I thought you would enjoy a brief excerpt of A Warrior’s Promise. In this part Bryce still does not realize that the lad Charles he is helping is actually the lass Charlotte, but another warrior is more observant and that poses a threat.
Charlotte knew beyond the line of trees must lie their destination, Bryce’s expression having turned hard and more menacing than she had ever seen it.
“Behind me,” he ordered sternly. “And stay there.”
She obeyed and when they cleared the trees she was relieved that is body shielded her. The small village was not unlike any other and surprisingly better kept than most, but it was the warriors themselves that gave one pause. Every one of them bore scars of heavy battle. And they were large, many almost equal to Bryce in size and width. The women she did see, only two, kept their heads down and eyes averted.
Bryce stopped in front of an older man, his long hair gray and his many facial scars faded by the years.
“I look for Culth,” Bryce said. “I have business with him.”
A large man stepped out of the cottage, directly behind the old warrior, adjusting the leather strap that ran across his massive chest. A thick scar cut a path from his forehead down over his right eye to end at his jaw. His hair was black as night and his stance guarded. He was followed by one very large, black dog with one scarred floppy ear. He walked close to Culth but to her it looked more from fear than respect for his master.
The dog moved away from him to sniff toward Bryce and around him.
“I was told you are the one to see for information.”
“For a price,” Culth said, his eyes intent on the dog. “What are you hiding?”
“I hide nothing,” Bryce said adamantly.
“Then let’s have a look.” Culth stepped around Bryce.
Bryce was quick to stretch his arm out protectively in front of Charlotte and she prayed he’d keep it there. The warrior Culth frightened the wits out of her, though not the dog, though he was massive. He looked sad to her and her heart went out to him for what he must suffer at his master’s hand.
“What do you want to know?” Culth asked.
His dark eyes followed along every part of her lingering in intimate places and making her skin crawl. It was as if he could see beneath her garments and knew her secret. And strangely enough the dog sensed his sinister thoughts, planting himself in front of Charlotte like a shield.
“Odin!” Culth snapped angrily and the big dog crawled over to him. He gave him a kick and ordered him to stay.
“I have heard of a secret prison,” Bryce said, moving to take the place of Odin and shield Charlotte. “And with this land being yours, you would know if it is located around these parts.”
“What’s it worth to you?”
“What do you want?”
“The lassie,” Culth said with a lift of his chin toward Charlotte.
“He’s a lad,” Bryce corrected.
Culth chortled and so did the old warrior.
Charlotte nearly choked with fear. How did he know?
“That’s my price,” Culth said.
“Then I’ll not be doing business with you,” Bryce said and slowly began to back away, his arm remaining protectively in front of Charlotte.
I’ll take that fine sword instead,” Culth said.
“I’ll not barter my sword.”
“Then what will you barter?” Culth asked.
“Information,” Bryce offered.
Culth laughed. “And what can you tell me that I don’t already know?”
“Soldiers will dispense of you and your village soon enough, unless of course you wish to fight for King Kenneth.”
Culth snorted. “If the king pays us; we fight.”
“The king’s wealth is gone.”
It was obvious by the sudden widening of Culth’s eyes that he hadn’t been aware of that bit of news.
“How do you know this?” Culth asked.
“It’s the information that’s important, not where I obtained it. So if you were expecting payment from the King it won’t be forthcoming.”
Culth nodded. “For that information I will tell you that I too have heard of this secret prison, but if it does exist it is not here on my land.”
Disappointment settled in the pit of Charlotte’s stomach, or perhaps it was fear. Their bargaining was done. Would the mercenary leader let them leave unscathed?
“We’ll be going now,” Bryce said.
“Be careful, friend,” Culth said. “The woods hold much danger.”
Charlotte’s breathing was labored not from rushing, Bryce making certain they did not run but walked out of the village, but from the fear that choked like a hand at her throat.
“We need to put distance between us and this place,” Bryce said once the woods swallowed them.
“He’ll come after us?” Charlotte asked, though knew it wasn’t us Culth was coming for; he was coming for her.
“Culth all but made it clear when he alluded to the danger in the woods.” Bryce glanced around as if expecting Culth’s men to already be surrounding them. He pointed in a direction. “Run and run fast.”
A Warrior’s Promise in stores April 2012.