#Excerpt from Willow: Branch 3 of the Tree of Life Series
Be care what you wish for, because you just might get it.
Willow should have taken heed of that familiar warning, because she wanted Dane’s attention and then got it. She wasn’t ready.
On assignment protecting a paranoid client at a convention, Dane Karl has finally found his mate, a very young sidhe ill-equipped to deal with a legendary mercenary warrior, fierce weretiger, and powerful sidhe all wrapped up in one big, badass package.
His plan for a slow courtship ruined by the catastrophe that destroys the conference hotel, he claims Willow as his mate to keep her safe from the demons hunting sidhe flesh and sidhe magic. Willow must find her strength to stand up to her legendary husband’s overbearing ways, deal with the shade of his long dead, sidhe wife, and survive the demons after them.
Can an ancient warrior learn to love? Can a young, untried sidhe find her strength?
This is the third and final book of the Tree of Life trilogy.
“Er, hello. May I help you?” Willow asked, silently damning herself for the nervous quaver in her voice and wondering just what she had brought upon herself. She’d gone fishing and caught herself a shark instead of a goldfish.
Dane wanted to sigh with relief. She had at least given him an opening by speaking first rather than him just blurting out that she was his and to come with him immediately. Instead he gave her what was supposed to be a reassuring smile that obviously didn’t work because she cringed like a rabbit about to be pounced upon and devoured. Hm. He needed to work on that. He picked up the sample CD on the table.
“Hello,” he said quietly, taking care not to growl at her. “How up to date is this directory?”
“The data is only six weeks old,” she answered, keeping her tightly clasped hands on her lap hidden beneath the table drape. “More current data can be downloaded from the NAVA website, but the disk also contains standard documents, conference papers and presentations, and other auxiliary materials. With the disk, the information is collected and available in one convenient location rather than scattered among the twenty-five thousand pages of the NAVA website.”
“You’ve memorized the patter,” he commented with a little smile.
She returned a wry grin and said, “At this late hour, we’re lucky I remember how to speak at all.”
“Sessions break in another two hours,” he said, setting the sample disk back down in such a way that he knew she would move it, set it straight so the pile was orderly. He wanted to see her hands. “I’m Dane. Join me for a cup of coffee?”
Her eyes flew open wide and, before she could answer, a yawn grabbed her jaw and vocal cords. She hastily raised a hand to cover her mouth and finished the yawn. When she was able, she spoke even as she returned the CD to its proper place: “Thank you, but I really need my sleep. Perhaps some other time.”
“This afternoon then,” he adapted smoothly, seeing with satisfaction that she wore neither engagement ring nor wedding band. He inhaled delicately and tasted no other male’s scent upon her. Good. He wouldn’t have to kill anyone to claim her. “I’ll meet you in the lobby at three o’clock.”
He walked away and Willow wondered just what she’d gotten herself into. The rest of the night dragged until she closed up the booth and went to bed for some much needed sleep. She woke later than usual the next morning and by ten o’clock was back at the booth tapping away at her laptop computer to answer inquiries, update information, and take care of general association business as best she could from a remote location. She hardly noticed the bellman and his loaded cart and accompanied by a tall, slender woman with gorgeous auburn hair until they stopped in front of the booth. The woman thanked the bellman and sent him off to return in twenty minutes or so. Then the woman moaned, groaned something that sounded like “Cassia,” grunted, staggered to her knees, and passed out. She had Willow’s full attention.
Willow rushed around the table and shifted the woman to a more comfortable position, rather than leave her crumpled against the heavily loaded cart.
“Ma’am? Are you all right?” she whispered and patted the woman’s cheek.
After a too long moment, the woman hissed and groaned, “Stop that.”
Willow stopped patting the woman’s cheek and let instinct take over. She placed her palm on the woman’s forehead and let the healing flow. She did not notice the nimbus of cool, blue-white light that gently pulsed around them. She only noticed the easing of the woman’s distress and pain. The woman blinked several times and, realizing she’d been healed, thanked her.
