I’ve just opened to a random page of my book to get this quote. I may make this a habit. 🙂

************

Sif stood once more and walked to Dinah. Before Dinah could object, Sif grabbed her hand and lifted it to rest on the swollen stomach.

Dinah could feel the child move under her fingertips, a small but powerful poke under Sif’s bulging belly. Dinah’s hand grew clammy and all the muscles of her arm stiffened.

“Sif says her tribe and the future of her unborn child are in your keeping,” Gunnhilda said. “You will choose their fate, when you choose your own.”

25 Days to go until publication!

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“Tabor, do you understand what you are asking? You want me to sneak into the camp of an enemy I know nothing about, evaluate their
strength, and report back, all in a single night? On terrain I know nothing about?”

He smiled. “Yes.”

***********************

I could have sworn I posted Dinah’s first chapter somewhere but apparently while I’ve posted the first meeting of Dinah and Gerhard, and a glimpse of the Roman Commander, Tabor, I neglected Dinah herself.

So here it is.

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Chapter One

The New England of a different timeline than our own, circa 950 A.D.

The ring must be perfect.

It had taken over a year for her work to attract the elder Seneca’s attention. If he was pleased with this signet ring for his grandson and eventual heir, it would be the beginning of a long and valuable patronage. She’d finally have enough coin to stand on her own. Enough, maybe, to begin a family.

Dinah bent her head lower, determined to finish today. The eagle’s wing feathers had to be just right, wispy enough to suggest flight, thick enough to suggest power.

Her wooden door swung open so hard it smacked against the far wall. She glanced up and saw a Roman soldier in her doorframe, blocking the rays of the setting sun.

“Centurion, I told you the jewels for your bracelet would not be here until next week.” She went back to her work, not wanting to lose focus at this stage of the engraving.

“I care not for a bracelet.” The soldier stepped inside.

Her head snapped up. This was not the over- eager centurion.

“Licinius?”

The big engineer wore his full on-duty uniform, including the chest plate. In his wake stood his young assistant, Ceti, also in uniform.

“Commander Tabor summons you, Dinah,” Licinius said. His face and his voice had no emotion at all.

No. She took a deep breath as her stomach began to swirl with acid. “I don’t understand. What has happened?”

She kept her voice clear and unwavering, even while fear crept throughout her body. Never show weakness. She’d learned that a long time ago.

“You don’t need to know. You simply need to obey,” Licinius said.

She curled her hand around the ring. “I’m not Tabor’s soldier, I’m not under his orders, and I have work to finish.” Gods, Tabor, you cannot truly need me. You cannot truly be asking this of me, to become less again now that I’ve worked so hard to become more.

Tabor finally had the damned Legion he’d pleaded for to defeat the Mahicans who’d been harassing the settlement. There was nothing she could do that the soldiers could not do better.

“Dinah, I do not have time to spar with you,” Licinius said, his voice strained. “He said fetch you, your skills are needed.”

Ceti, Licinius’ assistant, placed his hand on the hilt of his gladius. She scowled, wishing for a knife in her hand for the first time in over a year. Licinius waved Ceti back, took off his helmet, and placed it under his arm.

“Tabor is your patron. You owe him duty,” Licinius said, his voice gentler. “Do not make me use force.”

No more a slave but she still wasn’t free.

“I’m not—” Not what I was. “Licinius, no. Tell Tabor it’s been too long. I’m out of practice, my old skills are useless to him.” She slapped her palm on her granite anvil. Her bowl of acid, needed to etch the design into the ring, almost tipped over.

“Tabor obviously disagrees,” Licinius said.

Ceti drew his gladius and the sound of the blade scraping the scabbard echoed around her home. Oh, yes, that would make her surrender, a soldier who didn’t even know how to draw his sword properly.

“Ceti, don’t be an idiot.” Licinius removed his hands from her worktable. “I will allow you time to put your tools away, Dinah. Then we go.”

She looked up to her loft bed. A real bed, with a real mattress, the first she’d ever owned. “Licinius, you know what this could cost me.” She stepped off her stool.

He leaned toward her, his clean breath flowing over her face. “I know. I am sorry for it. I will be sorrier if you refuse and I have to hurt you.”

If he could hurt her. Once, she could have taken him down within seconds, despite his size. She stepped back and gathered the ring and her tools together, making each move deliberate, buying more time, yet giving Licinius a reason to think she was cooperating.

