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A taut, energetic and romantic tale. The attraction between the two men unfolds beautifully and dramatically.

Publisher's Weekly
Dashing soldier of fortune Major Valentine Strange, late of the Emperor of Alba’s 21st Regiment of Benhali Lancers, is hired by Brahman Ehimay Warrick to find a legendary diadem reputedly hidden in a lost monastery somewhere deep in the distant, snowy mountains of Hidush.
To ensure Strange’s success the  Holy Orders designate Master Aleister Grimshaw, a powerful young witch with his own history of instability — political and other — to accompany the dashing major.
But long before Strange and the unwilling Grimshaw reach the tea bushes of the foothills and the lost city of Nagara, they realize there are forces both natural and unnatural at work to stop them from ever achieving their objective. Their only chance for success relies on each other and their tentative friendship — as does their only hope for survival.

The lamplighters were busy with lantern and ladder when Major Strange climbed out of the rickshaw in front of the Golden Ram. A hot gust of wind sent the streetlights guttering and flaring, casting shapeshifting shadows across the pavement as Strange went into the gambling house.

Inside, a nubile young woman in a black cheongsam took his hat and lightweight coat and smiled a demure welcome. And well she might. Strange had lost a packet between these four walls.

“Is he in?”

“To you, always, Major.”

He went swiftly up the staircase ignoring the gaming rooms with their faro and mahjong tables. Beneath the scent of tobacco and incense was a hint of white spice, although its use was illegal within the city limits.

Upstairs a very young girl was coaxing a very drunk grenadier into one of the reserved bedchambers. The grenadier giggled even more loudly than the whore, but perhaps that was not so odd.

A short, stalwart bald man stood outside Lamb’s office. When he spotted Strange, he straightened abruptly, loosening his shoulders.

Strange laughed. “He’ll want to see me. I’ve brought his money.”

“Lucky for you,” growled the bodyguard, and Strange laughed again.

The man thumped on the door behind him and a raspy voice called, “Come!”

Strange opened the door and stepped into a room furnished in a style which would do any whoremaster and gamer proud. Everything that could have been gilded, encrusted with semiprecious stones or upholstered with exotic animal skins had been. Military weapons and sporting prints hung on the wall, though Lamb had never served and did not play games.

There was an old legend that at the dawn of time, outcastes had interbred with man-sized lizards. What might have happened to these lizards was anyone’s guess, but Lamb seemed living proof there was no boundary to the bad taste and foolishness of some females.

“Major Strange. I wondered when you might deign to pay my humble abode a visit.”

Strange dropped his money belt on the desk.

“Rah!” Brightening, Lamb reached for the belt, unzipping it and emptying its contents. He looked up, pencil-thin brows drawing together. “But where is the rest of it?” His yellow gaze fixed suspiciously on Strange’s face. “A hundred thousand rupees is hardly more than half of what you owe, Major Strange.”

“I have other debts and other debtors,” Strange replied.

Lamb swallowed his smile. “Lady Isabella Hyde.” He had a way of hissing his S’s that was most unappealing.

“That’s right.” Strange wasn’t pleased at Lamb’s knowledge of his private affairs, but he wasn’t surprised either. Such news had a way of spreading.

“That’s wrong,” Lamb snarled, and Strange narrowed his eyes. “What do I care of your debts to someone else? I only care what you owe me, and this is a debt of honor long outstanding.”

The debt was, in fact, two weeks old. It was unquestionably an embarrassment. The fact that Strange was convinced the dealing boxes at Lamb’s faro tables were rigged was beside the point. He had suspected so before he ever sat down in one of Sittappan Lamb’s gaming rooms. Suspicion hadn’t kept him from wagering heavily, though. He was, after all, a gambler.

“I’ll get you your money. Keep your shirt on.”

“How? How will you get me my money? You gave my money to Lady Hyde. You could have cleared the debt to me, but you chose to pay your light o’ love first.”

That was true. Partly because Strange owed Isabella less and could completely clear the debt to her with something left over to share out amongst his other creditors. Partly because he had plans for Isabella which necessitated him appearing to be a better matrimonial prospect than he currently was.

In the meantime…his fist shot out and bunched in Lamb’s silk shirtfront, dragging the other man halfway across his marble-top desk.

“Mind your tongue when you’re speaking of a lady in my presence, Lamb. That lady in particular.”

Lamb’s long red tongue licked nervously at his pale mouth. “My apologies, Major. No disrespect to the lady was intended.”

Strange let him go, and Lamb fell back into his chair. His hand went to his collar and adjusted it. He uttered hoarsely, “Very well. How will you get me the rest of the money you owe?”

“Leave me to worry about how. As for when…three days.”

Another gamble but if push came to shove, Strange could shove harder than most.

“But it is my worry too, Major. I cannot be perceived to allow debts to go unpaid.” Lamb tapped a long fingernail against his tooth and said finally, guilelessly, “However…were you to sign over your polo ponies as a marker I could extend your credit.”

Yellow eyes met blue.

Lamb said creamily, “I should hate to be forced to make an example of such an excellent customer.”

“You could always try.”

Lamb scowled. Then his face cleared. Strange liked that expression less than the first. “Perhaps, as you’ve proven yourself a good investment, you might convince Lady Hyde to advance you back the necessary sum?”

Strange eyed the gamester levelly. Tempting though it was to shove his pointy teeth down his throat, it wasn’t even a temporary solution. True, in less than a week he would be out of the city and unreachable, but eventually he would have to return and he preferred that it not be to Dun territory.

And…Isabella was rather fond of him. And very wealthy.

He didn’t like the idea. Only a cad borrowed the ready from a woman, but…she’d insisted the last time. After all, he was headed out on a dangerous mission traveling into the wilds of the Benhali Mountains. She might never see him again. Women tended to be sentimental about that sort of thing—and Strange would prefer not to spend the upcoming week of preparation watching over his shoulder for Lamb’s thugs.

Perhaps it wouldn’t hurt to drop a few hints her way.

Lamb was watching him closely, a bit warily. He blinked as Strange’s mouth slowly widened into a smile.