Sunday, 30 March 2014

Guest blog: Genevieve Stuart - 'Creole Moon'

If you loved him, could you tell him?  And would he abandon his lonely mission and give his heart to you?

1840’s New Orleans is no place for an independent woman.  Amid the intrigue and glamour of the delta city, Lucie must find her own way as she struggles to recover from devastating loss and the shattered dream of a happy ending. As she forges a new life, the last thing she wants is to be beholden to a man – especially a man as infuriating and intriguing as the mysterious newcomer from Spain.  

Stephen Arroyo is charming and cagey, a cool-headed gambler with a shadowy past.  Robbed of what was most precious to him, Stephen is caught in a fierce battle for revenge and redemption.

Lucie and Stephen need each other, in ways they can only begin to understand.   But can they overcome the demons that entrap their hearts and allow their uneasy alliance to blossom into love?

This meticulously researched and wildly romantic historical novel takes readers from the jungles of Mexico to the glittering elegance of 1840’s New Orleans.  Creole Moon is the first Kindle release from historical romance author Genevieve Stuart. 


The rain continued into the evening, and still there was no sign of Thierry. Lucie went up to her bedroom, but even after Nancy had brought her a cup of warm milk she couldn’t sleep, and, dressed in her peach silk wrapper, she returned downstairs to wait. Gilbert tried to bring her a lamp, or at least stir the fire, but she waved him off to bed. She wanted only to sit by herself, waiting for her husband.
How long should it have taken him to find Hébert and pay him? Lucie thought grimly of the route home from the Swamp, the seediest area of the city, where Hébert had his tiny, disreputable office. Gallatin Street alone was lined with gambling houses and taverns, and on his best days Thierry was hard pressed not to visit his favorite establishments there. If he succumbed to temptation again, she could only hope that it was after he had managed to pay the debt to Hébert.
 After a while Lucie drifted off to sleep in her chair, only to wake with a start. She thought she heard the front gate creak; it couldn't be Thierry -- he always rode his horse around to the side and woke Gilbert, no matter how late the hour. Lucie rose and glanced at the clock over the mantel: two in the morning. She hurried into the front hall .
A single oil lamp lit the foyer, making the banister cast great shadows upon the wall. Lucie pushed aside the drapes and peered out at the rain-drenched street. Coming through the wrought iron gate was a hunched figure, which staggered a little as it made its way up the walk. Lucie felt a thump of fear in her heart, and took a few frantic steps backward, intent upon calling Gilbert for help.
But before Lucie could open her mouth to cry out, the heavy front door flew open and the figure stumbled in, bringing a flurry of wet leaves with it. Lucie saw that it was not one man but two: Stephen, with Thierry half hidden under his black greatcoat. Stephen had his arm around the other man's shoulders, supporting his weight, and Thierry's head lolled back alarmingly. "Oh, Stephen," Lucie whispered, aghast. "Has there been an accident?"
Stephen glanced at Lucie's face, and gave her a brief, wry smile. "No accident, madame. And no injuries, as of yet. Your Thierry got himself into a small disagreement over a card game, and rather than let him face his opponent in this condition, I elected to bring him home to you. Help me get him to the parlor."
As she hurried to grasp Thierry's arm, Lucie noticed the strong smell of cheap liquor, and her heart sank.
"I suppose he's lost a great deal of money in the process," she said weakly, thinking of her two hundred dollars.
"I have not yet attempted to search his pockets," Stephen gathered up his coat and handed it unceremoniously to Lucie, "but I'll wager that you're right."
With that, Stephen swung Thierry's half-conscious form over his shoulder, carried him into the darkened parlor and dropped him into a wingchair.
"He'll do, for now, but he's likely to have quite a sore head in the morning."
He straightened up and looked over at Lucie, who stood in the doorway. She was staring at Thierry's slumped form with a mixture of despair and pity. Clasping her dressing gown tightly around her, she ran her hand through her unbound hair, seemingly unaware of how wildly unacceptable were the lateness of the hour and the informality of her attire. Stephen half smiled at the thought of how furious she would be with herself in the morning, and it struck him that he had never before seen her with her hair unpinned. It lent her an air of abandon, and he found himself picturing her waking in the morning in his big bed, smiling at him, her hair a red-gold, tousled cloud ...
 Stephen sucked in his breath, and Lucie broke from her reverie and looked at him, her eyes shadowed. "Ah, Stephen," she shook her head, "Truly I don't know what to do."
