It’s an extra-special moment when you meet that one person who changes your world and changes your life. When words like “hope” and “happily-ever-after” have personal meeting. Such was when Maleta first met Cianan, even though she didn’t realize it at the time. Here’s HEDDA’S SWORD, Guardians of Light Bk 2 from Samhain:
The men in the room laughed, a sound of camaraderie, not mockery. Maleta stared at the newcomer. His aura shone different from the others, the gold of a pure soul blinding in the surrounding darkness. That’s all she needed! What was a paladin doing in a place like this?
His head snapped around as if he could feel her probe. She cursed her curiosity as his piercing cobalt gaze locked with hers. Something shifted in his appearance, a mask of the mind that she couldn’t see past. Almost as if her eyes saw one thing and her mind another. Meal or nay, now she had the information she sought, she should move on.
Too late. He strode toward her with the fluid swing of a lifelong horseman, tankard cradled in both hands as if warming them. The body of a sinner on a saint. Her breath caught in her throat. As he approached, she realized how tall he was. There were few men who could look her in the eye. She’d come up to this man’s chin.
Goawaygoawaygoaway. She tensed as he stopped on the other side of the table. Unable to tear her gaze from the unwavering intensity of his, she trembled as his scent, like fresh-cut fir boughs with a warm hint of musk, surrounded her. Who was this man? Trouble, that’s what, in more than the obvious. Why did he single her out?
“Heyla, shield-maiden,” he began in a voice as rich and smooth as rare drenieval whiskey. The underlying lethal heat in his voice could rob the unwary of their senses. “I have not seen you here afore.” He held out a hand. “My name is Cianan.”
She eyed that hand, unwilling to touch him, sensing it would give him too much knowledge, too much power. Long musician’s fingers, with an archer’s calluses. Even without their hands touching, the truth of his name pierced the shadows around her soul, the shadows of lies and pretext that were her new identity. She stared up at him, helpless not to.
Those eyes drew her in, promising things she couldn’t even comprehend. They were not the eyes of a saint. Too blue, too knowing. Long raven hair glinted blue-black in the firelight. Foreign accent, not one she recognized, with a lilt she couldn’t place. Charm she trusted not at all. She focused on slowing her pounding heart, forced herself to breathe. “What d’ye want?”
His lips quirked in a smile. “Many things, lady, but I would begin with your name.”
“An’ why should I be givin’ that out?”
He just smiled, but his eyes studied her. Watchful. Probing. Aware.
Too aware. Time to end this. “My name an’ business are mine.” She stood.
He raised a hand. “Nay, finish eating. I shall go. But tell me your name first.”
Knowledge of the lie flashed in his eyes, and she curled her fists with impotent fury. Damn paladin. What game was this? “I bid you a good evening, Sonja.” He dipped his head and returned to his friends at the bar.
So much for getting a room for the night here. She downed the rest of her meal, gathered her pack and fled the tavern. The cold air cleared her head. It wouldn’t be the first time she’d been forced to camp out in the open. She didn’t enjoy it, but she’d survive. She always did. Please, Hedda, don’t let him follow.