14 January 2010

Excerpt Thursday: Zoe Archer

This week on Excerpt Thursday we're featuring a scene from Zoe Archer's newest release, "The Undying Heart" from the duology HALF PAST DEAD, a daring historical paranormal set during the Crimean War and in 1850s Yorkshire.

Stop back on Sunday when Zoe will be answering questions and giving away an autographed copy!

Samuel Reed had no idea magic existed, until it almost destroyed him. Thirsting for vengeance against the enemy who made him something less than human, Sam returns to England and crosses paths with Cassandra Fielding. His best friend's little sister has become a fearless woman on a dangerous mission of her own. And against all odds, she sees past what he's become, and stirs a desire he thought he'd lost forever...

He stared at her, and there was a tiny, nearly imperceptible gentling, even though his face lost none of its striking angularity. "I cannot understand you." His voice was low, smoky. She felt herself drawn closer. "Why are you not sickened by what I've said? How can you bear the sight of me, knowing what I am and what I've done? Aren't you horrified?"

"Make no mistake," she answered. "Everything you've told me, it's torn me open, down to the heart of me." She curled a fist over the center of her chest. "Yet, despite it all, I know you, Samuel Acton Reed. I know you. And I'll never turn away from you."

"Clinging to the past," he muttered, yet his gaze warmed.

Was she? Were her girlhood dreams manipulating her woman's judgment? Perhaps she so desperately wanted the fantasy she had created in her youth, she willingly overlooked evidence that could shatter such finely-wrought constructs. This man before her was not Sam, not as she knew him, and, by his own admission, he'd done terribly, ghastly things. He had been killed and rose again as the living dead.

And yet, gazing into his diamond-blue eyes, that seemed to yearn without knowing they did, the instinct on which she so assiduously relied told her no. He'd undergone the most profound change possible, alive, then dead, and then this awful amalgam of both. The things he had been forced to do…no wonder he had to cauterize his emotions. Anyone would have been turned into a true monster from such suffering. But not him. Not Sam.

"I've cut free from the moorings of the past," she said, taking his cool hand between her two warm palms. "The current of the present has brought us together now."

He stared down at their joined hands--his large and roughened from soldiering, hers smaller and slender, but stronger, she hoped, than they appeared. She inwardly grimaced to see slight crescents of grease under her nails, but she'd only just returned from inspecting a cotton mill when the Blades' summons came. No time for washing up, she'd dashed back out the door.

If now he saw the grime on her hand, he didn't seem to care. For a moment, his hand lay motionless in hers, but then, very slightly, his thumb rubbed against her wrist. A shiver ran through her, sparking sensation. They both glanced up at each other, and their gazes held with a new awareness.