Did a weekend of reading leave you wanting more?
Sneaking peeks of your newest novel from under
your desk at work?
For the eternal reader...here is your
Monday Morning Sneak Peek!
Trouble is Tara Triannon's middle name. As swords for hire, Tara and her sister Laraina thrive on the danger. But a surprise invasion throws them into chaos... and trouble on a whole new level. Pursued by the Butcher, a terrifying assassin more wolf than man, Tara and Laraina must get a prince marked for death and a young, inept sorceress to safety. There's only one problem - eluding the Butcher has never been done. Aided by a secretive soldier of fortune, they flee the relentless hunter.
Gifted with magic and cursed by nightmares that are all too real, Tara must stop an army led by a madman and fend off an evil Being caught in a centuries-old trap who seeks to control her magic and escape through her dreams - all while keeping one step ahead of the Butcher.
Tara Triannon sat in the window seat, staring out into the darkness. Something was terribly wrong. An unnatural silence, taut and disturbing, gripped the air, as if it would strangle anyone who ventured into it. Tara sensed the danger. The icy chills goose-pimpling her skin told her the threat was near. She felt trapped, vulnerable.
She shook her head to clear it; her eyes searched the shadows of her cramped, darkened chamber for... what? She didn't know.
Thunder rolled, not far in the distance. A storm brewed in the west. More than one, she thought grimly. Blood would spill before morning as sure as Haedis was god of the Abyss.
She rose and paced the length of the room. The banked fire glowed dimly, succumbing to the smothering darkness. Her swordbelt lay nearby on the neatly-made bed. She buckled it on, adjusting the scabbard so she could draw her sword easily with her left hand. She was glad she hadn't bothered to undress when she'd turned in for the night some hours before.
A clock chimed, and she jumped, her sword half drawn out of reflex. One hour past midnight. She caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror that hung between the bed and the fireplace. Silver-blue eyes stared back at her, more silver than blue in her agitation; silver-blonde hair flowed in waves down her back. She looked beyond her reflection, searching the room behind her but saw nothing out of the ordinary.
Sheathing her sword, she returned to the window and opened the casement. She needed fresh air. A cool breeze drifted in, soothing her nerves with its sweet fragrance of damp earth and spring flowers. She sat back against the cold stone wall and drummed her fingers on the seat. Oh, to be free of this confounded castle with its narrow hallways and confining rooms. She frowned. If only Laraina would end her dalliance with the Dhanarran prince. Her older sister's affairs didn't usually bother her, but this one had dragged on too long.
Thunder rumbled, closer this time. Tara shivered, her sense of foreboding growing sharp as the edge of her blade. Wiping sweaty palms on her brown leather leggings, she looked out the window once more. Bright shafts of moonlight filtered through the heavy overcast, reflecting off the white stone buildings of the city below. From her tower window she could see the entire city of Carilon, the Dhanarran capital, spreading across the valley to the west, pure and pristine like a city of the gods. Beyond the valley and the sweep of grasslands shrouded in darkness lay Sulledor. She would not be surprised if trouble came from that quarter. Sulledor was a rocky, forested kingdom with scarce land for agriculture. Sulledorn kings had turned greedy eyes and restless swords on neighboring lands many times. Only a life-or-death situation or a great deal of money would convince her to set foot there. She had no wish to tangle with its current leader, the brutal General Caldren and his nightmarish executioner, Captain Natiere, or "The Butcher," as he was more often called. The Captain's penchant for torture was well documented by the mangled bodies left in his wake. The new peace treaty Laraina's prince had brokered with the General was worth less than the ashes it would burn into. Tara, however, hadn't been able to convince anyone of this. The people of Dhanarra clung stubbornly to their illusion of peace. They considered their Prince Kaden a hero.
Tara fingered the hilt of her sword, tracing its well-worn lines to ease her annoyance. Prince Kaden was a fool. She had no use for him, and she knew he had none for her. He didn't trust her. He thought her cold-blooded and arrogant and blamed her for making Laraina's life one of constant trouble. She dismissed his complaints. She didn't care what Kaden thought. She and her sister were swords for hire, soldiers of fortune; trouble came with the profession. They both accepted that. If the prince didn't like it, that was his problem. And yes, Tara may have taken some risks, perhaps more than were necessary, but what was life without a little excitement? She pictured the tall, brown-haired prince with his usual glare of disapproval. What Laraina saw in him — or with the countless other men she'd been with — Tara would never know.
Another face, jaunty and handsome, flitted through her mind, teasing her with a rakish smile. Her fingers curled into a fist, and she slammed the door on the memory. She'd been burned once, badly. Never again.
Shoving aside her unpleasant thoughts, she leaned back and closed her eyes, inhaling the cool night air. She had to calm down.
A faint sound formed in the cloying darkness. Icy coldness shot down Tara's spine — her danger sense warning her of immediate peril. She bolted upright, listening, hearing only the ominous silence and the booming of distant thunder. Yes, there it was again, outside, a faint rustling like the tread of a night wolf stalking its prey.
Cautiously, she peered over the edge of the stone sill. There — slipping across the inner courtyard, obscured by the murky darkness — a mass of moving shapes. Lightning flashed, revealing a troop of soldiers, fully armed, their swords drawn. Emblazoned on their shields was the eagle and crossed swords of Sulledor.
Stifling a curse, Tara dashed out of her room and down the torch-lit hall. She had to find Laraina. They had to get out. She came to a cross corridor, hesitated, changed direction. She should warn the Dhanarran king.
She rounded a corner and slammed into something huge. Hands of iron gripped her arms, holding her. She gasped, recognizing the hulking giant in her path. Captain Natiere. The Butcher. His black eyes stared down at her, inscrutable. A long, gruesome scar snaked down the left side of his face from his cragged forehead to his stubbled chin. Blood stained his shirt. Fresh blood. Tara pulled away but couldn't break his grip.
A look of shock crossed the Butcher's face. "Silvestri witana," he whispered. Then recognition lit his eyes. "I know who you are." His voice was as rough and gravelly as his face. "You're one of the Triannons." He smiled. "Your reputation does not do you justice."
Tara stopped struggling, her eyes drawn to his. His gaze held her as strongly as his hands. She could not move or breathe.
"Mi achina," he said softly and released her.
Tara fell backward, catching herself against the wall.
"I look forward to our next meeting." He strode down the hall and disappeared around a corner.
Tara sank to a crouch, her heart hammering in her chest. She looked down and saw blood on her clothes. Blood. The king. She jumped to her feet and ran.