Hi Everyone. I have some great news to share with you--well, a couple of things. First, here's my newly re-envisioned cover for THE HEART OF THE PHOENIX. The book will be re-released SEPT. 22 as part of Amazon's select Encore Program for titles that did well enough on first release to warrant additional exposure. I love the new 'look.'
Second, welcome to Medieval Monday. This fall's format has changed, with each author posting excerpts from her or his book. Each excerpt will be built around a weekly theme. This first week--first meeting between hero and heroine.
Since Stephen and Evie have know each other from childhood, my excerpt here features their first meeting in two years, after Stephen crushed a youthful Evie when he rejected her offer of friendship upon his return from Crusade. But the heart does not forget...and each has kept a special memory of the other. If only...
Rays from the afternoon sun beat at her sturdy traveling wimple. If only a breeze might pop up, to relieve the gathering heat. She longed to fan her hand before her face to create a bit of air movement. A pox on rules for ladies. With a sigh, Evie tried for serenity.
Finally, the large gate creaked, then groaned open as if it hadn’t moved in a score of
years. Evie swept through before the reluctant brother changed his mind. As she cleared the still-moving gate, a figure loomed before her, and she stumbled to a halt.
It couldn’t be. She must be mistaken.
He stepped forward, his mouth twisted in a chilling smile. “Greetings, little shadow.”
Breath knotted in her chest. His wide shoulders blotted the sun, but its rays cast a halo around him, shadowed his face. Not that she needed to see. Memory called up those mocking, amber-touched eyes, that square jaw and jutting chin. The hard lips that turned soft and warm at a touch.
With a gasp and shiver, Evie staggered back a step. His hand shot out to catch her, but
she batted it away, still unable to summon words.
God could not be so cruel to fling him in her path like this. Just when she’d congratulated herself on a successful plan. Just when—
What was he doing at St. Anselm Priory?
What in Satan’s own hell was she doing at the priory? Stephen’s eyes narrowed.
Lady Evelynn of Chauvere.
Hadn’t she plagued his dreams throughout last night as he slept off the healing decoction Brother Gerald forced on him? Perhaps the delirium yet gripped his mind. God knew the dagger hole in his leg pained enough.
“How come you to be here?” he growled as he stalked close, ignoring the pull of the half-closed wound. “Your brother told me you were safe with your cousin at Rosemont.”
He recognized that flicker of guilt before she bit her lip and notched up her chin. It reminded him of her expression as a child when he and Henry caught her in pranks. “What trick did you play to escape your cousin’s protection?”
Her sudden, innocent expression confirmed his suspicion. “I have Henry’s permission to return. Davy brought me the message yesterday.”
She nodded toward the young squire who had turned up last night at the priory with Stephen’s own message from Henry. Was it possible she’d been summoned home, as well? His letter hadn’t mentioned it, only that his father lay gravely ill again.
He beckoned to the leader of the troop. “Captain, under whose orders do you travel?”
Clearly uncomfortable, the old knight stepped up. “My Lady Marguerite directed me to escort Lady Evelynn here. Said I was to see the lady delivered and return home by nightfall.”
“Running late, are you not?” Stephen knew the distance between Rosemont and St.
Anselm; the party should have reached here by mid-day. It was possible the men who attacked him last night had menaced others. But these guards carried no trace of battle.
“I thought it wise to travel slow, my lord. I didn’t want to arouse suspicion over armed guards moving fast, what with the unrest abroad.”
Stephen nodded, relieved. “You acted wisely. I doubt any troops are in the area.
However, it’s better to take care.”
“As to that, we saw evidence of many horses not far from the village,” the captain admitted. “Looked to be a large party, what with the grass flattened the way it was. Gave me some concern over safety hereabouts.”
The old solider likely meant the patch of trampled underbrush where Stephen had been ambushed. Unwise to mention the attack, however. If the captain thought his charges were in danger, he’d be reluctant to leave. Stephen intended to send Evie back to the castle immediately.
“My men’s work,” he said. “They tried to find a shortcut last night but succeeded in
getting lost. You’ll have no trouble returning in good time, so long as you leave now.”
Evie stepped forward to turn the full blast of her smile on the older man.
“Yes, captain. If you set out immediately and ride quickly, you can reach Rosemont. The duty to me is discharged. Please assure your good lady that I am well pleased.”
Stephen didn’t like the sound of those words. No way in hell was she staying at the priory. Even if Henry had ordered her home, which he didn’t for one moment believe, he refused to risk his men’s safety, and hers, by allowing her to remain. Her presence might jeopardize the operation. He couldn’t permit that.
“Lady Evelyn will accompany you back,” he announced, unmoved by her frown. “The
group she intended to join has been delayed. The lady cannot wait here alone.”
Her clenched lips and flared nostrils warned him that she intended to argue, but this was no time for foolishness. She must leave before more of his men arrived. He’d allow nothing, no one, to interfere with the plan; he was too close. After all the years when the trail lay as cold as Prince John’s heart, a clue finally had surfaced. Evidence that put within reach the murdering bastard responsible for hundreds of deaths. For Sorya’s.
“I don’t believe you heard me, Sir Stephen.” Evie’s words dripped honey. “I’m going
can accompany me.” She shot a glance toward the youth, deep in conversation with the maid.
The back of Stephen’s neck tingled, and he clenched his hands. God’s blood, she made
him so angry he longed to grab those soft arms and shake some sense into her.
“You are not remaining at the priory, and you are not traveling to England.” The words came out in a growl. He stepped forward, and she tilted back her head to meet him eye to eye. “Must I tie you to that horse?”
She leaned in. “Just you try, Sir Stephen-the-Bully.”
He glared and crossed his arms against his chest, daring her to continue.
“Do as you think you must.” She echoed his stance, her crossed arms pushing her plump breasts higher.
Not that he noticed, blast her.
“I vow I will return the moment I’m free,” she added. “You have no authority over my movements, for you are no relative of mine.”
“And I thank God for it. How Henry has put up with you all these years I do not know. A more troublesome, contentious wi...woman I’ve never seen.”
“Did you call me a witch?”~~~~~
The book cover won't change until the new release date, so if you pop over to pick it up for $2.99, you'll see the current (soon-to-be-former) look.
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And here are fellow Medieval Monday authors who are posting excerpts today: