Wednesday, May 24, 2017

With her white-gold hair and azure eyes, Lainie MacPherson is as wild and untamed as the rugged Scottish Highlands where she was raised. HIGHLAND SONG BY CHRISTINE YOUNG FREE ON KU



Christine Young
Excerpt Heat Level: 1
Book Heat Level: 4

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BLURB:

With her white-gold hair and azure eyes, Lainie MacPherson is as wild and untamed as the rugged Scottish Highlands where she was raised. Lainie vowed to avenge a crime against her. Recklessly, she defies English laws and the man who raped her puts a bounty on her head. The man who is sent to bring her to Edinburgh sets a dangerous trap. With nothing left to live for the beautiful Scottish spy steals the sealed documents the English soldier has tempted her with.

When the exquisite temptress takes the bait and runs off with not only the forged documents but the purses of the men in the tavern, Aaron Slade vows to hunt her down and bring her to justice, never dreaming she will tame his jaded soul. When Aaron discovers the truth about the tempestuous woman who stirs his passion to the point of madness, he dares not love her, but desires her with all his soul.


Ayr, Scotland
1514

Lainie MacPherson let the crumpled wanted poster drop to the ground. Her stomach knotted and fear snaked down her spine. Beneath the shadows of the hooded cape she wore, Lainie searched the room for her enemies.

Every man here fit that description.

Forced into a trap of her own making, out of courage, friendless, and terrified Lainie did the only thing she could think of to bring the pig Bertram to his knees.

She would steal the temptingly displayed secret papers that were on the table in front of her. Papers she hoped showed troop movements--papers stamped with the King's seal--papers she could hand over to her brother, Hawke.

First Lainie made sure the shadows in the tavern hid her from view, shrinking into the dark interior, hiding her face with the hood of her cape. She tried not to stare at the dark-haired stranger who had absent-mindedly set his jacket and satchel on a table with the documents she sought poking out almost as if they challenged her with a secret invitation. The man’s dangerous, dark looks sent a strange sensation of heat coursing down her spine.

English soldiers like Jericho Manning and Rory Slater were more dangerous and more terrifying than any highland lass should have to deal with. To make the situation worse, she didn’t need a dark-haired stranger to make her fingers shake and her insides quake.

Lainie inhaled a deep steadying breath. Easy, she told herself. Go nice and slow. The stranger looks half-drunk and the tavern maid sitting on his lap has all his attention.

"What’s in it for me?" Rory asked Jericho, his haggard features lighting up with anticipation and snagging Lainie’s attention.

"Only what Bertram wants to give you himself." The dark stranger looked at the
English officer. The fingers on one hand tapping the oaken table top impatiently.

Rory’s toothless grin sent a shiver of fear down Lainie’s spine.

"Jericho always gives me his left-overs," Rory said. “You going to give me this one?”

Rory’s diabolical laughter sealed the darkness in her heart.

Jericho nodded then leaned forward. "I want the lass. And I’ll have her before I give her over to Bertram. She’s only a whore."

Lainie nearly gasped but stopped herself. Courage, Lainie, you’ve been in tighter spots than this. It was not her plan to give herself away to these men.

She inhaled a long, deep breath once more and reached for the satchel beneath the soldier's jacket. A few more seconds and all would be hers. A few more seconds and she would hand the papers over to a friend. Someone who would carry them to the Scottish King.

She committed no treason here.

She was Scottish to the core.

This was for the good of her country--not England. Besides she’d already been labeled a traitor by the crown of England. She had nothing to lose.

If Bertram suffered a set back, his lack of attention caused the problem.

Aaron Slade let his hands slide up and down the arms of the lass sitting on his lap while his steely gaze seemed to be riveted on Lainie MacPherson.

He knew what the young woman was up to before she’d committed herself to stealing. He had read the determination in the girl's posture when she backed into the shadow-filled corner of the tavern, pulling her dark cloak around her slender frame and letting her hood shadow her face. The combination of steady eyes and slightly trembling fingers had given her away.

He would make sure neither Jericho nor Bertram could get their sweaty hands on the girl. He’d heard stories. He believed them--every word.

