I’ve got a new story coming out with Total-E-Bound and I thought I’d share an excerpt – particularly since there’s a contest running. 🙂
Knight of the Round Table, Sir Gareth of Orkney has fought for Arthur and Britain for years. Now he is called to serve his king and his country in a way he never anticipated. King Arthur and the Lady of the Lake have resurrected the ritual of Beltane and Gareth is expected to oversee the rite. His ability to perform his duty is tested when he discovers the identity of the maiden chosen for the sacred ritual. He wants her for his own and balks at having to select a man to perform the ceremony with her.
Willow, an initiate of Avalon, accompanies the High Priestess to Camelot. She never imagined she’d find the man who had sparked her fascination as a child. More disturbing is the realisation that her childhood adoration has grown into something deeper, more sexual. However, duty to Avalon forces her to sacrifice herself to another man in the upcoming Beltane ritual.
Can the fragile blossom of love survive the rite of spring or will it be crushed beneath the yoke of honour and duty?
“Touch her, and I will geld you before you take your next breath.” Rage filling her vision, Willow stepped in front of the young priestess at her side and blocked the advances of the man before them.
His thin lips peeled away from his teeth in a poor facsimile of a smile. “Mayhap, I will touch you instead.”
As he reached for her breast, she drew her dagger from the sheath attached to her kirtle and pressed the blade against the man’s groin. Unprepared for her bold move, he gasped and froze in place. She did not bother hiding her smile as she pushed the blade upwards bringing him to his toes.
Hooves clattered over the courtyard’s stones and a rider dismounted, but she refused to look away from the man in front of her.
The rider moved beside her and locked a warm hand around her wrist.
She turned to glare at the second man. “Have you come to protect your brother in arms from my blade?”
Recognition hit her low in the gut as familiar eyes, blue as a bright autumn day, crinkled with poorly concealed amusement. Gareth.
A crooked smile quirked his lips as he ignored her question as well as her barb. “While I am tempted to allow you to make good on your threat, I do not think the King would appreciate you spilling the blood of one of his knights.” He paused and eyed the man at the end of her dagger.“No matter how much he likely deserves it.”
“Release me,” she demanded. She refused to allow either man to think she was a helpless child.
In response, Gareth grabbed the other man’s tunic and gently, but firmly, pulled her weapon from its intended target. “The priestess is none of your concern, Maleagant. You will give her a wide berth or Arthur will hear of this.”
The other man narrowed his eyes, rage bright in the icy depths. “They are pagan whores.”
Yanking free of Gareth’s grasp, he stumbled backwards. “God does not care for them. Why should Arthur?”
Willow shook with anger as he disappeared from view. She turned her scowl on the man who still held her wrist, caressing the underside with a callused thumb. A shiver worked down her spine as he continued to stroke the sensitive skin.
“Ever the protector of the weak, Sir Gareth the Brave,” she scoffed as she shook her hair from her face, taking care not to reveal how his slightest touch affected her. Though she had taken pains to pretend otherwise, her childhood infatuation had never truly gone away. If anything, it was worse than ever. However, it was difficult to rectify the noble knight before her with the boy who had pushed her into mud puddles and put frogs in her hair.
Gangly, red-haired Gareth had become a knight to be envied. Gone were the knobby knees and clumsy feet of a boy. In his place stood a man, tall and broad shouldered. If the heavy mail covering his body was any indication, he was also thickly muscled—he would have to be to support the weight of the metal as if it were no more cumbersome than his tunic. His hair had darkened to a russet brown, and his voice had deepened, though it still held the rich accent of the Orkney Isles. Only his eyes remained unchanged and right now they bored into hers.
She attempted to tug her arm free of his grasp, but he held firm, pulling her closer until she needed to tilt her head to meet his gaze. The heat of his body surrounded her, chasing away the chill of the spring morning.
“You have made a fierce enemy in Malaegant,” he growled.
She shrugged. “I do not fear him.”
“You should.” He tightened his grip on her wrist. Plucking her dagger from her fingers, he slipped it into his belt.
How dare he appropriate her weapon as though she was a child who could not be trusted to handle sharp objects? Her irritation deepened.
“You have humiliated him, and he will not soon forget it. If ever.” Lifting her chin, he forced her to meet his gaze. “You must take heed, Willow—especially while you are at Camelot. He is a dangerous man.”
She leaned closer and gently lifted his hair from his forehead, enjoying the sensation of his silky locks sliding through her fingers. Squinting, she peered intently at him as if searching for hidden secrets.
Frowning, he caught her wandering hand and pressed it to his chest. “What do you play at, woman?”
“I play at nothing. I am simply searching for hoof prints.”
His brow furrowed and confusion spread across his features. “Hoof prints?”
She bit her lip, stifling the smile that threatened. “Your solicitous behaviour is so unlike your usual treatment of me, I can only assume your mount has kicked you in the head recently.”
His firm lips twitched, but whether in amusement or annoyance, she was unable to tell. She fought the urge to smooth her fingertips across them.
He leaned toward her, bringing his face so close she could feel the warm flutter of his breath upon her skin. Was he going to kiss her?
Holding her gaze, Gareth slowly raised her palm to his lips and brushed a kiss across the centre. Nervous excitement trembled through her middle as he raised his head slightly. “Have a care, Willow, lest I feel the need to remind you that Malaegant is not the only dangerous man nearby.”