Burn Me Deadly: An Eddie LaCrosse Novel

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9780765362049: Burn Me Deadly: An Eddie LaCrosse Novel
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Above Angelina's Tavern in down-and-dirty Neceda you'll find the office of Eddie LaCrosse, a freelance sword jockey who, for twenty-five gold pieces a day, will take on any task short of murder for hire. Eddie's on his way back from a routine investigation when his horse almost runs down a half-naked blonde in serious trouble. Against his better judgment, he promises to protect the frightened young woman, only to find himself waylaid by unknown assailants and left for dead beside her mutilated body.

Eddie isn't the kind of guy to just let something like this pass. But who killed Laura Lesperitt? Eddie's quest for payback leads him to a tangled mystery involving a notorious crime lord, a backwoods dragon cult, royal scandals, and a duplicitous femme fatale who has trouble keeping her clothes on. As bodies pile up, attracting the unwelcome attention of the king's guards, Eddie must use all his wits if he hopes to survive....

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About the Author:

Alex Bledsoe grew up in West Tennessee, but now lives in Wisconsin. He is the author of the Eddie LaCrosse novels (including The Sword-Edged Blonde, Burn Me Deadly, and Dark Jenny) and also of The Hum and the Shiver.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Chapter One

The blonde dashed out of the darkness into the moonlight, right in front of me.

My horse, Lola, tried to bolt in surprise. I yanked on the reins and drew her up short. She reared and nearly threw me, but I held on and turned her away so she wouldn’t trample the woman. We spun for a moment like a trick rider in a show, kicking up dust on the dry, deserted road. Then she found her footing; I pulled the reins tight and managed to regain control.

The cloud raised by our near accident momentarily obscured the woman. As it dissipated, I got a good look at her. She was young, with leaves and twigs tangled in her hair. She wore only an oversize man’s jacket that hung past her hands and thighs. Scratches laced her slender legs and dirty, bloody feet. She stood with her eyes closed, face screwed up and arms covering her head as she anticipated the impact.

My voice was higher than normal when I demanded, “What the hell, lady? You could’ve killed us both!”

She opened her eyes and stared at my horse for a long, silent moment. Unscrunched, her moonlit features were very attrac­tive. “Wow,” she said softly, “that was close.”

“No kidding,” I snapped, still battling Lola’s skittishness. The mare tossed her head and snorted, not convinced that all the danger had passed. If only I’d been as smart.

The woman’s dirty face showed marks of recent tears. She grabbed Lola’s bridle and said, “Please, sir, I have to get away from here.” She looked over her shoulder toward the dark woods from which she’d emerged. “I’m in terrible danger.”

“Uh-huh,” I said dubiously. I followed her gaze and saw nothing, but unsnapped the catch on my scabbard just in case. Muscodia was still a pretty uncivilized country, and this road ran for miles through the dense, sparsely inhabited woods be­tween Neceda and Tallega. At this time of night a lot of nefarious things could happen with no one the wiser, and I was too old and too experienced to fall for the  frightened-damsel-as-bait bit. “How about you tell me what you’re doing out  here undressed like that?”

She met my skepticism with a well-practiced imitation of a hurt kitten: she dropped her chin, raised her eyes and pulled her mouth into a tiny pout. I think her lower lip even trembled. “I’m in danger, sir. Please, I’ll explain everything later, but right now, I must get away from  here.” She turned her head and moonlight fell on the marks of big fingers around her neck. “Please. Look at me.”

“Your husband get mad at you?”

“I don’t have a husband. The men who did this did other things as well, but those things . . . don’t show.”

I scowled. I’d made an overnight run to a big manor house outside Tallega, delivering a sealed parchment and a bag of gold to some woman on behalf of a compromised nobleman. She’d taken the money, laughed at the note and slammed the door in my face. Her footmen made it abundantly clear I shouldn’t wait for a reply. Now it was after midnight, and what I most wanted was to be home with Liz, in our nice soft bed with her nice soft body pressed against me. Also, every instinct screamed that this damsel was trouble the same way a hurricane was rain.

Still, I couldn’t just leave her half-naked on a deserted road in the middle of the night. “All right, climb on,” I said wearily. “I can take you into Neceda.” Lola snorted with disapproval as I scooted back to make room for the girl on the saddle in front of me. She felt skinny and weak as she settled back, both her legs dangling off the left side, and clutched the saddle horn. I nudged the horse with my heels and we trotted off down the road.

The night was clear, and we stood out plainly on the road whenever the moon shone through the trees. I suppressed the urge to keep glancing behind us, or to spur Lola to a gallop. More than likely whoever had injured the girl was passed out drunk somewhere; if not, then I doubted they’d push for a confrontation. The kind of men who beat up women seldom had the stomach for a fair fight.

I said into my new companion’s ear, “Okay, so what’s going on? Who are you?”

“My name is Laura,” she replied. “Laura Lesperitt. And you?”

“Eddie LaCrosse.”

“Ah.” She turned and looked back over her shoulder at me. The helpless maiden look had been replaced by something far more calculating. “From one of the minor noble families in Arentia, then. If it’s the same LaCrosses.”

She was right, but I saw no need to discuss it; I’d burned those drawbridges years ago. “You know a lot.”

She nodded modestly. “A little about a lot.”

When she offered no further information, I prompted, “And someone strangled you because . . . ?”

“Because I wouldn’t tell them what they wanted to know.”

“And what’s that?”

