Friday, 3 July 2015

Guest Blog: Angela Britnell - 'The Reject Wedding Table'

Once on the reject table, always on the reject table? 

When Maggie Taylor, a cake decorator, and Chad Robertson, a lawyer from Nashville Tennessee, meet at a wedding in Cornwall it’s not under the best circumstances.

They have both been assigned to ‘the reject table’, alongside a toxic collection of grumpy great aunts, bitter divorcees and stuffy organists.

Maggie has grown used to being the reject, although when Chad helps her out of a wedding cake disaster she begins to wonder whether the future could hold more for her.

But will Chad be strong enough to deal with the other problems in Maggie’s life? Because a ruined cake isn’t the only issue she has – not by a long shot.

2nd novella in the Nashville Connections series.   First: What Happens in Nashville.

Buy here:




Excerpt:

Maggie couldn’t hold back a heavy sigh as she stared at the wedding reception seating chart.
‘Have they stuck you on the RT as well, honey?’
She glanced back over her shoulder and froze. Smiling right at her was the handsome stranger she’d noticed across the aisle in the church. She’d always been a pushover for a man with intriguing eyes and these were tawny, fringed with lashes so long and dark they should have been illegal, and sparkling with good humour. Stop that right now. You don’t do pick-ups at weddings. It’s undignified and desperate.
‘What on earth are you talking about?’ Her tone of voice was sharper than she’d intended.
‘The Reject Table.’ His deep smooth voice was laced with a delicious warm drawl she could’ve listened to all night. ‘Of course they wouldn’t call it that, they might gloss it over by using the term “Independents”, but we know the truth, don’t we?’
‘Do we?’ Maggie bristled. She refused to admit she knew precisely what he was talking about. She’d endured enough of these ritual humiliations while seeming unable to sustain a relationship long enough to change her Facebook status.
‘Yeah, sure do. I’m guessin’ your English ones are the same as ours. We’ll have the elderly maiden aunt, the bitter newly divorced third cousin, the grumpy dishevelled organist,’ he reckoned them all up on his long, well-shaped fingers, ‘and of course the mandatory gaggle of single strays.’
‘And which category do you fall into?’ Maggie’s brazen question shocked her into blushing hotly.
‘Take a wild guess,’ he challenged, and stepped closer so his arm brushed against hers.
God, he smells delicious. The tempting combination of spicy cologne, soap and something indefinably male wafted in the air and would’ve made her swoon – if she was the swooning type. Maggie’s middle name should’ve been Sensible.
‘Well, you’re obviously no one’s maiden aunt. The organist was sixty if he was a day and no one could describe you as dishevelled. By the process of elimination I’d say you’re the rogue transatlantic cousin representing the groom’s American grandmother who’s too old to travel.’ As soon as he’d spoken it’d clicked in her filing cabinet of a brain. She hadn’t helped the bride with the seating plans without gathering some useful information.
‘Spot on.’ His eyes darkened with surprise. ‘How about you?’ Maggie winced at his direct question. ‘Sorry, sore point?’
She lifted her chin and contrived to look unconcerned. ‘Not at all.’
‘Forgive me. I’m forgettin’ my manners all around today. I can’t believe I said that to a beautiful lady.’ He thrust out his right hand. ‘I’m Chad Robertson from Nashville in the great state of Tennessee. By day I’m a music attorney, and by night I turn into the rogue you rightly determined me to be. A single one, if you’re at all interested.’ The almost-question hung in the air between them.

Friday, 29 May 2015

FLY OR FALL - is not a romance

But it is a love story for grown ups....


Wife and mother, Nell, fears change, but it is forced upon her by her manipulative husband, Trevor. Finding herself in a new world of flirtation and casual infidelity, her principles are undermined and she’s tempted. Should she emulate the behaviour of her new friends or stick with the safe and familiar? 

But everything Nell has accepted at face value has a dark side.  Everyone - even her nearest and dearest - has been lying. She’s even deceived herself. The presentiment of disaster, first felt as a tremor at the start of the story, rumbles into a full blown earthquake. When the dust settles, nothing is as it previously seemed. 

And when an unlikely love blossoms from the wreckage of her life, she believes it is doomed.

The future, for the woman who feared change, is irrevocably altered. But has she been broken, or has she transformed herself? “




An extract from FLY OR FALL - Chapter Two

The family have not been living in their new house for many months and renovations have recently started. Nell is aware someone new has joined the team of workmen today, but meets him for the first time when he knocks on her door to use the loo. Her first sight of him makes an impression, but she ignores and discounts her response. Instead of returning outside once he’s finished in the bathroom, he follows her into the kitchen. Feeling mildly irritated, Nell feels obliged to offer him a cup of coffee......

