The Feeling of Summer…
Spring has been underway where I live for a bit now. I’m beginning to notice the afternoons are warm enough to be considered summer now. You know, I think I forgot what warm, bare feet felt like! Time for shorts and sandals and wide brimmed hats. So what is it that says ‘Summer’ to you? Is it clothing or a trip or something else? I know I’m looking forward to the summer movie releases. There is something about waiting in line for a good seat that just makes the moment a little more exciting. When I go back and look at that sentence, it almost like I enjoy waiting in line, which isn’t the case…lol. But there is honestly something about those movie lines. Sometimes I think, no, we’ll just wait a week, after all, the movie will still be playing next week…it never works. Just like a new book release. The folks at my local bookstore know me by now and they always have the new releases on the shelves. It was such a blast to see them putting out ‘The Highlander’s Prize’. I knew it was coming but there is just nothing like the moment when you see your book on the shelf for the first time. I’m going to include a little excerpt for everyone and I hope you’ll all leave me a comment on just what it is you’re looking forward to this summer. I’ll be selecting a winner from the comments and if you don’t win here, come over to my author page at Facebook for more chances.
THE HIGHLANDER'S PRIZE-
“Ye sleep like a babe. Unconcerned as though the world is a peaceful place. Maturity should have taught ye differently, but I suppose I can nae be expecting any royal offspring to know much about life’s harsher edges.”
Laird MacNicols was a giant. He was poised on his hunches, the edges of his plaid just brushing the ground. She gained a glimpse of his well-made boots with antler horn buttons running up their sides before he muttered something to Shaw in Gaelic.
Fear twisted through her because Shaw’s eyes were icy and she recalled clearly what the other Highlander wanted to do with her.
Shaw was leaning against a rock, his long sword cradled across his lap. “She’s the one, sure enough. The only other was wearing a wimple and well past her prime. Saw them both get out of that wagon meself. There were nae any other females.”
The laird had blue eyes—startling with how intense they were. His hair was fair but streaked with hints of red. It hung down to his shoulders, with a section of it braided to keep it out of his eyes. There was an uncivilized way about him that had nothing to do with the common clothing he wore. It was in his eyes and the corded muscles so clearly visible on his arms and legs. He was not a man who had others do his bidding.
But his sword was fine. The pommel was clearly visible beyond his left shoulder and the rising sun illuminated the gold hilt. A blue sapphire winked at her from where it was set into a crest that included a rampant lion—A noble creature, only men with noble blood could use such an animal on his belongings. It meant he was more than just a clan laird. He had blue blood flowing through his veins.
The sight sent her struggling away from him, but the fabric still bound her. His lips twitched up, amusement sparkling in his eyes.
“Now, why the hurry to place distance between us, Clarrisa of York? Did I nae see to yer comfort quite nicely?”
“Your man wants to slit my throat. Why wouldn’t I want to be away from you?.”
He shrugged. “Shaw believes it a necessary thing, since yer kin seem to think we need their troubles spreading here to Scotland.” His grin faded. “Something I am nae in favor of either.”
“Neither am I.”
Surprise flickered in his blue eyes. “The way I heard it, ye were fixing to wait on our king like some fat pasha from the Far East.”
There was thick disapproval in his tone and he stood up. He was dismissing her—condemning her, actually. She struggled and sat up in spite of the fabric binding her.
“You understand naught.” She sputtered. “It was a ruse, to delay him.”
He returned his dark blue gaze to her, but there was a slight mocking arch to one eyebrow now. “Well then, lass, I’m listening sure enough. Why do nae ye explain to me what ye’re doing in me country and with me king?”
Why was she begging?
Because she wanted to live.
Heat stung her cheeks because she was ashamed at just how easily she had been reduced to whimpering. It wasn’t the first time she’d had no one to depend upon except herself. She drew in a deep breath and tried to collect her courage.
“I was sent here by my family. The ruse enacted to gain me freedom from the tower room your king intended to use to breed me like a mare.” The sting in her cheeks doubled as she spoke. “So…you see…we desire the same thing.”
He bent his knees so he was able to scrutinize her once more on the same level. He had his share of arrogance but what surprised her was the amusement lurking in his eyes.
“Do we now?” He muttered softly. “I have to doubt ye on that, since ye turned to flee from me.”
“I couldn’t willingly go with you when one of your men wants to kill me.”
He shrugged again. There was enough light from the rising sun now to show her thick muscles bulging along his arms and chest. His lips parted and his teeth flashed at her when he grinned at her. “I told ye it would nae be happening and I am laird.” His expression hardened. “But ye are still the natural daughter of Edward the Fourth of England and might well be accomplished in the art of twisting words.”
“I am hardly the only child he is rumored to have fathered outside his marriage.” She struggled against the fabric binding her again, feeling too helpless by far caught in its folds.
“I hear Edward acknowledged ye, which means a great deal, considering how rare noble blood is becoming due to yer war of the roses.”
He reached out and grabbed the fabric beneath her chin. A moment later she was on her feet. Her feet shifted, her balance unsteady because her toes had gone numb sometime during the night.
“Henry Tudor has wed Elizabeth of York. The War of the Roses is finished now because York and Lancaster are united.” She explained.
“But Henry has nae had her crowned queen and ye are here, brought under cover of darkness to a lone tower where James of Scotland sneaks away to meet with ye. Now that is suspicious, lass, and no mistake. But it is also dangerous for me and my clan, for we have enough troubles without ye giving James a son with York blood. Ye tried to flee when I offered ye freedom, which means ye might well be intent on becoming a powerful Queen through yer son.”
“I told you why I tried to run.”
He chuckled, but it wasn’t a pleasant sound. “Am I to trust ye, then?” He stepped closer, maintaining a firm grip on the fabric to keep her in place. “Will ye offer to bathe me with yer delicate hands, Clarrisa? To show me how adept ye are at common chores? From what the young maid told me, ye claim to have more practice at polishing men’s weapons. Mind ye, I am no’ saying I would nae enjoy ye proving yer gratefulness in such a fashion.”
Her jaw dropped open but the sound that emerged was a snarl. Full of rage and frustration, she actually lowered her chin and tried to bite the hand securing her in front of him.
“I shall not! You’re a blackard to suggest such a thing.”
He laughed at her, jerking his hand away before she sunk her teeth into his flesh. She stumbled and would have landed on her backside, but someone caught her floundering body from behind and her face burned bright red as she listened to his men enjoy her shame. Someone yanked the length of wool off her and she spun around like a child playing in a spring meadow. When the last of the wool plaid fell away she was dizzy. Her captor gripped her wrists while she struggled to maintain her balance and wrapped a length of leather around them. He knotted the ends firmly before giving a satisfied grunt.
“I am Broen MacNicols and ye will be leaving, lass, but ye will be traveling with me to the Highlands where I can be sure ye are nae adding to the troubles in me country. Give me men any frustration and I’ll let them keep ye bundled like a babe.”
“Brute.” She accused. “Uncivilized… Highlander.”