Jericho didn’t even realize the girl he sought stood in the corner. Moreover, Slade didn't mean to tell Jericho. Slade had his orders. He was to find her and bring her to Edinburgh where she would be tried for high treason. The charges were lame. Now that he watched her stealing the phony papers he’d planted in the pocket of his jacket, he wasn’t quite so sure.
  
The rumors had it that a lot of men had wanted the lass, but none had gotten her. He’d thought all along Bertram had been one of those men. A cynical smile shifted the line of Aaron’s black mustache. There was nothing new in that particular game. Teasing and promising men something they wouldn’t give was a primal game played by every woman ever born.

But there was something very different about this woman.

An air of sadness and vulnerability emanated from her. Aaron methodically lowered his lids when he glanced from the girl who sat in his lap to the woman whose fingers were closing over the sealed documents. He couldn't help but stare at her. The woman's eyes were a clear, uncanny blue that matched the color of the sky on a bright summer day. The few strands of hair escaping her hood were so blond they were nearly white. The cloak she wore was plain, but did nothing to hide the lush fullness of her figure beneath the cloth. The vision he imagined set him to thinking about what it would be like to unfasten the cloak, strip away all the other fabric covering her and touch the luminous skin that lay beneath the tattered cloak.

Aaron was irritated at the direction his thoughts went. He was certainly experienced and old enough to keep sexual need away from his mission. He had been taught and teased by the most expert females on this earth. He’d learned more than one lesson at their hands.

Looking at Aaron, Jericho swirled the contents of his tankard.

"I don’t figure I can trust any man. Who’s to say that if you find the girl, you won’t want to keep her for yourself," he said to Aaron. "She might be worth a damn sight more than what old Bertie is paying you to bring her to him."

The devil you say," Rory retorted with a smug grin. "I have it on good authority and knowing old Bertie for years, he likes nothing better than to share soiled goods. We both know he’s the only one who can save the girl from a conviction of treason."

Jericho looked coldly at Aaron but didn’t refute Rory’s statement.

Aaron urged the tavern wench from his lap and kept his eye lids lowered slightly. He watched the girl, and if he was right, she was about to dip her hand into the pocket of another man. She had moved from her spot near his table, using the shadows in the tavern to hide herself. She brought up a fat purse and slipped it inside a different sack than the one she’d put the papers she’d stolen from his satchel.

The stories about her were intriguing enough, but it was the rumors of Lainie MacPherson’s spying that held his interest. To him any one who could spy on his country was a traitor. But Lainie MacPherson, if she was anything like her brothers, was Scottish bone deep. To Lainie, what she did here would not be treasonous because she would be loyal only to the Scottish King James. In addition, the rumor--the ones of Lainie prostituting herself for information--didn’t bother him. Women did what they had to do to survive. And if the rumors were true, he would find a way to enjoy her charms while he took her to Edinburgh for trial. To him women’s flesh was sweet and soft, but women were as fickle as newborn kittens. They were far too easily corrupted, and so many times they turned out to be less than they seemed. He never let any woman touch his heart.

Silently, Aaron measured the distance between the door and the MacPherson wench and wondered at the innocence, or was it guilt, he saw flash in her eyes for one brief moment when she met his glance. From what he’d heard, the Scottish cause was everything to the MacPhersons. This would not be the first time they pitted their clan against the English crown.

But this time it was the most foolhardy.

The smile he gave Lainie made her look away. He watched as her shoulders quivered, and she shrank back into the shadows. He felt a wave of nausea sweep through him when he thought of Lainie being at the mercy of a man like Bertie for even a single night, much less until Bertie grew bored with her and gave her to Jericho and Rory.

Silently, he told himself he would never let her fall into Bertie’s hands, because he meant to bring her straight to the authorities in charge. If she were guilty of treason, she would be prosecuted. If she were not guilty, he would see she was set free and he would personally escort her home.

For the first time, he felt justified in his mission and the exorbitant pay he would receive for handing the girl over. If anything, there was a certain justice in cheating Bertie out of his spoils. He acknowledged that once he caught Lainie, he would have not only Rory and Jericho after him, most likely the MacPherson brothers would be on his tail as well.

