Posts tagged with: Joan Kayse

It’s A Wonderful Life

Just like George Bailey, I thought we’d take a trip back to Christmas’ past in the Bandit time machine. Come closer….gaze with me into the crystal ball. See what we were up to in 2008:popcorn

We’ve been very busy here in The Lair getting ready for the holidays. Demetrius cut down the Christmas tree with his gladius and Lucien has been stringing popcorn which has taken longer than we anticipated as he eats two bowls of the stuff for every  one that makes it on the string! The GR was in charge of ornaments, flapping up to the boughs to place each ornament just so….which also took extra long as he kept getting distracted by all the shiny balls. The hockey hunks solved that by replacinbroken ones with pucks!

Marcus keeps shaking the packages while Sven insists that today is NOT the first day of Bandit Christmas but Lucia day….a tradition from his home country where it is believed man and beast require extra nourishment……..Stop! Boys! Stay away from the cookies!!!cookies

Yes, we are steeped in tradition, steeped in good will, steeped in eggnogg…..Oh, wait! That’s just Anna C.  and AC  (squints at shoes sticking out from beneath the table) maybe….Suz???

xmas tree

Tawny, Jo stop standing under the mistletoe winking at the glads….no…no. ack! Jeanne! Stop shaking the packages! No, there is not C4 in the green one…no! Really! Don’t. Shake. It.

Oh, wonderful. Anna S. just breezed in from England with a huge bowl of wassel….like we NEED more alcohol…and now she’s taking down the mistletoe and chasing the hockey guys around!
What? Yes, yes Donna that corset is very pretty in green and red. Oh, my…it lights up…and in the most interesting places. Look, Susan and Kate have just arrived from the cave…..nice Elf hats girls. Do ya’ll hear that? What is that carol Nancy, Caren and Christie are singing? “Deck the Halls with SuperHero Figures”…no, I think the words are…
Stop! Stop! Kirsten, honey really I don’t think doughnuts will hold up as a wreath..the glaze don’t you know. Ah, Christine…just in time….I need help with….what have you got on your head? A candle wreath? You say you’re name is Lucia??? Sven! Sven…come back here and finish the wreath! Beth, Trish….step away from the long, weapon like package KJ just put under the tree…um, don’t put it close to that green package!
Now, excuse me….Cassondra is putting TRUCK NUTS in the stockings!!!!
This party is getting out of control and we haven’t even served the cake…er, pie…er, cake.
(Collapses against reindeer) Never mind. Let’s get on with the Christmas trivia.
**Wow, that was so much fun! Remembering those early days in The Lair. Fond memories of our Bandits who are trailing other paths. Memories of fun with the young cock….er…GOLDEN Rooster! Yeah, that’s the ticket. He’s kind of creaky in the wishbone nowadays. A lot of wonderful BB’s and more characters than you can shake a, a chicken, er a magical shillelagh at. I’ll need all of you to get us through the day. I’ll be at work and will only be able to pop in now and again. So once you answer these Christmas trivia questions, post one of your own. Grab some eggnog and let’s do it!

"Naughty, naughty, ooo...nice..."

“Naughty, naughty, ooo…nice…”


1. What do the carolers in the song “We Wish You A Merry Christmas” insist they be given?

2. Who wins the decorating contest in “A Charlie Brown Christmas?”
3. Where did the Grinch steal Christmas?
4. When a Ukrainian finds a spider web in their Christmas tree, what does it signify?
5. Who was the first ghost to appear to Ebenezzer Scrooge in “A Christmas Carol?”
6. What Christmas song was introduced in the movie “Holiday Inn”?
7. What non-traditonal Christmas movie sports the character Oogie Boogie?
8. What actor won an Academy award playing Santa Clause?
9. What branch of the American military is associated with Toys for Tots?
10. What did Carol Brady lose that jeopardized the Brady’s Christmas celebration?

She Said….

“This just doesn’t seem right.”

The three BB’s spared him a glance over their shoulders as they dragged Paolo by the wrist down the fifth hall from the left. Crazy women, Paolo grumbled to himself. Didn’t they know The Lair was like one of those magical mazes? You could be in here for years before you find the right portal. Cassondra had insisted on that layer of protection and it was only by the grace of Suz who liked her margharita’s fresh and frozen that all the cabana boys and gladiators had GPS bands on their wrists.

door  “We have to see what’s going on,” replied the lead BB.

Paolo screwed up his face. They’d managed to keep their faces in shadow or profile, so he    hadn’t been able to decide who they were. One had the tone of a school teacher and a definite Iowa accent. He wanted to test that theory but had refrained from shouting “Butter Sculpture Cow” in case he was wrong.  Another one was without a doubt an Aussie. She kept calling him a little “joey” and the scent of Tim Tam’s and Lindt chocolate candy swirled around her like an exotic perfume. His stomach growled.

The third? Well, he wasn’t certain, but he’d caught a glimpse of her sweater redolent with pretty kitty pictures. He gave her wide berth as she seemed the more determined one.

But, they could all be Avatars. BB’s were sneaky like that.

“Here,” said the Aussie. “I think it’s this one.”

They’d stopped in front of a large oaken door, similar to the one they’d just eavesdropped at. Paolo was shuffled in front of them.

“Touch it,” commanded the teacher in her best ‘you’ll get detention if you don’t’ voice.

“Why me?” he stammered. I mean this might be the correct one. After all, there was Irish music drifting from behind it, but the doors in The Lair were tricky. It could just as well be one rigged by the RS girls, Jeanne or Nancy. He did NOT want to go BOOM.

“Do it” the three said in unison.

Paolo licked his dry lips, closed his eyes and spread his palm on the wood. The shimmer came in brilliant, rainbow colors. Despite himself, he leaned forward to take in the scene.

“Himself will just have to deal with it.” The woman on the stool raised up from adjusting the strings on her hard shoes and pushed her thick fall of hair  out of her face. “Now I’ll start from the third beat.”

“Ye’ll start with taking a longer break,” replied a petite girl with short, spiked hair. She was brushing out Shannon’s dancing dress, a gift from the Leithprachaun High King. He’d tried to say that it was from his brother, Brady but Shannon knew that to be a lie. Brady was determined that she not participate in this competition.dressIrish

She sucked in a shaky breath. But she had no choice, did she? It was dance. Dance and win to gain Brady all he’d ever wanted.

To save his life.

And her own, if truth be told. She’d be a broken soul, more broken than she’d before meeting Brady Sullivan.  Crippled by an auto accident, her dancing career gone, her hopes for happiness shattered into a thousand pieces, the sexy, dark man had pulled her from the abyss. That he ended up being a magical, Irish warrior0 only added to the wonder of it all. And the danger.

“I don’t like it, Shan. Yer not back to 100% ” Siobahan, her assistant and friend shook out the dress. Royal purple shot through with platinum threads,  it would mold to Shannon’s body like a second skin save for the flared skirt. The cape was intricately embroidered with the same adding in peacock blue, forest green and gold. The designs were ancient, Patric had said, and would provide protection. Shannon swallowed. She’d be needing it.

She stood and went through the steps, biting back the grimace the pain from her injured leg caused. Brady’s sister had tried to heal it and it was better but would it be enough?

“Maybe a simpler dance?” suggested Siobahan. “A slip jig or a reel?”

Shannon hopped and skipped, her arms straight as arrows. “The requirement is The Dance of the Faire King. I don’t have a choice.”

Siobahan grumbled. “Only the devil himself would ask for something so advanced, with  ye  in the condition yer in,”

Aye, well. It was the devil who’d put her, put them in this position. “I’ll be fine. I’ll…”

The opposite door flung open, framing Brady like a fierce warrior of old. Siobahan gasped as Patric, Killian and three other of Brady’s Leithprachaun brothers popped in to flank him. Dressed in bracs and tunics they all held weapons. Her gaze flicked to Bridget who’d promised to keep her brother indisposed. She shrugged and gripped her scian tight in her fist.

“Shannon O’Malley,” Brady said in a firm voice. “Ye’ll not be facing this alone.”


The door went solid.

“Holy, shite,” the teacher BB said. “What’s going to happen?”

“Who are those other luscious men?” asked the Aussie said, popping a Red Velvet Tim Tam in her mouth.

Paolo, shaken by the intensity of the scene, shook his head. “It must be a new series by Joanie T. I think I saw something on the Lair Bulletin board. Guardian Isle series?

“When?” demanded the cat lady. “When will we find out?”

“Soon enough.”

The voice came from a shrouded figure, cross-legged and floating three feet off the ground. “The clock is ticking and the stories must be told.

