Title: The Quest
Author: Pam Binder
Genre: Fantasy Romance, Time Travel
Medieval Highland apprentice witch Ana de Dannon is desperate to free her imprisoned mother and needs a champion. Her evil stepbrother has offered her mother’s freedom in exchange for his defeat at the tournament. Knowing it’s a trap, she still summons a legendary warrior. But instead of Cuchulainn, a famous 21st century quarterback appears.
Kenneth “Mac” MacKinnon is stunned he has traveled to 14th century Scotland but agrees to help Anna free her mother if she will return him to the future. Fighting their mutual attraction, Ana trains Mac for the competition. He is a fast learner, with a kind heart buried under his arrogance, but he has much to learn. Ana fears their chances of escaping with her mother and their lives diminish by the day.
Multicolored banners hung from the turrets of Edinburgh Castle, and trumpets blared, announcing the first day of the tournament. The sound vibrated through Mac as he rode toward the entrance. He felt a mixture of apprehension and exhilaration. In a few hours it would start. Today marked the beginning of what he’d worked for. It was also a reminder that his time with Ana was nearing its end. But he had a job to do: free Rhiannon. Besides, he still had three days with Ana before he would have to leave.
He glanced over his shoulder. She rode a short distance behind him; her expression seemed to mirror his thoughts. Mac gripped the reins tighter and directed Dragon closer to the field.
It looked as though half the inhabitants of Edinburgh were attending the festivities. Women carried bread, cheese, and apples in baskets under their arms, while their children followed close behind like baby chicks. Men from the town placed wagers with one another or argued the general merits of a favored warrior.
He didn’t hear his name mentioned. Mac shook his head. There was a reason. The warriors he would fight were professionals; he was not. These men were as famous in this time as he was in his. He’d started playing football when he was about seven years old. He’d be willing to bet they’d begun using a sword about the same age. No wonder they were so good. He paused. He was doing it again. All this thinking was making him feel worse.
Mac pushed aside his misgivings. He forced a smile and turned toward Ana. “Ready?”
She smiled and called back to him, “For some, this will be the most exciting time in their lives.” The tone of her voice did not match her expression. She sounded as distracted and worried as he felt.
He nodded, faced the walls of Edinburgh Castle, and wondered how long he would survive.
He looked around at the faded and labor-worn clothes of the people, the smudges of dirt and grime on the children’s faces. He also saw the strength and determination in their expressions, and their smiles. They were happy. History books painted a picture of downtrodden people who, it was believed, would only achieve true happiness when they evolved to the pinnacle of the era of space travel. He’d lived in that world. It sped by too fast and burned everything in its path. Some people liked the ride. He realized that he did not.
He heard Ana laugh. A small child of about seven or eight handed her a bunch of wilted blue flowers. A woman held the child up to her as Ana leaned over and kissed the girl on the top of the head. Mac knew he would relive this gentle memory in his mind. He wanted to remember every moment of his time with her. It would make his days brighter when he returned to Seattle.
The crowd pressed against Dragon in eagerness to reach the site of the tournament. Their renewed excitement reminded him of why he was here. Ana needed him to win. He couldn’t do that when his mind was scattered.
Mac nudged his horse forward toward a clearing reserved for the warriors. Men erected tents for the participants, and food vendors set up tables stacked with a variety of fruit and meat pies, squawking chickens, and smoked salmon. He rose in his saddle. A short distance away he saw Colin and Jamie assembling a tent. They had selected a grassy area somewhat apart from the rest of the warriors. He was glad Jamie was feeling well enough to join him. Fergus remained back at Dannon Manor. He was doing better, but still recovering from his wounds.
A spring breeze rustled the flaps of the surrounding tents. The sound seemed to thunder in his ears. He tried to shake his apprehension. He rubbed the back of his neck as he reached his destination. He didn’t want to disappoint Ana. He had to win.
In a few hours he’d be fighting in the tournament. He hadn’t been this nervous since his first high school varsity football game.
Ana positioned her horse beside him. “What is wrong?”
He dismounted and then helped her down from her horse. “I’m not ready.” The words blurted out before he could stop them. Self-doubt had never been part of his makeup. Of course, there was more riding on the outcome of this contest than money, or whether you scored a touchdown.
Ana reached for his hand. Her warm touch grounded him and made the world stop spinning.
Her voice was steady. “You are ready. Colin and I have spent the last few months preparing you for this moment.” She paused. “But I wish our time together would not end.”
“I feel the same.” Mac kept her close beside him and pointed in the direction of the warriors’ tents. “The men I’m about to fight have spent their lives in training. I’ve had only a few months.” He paused. “You might still have time to find someone more experienced.”
Ana reached up and kissed him on the cheek. “Even if the great Cuchulainn were to appear and declare himself my champion, I would reject him and choose you. The fault is mine that you are here and that your choices are so few. But my belief in you does not waver.”
He felt ten feet tall. Ana believed in him. She was giving him a pep talk, and he was feeling sorry for himself. So what if the odds were stacked against him. It only made the win more satisfying.
“Ana, I’m not sorry I’m here. It might be the best thing that’s ever happened to me. I’m only sorry there is so little time left.” He cupped the side of her face with his hand. He had no idea how she could remain so positive, but he loved her for it. “I won’t disappoint you.” Ana’s chin trembled. “You never have.”
Mac stared into her eyes and saw his own sadness reflected in them. If he won, he would return to his own time. He remembered Rhiannon’s question about whether or not he wanted to stay. He would miss the friends he had in Seattle. But if he had a choice, he knew in his heart it would be to stay with Ana.
What’s the first binge-worthy book you read and why was it a must-read?
Night Witch by Laurie Forest. A librarian friend gave me a copy and I couldn't put it down.
What makes your featured book a binge-worthy read?
A NFL quarterback, untrained in the art of medieval warfare, is summoned by a witch and thrust back in time to rescue her mother.
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Pam Binder is an award-winning Amazon, New York Times and USA Today Bestselling author who loves Irish and Scottish myths and legends. She loves to travel, and besides visiting the majority of the United States, she has also visited, Hong Kong, Mexico, Canada, Ireland, Scotland, England, Spain, Portugal, Italy, France, Canary Islands, and Germany. The excuse to travel for research is made easier when one of her sons lives in France and the other in Germany. Pam is also the president of the Pacific Northwest Writers Association, a conference speaker and teaches two year-long novel writing courses, after the First Draft and Write Your Story. Pam writes historical fiction, contemporary fiction, time travel, young adult and fantasy.
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