My latest historical romance adventure - NIGHT SHADOWS - is now available on Amazon Kindle! This novella kicks off the exciting KINGDOM OF THE EAST ANGLES series. It is the tale of wrong choices, and second chances. Read on to find out more...
"It does not matter how much we distance ourselves, how far we run - the past always shadows us."
Wilfrid is intense, takes himself a little too seriously, and is in love with Cynewyn - a spoiled young woman who has been promised to another. Spurned and humiliated, Wilfrid leaves the ealdorman's hall, never to return.
Ten years later, Cynewyn's life has not turned out as she had hoped. Her husband is dead, her village is under siege - and to make matters worse - she has just been told she has to abandon her village.
Among the men escorting her and the surviving villagers back over the border is her former suitor - Wilfrid.
The past decade has changed, and embittered, them both. Wil no longer believes in love, and Cynewyn no longer believes in happy endings. Yet neither are prepared for the passion that ignites between them, or its consequences...
NIGHT SHADOWS is the novella that begins the KINGDOM OF THE EAST ANGLES series: three kings, three unforgettable love stories. Immerse yourself in the romance of Anglo-Saxon England - and step back into a world when only the strong survived.
Sensuality/heat level: SENSUAL (sweet - SENSUAL - sizzle)
Here is my secret. It is very simple: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.
Antoine de Saint Exupéry
The village of Went, the Kingdom of the East Angles
Spring 609 A.D.
The squeals of children playing in the dirt in front of the hall, echoed through the warm air. A glorious spring day was coming to a close. The sun cast a honeyed light across the village of Went, staining the timber and thatch of the surrounding houses a deep gold. The children – three boys and a girl – raced each other excitedly around the wide space in the center of the village, shouting with delight.
Cynewyn paused from scattering grain for the geese that clustered at her feet, and watched the children with a smile, enjoying their enthusiasm and joy. Not so long ago, she had been one of those children; now she had left that carefree life behind.
Cynewyn stood before her father’s hall, lingering at her task. She glanced up at the wide amber-streaked sky. The sun was a balm on her skin after weeks of rain and cold. Emptying her pot of grain, Cynewyn was about to retreat inside, when she spied a well-built young man with short, light-brown hair striding across the yard toward her. His face was set with purpose.
Wilfrid was of the same age as her – eighteen winters – and he was staring at Cynewyn with unnerving intensity. Other men laughed and flirted, but not Wilfrid. He took everything, including himself, seriously. He appeared to be making directly for her, and Cynewyn had little choice but to await his arrival.
Judging from the intensity of his gaze, the tense set of his shoulders and the resolute determination of his stride – Wilfrid of Went was preparing himself for a confrontation.
“Good evening, Cynewyn,” he greeted her. His voice, a low rumble for a man of his age, always took Cynewyn by surprise. She had never heard him raise his voice, and when he spoke, it was always with unwavering purpose. Unlike the men in her family, who were garrulous and loud, Wilfrid used words sparingly.
“Evening, Wil,” she replied pleasantly, meeting his stare. She noticed that his hazel eyes looked almost green in this light. “‘Tis a while since I saw you last.”
“I’ve been away,” Wilfrid replied simply, his gaze becoming even more penetrating.
Cynewyn felt her body grow hot and uncomfortable under his stare. He looked at her like he was about to devour her; the hunger in his eyes made Cynewyn flush. She stepped back from him and gave a flirtatious smile in an attempt to lighten the mood between them.
“On the border – our neighbors are making trouble again,” he replied, before glancing down at the ground, his face awkward. “I missed you.”
Cynewyn hid her embarrassment with another smile. She was not sure how he expected her to respond. She had not missed him at all. Why would she? Still, his infatuation made her feel beautiful and desirable, and she found herself enjoying the attention.
“How gallant of you,” she returned his gaze through her lashes, noticing the way his gaze travelled from her eyes down to her mouth. “Why did you miss me?”
Wilfrid reddened slightly at the question. He was obviously not used to flirting, and was not sure how to respond.
“I missed seeing you,” he eventually managed. Then, he blurted. “I want to ask your father’s permission for us to wed. If he says ‘yes’, will you marry me, Cynewyn?”
She stared back at him, taken aback by the proposal. He really was no fun at all. She had been enjoying the attention until he ruined things.
In truth, she had no interest in Wilfrid. Not only was he of a low rank, but he was too quiet, intense and humorless for her tastes. He always wore an expression as if he bore the weight of the world upon his shoulders. Besides, Cynewyn had already been promised to Aldwulf, the charismatic son of an ealdorman who lived in the neighboring village. Blond, handsome and charming, Adwulf never failed to make her laugh. She had been delighted when her father suggested the match.