Wow, this is a LOT to take in. Have you figured out who the inquisitive BB’s are? What do you look for in a warrior? Can you dance? Irish dance? (Looking at Susan). Tell us what intrigues you about this glimpse into a brand new world.


Will it be saved?

Will it be saved?



He Said….


“What the?” Paolo put a hand to his chest.  He breathed out a sigh of relief at the three BB’s who had snuck up on him. “Oh, sorry. Ya’ll startled me. Can I get you a refreshing beverage?” It was after curfew. Nobody was supposed to still be in The Lair. Those gladiators would have some explaining to do. Not that he was brave enough to do it. He focused back on the BB’s ” No? What was I doing listening at the door? What door? There are lots of doors in The Lair.”door

“Shite on a stick!”

Paolo gave a nervous laugh. “You’re right. That was pretty loud considering it was, ah…behind a door. Accent? Oh, there might have been a bit of an accent, I wasn’t really paying any attention.”

The BB’s took a step toward him. Paolo swallowed at their determined expressions. Gladiators v BB’s? Both were forces to be reckoned with.  “Ok, ok. It’s a new door, put in by Joanie T. Saw her directing several construction workers in putting in more than a few. You know those Banditas…they’re pretty secretive when they have new projects. But this one, THIS one is intriguing! Whoever’s in there had been going at before I started eavesdropping…er, I mean it caught my attention.”

“Of all the blithering edjits.”

Paolo raised a brow. sent a sideways look to the ladies.  “Care to join me?”

The BB’s exchanged looks then grinned. Paolo shuffled out of their way then joined them in a gasp. “Wow,” they said in unison. The door had shimmered into a clear window. “Ssshh…” said Paolo. Let’s listen.”


“The blasted, infuriating woman!” Brady Sullivan fumed as he paced before his brother’s huge stone fireplace. “The stubborn, willful…”

“…beautiful, smart…” added another man lounging in an overstuffed chair. The man favored Brady–black hair, blue eyes the pulsating blue of a Star Wars light saber. Neither were built like bouncers but there lay the advantage when an enemy underestimated the strength and power of a Leithprachaun warrior.

“Aye,” replied Brady, throwing his hands up in the air. “and sexy. Don’t be forgetting sexy.”

The other man smiled. “Never, brother.”

Brady pulled up and sent a menacing glare to his brother. He might be High King of their clan, but he was a major pain in the arse. “Patric, ye’ll be watching what ye say about my woman.”

Patric’s lips curved into a knowing smile.

Brady ran his hands through his hair. “Ah, shite.”

“Now don’t be riling up the boyo, Patric. Ye know he’s on the edge.”

Brady opened his mouth to dispute  his other brother, Killian’s observation. But the plain truth of the matter was, he was right. Everything in him was trembling like a bowl of gelatin: his legs, his hands, his thoughts.

His magic.

“Aye, yer right. I concede it. Shannon’s my woman. Mine.” To protect, to cherish, to love. To die for. “That’s why I can’t be letting her do it.”

Patric sipped on a tumbler of Jemeson’s. “Ye’ve no say in the matter.” Patric raised his hand cutting off Brady’s protest. “Tis  the only way. Ye need yer treasure. We need yer treasure…”

“Don’t say it…” warned Brady.

Patric ignored him. “The world needs yer treasure.”

Brady sank into a chair. “And I need her. Ah, shite. Tis a fine mess.”

Patric poured another drink, handed it to Brady. “She’s yer cailin. She chose to do this, to make this sacrifice. Ye can’t deny her that.”

Brady downed the whiskey in one gulp. “Feck if I can’t. I’ll….”

He never finished the sentence but slumped in the chair. Patric waved a hand to keep the glass from shattering on the oak floor. He nodded to the woman standing behind Brady, her hands still glowing from the sedation spell. “Will he be out long, Bridget?”

Bridget nodded grimly. “Long enough…I hope.” She raised crystal blue eyes to her brother. “Will it work out then?”

Patric’s glass filled with amber liquid. “It has to sister. It has to.”


Paolo’s heart thumped in his chest as the door went to oak. Leithprachauns? High King? That was the guy who was hanging out in the barroom just last week. What was going on? What does the world have to do with it? Somebody needs to know about this. If danger’s been brought into The Lair, the Bandits need to know.

“Slow down cabana boy,” one of the BB’s said, “You’re not going anywhere.”

Paolo stared at her. Man, these BB’s were perceptive. “But we have protocols.”

