#MedievalMonday16 Elisabeth Hobbes celebrates May Day (We won’t tell her it’s December)

21205blacksmiths-wife-coverExcerpt from The Blacksmith’s Wife by Elisabeth Hobbes

Thundering beats on the door roused them from their bed as men from the villagers came to claim ale from Hal as Lord Danby’s representative. He allowed himself to be taken away, leaving Joanna in the hands of Meg and the other women to gather flowers and greenery from the moors and bind them into wreaths.

The women arrived on the village green at midday. Raucous, uncontrolled games were taking place amid cheers and catcalls of the onlookers already well into the ale, but stopped as they appeared.

‘Crown the queen!’

The call was taken up and repeated by everyone present. Girls giggled and blushed, young men freely ogled them and Joanna felt hands in her back pushing her to the front of the crowd.

Hal appeared from among the men. He took her by the hand and turned her to face everyone. A crown of twisted greenery was placed on her head to cheers and good-natured whistles from everyone watching. Pipers began to play and dancers found their partners.

‘I thought the May Queen was supposed to be a maiden,’ Joanna whispered to Hal.

He held her waist tightly as he led her to the circle. ‘This year I thought I’d exercise my rights to choose.’

‘You can do that?’

‘I can do what I like, I’m their lord’s son,’ he joked. He put one hand on her back, the other to her cheek and looked into her eyes. ‘I cannot give you tournaments and pageants to delight you, but I wanted to give you something to remember.’

She covered her hand with his. ‘You have,’ she said. ‘This is enough.’

She realized as she said it that she spoke the truth.

The dancing and games carried on long into the night. As the sun set Hal and the men carried brands from the forge and lit the bonfire. More barrels of ale were tapped and the ox that had been roasting all afternoon was speedily eaten.

As groups and couples began to disperse to find their own diversions Joanna sat alone by the fire, warming her hands and yawning. She’d danced until her calves burned and drunk far too much wine. Her bed called her. Hal had vanished a while before, called away by the miller, and she was becoming tired of waiting. She walked home and was halfway to the door when she noticed light coming from the forge.

Curious, she walked across the dewy grass. The door was partly open, but no sound came from within. Cautiously Joanna pushed the door wider and peeped around it.

Hal was standing by his workbench. In the dull glow of the furnace Joanna could only see his back.

‘What are you doing?’ she asked.

Hal jumped at her voice. He strode towards her, blocking her entry into the forge.

‘What’s wrong? Why won’t you let me in?’ she asked.

‘Nothing’s wrong. I’m coming now,’ Hal said. His voice was guarded. He took hold of her arm and tried to turn her away.

He was so obviously hiding something. Determined to find out what Joanna twisted from his grip and pushed past him. Her blood drained slowly away, leaving her cold to the bone as she recognized her own drawing pinned to the beam above the furnace.

‘That’s mine!’ she hissed. ‘How did you get it?’

‘You dropped it on the moors,’ Hal said.

She remembered the day, but that had been over a week ago and he had kept it all this time! Furious, she lunged and ripped the drawing from the wall. She rounded on Hal.

‘How dare you keep it,’ she stormed. ‘You had no right to do that.’

She pushed roughly past him and wrenched the door open, stumbling out into the darkness.

Blurb: A passion forged from fire 

Rejected by her favored knight, Joanna Sollers knows she will never love again. Especially when the man she’s now forced to marry is none other than her beloved’s half brother!

For blacksmith Hal Danby, marrying Joanna makes his lifelong dream of entering the Smiths’ Guild possible, even if the secrets in his past mean he’ll forever keep his distance. But everything changes with one stolen night, and in the arms of his new bride, Hal wonders if this loveless arrangement could transform into something real…

Buy links

US https://www.amazon.com/dp/B017RCL96M

UK https://www.amazon.co.uk/Blacksmiths-Wife-Mills-Boon-Historical-ebook/dp/B01B16JQ10/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=

#MedievalMonday16 Celebrating a Husband’s Return from Ashley York’s The Saxon Bride

11128thesaxonbrideblack_850-2From The Saxon Bride by Ashley York

 John’s breath against Rowena’s neck sent a shiver down her spine. Knowing now how easily she could be distracted, she fought to keep her head. Those who’d been waiting for the new lord of the manor acknowledged him with some excitement when he entered, Rowena at his side. John accepted their respectful greetings as if he’d always been such a high ranking lord yet Joan had said he was only a knight.

“My lord,” a burly man with a ruddy complexion bowed overly long before them, causing his face to turn even redder. “Accept the greetings of a distant friend. I am Mort of Bedgrove near Aylesbury, at your service.”

“And what would that service be?” John paused beside the extravagantly dressed man. It was not a man Rowena had ever seen before. John’s mouth twitched with humor as he seemed to take in all the fine silk, silver bells and feather adornments in one glance.

The man bowed again before answering. “My lord…” Stepping closer, the man was a head shorter than John but he managed to look him directly in the face when he answered. “Whatever service that you might need.”

John’s humor fled. Rowena sensed a sudden tension between the two men. Their eyes were locked as if sizing each other up. His arm finally relaxed where her fingers lay lightly atop it. Smiling, he tipped his head in acknowledgment and continued on.

