The Authors of First Knights ♥ Laurel O’Donnell

 First Knights: A Medieval Collection of First Novels available for a limited time at Amazon, B&N, and KOBO

cover first knights FINAL USE THIS

The lovely Laurel O’Donnell is visiting today. Her contribution to the First Knights: A Medieval Collection of First Novels is The Angel and the Prince which was her very first novel. She has many more novels to her name today and collections she’s worked on. This fall she released My Noble Knight. Enjoy the exciting excerpt below.

Layne Fletcher, the only girl in a family of three boys, has grown up learning to use a sword and joust, but she is not a knight. She and her brothers have been traveling from tourney to tourney to make enough coin to buy their own farm to shelter their ailing father. When her brother is found unconscious before an important tournament, Layne takes his place on the jousting field against…

Griffin Wolfe, the undefeated jousting champion. When he is unhorsed by a slip of a woman who is not a knight, he demands retribution. His honor will not allow him to let a woman be thrown in the dungeon anduntitled (4) he has no choice but to pay her fine, ordering her to travel with him until her brothers can repay him. Griffin attempts to educate Layne in the art of being a woman, but finds he is attracted to her exciting personality and uncommon beauty despite her less than lady like ways.

But someone is trying to sabotage Griffin as he competes in the tournaments. Can Layne and Griffin discover who the culprit is while keeping their families safe and their growing attraction secret?

Excerpt:

Griffin stared down the field of honor at his opponent. Daunger sat as still as a stone, staring at him. He had not been in any other tournament, so this was the first time Griffin or any of the other knights were seeing him joust. He was well known for his participation in the melees, known for being rash and reckless and unpredictable. Despite his inexperience in the joust, Griffin suspected he was going to be a dangerous opponent.

Griffin lowered his visor. He had to stay focused, watch for an opening. But as soon as the visor closed and the cheers of the crowd muted, the image of a woman with glorious blue eyes filled his mind. Why had she been near his weapons? Was she really worrying about him?

He grit his teeth. He couldn’t think of her now. Firmly, he pushed Layne’s image from his mind. But it wasn’t as easy as he would have liked it to be. Her vision haunted his days as much as his nights. Everywhere he went, he looked for her, listened for her laughter. He missed her.

Adonis pranced nervously beneath him.

Griffin tugged on the reins, urging Adonis into a circle to calm him.

Carlton lifted his lance to him.

Griffin took it and spurred Adonis. Through the slit in his visor, he saw Daunger charging toward him down the field. He couched the lance, holding it firmly.

Adonis suddenly slowed and threw his head, balking.

Daunger’s lance struck Griffin hard in the shoulder. His body half turned in the saddle, and if he was any less experienced Griffin would have been unhorsed. His arm was numb and throbbing as he rode to the other end of the field. He tossed down his lance and turned Adonis toward his side of the field. He passed Daunger who had flipped up his visor and was grinning ear to ear.

Griffin did not look at the grandstand where he knew his family watched. He already felt the incredible weight of their presence.

His arm pulsated from the blow, but he pushed the pain aside. He pushed all other thoughts aside. Dispatch Daunger. That was all that was important. Winning this joust.

Griffin grabbed the lance from Carlton and whirled Adonis, spurring him on. No hesitancy. Just letting the horse and the lance become one with him. The roar of the crowd thrummed in his ears, a distance boom of thunder. His heart hammered in his chest.

Daunger came closer. Closer. His lance aimed at Griffin’s chest.

Griffin leaned in slightly. He would not be denied. Not this time. He was rewarded by striking Daunger near his stomach, Daunger’s lance struck his arm, succeeding in aiding the thrust forward. Griffin’s body twisted slightly, enough force behind the strike to throw Daunger up and out of his saddle.

Griffin’s lance pushed him back as Daunger’s steed continued on. Daunger fell back into the dirt and dust as Griffin rode past him.

Griffin rounded the opposite end. When he saw Daunger lying on the ground, he straightened. The roar of the crowd was thunderous, drowning out all else. He lifted his visor and waited until Daunger staggered to his feet.

As he rode forward, his body in rhythm with Adonis, he realized something was wrong with his arm. If he lifted it even a little bit, shooting pain erupted through his limb. He held it against his stomach and left the field of honor.

Available now at Amazon

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The Authors of First Knights ♥ Anna Markland

FIRST KNIGHTS: A MEDIEVAL COLLECTION OF FIRST NOVELS AVAILABLE FOR A LIMITED TIME AT AMAZON, B&N, AND KOBOcover first knights FINAL USE THIS

Today I have Anna Markland visiting with me. She has an impressive list of books and First Knights is just one of many collections she’s a part of. I’m pretty sure I have them all.

Welcome, Anna. Please tell us about yourself. 

I was born and educated in England, but I’ve lived most of my life in Canada. I was an elementary school teacher for 25 years. It was a rewarding career, financially, spiritually and emotionally.

After that I worked with my husband in the management of his businesses. He’s a born entrepreneur who likes to boast he’s never had a job!

My final “career” was as Director of Administration of a global disaster relief organization.

Not content to fade away gracefully, I embarked upon writing a romance, essentially for my own satisfaction. I chose the medieval period mainly because that genre of historical romance is one I enjoy reading.

I am flabbergasted! What an amazing list of accomplishments and after all that you “embarked” on a writing career? And you have time for other interests?

I have a keen interest in genealogy. This hobby has had a tremendous influence on my stories. My medieval romances are about family honor, ancestry, and roots. As an amateur genealogist, I cherished a dream of tracing my own English roots back to the Norman Conquest—an impossibility since I am not descended from nobility! So I created a family and my stories follow its members through successive generations.

That would be such interesting genealogy if you were descended from nobility. 

One of the things I enjoy most about writing historical romance is the in-depth research necessary to provide readers with an authentic medieval experience. I based the plot of my first novel, Conquering Passion, on an incident that actually happened to a Norman noblewoman.

Tell us about your writing career.

I’ve been publishing my stories since 2011. I am pretty well steeped in the medieval time period, though I have published two contemporary romantic suspense novels under another pen name.  I’m currently working on my 20th medieval romance. I hope to have The Rover Betrayed available at the beginning of February. It’s the third book in the Viking Roots Medieval Romance Saga, and follows The Rover Bold and The Rover Defiant.

What do you like the best about being a writer? SAMSUNG

The thing I like the very best about being an author is hearing from readers that they’ve thoroughly enjoyed my stories.  That is very gratifying. Winning awards is something I enjoy too, as you see in the picture! Hard to recognize me with short hair!

Are there any similarities between you and your characters or any of the situations you’ve written about?

I think there are probably some aspects of my personality in my heroines—optimism, impatience. However, I tend to be more attracted to my heroes!

Me, too! How much time do you spend with your writing?

