Now Available: Saving Imani!

POD Saving Imani Ebook Cover 04
Description:
Visiting the beach hadn’t been Haruka’s best idea. It was hot, sandy, and her shoulders were already burned. Leaving seemed like the best option.

Until martial artist Imani Bakalov ran up with a problem that Haruka should ignore.

She didn’t. Because Imani’s ridiculous plan promised things that Haruka had long fought for and there was no way that she’d turn Imani away when Haruka could save her.

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On Kobo $2.99 ebook
On Amazon $2.99 ebook or $5.99 TPB
On Smashwords $2.99 ebook
On CreateSpace $5.99 TPB

Whoot! Timely Now Available post! Go me!

Even better, this is the short story I wrote in my Romance Workshop, the one that the instructor read straight through, loved and said hit the Romantic Suspense mark perfectly other than a couple of very tiny editorial tweaks. :D

Hope you enjoy if you choose to read!

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Novel Monday: Coming Together – Chapter 14

POD Coming Together Ebook Cover 05
Description:
The last thing Mari expected when she and her sisters arrived in Aingeal City with a load of trade goods was to land squarely in the middle of a marriage alliance. But that was the only way to save her clan and the Dana clan from the Delbhana plot that threatened not just them, but the entire world.

Mixing fantasy with romance, author Meyari McFarland expertly crafts a sweet romance that defies categories and instantly charms.

Coming Together

By Meyari McFarland

14. Pride

“Have you not read the new regulations?” Danica snapped right back at Gavin. She seemed absolutely convinced that she already had the right to order Gavin around.

“Yes, and there’s been a marriage alliance on the table for two and half years that has nothing whatsoever to do with you,” Gavin said with every bit of the anger and frustration that he felt. “You’re the one breaking the new regulations, not Affrica Mari.”

Gavin raised his chin to glare as Lady Etain’s head snapped back as if he’d slapped her. Of course she’d be behind this stupidity. Most of the plots against the Dana seemed to come from Lady Etain and her loathsome daughter Siobhan. For once, Gavin was grateful to Cadfael’s strict ideas of propriety. Instead of the one petticoat he’d planned on, Gavin was wearing a full five, one properly starched to bell his kilt out to the minimum yard diameter necessary for fashion. There was no way for Danica or Lady Etain to see the way Gavin’s legs shook.

“That’s ridiculous!” Danica exclaimed. She stomped several steps closer so that she could glare up at Mari. “You’ve never even been to the city before. You can’t be engaged to her.”

“You’re not arguing with her,” Gavin said in a near shout, partially because of his fury at being summarily dismissed but also in the hopes that it would summon in relatives to back him and Mari up. “You’re arguing with me!”

Danica huffed at him, eyes already sliding towards Mari before he’d even finished speaking. Mari sighed and shook her head at both of them. She set down the wash basin and the third mattress on the floor. Then she stood and glared right at Gavin. He huffed only to blush as Mari pointed at the stairs.

“Sit down,” Mari growled. “Don’ even pretend tha’ you’re back t’normal, Dana Gavin. Sit that butt down.”

“Don’t give him orders,” Danica snarled at Mari.

Mari grabbed the front of Danica’s shirt, hoisting her off her feet and then carrying at arm’s length back over to Lady Etain despite Danica’s startled gasp and attempts to kick. “This is yours. Suggest you put a hand in ‘fore Dana Gavin punches her in t’face for bein’ rude.”

“This is a serious matter,” Lady Etain said as she grabbed Danica’s arm to keep her from throwing a punch.

“So’re my sisters,” Mari said. “Marriage alliance’s been kicked around ever since the Affrica started talking contracts with the Dana. Was supposed to be my older sister Paili but she broke her leg jumping out her married lover’s window just before this trip.”

“As if I’d marry a philanderer,” Gavin said.

“Don’ blame you on that,” Mari agreed. “Paili’s terrible at commitment. Doesn’t matter ri’ now.”

Around them Gavin’s aunts, cousins and Dana crew were gathering, many with cudgels or pry bars in their hands. Danica didn’t seem to see it but Gavin could see how Lady Etain stiffened. She nodded, formal and severe, at Mari.

“Then what does matter?” Lady Etain asked.

“My little sisters are here to meet Gavin, too,” Mari said so solemn and worried that even Danica stilled. “They caught the cold goin’ ’round. Banba sounds like she’s drowning. Caer’s not far off o’ that. They need me t’take care o’ them ri’ now. Yes, there’s talk o’ a marriage alliance. Yes, Danica’s interested in Gavin, too. Yes, that’s all important an’ it needs t’be addressed but people’s lives come first. I got sisters t’care for. This argument can wait.”

“How long?” Lady Etain asked. Her eyes flicked over to Gavin and then back to Mari’s face.

“Gimme a couple hours t’care for ’em,” Mari said. “Also need t’get Dana Laoise involved in the discussion. This isn’t just flirting. Needs t’be discussed properly an’ everyone needs t’be heard, Dana Gavin most of all.”

“Thank you,” Gavin said. He huffed as Danica glared at him. “Nice to know that one of you actually listens to me. That does influence my opinions of which would be a better choice for my life. Mari, why don’t you go on up? Your sisters really do need you.”
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Free Fiction Friday: One Thousand Eyes

POD One Thousand Eyes Ebook Cover 05

Description:

Creating a monster was easy when you were surrounded by them.

Kelby’s robots weren’t monsters until now. But his lovers Braxton and Dawson had played Kelby like a fool until they abandoned him for each other.

Now Kelby had to figure out how to go on with his life now that his lovers had torn his heart out.

And he had to decide what to do with the monster lurking in his lab.

One Thousand Eyes

By Meyari McFarland

Kelby rolled the eye in the palm of his hands. It was cold. Hard and heavy for its size. The iris was bright blue the color of the summer sky just after dawn. Near the iris there were deep blue lines radiating outwards like a sunburst. Around the outer curve of the eye were fine red lines, veins. On the back a small lump, yellowish compared to the sclera, marked the registration mark that would fit the eye into its socket and keep it in place. Looking at it this way you couldn’t see the circuitry that made it work.

He set that eye down, picked up a green one that the factory had turned into a beautiful two-tone piece of art. The top was leaf green, bright and clear, while the bottom was a green so dark it was almost black. Lovely. Expressive.

Not what he needed.

They were all too alive, too real, too much like what you’d see in a human’s face. Kelby needed something that said ‘not human’, ‘not alive’, ‘dangerous’ and that wasn’t something that was easy to find. Eyes were always the windows to the soul and when you wanted to create a monster’s soul you needed eyes that no one had seen before. Or that they’d seen in nightmares and promptly tried to forget as they turned on all the lights, put on music and made stout tea to keep the dreams away.

The robot sat quiet on its chair, waiting for Kelby. It would wait. It had to. The brain had yet to be turned on. He’d not even initialized the thing yet. No point to it when Kelby hadn’t finished constructing its body. Half completed robots never did adjust to their full bodies. He’d had to destroy half a dozen before he realized that systems checks needed to be slaved to the body instead of run through the new AI.

Still, it was beautiful, in its own way. He’d chosen to custom paint the outer skin. Close to the torso, the bot had shimmering black skin that shimmered like a puddle of machine oil that had just been disturbed. Its fingers, long, skeletal, tipped with needle-sharp claws, were strong enough that the robot would be able to pick up and tear apart bots twice its size. That had taken work but Kelby didn’t mind. Monsters needed their fearsome claws.

So did he.
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Finally, an overdue Now Available Post!

I’ve finally gotten caught up on Now Available posts so have a whole slew of stories I put up and then didn’t announce here:

Stitched Lines, Watching Eyes
POD Stitched Lines Watching Eyes Ebook Cover 02
Description:
Noga bent over her stitching, neck aching in fear of Gul Maes’ heavy cane coming down on her.

Seven days until Mistress Kelly was married off to Gul Maes’ brute of a son.

Noga kept her head down. Wasn’t safe to challenge someone like Gul Maes.

But with the prayers and dreams of the rest of the keep Noga might be able to stitch together hope that would save them all from Gul Maes’ watching eyes.

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Kobo $2.99 ebook
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Amazon $2.99 ebook or $5.99 TPB
CreateSpace $5.99 TPB

Infinite Love (Collection)
POD Infinite Love Collection Ebook Cover 03
Description:
Meyari McFarland returns in a collection of eight stories centered on love. From new courtships to the ashes of failed marriage to magic bringing two people together in every way, the Infinite Love collection has stories that will touch your heart.

Includes eight short stories plus a sample of the romance novel Go Between, set in Meyari McFarland’s Manor verse:

Tiny Futures
Candy-Coated Courtship
Dancing on the Edge of the Waterfall
Stars Drifting Ever Upwards
Drifting Leaves, Misty Skies
Broken Sword of Night
Consort
Orange Thief

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On Kobo $5.99 ebook
On Smashwords $5.99 ebook
On Amazon $5.99 ebook or $14.99 TPB
On CreateSpace $14.99 TPB

Price of the Gift
POD Price of the Gift Ebook Cover 02
Description:
Anan shut their eyes, heart hammering in their chest as if it was trying to knock the box out of their arms.

They couldn’t afford another punishment, not after the last one.

But the box held a demon and the master of the library didn’t care about Anan. They were just a slave.

To destroy the demon, the masters would kill Anan.

Unless Anan won a bargain from the demon to free them both.

Find This Story:

On Kobo $2.99 ebook
On Smashwords $2.99 ebook
On Amazon http://www.amazon.com/Price-Gift-Meyari-McFarland-ebook/dp/B01DB6WVXS/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&qid=1461769847&sr=8-5&keywords=meyari+mcfarland”>$2.99 ebook or $5.99 TPB
On CreateSpace $5.99 TPB

Gossamer Threads
POD Gossamer Threads Ebook Cover 03
Description:
The thread slid over Ashanti’s fingers, softer than baby’s hair, finer than a spider web.

Weaving a new marriage for two people was a heavy task but one Ashanti took on with joy. Her stitches would shape their lives for decades, transforming separate individuals into a happily married couple.

With two such different individuals weaving a life together took extra thought, effort and sacrifice.

