by Anna Sugden
I'm delighted to welcome back my very dear friend and supremely talented author, Anna Louise Lucia.
You may recall Anna celebrated the release of her debut novel Run Among Thorns with us here in the Lair. As well as enticing us with her special guest, the hero of Run Among Thorns, Kier McAllister, she ran a contest to name the beer in her next book, Dangerous Lies and our very own Christine Wells won - with Sweaty Socks. I can tell you that this beer does indeed appear in Dangerous Lies. And a special tribute is paid to a certain golden feathered rascal too!
You'll have to rush out and buy Dangerous Lies to check it out! In fact, I may offer a fun prize to the first person to email me with the page number this info appears on! (email me at firstname.lastname@example.org )
Anyway, Anna is back with us today to celebrate the release of Dangerous Lies, which is already receiving well-deserved rave reviews - including an 'A' from All About Romance! And she has brought another special guest with her; the delicious hero of Dangerous Lies, Alan Waring.
Welcome Anna and Alan.
Anna: Thank you Anna, we're delighted to be here.
Alan, you've kindly agreed to answer some questions for the Banditas and BB's, so shall we get started?
Alan: By all means.
How are you related to Jenny and Kier McAllister?
Alan: Jenny’s my uncrushable little sister. I love her, so I’ll forgive her the lapse of judgement that made Kier my brother in law. No, I’m kidding. I’ve a lot of respect for the monosyllabic Kier, and I’d trust him in a tight spot. Plus I’m educating him on the true qualities of British real ales – it’s a project!
What do you do, Alan?
Alan: I own and run a landscape gardening company, but I do a fair bit of travelling, too. Mostly the Nordic countries, Sweden, Norway. I owe Jenny another postcard, I think. The last one was from the Sognefjord.
But Dangerous Lies is set in Morocco ... what is a ‘garden’ man doing in Morocco?
Alan: Ah. No, you must be mistaken, I…
Look, Kier vouched for you. He said I could trust the Banditas, although I didn’t know then what he was talking about. So I’ll level with you. I’m an agent of the British Government. A spy, If you like. While I’m in North Africa I travel as a ICT salesman, specialising in emerging markets. I’ve been in Rabat in Morocco for a while this trip, waiting for HQ to give me the nod to come home with… with something I’m carrying.
You know, if it turns out I can’t trust you… No. If Kier says you’re okay, you’re okay.
I promise you can trust us. You know, what's said in the Lair, stays in the Lair.
Alan: All right, then.
So, Alan, who is Marianne and how did you get involved with her?
Alan: Marianne is… an enigma. She’s just a tourist, travelling alone. She tells me it’s her first holiday abroad, and really I’m guessing she’s led a sheltered life. She was caring for her father for years, and then he died, and she decided it was time to live a little. I think she wants … wanted … Me to help her with that.
I was out and about in the backstreets, after a meeting HQ arranged went bust, and I saw her alone in an abandoned house. It was a striking moment, that picture of the dark haired woman with the lonely eyes, unmoving in that tiled courtyard, like the ghost of old Morocco… I should have walked on. But there was some unrest in the city and I knew she’d be at risk. I couldn’t just leave her, so I gave her my escort. It got… interesting.
You seem to have landed in a spot of bother – tell us about it.
Alan: A spot of bother! God, if it were only that. I’ve been criminally, indefensibly stupid and reckless, and Mari’s… she’s missing. We had a fling. She wanted it to end, she said she did. But it threw me, she’s so brave and generous and she’s got under my skin. I was off balance, disorientated. I put her at risk. I never meant to, I swear. Surely… it’s got to have been an accident.
But whoever it is who’s hunting me has got her. I don’t even know if…
No, I’ll find her. Whatever it takes. Bloody hellfire, if I have to crawl halfway across the Sahara desert on my hands and knees, I will find her.
There was grit in her shoes, sand in her eyes and the mob and her blood roaring in her ears. We can’t outrun them, she thought, we can’t—
“In here.” Alan flicked a latch on a narrow gate of planks, paint peeling red and green, and pushed her through it ahead of him. It was little more than a narrow space between two houses. Not even wide enough to earn the name alley, just a gap, with a wavering channel running down the centre, where water would run in the rains.
He crowded in after her, bending close to the gate to close it, one palm braced on the splintering wood, one easing the latch into place silently. The mob passed, a shadow at the gate, a shouting and thundering, shivering a skein of sand from the back ledge of the gate.
The noise outside went away, the noise inside was only their breathing, her feet shuffling on the ground as she tried to edge her way to some personal space, somewhere she could breathe.
She was immediately half-blinded in the shadows and half-stifled in the still, hot air. She braced one hand on the rough-rendered wall opposite. With her back against the other wall, she couldn’t even straighten her arm. She dragged in hot, dusty air, choking on the racing of her own heart, and tried not to panic.
Looking around, she saw that the other end of their hiding place was blocked by piles of something like boxes. Oh, God. “Where—”
Alan whirled on her, plucking her close, wedging her between his chest and the wall, one arm immobilising her, one hand hard across her mouth. Outside there were shouts, a distant cacophony, unreal and distorted.
Everything was unreal. The shafts of light piercing the rickety door were like golden blades.
The dust motes that danced on them were gods and angels, djinns and genies. She was blinded with light and dazzled with darkness in one breath.
In the stuttering dark he was a wall of heat, pressing her back, holding her in place. Adrenaline surged in her, heightening her senses, making her want to shout against his hand, making her want . . .
One of those golden blades sliced across his throat, where the collar of his pale shirt was undone. It gleamed on his damp, tanned skin, and glinted on the bead of sweat that was travelling––now fast, now slow––down the rough stubble underneath his jaw.
Her breathing had steadied, but her heart was still racing. There was no sun, now, on which to blame her light-headedness.
He was golden, gilded, bright.
His palm against her mouth smelled of him, and of spice and heat. She dragged the scent in, her eyes fluttering half-closed. His skin would taste of salt, she knew . . . It would taste salty and hot and intense.
It would taste . . .
She put out her tongue, half-dizzy, half-dreaming, and tasted him.
His body jerked against hers. His eyes were glowing in one of those brilliant beams from the broken door, all white and blue, like a clouded summer sky. They fixed on her, holding her more effectively in place than the hands that gripped her and the body that pinned her.
He ducked his head. The hair at her temple snagged on the roughness of his jaw, and his breath spilled down her neck. “Mari,” he whispered, a word of warning, but his grip on her changed, gentled. His thigh brushed hers, his chest pressed against her breasts. Outside, distantly, a crowd roared, but the sound of her blood drowned out their hate.
Anna: We have a question for all of you in the Lair. Alan and Mari have to weather a sandstorm in the Sahara, hunkering down behind some rocks with only some bits of a tent for shelter. What one comfort item would you take into the desert with you.... the one thing, apart from basic survival kit, you would HAVE to have with you?
One lucky commenter will win a copy of Dangerous Lies and some Moroccan Rose lotions from The Body Shop