He stiffened, and then with one swift motion he had crossed to her and was holding her shoulders in his hands. Lucie couldn’t see his face clearly in the darkened room, but when he spoke his voice was low, and the urgency in his tone astonished her.
"Sometimes I ask myself why I allow you to suffer."
Flooded with sudden anger and shame, she remembering his warning about Thierry just a few days earlier. "Who are you to allow me anything, Stephen? This is my responsibility, and Thierry is my husband! It is not your place to -- "
"My place!" Stephen's fingers bit into her shoulders. He took a ragged breath, but when he spoke again his voice was even. "Do not presume to tell me what my place is. Everything you have here you owe to me, down to the gold your husband gambles with.  I have been patient in all things, because it served me to do so, but no more. I have tired of being a party to your foolish play­acting."
"Is it so foolish, then, to try to keep a decent home and care for my husband?" She stood straight, filled with domestic righteousness, forgetting for the moment how miserable Thierry had made her. "Then again, monsieur, what does a scoundrel like you know of decency!" Lucie hissed.
 Stephen gave a low laugh, but did not relax his hold on her. "A great deal more than you, apparently. Does it not concern you, Lucie, that while you hold your head high and play the great lady, your husband is carousing with the lowest forms of life in the city? That he is dragging you and your precious family name, the name you have worked so hard to preserve, down into the mud with him, and everyone knows it?"
His barb hit its mark. With a cry of outrage, Lucie tried to twist out of his painful grip, but before she could free herself Stephen jerked her toward him and stared down into her eyes. "It's time you faced the facts, Lucie, and looked the truth in the eye," he said flatly. Lucie frantically searched her mind for a retort, but before she could answer, he bent and covered her mouth with his.
Lucie swayed under the hot fury of his kiss, and of his hands as they left her shoulders, sliding down her back to encircle her waist. He pulled her closer, until she could feel the hard length of his body against hers. Her hands were pressed against his chest, and she could feel the slow, steady beat of his heart through the clean, crisp cotton of his shirt. Stephen kissed her slowly, hungrily, tasting her sudden, salty tears and the sweetness of her mouth. Murmuring something against her lips, he brought one hand up and entwined it in her hair.
The heat of his skin, the roughness of his face exhilarated her, terrified her. She tried to turn her head, tried to catch her breath and tell him to stop, but he only held her tighter, his mouth tracing the lines of her jaw, her throat. She heard his voice through the roaring in her ears: “Oh no, querida, don't push me away."
 He buried his face in her neck, his lips seeking out her tender flesh until she gasped. She was dizzy, blinded, her senses melting into a warm, delicious river that flowed through her entire body. Inexplicably she raised her hands to his face and brought his mouth back to hers, knowing only that she needed to return his kisses .
This was what it was like, she thought with something akin to triumph, the passion she had suspected but never known. All these months, when Thierry's fumbling, painful attentions had left her cold and lonely, dreading the next time, she had been secretly afraid that she would never know what it was to welcome a man's touch. Suddenly, here was Stephen, who had always seemed so remote and untouchable, taking her into the warm, rock-hard circle of his arms as if he would never release her. And even as she let herself be carried away by the feel of him, she marveled at the unexpected gentleness concealed underneath his arrogant, possessive touch. She slid her hands around his neck and molded her body to his with a shudder of utter abandon. He smelled of starch and shaving soap and saddle leather, and his hair was soft, entwined in her fingertips.
Stephen paused for a moment at the swiftness, the completeness of her response; then he gathered her fiercely to him, letting his hands explore the warm curves of her body, kissing her as if her mouth were the source of life and sustenance. "Lovely," he murmured against her lips.
Suddenly, a pained moan rose from Thierry's inert form on the chair, and Stephen froze, his arms still around her. The world came rushing back in all its stark reality, and with a sob, Lucie wrenched herself from Stephen's grasp . Her knees scarcely supported her and her breathing was wild and ragged, as if she had run a great distance.
She could not look at Stephen, too afraid to see the expression on his face. Instead, she glanced over at Thierry. His eyes were still closed, his face slack; he muttered her name in his sleep. Trembling, Lucie turned, searching for Stephen's eyes in the half-darkness. There was a long silence, and then he spoke from the shadows .
"How easy it is to forget that you are a married woman. Your pardon, Madame Chabrier." And he was gone.

