31 August 2009

Time Currents Excerpt!

TIME CURRENTS- Lord Sevryn is home for a visit with his intemperate mother and spoiled siblings. Between rants about lowborns, courtesy of his mother, Sev makes a wondrous discovery; one of the maids his mother hired in his absence is his Goddess-destined soulmate.

Or is she? Bettina is his soulmate, to be sure, but otherwise she's not what she seems. Her reasons for avoiding Sev are complicated. Mates don't hide things from one another, and there is a lot Bettina is hiding. For one thing, she's not lowborn. Raised in the lap of luxury, she decided to run rather than embrace a power that threatens her mind and heart.

To purchase TIME CURRENTS from LLP...in e-book...

HEA-yes, VIOLENCE-moderate, LANGUAGE-moderate, SEX-erotic

Cover art property of Brenna Lyons.

Bettina pushed through the door into Lord Sevryn’s rooms. It was likely a wasted stop; the man was so organized and clean about his living space, she could come here twice a week, and no one would know the difference. Since Tanni had already collected his soiled garments--which were always neatly dropped in the bin for it--and Lord Sevryn typically smoothed and tucked his own bed, it was singularly the least mussed room in the house, whether the young lord was in residence or not.

She stopped two steps past his cabinet, scanning her eyes around for anything that might need her attention. The only item out of place was a book laid out open and pages down. Bettina winced at that; it would ruin a paper book to set that way. With the rains on Kielan, few people indulged in paper, as it was. Paper books meant costly machines to keep their storage rooms free of excess moisture. Who but nobles could afford such a luxury?

There has to be something...something to mark the page. Bettina stuffed her hand in her pocket. She tended to stuff odds and ends she found on her journey through the house in there to be sorted and stored or disposed of later.

She wandered toward the table, considering the contents of the pocket without looking at them. The loose beads from Lady Valree’s dresses would do more harm than good, but the scrap of ribbon...

Pulling it free, she gently turned the book pages-up and settled the scrap at the seam. Her gaze flicked to the poem on the right-hand page, and she swallowed a gasp of surprise. “Bettina,” she breathed.

In truth, the poem was titled “Spring’s Day,” a play on words to be sure. It had been her mother’s favorite, and so she’d named her only child Bettina in honor of the object of Spring’s obsession.

A bolt of happiness sliced through her. Bettina paused. What was she so happy about? Was she happy?

Not precisely. She was content, untroubled save this niggling question...but happy?

A sound behind her startled her. Bettina whirled around, reaching back to close the book on the ribbon. If she was very lucky, no one had seen her reading when she should be working.

Lord Sevryn stood at the far corner of the room, his arms crossed over his bare chest, his eyes crinkled in amusement. He’d been here all along, hidden by the cabinet as she entered. So, he’d seen her reading his book. She didn’t doubt he’d have something to say about that.

He didn’t. “You felt it,” he whispered instead.

Felt? In the face of him, all she felt was uncertainty.

Bettina never knew what to expect for Lord Sevryn. Why, the man was half-dressed when it was nearly time for midday meal. The trews he did wear were tight as if drawn on and quarter-length. She’d think them swimming trews, if they weren’t plastered to his body to show every line.

Her heart pounding in arousal at the state of his undress, she gazed at his well-toned chest. The man was a beauty, olive but not tanned as a lowborn might be. The golden curls on his chest were only shades darker than the locks reaching his collarbones. His chest hair created something of a sharp, concave vee that disappeared into those--

Bettina took a step back, grasping the edge of the table in outright fear when she ran aground on it. By the Goddess Mother, he was erect!

She’d heard tales of nobles who demanded bed service from maids. If they were refused, the servants were sometimes dismissed with a poor reference. What would she do if--

“Calm, Bettina.” His voice was soothing, and he made no move to advance on her. “You need not fear me.”

After her reaction, it would do no good to deny it. Instead, she met his fen brown gaze. “If there is nothing else Lord Sevryn,” she hinted, hoping he would release her.

“Sev. I’ve asked you to call me Sev.”

“Lord Sev,” she corrected herself.

