Time Raiders: The Warrior’s Touch
Harlequin Nocturne Bite
Genre: Time travel,
On Sale: May 1, 2011
Lieutenant Farideh Kalani expected her time-traveling assignment in ancient Scythia to be difficult, but fitting in with Amazon warriors is easy compared to being partnered with Sergeant First Class Caleb MacAvoy. The Texan soldier is infuriatingly smug and undeniably sexy. Then with one kiss, he awakens all Farideh’s desires. Now she’ll have to keep an eye on her mission and try to resist her attraction to Caleb. Because he’s the one man who might be able to breach the walls she’s built around her heart….
Note for Readers: You must be of legal age in your country of origin to read this excerpt.
Farideh Kalani gritted her teeth to keep them from chattering as she felt herself being pulled one way and then another while spiraling downward. She arrived with a jolt, her thighs spread over the back of a large black stallion, her body bent over his neck as the two of them thundered across rolling hills, the horse’s hooves cutting into grass and stone. Which would have been a problem before the time jump, because she’d never ridden anything larger than a pony at the county fair. However, now she reached down to catch the trailing reins, and forced herself back, pulling at the stone bit in her mount’s mouth.
The horse gave a shrill whinny and a little buck, but Fari pressed her knees into his sides, and gradually he gentled, easing into a trot.
She grinned, then raised her head and breathed the clean, brisk air of ancient Scythia. Heavy gray storm clouds were rolling in from the south, whipping up a wind that carried the scent of the sea, and salt she could taste.
Glancing down, she noted she sat atop her horse with only a padded saddlecloth between her dark wool trousers and the animal’s warm back. Her boots were stuck in leather stirrups sewn to the saddlecloth. She wore an embroidered jacket trimmed in fur around the cuffs and neck, with a row of gold appliqués embossed with gryphons and lions along the hem. She slipped a gloved hand under her sleeve to check for the silver ESC cuff, her ticket home, and breathed a sigh of relief to feel its warmth against her skin.
Grasping the reins with confidence, she trusted the skill that had been implanted in her mind, along with her new knowledge of the geography around her.
If she didn’t make the fortress city of Tanais by nightfall, she’d be pitching a tent, of sorts, in the rain, tying together two cushioned saddlecloths with those leather stirrups.
Although she had the knowledge to construct the tent, she wasn’t eager to lie on the hard ground within the tiny shelter, huddled for warmth against her current companion.
Sergeant First Class Caleb McAvoy was already too smug and too sexy for her peace of mind.
Speaking of the devil… The pounding of a second set of hooves approached at a fast clip behind her.
“Darlin’, you’re pullin’ too hard on the reins.” As usual, the lazy Texas drawl managed to melt her and to irritate the hell out of her at the same time. He skillfully slowed his own roan gelding beside her.
Fari gritted her teeth again, then aimed a cool smile over her shoulder. “Cowboy, I don’t need your advice. I’m now an accomplished horsewoman.”
“Havin’ it in your head doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll instantly have all the confidence you need to use it—ma’am.”
“Sergeant, you’re my support for this mission, not the other way around.”
“Just sayin’…” The glint in his blue eyes revealed how much he enjoyed yanking her chain.
Still, she was the ranking member of this two-man team. “I sincerely hope you can manage to censor your advice once we’re inside. Even if they don’t know what you’re talking about, that smart-ass grin you’re wearing will look strange.”
“Babe, don’t worry about me. I’m all about the mission.”
“That’s ‘lieutenant’ to you.”
He said the right words, but the wink he added…
From day one, when they’d reported to the top-secret laboratory at Flagstaff, he’d been on her case.
There hadn’t been much opportunity to train, only a short week. After they’d both been left drop-jawed at the news that they’d be making a jump back in time to ancient Scythia to retrieve an artifact, they’d been assigned rooms within the facility and put on lockdown. General Ashton wasn’t taking any chances that word of this new mission might leak out. Rumors had it they weren’t the only ones heading to Scythia, so the mission timetable had been pushed up to make sure they arrived first.
Alien creatures, the Centaurians, were eager to prevent humans from securing all the pieces of the Pleiadian medallion, to keep earthlings from fulfilling the goal of completing the medallion and opening up a channel to an intergalactic council.
Fari had wondered what military brass she’d pissed off, to get such a farcical assignment, until she’d seen for herself that the claims Professor Carswell made were true. The laboratory really did have a time machine and several missions had already recovered pieces of a powerful alien medallion.
Once convinced, she’d been eager to be on board. Excited as never before. Feeling like Neil Armstrong stepping out into a new frontier.
Caleb, on the other hand, had sunk deeper into sarcasm.
Fari shook her head. She’d been warned he was stubborn to a fault. Hell, he’d even refused Professor Carswell’s offer to heal his shoulder with a piece of the medallion that had proved to have medicinal properties. He’d insisted he didn’t need any woo-woo medicine to “fix what wasn’t broke anymore.”
Hopefully, he wouldn’t need to use the damaged muscle. And there appeared to be plenty to spare beyond the shoulder that had suffered a gunshot wound.
The fact that her teammate had a physical flaw to match his less-than-perfect attitude were pluses in Fari’s book. Otherwise, he might have proved a major distraction. She could well imagine the handsome Texan in a pair of faded Wranglers and a cowboy hat. And certainly, his estimation of his own worth would fill a ten-gallon hat.
Not that he hadn’t earned his swagger. The number of al Qaeda terrorists he’d successfully hunted down to kill or capture in Iraq had made him a legend among the soldiers of the 1st Infantry Division.
His uncanny tracking ability didn’t have a thing to do with luck, and was why he’d been paired with her for this mission.
However, he thought all she brought were her Persian heritage, which would allow her to blend with the natives, a single silver bar on her collar, and a chest full of commendations for work she could never talk about to anyone outside her tight circle.
Fari couldn’t wait for a chance to knock him sideways with what she could do, and she had no doubt the opportunity would come. All six feet four inches of SFC McAvoy would make for a spectacular fall.
They crested the ridge, to find the Sea of Azov stretching to the horizon, its white-edged waves slamming the coast. The tall wooden palisade surrounding the city of Tanais was tucked along its shore at the mouth of the river by the same name.
She gave her horse a nudge. “For once, stow the banter. And it’s strictly Scythian from this point forward. We can’t be heard talking a language no one understands. If Centaurians are already among them, they’ll make us in a heartbeat.”
“Then I can’t keep callin’ you lieutenant, ma’am.”
“True. I’ll address you as Caleb.”
“And what will I call you?”
“Mistress,” she said, smiling sweetly.
His gaze narrowed, dropping to her mouth, then shifted over her shoulder. “Hey, sugar, we’ve got company.” He tipped his chin to the next ridge, where two lone figures on horseback watched. Females dressed as men.
Fari pulled the battle-ax from her belt, nudged her horse in the ribs and tugged on the reins, causing the animal to rise on his hind legs. Raising the ax into the air, she gave an ululating cry.
“Didn’t know I was gonna be ridin’ with Xena,” Caleb muttered.
When the horse’s forelegs landed again, Fari cocked an eyebrow at her companion. “Remember, we were given all the knowledge we need to complete this mission when we made the jump. Even if you don’t like this woo-woo stuff, trust it.”
She nudged her horse again and bent low over his neck, letting the wind catch her hair as she raced toward the palisade, leaving Caleb cursing behind her.