By Ashley Kath-Bilsky
Being a writer, especially of historical fiction, can be quite an adventure, too. You never know where (or when) a story will take you. Where will that hypothetical compass controlling your imagination point? And so, although we celebrate western fiction (and sometimes history) here at Sweethearts of the West, I ask your indulgence as I share with you my exciting news about my latest book, Between the Shadows.
Much as I love the American West and western literature, I have been occupied for quite some time with another time and another place. Namely, England and Scotland in the year 1813. The Regency period, especially in 1813, was a tumultuous period in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. King George III was mentally ill and unable to fulfill his obligations as monarch. His Royal Highness Prince George Augustus Frederick, was named Prince Regent in 1811. In addition to the ongoing Napoleonic Wars, Britain was also engaged in the War of 1812 with the United States of America.
So, what better time to add another threat into the mix?
Patience Sinclair has lost everything—her family, her freedom, and the young man she loves. Yet three years exile in the highlands of Scotland has made her more determined than ever to prove she deserves to be free. The time has come to embrace what she is, and the gift she has kept hidden from the world.
Returning to London is not without danger. Each step Patience takes puts her in the terrifying path of a serial killer, and an evil unlike anything she has ever known.
When fate reunites her with Viscount Leighton, Patience discovers there are others with mysterious abilities they have closely guarded. Can she and the Viscount move beyond the pain of their past, learn to trust love, and work together with the covert Legion to conquer evil? Or, will darkness win?
Between the Shadows is a haunting historical paranormal thriller set in 1813 England and Scotland. A stand-alone novel, it is the first book in THE LEGION OF MITHRAS series.
Ceòthar Innis, Scotland ~ 17 March 1813
Like a grave being opened, a surging, teeth-chattering gust of wind rose off the loch. An eerie sensation lifted from the soles of Patience Sinclair’s feet to the crown of her head. And she knew the reason why.
Someone was watching her.
At once, an unrelenting, crippling pain seized the back of her head—twisting, building, as if a thousand stars were about to burst inside her skull. She pressed her right hand hard against the pain, praying the torment would soon subside.
One, two, three, four…
After eight measured counts her stilted breathing eased, and the wave of stabbing, burning daggers slowly ebbed.
It had been years since she’d felt the same heart-stopping, thought-crippling spasm. The fact it returned today filled her with foreboding.
A low growl sounded to her right. She glanced at her dog, noting the alert angle of Henrietta’s head. As her beloved Irish Wolfhound stared at someone behind them, its warning grew more menacing.
Patience set aside her book, stood, and turned about. An icy wave of stunned surprise washed over her. She stared at her unexpected visitor, a treacherous fair-haired young woman from her past. Much as she’d wanted someone to visit with her, the one person she’d never hoped to see again was Anne Melville.
“Please, do not turn me away!” Anne’s voice sounded panicked, shrill, like the tormented cry of an inmate at Bedlam.
Patience took a few tentative steps forward. Henrietta followed, a quiet reminder her dog was wary and ready to protect if need be. She gently stroked the coarse black hairs on Henrietta’s broad head, and continued to study her unexpected guest.
“Why are you here, Anne?”
“We were friends…once.”
A jagged jolt of pain ripped through Patience’s body with Anne’s knife-twisting reminder. Resentment and outrage ignited—a seething fury that if unleashed could catapult her up to the tower’s medieval battlements. Her breath rushed forth hard and fast from her lungs. Muscles in her throat—raw and taut with tumultuous emotion—contracted.
“You must help me, Patience.”
“Help you? I am a prisoner here because of you.” Patience’s heart pounded. Each beat echoed in her ears like the rhythmic stride of soldiers advancing toward their enemy.
“I know I hurt you—”
“Hah. You destroyed my life. Three years exiled by my family. Not to mention the cruel taunts and endless, malicious gossip—all because of what you said and did in London.”
Patience trembled with the intensity of her hurt, humiliation, and hatred.
At nineteen years of age, she should be accustomed to being unwanted, unacceptable, and unloved. But every scar that once pierced her soul had been ripped open again by Anne’s presence, tearing tender flesh anew like a blade drawing fresh blood.
“Tell me, Anne, have you ever thought about the devastation you caused me? In your world of beauty, popularity, and exciting social engagements, did you ever consider what it might feel like waiting for a visit by one’s family? Or, a letter saying all was forgiven and to please come home?”
“I understand now.” Anne’s voice broke into heartrending sobs. “I am grievously sorry for my actions, but I beg you, do not punish me. I have traveled so far. You are the only one who can help me. Please, you must return with me to London.”
Refusing to be influenced by quivering desperation and the frail, pitiful sight of her nemesis, Patience ignored the sharp tug on her conscience. Still, no one knew better than she how frightening the world could be when one felt lost and alone.
“I do not seek to punish you,”—Patience paused to steady her temper— “but neither can I help you. I don’t live here by choice, Anne. My stepfather made it quite clear what he would do with me if I disobeyed him or returned to England. I am a pariah. I can help no one—not even myself.”
Never before had Patience witnessed such hopeless anguish and devastation in someone’s expression.
Guilt prompted a defensive tone. “If you must know, I’ve changed. Put simply, people do not like me and…well…now, I do not like people.”
“Do not say that.” Anne’s luminous eyes widened as if a curse had been spoken. “Even as a small child, you were compassionate and good to everyone.”
Patience looked toward the 14th century tower.
Hewn from granite, its existence had been forgotten, abandoned. Her gaze drifted to what remained of the curtain walls, great hall, and holy chapel. Once proudly anchored to the ancient MacGregor keep, they were now nothing more than crumbled stone and mortar skeletal remains. Ironically, the tower’s lonely fate had become a daily reminder how much her family had forgotten and abandoned her.
If only I had the courage to leave.
If only I could prove myself sane.
If only my family loved me.
A lock of her auburn hair, tugged free by the wind, danced before Patience’s eyes. She swept it aside and noted the sky’s mirror image reflected on the loch; its clarity drew her gaze toward the heavens.
Sun and clouds played a game of chase on the wind, conjuring changes of light and shadow in their wake. She watched the swiftly moving clouds cross the sky, racing toward the distant horizon. There, majestic mountains stood sentinel, their rocky peaks capped with lingering snow.
Much as Patience loved Scotland and the beauty of its nature, three years of banishment at Ceòthar Innis had all but severed kinship to the land. Like the brutal blade of an executioner’s ax, her ancestral home had become a private prison.
Days lengthened into weeks.
Weeks yawned into months.
Months eclipsed into years.
And still she caught herself thinking—if only.
Once she dreamed of someone coming for her.
Now, she didn’t.
And suddenly Patience realized if she refused to help Anne, she’d never leave Scotland. She’d never be loved, marry, or have a family of her own. Most of all, she’d never have another chance to prove she deserved to be free.
Between the Shadows is now available for pre-order at a limited price of $3.99 (Kindle format). The book’s release date for both e-book and print is December 5, 2015.
Thank you for taking the time to let me share my news with you. And if you are looking for a new release for yourself or a friend, I hope you will consider Between the Shadows. [Buy link below.] The romance level is sweet, and the book is appropriate for ages 15 to adult.
Happy Holidays! ~ AKB