The Highlord's Women [Book 2 in the Highlord of Darkness Series]
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by Christine W. Murphy
Category: Science Fiction/Fantasy
Description: The three-year occupation by the Triden Empire has ended, and Orgon's latest Incarnation of Evil is free to rule as he sees fit. The Highlord of Darkness should be happy. But Narragan has traded a sadistic military governor for a smooth-talking political emissary and a telepathic spy, the Emperor insists he produce an heir, Orgon's Council of Lords is plotting behind his back, and the woman he loves has returned after a five-year absence, decked out in Triden leathers and pregnant courtesy a husband who's in hot pursuit. The Period of Punishment may be over, but the Third Reign of the Highlord of Darkness is off to a rocky start. This is no way to found a dynasty.
eBook Publisher: Hard Shell Word Factory, 2005
eBookwise Release Date: October 2005
26 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [689 KB]
Reading time: 458-642 min.
"The author, Christine W. Murphy, has laid a firm foundation to this very emotional saga of a unique dynasty known as The Highlord's Women. The story begins at a slow pace with lots of detail. Once the drama unfolds, the characters live, learn, and watch others die by their own mistakes. Plus the reader gets to sit back, take a trip through time, and watch as these characters come to life and seem to leap right off the pages as they share their deepest most inner feelings. 5 stars"--Wanda Maynard,Sime-Gen Reviews
"...I was left with the decision that this was an excellent story. There were interestingly overlapped romantic plot lines and I occasionally found myself looking back to reread sections that I particularly enjoyed. This is the first book that I have read by Christine W. Murphy, and she has many others available. She writes between genres and I eagerly await my opportunity to read more of her work. Rating: 9"--Masha, eRomance writers-Romance Designs
Three years later
THE DOOR STOOD half-open, a question mark. Narragan hesitated and reached for the sword that Governor Cacilio had ordered ripped from his side three years before. In his own city, twenty feet from his own bloody bedroom door, and Narragan was afraid to take the next step. With fists clenched, he kicked open the door and strode to the middle of the room.
"Our boy's eager today, ain't he?"
Narragan fought the need to turn and run. Instead, he locked his knees and blinked in artificial light that revealed two familiar figures leaning against the far wall.
"Unlike some people, I have duties to fill my days."
Not willing to face them until his pulse moderated, Narragan turned on his heel and showed them his back. With nothing to do but stare at the windowless, stone wall, Narragan became aware of every scratch and sigh. One guard yawned while the other scuffed his boots on the stone floor. Narragan wasn't keen on starting the morning routine, but he had a trading session to conduct. More importantly, he wanted this business concluded before Matthew returned.
Finally, one of the guards ran out of patience. "Bastard!"
Narragan turned slowly with his palms raised.
The ugly one, if he had to choose between the two for the title, had spoken. Both were tall and lean, beady brown eyes, dirty brown hair. Neither had bothered to shave in days. Or bathe. The lack of windows made their unwashed state impossible to ignore. They smelled of wet horse, dung, and beer.
Narragan backed away until he met the far wall, a mere ten feet away. Spaced equidistant from each other, all three wore dusty leather, externals that told an outsider who was on which side. One difference was clear enough. The guards' khaki leathers were designed to withstand the rough wear required where riding horseback passed for transportation and stone walls for shelter. Narragan's leathers were the real thing and didn't smell of stables. Riding was one of many activities forbidden to him now. Narragan wore black, and unlike the other two, he was unarmed. His fingers flexed where his sword hilt should be.
"Sorry to make you wait," the ugly one said. "The great, evil Highlord of Orgon will have an audience today."
Narragan raised an eyebrow, nothing more, but a sick pulsing started in his stomach. An audience—the only thing guaranteed to make things worse. Dear Orgon, not Matthew again.
Backed by the Triden Emperor, who had at least two destroyers parked over Narragan's head on any given day, the guards could have commanded his movements with whispered suggestions and velvet gloves. That wasn't the Triden way.
"Wish he'd hurry up." Matthew referred to this second guard as the dumb one. "Can hardly wait to get my feet back—"
A flash of elbow preceded a sharp intake of breath. Ugly glared at his gabby partner and fingered his weapon, ready to draw. Jumpy. That's how they'd been for days, and now, they expected someone to witness a routine chore that was repeated twice a day. Narragan curled his gloved hands into fists. Stupid directed his gaze at his metal-tipped boots. Ugly trained his weapon on Narragan's middle.
His stomach tightened as if tautly held muscles could deflect the charge. It had been over a year since they'd sent him rolling in agony on the rough, dusty floor. He'd grown soft.
When the door slammed open, Narragan crossed his arms over his chest with practiced nonchalance and leaned against the wall. The Triden governor swaggered in. An audience, indeed. Waves of nausea joined Narragan's stomach in complaint over his breakfast. His neck muscles tightened. He resisted the urge to rub a shoulder to relieve the tension.
During three years of Triden occupation, Governor Cacilio had spoken to Narragan less than a dozen times. He left daily communications to lackeys and stun guns. Narragan was usually dragged into the man's presence. Like his men, the governor wore khaki. A stocky man, Cacilio's gray hair and soft gut accentuated the main difference between himself and the troops, who were under thirty to a man. Narragan imagined the Governor would be a pleasant associate under other circumstances. With his educated accent and manicured nails, the governor could have passed for a book merchant or an art critic in trading circles.
But the Governor's civilian title was just that, a title. More than one guard had slipped and referred to Cacilio as Commander. Another difference between Cacilio and his men was the immaculate condition of the Governor's uniform. Cacilio didn't like to get his hands dirty.
Governor Cacilio raked the room with his gaze, not hesitating at the sight of his prisoner. "Where am I supposed to sit?"
Now there was a remark Narragan couldn't let pass. "Apologies to our guest. We try to keep up with the niceties. Difficult in troubled times, don't you agree?"
The Governor beat an unsteady rhythm on his leg with his riding crop. Narragan couldn't take his eyes from the stick. Cacilio maintained a civilized veneer, but the beast had ruined several of Narragan's best mounts. His horses wouldn't be fit to ride when he regained control of the stables. When the Tridens left…
We are leaving. The thought floated in the air.
Freedom. Rather than reassuring, the revelation caused Narragan to unfold his arms and stand at attention. Freedom demanded that a price be paid. He had been arrogant when the Tridens first arrived, making it clear that Cacilio had one of those minds he could read from across the room. Cacilio's presence—here, now—meant they didn't care what the Highlord knew. They were leaving soon. Very soon.
The Governor cleared his throat and struck his gloved hand with the stick. Narragan felt the metal-studded surface across his back as if he were one of the horses. Unwilling to wait another heartbeat for the bastard to speak, Narragan stepped away from the wall.
Copyright © 2005 Christine W. Murphy.