August 24, 2016
Title: Foolish Bride
Series: The Forever Brides
By A.S. Fenichel
Genre: Historical Romance
Release Date : 3/28/2017
Publisher : Kensington Books
Preorder buy link:
Sadly ever after. . . unless some dreams really do come true?
Elinor Burkenstock never believed in fairy tales. Sure, she’s always been a fool for love—what woman isn’t? But Elinor knows the difference between fiction and truth. Daydreams and reality. True love and false promises. . . . Until the unthinkable happens, and Elinor’s engagement is suddenly terminated and no one, least of all her fiancé, will tell her why.
Sir Michael Rollins’s war-hero days seem far behind him when, after onelast hurrah before his wedding, he gets shot and his injuries leave him in dire shape. He wants nothing more than to marry Elinor, the woman of his wildest dreams. But Elinor’s father forbids it . . . and soon Michael is faced with a desperate choice: Spare Elinor a life with a broken man or risk everything to win her heart—until death do they part?
About the Author:
A.S. Fenichel gave up a successful career in New York City to follow her husband to Texas and pursue her lifelong dream of being a professional writer. She’s never looked back.
A.S. adores writing stories filled with love, passion, desire, magic and maybe a little mayhem tossed in for good measure. Books have always been her perfect escape and she still relishes diving into one and staying up all night to finish a good story.
Look for her on the Historical or Paranormal Romance shelves. A.S. is the author of The Demon Hunters series, The End of Days Trilogy, Wishing Game, and more. A.S. will be bringing you her brand of edgy romance for years to come.
Originally from New York, she grew up in New Jersey, and now lives in the East Texas with her real life hero, her wonderful husband. When not reading or writing she enjoys cooking, travel, history, and puttering in her garden. Her babies are both rescues and include; a demanding dog and a temperamental cat, both bring constant joy and laughter.
A.S. loves connecting with readers. Here’s where you can find her.
Web Site- http://asfenichel.com/
Blog – http://asfenichel.com/blog/
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/A.S.Fenichel
Twitter – https://twitter.com/asfenichel
Pinterest – http://pinterest.com/asfenichel/boards/
About four years ago when I first started getting serious about writing, I was fortunate enough to meet a group of ladies on the Harlequin forums who helped me learn all about writing and gave me lots of encouragement and support. Through the years we remained friends and recently decided to go in together to write an anthology. I am so thankful for these women and all they have done for me. They are all brilliant writers and I know that success is there for all of them.
BEAUTIFUL DISASTER anthology
Love sweeps in like a hurricane, ravaging all in its path, but the alpha males and feisty heroines of this collection are more than ready to face the storm. From sweet to sexy, these six contemporary stories of love taking hold despite the threat of natural disaster prove beyond any doubt:
Love will survive.
Beautiful Disaster is a collection of six contemporary romances from rising names in the romance genre and talented newcomers.
Here’s a quick taste of the amazing stories and the talented authors who wrote them.
–A prodigal son returns to his drought-stricken hometown for his nana’s funeral, only to discover the girl he loved and left behind isn’t about to let him slip away again.
–A divorce attorney-turned-author and his editor’s assistant find love in a raging hurricane. But is this promising new bond stronger than the aftermath that threatens to tear them apart?
– Justice, revenge and fear are ripping a couple apart, but when a volcanic eruption destroys everything in its path, will their love be enough to keep them alive.
– A rejected suitor finds himself trapped by an earthquake with the woman who turned down his proposal. Will their forced proximity help them realize they belong together or will their rekindled feelings die with them?
– A freak storm traps a surly sheriff with his very pregnant ex. Can he convince her to give him another chance or will his secret destroy them both?
– Swept apart by the force of a tsunami, Sean and Sophie have fought their own battles to survive. Now they must confront the challenges caused by the decisions they made separately, if they want to be together again.
Here’s a little sneak peek at my story Unstable Ground:
Justin entered the next room which turned out to be a suite of offices and continued to check walls, floors and doorways. Kendall moved close behind him as he walked through the last door. He turned abruptly and cocked his head. Kendall plowed right into him and was about to apologize when his hand grabbed her arm and he hissed out, “Shh, listen.”
She hadn’t heard anything but remained still. Then she heard it. Or rather felt it. She’d lived in California for twenty-two years. She knew what this was. It was an earthquake.
“Shit!” Justin dropped the blueprints and notepad and pushed her ahead of him back through the office. But before they got more than twenty feet the building shook ferociously. “No time, just get down.”
