I like my heroines to be strong and independent so it’s hard for me to write about a fragile, helpless female. When Kendra Terriot, the cousin of Silas and Brigit MacCreedy, was introduced in HUNTER OF SHADOWS as the vulnerable victim of a traumatic childhood event who carried an unrequited torch for Silas, I didn’t see heroine material. It wasn’t until she risked returning to the feudal stronghold of the Terriot clan to bargain for her cousins’ safety that I saw the spark of the courage she would need to face off against the tyrannical Terriot leader and his arrogant sons.
Without her overly protective cousins to shelter her, Kendra is forced from her insulated cocoon (in Chapter One!) to meet her fears head on. Now a transformation from mouse to lion is something I can root for, especially when it comes to taming a fiery Terriot prince. Here’s a sample from that first chapter:
“You honor me with your attention, my king.”
“It’s been an honor having you placed in my care.”Over the corpses of my family. Teeth gritted, Kendra kept her reply mild. “You’ve been very kind and generous. And patient.”
“My concern for you is the reason I’ve called you here.” A sudden wracking cough made him pause; he began again with a slight wheeze. “I’m being unpleasantly reminded that I’m not immortal. I need to make sure our clan is entrusted to the right hands. I have eight eligible sons. All would make strong leaders if they had you beside them.”
Kendra almost dropped to her knees as they went traitorously weak. Time’s up. Her breath caught as he continued.
“I have four bonded sons who have fine mates, but none of them would be my choice as queen. You’re the one I would have seated next to my successor.”
Her thoughts scrambled desperately. “I have no political pull, no experience.”
He cut her off. “You have sentimental ties to my people. They’d rally behind you no matter which of my sons you pick. Your father was beloved by our clan. He was a great man with many friends.”
Her shock and distress loosened a tongue she ought to have held. “Then perhaps you shouldn’t have killed him.”
Her soft words echoed in the room like the sound of a trap-door dropping out from under her feet. Kendra could see her death in the widening surprise and slow furious narrowing of Bram’s eyes. The fact that he refrained from immediate retaliation had her wondering if she held some degree of power after all.
“One makes mistakes that are later regretted,” he told her with careful control. “I plan to amend that by bonding you to one of my sons.”
Cale stepped forward with a quick “I demand the right of first claim.”
Startled, Kendra glanced his way. His tightly leashed intensity reminded her that behind the civilized veneer, a barely restrained attack dog quivered at the end of its chain. She had no doubt that if released by a word from his father, he would take her to the floor right then and there to seal the deal for that coveted place on the throne.
Bram chuckled. “I’m sure you do. But you’ll wait your turn, just as your brothers will have to. The decision is hers. Step back and be silent.”
Cale inclined his head slightly, withdrawing to stand beside his siblings, though his coiled focus never wavered. His stare remained fixed upon her.
Bram offered an apologetic smile, saying, “Boys,” with an indulgent shrug as if that explained away everything. “Patience is not a virtue of the young so I’m afraid I must insist on an answer before the decision is taken from you.”
Kendra swallowed in panic. “How could I choose among them, my king? I’ve never even exchanged words with most of them, so how could I pledge my future? I can’t rush a decision this important if I’m to serve your crown by choosing wisely.”
Impatience wasn’t just a curse of the young. She could see it thinning Bram’s lips before they eased into another smile. “I was right to select you, my dear. You’ll give this task the gravity it deserves and this clan the heirs it needs.”
Suddenly, all Kendra could hear was the hard rhythm of Cale’s breathing. Imagining the forceful heat of it on the back of her neck quickened a shiver. She held her ground, but not without difficulty.
“If it’s courting you want,” Bram announced, “that’s what you’ll have. A little contest to put my sons through their paces will be good for them. Some competition to impress you and some conversation to woo your affection. And then you’ll choose.”
Kendra had no interest in getting to know the fiercely misogynistic Terriot princes. What she already knew was the stuff of nightmares. All she was after was a stay of execution that would give Silas time to snatch her from their grasp. And keep her from their beds.
“Thank you for the opportunity to be fair and wise.”
And, if she were very lucky, to escape.
I hope you’ll stop back tomorrow to meet my rowdy, tattooed, rock and roll hero, Cale, one of the Twelve of the House of Terriot who is determined to make Kendra his queen.
“5 of 5 Stars! Grabbed me and wouldn’t let go. Darker, grittier, more dangerous, and had a plot rife with twists . . . and I simply loved it. This might be my favorite of the series.” – Literal Addiction PRINCE OF SHADOWS, the 8th Book in my “By Moonlight” dark paranormal shape-shifter series is available for pre-order at Amazon and Barnes & Noble as an e-exclusive from Pocket Books.