Monday, January 21, 2013

Savage Possession by Margaret Tanner ~ Hot Excerpt

Note: In 2008, with a title of Storm Girl, Savage Possession was a Semi-Finalist in the Amazon Break Through Novel Award.

A sweeping tale of love’s triumph over tragedy and treachery in frontier Australia.

A mistaken identity opens the door for Martin Mulvaney to take his revenge on the granddaughter of his mortal enemy.

An old Scottish feud, a love that should never have happened, and a series of extraordinary coincidences traps two lovers in a family feud that threatens to destroy their love, if not their lives.

"Hot, Strong, No Sugar. If this is how you like your morning brew, give this a try. This is a romance, in the dictionary sense of "adventure," but written as if PC romance never existed, and set in Victorian Australia. Here, a rich, emotionally shut-off cattle baron is forced by strange circumstances to marry the daughter of his worst enemy. How old wounds and terrible crimes are finally let go, how healing comes to willing hearts and how lust turns to love is the subject of the story. There is some raw sex and not all the pictures drawn here are pretty. Set in the Victorian era, Australian men are tough and untamed, dismissive of women, and most women, especially poor ones, know their place and endure. In short, this is as much an actual "historical" as it is "romance." The author knows the time period. (I just waded through Thomas Keneally's immense history, "Australians".) This is the often violent past of her astonishing--familiar and yet unfamiliar--country. Although there were moments when my belief was stretched, this powerful and compelling story of lust turning to love was a page turner." ~ 4 Stars, Juliet Waldron, Historical Romance Author


Excerpt:

Chapter One



Australia - North Eastern Victoria 1870’s.


Alistair was in trouble. With the unexplained but powerful connection she had with her twin, fear coursed through Beth’s body. She drew in a shuddering breath and tried to still her trembling hands by twisting an escaped tendril of hair from her plait. How many warnings did her brother need before he stopped consorting with outlaws?

       Standing in the doorway of their homestead, she squinted into the distance. A horseman galloped towards her. With a hammering heart she waited. Was it friend or foe? Should she dash inside and grab grandfather’s gun?

The rider drew near and she recognized Alistair. Running to the track snaking towards the side paddock, she struggled to lower the slip rails so the horse could pass through.

“Quick, Beth!” He leapt from the saddle. “Get the mare out of sight.” 

“What happened?”  Dread clawed at her throat with cruel fingers. Her stomach knotted up. What had her brother been up to now?

Without a word, he raced towards the homestead.

Her hand trembled as she picked up the trailing rein and led the sweating, foam flecked mare into the barn. Something terrible must have happened. One of their best horses ridden to the point of exhaustion. She unsaddled the mare and turned her loose before sprinting back to their bark-roofed, slab hut.

  Rushing to the kitchen, she found him stuffing a sack with bags of flour, salt and sugar.

Frantically, she grabbed his arm. “What’s wrong?”

Pale and agitated, he stared out the window. “I have to get out of here. The police troopers are after me.”

“The police? You’re in trouble with the law?”   

 After he filled the sack he dropped it on the floor and paced up and down, banging a fist against his open hand.

“Martin Mulvaney caught me with Dan Kelly and one of the gang. We found a palomino colt. I’d just put my spare halter on him when Mulvaney and one of his men rode up. I stayed so the others could get away.”

“You fool. Grandfather warned you about the Kellys.” She picked up the corner of her apron and twisted it into a knot. “The Magistrate swore out a warrant for them after they wounded Constable Fitzpatrick.”

“They were framed, Ned wasn’t even there. They arrested Mrs. Kelly and one of the girls.”

“What did Mulvaney say?”

“He looked like the devil mounted on a huge black stallion. When I told him my name he threatened to report me to the police for horse stealing. He’ll be out to get me now.”

“You found the colt, didn’t you?”  She gnawed her lower lip. “It’s his word against yours.”

“One of his workmen saw what happened. It’s two against one. I don’t stand a chance. I’ll head for the ranges and join up with the Kelly gang.”

“Stay away from them. They’re wanted men.” A reckless fire blazed in his blue eyes. “I’ll ride over to Mulvaney’s place and tell him you found the horse, try to reason with him.”

“You think that bastard would listen?   Better for me to clear out.”

“No.” Her hands trembled so much she hid them behind her back. Facing up to Martin Mulvaney would be her worst nightmare. “Go to the mountain hut and wait. If you don’t hear from me by tomorrow lunch time, you’d better hide out for a while.”

