Keeping Kinley by Annette K. Larsen #BookTour


Keeping Kinley by Annette K. Larsen

He’s noble. She’s common. It’s complicated.
Kinley is content with her common life until a chance meeting with an old friend—a noble—brings the possibility of love. Though Rylan pursues her with a charming carelessness, she doesn’t dare hope that their relationship will be accepted. When Kinley’s livelihood is threatened, she is thrust into his world as a servant, but the Rylan she encounters there isn’t the quirky friend she thought she knew. Can she trust him, or will she be forced to accept that her dreams are only that—dreams?

Excerpt

My breath caught as soon as he said the name and my eyes searched his features, looking for the little boy I had known in the man that stood before me. “Rylan?” I breathed and he nodded, still with that familiar grin in place. “Oh…my,” was all my idiot brain could say as I took in his fine horse and his fine clothes and his fine eyes.
I probably still had pear juice on my face.
“How are you, Miss Kinley?” he asked with the same light in his eyes that he used to have whenever he would tell me about his favorite part of a lesson.
“I am…well,” I answered in a breathless sort of stuttering. “Very well, thank you. I hope all is well with you and your family. How are Lord and Lady Baylor?”
“My father runs his business affairs with an iron fist and my mother coddles the staff, so everything is as it should be.” He grinned.
“Good.” I had to ignore the grin so that I could speak. “And Master Welsley and Tayana?”
“Welsley takes life too seriously, but is ready to take over for father at a moment’s notice. Tayana is soon to be married.”
“Good, good. That’s very good.” It was so very awkward to be standing in front of this man who had befriended me as a child. How was I supposed to act?
“And what of your family?” he asked eagerly. “It was your brother, was it not? That married…”
“Princess Ariella, yes.” No one seemed to be able to say it out loud, worried that if they were wrong, I’d somehow be offended. I was used to finishing the thought.
He gave a crooked smile. “That must have been an interesting adjustment.”
I laughed, surprised at how succinct that description was. “It was a surprise and an adventure, and I really do adore her.”
“I’ve never had the pleasure of meeting her, but everyone seems to have an opinion one way or the other.”
“I can only imagine.” While most of the common folk had accepted Ella and Gavin, I knew that the nobility had not been so easily convinced when she’d stooped to marry a commoner.
He smiled, so casual, so comfortable.
I felt the need to fill the silence. His horse bobbed its head, trying to get Rylan’s attention. I pointed to him. “And who is this?”
He reached up, stroking the horse behind its ear. “This is Apollo. Say ‘Good day,’ old man.”
The horse actually nodded its head up and down. I was reminded of Herman, who I had abandoned.
“I should go.” I gestured awkwardly down the lane. “It was a pleasure seeing you.”
“Wait, can I see you tomorrow?”
My confusion made the corner of my mouth quirk up. “Why would you do that?”
“Because I’d like to speak with you again,” he said as if it was the most normal thing in the world.
“Oh, um.” He was nobility, and I was decidedly not. “I have to get Herman. My pony, he’s—” I pointed behind me as if that would explain my inability to speak coherently, then turned to walk back the way I had come.

Author Annette K. Larsen

I was born in Utah, but migrated to Arizona, Missouri, and Virginia before settling in Idaho.
Though I dabbled in writing throughout school, being an author seemed like an unattainable dream. It took me seven years to write my first book, Just Ella. During that time, I taught myself how to write a novel. Not the most time effective method, but it gave me an education I wouldn’t have received from a class or a how-to book. Something about the struggle of writing without a formula or rules worked for me.
I write clean romance because I love it. Jane Eyre is the hero of my youth and taught me that clinging to your convictions will be hard, but will bring you more genuine happiness than giving in ever can.
I love chocolate, Into the Woods, ocean waves, my husband, and my five littles. And I love books that leave me with a sigh of contentment.

Website * Facebook

Giveaway

$25 Amazon Gift Card or Paypal Cash

Ends 3/9/17

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I love this quote, Diana
“I’m wondering what to read next.” — Matilda, Roald Dahl

Friday Reveal Blood Road by Amanda McCrina @9inchsnails #BookReveal #FridayReveals #Month9Squad #Month9Books

 
Today Amanda McCrina and Month9Books are
revealing the cover and first chapter for BLOOD ROAD which releases April 25,
2017! Check out the gorgeous cover and enter to be one of the first readers to
receive a eGalley!!
A quick note from the author:

 

 
The funny thing about historical fiction—or
historical fantasy, in this case—is that it often reveals more about the
present than it does about the past. It provides a lens through which we can
understand and contextualize our own experiences. BLOOD ROAD is a tribute to my
love of Roman history, but it’s also very much a product of its time. It’s a
story about corruption and injustice and empire and a young soldier who stands
up and resists, and writing it gave me the opportunity to ask hard questions
about my own present and the part I play.
 
 
Title: BLOOD
ROAD
Author: Amanda McCrina
Pub. Date: April 25, 2017
Publisher: Month9Books
Format: Paperback, eBook
Pages: 329
Find it: Goodreads
| Amazon | B&N
| TBD
Nineteen-year-old Torien Risto has seen
dissidents dealt with before. He knows the young local girl who just knifed him
will hang for assaulting an Imperial officer, unless he can stop it.
Someone inside the provincial government
is kidnapping Imperial citizens and selling them across the desert to the salt
mines, silencing anyone who tries to intervene. The girl’s brother is one of
those who has been taken. Rejected by the corrupt courts, she’s waging a
personal war against the Empire.
Determined to save her life, Torien sets
out in search of answers on the Salt Road, the ancient trade route running deep
into the heart of a desert—territory claimed by the hostile Mayaso tribe.
Now, Torien is no longer sure where his
own loyalty lies, or how far he will go to break the cycle of tyranny,
political bullying, and social injustice in an empire that seals its borders in
blood.

 

 

Excerpt

CHAPTER ONEHe could see the sky in pieces between the tenements, bruised purple now with dusk.

