Cover revealed: Exiled – Amanda Carlson (+giveaway/concours)

Book Three in the Phoebe Meadows series

Synopsis: Phoebe Meadows is on trial for her life.

After freeing her half-brother, Baldur, Phoebe is set to stand before the Council in Asgard to answer for her actions. The threat of exile if she’s found guilty looms, not to mention the added stress of meeting her real father for the first time.

Upon entering Asgard, Phoebe discovers new allies in a half-brother she’s never met as well as an oracle who is in possession of valuable information. A little added help couldn’t have come at a better time, because when Phoebe is tossed into an unknown realm, she’s armed only with Gundren, a jewel, and her wits.

When Loki shows up, all bets are off. The trickster god throws a wrench in Phoebe’s plans and kidnaps Fen, her only ally. And just when she thinks she sees the light at the end of the tunnel, Phoebe finds she has to defeat one last obstacle: The Norns.

And they aren’t planning to go down without a fight…

Website: http://www.amandacarlson.com

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Release day blitz: To Catch a Killer by Sheryl Scarborough (Giveaway)

Synopsis: In this contemporary mystery by debut author Sheryl Scarborough, a teenage girl uses forensic science to solve the cold-case murder of her mother

Erin Blake has one of those names. A name that, like Natalee Holloway or Elizabeth Smart, is inextricably linked to a grisly crime. As a toddler, Erin survived for three days alongside the corpse of her murdered mother, and the case—which remains unsolved—fascinated a nation. Her father’s identity unknown, Erin was taken in by her mother’s best friend and has become a relatively normal teen in spite of the looming questions about her past.

Fourteen years later, Erin is once again at the center of a brutal homicide when she finds the body of her biology teacher. When questioned by the police, Erin tells almost the whole truth, but never voices her suspicions that her mother’s killer has struck again in order to protect the casework she’s secretly doing on her own. 

Inspired by her uncle, an FBI agent, Erin has ramped up her forensic hobby into a full-blown cold-case investigation. This new murder makes her certain she’s close to the truth, but when all the evidence starts to point the authorities straight to Erin, she turns to her longtime crush (and fellow suspect) Journey Michaels to help her crack the case before it’s too late.

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Spotlight: The Rising by Heather Graham & Jon Land – GIVEAWAY

Synopsis: From acclaimed thriller-suspense novelists Heather Graham and Jon Land comes a story of action, mystery, and the endurance of young love.

Twenty-four hours. That’s all it takes for the lives of two young people to be changed forever.

Alex Chin has the world on a plate. A football hero and homecoming king with plenty of scholarship offers, his future looks bright. His tutor, Samantha Dixon, is preparing to graduate high school at the top of her class. She plans to turn her NASA internship into a career. When a football accident lands Alex in the hospital, his world is turned upside down. His doctor is murdered. Then, his parents. Death seems to follow him wherever he goes, and now it’s after him.

Alex flees. He tells Samantha not to follow, but she became involved the moment she walked through his door and found Mr. and Mrs. Chin as they lay dying in their home. She cannot abandon the young man she loves. The two race desperately to stay ahead of Alex’s attackers long enough to figure out why they are hunting him in the first place. The answer lies with a secret buried deep in his past, a secret his parents died to protect. Alex always knew he was adopted, but he never knew the real reason his birth parents abandoned him. He never knew where he truly came from. Until now.

Excerpt

1
COIN FLIP

“ALL RIGHT, VISITING CAPTAIN, the call is yours.”

Alex Chin watched the referee toss the ceremonial coin into the air, watched it spiral downward upon the St. Ignatius College Prep turf field set on a hill overlooking the Pacific Ocean in the Sunset section of San Francisco.

“Heads,” he heard the captain of the Granite Bay Grizzlies say.

“It’s tails,” the referee said, stooping to retrieve the coin. “Home captain?”

“We want the ball,” Alex said, long hair matted down inside his helmet.

His gaze drifted again to the man in the wheelchair situated just off the sideline. He was clapping up a storm with the rest of the jam-packed crowd on the home side, gathered to watch the Central Coast sectional championship game between Alex’s St. Ignatius Wildcats and the Grizzlies of Granite Bay, a public high school near Sacramento.

Tom Banks was as close to a legend in these parts as there was, quarterback of the last Wildcats football team to make a run at the state title until a vicious hit out of bounds put him in a wheelchair for the rest of his life. His son Tommy played linebacker for the team now and had cracked the starting lineup earlier in the season. Alex had heard Tom Banks hadn’t been back to this field in all the years since his injury, tonight marking a quiet, unceremonious return just to watch his son play. The first time Alex had heard his name was when his own parents brought it up as a rationale to keep him from playing football.