 ........The man sat, stretching out his cement crusted legs and crossing his feet. His large, steel capped boots were almost white.
‘Prefer tea,’ he said, ‘and I don’t suppose there’s a chance of something to eat?’
‘Eat?’
‘Yeah. You put it in your mouth and chomp up and down a bit. Fuel for the inner man.’ At my silence he elaborated. ‘Lump of cheese? Bread and jam? Marmite? Honey? Anything? I’m easily pleased.’
None of the other workmen had expected to be fed. And beyond the occasional biscuit, I’d not considered offering food. I was surprised, and by now thoroughly put out by the man’s continuing presumption. I was relieved I could dislike him. Had he turned out to be a thoroughly amiable character, his continued presence around my house could have proved seriously distracting.
‘The others –’
A remark in this conversation
prefigures a ladder's importance in the plot 
‘No need to worry about Spike and Jazz. Gone off down the boozer.’ He glanced at his watch. ‘Don’t drink. Makes me dopey. Don’t want to fall off the ladder.’
‘I wasn’t worried. I was about to say, they provide their own food.’
‘They’ve got mums. I’ve no one to look after me. Rather spend the extra ten minutes in bed than making a picnic.’ He turned the full strength of his smile on me.
‘I’ve the washing to peg out,’ I said, with a nod to the basket.
‘Doesn’t matter. I can see you’re busy.’ He made as if to get up, withdrawing his long legs.
Concerned now, and half ashamed of my churlishness, I looked at the clock. I didn’t want it on my conscience if my hypoglycaemic builder had an accident.
‘I suppose another ten minutes isn’t going to make a difference to the washing. And I need to get myself something.’ My big mouth. Of course he would take this as an invitation to eat with me. Already he was relaxing back into the chair, hands behind his head, as I pushed aside the library book I was reading and put the bread board and butter on the table. It was a bad idea to get too friendly with the men. I knew it, Trevor had reiterated it. If you get too chummy they’ll take advantage. Yet here I was, in my own kitchen, about to share my lunch with a stranger who was patently all too willing to take liberties. I opened the fridge and took out the cheese box, then dumped some plates and knives onto the table. It would have been different if I’d wanted the company, but I preferred my own. I badly wanted to be left in peace to listen to the radio. Just then, the theme tune to The Archers came on. While washing up the previous evening I’d heard the original broadcast – hard to justify a desperate desire to hear the repeat. I turned it off and sat down opposite him.
‘That looks like a bit of a tome. The Inheritance of Loss …’ As he reached for the hardback by Kiran Desai, I noticed his large hands. Though clean now, they were ruddy, and roughened by heavy work, the knuckles pitted, scuffed, and scabbed by old and recent injuries. Instead of turning the book over to read the blurb, he glanced up at me with raised eyebrows. I wondered if he wanted a précis of the plot or a justification of why I was reading it.
‘It’s not particularly long.’
‘Looks serious. Not much of a reader, me. Apart from the Sun, of course.’
Of course. I’d no need to make clichéd assumptions about the man; he’d done it for me. Upstairs he had evidently washed his face as well as his hands; a few strands of hair still clung to a damp forehead. I wondered what it was that had initially unnerved me at first sight. His was a longish face and although I was mistaken about the depth of tan, his complexion possessed the healthy bloom of a life spent outdoors, a bloom which heightened to a tawny flush over high cheekbones. Without the disconcerting patina of rust flakes I noticed natural freckles scattered across the blunt bridge of his long nose. I’d never admired men with freckles. His eyes were not a piercing periwinkle, nor a glittering emerald, nor a smouldering, sensual brown – merely hazel. There was nothing to write home about in the hair department either. A lighter brown than my own, it was cut in such jagged layers it could conceivably have been styled with garden shears, and the faint russet burnish might only indicate it was still dusted with rust. Even the wide, perfect smile was not that perfect; one of his incisors was crooked, and a scar hooked upwards from the right corner of his over-generous mouth. Analysis proved how misled I’d been at first sight. Nice enough, but far from an Adonis. He put down the book and reached for a roughly hacked doorstep of bread, glancing up at me with an enquiring lift of the eyebrow.
‘I’ve not noticed you around before?’
I felt trapped, wanting this lunchtime interlude to be over, but while he was slathering his bread with spread and helping himself to a sizeable wedge of cheese, politeness kept me sitting across the table as an unwilling participant in the conversation.
‘It may need some updating but this is a good sound property,’ he reassured me, following my explanation of how rapidly we’d done the deal and moved in. ‘And for the size, you got it at a knock-down price.’
‘But we’re on the wrong side of town. Anyone who is anyone lives in Old Town.’
He frowned. ‘Why d’you say that?’
‘Something I’ve heard. Don’t get me wrong, I couldn’t care less whether we’re on this side of the main road or the other; I know we have the best of both worlds here, with the downs just up the road, and the station and town centre only a fifteen minute walk away.’
‘But you’re not happy?’
‘What do you mean?’
He shrugged. ‘You seem a bit dead-pan, bit rehearsed.’
‘I haven’t found my feet yet,’ I said quickly. He continued to look at me as if waiting for more. I looked down at my hands then up and out of the window. ‘I would’ve had reservations about anywhere I moved to. I … I’m not brave.’
‘Brave?’ He lifted his eyebrows.