Silence stretched between Cynewyn and Wil, before he stepped closer still and gently took her hand. It was the first time he had ever touched her. His hand was warm, dry and strong. The sensation of their skin touching gave Cynewyn a jolt in the pit of her belly – it was an oddly stirring sensation. Nonetheless, Cynewyn had to resist the urge to jerk her hand from his.
“Will you?” he repeated.
Cynewyn gave Wil a sweet smile and extracted her hand from his. She took two steps back, almost treading on a goose in her haste. The bird gave an enraged hiss and flapped at her.
“You will have to ask my father,” she replied, lowering her eyes demurely, for she knew exactly what her father’s response would be. “If he agrees, I will marry you.”
Wilfrid smiled then. The expression transformed his face, making him look handsome.
“I will ask him then,” he told her, his discomfort dissolving. “I will do it now.”
Then, without another word, Wilfrid turned and strode into her father’s hall.
Cynewyn watched him go, incredulous. The man’s presumption stunned her. He was low-born. Did he really think he could wed an ealdorman’s daughter? How could he have mistaken her light-hearted flirting for real interest?
Picking up her skirts, for she did not wish to miss a moment of what was about to unfold under her father’s roof, Cynewyn followed her suitor inside.
Eomer of Went was sitting at a long table with his men. He was playing Hnefatafl, ‘King’s Table’; a game where two players moved wooden pieces across a board with twenty-six squares in an attempt to capture the king of the opposing player. He was exchanging good-natured threats with the warrior playing him, when Cynewyn entered the hall at Wilfrid’s heels.
Skirting the shadows, Cynewyn made her way over to where her mother was sitting near the fire pit, weaving a tapestry at a huge loom. Silently, Cynewyn took a seat beside her and picked up her distaff. She then resumed the task she had spent the afternoon at before escaping outside to feed the geese and enjoy the sunset – winding wool onto the wooden spindle.
“Wilfrid!” Eomer boomed, his gaze resting on the young man who had stopped before the table. “Fancy a game, eh?”
“M’lord,” Wilfrid began. His voice cracked slightly, betraying his nerves. “No, this evening. I have come to ask your permission.”
Eomer of Went inclined his head, his blond eyebrows raising. “For what, lad?”
The hall went still then; all gazes fastening on Wilfrid. Suddenly, Cynewyn felt an unexpected pang of pity for the youth. He might be arrogant, but she did not envy him his impending humiliation.
“I wish to wed your daughter.”
Wilfrid’s voice, although quiet, echoed in the shocked silence. Cynewyn stared at her father and felt a brief surge of panic at the blank expression she saw there.
What if he agreed? She had not paused to consider that possibility.
A moment passed and then Eomer’s face creased into a smile, a pitying one. Relief flooded through Cynewyn and she breathed once more.
“You would not be the first lad who has taken a shine to my comely daughter,” he said, shaking his head. “Yet she is promised to another. Did she not tell you?”
The look on Wilfrid’s face caused some of the other warriors present to snigger.
“Who?” Wilfrid finally managed when he had recovered from the shock.
“Adwulf of Blackhill,” Eomer replied, giving Wilfrid a patronizing smile. “He’s an ealdorman’s son – you’re a free man with a spear like your father before you. I can’t wed my only daughter to a man of such a low rank. You understand?”
“No,” Wilfrid replied, his voice flat and harsh, “I don’t.” His gaze shifted to Cynewyn then. Their gazes met and for an instant, Cynewyn saw his naked anger and humiliation.
You knew, that gaze accused her. You knew and didn’t warn me.
“I may not be high-born,” Wilfrid turned his attention back to the ealdorman, “but I am one of your warriors. I have served you loyally and will continue to do so. I would protect your daughter with my life.”
Eomer roared with laughter at that. His warriors joined him; and the sound echoed mockingly through the hall.
“I’m sure you would,” Eomer straightened up, still holding his belly, although his tone held a warning that he was tiring of this conversation, “but the answer still is no. You are not worthy of her.”
Wilfrid’s breath hissed between his clenched teeth. His face was flushed and his eyes glittered with rage.
“I’m as worthy of her as any man!” he snarled.
“Careful, lad,” the ealdorman warned, the amusement draining from his face. “You’re over-stepping the mark. Now, off you go. Let me get back to my game.”
“If I’m not worthy of Cynewyn, then I’m not worthy to serve you!” Wilfrid replied, not moving.
A deathly hush settled over the hall. All gazes were upon Wilfrid as the young man removed the two bronze arm rings he wore on his right bicep and hurled them to the rush-matting at his feet. They were rings that the ealdorman had gifted him for his loyalty and valor.
“As you reminded me – I am a free man,” Wilfrid ground out. Eomer stared back at him, momentarily struck speechless. “I serve whom I choose. From this moment on, I no longer follow you.”
With that, Wilfrid turned and, not sparing another glance in Cynewyn’s direction, stalked from the hall and out of their lives.
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