Writing is a full-time occupation for me, but some days I don’t write at all, and other days I write for hours. As I mentioned, my interest in genealogy blossomed into the creation of juicy medieval romances about family honor, roots and ancestry. My novels are intimate stories filled with passion, intrigue, adventure and suspense.

And what about the book you contributed to the First Knights Collection?

The book I contributed to the First Knights collection is Hearts and Crowns. It’s the first book of The Anarchy Series.

Gallien de Montbryce has sworn never to wed again after a catastrophic marriage to a shrew who betrayed him with another man. You know the old saying, Once bitten…twice shy.

Peridotte de Pontrouge has long dreamed of marrying Geoffrey Plantagenet, but her hopes are dashed when he is betrothed to the daughter of King Henry of England. Political intrigue forces Gallien and Peri to marry against their will.

AMarklandHeartsCrowns_CVR_MEDExcerpt: Ellesmere Castle, Salop, England, 1125 AD

“Surely you did not think me a virgin?”

Struck dumb, Gallien stared in uncomprehending disbelief at the rumpled but unsoiled linens of his marriage bed, shivering as gooseflesh marched over his naked body. His heartbeat thundered in his ears.

He had made his way in the dark to the ewer, intending to lovingly cleanse his new bride after their joining. The light of the candle, lit with a spill from the dying embers of the fire, illuminated the truth of Felicité’s mockery on the pristine sheets. His gut clenched.

It came to him that in the throes of passion he had not felt the resistance men boasted of breaching, but he had never bedded a virgin and truly did not know what to expect.

His mind whirled. Was he trapped in a hideous nightmare? His eyes wandered to his sneering wife’s pouting breasts. She made no effort to cover her body, still sheened with his sweat. She twirled a finger in her hair, lying seductively on her side, head propped on one hand.

Since their betrothal he had itched to put his mouth to those dark nipples. The silky hair at her mons was exactly the color and texture he had dreamed it would be. But she had constantly rebuffed his advances as if he were a naughty child. “You must wait until our wedding night, milord Montbryce.”

An insidious dread wormed its way into his befuddled wits. His gaze fell to her belly. The drumming in his ears grew louder. His lungs refused to fill with air. He was drowning. Had his infatuation rendered him blind? He recalled too late her insistence the candles be snuffed before she disrobed.

“You are with child,” he rasped, though the voice seemed faraway, not his own.

Smoothing a hand over the slight swell of her belly, she said nothing, but the proud glint in her seductive eyes pierced his already shattered heart.

With a trembling hand, he set down the candle. A giant shadow loomed on the wall, disappearing as he bent to search for his wedding finery, scattered earlier with reckless abandon. Desperate to cover his nakedness, he resisted the urge to put his hands over his shaft. She must deem him a fool.

Someone had to answer for this travesty. “Is your father aware of your condition?” he asked, pulling a shirt over his head. He had insisted the tailor not make it too long. Now he wished it fell to his feet.

Felicité grinned, a wicked gleam in her eye. “Of course not. He would have sent me to a nunnery.”

His guts in knots, Gallien cast about for his leggings. “Then why marry me? Why not wed your lover?”

She looked at him as if he had lost his wits. “He is already married, silly.”

He pulled on his leggings, cursing under his breath when he lost his balance. He hopped on one foot, collapsing onto the edge of the bed. Tying the laces, he got to his feet quickly, lest the serpent in his bed bite him.

If he could only put his hand on a dagger he would plunge it into her treacherous heart. But he had not expected to need a weapon in his bridal chamber. He clenched his fists, itching to beat her. No one would censure him for it.

But Felicité had been clever. She knew he was not a man to raise his hand to a woman, no matter the provocation.

Trembling with rage, trapped by his own nobility, Gallien sprawled into his favorite chair by the hearth, chewing his knuckles. He pressed his palm against the knee of one leg that seemed to have fallen victim to the dancing plague. He wanted to howl like a wounded beast and tear the room apart. The glowing embers of the once hearty fire did nothing to warm his chilled heart.

His faithless wife had turned the comfortable chamber he loved into a place of torment. He had to flee, but wedding guests still made merry in the Great Hall. The lavender perfume that had enthralled him hung in the air, making his belly roil.

Married less than a day, he had already been cuckolded.

That’s quite an excerpt. Thank you for stopping by today.

 

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The Authors of First Knights ♥ Catherine Kean

First Knights: A Medieval Collection of First Novels available for a limited time at Amazon, B&N, and KOBOcover first knights FINAL USE THIS

Today I have Catherine Kean visiting me. She writes historical romances you cannot put down! I just finished A Knight’s Vengeance and read it in one sitting. So much passion and romance. I loved it. So I’m excited to learn right along with you what makes this author tick.

Welcome, Catherine. I know this is such a busy time of year, I really appreciate you taking the time to stop by for a visit. Please tell us about your writer’s journey.

I’ve been writing since I was very young.  My mom has a storybook about a family of ducks that I wrote and illustrated when I was four years old.  As a child, I loved to read (I still do!), and I think this helped cultivate my very active imagination. My too-good imagination is one of the reasons why I don’t watch horror or really violent movies. J

I wrote my first novella when I was 12 and my first full-length book, a Young Adult fantasy romance, when I was 16. I still have these stories in my filing cabinet; while neither is of publishable quality, there are elements in them I want to use someday to create new books.  My dream job as a teenager was to be a full-time novelist, but I was told early on that it was impossible to make money as a writer unless I became a journalist.  That may have been true years ago, but I’m glad to say it’s certainly not true now.  I know authors who are earning six-figure incomes from their book royalties. J

I continued to write during my university and post grad years and when I worked at my first job as a fine arts and antique appraiser. After I married, I decided to try writing a contemporary romance and see if I had any luck finding a publisher. Nothing happened with that novel, although I received some encouraging rejection letters. However, after my daughter was born and I became a stay-at-home mom by choice, I decided to try writing medieval romance since I loved to read historicals. I also joined my local chapter of Romance Writers of America© and attended writing conferences and workshops.

A Knight’s Vengeance, Book 1 of my Knight’s Series, was my first medieval which I rewrote about seven times from start to finish as I learned to improve my story craft.  Dance of Desire was my first published novel, released in paperback by Medallion Press in 2005. Medallion also published A Knight’s Vengeance as well as four other medievals I sold to them on proposal (the first three chapters plus a detailed outline).

When the economy tanked in 2009-10, I requested my rights back to all of my books through my former literary agent.  With the novels mine again, I dived into self-publishing and haven’t looked back.  I now have six full-length medievals available and three novellas. My stories are also in 9 boxed set collections I’ve done with other romance authors.

I also had a contemporary romantic comedy published by Entangled a couple of years ago, but the book didn’t do well for various reasons and I got my rights back.  One day I might self-publish it, but right now, my focus is on my medievals, since I have built up a strong reader following and have many more stories set in the Middle Ages that I want to write, including the fifth and final book in my Knight’s Series.

