Good Morning! Hope everyone is doing well. Like many, I’ve been watching the Tokyo Olympics and cheering on everyone who can now call themselves Olympians for a lifetime. And, of course, I’ve some news to share, that’s right. Valiance is one step closer to PRIME TIME. It really is coming soon and I couldn’t be prouder of this book that was planned from the beginning of the series back when I was still writing for Ellora’s Cave. As many know, life can throw you curveballs and I was finally able to write the Valiance from my heart, during the pandemic!
In honor of Valiant Montgomery and his heroine, Mary Campbell, I thought I’d share an excerpt featuring their reunion after 95 years! Enjoy the book blurb and excerpt!
Hailed as demigods from a fallen realm Abcynians and their panthera guardians protected humankind. Over the centuries, perpetual war with their malevolent adversaries exacted a heavy toll, forcing Abcynians to evolve, becoming monarchs, warriors, lords and ladies, artists and voyagers. Centuries later, war between the Abcynians and Saturians has crossed the Atlantic Ocean.
Cast into the belly of an enemy’s ship to die, Valiant Montgomery seeks absolution for failing to keep his promise to Mary Ainsworth, the pretty maid fated to be his queen. Needing a miracle, he prays she is somewhere safe with a family of her own. He never expects his prayer to be answered, much less to be rescued by a crew of Abcynians. When he discovers the Saturians used his marquisate to stage the slaughter of his species and left his father for dead, he questions if he is worthy of his beloved.
Gunslinger Gabriel Blakemore returned to privateering to search for his sister’s lost prince. Relieved Valiant is found alive, he realizes the heir to the Abcynian throne has a hard row to hoe and invites him to put down roots in Dare, Arizona. In truth, however, he can’t stop thinking about his feisty neighbor, Izzy Patterson, and worries his nightmarish past might frighten her away. During the voyage to America, Valiant and Gabriel form a pact, vowing to reunite with the women they love and new ally Caine Sinclair promises to heal Lucien Montgomery’s shattered soul. Once home, Valiant and Mary fulfill their fate and Gabriel wins Izzy’s heart. All the while, a malevolent foe threatens to unleash unimaginable losses upon their families and the townsfolk of Dare. To save them, the destined King and Crown Prince must lead the Abcynians into a showdown between good and evil…or humanity itself will become extinct.
* * * * *
“You picked a great horse for Valiant, by the way. Tall enough for an Abcynian male but requires an experienced rider.”
“Figured someone who’d once ridden war horses could handle Gulliver, even though Cynric Forrester sent word that Valiant and Gabriel bought horses from him,” Michael replied, jumping down to the ground.
“It’s a wonderful gift, Michael. He’ll love it,” Mary assured as a scent she’d not detected in ninety-five years drew her attention westward.
Stilling, she turned in her seat, discovering Valiant astride a huge chestnut horse. In truth, it wasn’t the magnificence of a well-bred stallion that caught her eye, it was the former marquess wearing a cotton shirt, denims, boots, and a black Stetson. Beside him, Gabriel rode a tall black horse with a white star on its forehead.
“Go be with Valiant, Mary, I’ll look after Izzy,” Gabriel insisted, breaking away from Valiant to accept the reins of his favorite buckskin from Caleb, only to ride toward town.
As soon as Gabriel disappeared, Mary got down from the wagon at the same time as Valiant jumped to the ground. Goodness, no wonder he’d bought such a big horse! He was enormous, muscled, with tawny hair running down to his back in thick waves.
Uncommonly handsome, his eyes were like liquid amber, his nose patrician, his jaw squared, his teeth white, the presence of slightly extended canines fascinating. His unique scent—sandalwood and something deeper, spicier—reached her.
And then she realized Valiant was close enough to touch, his hands extended. If she were still sixteen, she might have flushed and looked away. Instead, she launched herself at him, catching him off-guard. He caught her all the same.
“Mary, I am sorry, so very sorry,” he apologized, for what, she didn’t know.