“I really do appreciate the healing, but you took a dangerous risk,” she said, her voice a bit shaken.
“You know what I did?” Willow gasped softly, surprised that the woman understood what had happened.
“You’re sidhe,” the woman stated succinctly.
The woman attempted to smile reassuringly at her and answered, “I’m sidhe, too. Name’s Rowan.” She paused, considered something, then asked rudely, “How old are you?”
December Book Of The Month: Willow
Willow politely covered her mouth as she yawned and surreptitiously glanced at her watch. Only another two hours to go and then she could quit for the night … er … morning. She took another long drink of lukewarm tea from her thermos and smiled pleasantly at the convention attendees who drifted by the North American Vampire Association’s exhibit booth. She’d already registered fourteen new members and six new donors that night. Sales of member directories on CD were brisk. And she’d heard that the legendary weretiger Dane Karl was present, serving as bodyguard for one of the more paranoid vampire attendees. She’d heard him spoken of in awe, seen him from afar, and once caught his scent when he strolled through another conference exhibit hall a year ago and hadn’t noticed her at all.
He commanded respect, even from vampires who were utterly convinced of their own superiority over all living beings. He fascinated her, the sidhe who had not been able to get the memory of his scent from her mind. She’d scavenged the Internet and colleagues for information on him, information which was scarce. Incomplete tales whispered of a mighty Viking who’d bonded with a sidhe woman. As to what happened to the woman, no two versions agreed. But all versions concluded with the rise of an immortal weretiger—a weretiger with a sidhe soul.
She glanced around again, keeping that pleasant, meaningless smile on her face even though her cheek muscles ached and she wanted nothing more than to go to bed and sleep for the next twelve hours. But she continued to concentrate on staying awake, on doing her job, on hoping that he would see her.
Ah, there he was. Willow’s breath caught in her throat and she grew very still as she watched him, admired him. A tall man with straight shoulder length, dark blond hair, massively built of long, thick bone and hard muscle and no fat, he prowled slowly along the aisles of exhibits. She watched him pause beside the booth occupied by Night Life Magazine. He desultorily flipped through a few pages, exchanged a few words with the publisher’s staff person who manned the display, and moved on. His gait was slow and gliding, predatory. His heavily lidded eyes appeared sleepy until one took a second look and realized that they were sharp and hyper-watchful.
She concentrated, delicately calibrating her body and releasing the tiniest amount of tigress pheromones into the air.
Bear of the Midnight Sun
“I won’t hurt you,” he said as the ursine forelegs melted back into human arms.
“But do you believe me now?” She nodded, unable yet to speak. Miranda knew that if she opened her throat, screams would pour forth. Or mindless gibbering.
“Good. Unless I am able to replace the steel and plastic in my leg with the growth of new bone, I cannot fully shift.”
She nodded, as though agreeing with him. Or maybe just to acknowledge she heard his words. So, he continued.
“Like all my kind, our souls are unsettled until mated. The man understands honor and love; the beast only knows possessiveness, attraction, and desire.”
“Why me?” Miranda whispered and for some unfathomable reason felt somewhat insulted at the inference that he wouldn’t have been attracted to her if it weren’t for the unreasonable beast within him. She blinked rapidly in lieu of shaking her head to dismiss such idiotic thoughts. “Why not one of your own kind, or at least someone who wants this?”
“That, my dear, is your God’s little joke upon us pagans. My bear recognizes you, claims you as ours. The beast is never wrong.”
“He’s wrong about this.”
“Did you not feel something when I took your hand when we were introduced?”
“Static electricity,” she stated, flatly denying anything mystical.
“No, the beginning of a mate bond, the recognition of souls that belong to one another.”
“I still think you’re insane.”
“My alleged insanity is not entirely out of the question. The things I’ve seen and done throughout the centuries were enough to drive any man, no matter how strong, to the refuge of madness. Tell me, Miranda, did you or did you not see my arms change?”
She nodded. “Yes.”
