Medieval Monday with Ruth A. Casie!

It’s time for another Medieval Monday. This month’s theme is “Celebrating Nature”.

I’m thrilled to share a wonderful excerpt in Ruth A. Casie’s, The Guardian’s Witch !

RuthACasie_The+Guardians+WitchExcerpt:

The berries Lisbeth had gathered tumbled forgotten from her hands. A tremor touched her lips while the vision slammed behind her eyes. She didn’t doubt the vision’s truth. Sometimes a bright light, warm and comforting, accompanied the vision; other times the wind howled, cold and disturbing. Today, panic clearly filled the air.

She spun around trying to pinpoint a direction and abruptly stopped. Facing south, she licked her lips nervously and tasted the sweetness of fresh water. A rushing sound burst in her ears. The river. Her head snapped east toward the river path and she ran. As she careened down the narrow trail, the outstretched branches tugged at her dress, pulled off her shawl and clawed at her face and arms. She took no notice. The cadence of her footfalls beat out a mantra, not him, not him, not him. She rushed on faster, mumbling enchanted words under her breath.

She exploded out of the forest and stood on the riverbank as the bridge gave way, sending the horse and rider plunging into the angry current. Swiftly the horse surfaced and headed for shore with an empty saddle. She stood on the bank, still mumbling as she scanned the river until she glimpsed a clear red aura shining deep in its middle. Her relief was momentary when the blackness began to creep in. There wasn’t much time.

Quickly she pulled off her heavy dress and, wearing only her chemise, dove into the river. Save him was her only thought. Down she plunged kicking hard against the current. The usually clear water, now choked with mud, churned with debris. She screamed the words in her head and made her demands. In response, the current slowed and as the mud began to settle, a lifeless hand beckoned to her from below.

Desperate to reach him, she kicked hard toward the deep river bottom. She was a strong swimmer and reached him quickly. She pulled on his arm but he didn’t budge. Something pinned him in place. She dropped his hand and pulled herself around him. The murky water made it difficult for her to see what held him. She resorted to running her hand over every inch of his body to locate what kept him captive. Her lungs burned. She needed to surface but she pressed on.

Frantically her hands felt their way along his leg until she found his foot caught in the debris. She shoved the timber away. The exertion cost her precious time and air. With one hand she grabbed his shirt collar and kicked off the bottom. With her free arm she reached for the surface. She didn’t take her eyes off him.

The higher she got, the more the water cleared. The wild current fought to get free of her restraint. She didn’t think. She focused on getting Alex out of the water.

The hand holding Alex’s collar cramped, sending spasms of pain up her arm. She did not let go. The last of her breath spent, her lungs screamed for fresh air. She forced herself not to breathe. She was certain she would break free of the water soon. Alex’s weight pulled at her. She wasn’t making any progress. If she didn’t do something quickly they would be back on the bottom. She glanced up. The light was brighter. She was close now. She held her legs together and undulated like a graceful giant fish. Once again her free arm reached hard and pulled the water out of her way. One last hard kick and she exploded into the air as if propelled from underneath. Alex floated face down next to her.

She gulped for air, exhausted. There was no time to waste. She held on to him as the current pulled them toward the rapids and the steep falls beyond. She turned him onto his back and swam for shore. She dragged the large knight onto the bank where his warhorse stood snorting and stomping. Worn out but thankful, she collapsed next to Alex gasping for air. Her hand was on his chest.

He didn’t stir. She fixed her eyes on his chest but she didn’t see any movement. She scanned his face. A small trickle of water escaped his mouth.

She rolled him on his side and pounded on his back. Nothing. She pounded again. More water trickled out of his mouth. She reached inside his wet shirt. No heartbeat.

She kept the building panic at bay. Think. Calmness overcame her. She rolled him onto his back and knelt above him. She placed her mouth over his and gave him her breath. She’d given her breath before, when the blacksmith’s wife gave birth and the baby didn’t breathe. That day she had tried everything but nothing worked. She wanted to move the baby’s chest, just one breath. In desperation she breathed for the child. It worked then. It had to work now.

She felt the tingle at her lips and a dizzying current raced through her. She closed her eyes and gave him another breath. Her hand pressed hard against this chest. She searched for a heartbeat, the rise and fall of his chest, anything to indicate he lived.

He shuddered with a shallow breath. Reassured, she felt a faint but steady beat and sank back on her heels. She observed the deadly gray pallor on his face retreat. His arms twitched as they came to life. His face contorted in a spasm as he choked to clear his lungs. He pushed himself up coughing out the last of the river sludge and sucked in large quantities of air.

Relief surged through her. She rose, retrieved her dress lying in a pool of sunlight, and quickly slipped it on. She calmed the restless warhorse with her gentle touch and whispered words. When she ventured a glance at the knight, she found herself staring into his compelling gray eyes. His gaze was riveted on her face. A fresh spasm of coughing took him, and she turned to leave.

“Wait.” He struggled to get the word out.

She stopped and took a deep breath.

He shook his head. His eyelids slid closed and he fell onto his back. He was asleep before his head touched the ground.

Excerpt:

Lord Alex Stelton can’t resist a challenge, especially one with a prize like this: protect a castle on the Scottish border for a year, and it’s his. Desperate for land of his own, he’ll do anything to win the estate—even enter a proxy marriage to Lady Lisbeth Reynolds, the rumored witch who lives there.

Feared and scorned for her second sight, Lisbeth swore she’d never marry, but she is drawn to the handsome, confident Alex. She sees great love with him but fears what he would think of her gift and her visions of a traitor in their midst.

Despite his vow never to fall in love, Alex can’t get the alluring Lisbeth out of his mind and is driven to protect her when attacks begin on the border. But as her visions of danger intensify, Lisbeth knows it is she who must protect him. Realizing they’ll secure their future only by facing the threat together, she must choose between keeping her magic a secret and losing the man she loves.

Buy Links: Amazon, BN, Kobo, iBooks

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Medieval Monday with Jenna Jaxon!

It’s time for another Medieval Monday. This month’s theme is “Celebrating Nature”.

I’m thrilled to share a wonderful excerpt in Jenna Jaxon’s, TIME ENOUGH TO LOVE!

