DUALITY is book one of Guardians of Light series, featuring Dara and Loren
SOLD! to Samhain Publishing, release date 10/21/08
Written to Mediaeval Baebes for world-building, Enya & Kate Price for love scenes, Axel Rudi Pell for the battle scenes.
A half-dragon fire mage rescues a wounded elven prince and together they rid her land of a demon. Hey, in my world, the girls get to rescue the guys.
DUALITY’s 2006 RWA contest track record: 1st Place WisRWA FabFive
2nd Place Four Season
3rd Place Dixie Kane
3rd Place Mary Reade Paranormal
4th Place Great Beginnings
Back Cover Blurb:
Love will give them strength—or prove to be their fatal flaw. Guardians of the Light, Book 1
Dara Khan Androcles is really in over her head this time. From childhood she’s been forced to hide her half-dragon mage fighting skills behind a public persona as a healer. Now, with a traitor and his demon threatening the throne of Safehold, Dara has no choice but to turn reluctant warrior—and seek help. She strikes a bargain with runaway Elven prince Loren ta Cedric and his sentient, pain-in-the-butt war mare, Hani’ena. Loren’s not only too handsome for Dara’s own good, the powerful empath can see right through to the pain that drives her. Loren can’t help but feel Dara’s every hurt, physical and emotional. Though his need for her drives him half mad, he must stay his course to see justice done for his people. Even if it means swearing a Life Debt to the distracting mortal. That vow, made in the heat of their parallel quests, carries more power than either of them guessed. The power to bond the unlikely pair as Life Mates. The power to lay bare the fears and desires that could bind them to a single purpose—or tear them apart. All the while a demon awaits, ready to destroy all that they hold dear…
Excerpt from Ch. 2, after the rescue:
“Dara?” Loren opened his eyes at the rustle of cloth.
White-faced, she brought water. Without the distraction of that glorious mane, braided back for practicality, her golden eyes took up her entire face. “Welcome back, m’lord.”
He hated her fear and awe. “I am no one’s lord.” It was not a lie, not precisely. “I am but a simple warrior and in your debt, lady. How is your side?”
“Healing.” He raised an eyebrow and she shook her head at his unspoken question. “I don’t waste energy on my own minor wound when others are in greater need. Can I get you anything?”
“Food.” He sighed. “This time was worse than normal.”
“You should be dead. You look terrible still.” Dara made oat gruel with honey and goat’s milk. She eased an arm under his shoulders and helped him sit up. “Take it slow.”
How could he have thought her male? True, her lush curves were clad in linen rather than silk, and she smelled of green herbs rather than flowers. For all he was accustomed to more refined beauties back home, hers was an earthy sensuality that sent his unshielded senses reeling.
Loren caught disbelief behind fear and awe. Concern for him mixed with worry for her own people and outrage at what the enemy had done. Crushing sorrow. The need for retribution.
Buried deep was a woman’s awareness of Loren as a man. Well, not quite a man, but…
Loren threw up a shield, cutting that thought off. She had been within him—her spirit-presence lingered still—but some things were best left alone.
What he felt for her, himself, he attempted to ignore.
His hands shook and his body screamed for more food. “Meat broth, have you? Red wine? Mayhaps bread? Eggs?”
She eased away from him. At the table, Dara mixed together dried herbs in a bowl and crushed them with a wooden pestle. Their scent filled the room. Her skirt swayed with her every movement. Her braid gleamed in the dancing firelight.
He could not take his eyes off her. His body stirred. He must be feeling better, if he spared a thought for lust. It had been too long, though, if he got aroused by the mere sight of a woman’s braid!
She unstoppered a clay bottle and red wine splashed into the bowl. The acrid tang brought him back to his senses. She set the bowl on the edge of the hearth and returned to his side. “High-mineral herbs. Heat releases their full strength. There’s soup in the big pot, root vegetables in beef broth. I’ll mix them soon as the wine heats through.” She slid the empty bowl from his unresisting fingers and set it aside. “You’d know what you need after healing. If you’re ready for more hearty fare, I’ll manage.”
After several minutes, she ladled soup into the bowl of herb wine and soaked two thick slices of heavy grain bread in it. “I’m not the best cook in the world.”
Her arm slid around him again and he leaned against her, letting her support him while he ate. Her breasts cradled his shoulder as he held the bowl. “You underestimate yourself. How long was I…?”
“Two days. I washed your wounds and changed the bandages. Every dressing change showed visible improvement. Wound poisoning didn’t threaten. There aren’t even any scars.” She paused. “That’s not possible.”
“It is how my kind heals. Wounds re-knit from the inside out.”
She eyed his almost naked body. “How?”
“I know not. I cannot heal others. Only myself, at a cost. As you see, healing energy melts every available scrap of fat until days later we awaken scarless wraiths.” He grinned. “Starving wraiths. We eat like baby birds afterward.” He sobered and changed the subject. “How fared Riverhead?”
“Jalad’s gone. For now. I’ve kept busy with Eagle survivors at my door. Hengist went to ask justice from High King Sezeny.”
Loren frowned, thinking. “The entire court attends the wedding of Sezeny’s heir Tanis to Princess Chandra. Jalad chose the perfect time to invade Riverhead. It shall take time to bring the Boar to…justice.”
Dara appeared not to notice the hesitation. “Moira knows she can expect no outside help anytime soon. Everyone’s looking over their shoulder.” Black rage hammered at him. Her eyes glittered. “’Tis no way to live. I’ll bury no more dead.”
He fought for balance in the onslaught. She had no shielding at all. There was that yawning pit of despair again. “You lost someone in the battle.” He set his bowl aside.
She stiffened against him. “We gained many widows and orphans. Hengist’s coffers will be emptied at this rate.”
He reached to embrace the darkness. “Nay, Dara. You lost someone close to you.” He shuddered at what he touched. Irredeemable. Murderer. Alone. She considered herself a murderer. But he had touched her soul. Dark, aye, dangerous for certain, but not evil. He would know. “You slew those men in my defense. That makes you not a murderer, else are all warriors guilty.”
“Not them. I slew an unarmed man as he lay helpless.”
The whole world shook in that one moment. “Who?”
“My father.” She swayed against him.
The images sliced through Loren. No one should go through such torment. She had eased a dying man’s passing, the last of her family. Now she had no one.
By the Lady I swear, you shall never be alone again.
“Not murder.” He drew her closer, cursed his clumsiness, arms stiff from the aftermath of speed-healing. “It was an honorable act. The warrior’s way, we call it. He loved you and you proved your love by not letting him suffer. Mourn him, Dara, but by the Lady I swear, your soul is clean.” He breathed in the warmth of the Goddess and Dara shivered in reaction. “Ssh, relax now.” He lay back, pulling her down onto the mattress aside him. “Let it go.”
Half-sprawled across him, Dara sobbed against his shoulder. Her spirit lightened. Black self-condemnation receded until the only emotion left was grief. The storm subsided and she stiffened, raising her head up. “Sorry.” She hiccupped.
“It is our way to comfort when needed.”
Dara’s face fell. “I did naught to help you.”
“Naught to help? You placed your body betwixt slayers and me. Shelter, warmth and protection you provided. You gave me your bed and slept on the floor.” His voice lowered. “A stranger you helped, though a stranger you fear.” He frowned. “Your fear, I like it not.”