Tempered (A Daughters of the People Novel)

Among the People, Hawthorne the Chronicler is well-known for two things: Her faithful rendition of their history and her inclination to behead those who betray her. To mortals, Hawthorne is better known as Al C. Hawthorne, a fantasy writer with a stellar imagination and a knack for complex stories. It is in this guise that she must track down the sources of comic book illustrator Aaron Kesselman's modernized tales of Rebecca the Blade.

Hawthorne's blunt words and lithe grace intrigue Aaron, enough for him to take her up on the offer of sharing her bed. Before he knows it, his heart begins the fall into love, a fall he's willing to take if only he can persuade Hawthorne that she isn't a two thousand year old immortal descended from one of the most ruthless warriors in British history.

The past isn't the only obstacle standing in the way of true love. The Eternal Order is on the move, targeting key members of the People in their never-ending quest to extinguish the Light. Hawthorne soon learns that a strong arm and a sharp blade aren't always the best weapons in a Daughter's arsenal, especially when her heart is involved.

Released December 2014. Published by Bone Diggers Press, copyright 2014.

Excerpt from Tempered

Late August

The noise in the main conference room of the Hyatt Regency Atlanta grew as fans flocked in to watch the stick fighting exhibition and the wrestling matches that would follow. Hawthorne stretched slowly and observed the people milling about. Across the ring, Levi Ewart, her opponent, bent over at the waist and touched his palms to the floor in a straight-legged stretch. He was tall and solid with the sturdy bone structure of his Scottish father and the innate grace of his musician mother. His vivid personality matched the copper hair capping his even features.

Women were drawn to him, moths to a living flame, handsome young man that he was. Behind him, a mother seated with her young son patted her chest, her wide eyes fixed intently on Levi. Near her, two younger women tittered and sighed trying to catch his eye, then slumped when he ignored their efforts.

Silly women. What temerity these modern women had, to think they could catch the attention of a Son, this one in particular. Hawthorne had plans for her great-grandson, not one of which included mating him to a mundane mortal.

Levi walked his hands forward along the mat, held a plank, and moved smoothly into a cobra pose. He pushed into a stand and winked at Hawthorne, as if he knew exactly what effect he had on the women in the audience.

Incorrigible lad.

Three rows away from the fighting ring and to Hawthorne’s right, a tall, dark-headed man in his early thirties took a seat next to a shorter, pudgy man with the sallow skin of one who seldom saw the sun. She shifted subtly to include them in her view. The tall man slouched in his chair, arms crossed over a broad chest, knees spread wide. His hair fell in disheveled waves to curl over his collar, framing a tanned rectangular face. This one was not afraid of the sun. From his appearance, he dwelt in it regularly. Heavy thighs under worn jeans, muscled forearms, flat stomach; possibly gained through bicycling and swimming, perhaps hiking.

Aaron Kesselman, a graphic artist and native of San Francisco, presented a stark but pleasant contrast to his bloated friend. This was the man Rebecca Upton had asked Hawthorne to investigate during DragonCon. Apparently, his last creation had mimicked the world of the People a shade too closely to be a coincidence. Rebecca had requested information on Kesselman’s sources, and Hawthorne had acquiesced as a favor to the other warrior.

She would resent the intrusion on her time if not for her sense of duty to the People. The Con was the one time each year when she exposed herself to the mortal public as precisely herself. There was no need to hide her apparent lack of aging or to assume a polite expression, no need to navigate the intricate and often tedious politics inherent in being an elder, no pressure to reproduce or lead or do anything aside from protecting and caring for her family. At the Con, no one asked her to be anything other than what she was, a storyteller. It was a blessed relief to have the favorite part of herself outweigh her other obligations, if only for four days.

It would be no hardship to investigate a man as handsome and fit as Kesselman. Perhaps she could persuade him to share a brief sexual interlude. She indulged herself so rarely, it seemed shameful to waste the opportunity now. If his work derived from an innocent source, she would seduce him into her bed, thereby fulfilling two needs, her duty to the People and her need for intimacy. Sensible, efficient, and all without having to bother herself with the social niceties.

A referee stepped into the ring, signaling the beginning of the exhibition. Hawthorne shut everything out of her mind save her opponent. They swung their hanbō in unison, Levi wearing a cheeky smirk. Her muscles flexed and pulled, stretching deliciously in a sinewy motion so ingrained it was nearly automated. A bell rang, the crowd hushed as if collectively holding a breath. Levi circled lazily to her left, his hanbō lowered in a deliberate taunt.

Hawthorne’s lips twitched. Boy was getting cocky. Perhaps a set-down was in order. Nothing that would wound him or his pride, simply a reminder that he should be careful when dealing with a warrior nearly two millennia his elder. She lowered her own guard, coaxing him to come closer, and set out to give their audience a show they would remember for a very long time to come.

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

Tempered by Lucy Varna