Jenna_Jaxon_TimeEnoughToLoveExcerpt: 

Snipping the stems of a sweetly-scented pale lavender Apothecary’s rose, she started when a shadow fell over the flower in her hand. She looked up to find Thomas standing before her, smiling at her basketful of blooms.

“You wish to take a part of Knowlton’s Keep with us when we leave, my lady?”

Her answering smile masked the strange thumping that became the beat of her heart. “I hope you approve, my lord. I would dry the petals and use them to remind us of home while we journey so far from it.”

“Of course, my sweet. Whate’er your heart desires is yours.” He took a dark pink blossom from her and held it to his nose. “Sweet.” The warm brown eyes held her blue ones. “Thank you.”

Alyse stared at him, uncertain what he meant. “I beg pardon, my lord?”

He placed the rose in her basket. “’Tis what the dark pink color means. In the language of flowers. Thank you. At least,” he grinned at her, “according to my mother that is what it means. I am not sure how she came by this knowledge.”

Curious idea. “What do the others mean?”

He drew her arm through his and led her to a bush with snowy-white double blooms. “This is the Cheshire rose. The white blooms stand for purity.”

Alyse bent to smell the delicate scent. “I suppose that would be expected.”

Thomas took her shears and snipped the bloom, adding it to her basket. “Purity, for a pure heart.”

Beside the Cheshire grew a large bush of clear pink blooms. “And this?” She could not contain her eagerness. The names and meanings of the roses had stirred up the banked embers in her soul. Or perhaps the nearness of Thomas’s masculine body excited other, more passionate yearnings. Suddenly, the feel of his arm in hers filled her senses.

What was happening? Why this sudden lift in spirits?

She had been more melancholy of late, ever since Thomas had abandoned her bed. But it made no sense.

Did she not still love Geoffrey, heart and soul?

The thought sobered her. The sharp pang of sorrow that always stabbed her heart at the thought of him had dulled. Was she coming to regard Thomas as her husband and long for him as such?

“This is my favorite.” He clipped another pink bloom and held it under her nose. “What do you smell?”

Puzzled, she sniffed the showy pink blossom, but he moved the stem and leaves for her to smell instead. A wonderful scent assailed her, but one she did not associate with roses.

“Apples?”

A smile lit his face as he placed an entire stem of the flowers, leaves and all, into her basket.

“But what is it called?”

“Eglantine or Sweet Briar Rose.” He looked down at his thumb where a fat drop of blood welled. “The latter is probably the more apt name.” He smiled ruefully.

Seeing his glance, she took his hand and, without thinking, raised the injured thumb to her lips. She gently kissed the drop away, and he gasped. Their gazes met, his frankly searching hers for an answer.

Blurb:

When Lady Alyse de Courcy is betrothed to Sir Geoffrey Longford, she has no choice but to make the best of a bad bargain. The hulking knight is far from her ideal man, and although he does possess some wit and charm, he is no match for the sinfully sensual man she secretly admires, Thomas, Earl of Braeton, her betrothed’s best friend.

From the first, Sir Geoffrey finds himself smitten by Lady Alyse, and, despite her infatuation with his friend, vows to win her love. When Geoffrey puts his mind to wooing Alyse, he is delighted to find her succumbing to his seduction. But when cruel circumstances separate them, Geoffrey must watch helplessly as Thomas steps in to protect Alyse—and falls in love with her himself.

As the three courtiers accompany Princess Joanna to her wedding in Spain, they run headlong into the Black Plague. With her world plunged into chaos, Alyse struggles with her feelings for both the men she loves. But which love will survive?

Buy TIME ENOUGH TO LOVE at Amazon!

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Medieval Monday with Barbara Bettis!

It’s time for another Medieval Monday. This month’s theme is “Celebrating Nature”.

I’m thrilled to share a wonderful excerpt in Barbara Bettis’, SILVERHAWK!

Silverhawk_BarbExcerpt:

(Lady Emelin has chosen a stormy night to launch an escape from her tempting kidnapper, Sir Giles)

She shivered against the increasing cold and hunched forward to search the path ahead. Why hadn’t she thought to bring one of the blankets? Clouds scudded across the sky. Still she urged the horse onward. She had come too far to turn back now.

Had Silverhawk regained consciousness? Discovered her absence? Imagine the surprise, when he awoke alone. She’d shown him she was not helpless. Satisfaction lightened the oppression she was feeling—from the approaching storm; that had to explain the growing dread.

Then, carried on bursts of wind, came voices. At last. She’d found them. She straightened, the discomfort of the cold and riding bareback forgotten as she urged the mare forward. Onward down the trail she rode. Once she called out, “Lord Osbert, Garley, I’m here.” No answer came.

In the distance, thunder rumbled, and white light knifed across the ominous sky. Please, not rain. Surely the good Lord wouldn’t be so cruel. Her throat constricted. She gulped. She would not panic.

Concentrate on deep breaths. If only her heart would stop clamoring to get out. A cold, fat drop struck, followed by two more, a dozen. Then the downpour hit.

A jagged streak snapped in front of her. A rolling crash shook the earth. The mare tossed its head, danced aside. Emelin murmured, petted the animal’s neck in an attempt to calm it. But at the next sharp crack, it reared, and shot down the path.

Fisting the reins, she clung to its mane as the mount veered through the underbrush, away from the sharp zigzags of light. Branches struck her face, snatched at her skirts, nearly dragged her off. How she managed to keep her seat, she didn’t know. All she could think was, Don’t fall. Don’t fall. Don’t fall.

At last the mare slowed. Emelin squinted through wet eyes, reached out to knock aside a soggy branch, dripping leaves. Finally, the animal stopped, blowing hard, trembling. Emelin shook.

Breath came in gasps. Her mind could not form a coherent thought as cold wetness dripped from her hair to ooze down her back. The frightened flight of the horse had carried her far from the path. She was hopelessly lost.

All around, wind-whipped shadows dipped, lunged forward, then back. Another spear of lightning wrenched into a nearby tree. Her shout of surprise was swallowed in the earth-shaking roar that followed. The winded mare only shook harder.