A man bumped into Lainie near the door. Aaron thought he would see her pick this man’s pocket too. The movement was quick. Except for the slight of hand and Aaron’s vigilance, he would have never seen the exchange of the satchel from Lainie’s hand to the man's. The document Lainie just handed over was worthless, but the stolen goods were not. They would find out soon enough he had baited her, set the trap, and she’d fallen for it. Would he have Lainie in his possession when that was accomplished? Or would Jericho?

Aaron shifted slightly, not wanting to give Jericho and Rory any indication that he meant to leave. His hand was on the hilt of his sword. Silently, he measured the catlike elegance of the girl with the determined posture and long back. It would not be much longer when Jericho and Rory discovered their own missing goods.

He rose and walked toward the door, barring her way if she meant to flee yet he was not sure he would stop her. "You sure you wouldn’t want to stay a while and keep me company, Miss…what was the name again?" Aaron asked, though he knew very well.

"’Tis naught your business," she said softly, lowering her dark sooty lashes as if she meant to flirt. "A gentleman would not ask a lady he didn’t know."

Lainie MacPherson’s voice sounded calm and controlled. Nevertheless, he knew she’d been in this position often enough, that she knew how to handle herself and no longer hesitated, knowing full well the consequences if she did. In any case, her compliance was not a part of his plan for her abduction.

Aaron’s instincts kept whispering that this woman was somehow different from women like Sarah and Anna, unfeeling women who cared nothing about anyone save themselves and the fortune and titles that could be gained from marrying into the right families. At the same time, he had no doubt Lainie MacPherson could kill a man.

"You should take heed," Aaron said softly, ignoring the other man who had now slipped quietly out the door.

"Remove your hand. sir," she told him indignantly.

Aaron shrugged, outwardly indifferent, his fingers settling once more on the hilt of his sword, ever wary of the girl and her next move.

The tavern’s hush changed into a humming of male voices as people left their drinks and focused on the pair standing so close to the door where unbeknownst to them an unspoken challenge had just been issued by both parties.

The stakes revolved around a woman named Lainie MacPherson and release from the commission he’d bought so many years ago he couldn’t remember. As for the bounty, Aaron Slade didn’t care a damn about it.

Aaron was certain he would end up the winner in this cat-and-mouse game. Besides the obvious, he wondered how the woman with trembling mouth and steady blue eyes had ended up on a wanted list issued by King Henry himself and standing in one of Scotland’s most infamous taverns. So intrigued by her he would move heaven and earth to learn her story.

"I know what you handed over to your companion," Aaron said with a bit of impatience, trying not to give away his purpose before it was necessary.

"I don’t know what you mean," she said softly with a sardonic smile gracing her intriguing mouth.

"You stole something that was mine. I mean to get it back. You need to remember that England rules this land--all of it." He inhaled deeply the soft scent of her that seemed to be hers alone. It seemed to possess all his senses.

Her shoulders stiffened as her gaze raked over him. "I’m Scottish, and loyal to James," she said, her voice wavering. "Henry doesn’t rule me or my kin."

"Slade," Jericho said, stepping forward, "what’s--"

The wolfish smile Aaron gave Jericho stopped him cold in his tracks.

"Who’s the girl?" Jericho asked pointedly. "You the sharin’ kind, Slade?"

"No one of interest," Aaron said smoothly lying to Jericho.

Aaron moved in front of Lainie, blocking the men from seeing her face and her hair. He didn’t know if they’d recognize her but something Rory had said earlier made him think Rory at least had met her. Given a choice, he would have taken her by the arm and escorted her away from these two cutthroats. Now he didn’t have a choice. He would have to let her go and hope he could catch up to her.

Lainie could melt into the forest if given a chance. She knew these lands better than most. And her companions were sure to be waiting for her a safe distance from the tavern. If her friend wasn’t waiting for her, where would she go? A sudden and unmistakable sickening feeling swept through him. Fear for this slip of a woman clouded his judgment.






Tuesday, May 23, 2017

TELL TALE TUESDAY : Life is carefree for Ryder MacLaren who loves to see what is on the other side of the sunrise. UNTIL... HIGHLAND SUNRISE BY CHRISTINE YOUNG



Author: Christine Young
Genre: Historical Romance
Excerpt Heat Level: 1
Book Heat Level: 4


REVIEW:

Highland Sunrise by Christine Young
Publisher: Rogue Phoenix Press
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (174 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rated: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Dandelion

I loved the rapport between the two main characters. Although at times they both struggled to find the right words to explain their feelings for each other, somehow they managed. They both loved the other and so over time it became easier. Both were also very independent and that caused a little friction between them. However, Ryder would typically just shake his head and go with the flow. There were a huge number of sex scenes, and I think this story would have stood alone quite well without so many (there were times they did nothing to forward the plot, but seemed added just to have a sex scene), but they didn’t detract from the plot either.

There were so many other fascinating and fun characters in the story: her sister, her cousins, their husbands, her aunt, the Duchess. Reading about all the things they attempted and succeeded in doing was really fun. They were not the typical regency “tonnish” people of the days. This made this story much more fun.

And of course, although there was a lot of fighting, terror, murder and mayhem, the story has a very satisfying ending.


He Made Her An Offer...

Life has thrown Christel McClellan some experiences that could have devastated a less determined woman. Beautiful, self-assured and fiercely independent, she is trying to forget the loss of her stillborn child. But is the child alive?

She Couldn’t Deny...

Life is carefree for Ryder MacLaren who loves to see what is on the other side of the sunrise. Laird of Clan MacLaren, he is wealthy, handsome and happily unencumbered...until stunning Christel McClellan enters his life. When he hears her story, he believes the child she thought dead has been sold to a wealthy buyer.

EXCERPT

But Christel pushed away from him and pointing, "There, do you see her. She is sitting on the wall."
Ryder strained to see the apparition Christel pointed toward but he saw nothing. "No, but I think I hear her."
"Yes, she is crying, not weeping as usual. Do you know anything about her story?" Christel turned to him, hope shining in her soft blue eyes.
"I've heard her lover died. But that was a long time ago."
"How?"
Ryder pulled her back into his embrace, not ever wanting her to leave. He would hold fast to her for as long as she would allow him. "At war... I don't recall which one. The clans seem to have always been at war with someone, especially the English."
He felt the nod of her head against his chest. "Does anyone know the legend? I would seek them out."
Her breathing was slow and she seemed relaxed. But Ryder feared for her. If she started asking questions, would this ghost come to harm her? He didn't know anything about apparitions. But he also knew he would have to give her a chance to discover the truth. "Only if you let me go with you. I would be honored. There is a woman, older than time. She wanders the castle grounds. Most see her in the late evening and early morning."
"Old as time, no older?"
A shimmering silver light hung over the castle and floated above the turrets. Ryder pointed toward the light. "Is that her?"
"She's a bit reclusive." Christel turned in Ryder's arms. "Yes, that's her."
"One might say that about her." His hands rested at the small of Christel's back. He wanted to kiss her but didn't want to frighten her again. Maybe a lazy gentle kiss would be accepted. The thought made him grin.
He traced her neck with the tip of his finger, hoping she would find his attentions acceptable then bent close to her. "I want to kiss you. Will you let me?" She shivered in his arms but turned her face up to him.
"Yes." She breathed softly. Her words gentle yet hesitant.
Her reticence bothered him. What had happened in her past? His thoughts shot to Lord Rathen and her hasty departure from London. Every part of him tightened with disgust. He would discover the truth and make the despicable rake pay for any injustice committed against Christel.
Watching her eyes for signs of fear, Ryder lowered his mouth to hers. He touched her gently, molded his lips against her, thrilled to hear the sigh of pleasure emanate from her. He ran one hand up her back, pulling her closer, reveling in the feel of her softness against his hard planes. Her breasts pushed against him. The need to feel every inch of her pulsed through him but he didn't dare.
He moved back and once again looking into her eyes. She lowered her lashes then returned his gaze.
"Don't think, little one, just feel and know that I would never hurt you. I want more but I won't rush you."
She touched his cheek with one slender fingertip. "Kiss me again."