Wow, that’s an amazing journey. I have seen quite a few sets from you (and bought them) and your being a part of the First Knights Collection definitely enhances it. With all your eclectic experiences, what do you like the best about being an author?

I love meeting readers.  I get emails from people all over the world.  Nothing compares to getting a note from an enthusiastic fan saying “I loved this book.  When is the next one coming out?”  To know that someone “got” my stories and characters that I pulled from my soul is very, very thrilling.

And these characters and stories that they “got”? Any similarities between you and them? or you and your life? 

I’m sure there’s a little bit of me in every character I write. Faye in My Lady’s Treasure was inspired by my own experience of my daughter being born five weeks early. That was a scary time for me and my husband, although all turned out just fine; my daughter’s grown into a beautiful, smart young woman and is in her first year of college. I used my fears and the emotions I experienced during my daughter’s birth to mold Faye’s character.  However, most of my heroes and heroines are not drawn from such personal situations. My imagination is more than willing to create characters for me.

How much time would you say you spend on a weekly basis working towards completing a book? And what are you doing when your not writing?  Catherine Kean

Each week is different.  That’s one of the advantages of being a self-published writer; I can work my schedule around my other commitments.  I do work at least three hours every day, whether I’m writing a new scene, doing marketing, exchanging emails with other authors regarding new or existing projects, researching a particular historical event, or even jotting down plot points for a future novel.

Is there anything you’d like to share with the readers?

Yes!  I’d like to say “thank you” to my wonderful readers everywhere for supporting me by buying and reading my stories. If you enjoy my books, please leave reviews.  And thank you so much for making my lifelong dream come true.

Thank you for visiting with me. I am a very big fan and hope you don’t mind if I share one of my favorite passages from A Knight’s Vengeance. It is written so beautifully:

EXCERPT

Do not blame yourself for the days ahead, damsel. My battle is not with you.”

His tender words rippled through her like water rings spreading across a still pond. How had he known her thoughts? She tried to squirm away, but he did not release her.

“I will not let you kill my father.”

Grudging admiration softened his expression. He caressed her cheek. “As you have said before.”

“I will stop you.”

“You cannot,” he whispered without a trace of threat. His free hand skimmed down her side and brushed over her bliaut, near the small of her back.

“W-what are you doing?”

His fingers moved. He had untied her braid. “Such incredible hair,” he murmured, and both of his hands threaded through her tresses. “I will never forget the day we first met. Your hair shone like black silk.”

Her pulse thudded with a wildness that excited and terrified her. Mildred’s warnings echoed in Elizabeth’s mind. “Stop. I want—”

“Shh.” He pressed his thumb to her lips. His fingers claimed a ringlet and followed its shiny length to where it ended at her waist.

Available as part of the Medieval Rogues Collection for 99 cents on Amazon 

BIO: Award-winning author Catherine Kean’s love of history began with visits to England during summer vacation, when she was in her early teens.  Her British father took her to crumbling medieval castles, dusty museums filled with fascinating artefacts, and historic churches, and her love of the awe-inspiring past stuck with her as she completed a B.A.(Double Major) in English and History.  She went on to complete a year-long Post Graduate course with Sotheby’s auctioneers in London, England, and worked for several years in Canada as an antiques and fine art appraiser.

After she married a tall, handsome, and charming Brit and moved to Florida, she started writing novels, her lifelong dream.  She wrote her first medieval romance, A Knight’s Vengeance, while her baby daughter was napping.  Catherine’s books were originally published in paperback and have been translated into several foreign languages.  She has won numerous awards for her stories, including the Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence.  Her novels also finaled in the Next Generation Indie Book Awards and the National Readers’ Choice Awards.

Catherine also writes award-winning contemporary romances under the pseudonym Cate Lord.  When not working on her next book, Catherine enjoys cooking, baking, browsing antique shops, shopping with her daughter, and gardening.  She lives in Florida with her husband, teenage daughter, and two spoiled rescue cats.

Links:

Website: http://www.catherinekean.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/catherine.keanauthor

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/695820.Catherine_Kean

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Catherine-Kean/e/B001JOZEMU/

Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/c/catherine-kean

Kobo: http://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/Search?Query=catherine+kean

 


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The Authors of First Knights ♥ Lana Williams

First Knights: A Medieval Collection of First Novels available for a limited time at Amazon, B&N, and KOBOcover first knights FINAL USE THIS

 

Today I have Lana Williams visiting me. She writes historical romance filled with mystery, adventure, and a pinch of paranormal. In addition to her contribution to First Knights: A Medieval Collection of First Novels, she has a  medieval Christmas novella out just in time for the holidays.

Welcome, Lana.  Thanks so much for taking time out of this busy holiday season to be here with us.

Thank you so much for having me, Ashley! Christmas is one of my favorite times of the year. A Knight’s Christmas Wish, A Medieval Novella, is the first Christmas story I’ve written and I had so much fun with it. While traditions in medieval times might differ from what we do today, there are more similarities than you might think. They sang Christmas carols, decorated with evergreens, and ate a lot! Sound familiar?

It sure does sound familiar. You’re fairly new to publishing aren’t you?

I love writing stories and I’ve been doing it for a very long time now. My first book came out in July of 2012 and I now have 5 full length novels and two novellas out. My stories are set in Medieval England and Victorian London. Those are my favorite time periods, but I enjoy most all things historical. And happy endings. I adore happy endings.

I agree on all counts. What do you think is the best thing about being an author?Lana Making Peanut Brittle

I’m lucky enough to recently have started writing full time! It’s been a dream for many years, and thanks to readers who seem to enjoy my books, I’m now able to do it full time. Creating worlds and characters is so much fun. I try to combine my business experience with my creative side and stick to daily goals to make sure I produce quality work in a timely manner. J

Good for you. I’m very good at setting goals but sometimes life gets in the way. There’s so much involved with writing. It’s not just the actual “putting words to paper” any more and the time can fly by.  How much time would you say you spend on writing?

Peanut BrittleI’m still figuring out my writing schedule but currently, I write five to six hours per day, and also spend quite a bit of time marketing and connecting with readers. I have a supportive husband and two growing boys – boys who are now both taller than I am! J When I’m not writing, I love spending time with them. I also love to bake and during the holidays, I also enjoy making candy and other treats. My mom gave me a recipe for peanut brittle that you make in the microwave, and that’s what I’m doing in the picture I’m sharing. My guys LOVE peanut brittle!

Is there anything you’d like to share with the readers?

A Knight’s Christmas Wish is about Sir Rylan de Bremont who is the son of two characters in my second book, Trust In Me. It is also the beginning of a new medieval series. The next book in this series will feature Rylan’s brother, Garrick. I love reading stories that follow families and I hope my readers do as well.

I do, too. Thanks so much for stopping by. Here’s more from A Knight’s Christmas Wish. 