‘To start your life again you need bravery. I’m a bit of a wimp. In the past I had a vision of what lay ahead of me. Since we’ve come here it’s as if someone has wiped the board clean.’ Why on earth had I said that to this Sun reading stranger?  ..........




On our apartment balcony, over looking the
 little harbour town of Loggos in Paxos, Greece. 
I started to write in childhood, a hobby only abandoned when real life supplanted the fiction. I didn’t go to Oxford or Cambridge but, after just enough exam passes to squeak in, I attended Croydon Art College. I didn’t work on any of the broadsheets, in publishing or television. Instead I was a shop assistant, a beauty consultant and a barmaid before landing my dream job as an illustrator in advertising. It was only when I was at home with my son that I began writing seriously. My first two novels were quickly published, but when the publisher ceased to trade, I went independent. 
Over the years, I've been a school governor, a contributor to local newspapers, and a driving force behind the community shop in my Gloucestershire village.  Still a keen artist, I design Christmas cards and have begun book illustration. 
I'm particularly delighted to have recently gained a new mainstream publisher. TORN was the first book to be published in a three book deal with Accent Press, FLY OR FALL is the second.  






http://gilliallan.blogspot.co.uk/
http://twitter.com/gilliallan  (@gilliallan)
https://www.facebook.com/GilliAllan.AUTHOR












































Tuesday, 5 May 2015

OUT TODAY! Valens the Fletcher and His Captive


Valens the Fletcher and His Captive (MF)
by Lindsay Townsend
Medieval Captives 2

Siren-BookStrand, Inc.

Heat Rating: SENSUAL
Word Count: 23,476

Historical


Now with money off!


Katherine has been let down by men before. Can she trust the man who captures her?






England, Summer 1132

Valens is an arrow-maker and spy for Lord Sebastian (the hero of Sebastian the Alchemist & His Captive, Medieval Captives 1). His beloved sister Julia has died, leaving an infant who needs breast-feeding. Valens is still single, so needs to find a wet nurse for the baby.

He kidnaps young Katherine, and her baby, Jack, from a camp of women. Can Katherine save Edith, Valens’s little niece? Can she trust the handsome Valens, share her secrets, make a life with him? Can she recover Jack’s lost inheritance?

Ordered to court Katherine by his lord, Valens slowly begins to understand that he loves Kate, that he loves making a family with her, Jack, and Edith. Does his realization come too late? When, on their wedding day, a plot between Valens and Sebastian is revealed, can Katherine forgive Valens? Can she trust a spy?


