Today I'm proud to bring you an exclusive except in this feature for a story I've read and enjoyed, Hostage by Cheryl Headford. Just released with Harmony Ink Press, don't miss out on your chance to win either a signed print or eBook copy!!
Author: Cheryl Headford
Publisher: Harmony Ink Press
Cover Artist: Garrett Leigh
Length: 328 Pages
Release Date: September 17, 2015
Blurb: Astrin Raphael wakes up in a strange place, frightened and confused. He is told to trust someone who seems to hate him, and he tries—he really tries. However, things change rapidly when he discovers his friend is actually his archenemy, Rowan Gabriel, whose abusive behavior stems from a deeply ingrained, if unwarranted, hatred over something that happened many years before, and simply wasn’t Astrin’s fault.
When Rowan's uncle and Astrin's father are kidnapped by Strebo Michael, the two crown princes are catapulted into an adventure that forces them to work together, and along the way their feelings for each other grow. Rowan is quick to let his hate go, but Astrin can’t release his inhibitions. It takes Astrin almost dying from a poisoned dagger before he finally accepts Rowan's love.
When they return home, their problems continue as their Houses try to negotiate a way for the young men to be together. It soon becomes clear at least one of them will need to relinquish his throne.
“Perhaps I can help you boys, as you seem to be new to the city.”
They looked up at the familiar voice and were surprised to see the woman from the train. She was accompanied by a young man, who looked to be around Rowan’s age or a little older. He scowled at them.
“Are you following us?” Astrin asked.
The woman laughed. “Hardly, I’ve been at my sister’s.” She beamed at Rowan. “Remember? I told you all about her.”
Rowan gave a polite nod, wracking his brain for the aimless chatter he’d failed to listen to. “My nephew and I were about to meet some friends for dinner. Would you like to join us?”
“Aunt Neive, are you sure that’s wise? We don’t need trouble now.”
“These boys aren’t trouble, dear. They’re mercenaries, and they might be able to help us. Mercenaries owe their allegiance to whoever pays their fees, isn’t that right?” Her voice and eyes hardened and bored into Rowan with a ferocity that made him shiver.
“Of course,” Astrin answered for him. “If the price is right. What do you have in mind?”
“Aunt Neive,” the young man said nervously. “We don’t have the money to pay for mercenaries.”
“I think we can come to some arrangement, can’t we, boys?”
“We’re always ready to discuss terms.” Again it was Astrin who responded. Rowan was still locked in a gaze with Neive. She leaned forward and whispered something in his ear.
Rowan stiffened and jerked.
“Sh, I’m not blind, boy, and I’m not stupid. I watch television, and unlike the other fools that surround us, I can see what is there—not what I expect to be there or am led to believe is there.” She glanced at Astrin. “I can help you, and I will keep your secret, if you will keep mine.”
Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit.
“What secret might that be?” Rowan managed to say calmly, although he was sure his eyes must betray his inner turmoil.
“Shall we just say we are alike in our desire to see justice done?”
Rowan glanced at Astrin, who was frowning, looking ill at ease and very worried. Then he took a deep breath and nodded. “All right. We’ll come with you and talk, but if you try anything….”
“I mean you no harm, my dear. All I ask is that you come with us and listen to what we have to say. If you then feel you cannot profit from our association, you can walk away and, as long as you give your oath not to interfere with our purpose, we will not interfere with yours.”
Neive smiled and nodded, then began to walk away. Rowan rose to follow, but Astrin put a hand on his arm.
“What was that all about?”
“She knows who we are!”
“What? What did she say to you?”
“She used my name.”
“We can’t go with her.”
“We have to. I have a feeling our meeting was not by chance. I think she might have something to do with the demonstration tomorrow. This meeting is about that, I think.”
“Are you sure?”
“Not even remotely, but I have a feeling.”
“Good enough for me. I haven’t got a better idea. Keep alert.”
They followed Neive and her scowling nephew, if that was who he really was, through the city to a small bar near the main thoroughfare. After entering the establishment, instead of heading into the main bar area, Neive led them up a set of narrow stairs onto a landing. Faced with a door, she knocked a complicated series of taps and slaps; then the door was opened by a pale man with a harassed expression on his face.
Seeing Astrin and Rowan, his eyes widened. He dragged Neive inside and shut the door in their faces. Shocked, they remained frozen where they were, uncomfortably trying to ignore the scowling boy who stood in front of the door with his arms crossed.
After a time the door opened and Neive gestured them inside.
There were about thirty people crammed into a room that was barely big enough to hold them all. They were sitting on benches, chairs, and tables, ranging in age from teens to the grizzled old men who huddled in a corner, smoking strong-smelling vanilla tobacco from long, cherrywood pipes. It scented the room and created a haze that made the whole scene somewhat surreal. What they all had in common was that look—the nervous, haunted look of the underground revolutionary.
Winner’s Prize: Signed Paperback of Hostage.Runners Up Prize: 2 E-copies of Hostage.