As a result, Alex had joined the freshman team four years ago without saying a word to Li and An Chin, except to make up lies about where he was and what he was doing when he was really at practice. They didn’t find out until the local paper ran a story about the Wildcats promoting a freshman to start at quarterback for the first time in the school’s storied history. They’d been oh-and-four when Alex took over but then won five out of their last six games to finish at five hundred. The team upped that to seven wins Alex’s sophomore season, then eight his junior, before going undefeated this fall and earning a home play-off game.

Alex and the other two Wildcat captains switched positions with their Grizzly counterparts at the fifty-yard line to mimic the direction in which each would be going to start the game. The Cats were representing the Western Catholic Athletic League, and the Grizzlies, the Sierra Athletic Conference, with the winner advancing to the Division 3 state championship. St. Ignatius had taken the ball, instead of deferring possession until the second half, because they’d scored all eight times this year when they received the opening kickoff.

We want the ball.

Right now, though, Alex stooped and picked up the game ball the ref had laid down in the center of the Wildcat logo smack dab in the middle of the field.
“That’s not yours, son,” the referee scolded.

But as his fellow captains rushed into the pile of teammates cheering and jumping in a tight mass on the sideline, Alex tucked the football under his arm and jogged out toward the end zone near where Tom Banks sat alone in his wheelchair.

“That’s unsportsmanlike conduct!” he heard the ref call after him. “Fifteen-yard penalty, son!”

Alex still didn’t stop, didn’t even look back.

“This game’s for you, sir,” he said, handing Tom Banks the ball. “We’re gonna finish what you started.”

He watched Banks tuck the football under his arm the way he must have when he, like Alex, was an all-state quarterback. The man’s eyes teared up, the two of them looking at each other until Alex threaded a hand through his face mask to wipe his own. Then he ran off to a ripple of applause through the crowd, toward the sounds of Coach “Blu” Bluford yelling for him to get with it, the game was about to start, and what the hell was he thinking, anyway?

Alex knew his parents were up there somewhere, soon to be holding their breath as always in fear of his being injured. They may not have yelled at him the way Coach was yelling right now, once they found out he was playing football, but they’d been pissed too.

“Why can’t I play?” he’d challenged. “It’s my life.”

“You don’t understand,” his mother said.

“We are doing this for your own good,” his father added.

“You have to trust us.”

“No,” Alex said adamantly. “I want to play football. I’m going to play football.”

He remembered how his parents had looked at each other in that moment. Not angry, not disappointed, more like …

Scared.

Alex threw himself into the lurching pile of teammates pounding each other, swarmed by them and he felt the energy radiating like the air on the hottest day summer had to offer. The referee blew his whistle to summon the teams out for the kickoff, the crowd rising to its collective feet, stomping on the bleachers.

“What are we?” Alex shouted from the center of the swarm.

“Glue!” came the deafening response.

“What are we?”

“Glue!”

“What are we?”

“Glue!”

“Then let’s stick together and play some football!”

And with that Alex led the kickoff team out onto the field where the referee was waiting for him, tucking his yellow flag back into his belt.

“So was it worth it, son, was it worth fifteen yards?”

Alex turned toward Tom Banks, now cradling the game ball in his lap.

“Absolutely,” he said to the ref. “No question about it.”

Copyright © 2016 by Heather Graham and Jon Land

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Stacking the Shelves #211

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Stacking the Shelves is a meme hosted by Tynga’s Reviews
 

Never Never (NeverNever, 3) – Colleen Hoover & Tarryn Fisher

Silas et Charlie ont maintenant mieux compris ce qui leur arrive. Ils ont réussi à développer une stratégie pour reconstruire leur passé, découvrir ce qu’ils étaient l’un pour l’autre, s’apprivoiser à nouveau.

Ils sont sur le point, ensemble, de savoir pourquoi ils perdent ainsi la mémoire. Car s’ils ont maintenant une idée claire de ce qui se passe, la cause demeure mystérieuse.

Silas et Charlie ont appris qu’ils étaient amoureux avant ces pertes de mémoire mais que cet amour s’est brisé.

Pourront-ils aussi se retrouver au-delà de cette perte de leurs souvenirs ? Car leur amour était de ceux qui ne disparaissent jamais.

 

Something Real (Reckless & Real, 2) – Lexi Ryan

Dernier volume du triptyque : Something Real, (Tome 2 ) – est l’épilogue de l’histoire d’amour de Liz et Sam et après Something Wild (T. 0,5 : Prequel) et Something Dangerous (Tome 1), le dernier titre de la série Reckless&Real de Lexi Ryan. Ce nouveau volet autour de la ville de New Hope, met en scène des personnages complexes et passionnés et dépeint, au terme de nombreux rebondissements, une réalité peu reluisante de la société politique contemporaine.

Il est la dernière chose dont elle ait besoin, mais la seule chose qu’elle désire vraiment.

Dans Something REAL, tout a volé en éclats. L’anonymat, – jusqu’ici préservé par le site de rencontre – une fois levé lors de cette fameuse nuit, des scandales éclatent dans la petite ville de New Hope, éclaboussant couples, familles, amis, politiques et notables locaux. Le couple formé par Liz et Sam résistera t-il à ces révélations ?

Liz et Sam devront-ils sacrifier leur amour ?

Brimstone – Cherie Priest

A new dark historical fantasy from the supremely gifted * Cherie Priest, author of Maplecroft and Boneshaker.

In the trenches of Europe during the Great War, Tomas Cordero operated a weapon more devastating than any gun: a flame projector that doused the enemy in liquid fire. Having left the battlefield a shattered man, he comes home to find yet more tragedy for in his absence, his wife has died of the flu. Haunted by memories of the woman he loved and the atrocities he perpetrated, Tomas dreams of fire and finds himself setting match to flame when awake….

Alice Dartle is a talented clairvoyant living among others who share her gifts in the community of Cassadaga, Florida. She too dreams of fire, knowing her nightmares are connected to the shell-shocked war veteran and widower. And she believes she can bring peace to him and his wife s spirit.

But the inferno that threatens to consume Tomas and Alice was set ablaze centuries ago by someone whose hatred transcended death itself…. *Christopher Golden, #1 New York Times Bestselling Author »

Magic for Nothing (InCryptid, 6) – Seanan Mcguire

Improbable, adjective:
1. Not very likely to happen; not probable.
2. Probably not a very good idea anyway.
3. See also “bad plan.”

As the youngest of the three Price children, Antimony is used to people not expecting much from her. She’s been happy playing roller derby and hanging out with her cousins, leaving the globe-trotting to her older siblings while she stays at home and tries to decide what she wants to do with her life. She always knew that one day, things would have to change. She didn’t think they’d change so fast.

Annie’s expectations keep getting shattered. She didn’t expect Verity to declare war on the Covenant of St. George on live television. She didn’t expect the Covenant to take her sister’s threat seriously. And she definitely didn’t expect to be packed off to London to infiltrate the Covenant from the inside…but as the only Price in her generation without a strong resemblance to the rest of the family, she’s the perfect choice to play spy. They need to know what’s coming. Their lives may depend on it.

But Annie has some secrets of her own, like the fact that she’s started setting things on fire when she touches them, and has no idea how to control it. Now she’s headed halfway around the world, into the den of the enemy, where blowing her cover could get her killed. She’s pretty sure things can’t get much worse.

Antimony Price is about to learn just how wrong it’s possible for one cryptozoologist to be.

 

Merci à Livre-vie

La danse hésitante des flocons de neige (O’Neil Brothers, 1) – Sarah Morgan

Vous avez ri et pleuré avec Sandra Bullock dans le film La proposition ? Alors vous allez adorer le personnage de Kayla, workahlic et cœur sensible, dans ce roman de Sarah Morgan !

Noël. Kayla Green redoute cette date et, comme chaque année, elle prévoit de s’enfermer dans son bureau de Manhattan avec une surdose de travail. Mais un gros budget de relations publiques l’envoie en fait dans le Vermont : celui de Snow Crystal, apporté par Jackson O’Neil, qui dirige un groupe de stations de sports d’hiver de luxe. Pour Kayla, ce petit miracle de Noël ne va pas sans inconvénients : primo, la neige, le ski, les snow-boots, tituber sur la glace en talons hauts…, ce n’est vraiment pas son idéal ; secundo, Jackson O’Neil a une famille, une de ces familles aussi unies que les mailles d’un tricot bien serré qui rappellent douloureusement à Kayla qu’elle a toujours dû se débrouiller seule. Mais il y a pire encore pour elle que Noël, la famille et autres calamités : c’est Jackson. Jackson, qui a tous les atouts en main pour faire fondre le cœur de glace qu’elle s’est si difficilement façonné…

 

 

 

 

The Edge of the Blade by Jeffe Kennedy (giveaway/concours)

The Uncharted Realms, book 2

Synopsis: The Twelve Kingdoms rest uneasy under their new High Queen, reeling from civil war and unchecked magics. Few remember that other powers once tested their borders—until a troop of foreign warriors emerges with a challenge . . .

Jepp has been the heart of the queen’s elite guard, her Hawks, since long before war split her homeland. But the ease and grace that come to her naturally in fighting leathers disappears when battles turn to politics. When a scouting party arrives from far-away Dasnaria, bearing veiled threats and subtle bluffs, Jepp is happy to let her queen puzzle them out while she samples the pleasures of their prince’s bed.