A BookStrand Mainstream Romance

Chapter 1

England, Summer 1132

Valens heard the girl he had chosen as booty before he saw her. Crawling beneath the luxuriant low-hanging hazel branches and over the stinging nettles and ruthless brambles toward the women’s summer camp, he heard her weary, patient whisper. “Come on, Jack, feed for me, sweetheart. That’s right, that’s right. Good boy…”
There was a mewling whimper and the soft sound of suckling. Valens took a chance and raised his head.
Here she is, my little mother.
She crouched, half-facing away from him and behind the other women, on the less favored side of their hissing fire. Her face remained in shadow and he watched her hands, cradling, soothing, coaxing. A spit and flare from the flames illuminated her charge, Jack.
Her son, I think, or the son of her heart. Whichever the babe was, Valens took in his rounded limbs and downy head with pleasure. The infant was well cared for and the girl would care for Julia’s child—She will if she wants her own brat to thrive.
Valens lowered his wiry frame back into the crush and scratch of brambles and allowed the wet nurse’s soft crooning to wash over him.
“You are doing so well, my pretty darling, growing so big and strong. Let me check your padding…Good boy! I have more wool tufts and moss in my pack. Soon you will be clean and dry again, my Jack…”
The girl had been saying similar nonsense over the past four days that Valens had been tracking the women’s camp. So far he had only approached this close to her after twilight, content in the day to shadow the group at a distance. With her hair hanging limply ‘round her face in greasy, dirty-blond curtains, he still did not know if the wench was as pretty as a beech nut or as ugly as a gall apple, but her hands were clean and deft and her clothes patched and tidy. Baby Jack had more things than she, with three carrying slings and a half dozen little cloaks and hoods.
She may not wash her hair but she cares for Jack and will be a fine wet nurse for Edith. Valens frowned and tried not to think of his dead sister and her ailing child, in case a passing devil caught his feelings and made them worse, but it was no use. Julia had passed away seven nights ago and he and his widowed father were struggling with their grief and with Edith, Julia’s child. At almost two years old, Edith was beginning to eat more solid food, but it was the custom to breast-feed until two years, and weaning itself was dangerous. He and his father Thorkill, Edith’s granddad, had no idea what to do, beyond treating the grizzling infant like a sickly calf. Julia’s child was not thriving and would not do so until he could supply breast-milk by means of a wet nurse.
His present duty, to spy on the goose herder women, had proved provident. Accepting the task from his lord, Valens had known that such bold females would have youngsters and babies and one of the women would be in milk. Lucky for me. Julia would have said it was God’s will, but Valens was less sure, seeing that God had stolen Julia from him. He knew that tiny, squalling Edith would not make up for the loss of his sister, but the child was a part of Julia, one he vowed to preserve.
“You are not getting her,” he vowed under his breath, not caring who he meant at that moment, God or the devil.
He felt breath on his neck and twisted ‘round. The scowling face of his lord loomed briefly, then Sebastian crawled to one side, cursing at this cramped spying place.
“Only you, runt, dare have me scramble this way.”
Valens acknowledged the grumble with a flash of teeth. “But always worth it,” he countered, ignoring the taller man’s nickname. No one but Sebastian dared to comment on his lack of height, so he reckoned they were even.
“Are they thieves?” Sebastian jabbed a long, pale fist at the camp. His blue eyes darkened as Valens gave a brief nod. “Explain.”
Used to the man’s brusque orders, Valens counted off on his fingers. “One, they are meant to be goose herders but they have no geese.”
“This close to Michaelmas? They should be thigh deep in fattened-up birds, driving them to market.”
Valens grinned afresh. Sebastian was always quick, it was one reason he spied for the man. That, and he paid in gold, on time. “Two, they have clubs and ropes, lots of ropes.”
“For restraining prisoners and hostages. Go on.”
“Three, they are practiced in pretending to be fluttery, foolish maidens. A well-set-up traveler rides through the forest on one of the main trails and these women are there, arranged like a Mystery play, all tasteful sprawled limbs, big eyes, and pleading glances.‘Oh, kind sir, can you help us?’ and more of the same, till the fool steps down from his horse and they have him.
“Four—”
“I can count.”
The warning made Valens skip to his greatest news. “Big Agnes is their leader.”
In the dark blue twilight Valens almost missed Sebastian’s thin mouth tightening, but he heard the satisfied, “A name worth gold. Our sheriff has wanted her for some time.”
“Where is Julian?” Valens whispered, checking on the girl again as she rubbed her baby’s tiny back.
“Swirling somewhere in that red cloak and being heroic, no doubt.”
A prickle of alarm sped down Valens’s spine. “Not here, I hope. That cloak and that yellow hair of his, they will show up.” He dismissed the rest of Sebastian’s sour comment. His lord was touchy about his looks—though far less since his marriage—but Julian was something else. Even Valens, who also liked women, could see that.
There was a low snort from the hazel thicket, as Sebastian stifled laughter. “Peace, man, the sheriff is not an idiot. He does not go to your lengths, but he knows how to blend in woodland and so do his men.”
Valens forbore to comment that he dyed his red hair black so as to blend in, as Sebastian put it. His bushy and above all bright mane was distinctive, and for a spy that was bad.
“We attack them tonight?” Sebastian asked.
“Early morning is better. We shall see more and the women are slow to shift. Several have children.”
“By Lucifer, another problem,” muttered the man beside him. “My men will not like that. I do not like it.”
“I think you will have little trouble,” Valens said quickly. “Such women with youngsters are low status, like camp followers. They earn their keep by washing and cooking and are kept away from the main leaders. A few strikes on a shield will have them scattering and their brats with them.”
“Runaways and strays, eh? They will not be harmed. And where is Big Agnes?”
“Sprawled, with her flagons, right by the main fire with her cronies, dividing up the day’s takings. They are usually half-drunk in the morning, still.”
“Better, by Lucifer.” Sebastian clapped him on the shoulder, the closest his lord would come to outright approval. “And what do you want for your work?”
Valens showed his teeth at his lord’s scowling face and pretended to consider. “Four days and nights squatting in holly bushes, covering my tracks, going without food or more than a sip of ale. What would you say to granting me a holiday, my lord?”
Sebastian wormed backward and Valens followed. Skirting a flowering and spiky wild rose that showed blue in the late evening light, the men crawled behind the cover of a beech tree and stood upright.
“Ask again, master fletcher,” Sebastian said then. “I need those arrows of yours.”
Valens shook his arms and legs to get the blood flowing again. “Well, then.” He braced himself, aware his next request would most definitely not be approved. “I want a girl from the camp.”
 Sebastian dragged him off his feet and hoisted him aloft as if he weighed no more than a leaf. Half-choked by his tunic, Valens sucked in air and kept talking.
“Not as my slave but to help! The wench will have a better life with me than cast adrift.”
His lord’s eyes glittered. “You will marry her?”
By Adam, he is wed and now thinks every other man should be.
“If she is a widow, then yes.” Resentment sharpened Valens’s answer. “I need a wet nurse for my sister’s child, not a bed-mate. Put me down.”
“Or what?” Sebastian chuckled and lowered him. “I should call you Cuchulainn after the Irish warrior. He was a runt, too.”
“Everyone is short to you,” Valens muttered, slipping his knife back into its sheath as he was released. Not that he did not trust Sebastian, but spying kept his reactions honed. The dagger had been in his fist and pricked against the taller man’s belly before he had even thought of it. He had no idea who Cuchulainn was and did not care. “Are we agreed?”
Stepping back, Sebastian glared down his long hooked nose and gave him a searching look that made him feel like a new apprentice with his master. “You will keep her and her infant safe?”
“I will,” vowed Valens, thinking of Julia and Edith.
“Snatch them tonight, then, and take them away with you.”
Valens gave a brief but wide smile. His lord had given him something else with this, the chance to spare the girl and her babe the panic of an attack. “I intend to. Let me have two men.”
Sebastian folded his arms across his chest. “You want to terrify mother and child?”
“Two good men,” Valens persisted, ignoring his lord’s mocking glower, the dark humor in those dark eyes. “Two good men to show her the futility of struggle. I’ve taken down knights in full armor before now, so a girl and a baby will be easy.”
“Very well.” Before he moved back in the direction of the camp, Sebastian touched his arm. “Be careful,” he warned. “Too much…trouble and the girl might lose her milk.”
“I have my ways,” said Valens, with a confidence he did not altogether feel. Sebastian was still glowering down his nose, though, so all must be right with the world.
“Keep safe, runt.” His lord seemed on the verge of saying more, but instead clapped him on the shoulder for a second time.
“And you, my lord.”
The two men parted ways.

* * * *




Katherine could not shake the feeling that she was being watched. Worse, that she and Jack were being watched. The other women of this camp constantly slighted her in flea-bite ways, remarking or gesturing about her small size, feeble strength, and lack of wood-craft. Big Agnes, their leader, had agreed to let Katherine travel with the gang and had then ignored her. The others—who surely were no goose herders, for where were their geese?—had copied Agnes, or Aggie, as she liked to be called. For the week Katherine had traveled with them, aside from being piled with filthy clothes to wash, she and Jack had been left alone.
It is exactly what I want, she told herself, but lately, with this constant tingle at the back of her neck and the sinking feeling in her stomach, with this sense of being watched, spied on, she was less sure.
Jack smiled at her, gummy and warm, and she was enchanted afresh. That she and Eric had produced such a wonderful, sweet, clever child she thanked Christ for every hour. Propping the bundles of clothes she had to wash in a protective circle around him, she set Jack down to roll and crawl and toddle, clapping her hands in warning each time he crept and waddled to the edge of the circle.
Her bare hands, Katherine thought with a sigh. She had sold her wedding ring nine days ago but the lack still smarted. If only Eric had not died. If only I had been more patient with him and not nagged him in our bed. That was a dark shame and secret of hers and one she still flinched from. If only my husband had kept his word and not kept all those secrets
“Hey, Wash-tub!”
Katherine refused to flinch at the hated nick-name, or at the muddy, cold scrap of cloth that slapped down the side of her face. She caught it before it fell anywhere close to Jack and heard the braying order, “Big Aggie wants that washed tonight.”
She nodded and scooped a faintly grizzling Jack into a carrying sling. Where she would find wash-water at this hour was one problem, although at a pinch she could use her own urine and rinse the scarf in—what? Rainwater collected in a tree stump?
But she did not complain. Better to be bullied here than bullied and raped at the old house by my stepson. He was starting to pick on Jack, too. Eric had sworn he had made provision for us, but he did not. Secrets, always secrets. Remembering her own secret with a shudder, she picked up her pack and the washing bundles and moved farther back from the fires, preparing to do as Big Agnes demanded.

