I'm not talking about insects. I'm talking about those colds, the flu, the sinus infections, and even mono at our house this winter. I don't think we've had a day in our lovely home in the last two months when everyone was healthy. As the lead management in the Gourley house, that has been a lot of stress and sleepless nights for me. Add exhaustion and stress and what do you get? An impaired immune system. That's right. After weeks of taking care of the rest of the gang, it caught up to me this week. What does that mean for my writing? One thousand words yesterday and nada today.
It's tough to concentrate on helping my hero and heroine escape their enemies when my chest hurts more than their injuries possibly can. What do I care if their hungry and thirsty when I can barely swallow? Do I care if they're going to have to swim across a wide, dangerous and cold river when I'm having chills and aches myself? Do I care how tired they are from lack of sleep when my coughing has kept me awake for the last three nights?
I'm trying to care, but I'm not sure I can wake up the creative juices today. Now that I'm done with my pity party, I thought I would post an excerpt to my latest release, A Ruthless Good. Perhaps that will help me get back to the next book in this series, The Solonian Chronicles. The fourth book is the last in this particular series. No worries though. Others are in the grand design.
Excerpt from A Ruthless Good
Roth struggled toward the warmth. Even if it was the fires of hell, he wanted to reach it. But something heavy weighed on him and held him back. Was he buried? Dead and under the dirt. Why couldn’t he move?
"Hell’s shithouse. They’re ruined!" a strangely accented female voice cursed. She uttered more odd phrases in an angry tone.
A woman displaying anger? A woman cursing? Beyond the fire he saw trees. Roth slowly shifted his head a little to widen his field of vision. He was outside. Not far away he heard the purr of the river.
The woman wore a man’s shirt and pants. She held a boot in her hand and glared at it with a ferocity that shocked him. And her face, beyond the fierce scowl, was unlike any he’d ever seen. Angles and dimples, evident even now with her frown, combined into a work of art. An image of a goddess. And to heighten her divine appearance, her hair hung long and loose to her waist. It was made of silver. Not the dull gray color of old age, but the silver of a deity gracing Parlania with her presence. Her brows were dark, almost black, and her face unlined in youth. Her hands as she turned the boot about were long-fingered and strong while her wrist looked fragile. But a sword lay at her side.
She glanced over at him and shocked him into a gasp. Her eyes were the same silver as her hair, a color that could not be mortal. Perhaps he was dead.
"So you’re awake."
Her voice poured over him like the warm honey produced by mountain bees. And something about it made him very aware of his nudity beneath the mountain of blankets weighing on him.
"Can you speak? Do you understand my words?" She rose with a grace to mirror a dance move and walked around the fire to kneel by his head.
Roth tried to sit up, but the world spun sickeningly when he lifted his head.
"Whoa there, stranger." She pressed him back with a strong hand.
Not that she had need of strength. His muscles were as soft clay.
"Here, roll to your back and let me put something beneath your shoulders." She picked up more blankets from beside the fire and moved around behind him. She lifted the covers from his back to add the new.
"Son of a damned Savage bitch!"
Roth closed his eyes. Somehow having this lovely goddess see his ravaged back shamed him.
He heard her take a few deep breaths before she scrambled around to where he could see her again. She pointed to her chest. "My name is Claudia."
"Roth." It hurt his throat to produce the one rough, quiet word.
"Roth." She smiled and it did a funny thing to his insides. "Mia told me I have to get you to drink something as soon as you woke up. Do you think you could sit up enough to have something?"
He got his elbow under him enough to lift his upper body a little. The lash had curled around his side on some of its strokes, so it hurt to be on his side though not as much as being on his back would.
Claudia held a warm cup to lips while her other hand steadied his head. A fragrance foreign to him rose in misty tendrils of steam from the mug. He’d expected water or tea. He pressed his lips closed.
"It’s all right. I know you Solonians never had chocolate before, but I promise you’ll like it. It’s very reviving."
Roth liked the scent already, and what harm could a drink do? He was helpless. The woman didn’t need to poison him. She could strangle him or beat him to death with a piece of wood if she wished.
It tasted better than it smelled. It slid smoothly over his tongue and teased him with an unlikely combination of sweet and bitter at the same time. He took a few more sips before his strength failed. Claudia helped him ease down to his side.
She returned the metal mug to a spot near the fire and then settled unto the ground where he could see her. Her long slim legs folded beneath her in a move made erotic by the tight pants clinging to her thighs and hips.
She stretched out and picked up her wrinkled looking boot again. "I hope you can say more than your name, Roth, after I ruined my best boots wading out into that ice flow to save you."
She had rescued him? A woman? "Thank you."
Her frown changed to that breath stopping smile . How quickly her emotions changed, and she hid none of them.
"You’re welcome. I think I’m actually thrilled to meet you. We’d almost giving up hope that you existed. You’re worth a pair of boots. Maybe."
Her every sentence confused him. Who was she?
She reached out again and picked up the sword. "But first, you should tell me what happened to your back, and why you were drowning naked in the river."
She spoke with such authority, Roth didn’t know how to answer. She was a woman yet spoke with the stern command of a senior shepherd. "What are you?"
Her quick smile flashed at him again. "What? I’m the Realm captain who’s going to decide if you live or die if you don’t answer my questions. I can only think of a few reasons a man would be whipped almost to death. Might be I should have let you drown so you better start convincing me before we throw you back in that ice bath."
THE GREATER GOOD
THE LESSER EVIL
A RUTHLESS GOOD