Saturday, May 01, 2010

Love Lessons, To Darkness Fled

Love Lessons, a Love Inspired for April, is the first in a series centered around homeschooling. The second book (Heart of a Cowboy) in the series will be out in July and the third one (A Daughter for Christmas) in November.

You can read full excerpts from Margaret Daley's books at my web site and learn more about her and her writing.

Home schooling his daughter is new to devoted single father Ian Ferguson. To ensure his child gets a good education, the busy CPA hires a temporary tutor for the tax season. Twenty-three-year-old college student Alexa Michaels is too young--and too pretty--to be right for the job. Yet his daughter is coming out of her shell and learning. Still, Ian is traditional, and sweet Alexa--who graduated from the school of hard knocks--is challenging some of his old-school ways. Can this dad learn some valuable lessons about love, family and faith from the least likely teacher?

Love Lessons
by Margaret Daley
"Don't die on me."
Alexa Michaels patted the dashboard of her twelve-year-old car as it chugged toward its destination, only a half a block away.

At least the car had gotten her to the street where she needed to go, and she was thirty minutes early to her interview for the tutoring position. The vehicle bellowed a plume of smoke from its tailpipe, the wind whisking it away as it sputtered past another sizable dwelling. Finally, her car died two houses away from her objective, a single-story Mediterranean home on an acre.
She pushed the car door open. Its creaking sound protested the action. With a sigh, she retrieved her large purse from the floor and stood. A brisk breeze caught her long, multicolored skirt and whipped it about her legs. Holding it down while clutching her bag, she hurried toward the house.

Halfway up the sidewalk to the front entrance, a plastic liter bottle fell from the sky and splattered two feet from her, clear liquid splashing and wetting the bottom of her skirt.
What in the world!

Stunned, she stopped, her purse slipping from her fingers to plop on the concrete next to her, the bag's contents pouring all over the ground. She stooped to scoop up her items—lipstick, cell, brush, pen…
A man charged around the side of the house and hurried toward her. Jumping up, she took a step back, the few personal objects in her hand landing in the pile on the ground.
Maybe I've got the wrong place. Maybe I should leave…
Then she saw a young girl appear, not far behind the man, and relaxed, taking stock of the pair as they approached. Tall, lean, the male's long-legged stride ate up the distance between them quickly. His tanned features were set in a look of concern, but as his gaze roamed down her length, his eyes widened briefly before he managed to school his expression into a neutral one.

He came to a halt, pushing his wire-rimmed glasses up his nose, framing beautiful Nordic blue eyes with long black eyelashes. "Are you all right? The rocket didn't hit you, did it?"
With her gaze held captive by his, the questions barely registered on her mind.

"Were you hit?" the man asked again.

She mentally shook herself out of the daze and focused on what he'd said. "No. It just splashed my skirt." She peered at the smashed liter bottle. "What was in it?"

"Only water."

The girl who looked about ten years old, with copper-colored hair pulled back in a ponytail, skidded to a stop next to the man. "I can't believe it went over the house, Dad. That was awesome!" She threw her arms around her father, not seeming to notice Alexa.
Returning the hug, he peered down at his daughter, grinning. "Yeah, definitely the best one yet. You did good."

At that moment a gust of wind sent Alexa's skirt dancing about her legs and played with her long mane, whipping it across her face. She reached down, grabbing up as much of the rayon fabric as she could while trying to keep her hair out of her eyes.

Hunched over, Alexa looked up through her curly strands at the man whose own short, black hair stayed in perfect place, complementing the impeccable clothes he wore, tan slacks, navy blue long-sleeved shirt and a jacket. "I'm here for the interview."
"You're early." He turned his grin on her and stuck out his hand. "You must be Alexa Michaels. I'm Ian Ferguson and this one—" he nodded toward the child "—is my daughter, Jana."

His smile lit his whole face and reached deep into his eyes. It set her heart to beating fast until she noticed the way Jana had stepped a little behind her father, gripping him tighter. Was the girl really that uncomfortable around strangers?

Straightening and hoping her skirt stayed down, Alexa fit her hand in his and shook it. The touch of his fingers around hers made her pulse speed up, but she quickly regained control. Being attracted to a potential employer wasn't in her plans. She needed this job.
*Do Not Reproduce without permission.

* * *

To Darkness Fled (Blood of Kings, book 2)

By Jill Williamson

To Darkness Fled is the second book in the Blood of Kings trilogy. It's about Achan, a young man

who wanted to become a knight, and Vrell, a girl who is dressed as a boy to hide from the man who wants to marry her. Book two picks up right where By Darkness Hid left off as Achan, Vrell, and the Kingsguard knights flee into Darkness.

"Williamson pens an action-packed, imaginative second installment in the Blood of Kings trilogy. All the familiar epic elements and emotions are freshly rendered, with Vrell and Achan especially memorable as they grow during their journey. The pace gallops along, leaving readers hungry for the concluding book." —Publisher's Weekly

Chapter 1

What do you mean she's gone?