Finally reaching the far center wall, John and Rowena took their seats at the long table. It was covered with a clean cloth and adorned with small bunches of the last flowers from the garden. The scene was festive and Rowena’s own spirits seemed to lift as well. It was a time to celebrate. The long awaited lord had finally returned. There would be time later to find out what that would mean to her. For her people, it was time for celebration. A time for peace.

The meal was eaten with the new apple wine Rowena had chosen. The assortment of breads, meats and pies was plentiful. The mead and cider flowed without restraint. All seemed relaxed, happy even. At the tables grouped with eight and ten people each, there was an easy exchange as they talked amongst themselves and the noise level rose as the amount of drink increased. The Normans, however, sat off by themselves and spoke more quietly. They were soldiers after all. Rowena tried to squelch her uneasiness at this realization.

Wondering if John noticed the subdued behavior of his men, she was startled to find his gaze running over her body. Her own breath quickened. It felt as if he were actually touching her. The memory of his touch had left a lasting impression. He wet his lips before taking his goblet to his mouth, opening it right before the cold metal touched his lips. The movement along his throat as he drank mesmerized her. She found herself wanting to put her lips there, to taste him. She looked away. She could never be so bold.

Her response to his looks was quite disconcerting. She cleared her throat.”How do you find your manor after your long absence, my lord?”

John eyebrows shot up. She hadn’t meant to find fault…or maybe she did.

“I was taken aback to find you do not care for the stores and such. Is there a reason you refuse to act as is your right as my wife?”

Her mouth opened slightly at the lie. “My lord, I have been given no such leave. Your king replaced me as chatelaine on his first visit here.”

John searched her face before correcting her. “Our king.”

BLURB: Rowena Godwinson, a Saxon princess, refuses to go willingly into a forced marriage to one of King William’s most favored knights but her struggle against enemy occupation fades away in the pleasurable arms of her Norman husband. Will he bring her people to their knees in his attempt to please his liege lord? Or can she win him over to the Saxon’s side even while one of her own plots to overthrow the bastard king?

John of Normandy is a soldier made for battle, ingrained with chivalry and a deep sense of loyalty to his mentor and king. Serving his liege is reward enough. Neither a title nor a child bride will entice him to become an indolent lord. A chance encounter with an alluring beauty, however, releases all his pent up desires and unspoken needs. His young bride has become a passionate woman, tempting him beyond his endurance. Can he win her over before she learns the truth of her father’s death?

Available in paperback and ecopy:   iTunes   Amazon   BarnesandNoble   KOBO

 

#MedievalMonday2016 from The Angel and the Prince by Laurel O’Donnell

laurelodonnell_theangelandtheprince_300x456Excerpt:  The sun was hot on Bryce’s bare shoulders.  His arms were bound before him and his feet were tied from ankle to ankle, the rope running beneath the horse he rode.  None of this bothered him, even though they had been riding all morning.  His mind was absorbed with his captor.  He could not stop staring at her riding so primly at the head of the army.  Rage consumed him.  He could feel the ropes around his wrists digging into his flesh as he clenched and unclenched his hands.  The disgrace of being captured by a woman!  Even as he thought this, his mind raced, trying to figure out a way to escape.  Still, he could not tear his eyes from her.

 If the Wolf Pack ever saw him now, how they would laugh!  The great Prince of Darkness captured by a woman!  The thought of those men mocking him made Bryce clench his teeth.  Damn, he thought.  What was I thinking?  Every sense in my body was shouting a warning!  But I ignored my instincts.  She was so quiet, so deceitful.  How did she ever over power my sentries?  He gritted his teeth in frustration.  Enough of this, Bryce thought.  It is over and done.  I must not dwell on it.  There is nothing to do but wait until an opportunity presents itself.  And it will.  I will be ready for it.

She brought the army to a halt and dismounted.  His eyes followed her every movement as she stopped and spoke with one of her men, a man who towered well over her.  How can they allow themselves to be led by a woman, Bryce wondered.  He saw her pause and he swore that she glanced at him before disappearing into a small glade.

Suddenly, there was a tugging at the rope around his feet.  He glanced down to see two of her men undoing the rope.  His gaze assessed them quickly.  They were fully armored, except for their helmets.  He could outrun them, but he could never outfight them, especially with his hands bound.

 He allowed them to pull him from his horse and he fell to the ground with a thud.  They hauled him to his feet and shoved him forward.  His legs ached from being immobile for so long, and he almost stumbled.  He quickly righted himself when he heard a chuckle from one of her men behind him.  He briefly wondered where they were taking him, but another shove answered his silent question.  They were heading toward the glade.  As he walked past the army, he noticed that many heads turned to regard him.  There was resentment and anger in their eyes, and Bryce had a moment of satisfaction.  They should hate me, he thought.  As I hate them.

He was led through a small glade until he saw her standing near a tall tree.  He stopped, frozen by the thought that she had summoned him.  What does she want of me, he wondered.  More torture?

The knights shoved Bryce to the ground at her feet.  Dirt and dust filled his mouth, making him gag.  He spat it out, easing himself to his knees, rubbing the dirt from his eyes with his bound hands.

The knights behind him placed a rope around his neck and handed the other end to her.  For a moment he wondered if he was going to be hanged, but then he saw her tie the end of the rope around the base of a tree.  Did she intend to keep him leashed like some sort of pet?  When she finished, she ordered the knights away.

Bryce turned to watch them depart, then swung his head back toward her, his eyes scanning the clearing curiously.

They were alone.

 She was either very brave, or very, very foolish.  She had cursed his thoughts from the moment he had seen her stepping from the mists like an angel coming down out of the clouds.

She turned away from him and Bryce felt a surge of frustration – how could he tell what she intended if he could not see her face?

 He stood.  Taking a large step, he came up behind her, chuckling softly.  “You think tying me to this tree will save you, Angel?”

Blurb:  In this exciting medieval romance, the French lady knight known as the Angel of Death wages a battle of wills and desires against her dreaded enemy — the English warrior known as the Prince of Darkness. Those who whisper her name in fear and awe call her the Angel of Death.

She is a French warrior, dedicated to fighting the English. In place of glittering ball gowns, she wears shining armor. Instead of practicing the gentler arts, she wields a killing sword.

He is an English lord known as the dreaded Prince of Darkness. He is sent by his king to find and destroy their most hated adversary — the French warrior known as the Angel of Death. Little does he know that his hated enemy is no man at all, but a beautiful woman who will challenge his heart and honor at every turn.

Forced to choose between love and honor, The Angel and the Prince wage a battle of wills that challenges everything they have ever believed in.

 Amazon

#MedievalMonday2016 A Journey through the Mist and Deep into Memory from Bambi Lynn’s Mask of the Highlander

 

Please welcome Bambi Lynn to share with us a wee ride through the highland fog from her novel MaskoftheHighlander_E_cover_200.

EXCERPT:

They rode out shortly after dawn. The hills were covered in a mist so thick, Kenna could barely see her horse’s ears through the fog. The mare shied often at the close proximity of Ty’s stallion. The beast, as dark and menacing as his master, snorted and pawed the ground whenever they stopped.

Three starving villages remained on Vass lands. Ty insisted the villagers would want to see their laird, returned home from defeating the English. They had visited each in turn. The arrival of the laird drew the ragged villagers from indoors, but if he expected a hero’s welcome, he would be disappointed. The tension in the air was thicker than the fog, each village worse than the one before it. By the time they reached the third, he did not even dismount.

He was cordial enough. His scowl of contempt did not seem directed at the villagers but at the squalor in which they lived. However, they did not know that. A glower from Laird Vass was enough to strike fear into the hearts of the most stout of men, regardless the cause.

She glanced over at him as he pulled his horse to a halt at the crest of a hill. Her heart tripped. Dare she hope that war had changed him? Was he right and truly a different man, or did he play some game to distract her, to lull her into relaxing her aegis. Then he would strike.

He stared off into the distance, beyond the grassy plain toward the border of his lands and her father’s. But his gaze was unfocused. Lines of worry creased the corner of his eye, his mouth. She had never known Ty Vass to worry about anything except his own pleasure. His raven-dark hair caught a breeze and swirled around him.

Kenna caught her breath. He had not seemed so handsome before, not when he was beating her, forcing himself on her. Those memories, nightmares she had relived again and again, began to fade. She saw the man he could be, a man she would be proud to call husband.

She gave herself a shake. Verra well. She would play along, see how his homecoming played out. Kenna wanted nothing so much as peace in her life. Peace between their clans, and peace within her own house…

…and heart.

“Come.” She spurred her mare forward. “I have something to show you.”

He did not speak, but Kenna sensed his stallion behind her. Her mare swished her tail overmuch, drawing strange sounds from Ty’s war horse. Soon enough she found herself scanning the brush, searching for an opening she had not seen in years. She had last come here on the eve of her wedding. It seemed a lifetime ago.

She paced her mare back and forth along the same gnarl of overgrown vines until she spotted it. “Here.” She pulled her leg over the horse’s neck and slid to the ground. She knelt in the grass, still damp from the morning’s fog and coaxed the vines apart, revealing a wooden door, barely hanging on its hinges.

She grinned over her shoulder at him, but her smile fell instantly. He watched her with a look akin to lust. She hesitated, old fears skittering up her spine, but reminded herself of her vow to give him a chance. She would never trust him, never love him, but by God she would make peace. Besides, there was nothing he could do to her here that he could not do to her elsewhere.

She knew little of his upbringing, but what she did know was enough to turn the heart of any woman who had loved a child. Ty’s own mother had died birthing him, a feat his father found pleasing. To have sired such a braw laddie as could rip a woman asunder to take his place in the world. There was a son t’ be proud of.

Kenna shuddered to imagine the lessons Ty has been taught growing up. As bad as her husband was, his father was worse.

With a faint smile, she turned away and concentrated her efforts on opening the door. After struggling for several moments, she felt him behind her. His presence engulfed her, trapping her against the massive expanse of his chest.

He reached a beefy arm around her and gave the door a great shove, heaving it into the darkness.

Kenna was fully aware of what lay beyond and had no fear of the close interior. Daylight guided her to a small table where she found flint and a candle, enough to illuminate the inside of the small cottage.

Ty ducked and stepped through the door, filling the inside and staring around in surprise.

Kenna followed his gaze, fully aware that he stood between her and the door. She tried to ignore it, taking in the broken stool, the crockery piled in the corner, the cold hearth. She took calming breaths, using the wobbly table as support. She was trapped in close confinement with him, her grandfather’s hated enemy and the man she feared most.

Relief flooded her when he moved from in front of the door and further into the room. He is changed, she told herself. Please, God. Let it be so. The ice around her heart melted a little when he turned a wondrous smile on her.

“What is this place?”

She took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “I discovered it as a child. It was my secret place.” She plied him with a sad smile and shook her head. “I have not been in years.”

He circled the room, no more than a few paces with his gigantic stride, until he stood beside her. The door was at her back, so she could still escape if needs be. For once she did not flinch when he lifted his hand.

BLURB:

Kenna dreads her husband’s homecoming like the plague. The man she married is vile and cruel. She has prayed every day of his absence he would be killed in the fighting, freeing her from a life of brutal torment and a loveless marriage. But the man on her doorstep has changed. This man is kind, gentle and sparks a fire in her she never felt in the early days of her marriage.

Ty is returning home after years fighting in France. He yearns for the arms of his beautiful wife and to finally meet the daughter he has never known. But can Kenna forgive the man she married and love the man he has become?

BUY LINKS:

Amazon US: http://www.amazon.com/Mask-Highlander-Gods-Highlands-Prequel-ebook/dp/B01D6W96OE/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Mask-Highlander-Gods-Highlands-Prequel-ebook/dp/B01D6W96OE/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&qid=1458561258&sr=8-5&keywords=bambi+lynn

Apple: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/mask-of-the-highlander/id1095199574?mt=11

Nook: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/mask-of-the-highlander-bambi-lynn/1123562788;jsessionid=CE60A3595E440C0F72681CCDEADC70E8.prodny_store01-atgap08?ean=2940152818888

#MedievalMonday2016 ~ Traveling to Battle from Ruth Casie’s Once Upon a Haunted Castle

Excerpt from THE MAXWELL GHOST, a featured novella in Once Upon a Haunted Castleruthacasie_onceuponahauntedcastle1400He and Laura were targets in the swift moving water. He needed to get farther downstream, away from the marshland. He cursed himself for worrying about her propriety rather than her safety.

The sound of splashing from up river grew closer.

“Wrap your arms around my waist and try not to lose your seat.”

They reached the far bank and raced along the river, the raiders not far behind.

“You need to let me down,” she yelled at him in the wind. “You can go faster without me.”

“Keep down,” he said between clenched teeth and pulled his sword. They raced on, the land a blur as they flew by.

The spray of water from his horse’s pounding hooves turned into small clouds of dust as they came out of the marshland into the meadow. His horse couldn’t maintain this speed much longer. They reached the area where the river dog-legged to the right. A dense fog hung low in the forest. Jamie let loose his battle cry then veered into the woods.

They raced on. Out of the mist his men charged and dashed past them set to do battle with the reivers close behind them.

Jamie and Laura raced on. Laura glanced over his shoulder.

“Rider behind us.” Jamie urged his horse on faster. If they didn’t stop soon, the poor animal would collapse.

Another glance. The man was gaining ground. Think, she told herself. Sunlight bounced off Jamie’s sword. Could it work? It had to.

“Put your sword on your left shoulder then make a quick half-turn to your left and face the rider. Don’t stop, charge,” Laura said as she lay as close to his horse as possible to give Jamie more room to maneuver.

“Don’t look. It’s not going to be a pretty sight.”

She closed her eyes tight.

Jamie followed her instructions. The sound of the horse’s hooves echoed in her head as he completed the maneuver and his horse sprang forward. With the full weight of the charging horse behind his sword, he hit the raider in the chest. The man fell to the ground. His disembodied head rolled somewhere in the mist.

Jamie turned his horse again and continued into the woods. Laura sat up. The trees sped by. She began to panic at the tall hedge row that loomed in front of them.

Their direction didn’t waver. Rather than slow down, the animal gathered speed. Jamie crushed her in front of him and held her head against his chest.

“I won’t let anything happen to you. Hold me.”

The sensation of flying through the air frightened and exhilarated her at the same time. For a moment, her heart stopped. How they landed without the horse falling or them being thrown was beyond her, but they did.

The horse slowed to a halt, lathered and blowing hard. His men were soon with them.

Back Cover Copy

In Ruth A. Casie’s The Maxwell Ghost, traitors, deception, murders and ghosts run rampant at The Maxwell’s Caerlaverock Castle. Jamie Maxwell Collins, a man of reality not magic, serves Lord Herbert in exchange for his own farm.  Laura Reynolds, Lord Herbert’s distant cousin comes to the castle to solve the murders and put the ghost to rest. The two, long-time friends find their destinies intertwined with hidden passions, but all is in jeopardy when Laura becomes the murderer’s next target. Jamie will find he needs some ghostly assistance to save Laura and declare his love.

Buy Links: Amazon/Kindle, iBook, BN, KOBO  

#MedievalMonday2016, How to Travel Safely from The Saint by Cathy MacRae

thesaint3-high-res-amazonPlease welcome Cathy MacRae to give us an interesting lesson on how to travel safely in the middle ages.