LanaWilliams_AKnightsChristmasWish_200BLURB: 

Weary and injured, Sir Rylan de Bremont wants only to return home for Christmas after two long years away. But first he must deliver terrible news to a newly widowed lady.

Lady Kayte Dufrane has been miserable in her marriage to a gruff lord far older than she. Rylan’s news gives her freedom, but she fears her late husband’s brother will claim her for his own. This strong, handsome knight might be the answer to her prayers if she can convince him to help her escape.

Though Rylan has no desire to become embroiled in the beautiful Kayte’s dilemma, delaying his journey home, he can’t resist her pleas. Will his Christmas wish be filled with more than he bargained for?

EXCERPT: 

“How could you possibly doubt how lovely you are?” Rylan asked

“My husband did not care for my appearance. He found me less than appealing.” Though they hadn’t been married long, he’d said the words often enough that Kayte believed them. Added to that had been his lack of ability to perform his husbandly duty. She’d had no choice but to realize she held no attraction for men.

“Your husband was a fool.”

Her heart lightened at Rylan’s words, though she far from convinced. He was most likely being nice. She turned toward the small table to pick up the poultice only to have Rylan take her hand and pull until she sat on the bed beside him once again.

He studied her face intently until she frowned in question. “I don’t think you understand. I’m not saying it to be nice.”

Her heart squeezed. It was as if he could read her mind. “Of course you are, but I appreciate it all the same.” She smiled to show she was not in the least offended. Far from it in fact.

“Kayte.” The low rumble of his voice stirred something deep within her. He laid his hand along her cheek, making her breath catch as the heat in his brown eyes drew her in. “You are truly a beautiful woman. Any man would be lucky to have you for his wife. And from what little I’ve seen, you’re beautiful on the inside as well.”

The intensity of his eyes convinced her of his sincerity. His touch made her stomach dance with delight. She hardly knew what to say. As she parted her lips to try to express her gratitude for what he’d said, his hand shifted to her neck and gently eased her forward.

His lips, warm and firm, touched hers and everything inside her melted into a puddle. How could a kiss create this feeling? Nothing she’d experienced in the past had prepared her for this.

When he eased back, all she could do was stare at him.

“So beautiful,” he murmured. “You should never doubt it.”

 Amazon:  http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00QEGRSL8        

 

Connect with Lana at www.lanawilliams.net, www.facebook.com/LanaWilliamsBooks or @LanaWilliams28

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Mary Morgan – Author of the Order of the Dragon Knights Series

DragonKnightsMedallionI’m so excited to have my very good friend, Mary Morgan, visiting us today. Writing can be very lonely, working alone at your computer day after day, but Mary’s sparkling personality has helped me get through many a long day. Plus she’s an amazing writer and if you haven’t read her new release, you are missing out!

Welcome, Mary! Tell us a little about your writing career. 

Thanks, Ashley. I have been writing most of my life. I started with poems and plays when I was very young. There was always a story flowing in my imagination. It wasn’t until my first trip to Scotland in 2000 that my mind started creating this magical world of knights and dragons, which eventually led to the Order of the Dragon Knights. Currently, I have two books published: Dragon Knight’s Sword and Dragon Knight’s Medallion. There will be a total of five in the series. They are a mix of medieval history, paranormal, time-travel, and Celtic mythology.

Oh, I’m so jealous. Your first trip to Scotland? Must be what makes your settings so good. What you like best about being an author?

When a reader writes and tells me how much they enjoy my story. If they can “feel” the words I have written, I know I have done my job well by transporting them to another world within the pages of my book. So many have told me that they have laughed, cried, yelled, and shouted for joy when they’ve read my books. If I’m going through all these emotions, then I have to do my best to convey them in words to the reader.Mary cooking

I’d say you’re definitely successful there. Are there any similarities between you and your characters?

Oh my…I’m chuckling here, since I’ve noticed that each of my heroines has a “wee” bit of my personality within them, and they’re all different. With the heroine in Dragon Knight’s Medallion, Aileen, she has this flaw of doing something annoying with her hands, and when I mentioned it to my sister, she informed me that I did it, too. I didn’t have a clue! So, somehow I’ve managed to clone a personality trait of mine into their characteristics.

That’s nice that your sister supports your writing like that.  Many authors only write part-time. How much time do you spend on your writing?

I would say about 40 hours or more per week. It’s only in the past few months that I’ve learned to find the balance between the business side and actually making sure I have time to write. After an intense day of writing, I love to cook. I’m a morning to afternoon writer, so when 5pm comes around, I’m done for the day—unless I’m doing Mary on Horsebackedits. Also, I love the outdoors. Besides playing in my garden, I love being on a horse. If I had the property, I would own one in a heartbeat.

Is there anything in particular you’d like to share with the readers today?

This year has been an amazing year! I have been so blessed by all the love and support for my stories, and I’m truly grateful. There are three more stories planned for the Dragon Knights, and then there will be a spin-off of the Fenian Warriors. I hope you’ll stay with me on this incredible adventure.

I think you’re all set with that. How could we possibly stop reading now? What’s that famous line from Jerry McGuire – You had me at hello? Well,  for you it’s more like you had us at: “They were an ancient order descended from the great Tuatha De Danann, a tribe from the Goddess Danu…”

 

Blurb:

To right a wrong, two souls are brought together only to shatter when they are torn apart by the deeds of an evil druid.

Dragon Knight, Stephen MacKay’s powers are altered after the death of his sister. Now he is plagued with visions that threaten to destroy his soul. When Aileen Kerrigan falls through a time tunnel, he vows to keep her safe, despite the fact the beautiful but head-strong half-blooded fae could be the death of him.

When Aileen finds out her dad is a Fenian Warrior, she flees to a nearby ruin. Armed with the medallion her mother gave her, and a matching one belonging to a long dead knight, she is flung into the past and finds a handsome but surly warrior who is on a quest. Now it seems her future could be entwined with his, if she doesn’t kill him first.

Excerpt:

Full shock registered inside her brain as she realized where she’d seen this man. Her body started to quake, and she clutched her hands to her chest.

“No, th…this cannot be,” she choked out. “Tell me who you are. I demand to know your name!”

Are all the fae so dumb and beautiful, he thought. “Ye ken who I am.” Stephen’s head caught a glimpse of the fae, as she started to take a few hesitant steps backwards. What the bloody hell was wrong with her? She was standing too close to the edge. If she was not careful, she would slip on over.

Why did he care? She could just vanish, right? Stephen rubbed his face, the remnants of a headache still behind his eyes. Sweet Bridget! Now the fae was yelling at him.

She waved her hands, all the time shaking her lovely head. “You are not him!”

He had to put a stop to this, or she would fall. Perhaps, she was a daft fae. He certainly did not know their ways, nor did he want to find out. However, this creature was becoming more agitated, and for some unfathomable reason, he did not want her to come to any harm.