* * * *

Spiteful fools, Valens thought, wishing he had his lord’s skill with poisons and could slip some to these chattering mares. To expect a nursing mother to leave the safety of the camp simply to wash a scarf spoke of a careless arrogance that made his blood boil. The girl and her babe would do far better with him. They do not deserve her.
He was so furious it was several moments before he could admit that their petty malice, to one of their supposed own, had made capturing his prize easier. The young woman was clearly seeking fresh water and had just found some in a moss-covered birch stump. She had placed Jack into a cocoon of bedding and was pounding the scarf on a smooth rock, stopping after each weary flick to glance to the distant camp and peer into the closer trees. Sure that his dark clothing, dyed black mop and dirt-smeared face would make him invisible, Valens slipped his sheathed knife from his belt into his boot—he did not want the girl trying to grab his blade and stab him—and waited. He moved as she did and squirmed closer to the baby.
Jack was gnawing his fist but content and eager to be diverted by the sparkling toy of a gold chain and crucifix, dragged by Valens across the rim of his circle of blankets. Gurgling, the baby obligingly tottered, then crawled on plump little legs after the pretty thing. Valens allowed Jack to grab the chain and picked up the baby, settling the child on his hip. Jack snuffled and stared up at him in wide-eyed wonder. He trusts me.
“Jack! Where are you?”
On her knees now, the woman was patting and throwing aside the empty circle of clothes, gasping in her panic. Valens loomed closer, sweating a little himself, though his voice was cool and low.
“Here with me. Shush.” He closed his other hand around his little mother’s thin wrist and yanked her to her feet, deftly releasing her and removing her eating dagger from her belt as she stumbled. She fell against him and he caught her again, winding an arm about her middle and snagging her against his body as closely as he cradled her son. Her mouth and eyes were as wide as Jack’s, but she did not scream. Her attention was altogether on another matter.
“No, Jack, not in your mouth.” She grabbed the gold chain and made a brave attempt to smile at her son. “Never something you could choke on.”
Valens released her wrist to sweep his dark cloak around all three of them. “I shall know that next time.”
“Give me my boy.” The wench reached for him but Jack nuzzled against Valens, who was in no hurry to release either of them. He leaned closer, keeping a firm hand on the baby.
“No.” Valens gambled on her not wishing to scare or hurt Jack by trying to wrest him free.
Her eyes glanced away from him and her baby to the camp. At a snap of his fingers, Sebastian’s two good men rose out of the undergrowth, taking a step closer. The woman moaned as she saw the chance of any possible escape diminishing to nothing.
“No help here or over there,” Valens spoke as if no other fate was possible. “You and Jack are coming with me.”
“Why should we?”
He liked the flash of temper. Anger meant she would not faint. This close, he saw her face for the first time, rather than her bent head or profile. He stared for an instant—he could not help it.
My little mother is a pretty waif. Not beautiful, he corrected at once, not with that grubby hair or sharp little nose, but her face was free of pox scars and had an open, impudent look. She had a narrow head and a thin mouth that curved up at the corners and green eyes that shone with fury, lightening them to the color of fresh beech leaves. He had done well for himself by her capture. To marry this will be no torment.
He inhaled sharply and smelled her sweet, milky scent, felt her turgid breasts press against his lower ribs. She was smaller, much slighter than him, but tucked nicely under his chin for all that. The realization slid through his mind as fast as an arrow bolt, then he was answering.
“I need your help.”
He had not meant to say that. He wanted to get her walking, get them farther into the trees, away from the others. “Come with me now. No trouble.”
He prodded her side with a finger and she jerked sideways, flinching as if she feared a dagger thrust. “I promise I will not hurt you or your boy,” he added.
“Such vows are easy to make,” she answered at once, reaching out again. “Give me my son.”
He prodded her shoulder. “Walk first.” He did not tell her there were horses nearby, one step at a time was enough.
Still the woman did not move. She stared at how he held Jack, balanced against his hip, and more suspicion flared in her face. “Why—”
I cannot waste more time on this. Edith is ailing. Valens scooped baby Jack into her arms and picked both of them up. Ignoring her instant struggles, he began a shuffling retreat, flanked by the two men. When the girl opened her mouth to yell, he silenced her by pressing his lips onto hers.
Refusing to acknowledge either the guards' knowing smirks or the blistering agony when the annoying, squirming, necessary wench bit him, he staggered deeper into the forest.
How had he ever thought this would be easy? Once I have them back at home, it will be.
He could only hope.




Valens the Fletcher and His Captive is book 2 of my Medieval Captives Series. Book 1, Sebastian the Alchemist and his Captive, is already out.




He takes her for hate. Will he keep her for love?

Sebastian, lord of the tower in the northern high lands, is a proud, bitter man with a dark past. An alchemist and a warrior, he has had lovers but knows he is ugly—experience and betrayal have taught him that.  When Melissa, the beautiful, neglected daughter of two old enemies, falls into his possessive hands he is determined to hold her. Why?

As one of the detested and defeated Felix family,  Melissa must cling to her courage when she is claimed as a war-prize by the tall, grim Sebastian. Expecting torture and ravishment, she finds instead a peace and sanctuary that she has never known. Treated with kindness for the first time in her life, Melissa begins to blossom.