“You will ride with us,” Geoffrey informed her, changing his mind once again. Simon and Walter gave him startled looks and his neck warmed. “The Church teaches us to care for women and children,” he reminded them. He returned Marsaili’s furious stare. “And those unable to fend for themselves. ’Tis not safe for you to travel alone, and you will be under our protection until your journey ends or you are passed on to another for safe-keeping.”

“Here’s a miracle for yer impending sainthood, Lord de Wylde! ’Tis a miracle no one has kilt ye out of a fit of total aggravation for yer interfering ways. I told ye I dinnae need yer care, and I meant it!”

“I heard you, and you do,” Geoffrey intoned evenly, reining in his building annoyance with supreme effort. Never had anyone—much less a woman—gainsaid him as this woman did. “I am used to having my orders followed to the letter, so let me speak plainly. You will ride with us until we reach my estate at Galewood, which is not far from the Scottish border. At that time, escort will be arranged for you that will take you to your destination. No other options, opinions or attempts to sway a change in my order will be entertained.”

He paused, waiting for the woman to explode. Her cheeks flamed, her neck arched, and sparks flew from her clear blue eyes. Impressive! The only drawback was the thinning of her full lips, marring their lush perfection. And, of course, ’twas now likely she had a full arsenal of vindictive words ready to hurl at him.

“Do I make myself clear?” he asked, forestalling her tirade.

“Ye amadan!” she hissed. “Ye dinnae care what damage ye cause. I have reason to not ride with ye, or any man. I willnae have my journey impeded by such as ye.”

“Such as me?” he returned, curious as to what specific fault she found with him.

She waved an arm in the air, encompassing everyone in the room. “Ye have two horses where four would give better service pulling that wagon. Yer driver is elderly and likely not capable of demanding the best of what nags he has. And two men are an impressively small guard for a landed English lord.” She cast a look at their booted feet. “And, ’twere it not for the gold spurs ye wear, I’d find myself wondering at their abilities.”

Stung, Walter rose to his full height. “The three of us are completely formidable, milady,” he informed her, his voice rising with each word.

“Everyone knows the might of The Wolfe rides at our back,” Simon added with a nonchalant shrug. “It has been quite some time since anyone was foolish enough to challenge us.”

Marsaili drew back, a chill coursing up her spine at the thought of these men aligned with the formidable baron, Lord William de Wolfe, the king’s champion.

She suppressed a shudder. “Nevertheless, there are but two of ye now, unless milord fights from his chair. Though he has a commanding presence, I have yet to see him without his cane.”

“Despite our grievous faults, the fact remains you are safer with us than without us,” Geoffrey clipped. “Make yourself presentable and begin your sojourn with our lackluster party by helping with a few of the chores. We will bide the night here and leave at first light.”

 

Blurb:

Following in the footsteps of his uncle, the famous Lord William de Wolfe, Geoffrey de Wylde was counted among the greatest knights England had ever known. Revered for his justness and strict adherence to the chivalric code, he was known as The Saint.

Fleeing the unwanted attentions of her late husband’s brother, Marsaili de Ville runs headlong into the path of The Saint. She wants nothing more than to reach the safety of her family’s home in Scotland before Edmund de Ville’s henchmen capture her, but Geoffrey de Wylde insists on becoming her protector, slowing her flight and putting her unknowingly at risk.

As her past catches up with her, Marsaili will find more than a safe haven in The Saint’s arms. And Geoffrey de Wylde will discover his code does not tell him what to do with a woman who has been accused of murder, yet has captured his heart.

 

Buy link:

Amazon Kindle Worlds: https://www.amzn.com/dp/B01LMHIC4K

#MedievalMonday2016 at the Christmas Court with Jenna Jaxon

Thanks to Jenna Jaxon, we travel today to the medieval English court at Christmastide. Here’s an excerpt from Jenna’s novel, Seduction at the Christmas Court.

Excerpt: 

seduction-mock-coverThe cold, crisp air burned the inside of Alyse’s nose on the second day of their journey to Havering. Geoffrey had insisted they move slowly to accommodate young Thomas and his nurse, Ysa, a young girl from the village whose husband had been taken by the pestilence and whose babe had been stillborn. Grief stricken, the girl had come to dote on Thomas as though he were her own. They now rode together in the cart, bundled alongside numerous trunks and goods that would last them the month they would spend at court.

Alyse had chosen to ride Mirabelle and now relished the cold that stung her cheeks and made her impatient to move swiftly. Under its blanket of snow and ice, the countryside looked like a new world as the morning sun glinted off the dazzling white. She squinted at the glare and turned to Geoffrey, mounted on Saracen. The big black stallion pranced along, snorting as if he too was impatient for a gallop.

“Shall I race you to that oak tree yonder, my lord? Are you as ready for adventure as your steed or overtired with your journey?” Alyse grinned at her husband who constantly surveyed the landscape. Although the pestilence had left the land bereft of people for the most part, of those who had survived many had become lawless, roaming the countryside, robbing travelers and ravaging outlying villages.

Geoffrey quirked an eyebrow at her. “You are in fine fettle this morn.” He glanced once more across the still land, but nothing stirred. “What forfeit will you pay when I am the victor?”