Justin dragged a long metal table toward the doorway and shoved her under it. As the ground vibrated he threw himself on top of her. She was too terrified to object. This was a big one. Bigger than she’d experienced in her lifetime. Within seconds, the walls and ceiling began to crumble. She pushed herself further into Justin’s strong arms and chest. They felt perfect. Like home. That was the last thought she had before the room faded to black.
The anthology is available at many retail outlets. Here are a few:
New author, Sophia Sasson has her premiere book coming out January 19. It is being released by Harlequin in their Heartwarming line. Here’s some great information and a sneak peek at this wonderful new debut, First Comes Marriage.
But she’s already found Mr. Right…
She would rather call her impending nuptials planned than arranged, but she’s certain her fiancé is her perfect match. Still, Dr. Meera Malhotra jumps at the opportunity to spend the month before her wedding doing a medical rotation in small-town USA. Getting a taste of independence and improving public health are both part of her plan. Falling for a cowboy? Not so much. Jake Taylor is totally wrong for her, anyway: he raises cattle; she’s a vegetarian. He’s content with life on the ranch; she’s from bustling London and wants to travel. She couldn’t possibly throw away everything she’s built over something as illogical as love.
She ran her finger around the rim of the cup, feeling the cracked edge. “The grocer wouldn’t let me buy tea. The diner was all out of veggie burgers and any other nonmeat items, and I got a ticket even though I was parked legally.” She sighed wearily. “They hate me.”
He pushed his chair back and stood up. She turned to see him put a pan on the stove and take food out of the refrigerator. “I’m still a vegetarian, you know.”
He laughed. “I’m making you a grilled cheese sandwich, your highness.”
Tears welled in her eyes. She wasn’t used to someone taking care of her. Growing up, she’d had an army of servants at her beck and call, but she never asked them to serve her. She’d often gone without a snack when hungry, too ashamed to ask the cook to make her something. “Thank you. I appreciate it…you have no idea how much.”
He cleared his throat. “Yeah, well, I don’t want you fainting on me.” She sipped her tea and watched him sizzle butter in the pan. She felt herself relax as the warm liquid went down her throat. “On top of it all, Rose seems to think I’m going to take over Dr. Harper’s practice.”
“Well, Dr. Harper has been talking about retiring. His wife is getting worse, but there’s no other doctor in town.”
“I told her I don’t have my sights on his practice—I plan to go back to London to run my father’s clinic.”
“Yeah, they think you’ll like it so much here, you’ll stay. I mean, who would leave the good old US of A to go back to colonial times.”
She pursed her lips to bite back a retort. He was trying hard to keep up the pretense of being a surly rancher; she wouldn’t engage in his ribbing.
“Besides, if you haven’t noticed, I’m the town’s most eligible bachelor and they figure you’ll fall in love with me and never leave.”
She couldn’t help but scoff. He thought a lot of himself. “Well, she has nothing to worry about. I’m getting married a few weeks after I return.” She winced. Her marriage wasn’t a secret, but for some reason she didn’t want to discuss it with Jake.
Crash! Startled, she turned and saw the pan on the floor. Jake recovered quickly.
“Sorry…handle slipped from my fingers. Don’t worry, I saved your sandwich.”
He set a plate down. She picked up the sandwich and took a bite. This is the most delicious thing I’ve ever tasted. She let the buttery bread and soft cheese melt in her mouth.
“Mmm. Thank you!” She saw him staring at her, his green eyes darkening to brown. She felt herself blush and looked down at her plate.
Jake sat down and splayed his fingers over his half-empty mug.
“I heard something about a fiancé, but this town has a way of embellishing.” He gazed pointedly at her hand. “You don’t wear a ring.”
She chewed slowly. “In Indian culture, the engagement is part of the wedding festivities. My parents wanted it to be the first party of the two-week celebrations.”
“I’m their only child—they’ve always spoiled me.” She kept her eyes on her plate. Her mother had been planning this event for over a year. She was quite upset at the timing of Meera’s trip, but Meera hadn’t wanted to put it off. She needed to do this before the wedding.
“So tell me about your fiancé.” His tone was casual, but there was something new in his voice. She searched his face but he was studying the table.
“Raj is a family friend. We’ve known each other since we were children. He’s also a physician and his family is also from India originally, but we both grew up in the UK. We have a lot in common.”
“Is he also a vegetarian?”
She laughed. “Yes, he is. We are very well suited to each other.”
A shadow flittered across his face. “Well suited. That’s an interesting way to put it. Do you love him?”
