King in Check: On the run, Rey is forced to depend on Mosquito, the mysterious young boss of his old home. When they search for help, they have to discover who who they can trust, or they’ll end up dead.
King’s Gambit: When Mosca chose Calle to be his personal guard Calle should have suspected something was off. But this time is different. Very different. Living one step away from betrayal and falling in love with the man he’s charged to protect changes both of their lives. For good.
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Copyright ©2021 Treva Harte
Excerpt from King in Check
“Need anything? I’m going to town.” I looked up at the big man on the kitchen porch, trying not to show how urgently I wanted to leave. It would have been even more obvious if I’d left without asking, since trips to town were rare.
I kept myself from shifting my weight from one foot to the other. I was trying to stay casual, trying to avoid the inevitable.
“What for?” Calle asked the question anyhow.
“To pick someone up.” I made it sound routine, but of course a trip to Medianoche never was. If you weren’t caught by the Feds or robbed, and if you got what you were willing to barter for — hell, that made it an extraordinary trip. And if we returned, we never took new people past the portal.
“Rey?” Calle’s face lit up. “Is it today?”
Calle was a big man who didn’t talk much and never smiled. None of the men ever complained about his cooking, and it wasn’t just because they wanted to be fed regularly. Despite his injury, his muscles were impressive, and his arms could reach wide enough to grab and knock someone against the wall before the other person could move. He’d proved that more than once… and all without changing his dour expression.
But now Calle was beaming like I’d told him I’d found a miracle cure for his crushed leg. Damn it. Where was the stolid cook I’d come to know when I wanted him?
“If he shows.”
“If he said today, he’ll show.” Calle’s smile left. He seemed to be thinking deeply. Then that smile came back full force, unable to be restrained. “Yeah. I need something. Bring sugar. We’ll do something special for the meal tonight.”
Shit. The man was going to bake a cake or something. The cook who always cooked chili on Monday, eggs on Tuesday, and so on through the week, following his routine without fail.
I already hated Rey. I’d spent three months busting my ass to manage the compound, and all I got was “Rey wouldn’t do things that way.” I was the freakin’ boss’s kid, but it didn’t matter. No one took orders from me unless I got in their face and proved I could enforce or buy what I demanded. Otherwise, the men just did what Rey had told them to do back when he was still around to give orders. After all, in their minds, he was still the foreman.
He’d been gone for years. While he’d been gone, the compound had withered. The campesino women and children had left first. Then the strongest and boldest of their men had vanished. I’d been sent to save the compound before the hands deserted us and everything fell apart. I’d arrived before the last of the campesinos left. I’d promised the hands double pay if they kept the remaining sharecroppers on our land without killing them. I didn’t ask how they managed it, but the campesinos stayed. Just that was almost enough to make the compound sustainable if we ever needed to close the portal against the Federistas.
“Maybe Dog should go instead.” Calle frowned. “He’s strong.”
“I’m touched that you worry so about my safety,” I said. “But I’ll do it.”
I knew damn well what Calle was worried about, and it wasn’t me. His concern was that I was too short, too weak, too city to pull off bringing Rey home.
I’d managed a miracle to get the compound back to life so quickly. I’d not just ridden but walked the entire compound to work it with the men. I’d done more than my share and never whined. But all I got as a reward was the short end of the Rey stick.
Those hands who stayed made it clear they did because Rey would be back someday. The campesinos didn’t look at me or speak when I gave them orders. But they would sing at night about El Rey — and they didn’t mean their primitive god. Unless, of course, they thought the man was their god. I wouldn’t be surprised.
“But, Boss, if you let someone else go –”
“Don’t argue with me.” I stalked out.
* * *
My mood hadn’t improved after waiting almost two hours at the station. No one from outside Medianoche stayed in one place that long once they reached town. And waiting at the station, a place officially sanctioned, was even more dangerous when you weren’t sanctioned yourself.
The fans that provided some relief from the heat moved sluggishly, raising my temperature and temper by the minute. When was the coach going to arrive?
I wiped my face. Sweat had already stained my shirt through. Maybe I should leave. Probably he wasn’t going to show. There were all kinds of dangers traveling by coach — from retired-soldiers-turned-thugs to interfering officials, all of whom required either a bribe or a beating before you were sent on your way.
I wasn’t sure the new Rey would be able to manage either feat if he were stopped. From what I could gather in the brief message sent to me before the reception was jammed, Rey was returning because he was of no more use to our side. I didn’t know what that meant exactly, but no one gave us back healthy, whole men once they became part of the endless fighting in the cities.
That thought sent a sudden chill through me. Maybe he’d been sent back to die. God, how would I manage the hands if that happened? Especially if it happened when he was my charge.
And then I heard the noise in the distance. No one else around me looked up, but I fumbled with my locator and caught the faintest blip of something foreign on the screen.
I stood up and pushed my hands into my pockets to keep them from shaking.
The same dilapidated coach that had spit me out here into my new world three months ago stopped again. The horses slumped under the shade, and the driver leaped down, more concerned about them than any of the passengers. The coach door opened, and I braced myself.
One passenger leaped down, apparently healthy, his face hidden under a wide-brimmed hat. Then he looked up.
Blue eyes in a tanned face. Blue eyes that looked right into you and almost made you miss that the rest of the man was equally beautiful. Almost. Perfection like that was hard to miss for long.
And hard was the word for that body.
I’d had no one since I arrived at the compound. But that wasn’t why my body was leaning toward him.
It was him. He did it with one look at me.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Treva Harte has always been an overachiever. She also collects things. First it was degrees. First a B.A. in English, then she decided to go back for a Master’s degree. Not content with that, she added a J.D. Since then she’s added a husband, also an attorney, and two children to her collection. She’s continuing her ways as an overachiever, writing her wonderfully offbeat tales of passion and possibilities — in her spare time.
Visit her website at www.trevaharte.com.