His jaw tightened a notch, but he tipped his head in acceptance. “Stay a while, won’t you.” His lips curved into a sensual smile. “I promise to put on a shirt, if you do.”

Bettina forced herself not to look at the bed...or the cock outlined by his tight trews. “I have to work and...” And what? “Work,” she repeated dumbly.

He nodded. “This eve then, after dinner.”

Her gaze slid to the bed, and she shook her head, praying Lord Sevryn would lose interest in chasing an unwilling woman.

Unwilling? Her cheeks burned at the fact that she hungered for him.

His voice remained low and unruffled. “A walk in the gardens,” he suggested.

Bettina hesitated, at a loss. If she accepted, she’d encourage him. If she refused... Would any fine house or shop take her on when she was dismissed?

“What is it you fear, Bettina?”

“I am not...” She bit her lip in indecision. How did you address the subject without an accusation being implied?

“Not?” he prodded her.

Hells take it! If he was intent, it would only be a matter of time until she rebuffed him and faced his ire for it. The troubles in my life have always come down to time and the currents of might-bes. “I am not a bed servant, Lord Sev. I do not know what you were told, but--”

“Wait.” One hand came up in a halting motion, and his eyes hardened.

Bettina snapped her mouth shut, certain she would be packing before the hour was up. Anger poured off of him in waves that even her shielded and leashed sensitivities couldn’t ignore. Her stomach fluttered in response.

“You think I mean to force you to... Dearest Goddess, no.”

Were it not for her grip on the table, she might have swooned in relief.

He continued. “The garden is lovely at night, Bettina. I would like to share a walk with you.”

Her head spun at that pronouncement. “Why?”

“I enjoy your company.”

There was no response she could make to so outrageous a statement from a lord.

Lord Sev rounded the cabinet, heading for the door. “After dinner, if you wish to walk with me.” Then he was gone.

If... I need not go. But she suspected she might.

Why? The man has no shame or sensibilities! Bettina marched to the door, fuming at the idea of the man walking about in those unseemly trews.

At least he isn’t erect anymore. They weren’t quite so shocking when he wasn’t.

She stopped on a gasp, wondering when she’d noticed that. Bettina’s face burned at the thought that she’d been so aware of his state of arousal.

27 August 2009

Bring the professionalism back into romance!

For years, romance writers have been given a bad name as nothing more than a bunch of backbiting ninnies. I'd thought we'd grown past this, despite the one-upmanship games we see in RWA and other communities. You know the ones: erotic writers are shunned by non-erotic, indie-published are put down by some (thankfully not a majority of) NY authors, and so forth. But even that doesn't hold a candle to the newest travesty in romance publishing.

With the rise of the internet, came the internet tabloids, more or less. They go beyond lampooning or roasting authors into vicious, unwarranted, and very subjective personal attacks. And some people flock to it, as mob mentalities always will.

What is distressing... What causes the romance industry yet one more huge black eye is the number of romance authors taking part in the whole thing.

I have nothing against honest review. I have nothing against constructive criticism. I do reviews and give such criticism, tempered with a fair evaluation of what strengths an author has. I've never found (no matter how badly constructed a book was) a book without any redeeming qualities.

And no matter how much I dislike or disagree with an author personally, I would never condone the sort of attacks these blogs and lists engage in on one I owned. Which brings me to the point of this post....

If you agree... If you feel that this sort of behavior should be heartily discouraged, not just for the personal stress and damage it does, but also because it's completely unprofessional and perpetuates the rumors of the completely backbiting biddies of romance publishing, consider blogging about it and/or placing the following logo on your site or blog!

Do you know a teen writer who wants to hang out with the pros?

EPIC’s 5th annual New Voices contest opens, and plans are unveiled for this year’s youth writing track at the annual convention

It’s August, and that means big changes for your average middle or high school student: new teachers, new class schedules, sometimes new schools… It also means the opening of the 5th annual New Voices contest, e-publishing’s premiere youth writing contest.

What makes the New Voices contest different than other writing contests? Several things.