A weapon, she needed a weapon. Ducking her head, she looked around her home. But there was no salvation to be had from the shelves of raw stones to her left, her woven chair by the fire, and the hanging oil lanterns near the door. She closed her hand around the bowl of acid. Scar Licinius. Far too cruel. He’d been more than kind to her. Besides, it was Tabor who’d ordered this.

“Hurry,” Licinius said.

“You could tell Tabor I was not here,” she whispered, fearful that Ceti might overhear.

Licinius put his helmet back on, the crest brushing the top of her roof. He shook his head. “I cannot. Just as you cannot forget your debt to Tabor. If not for him, you would not be here at all.”

That was simple truth. She closed her eyes and shuddered. All the fight, all the dreams, all her hopes faded from her body. “As you command.” “As Tabor commands.” Licinius shook his head again and turned to Ceti. “Sheathe your weapon, boy, and wait outside.” The boy took a long look at her, as if trying to figure out what was going on, then followed orders.

Just like she was.

She put her tools away in the drawer of her worktable. She pressed a section of the table leg with her foot. A hidden compartment popped open and she slipped the ring inside. Maybe this would not take too long, maybe she would get back to it, soon.

And maybe Augustus himself would come down from his place with the gods to make things right with the Empire that he’d founded.

Meaning, no chance at all.

She retrieved her cloak from a hook in the corner, taking a moment to place her palm flat on the stained glass window, letting the chill on the glass seep into her hand. In her dreams, a crib holding a healthy child sat under the window, the babe looking up to glorious multi-colored light. A child to care for, to be loved, and never to be sold, as her parents had sold her.

Turning, she tied her woolen cloak around her neck, feeling for the handle of her hidden knife. She pulled the hood of the cloak over her head as she stepped through the doorway.

Full dark had fallen.

Dinah of  Seneca at The Wild Rose Press.

Publication Day is getting closer and closer and closer…..

Less than thirty days away. Bonus for me–I should have the sequel finished by the time it’s out. 🙂

A little late in the day but here’s the promised snippet.

This is from chapter one which begins with Dinah being summoned by the Roman commander. If you’ve been reading my blurbs and the other snippets, you’ll realize that the commander, Tabor, is not the hero.

However, more than a few of those who read the manuscript before I sold  immediately bonded to Tabor as the hero. I’m hoping this isn’t a problem now that I’ve got a blurb. 🙂

It’s all Tabor’s fault. He refuses to be ordinary.

In any case, feel free to bond to him as a character as he does play a large role in the story.

******************************************

Licinius and Ceti handed their horses over to a  guard who saluted and faded back. As they walked,  her boots squished in the mud from yesterday’s rain.
She didn’t bother to look around. Even without the oil lanterns that dotted the camp, she could have found her way. Memorizing the layout of a Roman
encampment had been one of the first lessons from her master. The final test of her knowledge had been  walking through a simulacrum of one, blindfolded.

She’d passed. She’d been all of eight years old.

Instead, she listened. Rocks scraped against metal to sharpen it. Hammers pounded on armor to knock out dents. These soldiers expected a fight at any time. Her thumb rubbed the hilt of her hidden knife, tracing the great cat carved into it. She had never wanted to be in a military camp on the eve of
battle ever again.

Licinius set a fast pace with his long legs and she was breathing heavy by the time they reached Tabor’s field headquarters. One side of the command
tent was covered with the painting of a bald eagle, white head against a blue sky. Seneca’s symbol, both for the family and the settlement named after them, the same design that the old lord wanted on the signet ring. Too bad she couldn’t make either become real and fly away with the great bird.

The tent guard, another one of Tabor’s tight-lipped and serious soldiers, pulled aside the cloth door and passed them through with a quiet nod.

Tabor, in full uniform save for his helmet, dominated the tent. He paced back and forth, verbally tossing out orders to his staff, who were gathered around an oval wooden table in the center.

Tabor’s red woolen cloak swirled around him. His heavy winter boots made deep impressions in the soft ground. Only the sawdust poured onto the dirt
prevented a muddy mess.

Licinius announced their arrival. Tabor stopped in mid-stride. His cloak settled about his shoulders and he nodded to her. The staff officers around the
table froze, listening.

“You summoned me,” she said to Tabor, ignoring everyone else. Not quite a question, not quite a complaint, but a little of both.

“I have a task for you.” Tabor chopped the air with his arm and ordered everyone out, from his scribe to his top aide. The scribe grumbled but shut  his mouth in mid-sentence at Tabor’s angry glance.

