Miranda is duty-bound to journey across the Damned Plains to rescue the Princess of York from ruination. Her selfish cousin doesn't deserve her help, but the mission offers an opportunity to escape the smothering confines of life as an indentured companion to a spoiled princess.
Danner is a journeyman, a traveler with an extraordinary gift: the ability to withstand the deadly lightning bolts sent by moody gods. Drawn by her lush beauty, he agrees to guide Miranda across the Plains if she'll let him explore her body each night.
They face danger--blood ravens, cannibals, mechanical spyders--but Danner never anticipated that the bigger risk would be from Miranda and the things she makes him feel. A journeyman's life doesn't lend itself to commitment, but if they can rescue the princess and make it out of the Plains without getting zapped or eaten, Danner might have to make an exception for one amazing woman. If she'll have him.
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April 24, 2011
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Excerpt from Journeyman's Ride by Marie Harte
"Shut it down! Shut it down!" Parker shouted over the awkward shriek of metal gears that shouldn't have been grinding so loudly.
Activity in the workroom ceased. Steam hissed as the presses stopped rolling. A rumble overhead magnified the sudden stillness everywhere. Outside, the jarring caws of blood ravens quieted. As if the Western god himself had shuttered the sunlight, darkness shadowed the once-bright sky. Danner could count on one hand the number of times the godbolts hadn't killed. "Oh hell. Here we go again."
"Danner, shut up." Parker waved at the others to be silent, oblivious to everything but his precious machine. "I thought I heard a rattle in the underpending gearshift. Hank, can you look at it again?"
Hank scratched his thinning hair. "I reckon. Hold on."
Half the time Danner didn't know why Parker bothered to keep the damned presses rolling. As he stepped outside the small workroom, he glanced around the desolate area, wondering if he'd overstayed his time here. Lately, everywhere he moved, he felt eyes tracking him. In the distance where the empty woods buffered the town from the East, where he liked to walk. Across the dusty street at the mercantile. Or past it to the most popular building in town, the bar.
"Parker, I'll be back."
Parker nodded, more concerned with his mechanical problem.
"But Danner, them godbolts is out there." Nunny, another of their press workers, darted a nervous glance out the window. Parker looked up from the press and angled a speculative look Danner's way. ,i>Shit.
"I'm not worried." Just resigned. He exited the building, walked along the wooden porch and then crossed the street to the bar. He entered through swinging doors and forced himself not to react to the stale smell of hopelessness, piss and rotgut. The place consisted of a wooden floor, several scarred tables and chairs, a counter and behind it shelves holding all manner of libation. A second floor boasted rooms for the whores who made a living servicing customers for what few scraps could be had in town. A couple of patrons spent their afternoons drinking, probably the miners who hadn't found jack shit since Danner had first arrived in town.
The folks in Endville had a lot of work to do to make their town resemble even the smallest hamlet east of the border. Though the West's natural predators kept a respectful distance from the more populated area, attempts at civilization didn't mean so much on the outskirts of nothingness.
Beyond Endville to the west lay the Damned Plains, a sandy mass of death and danger that had killed more than one stupid prospector hoping to make it to the fabled Crystal Palace and beyond, eager for a chance at a better life. A smarter man would head East and scrap the idea of freedom from oppressive monarchs. Deal with asshole royals and live an easier life with Eastern amenities. But apparently, men weren't that smart out here. The sun beat the common sense right out of them.
Hell, it had out of him.
From somewhere upstairs, a man cried out and a woman--Bertha by the sound of her--screeched as they engaged in some rip-roaring sex. Danner didn't feel even the slightest twinge of lust. As Bertha sweated beneath some drunken partner, her daughter no doubt waited for her several doors down, praying her momma would make enough to feed her for the night.