At first he was glad for the darkness, because it meant they would be firing the beacon in the lighthouse at the point. He leaned on his saddle-horns, craning his neck to look down the narrow cross streets, trying to catch a glimpse of the great light burning in the distance. By means of the lighthouse he could reorient himself. But the cross streets twisted away into deep shadow between the tenement blocks, and there was the irksome thought at the back of his mind that if they had wandered so far into the city as not see the lighthouse, then they had wandered so far as to be where Imperial control was more a matter of theory than practice—at least at night.

Earlier, when the young summer sun was glaring white in a blue- glaze sky and the air under the awnings still and close and hot enough one could feel one’s skin baking in it—the tenements shut out the harbor breeze—the streets had seethed with people: sellers of figs and dates and pomegranates and honeyed almonds and goats’ milk and flavored ices and sour wine; and potters and silversmiths and leatherworkers and basket-weavers at their shopfronts; and housewives browsing the market stalls; and slave girls with water in sloshing panniers over their shoulders; and naked children playing sticks-andhoops along the foot-stones; and now and then a mounted official in white linen, shouting and swearing until the crowd shuffled aside to let him pass. Now in darkness they were alone in the street. It was as though the rest of the city had died with the sun. The air was dry and rapidly cooling, heavy with silence like a bated breath. He would not mind the darkness if not for the silence. In a city such silence was unnatural.

“Do you suppose they’ll look for us?” Alluin said. “Or just wait until our bodies turn up in an alley in a week or so?”

“I imagine they’ll expend the effort for me, if they wouldn’t otherwise trouble about you.”

“So there is some benefit to your acquaintance, after all.”

“If not for my acquaintance, you’d be just finishing the first course at the officers’ dinner.”

It had been his idea to explore the city. Alluin was city-born and indifferent—all cities were the same when you got down to it; there came a point when unwashed bodies and stray dogs and bad wine in dirty shops ceased to be as interesting as bed. But he, Torien, still had 3 Blood Road a provincial awe of big cities—an itching, impatient need to see and hear and know. He had been determined not to idle away his time in Modigne behind the fort walls. True that he and Alluin had no more than a smattering of bastardized Modigno between them, and that Modigne was a rabbit’s warren of nameless, ancient streets, built and overbuilt in incongruous layers—in daylight that had seemed far less important than it did now. In daylight it had been enough to know he was an officer of the Imperial army, and a Vareno nobleman, with sufficient coin on his person for any foreseeable difficulty and a sword at his hip in the event his coin should fail. It was remarkable how in darkness one saw things more clearly.

Certain things, anyway—other things than the way back to the fort or the direction of the harbor light.

The street, so narrow now that Alluin had to rein in his horse and fall in behind, plunged into a honeycomb of tight-packed adobe huts, each no wider than the span of Torien’s arms, joined to its neighbors by rickety wooden ladders running an uneven line from flat rooftop to flat rooftop. He took the downward slant for a good sign: he knew, from studying the maps on the wall of the headquarters at the fort, that Modigne, built as it was along a volcanic crater, went down to the ocean like the insides of a bowl, and so for the street to be sloping downward meant it must be working its way however haphazardly to the harbor.

He leaned on the saddle-horns, lifting himself a little to see if he could pick out the lighthouse below.

There was a rustle on the rooftop above. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw a darker shadow take shape against the darkness. He recognized the glint of metal in time to jerk around in his saddle, hauling on the reins as he turned. He took the blade in the back of his left shoulder rather than in his throat.

He had braced for it and did not slip from the saddle, though for a moment he thought he might: his knees, pressed against the horse’s ribs, went as weak as water. He lost the reins from his left hand. Above him, he heard very clearly the patter of footsteps as the knifeman fled across the rooftop for the nearest ladder. Just as clearly, he heard the thin cry and the muffled thump as the knifeman lost his footing on the ladder and fell back to the roof.

Silence followed.

Torien brushed away Alluin’s hand and propped his right shoulder against the wall. He nodded to the hut. “Bring him,” he said—calmly, though his heart was pounding. “That fall won’t have killed him.”

He saw Alluin’s face as a pale blur in the darkness. “Tor—”

“It’s nothing. It’ll wait. Our friend won’t.”

In truth, his knees were still trembling, and he was speaking through clenched teeth because he knew if he unclenched them they would chatter. There was blood seeping through his tunic and jerkin, and he was conscious, as he hadn’t been at first, of the knife blade sunk to its hilt just beyond the cuff of his shoulder. His body was revolting against the thought, sickness threatening in the pit of his stomach.

Lamplight blossomed inside the hut. Low voices filtered out through the reed curtain in the doorway. Torien dipped his chin again, with effort. Alluin swore and swung from his saddle and drew his sword. He pushed into the hut through the curtain, and Torien heard him issuing orders in a clumsy hybrid of Modigno and Vareno—heard the crash of pottery breaking, the scrape of wood dragging across stone, a child’s whimper. A moment later, Alluin’s head and shoulders and sword hand emerged above him from inside the hut. Alluin pushed himself up on his hands from the opening, landing lightly on his feet on the roof. Picking up his sword, he vanished beyond the roof edge.

Torien leaned carefully back against the wall. He glanced down the street. There were no other doorways lit, no other sound than the clatter of Alluin’s hobnailed boots on the rooftop above. In Choiro, there would have been a crowd by now. Modigne lay as still and silent as a plague city.

Alluin reappeared at the roof edge. He had sheathed his sword. He was handling the knifeman along by the shoulders—no, not a man, Torien thought, certainly a boy: he came barely to Alluin’s chest. His arms and legs, silhouetted black against the sky, were thin, stick-like things around which his tunic fluttered shapelessly.