“Och, fae healer, stop your babbling,” he dismounted with a groan.

“No, no, no!” Pointing a finger at him, she continued to walk backwards. Stumbling, her foot twisted among some tree roots, causing her to lose her balance.

Stephen swore as he lunged for her, grasping her arm and crushing her against his chest. “Are ye truly daft?”:

Available at Amazon: http://www.amzn.com/B00P81C0EA

 

 

 

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#medievalmonday Claiming the Highlander

Today my Medieval Monday guest is Mageela Troche with her latest Highlander novel Claiming the Highlander. It sounds wonderful. Enjoy!

Blurb: Caelen MacKenzie married heiress Lady Brenna Grant in his youth for a large parcel of land and an earldom. Years later, Scotland trembles from the tales of the Viking Highlander yet Caelen must face his most challenging battle—returning home to the past he ran from.

Lady Brenna loves her husband. As her loyalties are tested, the life she was reared to live is in jeopardy. She knows no other life other than as the Countess and wife to Caelen. Snagged in the power plays of men, she will do anything to save that life and the man she loves.

From the rugged western highlands to the glittering Scottish court, they must battle the machinations of powerful men scheming against them.

ClaimingtheHighlander_MEDExcerpt from Claiming the Highlander:

1244, Scotland

His bride didn’t want to marry.

The King of Scotland wanted this wedding. Her holdings couldn’t fall into the hands of the Islemen, so they could not encroach into Scotland. His father, Laird MacKenzie, wanted this marriage to increase his holdings and bring an earldom to the family, raising their standing from barons. Laird Grant wanted this marriage to increase his ties to the powerful MacKenzies.

His bride wanted a berry tart.

The king, Alexander II, ambled to the aisle and stared at the little girl, tugging to free her arm from her nursemaid’s grip. Behind the king, lords and ladies scooted closer, stretching their necks for a glimpse of the wailing bride.

“After the ceremony, ye may have one.” Her nursemaid tugged on her arm to drag the wee lass to the altar.

“Nay.” Brenna Grant plopped down on her behind, falling in a mess of plaid that flopped her about and a lot of chestnut hair that covered her face.

Caelen wagered she wore a pout to match her crossed arms. The nursemaid lowered herself and wagged a finger at his bride. “Ye will be a proper lady and marry or ye shall not have any treats and shall be locked in the chamber.”

His bride pushed aside her nursemaid’s outstretched hand and ran toward the altar and beyond it. “I am running away!” She ducked under the altar.

The bishop sputtered. Spit flew from the corners. He goggled at the king. The nursemaid stomped her way to the altar and flipped up the frontal. “Get yeself out from under there. I na spare the rod, child.”

“Nay,” she screamed. She kicked the altar. The whole thing shook. Even the gold cross wavered, then righted.

“Ye wicked girl. Ye not be going to heaven and seeing yer mama.”

“Liar!”

Caelen snatched a tart from the table. He nudged aside the nursemaid and knelt down. “Here’s the treat if you come do this.”

Baby fine brown hair brushed her forehead. Her groomed brows furrowed over her narrowed eyes. Those brown eyes dominated her soft, full-cheeked face. Her lips were pressed into a stubborn line.

“She’ll get her dress dirty.”

“Enough. Take it and let’s wed.” He held out the treat. She stretched her neck out and chomped her teeth into the dough.

She climbed out on her hands and knees. Caelen took her dimpled hand. Caelen curled his hand carefully around hers. She held it so trustingly. He almost pulled away. This wedding would be done this day and two days hence, he would return to his foster home at Clan MacLean and return to training. He had to be a feared warrior like his grandfather and father so he could lead the clan one day.

He halted before the bishop and inclined his head. The bishop cleared his throat and watched Brenna eat her treat. She smacked her lips after each bite. Her nursemaid stretched out her neck and bore her black eyes into his happily eating bride. Brenna raised her nose high in the air and smacked her lips louder, even spitting out a chewed morsel. On her last bite, with fruit on the corners of her mouth, she was now his wife—the future Lairdess of the Clan MacKenzie and Countess of Wester Ross. She wiped her mouth with her sleeve, leaving a smeared red trail across the fine silk of her heather-hued gown.

“That was the easiest way to get a lass to the altar.” Laird MacKenzie laughed. The boom traveled through the great hall. Brenna threw back her head and let out some gruff ha-ha.

“He shall never have it that easy again,” the King added.

Caelen took her sticky hand and led her to the dais. He picked her up and set her in the chair. She climbed to her knees. “Thank you,” she said, her tongue peeking out from between the gap in her teeth. She rubbed her eyes and then sat back on her heels.

She squirmed to free her legs from under her. She tapped Caelen on his forearm. “I lost my shoe.” She lifted her foot and wiggled her toes at him. Caelen ducked under the table and spotted a crumpled fluff that must be her slipper. It was the softest, most girlish material he had ever seen. He hooked his thumb on the back and lifted it out. The thing barely filled his palm. Brenna propped her foot on the chair’s arm. Her little plump toes wiggled. He cupped her heel in his palm, sure he would break her. He stared at her foot, left and then right. How did he put it on without ripping the thing or crushing her toes? He slipped her toes in and then the rest of her foot.

She smiled before sitting back on her legs. She propped her chin on her dimpled hand. “What does a husband do?”

Caelen shrugged.

“My da tells my new mama what to do but you can’t do that. I don’t like that. You have to protect me and love me.” Her high-pitched voice held a thread of authority. “We can play but you can’t scare me. I don’t like that.”

“And a wife?” He threw out as she drew in air.

“Same thing.” She shrugged. “Don’t forget. You’re my husband and I love you.”

Laird Grant lifted his cup. “To the bond of MacKenzie and Grant. May we cut down our enemies and love our women.”

The revelry swirled around them. As the French wine flowed, the toasts from their future children to the great battles Caelen would fight bounced off the great hall’s beams. Only the feast of pheasant, deer, swan, and every sea creature in Scottish waters ceased their shouts. Halfway through the procession of delights, Brenna curled up in her chair and dozed off.

She was nothing more than brown hair, wide, brown eyes, and the pinkest lips he had ever seen. She was funny looking.

She was his wife.

He didn’t even have chest hair.

Buy Claiming the Highlander at http://store.secretcravingspublishing.com/index.php?main_page=book_info&cPath=10&products_id=937or http://www.amazon.com/Claiming-Highlander-Mageela-Troche-ebook/dp/B00N70RHWO/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1410414322&sr=1-3&keywords=mageela+troche

Mageela Troche loves to make new friends. You can find her athttps://www.facebook.com/mageela.troche  at her http://mageelatroche.com/or https://twitter.com/MageelaTroche

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#medievalmonday My Noble Knight

Welcome! It’s Medieval Monday and I have Laurel O’Donnell with her latest My Noble Knight. Enjoy!