The thought of Alistair in jail, manacled like a wild beast, dangling from the gallows even, gave her the courage to face their grandfather’s mortal enemy. A man who had helped decimate their family. “Help me saddle Belle. If I go straight away, I should be back here before dark.”

“No!” His voice shook with agitation, his eyes darkened with worry. “You can’t go there alone, it’s too dangerous. Grandfather warned us never to go anywhere near the place.”

“He’ll be away for weeks and won’t find out if we don’t tell him. Ride to Riley's Corner with me if you like then head for the mountains.”

“I should be horsewhipped for this.”

Alistair disappeared into the bedroom and returned with their grandfather’s pistol stuck in his belt.

“No.” Her hands flew to her face in horror. “Don’t be foolish.”

His demeanor changed from concerned to belligerent. “I need to defend myself.”

“Leave the gun or you’ll get no help from me. If the troopers catch you…” She shuddered, thinking about the dire consequences of such rashness. “They’ll kill you without a second thought.”

He hesitated for a moment, growled a swear word and banged the gun down on the table.

Tearing off her apron, she dragged on a jacket, buttoning it quickly over her white, high-necked blouse.

She had never met Martin Mulvaney even though his property was only a few miles away from theirs. He socialized in much more exalted circles. His amorous affairs scandalized some in the community, but the depravity of his father tainted the Mulvaney name and earned him fearful respect. Would he show mercy to anyone named Campbell?  Hatred and bitterness between her grandfather and the Mulvaneys had festered for years, but she would front the devil to save Alistair.

She patted her hair into place. To keep the fine strands tidy she coiled the long plait into a bun and secured it with pins at the back of her head. How idiotic worrying about hair at a time of crisis.

“Beth!”

She rushed outside to find Alistair waiting with their horses. He helped her mount. A cold autumn wind gusted in from the brooding, distant mountains. Clouds hung dark and heavy, ready to split open and drop their watery load.

Mulvaney’s castle, so called because of its large size and the two round corner towers at the front, was rumoured to be haunted. She shivered and snuggled into her jacket to ward off the physical chill, but nothing could melt the dread icing up her heart. By the time they arrived at Riley's Corner, the rain pelted down, cold, relentless.

“Grandfather would be furious if he knew I let you go over there alone.” Alistair edged his horse closer to hers.

She leaned across and kissed his cheek. Inwardly quaking with fear, she fought against letting him know. “I’ll be all right.”

If she hadn’t been so desperate to save him from Martin Mulvaney’s vengeance, she would have turned tail and galloped back to the safe warmth of home.

“Go on.” She slapped his horse’s rump, and waited until he disappeared into the scrub before continuing on alone.

Riding along the Mulvaney boundary, she diverted her trepidation by comparing the new fences and fat, contented sheep grazing on well cared for pastures, to their own rundown property. She tried to build up a picture of Martin from grandfather’s description of him. Spawn of the devil he would say. Dread almost overwhelmed her, but she had to push on regardless. Alistair’s freedom depended on it. Maybe even his life. Now was not the time for cowardice. She had to be resolute. If only she’d met the man before, it would give her an inkling of the best approach to take. Humble and beseeching?  Proud and defiant?  Would he be merciful once she explained what had happened? What type of man would throw an eighteen-year-old into prison? 

A set of huge iron gates stood open. Without slackening pace, the mare galloped up the long, pine lined drive. Huge branches formed a green canopy, and sodden pine needles permeated the air with a spicy scent. Grandfather called the castle a monument to evil. If its dark secrets ever came to light, they might learn the fate of little Amy Campbell whose disappearance had haunted grandfather for years.

Jagged lightning split the sky in two. Rain bucketed down. Distant thunder growled like a rabid dog. Bouncing off the mountains, the noise echoed through the trees and she had to fight to control her skittish mount. At the end of the drive the castle loomed, grim and forbidding.

A gigantic clap of thunder caused the horse to bolt. Her feet slipped out of the stirrups, and she clung to the terrified animal’s neck as it raced back out the gate. She had no hope of stopping the headlong flight, could only hang on until the mare got tired and slowed down. She flashed past the encircled wagons of a gypsy encampment. The horse charged deeper into the forest. Branches brushed against her legs, catching in her skirt and then releasing with a loud snap. Sudden pain slashed through her head. She was catapulted from the saddle and crashed to the ground.

Copyright (C) 2012 Margaret Tanner

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