“Don’t say anything more until you kiss me, Valiant Montgomery. After all, I’ve been waiting all my life for you to do so.”
Aware that they had witnesses, she didn’t care about anything other than having his big hand cup the side of her face that’d once been scarred. Today, it was nothing but a faint crescent-shaped line that he caressed with his thumb before brushing her glasses to the top of her head and bending forward to press his mouth to hers. On a sigh, her lips parted, his tongue delving deep, tangling with hers in an intimate dance she’d never experienced before.
If she’d been standing, her knees would’ve given out, for surely the earth shook from the impact of her first genuine, heart-pounding kiss with the man she loved. And, still they kissed, clinging to one another, his taste as sweet as molasses.
Mary, we keep this up, Michael’s gonna geld me.
He’d have to go through me first. Oh, Valiant, I am so relieved to know that you’re well, but please forgive me for my moments of doubt that you’d be found.
You owe me no apologies. I broke the promise I’d made to you the day I left Regan and Nicholas’ wedding breakfast.
Valiant! You didn’t break it. You came home.
I’m not the same man anymore, Mary. Much as I wish otherwise, I am not.
Nor am I the same girl, my love.
Easing up, he lifted his head. As her vision had improved since her conversion, she didn’t need her glasses to appreciate the regal beauty of his features. Then she saw him, the face of the Crown Prince etched upon his countenance, the lion’s head bowed, as if in shame.
“Kahari is sad,” she said.
“The Crown Prince, that’s his name, right?” she asked, as it’d come to her as surely as he stood there.
“He’s ashamed for not detecting that you were in danger long before you’d reached Calais.”
“It wasn’t Kahari’s fault. I’d become so high on the instep that I failed to realize my own valet led me into a trap.”
“Might I speak to the lion?”
“If I can hear you, he can.”
“Thank you, Kahari, thank you for protecting Valiant, for bringing him home to his family, to our kind, to me,” she whispered to the lion, touching her hand to Valiant’s face, stroking the lion’s countenance reflected upon his skin.
“Mary, I feel him, I feel the return of his pride simply because you are near.”
“Thank the Creator. I had a vision of you once, in a mirror,” she confessed.
“Tell me of it.”
“I was tasked to say the name of the man I loved. You came to me. You were hung from some sort of contraption, beaten, bloody, your back shredded. Your hair gone. Your inner strength to endure had been tested due to punishment you’d wrongly believed you deserved, and I worried you were just going to let it all go.”
“The only reason I didn’t end my life was you, for it was your face that I kept in my mind, your name in my heart.”
“Are you saying you still love me, Valiant?”
“I have loved you from the moment we met, though I pray your vision of me in prison then didn’t frighten you overly much,” he said, looking sheepish.
“The punishment was real?”
“One of many, I suspect, though it was likely when I’d tried to escape an opium den that’d been overrun by vampires. After I’d been punished, I was placed on a prison ship, where I was put in the hold with the other prisoners and forced into hard labor until they all died, save for me.”
“Goodness, that must’ve been terrible.”
“The yellow-bellied Saturians wanted me to subsist on the bodies. I couldn’t, for as many sins as I’d committed, I would not, could not do such a thing.”
Smiling, Mary imagined Gabriel had taught Valiant a thing or two about the West during their voyage home. “Been spending the last few months with my brother, haven’t you?”
“He’s my best friend. Without him, I might not have survived the nightmares, though I should warn you that they remain.”
“I’m glad Gabriel was there for you, as I will be should you wake to such horrors.”
“Thank you. May I kiss you again? You taste of ambrosia and sunshine.”
“I’d rather kiss you,” she answered, using her great strength to lever herself up and take his face between her palms. “Welcome home, Valiant, welcome home.” Pressing her mouth to his, she brushed her lips back and forth, experimenting, learning, tasting.
“Mary, Valiant, I don’t want to interrupt, but if we’re to stop Gabriel from killing a couple of men, we need to go, now,” Michael urged, compelling her to ease back.