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Blurb:

Layne Fletcher, the only girl in a family of three boys, has grown up learning to use a sword and joust, but she is not a knight. She and her brothers have been traveling from tourney to tourney to make enough coin to buy their own farm to shelter their ailing father. When her brother is found unconscious before an important tournament, Layne takes his place on the jousting field against…

Griffin Wolfe, the undefeated jousting champion. When he is unhorsed by a slip of a woman who is not a knight, he demands retribution. His honor will not allow him to let a woman be thrown in the dungeon and he has no choice but to pay her fine, ordering her to travel with him until her brothers can repay him. Griffin attempts to educate Layne in the art of being a woman, but finds he is attracted to her exciting personality and uncommon beauty despite her less than lady like ways.

But someone is trying to sabotage Griffin as he competes in the tournaments. Can Layne and Griffin discover who the culprit is while keeping their families safe and their growing attraction secret?

Excerpt:

Griffin stared down the field of honor at his opponent. Daunger sat as still as a stone, staring at him. He had not been in any other tournament, so this was the first time Griffin or any of the other knights were seeing him joust. He was well known for his participation in the melees, known for being rash and reckless and unpredictable. Despite his inexperience in the joust, Griffin suspected he was going to be a dangerous opponent.

Griffin lowered his visor. He had to stay focused, watch for an opening. But as soon as the visor closed and the cheers of the crowd muted, the image of a woman with glorious blue eyes filled his mind. Why had she been near his weapons? Was she really worrying about him?

He grit his teeth. He couldn’t think of her now. Firmly, he pushed Layne’s image from his mind. But it wasn’t as easy as he would have liked it to be. Her vision haunted his days as much as his nights. Everywhere he went, he looked for her, listened for her laughter. He missed her.

Adonis pranced nervously beneath him.

Griffin tugged on the reins, urging Adonis into a circle to calm him.

Carlton lifted his lance to him.

Griffin took it and spurred Adonis. Through the slit in his visor, he saw Daunger charging toward him down the field. He couched the lance, holding it firmly.

Adonis suddenly slowed and threw his head, balking.

Daunger’s lance struck Griffin hard in the shoulder. His body half turned in the saddle, and if he was any less experienced Griffin would have been unhorsed. His arm was numb and throbbing as he rode to the other end of the field. He tossed down his lance and turned Adonis toward his side of the field. He passed Daunger who had flipped up his visor and was grinning ear to ear.

Griffin did not look at the grandstand where he knew his family watched. He already felt the incredible weight of their presence.

His arm pulsated from the blow, but he pushed the pain aside. He pushed all other thoughts aside. Dispatch Daunger. That was all that was important. Winning this joust.

Griffin grabbed the lance from Carlton and whirled Adonis, spurring him on. No hesitancy. Just letting the horse and the lance become one with him. The roar of the crowd thrummed in his ears, a distance boom of thunder. His heart hammered in his chest.

Daunger came closer. Closer. His lance aimed at Griffin’s chest.

Griffin leaned in slightly. He would not be denied. Not this time. He was rewarded by striking Daunger near his stomach, Daunger’s lance struck his arm, succeeding in aiding the thrust forward. Griffin’s body twisted slightly, enough force behind the strike to throw Daunger up and out of his saddle.

Griffin’s lance pushed him back as Daunger’s steed continued on. Daunger fell back into the dirt and dust as Griffin rode past him.

Griffin rounded the opposite end. When he saw Daunger lying on the ground, he straightened. The roar of the crowd was thunderous, drowning out all else. He lifted his visor and waited until Daunger staggered to his feet.

As he rode forward, his body in rhythm with Adonis, he realized something was wrong with his arm. If he lifted it even a little bit, shooting pain erupted through his limb. He held it against his stomach and left the field of honor.

Here’s the Amazon Pre-order link – http://amzn.com/B00N8AIC4K

Hope you had fun!

Ashley

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#medievalmonday The Good Knight

And we are starting out another week with an amazing book here on the Medieval Monday Author Exchange. Up today? From Sarah Woodbury’s Gareth & Gwen Medieval Mysteries series, The Good Knight. Oh my goodness. A medieval mystery and I love reoccurring characters, don’t you? Enjoy!

The Good Knight

Intrigue, suspicion, and rivalry among the royal princes casts a shadow on the court of Owain, king of north Wales…

The year is 1143 and King Owain seeks to unite his daughter in marriage with an allied king.  But when the groom is murdered on the way to his wedding, the bride’s brother tasks his two best detectives—Gareth, a knight, and Gwen, the daughter of the court bard—with bringing the killer to justice.

And once blame for the murder falls on Gareth himself, Gwen must continue her search for the truth alone, finding unlikely allies in foreign lands, and ultimately uncovering a conspiracy that will shake the political foundations of Wales.

The Good Knight is free at all Amazon stores  Kobo  Smashwords  Apple iBookstore  Barnes and Noble  

Paperback at Amazon 

Paperback at Amazon UK

Sarah’s web page:  www.sarahwoodbury.com

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/sarahwoodburybooks

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/SarahWoodbury

Youtube:  https://www.youtube.com/user/SarahWoodburyBooks/

Excerpt:

“Look at you, girl.”

Gwen’s father, Meilyr, tsked under his breath and brought his borrowed horse closer to her side of the path. He’d been out of sorts since early morning when he’d found his horse lame and King Anarawd and his company of soldiers had left the castle without them, refusing to wait for Meilyr to find a replacement mount. Anarawd’s men-at-arms would have provided Meilyr with the fine escort he coveted.

“You’ll have no cause for complaint once we reach Owain Gwynedd’s court.” A breeze wafted over Gwen’s face and she closed her eyes, letting her pony find his own way for a moment. “I won’t embarrass you at the wedding.”

“If you cared more for your appearance, you would have been married yourself years ago and given me grandchildren long since.”

Gwen opened her eyes, her forehead wrinkling in annoyance. “And whose fault is it that I’m unmarried?” Her fingers flexed about the reins but she forced herself to relax. Her present appearance was her own doing, even if her father found it intolerable. In her bag, she had fine clothes and ribbons to weave through her hair, but saw no point in sullying any of them on the long journey to Aber Castle.

King Owain Gwynedd’s daughter was due to marry King Anarawd in three days’ time. Owain Gwynedd had invited Gwen, her father, and her almost twelve-year old brother, Gwalchmai, to furnish the entertainment for the event, provided King Owain and her father could bridge the six years of animosity and silence that separated them. Meilyr had sung for King Owain’s father, Gruffydd; he’d practically raised King Owain’s son, Hywel. But six years was six years. No wonder her father’s temper was short.

Even so, she couldn’t let her father’s comments go. Responsibility for the fact that she had no husband rested firmly on his shoulders. “Who refused the contract?”

