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17 October 2011

Tournament of Champions - Week Two, Clash #3

** Your host this week: Delia Latham

Here we are at week two of the Tournament of Champions - already! Week one was a lot of fun, wasn't it? I'm totally blown away by the amazing talent we see on a regular basis here at COTT, and the Tournament excerpts have been absolutely phenomenal! Readers, you have some tough choices to make...

And here we go.

Today's game is sponsored by Gail Pallotta, with a $10 gift certificate to Barnes & Noble. Thank you, Gail!

Author Anne Patrick is rockin' the game today. After you read the two clashing excerpts (below) and place your vote, head on over to her blog, Anne Patrick: Stories of Romance, Mayhem & Faith. Here's what you're looking for: From the book blurb of Anne Patrick's Ties That Bind, what psychic ability does FBI profiler Jo McDaniels have? Come back here with your answer, enter it in the moderated comments section below and voila! You'll be entered to win a $10 Barnes & Noble gift card from Gail. Don't forget to leave your contact information along with your answer.

All right! The games are on...and so are our clashing authors. Let's get right to them.

Excerpt A

     A rumbling sound alerted her. Peering through the branches, she realized it was the Wells Fargo stagecoach, two days late as usual.
     Sighing, she wiggled into a more comfortable position and restlessly swung her bare legs. No wild stallion would make an appearance as long as the stage was in the area, but she had no choice but to sit and wait.
     The rumbling of the stage grew louder, as did the impatient shouts of the driver urging his team of six horses up the slight incline. To while away the boredom, she decided to take a photograph of the stage as it passed below.
     She adjusted the camera so that it pointed to the road and peered into the viewfinder. The image, though dim, was clear on the frosted glass. No black cloth was needed. She moved the lever to adjust the shutter speed to high.
     Fingering the leather bulb in hand, she waited. Attached to a rubber tube, the bulb allowed her to take photographs without jarring the camera. Steady, steady—
     Startled by voices, she pulled away from the camera and blinked. The stagecoach had stopped directly below her and the driver disembarked, hands over his head.
     It was then that she noticed the three horsemen she had seen earlier, their faces now hidden beneath bright colored kerchiefs. She had been so focused on the stage she failed to notice their presence until now. The sun glinted against the barrel of a gun and she gasped. Covering her mouth with her hand, she watched the drama unfold below.
     The stagecoach was being robbed. Shock soon turned to delight. She couldn’t believe her good fortune. A wonderful photographic opportunity had practically fallen into her lap—or more accurately, at her feet. Just wait until Jacoby Barnes hears about this!
The gunman came into view below her, yelling, “Get the box!” He was no doubt referring to the green wooden Wells Fargo money box strapped next to the driver’s seat.
     Praying the bandits would not notice her high-button shoes strewn at the base of the tree, she peered through her viewfinder.
     The lens was focused on the driver, but if she moved it to the right, just so . . . heart pounding with excitement, she leaned forward and readjusted the camera, tightening the rope that held it.
     A twig snapped and one of the robbers looked up. She quickly pulled back and lost her balance. Arms and legs flailing, she fell through the air letting loose an ear-piercing scream. She landed on the stagecoach roof with a thud, sprawled face down.
     The startled horses whinnied and the stage took off, taking her with it and leaving the startled gunmen, passengers, and driver in the dust.

Excerpt B

Mandy rose and turned.
     Fear struck with a scorpion-like sting.
A band of eight to ten Indians was racing toward her, their horses’ unshod hooves pounding the earth.
Her hand flew to her belt and withdrew the revolver. Racing thoughts collided within her. Stand and fight, or flee? There were more attackers than there were bullets. But was there time to make a run for the station?
Fight? Or flee?
She raised the revolver and took aim.
The boy bolted forward, shedding the cloak and dashing past her toward the fast-approaching braves. She reached for him but missed, darted after him, finally snatched him up and raced back to the bay.
He spooked and reared.
Panic-stricken, she reseated the gun in her belt and grabbed repeatedly at the reins before taking a firm hold. She tossed the child onto the saddle, climbed up behind him, dug her heels into the beefy horse and ran him hard.
The shrieking warriors spread out, surrounding her and steering her away from the station. Their swift Indian ponies soon encompassed her and tightened their circle.
The boy cried out and reached toward a brave who was overtaking them. The gesture nearly sent the child tumbling. As Mandy restrained him she inadvertently pulled on the reins. The horse slowed; the warriors hedged about her. Her heart pounded. Her throat tightened.
One brave rode next to her, snatched the rein and pulled her horse to a stop. He reached out to the child, who grabbed the burly arm. Mandy reached after him but the brave knocked her arm away.
Another menacing, muscular brave drew alongside her as she gripped the handle of the revolver. He grabbed her wrist and snatched the gun from her hand. His threatening black eyes paralyzed her. He motioned to the brave who held the boy, and they immediately galloped away heading south. Mandy’s little charge never once looked back.
The remaining braves shouted and shook fists in her face. Her breath came fast and deep.
The one who had taken her gun leapt from his horse, seized her around the waist and pulled her to the ground. His stormy eyes remained riveted on hers, intensifying her terror. Verbal assaults penetrated her ears. His powerful hand bit into her arm as he pulled her to his horse.
“No! Let go of me!”
He spun her around and raised his hand. She cowered, awaiting the blow.
It did not come.
She lifted her eyes and glimpsed her assailant. His dark eyes were glacially cold, his hand still upraised.
One of the braves spoke, pointing to the west from where a dozen more Indians rode.
The enraged one cocked his head toward his horse.
Surrendering to a crushing sense of hopelessness, Mandy condescended.
The warrior lifted her onto the back of his paint and mounted behind her. His brawny arms enclosed her, sending frost through her veins.
Taking hold of the rope bridle, he urged his horse south with a pounding of his heels.

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Item Reviewed: Tournament of Champions - Week Two, Clash #3 Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Anonymous