She frowned. What a strange question. But suddenly her mouth was dry. She took a sip of her tea and rubbed her temples.
“As I said, I’ve known him for many years and we’re quite fond of each other. We’re research partners—we run a research project together, and after I finish my research doctorate, we’ll open our own lab.”
He raised his brows.
Suddenly, she didn’t want to talk about Raj anymore. “Are you married?”
Was it her imagination, or did he flinch? He shook his head. “I was engaged once.”
“She left me.” His voice was devoid of emotion, but she sensed bitterness and pain behind the words.
“Is the fertility tea hers?”
He laughed mirthlessly. “Yeah, that one took me by surprise, too.” He was trying too hard to keep his voice carefree. The raw sorrow in his eyes gave him away. She wanted to reach out and touch him.
“How long ago?” she asked softly.
“Almost a year..”
Meera placed her hand over his. “I’m so sorry.” His hand felt warm and rough, and somehow familiar. Meera pulled away.
He gave her a wistful smile. “It’s probably for the best. I’ve let it go.”
She finished her sandwich and stood up to wash the plate. She had a thousand questions for him, but it didn’t feel right to pry. He seemed vulnerable…and heartbroken.
“Why’re you marrying a man you don’t love?”
Meera froze, the water pouring over her hands as she held the plate. Her head throbbed painfully. Was he asking because his fiancé had left him? “What makes you think I don’t love him?” Did her voice sound shaky?
“You haven’t once said that you do.”
See the trailer:
It is 1902 and Georgina Potter has followed her fiancé to the Philippines, the most remote outpost of America’s fledgling empire. But Georgina has a purpose in mind beyond marriage: her real mission is to find her brother Ben, who has disappeared into the abyss of the Philippine-American War.
To navigate the Islands’ troubled waters, Georgina enlists the aid of local sugar baron Javier Altarejos. But nothing is as it seems, and the price of Javier’s help may be more than Georgina can bear.
Georgie was not lucky—never had been—but even she could not believe her poor timing. The growing fire was only a few streets away. In this city made almost entirely of wood, the buildings separating her from the fire were a mere appetizer when compared to the towering three-story Hotel de Oriente, where she was now standing. If the Oriente burned down, it would kill scores of Americans who chose this very hotel to protect them from the dangers of the city. None of this was part of Georgie’s plan: she had come to the Philippines to start a new life, not end the one she had.
She blew out the candles, pinched the wicks between her fingers to be safe, and fled the room. She ran down two flights of polished wood stairs, almost flattening a bell-hopper in the empty lobby as she charged the door. Where were the other guests, and why was no one evacuating the hotel?
Once in the street, Georgie took a moment to get her bearings. She’d had a clear view from above, but now the eastern horizon of the plaza was blocked by the La Insular cigar factory. The dull light of petroleum lamps did not help much either. She ran toward the open square in front of Binondo Church to get a better look and then followed the glow of flames down a dirt road. She had just arrived in this city, but she could still guess that tall, redheaded white women should not race through the streets of Manila at night.
She wound her way down to the canal where the fire was digesting rows of native houseboats. Families stood on shore and watched helplessly as their homes burned. Women comforted children and men cradled prize roosters as houseboat after houseboat disappeared into the flame. A dozen Filipino firemen in khaki uniforms and British-style pith helmets stood idly, their shiny engine from Sta. Cruz Fire Brigade Station No. 2 sitting unused, too far from the water line to do any good. Judging by the men resting casually against the cool iron, no one had lit the pump’s boiler yet.
Georgie had read that the natives here were natural fatalists—a long-suffering, impassive people—but this was just ridiculous. She approached the firemen.
“Put water there,” she demanded, pointing to boats that had so far escaped the flames. If doused heavily enough they might only smoke a bit. She struggled to remember the word for water she had learned earlier that day. “Tabog, tabog,” she said.
The men looked at her blankly. She tried again, working out the mnemonic device in her head: the Philippines were islands too big in the sea…too big…tubig.
“Tubig,” she said, pointing. “Tubig, tubig.”
They shrugged but kept staring at her, more interested in the novelty of a hysterical Americana than in the fire. Looking for help elsewhere, Georgie slipped around the front of the engine to find two men arguing loudly in English.
“I’ve warned you before not to interfere with the quarantine, señor. I’ll not explain myself again, especially to the likes of you.”
The speaker, a squat American policeman, had comically bushy eyebrows that did not match his humorless tone. No doubt he had been interrupted from his evening revelry to carry out this duty, and he planned to finish the job quickly and get back to the saloon. Georgie had grown up around men of his stripe, their ruddy noses betraying a greater exposure to alcohol than sun.
She did not have a good view of the man the policeman was speaking to, but she heard the fellow give a short cluck before responding. “There’s nothing in your law to prevent me from standing here, and I’ll do it all night if I have to.” His British accent amplified his condescension.
“You’re interfering with a direct order of the Bureau of Health,” said the policeman, “and that could cost you five thousand dollars—gold, mind you—and ten years in Bilibid.”
“You can’t be serious.”
“That’s the law—need I translate it into goo-goo for you?”
Sensing she was missing something, Georgie edged forward to get a better look at the Brit and discovered that he was not a Brit at all. His angular face bragged of Spanish blood, but the blackness of his hair and eyes revealed a more complicated ancestry. She had heard about these mixed-blood Filipinos, many of them wealthy and powerful, but she had not expected to meet one shirtless on the shore of the canal.
“I read law in London,” the Mestizo said. “I need no lectures on the King’s English from a blooming Yank.”
Proud words from a naked man. Well, not naked exactly, but the black silk pajama bottoms—Chinese-style, embroidered with white stitching—did not hide much. He was the tallest man in the crowd by half a head, and his powerful torso betrayed some familiarity with labor, yet he spoke to the policeman with the studied patience of a man used to commanding those around him.
“Put out this inferno,” he continued. “If you don’t, there’ll be nothing left to disinfect. The entire city will burn.”
“That’s hardly likely. We’re protected by water.” The American waved his fat hand toward the walled-in core of Manila and the bay settlements beyond, the places where the colonial regime was headquartered and most foreigners lived. The wide Pasig River in between would buffer the elite from the “sanitation” of this canal.
A tall flame bit noisily into the woven roof of a houseboat, devouring the dry grass in seconds. Georgie followed the Mestizo’s gaze from the grass to the bamboo-pile pier, nipa huts, and market stalls. Wood, wood, and more wood—it was all bona fide fire fuel straight up the street to the Oriente, the hotel that contained all her possessions in this hemisphere.
The Mestizo turned back to the policeman and tilted his head toward this path of destruction. “I’m sure you’ve considered every possibility,” he said acidly.
“I don’t have to listen to this.” The American stalked away, still eyeing his adversary, and nearly collided with Georgie. In something close to relief, he directed his frustration at her, a new and easier target. “Miss, this is no place for a woman. What are you doing here?”
Georgie wondered the same thing—though her concern had little to do with her gender and more to do with the fact that, in the thirty hours she had spent in Manila so far, she had been temporarily abandoned by her fiancé, maybe permanently abandoned by her missing brother, and now threatened by a fire that her own countrymen would not even bother to put out. That last part bothered her the most right now.
“Why aren’t the wagons being used?” she asked. “You have enough equipment to douse the flames.”
“The fire’s a necessary precaution, I assure you,” the policeman said.
Georgie frowned. “A precaution?”
“I have orders from the Commissioner to sweep this district—”
A loud crack interrupted him as another boat frame split under the strain of falling debris.
“You set this blaze?” she asked, still not sure she was getting it right.
The policeman looked quickly at the fire and then back at her. “We did what we had to do. After we burn out the spirilla in this nest, the entire area can be disinfected with carbolic acid and lime.”
Georgie knew from experience that fire was a risky ally. She had grown up near the tenements of South Boston, twelve acres of which burnt down in the Roxbury Conflagration. “Isn’t that a rough way to go about it?”
Her skepticism exasperated the policeman. Clearly, he had not anticipated this challenge from a fellow American.
“Rough?” he cried. “People should be thanking us for our help. For months we’ve been distributing distilled water all over the city for free. We’ve built new encampments and staffed them with doctors and nurses to treat the stricken. We’ve even reimbursed people for the loss of their filthy, worthless shacks. Are these efforts appreciated? Instead, savages like him”—he crooked his thumb at the Mestizo—“stir up trouble, talking of tyranny.”
The dark-eyed man in question did not respond, but crossed his arms across his bare chest. When he caught her looking at him, she turned away, embarrassed by the impropriety: his in dress and hers in curiosity.
“And what’s the natives’ answer to the cholera?” the policeman continued. “Candles? A few prayers? Carting some wooden saints around?”