But the cultural norms allow that a Dasnarian woman may be wife or bed-slave, never her own leader—and Jepp’s light use of Prince Kral has sparked a diplomatic crisis. Banished from court, she soon becomes the only envoy to Kral’s strange and dangerous country, with little to rely on but her wits, her knives—and the smolder of anger and attraction that burns between her and him . . .

 

buy links:

Amazon – http://amzn.to/29EgFXv

iTunes – https://geo.itunes.apple.com/us/book/the-edge-of-the-blade/id1099653233?mt=11&at=1000laNd

Kobo – http://click.linksynergy.com/link?id=b2dgb491Lf8&offerid=361251.100879781496704276&type=2&murl=https%3A%2F%2Fstore.kobobooks.com%2Fen-US%2Febook%2Fthe-edge-of-the-blade

Bookdepository – http://www.bookdepository.com/The-Edge-of-the-Blade-Jeffe-Kennedy/9781496704269

 

Excerpt

The dragons loomed in silent menace against the rosy dawn. They’d given me a serious chill the first time the Hákyrling sailed between their fearsome snarling mouths. This time their daunting size and gleaming black coils seemed to mock me.

Running away, little warrior?

No—just abandoning the field of battle, deserting the woman entrusted to my protection by the High Queen, and flinging myself headfirst into a mission completely beyond my skills. Nothing to write home about. If anyone at home had cared. Ha!—and if I could write very well. Stupid saying, anyway.

As Glorianna’s sun tipped over the ocean’s horizon, the rays caught the sharp edges of the dragons’ scales, glinting as on the finest blade’s edge. Carved from the island rock and built up from there so they reared ten times the height of the Hákyrling’s mast, they looked about to spring to annihilating life. Great bat wings lay folded against the back of one, half-mantled on the other, massive snakelike tails winding down the rockfall to dangle in the seawater. Impossible creatures, I’d thought—until I’d seen one flying through the air.

The guardians delivered an obvious warning that I’d nevertheless neglected to heed. Now Dafne, my friend and the person I had been supposed to protect, lay prisoner in the clutches of the dragon king. I gripped the polished rail of the ship, keeping myself from looking back. Bryn never look back. More than a superstition, less than a magic spell, I’d heard that caution all my young life, told me first by my mother, and echoed by my grandmother, aunts, great-aunts, sisters, cousins, friends, and teachers.

Bryn never look back.

I wouldn’t shame their legacy by doing so now. Much as it pained me. Had I been gifted with Zynda’s shape-shifting magic, I might not have been able to hold out. How she kept from leaping into the water and swimming back to Dafne’s side, I didn’t know. Maybe that was why she’d gone below, an unusual move for her, as much as she thrived on being outdoors. Likely the worry wormed in her gut also, wondering what Dafne might suffer even at that very moment. Alone among a foreign people, likely married to a tyrant—a mark of the muddle we’d made of it that we weren’t entirely sure of even that much—and barely able to speak the language. Walking away in the dark before dawn had been one of the hardest things I’d ever done.

And I’d done plenty of hard things.

Where I came from, you did hard or you gave up and died. Easy decision. Usually.

We passed beneath the silently roaring dragon guardians, and my gut lurched. No, the ship did, leaping to the wind outside the protected harbor, wine-dark sails billowing with a series of booms as the Dasnarian sailors scrambled to adjust them. Within moments, the island, and any hope of reneging on my decision to shirk one duty in favor of another, fell behind me.

“She’ll be all right—don’t fret yourself so much.”

Oh joy. Kral. Just the megalomaniac to make my morning perfect. “Is that an order, General Kral of Dasnaria and Imperial Prince of the Royal House of Konyngrr? Ooh—or perhaps you’re relating a vision from Danu herself!”

He growled in his throat and leaned his forearms on the rail next to me, bracing against the pitch of his ship as we crossed into the choppier open sea, away from the lee of the island. “In Dasnaria we do not heed your three goddesses. Perhaps the women do, to succor hearth and home, but such weakness would not be fitting for a warrior of our people, much less one of the royal line.”

I rolled my eyes, ostentatiously so he wouldn’t miss it, turning so I stood hipshot, daring him to take a good long look at what he’d never again lay a finger on. “Danu is the goddess of clear-eyed wisdom, the bright blade, unflinching justice, and self-discipline. I can see your point—not manly virtues at all.”

He turned his head, blue eyes glittering. Not like the sea, but like the deep ice of Branli near the Northern Wastes, where cliffs of it rose so thick, the white darkened to blue. Chill and ruthless as any of my blades. “If you were a man, I’d challenge you for such words.”