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On Kobo $2.99 ebook
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On Amazon $2.99 ebook or $5.99 TPB
On CreateSpace $5.99 TPB

Floating Paper Strips
POD Floating Paper Strips Ebook Cover 04
Description:
Efe’s body betrayed her. Daily.

She couldn’t walk, couldn’t run, couldn’t do all the things a page should do, no matter how hard she tried. That was just the way it was.

Until Father Abijah decided that the way it was wasn’t good enough.

Then a whole new Path opened up to Efe and her future bloomed like a lily emerging from the pond.

Find This Story:

On Kobo $2.99 ebook
On Smashwords $2.99 ebook
On Amazon $2.99 ebook or $5.99 TPB
On CreateSpace $5.99 TPB

Like Arrows of Fate
POD Like Arrows of Fate Ebook Cover 05
Description:
Yuki’s clothing shouldn’t bring battles with her mother every day. Shouldn’t. They did.

She truly didn’t need that on a day that included Samurakami Kaoru.

Kaoru would have preferred anything other than confronting Yuki but duty required it. Hands shaking and panic running through his veins.

Neither realized that a simple delivery of new kimono would draw them together despite everything that held them apart.

Find This Book:

On Kobo $5.99 ebook
On Smashwords $5.99 ebook
On Amazon $5.99 ebook or $14.99 TPB
On CreateSpace $14.99 TPB

Blood Worms: A Clockwork Rift Steampunk Mystery
POD Blood Worms Ebook Cover 04
Description:
Esme covered her mouth and nose before sucking in a deep breath.

The kill room stank of death. Odd thing was the skull, hole punched through the top. Question was who’d done it and if there was money to be made turning them in.

Getting intel led Esme from the sewers and right up to the Clockwork Rift that led to Earth.

Intel that threatened not just her life but the lives of the entire human race.

Find This Book:

On Kobo $5.99 ebook
On Smashwords $5.99 ebook
On Amazon $5.99 ebook or $14.99 TPB
On CreateSpace $14.99 TPB

Whew! I am never, ever, EVER letting these pile up this way again. That took way too long to get up. Hope you guys enjoy if you choose to read!

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Novel Monday: Coming Together – Chapter 13

POD Coming Together Ebook Cover 05
Description:
The last thing Mari expected when she and her sisters arrived in Aingeal City with a load of trade goods was to land squarely in the middle of a marriage alliance. But that was the only way to save her clan and the Dana clan from the Delbhana plot that threatened not just them, but the entire world.

Mixing fantasy with romance, author Meyari McFarland expertly crafts a sweet romance that defies categories and instantly charms.

Coming Together

By Meyari McFarland

13. Care

“I am not in love with Dana Gavin!” Mari exclaimed.

Both of her sisters stared at her flatly. Banba barely opened her eyes and yet somehow it felt as though she’d just stabbed Mari in the chest. Caer’s eyes watered as she wiped her nose but her glare was still ferocious. Their breathing sounded off to Mari, as bubbly as the pot of chicken soup boiling away on the hearth.

Mari leaned forward and used the poker to pull the soup a bit further away from the coals. Bits of pale meat roiled slowly in the broth along with shreds of greens and the occasional doughy noodle. Her stomach felt nearly as queasy. Nerves had to be getting to her. The thought of eating any of the soup, of asking for bread or fruit or, really, anything solid sent her gorge up the back of her throat to burn.

“I’m not,” Mari repeated much more softly.

“Mi’ as well be,” Banba muttered.

Her eyes slid shut again, face going gray and clammy as if the brief conversation was more than she had strength for. Mari’s throat closed up on a moan of fear. She’d never seen Banba like this. Practically from the time Banba could walk she’d been moving constantly, talking energetically, tapping toes and gesturing with her long, strong fingers. Caer sucked in a breath that rattled in her chest. Not as bad as Banba but still terrifying for the usually bright and cheerful woman Caer was.

“Why aren’t you two in bed?” Mari demanded.

“Have you tried those beds?” Caer said, glaring towards the room that held their bunks.

“No.”

“Do,” Caer grumbled, wiping her nose again. “Really, they’re awful. Soft as a pile o’ feathers. Thought I was goin’ t’sink in an’ never be seen again.”

Banba nodded listlessly, her breath coming in little bubbly gasps that drove Mari to her feet. She got Banba sitting more upright, a too-soft blue pillow behind her back. Mari’s heart thumped against her breastbone at how listless Banba was. Her skin was too hot, clammy and searing at the same time. Up close, every breath sounded like she was half-drowning. Worse, she barely even swatted at Mari for the fussing.

“Not good,” Mari muttered.

“I know,” Banba sighed. “Leave me be.”

“Nope,” Mari replied before going to test the bunk Mari had claimed as her own.

It was softer than Caer had said, a fluffy bit of indulgence that’d kill Mari’s back. Blessed Goddesses only knew what it’d do to Caer and Banba when they tried lying down on them. With the way they were breathing they’d probably spend all their time coughing and none of it resting. Mari went back out and laid the back of her hand against Caer’s forehead.

“You’re burning up, too,” Mari complained.

“Y’feel good,” Caer sighed happily.

