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Research for Legacy, Book 3 of the Ruins Trilogy

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I do apologize to readers who have been waiting for the last book of the Ruins Trilogy. I’ve spent the past couple of years doing a lot of research about horses for this one, since what I know about those four legged giants you could put into a medicine dropper.

I’ve talked with people who do reiki on horses exclusively. I’ve visited with people who use horses in therapy. I’ve talked at length with trainers–regular breakers and those who use natural methods (horse whisperers). I sipped beers with rodeo riders and talked to ranch hands. I’ve attended rodeos to see how people interact with horses, different ways they ride, and how they honor these working horses.

I still need to go observe horse ranches and how people corral them and work them.

All of this figures prominently in Legacy since it’s set on a fictionalized horse ranch in northern Arizona. I don’t know how much this information will be present in the writing, but it will certainly inform an attitude for two of the characters.

I’m about fifty pages in and hope to get back to the actual writing this week.  We’ll see what happens to Kate Ferguson, Paul Rodriguez, and her son. Juan Vasquez returns with his pregnant wife. And you’ll meet Dutch Acuna and Toni Houston.

Stay tuned for updates on how the writing is progressing.

Excerpt: Artifacts–Book Two of the Ruins Trilogy

Artifacts_333X500Artifacts is the second book in the Ruins Trilogy.

Dark secrets and murder, danger and temptation conspire to prevent Kate and Paul from unraveling another ancient mystery.

https://museituppublishing.com/bookstore/index.php/new-releases/series/ruins-artifacts-detail

EXCERPT:

Kate wasn’t sure what awakened her. Had it been the clatter of a lizard across the wood floor of the inn? Or had it been a snatch of disturbing dream that only vanished upon awakening? She stirred under the thin sheet covering her sweating body. As she rolled onto her back, the yards of mosquito netting swathed over the bedposts filled her vision in the dim light. Thin, gauzy, and delicate—how like bridal veiling it looked! But it was deceptive—not only did it protect her from flying pests, but it trapped air so well, breathing became a chore. Kate began to wonder if the netting, like a giant web, had not trapped her, too, to be offered up as sacrifice to a primal god like those just outside the window.

She shivered even in the muggy heat and squeezed her eyes shut, trying to keep memory from breaking into reality. But images leaked out—images of a blood-drenched stone, a bird figure, and an obsidian knife.

Kate reached across the pillows for Paul, needing to feel his healing presence. Her hand found only heavily starched muslin, coarse under her fingertips. Rising on her elbow, she continued to feel beside her. Empty. She was alone again. Where was he now?

A slit of moonlight stabbed the darkness across the bare floor. Her eyes followed it toward the balcony door, which was slightly ajar. Was Paul meditating outside? At least he could breathe there. She envied him that.

Rising, she slipped on the white silk robe Paul had bought her for a wedding present. It was part of a delicate short peignoir set, trimmed in white lace. She smiled remembering how he persuaded one of the customs officials at the airport to keep her talking about the Chichen Itza ruins while a colleague carefully unwrapped and rewrapped the wedding present hidden in his luggage. He had orchestrated it as smoothly as this impromptu honeymoon.

Tying the satin robe cord about her waist, she walked out onto the terrace. Paul was indeed there, though not in meditation. Sometimes, he concentrated so completely Kate couldn’t rouse him. Yet, when he emerged from that state, he was centered, empowered, able to concentrate fully on her. She had only seen a ghost of that ability a few weeks before. As it reached full strength when he finally integrated his dual heritage, she often found it overwhelming; sometimes in a most delicious way and sometimes slightly frightening.

Kate smiled at Paul’s back as he leaned over the balcony railing. Though a fit man with a well-formed body, he never seemed at ease with his bare skin. Even here in the steamy Yucatan jungle, he still wore a shirt with his jeans. The ends of the tan bush shirt lifted behind him in the night breeze, revealing he had merely stuck his arms through the sleeves. The garment was like a necessary reminder of civilization as if he would lose himself to his more primitive heritage without it.

Paul had only recently reconciled the two different parts of himself. One was the refined European-educated architect of Spanish lineage. The other held the ancient role of shaman to a people far older than those who had built the ruins he now stood before. Both parts had finally found peace within him in modern Phoenix, Arizona.

Kate spoke his name softly.

He turned; his smile was slow and guarded. “Couldn’t sleep,” he said. “Jet lag, I guess.”

Kate studied him closely, frowning. His dark eyes were brooding again above his hawk nose. His late-thirties face was framed by black hair, bearing premature grey at his temples. She hadn’t seen him like this since he chose to accept his full heritage and the incumbent role as shaman. She had seen him relaxed but controlled around her the first weeks she shared his house after the ceremony binding them, strangers really, as a married couple and created her role as his people’s Spirit Woman. While she occupied his guest room, Paul carefully avoided touch or even innuendo that she might misconstrue as pressure while she made her own decision about her life with him. Finally, she had come to his bed, and he began to mute the horror she had experienced on the sacrificial stone.

It had all been necessary, she told herself, as was this marriage. Perhaps, it had all been fated, as well. At times, she had felt in the grip of something beyond her, something that wouldn’t let her go.

“It’s not jet lag,” Kate stated. “There’s more.”

Paul frowned as he faced the ancient city again. He was silent a moment before he answered. “I thought I was doing this for you.”

When she saw he would reveal no more, she came to his side. “What is it?” she asked in low tones, keeping her own eyes fixed on the ruins before them.

“I feel a stirring here.” He turned away from her to face the jungle toward the south, a blackened mass in spite of the moonlight.

Kate suddenly felt a chill. What would happen here now? Would she lose him again to the reined control he had once practiced or to a new spirit possession?

She stepped around him to search his face, to see if she could read what troubled him. His brown eyes remained fixed on the south. Hesitantly, she reached out her hand toward his chest, hoping her contact would bring him back to reality. Yet, she paused inches from his open shirt, uncertain still what psychic messages her touch might pick up when he was in a state like this. She remembered all too well the wash of personalities she experienced when she lay on the sacrificial stone while Paul’s bird-god figure smothered her with his body. Even the tiny bit of rock she first held there had sent ancient images of horror rippling through her.

But Paul was a man, not a stone shrouded in blood.

Excerpt from Ruins: Discovery

Ruins: Discovery will be released May 20 from Muse It Up Publishing in their their Hot! division.

Here’s an excerpt:

Ruins: Discovery
excerpt

Though some of Kate’s fellow graduate students would probably have noticed the superb fit of the stranger’s designer suit, it was his black hair, beginning to gray at his temples, which caught her eye. That was an odd quality in someone his age with his obvious Spanish lineage and apparent refinement. She scanned his features, taking in his sensitive mouth and a nose hinting at an Aztec hawkishness.

She quickly rejected the comparison as she turned to Dr. Swartz, her employer as well as her faculty advisor. He had accused her on more than one occasion of trying to find Aztecs under every rock as she researched Aztec/Maya links with the Arizona prehistoric peoples.

Embarrassed at the memory, she turned back to the stranger. His dark gaze concentrated on her intently for a few seconds, and then he retreated into his thoughts as if he could only focus on the world around him in brief glimpses. It didn’t seem like the muddleheaded preoccupation she’d seen among physics majors. And, it definitely wasn’t drugs—or any she had read about—since he just exhibited a piercing moment of clarity and after that withdrew. It seemed a controlled act or one repeated so often it had become habit. His ability to turn on a single moment of intense interest and concentration like switching on a floodlight—and quickly turn it off—fascinated Kate. She wondered if he had family problems preoccupying him—an errant wife or a child flunking school.

Kate frowned at that miserly response. He was native. He should recognize spirit beings. She almost held back the confession she was about to make but chose to plunge ahead. “I’ve been told I’m sensitive. My ego gets in the way sometimes—and, maybe, it’s really only heightened observation and intuitive skills. But I do feel things at times, especially when I touch objects—or people. Perhaps that’s why I like handling the remnants of ancient cultures. I get echoes, feelings, whispers.”

For the first time, Paul laughed—not cruelly, but with a heartiness, nonetheless.

Kate was confused and hurt. She had shown him a private part of herself, and he laughed. Her anger began to fire. She narrowed her eyes into slits and prepared to let her tongue rip into him.

He held up a hand and shook his head. “If you have that kind of gift, why did you have to resort to cross-examination?”

Kate relaxed a little. He wasn’t mocking her ability. “It’s not like a computer. You don’t get specific answers to specific questions. And even when you get something, it’s often erratic impressions, not in big neon letters with explanations. It just comes.”

“Yes,” he answered quietly with meaning. Studying the rock she still held in her hand, he added, “Untrained gifts are erratic.”

Kate was moved by his statement. “You sound as if you really understand.”

He raised his gaze to hers again. His eyes looked burdened. “I do,” he said, yet didn’t explain further.

After a moment, he asked, “Is this what you wanted to tell me, or is there something more?”

Kate glanced down, steadying her breath as she placed the little stone onto the path. Looking up, she said, “There are things I haven’t asked, Paul. Maybe things it’s better I don’t know. You’re the best judge of that.” She took a deep breath. This wasn’t going to be easy, she thought. Paul’s unknowns made it more difficult for her to develop a strategy with him. Continuing, she looked deep into his dark eyes. “We’re being thrown together this weekend where we’ll naturally discover answers to questions we both have about each other. But I need to explain—maybe I should have before. I don’t know what you expect, but I’ve never—”

Paul placed the forefinger of his right hand across her lips. “I know,” he whispered. “I think you’ve made that clear.” For a moment, he seemed to relax, focusing his full attention on her as his gaze wandered over her features. She saw it begin as speculation and grow quickly to interest. Slowly, he brushed his finger across her cheek, letting it slip under her hair to her neck where he rested his whole hand, his thumb brushing her cheek near her earlobe.

Watching Paul’s face soften, Kate mentally cursed Greg for playing on her doubts. She began to realize just how attracted she was to Paul. For the first time, she seriously considered the possibility of making love with him in the tent that night.

When Paul finally leaned to kiss her, Kate nervously met his lips. They were warm and moist, sensual but not threatening. His kiss verified the intensity of her attraction to him. She released a shaky breath as she pulled away.

He waited, his hand still on her. When her gaze shyly met his again, he said quietly, “You’ve nothing to fear from me. I’ve nothing to prove. Well,” he admitted with a slow smile, “at least nothing that I haven’t just proven.”

Kate started to protest, unsure about what, but feeling somehow subordinate to his experienced virility.

“You’re very proud,” he said with seriousness. It was a perceptive statement.

“And so are you,” Kate whispered, impulsively, from the fleeting impression she was forming of him.

“Yes,” he admitted with sadness, “perhaps too proud. Intimacy makes us vulnerable, not only to each other but in my case, to my pursuers.”

Kate’s questioning look invited him to explain.

“They would find me,” he answered.

Kate wondered if that were some paranoid delusion of his. “Are you wanted?”

“By the law?” He shook his head.

“That’s the waiting I feel around you here.”

Paul’s eyebrow rose.

“The waiting and…oldness,” Kate continued. She closed her eyes. Something vague like a forgotten memory entered her. She felt it, sorted it as familiar therefore identifiable, but she couldn’t name it. She shook her head and looked at Paul. “Oldness,” she repeated. “Something about you is old—not years, but centuries. It’s not just this ancient place.”

From under his pale blue shirt, Paul fished out a stone bas-relief hanging on a delicate modern silver chain. It was a smoothly worked face rather like an Olmec head but whose features weren’t as broad but more refined.

“It’s been with my people since the beginning. It’s older than these ruins.”

Kate quickly calculated. The earliest occupation of Wupaki Ruins was perhaps fifteen hundred years ago. From the bas-relief’s design, however, the effigy was probably closer to 3,500 years old.

Reaching to take a closer look, Kate asked, “Why do you wear it?”

Abruptly, before she could touch it, he replaced it inside his shirt.

“Why do you hide it?” Kate persisted.

Paul took both her hands into his. “Kate,” he said tightly. “I won’t ask you to share this. Maybe some day. I haven’t been able to fully share this will anyone from the outside…You’re in no danger from them.” He paused as she frowned at his statement. He looked down at their hands, took a breath, and explained. “We’re on land belonging to my people. Part of it is holy. Because we’re so near them here, I can’t risk putting aside my control for very long. I’ve eluded them for many years this time. I won’t lose that freedom for a dalliance no matter how pleasant it might be.”

Kate reacted to his obvious sincerity, though his words were fantastic—but just about as fantastic as her own admission. His words, like hers, were sanely said. Something in them, though, sparked her logic and her bluntness. “Is it freedom to be bound by strained control all of your life?”

Paul released her hands. He seemed discouraged, almost angry. He stared at her steadily for some seconds, and finally said, “I could ask you the same question.”

Kate winced. She could see her verbal defenses—the ones that usually got her out of pursing men’s arms—were useless with him—as defenses. He was too skilled in his own observations and retorts. She was well aware if he hadn’t chosen not to pursue sex with her now—for whatever reason— she would have probably slept with him that night.

“Truce?” Kate suggested.

Paul smiled slowly. “There never was any war.”