Sanctuary (Daughters of the People, Book 5)

Jerusha Mankiller has found herself in a lot of tight spots during her century and a half of living, but her current assignment takes the cake. Her mother, the formidable Blade, has sent her halfway around the world to investigate clues to the locations of Sanctuary and the City of the Sisters. The catch? Her cover is as the wife of her brother’s best friend, a former Delta Force Operator with a smart attitude and a wicked smile.

Playing somebody’s husband isn’t a new cover for Drew Martin, but it’s the first time he’s partnered a woman he’s got the hots for. Unfortunately, Jerusha treats him like her kid brother, and when she’s not, she’s instituted a strictly hands-off policy. One kiss wouldn’t kill her, would it? And at least then he’d know if the wild attraction tugging at him affected her, too.

Tracking down decades-old leads isn’t exactly easy, though. Soon, Jerusha and Drew have their hands full countering the problems cropping up around every corner. Someone is tailing them, the Shadow Enemy turns up in the unlikeliest of places, and an ancient Daughter sets her cap for Drew, leaving him wondering what could possibly go wrong next.

Released August 2015. Published by Bone Diggers Press, copyright 2015.

Release teaser, Sanctuary by Lucy Varna

Excerpt from Sanctuary

The Konya Archaeological Museum blended into the nearby buildings, distinguished more by the bold, yellow sign announcing its entrance than any architectural feature. The interior was by turns cluttered and stark, the whole covered in a fine layer of dust, but the exhibits were the focus, not their manner of presentation. The small museum housed a wide array of artifacts dating from the eighth century B.C.E. through the region’s Roman period. Many were from the nearby dig at Çatalhöyük, Konya Province’s most famous attraction.

Jerusha Mankiller knelt beside a marble sarcophagus and studied the reliefs carved around its sides. Half-dressed men and women twined around one another in a bacchanalian revelry fit for the god himself.

“Roman, second century A.D.,” she murmured. “Beautiful.”

A shadow fell across her. “It’s a fancy casket, Jaybird, a hunk of rock. What’s the big deal?”

Jerusha looked up and met the gaze of her companion, Drew Martin. He was a big man, easily six two, with broad shoulders and a burly frame. His blond eyebrows were furrowed over hard, cognac colored eyes in his rough-hewn face and the narrow scar at the corner of his upper lip whitened as his mouth thinned. She shook her head. He’d volunteered for this assignment. Why did he never remember that?

And her baby brother had assured her he would, that Drew had been a good soldier and a hell of an operator before he and Bobby, along with their friend Hiro Okada, had resigned from the military and formed BDH Security.

She stifled a sigh and rose to her full height, still a head shorter than Drew. “It’s historic.”

One corner of his mouth curled, twisting the lovely curve of his lips into a sneer. “It’s a carved rock.”

The security guard that had let them in clattered by, his scowl rivaling Drew’s. He might or might not know English. That didn’t really matter. It was the tone that was important. As far as the local populace was concerned, she and Drew were obnoxious, American newlyweds. Obnoxious, she could do. It was the newlywed part that was giving her fits.

She pasted a pleasant smile on her face. “I know this isn’t as good as swords and armor, sweetie, but it’s truly a beautiful piece. Indulge me?”

The strong lines of Drew’s face softened and the sneer became a sensual smile, hot and maybe a little too knowing, all things considered. “Yeah, sure, baby.”

She turned her back on him and resumed her study of the sarcophagus. That smile did things to her, naughty things she’d rather not think about, heating her blood and burning through her calm. Two of her immortal sisters had fallen under the spells of mortal men recently. As far as Jerusha was concerned, that was two too many. Damned if she’d be tempted by Drew’s rough Southie charm.

He cupped his hands over her shoulders and brushed his mouth along her ear. “How come it is we’re married and I still can’t kiss you?”

Jerusha eased away from the hard warmth of his body. “A, we’re only pretending to be married, and b, we’re in public in the middle of a conservative Islamic culture.”

“If I gotta wear a fucking ring, I oughta be able to kiss my woman.”

“I’m not your woman,” she said mildly, “and for the last time, would you watch your language? Your potty mouth is going to get us in trouble.”

His voice dropped to a whisper. “I ain’t the one with the potty mouth. We get back to the hotel, you gonna talk dirty to me?”

She bowed her head and turned partially toward him. “I’m going to kick your scrawny ass if you don’t focus on our mission.”

“Don’t tease, baby.” The guard’s footsteps faded. Drew dropped his hands and shifted to her side, legs widespread, beefy arms crossed over his broad chest, fingers tucked against his ribs. “What’s so important with the rock there?”

“It’s historic.” His sneer returned, and she grinned. “I’m getting a feel for their holdings. Begni’s letter was smuggled out of here. I was hoping we could find something that might add some context to it.”

“I know why we’re here. Fuck, woman. You act like I ain’t never done this before.”

Jerusha tucked her hand into the crook of his arm and tugged him toward a wall of pottery displayed behind glass. “And you act like I’m the little woman.”

“You are the little woman, Jaybird.”

The raw humor in his voice tickled her own, that and the ridiculous nickname he’d given her. A code name, he’d said. More likely, he enjoyed trying to get her goat. “Technically, yes. Just remember who’s the boss.”

“That’d be me. Might makes right.” He stared at the pottery and lowered his voice. “Guard’s coming back.”

Jerusha tilted her head, focusing on the guard’s footsteps. The pattern of his shuffling feet coalesced and separated into the sounds of multiple people walking through the nearly deserted museum. “Somebody else is here, too.”

“Sounds like three in all.”

“Yeah.” She rested her head on the solid width of Drew’s upper arm and raised her voice slightly. “Come on, sweetie. Try to enjoy yourself. It’s not like we’ll get another vacation anytime soon.”

Drew rested a hand over hers. “I’m enjoying it, baby.”

The guard entered the room, followed by two men. One was middle-aged and nearly as tall as Drew, his frame lean beneath a black, wool coat. His eyes, frigid and impassive, scanned the exhibits under thick, dark eyebrows, and he seemed oddly familiar, though Jerusha would swear she’d never seen him before. The other man was bulldog stocky, from the square set of his shoulders to the awkward angles of his face. He walked slightly behind his companion and his coat fell at an odd angle over his muscled bulk.

The skin across the back of Jerusha’s neck tightened. She met Drew’s gaze and flicked hers toward the newcomers. “How about lunch? I can hear your stomach growling from here.”

He dipped his head closer to hers. “Let’s go back to the hotel and have dessert first, just you and me.”

She hid her smile in his arm. Wasn’t that just like a man? “Lunch first. I’m starved.”

“Promise you’ll make it up to me.”

The low rasp of his voice scraped across her nerves, and she shivered. Oh, she’d make it up to him, all right, just as soon as she got him alone in a space big enough to deliver a good ass whooping. “You know I will.”

He kissed her forehead and squeezed her hand. “I can always count on you.”

Her skin tingled under the lingering caress. The way Drew was looking at her, so soft and warm, as if she were the center of his world. She sucked in a breath and guided him to the exit, chattering like the newlywed she was supposed to be. Blessed Ki, the man was good, maybe too good for her peace of mind.

She shook her head and followed him outside. Drew teased her, but he never followed through. Maybe he didn’t feel the slow burn she did whenever he was around or maybe his focus was really that good. Either way, she had bigger things to worry about, like what a Greek tourist was doing in an obscure museum in Turkey accompanied by a bodyguard carrying a gun.

Want to read more? Sanctuary is available at select online retailers.