Gliterary Girl Book Tours presents the blog tour for the release of PROTECTIVE INSTINCT, Book #4 in the Time After Time Saga, by Authors Lynette Endicott and Tami Dee.
Sabrina Bridges clings to her birthright as a Heartmark woman, convinced she will overcome the time-traveling enemy that plagues the women of her family. She is certain she will obtain true love with the man she gives her heart to. But how will her trusting heart survive when she learns that very man has deceived her since the moment they met?
Nicolas Mitchell's loyalty to family and country are tested by the woman who may lead him to one who threatens all he holds dear. Nick must steel his heart against her, and deny his protective instinct for the woman who speaks of an ancient family legend and her belief that together he and she will forge a love that will last forever. Will Nick be able to complete his last mission as a spy for the Crown or will he betray his country for the sake of love?
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Nick’s violet gaze collided with his brother-in-law's gray one. "Why are you here, Will? Why has my home been turned into a headquarters for Iron Man’s minions? And who were the two men brought in the burlap body bags? Are they dead or alive?" Will shifted in his seat, his lips pressed into a firm line. "Alive." He winced. “For now.” He met Nick’s angry gaze and jerked his chin up. “But you're not going to like what I am about to tell you any more than I do." Nick's heart hammered once against his chest and he fisted his hand atop the table. "Spill it." "I'll handle the details, son." A deep voice said from the kitchen threshold. Both men stood as His Grace, Lord Cornelius Hunter, fifth Duke of Sussex, aka The Iron Man, spy master to the crown, walked into the room and pulled out a sturdy wooden chair. Nick fought back the initial wave of awe and slight intimidation which always assaulted him in the spy master's presence, reminding himself that he was a grown man now, not an impressionable lad of eleven winters as he had been when he first met Will's father and his sister's father-in-law. The maid appeared as if from thin air and poured a cup of tea for the duke, then, with a swift curtsy, bustled away. Eyes as gray as his son's studied Nick before Cornelius spoke. "As you are aware, in the past few months two operatives have been murdered.’ Nick nodded, a stiff jerk of his head. “Two agents are currently missing and until a fortnight ago we had no idea that the missing agents and murdered agents were related in anyway." The hairs on Nick's neck stood on end. "How are they related?" The Iron Man took a sip of tea then placed the mug atop the table before responding. "All the agents who have met with foul play are a part of Charles' elite team." Emotion shifted through Cornelius eyes. "My team. Operatives whose true identities not even Charles himself knows."
Nick's eyes narrowed. "There's a turncoat amongst us?" The duke shifted in his seat and Nick read vulnerability within the simple action. The knot in Nick’s stomach tightened. "A traitor, yes, but not from within our ranks. Nay anymore, anyway." Nick frowned. "Who then?" he demanded. "Are they the prisoners you're keeping here?" Will shot Nick a warning glance and Nick snapped his jaw shut. Cornelius’ gaze rested on the far fireplace as wood popped and a spray of embers drifted to the stone hearth, glowing a moment before fizzling out. "One of those prisoners will be able to lead us to the man we want." Nick shook his head. "One of them?" Will nodded. "One was seen with our man a fortnight ago, but we're not sure which one. Both are similar in appearance, and both were found near his last known location." Nick leaned forward, his hands fisted atop the table. "So you're saying that one of the prisoners is an accomplice of the person responsible for our missing agents and the murdering of our men, and one is an innocent bystander, found in the wrong place, at the wrong time?" Will nodded. His eyes when they met his held an unhappy resignation within their gray depths. Nick turned accusing eyes to the duke. "And what happens to the innocent man when this whole thing is over?" Cornelius' already perfect posture straightened. "Don't be naïve, Nick. You know with our positions in society, living a double life as we all are, no one can learn of our location or identities. Once the real accomplice leads us to our man, both will have to be silenced." Nick gaped at him. He'd accepted that this business of being a spy had a nasty side. It was a dangerous life, full of misdirection and outright deceit. And yes, bad guys died as a result of bringing about justice. But taking an innocent life, simply because that person resembles someone else? That was taking things too far! And they were doing it in his home? Nay. This would not do. Will, his lips pressed into a tight line, spoke. "Before you explode, little brother-in-law, you need to hear the rest." Dread now sat like a stone in Nick’s stomach. "What?" Will and his father shared a glance then Cornelius cleared his throat. "First, our prisoners are women, not men."