But there are secrets and old betrayals between them. Sebastian’s abiding jealousy is not easily quelled, especially when someone at the tower seeks to destroy his growing love with Melissa…

Medieval Captives 1

Read Chapter One 



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Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Bride for a Champion - New Excerpt. Medieval Historical Romance by Lindsay Townsend

Here is a new excerpt from my medieval novella, Bride for a Champion. In it, Simon and Alice are
talking in the garden, wondering how to find and recover Alice's younger sister Henrietta, who is missing.


Still kneeling back on her heels, Alice punched the grass. “Exactly!”

Though her words and gesture were brave, he saw her tremble slightly. “Have you heard any word of your sister since Henrietta’s last letter?”

She nodded. “A man came from the king last month, with a scribe, to consider adding my name to a list of heiresses. At least, he said he was from the king,” she added doubtfully.

Simon felt a chill of suspicion. “Go on.”

“He mentioned my sister, said he had seen her at Christmas at the court of the old queen. I asked him about Edward.”

“You asked, rather than your father?”

She flushed and stared at a daisy to avoid looking at him. “Father would not speak of Henrietta. He said she was dead to him. I spoke to the herald alone.”

There was a tense silence between them, filled by the droning of a bumblebee. Staggered by what she had just admitted, Simon wondered what he would have done, had he been in her place. For Henry Martinswood to cast Henrietta aside was more than harsh, it was cruel.

After a moment, Alice sighed and went on. “The king’s man, if he was such, claimed he knew nothing of any Edward, but he half-smiled as he said it. I think he does know more, but he left the same day. A small, stocky man, with a smiling mouth and mean eyes. Sir Bohemond de Lyonesse.”

“That name I recognize, even from Constantinople!” Simon cracked his fists together, a sudden fizz of excitement coursing through his veins. “All Bohemonds are ambitious and he is no different, but soft as a copper spoon. King’s man or not, he will hang around the royal court still as such men always do. I will find him, persuade him to say more. I know de Lyonesse’s haunts of old, where he will have gone to ground.”

Her face began to drain of color again as she lifted her head to face him. “Do you think this Edward and Bohemond somehow acted together?”

“I have a name and a man to go after, which is all that matters.” Simon spoke heartily, although he suspected she might be right. Still, he did not want to alarm her any more, since she was already as pale as parchment. He changed the subject slightly.

“You say King John has a list of heiresses?”

“The king takes great notice of any wards or heiresses who might come into his care if or when their parents are dead.”

He looked at her still, wary face, guessed she disliked the King’s obsession, but dismissed it from his mind. No matter, since we are to be wed.

“Why not appeal to the king to find your sister?”

She gave an energetic shake of her head. “I think his terms would be too high. Besides—”

“You hope to avoid scandal and discover her first.”

Alice stared at the daisy again. “Of course.”

“And yet you see a man like Bohemond de Lyonesse alone, unattended, after all that has happened?”
He had been thinking of Greek maids, closely sequestered, that was the trouble, and he spoke again without thought. The instant the words were out he regretted them, but it was too late.

“No!” She was already on her feet, spitting her denial. “You gull me into a confidence, into speaking with you freely and then you scold! That is unfair!”

As Alice spoke she was moving, but so was he. When she stumbled at the very start of her headlong dash back up the garden, he caught her, clutching her tight. He was afraid for an instant that she would fall flat on her face in her haste to escape him.

She squirmed in his grip, as fast and furious as an angry falcon bobbing and bating on a hunter’s wrist, struggling with its jesses. “Release me, raptor!”

The insult burned him—he who had seen so many women raped and murdered at the fall of Constantinople and been unable to save them. “I am none such,” he began, through gritted teeth, breaking off as he felt her attempting to unwind his fingers off her waist.

Almost as if she sensed his attention she stopped at once and looked straight into his face, her eyes as bright as eastern jade. “If you were a true gentleman, you would let me go.”

“I am a mercenary.”

Without a flicker, she returned, “As a Christian, you should not treat me so rudely.”

What did she know of what one Christian might do to another? But he would not back down. If he was to marry this salamander then she must learn, and the lesson would begin now, whether he stank of horse or not.

He tightened his grip around her narrow waist, crossing his hands in the small of her back. As he inhaled her lavender scent and felt her lissome body mold against his, he was dimly aware of her standing up on her tip-toes. Before he realized what she was about, she had kissed him first.

He was so startled by the sudden tender sweetness of her mouth that he sighed, bringing a hand up now to smooth a tendril of her hair away from her sun-warmed cheek. She tasted of sugar cone and honey and, he fancied, cherries, although that might only be wishful thinking.

Her kiss went on, slow and sure, an instant of gentleness when he had known few such moments in his life, glowing in his mind like a rare flower or book. Her eyes were closed as she gave herself in her kiss and he closed his eyes, too, relishing the contact where their breaths mingled and their lips touched and touched and touched…

“Women can also kiss,” she murmured.

“I know.” He enjoyed the quiver her mouth made against his as they conversed in this unusual fashion. “Is this because you like me, or because you wish to be first?”

He felt rather than heard her laugh. “Too late for you to discover,” she teased. She started to step back, float off like a scrap of thistledown, but he was a fighter with a warrior’s swiftness and reactions and he gathered her back before she was gone. “I do not think so,” he answered, and he kissed her again.

* * * *

Alice fought herself. She strove to remember her sister, to escape from this heady world of sensation, where she felt higher than the clouds. She had anticipated Simon’s kiss and intercepted it, bested it, but now she was losing. He had trapped her when she had expected to escape. Time and the world had stopped for her while she hung in his arms.

Foolish! Her mind raged, but how could she have known? She had never kissed a man before, not as couples kiss.

His tanned nose bumped lightly against hers and she felt him smile. Simon had not kissed often before, she sensed that and was pleased, but she had no chance to consider why that should be so, because his kiss deepened.

His mouth and tongue eased her mouth apart, feathering and caressing the tender, sensitive insides of her lips. He smelled of horses and dust, from travel, and his own musk and warm leather—a scent she would now recognize forever as his. His big, sword-callused palms were flat across her back, hugging and holding, but not presuming, not fingering lower. He respects me, she thought, bringing her arms about his middle, her breath stopping as he lifted her right off her feet.

“Sir, a messenger for you! Sir?”

Simon growled something in Greek, his grip tightening on her a moment before he set her back lightly on the path. “More later, eh?” he murmured, touching her shoulder. Then he bowed, turned and ran back toward the steps and the tanned blond messenger, calling, “What news, Alexios?”

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

KMN Books: St. Patrick's Day Magic Brings Us 99 cent Books! @...



St. Patrick's Day Scroll
Time Travel to Medieval Ireland where the grass is always greener...
Echo of Time_KarenMichelleNutt_medium 
ECHO OF TIME

A short Irish paranormal time travel romance 
Kendra
O’Reilly felt a connection with the Blarney Castle as if the echoes of
the past could still be heard. The guide tells her a story about the
Blarney Stone being the ancient Lia Fáil, one of the magical gifts from
the god-like race, the Tuatha Dé Danann. To wish upon it, one will see
where his or her destiny lies. Kendra wishes to find her one true love.
She never thought she’d be whisked back to fifteen-century Ireland to
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Cian MacCarthy, the Lord of Blarney not only possesses the gift of
Irish eloquence but he also has visions of the future. He’s waited for
Kendra’s arrival, knowing she is his soul mate. Now all he has to do is
convince her she belongs at his side.



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If you're looking for a Full Length Tale-  Lost in the Mist of Time (Time-Travel Tale)

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LOST IN THE MIST OF TIME


Aislinn
Hennessy pens tales of courage, loyalty, and true love, but her heroes
of old are pure fantasy—figments of her imagination. She long ago gave
up thinking a knight in shining armor would sweep her off her feet, but
then she never expected to run him off the road either.


Sir Dougray Fitzpatrick has buried one wife and vows to never love again—but destiny has other plans for this 16th
century Irish Lord. During a battle, a mist separates Dougray from his
men and casts him into the future. Dougray must return to Dunhaven and
to his century, but Aislinn follows him into the mist, leaving him no
choice, but to take her home with him.


Conspiracies, feuds and unexpected violence are commonplace threats,
but along the way, Aislinn and Dougray discover a surprise neither one
expects: a chance for love even when they're Lost in the Mist of Time.



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Before Bram Stoker, the original vampires lived among the humans...
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Adryanna,
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finds solace in the most unlikely place—in the arms of Bram, an Oiche
Sith. She should fear him, loathe his existence, but instead she longs
for their twilight embraces. Bram admires Adryanna’s strength and wishes
only to protect her, even if it’s from him.


If Bram cannot find a way for Adryanna to survive the blooding ritual
the romance is doomed. They seek help from Sheerin, Bram’s cousin, who
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The Mac Tíre clan are an ancient werewolf clan from Ireland. Their traditions hold fast, but Grayson dares to cross the line...

Moon Shifter   

MOON SHIFTER



It is forbidden for a moon shifter of the Mac Tíre clan to change a
human and save them from death. Grayson Quinn, the alpha of the pack
ignores the ancient rule when Sydney Carlisle, his fiancée is ravaged by
one of his own kind.



Sydney believes she is a monster, a werewolf. She flees before
Grayson can help her adjust, but Grayson must find her. Sydney’s body is
still changing and the were-lust will drive her crazy if not sated. He
has until the full moon to help her tame the wolf inside and convince
her she’s his soul mate. If he fails, he loses her forever.



Sydney still craves Grayson’s touch, but can her heart forgive him for making her one of the Mac Tíre?



Available at Wild Rose Press / All Romance Ebooks /Kindle


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