Sunday, 23 March 2014

ANGEL HEART by Marie Laval

Chapter One

The cutter was sailing too close to the cliffs, heading straight for the Devil's Tooth. Marie-Ange's cloak billowed in the blustery wind, the hood blew back and her hair swirled like a golden veil around her. From the cliff top, she watched the small French ship dancing wildly on the waves, its tricolour and white ensigns flapping at the top of the mast.  If it carried on its course the ship would be ripped open by the reef. A man stood alone at the prow, oblivious of the danger ahead. He was too far away and the roaring of the waves crashing onto the cliffs was so loud shouting a warning to him would be useless. She unfastened her cloak, pulled her black shawl from her shoulders, and waved it above her head in the direction of the Devil's Tooth. 
A ray of sunshine tearing through the clouds bathed her black-clad silhouette in a bright golden light. For a few seconds the sun was in her eyes, blinding her before the wind pushed the dark clouds across the sky and the sun disappeared once more. When she looked toward the bay again, the ship was steering east, back to the high sea. She heaved a sigh of relief. The crew must have seen her signals and spotted the reef in time. They were safe.
She resumed her walk on the cliff path to St Nectan's chapel, a small granite building sailors’ wives visited to pray for the safe return of their men. Or rather, they came to the ancient wishing well at the back of the chapel. Today, like so many times before, Marie-Ange wanted to pray for Christopher.
"Six years already, my love," she whispered, blinking away the tears.
Six years since her husband had been lost at sea when his ship was sunk by French artillery off Corunna. She searched in her pocket for the piece of wedding ribbon she had cut earlier that morning.
"Please, come back to me." She repeated the words like an incantation and kissed the white satin bow before leaning forward to throw it into the ancient well. It whirled as it flew down, becoming smaller and fainter as it was swallowed by the shadows.  
Her dream last night still felt so real. Christopher held her in his arms while she touched his face and gazed into his grey eyes…Then he melted into the mist, leaving her cold and alone.

* * * *

Damn this ship. Damn this weather. And damn Malleval. Hugo Saintclair clapped his hands together a few times and blew on them to keep them warm. Around him, the crew shouted orders and heaved on ropes in order to switch sails and change course before they hit the rocks.  The Angel warned them, the sailors said, heaven was on their side. Shaking his head with impatience, he listened to their nonsensical chatter. Angels didn't exist, but the woman who waved at them from the cliff top had saved them from a certain death. The black, fierce looking rock in the middle of the bay would no doubt have torn the ship open.
It was sobering to think that having survived so many bloody battles in Europe he might have drowned in the grey, stormy waters of the English Channel while carrying out an assignment which had nothing to do with the army, and everything to do with his own foolishness. 
He pulled a flask from his coat pocket and drank a swallow of rum to fight the queasy feeling in the pit of his stomach. A grimace twisted his lips as the cheap liquor burned his throat and brought tears to his eyes.  The sooner they reached the shore, the better. He was a cuirassier officer, damn it, not a sailor. He tightened his lips, squared his jaw. Some cuirassier officer he was! Not only was he stuck on a ship in the middle of a storm, but he was about to play bodyguard to a rich noblewoman who would no doubt turn out to be every bit as spoilt, haughty, and demanding as the other aristocrats he'd had the misfortune to encounter so far.
Gripping the side of the boat, he took a long gulp of air. He had nobody to blame but himself. He should have held his liquor better and stopped gambling before it was too late.

* * * *

It was raining when Marie-Ange finally set off on the path inland. Soon the outline of Norton Place appeared in the distance—the grey, forbidding manor house crouched in a clump of trees. She walked through the gate and sighed as she stepped over several broken slate roof tiles dislodged by the storm. There would be more holes in the roof, as if the old manor house wasn't plagued by enough leaks and draughts already…
  She entered the hall, gave her wet cloak to Rosie. The maid whisked away to dry the sodden garment. Shivering and eager to stand near the fire, she opened the door to the austere oak panelled drawing room. Her fingers were raw and stiff after her long walk and she rubbed them hard over the flames.
"There you are! Any sign of our French guest?" 
She turned at the sound of her brother-in-law's voice and smiled. Bewilderment hit her as he strode toward her. With his tall stature, unruly ash blond hair and grey eyes, Robert was more like Christopher with every passing day. She shook her head.
"Not yet. Monsieur Malleval wrote that Capitaine Saintclair would be with us mid-January. I wonder if…"
She recalled the cutter that sailed dangerously close to the reef earlier in the day. It flew a French flag—two French flags, in fact—the revolutionary tricolour and the white flag of the newly-restored Bourbon monarchy. Maybe Capitaine Saintclair was on board.
"You don't have to travel to France alone with him, you know." Robert looked at her hopefully. "I'd be more than willing to come with you. Indeed, I believe that, as the man of the family, I should come with you."
Marie-Ange smiled. She had trouble considering Robert anything other than a younger brother. Yet at eighteen, he was almost a man, and she would do well to remember it. He would probably get married soon and leave her alone in this draughty old house on the edge of the moors.
"No, Robert. We talked about it before. Monsieur Malleval is unable to come for me because of his old battle wound but he wrote that Capitaine Saintclair would be a most reliable escort."
"Still, we don't know anything about him," Robert protested.
"We know he is a distinguished officer from the Second Cuirassier Regiment," Marie-Ange said, patting Robert's forearm. "And as much as I would like you to come with me, you must stay here and look after the estate. I won't need more than a few weeks to settle my inheritance at Beauregard."
Robert looked at his boots and frowned. "But…"
"You know what this bequest means for Norton Place and for you. I will be able to get the roof fixed at last and you will join the Naval Academy."
Robert pulled a face. His dream was to follow in his brother's footsteps and buy a commission in the Royal Navy but there had been no money for him to do so. Until now.
Two cocker spaniel puppies burst into the drawing room and jumped at her skirt.
"Rusty! Splinter! Calm down!" She laughed and knelt down to stroke the dogs' shiny coats. "Besides, who would look after my two darlings here?"
Robert still looked disgruntled.
"Cheer up." She grinned. "I heard there was jelly for pudding tonight."
This time there was something akin to anger in his eyes.
"I wish you would stop treating me like a child," he growled before storming out.
Her breath caught in her throat. What was wrong with him? Robert was the only family she had left. They had never argued before today.
"Come on, boys, let's go out," she called to them, hoping that taking the puppies out would cheer her up.
 She headed toward the cliffs once again. Her boots were soon covered with mud, the hem of her dress drenched, but she didn't notice the rain, the puddles, or the coarse tufts of grass. This time she followed the steep path down onto the pebbly beach, where the sea spray on her face and the roar of waves crashing onto the reef made her heart beat faster. She licked the salt from her lips and took a deep breath. How she would miss these walks along the coast during her time in France…Still, it would be worth it. Even though he didn't quote an exact figure in his letter, Uxeloup Malleval had promised a substantial legacy from her mother's family estate in the Beaujolais.
The sky was darkening by the time she made her way back. Her heart skipped a beat when she came in view of Norton Place and she quickened her pace. A carriage was stationed by the front steps. They had a visitor. Perhaps it was Saintclair?
She let herself in, slipped the cloak off her shoulders, and checked her reflection in the hall mirror. Lord, she looked wild. The wind had made her pale blue eyes sparkle and given her complexion a deep rosy blush. She combed her curly blond hair with her fingers, twisting it into a rough plait. It was far from perfect but it would have to do. She couldn't keep her visitor waiting any longer.
She pushed open the door to the drawing room and hurried inside. Splinter and Rusty ran under her feet, tripping her. Her cry of alarm died on her lips as two strong arms caught her. Surprised, she tilted her head up to look at the tall, dark-haired man holding her against his hard, wide chest. His intense blue eyes held her gaze and sent a shiver down her spine. One side of his weather-beaten face was barred by a long, ragged scar. The thin line of the mouth and the tightness in his jaw gave an impression of controlled anger. For a moment fear gathered in her chest. Then he smiled, a slow, confident smile, and he was transformed into the most handsome man she had ever laid eyes on.
The dogs barked at them furiously. Marie-Ange parted her lips to order them to stop but before she could speak Robert took a few steps forward, an angry scowl twisting his face, his fists clenched by his sides.
"Let her go at once, sir," he warned, "or I…"
"Or what?" The man arched his eyebrows, a mocking smile at the corner of his mouth, as if he dared Robert to come any closer. He shook his head and released her.
 "I will ask you to restrain your puppies, Madame. The three of them," he said as he looked down at her.
"How dare you call me a puppy?" Robert's face flushed a deep red, and he took another step forward.
Marie-Ange found her voice at last.
"Rusty. Splinter. Lie down at once." She pointed to the rug in front of the fireplace. The dogs whimpered but obeyed. "Robert. That's enough. Monsieur was just helping me."
Robert muttered an apology and crouched beside the dogs to stroke their wet, muddy coats.
"You must be Capitaine Saintclair," she said, tilting her chin up to look at him again.
 The papers had been full of sketches and reports about the famous French cuirassiers and she had no difficulty imagining Saintclair in a dark blue uniform, his chest covered with shiny metal plates and his helmet topped by a black horse mane, charging onto the battlefield. His current attire of black breeches and tall leather riding boots topped by a short brown coat did nothing to dispel the heroic image conjured in her mind.
He clicked his heels together and bowed his head.
"At your service, Madame."