“Rhys was a rapscallion and a laze-about,” Meilyr said.

And you weren’t about to give up your housekeeper, maidservant, cook, and child-minder to just anyone, were you?

But instead of speaking, Gwen bit her tongue and kept her thoughts to herself. She’d said it once and received a slap to her face. Many nights she’d lain quiet beside her younger brother, regretting that she hadn’t defied her father and stayed with Rhys. They could have eloped; in seven years, their marriage would have been as legal as any other. But her father was right and Gwen wasn’t too proud to admit it: Rhys had been a laze-about. She wouldn’t have been happy with him. Rhys’ father had almost cried when Meilyr had refused Rhys’ offer. It wasn’t only daughters who were sometimes hard to sell.

“Father!” Gwalchmai brought their cart to a halt. “Come look at this!”

“What now?” Meilyr said. “We’ll have to spend the night at Caerhun at present rate. You know how important it is not to keep King Owain waiting.”

“But Father!” Gwalchmai leapt from the cart and ran forward.

“He’s serious.” Gwen urged her pony after him, passing the cart, and then abruptly reined in beside her brother. “Mary, Mother of God…”

A slight rise and sudden dip in the path ahead had hidden the carnage until they were upon it. Twenty men and an equal number of horses lay dead in the road, their bodies contorted and their blood soaking the brown earth. Gwalchmai bent forward and retched into the grass beside the road. Gwen’s stomach threatened to undo her too, but she fought the bile down and dismounted to wrap her arms around her brother.

Meilyr reined in beside his children. “Stay back.”

Gwen glanced at her father and then back to the scene, noticing for the first time a man kneeling among the wreckage, one hand to a dead man’s chest and the other resting on the hilt of his sheathed sword. The man straightened and Gwen’s breath caught in her throat.

Gareth.

He’d cropped his dark brown hair shorter than when she’d known him, but his blue eyes still reached into the core of her. Her heart beat a little faster as she drank him in. Five years ago, Gareth had been a man-at-arms in the service of Prince Cadwaladr, King Owain Gwynedd’s brother. Gareth and Gwen had become friends, and then more than friends, but before he could ask her father for her hand, Gareth had a falling out with Prince Cadwaladr. In the end, Gareth hadn’t been able to persuade Meilyr that he could support her despite his lack of station.

Gwen was so focused on Gareth that she wasn’t aware of the other men among them—live ones—until they approached her family. A half dozen converged on them at the same time. One caught her upper arm in a tight grip. Another grabbed Meilyr’s bridle. “Who are you?” the soldier said.

Meilyr stood in the stirrups and pointed a finger at Gareth. “Tell them who I am!”

Gareth came forward, his eyes flicking from Meilyr to Gwalchmai to Gwen. He was broader in the shoulders, too, than she remembered.

“They are friends,” Gareth said. “Release them.”

And to Gwen’s astonishment, the man-at-arms who held her obeyed Gareth. Could it be that in the years since she’d last seen him, Gareth had regained something of what he’d lost?

Gareth halted by Meilyr’s horse. “I was sent from Aber to meet King Anarawd and escort him through Gwynedd. He wasn’t even due to arrive at Dolwyddelan Castle until today, but …” He gestured to the men on the ground. “Clearly, we were too late.”

Gwen looked past Gareth to the murdered men in the road.

“Turn away, Gwen,” Gareth said.

But Gwen couldn’t. The blood—on the dead men, on the ground, on the knees of Gareth’s breeches—mesmerized her. The men here had been slaughtered. Her skin twitched at the hate in the air. “You mean King Anarawd is—is—is among them?”

“The King is dead,” Gareth said.

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#Fallingintolove Author Kim Iverson Headlee

Today I welcome author Kim Iverson Headlee with her new YA paranormal historical romance entitled Snow in July. 

Blurb: Sir Robert Alain de Bellencombre has been granted what every man wants: a rich English estate in exchange for his valiant service at the Battle of Hastings. To claim this reward, the Norman knight must wed the estate’s Saxon heiress. Most men would leap at such an opportunity, but for Alain, who broke his vow to his dying mother by Kim Headleefailing to protect his youngest brother in battle, it means facing more easily broken vows. But when rumors of rampant thievery, dangerous beasts, and sorcery plaguing a neighboring estate reach his ears, nothing will make him shirk duty to king and country when people’s lives stand at risk. He assumes the guise of a squire to scout the land, its problems, and its lady.

Lady Kendra of Edgarburh has been granted what no woman wants: a forced marriage to an enemy who may be kith or kin to the man who murdered her beloved brother. Compounding her anguish is her failure to awaken the miraculous healing gift bequeathed by their late mother in time to save his life. Although with his dying breath, he made her promise to seek happiness above all, Kendra vows that she shall find neither comfort nor love in the arms of a Norman…unless it snows in July.

Alain is smitten by Lady Kendra from the first moment of their meeting; Kendra feels the forbidden allure of the handsome and courtly Norman “squire.” But a growing evil overshadows everyone, invoking dark forces and ensnaring Kendra in a plot to overthrow the king Alain is oath-bound to serve. Kendra and Alain face a battle unlike any other as their honor, their love, their lives, and even their very souls lie in the balance.

Excerpt: AS SIR Ruaud babbled in his semicoherent English about Sir Robert, Kendra fought a jumble of emotions regarding Ruaud’s squire. Not only was his station beneath her rank, his being Norman placed him beneath her contempt. And yet she couldn’t tear her gaze from him.

Several inches taller than Sir Ruaud, the squire was trim where Ruaud sported a paunch, and he radiated quiet dignity to counter Ruaud’s comic disposition. Both men wore their blond hair cropped close, but Ruaud’s darker locks didn’t curl about his ears and forehead in whimsical wisps begging to be touched. Ruaud’s nose bore the lumpish evidence of having been broken at least once, but no scars marred the squire’s face. And those eyes—merciful heaven, if the squire regarded her once more with those probing, sea-green eyes, she would faint from the delectable agony.
Relief washed over her when he broke eye contact and strode to the packhorse. Broad shoulders and sinewy arms rippled as he wrestled something from a saddle pack. For one wanton moment, she imagined being encircled by those arms, protected, cherished. Loved…happy…
She shook her head. One of his countrymen had murdered her brother. She must despise this man.
And yet that task was proving to be a major chore.
The squire turned and approached, bearing a small gilt box across both upturned palms. His smile, slow in dawning, nearly stopped her heart. He knelt upon one knee at her feet.
“My lady Kendra,” he said in a rich, refined voice, “Sir Robert regrets the circumstances preventing him from being with you this day. I pray you will not be vexed by his absence. It shall be short, I assure you.” His French-accented English was as flawless as his face. He rendered another heart-stopping smile, holding the box aloft. “Please accept this gift, bearing the de Bellencombre arms, as but the smallest token of Sir Robert’s esteem.”
He flipped back the lid. A gold brooch nestled in black velvet, its face enameled with a flower encircled by interlacing greenery, a white rose.
White for Del’s soul, or white for my promise to seek happiness?
Her hand trembled as she reached for the brooch. Embarrassed, she snatched it back.
White for the snow that shrouded the ground as he lay dying in my arms? Her vision blurred with tears as the scene returned in all its agonizing detail: the biting cold, the onion poultice’s stench, the blood bubbling from Del’s lips, the death rattle, the profound powerlessness and loss…
“Nay!”
She gasped, hand to mouth. Everyone gaped at her, except the squire. Disappointment and sorrow dominated his face as he averted his gaze. She hadn’t meant for the exclamation to slip out, and certainly not to be misconstrued as a refusal of the gift rather than a plea for deliverance from those dreadful memories, but she couldn’t explain without ripping open the wounds of her soul.
“P-please forgive me,” she forced past her quivering lips. She was unsure to whom she directed the plea: God, her father, Sir Ruaud, the absent Sir Robert, who would hear of her ill-mannered behavior and be wroth with her…or the last person on earth who deserved such treatment, the squire. The pain clouding his eyes wrenched her heart.
She spun, gathered her skirts in both fists, and fled for the stairs, sobs wracking her body for Del, for herself, and for the Norman stranger she had never intended to hurt.