“No protocols for this,” said another. “There are two sides to every story. We need to find this Shannon.”


“But nothing.” The third one grabbed him by the collar. “Show us those other doors.”


Wow, some shenanigans going on and poor Paolo’s in the middle. Who are the mysterious BB’s? Is it one of YOU? Tell us how you managed to break in.  What kind of mission is Brady worried about? Give us your best guess.

Tune in tomorrow for She Said… drum


Mirror, Mirror on the Wall….What the???

Ok, ok….I’ll get it over with. Today is my birthday.mirror 3

And I’m stunned.

I look at the year of my birth, calculate the time, divide by days, carry the 2 and dang gone it! How did I get to be the age of my mother??

Now, don’t get me wrong. I am blessed in SO many ways, not just chronologically. But it’s impossible for my mind (my increasingly FORGETFUL mind) to wrap around the age of …I’ll say it. I’ll say it….56!


Wha…wha…gotta stop doing that cause yanno…fractured hips.

cream 3

In the mirror I see lines and wrinkles. The veins on my hands sometimes raise up (thin skin). I won’t have it! I’ll use every cream, serum, treatment at my disposal! Oh, sure lots of “younger people” get knee replacements and I haven’t graduated to the weekly pill containers…yet but I did have to recently upgrade to an AM/PM one!

And the things that fly out of my mouth (No dentures whew). But things like “Back in the day” or “Nowadays” or “You young people.” Good Lord.

Then you find yourself talking with a friend about the best way to sleep “orthopaedic-ly” to  minimize aches, creaks and leg pain. Holy BenGay Batman.pill bottle

I just can’t correlate what I see in the mirror when inside me…inside me is still this little “whippersnapper.”

09-12-2008 09;05;42PM

Now off to take my cholesterol medicine so I can have birthday cake with my prunes :0

What about you? What was a defining moment when you realized you’d reached an age that surprised you?

PS  AARP stop finding me!


Love Letter to Ireland

I miss my homeland.

What, you might say? You miss Kentucky? The States? Your favorite McDonald’s and Diet Coke?

Nope, I’m talking about the land of 3/4 of my ancestors….Eire. Ireland. The Emerald Isle. My heart.

It’s been six years since my last visit. SIX YEARS! That is way too long, inexcusable considering I spent the first 2/3 of my life not even imagining I would ever visit. The budget is being cruel and alas, it will be a while yet before I return.

But I yearn for my ancestral home.Ireland 08 043

My first visit started out in a stunned state. We de-barked at Shannon Airport to a cold, cloudy, dreary landscape and I could only think “I spent thousands of dollars for THIS?”

Then we left the airport. Dear. God. In. Heaven. It was as if the spirit of the isle reached into my heart and soul and hugged me. As corny as it sounds, I knew I was home. It only got better from there. So here are some of the things I have been missing:

1. The earth. The sky. The rivers. The coast. The rocks. The birds. The flora, the fauna. The sheep. The sun as it breaks out over stone wall lined pastures after a soft rain. There is a richness to sol’s rays there that does NOT exist anywhere else. And the lakes! Blue is to bland a word to describe the beauty of the water. I’m not a hiker by nature but I tell you walking in the woods there? I knew…just KNEW that if I sat on a log I would become one with the earth. Ahem…I also firmly believed that if I looked under the right rhododendron bush, I’d find the King of the Fae :D

Ireland 08 063

2. The Irish spirit. Ya gotta admire a people so resilient. They meet their challenges and either beat the crap out of them or dance around them. The honor those who have gone before them, respect those who suffered and then thumb their noses at the cause. Every meal includes the potato in some form or fashion and one particular eatery in Killarney…seriously…served potaotes FIVE ways! Roasted, mashed, chips, boiled, added to pasta.

3. The history. Yeah, in the States you have to go through park gateways to see a lot of our infant past. In Ireland, you drive down the highway and past castles, cemeteries hundreds of years old, thatched cottages that invaders missed (Ha!). It’s just part of life there. Part of who and what the people, the land are. All of it right next door to a McDonald’s that serves the apple pie crusted in sugar with REAL clotted cream!

4. The people. Especially the musicians who play in the pubs. These people are transformed as they play ballads, jigs reels. They connect with another sphere of life as they play the fiddle, the bodrhan (my fav), pipes even spoons. I was only feet away watching an older guy play spoons with his eyes closed as he felt the life of the song. Oh and of course the black-haired, blue-eyed stone mason I oogled…er, watched at work on the Ring of Kerry. Momentous time that lead to the premise of my upcoming paranormal Guardian Isle series.