Laughing at the arrogant flare of his nose as he arched his neck,  Alyse blew him a kiss. “Another of these, save it will have more substance.”

“I’ll take that wager, my lady. ‘Twill be my pleasure to claim your lips when we two are done.”

“And what will you forfeit to me, Lord Longford, when I best you?”

A grin immediately split his face, blue eyes brightening. “What would you ask of me, fair lady? Another feat of Hercules?”

Alyse laughed in return and a warmth spread through her heart, for he reminded her of their early days of courtship. “Nay, my lord. I think those days are put to rest.” Still, what could she ask of him? There was nothing he would deny her an she ask for it. At least she thought not. “If I am the winner, I beg…a lock of your hair.”

The startled expression on his face brought on a fit of giggling from Alyse.

“You want me to cut my hair?” The horror in his voice sent her into fresh peals of laughter.

“Not all of your hair, Sampson. One lock only.” She cut her eyes toward him to find him dragging his fingers through his dark hair, as if to assure himself it still remained on his head. “I want to make a keepsake token, like the one I gave you.”

“Aye. I can bear to be shorn thus.” He stole his hand to the breast of his dark green tunic, to rub the spot above his heart where her favor, a small blue silk bag with a lock of her black hair, lay. His eyes twinkled. “An I lose this wager, of course.”

During their conversation they had walked their horses much closer and the massive oak tree seemed to tower over them.

Not waiting for a signal, Alyse tapped Mirabelle hard with her heel and the mare shot away at a gallop.

“Ahhh.”

Geoffrey sounded farther behind her than she expected. He would not remain so for long. She leaned almost flat over the horse’s withers, urging her mount to greater speed. A quick glance over her shoulder showed Geoffrey and Saracen closing the gap at a frightening pace. They were but yards from the goal if only Mirabelle could keep her lead.

Blurb: 

Lord and Lady Longford have journeyed to the Christmas Court of King Edward III in the year 1349 to wait upon the king and take place in some Yuletide merriment. However, when Geoffrey is called suddenly into the king’s service again, Alyse must remain at the court, attending the queen and dissuading her rebellious sister from a disastrous action. When rumors of Geoffrey’s death arise,  Alyse fends off an old suitor who pays court to her once more. But how long will he take “No” for an answer?

#MedivalMonday2016 Danger on an unfamiliar path from The Lady of the Forest by Barbara Bettis

theladyoftheforest_w11020_750Please welcome Barbara Bettis with a travel excerpt involving the dangers of traveling unknown paths, both physical and emotional.

EXERPT:

“Tell Kate to take no chances until I return.” From the downturn of Jamie’s mouth, Henry gathered how well she’d follow such advice.

“Hold.” Jamie trotted forward. “Guards patrol along here ever’ day. Don’t know if they been by yet, but you stay just inside the trees. There’s a path runs along the road. Won’t nobody see you. The crossroad’s on further, a bit.”

“My thanks, again.” Henry pinned him with a stern gaze. “Have a care for yourself.”

Before the youth clambered back into the trees, he flashed his jaunty grin. This time, the smile contained a trace of sadness.

Kate’s problems remained on Henry’s mind as he rode, but without all the facts, he couldn’t devise a plan of action. Of his own circumstance, he suspected Sir Mortimer played a double game, although why he pretended to believe Paxton was Henry remained unclear. Perhaps he sought power by supporting a usurper. More than likely, he played a waiting game, to see which outcome presented more opportunity.

Travel through the brushy roadside leveled into a slow, monotonous lull, during which he devised a variety of options for dealing with Paxton. His mind grappled with one of those plans when a disturbance, a sound, alerted him.

He reined in his mount and listened. Silence. It came again. A series of faint, sharp bird calls. Only a bird called Jamie could emit such a frantic warble. An emergency, indeed, to have sent the youth after him.

Henry urged the gelding around and started back. A score of steps later, the calls sounded from just ahead. Movement to his right sent him in that direction. The boy came into view, stepping carefully onto an almost-bare tree limb.

“What’s wrong?” Concern turned Henry’s tone sharp as Jamie jumped to the ground.

“I feared—I’d not catch you.”  Tight lines etched the youngster’s face. “It’s Cade and Oscar. They’re following.”

Henry swung down beside him. “Have they been harmed?”

Jamie hung his head and gasped for breath, hands on his knees. “Nah. But awful ole Hawise… she saw Cade leaving…and sent up a shout. Said the lad that…freed Oscar…were the dead Lady of Stonehill. You gots to help ’em.”

“How far back are they?” As he spoke, he took the boy’s arm to help him sit.

“A ways. I ran ahead to catch you.” He heaved in a lung-full of air and blew it out, then flattened

a hand to his chest. “For awhile I thought my heart would get here a’fore me.”

Kneeling, Henry ruffled the boy’s hair. “You did well. Stay here and rest while I go for them. Are Sir Mortimer’s men following?”

Jamie nodded, his unruly curls flopping into his eyes. “But they’re going the wrong way for now. Cade took the south road ’till she could double back without ’em knowing.”

“How could they not see her?”

The boy snorted. “She knows shortcuts better’n any old guard that don’t gets off his behind. And Sir Mort never bothered to learn nothing about the land nor the tenants since he come. He only cares what he can pry out of ’em.”

He gulped another breath. “See, Maddie caught up to me in the woods. She could leave, ’cause nobody never pays attention to a kitchen helper. I waited at the hut ’till Cade got there.”

Henry’s heart thudded at the thought of Kate being chased by soldiers. “Is she unharmed?”

“Said so, didn’t I?”

The boy’s spirit was bouncing back. He’d be fine. But Cade…Kate. He hoped they were near. “Do they have horses?”

Jamie nodded. “Cade had’em hid. They’ll be slowed down in the woods. That’s why I came after you.”

“You did the right thing. I’ll find her—“

“Cade said stay here, they’d come to you. If you gets lost in the forest, we’d have to go looking.”

True. He hated to admit it, but traipsing through unfamiliar countryside might cost unnecessary time. Inactivity grated on his nerves, but he had little choice. He paced a circle around the tree Jamie leaned against until restlessness became too much. Bedamned to an unknown landscape. Kate might be in trouble.

“I’m going back,” he announced.

“No need.” Jamie nodded toward the trees. “They’re coming.”

Two figures on horseback broke through the underbrush, but Henry saw only the blood splashed down the front of Kate’s tunic.

 

BLURB:

He must find a traitor; she must protect her people. Can their love survive the duties that drive

them apart?

When her elderly husband dies, Lady Katherine fakes her own death and disappears into the forest with others escaping the brutish new lord. Determined to protect her people, she knocks the wrong man senseless. But Lord Henry’s not an enemy, he’s the brother of her childhood friend. Although his tender confidence tempts her, she’s bound by duty.

Henry of Chauvere has found the one lady he wants for his own, never mind she’s tied him hand and foot. When he learns the king has ordered her to wed Stonehill’s ruthless new master, he insists Kate seek haven with his sister. But she won’t desert her friends. Henry vows to solve her problem, provided he catches a traitor before the threat from Kate’s past catches her.

When a daring rescue compels Henry and Kate to join forces, their attraction grows into love. If only duty didn’t drive them apart.

BUY LINKhttp://amzn.to/2czF6Fl

 

MedievaLMonday2016# Travel and Freedom in The Dragon Knight’s Ring by Mary Morgan

dragonknightsring_w10768_750

Please welcome Mary Morgan to give us a sense of the freedom to be had traveling through time and the Scottish highlands in her novel, The Dragon Knight’s Ring.

Excerpt:

“What do ye mean we can finish in the morn?” Adam eyed her skeptically.

Meggie stepped away from him. “I haven’t been riding in a few days, so I thought with the weather being fine, we could take Fion and Ciar out for a long ride. There’s this beautiful ridge called Drumbuie. Ye can see Loch Ness in all directions.” She nodded to the basket. “I’m tempting ye with some food, too.”

Adam dropped the shovel. Grabbing a cloth, he wiped his forehead. He did not need food to be tempted to go anywhere with Meggie. He knew the place well, since it had been a favorite of theirs. He was curious, though, and asked, “Why?”

She grimaced in good humor. “I’m tired of hiding in the shadows. I want to try and remember.”

Pleased with her answer, Adam reached past her, his arm brushing against hers—the mere contact made his groin tighten. Picking up the basket, he whistled for Ciar. “Then I will do my best to help ye.”

After preparing both animals, they made their way out of Aonach and headed for the hills. Clouds loomed in the distance, but Adam deemed they posed no threat to their outing. He let Meggie set the pace, galloping through heather with naught a care in the world. She came to a light cantor when she spotted a herd of deer.

“See the females.” She pointed to the south. “Those belong to Red Brute the stag.”

Bringing his horse alongside her, Adam shielded his eyes from the early afternoon sun. “’Tis a fine family he has there. Why is he given the name?”

 

Meggie twisted in the saddle, obvious to Adam that she was looking for something. “Bruce named him after some obnoxious client he had dealt with several years ago. He noticed the stag had the same attitude and so aptly named him Red Brute.” She laughed playfully. “Though, knowing Bruce, he meant it in jest. For ye see, he loves all animals, regardless of their temperament. Oh, there he is! See, up along the rocky edge. He never strays far from the females.”

Fascinated, Adam watched as the stag wandered at a leisurely pace and then lifted its head as if sensing their presence. “Noble animal,” he murmured.

“Aye,” she agreed. “I never tire of watching them or any animals. They roam with freedom I long for some days.”

Adam’s gaze turned back to Meggie. He detected a feeling of melancholy in her voice. “Are ye not already free, Meggie?”

Frowning, she looked away. “Aye, I am, but I sense…more within me. There are days I can hear whispers of someone calling my name along the breezes. As if the two worlds—past and present cross over. I’m bound by this and the other.” She kept her gaze focused on the animals. “And there’s always these burning questions I carry.”

“Which are?” he asked, bringing Ciar closer to her and Fion.

When she turned back toward Adam, her eyes glistened with tears.

Adam’s heart stilled. A strong urge to tell her everything overtook him.

****

Blurb:

Crusader, Adam MacFhearguis is on one last quest to the standing stones in Scotland where he seeks to bury the past. However, a silent prayer sends him to an unknown future and to his beloved Meggie. When he uncovers a shocking revelation, Adam questions everything about the woman he thought he knew and loved. He may have traveled the veil of ages, but time is now his enemy.