Torien pushed up from the wall and gathered himself together and dismounted. The ground was springy under his feet. He wavered for a moment as his heels touched, swallowing back the sickness. There was a ringing in his ears. He blinked in the sudden brightness of lamplight as Alluin flung aside the curtain in the doorway and shoved the boy before him out into the street. Behind him the hut’s occupants—a man and a woman and an assortment of half-dressed children—gathered silently in the doorway to watch.

The boy had stumbled and fallen in a heap of skinny limbs and wool rags. He caught himself on his palms. He adjusted the cap on his head and sat back awkwardly, keeping his knobby legs to the side. In the dim light, Torien could see enough to know the left ankle was broken. There was blood dribbling from the boy’s nose, and he was sucking breath low and softly through his teeth. His eyes darted over Torien’s face, lingering for a moment at Torien’s shoulder. He looked quickly to the ground. He was, Torien judged, eleven or perhaps twelve—not yet old enough to face execution for an assault upon an Imperial soldier. He would go to a slaver’s block instead. There would be an examination to determine the guilt of his family.

He caught Alluin’s eye and jerked his chin to the sullen family in the doorway. “Wine if they have it. Water otherwise—and something passable for bandage cloth.” The pain had started, and he was leaning into his horse’s shoulder for balance.

The woman in the doorway said something in Modigno. He recognized the word for wine. He said, “What did she say?” Alluin’s Modigno was bad, but better than his own.

“They have wine, but it’s for a wedding,” Alluin said, “for her sister’s wedding—I think.”

He was irritated and impatient now. “Water, then. Tell them I’d have paid for wine.”

Alluin stood at his shoulder and unbuckled his cuirass while the woman went into the hut. “Do you want to do this inside?” he said. His voice was quiet.

“Not until I know he acted alone.” Torien nodded to the boy, who had sat motionless all this while, studying the ground as though he were reading something written there. “You. You speak Vareno?”

The boy looked up incuriously into Torien’s face. He had determined not to speak: Torien could see as much from the set of his mouth, the hollowness of his eyes. His thin brown hands were clenched to fists on his lap.

From the doorway, the man spoke up in rapid Modigno.

“He’s reconsidered about the wine?” Torien said. The shoulder was hurting fiercely.

“He says he knows her family,” Alluin said.

“Whose family?” There was a moment’s silence in which he suddenly understood.

“A girl,” he said, stupidly. “He says he knows her family and will tell us where she lives,” Alluin said.

“Also, he would appreciate very much his lord’s kindness if his lord would consider a pittance in return for the service.”

The girl flung up her head suddenly to spit at the man’s feet. The man seemed embarrassed. He hunched his shoulders and looked at his hands. The woman came out from the hut with a water jug and a cloth. She held them out to Alluin at arm’s length, making a quick, nervous gesture with her hands. Alluin shook his head. “Hold them. Quedas—hold them, you understand?”

“Give them to me,” Torien said.

“Don’t give them to him,” Alluin said. “He’ll drop them when I do this.”

He jerked the knife from Torien’s shoulder. Torien folded to his knees. The street swam around him. He heard Alluin’s voice as though it were carrying to him underwater. He shook his head. Alluin was prying the cuirass from his shoulder and tugging the jerkin down his arm. The night air through his blood-soaked tunic was sharp and cold; he shivered. The girl’s eyes were on him. She was watching with the same flat-eyed incuriosity. There was blood trickling over her lips from her nose, but she made no move to wipe it away.

“Her ankle,” Torien said. For some reason, her silence shamed him.

Far above him Alluin said, patiently, “What?”

“Tie up her ankle. And tell the Modigno he can show us where she lives, because I don’t trust the word of a coward.”

****

The Modigno walked ahead, self-consciously, shoulders still hunched in embarrassment. Alluin followed on foot, leading his horse by the reins. The girl huddled in his saddle with her hands outstretched to the horns, her face buried in the horse’s mane, her bare legs dangling limp against the horse’s belly. Torien rode at the rear. The street, which turned this way and that through the honeycombed huts, ran steadily downhill all the while, and he knew they must be close to the water because there was a stiff salt breeze rising to his face. It cut through his soaked tunic like a knife. His fingers were numb on the reins. He had knotted them in the horse’s mane to keep himself upright in the saddle.

He could have ordered the Modigno to show them instead to the harbor light, of course, or to the fort itself, and they could have delivered the girl into the prison on the hill, and very soon now he might have been enjoying the comfort of his own quarters and a skin of wine to ease the pain in his shoulder—but it might easily be a month before the girl’s case went to the governor, and he was due to report at Tasso in a week, and he had too many questions of his own to let it go like that.

Only after they had gone on for near half an hour, the adobe huts having given way to ramshackle wooden shanties and the street sunk in soft, rank mud, the air heavy with the smell of brine and rotten fish, did it occur to him that most likely the Modigno had no idea about the girl’s family and no idea where she lived—had grasped for the chance to make a quick coin and come away with more than he had bargained for, and was looking for the opportunity to dart down an alley and vanish into the night.

He had opened his mouth to say this to Alluin when the Modigno swung about suddenly and said something in his own tongue, gesturing with his hands. The shanty at his back was threesided, sheltered from the street by a tattered sailcloth curtain, unlit.

“He says it’s here,” Alluin said.

The girl shifted in Alluin’s saddle. A shudder ran through her shoulders, but she did not raise her head.

“Tell him to lift the curtain,” Torien said. He was cold and aching and the Modigno was a fool, but that was no reason to abandon caution.

The Modigno lifted the curtain. The shanty was empty. There was a fire pit dug in the bare-dirt floor, but the coals were dead.

The Modigno spoke very quickly in his own tongue, his eyes going from Alluin to Torien and back again.

“He seems to think we think he’s lied,” Alluin said. “He wants us to ask the girl.”

“Tell him the girl’s our concern.” Torien dismounted, cradling his left arm against his stomach. He was too tired for anger. Anyway, it was pointless to threaten reprisals: they would not find him again if they tried. He fumbled at his belt and withdrew a bronze from his wallet. He flicked the coin in the Modigno’s direction. “Bayas—go.”

The Modigno dropped to his heels to dig out the coin from the mud. He made a mockery of a bow as he straightened: it had occurred to him that they had been essentially at his mercy. His shoulders were straight as he walked away back up the street.

Alluin pulled the girl down from his saddle by the waist and held her before him, as easily as though she were made of straw. “I’ll have a look around. The harbor can’t be far.”

“No. We can spend the night here.”

“That shoulder needs more than water, Tor, and sooner is better. Though I appreciate your faith in my medical ability.”

“I don’t like the idea of splitting up. It won’t do my shoulder any good if you end up in the harbor with your throat cut. And I couldn’t drag myself back into a saddle right now if I wanted to.”

Alluin was silent, studying him. He had the girl’s shoulder in one hand, his reins in the other. He let go the girl’s shoulder, reluctantly. “Adienta—inside,” he said. And to Torien: “I’ll see to the horses.”

Weak moonlight filtered through the roof of the shanty, which was nothing more than a reed lattice tied down with leather strips. The girl sat down against the left-hand wall, stretching her bad leg straight before her. She watched silently and unmoving while Torien crouched on his heels at the fire pit and searched one-handed through the ashes for salvageable tinder. By the time he had built up a decent pile, and had found flint and iron to strike a light, Alluin had ducked in from the street with a saddle on each arm.

“I’d have done it if you’d waited,” he said. He deposited Torien’s saddle against the right-hand wall and sat down with his own against the rear wall.

Torien unbuckled his helmet and leaned his head back against the wall. He sat with the helmet on his lap, his eyes closed. Beyond the crackling of the fire and the rattling of the lattice in the salt breeze, the silence stretched vast and hostile. “If you speak,” he said, “it goes better for you.” He opened his eyes and looked at the girl across the fire pit. In the firelight, he could see the details of her bony bronze face. She was older than he had thought at first—older than he’d thought when he’d thought her a boy. It was possible she was fifteen. The smallness of her limbs and the sunkenness of her cheeks made it hard to tell. She was looking into the flame in silence, her eyes halfclosed, her face magnificently blank, but he knew she had heard and had taken his general meaning by the way her shoulders tightened against the wa

ll. “Tell me if there were others,” he said. “Tell me how many.”

When she said nothing, he said to Alluin, “In Modigno. Tell her if she doesn’t answer to us now, she’ll answer to the governor in court—she and her family.”

The girl jerked her chin, suddenly. “No others,” she said. “I understand what you say.” Her eyes came up to his. Her voice was low but hard. “I do it alone. No family. The cobarte he lies when he brings you. No family. He says it because he wants your coin.”

“Why did you do it?”

She turned her face back to the fire.

“Answer me,” Torien said.

“I go to the slavers anyway,” she said. “It doesn’t matter if I answer you.”

“Possibly you’ll go to the slavers. Possibly they’ll decide you’re old enough to face execution. My word means a great deal, either way.”

“I do not care,” she said.

“My word can spare you an examination.”

“I do not care.”

He glanced over to Alluin, who shrugged very slightly against the wall. Torien could sense his discomfort in his silence. He looked back at the girl. “Speak now and I’ll listen,” he said. “Come tomorrow in the city prison, it’ll be too late.”

She said nothing. He saw there was no use in it. He said to Alluin, “We’d better set a watch.”

“I’ll watch,” Alluin said. He seemed thankful for something to do.

“I’ll take it over in a few hours,” Torien said. “Wake me if you need to.”

He did not sleep. He lay against his saddle, carefully still on account of the shoulder, watching the sky through the cracks in the lattice and waiting for sleep to come, but his mind was moving on and on through the streets of Modigne, and in the silence he was restless. At length, he got up. The fire had died to embers. Across the room, the girl was huddled shapeless in the darkness. He could not tell if she was asleep. He went over to the doorway, where Alluin sat cross-legged against the corner post. “You sleep,” he said. “I can’t.”

“Your shoulder?” Alluin’s voice was tight. “You should have let me go for help, Tor.”

“It’s fine. It’s just that I can’t sleep and you might as well.”

“Next time you’ll listen to me. Next time when I say I can see enough of Modigne from the fort walls, and you say—”

“You talk like you’re the one who took the knife.”

“That’s the difference between us,” Alluin said. “I don’t have to take a knife in my back before I recognize a bad idea.”

Torien sat with his back against the post, his sword unsheathed across his lap. Through the gap between the post and the curtain, he could see the horses and the moonlit street beyond. He watched a cat come noiselessly down the street. It saw him as it approached the shanty, and it paused and watched him and went on again when it decided he was no threat. Behind him, in the shanty, Alluin was breathing long and steadily in his sleep. It was perhaps midnight or a little past. He heard a noise like a muffled laugh or a cough, and he started, fingers seizing instinctively on his sword grip. At his movement, the noise stopped. Across the room, the girl was struggling to hold herself still against the wall. Her shoulders shook with trapped sobs.

He pulled himself up to his feet, supporting himself on the sword. He crossed the room to her. She heard him approaching and drew herself stiffly up, but she did not raise her head. He knelt beside her. In the moonlight through the lattice, he could see the tear streaks on her cheeks. Leaning on the sword, he said, quietly, “Tell me why you did it.”

Another tremor ran through her shoulders. She bit her lip. Alluin’s untroubled breathing was loud in the silence.

“Give me the truth and I may be able to help you.”

She shook her head, once, sharply, her eyes squeezed shut. “You lie. I know you lie.”

“I don’t lie.”

“All Vareni lie. I know this.”

“Maybe. But I’m Cesino blood through my father’s line.”

“Then to your people you are a traitor.”

She said it flatly, without interest, as though it were as obvious as the weather, and he understood the absurdity of trying to explain to her, in that moment, how one could feel loyalty to homeland and to empire without hypocrisy. He said, instead, “I’m trying to help you.”

“Why do you want to help me?”

“I care to see proper justice done.”

“I know your justice.” She lifted her face to his, finally. Her voice was thick with anger and tears. “I know what you mean when you say justice. You take Mahlan when he does nothing wrong. I know what you mean by justice.”

The curtain rustled in a draft of cold salt breeze. Torien was on his feet and spinning to the doorway in one motion, his sword ready in his hand. Behind him, Alluin sat bolt upright, flinging aside his cloak. He drew his sword and scrambled up, his back to the wall. The figure in the doorway stood frozen at Torien’s sword point. For a moment, there was silence in the shanty. Then Torien jerked his chin over his shoulder and said, “Sit—slowly. Linta.”

He kept his blade leveled at the newcomer’s throat while the newcomer slid down beside the girl. He said to Alluin, “Light.”

Alluin dropped to his knees at the fire pit. There was another stretch of silence while he coaxed a flame from the spent tinder. In the moonlight, Torien could see the newcomer’s arms tight around the girl’s shoulders, head bowed against the girl’s head. He lowered his sword. After a moment’s consideration, he sheathed it. He turned on his heel and went to the curtain and looked out into the street. It lay empty and silent as before. The horses stood tethered at the post. He drew the curtain shut. There was a tightness in him that had nothing to do with the wound.

Feeble light sprang over the shanty walls.

“It won’t last long,” Alluin said.

“Use this.” With one booted foot, Torien prodded the bundle of sticks that the newcomer had let drop in the doorway. The girl watched him over the newcomer’s shoulder. Her face was set as hard as stone, but he saw the flicker of fear in her eyes. He crouched on his heels, facing her, the fire pit at his back. “No family? So it’s not only Vareni who lie.”

The girl said nothing. The newcomer straightened slowly against the wall and looked at him. He saw the girl’s face in near-exact duplicate, but duplicated as it would be in twenty years’ time: bronze skin prematurely lined, lips cracked by the sun, dark eyes sunken with hunger and hardship and grief. There was neither fear nor defiance in the woman’s face, but rather a resignation which shook him. “I give you what you want. Do not ask it of the girl.”

“You can give me satisfactory answers. Otherwise the girl goes before an Imperial court for sedition and attempted murder.”

The woman looked at the girl, the girl at the floor. Neither spoke, but in the firelight Torien watched the color drain from the woman’s face.

“Dependent upon her age, the penalty is enslavement or death, so I advise you to consider your answers carefully. Who is Mahlan?”

The woman was silent. The girl raised her eyes briefly from the floor.

“Silence does your daughter no good,” Torien said.

“My son. He is my son—Mahlan.” Her mouth contorted as though the name pained her.

“Where is he?”

“They take him,” the woman said. She swallowed. “This spring when the harbor open they come and take him.”

“Who?”

She said nothing. Her fingers were tight around the girl’s arms. They were bony fingers, bent and blunted from work, the knuckles swollen, the nails split. The backs of her brown hands were traced over with lines like dry leather.

“Vareni?” Torien said. “Answer me.”

The woman closed her eyes. “Of the jente.”

He did not know the word. He darted a glance to Alluin, who was sitting and watching from the other side of the fire pit. “One of the crime lords,” Alluin said, quietly.

Torien said to the woman, “This jente took your son?”

“When the harbor open, they take him.”

He supposed in her mind and in the girl’s the Imperial governing authorities were partially culpable in that they had not stopped it; and he supposed he had made more accessible a target than the jente for the girl’s retribution. It was a stupid reason to be knifed in the street, and a stupider reason to be executed. He was irritated. “You should have gone to the governor. He might have explained to you the difference between justice and vengeance before the girl need hang for it.”

“I go to your courts.” The woman flung up her head. “I am a citizen. My daughter she is a citizen. My son he is a citizen. I go to your courts for justice. They say to me I have no case, and they tell me if I am not silent then they will silence me. Always it is the same. Always you pretend you do not see, because the jente he pays you not to see. I know what is justice and what is not justice. What you hang my daughter for it is not justice, and you know this too.”

“How many others besides your son?” There was a moment’s silence. He could sense Alluin frozen behind him across the fire pit. He said, “You say always like it’s common practice. How many others?”

The woman drew up a little. Her eyes were flat, her mouth tight. She thought he was mocking her. “There are hundreds the jente take. You know—”

“I know nothing. I’ve been two days in Modigne, and despite the fact I just took a knife in my shoulder, I hope to be shipboard and gone tomorrow.” He kneaded his temples with his fingertips. “So the jente takes them—why? As slaves?”

“He sells them into the salt mines in Tasso. I hear it from the sailors.”

“And you say the governor knows and does nothing.”

Anger flashed across the sun-cracked face. “I say because I know. We tell him what happens. We tell him the jente he takes us to be slaves in the mines. We ask his protection. ‘We are citizens,’ we say. ‘Help us against the jente.’ But the ones who speak out he gives their name to the jente, and the jente he kills them or he takes them to the ships. I have seen this. The jente he kills us in the street, and your governor and your courts and your garrison they do nothing.”

“Every ship coming into or going out from an Imperial port is inspected—slave ships more closely than the rest. Every manifest is reviewed, every cargo taxed. So many kidnapped citizens would hardly escape notice. It would take more than the governor turning a blind eye. At the least, it would mean the city guard, and the harbor master and his agents, and the harbor master at Tasso, and every level of the administration at the mines. This jente can’t have bought them all.”

“The city guard always they belong to the jentes,” the woman said. “Anyway, the jente he doesn’t use the slave ships. I see it myself. In the night they put the slaves on trade ships—hundreds of slaves into hidden holds. In the day they fill the ships with jugs of wine, jugs of oil. That is what the harbor master sees. They put water in some of the jugs so it doesn’t show on the manifests that they carry water for the slaves. I don’t know about the mines.”

Torien was silent. The girl was looking at him over the woman’s shoulder—unblinking, contemptuous, as though she were daring him to call it a lie. Alluin sat motionless behind him, waiting for him to speak, because in the end the decision was his alone, but he knew Alluin’s thoughts like his own, and he knew Alluin, too, was thinking of the empty streets outside the shanty and the silence like a bated breath—fear hanging over the city like a plague.

He rocked back on his heels and got to his feet. The shanty spun as he stood. “This is what will happen. In the morning, I take ship for Tasso. You’ll go with me down to the harbor, and you’ll show me the jente’s ships, and I’ll investigate crew and cargo for myself. If I find nothing to convince me of this slaving business, then I’ll leave it for the governor’s court to decide your fate. Otherwise I’ll do what I can from Tasso to see this thing ended and those responsible made to pay for it—Modigno and Vareno alike. In any case, I swear to you I’ll see justice done. If you’ve told me the truth, you’ve nothing to fear by that.”

The woman’s fingers were tight on the girl’s arms. “I tell you the truth,” she said. Her voice was low and hard, and in it he heard what she left unsaid: that she knew the value of Vareno oaths just as she knew the value of Vareno justice. The truth made no difference to whim.

He ground out the fire under one boot heel. “I’ll take the watch,” he said to Alluin. It was perhaps four hours to dawn, and he knew he would not sleep.

 

 
Amanda McCrina has studied in Italy,
taught English in Japan, and currently tutors Latin in Atlanta, Georgia. She
received her BA in History from the University of West Georgia, and is now
pursuing her MA. She writes stories that incorporate her love of history, languages,
and world travel. She drinks far too much coffee and dreams of one day having a
winning fantasy-hockey season.

 

 

3 winners will receive and eGalley of BLOOD
ROAD, International.

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I love this quote, Diana
“I’m wondering what to read next.” — Matilda, Roald Dahl

Losing Kyler by Siobhan Davis #CoverReveal @siobhandavis @lolasblogtours

Today is the cover reveal for Losing Kyler by Siobhan Davis. This cover reveal is organized by Lola’s Blog Tours.

Losing KylerLosing Kyler (The Kennedy Boys #2)
by Siobhan Davis
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Age category: Upper Young Adult
Release Date: 27 March, 2017

Blurb:
Condemned to repeat the sins of the past…

Faye thought losing her parents was the most devastating thing to happen to her, but she was wrong. Her uncle’s scandalous revelation has sent her into a tailspin, leaving her questioning her entire existence.

Everything she believed is built on a lie.

And the one person she shares a passionate, soul-deep connection with can’t be there for her.

Faye and Ky can’t be together. It’s forbidden. Though they are determined to avoid replicating their parents’ mistakes, caving to their feelings is as tempting as the apple in the Garden of Eden.

Ky had sworn off girls until Faye bulldozed her way into his life. Now, she’s his whole world, and their forced separation is crushing him. Once his manipulative ex resurfaces—hellbent on ruining the Kennedys—he’ll do whatever it takes to protect his loved ones including turning his back on the one person he can’t live without.

Then tragedy strikes and all bets are off.

But is it too late?

When Faye needs him and he isn’t there for her, guilt and hurt threaten to obliterate their love. As they start to rebuild their fractured hearts, another sordid family secret is uncovered, and Faye worries Ky may be lost to her forever.

But can you truly lose someone if they don’t want to be found?

You can find Losing Kyler on Goodreads
You can pre-order Losing Kyler on Amazon

Losing Kyler preorder gift banner

 

Losing Kyler pre-order gift!
If you pre-order Losing Kyler you can sign-up to receive free bonus content for this series. Not available to purchase or download anywhere else! All you need to do is pre-order Losing Kyler and then complete this form.

Losing Kyler Excerpt:
In this moment, I hate my mother, and I’m mad as all hell that she isn’t here for me to yell at. To demand she tell me the Goddamned truth and explain why she thought it was such a good idea to lie about virtually every facet of my life. My hands ball into fists at my sides, and I’m barely holding it together.
“I also discovered that he was working for a firm in Belfast at the time your mother told you she met him. He wasn’t working locally, Faye. There’s no way Saoirse could’ve met him in the way she described to you.”
Liar! How could she do this to me!
I don’t even know who I am anymore, and every memory I have of my parents is tarnished by the knowledge that it was a fabrication. That I was being lied to every single day of my life.
Why? Were they ever planning on telling me the truth?
Hopping up, enraged and upset, and struggling with a million other emotions, I sweep the contents of my dresser clear across the floor. Picking up the stool, I fling it across the room, watching as it smashes against the wall, the sounds of splintering wood adding to James’s shocked gasps. Tears erupt from my eyes, and my cries fill the room as I slump to the ground, sobbing uncontrollably into my hands.
Ky kneels down, gently wrapping his arms around me from behind. His limbs are tense, his arms a little stiff, and I feel it too—the lure of his warmth and the call of his body battling against what we’ve been told, forcing us to maintain a certain distance.
“Kyler.” James’s voice contains clear warning.
“Shut up, Dad. She needs me, and I’m only comforting her. You’re the one who fucked up here, not us. And you’re a damn hypocrite to criticize us after all you’ve done.”
Ky’s statement is paradoxical in part, because the truth is more complex than that. Is James the hypocrite or are we? I don’t know what to think anymore. I massage my temples, digging my fingers into my skin with brutal intensity, welcoming the pressure. What is right and what is wrong? I’m not sure I know anymore, and my jumbled brain is incapable of constructing logical thought patterns.

Cover Reveal Keeping Kyler!
And as a bonus here’s the cover for book 3, Keeping Kyler!
Keeping Kyler

You can find Keeping Kyler on Goodreads
You can pre-order Keeping Kyler on Amazon

Start this series with Finding Kyler!
Finding Kyler
Two fractured hearts and a forbidden love they can’t deny.

Finding Kyler is the first book in the Kennedy Boys series! You can add Finding Kyler to your to-read list on Goodreads
Buy your copy of Finding Kyler on Amazon for only $0.99!