I could go on and on. While I can’t quite make it back right now, I always have the promise that, just like it has for an eternity, home will always be there for me.

What about you? Have you experienced anything similar in your travels? Have you been to Ireland and what do you miss?Ireland 08 014


All About Empires

Happy March! Well, I’m trying to be happy about it. As per usual Kentucky weather, we’ve had wisps of spring dangled in front of us and then bam! 8 in. of snow tonight. I’ll be knitting little sock hats for the robins, while my historical romances conquer the world.

Ok, well conquer in the metaphorical sense. I’ve had a wonderful debut into Indie publishing with my Roman set historicals. I’m proud to be offering stories outside the stereotypical Roman fiction plots involving lions eating Christians and gladiators. There was so much more to the era than the obvious symbols. Everyday people being impacted by the larger Empire but still trying to live and find a happy life…and a love that endures…amid the chaos.

Thanks to you, the readers, my three Patrician series books have consistently been in the top 100 on Amazon for Ancient world romance! The Patrician and Barbarian’s Soul achieved bestseller status and man, did we celebrate! Pickled dour mouse anyone? :D No, chocolate was involved.Boxed set The Patrician's Series 3D (3)

Within the next month I will release a boxed set out and hope shortly thereafter to have a connected novella out featuring the son of Jared and Bryna.

And then I’ll be taking a sharp turn to the left. My goal for 2014 is release of the first two of a paranormal series based on an alternate Irish Mythology. I’m VERY excited about this project, the first in a nine book connected arc. I hope you will be too.

After that? Well….there are more children among the Romans who grow up and….at least two other of Bran and Bryna’s clansmen who are unaccounted for. What happened to them? Hmmmmm….I wonder.

Now in honor of the new series I give you an old-fashioned Irish blessing:

“May the road rise up to meet you May the wind be always at your back May the sun shine warm upon your face And the rain fall soft upon your fields And until we meet again May God hold you in the palm of his hand”




Another Type of Valentine Love

It started at a traffic light.

Naw….not “true love”. Nope, Prince Charming hasn’t found me yet, so I doubt he’d find his way to a cross walk :D

I’m talking about the idea for this post. I watched a young, visually impaired young lady traverse the busy street with her guide dog. Sure, I’ve seen lots and lots of animals helping out those with difficulties (heck, even saw a GREAT DANE a few days later) but it reminded me not only of the love so many of us hold for animals, but the special bond…the love and devotion these guardians have with their helpers.dogs

So the seeing eye dog has been around a long time. Dogs trained to guide their peeps around daily life. All with commands and the help of a working harness. I know the rule is not to pet or talk to the dog like…um…a dog while they are on duty but man I just want to ruff their little faces and say “good job!”

Service animals have expanded SO much. There are now dogs trained to alert deaf people to sounds such as smoke alarms, doorbells etc. Therapy animals who help with detection of illness crisis i.e. imminent seizures or sugar drops. The role of animals has blossomed in the treatment and healing of thousands of veterans suffering from PTSD and children with autism. Autism results for some have provided increased focus, socialization and general increase in contentment.

Common dog breeds according to the Google are Golden Retrievers, Collie, Labrador, German Shepherd though most sites emphasized it was more temperament than breed that led to a helper dog. A main key is training from a young age.

cat autism

And it’s not only dogs, thankyouverymuch, but many cats have proved to be there for us when we need them. While there is some debate about the trainability of cats for specific efforts (Grayson! Did you just snicker at the word “training”? Hmmm?) there is no doubt that they are attuned to their guardians and their needs. Numerous instances are cited of behavior change when somebody is about to have a seizure etc. Their purring is known to lower blood pressure, decrease cortisol levels, anxiety.

The kittehs. They know. Last August I took a spill at work, slammed my head on concrete, gashed my forehead. I was allright…even drove myself home but I didn’t need to feel alone. Once I settled in my chair I immediately had Grayson on my CHEST staring over his shoulder at me and Cricket about an inch from my face. I’m still working on teaching them to call 911 if I ever need it (they keep licking the tuna off the numbers) but it was very soothing for me and mitigated the effects of the concussion I convinced the doctors I didn’t have :D

So dogs and cats and also miniature horses who fall under the same ADA guidelines as service dogs (they pull wheelchairs) are geared to give us a hand. Oh! And monkeys! Capuchin monkeys are being trained to help quadriplegics. pony

So this Valentine’s Day love the one you’re with and love the one who is there for you–kibble and all.