“Challenge me anyway. I could use a minute or so of exercise. Though I might not need even that long to take you down.”

“My honor does not permit me to challenge a woman. Now, if you care to attack first…,” he trailed off invitingly, jaw hard behind the short golden beard he’d grown on the journey.

I ground my teeth. “You know full well my pledge to the High Queen prevents me from doing so.”

“A woman making a vow to another woman.” He shook his head, assuming an expression of innocent wonder. “You’re all so adorable.”

My grasp of Dasnarian still lagged miserably behind fluent, but I thought I had the meaning there. Even if not, his condescending tone expressed plenty. My fingers itched to pull the twin daggers from the sheaths at my hips. How fine it would be, to see the bright blood springing red against his golden tanned skin, shocked surprise burbling into that cold gaze as he clutched his throat, collapsing at my feet. Unable to even beg for the mercy I’d never offer.

“What?” Kral’s brows drew together in suspicion.

I raked his long body with a deliberately salacious stare and grinned. “Just enjoying a little fantasy.”

That got him. Petty revenge, perhaps, and a smidge compared to how I’d love to make him suffer for his many sins. Lust flared in his hard-lined face and he clamped his lips down on it. A pity, as that mouth had provided me with considerable pleasure that one ill-advised night we’d spent together. As had those big hands with their fierce strength. Hung like a stallion, with the stamina of a man half his age and, oh, Danu, the devastating and meticulous patience to use it all to drive a woman crazy.

Goddesses take me, I was getting all hot and bothered thinking about it. Thanks to Lunkhead and his tyrannical edict that none of his men touch me, I already suffered from longer privation than I had since I figured out someone else’s hand felt even better than my own.

He iced it over fast, covering it with neutral arrogance. “Learn to squelch your fantasies. I will not have you again, rekjabrel.”

“I didn’t offer. You will never be so lucky. Oh, and it wasn’t that kind of fantasy.”

“Wasn’t it?”

“No.” I yawned deliberately, which turned into a real jaw cracker. Nothing like missing two nights of sleep. Zynda and I had taken turns guarding Dafne while she slept, but I’d never quite managed more than a light snooze. Odd, as I’d long ago mastered the soldier’s art of taking restorative sleep instantly at the opportunities afforded by circumstance. It might have been because I’d never before had sole responsibility for another’s life—and at the charge of my captain, now High Queen. Who I’d already failed by fucking up with this very man. You pissed off a prince of the Dasnarian throne, general of their armies, with whom we just created a very new and even more tenuous peace? Dafne’s incredulous voice still echoed in my head. How was I supposed to know Kral expected some kind of fidelity? After one encounter. Well, six or seven—I’d lost count somewhere in the early dawn hours—but only one night. One of the best I’d ever had. Unfortunate, given his obstinate irascibility.

“No,” I repeated. “I don’t want to hurt your fragile manly feelings, but really the fucking was quite forgettable. I thought maybe you’d improve with practice, but alas.” I shrugged for the inevitability of it all. My Dasnarian might be far from fluent, but I knew most of the sex words, and it had proved to be a language excellent for delivering insults.

Kral straightened, folding his arms as he faced me, muscled legs impressively absorbing the ship’s movement. I’d like to be able to do the same and not hang on to the rail, but pitching overboard would be an even bigger blow to my pride.

“I seem to recall otherwise.” His turn to look me over with hot eyes, taunting me. “Once I had you on your back, you squirmed like a kottyr, purring and helplessly happy to have her belly rubbed just so.”

The image shouldn’t have made me as hot as it did. My susceptibility was no doubt due to his thrice-damned enforced celibacy. Well, and my unreasonable attraction to him. Gathering up all that too easily aroused lust, I funneled it into a prayer. Danu, accept my sacrifice for you. If the goddess talked to me—which, ha! Goddesses didn’t really do that kind of thing—She would be snorting in disgust. Her priestesses offered Her their celibacy as a sign of devotion, dedicating their bodies to being instruments of war and justice, channeling sexual energy into devotion to a cause, not to the softer, hedonistic delights. I was pretty sure being hard up didn’t exactly count as a sacrifice.

Thing was, Kral had rubbed me exactly the right way, and I’d more than purred. I was never helpless, however—an important lesson the Dasnarian had yet to learn. “I seem to recall,” I echoed him, pursing my lips as if in thought, “that you had me on more than my back. You had me any number of ways—on my stomach, on all fours, on your back… Tell me, lover, which was your favorite?”

We hadn’t closed any distance, but it felt like we had, the heat thickening the cool morning air. Oh, yeah, that got to him. He didn’t shift to adjust his arousal, but he wanted to. I let my eyes linger there and smirked. Then blew him a little kiss.

