Due out this November, the second book in the series finds Dianna encumbered and irritable, but looking forward to the birth of their first child. Having been constantly on the watch for any signs of Tiponi’s vengeful tribesmen for over a year, both Shiye and Dianna are convinced of their safety.
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Here’s a quick peek of the very first chapter.
Book Two in The Brittler Sisters Series
For My Loved Ones,
I miss you. It’s been a long time since I left Manhattan, and I am anxious for news. Tell me what has happened in your lives. Spare no details in your response, and I will spare none as I tell you what has been happening in mine.
Dianna paused to run the tip of her fountain pen over her bottom lip as she thought. She sat at the scrub kitchen table. Her ankles crossed beneath her faded brown skirts.
She’d been out of touch with her family for the past year and could only imagine their anxiety for her. It wasn’t as though Dianna had had any choice. It wasn’t easy to mail regular correspondence when you were on the run from murderous natives.
Dianna exhaled violently, her blonde curls blowing away from her face as she did so, and looked around the tiny cabin. It was comprised of one room. The kitchen sat to the left of her. The bed: a few paces away on her right. Between the dining area— where Dianna now sat— and the bed, was a small stone fireplace. Within it sat a char black pot, hung from an iron peg.
It was a small space, but it was home, and it had been for nearly an entire year. The quilt on the bed was handmade and bore a embroidered pattern of leaves across its brown and gray surface.
Dianna heaved another sigh and then smiled as her eyes fell onto the cradle that sat at the end of the bed. It was comprised of sturdy wood and a deep red-brown in color. Shiye, Dianna’s husband, had carved intricate pictures on both the head and footboard. Two crossed feathers, surrounded by a twisting garland of oak leaves, decorated the head. A single feather surrounded by a garland of pine branches sat upon the foot.
“You see?” Shiye had told her, tracing his finger over one of the feathers. “One is for you, one is for me. The other is for our child.”
Her husband’s words seemed to echo to her for a moment, and Dianna sent up a silent prayer for his safe return. Shiye had gone on one of his frequent trips. Hunting and scouting the area for signs of danger. He was likely on his way home now; he’d been gone for several days.
Dianna laid a hand over her stomach to feel the reassuringly warm fumblings of her baby.
“You’ll be as warm blooded as your papa, sweetheart,” she whispered to her belly. Then she stood with a groan and strode over to the window to pull open the shutters. Sweat was beading on her forehead, though the spring night was relatively mild. Stars twinkled on the surface of the nearby river, making it look as though thousands of fireflies lay trapped beneath the rippling water.
She was on the point of turning back to her letter when a movement out of the corner of her eye caught her attention, and she stopped, staring hard at the shadows of the surrounding trees. Nothing moved, but Dianna’s spine itched with discomfort.
“Shiye?” she called hesitantly into the night. Her right hand wandered over the back of her waistband and she pulled a small throwing knife from its sheath there. “Who’s there?” she called again. A delicate fawn slipped out of the undergrowth a few feet away and Dianna let out a sigh of relief. Replacing the knife Shiye had given her in its leather scabbard, she turned away from the window and sat back down at the table to continue her letter.
Greyson Crowley and I were not meant to be. I must confess that I was too blinded by the excitement of my journey to note that the man was an obvious drunkard, a liar and a scoundrel. Fortunately for me, we were unable to marry upon my arrival in Cheyenne, and I was still unattached to him upon my discovery of his true nature.
I spent some time recovering from a head injury inflicted upon me by the wretched man, and it was during this time that I met my new husband. His name is Shiye, and it was he who found me after Greyson Crowley’s drunken antics nearly ended my life. Shiye saved me and aided me in my recovery. Soon after, we were married in Cheyenne.
I cannot tell you where I am now, for fear of this letter falling into the wrong hands. For Shiye has been falsely accused of a terrible crime by his people and we are, to the best of my knowledge, still being pursued by them.
I will tell you that I am happy. For not only have I discovered a wonderful and loving husband, I am also with child. I hope someday soon, that we can arrange to meet, so that I might get to see you all. I miss you more than words can say.
I am so sorry that I lost touch with you over the course of my ventures. I hope you will forgive me. I desire nothing more than to see your smiling faces, and I think of you always.
There. That sounded alright. Although there was no guarantee that her family would respond to her letter, Dianna was desperate to make contact with them. She felt horrible about leaving them without any information or means of reaching her, and could only hope that they would find it in their hearts to forgive her and write back quickly.
An ever-present feeling of guilt threatened to overwhelm Dianna for a moment. It swelled inside her like some noxious gas, making it hard to breathe. She flattened her palms against the table, fighting for control.
There came a steady crunch of footsteps outside the cabin and Dianna tensed again, reaching for her knife. The footsteps stopped and Dianna heard a grunt, followed by the thud of something large being tossed to the ground. She smiled, her body relaxed, and she stood quickly to open the front door.
Shiye was bent double, his hands busy in a small bag of supplies at his feet. Next to him, bloody and gutted, lay a string of rabbits, a few featherless birds, his hunting knife and his bow. At the sound of the door opening, he straightened and opened his arms just in time. For Dianna had flown at him with enough force to nearly knock him flat. Without giving him a moment to catch his breath, she kissed him.
Shiye chuckled beneath her lips and his arms encircled her. “I have missed you as well,” he said pleasantly. Dianna clung to him fiercely. Feeling such a powerful wave of happiness that, for a moment, she couldn’t speak. Shiye’s welcome heat radiated into her skin, warming parts of her soul that always grew cold in his absence. Before her pregnancy, Dianna had always gone on these short expeditions with him. Now though, the idea was quite out of the question.
“I expected you back days ago,” she said angrily, pulling away from her husband to confront him with a furious stare. “What happened?” He was only thirty and two to Dianna’s twenty-nine years, but his dark eyes were ringed with an age that only terrible trials can bring. Over the last year or so, this look had lessened slightly. He had grown content and —Dianna hoped— he had begun to forgive himself for the terrifying events in his past that had truly been out of his control.
Shiye’s high brow fell in a look of irritation. “I found signs of passing and tracked them over the mountains. It was likely only a traveler, but I needed to be certain. They were close to us, but they seem to have left the area.”
Dianna felt a distinct sense of unease grow in her belly. The baby squirmed. She lay a protective hand over the wiggling in her stomach and bit her lip. “Are you sure? We haven’t had anyone come this way for a long time, should we…?”
“We’re safe,” Shiye cut her off. His hands came to rest over her’s, and he smiled down at her. “I tracked them a long time, whoever it was headed East, away from Cheyenne. If it were a tracker, they would have headed back to the village to bring the others. Not East.”
Dianna felt her shoulders relax, and she smiled up at Shiye as the baby gave another firm kick to their joined hands. Shiye crouched down in the dirt to press a kiss to Dianna’s belly. “I missed you both,” he whispered, wrapping his hands around Dianna’s lower back and pressing his ear to her stomach. Dianna giggled as she felt the baby jolt once more, pressing against Shiye’s cheek.
“Welcome home,” she whispered.
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The Heart of Hope is a companion tale to Josephine Blake’s, Dianna!
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