Monday, May 22, 2017

MYSTERY MONDAY: "This author has a way of making his characters come to life so that you can really get to know them and begin to understand their reasons for doing what they are doing. BLOOD VEINS BY BRIAN YOUNG



Brian Young
byoung0201@aol.com

Excerpt Heat Level: 1
Book Heat Level: 1


It's Raining Books Review:

"This author has a way of making his characters come to life so that you can really get to know them and begin to understand their reasons for doing what they are doing. He even made the bad guys real and helped you understand them also. Sometimes I wanted to stop reading because I had things to do, or because I wanted to prolong the story, but I also wanted to know what was really going on and how it would end.

Then, more than halfway through the story, I found out something very significant about this strange world and just what it really was. It made the story even more exciting. This book has the feel of a movie with vivid descriptions, exciting plot and a cast of interesting characters that I truly cared about. I can't wait for the next book in the series!

I give this book a 4 flower rating."


Book Whiz
Rating: 4 stars

I must say, I did dive into this book with pretty low expectations. The cover looked as if the book wouldn’t really grab my attention, but boy was I wrong. As the ubiquitous English idiom would say: “Don’t judge a book by its cover”. This book keeps you on the edge of your seat throughout the whole story; it’s very stressful and tension-inducing – in a good way. With all these exciting characters and its action-packed plot, this story kept me guessing the entire time.
This author has a really wonderful grasp on story building. The characters are really great and each brings a unique aspect to the book. I loved the members of the “team”, Percival, Briah, Alexander, Maximus, Klivos, Willks – I’ve grown quite attached to them. There is great action in this book; it’s very engaging and tension-filled. I felt like the plot was actually going somewhere, it has a purpose. Also, the subplots were tied together really well. You know, that moment when Lady Wieven explained everything about Jameson and the you-know-what. It all just fits together beautifully. This book had a lot of POV switches, but, surprisingly, they weren’t annoying. I enjoyed them! They were excellent and very well-paced. My favourite POVs were that of Percival and Briah. And no, that isn’t me making pterodactyl noises.
Now that we’ve discussed the more enjoyable points of the book, let’s talk about a few things that weighed the book down. The author has a tendency to simultaneously drop huge amounts of information on you; this can get very disorienting and confusing. When this happens, I’ve found that I just stared at the page, rereading it over and over, in order to completely absorb the information. It’s very time-consuming. The author also describes things too much. For example, sometimes I’d find a whole paragraph just describing a hallway. Characters keep getting introduced to the story faster than I can memorize their names and remember their faces. In the beginning of the book, I had to repeatedly go back and check which character was which. As a result, the excessive details make the book seem a bit sluggish paced.
Once you get past all these points, it’s actually a great book – though there are still a few unanswered questions I’d like to know the answer to. What are Brother Mables’ motives? Who is he working with? Who were the Dolus running from? What were the Dolus frantically looking for in Larista? Hopefully, they’ll be answered in the second book of the trilogy.
Overall, this was a suspenseful book with dynamic characters and an engaging plot. The author’s writing style is descriptive, lively, and full of action. I’d recommend this to anyone who is looking for an exciting book to keep them on the edge of their seat. Until next time!




BLURB:

A black wave of terror has passed over the thriving kingdom of Larista. Mysterious invaders have swept over the land, laying waste to everything in their path and leaving ghost towns in their wake. No one knows where they came from and no one knows their purpose.

Tasting nothing but defeat after defeat, the light of hope is fading in the kingdom; but the guerilla forces resisting the invasion have received new information. The news has provided a small glimmer that could possibly spark into something more. Captain Maximus Rex leads a daring rescue mission deep in the Laristan forests to save the lone surviving member of the royal family.

Once freed, Prince Alexander Novelle, along with his friends and comrades, face a perilous journey deep behind enemy lines. Their destination is Castle Varanasi. The once proud Laristan capital, gateway to heaven and salvation, lines in ruins under Dolus occupation.

Mysterious assassins, underworld savages and renegade Dolus survivors stand between them and the answers they seek. What they find there will shatter their perceptions and lead to unknown perils none of them are ready to face.


EXCERPT:
Maximus and Percival couldn't have looked any different. Maximus had brown eyes and raven black hair. His face was weathered and rugged with a distinguished long nose. A small white scar on his left cheek marked where the tip of a sword had nearly taken his eye. Percival, on the other hand, showed no signs of the burdens the two men had shared. He had a smooth complexion unmarred by the usual signs of a soldier's life. Wide eyes and a small nose framed his face. Some people said he was so handsome he was almost pretty; a sentiment most people didn't say to his face or after they had seen him fight.