Georgie thought he had a point, albeit one badly made. It took no more than an hour in the city to realize that Manila had no sewage system, making it ripe for plague. Nowhere that she had wandered today had been out of olfactory range of the Pasig River, its estuaries, or the Spanish moat. Using the same water for drink and toilet did not make for a pleasant bouquet, never mind good health. That thought gave her some sympathy for the beleaguered Insular official. This morning’s Manila Times had reported that cholera deaths were down to a quarter of their July high, so something must be working.
“Maybe he’s right,” she said hopefully to the angry man. “They’re killing the germs, after all.”
The Mestizo ran a large hand through his short hair and sighed. “His plan would’ve been better if he hadn’t chased off the infected people who used to live here, spreading the disease farther. That’s not just stupid, it’s bad policy. Do you know what the people will say tomorrow? ‘The Americans are burning the poor out of their homes to make room for new mansions.’”
“That’s absurd!” she said.
The policeman did not deny it, though. “These brownies are like children, always looking to blame someone else. I can’t control what they think, nor would I deign to try.”
The Mestizo clenched his fists at his side, unconsciously tugging at the silk pajamas. Georgie wished he would not do that, especially since it was clear he was not wearing anything underneath. She turned away to watch the flames.
A piece of fiery thatch floated through the air near her head. A fresh gust of wind blew it up and over the street toward a cluster of neighboring homes whose occupants were still in the process of pulling out their belongings. The fireball rose and fell, dancing through the dark sky in slow motion, until it landed on the grass roof of one of the huts, igniting in seconds.
Everyone, including the firemen, rushed to warn those inside, but somehow Georgie got there first. She climbed the ladder into the hut and found a small boy holding a baby. He looked at Georgie with wide eyes as if she, not the fire, was the monster devouring his home. She inched forward, hoping her exaggerated smile would bridge the language gulf. She motioned him forward, her hand outstretched, palm up, fingers beckoning—but to no avail. The boy backed farther into the bamboo wall, acting like he had never seen such a gesture before.
Georgie looked up and saw that the whole roof was in flames. How had the fire grown so quickly? “Please!” she shouted, even though she knew her English was worthless. “You have to climb down with me.” She waved her arms furiously, only adding to the boy’s terror. She couldn’t will herself to crawl more deeply into the hut, though. That would be suicide.
“Ven acá,” a deep voice said. She turned to see the Mestizo behind her on the ladder. “Dito.” He motioned with this hand, too, but his palm faced down, brushing his fingers under like a broom. It seemed a dismissive gesture to Georgie, but the boy responded right away and crawled toward them.
The man handed the baby to Georgie before scooping up the boy. “Now go!”
The Mestizo swung back on the ladder to let Georgie down first. Just then the fire surged out of the hut, raking the big man’s back. Grunting in pain, he shoved everyone the rest of the way down and pushed them all to the ground. He fell last on top of the human pile, providing cover as the platform of the house gave way in a single explosion. The flames reached out to claw at them one last time before retreating. The Mestizo pulled Georgie and the boy onto their feet and dragged them farther from the burning hut, just to be safe.
After a few moments Georgie started to breathe again, devouring air in large gulps. She could feel the heavy sobs of the boy wedged into her side, but she did not have a free hand to comfort him. The baby, on the other hand, made not a sound. Georgie looked down at the little one, wondering what kind of life the infant had led so far if tonight’s episode was not even worthy of a good bawl.
A single beat of peace passed before a throng of excited Filipinos descended on them. A young woman swooped down to grab the two children, leaving Georgie alone in the Mestizo’s arms. He continued to hold her close, brushing the ash and dirt off her ruined white shirtwaist. It was a useless attempt, but she didn’t stop him.
“Are you all right?” he asked. He was still sweating—a musky, sweet scent that distracted her from the smoke. When she looked up at his face, she noticed details she had missed before: the dimple in his chin, prominent among his dark stubble; his full bottom lip, swollen a little from an accidental elbow in the face by the boy; and his low, dark eyebrows that framed his strong, straight nose. He was handsome but unrefined—too urbane to be a blackguard but too unruly to be a gentleman.
“Are you okay?” he asked again, shaking her lightly. “Can you hear me?”
She was embarrassed to be caught staring. “Yes,” she answered. “I’m sorry. I’m fine.”
“No, I’m okay now. I’ve just…I’ve never felt so useless. The boy couldn’t understand me.”
The Mestizo shrugged. “Believe me, had you spoken his language, he would have been more scared.”
Georgie laughed, surprised at her ease. “I don’t know how your heart isn’t racing.”
