Thursday, August 10, 2006

Heartstone -- Eric d'Ebrur

I wanted to let you all know that to celebrate Heartstone's release, I'm having a contest for members of my newsgroup. The prize will be a box of See's Dark Chocolates, a handmade crystal heart suitable for a necklace or use as a suncatcher, a 2007 date book and other assorted promo items. To enter, all you need do is join my newsgroup by sending a blank email to The drawing will be on September 30.

Here's another excerpt: Eric's first appearance in the book. Eric is scouting out the area--and the Stonebearer--as the first step in his quest to find the Heartstone.

In his alter-form, the canid, Eric d'Ebrur watched the Stonebearer enter the shop. Between one moment and the next, she'd gone pale and trembled. What had happened?
His first thought, that she was Infested, he dismissed. Once a Gawan took command, it didn't relinquish control. He'd seen it often enough to know.

He'd been surprised when Benamont I'sadhe's information had proved correct though he shouldn't have been. The old scholar had resources beyond the scope of most. Resources he guarded as stringently as Eric guarded the Federation. Eric admired that.

But he didn't admire the cavalier way I'sadhe had told him to use his niece, Keriam I'sadhe. The Stonebearer.

Still. She was tall and well-made like all the I'sadhe clan. The hair, glistening with dark fire, and the midnight-blue eyes came from her father's line. He'd recognized that from the imagescans but what identified her was her scent.
That part of the Gar'Ja bond apparently held true.

Standing, Eric shook himself and trotted across the street to peer through the glass. She wasn't there, he realized with a spurt of disappointment. Where had she gone? Her scent still came strongly to his sensitive nose, an evocative blend of woman and soft spice. His ears pricked forward, detecting movement beyond the young, yellow-haired female. Then the Stonebearer appeared, a stack of ancient tomes in her arms.

She was not beautiful, but her features intrigued him. She had high, wide cheekbones with just a hint of color and a jaw that was a little too strong. Her lips were full and elegantly shaped. He had the feeling she smiled often.

As he studied her, she looked up, saw him at the window. Her expression slowly became curious. She smiled, pointed him out to the other female. That one made a funny sort of ooh'ing sound and charged to the door as if the Gawan were hot on her tail. The door slapped open, accompanied by a tinkling bell.

"Hey, you lost, sweetie?" Fearlessly, the yellow-haired female rubbed his head, tickled his ears. "No collar? Poor baby!"

"Sheesh, don't run up to a stray and start playing with it." The Stonebearer's voice came, exasperated and just a little amused, from beyond her companion. "Especially not one that big. You'll get bit."

"Oh, he's a good boy. Look at him. He likes me."

Eric allowed the female to draw him close but when he tried to turn to see the Stonebearer, he found his nose in the female's cleavage. She squealed, merrily, and pushed him back. "Just like a guy. Or are you a girl?"

He narrowed his eyes in automatic insult then caught the Stonebearer's silent laugh. Helpfully, she said, "Turn him upside down and check."

"You turn him upside down, Xena-Warrior-Princess." She ducked her head, peering under his belly. "Definitely a boy."

Eric pulled free of her grasp and went to the Stonebearer. He nuzzled her dangling hand. One rasp of his tongue against her flesh told him what he needed to know. She wasn't Infested.

A weight lifted from his chest. The Gawan hadn't gotten to her. Yet. The Stonebearer knelt, holding his ruff between her hands, and looked him in the eye. "He looks well-fed." She glanced at her companion. "I don't think he's been lost for long. Someone will be looking for him."

She stood, glancing at the empty street. "Put a sign in the window saying you've found him. Then put him in the back."

"He'll get lonely back there."

"Janna, we can't keep him in the store. Not with customers coming in and out. All we'd need is for him to bite someone."

Eric slipped past her, entering the store. He needed to stay close to the Stonebearer. Close enough to protect her should the Gawan come. Close enough to find the Heartstone if he could. Meanwhile, he would continue to play the big, friendly dog. He sat by the counter. Grinned. Wagged his tail.

"Look at that. Isn't he sweet?"

Not many would call the Antiare Defender sweet. Dedicated, certainly. Honorable, he hoped. Dangerous, yes, a warrior must be dangerous. But not sweet.

"Put him in the back."

The young female, Janna, did her best but Eric simply lay with his nose on his paws and refused to budge. He watched the Stonebearer, curious about what she would do.

He didn't have long to wait. She whipped her belt off, looped it around his neck and tugged him toward the back of the store. He growled, braced his paws against the slick tile and still found himself sliding over the floor.

"Weighs a freaking ton," Keriam panted as she dragged him through the door. "I've got a soup bowl in the cabinet. Get him some water. Then, run down to Jantzen's Hardware and buy a collar and leash. Or rope. He'll need to be taken outside to do his business."

"What about food?"

Keriam planted her hands on her hips and studied him. "We'll deal with that later. He doesn't look in danger of wasting away real soon."

The two females left, securing the door behind them.

And so, Eric d'Ebrur, the High Defender of Antiare, was relegated to the status of common pet.

But only for as long as it took to find the Heartstone.

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