Again she turned and looked up at me. The moon cast dark shadows that hid her eyes. Her smile was weak and sad. “Oh, Mr. LaCrosse, you think you can help me, don’t you? You think you can ride up and save me, like a knight in a children’s story. But these are bad, bad people. And if I tell you what they wanted to know, they might do the same thing to you to find it out.”

“They might try,” I said.

My confidence made no impression. She turned away, looked out at the passing trees and pushed the jacket sleeves up past her elbows. A livid, fresh injury that looked like the touch of a heated iron marred the insides of both arms down to her palms. The pain must’ve been awful. Her wrists were also rubbed raw and bloody from struggling against ropes or manacles. “They carried me to a small house in the woods three days ago. They took my clothes and kept me in chains. But I had to get away before they made me tell, so I picked the lock when they weren’t around and fled. I stole this”—she indicated the  jacket—“from a farm house where everyone was sleeping.”

“Why didn’t you ask the farmer for help?”

Again the sad, wan smile. “They had children. I didn’t want their blood on my head if I was caught again.”

“But you don’t mind mine.”

She shrugged. “I’d prefer not. But I could live with it better.”

“And so you’re not going to tell me what this is about?”

She shook her head.

I took a deep breath, feeling like an idiot in advance for what I was about to say. “Look, I’m not some farmer. I’m a freelance sword jockey with an awful lot of hilt time behind me; maybe I can help.”

Again her eyes rose to meet mine with slow, dramatic amuse­ment. “A ‘freelance sword jockey,’ ” she repeated. “So what does that entail? Saving damsels in distress for a fee?”

“Ideally, yeah. But since I’m my own boss, sometimes it’s just because I feel like it.”

“And you feel like saving me,” she said. It  wasn’t a question.

“I don’t know about ‘saving’ you, but I am offering to keep people from beating on you any more tonight. What you tell me after that is up to you.”

Something changed in her face, and for a moment she looked ancient, with despair deeper than any I’d ever seen. And I’d seen a lot of despair. “The only way you can help me tonight,” she said with slow, deliberate words, “is to get me to Neceda alive. Nothing else will truly help me.”

We rode in silence for a bit.The trees began to thin out, and just ahead awaited the edge of the forest. Past it the road de­scended and snaked across miles of open prairie, as vivid in the moonlight as it might be on an overcast day. Scattered across the plain were small camps of travelers, a few with fires still lit.

In the far distance glowed the lamps of Neceda, and just beyond that sparkled the Gusay River. The waxing, nearly full moon lit the vista in shades of blue and white.

When she saw the distant town she sat up straight and tightly grasped my arm. “We may make it,” she said softly.

“We’ll make it,” I said with certainty.

I was tense and alert and experienced in just about every sort of attack. So when the blow struck the back of my head, damn near hard enough to knock my beard from my face, I was so sur­prised it took me a moment to realize I was falling from my sad­dle onto the road. I’d heard no one approach, either on foot or horseback. These guys were good.

I landed awkwardly, too stunned to react but not completely unconscious. Sparks danced around the edges of my vision. My body pinned my sword to the ground; the hilt dug painfully into my side. I reached for it, but my limbs would not respond with any speed.

The dust from our pursuers drifted over me. Above the roar of blood and pain in my head, I heard Laura scream.We were too far for any of those camped on the prairie to come to our aid, even if they  were so inclined.

A horse stopped beside me, and someone dismounted almost in my face. Expensive black boots, decorated with a silver dragon design that sparkled in the moonlight, hit the ground. Above them a stern, annoyed voice said, “Shut her the hell up.You can make her scream all you want back at the house, at least until she tells us where it is.” Laura’s screams were suddenly muffled, as if by a gag or a big hand.

...

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Book Description Tor Books, United States, 2012. Paperback. Condition: New. Reprint. Language: English . Brand New Book. Above Angelina s Tavern in down-and-dirty Neceda, you ll find the office of Eddie LaCrosse, a freelance sword jockey who, for twenty-five gold pieces a day, will take on any task short of murder for hire. Eddie s on his way back from a routine investigation when his horse almost runs down a half-naked blonde in serious trouble. Against his better judgment, he promises to protect the frightened young woman, only to find himself waylaid by unknown assailants and left for dead beside her mutilated body. Eddie isn t the kind of guy to just let something like this pass. But who killed Laura Lesperitt? Eddie s quest for payback leads him to a tangled mystery involving a notorious crime lord, a backwoods dragon cult, royal scandals, and a duplicitous femme fatale who has trouble keeping her clothes on. As bodies pile up, attracting the unwelcome attention of the king s guards, Eddie must use all his wits if he hopes to survive. Seller Inventory # AAS9780765362049

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Book Description Tor Books, United States, 2012. Paperback. Condition: New. Reprint. Language: English . Brand New Book. Above Angelina s Tavern in down-and-dirty Neceda, you ll find the office of Eddie LaCrosse, a freelance sword jockey who, for twenty-five gold pieces a day, will take on any task short of murder for hire. Eddie s on his way back from a routine investigation when his horse almost runs down a half-naked blonde in serious trouble. Against his better judgment, he promises to protect the frightened young woman, only to find himself waylaid by unknown assailants and left for dead beside her mutilated body. Eddie isn t the kind of guy to just let something like this pass. But who killed Laura Lesperitt? Eddie s quest for payback leads him to a tangled mystery involving a notorious crime lord, a backwoods dragon cult, royal scandals, and a duplicitous femme fatale who has trouble keeping her clothes on. As bodies pile up, attracting the unwelcome attention of the king s guards, Eddie must use all his wits if he hopes to survive. Seller Inventory # AAS9780765362049

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