The man paused, his smile not softening the look in his eyes. “Who says it isn’t?”
So he might be a bit of a blackguard after all, she thought.
Georgie noticed that the natives had stopped watching the fire and instead were watching her. She glanced over to the American policeman. The man did not need to speak to communicate the extent of his disgust. No self-respecting American woman would allow herself to be held this way by a half-naked Filipino. Upper-crust accent, Spanish features, and English law degree notwithstanding, he was still a “brownie.”
Georgie tried to loosen the Mestizo’s grip by twisting away. When that didn’t work she gently nudged him with her elbow, but he didn’t take that hint either. A seed of panic bloomed in her stomach. If they did not separate, there was liable to be more trouble for them both. She planted both palms on his chest and pressed lightly, but no one on the outside could see her resistance. All they saw was a suggestive caress.
The policeman’s eyes darkened. A small man like him—diminutive in both stature and intelligence—would no doubt resort to the power of his office to reestablish authority. Dash it, he had said as much even before the Mestizo had gotten his hands on a white woman.
Georgie summoned her strength and shoved the Mestizo away, hard. His heel caught on a rock and he fell, grimacing as he landed flat on his injured back.
A few bystanders laughed. Some would have laughed at anyone’s misfortune, but others relished the embarrassment of a proud man. Not surprisingly, the policeman’s guffaw was the loudest.
The Mestizo’s cheeks flushed red, but fury trumped pride. He got up immediately, rising in a single fluid motion while glaring at Georgie. She wanted to say something to defuse the situation—to explain, apologize, something—but the moment passed before she got up the courage. The man pivoted on his heel and walked away, not bothering to brush the gravel from his burned, torn flesh.
Georgie sighed in regret. Her first full day in Manila had not been a success by any measure. Unfortunately, it was too late to turn around now.
Perfect for fans of Kristan Higgins and Robyn Carr, this sexy yet sweet military romance reunites a headstrong dancer and a rugged army soldier after one steamy encounter tears them apart.
As a dancer who creates mesmerizing visions onstage, Neve James is looking for the same kind of stability in her love life. Her pen pal, Rory McRoy, is on leave from deployment in Afghanistan, so she heads to Boston to surprise him. After corresponding for months as part of a “Support Our Troops” initiative—and exchanging dozens of “Read When You’re Alone” letters—Neve knows what Rory likes, and she intends to fulfill his every fantasy. But all they get are a few blissful moments together before they’re interrupted by a woman claiming to be Rory’s fiancée.
Rory has fallen hard for Neve’s letters. When he finally meets her in person, he has to have her, right then and there—until Neve takes off in a fit of anger. Forced to return to Afghanistan before he can fix things between them, Rory waits four agonizing months to prove that he’s not the man Neve thinks he is. But by the time he arrives in New York, she’s already made up her mind. Luckily, Rory never backs down from a challenge, and he’s prepared to put everything on the line for love.
Amazon US: http://amzn.to/1FD9JnW
Amazon UK: http://amzn.to/1iWgNCa
Amazon CA: http://amzn.to/1iETE6H
Amazon AU: http://bit.ly/1ViKzSw
I recently spoke with author M.A. Grant about her series, Lawmen of the Republic. I wanted to get more insight into the brave and honorable men who serve. She directed me to their leader, Alexander Cade, but unfortunately he claimed to be too busy to give me a few minutes. Luckily his team, the men he refers to as The Boys, were more than happy (well, maybe reluctantly agreeable) to talk with me about the man who invokes so much loyalty from them.
Thank you for meeting with me. I appreciate your time and I’m sure all of the Republic is eager to hear about your work and the man you faithfully follow.
Mumbled greetings are heard from the squad, except a hulking boulder of a man who’s busy watching the wall.
So, let’s start off with who you are and what your position is within Cade’s team.
A large, tattooed man with tawny skin grins. “Officer Tane Wati.”
The blond a few seats down interrupts with, “His nickname’s Preacher.”
Tane shakes his head, ignoring the interruption like it’s common practice and continues, “I’m the squad’s medic.”
Next in line is a non-descript man with brown hair and eyes. He looks younger than the rest of the men. “Private Timothy James. Infantry.”
The blond snickers. “That means he’s fodder.”
James glares at him, but doesn’t argue.
Realizing it’s his turn, the blond slouches back even more in his chair, cocky grin in place. “I’m Jenks. Sniper and general bad-ass. I’m too good to need a nickname.”
