, he would have no objections.”
Again her words took him by surprise, insinuating that his grandfather ignored her care. “The colonel doesn’t see to your welfare?”
"You misunderstand,” her voice quivered. She watched him with caution, guarding her words. “He sees to my care, if that is what you are asking. But truthfully, I have only met Colonel Tolworthy a few times in my life. I was fostered upon him. I believe he would be quite content without the problems I present, but it will not be for much longer. I’m sure you are not interested in my story, although I am deeply appreciative of your defense of me this night.”
“You are mistaken that I do not want to know your story. I do not take lightly being shot at for an unknown reason.”
“Then, pray, forgive me. I trust few and none that I do not know,” she said.
His eyes blazed at her for dismissing his request. Taking the cloth from her hand, he took her hand in his. “This isn’t a request, Alyce Rufford. This isn’t a game. Do you not believe that the events beg for an explanation? I need to know what I’m dealing with.”
She tried to withdraw her hand, but he tightened his grip. She said in a voice not much louder than a whisper, “It is not your concern, my lord. Nor is it the colonel’s. And who are you to answer for him? A relative of some sort?”
"Yes," he said. He had no desire to divulge more. "He has never mentioned you."
A slight laugh escaped her lips. "Are you asking me why he would have done so? I'm sorry if you are looking for information from me. I hold none. I have only been told what to do and what not to do. And learning about my past has to do with the latter."
"The colonel knows of your life before, I take it? And he has not offered it to you?" He edged closer to her.
"I know who I am," she said defensively. This time her eyes met his, unwavering. "My father looked after my needs before his death. I'm not poor. In fact, I have only a few more months and then I will have my inheritance and will not be a burden on the colonel. I will not be beholden to anyone."
“Then what have you done to cause someone to seek your life?” His face settled to a stern expression.
Suddenly the day’s events took its toll upon her. He watched her legs buckle beneath her. She sat down beside him, shaking her head.
“Perhaps, my lord, perhaps I do have need of you at the moment. Your assumption is correct. Someone wants me dead. I had thought the fire was set. I told Lord Cranleigh, but he thought that Aunt Emma, in one of her episodes, had started it. I wrote the colonel to let me go to London.” She paused, running her trembling hand through her hair. “You would not understand. You know where you come from, your family. What if all was taken away from you? What if all you had thought true was taken from you?”
“We all have our burdens to bear, Miss Rufford. What has that got to do with someone trying to kill you?”
Defiantly, she pushed back the hair from her face. “Because, my lord, I want to right the wrong of my father’s death.”