Could they survive this nightmare?

Then through the rain-drenched night a huge black object hurtled up, rearing as it just missed her. Emelin screamed.

The monster swung around. Wet black tentacles wrapped around her, dragged her off the exhausted mare. She tried to struggle, but the iron hold wouldn’t allow it.

At last her feet touched ground, and the tentacles embraced her until she couldn’t breathe. It took a moment for the roar to dissolve into understandable words. “Are you hurt? Are you hurt? Tell me if you’re hurt.”

Silverhawk.

Her arms flew around his waist and she nodded against his soaked tunic. Thank God, thank

God. She was safe.

Blurb:

He’s everything a proper lady should never want; she’s everything a bastard mercenary can never have.

Sir Giles has come to England to kill his father, who seduced and betrayed his mother. First, however, he’ll seek sweet revenge—kidnap the old lord’s new betrothed. But when Giles uncovers a plot against King Richard, he faces a dilemma: take the lady or track the traitors. What’s a good mercenary to do? Both, of course.

Lady Emelin has had enough. Abandoned in a convent by her brother, she finally has a chance for home and family. Yet now she’s been abducted. Her kidnapper may be the image of her dream knight, but she won’t allow him to spoil this betrothal. Her only solution: escape

Rescuing the intrepid lady—while hunting traitors—is a challenge Giles couldn’t anticipate.  But the greatest challenge to Giles and Emelin is the fire blazing between them. For he’s everything a proper lady should never want, and she’s everything a bastard mercenary can never have.

You can buy SILVERHAWK here: Amazon

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Medieval Monday with Mary Morgan!

It’s time for another Medieval Monday. This month’s theme is “Celebrating Nature”.

I’m thrilled to share a wonderful excerpt in Mary Morgan’s, DRAGON KNIGHT’S MEDALLION!

DragonKnightMedallion_EXCERPT:
Some of the men and women were already dancing around the fire. She laughed when she spied Betsy twirling around.

Betsy waved her over. “Come dance with us.”

Aileen held up her hand in protest. “Oh, no…I’m fine just watching.” Turning blindly, she stumbled into Brian.

“May I have this dance, Lady Aileen?” he asked.

“I really shouldn’t, Brian.” He looked so dejected she decided to throw caution to the wind. “You know what? I haven’t danced in ages. I think I will take that dance.”

“I would be honored,” he said proudly, holding out his hand.

Aileen swallowed the last of her wine, before putting the cup on a log. Taking his hand, she gathered her dress and joined the others.

In no time at all, she found herself being swept away with the contagious merriment. Letting her shields slip just a bit, she relished the gaiety—twirling and singing. When Brian would gather her close, she would move away, spinning in a circle. On and on, around the inferno, laughter peeling out.

She felt young and carefree.

***
Stephen had gathered some food from Betha as he intended to be away all night. She and Donal had pleaded with him to join in the feasting, but he waved them off rather rudely. He wanted no part of the festivities.

Almost colliding with a couple, he swore softly. Placing the food across Grian, he shifted hesitantly. It was then he spotted…her.

His hand froze on the leather sack. Sweet Mother! What was she doing? And dressed like that? She was a Goddess of the flame. He watched as she was swung up into the air by none other than Brian. Then the man dared to slide her down against him.

Dark fury burst somewhere deep inside Stephen. “I’m going to kill him,” he rasped out.

The blood roared in his head, as he stormed across the open field, never hearing those who greeted him in passing—one hand held firm against his sword. He slowed his pace and Stephen waited as any warrior would. Let the enemy show himself, he thought.

When their dancing brought them nearer to him, he darted in front blocking their path.

They never saw him coming.

Aileen’s back slammed into his chest, and his arms grasped her instantly in a firm grip. “Hey, ouch!” She tried to move, but he held her solid against his body.

Brian skidded to a halt. “Greetings, Sir Stephen.” He went to grab for Aileen’s hand, when Stephen let out a growl of warning.

“What is your problem? Did you just growl?” demanded Aileen. She tried to pry herself loose, but he continued to hold her firm.

“Mine,” he snarled.

Instantly, Brian’s face went white. “Thank ye for the dance, Lady Aileen,” Brian
clipped out. Giving Stephen a curt nod, he stomped away.

“Bloody. God. Damn. Hell,” Aileen snapped.

Stephen released her, only spinning her around to face him. Something primal within him tore loose. He tried to reason with himself that this was insanity, though his mind and body wouldn’t yield. His gaze dropped to those lips—lips he had fantasized about for weeks.

“Aileen,” he choked out before his mouth took hers in a plundering kiss. His lips moved over hers devouring their softness. The kiss became urgent, pleading in its need. His tongue sought hers, and the dance of desire seared their bodies. Raw passion took over his anger, and she opened fully, drawing him against her body. She took her hands and wrapped them around his head, threading her fingers in his locks and pulling him in deeper. Never in all of his life had he felt so right in someone’s arms.

When he broke from the kiss, his breathing was labored. Her eyes were dark with desire for him, and he shook with such need, it frightened him.

“By the hounds,” he uttered hoarsely. In one swift move, he picked her up. Carrying her to his horse, he ignored the hoots and remarks coming from the crowd. Placing her on Grian, he swung around in back, taking off through a large group of oak trees with only one clear thought in mind.

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.

BUY LINKS:  Amazon      Barnes & Noble      Apple iBooks      The Wild Rose Press      Kobo

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Medieval Monday with Ashley York!

It’s time for another Medieval Monday. This month’s theme is “Celebrating Nature”.

I’m thrilled to share a wonderful excerpt in Ashley York’s, The Seventh Son!