Sabrina Bridges came to by slow degrees. The vicious pounding within her skull made thinking almost impossible. It was pitch dark, and it took a moment to realize that a blindfold had been securely tied over her eyes. Still, no light filtered around the edges. She was in pitch black. She shivered against the rough ropes that bound her and the cold terror racing through her bloodstream. Her body hurt, every single inch of it. A low moan escaped her lips. She tugged at her hands bound behind her, but stopped when the rope ripped at the tender flesh of her wrists. Wind moaned and hissed throughout the room, a high pitched scream, like the sound of an animal in pain. The draught, and the scent of dirt told her she was being kept in some sort of outbuilding, perhaps a shed or the like, and the temperature was beyond frigid. Her fingers were numb with cold and she couldn't feel her face or feet. Her cloak was gone, leaving her shivering in her serviceable wool dress and a pair of short kid boots. Not nearly enough covering for the bitter storm raging outside. She listened for other sounds besides the wind, anything to indicate if she was alone or if perhaps her captor was here, watching, waiting… for what? Terror of the unknown filled her. She was tied to a hard backed chair, and each of her ankles tied to a leg of the chair. Her knees throbbed from the awkward position. Her back against the chair ached from the hard surface and the ill treatment that must have preceded her arrival to this place. Her bottom lip throbbed, and she tasted blood. Clearly she had been beaten. What she did not know was why? She fought through the fog clouding her brain, struggling to remember how she'd come to be in this dire situation. A sense of urgency knotted her stomach, a feeling that there was something important she needed to do.
But what? The more she tried to remember, the harder her head pounded. She ached more with every beat of her heart, with every pulse of blood through her sore body. Something jumped onto her lap. Her throat slammed shut with terror, imagining a rat or some other such outbuilding animal attacking her. She attempted to push up and away, but the chair didn't budge. She was too weak. What could she do to escape it? The sound of purring broke through her panicked thoughts, and she realized a cat was now shifting itself on her lap, apparently thinking to make itself comfortable. The sound and steady vibration of the feline's deep purr helped to calm her, and its weight, although not a large cat by any means, warmed her lap, a fact which she was significantly grateful. "I don’t know where we are, little one, but I'm glad you’re here." Her hoarse whisper was rewarded by a small, soft meow. It was too much. The abuse she'd suffered, the cold, the exhaustion. Straining to remember what had happened to her, and what it was she needed to do, was eased by her newfound friend purring on her lap. Sabrina closed her eyes beneath the blindfold, and sleep blessedly overtook her.
Nick tossed and turned the entire night until, at the break of dawn, he dressed then made his way to the outbuilding where one of the prisoners was being kept. Nick stood in front of the unconscious girl tied to the chair. Despite being senseless, her teeth chattered. A calico cat was curled up on her lap, paws and tail tucked in, likely giving her legs the only bit of warmth to be had in this dark, freezing tool shed. The cat opened its round golden eyes and seemed to study him. If ever a cat looked ready to speak... Nick shook his finger at her. "I already have a horse who, I swear, can read my mind. Don’t you start." The cat blinked once, glanced up to the woman, whose head bobbled sideways at what looked like a painful angle, then turned the too-knowing eyes back to Nick. Wind hissed through the poorly built walls, causing the flame in his lamp to flicker in a wild dance. Nick studied the woman, and fought back the pity tugging at his heart at her sorry state. In the dim light her hair, the color of sunset, was mussed and dirty, and looked to be braided down her back. Her delicate face was stark white against the thick black blindfold tied around her eyes, and even in the poor light he saw bruises atop her high cheek bones. Her full lips, also pale with cold, were chapped, with the lower lip split, a small trickle of dried blood marring her small chin. Slamming a lid on the compassion her pitiful state stirred within him, he walked around her. Her hands were bound behind her, and her wrists, where she had struggled against the coarse rope, bled freely at some point, making a crimson puddle atop the frozen, hard packed earth the chair sat upon. Bloody day! The scent of blood would draw hungry vermin and worse in no time. Unless the scent of the cat deterred them... Nick pulled his handkerchief from his pocket as he glanced around the shed for water. Finding a bucket, he moved to it and frowned at the frozen crust. He used the butt of his dagger to break through the ice, then dipped his handkerchief into the freezing water.