Devonshire, 1815
A mysterious Templar relic
A web of intrigue and lies
A woman about to lose her heart

Marie-Ange, the young widow of an English officer, accepts an inheritance in France only to find that everything in Beauregard is not as it seems. Why is the sinister Malleval so obsessed with her family? What exactly is this mysterious Templar Cross he believes Marie-Ange can lead him to? And could her darling husband Christopher still be alive?

Marie-Ange finds herself trapped in a dangerous web of lies, political intrigue and mystical possession, and the only person to whom she can turn for help is Captain Hugo Saintclair. Yet the enigmatic Hugo represents a danger of a different kind …

ANGEL HEART is a lavish mix of romance, adventure and a hint of the supernatural, largely set in France against the turbulent background of Napoleon’s return from Elba and his ultimate defeat at Waterloo.

You can find it at Museituppublishing 

And from Amazon Kindle store here

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Guest blog: Regan Walker - 'Wind Raven'

Cofresí stood on the quarterdeck of the English ship watching the girl as she walked to the prow, her arms wrapped tightly around her as she faced away from him. Her golden hair reflected the sun’s rays like some mythical being, drawing him to her. He knew from her voice she was American, perhaps one who had longed for liberty as much as he did. He had admired her bravery when, unafraid of his men, she had fought to be free. From the moment he first saw her, he wanted her, his desire an immediate, tangible thing.

For some time, he had thought he should take a wife. His older brothers expected him to marry. Disappointed with his maritime activities, and abhorring his piracy, they hoped if he were to wed, he would settle down, leaving behind his days at sea.

He would not marry any of the cantina girls in Cabo Rojo who freely offered themselves to him, nor one of the village girls whose eager mamas shoved them toward him. And none of the docile daughters of the distinguished European families with whom he’d been raised appealed to him. No, he must have a woman with a strong will to match his own, a woman of courage, a woman of passion. Perhaps this golden-haired girl was the one for whom he’d been searching.

But why was she aboard the English merchantman? Was she Captain Powell’s woman?

Roberto vowed to discover the truth. Soon he would know all her secrets.

Visit Regan at:

Sunday, 16 March 2014

The Bull At The Gate - Melding History and Contemporary

The Torc of Moonlight trilogy is a set of fast-paced, romantic suspense novels each using three major storylines, one historical. The premise is the resurrection of a Celtic water deity in contemporary northern England – which isn’t as far-fetched as it sounds.

There are many springs and ancient wells veiled beneath a flimsy veneer of scientific understanding or Christian belief at which offerings can be found. Don’t you do the same, throwing coins into a wishing well? Who are you expecting to hear your plea for good luck? Perhaps you are sustaining whatever dwells within.

The Bull At The Gate, just launched, is Book 2 in the trilogy. With Alice dead, Nick has moved to York, a walled mediaeval city hiding the ruins of a Roman fortress. But is Alice dead? Has Nick’s mental state been misdiagnosed? As Alice tries to reach her lost lover, does time shift? A student, Sophie, has vanished, and a Roman legionary has lost his grip on his own reality in a colonia that should be called Eboracum.

Here’s an excerpt from both Nick, who carries all three novels, and the retired Roman legionary, Vibius.

As he took the receipt from the laundry assistant Nick’s phone beeped again, and this time he reached into his pocket to check the message.
Get back here. Police want interviews re Sophie.
Sophie? He stopped in the middle of the tiled floor to stare at the screen, the washers humming on one side, the driers thumping on the other. Sophie. She was missing and he’d forgotten; she’d not turned up for her birthday party at Club Salvation. He remembered James reading out the information from the university’s intranet, but the memory seemed distant. He’d been fixed on the silver plaque, the silver plaque that Alice had given him and that the professor and James had confiscated. It would do him no good to dwell on that.
He texted OK and checked his change as he reached to open the door to the street. In his palm sat three large coins, two gold, one silver, each showing the Queen’s head. As he closed his fingers around them the coins flipped, and he stopped in the open doorway to uncurl his hand and look again. She wasn’t standing, she was sitting on a lion, but the spear was there – no, a trident – the shield, the crested helmet, the draped clothing…
‘Shut that bloody door!’ the woman behind him yelled, and he stepped into the street. As a lorry thundered by, he pulled up the image of the silver votive plaque and placed his mobile beside the silver coin in his hand. He knew she was Britannia on the fifty-pence piece, Minerva, the professor had thought, on the plaque, but they were so alike it was unnerving.