The largest— and so far silent— man gives a low huff of amusement and ignores Jenks’s wounded expression as he grunts, “Mad Dog. Combat engineer.”
The blond nods. “He makes things go boom.”
How did you meet Lt. Cade? What was your first impression of him? Why did he choose you to be part of his team?
The boys look at each other. As if by silent assent, Tane straightens and starts. “We were at the Academy together. I didn’t meet him until a year before I was deployed. I helped him out in a fight. He’d been holding his own pretty well, so I guess my first impression was…respect? He seemed like a decent guy.”
Mad Dog tilts up his chin. “Demo class together. Smart.”
Jenks is busy folding a scrap of paper he found beside his chair, but adds, “Cafeteria after he picked a fight with a prick in the officer’s track. And I didn’t have a first impression. I reserve judgement until I can see someone in action. Live fire tends to change nice guys into absolute bastards and guys I hate into guys I hate but would be willing to die next to.”
James seems surprised when Jenks waves a hand in his direction. He blinks and glances around before saying, “I didn’t meet him until I took the oath for the Rite of Copiataes and joined his team. I’d heard about him though. Lt. Cade was a legend in the Academy.”
Jenks rolls his eyes, a movement which leads to Mad Dog punching his shoulder.
On the other end of the line, Tane sighs and ignores them both. “Professor didn’t choose us to be part of his team. We volunteered. That’s how the Rite of Copiataes works. We pledge allegiance to a commander and we serve together until we die.”
“Life. Honor. Brotherhood. To the death,” Mad Dog recites.
The low chorus of “Hoo-ah” is half promise, half prayer, all fervent belief.
How does Lt. Cade deal with stress and what is the thing that causes him the most stress?
“You say that like he does deal with stress,” Jenks says with a wry smile.
“He tries to deal with it,” Tane protests without heat. “He’s just very bad at having balance in his life.”
Mad Dog grunts.
James pipes up. “When he’s stressed, Lt. Cade gets very…precise. He likes order.”
“Order from chaos,” Tane agrees with a nod.
“What was the other question?” Jenks asks.
After hearing it again, the boys glance at one another. Smiles break out spontaneously and they all avoid eye contact with their interviewer.
“You say it, Preacher,” Jenks says.
“Yeah,” Mad Dog agrees.
James shakes his head quickly when Tane looks at him. Once again thrown to the wolves, he clasps his hands together and leans closer. “I’ve never seen him as bad as the time he thought he’d lost her.”
The rest of the men nod, as if no name is needed for the mysterious woman.
“Natalia Volkova,” James clarifies. “She’s part Lailian.”
“Prof met her when he freed a rebel labor camp,” Jenks explains. “Then when he met her again, she was all grown up and…well, shit happens.”
Tell me about his personality. What is his biggest strength and where does he need to challenge himself?
“Honorable,” Mad Dog says before anyone else can speak.
“Debilitatingly honorable,” Tane agrees. “As for how he needs to challenge himself…”
They exchange looks of confusion. Finally, James, clearly unsure of his answer, offers up, “He needs to be easier on himself?”
Thoughtful silence and then affirmation.
If he had a free day to enjoy himself, what would he do?
Tane’s flushed. “Umm…”
Mad Dog punches Jenks when he doesn’t stop laughing. Laughter turned to pained wheezing, he continues to chuckle, occasionally wiping his eyes.
James avoids all eye contact, rubbing the back of his neck with a hand.
Mad Dog, realizing Jenks is unreachable in his current state, gives up and goes for a diplomatic answer. “Be with the person he cares about most.”
Does he have someone special in his life? And what kind of traits would his perfect woman have to have?
All amusement from the previous question disappears. Their faces go blank.
“We can’t talk about that,” Tane says, shoulders stiffening.
“The Rite forbids it,” James adds quietly.
After a few awkward moments, Jenks shifts in his seat. His sly grin is nothing but trouble. “But if he could have a woman, she’s be as smart, stubborn, and independent as him.”
“A leader,” Mad Dog says, nodding his agreement to Jenks’s statement.
If you were to give him some advice (on anything) what would it be?
“I got this,” Jenks promises. He leans in close, face innocent and earnest. “Prof, if you’re listening to this, just remember…tents have very thin walls.”
Alex drew his officer’s pistol and made his way to the tree line. Jenks was as good as his word about the body’s location. Alex grunted as he dragged the man back toward the open ground of the mine. He was almost there when Mad Dog joined him. The task was much easier with help.
‘Where?’ Mad Dog asked.