His lips pressed together, cursing himself a hundred kinds of fool, he knelt behind the woman and gently washed away the blood. Nick glared at the thick tightly knotted rope binding her tiny wrists. Cursing under his breath, he undid the knot, cleaned her wounds as best he could, then retied the rope higher up on her forearms, just tight enough to hold her, yet nay harm her any more than she’d already been harmed. He scooped up the bloody dirt from where her injuries had dripped and slung it well away from the prisoner, then stood and moved to face the woman once again. The similarities between this day, finding this woman, and the day when he'd found his sister were almost too much to bear. Both prisoners. Both abused by those stronger than them. His sister had held a secret back then. Was it possible the similarities continued and this woman likewise held secrets? Secrets that could cost those closest to him their lives? Her teeth continued to chatter and Nick cursed the whole wretched situation. Whether she was Clayton's woman, or not, she was doomed. But if she was that vile creature’s woman, and she perished in this freezing shed, they would never find Clayton or have any chance of guessing where he might strike next. Nick shrugged out of his heavy cloak and carefully draped it over her shoulders, securing it at the neck with a pin. There was no way to put it on her properly, with the ropes, but it was large enough about her tiny frame that it would make a tent of sorts to shield her from the worst of the cold. Apparently unimpressed with Nick's chivalry, the cat gave him another one of its looks, then stood and turned its back to him, curled close to the prisoner, then tucked its head into its paws and went back to sleep.
Mildreth McCann shivered. Her bruised skin pricked with goose bumps as she tried to move her arms and legs to no avail. She was secured, bound hand and foot to what felt like a straight-backed chair. A band had been painfully tied over her eyes, leaving her in a world pitch black and terrifying in its unrelenting darkness. The dank scent of mildew filled her nostrils and dampness seeped right into her bones. A cellar, then. She listened, desperate to hear if she was alone or if someone watched her. She recalled with perfect clarity the shouted questions and the blows that followed her silence. What these men wanted with Lord Clayton was beyond her, but her own reason for finding the no good scoundrel burned bright and hot in her heart. He’d used her. The whole time she thought she’d been using him to acclimate to this time and place, he’d been using her as a diversion to cover his tracks. Tracks that would put his noble neck in a noose should he be caught. If she had anything to do with the matter, caught he would be. He’d taken her sword. Sent her on a fool’s errand to lead his pursuers away from him and when she’d at last made her way to their prearranged meeting place, he and her precious weapon had been gone. Mildreth swallowed back helpless tears. Her sword. The very sword that decades ago had started the series of events which sent her traveling through time, always in search of her Heartmark nieces. Her task was the same, time after time: find the Heartmark woman, identify the man who captures her heart, and then set out to destroy the love between them. Mildreth’s sole purpose for existing. Punishment for raising her sword against her own brother in a jealous rage. She regretted that moment more each time she whirled through the centuries to meet with yet another Heartmark niece. Bitterness welled tight in her breast. Each time she landed in a new era she was once again nineteen years old, her appearance the same as it had been that fateful day in her brother’s chamber, when she’d struck out at Colin with her jealous sword. Her skin glowed with youth, her copper hair gleamed like a beacon in the sunlight and her garments were once again splattered with her brother’s blood. And each and every time her sword traveled with her, regardless if she’d been holding it when plucked from one era to another. It’s gleaming metal blade, stained crimson with Colin’s life’s blood, always accompanied her. Mildreth’s aging process began anew. Day by day, week by week, month by month, year by year, until her niece in that age uttered the words Mildreth despaired ever uttering herself, the words which bound her niece to the man of her heart forever, thereby putting an end to that era and tossing Mildreth into another. To begin again. A vicious circle with no end that Mildreth could see. She started and suppressed a gasp as something soft brushed up against her ankle then scurried nosily away. A rat most likely. Mildreth forced herself to breathe normally. She despised how helpless and vulnerable she was, yet, perversely, she was also mildly curious what would happen to her if her captors decided to slay her. She’d never been murdered before. Thus far in this era she had not even come close to a woman who could be the Heartmark woman. She was not allowed to physically harm her nieces or their men, but Mildreth did not know if she was likewise protected from someone harming or slaying herself. Peace settled around her like a warm blanket and she relaxed against the hard back of the chair. Perhaps, if her life were ended before she found the Heartmark woman and set out to destroy the love between her and man she loved -- it would finally be over. Her lip pulled into a half smile and she winced as the broken skin tugged open to send a trickle of blood down her chin. Perhaps then her endless journeys through time would come to a blessed end. No more quests for vengeance. No more harming her brother and Aleena’s daughters. Mildreth could be at peace in her complete nonexistence. She could rest. Her head lulled back and she breathed deep. “Let them do their worst,” she whispered. “I’ll not tell them anything at all about Lord Clayton. I know the faces of the wiliest men in London, those he hired to be his eyes and ears. If I survive, it will be I myself who finds him.” Her jaw clenched. “And he will feel the vengeance of the sword he stole from me. I vow it.”
