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GINA ARDITO
Katherine's Alter Ego
Excerpt from Kismet's Revenge
Available Now from The Wild Rose Press
or buy your copy at Amazon.com or Barnes & Noble.com
"I find it hard to imagine," Marisa interjected, eyes wide with doe innocence, "that any villainy exists in Pensacola."

Pablo patted her hand in a comforting manner. "Of course you do,
querida. You are far too delicate a
flower to know the treachery of dishonest men."

"Yet, I'm sure the
señorita is well versed in the perfidy of women," Lucien remarked.

The barb struck. Her eyes flinched, although she gave no other reaction to the obvious insult. Sly vixen, but for Lucien, her lack of outrage told the true tale. An innocent lady would have gasped or cried foul at such aspersions to her character. In this case, however, Pablo leaped to Marisa's defense by pounding his tankard on the tabletop. Droplets of ale splashed like rain on Ethan's surprised face.

"Defile the lady's character again," Pablo growled, "and you'll explain your sins to St. Peter this very evening."

The room grew deathly quiet, and dozens of suspicious glares focused on Lucien.

Ethan wiped his wet face with the back of his sleeve. "Lucien," he hissed. "Have you gone mad?
Apologize at once."

Lucien made no move whatsoever.

A contingent of soldiers, hands poised on their sword hilts, converged behind Pablo to create a wall of sullen faces. The air thickened with silent animosity. Still, Lucien remained silent and waited.

"Gentlemen!" Marisa's shout broke the hypnotic spell of violence brewing in the tavern. Despite her
tiny stature, she commanded attention from every man in the room. "I won't have brawls in my inn, and well you know it. Many of you are far too deep in your cups to realize what you're saying right now. Therefore, I'm closing up for the night. All of you, get out!"

To help punctuate her statement, Santos stepped from behind the bar, arms folded over his massive chest. He stopped before Marisa, and once again, Lucien was struck by the contrast of light and dark, mountainous and petite. Both, however, wore expressions which would brook no argument. With a few low grumbles, the men straightened and made their way to the door.

When only Marisa, Santos, Pablo, Ethan and Lucien remained, the lovely but angry innkeeper nodded her satisfaction. Around her, chairs were overturned, tankards littered tabletops, and a growing stench of stale ale and vomit lingered in the air.

"Santos," she said on a sigh, "see the rest of our guests out while Anita and I take care of the mess in here."

The giant nodded and clamped a heavy paw on Lucien's shoulder. "You leave now."

Pablo staggered to his feet with a wobbly grin. "We're leaving, Santos." His uneven gaze traveled
between Ethan and Lucien. "Aren't we, gentlemen?"

With one last glance at Marisa who gathered tankards onto a round tray, Lucien led the men into the hall.

They milled there for a moment until Pablo poked a bony elbow into Lucien's ribs. "Well,
señor, you now owe Marisa more than an apology."

"Oh?" Lucien's brow arched in the man's direction. "I don't believe I owe Marisa anything."

In the darkened hall, Pablo's grin gleamed white. "I beg to differ. After all, she just saved your life."