Today I’m welcoming fellow Carina Press author Shawna Reppert to share an excerpt of her new M/M romantic fantasy novel, The Stolen Luck. I can’t wait to read the whole story! Without further ado, I’ll turn the blog over to her…
Lord James Dupree must recover his family’s stolen Luck, an elven talisman that nurtured the Dupree lands, protected its people’s health, and made Dupree wines the finest in all the lands. Without the talisman, the Dupree vineyards are failing. Creditors are closing in. The Luck is James’ only hope of holding his family estate, keeping his motherless daughter and widowed mother from poverty, and protecting from an uncertain fate the families that have served his family for generations.
James stumbles across a solution–but by seizing it, he betrays the most cherished values of his land and family. He wins an elven slave in a game of cards. James has been raised to abhor slavery, and yet that slave, Loren, offers James his only chance to enter the Lands Between and recover the stolen Luck.
James tries to assure Loren that he wants him only as a guide to the Lands Between, but the elf has been cruelly used by his mortal owners; he does not trust this new master. Despite his best intentions, James finds it all too easy to slip into the role of slavemaster, threatening to send Loren to the auction block when the slave defies him.
Angry with himself, James tries to make amends. A wary Loren rejects his gestures.
Where the scene opens, James and Loren have left the town where the card game took place and are journeying to James’s estate, where they will stay for the harvest before continuing on James’s quest to retrieve his family’s stolen Luck.
James is dreaming unquiet dreams when. . .
Loren’s frantic cry jolted through his sleeping mind. He jumped to his feet, dagger in hand before he came fully awake. Dark shapes in the shadows. Glint of metal. Old instincts woke. James dodged and struck, and one dark shape fell.
He spun. The world narrowed to attackers and the chained elf he had to defend. Time slowed, he could count between the heartbeats loud as a drum in his ears. Loren had grabbed the chain that trapped him, using his cloak to protect his hands as he swung it, doubled, against two knife-wielding ruffians. The nearest ducked a swing of the chain. James charged before he regained his balance.
The man went down hard. James pinned the wrist of the brigand’s knife hand, thrust his own dagger heartdeep. Hot blood spilled over his hands.
The last ruffian grabbed the swinging chain and yanked Loren forward. James sprang. Too late.
The ruffian pulled Loren against him, dagger pressed to skin just above the iron collar. With his other hand, he looped the chain several times around the elf’s wrists and pulled it tight. Loren’s scream seared James’s soul as the iron burned into the elf’s flesh.
James could not aid Loren without risking Loren’s life. His hands went numb. He closed his right fist tighter around the hilt of his dagger, trying to keep the feeling. He used his breathing to focus his thoughts, just as he had been taught.
No time to be sick. No time for fear. Duelist’s bravery. Gambler’s calm. For Loren, if not for yourself. Hard to think with the rush of blood roaring in his ears.
“I’ll make you a deal, gambler,” the brigand said. “I was told to kill you and take the elf. But seeing as you turned out to be a better fighter than we figured on—” he spared a glance at the bodies of his erstwhile companions, “—I’ll let you live. If you don’t try to stop me leaving with the pretty thing here. And the horses, so you won’t be following too close.”
“If I don’t agree?” James asked to buy time while he came up with a plan.
“I’ll slit the pretty’s throat and we’ll see which of us has the quicker knife.”
Loren, deathly white, breathed now in great, heaving gasps of pain. The sound rent the stillness of the night. Don’t think about that now. Just like any high stakes game, focus on the other player and not on the risks. It was the best chance he had to get them both out of this alive.
If it were just a question of giving up Loren in order to spare the elf’s life, James wouldn’t hesitate. But what would happen to Loren if he allowed the elf to be taken?
“You’re hurting him. Alain won’t like it if you bring him back marked.”
The man’s laugh was like spiders crawling down James’s shirt.
“Alain don’t care if the pretty gets messed up this time. He’ll be putting marks enough on him.”
Very good. He hadn’t been certain that Alain was behind the attack. “Why take it out on the elf? None of this was his doing.”
“Didn’t put up much of a fight, did he? Alain figures you couldn’t have won so big unless the elf was helping you.”
He couldn’t let this man take Loren anywhere. He just didn’t know how to prevent it without getting the elf killed.
My fault. If he’d left Loren where he’d found him, the elf wouldn’t be standing here, knife at his throat, iron burning into his wrists, tortured by the chain that he himself had clipped to that horrid collar.
Loren met his eyes and mouthed, “Be ready.”
And then the elf shoved himself backward into his captor. James leaped in and struck with his knife, even as Loren fell with blood blooming at his throat. James stabbed and stabbed again, until he was sure the ruffian was dead. Afraid of what he would find, he rushed to Loren’s side.
* * *
Choosing an excerpt like this is hard. Many of the best parts of a book contain spoilers or rely on the context of what went before for their significance. I chose this particular passage because it shows James’s character; in the face of a threat, his concern is for Loren’s well-being, not his practical value in recovering the Luck.
Also, this is the first time in the novel that James and Loren work together against a common threat. The scene marks a turning point in their association, and its events and their aftermath begin to build the trust and mutual reliance at the heart of the later relationship between them.
The Stolen Luck: How far will a good man go to save his home and loved ones?
Lord James Dupree must recover his family’s stolen Luck, the elven talisman that has protected the Dupree lands for generations. Without the talisman, the Dupree vineyards are failing and creditors are closing in. The Luck is his only hope of saving his home and his family from poverty and ruin.
Despite his abhorrence of slavery, James wins an elven slave in a game of cards. The slave, Loren, provides the only chance to enter the Lands Between and recover the stolen Luck. Despite James’s assurances and best intentions, Loren does not trust his new master and James finds it all too easy to slip into the role of slave master when Loren defies him.
As the two work together through hardship and danger, James finds himself falling in love with Loren. And when a hidden enemy moves against them, he must choose between his responsibility to his family and his own soul.