Read an Excerpt
By Patti O'Shea
Copyright © 2002
All right reserved.
Ravyn hated mud.
After two days of incessant showers, the sun had finally made
an appearance. But it would take more than a few hours of
sunshine to dry out the sodden earth and now the humidity had
reached nearly unbearable levels. Between sweat and rain,
Ravyn had gotten used to damp clothes, but she couldn't
tolerate the dirt ground into the fabric.
Days of slogging through mud had left her pants coated below
the knee. She'd wiped her filthy hands on her thighs, her
butt, her shirt, everywhere, spreading the muck to new
locations. Ravyn didn't want to think about how many times her
grimy hands had touched her face. Her dirty hair felt
plastered to her head. Strands escaped the braid and
continually fell into her face. Every time she pushed them
back, she cringed, knowing she deposited more dirt.
So far Damon had found them dryer places to spend the night,
but Ravyn hadn't gotten much rest. Whenever she shut her eyes,
all she saw was blood. The nightmares hit her relentlessly,
but at least she hadn't disturbed Damon again. He wasn't the
type of man who would fake sleep, even if he had become cold
Ravyn made a face at his back, but didn't slow her steps. His
remoteness added to her ill-humor. The only thing that had
made this ordeal bearable had beentalking with Damon. Now she
didn't even have that. He spoke only to issue orders.
They took frequent rests today because of the draining
humidity, but she really wanted a nice, hot bath. She focused
on thoughts of a deep tub full of scented bubbles as she
walked. At times she would imagine champagne and strawberries,
but mostly she pictured soap and shampoo. She bit back a sigh
of longing. Never again would she take being clean for
The wind gusted, rousing Ravyn from her fantasies. She watched
Damon duck under a low tree branch draped with thorned vines.
The breeze came again even more strongly and one of the
trailing vines whipped across his arm, just below the sleeve
of his T-shirt. She winced as she watched a jagged barb rip at
his skin. It didn't cause so much as a hitch in his sure
stride. Cautiously, she held the vine up and edged under it.
Even with the mud covering him, she could see several drops of
blood well before they crawled down his biceps. She'd asked
yesterday why he'd tucked his long sleeve shirt in the pack,
but hadn't received an answer.
At last, he glanced down at the cut, but there was no other
reaction, not so much as a curse. Ravyn couldn't see his face,
but she guessed his expression remained stoic. This robot
warrior persona drove her insane.
He was as covered in grime as she was. His camouflage fatigue
pants appeared more brown from dried mud than any other color
as did his once olive T-shirt. Yet the scrapes and dirt made
him appear even more ruggedly handsome while Ravyn knew beyond
doubt she looked pathetic.
It was so unfair.
The self-condemnation rose up then, as it did anytime she felt
sorry for herself. She knew she was lucky to be alive, lucky
to be this miserable. It was just hard to remember that
sometimes. Instead of soothing her surliness, the feelings of
guilt added to it.
They started up a steep incline and Ravyn had to concentrate
on keeping her balance. The mud here was thin and slippery,
with no grass of any kind to hold the ground together. Her
feet slid out from under her and she grabbed a bush to keep
from falling. Cursing softly, she pushed herself upright. The
swearing became more vehement when she realized she'd
sustained several small, stinging cuts on her hands. Damon
never even turned to see how she fared. She scowled at his
back. Evidently, Captain Android couldn't exhibit even token
concern for the troops.
When she reached the top of the ridge, Ravyn paused to catch
her wind. If anything, the descent appeared steeper than it
had been going up. And it looked muddier. There must have been
a landslide recently since there was a path down the middle of
the hill where the otherwise heavy vegetation had been
replaced by a sweep of sludge. Great. Damon hadn't stopped,
but she didn't worry about it. Despite his demeanor, she felt
confident he wouldn't let her get too far behind him.
Taking a deep breath, Ravyn picked her way carefully down the
hill. It was even tougher going than she'd thought. Despite
her caution, she slid in several places before she could catch
herself. Each time more wet earth sloshed onto her pants. She
kept her legs slightly bent, but her knees still took a
The third time she slipped, she couldn't regain her footing.
With a plop, she landed on her butt and her weight and gravity
had her sliding down the hill. The speed kept her on her back
and she tried to use her legs to stop her rapid plunge.
It seemed to take forever before she lurched to a stop. Ravyn
didn't move as she took inventory. She was unhurt, she
decided, but she could feel mud oozing on her backside from
the top of her head to the heels of her feet. It had even
oozed under the protective vest she wore. She could feel it
permeating her clothes, her panties. Something scratched her
neck. She reached up and pulled out a twig. She probably had
more foliage stuck in her hair. Gingerly, she pushed herself
into a sitting position and saw Damon standing just below her.
He didn't inquire if she was okay. If he had, she would have
asked him to help her up. If he had laughed, she would have
laughed with him. She may be humiliated, but she wasn't blind
to how funny she must look. But Damon did neither of those
things. He just stood there, face impassive, and didn't say a
word. It was the last straw. She'd had all she could stand of
the robot warrior act. Ravyn's temper ignited.
Without giving it any thought, she picked up a handful of the
mud that surrounded her and threw it at him. Her aim was true
and she caught him in the center of his chest. His eyes
narrowed, but there was no other reaction.
His lack of response fanned the flames of her anger.
She pelted him with another, bigger, mud ball. She'd knock the
man-of-stone persona out of him no matter what it took!