New Voices is a worldwide contest, just for middle school and high school students (or the country of origin’s variation thereof). The contest is intended for students aged 11-18 years old, writing in the English language. In previous years, students from as many as sixteen US states, four Canadian provinces, and several foreign countries have won places in the contest.

The contest is split into middle school and high school divisions, then further split into poetry, essay/non-fiction, and fiction short story categories in each division. Contestants may enter one piece of work in each of their division categories.

There’s no entry fee for the contest. At the same time, sponsors and EPIC (The Electronically Published Internet Connection) underwrite the contest to provide prizes for entrants. Prizes range from gift certificates and cash to PDAs and/or e-book readers. And all winners are included in the yearly New Voices anthology.

Entrants never need to pay a dime. Unlimited copies of the e-book anthology are provided to winners. A CD copy and a print copy are provided to each of the winners and their schools. Additional print copies may be purchased at cost, but no one is required to purchase anything.

This contest is ideal for students with an interest in writing. All entrants, win or lose, receive feedback from published authors, editors, publishers, and other industry professionals.

For those with a serious interest in publishing, EPIC provides a youth writer’s track at the yearly convention, EPICon. This year’s convention will be held at the Sheraton (New Orleans, LA) from March 4-7, 2010. The youth track is scheduled for Saturday, March 6th. The youth track costs $40 and includes lunch, where contest winners in attendance will receive their awards. Non-attendee winners will receive their awards by mail. For an additional $27, youth track attendees can have breakfast while several established independent press publishers answer questions about their businesses and submissions.

But time stands still for no young writer. Anyone with an interest in entering the contest has until midnight October 20, 2009 to get an entry in. Anyone with an interest in attending the youth writing track at EPICon has until February 5, 2010 to register.

Any questions about the contest can be addressed to the New Voices chairs at newvoices.competition(at)gmail(dot)com. Any questions about the convention can be addressed to the EPICon chair at cjparker1(at)att(dot)net For more information on them, please visit http://www.newvoicesyoungwriters.com/index.html or http://www.epic-conference.com

Feel free to pass along!

24 August 2009

New reviews in this week!

"Night Warriors bursts with action, drama, suspense, and passion from the time you first meet Corwyn Hunter and Anna. I can’t say it enough, and I’m always delighted and amazed. Brenna Lyons is formidable in the art of world building and storytelling. This novel delivers and carries its own creative weight, where the contemporary world meets Teutonic legend. This is not just a tale where a mocking Stone god uses Warriors as weapons against blood drinking monsters; this is about change, never-ending love, family, and devotion. The best part is how change comes to the Warriors in the most unexpected way and gives new meaning to the old saying that behind every great man is a great woman. I wasn’t certain of what to expect from Night Warriors after reading the Kegin series novels. While I can say afterwards there is no comparison, this is yet another excellent and outstanding work by a prolific and formidable author whose dedication and talent is reflected in her writing. "

Reviewed by Patrice F. for Joyfully Reviewed


"It’s always a pleasure to read the historical tales of Kegin. Culdan is honorable, hot-blooded and tender when it comes down Meretta. Yet, you get a full frontal view of just how vicious and unyielding a Warlord can be over his claimed mate if anyone threatens her in anyone way through word, thought or deed. Conquest is an intense, steamy and tantalizing drama that explores the complexity of Keen relationships in those earlier, turbulent times. Bring your cold drink and turn up the fan for this one."

Reviewed by Patrice F. for Joyfully Reviewed

"I enjoyed The Color of Love. I found it totally understandable that [Grace is] reluctant to give Michael another chance. Michael knows he was wrong and desperately hopes for one more chance with her to try to rekindle their love. I like the way he woos Grace and allows her to make up her own mind. I enjoyed how the ring reflects Grace’s various moods throughout this short story. Brenna Lyons gave me quite an education about mood rings, making me want to wear the one I know I have hidden away in my jewelry box! "

Reviewed by Victoria for Two Lips Reviews 4 Lips!


"Very successfully done! We Shall Live Again was a very entertaining read. At first I thought the title might be just a bit misleading until I got a little deeper into the story. Yes, the characters were realistic when it came to the research into archeology. The mental pictures Brenna Lyons evoked for this reader were very impressive. The artistic skill catapulted me into the story right along with Anna into a dream realm. There was intense and believable suspense that nicely combined with the romance. "

Reviewed by Wanda Maynard for The Romance Studio 4.5 Hearts!