Vibius drew the woollen wrap closer about his shoulders as he watched the painted door thud against its frame with every kick and fist thump that landed on the further side. The houseman had retreated from his shoulder to linger at the turn in the narrow corridor, his anxiety showing in his every awkward gesture. Let the old goat fret awhile. There again, perhaps not too long. There was a side to the man Vibius had not recognised. He could, he realised, have underestimated him, held him against the men of the Victrix and found him paltry, when in truth his skills lay in other areas.
How had he accomplished the feat? How had he paid – or bribed – those who had bundled their cargo into such a box and wheeled it across the bridge and to the rear of his dwelling? There had been scant time for answers, even for questions. Alone, the houseman had said, frightened, hiding, afraid to be seen. And not far from the slaver that had berthed in the night. Had the girl escaped it?
Sitting as if a peach in a tree waiting to be picked, the houseman had told him, and Vibius recalled his sly manner and averted gaze as the houseman had added, waiting to be tasted.
A bed-gift to recompense for earlier aggravations, that was why the girl had been brought, to show that the houseman was worth his keep, to buy him, Vibius Fulcinius. And that rankled, the thought that the houseman believed he could be bought.
He watched the door flex under the onslaught. What was in that storeroom that she was using to hammer at the wood? How had she found it in the dark? Her voice was full of vehemence now, her tongue not one he’d heard, not Hispania, not a dialect of west Germania or of the tribes near the Wall. But those were threats she uttered, he recognised the tone if not the words, threats backed by a belief in an authority that was hers to call upon. She was too well-fed, too richly clothed against the cold for an escaped slave… unless her ship had been boarded and she’d been taken along with its cargo. But no again; she’d not been ill-used, she had been protected.
And yet she was alone.

Thanks for reading. If you’ve enjoyed this post please give it a Tweet (below). If you leave a comment or ask a question you could win both ebooks [The draw is now closed]. This post is part of a listed blog tour. Last: Crime Elements in a Non-Crime Novel
Torc of Moonlight Book 1 is discounted to 99c/99p for a limited period.
The Bull At The Gate Book 2 is available in ebook only, paperback to follow
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Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Viking romance: Far After Gold

Blurb: When a young Viking buys Emer, she has no idea what to expect of their first night. It certainly was not what she anticipated…

Far After Gold

Emer looked round. All he said was true. Thick, square pillars of golden wood rose up to meet the rafters, and the roof sloped down to meet the walls at the height of a tall man. Unbleached linen hid the lower portion of walls free of sleeping platforms, and someone’s clever needle had sketched mythical animals around it in coloured wool.
“It is a fair hall,” she agreed. “But it is not home.”
Flane sat on the bed, grasped her shoulders and pulled her back to lie on the mattress beside him. He laughed into her wide, shocked eyes. His lips dived to the skin beneath her jaw and nuzzled towards the neckline split in her chemise while his fingers untied the knot that held the strings closed. He parted the fabric and his mouth slid down towards the newly revealed curve of her breast. His bristles rasped against her skin and Emer fended him off with both hands.
“Don’t! Don’t!”
He braced one hand to either side of her shoulders and loomed over her. “What’s wrong?”
Emer gulped. “It isn’t right,” she muttered, unable to meet his steady gaze. She looked across the hall, where children ran about, getting in the way of their elders, and a dog barked as it leapt crazily about his newly returned master. The rest of the world seemed to be going on as normal, and here she was fighting for her virtue. No one cared.
No one had even noticed.
Flane chuckled, and she faced him suspiciously. “I can’t think of anything better,” he said. “What’s not right?”
At his tone, some of her anxiety dispersed. She focussed on his leather jerkin and a part of her brain registered that someone had dressed the leather very well indeed, and threaded small tassels through the shoulder seam. She admired the pale shade, which so nearly matched his hair.
“Be brave,” he said. “Tell me.”
He taunted her now. Emer saw the mischief in his eyes, and caution vanished. “I cannot be happy in a place where we are on public view.” She opened her eyes wide and words, unheeded, shot out of her mouth. “And we should be married before you bed me!” Her breath came and went as if she’d been running and warm blood rushed beneath the skin of her throat and face.
“Really?” His voice betrayed nothing, but his silver brows drew down in a frown. “And how would marriage change anything?”