Tuesday, September 9, 2014

RELEASE DAY: Jo Grafford "Trail of Crosses" (Lost Colony Series)

Jane Mannering can shoot a rifle, throw a knife, and handle a sword as well as any Englishman. However, she is no match for the red-painted warriors who ambush her section of the Colonial caravan the moment they beach their rafts on the shores of Virginia.
During a forced march inland, Jane plots their escape, sketching hasty maltese crosses along the trail – the pre-agreed upon signal of distress should they become separated from the main party. All the while, she fumes over what interest their captors could possibly have in a spinster like herself and her rugged band of brick masons, sawyers, blacksmiths, saddlers, and cutlers.
When Chief Wanchese intercepts them at the crossroads of the Great Trading Path, Jane’s worst fears are realized. It’s a pity the handsome devil happens to be the most ruthless and feared tribal chief in the region. Engaging his attentions was certainly never a part of her escape plan
Jo is a mega reader of all genres and loves to indulge in marathon showings of Big Bang Theory, CSI, NCIS, and Castle. Her favorite books are full of rich history, strong alpha males, Native Americans, and an occasional creature from the otherworld – dragon, vampire, or time traveler.
From St. Louis, Missouri, Jo travels a lot with her soldier husband. She has lived in the Midwest, the deep South, and now resides in Bavaria. Jo holds an M.B.A. and has served as a banker, col-lege finance instructor, and high school business teacher. She is a member of Romance Writers of America and From the Heart Romance Writers RWA Chapter.
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July 26, 1587 — Roanoke Island
If it had not been for the barking of the dogs and chattering of the lads who scampered at my side, I might have heard the shot — the low vibration of the string as the thin, wooden shaft released, the faint whistle of the arrow as it sliced an invisible yet deadly path through the air, the scattering of wildlife as the forest itself braced before the world's most fearsome predator. Instead, I merely felt the gentle lifting of my late father's top hat as the arrowhead sank into the aged leather and pinned it to the heart of the oak behind me.
The men assigned to guard me fired their muskets wildly into the perimeter of trees. My ears rang with their gunfire and frenzied oaths. Then the slow burn of anger took over.
I pivoted to yank the arrow, top hat and all, from the trunk. Separating the two, I jammed the damaged hat back on my head and tapped the lone arrow against my gloved hand. The miss was deliberate, meant as a taunt. Had the shadowy creature intended to kill me, I would be dead.
I glared over my shoulder as the gunfire ceased. He remained out there, I was certain. Watching. This was a reminder that he is the hunter. I am the hunted.
My whole arm was numb. I rolled to my back and drew a sharp breath to discover my hands were bound. Distant whoops and yells peppered the air.
"Jane," a man mumbled in a voice that shook. "Jane Mannering?"
I cracked my eyes open at the sound of my name. The sun blasted across my face, bringing me to full consciousness.
A dry wind nipped at my brown workaday gown, playing across patches of bare skin. Ugh! I might as well be naked for the way the flayed pieces of my bodice flapped. The thin cotton provided blessed little cushion between my shoulder blades and the hard, smooth wood beneath me.
The rushing of water filled my ears, along with the sound of oars dipping in rapid unison. The events leading up to my capture wafted in and out of memory, but I recognized the walls of a hollowed out log rising on either side of me. I was trussed up like a wild animal in the belly of a canoe, and we traveled at the speed of ones being pursued.
The fading whoops and screams brought the events of last night skittering from the darkened recesses of my mind. Images flowed one over the other, ghostly and dreamlike. Ten hastily constructed rafts, laden with travel bags and supplies. We'd traveled in a watery caravan over the Sea of Roanoke to the mainland, anxious to leave behind the dreary, weather-beaten fort on Roanoke. Our exit had been further punctuated with the urgency of putting distance between us and the island's original inhabitants, the hostile Roanokes.
Flickering camp fires had beckoned us to the mainland, signaling the location of the first wave of English colonists who'd arrived before us — or so we'd thought. Alas, a whole army of savages had erupted from the surrounding forests and overpowered us the moment we'd stepped onto the beach. Men who wore wicked symbols and red paint all over their faces and limbs. Men who now held us captive.

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