"I really loved this Armen and Dangerous. James is such a sweetheart and it's a joy to see how he wins the heart of Beth. How much he adores the girls is simply heart-melting. Heart of a Warrior: Hot, intense read. Melissa and Mack's love story is moving and sizzling at the same time. The Blade Chaser's Son: This story was sexy, touching and bittersweet. The Warrior's Widow: This story felt a bit weak in comparison to the other stories. Mostly because it seemed that Alyssa spent a good deal of the story being afraid and it was never quite explained fully what exactly was wrong with Tom. Daddy’s Little Girl was short, sweet, and sizzling. This story was the perfect way to wrap up the collection. In conclusion, I'd definitely love to read more about the Night Warriors. However, I do sometimes think that the whole concept of having one mate and the mating madness is a bit overdone. Nonetheless, these are still stunning stories with memorable characters and page-turning plots."

Reviewed by Kyraninse for Night Owl Romance 4.25 Hearts!

19 August 2009

INTERVIEW TIME- Marilyn Meredith

Marilyn is a writing teacher, editor, and has been a featured speaker at several writers' conferences. She is a member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, EPIC, and the Public Safety Writers Association.

Welcome to Marilyn Meredith. I hope our readers will enjoy this interview with a vibrant woman and a fantastic author!

How long have you been writing? How long have you been published?

I’ve written since I was in grammar school, but didn’t get my first novel published until 1981.

How long did it take you to publish your first book, once you started looking for an agent or publisher?

When I began sending that first book out it was back in the day where you typed the manuscript pages and sent them out in a box with another box with return postage on it to send it back. I’m so glad times have changed. I went through that process for a long time, receiving nearly thirty rejections before it was accepted by a publisher. That’s why I tell all new authors to never give up.

How long does it take you to write a book?

About six months once I’ve done the research I need to do and have decided on the characters and plot.

Do you write one book/story at a time or multiples?

I only write one book at a time, but I alternate between my Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery series and my Rocky Bluff P.D. crime series. Often I’m editing one while promoting and/or writing the other.

What is the most books/stories you've had WIP at the same time? What is the highest number you've actively been writing on at the same time?

I’ll answer that a bit differently than it was asked, I’m usually a book or two ahead in both series—and so it’s never more than two at a time.

What genres do you write?

Mainly mysteries and crime novels at the present time, but I began with historical family sagas, and I’ve written three Christian horror novels and one psychological horror.

Are there any genres you'd like to try but haven't?

No, I’m quite happy writing what I’m writing now.

Are there any genres you'd never consider writing in?

Though I began with historical family sagas which were in the romance category, I no longer have an interest in writing romance and though I enjoy reading some mythology, I could never write it. Science fiction is not something I could write either—don’t have the right kind of mind.

What's your writing process?

I begin writing by gathering ideas in long hand. Because I have ongoing characters I only need to create murder victims and suspects and peripheral characters who go along with them. When I actually begin writing, I write on the computer. While I’m writing, I take a chapter a time to my critique group. I do a lot of rewriting. When I think I’m done, I find an editor. More rewriting. Then the manuscript goes off to the publisher and of course, more editing.

What are the strangest conditions you've written under? The strangest place and/or time you've written something?

Most of the time I write in my home office. I often wake up at night with ideas and I have a handy item that lights up when I pull out the pen with a notepad attached. If I don’t write them down right then, I won’t remember in the a.m. Sometimes while going on a long drive I might jot down ideas—while my husband’s driving.

What's the strangest thing you've had happen to you at a public appearance? The most disturbing or amusing?

My best public appearance was at an AAUW luncheon. There were four other authors in attendance, all young, famous and attractive. Being old, not so famous, and looking like the great-grandmother I am, I told my husband, “The only way I’m going to make an impression is by being funny.” I was and when it came to book buying time, the majority of women rushed to my table. I sold far and above the rest of the authors. I even sold books to a bookstore owner.