“A’ri, that’s it,” Mari said. Both Banba and Caer peered at her. “Gonna go get ice water an’ then you’re both coolin’ off. That window’s goin’ open. The mattresses are bein’ replaced. Be damned t’the Morrigan’s Hells if I’ll sit here an’ watch the two o’ you die o’ this!”

“We’re not dying,” Banba complained, weak, quiet, wet and listless.

“Y’sure?” Mari asked.
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Novel Monday: Coming Together – Chapter 12

POD Coming Together Ebook Cover 05
Description:
The last thing Mari expected when she and her sisters arrived in Aingeal City with a load of trade goods was to land squarely in the middle of a marriage alliance. But that was the only way to save her clan and the Dana clan from the Delbhana plot that threatened not just them, but the entire world.

Mixing fantasy with romance, author Meyari McFarland expertly crafts a sweet romance that defies categories and instantly charms.

Coming Together

By Meyari McFarland

12. Hope

Father pulled the kids back into the kitchen as Mari left their rooms. Mother waited until the door was shut before taking Raelin’s blanket and folding it up for Gavin. She frowned as she sat next to him, blanket resting in her lap. Gavin breathed slowly, surprised that he could actually breathe through his nose. The scratchiness in his chest was still there but not so badly that he needed something to drink.

Gavin smoothed his kilt, frowning at how damp it felt. He must have sweated through his clothes while he slept, yet again. Time for yet another bath, not that Gavin felt strong enough to make it down to the bathroom in the warehouse. Still, he’d have get Andros to help him wash the sweat off and change into some different clothes. He did feel quite clammy without the blanket.

“She’s a character,” Mother observed.

“I think Gwen and Anwyn would adore her,” Gavin said with a little snort. “Same attitude, just in the barrel size instead of pint size.”

Mother laughed. “True. I didn’t want to say it while Mari was here but Danica’s note made it very clear that she considers Mari a rival for your hand.”

“She can’t be since Danica has no hope of getting my hand,” Gavin complained. “Not unless the marriage worked the other way around, her joining Dana and our children getting raised here.”

The sheer stupidity of the situation infuriated Gavin. It was bad enough that the Delbhana had implemented such ridiculous regulations, probably with no methodology to enforce them and no guidelines for how they were to be interpreted. That the Delbhana considered him to be nothing more than a convenient game piece in the feud was the true insult added to the marriage contract injury.

“Would you?” Mother asked.

“Marry her?” Gavin asked. He snorted when she nodded. “Yes, actually I would. Though only with specific stipulations about my treatment and freedom to leave the marriage if she was abusive. This feud has gone on too long, Mother. If she was willing to truly put the feud aside for the betterment of our Clans and the country, yes, I’d do the same.”

“She won’t,” Mother said, low, angry, hands clenching into fists.

“No, she won’t,” Gavin agreed. “A marriage alliance would be a good thing for both the Affrica and the Dana clans. Mari’s nice, respectful, and I know she’d get along well with the family. She might as well be Dana with that attitude of hers.”

“Yes, but can you bed her?” Mother asked so bluntly that Gavin squawked and blushed violently. “Does no good to arrange a marriage if there won’t be any kids from it. Caer would be willing to let you between her thighs. No way Banba would. She’s got no eyes for boys. It shows. What about Mari? You willing to let her have more than the little kisses and hand-holding I’m not supposed to know about?”
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Free Fiction Friday: Cupboard Full of Seeds

I wanted to make sure that I got a story up this Friday as I’ll be off on a writing workshop all next week. Guaranteed, I will not have the time (or brainpower) to do this on Friday. So, enjoy this one for the next two weeks!

POD Cupboard Full of Seeds Ebook Cover 07

Description:

Skye had to get the onions planted. Onions and garlic. It was time, past time, for them to be in the ground.

Claudine and Felicia didn’t seem to understand how important it was. If Skye didn’t work, didn’t give grow squash and potatoes and beans and onions, then there was no reason for her to be there. No reason for them to keep her safe.

So she had to plant the onions right away no matter what.

Cupboard Full of Seeds

By Meyari McFarland

Skye stood in front of the cupboard, legs shaking with exhaustion. The kitchen was silent, still, so dark that shadows enveloped her other than the little puddle of light around Skye’s make-shift oil lamp. The counter under the cupboard was bare wood, scarred by decades of use. Skye trailed her fingers across the cut marks crisscrossing its surface. The tips came way dusty except no, that wasn’t dust. It was flour from the vegetable pie that Claudine had made last night. She could see an orange mark closer to the sink where Felicia had chopped carrots. One tiny curl of carrot peel peeked out from under the cabinets by her toes, dry already.

Their little common kitchen was never clean, not really, but that was the point, wasn’t it? A place for them to share instead of private spaces that isolated them all. They had to do better, do more, than what they’d done before. The world was changing, had changed, would continue to change and there was nothing at all that Skye could do about that. Except help make their little corner of the world better.

Weeks. It had taken weeks to get everything ready. Skye looked over her shoulder at the one window. There wasn’t much to see. It was dark, nighttime, outside. She should go to bed. Sleep. Rest. Get up early tomorrow and start the planting process.

But Skye stood in the kitchen instead, staring at the cupboard full of seeds that would, hopefully, give them the chance to live free forever. Felicia had scoffed at the sheer idea at dinner, poking at her vegetable pie with her fork as if she thought it was nasty.

“You know we’re going to have to keep shopping,” Felicia had snapped without meeting Skye’s eyes. “There’s no way that we can grow enough to feed us all.”

“I think we can,” Skye had protested. “It’s not easy but if we keep building beds, keep saving the seeds, we’ll build up enough to grow all the food we need and more. Really, it just takes two or three squash to feed an army, Felicia.”

“I do not want to spend the entire winter eating nothing but squash,” Claudine had huffed. “Bad enough that we’re stuck with not much more than carrots to eat right now. Unending squash will drive me straight back to the city.”

As if it was that easy to go back. Their little island was cut off from the mainland now. The ocean had risen so much that you needed a boat to get across and it didn’t look like the winter would be cold enough that the ocean would freeze. It hadn’t frozen in years, since Skye was a little girl.

But if that was what Claudine needed to tell herself to be able to go on, then so be it. Skye just wished that they would listen to her when she said that it would work. Neither of them knew much about growing food. That was Skye’s thing. Her mother’s gift, her joy, her hobby. A hobby that might now feed all of them, not just Claudine and Felicia and Skye but the others on the island, too.

Skye shook her head and pulled the cabinet doors open. Ranks of jars stood there, each filled with seeds. Beans. Corn, squash, pumpkin, some oats that Skye really didn’t think would grow well in their rainy, stormy climate. But the rice would grow. She knew that would work, if Skye’s proposed paddy was created. Tomato seeds, tiny little flecks of white in a canning jar the size of her fist. Peppers, dry and tumbled into their bigger jar.

Those she would have to raise in the new greenhouse, probably. Maybe. It depended on how much the temperature rose this summer. But none of those were what Skye needed.

“Onion and garlic,” Skye whispered as she carefully rummaged through the jars until she found the tiny black onion seeds she’d traded for. “That’s what needs to go in first.”
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Novel Monday: Coming Together – Chapter 11

POD Coming Together Ebook Cover 05
Description:
The last thing Mari expected when she and her sisters arrived in Aingeal City with a load of trade goods was to land squarely in the middle of a marriage alliance. But that was the only way to save her clan and the Dana clan from the Delbhana plot that threatened not just them, but the entire world.

Mixing fantasy with romance, author Meyari McFarland expertly crafts a sweet romance that defies categories and instantly charms.

Coming Together

By Meyari McFarland

11. Outrage

“What?”

Gavin’s shout of outrage was loud enough that Mari nearly fell out of the window seat. All sound in the kitchen stopped but none of the kids poked their heads out the door to see what had happened. Laoise waved one hand at Gavin soothingly only to have it smacked away. She backed off a step as if startled that Gavin would ever raise his hand to anyone.

“How dare she?” Gavin snarled. “How dare that trumped up little fashion disaster imply that I led her on? She’s barely even spoken to me and we’ve never so much as touched fingertips!”

“It’s not necessarily aimed at you,” Laoise said reasonably, too reasonably.

“Oh no, you know perfectly well that it is aimed at me, Mother,” Gavin replied. He glared out the window, hands shaking in his lap. Even with them clenched, Mari could see how he vibrated with outrage. “They’re doing this because Danica decided that she owns me and Mari has no right to speak to me. I’m not going to stand for it. Do you hear me? I will not allow that little… No. This will not stand.”

“Can they even enforce it?” Mari asked Laoise.

Both Laoise and Gavin looked at her as if she was a simple-minded child. Mari sighed, shaking her head. It was a valid question. Maybe it would be something they could enforce here, in the capital, among the rich and powerful, but it sounded like that should apply to everyone across the entire country.

“I know that they can here,” Mari explained. “But what about the countryside? Can they enforce it there? The poor? What ’bout marriages bein’ arranged with people outside of the country? How could they enforce the provisions there?”

“All good questions,” Laoise said, “and all irrelevant right now. It still impacts Gavin.”

“Only if he has no preexisting offer on the table,” Deverell observed as he came out of the kitchen, little Andros in his arms, Erlina and Treva clinging to his kilt. “The contract with the Affrica clan has been discussed as a marriage contract from the very beginning. That counts as an offer. Gavin is the only boy the correct age. From the very first time it was brought up, it was assumed that it would be Gavin if we chose to do a marriage contract.”
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Novel Monday: Coming Together – Chapter 10

POD Coming Together Ebook Cover 05
Description:
The last thing Mari expected when she and her sisters arrived in Aingeal City with a load of trade goods was to land squarely in the middle of a marriage alliance. But that was the only way to save her clan and the Dana clan from the Delbhana plot that threatened not just them, but the entire world.

Mixing fantasy with romance, author Meyari McFarland expertly crafts a sweet romance that defies categories and instantly charms.

Coming Together

By Meyari McFarland

10. Wake Up

“Whoops.”

Gavin jerked awake, staring around wildly until his dream of working his way through ten foot tall stacks of paperwork faded into Mari’s amused face. She shrugged apologetically, offering Gavin the folio she and Mother had taken to the Records Office.

“Didn’t mean t’wake y’up,” Mari apologized. “But bent over like that y’neck was gonna get a mighty crick.”

