10 July 2014

Excerpt Thursday: DAUGHTER OF NIGHT by Kelley Heckart

This week, we're pleased to welcome author Kelley Heckart with her latest novel, DAUGHTER OF NIGHT. Join us again on Sunday for an author interview, with more details about the story behind the story. The author will offer a free copy of Daughter of Night to a lucky blog visitor.  Be sure to leave your email address in the comments of today's post or Sunday's author interview for a chance to win. Winner(s) are contacted privately by email. Here's the blurb.

Their destiny began in the ancient land of Anatolia.

In 1326 BC, Crete is the last remaining sacred place for the Great Goddess, but changes began to threaten the old gods, the Titans. Forced to become an ally to the power hungry Olympian gods, Rhea hangs on to the secret of the star metal, the one key that would make Zeus and the other young gods invincible. When this secret is stolen, Rhea must find the Dactyl and the goddess who betrayed Her before Zeus does.

Becuille is a daughter of Night, a servant of the Great Goddess created to impart Her vengeance on mortal and immortal wrongdoers. Made mortal by Rhea, she is sent to find the ones who betrayed the Great Goddess. In the land of Hatti, she meets a proud and handsome prince. When love binds her to him, her loyalties are torn.

Callileon, a prince of the Hatti, has closed off his heart to love only to rediscover it in the arms of the mysterious and fiery slave girl he has purchased. He is caught up in a dangerous world of power hungry gods, jealous goddesses and potent magic, which even the Fates cannot steer him away from.

Can two mortals fight the will of the gods?

**An Excerpt from Daughter of Night**

Another terrace lay below the Upper Courtyard. Curious, she walked down, inhaling the scents of straw and animal smells associated with stables. A sudden forceful wind almost knocked her down and large raindrops fell from low-bellied black clouds gathered above the palace. A loud crack of thunder caused her to jump and lightning danced from the sky, dangerously close.
With nowhere else to run for cover, she ducked into one of the stables just before another dangerous bolt landed nearby with a loud crack. Turning, she was surprised to find Callileon kneeling in the straw, stroking the head of a panting horse. Becuille jumped back, startled to be so close to one of the frightening beasts.
“Inaras, I need your help. She is having trouble giving birth.” His voice rang of desperation and Becuille thought she saw tears shining in his eyes.
That he would shed tears for a beast touched her in a strange way. “I...I will go for help.”
His hand shot out, gripping her forearm in a strong hold. “No, there is no time. Please, Inaras...” His pleading gaze bore into her.
“I do not have magic with the beasts. I cannot help you.” She was in fact terrified of horses, remembering how the northern invaders had ridden down from the mountains on the backs of the snorting beasts, their hooves stamping, their large teeth gnashing. She still had nightmares about them trampling people to death underneath their dangerous hooves. But this beast did not look so threatening now, writhing in pain on the ground.
The animal's soft nose touched Becuille's hand, her soft brown eyes pleading for help. She experienced a pang of compassion for the suffering beast. Callileon’s distressed expression revealed how much he needed her. The prince would never beg her for help unless he had no choice. By helping him, she could gain his trust. “Tell me what to do.”
“I will need you to keep her calm while I help the foal out,” he said. “Stroke her head and talk softly to her.”
She gazed down at the horse and tentatively reached out, stroking the animal’s head. “Does she have a name?”
He caressed the horse’s head. “Blaze, for the splash of white on her head that looks like flames.”
“Blaze, you will be healed soon. Callileon here will help you,” she whispered, stroking the splash of white on her head. The horse let out a strangled neigh and attempted to move.
“You need to keep her calm,” Callileon said, giving her a hard look.
“I told you I have no talent for the beasts and the storm is frightening her.” Another loud clap of thunder shook the stable and a fierce wind wailed through the row of stables.
“Sing to her, Inaras.” Shouting over the noise of the storm, his voice strained with frustration.
She felt like a fool for not thinking of singing as a way to calm the beast. Singing a lullaby in the Cretan language, she gently stroked Blaze's head as she would a small babe in a cradle. The horse relaxed under the spell of her voice, neighing softly.
“I almost have it.” Callileon's arm disappeared inside the mare, his face a mask of concentration and worry. The foal slid out in a coating of placenta and other slime from the birth. He pulled off his tunic shirt, leaving on only his kilt, and wiped the birthing gore from the foal's nose and mouth. “He is not breathing.” He furiously tried to clear the foal's passages so it could breathe.
Becuille watched with compassion for the prince who tried with all his might to save the poor little creature. She reached over, slapping the foal on the back with one hard slap.
Callileon grabbed her arm. “What are you doing?” His eyes flashed with anger.
“Look, he is breathing.” She pointed to the foal. “I saw a midwife slap a baby like that once to get it to breathe.”
The mare sat up and wiggled around so she could lick her newborn foal. Mother and baby made a beautiful sight that warmed her heart.
For the first time, Callileon looked into her eyes, his guard down, and gave her a warm smile. His expression looked to be one of gratitude and something akin to affection. He pulled her to his bare chest, encircling her in his strong arms, and they waited out the storm, content to watch mother and baby bond.
There was no need for any words between them. They were both wet from the rainstorm and smelling of lathered horse and birthing gore, but none of that mattered. It was an experience Becuille would never forget for it was the first time she experienced a connection to someone other than her goddess. Her feelings for Callileon confused her now. He was not the arrogant brute she first thought him to be, but a man capable of compassion. He wore his arrogance as a protective barrier and determination gripped her to find out what had hurt him so much.

Learn more about Kelley Heckart, Historical fantasy romance author
Website: http://www.kelleyheckart.com
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/kheckart

Buy links:
Mundania Press (in ebook formats and trade paperback):