“Then, crazy I might be, but I am no liar.”
#HenHousePublishing #HollyBargo #SpringfieldOHBookFair
Bear Of The Midnight Sun (Immortal Shifters Book 3)
By Holly Bargo
After a thousand years, immortal polar bear shifter Sindre finally finds his mate—on a talk show. In the city where anything goes, an impromptu wedding is just a taste of what's to come.
Startled into going through the ceremony, Miranda can't stop the big, virile man from staking his claim on her and releasing her bear.
Sindre can't believe his good luck and will do anything to keep his mate at his side, up to and including taking marital advice from Atlas Leonidus.
An independent woman with a successful career, Miranda melts at his touch and shuns his control, except she can't control her bear.
Free On Kindle Unlimited!
“Do not chase her away before I get a ring on her finger,” Sindre’s deep voice purred.
Steenbarger’s eyes sparkled and she smiled with inspiration. “I have an absolutely fabulous idea!” She looked at the audience. “We’re in Las Vegas, right?”
“Right!” the audience shouted back.
“Surely, somewhere in the audience we have an ordained minister who has the authority to perform a wedding? Do we have somebody?”
Miranda’s heart pounded in her chest and she felt lightheaded.
No, this could not be happening. No, not at all. I am hallucinating.
A large woman whose dark hair was shaved close to her scalp rose and called out, “I can do it.” She dug into her capacious handbag and pulled out her identification. “Here are my credentials.”
Steenbarger jogged into the audience seating and led the woman to the stage. She peered at the woman’s identification and announced, “Bailey Sutton here is a high priestess of Aphrodite and duly authorized by the State of Nevada to perform marriage ceremonies. We have our minister, folks!”
Caught in the talk show hostess’ enthusiasm, the crowd cheered.
“Now, we need a ring!”
An elderly woman rose to her feet and tugged a ring off her left hand. She smiled and held it out, her limbs shaking with palsied age. “My Philip put this on my finger seventy-eight years ago. He’s gone now and I’d thought to go to my grave with this ring. But I think it will have a better use now.”
One of the gaffers darted into the audience to take the ring amid wild clapping.
“We have something old, now we need something borrowed, something new, and something blue!” Steenbarger shouted, thrilled to have the coup of the season on her own set.
A woman pulled off a pale blue chiffon scarf and waved it. “I have something blue!”
Another gaffer raced into the studio audience to retrieve it.
And another woman unfastened a silver and turquoise bracelet from her wrist and held it up, shouting, “She can borrow this!”
Another woman opened a shopping bag and pulled out a small box. She extracted a pair of sparkling earrings. “I have something new! See, the price tag is still on them!”
Miranda sat very still while the circus played on. Cameras from visiting media flashed. The high priestess of Aphrodite hurriedly signed paperwork a backstage assistant downloaded and printed while someone hastily cleaned the old woman’s wedding rings.
“This is insane,” she muttered under her breath and wriggled again.
Bear of the Midnight Sun
Bear of the Midnight Sun by Holly Bargo - Chapter 2 Excerpt
Miranda inhaled the faint, fresh scent of bleach and rubbed her cheek against the smooth linen beneath her cheek. Awareness seeped in slowly, bringing with it a certain knowledge that she wasn't supposed to be in bed. She inhaled and realized the room didn't smell like her hotel room, which had a faint odor of used cat litter. She’d decided that morning she’d never again stay at that particular hotel.
Thus far, Las Vegas hadn’t impressed her. It was crowded, taw-dry, and artificial. She longed for the quiet of her back yard where flowers bloomed, birds chirped, and occasionally the donkey down the road brayed.
No, she wasn’t in her hotel room. And the air didn’t have that antiseptic-and-vomit smell of a hospital.
Memory returned with a gasp of horror. She bolted upright, eyes wide open with terror. She launched herself toward the open door and never made it. A steely arm hooked around her middle and drew her against a newly familiar body.
“Let me go!” Miranda shouted.
“Shhh,” Sindre soothed and wrapped his other arm around her as she thrashed against his hold. She could not overpower his size and strength, yet he took care not to harm her.
“Shhh,” he repeated.
“Don’t shush me! Let me go!”
“I can’t,” he said.
“You mean you won’t,” she retorted in a bitter tone as her struggles subsided. She felt him move behind her, felt the press of his lips against her mussed hair.
“I can’t,” he reiterated. “You’re mine and I am yours.”
“Possibly,” he acknowledged in a mild tone. “If I release you, will you bolt?”
Miranda wanted to answer honestly, but wasn’t that stupid. She wanted to lie, but knew he wouldn’t believe her. Hell, she wouldn't believe herself either. So, she pressed her lips together in a thin, firm line and said nothing.
“I suppose that wasn’t a very smart question,” he admitted with a small chuckle. “Now I know how Atlas felt when he saw his Chloe.”
“Who?” she blurted.
“And old acquaintance,” Sindre dismissed the question. “Of course you’ll run.”
He shifted his hold on her and scooped her up in his arms. She yelped and started struggling again with as little effect as before.
“Stop thrashing about or I won’t be responsible for how I sub-due you,” he warned. She immediately went limp, though he felt the heat of her enraged glare. “Good girl.”
“This is illegal,” she snarled.
“What? Carrying you? You’re my wife. Tens, if not hundreds, of millions of people watched our wedding this morning.” He carried her from the bedroom to the sofa in the small suite.
“You coerced me.”
“A little.” He sat down and positioned his bride more comfortably on his lap, anchoring her against his body with the light, immovable pressure of one big hand. He reached over and plucked her glasses from a small table adjacent to the chair and held them in front of her. With a mutinous expression, she accepted the offering and settled her spectacles in place. Somehow it was better to see clearly, even when the vision offended her.
“A little?” she shrieked. He winced at the shrill tone piercing his ear drums. “I want an annulment now!”
“Oh, we won’t need an annulment,” he promised her, his voice a deep purr that sent shivers down her spine.
“Please don’t rape me,” her voice went weak and hoarse with dread.
Her terror pinched his conscience. “I have no intention of doing anything to harm you.”
She jutted her chin, because that sounded like a vow from a man she absolutely, positively did not trust.
“Listen to me.”
“I can hardly do anything else,” she muttered.
He sighed, the warm breath ruffling the fine hairs at the back of her neck. “You’re lucky I’m civilized.”
She snorted in utter disbelief. He supposed he couldn’t blame her.
“Let me tell you a story,” Sindre began, having decided to bare all and begin their shared life with honesty. He waited for her to say something, but Miranda held her silence. “There are beings in this world who are not quite human.”
“Oh, God, you think you’re a vampire?” she sneered.
“Hardly,” came the repressive retort. “Be quiet and let me speak.”
She snorted again.
“Twelve hundred years ago, the world was a much different place. Men still believed in magic and many still worshipped the old gods, especially in the northern climes where Christian missionaries had yet to gain a foothold.”
He paused, but she held her silence.
“That is the world in which I grew up: the so-called Viking Age. I spent my days as a young man sailing dragon ships, raiding seaside and riverfront villages, and even conducting a little trade with those cities too large for reivers to conquer. I carried a sword fashioned by the Ulfbehrt forge and wore leather, coarse, heavy linen, and chain maille.”
He paused again. Miranda said nothing, although the stiffness in her posture told him she most certainly did not believe a single word he said. He continued anyway.
“Yes, I’ll say it: I was a Viking, although my people never used that term. I watched Erik the Red set sail across the ocean and even traveled with Leif Erikson for a few years. I watched the relentless advance of the Christians and the disappearance of the old ways and the old gods. I served Norway, for a warrior’s honor is found in noble service and my people were warriors to the core. Even the women.”
Hard boiled, scrambled, over easy, and sunny side up: eggs are the musings of Holly Bargo, the pseudonym for the author.
Book Of The Month