What about you? Do you have a service animal that helps you out? Know somebody who does? How does your pet help you in life? (Anybody got a Husky helping them out in the snow?)

valentine kitty

Darn Sticky Notes!

Nope this isn’t a homage to office supplies though Lord, I do love me some office supplies. Instead this title reflects what happens when your sticky notes get rearranged, lost or eaten by your cat.

You forget your extra blog day until the last minute!ice

Yep, that’s what happened to me. Since its near to midnight and my brain is on auto “Work was a Bear” I’m going to resort  to the tried and true Quick Five on Winter.

This topic is apropos for most of us as we dig out from snow and bitingly cold temperatures. (Expect for Anna C., Christine and Helen…and with their centigrade system I have NO idea what their temperatures are.) But here are 5 things I think about winter.

1. Animated weather reporting. Every modern-day TV station illustrates by haphazard graphics how cold it is going to get. Never mind we understand Farenheit and/or that C one, nope we’ve got to watch playful penguins, shivering snowmen and puddle paddling ducks in Wellies.

2. My thirst for snow cones drops exponentially with the thermometer. Yeah, not so much.

3. The new crock pot gets a workout. I’ve been craving soup and hot biscuits…or cornbread….or…or..brownies.

4. There are NOT enough socks in anyone’s dryer to keep my toes warm. Or my nose. Man, my nose gets like a little ice cube and I cannot sleep! But, if I put a sock on it, I can’t breathe. Decisions, decisions, decisions.

5. Excuse to keep up the Christmas tree. The kitties have been SO good with it this year! Only a little “Tag you’re it” with an ornament or two and no climbing. Plus…if I stand close enough to the lights, my nose warms up :D

How about you? What are your top thoughts on winter? One lucky commenter will receive choice of a Kindle download of one of my books!

I’m Under Attack!

Battan down the hatches, kittehs! Lock the doors! Man the barricades. You! You BB’s there! You visitors! Get down! Go toward the moat, move in a zigzag pattern! We’re under attack by the enemy!dollar sign

What enemy? budget.

I know, kind of a melodramatic opening (the scene was FANTASTIC in my mind though). But yes…my budget is attacking me.

It wasn’t a purely sneak attack. I had clues. I had plans. But then reality stormed the bastion of my LaLa land and bang. Re-evaluation.

I’ve had to take a good, hard look at things. Trim, and snip. Flip and Flop. Strategize and count my eggs….try to resuscitate the cracked ones :)

I’ve got everything on course and feeling good about it. But one part I could use advice about: Bargain Shopping.

Specifically grocery shopping. I don’t have a huge monthly bill but admit to rarely comparing prices and buying a lot of pre-made things that cost more. I use the occasional coupon but wonder about comparison. Kroger vs. Walmart? Store brand vs. name brand? Family Dollar for tissue? Worth the trip?coupon

Is there an APP for that?

Any good meal plans out there, something that can be trimmed to one or two servings or in the words of Shelby in “Steel Magnolias” something that “freezes beautifully.”

How do you all figure out the best prices? Coupon sites you can recommend. Dates you can have a girl and her two hungry baby cats over for dinner? Tell me the secrets to your budget ;)

cat eating

BARBARIAN at the Gate!

Couldn’t pass up the  cliché  :D But yes, all our loyal fans and BB’s. Today is the OFFICIAL launch of the third in my Roman historical fiction series, BARBARIAN’S SOUL!!!

But we have to proceed cautiously. No trumpet blasts, no cymbals, no flutes….a very quiet tossing of rose petals. Why, you ask? Because Bran, the hero of BARBARIAN’S SOUL has bad nerves….so bad that they can throw him into defense mode and the cabana boys can’t take that again. Even the seasoned gladiators give him wide berth. Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000031_00009]

He’s not a bad guy, not in the least,but sold into the arena as a gladiator, forced to kill for the pleasure of the mob has done a number on his soul. He despises Rome and all it stands far. He wants out…now. Only that small kernel of honor holds him back, first to insure his sister’s safety, then to care for three orphaned children. He’s close to accomplishing his goal but then…..things go awry:

     A shudder of knowing swept through him. Working in the garden? The girl who looked out of place. The girl in the street. Gods, he should have paid better attention to the warnings. Bran pushed past Paulin and headed for the jeweler’s house.