He stared for a moment, taking in the gentle concern, her hair falling seductively around her cheeks, and then laughed softly. “I didn’t realize I’d fallen asleep. I was doing paperwork in my dreams.”

His neck was sore and there was a small drool spot on the pillow he’d stuffed between his shoulder and the large picture window. Not to mention that his rear end was quite numb from having sat on the old window seat cushions for entirely too long. Someone had covered him with a blanket while he slept. It smelled of sea salt and spices so it probably was one of Raelin’s that had been packed away while she was gone.

“Thank you,” Gavin said. He pushed the blanket aside, surprised to find it too warm. “I appreciate your turning that in for me.”

“Not a problem,” Mari said. She frowned at the blanket. “Sure y’should be gettin’ up?”

Gavin rubbed his chest and nodded. “Mm-hmm. It’s too hot. I think my fever must have finally broken.”

Mari frowned. She reached out and rested the back of her hand against Gavin’s forehead. Her fingers were cool but no more so than he would have expected from someone who’d been outside for a while. His cheeks flared hot with a blush that had to stain his face as red as his hair. The contact seemed so much more important than it actually was, setting his heart beating faster and his hands to fluttering as if he was Cadfael after being flirted with. Despite his reaction, Mari’s frown didn’t fade.

“Don’t feel too hot,” Mari observed. “Doesn’t mean you should push it, though.”

“No, I agree,” Gavin said. He swallowed down his nerves and struggled to control his voice. “I don’t intend to overextend myself. There were things that had to be done today and I was the only one who could do it.”

“Y’really are, aren’t you?” Mari murmured as if he’d said something far more significant than that.

“Am what?” Gavin asked.

“The heart,” Mari replied, slow, serious, with eyes that seemed to see nothing but Gavin. “The heart of the Dana.”

Erlina ran out of the girl’s room, giggling madly as she ran towards the kitchen. Apparently someone had been changing her clothes for dinner because Erlina was completely naked, her fluff of red curls bouncing around her ears. Treva ran after her with a pair of Dana blue pants and a thick sweater Aravel had knitted years ago. She was giggling too. When Andros appeared at the door of the girl’s room, his expression was anything but amused. He glared after their three and five year old sisters as if he intended to drag them both back by their ears.

Mari’s eyes flicked sideways but her expression didn’t change. Gavin licked his lips, his mouth sour from sleeping with it open. Years ago, when Gavin was Andros’ age, he’d heard Mother say the same thing about Great-Uncle Jarmon. The comment had been completely casual on her part, a joke between her and Father, but it had stuck in Gavin’s mind afterwards.

“That’s my great-uncle, Jarmon,” Gavin said.

“You his heir?” Mari asked.

Gavin sighed and nodded. “Yes.”

“Then it’s you, too,” Mari said. “My Pa’s the same way. Sure, it’s Ma who gives the orders and makes the deals. She’s the one what hires and fires workers. But Pa’s the one who takes care of everyone. He’s the one everyone, in the Clan and out of it, goes to when there’s a problem. They’re after you, y’know?”

“The Delbhana?” Gavin asked.

Mari nodded, still staring at him with that too intent, too serious expression. Cadfael croaked something harsh and angry in the kitchen but when Andros herded Erlina and Treva back towards the girls’ bedroom they all had cookies. Erlina was dressed, too, so apparently Cadfael felt better. He’d refused to tend to the little ones while he felt sick.

“It’s not the first time,” Gavin whispered. “Years ago they tried to steal all the kids. Tried to say that we weren’t properly educated, that our Clan school wasn’t teaching us to minimum requirements. Raelin and I stopped them then. And other times. They want to take all of the kids, Mari, not just me.”

“You’re not a kid,” Mari said. “You’re a man grown, Dana Gavin. You’re grown and of age and I’m pretty sure they want t’steal you away so that all that knowledge y’got in y’pretty head is theirs.”

“I’ll never leave the Dana Clan,” Gavin said. He glared at her. “Never. This is my home and I won’t marry out.”

She nodded, finally turning away to stare out the window at the neighboring roof below. Cadfael coughed, harsh and dry. Erlina and Treva’s giggles echoed over Andros’s mildly annoyed voice. Gavin couldn’t tell what they were saying.

He didn’t honestly care. The thought of leaving the Dana, living somewhere other than this complicated mishmash of apartments over the warehouses full of family, horrified him. This was his home. Gavin couldn’t imagine packing his things and going somewhere else. Why would he leave his family, home and career?

“They’re tryin’ to trap you,” Mari murmured. Her voice was deep enough to be a rumble over Gavin’s skin more than something in his ears. “Laoise’s holding a meeting ri’ now. She thinks the threat is real. Delbhana Danica might actually have a chance of winning your hand.”

“My ‘hand’?” Gavin snapped loudly enough that the giggles abruptly stopped in the girls’ room. Cadfael poked his head out of the kitchen to stare at them. “My ‘hand’ isn’t some prize to be won. I will marry when and who I choose and there’s not a thing that you, Mother or the Tripartate Goddesses themselves can say about it. Danica is perfectly free to offer. I’ll turn her down unless she agrees to join the Dana. Frankly, she’d actually be welcome to join the clan. This stupid feud has gone on long enough.”