TheSeventhSonFinalEXCERPT:
The day Tisa arrived at her new home it was dark and stormy. They’d been keeping ahead of the impending rain the whole day. From the rise overlooking the sea, dark, angry clouds hugged the coastline, making it impossible to see the ocean. The sound of crashing waves pounding along the rocky shore made her stop. Her mount shifted beneath her as if wary as well. Darragh come up alongside and pointed out the little cluster of roundhouses nestled into the valley below.
“That is yer new home,” he said.
Several small buildings surrounded a larger longhouse in the center. It appeared quite peaceful despite the many barren trees no longer protecting it from the sea breezes.
“It looks peaceful.”
He snorted beside her. “Dunna be fooled. There is nothing about my father, including his clan, that is peaceful but ye’ve witnessed that yerself.”
His father had been relentless in keeping track of their whereabouts. He’d continued to impose on them, making lewd suggestions when they separated from the group at night. Tisa would almost believe she had become dulled by his comments. Almost.
“Darragh!” Aodh barked at his son. “See to the ships.”
Her husband sighed. “Father, I will see my bride settled before leaving her alone.”
Aodh laughed. A cruel laugh. The belittling laugh he often used with his son. “Afraid to leave her unprotected?”
Darragh turned to face the man that had come up behind him. “Aye, I will have her well protected before I venture off to see to yer ships.”
Aodh smiled at her. “But I’ve been so patient.”
“Then be patient about yer ships!”
Darragh took the reins of Tisa’s horse and led them both down the graceful hillside ahead of the others.
Tisa dared not breathe at this blatant show of disobedience. Once out of earshot, she whispered to her husband.
“Darragh, he is still not following.”
“I’ve shocked him into immobility.”

BLURB:
Drogheda, Ireland 1075
The sixth son bears a curse as certain as the seventh son bears a blessing. When Tadhg MacNaughton’s betrothed is ripped from his arms and married to another, he believes the legend is true.
Tisa O’Brien’s life slams into a downward spiral at the news she is no longer betrothed to the love of her life but to the tanist of a warring, prideful clan with dangerous political aspirations, the Meic Lochlainn. She faces her destiny with all the strength and dignity of her Irish heritage despite dealing with a husband who resents her and meets his needs in the arms of others, fighting off the lustful advances of her father-in-law, Aodh, and longing for the husband of her heart.
Tadhg MacNaughton makes a deal with the devil to ensure the survival of his clan as he is commanded to fight for Aodh who envisions himself the new High King of Eire. Up close and personal, Tadhg must witness his true love’s marriage and remain silent even as it rips him apart. When a sinister plot to overthrow King William of England led by the exiled Leofrid Godwin and Clan Meic Lochlainn comes to light, Tadhg is faced with saving his clan or endangering his sister and her Norman husband.
An Irish beauty and a warrior betrayed, doomed in love from the start or does fate have something else in store for them?

You can find The Seventh Son at Amazon

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Medieval Monday with Rue Allyn!

It’s time for another Medieval Monday. This month’s theme is “Celebrating Nature”.

I’m thrilled to share a wonderful excerpt in Rue Allyn’s, Knight Errant!

Rue_TheErrantKnight Excerpt:

    By moonlight, Robert and Juliana flee a trap. The environment plays a huge part in the success or failure of their escape.

Under cloudy skies, they made their way in silence to the stables and were lucky enough to encounter no one. Juliana kept watch while Robert saddled the horses and muffled their hooves with rags. He handed her the mare’s reins, then pointed toward an exit at the back of the stables.

“But the gate is over there,” she whispered.

“Aye, and ’twill be watched. We must find a postern and leave that way,” he whispered back.

“And if that, too, is watched?”

“’Tis likely to have only one guard, if that, and I can deal silently with one man.”

Taking care to be quiet and watch for guards, they made their way along the wall until they found the unguarded postern. The gate opened with very little noise. Leading the horses, they picked their way carefully over the rocky ground that separated the country home from the hills a league distant.

They had covered half the distance when a shout went up from the house.

“Our departure is discovered. We must hurry.” Robert grasped Juliana about the waist and lifted her into her saddle, then bent to remove the cloth from the horses’ hooves and tossed the rags behind a nearby bush.

“At least we still have the cover of the clouds. They do not yet know where we are.”

“But not for long.” Robert leapt to his saddle and pointed toward the sky.

Juliana followed his gesture to see the moon edging out from behind its cloudy curtain.

“Oh no.”

“The moment that moonlight strikes your white horse we will be as visible as if we had a beacon to light the way.”

Juliana wasted no time in reply but set her mare to a ground-eating lope.

Robert sent his destrier thundering after her, praying they would reach the hills in time to lose their pursuers. He held to the pace of her smaller mount, using himself and his larger horse to shelter Juliana. So swift a ride over unfamiliar terrain in the dark held as many dangers as a hoard of pursuers. One misstep could break a neck, but given the consequences of being caught, a broken neck was worth the risk.

They raced onward. Still, the sounds of pursuit grew closer with each stride. He could see the mare was tiring. Arrows flew past his head. As Juliana’s steed continued to fail, he shifted the reins to one hand and with the other plucked her from her saddle to place her facing him on the broad pommel of his saddle.

“Hold on,” he yelled.

He waited only to feel her arms tighten around his waist, then urged the destrier to even greater speed. Fury washed through him. He wanted to kill the men who placed Juliana in such danger. But first he had to get her to safety.

Mother of God, help us find cover quickly. He headed away from the trail to Palermo, hoping to create false confidence in their pursuers. He knew quite well where he was, but they would believe him to be lost. To make the deception work, he must first elude them.

The howls from the pack of men sounded entirely too close. Robert spied a dip in the hillside and rode hard for it. He splashed over a small stream and turned to follow a rocky cleft that time had carved in the hill. Sharp cliffs rose on both sides, blocking the moonlight.

The pursuers’ shouts echoed off the walls of the passage. He dodged between a pair of rocks, away from the stream and out of sight of the pack. He had to find shelter soon. His gelding could not keep this pace for much longer.

“On your left. I think I see a space.” Juliana’s words flew at him. “It’s behind us now.”

Robert hauled on the reins, guiding the horse at her direction. A bush blocked the way. He shifted his weight and tightened his thighs until the destrier leapt and cleared the bush. They hit the ground with a jarring thud and nearly ran headlong into the cliff face. He reined in hard, and the gelding turned, missing the wall by a hair. The awkward movement threw Robert off balance, and he crashed against the stone. Juliana grunted at the impact.

“Left again.”

Robert complied, spying the narrow gorge in that moment. He ordered the steed into the space. Instantly, the sounds of pursuit became muffled. With moonlight blocked, the gorge was darker than pitch. The horse had to step with slow care.

Dotted with boulders and brush, eventually the way broadened. The moon cast huge shadows and distorted perception. Sounds of pursuit had ceased some time ago. But rage still flooded Robert. Half of him wished the pack would catch them so he could gut each and every one of the men. The saner half knew he would be lucky to get Juliana back to the beguinage in one piece. Robert moved from rock to bush to rock, winding and shifting his path in an attempt to confuse any followers. Sometime later, he stumbled upon a shallow cave.

Keeping to the shadows, he reined to a halt and observed the lay of the land. The cliff face would guard their backs. Approach from the front was restricted by the slim crevasse through which they had just traveled. The place was defensible against a small number. If a large group attacked, he would just have to slit Juliana’s throat to save her a more painful fate and then kill as many of the attackers as possible before he died, too. His breath stopped for a moment at the thought of Juliana dead. The rage that sustained him since her capture faltered in the face of fear that she might die by his hand.

He could not let her die, and if that meant he never took revenge on those who sought to capture her, so be it. Her safety came first. This place was as safe as any other the night would provide.

The horse huffed, drawing in great gulps of air. The destrier needed rest and water. Robert ached in every bone. Juliana must feel ten times his pain. She could scarce be used to such hard riding. She was strangely silent, he thought, as he shifted to help her to the ground.

Blood trickled from a cut on her forehead, where a lump formed. More blood oozed from a band of scrapes across one cheek and dripped down her neck. Below that, from shoulder to wrist of one arm, her sleeve lay in shreds, dotted with flecks of dirt and a darker red.
“Juliana?”

She slipped sideways, and he caught her before she fell. ’Twas a wonder she had not fallen off during their escape. He struggled to lower them both to the ground. That the horse was too exhausted to object to the awkward process was a dubious blessing.

He carried Juliana into the cave, checked for sign of animal inhabitants, then searched her for more injuries. Try though he might, he could find nothing but scrapes and bruises. What had happened to her? Could he have done anything to prevent it? He knew he could not, and fury rippled through him once more that the monk and his men had dared threaten her well-being. He clenched his fists against the urge to strike out.

He forced gentleness into his hands and made her as comfortable as possible. Then he went back to the horse for his small store of water and a cloth to clean her cuts as best he could. Close inspection of her face showed him parched lips.

Robert soaked a clean corner of the cloth and squeezed a trickle of water between her lips, then passed the dampened rag over her mouth. Her tongue licked out, and a groan issued as she turned her head to follow the moisture.

“Juliana? Can you hear me?”

Her eyelids fluttered open. “Robert,” she croaked and lifted the hand of her uninjured arm to her face. “My head hurts. My whole body hurts, and my arm feels like it is on fire.”

He nearly laughed with relief at her small complaints when he had been so very worried about her. “The skin is scraped, but your arm is whole. Do you know where you are?”

She cast a sideways glance and quirked a brow at him. “Lying in the dirt, more than a day’s ride from Palermo?”

“Good. You have not lost your senses. Do you know what happened? How you scraped your face and tore the skin of your arm to shreds?”

She coughed.

He gave her more water.

“The cliff. When you jumped the bush and turned so quickly, I hit the cliff face with that side of my body and head.”

He nodded. “I should kill that monk and his men for forcing you to this.”

“One against so many?” She gave a dry laugh. “You are a mighty warrior, Robert, but even you could not take out more than one at a time.”

“True.” He had to laugh with her. She was right. “Still, I regret that I cannot wreak vengeance on them. ’Twould ease the pain of failing to save other women from death and destruction.”

Juliana yawned, stretched, and reclined on the ground, cushioning her cheek on her hand. “I am so tired, I thought you spoke of rescuing other women. That’s foolish. There are no other women here.”

He stared at her before turning away. “Sleep. I will keep watch from atop that rock.” He pointed at a man-sized boulder beside the cave. “If you need aught, come to me there. Do not call out. That could alert any searchers to our position.”

“Mmm-hmm.” She nodded but was asleep before he left.

After Robert checked the horse, he tethered him loosely near some sparse grass within sight of both cave and rock. He climbed the rock, finding a sheltered perch from which he could survey the surrounding countryside.

While moonlight faded to dawn, he spent the time plotting what he would do should he ever meet Fra Giovanni again. When he could no longer fight sleep and the day was too hot for their pursuers to continue the search, Robert climbed down and joined Juliana in the cave.

BLURB:

Beguine follower Juliana Verault holds the key to upending the power structure throughout Europe – a letter from the pope that could radically change the church’s stance on women – but only if she can dodge the bounty hunter her cousin, King Edward I of England, has sent for her. Sir Robert Clarwyn has never failed to bring home his target before . . . but he has also never encountered a quarry like Lady Juliana.

BUY LINKS:

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About Rue Allyn: When not writing, loving her spouse, or attending meetings, Rue travels the world and surfs the internet in search of background material and inspiration for her next heart melting romance. She loves to hear from readers, and you may contact her at contact@RueAllyn.com. She can’t wait to hear from you.

Rue’s Links: Amazon FaceBook @RueAllyn Goodreads Website Author Travels Blog

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Medieval Monday with Bambi Lynn!

It’s time for another Medieval Monday. This month’s theme is “Conflict”.

I’m thrilled to share a wonderful excerpt on “conflict” in Bambi Lynn’s, GODS OF THE HIGHLANDS!

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000446_00068]EXCERPT:
The Comyns stood little chance against the demi-gods they faced. Lucan was a formidable warrior, but both Tanis and Cam could defeat ten or twenty men alone. Sirona’s heart staggered as she watched them. A group of Comyns clustered around Cam, another attacking Tanis. She thought she saw Rhain amongst them but it was hard to see.
She spurred her horse around the edge of the fray, shouting to no avail. Her cries were drowned by the clang of steel against steel and the shouts of fighting men.
On the opposite side, Fergus had set his sights on Lucan. Their swords clashed like hammers on anvils, ringing in her ears and threatening to split her head open. They were vicious and ruthless in their efforts, but in the end, a mere mortal was no match for a man with the blood of the gods coursing through his veins.
She spotted Rhain in the melee, locked in combat with her brother. She ignored Màili’s demands to pull back to the relative safety of the trees, renewing her plea for them to stop. Suddenly, the battle between Tanis and Rhain came to a violent head.
“No!” Sirona screamed as she slid down from her horse. She hit the ground hard and dropped to her knees, crying out in pain. When she looked up, Rhain lay motionless on the ground. Over him stood a blonde woman, no taller than Tanis’ shoulder. She was dressed like a shield maiden of the old Norse legends. She faced Tanis with a fierce expression, her sword held before her, its lethal blade catching the sunlight and setting off a blinding glow.
Tanis grinned at her like an idiot before she attacked him, forcing him to the defense, a position he was not used to. She sliced at him, jabbed her blade at his most tender areas, screamed at him in a language Sirona could not understand but, by the woman’s tone, recognized as the vilest of insults.
It seemed the battle would never end, that neither opponent tired. But with one fatal mistake, the mysterious pixie-woman gained the advantage. Before Sirona could blink, the woman had Tanis on his back, his sword hand empty and the tip of her weapon at his throat.
Sirona had had enough. She hiked up her skirt and tore across the grass to where the woman held her brother at sword point. “Stop!” she called. When she reached them, she flung herself between Tanis’ prone body and the warrior woman. “Please,” she begged.
The rest of her family seemed to gather their senses as well and within seconds, the strange woman found herself staring down three more Highland blades. For a moment, no one spoke.
It was Màili who broke the silence. “Bitch,” she fairly spat at the other woman. She lifted her chin, silently daring the blonde woman to make a move.
“Whore,” the woman sneered back. After another long moment of tense silence, she sheathed her sword and turned away.
With a sigh of relief, Sirona gave Tanis a quick once over to be sure he was unhurt, before giving into despair over Rhain’s fate. Dreading what she would find, she looked over her shoulder to the spot where she’d last seen him lying at Tanis’ feet.
Both Rhain and the woman were gone.

BLURB

    They grew up orphans, relying on each other to keep the secret of their heretical powers from the other members of their clan. Now a vengeful pagan god is after them, using them in his relentless pursuit of a soul so powerful, its possessor will be able to command Lucifer himself. Camulus is unbeatable in a fight, but cannot defend his heart from a fallen goddess. Sirona can heal with nothing more than a touch. When she is captured and her secret discovered by a rival clan, only the laird’s youngest son can save her from being burned at the stake. Tanis commands the elements, but meets his match in a celestial being from heaven who is anything but angelic. Lucan can create anything…except life. That he must do the old-fashioned way. Together these cousins must band together if they have any hope of defeating the god of death and ensuring a bright future for themselves and their kin.

    BUY LINKS:
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Medieval Monday with Ruth A. Casie!

It’s time for another Medieval Monday. This month’s theme is “Conflict”.

I’m thrilled to share a wonderful excerpt on “conflict” in Ruth Casie’s, KNIGHT OF RUNES!

EXCERPT:
England ~ May, 1605
I should not have stayed away from the Manor so long. Something stirs. Lord Arik’s eyes swept the surrounding area as he and his three riders escorted the wagon with the old tinker and the woman. They sped through the forest as fast as the rain-slicked trail would allow. Unable to shake the ominous feeling of being watched, Arik remained alert. At length, the horses winded, he slowed the pace as they neared the Stone River.
“The forest is flooded. I suspect the Stone will be as well. Willem, ride on ahead and let me know what we face at the crossing.”
Willem did his lord’s bidding and quickly returned with his report. “The river ahead runs fast, m’lord. The bridge is in disrepair and cannot be crossed.”
Arik raised his hand and brought the group to a halt. “Doward,” he said to the old tinker. “We must make repairs. There’s no room for the wagon at the river’s edge. You and the woman stay here and set up camp. Be ready to join us at the bridge when I send word.”
Logan, Arik’s brother, spoke up. “I’ll keep watch here and help Doward and Rebeka.”
Arik nodded and, with the others, continued the half mile to the bridge.
“I am not pleased with this new delay.”
“It can’t be helped, m’lord. We would make better time without the wagon,” said Simon.
“I’ll not leave Doward and the woman unescorted through the forest, not with what we’ve heard lately. We’ll have to drive hard to make up the lost time.”
The frame of the bridge stood solid, the planks scattered everywhere, clogging the banks and shallows. Arik leaped from his horse onto the frame to begin the repairs.
“Hand me that planking.” Arik pointed to the nearest board.
Simon grabbed the plank and examined it. “Sir, these boards have been deliberately removed.”
Arik took the board and lifted it before him. An arrow whooshed out of the trees, and slammed into the plank’s edge. Willem pulled his axe from his belt as Arik and Simon drew their swords. In a fluid, practiced movement, Willem spun and found his mark. He sent his axe flying. The archer fell into the river and was swept downstream, Willem’s axe still lodged in his forehead. A dozen or more attackers broke through the stand of trees.
Arik tossed the board into the river and readied his sword. The enemy was poorly dressed carrying clubs and knives. There was only one sword among them. The leader. Arik’s target.
“They plan to pin us here at the river’s edge. Come, we’ll take the offensive before they form up.” They moved forward, driving a wedge through the enemy’s ragged line, forcing what little formation they had to scatter and fight, each man for himself.
A man, club in hand, rushed at Arik. Before the attacker could bring his weapon into play, Arik pivoted around him. He raised his sword high, and slammed the hilt’s steel pommel squarely on the man’s head. Arik moved on before the man’s lifeless body dropped to the ground.
Willem and Simon, on either side of Arik, advanced through the melee. Their swift continuous swordplay moved smoothly from one stroke to the next, whipping through the air. They slashed on the downswing and again on the backswing, sweeping their weapons back into position to repeat the killing sequence. The knight and his soldiers steadily advanced, punishing any man who dared to come near them.
“For Honor!” Logan’s war cry carried from the small camp to Arik’s ears.
Arik stiffened. Both camps were now under attack. He pulled his blade from an attacker’s chest. The body crumpled to the blood-soaked ground. Arik breathed deeply, the coppery taste of blood in the air. “For Honor!” he bellowed in answer. His men echoed his call, arms thrown wide, muscles quivering, the berserker’s rage overtaking them.
The remaining attackers paled and fled headlong into the forest.
Motioning to his men to follow, Arik raced toward the camp. He could hear the shouts, and cursed himself for not seeing the danger. He crested the hill and came to an abrupt halt.
Logan’s sword ripped through the air as he protected Doward. The tinker drew his short blade and did as much damage as he could. But it was the woman Arik noticed. Her skirt hiked up, she twirled her walking stick like a weapon with an expertise that left him slack-jawed. She dispatched the attackers, one by one, in a deadly well-practiced dance. A man rushed toward her, knife in hand. The sneer on his face didn’t match the fear in his eyes. She stepped out of his line of attack, extended her stick to her side, and holding it with both hands swept the weapon forward, striking the attacker across the bridge of his nose. Blood exploded from his face in an arc of fine spray as his head snapped back. Droplets dusted her face creating an illusion of bright red freckles. As he fell, she reversed her swing and caught him hard behind his knees. He went down on his back, spread-eagled. She swung her stick over her head and landed a precise and disabling blow to his forehead that knocked him unconscious.
As she spun to face the next threat her eyes captured Arik’s and held. In the space of an instant, time slowed to a crawl. Her hair slowly loosened from its pins and swirled out around her. His breath caught and his heartbeat quickened as a rapturous surge raced through his body. Something eternal and familiar, with a sense of longing, unsettled him. In the next heartbeat, she tore her eyes away, leaving him empty. Time resumed its normal pace. Another attacker lay at her feet.
Arik joined the fight.

BLURB:
When Lord Arik, a druid knight, finds Rebeka Tyler wandering his lands without protection, he swears to keep her safe. But Rebeka can take care of herself. When Arik sees her clash with a group of attackers using a strange fighting style, he’s intrigued.
Rebeka is no ordinary seventeenth-century woman—she’s travelled back from the year 2011, and she desperately wants to return to her own time. She poses as a scholar sent by the king to find out what’s killing Arik’s land. But as she works to decode the ancient runes that are the key to solving this mystery and sending her home, she finds herself drawn to the charismatic and powerful Arik.
As Arik and Rebeka fall in love, someone in Arik’s household schemes to keep them apart, and a dark druid with a grudge prepares his revenge. Soon Rebeka will have to decide whether to return to the future or trust Arik with the secret of her time travel and her heart.

You can find KNIGHT OF RUNES here:
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Medieval Monday on “Conflict” with Cathy MacRae

It’s time for another Medieval Monday. This month’s theme is “Conflict”.

I’m thrilled to share a wonderful excerpt on “conflict” in Cathy MacRae’s, THE HIGHLANDER’S FRENCH BRIDE!


TheHighlandersFrenchBride_high+resEXCERPT:

Horses whinnied, sensing danger in the air, but the people about her remained silent, anticipation evident in the lines of their bodies and the expressions on their faces. To her left she glimpsed a man as he eased forward, wearing the Hospitaller colors of white cross on a black tunic. A furtive look on his face, his hand drifted to the sword at his belt.
Slipping her dagger from the pocket in her cloak, Melisende turned toward the man, hand fisted on the knife’s hilt, angled just below belt level. “This is their fight, not yours, monsieur knight,” she admonished softly. His head turned at her words, distaste on the sneer of his lips as he saw who gave him challenge.
Melisende nudged him with the tip of her dagger, glancing down as she did to ensure he understood her threat, offering him a chance to reconsider. “Should you wish to assist, you will do so as a eunuch.” The knight blanched and stepped a pace away. Giving her an angry look, he disappeared into the crowd.
A quick look showed Kinnon’s men scattered at the perimeter of the crowd, and Melisende took a deep breath, satisfied they would do their best to keep others from interfering. The ring of steel shifted her attention back to the combatants.
Jean-Luc circled Kinnon. Melisende cringed to see the subtle change in Kinnon’s balance as he favored his injured leg. His gaze bore into Jean-Luc as he deflected the knight’s attacks. Melisende fumed. Fall, Jean-Luc. Trip over your overwhelming ego and be done with this nonsense. Furious barking sounded from within the stables. Jean-Baptiste!
Jean-Luc lunged again, just inside Kinnon’s defensive circle. Kinnon parried the thrust, but did not advance. “Fight me!” Jean-Luc roared. “Let us see who is the better man.”
For a heartbeat, nothing happened. Jean-Luc’s guard relaxed, the line of his shoulders drooped slightly, allowing the tip of his sword to dip down. “Coward.”
Kinnon’s attack was a blur of motion, and Melisende gasped, afraid his leg would betray him. He beat Jean-Luc back, his sword hammering against the knight’s, the ring of the blows nearly one continuous flurry of sound. In an instant, Kinnon was inside Jean-Luc’s guard. Holding the knight’s sword to the side, braced against his own, he rammed Jean-Luc with an uppercut from his left fist that sent the knight sprawling. He landed on the ground amid the dust, sliding a few feet from the force of Kinnon’s blow. Still clutching his sword, Jean-Luc thrust it tip-down into the earth, using the hilt to brace himself as he struggled to rise.
A crash sounded from the stable as the upper half of a stall door burst open, slamming against the wall. Jean-Baptiste leapt through the opening, landing on the ground at a hard run. He skidded to a halt before Jean-Luc, teeth flashing in the early light as he fought against Kinnon’s sharp command to hold.
“Get up,” Kinnon barked at Jean-Luc.
Clearly stunned from the blow, the man levered himself up, but slipped, falling to one knee. Kinnon kicked the weapon from Jean-Luc’s hand and stood one foot on the blade to keep him from picking it up again. Using the tip of his sword, he forced Jean-Luc’s chin up.
“I can finish this here, or ye can admit ye are an arrogant bastard and hie yerself away to yer barracks. Either way, it ends now.” He slid the blade a bit forward, toward the tempting pulse in the knight’s throat.
Jean-Luc spat in the dirt. “Keep la prostituée,” he snarled.
With a forceful kick to the man’s chin, Kinnon laid Jean-Luc in the dirt. “I dinnae call that an apology.”
He turned with a slight wince, and strode to the edge of the crowd, snapping his fingers for the dog to follow. With a last sniff at the prone knight, Jean-Baptiste bounded after Kinnon as he pushed through the throng, a dark scowl on his face.
Melisende gathered her skirts and ran after him, catching him as the Scots converged on him. “You are injured!” she exclaimed, half-questioning him, half-chiding him for fighting on a leg that was a possible liability.
His furious gaze stopped her. “He was drunk!” He stopped and snapped at his men over his shoulder. “Get the horses.” Half of them barreled their way through the crowd, the rest formed a guard about him and Melisende. Jean-Baptiste eyed them warily, hackles up.
“Forgive me,” he said to Melisende. “I am not angry with ye. I did not provoke him, and he was rather uncomplimentary about ye.” He cast a look at the knight’s form still sprawled on the ground. “Mayhap he will wake a better man.”

BLURB FOR THE HIGHLANDER’S FRENCH BRIDE
Heir to a lairdship, Kinnon Macrory is driven to prove his worth by fighting the English on the battlefields of France. His dreams of heroic valor are destroyed by the realities of war—the atrocities visited by fellow soldiers on the very people he is sworn to protect. Three years in a French prison for a crime he did not commit leave Kinnon longing for the one thing of beauty in his war-torn life—a young woman of great kindness and wisdom named Melisende.
Melisende de la Roche struggles to stay one step ahead of soldiers who would imprison her for helping an injured Scotsman wrongly accused of treason. She finds refuge in her uncle’s shop—until a chance encounter sends her fleeing into the unknown once again, haunted by the beguiling friendship with the troubled young Scotsman she is certain she will never see again.
Determined to find the woman of his dreams, Kinnon returns to France, only to discover a trail of clues to Melisende’s whereabouts. Their reunion will open the doors to passion, but half-truths and lies from the past could destroy the one thing they both are willing to fight for—each other.

You can find THE HIGHLANDER’S FRENCH BRIDE here: Amazon:


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Medieval Monday on “Conflict” with Jenna Jaxon

It’s time for another Medieval Monday. This month’s theme is “Conflict”.

I’m thrilled to share a wonderful excerpt on “conflict” in Jenna Jaxon’s, TIME ENOUGH TO LOVE!

Jenna_Jaxon_TimeEnoughToLoveEXCERPT:
Both knights had broken two lances on the torso—their scores were even. In order to win, one would need to either break a lance on the helm or unhorse their opponent. Either feat was possible, but highly improbable, given the lateness of the day and the weariness of the jousters. The best outcome would be for one lance to miss, giving the knight to break a lance victory. Another possibility was a draw if both men broke their lances on the torso. A draw would mean no victor; the debt of honor satisfied without a forfeit. That outcome might be best, but she could not help thinking in that case there would have been a great deal of effort wasted for nothing.
Geoffrey nodded slightly within his helm, as though acknowledging a strategy confirmed. Though the decision was unknown to her, she prayed it would make him the clear winner of the match.
In an instant, Geoffrey streaked down the lists. Alyse gasped at the ferocity with which Saracen raced toward his adversary. Lord Braeton drove his horse fiercely as well, but did not seem to reach the black steed’s breakneck speed.
Moments before the collision, Geoffrey angled his weapon upward slightly, aiming again for the helm and its additional points. Her heart flew into her throat. Should his lance glance off, as it had earlier, she would certainly be leading the first dance with Lord Braeton this evening. That prospect no longer held any delight for her, not after the physical pain this match must have cost Geoffrey—and Lord Braeton—and the mental anguish it had cost her. Had she not seemed so enthralled with the earl, mayhap the challenge would never have been issued. Or would not have been so avidly pursued by Geoffrey. If one of them were injured, it could surely be laid at her feet.
Geoffrey must win. He must.
The impact devastated both knights. Thomas’s lance splintered dramatically along Geoffrey’s right shoulder, twisting him around in the saddle and almost unseating him.
Geoffrey’s lance found its mark in the dead center of Thomas’s helm, snapping his head back with the force of the blow. An immediate cry of pain erupted from his helmet. Alyse bolted from her seat, raced out of the berfrois and onto the field.
* * * *

Thomas managed to pull his horse to a stop, and his squires ran to assist him as he dropped to the ground. Almost as quickly, Geoffrey leaped from his horse, cursing as he ran toward his friend.
’Tis my fault if he dies. I was angered at him. Christ, why did I not aim elsewhere and try to unseat him? Geoffrey could barely hold still as his squire removed his helmet. “Thomas! Thomas!”
Men had lowered his friend to the ground, where he lay motionless.
Dear God! The splinters—
He stared in horror at the long wooden slivers poking out of Thomas’s visor.
Sweet Jesu, have mercy. Holy Mary, mother of God, have mercy.
He fell to his knees beside him, afraid to touch him lest he drive the fragments deeper.
“Fetch the surgeon!” Geoffrey threw the command over his shoulder, his attention fixed on the still body. “Thomas.” He couldn’t be dead.

BLURB FOR TIME ENOUGH TO LOVE
When Lady Alyse de Courcy is betrothed to Sir Geoffrey Longford, she has no choice but to make the best of a bad bargain. The hulking knight is far from her ideal man, and although he does possess some wit and charm, he is no match for the sinfully sensual man she secretly admires, Thomas, Earl of Braeton, her betrothed’s best friend.
From the first, Sir Geoffrey finds himself smitten by Lady Alyse, and, despite her infatuation with his friend, vows to win her love. When Geoffrey puts his mind to wooing Alyse, he is delighted to find her succumbing to his seduction. But when cruel circumstances separate them, Geoffrey must watch helplessly as Thomas steps in to protect Alyse—and falls in love with her himself.
As the three courtiers accompany Princess Joanna to her wedding in Spain, they run headlong into the Black Plague. With her world plunged into chaos, Alyse struggles with her feelings for both the men she loves. But which love will survive?

You can find TIME ENOUGH TO LOVE here: Amazon

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