“Witch,” he said, with narrowed, hard eyes. The same word his brother Harlan had used to name the late unlamented Illyria, priestess of a foul Dasnarian religion, Deyrr. An evil worker of magic indeed. Low blow comparing me to the resurrector of corpses.

“Resorting to that?” I snickered. “Though, from what I’ve heard of your Dasnarian women, what I did to you must have felt magical all right.”

“You know nothing of our women and yet you defame them with your sly insults. You will make an ill ambassador indeed. I will be hard-pressed to keep you from getting yourself killed.”

“Aw, so sweet. I didn’t know you cared. Oh, wait! You don’t. You made a promise to your brother. Tell me—does Harlan know you manipulated events to draw Dafne out of Ordnung in order to deliver her to King Nakoa KauPo?”

The accusation caught him unawares, guilt mixing with surprise before he covered it. My keen-edged question had flashed through his guard before he saw it coming, and I had my answer, thrice-curse it.

I shook my head, tsking sadly. “You pretend to make amends with a brother you wronged and lie through your teeth. Does your Dasnarian honor come with laundry service? I’m afraid yours is a bit soiled.”

Kral’s jaw bulged, and the fingers holding one forearm dug in, clearly longing to draw on me. Oh, I wished he would. Danu take him for what he’d done to Dafne. This wasn’t at all how an ambassador should think—or behave—but I’d been field promoted and likely wouldn’t survive to face Her Majesty’s censure regardless. Or, if I did manage to get through this and she cut me loose, I’d just go elsewhere. I’d re-created myself before and could do it again. Everyone needed good scouts.

The Tala shape-shifters might lump me in with the unchanging mossbacks, but I’d never stayed anywhere long. Not since I’d left home.

“I did not forswear myself to my brother,” Kral replied, his voice measured against the rage boiling behind the icy blue. “I promised to watch over the scribe in the Dasnarian court. If she is not at court, there is nothing I can do.”

My own anger burned at his perfidy. “You promised that, knowing all along that you would deliver her into a forced marriage with Nakoa. You have a large mouth that you can lie out of both sides at the same time. And to a brother you already wronged at least once. You shave the boundaries of your honor pretty thin.”

“What do you know of what passed between Harlan and me?” Kral flung out the question as a challenge, but he wanted to know the answer. Too bad. I wouldn’t give up my advantage by owning up that I had no idea. Dafne hadn’t known either. If Harlan had confessed the truth to High Queen Ursula, she’d kept his secrets well.

“Enough to know you’ve betrayed him yet again by failing to protect Dafne as you swore to do.”

“I neither betrayed him nor failed to protect your queen’s ambassador.” He held out a hand, ticking off the points. “I did not know King Nakoa KauPo’s intentions, only that he handed me a drawing of a woman and asked to meet her. I do not believe her to be in danger, as he clearly regards her as a much-treasured wife. Any woman should be grateful for such fortune. Harlan’s judgment may be questionable, anchoring himself in servitude to a foreign queen as he has, but any true son of Dasnaria would recognize the truth of this. Finally, the expressed goal of his mistress and your queen was to send an ambassador to the Dasnarian court. You might be a pitifully inadequate substitute who will no doubt immediately shame your Twelve Kingdoms, but the mission arguably continues intact as described in the treaty.”

I fumed, wanting to argue seven different points at once. Failing that, I curled my lip in my best sneer. “You are an ass.”

He nearly lost it, fingers twisting and body quaking as he almost lunged for my throat. I had my blades out and ready to strike before he viciously yanked himself back. “Because you are no proper female, I could justify taking you down for that, but I won’t.”

“Afraid if you bend that honor any further, it will break? Understandable, as you’ve stretched your vows thin enough to be flimsy threads in the wind.”

“What is it you want with these taunts, Jepp? I could break you in half without trying.”

“You’d have to get past my blades first.”

He unfolded his arms, fisting hands on his hips instead. Once under sail, he’d shed the black armor that made him and his men look half again as big, but still he towered over me by a head. “I already did,” he said softly.

“You won’t ever again.”

“I wouldn’t lower myself. As you pointed out, the rewards were hardly worth the sweat. I’ll now point out that you didn’t answer my question.”

“I want two things,” I spat at him, sheathing my knives. Might as well lay it out now. “I agreed to leave Dafne behind because me taking her place as ambassador is more important in the grand scheme than her personal happiness. She made the sacrifice and I won’t diminish it by gainsaying her.”

“And because you had no choice in the matter.”

That rankled. I still thought we could have broken her out somehow. Nakoa’s open-air palace had no physical security. Even with her unable to walk, we could have maybe… Eh, no help for it now. Dafne had made the decision—including handing me responsibility for the secret part of her mission—and she outranked me. “Therefore,” I continued as if Kral hadn’t made his petty point of clarification, “I’m calling on you to uphold your promise to your brother and aid me in navigating the Dasnarian court.”