Vrell Sparrow smiled at Esek Nathak's sharp tone. She'd been hoping to intrude upon this moment. She twisted the false prince's silk sleeve in her hands and held her breath, thankful she'd kept the scrap of fabric. Personal items made it easier to look in on someone's mind like this, as did her tar-black surroundings.

Though she floated with four men in a small wooden boat gliding west across Arok Lake—and Darkness—she nevertheless looked through Esek's eyes. The former heir to Er'Rets reclined on a cushioned chaise lounge in his solar in the Mahanaim stronghold. The blazing fire from Esek's hearth warmed Vrell's…Esek's right side. Her hands trembled with the fury coursing through his body. She forced herself to ignore it, knowing it was Esek's anger and not her own.

It galled Vrell that she had to share this man's mind. The man she had once thought to be Prince Gidon Hadar. The man who had demanded to marry her, putting so much pressure on her mother that Vrell had gone into hiding disguised as a stray boy. A disguise she still wore six months later.

Esek rose from the chaise lounge and circled his steward like a prowling dog. How can this be, Chora? Did you not tell me yourself Sir Kenton posted three guards at her door?

Chora, a short, dark-haired man in brown robes, seemed to shrink whenever Esek addressed him. His b-best men, Your Highness. He swears no man left his post. But the chamber is empty. She must have escaped another way.

Yet Lord Levy assures me that is impossible.

F-Forgive me, my king, Chora croaked out. The lady must be a mage. First taking on the appearance of a boy, now v-vanishing altogether.

Esek threw back his head and groaned. I am surrounded by fools. She's no mage, you nitwit. Both my prisoners have gone missing in the same hour, and only I can see the truth: the stray helped her. He means to steal my life—my crown and my bride. Find them!

Of course, Your Majesty. Right away. Chora scurried to the door but paused.

Esek fell back on his chaise lounge and crossed his ankles. He snatched a handful of grapes from a tray. Why are you still here?

The steward turned, trembling. F-Forgive me, Your Highness. It's only…the guards have s-searched the stronghold already. Th-There's no sign of them. I d-don't—

The door burst open. Sir Kenton, the Shield, personal bodyguard to Esek, strode into the chamber. A chill draft swept in behind him, followed by a group of New Kingsguard soldiers dragging two of their own—bound and gagged—between them.

What's this? Esek sat up, swinging his feet to the floor.

Sir Kenton shook his curtain of black hair at the guards, who yanked the prisoners to their feet. These are two of the men who escorted the stray to the dungeons. They were found in the privy on the north wing, bound to one another.

Esek stood and strode to the prisoners. He waved a finger at the gag on the taller man. Sir Kenton withdrew a dagger from his belt and cut through the cloth.

Well? Esek said. What have you to say? Report.

It was Trizo Akbar, Your Highness. The prisoner took a deep breath, as if winded. He's turned traitor. Maybe always has been. Sir Rigil and his squire too. Trizo led the prisoner away while Sir Rigil and his squire bound us and stuffed us into the privy.

Esek's temperature rose. How is it a mere stray has garnered every competent servant in Er'Rets? Has not the Council voted me king? Take these fools to the dungeons, Sir Kenton. The rest of you, find the stray, find the boy called Vrell Sparrow, find Sir Rigil and his rosy squire, and bring them to me. Now!

The chamber fell out of focus. Vrell's head tingled, her body tipped forward. She gasped, and musty, rotten-smelling air filled her lungs. She gritted her teeth and concentrated, putting a hand on the bow of the boat for support. Using her bloodvoicing gift for long periods of time always weakened her. If she could only stay connected long enough to learn Esek's plan. She concentrated on his face and pressed the wrinkled silk sleeve to her cheek.

The chamber came back into view. A door slammed. Esek and Chora were alone.

Issue a decree. Any traitor will stand before me to be judged. Then a bounty. Five golds for information on the Mârad, Sir Rigil, or his squire's whereabouts. Twenty golds for the man who brings me Achan Cham alive. Ten if it's only his head. Fifty golds for Vrell Sparrow, unharmed.

F-Fifty, Your Majesty?

Have you written it down?

Yes, Your Majesty. Chora lowered his voice. But why not disclose that the boy is really Lady Averella Amal?

Because it would work to the stray's advantage. Should the people discover Averella travels with him, they might think the duchess supports his claim to my throne. No. Let them keep their secrets. The money will be enough to bring them both to me. The sooner the better. I am loath to marry Lady Mandzee Hamartano. Now that woman is a mage. Do you recall how she—

A sharp pain shot through Vrell's ear. She moaned and forced her eyes open. Blackness surrounded her, like the deepest, darkest cave. She no longer sat on the wooden bench of the boat but found herself scrunched in the bow, head bent awkwardly to one side, sleeve still clutched in her hand. Mosquitoes buzzed nearby. The boat rocked softly on the lake's surface.

A voice came from the darkness above. "Sparrow?"

Vrell jumped at the volume of Achan's voice. Noises always seemed louder after bloodvoicing, like her head had been wrapped in bandages that fell away all at once.

Visit Jill's website to read the entire first chapter of To Darkness Fled and to learn more about the Blood of Kings trilogy.

To purchase To Darkness Fled, click on:
Marcher Lord Press or or

Do not reproduce without permission.

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