SiobhanAbout the Author:
Siobhan Davis writes emotionally intense young adult fiction with swoon-worthy romance, complex characters, and tons of unexpected plot twists and turns that will have you flipping the pages beyond bedtime! She is the author of the Amazon bestselling True Calling and Saven series.

Siobhan’s family will tell you she’s a little bit obsessive when it comes to reading and writing, and they aren’t wrong. She can rarely be found without her trusty Kindle, a paperback book, or her laptop somewhere close at hand.

Prior to becoming a full-time writer, Siobhan forged a successful corporate career in human resource management.

She resides in the Garden County of Ireland with her husband and two sons.

You can find and contact Siobhan here:
Website
Blog
Facebook
Twitter
Google +
Instagram
Goodreads
Amazon
Kennedy Boys Newsletter

Giveaway
There is a cover reveal wide giveaway for the cover reveal of Losing Kyler. There will be two winners. Open Internationally. The prizes are below:
– One signed paperback of Finding Kyler
– One $10 Amazon gift card

For a chance to win enter the rafflecopter below:
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I love this quote, Diana
“I’m wondering what to read next.” — Matilda, Roald Dahl

Book Review: WHISPER OF LOVE by Melissa Foster #BookReview @TastyBookTours @Melissa_Foster

For the first time in years, Nash wants to let a woman into his world, 
but while his loss made him stronger, that strength came at a price.
WHISPER OF LOVE
The Bradens – Peaceful Harbor, MD #5
Melissa Foster
Releasing Feb 22, 2017
World Literary Press

 

Tempest Braden adores her family and her small hometown, but sometimes too much of a good thing can be confining. At almost thirty, having watched most of her siblings find true love, she’s anxious to experience her own happily ever after, and the move to Pleasant Hill, Maryland, is just the change she needs. When she rents a room from ruggedly handsome, and closed-off, artist Nash Morgan and his adorable son, Phillip, she thinks she’s found a little slice of heaven on the outskirts of town, where she can concentrate on building her business. That is, if she can ignore the undeniable heat between her and the sinfully hot single father.

When Nash bought his farmette, he had one goal in mind—to provide a loving, stable home for his son. He never imagined he’d be raising Phillip alone, or renting out a room to keep their heads above water. Then again, he never imagined losing his brother, or spending two years sailing around the world with parents who seemed to forget one son was still alive. 

Sparks fly from the moment Tempest moves in, and her positive energy and inquisitive nature brings new life into Nash and Phillip’s quiet, confined world. For the first time in years, Nash wants to let a woman into his world, but while his loss made him stronger, that strength came at a price, leaving him walled off and wary of opening his heart again.

Every time I read a new book from Melissa Foster, I am amazed. She seems to come up with so many fantastic stories.  This story is about Tempest and Nash.

First of all, I love when the author adds a sweet child to the story. I love kids and I really felt the love here. This story is written so well and just makes me want to be there. I can picture it all.

Tempest has moved away from Peaceful Harbor to try to make it on her own, of course she is living with her cousin Jillian. Jillian doesn’t sleep and Tempest needs her sleep. I can relate I need my sleep. Anyway, she decides to find a new place to live and saw an ad for a room for rent. Of course, Jillian says to wait till her cousins can go along to check it all out. But Tempest decided to meet up with this man offering his room without her cousins.

Nash and his young son live on a small farmette, they have chickens and goats. His son Phillip who is 3 follows his dad and helps out. To make a living Nash builds furniture but he is really an awesome artist. He has had some tragedy in his life but right now his life is focus on Phillip. Nash wanted to rent the room to get some more income to live on. He didn’t want any strange type people because he did have his young son.

Tempest went to check out the farmette and met Nash and his adorable son.  Tempest loved it there and loved how Nash treated his son. She could tell he was a very loving and protector of his son.

The story is awesome, really worth reading. The romance is there, the chemistry is there. Most important the love is there. I had goosebumps and felt the love throughout this story. There is such much in this story. I can also relate to the tragedy that Nash had to endure.

This is a 5 star book.

There is romance, lots of sweet moments, and steamy hot sex. A few swear words.

I want to thank Tasty booktours, the author Melissa Foster and Netgalley for letting me read this book and to review.


 

Melissa Foster is a New York Times & USA
Today
 bestselling and award-winning author. She writes sexy and
heartwarming contemporary romance, new adult romance, and women’s fiction with
emotionally compelling characters that stay with you long after you turn the
last page. Melissa’s emotional journeys are lovingly erotic, perfect beach
reads, and always family oriented. 

 

 

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I love this quote, Diana
“I’m wondering what to read next.” — Matilda, Roald Dahl

Breakaway by Mignon Mykel #ReleaseBlast @mnonmklwrites

~*~RELEASE DAY~*~
Breakaway: A Playmaker Duet Prequel
Release Date: February 28, 2017
Once upon a time, in a faraway place…
I learned that monsters exist
That the dark is meant for fear
That sometimes you can’t even count on yourself
I just have to get past senior year finals, and I can break away-
I can leave the past,
the monsters,
the ghosts,
far, far behind.
I just can’t break beforehand.
Author’s Note: This novelette contains dark elements that some readers may be sensitive to. This is a story of a seventeen year old girl who wasn’t handed the easiest of cards, and is an important piece in understanding her thoughts and actions in the Playmaker Duet, however readers should be able to read the duet without reading this piece prior. Due to content, this book is recommended for readers 18+
Links:
iTunes: http://apple.co/2ictUS2 (releasing March 7)
Add to your TBR: https://goo.gl/v0tVsi
Read Porter Prescott’s prequel novella, Troublemaker, now! 
Release Date: October 3, 2016
For years, I’ve lived in my big brothers’ shadows. Heck, I’ve lived in my sisters’ shadows as well.
It comes with being the baby of the Prescott family.
In two years, I’ll be eligible for the NHL Entry Draft.
In two years, the world is going to know Porter Prescott for what I can bring to the table, not as the kid brother of San Diego Enforcers players, Caleb and Jonny Prescott.
I have two years to make a name for myself.
Be prepared.
Porter Prescott is coming your way.
Authors note: This book does include mature themes and is intended for readers 18 and older. 
This book also is that of a sixteen year old Porter Prescott; it does not include a happily ever after, nor a happy for now.
Links:
Add to your TBR: https://goo.gl/v0tVsi
About the Author:
Mignon Mykel is the author of the Prescott Family series, as well as the short-novella erotic romance series, O’Gallagher Nights. When not sitting at Starbucks writing whatever her characters tell her to, you can find her hiking in the mountains of her new home in Arizona.
Amazon Author Page: amazon.com/author/mnonmkl
Reader group: bit.ly/2jGzjzf <- It IS Facebook. Just a long address.
Instagram: instagram.com/mignon.mykel / @mignon.mykel
Porter & Asher Instagram: instagram.com/porter.asher / @porter.asher
Twitter: https://twitter.com/mnonmklwrites/ @mnonmklwrites

I love this quote, Diana
“I’m wondering what to read next.” — Matilda, Roald Dahl

The Rise of Miss Notley by Rachael Anderson #ReleaseBlast @toobusyreading

the-rise-of-miss-notley-gr
The Rise of Miss Notley by Rachael Anderson

When Miss Coralynn Notley’s father barters her off to the first titled gentleman to come along, she realizes she must flee her home or be forced to wed a despicable man. Driven by desperation, she applies for the position of housekeeper at Tanglewood Manor, the home of the handsome Mr. Jonathan Ludlow. The moment Jonathan sees Miss Notley, he is intrigued. She is far too young and inexperienced, yet there is something about her that that inspires a certain hope within him. Does he dare offer her the position of housekeeper or will doing so result in catastrophe?

Excerpt

Cora nodded and followed Mr. Ludlow into the parlor. He closed the doors and stood in front of them with his arms folded, looking far more intimidating than he had during their last meeting. He said nothing, merely lifted an inquiring eyebrow and waited.
Caught unprepared, Cora stared at him, trying to organize her thoughts into words. After a few moments of awkward silence, he lost patience. “What is it you wished to speak with me about, Mrs. Notley? Or are we to stand here staring at each other all afternoon?”
Not knowing how else to begin, Cora blurted, “Why have you hired me, sir?”
He blinked a few times before frowning. “I believe I have made that perfectly clear. You are to be the housekeeper, are you not?”
This was going to be more difficult than she had imagined. “Yes, of course, but there has been some talk about, or rather concerns expressed . . .” How did one put this delicately?
“About . . .?” he prodded, obviously not thrilled that his morning regime had been waylaid.
“About the reasons I have been offered the position,” she quickly said, hoping that would be enough to make him understand her meaning.
Unfortunately, his brows drew together in confusion. “What are you saying, Mrs. Notley? I have hired you to do certain duties that will hopefully make my household run more smoothly. What other reason could I possibly have for offering you the position?”
“You have hired me to do a job I am untrained to do,” she said. “While I am grateful for the opportunity, I also find it necessary to clarify that I have come here to be a housekeeper and only a housekeeper. Even though I am young and . . .” Her voice drifted off. Had she almost referred to herself as pretty? Goodness, this was proving to be very awkward indeed.
“Beautiful?” he finally guessed, not looking at all pleased with the direction the conversation was taking.
“I was going to say not repulsive,” she fibbed.
“Very well,” he said. “Even though you are young and not repulsive . . .” He moved his hand in a circular gesture, urging her to finish her thought.
Cora straightened her shoulders and forced herself to continue. “I am not the sort of girl who would ever . . . fraternize with her employer.” Her face infused with heat, but she forced her gaze to remain steady.
“I see.” He walked slowly towards her, rubbing his chin with his hand. A few steps away, he stopped and eyed her quizzically. “Have I made any improper advances towards you?”
“No, sir.”
“Have I spoken to you in an unprofessional manner?”
“No.”
“Have I looked at you in a way that has made you feel uncomfortable?”
“No.” Cora suddenly wished she had not felt the need to clarify anything. He made her feel as though she had put the cart before the horse when what she had been trying to do was see that the cart and horse simply stayed in their proper places. Was that so wrong?
“Might I ask who, exactly, has led you to believe that I am the sort of man capable of—how did you put it? Fraternizing with my help?”
“I, er, would rather not say, sir.” Though Cora felt no loyalty towards Sally, she refused to bring Mr. and Mrs. Shepherd’s names into the conversation. “I did not mean to besmirch your name or cause any offense, Mr. Ludlow. I merely wanted to make my feelings on the matter clear.”
“And you have.”
“Good.” Cora dropped into a quick curtsy, anxious to get away. “I shall go and find Watts now.”
She was almost to the door when his voice stopped her. “Once again, you are attempting to scuttle away before we have completed our conversation.”
Slowly, she turned around and lifted her eyes to his. “I never scuttle, sir.”
“What would you call that rapid walk of yours?”
“A rapid walk.”

RachaelAuthor Rachael Anderson

A USA Today bestselling author, Rachael Anderson is the mother of four and is pretty good at breaking up fights, or at least sending guilty parties to their rooms. She can’t sing, doesn’t dance, and despises tragedies. But she recently figured out how yeast works and can now make homemade bread, which she is really good at eating.

Website

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$50 Amazon Gift Card or Paypal Cash Giveaway

Ends 3/15/17

Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use an Amazon.com Gift Code or Paypal Cash. Winning Entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent enter for you. The winner will be chosen by rafflecopter and announced here as well as emailed and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Rafflecopter or any other entity unless otherwise specified. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. Giveaway was organized by Kathy from I Am A Reader and sponsored by the author. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW.

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I love this quote, Diana
“I’m wondering what to read next.” — Matilda, Roald Dahl