Mari stared at Gavin, the solemnity disappearing into a grin that was full of delight. She looked startlingly like Gwen when there was a brawl about to begin but she didn’t look anywhere besides Gavin’s face. He flapped a hand at Cadfael who snorted and disappeared back into the kitchen. The kids peeked about that time and they stayed by the door, staring at Gavin and Mari sitting together on the window seat Mother and built for Father after their second wedding anniversary.

When Mari nodded approvingly, Gavin’s stomach flipped. He put a hand over his chest, not because he felt a cough coming on but because his heart pounded against his breastbone. Her approval felt different. More important. More significant, somehow. Gavin licked his lips, staring at the blanket and then plucking at the edge of it nervously.

“Good,” Mari said. “Good for you. Good for your family, too. Too many women expect their sons t’just do as they’re told whether they’re happy with the women chosen f’them or not.”

“Most Dana marriages are love matches,” Gavin explained. “Even the ones that seal alliances and deals tend to be between people who at least like each other. I think a lot of our alliance marriages come from deals that started because two people decided they were in love.”

“My Ma said this was important,” Mari mused. She looked out over the city again, frowning slightly. “That the future of Aingeal is bein’ decided here and now, in the streets and businesses all around us. Didn’t understand what she meant until today. There’s a battle goin’ on. The Delbhana and their followers want to stomp everyone else down. And the Dana want to stop ’em.”

“Yes,” Gavin agreed. He watched Mari, not the city below. Spring sunlight filtered through scudding clouds shimmered on her sunburnt cheeks. It sparked threads of gold in her brown hair. “I don’t think that most people know just how serious it is. Every day something new happens. I don’t know when it’ll end, how, but the Dana came from pirates. We’re not likely to back down without a fight.”

Instead of the expected surprise, disapproval or covert horror that Gavin always got when he confessed to Great-Grandmother Anwyn’s former profession, Mari burst into laughter. She grinned and offered her fist to Gavin, nodding for him to do the same. When he slowly made a fist she gently bumped their knuckles together. Gavin grinned. He’d have to teach Raelin, Anwyn and Gwen that one.

“Good for you,” Mari repeated, eyes sparkling with amusement. “Raiders an’ pirates gotta work together, y’know.”

Treva laughed and ran over, scrambling up into Mari’s lap to hold up her fist. The intrusion didn’t seem to bother Mari. She just fist-bumped with Treva and then laughed heartily as Erlina and Andros came over to do the same. Mari almost immediately ended up with a lap full of little kids babbling questions at her about what that meant and when you did it.

Gavin leaned back and let Mari handle the little ones since she seemed to enjoy cuddling them so much. None of the other women who’d flirted with him at parties had expressed interest in children. Every single one had said things about wanting to wait and not looking forward to being pregnant.

Understandable, given how dangerous pregnancy was for women, Gavin thought as Erlina tried to climb on top of Mari’s head only to get belly kisses and tickling that made her squeal with delight. Dana women tended to have fewer problems than most but Mari wasn’t Dana. Maybe she would want to wait, too. Though looking at her expression as Erlina hugged her, half strangling Mari, made Gavin suspect that she wanted a whole brood of children to play with.

“Are you going to marry Gavin?” Treva asked Mari.

“Doubt it, smidgelet,” Mari said confidently even though she looked surprisingly sad about it. “He doesn’t want t’leave the Dana an’ I like being Affrica.”

“Awww,” Treva complained. “That’s no fair. You’re fun. You give cuddles!”

Mari laughed so loud that Andros tumbled backwards into Gavin’s lap. She grabbed Erlina and Treva, mock-squishing them with a hug that made both girls squeal and kick and laugh with delight. Gavin cuddled Andros as he grinned at Mari and the girls. Watching them made it easier to ignore the little hurt inside at the confirmation that Mari didn’t want to leave her Clan.

It was silly. Of course she didn’t want to leave her family. She’d only just met Gavin. There wasn’t anything there for her. In the name of the Tripartate Goddesses, she’d only seen Gavin when he was sick, feverish, and dressed in his oldest, most worn clothes with filthy hair no less.

The front door to the apartment opened. Mother came in, Father on her heels. Both of them had absolutely grim expressions until they saw Mari laughing and hugging Treva and Erlina. Treva squealed as she somehow squirmed right out of Mari’s grip. She ran over and bounced around Mother’s feet, hands held high in the air.

“I’m a smidgelet!” Treva exclaimed.

“A what?” Mother asked, laughing as she hoisted Treva up and kissed her cheek soundly.

“Smidgelet,” Mari explained, grinning as she gave Erlina a matching kiss because of Erlina’s pouting and tugging at her collar. “Y’got babies, smidgelets what don’t come up to mid-thigh, kidlets f’the kids what don’t come higher’n chest high an’ then big kids. Back home, Ma says you can only pack two kidlets per barrel but you can fit six smidgelets if you’re careful.”

Both Mother and Father burst out laughing at that. Father waved for the kids to come help in the kitchen. Gavin let Andros down and then shooed Erlina off. None of them would be any help cooking but it did get the children out of the way for what Gavin suspected would be a very uncomfortable discussion of his future.