He set his mouth mulishly. “That regarded the scribe, not you.”

“Oh, I think you bent that vow plenty already to accommodate covering me also. Don’t forget—we’re not in Dasnaria yet. You’ve yet to be allowed to cross out of Her Majesty’s realm. Queen Andromeda will meet us at the barrier wall, and if I tell her what’s transpired, she may not choose to let you pass. You need me if you want to get home. Also, if I send a message back to Harlan, detailing what you’ve done—how do you suppose he will interpret your rearrangement of the rules?”

“My little brother has long been estranged from me. What would it matter to me if he renewed his snit?”

Logical, and yet… I thought it did matter to him. Just as it mattered greatly to him to get his ship and men back to Dasnaria. Nothing like spending a skin-slicked night learning a man intimately to give a woman insight into his psyche. One reason sex made an excellent venue for spying and extracting all sorts of information. Kral was an indisputable, unmitigated ass, but family mattered to him. Whatever had happened, it had affected them both profoundly. He and Harlan had mended fences over a bottle of mjed, a Dasnarian liquor Harlan had saved during his travels for just such a special occasion—once the treaty had been signed. Several of the other Hawks and I had matched them shot for shot, the mjed deliciously light, belying the sucker punch that rivaled that of Branlian whiskey. Which may have led to the aforementioned ill-advised sexual encounter.

The scent and flavor of it certainly twined in my memory with the taste of Kral’s skin and the heated thrust of his body. No thinking about that. I needed to focus on carrying forward with Dafne’s quest. Like it or not, I’d need Kral’s help.

“I think it would matter to you. More, I think it would matter to him. Shall we find out?” My dare whipped out like the whisk of a blade against his resolve. Oh, yeah, he flinched ever so slightly.

“I will help you act as ambassador,” he conceded. “As I had already planned to do. Not because of your weak threats, but because it would shame me to have you blundering about offending one and all. Thus my first piece of advice—learn to dress and move as befits a lady. Your mannish ways will only offend.”

“You didn’t find me so mannish at Ordnung.”

He ground his teeth, the click of his jaw audible. Not healthy at all. “Sampling the exotic fare travel brings is not the same as stomaching unpleasant foreign tastes in one’s own home. You asked for my assistance; that’s where we begin. No one at the Dasnarian court will speak to you garbed as you are and behaving as you do.”

“Do you think putting me in a gown will make me less dangerous? I could gut you before you knew I’d drawn a blade.”

Kral narrowed his eyes. “I am not young Blagor. You would not take first blood so easily.”

“Heard about that, huh?” Ursula, back then not the High Queen, but heir and captain of the Hawks, had chosen me to demonstrate to Harlan and his Dasnarian mercenaries, the Vervaldr, just what a well-trained woman with a pair of delicate blades could do. Surprising them had been most satisfying.

“An exaggerated tale, I’m certain.”

“I’m happy to demonstrate anytime, General Killjoy, no matter what I’m wearing.”

“Ah. I’m glad you agree, then, that wearing a proper garment will not be a problem for you.”

Danu save me, I couldn’t back down from that. Besides, I would need every advantage I could muster. “Fine. Once we arrive in Dasnaria, I will obtain some of the local clothing.”

“Best to practice before then.”

“I didn’t exactly pack a lot of ball gowns.” My job had been bodyguard, not prancer-about-in-pretty-outfits woman.

“There are some traditional Dasnarian costumes appropriate for females aboard. I will arrange for them to be sent to your cabin.”

On a shipful of men? I probably didn’t want to know. Kral read it on my face, however, enjoying my discomfort. “Occasionally our rekjabrel accompany their men on shorter journeys. And we bring gifts back to them and our wives. The wise man keeps his woman in pretty things, as her happiness may not guarantee his, but her unhappiness will surely create his misery.”

“You’re just chock-full of advice today, aren’t you?” I almost preferred his studied refusal to acknowledge my existence.

A strange expression crossed his face, as if he’d also only just realized he’d reversed his recent behavior. “As you will be ambassador whether either of us enjoys the prospect, then yes—it occurred to me that I’d best take you in hand to ensure I am not censured for bringing a disgrace into His Imperial Majesty’s court.”

Sweet talker. I sent a prayer to Danu for patience. And wisdom. Maybe a double helping of both. This prayer felt far more sincere. Look at all this celibacy I’ve offered, Danu—my idea or not, I’m doing it. A little assistance in return wouldn’t go amiss.

I managed to swallow my pride at the “take you in hand” remark. What would Dafne say? “I am… grateful for your advice and assistance, General Kral.”

