Welcome to Medieval Monday with a twist! During the month of December, I’ll be featuring Medieval romance authors with excerpts about any type of celebration. I’m happy to have my friend, Barbara Bettis to start off the month with her excerpt from The Heart of the Phoenix. A beautiful book to curl up with on a cold, winter day.
Lady Evelynn’s childhood hero is home—bitter, hard, tempting as sin. And haunted by secrets. A now-grown Evie offers friendship, but Sir Stephen’s cruel rejection crushes her, and she resolves to forget him. Yet when an unexpected war throws them together, she finds love isn’t so easy to dismiss. If only the king hadn’t betrothed her to another.
Can be cruel
Sir Stephen lives a double life while he seeks the treacherous outlaws who murdered his friends. Driven by revenge, he thinks his heart is closed to love. His childhood shadow, Lady Evie, unexpectedly challenges that belief. He rebuffs her, but he can’t forget her, although he knows she’s to wed the king’s favorite.
When his drive for vengeance leads to Evie’s kidnapping, Stephen must choose between retribution and the love he’s denied too long. Surely King John will see reason. Convict the murderers; convince the king. Simple. Until a startling revelation threatens everything.
Granville Castle, Lincolnshire
“Go away, little shadow.” Sir Stephen’s words roared above the December wind that snapped across the castle tower’s roof.
Lady Evelynn shielded her eyes against the stinging bites of snow. She couldn’t make out his location. There. A flash of light from the huge bonfire in the bailey below illuminated his form, facing out into the night.
Arms braced, the tall figure leaned across the waist-high stone embrasure, as if he welcomed the wild winter gales.
How did he know who stood behind him? And why must he use that foolish childhood nickname? Her resolve wavered then flared once more. Let him ignore her, then. She would pay no heed to his indifference, just as she had as a child. He needed a friend right now.
He just didn’t realize it.
She clenched her hands, caught her bottom lip between her teeth, and stepped from the dim recesses of the doorway. Light from a lone torch just inside the landing at the top of the stairs flickered across the whitened walkway.
“Are you well?” Evie shivered as she picked a path along the slick surface. She hadn’t brought a cloak. When he left the celebration with a bleak, dark look on his face, she followed without thinking.
He was in pain. She of all people could recognize the signs, could even understand a need for solitude. Yet the urge to comfort him drove her.
A moment’s uncertainty made her pause, however. This hard Sir Stephen little resembled the young squire she once knew. But the memory of their long-ago friendship drove her on.
He did not turn as she eased forward in her soft slippers. What could he possibly see in the snow-flecked blackness? Perhaps he regretted releasing Lady Emelin so readily.
She raised her voice. “I thought when you left the hall—” She paused as his head turned slightly.
“That I could not bear to see my betrothed wed another man?” His voice mocked. “Did you feel sorry for me?”
The sharp words failed to wound. He wouldn’t drive her away so easily.
“It would be understandable,” she said, at last reaching his side. Another frigid gust brought sounds of merriment from the bailey below. Snow would never deter the villagers when they celebrated the marriage of their new lord. This year’s Christmastide would be doubly rich with gifts and happiness.
“I’m happy to see her wed Sir Giles.” He turned to stare outward at nothing again. “I have no desire for a wife. Ever.”
My guest next week on Medieval Monday is Jenna Jaxon!