They both were wearing green and brown camouflage, full-body armor. It was valuable and rare and could easily deflect a blade; could even deflect a firearm and was extremely lightweight. Most soldiers were wearing plate armor made from steel. This stuff was made of a composite containing ceramic and metal. The results were much stronger and lighter plates. They also had full helmets that completely enclosed the head and face. The visors were brand new with motion detectors, full zoom, night vision and a host of other functions.

Normally Maximus liked to play things by the book, but Percival was a special case and he couldn't help but rise to the bait.

"Maybe," he responded, "but we both know you couldn't hit anything with it. All you're good for is using a beat stick, Lieutenant; besides, I'm a lot more important than you. People care if I get killed; you're replaceable, expendable." It took everything he had to keep a smile off his face.

A look of mock horror passed over the lieutenant's face. "Not funny, Maxi, not funny. They sure wouldn't miss your winning personality though. Are you ready to get out of this rain yet?" Percival didn't even bother to hide his smile.

All humor drained from Maximus as he turned and glared at Percival. "Don't call me that Percy, besides I like the rain. Do you talk to Lord Bran that way, Lieutenant?"

Maximus shifted a little as he spoke, trying to relieve the pressure from the arm he had been laying on. The movement only seemed to make it tingle more.

Percival had been grinning before, but now that smile split his face, turning it from rugged soldier back to the baby-faced, optimistic look he managed to maintain despite years of fighting.

"You know I don't, but I might consider starting if it will keep him from sending us out in this nightmare in the middle of winter. It's cold enough to be snowing, Maxi. My sword is stuck in its sheath. I couldn't get it out if I wanted to." Percival mock-tugged at the sword on his belt. "See, completely stuck. We better trade spots."

Maximus glanced at Percival's sword then at the giant ax strapped to his back. I don't think I've ever seen him draw his sword anyway. It was Maximus' turn to smile this time, although it was more of a predatory grin than anything he would share with a friend. "It's alright, Lieutenant, we all know you'll be hiding once the fighting starts anyway."

Percival shrugged at Maximus then turned his head to stare at the river. Maximus waited for him to make some kind of comeback, and at first thought Percival had conceded the argument. Percival started to whistle and Maximus had to strain his ears to pick up the tune. He instantly recognized it once he heard a couple notes. It was a song about the events that had given Blood River its current name. This one happened to be about a cowardly captain who had abandoned his men on the eve of battle and the lieutenant who had taken over and rallied the men to victory.

Maximus snorted and turned away to hide the smile on his face. He had been upset about the current mission, thinking about scrubbing it before Percival came out here. Somehow, like always, Percival had been able to read his mood and turn it around. They had been friends for a long time and while Percival had never shown any inclination to lead, Maximus suspected he would make a damn good captain. Continuing to look out towards the rushing river, Maximus decided to get to the point. "Do you have a reason for wasting my time, Lieutenant?"

Percival sighed and the smile died from his face. "Targets sighted; they turned the bend about five minutes ago." Percival pointed south down the length of the river. "They should be here in about fifteen. No signs they spotted us."

Finally. Maximus nodded as he listened to Percy, his mind focusing on the reason they were out here in the first place. "Packages?" he asked as he glanced back at Percival.

Percival squinted into the distance, a habit he had when he had a mixed opinion about something. "In tow, Sir, but no conformation either way on the prime target."

Maximus noticed the slight frown on Percival's face and the reservation in his eyes. "He will be there, Percival. Don't worry about it. Formations?"

Percival drew his lips back and sucked on his teeth before answering. "Staggered. Troops, packages, troops, packages… more troops. It's not gonna be easy."

Maximus knew Percival was probing him, trying to test his resolve. They had suffered heavy casualties their last time out and for what? The few people they had saved had fled to their homes. Most likely to be picked up again and sent back to the mines.

"It never is Percy," Maximus looked up into the rain. We're here to rescue these people, but the conquerors have changed tactics on us. Your men are good shots, but nobody is that good. "We'll have to charge in to them. Tell Richardson, Davil, Willks and Klivos to hang back and use their bows. Richardson and Davil will take the front of the column. Willks and Klivos will take the back. Both pair will stay on the hill as snipers and backup. Only clear shots. Everyone else, swords or their beat sticks of choice. I have Alexander's guards." He glanced at Percival to gauge his reaction and got nothing.

"I hate beat sticks," grumbled Percival, completely ignoring the reference to Alexander.

Maximus realized Percival wasn't going to think about their primary package until Alexander was confirmed, but Percival had good reason to be skeptical. They had hit several prisoner convoys based on reliable information and had failed every time. They could only hope this one would be different. The general population and most of the army had already written Alexander off as dead. No one had seen Alexander killed at the battle of Valhalisa, and there was still the occasional report of someone sighting a man matching his profile.

Maximus gave Percy a nod and a grim smile. "It's what you're good at, Percy. We don't have a choice. We can't risk hitting any of the prisoners." As he spoke he watched a look of trepidation grow on Percival's face. "What's wrong?"

"What if he's not down there?" Percival sighed. "I can't handle this. We keep hitting these convoys, and he's not there. We lose good men every time, and the people we free don't even join us. They run off to hide and die. Eventually the conquerors are going to start guarding these convoys better and changing the routes. We are only going to get so many more chances at this."

"Losing your faith?"

A rare spark of anger flashed across Percival's face. "Never."

Percival wasn't the only one capable of manipulation. "We aren't here just for him. We would go through with this even if we knew he wasn't down here. It's our duty to help these people. Some of them have joined us. Emon was worth it. Without his medical skills we would have lost a lot more people to injury and sickness." Maximus thought of the unlikely doctor. One of the biggest, meanest looking guys he had ever met; a giant grizzly next to Alexander's lion frame. The man wouldn't hurt a soul. Emon spent his life trying to help people after his sister died of the sickness when they were kids. Maximus had even heard rumors Emon had spent time with the Sisters of Gnaritas.

Percival shook his head. "It's our duty to kill that murdering, traitorous scum, Novelle, and free everyone. Not just these people here today. We can't do that on our own though. We need him or no one will follow us."

Maximus cocked his head and looked quizzically at Percy. "You know both their names are Novelle, right? Not to mention there's no proof Prodis is responsible for this. I doubt Alexander would appreciate you calling his brother a murdering, traitorous scum."

It was clear Percival was convinced Prodis was responsible and all he gave in response was a short grunt.

"Anyway," Maximus continued, "If Alexander is down there and we don't go in, we will have missed our best and possibly our only chance at freeing him. We go."

Percival's face went blank as he barked out, "Yes Sir."

The captain sighed, his breath showing in the crisp cold air. The rain had started to let up, and it seemed the temperature had dropped another ten degrees as the chill renewed its assault against his rain soaked cold weather gear. "I hate it when you call me Sir. It means you disagree with me, or you're mad at me"

Percy gave his Captain a half grin. "First, if I can't call you Maxi and I can't call you Sir, what am I suppose to call you? Second, I do agree with you. I just know when you need someone else to voice your inner thoughts and help you sort things out. Lastly, I'll make sure everyone is ready." Percival finished with his customary grin.

"I hate you sometimes, Lieutenant."

Percival shrugged and turned to pass the plans along to the rest of the squad.

"Lieutenant."

Percival turned to face Maximus. "Yeah Max?"

Maximus had been staring out at the river but turned back to look at Percival. "Cut true and straight, and for God's sake man, block well."

Percival smiled at Maximus' rare prayer and finished it for him. "You too, Max, and Creator save us all."


It's Raining Books Review:

"This author has a way of making his characters come to life so that you can really get to know them and begin to understand their reasons for doing what they are doing. He even made the bad guys real and helped you understand them also. Sometimes I wanted to stop reading because I had things to do, or because I wanted to prolong the story, but I also wanted to know what was really going on and how it would end.

Then, more than halfway through the story, I found out something very significant about this strange world and just what it really was. It made the story even more exciting. This book has the feel of a movie with vivid descriptions, exciting plot and a cast of interesting characters that I truly cared about. I can't wait for the next book in the series!

I give this book a 4 flower rating."