He grinned, not at all nicely. Couldn’t even be gracious in victory.

“What was the other favor you craved of me?”

Excuse me? I bit back the seventeen different retorts that sprang to tongue at that one. I almost regretted that I’d announced I wanted two things, but oh, well. Hurt nothing but my pride to ask. “Lift your edict on no one having sex with me.”

Ridiculous that I had to ask, but I was getting thriced-desperate. Neither Dafne nor Zynda had been persuadable on the topic; the couple of days on Nahanau had been entirely in crisis mode with no time for dallying. Now I’d be trapped with Kral and his men for Danu knew how long, and not a one would go against his order that I was hands-off. Goddesses knew I’d tried.

Kral smiled with only half his mouth, a definite smirk. “Feeling the burn, kottyr?”

My turn to clench my teeth together. “As I’m sure you must be also.”

Instead of delivering a scathing remark, he inclined his head in acknowledgment. “Though it seems to me you scratched your itch more recently than I have mine.”

No dallying with the pretty island girls, then? Interesting. “By hardly a day,” I pointed out. Which was the wrong thing to say. Kral had taken it quite badly that I’d fucked Brandur hours after leaving the general’s well-used bed. I wasn’t even sure why I had. Kral had left me thoroughly sated. Brandur and I had never been exclusive, but Brandur had invited me in a persuasive way and… Okay, maybe I’d felt the need to scrub the lingering and overpowering feel of Kral from my body. No lover, man or woman, had ever stayed on my mind like that, for most of the next cursed day. Danu’s tits—who knew the man would be possessive of a woman he’d just met?

“Are you asking for an apology?” I asked, sounding reasonably neutral.

His gaze sharpened. “Are you offering?”

“No, I’m determining the terms of this particular treaty.”

“An apology for offending my honor and betraying my trust would go a long way, yes. Along with the acknowledgment that you agreed to be mine and will not stray again. At that point, I might be able to be persuaded to assist with that itch of yours. If you ask nicely.” He grinned, a definite challenge.

“Not going to happen. I never agreed to be yours, you misogynistic tool.” I added that last insult in Common Tongue, as—no big shocker there—Dasnarian didn’t seem to have a word for the concept, though they might as well have invented the practice.

His smile vanished, face going as icy as those Branlian glaciers. “You did agree, when you accepted the invitation to my bed.”

I threw up my hands in exasperation. “Sex! I accepted the offer of sex, not lifetime servitude.”

“I offered you the protection of my body, a guarantee of food and shelter. Those are the terms.”

“Dasnarian terms.”

“Of course,” he replied, frowning a bit. At least he might be processing some of his mistake there.

“Look, Kral.” I made an effort to sound reasonable. “I realize you think the Dasnarian Empire is the center of the universe, but there are other cultures, other ways of doing things. I protect my own body, work for my own food and shelter. In my world, an offer of sex is just that. We had a good night. We parted ways after. Now we have to work together. Can we call a truce already?”

“Certainly.” He smiled again. One that failed to reassure me. “But my orders stand.”

I cursed him, a vicious one from old Bryn, which only made him look more pleased.

“I’m responsible for my men and for your welfare as ambassador. The Tala sorceress, too. I would be remiss if I allowed any trouble to ensue.” He looked me up and down. “But if you wish to renegotiate the terms of our truce, you know what to do.”

He sauntered off, whistling, much too pleased with himself.

 

 

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My best books of 2016 – Mes livres préférés de 2016

Coucou à tous ! Je voulais vous partager aujourd’hui mes coups de coeur de 2016 !


Hey everyone! I wanted to share with you today my fave books of 2016

Rock Chick Rescue (Rock Chick, 2) – Kristen Ashley

A Deadly Affection (Dr. Genevieve Summerfod Mystery, 1) – Cuyler Overholt

Secrets et Préjugés (Honeycote, 1) – Anne Barton

Hopeless (Hopeless, 1) – Colleen Hoover

Once Broken Faith (October Daye, 10) – Seanan Mcguire

Grave Visions (Alex Craft, 4) – Kalayna Price

Magic Binds (Kate Daniels, 9) – Ilona Andrews

The Seat of Magic (The Golden City, 2) – J. Kathleen Cheney

The Winner’s Kiss (The Winner’s Trilogy, 3) – Marie Rutkoski

The Others (4 & 5) – Anne Bishop

Black-Eyed Susans – Julia Heaberlin

The Curse of Tenth Grave (Charley Davidson, 10) – Darynda Jones

Bright Blaze of Magic (Black Blade, 3) – Jennifer Estep

All Fixed Up (Ciel Halligan, 4) – Linda Grimes

Belle Chasse (Sentinels of New Orleans, 5) – Suzanne Johnson