This time he appeared slightly surprised as the wet earth
plopped to the ground from his chest. He still didn't look too
terribly upset, but when she watched him shrug off the pack,
Ravyn knew she'd succeeded in irking him. Scrambling hastily
to her feet, she unzipped the vest and tossed it aside. He was
bigger, stronger and better trained, but she welcomed the
confrontation she knew was coming. She widened her stance,
balancing her weight the way her brother had taught her.
As he took off his own vest, Ravyn flung another wad of mud at
him. This time she hit his shoulder. When he turned, she knew
from the look in his eyes that she'd managed to really piss
him off. She smiled, baring her teeth in a feral grin.
Damon continually underestimated her, so she wasn't the least
bit surprised when he rushed her. She moved to the side at the
last minute, easily evading his charge. His momentum carried
him past her and Ravyn shifted until she faced him again. Just
for the hell of it, she tossed her last handful of mud.
This time he sidestepped and her missile fell harmlessly to
the ground. Obviously deciding her evasion of his frontal
assault was a fluke, Damon tried again. He must have played
football, she guessed. With his arms outstretched, he looked
like he was trying to tackle her. Once more Ravyn easily
dodged away. She thought it insulting to be so underrated even
though it gave her a very slight advantage. At least
She didn't care that she needed all the help she could get.
After nearly a week in her company, Damon should know she was
more than just some helpless woman.
"Is this how you fought in the Oceanic War?" she jeered, hands
on her hips. "It's amazing you survived. But then maybe you
didn't have to fight anyone hand to hand."
"Ravyn, don't push me," he warned her. There were all kinds of
menace in his voice.
Blithely, she ignored it and crouched quickly to scoop up more
mud. Almost not fast enough. He nearly reached her before she
could straighten and jump out of harm's way. Ravyn barely
suppressed a shriek at her close call.
Warily, she and Damon circled each other. That wasn't easy,
not with the mud slick as grease beneath their feet. Options
flashed through her mind. She tried to guess which moves Damon
was likely to make and figure out her best way to counter each
one. Alex hadn't trained her to just react. He'd taught her to
use her head, telling her it was her greatest asset.
Ravyn wasn't foolish enough to try to take him no matter how
hot her temper. Still, there were ways to win a battle other
than an all out attack. Right now, her best weapons were the
mud in her hands, her agility and her ability to think under
pressure. And she could taunt him until he became so mad, he
forgot his training. That was unlikely, she admitted, but
there was always a chance.
"Geez, Brody, how did you ever get into Spec Ops if you can't
even take down a woman?"
Gleefully, she watched him lunge at her and miss. It cheered
her up considerably to see him land face first in the mud.
Just to add insult to injury, she caught him on the seat of
his pants with two mud balls. She didn't have time to re-arm
before Damon regained his feet.
Uh-oh. She took an instinctive step back before stopping
herself. Even covered in mud, she could see the fireworks in
his eyes. He wasn't going to take it easy on her any longer.
As she watched, a mask came down over his face and she knew
he'd gone into warrior mode. Ravyn didn't waste any more
breath on insults. It was just a matter of time until he
bested her, but that didn't mean she was going down without a
It was almost a dance, as he took the offensive and she
countered his tactics, dodging and ducking. Once he nearly had
her, but she managed to slip away thanks to the slick coat of
mud on her back. Ravyn didn't dare take her eyes off him for a
second, not even to scoop up more mud. Each time she escaped
him, he came back with an even more difficult maneuver. He
lunged less and used more of his strength against her moves.
If she even blinked, she knew it would be over in short order.
"Not so arrogant now, are you sweet pea?" he gibed. The
knowledge of impending victory glowed in his eyes; his smile
was insolent. He didn't seem to have any doubt she was on the
That rekindled her waning anger. Ravyn lifted her chin
imperiously, but didn't respond. She had more to concern
herself with than that. Their little two-step had churned up
the ground, making it muddier and even more slippery. Damon
was handling the slick conditions better than she was.
Experience, she supposed.
And, in the end, that was what defeated her. Damon feinted,
she reacted before he committed himself and she found herself
caught. Desperately, she twisted away from him and lost her
footing, going down face first. She rolled over quickly, but
Damon already stood over her, triumph written all over his
face. She fired off two quick shots of mud before he covered
her, pinning her hands over her head.
Then the man had the nerve to laugh at her.
If he thought he'd won this easily, he'd better think again.
She had more tricks up her sleeve. Ravyn's legs were free and
she used them to flip him over on his back. As she gazed down
on him, her laughter echoed his earlier mocking amusement.
For an instant, he lay there stunned. Unfortunately, that
didn't last long enough for her to savor the situation or
solidify the advantage. Their positions were reversed so fast,
she was almost dizzy and this time he didn't make the mistake
of leaving her legs free.
His heavy body pushed her deeply into the muck, but she still
wasn't ready to concede defeat. Staring defiantly into his
green eyes, she tried to wriggle out from underneath him. As
she struggled against him, she was pleased to see sweat gather
on his brow. At least she was making him work to keep his hold
"Be still," he grated out.
She ignored him.
"Ravyn, stop it."
She began to buck, trying to throw him off of her.
"Damn it," he muttered thickly.
Ravyn froze in surprise as he pressed the lower half of his
body against hers. She looked closer at his eyes and realized
that what she had taken as anger was arousal. The perspiration
beaded on his brow wasn't from exertion, but from trying to
rein in his libido.
Excerpted from Ravyn's Flight
by Patti O'Shea
Copyright © 2002 by Patti O'Shea.
Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.