Sabrina heaved in gulps of frigid air even as her lungs burned from her exertion. She stumbled to a wide, rotted out stump of a pine tree and slumped against it as she struggled to catch her breath. She’d made it! The stretch of pristine lawns had seemed endless, yet she’d made it. She gazed back at her clear foot prints leading from the shed to the forest. If only it would snow and cover those tracks, she could make her escape without fear of her captors simply following after her. “But to where?” A pitiful meow sounded in the cold air. Sabrina jumped, chuckled as she reached down and picked up the cute little calico cat, tucking her beneath her borrowed cloak she hugged her tight. “Thank you, little one,” she whispered. “You saved me.” Purring was her only response. Sabrina smiled, then peeked down at the furry bundle in her arms. “You’re my animal helper, aren’t you?” Gold eyes blinked at her. “I’ve read the diary countless times,” she confided, “and I’ve been waiting my entire life to meet you.” Her heart thumped against her chest. “And if you’re here with me, now, then it’s only a matter of time before he’ll come into my life.” She smiled and touched a cold finger to the small, heart shaped birth mark at the outside corner just below her right eye. Her Heartmark. The birthmark that she shared with countless ancestors. Ancestors who had to fight a time traveling enemy to hold onto their true loves. Sabrina’s heart raced in excitement and anticipation. She knew she would be one of the lucky ones. She and her true love, whoever he was, would survive whatever this as yet unseen enemy could bring their way. If only her father and brothers were here. They all knew about the destiny of the Heartmark women of their family line. They were the ones who’d shared the legend with her. They would have helped her win her heart’s desire. She blinked away tears and firmed her shoulders. “It’s okay,” she told the cat. “I’ll win on my own, I know it.” She turned her eyes to the manor. “I just have to somehow get into the room I was using at Mitchell Manor and retrieve the diary and brooch. My story can’t play out completely without them.” The cat bumped her head against Sabrina's shoulder and purred. Sabrina cuddled the cat closer. “I don’t know how I’ll get inside without getting captured again, but I have to.” Sabrina had occupied the small, cheerful room in the north wing of the Manor since her father had been ordered to keep an eye on the place fourteen years ago, when she was eleven. About a month ago servants had begun to arrive, signaling the impending return of the young lord. Her papa had told her then to collect her things and take them back to their cottage. Her duties as a housekeeper were no longer needed with the young lord's real staff coming in, but she’d put it off, loath to give up her small bit of comfort and luxury the simple room had offered. She sighed. She should have listened to papa. If she had, her diary would not be under the roof of the home her captors now occupied.
ABOUT Lynette Endicott
Lynette Endicott grew up in Illinois, met her husband in Western Nebraska, lived 25 years in Kansas where their daughter was born, and has been in Fresno, California since 2000. She has a son-in-law (who lives with her daughter nearby), and has rescued a dog, a bird and three cats. She and Ollie, her terrier mix, volunteer as a team at the local library, where children read to the dog.
At a youth camp when she was 14 the editor and teacher of a writing class challenged her to submit something to his youth magazine. She did and it was the first of 10 articles and stories accepted by the publication over the next few years.
Nothing like front end success to keep her writing! Lynette enjoys reading contemporary romance and speculative fiction and writes both. Her debut book, Starting Over Book One: More Than A Job, and two more books in that series, The Return of Joy and Finding Her Voice are available now. The first three of the Time After Time Saga with Tami Dee are available now, including Animal Instinct, Survival Instinct and Pioneer Instinct. The fourth in the series of six, Protective Instinct, will release in August 2014.
Because she didn't have pets until after her 50th birthday the animals she enjoys find their way into all her books. Usually you will also find a character with a disability as part of the day-to-day fabric of the story. In More Than A Job, Paige works in services to people with disabilities until she loses her job and starts over. In The Return of Joy, Atlas, the yellow lab, becomes a Therapy Dog. In the Time After Time series animal helpers assist the hero and heroine in all six of the books in the series.
Lynette loves hearing from her fans! Please connect with her on:
ABOUT Tami Dee
Becoming an author was a dream I never really thought would come true for me. I have dyslexia, yet, despite the struggle, I adore weaving stories for others to enjoy.
I am a member of Romance Writers of America, Desert Breeze connections, RWA San Francisco Area Romance Writers, RWA Scriptscence, and RWA Celtic Hearts Romance Writers.
You can connect with Tami on:
To celebrate the release of PROTECTIVE INSTINCT, Lynette and Tami will be giving away a $20.00 Amazon Gift Card to one grand prize winner, a $10.00 Gift Card to either Starbucks or Teavana to the second runner up and an ecopy of PROTECTIVE INSTINCT to the third runner up. Enter the giveaway every day for more chances to win. All entries must be received by August 18th before midnight.a Rafflecopter giveaway