No one else dared voice an objection. Licinius left first, with a quiet nod. The staff officers stared at her as they passed. No doubt some assumed their commander wanted sex to soothe his nerves. False. She might have tempted him if he liked women in his bed but he did not. Too bad that Tabor did not
have a twin, one she could tempt.

“I need your skill,” he said. Like always, his brisk manner was more like a large feral wolf than the polished Roman patrician he actually was. But like a patrician, he took what he wanted, when he wanted.

For those of you who have read Freya’s Gift and were intrigued enough to click over to my website, I thought I’d put up a short excerpt from Dinah of Seneca, which is a novel-length sequel set in the same universe.  This book is coming out at the end of May from The Wild Rose Press. (If you click on the tag to the right side, you’ll see the cover and the blurb.)

Gerhard from Freya’s Gift is the hero of the book but Sif also has a nice role in it, which includes one of my very favorite scenes but I can’t post that because it’s a huge spoiler.

Instead, I pulled out how Dinah meets Gerhard and how the cougars from the earlier story come into play.

To set this up, Dinah has been spying on the Viking camp for the Roman commander. (The Romans don’t show up in Freya’s Gift because they weren’t important and would have been distracting. 🙂

*******

Gerhard released her hair and knelt down to her. His hand reached out to her. She flinched, expecting a blow. But instead, he grabbed the belt knife at her waist and snatched it out of its sheath with ease. She bit back an objection. She should not have taken her favorite knife on this insane mission.

He held the knife up to the firelight and studied it, tilting his head in curiosity. He said something in his language. She shook her head, let the shivers take her body and the tears flow down her cheeks. She shrank back from the spear. I am small and not dangerous and most definitely not a Roman spy.

“Why are you here?” Gerhard said, in Latin. Her eyes widened. A Viking, speaking Latin? “Why are you here?” Gerhard waved his hand  and the spear moved away from her throat. She swallowed and curled into herself. “I, I, I’m sorry, I was hungry and I spied your fires and I tried to find some food. My master does not feed me properly.” She licked her lips, willing herself into a state that matched her words. Panic was not hard,  she was halfway there already. “I’m sorry, I become  lost so I hid behind the shields. I never meant harm, never meant harm.” She raised her head, so Gerhard  got a full look at her tear-stained face in the torchlight.

Gerhard took a breath in and let it out. He smelled like pine needles. He pointed the knife at her. “This is not the knife of a slave. It is too well-balanced, and it is Roman steel.” He traced the ivory carving on the hilt. “And this is intricate work. It captures one of Freya’s cats well.”

Freya? Who are Freya and her cats? “I stole it 1t from my master before I left,” she said. Idiot. She  should have bought a non-descript weapon, a basic Legionary belt knife, not a long-ago gift for a job well done. Sentiment will get you killed. Another one of Gracchus’ sayings.

“So you are twice a thief?” Gerhard asked.

“I have stolen nothing from you.”

“Yet.” He tilted his head, almost smiling. “You are saying you reached the center of our camp by accident? Interesting, since I know you followed me.”

So Gerhard had been playing with her. Cruel Viking. And very smart. “I did, I thought with you being the leader, you might help. But I got scared and hid.”

(more…)

25 days and counting!! Woot.

Available March 23 from Samhain Publishing.

Here’s the official blurb, complete with warning about the sex. 🙂

Because, while it is a story of love after loss, it’s also erotica.

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Saving her people could mean losing her man.
In the months since an unexplained sickness wiped out most of their women, Sif and Ragnor have managed to hold their people together. Yet nothing can overcome the tribe’s overwhelming grief, and their future as leaders—and as a couple—is at a dangerous crossroads.

A series of sensual omens convinces Sif that a fertility ritual to honor the goddess, Freya, is the only path to healing, but it requires a sacrifice. One Sif is more than willing to make—but puts Ragnor’s heart in the middle of an emotional tug of war. He would give his life for his people, but share Sif’s body with his greatest rival? The goddess asks too much.

Refuse, and Ragnor will fail his duty and doom the tribe to violent destruction from within. Accept, and their trust could be rewarded with renewal for their people and themselves. Or shatter a love already stretched to the breaking point.

Warning: This title contains m/m/f sex, gay sex, anal sex, double penetration and good, clean fun with two hot Vikings and an ancient spring.

Good morning. I missed last week because I got distracted by the Mad Men post. 🙂

Before the snippet, I wanted to announce that the publication date of Freya’s Gift has been moved to March 23 because of some reworking of Samhain’s website. Just a week delay.

It will now be released the same day as my essay in the Chicken Soup for the Soul–Thanks, Mom book.

Well, hey, they both do concern mothers. 🙂

This part is from the beginning of the fertility ritual. But just the beginning, so it’s work safe.

*********************************************

Freya, help me.

Gerhard dropped her hand, only to put his arm around her waist, steadying her but also bringing her closer to him. His arm enclosed her back, sending that strange second skin enclosing her humming. She licked her lips, her whole body awakening to the touch. Ragnor followed Gerhard’s example and she was enclosed by both of them. She bit back a moan, almost turning to watery clay in their hands.

Her breathing grew faster, her face hotter, the lights in the sky more intense. No longer could she tell which hand was Ragnor’s and which hand was Gerhard’s. They seemed as one, all the same person, her body ready to reach out and absorb both of them.

The arms around her tightened.

“Sif,” Ragnor whispered. “Are you well?”

“More than well.”

He kissed her cheek, the soft brush of his lips setting her face as aflame as the bonfire in front of them. Vaguely, she realized that both men had moved behind her, their shoulders touching, to better support her. Ah, now, if they would just touch her… If she could strip off her clothes, fall to the ground with their bodies entwined with hers…

“To the spring.”

Gunnhilda’s voice again. Sif shook her head, wondering what exactly had been in that cup. And had she given the men the same? If so, why did they seem able to stand on their own?

The walk seemed less of a walk than floating above the ground. Colors kept flashing in front of Sif’s eyes. The noises of birds flapping overheard and animals rustling in the brush felt amplified and strange. Her feet seemed to not feel the soil and grass under them. The hands that connected her to both men seemed to burn, almost scald.

They took the new path created to the spring and reached it in what seemed like no time at all. They stood, bathed in moonlight so bright that Sif squinted against the glare. It even reflected off the water, which seemed to double the glow. Imagination? Or some blessing from Freya?

Gunnhilda bowed to them, said one last blessing and retreated with the torch, leaving them alone before the goddess.

It’s the same cover for the most part but the font has been changed at the bottom to a more modern one, possible to keep the focus on the cover itself rather than the words.

Freya's Gift, the very final cover. 🙂

March 16.

Not much more than a month away. 🙂

And the final blurb:

Sif and Ragnor have held their people together after an unexplained sickness killed most of the women in their tribe, but both know that their future as leaders and their life together have reached a dangerous crossroads.

A sexual ritual for the fertility goddess Freya might provide healing but it requires that Sif give herself to her husband and another man. Ragnor loathes the idea of sharing Sif with his greatest rival but if he doesn’t submit to the will of the goddess, he fails in his duty to protect his people.

If they refuse, their tribe could destroy itself.  If they accept,  they could destroy their love. Only by trusting in Freya can they renew themselves and their people.

Coming March 16 from Samhain Publishing.

I repeat that each time because all the marketers say repetition is necessary. 🙂

I’ve been thinking about the story and how I sometimes stumble when trying to describe it. Yes, it’s erotica and I’m not shy about that but I also think that, deep down, it’s a story of faith: faith in whatever one calls higher powers and faith in each other.

I’ve been choosing bits and pieces that might make some sense out of context and also have the flavor of the story.

Here’s a little bit of Sif with Gunnhilda, the priestess of sorts for the tribe.

*****************************************************************

“Some say that Ragnor’s reluctance to kill Leif makes him weak.” Was Gunnhilda one of those?

“Then they are looking for an excuse, something to complain about,” Gunnhilda said sharply. “I didn’t think Ragnor would be a good leader, but he is. It was a miracle how he managed to get us all here in winter, then set up the village during the time we were in the caves. But even he has limits. There’s been too much bad luck.”

“I think Freya is showing me a way,” Sif said. “I fear I will have to do more than plant squash, however. Plant something else, I think. Or be planted.”

Gunnhilda snorted. “It’s good you married Ragnor. You and Gerhard would have killed each other by now. Too much bluntness in both of you.” She sighed. “What other signs have you seen, besides Mykle and the others, and the cougar that saved Ragnor?”

Sif told of her discovery of the spring, of leading Ragnor to it and the appearance of the three cats after their lovemaking.

“Three?” Gunnhilda dropped the rake.

Sif nodded.

“That is…”

“Yes.”

“Three. That is a new number for Freya. You must worship there again, as you did with Ragnor. But when you go back, there must be three of you.”

Sif paled. Confirmation of her own fear. “You think I should do what Bera did?”

Gunnhilda shook her head. “Freya asks for a sacrifice, not wantonness. It must be as a ritual before the goddess.”