The worst was recently at a county fair where the put the authors behind an opaque panel at the back near the restrooms. I had to go out on the main floor and hand out business and postcards with my book cover on it and tell people they should come back where the authors were. Fortunately a few did make the long trek to the back and actually bought a few books.

What authors inspire you? Who are your favorite authors?

Anytime I read a truly good mystery I’m inspired. Among my favorite authors, and I have a slew of them, are Jan Burke and Wm. Kent Krueger—but there are many, many more. Some with small publishers and some with big ones.

If you could choose two authors to be seated between at a signing...or to have your books shelved between in the bookstore, who would they be?

I’d prefer to sit between two authors who aren’t well-known. I’ve sat next to big names before and it’s embarrassing to have a long line of fans lined up for those people and no one coming to you.

What authors would you most like to meet, past or present? What would you ask them?

I’ve met some pretty famous authors in my day: Mary Higgins Clark twice and she’s one of the nicest people you could ever meet, always acts like she remembers you; Wm. Kent Krueger, who is also very approachable; Sue Grafton; Jan Burke who I’ve heard speak at many conventions and spent a couple of hours with her and her husband in an airport; Betty Webb who I was with at a small conference and is delightful; Dennis Lehane, not so approachable, but entertaining to eavesdrop on; I could go on, but won’t.

I’ve asked and gotten some good advice about what kind of promotion works best for different ones.

How many books do you read in the average month? e-Book or print or both?

I read both and maybe two or three print books and I have a new Kindle and so far I’ve read three books on it this month.

What is the funniest or strangest editor/crit request/comment you've encountered?

Long ago one agent told me I needed to change my heroine’s name, Tempe Crabtree, to something more common. Obviously I didn’t do it.

I also have some fans that want me to kill off Tempe’s husband, Hutch, because of his high ideals and his faith. I won’t do it because I have too much fun with the conflict Tempe causes in her marriage when she dabbles in the mystical side of her Indian heritage.

What is your ideal location to write a book, if you had the money to live there or sequester yourself there?

I am already here. I live in the Southern Sierra where my Tempe Crabtree books are located. I can look out the window of my office and see the mountains.

If you could have a book signing anywhere in the world, where would you like to go?

Anywhere that I have fans. I’d love to return to Alaska one day where I do have some fans.

What would you like to own/have that would make your writing faster or smoother?

Ah, I’d love to have a personal assistant who could take care of some of my promotion chores.

Introvert or extrovert?

When I was young I was more of an introvert—but being a writer and having to promote has truly changed me to an extrovert. I love giving talks and appearances.

What's the strangest/worst job (outside of publishing) you've held?

I’ve done all sorts of things: worked in a hot rod store, long distance and information operator (fun because people would ask how to make chili and what was the weather like and as long as we knew we could answer), pre-school teacher for developmentally disabled kids, day care for disadvantaged kids, and my husband and I owned and operated a residential facility for six developmentally disabled women for over twenty years and I wrote while they were off to work.

If you could choose your dream job, besides writing, what would it be?

Writing is my dream job.

What's your dream car? Your favorite car you've ever owned?

I don’t care about cars except that when I get in they start up. Had too many that didn’t. My favorite car was a little MG convertible with the steering wheel on the right. As my family grew, even though when they were little I crammed them in the boot (long before seat-belts), I finally had to give it up for a more conventional station wagon.

The best bumper stickers you've ever seen? The best you've ever personally had on your vehicle?

Only can tell you about what I have on my car, it’s not a bumper sticker but a big magnetic sticker with my website on it.

The #1 holiday or birthday gift to purchase for an author is...

I was thrilled with my Kindle and also my little Acer computer.

Your favorite leisure activity or vacation spot?

Going to cons and conventions are always my favorite thing to do. I’ve visited some great places this way from Alaska to Hawaii and New Orleans is next when I got to EPICon.

Have you ever included a real experience of your own in a book? Did anyone who knows you notice it?

Wishing Makes It So is based on something that happened to our family though I made it far more dramatic and with far worse results.

Have you ever included someone who irritated you in the book? As what, and what comeuppance did he/she get?

Yes, in my Rocky Bluff P.D. series, Fringe Benefits, the main character is a bad police officer based on one I knew—and he gets what he deserves in the end.

Where do you get your character names?

I collect names. I keep graduation programs and mix and match the names.

Where do you get your inspiration for a book? How do you get your ideas?

I keep clippings out of newspapers and I also do a lot of research about Native American legends and the Indian reservation that is near me.

What is the best reader or reviewer comment you've ever received?

I’ve had a lot of good ones and I have fans that are terrifically supportive.

What does your family think about your writing? How, if they do, do they support you in your writing endeavors?

My husband is great. He supplies me with information about guns and cars, two things I know little about. He also comes with me on most of my travels to conventions and conferences. I have to confess though, he hasn’t read all of my books. I only have one daughter who has read all my books—out of three.

When and where do you do the bulk of your writing?

My office at home and in the morning.

What's your favorite part of being a writer?

I love having a world that I can control. I have little control over the world I live in.

What's the thing you wish you could hire someone else to do or wish you didn't have to do as a writer?

Selling books at book and craft fairs. I do it a lot and enjoy meeting the people, but it is so time consuming and if you are going to sell books you have to be assertive.

What advice would you give a new writer?

If you really want to be a writer you must realize that you have to put in the time. Just telling everyone you’re going to write a book someday, won’t get you there. You need to learn the craft, you must learn the rules before you can break them, and most of all you must put your self in front of your computer and write, write, write.

What are your writing goals? Where do you want to be in a year? Five years?

My only goal is to keep writing books people want to read. I’d like for my books to be better known—but none of that matters, I’m going to keep on writing because I have to.

Do you belong to a crit group or other writing group? How helpful do you find it?

I’ve belonged to a critique group for over 20 years. Same group, though the people have changed from time to time. I consider what they suggest or find as mistakes as my first edit. Some are much better than others at critiquing, but I still find it helpful.

What online lists or forums are your favorites?

I’m not fond of forums though I do try to make an appearance ever so often on the Kindle forum. I have lots of online lists, and must say Epicbiz is one of my favorites, and I also like all the Sisters in Crime lists.

What book, if you have written several books, is your favorite and why?

My latest book is always my favorite. I’m excited about Dispel the Mist because of the Hairy Man character. I think readers will find it fascinating that I’ve brought a legend to life.

Which of your own characters would you like to meet in real life, and what would you do?

Deputy Tempe Crabtree seems quite real to me already. Once I met a young woman, a former deputy, who said when she read my books she felt like she was reading about herself. Though she didn’t look Indian, she was, and had some of the same experiences I’d written about.

Do you prefer to think of yourself as a hero/heroine or villain/villainess and why?

I’m definitely the heroine type—though I couldn’t save anyone, when I was young I used to stop fights on the playground, chased away a mob of teenagers who were carrying off a young girl, ran after a teen who had threatened another with a knife. Caught him too, took the knife away, and verbally chastised him.

Give us your backlist... with all publishers...Bold things that are currently available. Note the publishers they are with!

The Deputy Tempe Crabtree series

They are all with or will be with Mundania Press shortly.

Deadly Trail (Hard Shell Word Factory)

Deadly Omen

Unequally Yoked



Calling the Dead

Judgment Fire

Kindred Spirits

Dispel the Mist

The Rocky Bluff P.D. series written as F. M. Meredith

Final Respects

Bad Tidings

Fringe Benefits

Smell of Death

(The above are only available from my website currently.)

No Sanctuary with Oaktree Press

From Hardshell Word Factory and will be with Mundania Press

Kachima Spirit

Wishing Makes It So

(available from my website)

From Treble Heart Books

Guilt by Association

Deeds of Darkness

Cup of Demons

Tell us about releases you expect within the next year... Remember to say which publishers they are with!

Invisible Path Mundania Press

Tell us about the awards you've won...

Three Eppie Finalist

Golden Quill Award for mystery from American Authors Association

Best Books Award

Tell us about your current release... blurb... link to purchase is a plus!

Dispel the Mist

While investigating the murder of a popular county supervisor, Native American Deputy Tempe Crabtree has an encounter with the Hairy Man.


Give us your URLs (web site, MySpace, Facebook, blog, etc.)



On Facebook and Twitter I just use my name, Marilyn Meredith.

Listen to an Interview with Marilyn

1) Go to www.blaseskip.com and click on Listen Now. In the lineup, they will see LB-Marilyn-Meredith. Just click on that.
2) Go to www.blaseskip.com/lb Scroll to May 1st or March 13th, Marilyn Meredith. To listen live, click on Stream it. To download to computer or Ipod, click on Download it.

17 August 2009

NEW RELEASE- Crossbearer Turned

To purchase this book...
In book one of the NIGHT WARRIORS series, questions were raised about Veriel's motives. Did he have a claim, or was he insane? What relationship existed between Jörg and Regana? Who did Regana love (her husband, Pauwel elder killer, the "Crossbearer Turned," or the beast Veriel), and who was Andris of Crossbearer's father? This book answers it all.
WARNING- This book does not have a HEA. It is part one of the two-book Veriel's Tales. Book two, Losing Regana, releases mid-November from Phaze.

Jörg swept Regana into his arms the moment she entered his chambers, stifling her laughter with a passionate kiss. He carried her to the furs before the roaring fire and deposited her gently on her feet. “Undress for me,” he requested in a voice rough with his need.

She smiled, no doubt in the knowledge of what the simple pleasure of seeing her disrobe did to him. Her movements had ceased to be tentative weeks ago, and the woman left was nothing but sensuous and bold. That, as much as her body, had him aching long before he took her every night she came to him.

Disrobed and with her black hair cascading around her hips in silken waves, she reached her hands out to him in invitation. Regana was one of a kind, a rare jewel. She looked and acted like no other woman he’d met. Some of the villagers considered her a bad omen, but Jörg could see nothing bad about her.

Jörg groaned in anticipation as he took her mouth fiercely and drew a hand from her hip up to capture the full swell of her breast. “All I can think about when you’re not with me is this,” he breathed as he swept her down onto the furs with him and covered her with his body.

“I’ve noticed,” she teased, running her hand over the bruise on his shoulder. “Gawen will not be kind if you let your attention wander again.”

“Neither will Sibold, but enough of them. I want you.”

“Good,” she purred, moving against him purposefully.

“Tell me,” he requested.

“I am yours, Jörg.”

“You will marry me when the battle is over?”

“As soon as it is allowed. You are permitted your choice then, and Gawen must agree. He will be so intent on Bavin, he won’t care about anything else.” She smiled widely. “Besides, we have a blood oath,” she reminded him.

Jörg chuckled. “All that time, you complained that I tricked you to it, and now you throw it back at me,” he mused.

“You did, but maybe I wanted to be tricked.”

She was suddenly very subdued.

Jörg tried to meet her eyes. “Regana?”

She smiled weakly. “I only fear that the others will learn about us. If they do, Gawen will kill you. You know he will.”

Jörg sighed raggedly. “If I don’t have you, I die anyway.”

He knew that was true. Jörg had fought off the fire in his blood for months before he gave in. Sibold had warned them about this part of the curse. With the speed, increased healing, reaction time, and Blutjagd—the thirst for the fight—came the sexual burn, the urge to choose a mate.

Sibold had decreed that none could make that choice until after the battle, to maximize their Blutjagd in battle he was sure, but Jörg couldn’t wait. The want had burned at him until he’d felt he was going insane. He’d felt himself printing and had been powerless to stop it. After that, Jörg had been tortured until he’d consummated the union with Regana. Other women had ceased to be a comfort long before that time, though he still occasionally performed with one to this day—with Regana’s blessing—so that no one would get suspicious.

It surprised him that she’d accepted him so readily. In retrospect, Jörg wondered if the Fluch—the curse—had helped in that respect somehow. Regana, though not the meek flower many in the village painted her, was still proper and fine, having left her tree climbing and hunting days far behind. Still she’d reacted to his first, admittedly skirting the edges of brutal, advances so readily that he’d rationalized later that the Fluch could only be to blame for her response somehow. He’d rationalized that much later—after she’d succumbed to him, after Jörg had taken her several times without even the benefit of shelter, after she’d started coming to his chamber to meet him, once his mind had formed a truce with the fire that consumed him any night Regana did not come to lie with him.

As he moved his hands over her, drawing her into a need that would have her ready for his invasion in mere moments, Jörg considered his situation. He had given up his life the first time he’d touched her, with that first demanding kiss that he stole from her beneath their tree that had rolled over into his first possession of her with hardly a breath between.

To this day, Jörg was not entirely sure what happened in those fevered moments between meeting her eyes and taking her on the cool grass, but once embarked upon, it was a course he could never turn from. Some part of him wasn’t sure, even now, that Regana had admitted her willingness to the course, but she had been willing. He knew that much, and the knowledge had saved his soul and his life.

In that pivotal moment, Jörg had broken the rules of training. Until he earned his seal and was granted his autonomy, he was at Sibold’s whim, and Sibold would not be sparing in his death if he learned of this trespass.

Worse, he’d taken...and continued to take Regana, a Schwertträger woman. Her father was dead, but even were he not, by virtue of Gawen’s place as first-cursed and having completed his training, he was lord of the house. By all rights, Jörg’s life was forfeit to Gawen alone if they were caught. Blutjagd upon him, Gawen would demand Jörg’s life when he could show mercy and be content with a beating for the trespass.

Even if Gawen did show mercy, Sibold would not. If they were caught, Jörg would die by someone’s hand within the hour.

Regana moaned beneath him and arched to his caresses. His blood screamed for release, and he moved to take her, shuddering in pleasure as he thrust into her. Jörg took her fast and hard.

He argued with himself often that he’d like to take her slowly, but in the heat of the moment, he had no control. A part of him feared that he never would know such control with Regana, even when they gained the leisure of time for such pursuits. It was probably a good thing that she reveled in this type of passion.

It would be over soon, the midnight meeting and hiding. The battle was less than a week off. Once they returned victorious, he could claim her openly, properly. His duty completed, Jörg would reap his reward. He would have his wife and children. He would live a life of ease, until duty called him again.

Jörg roared out his release to the empty house around them, too empty since his mother had died, wrapping himself protectively around her. Anything for Regana! He would go into battle and face the gates of hell itself for her—and he might. They were outnumbered more than ten to one, but the Fluch allowed them the ability to defeat many more than that.

“More than human,” he could hear Sibold quote in his mind.

Jörg shuddered at the thought. Faster and stronger, yes. But in many ways, the Warriors were less than human now. They were vicious, predatory, territorial, rutting animals that were only stable killing or training to do so and lying with a woman. Regana was his salvation and his life.

He held her close to him as long as she would allow and groaned in pleasure as she kissed his blood mark tenderly. Finally, she planted a kiss on his cheek and rose to collect her dress. She donned it quickly and pulled on her cloak against the chill of the night. As always, it was Regana who saw the truth that she must leave before they were discovered together. Left to Jörg, they would have been found in each other’s arms at daybreak long ago.

“I live for the night you don’t have to leave,” he told her yet again. It was an old refrain, but no less true. The idea of having her in his bed all night... To have her again and again in a night was his idea of paradise.

Regana smiled patiently. “Then make your choice of me as soon as the battle ends,” she teased. “Tell them you’ve printed so far that you cannot wait for the ceremony. By the while, I must go before Gawen finds me gone.”

“Take care, Geliebte,” he called after her as she left. Jörg smiled at the small endearment.

Regana had always been his beloved. She would always be his only beloved.

Jörg sighed as the door closed behind her. He stretched out on the furs and drank in the heat of the fire. It didn’t warm him as much as Regana did, but until she was in his arms again, it would be his only comfort.

Something intruded on his senses, and he furrowed his brow. Jörg couldn’t identify it readily, save its obvious malice, and he sat up, grasping for his weapons.

The blow to his head sent him sprawling over the drawn blade, and he vaguely felt it cut into his arm as he landed unceremoniously on the furs. A shadowy figure crossed the blurry brightness of the fire; then the darkness took him.