Margaret MacKay lives a life in the future without the memories of her past—her death. When Adam arrives at her door confessing he knows her, she is confused and wary. With each passing day, she yearns to learn more from this stranger. Yet, when a truth is revealed, can she trust the man to unlock the chains from her mind and heart?

Will love free the bonds to unite the two lovers who were doomed centuries ago? Or will evil finally claim victory over the Dragon Knights?

 Buy Links:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Dragon-Knights-Ring-Order-Book-ebook/dp/B01HDWY8S2/

BN: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/dragon-knights-ring-mary-morgan/1123986946?ean=2940158146312

Kobo: https://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/ebook/dragon-knight-s-ring

Apple iBooks: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/dragon-knights-ring/id1133781893?mt=11

A Dark Beginning at a Long Journey’s End ~ #MedievalMonday2016

Please welcome Ashley York to the Author Travels Blog. Today she gives us a suspenseful journey through medieval Scotland that ends in a meeting of enemies from her novel thebruisedthistleay.

Seumas kept a fast pace through the night, traveling as if the devil himself were after him. His thoughts were morose, tortured by the screams of people murdered in the dark of night, a young man threatened at sword point to reveal the location of his hidden gold, Giles bending over the young girl. Atrocities no one should ever have witnessed. Atrocities he could not overcome.

By day, he rested. The memories made sleep impossible. He ate nothing and drove himself with only one thought in mind—revenge. Iseabail’s murder would be avenged.

It was near midnight when he finally saw her home. She was a woman of great wealth, and Seumas understood now why her uncle would have been so relentless in trying to acquire his brother’s estate. The castle walls were well-maintained. He would never be able to gain access. Retreating into the darkness of the woods, he pulled his tartan around him and slid down against a tree, keeping watch. His memories pressed down on him, drowning him with heavy thoughts of his revenge. The man would die slowly, in as much agony as Seumas could inflict upon him. Time became just another element, like the wind and the rain. He had lost all sense of it. Daylight came and went. And he waited.

The whinny of his horse woke him instantly. With eyes already adjusted to the dark, he scanned the road. A lone rider traveled toward him from the castle. A hiss escaped Seumas as he saw the way the man was dressed. His opulence was unmistakable.

What type of fool travels the roads at night so ripe for robbery?

Without a doubt, this pompous arse was Iseabail’s uncle.

He stayed hidden beneath the trees as the rider approached. He had worried as he planned out his revenge that he would not recognize their uncle. He almost laughed at the audacity of this man. The whoreson believed he could kill his niece, steal his brother’s lands, and go about his life as if he were a king? Tonight he would find out he was wrong. Seumas stepped out onto the path and waited to be seen.

“Hold.” Seumas held up his hand, demanding compliance.

“What is the meaning of this?” the man blustered as his horse shifted and turned at Seumas’s sudden appearance. “How dare you travel my roads in the middle of the night?”

Seumas bowed in mock respect. “M’lord, I beg yer pardon. Whose lands have I unknowingly trespassed on?”

The man tilted his head and squinted. “These are my lands. I am the MacNaughton.”

Seumas felt the air leave his lungs, to be replaced by rage. “John MacNaughton?”

“No, I am his brother, Henry.” Seumas slowly stepped toward the man, taking the horse’s reins. Henry was clearly not expecting that. “What are you up to?”

“I wish to speak to ye, sir, if ye would please dismount. I would have us speak as men.”

“What business have I with you, sir?” Henry tried to pull the horse back, away from Seumas, who held tightly and moved closer. “Why would you travel these roads at this time of night?”

“I would ask ye the same.” Seumas’s voice was barely above a whisper. “Will ye dismount?”

“I will not. Unhand my horse this instant.”

Seumas gave a sharp yank and the horse reared away, effectively unseating Henry, who fell to a heap on the ground.

Seumas stepped in closer until he towered over him, using his size to intimidate. “Ye will.”

He merely observed the man as he worked to right himself. The buffoon struggled with his cloak, mumbling and grunting as he tried to unwrap his large limbs. The horse skidded away from the bumbling oaf. The knife was a surprise. Henry pointed it at Seumas, the blade glistening even in the dark, all pretense of ineptness discarded.

He sneered. “What do you want from me? Tell me quick and I may allow you to live.”

“Are ye not the brave man?”

His sneer slipped, revealing his confusion. “What are you talking about? Get off my land.”

Seumas rounded on him, his brows arched high at the absurdity of the answer. “Yer land?”

Henry tipped his head as if assessing the true meaning of his obtuse question. Seumas sensed his bravado crumbling.

“I heard ye stole it from yer brother,” Seumas continued, standing with his arms akimbo. The man blanched. “Yea, I know quite a lot about ye.”

“What do you want with me?” Henry’s voice broke with his fear and his blade shivered in the moonlight. “I have no idea what you are talking about.”

“Ah, Henry…” Seumas spoke as if to a child. “Ye were already in a bad way and now ye have made it even worse.”

“How so?” he said, his voice now quivering.

“Tell me.” Seumas moved in closer. The man’s dagger still trembled in his hand. “Is that the dagger ye used to run yer niece through?”

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