     Servants scrambled out of the way as Bran strode toward the garden. He pushed aside the thought of how the real thief might suffer for the crime. It was a choice they—no, he thought grimly, she—had made. That it had been an ignorant one was not his concern. What was of import to him, was keeping his money.

    He bypassed the store room with its open door and walked straight to the cluster of bushes where he’d noticed the girl. Bending down, he reached beneath the shrub and pulled out a handful of wilted flowers. He searched the surrounding dirt, his gaze snagging on the delicate imprint of a foot.

    It did not take a hunter’s skill to discern a trail and follow it to the rear of the store room building. There the crushed grass and snapped twigs beneath the lone window revealed where the thief had hidden. Raising his head, he had a clear view of the storeroom.

   “What is the meaning of this?” demanded Paulin hurrying to his side, Strabo and Menw in his wake.

   “What other entrances are here?”

   “What difference does that make?”

     Bran leveled a hard glare at the Roman then turned his back on him. He barely registered the bluster coming from Paulin as he circled the bush and found a trail of flattened grass. There was no distinct pattern of steps which indicated the thief had abandoned stealth for a swift escape. His gaze followed the path to an overturned basket wedged against the back garden wall. The basket was still wobbling.

     Bran sprinted to the wall, hoisted himself up on the flat top with his arms and looked down into a pair of startled amethyst eyes.

     For a moment he felt as stunned as she looked. The memory of her beauty was nothing compared to the face that looked up at him now. It was symmetrical like the facets of a well cut jewel, with high cheekbones, a straight nose and a sharp little chin raised in defiance. Her complexion was soft and unblemished, an olive tone the perfect complement to the wisps of ebony curls that escaped the thick plait hanging down her back. Brows of the same color arched delicately over her eyes, the surprise he’d seen in them moments ago replaced by wariness, the emotions seeming to enhance the violet shade with sparks of light.

    But it was her mouth that held his attention. Generous, full, rose tinted lips that needed kissing and the desire to do just that slammed into his gut. That need spiked and his breath caught when she bit the bottom one and tugged on it with small, white teeth before…she stuck her tongue out at him.

   Anger evaporated Bran’s lust at the utter gall of the little witch. He set his jaw against the urge to roar his outrage. Instead, he narrowed his eyes and held her gaze, daring her to move as he climbed onto the top of the wall.

   As he lifted one leg over the edge, the girl stumbled backwards and dropped the tattered woolen bag in her hands. The sack opened, spilling the silver and amethyst jewelry into the dirt at her feet.

   Bran raised his other leg, took his time. Where would she go? She was outmatched and trapped, boxed in by Rome’s endless stone buildings. The mounting look of horror on her delicate features gave him perverse satisfaction. He was not someone to be mocked as many of his opponents in the arena had discovered—just before they’d died at the end of his blade. And he did not take well to being robbed of his money or being accused of a crime he had not committed. That Paulin’s suspicions would have landed on him solely because he was a barbarian did not matter—the girl would pay the price.

   He was sitting on the ledge now. One small leap and he would be towering over the girl. A slow, satisfied smile curved his lips as his intense perusal caused her breathing to increase. For a split moment, his gaze drifted to her breasts, pressed snug against the worn wool of her tunic, the full, rounded mounds rising with each anxious breath. A fleeting thought went through his mind that they would fill his cupped hands.

   Then his vision caught up with his fantasies.

   The girl had taken advantage of his momentary distraction and was frantically scooping up the jewelry into her sack. Bran  let out his battle cry and leapt to the ground. The girl spared him one, wide-eyed look before she sprinted off down the street, running like a red deer set in a hunter’s sights.

Will Adria’s bold decision lead to her end or……her heart’s desire? :D

It’s so satisfying bringing the last of my trio to the readers. These guys have been with me a long while. Still, there were other clansmen captured along with Bran and all three heroes DO have children…hmmmm :D

Demetrius and Lucien have broken out the sangria the Goddess donated…..1200 BCE…a good year. We have Tim Tams, corn dogs, and dormouse dip. What offering do you bring to honor the heroes of Rome?

In celebration of this momentous occasion I’m offering a complete print set of the series to one lucky commenter.

Let the festivities begin!

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