“Want me t’leave?” Mari asked as Mother came over and sighed while staring at Raelin’s quilt between them.

“No, that’s not necessary,” Mother said. “You’re part of the problem.”

“News?” Gavin asked quietly.

“Yes,” Mother sighed. “Sometimes I swear the tides just go against us.”

“What’s wrong?” Mari asked, her grim, serious face back on. It looked odd after the laughter with the kids.

Mother didn’t answer right away. She stuffed her hands into her waistcoat pockets, rocking on her toes so that her heels tapped against the scuffed wood floor. Gavin swallowed down his nervousness, wishing for a mug of soup or tea or something to fiddle with. Something to wet his suddenly dry throat.

“It’s hard,” Mother mused. “Delbhana Danica sent a letter stating that she intends to offer for your hand, Gavin. She said that she’d pay all the marriage taxes, no small thing given our Clan’s wealth. She also said that she expected that you’d join the Delbhana, that you’d keep working for us, and that any children you have with her would bear both the Dana and Delbhana names. They’d get to choose which clan they belonged to when they reached the age of majority.”

“Which clan would they be reared in?” Gavin asked. He was pretty sure he knew the answer to that.

“Delbhana of course,” Mother said.

“Then no, I won’t do it,” Gavin said. “What’s the hard part? Everyone knows I won’t leave the Clan. I live here. I work here. I’ll raise any children I father here. Period.”

The way Mother nodded, slow, serious, but without meeting Gavin’s eyes, told him that whatever it was had to be very bad indeed. Mari seemed to realize it too. She sat up straight, hands clenched on her thighs as she stared into Mother’s eyes.

“At the same time that we got the offer,” Mother said so slowly that Gavin bit his lip, “we got notice of a new regulation. To ‘prevent women from being defrauded’ by men who ‘string multiple women along’, all marriage offers are to be treated as contracts. While the offer is in play the man in question cannot entertain any other women. At all. The way it’s written implies that you’re not allowed to speak to cousins, much less anyone outside the clan.”

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Free Fiction Friday: Weight of Change

POD Weight of Change Ebook Cover 02

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Amelia stopped, panting. The mountain loomed ahead, dropped away behind. Cedars had long since been replaced by scrubby wind-twisted spruce.

She trusted Jen and Danny but this was huge. So huge.

Amelia didn’t know if she could leave her parents, her clone-sisters behind to live on this mountain when the sea flooded around them.

More importantly, she didn’t know if her parents would let her go.

Weight of Change

By Meyari McFarland

Amelia stopped, panting. Her legs felt like they weighed a thousand pounds, each. Sweat dripped down her ribs, pooled between her breasts, soaked her shirt and crept down her spine to shiver at the base of her back. When she licked her lips the salt on her lips made her shudder.

Stupid hike. It had been pretty walking through towering cedar trees and fluttery ash. At first, anyway. Now Amelia desperately wished she’d stayed home instead of agreeing to this ‘adventure’. They weren’t even to the top of the ridge yet and Danny had said that the trail went on another half mile from there before you got to the lake.

The cedars had disappeared a while ago, replaced first by scrubby little spruce that stood no taller than Amelia. Instead of majestic trunks too big for her, Jen and Danny to encircle, even fingertip to fingertip, Amelia was surrounded by spruce trees with wind-twisted trunks and needles that stabbed her arms and legs every time she brushed up against the things. And given that the trail hadn’t been maintained in ages the spruce had nearly taken it over.

Stupid trees. Stupid trail with its rutted path overgrown by weeds, thistles, grass. Stupid rocks hidden under the grass that tried to twist Amelia’s ankle as she walked, that made her stumble and curse and look ahead at Jen and Danny, both walking so confidently when Amelia had never been that confident in her entire damned life.

Amelia looked and yes, of course, Jen and Danny had stopped to wait for her, again. Neither of them looked annoyed. Danny bounced on their toes, beaming at the world around them as if they couldn’t be happier to have a shirt soaked in sweat and scratch marks all over their arms. The side of Danny’s head where they’d done an undercut shimmered with sweat. At least Amelia wasn’t the only one dying in the heat of the afternoon.

Jen didn’t look like she was sweating at all. She hadn’t even taken her jacket off but then Jen was always cold. She smiled so serenely at Amelia that the irritation faded away. Amelia sighed, stood straighter and then stumbled up the path to join them.

“This is longer than three miles,” Amelia panted once at their sides.

“Nope, just three miles,” Danny said. They laughed and kissed Amelia’s cheek as if she wasn’t slicked with sweat. “We’re nearly there, only about half a mile to go.”

“I am going to die,” Amelia announced. “Right here. On the spot. Keel over and flop, done with.”

Danny laughed. “No, you’re not. When we get up to the top of the ridge you’ll see. It’s all worth it.”

They set off, humming and swinging their arms as if the hill didn’t get steeper and the path wasn’t just as rutted. Jen shrugged and offered a hand to Amelia. Her palm was cool and dry. It made Amelia wince that she was getting Jen all sweaty but Jen didn’t seem to mind. She tugged gently at Amelia’s hand and that was that.
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