 

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#medievalmonday Unbidden

Welcome back to Medieval Monday! I have an exciting new author (new to me) with the first book in The Evolution Series entitled Unbidden - Jill Hughey. Just the title sort of sends tingles of anticipation, doesn’t it? Enjoy!

BLURB

Rochelle of Alda, a feisty Frank noblewoman, expects to continue her industrious life managing her family’s estate. When her emperor summons her to the palace to meet the skilled soldier she is required to marry, Rochelle engages in a battle for independence from David of Bavaria. As her own deceptions multiply, she suspects another of also plotting against their marriage. To her surprise, and too late, David’s passion and patience begin to win her heart. Can their love survive the tangled web of her schemes and the secret adversary David refuses to see?

In this excerpt of David and Rochelle’s first meeting, David has arrived to take Rochelle to the palace for the betrothal, and is dismayed to learn her mother has told her nothing about it.

EXCERPT

David turned his head as the noise from the door escalated, unsure what he expected to enter his life. Given her mother’s shocking hair, he didn’t hold his hopes too high for the girl’s appearance, no matter what Theo said. The need for deception to even get her to Aix did not indicate a particularly biddable personality. Based on the increasingly violent rattling from the latch, she couldn’t even open doors for herself.

He was about to climb the steps to offer assistance when the door finally wrenched open, releasing a storm of muttering about city workmanship and rotten carpentry carried in a whirlwind of deep blue linen. She all but flung herself onto the narrow staircase. Not exactly light of foot nor entirely graceful, she rushed down the stairs, noticing his presence in time to abruptly stop on the bottom step.

She stared at him.

From across the room he could feel the chill of cold caution. Even so, his concern about her looks evaporated. She stood taller than her mother, clear skinned, with eyes of a soft green. The gold circlet on her head held her veil neatly in place, covering what it was intended to cover. An unexpected desire to see the color of her hair shot through him. He could only approximate it from her eyebrows:  not quite brown, but certainly not red either. And her female attributes remained a mystery to him as well, hidden under layers of varying shades of blue, though a heavy gold girdle studded with aquamarines suggested narrow hips.

“Mother?” she queried.

David reluctantly turned to Marian, who, it appeared, had been watching him stare at her daughter. A small smile quirked her lips. Her tightly clasped hands now lay on her chest as if in prayer. She did not find her voice until David cleared his throat expectantly.

“Rochelle!” she said too loudly. “Theophilus, the gentleman who has helped us so much, sent this burly young man to escort ye to yer audience with the emperor. He is called David. A Bavarian, no less!”

David raised his brow at her rather obtuse explanation of his role in the upcoming event. Marian gave him a slight warning shake of her head. Well, if the woman hadn’t the courage to tell this girl the truth of the matter, he certainly did. He didn’t know much about getting along with women, but he guessed that starting his marriage with deception – and necessarily short-lived deception at that – could not be wise.

As he opened his mouth to explain exactly who he was, Rochelle spoke, “I do not see why I need an escort. I found the palace yesterday.”  She lowered herself off the last step and strode toward him with a confident swing of her arms. “But if Theophilus wants to share his guard, so be it.”

Marian bobbed her head. “It was quite thoughtful of him.”

David held up a hand. “I am not Theo’s guard. And did you just suggest you were wandering about the city yesterday, alone?”

Rochelle studied him assessingly. Yes, assessingly was the only word for it and, God help him, she was lovely up close. Her not brown, not red brows arched over green eyes flecked with hazel. A dusting of freckles decorated a thin nose that flared pertly at the nostrils. Her soft pink lips were slightly parted exposing straight teeth.

“Not alone. Our servant, Gilbert, was with me.”

“Gilbert, the bag of bones who opened the door?” David scoffed. “He could not keep a street rat away much less a pack of thieves. From this day forth, you will not leave here without an able-bodied man at your side.”  She smelled nice.

Rochelle placed her hands on her hips, pleasantly outlining a slim waist beneath her clothing. “What has given you the idea you can make pronouncements such as that to me?  I will go where I wish, when I wish, escorted or not, as I wish!”  Her chest heaved a bit and there were breasts under that tunic, he could tell, and damn it when was the last time he’d lain with a woman?  He mentally bridled himself. First, betrothal. Betrothal was the task set before him today. It was time to attend to that task.

He stepped forward, purposely crowding her and letting his hard gaze bore into her fiery eyes, daring her to challenge him. “I will tell you what gives me the right –“

Marian made a strangled sound before finding her words. “Ye should be going!  It will not do to be late to the palace.”

Rochelle eyed first him, then Marian, before backing away to grasp her mother’s hands. “Mother, I do wish you would reconsider. Certainly the nobles have forgotten your circumstances by now. Father would want you to have the honor of meeting Charlemagne’s son.”

Marian laughed a bit shrilly. “No, that is no place for me. Ye shall have the glory today, daughter. Here is your cloak.”  She kept babbling as she closed the gold and aquamarine clasp at the neckline of the pale blue garment. “David will keep you safe. Do as he says, my dear. He is in charge of you today. And possibly tomorrow.”

Rochelle chortled. “Mother, do not be ridiculous. This will be over in an hour or two and then we are going home!  Home, where I also do not require an escort!”  She fixed David with a significant look before she walked to the door, wrenched it open with relative ease, and stepped onto the street without him.

For more about Jill Hughey visit her website at www.jillhughey.com.
Next up on Medieval Monday I have Sarah Woodbury – medieval mystery! See you then.
Ashley

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