‘Mine entrance,’ Alex said, pointing. ‘Let’s keep him away from the families.’
It didn’t take long for James and Jenks to meet them there. Mad Dog and Alex had already rifled through most of the man’s pockets.
‘Scout?’ Jenks sounded a bit eager.
‘Nope,’ Alex replied, throwing another handful of brass into the growing pile. ‘Clean-up.’
‘Dammit,’ Jenks muttered. He dug around in a pocket and pulled out a crumpled twenty credit note, slapping it in James’s outstretched hand. ‘Did he at least have a weapon?’
Alex grimly threw the makeshift axe at Jenks’s feet. ‘Another three metres and he would have had me. Good shot.’
‘Sorry I had to take it.’
James knelt beside the body and pointed at the man’s face. ‘Sir, what are those?’
Alex took a closer look. ‘Tattoos.’
‘No. Bastardisation of it though.’ Alex pointed at the blocky patterns. ‘The lines are too thick. Rebels are probably hoping people assume it’s the Lailites so the attention is shifted.’
‘Needs a funeral,’ Mad Dog said solemnly.
‘Check with our cleric. See if there’s a plot open on the base. He doesn’t deserve to take up space on the temple grounds.’
Mad Dog nodded and rose, moving away as he spoke into his comm.
‘What’s the plan for dealing with short, squat, and shithead?’ asked Jenks, investigating the pile of brass.
‘He’ll report me.’
‘Shee-it,’ Jenks grumbled. ‘I should have just told you to duck. Put a bullet through him after he threw the axe. Would have saved us a lot of trouble.’
‘We can deal with it back at base. Right now we need to make sure everyone here is safe.’
James nodded. ‘I’ll see if they need help with the wounded.’
‘Don’t bother.’ As always, Tane’s presence was an immediate relaxant. ‘No major injuries and the minor ones are already patched up. They’re just scared.’ He glanced at Alex. ‘Should we be getting back?’
‘That would probably be the wisest course of action. I’d like to give Major Chattern some warning before he fields that idiot’s call.’
‘I’ll get a blanket for him,’ Tane said, motioning toward the body.
‘Please. Jenks, got anything from the brass?’ Alex asked.
‘Small calibre for the most part. A few that could do damage. No rifles.’
‘They’re running low,’ James said. ‘Is that a good thing?’
‘They’ll have to be more careful with their shots until they meet back up with the main group,’ Alex mused. ‘It’ll be a little safer when we go out tomorrow.’
‘Wait a sec, you never said anything about us chasing them through those creepy ass woods,’ Jenks complained.
‘Trust me. After our newest town member complains, we won’t have a choice.’
‘Why’s that?’ Tane asked, returning with a blanket to wrap around the body.
‘Ton?’ an answering question from Mad Dog, who helped Tane wrap up the body.
‘Definitely,’ Alex agreed.
‘Fantastic.’ Jenks started collecting the brass. ‘I’ve always wanted to die for the whim of some dickweed who wipes his ass with silk.’
As they made their way toward the Brumby, Alex stopped long enough to give some of his contacts the brass, which they’d learned to reload, and the warning that the Lawmen wouldn’t be able to protect them for long. His squad didn’t comment until they were on the road again.
James was the first to break the silence. ‘How long do you think we’ll be out there?’
‘If we’ve got to find out what happened to the mine equipment, a week or more.’
‘I hate the woods,’ Jenks mumbled.
‘Bugs,’ Mad Dog said with an understanding nod.
‘Last night of comfort,’ Tane said philosophically. ‘At least we get that.’
‘Stop counting your blessings, Preacher,’ Jenks griped. ‘I don’t like to sleep on tree roots and rocks. I’m a finely tuned machine. I need comfort.’
‘So shut up and get a good sleep tonight, Jenks,’ Alex threw back.
His comm went off. The men quieted as they bounced their way back toward base, trying to listen in.
‘Major Chattern. I’m assuming one of our newest townspeople spoke with you.’
‘What the hell is going on, Cade? Gregson just called the Capital and demanded that you get back some of his stolen equipment. Orders worked their way to me.’
‘We’re planning on starting after it in the morning, sir. Need to rest up and resupply first.’
‘Be careful, Cade. The woods up there are nasty places to get lost.’
‘Keep me updated on your progress.’
‘Yessir.’ He listened as the call was cut off. ‘We leave at oh-four-hundred.’
Jenks patted him on the shoulder. ‘You always take us on the nicest vacations, Prof.’
HONOUR BOUND is available at these locations: