Eilean Donan Castle by DRW Photography

Monday, July 21, 2014

Barbara Bettis

~ This weeks Interview is with Barbara Bettis, You will love my interview with her.

Hi Kimi, Thank you so much for hosting me today.

 Tell us about yourself.

I’m an adjunct English teacher at a local community college. I took early retirement a few years back from a small, four year college where I taught English and, later, journalism. Before I went into teaching I was a newspaper reporter and editor. I’ve also done freelance newspaper and magazine writing.      

Tell us about your new book?

Love to! THE HEART OF THE PHOENIX is a medieval set during the days before John in crowned King of England, following Richard I’s death. The story follows two characters introduced in my first book SILVERHAWK.  The book will be out Sept. 3.  Here’s the tagline and blurb:
Some call him a ruthless mercenary; she calls him the knight of her heart.
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.
And Deadly
When his drive for vengeance leads to Evie’s kidnapping, Stephen must choose between retribution and the loved he’s denied too long. Surely King John will see reason.
Convict the murderers; convince the king. Simple. Until a startling revelation threatens everything.

When you write, does your real life spill over into your book at any time? 

Interesting question, Kimi. Because I write historical, I don’t think it does, much. However, romance deals with human relationships. And those relationships seem to be pretty much the same, no matter the era. The settings and the politics surrounding the people are different. I’ll admit, sometimes some of the emotions the characters struggle with turn out to be very familiar, once the scenes are finished

When naming your characters, do you give any thought to the actual meaning?

No, I don’t, unless the meaning has special significance in the story. I do research names used in the 12th  and 13th Centuries, although I do take liberties at times. 

What made you want to write and also what made you want to write the genre you are writing?

I write historical—my first two books are medievals, set in the late 12th Century. Why do I write? Another interesting question. Oh, there are lots of answers that are easy to give—I love to read (I do); I love to tell stories (I do); I’ve always written stories (I have.) But in the end, it’s more that all those things. There’s a fascination with and a curiosity about other times and events. I love research and I’m always been a history buff. I loved learning about what people thought and did in earlier times. While I’m writing the stories, I’m living in that time, with those people. (well, without the illness and deprivation and lack of sanitation LOL) 

  If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?

There are many authors I admired and read every title they published. That list is terrific ;) But as for someone who encouraged me and gave me advice and support, I’d say Mia Marlowe. She’s wonderful at giving back. And I’m happy that she’s a RITA nominee this year. Totally deserved!

Do you have any tips for our readers that might dream of writing?

Stop dreaming of it and write. Learn the craft, take courses. There are many offered online. Join organizations of writers and if there are none nearby, join online groups. And read, read, read. I firmly believe one can’t be a good writer without reading in a variety of genres and styles. Most of all, don’t be intimidated. But don’t be fooled—it’s hard work.

Tell us anything you want?

 For beginning writers: Have faith in yourself. Don’t be discouraged. 

Thank you for having me here. It’s been great fun. Oh, by the way, to celebrate the upcoming book release, my first book SILVERHAWK is on sale for only $2.99. Here’s where:

Buy link for Amazon:  
Buy link for The Wild Rose Press:
Buy link for Barnes and Noble:

Please visit me at: www.barbarabettis.com

Here is the first Chapter of SilverHawk.

Chapter One
Lincolnshire, England
Autumn 1197
His pillow smelled like horse dung.
Squinting through swollen eyelids, Giles of Cambrai saw why. He lay a scant arm’s length from a fresh pile. Pebbles poked his neck. Clods of dirt and a small stick gritted into his rapidly numbing cheek.
Why did he lie face down in the dirt?
Sounds fumbled at the edge of his consciousness. Curses. Reins jingling. Boots thunking. Then memory flared. He’d been surrounded, attacked by a mere half-dozen puling, stinking outlaws. The spawns of hell had sprung out of nowhere to surprise him.
No one surprised Silverhawk.
A rumble began deep in his chest, and he exploded to his feet. Sword clutched in hand, he rounded on the assailants. They prowled toward him, brandishing swords, daggers, a mace.
With a roar that could stop King Philip’s knights cold, Giles leaped forward. “À mort!”
They paused, shock slapped on their faces, before they advanced again.
They’d best think twice. He was in no mood to be generous.
He’d been an unobservant fool, falling to an ambush, thinking himself safe at last on English soil. Even as a runny-nosed alley urchin a score of years past, he’d not been so heedless.
He parried a blow, then plunged his sword into a soft middle. Five to go.
They must be mighty sure of themselves. No mail. No markings on their tunics. But damned fine weapons. Too fine for mere outlaws.
“Hey, ho! À’ Langley!”
Jesu! More voices?
Shouts echoed, accompanied by the thud of hooves against the autumn-parched earth. All but one of the attackers turned to meet a handful of knights that burst through the trees. Not their reinforcements then, praise St. Jude.
He swung to face his remaining opponent, who waved a sword in one hand, mace in the other. Giles ducked to make a thrust, and barbed metal glanced off his head. He saw red sparks. Then he saw nothing.
“Does he live?” Lady Emelin called to the captain of her escort. She stopped short at the edge of the clearing and gasped at the bodies scattered there. So many outlaws against one poor man.
A light breeze carried the sick-sweet odor of blood mingled with dust. Bile burned a trail up her throat as a shiver clawed her spine. This was no time for weakness. With a gulp of resolve, she ran toward the figure in the road. And tripped.
“Fires of Hell,” she muttered, then “Forgive me, Lord.” She leaped up, thankful her betrothed’s men hadn’t observed her belly down in the dirt. She brushed off her brown wool gown, tucked up a curl that had escaped her heavy wimple.
And sighed as she caught sight of the motionless knight. “Was the rescue too late?”
Sir Humphrey bent over the man. He didn’t bother to answer. At last he turned, jaw clenched, brow lowered. “My lady, I told you to stay in the cart with your maid,” he said, in his you’re-a-useless-female tone. “There may still be danger.” He nodded toward the path where three mounted knights had chased the fleeing attackers. Two of the downed men lay nearby. Another sagged against a tree, blood coating his hands where he pressed them against his belly.
Emelin’s breath stuttered at the sight. She glanced at the captain. “You and your men have everything under control. I’m perfectly safe.” Thank heavens her voice remained steady. She stepped over a sword in the road and strode forward, hems swishing against her ankles. “I have some knowledge of healing. I can help.”
Her expertise didn’t match that of the nuns at the convent, but she wasn’t useless, in spite of what this scowling knight might think. Although the gore turned her stomach, she refused to quail.
Sir Humphrey poked a toe at the limp form and gave a dismissive grunt. “Alive but unconscious,” he grumbled. “Blow to the head, looks like. Bloody arm.”
The horsemen clattered back, empty-handed. The captain mumbled beneath his breath and signaled one of the men-at-arms. “See to the outlaws,” he ordered, then started toward her.
“We’ll send someone for that one.” He didn’t bother to hide his disgust. “Into to the cart, my lady. We got to be off. Lord Osbert’s expecting us today. He won’t like it if we’re late.”
Emelin shook her head. Sir Humphrey couldn’t be so heartless. “We can’t leave the poor creature lying there,” she insisted. “He needs help. We can stop long enough to tend his injuries.”
The captain paused but didn’t meet her eyes. “We don’t know nothin’ about him, now. He might be an outlaw himself. Best we let someone else see to him.”
She ignored the condescending tone. The fallen man was not an outlaw, she just knew it. She marched toward the still figure.
The guard rummaging among the bodies announced, “All dead.”
“Search ’em,” Sir Humphrey ordered as Emelin reached the wounded man.
Blood and dirt streaked his face, matted his dark hair, but something about him drew her. She knelt to place a hand on his chest. It rose and fell in shallow breaths. Heat sparked into her palm like brazier coals, and she jerked it away. An odd breathlessness made her gulp for air. It tingled through her chest.
She forced her attention back to the fallen warrior. He wore an odd, metal link-studded jacket of boiled leather, like those of her father’s older soldiers. It sat over rather than under a dark blue tunic that appeared serviceable but well made. The scuffed boots were plain but, again, of good quality. And the sword he still held—what a beauty of workmanship. Scarcely a scratch after such a fight. No matter the common clothing, this man was a knight. Even if he were not, she couldn’t leave him to die in the dust.
“We’ll take him with us,” she announced as she rose. “Sir Humphrey, have the men load him into the cart.”
“Can’t do that, my lady. Lord Osbert don’t want outlaws attacking people on his land, but neither does he want strangers dumped on him when he’s planning a wedding.”
“The wedding is mine as well,” Emelin reminded him. Steel threaded her voice. “I will not refuse aid. Surely my betrothed would expect me to help.” For all she knew of her future husband, he might well not expect it.
Married to a stranger. She sucked in a breath to quell her jittery stomach. Not the first bride to face such a future. Still, it was one she had never expected. Blast her greedy brother.
The captain’s shoulders lifted in the way of a denial. Before he could speak, she leveled her most imperious Mother Gertrude look. Best to remind him where he’d collected her the day before. St. Ursula Convent. In fact, she still wore the confining wimple and simple gown of those who lived with the nuns. However, if he—or his master, for that matter—thought she was as meek as the pious nuns, they were in for a surprise.
At the last moment, his shoulders twitched into a surly shrug of acceptance. Muttering—Emelin caught the word stubborn—he gestured to his men. They carried the unconscious knight to a cart that had rumbled into the clearing. The maid sent to accompany Emelin jumped out to scowl at the proceedings.
“Ye can’t put that dirty, bloody thing in there, my lady,” she wailed. “Where will we ride? Yer not thinking.”
Emelin frowned at the impertinence. “You may ride on the seat with the driver. I’ll ride in back.” She climbed into the cart and reached for her lone bag brought from the convent. Out of it she wrestled a cloak, which she folded and slid under the unconscious man’s head.
Using a corner of her coarse wool skirt, she smoothed clods of dirt and blood from his face. The backs of her fingers brushed a scar at his temple, and a sharp prick of heat singed her again. Jaw set against the sensation, she turned her hand to rub away a string of blood. Dried. She’d need water.
He was so still. Perhaps nothing would help. But when the cart lurched into motion, a small groan broke past his clenched lips. She jerked her hand away, curled it into her chest, watched… He didn’t move. Emelin gusted out a breath she hadn’t known she held.
The cart rumbled along. Sunbeams danced through golden brown leaves that clung to baring trees. Shadow and light winked across the still figure like a child’s game of “hide and find.” She reached over to ease a leaf from his bloody forehead and toss it over the wagon’s side.
Swollen eyelids, a puffy cheek, and bloody scrapes couldn’t hide the knight’s handsome features. Waves of midnight hair fell across his wide forehead to brush one side of his square, stubble-darkened jaw. Grit clustered on the high bridge of his nose.
What shame such a strong, rugged man should be cut down. Her pulse fluttered, and she sucked in a sharp breath. Ashamed of such reaction, she squeezed shut her eyes.
Would Stephen have been so handsome, had he lived through the crusade? She hardly recalled what her youthful first betrothed looked like when he left, a hopeful squire at nineteen, to follow his foster father on King Richard’s journey. If only he’d returned from Outremer, she’d be wed now, with the family she craved.
She sighed, reached for her patient’s cheek—and found herself staring into the palest gray eyes she had ever seen. His mouth moved, and she leaned forward.
“What is it?” she murmured.
“Before…I…die…” came the hoarse whisper.
“Yes? What would you like before you die?” If it were in her power, she would provide the poor man with his wish. Drink? Food?
A strong hand gripped the back of her head, pulled her forward. That close, she saw his eyes weren’t flat gray, but clear, layered like a winter pond winking with ice. They were silver.
“To…kiss…a nun,” came the outrageous reply before his lips met hers.
The brush of his warm mouth robbed her breath for an instant. Then she snapped back with a gasp. And, with in-born reflex, slapped him. His head jerked, his eyes closed, and he lay motionless.
“Oh, Sweet Mary,” Emelin whispered, “I’ve killed him.” Leaning close, she saw his narrow, beautifully molded lips relax. His mouth curved at the corner.
At least he died with a smile on his face.
First, Giles heard oxen clopping and horses blowing, metal rattling and leather creaking, a male voice cursing the road. Then he felt the jolt and sway of his bed, the throb of pain. Not bad as pain went. God knew he’d suffered worse. At least he could feel his legs and feet, his arms. The pounding was in his head. Merde! If he could just think.
He knew one thing. He was damned tired of misplacing consciousness this day.
His hand bumped something soft. It was lifted into a gentle warm grasp and placed on a rough-covered cushion. No. A lap. A woman’s lap. That was all right then. He inhaled. Above the lingering scent of his own blood wafted the light fragrance of flowers and a mysterious aroma he couldn’t mistake. Yes, he smelled a woman.
“Can you speak, sir?” A voice drifted, soft as peacock feathers, rich as beaten cream. He’d answer, but his mouth refused to operate. At least his mind had cleared.
He’d been attacked, taken unaware like the veriest babe. He should be grateful for the rescue, but his pride stung worse than his wounds. Bested by a mere handful.
The rescue party included a lady. A pretty one, at that. For a moment he’d thought himself in heaven when he opened his eyes to see her hovering above. Nor was she a nun as he’d teased her, but damned close. She wore the dark homespun of convent-coarse wool, and her face had glowed from an all-encompassing wimple. It was a striking face. Nose and cheeks dusted with golden-brown flecks, and a chin that was definitely determined.
He’d had an overpowering urge to free the lush lower lip caught between her teeth and suck it into his own mouth. But all he’d managed was a quick press of lips.
She’d slapped him! How could he have forgotten that? She had callously struck an injured man. Vicious piece! He wanted to laugh, but he hurt too much.
So then. Set upon a day from his destination. But for what reason? He’d been careful leaving Normandy. He’d not lived the life of a mercenary without learning to evade detection. But he’d been over-confident, damn his foolish arrogance.
Mercadier had told him the king’s message was written by Richard himself, and only the three of them knew of its existence. Someone lied. It wasn’t Mercadier. Giles bet his life on his friend and commander’s word far too often not to trust it. The king? Someone close who overheard?
Six fully armed assailants. Someone wanted him dead.
Someone didn’t want that message delivered.
With a surreptitious pat, he found his sword had been tossed in beside him. He grasped its hilt. There, armed again. The slight movement sent white specks across the black sky of closed eyelids. But he forced them open. Uttering a stifled grunt, he eased up on an elbow. Not much pain. Mostly he felt stiff.
His motion caught the attention of his little not-nun, and she turned. “You suffered a sharp blow to your head. Lie down, now.” Her soft tone carried unmistakable command.
Giles snorted. “Yes, captain.” He allowed her to guide his throbbing head back onto the folded cloak. Her fingers settled on his shoulders, the whisper of pressure through layers of fabric and armor oddly comforting. Her hands lifted too soon but lingered just above his cheek.
“Do you remember how you came to be here?” Her manner was gentle but firm, as if she addressed a child.
“Of course,” he said. “Outlaws attacked me, but your men came to the rescue.” His voice sharpened. “What happened to those outlaws?” He wanted to talk to any that lived.
“Three of them escaped, but three are dead.”
“And my horse. Did you bring it?”
“We found no spare mount.”
“Nuit must be here. He’d never run.” Giles started to rise again, but her surprisingly strong grip discouraged any movement.
“I’ll ask about your horse in a moment.” She peered at him, frank, assessing. “Where are you bound?”
The question caught him by surprise. He didn’t intend to reveal either of his missions. Still, if she lived near his destination, she might be of help.
“I’m visiting a friend, Lord Henry of Chauvere. Do you know him?”
She rested against the cart’s side, her luscious lips in a reminiscent curve. “I have heard of him. Years past, I knew his sister, before…before I went to St. Ursula. But I’ve no word since. We are some distance from Chauvere, I believe. Sir Humphrey will know.”
Before Giles could reply, she called to the little group’s leader. “Sir Humphrey, does the road pass near Chauvere? This knight seeks Lord Henry.”
“Too far out of our way, that,” the commander allowed, guiding his horse alongside. “Chauvere’s a day’s ride. Likely meet him at Langley, though. Lord Osbert’s invited half the countryside to the wedding.”
Langley. A chill crept down Giles’ back. Satan’s balls! They were on the way to Langley for a wedding. It couldn’t be the same Osbert. His head pounded like a mallet on stone. After all this time, to come all this way, he’d be delivered to the devil. In a cart.
Bitter laughter ended in a cough. So the bastard was planning to wed again. He’d buried two wives already. The third didn’t stand a chance.
He glanced at the lady beside him. “You are to attend the bride?”
“I am the bride. Lady Emelin of Compton.”
“Congratulations, my lady.” He nearly choked on the words. His gut burned at them. “Have you been betrothed long?”
She shook her head, a blank stare of inattention on her hem. “My brother arranged the marriage recently.” She gestured to her rough gown. “Quite recently, as you might imagine.”
A sunbeam fell across her eyes. She brushed a hand in front of her face to block the light. In the angle of her shoulders, the tilt of her head, he glimpsed uncertainty. It disappeared in a blink, but he fisted his hand against an urge to reach out. He couldn’t explain this compulsion to touch her.
“I have heard of a Lord Osbert of Langley. But he was older, with children grown.” He looked away, forcing his voice into calm disinterest at the leading lie.
“Then you know more of my future husband than I do.” Her voice sounded rueful. “I was told only that his last wife died young, and he was in need of an heir.”
The same man. Bitter hatred tasted sweet on his tongue. Who could have predicted such an unexpected turn?
Duty to the king be damned. Giles could finish his personal mission now, deliver the message to Henry later. The temptation was great. But acting quickly would not allow him to savor his revenge. He’d abide by the original plan. Soon, however, he’d confront Langley. Then.
“Ah, not the same man.” Those who knew him would recognize the flat tone and begin to arm themselves. “Later, if we don’t come across Lord Henry, you can provide me direction to Chauvere. I’ll be grateful.”
The lady inclined her head.
Emelin watched the knight examine the countryside. The air of ease he adopted was deceptive. Injured, covered in dirt and blood, he still appeared dangerous. Beneath the bulk of light mail jacket, he was lean but broad-shouldered. Prominent veins mapped his muscular hands, and his long fingers were callused but well-shaped.
He must be a stranger to the country. His speech was Norman French, as was that of the lords here, but carried an accent she couldn’t identify.
Why was he in England, alone, vulnerable to brigands? Surely he knew better than to travel unattended. The inflexible set of his jaw warned he was not given to thoughtless behavior. Even at rest he seemed poised for action.
“You were separated from others of your party?” She almost winced when her words popped out. Mother Gertrude had tried so hard to curb Emelin’s curiosity. Or at least the frequency with which she voiced it. Still. How would she know if she didn’t ask?
His head turned, and she gazed into icy silver pools. Hot tingles danced across her skin. Then two things happened: a back wheel dropped into a hole and her hand flew to her throat. The rough lurch sent Emelin forward, her elbow jabbing into the injured knight’s chest.
A muffled oath was the only indication he felt the contact. Before she could straighten, those strong, beautiful hands she’d admired moments earlier curled around her waist, set her upright.
Her jaws locked in mortification. Warmth crept up her neck, into her cheeks. It was nothing compared to the sensation at her sides. A blacksmith’s iron burned cooler than the white hot brands left by his fingers.
“Your lord husband’s road could do with a bucket of dirt to smooth the way,” the knight said as he rested against the cart’s side once more. Calm. Unaffected. Unlike the bumping of her heart.
She’d like to douse him in water. He’d react to that.
Oh, no. Even her thoughts were turning rebellious. “I’m so sorry,” she said, jabbing her hands in her lap. “I hope I didn’t injure you more.”
“Not at all.” He nodded behind her. “Is that our destination?”
She twisted to look. “I’ve never seen Langley before. But it must be.” She glanced back. “How do you feel?”
His gaze caught hers. “How do you feel?”
Emelin’s stomach knotted. Her palms itched with nervousness. For the last hours, she’d concentrated on the injured man. Now, her new life lay just ahead.
She wasn’t as resigned as she should be. Foolish, Mother Gertrude called her apprehension. Many ladies met their husbands on their wedding day, the abbess had pointed out. Several times.
Emelin would be happy for this marriage.
“I’m pleased.” Her tone wouldn’t convince a child. She swallowed, tried again. “This is what I’ve always longed for. A home, family. They are every woman’s dream, are they not?”
Her teeth gripped her lower lip. She wanted to shout, “I hate it. I hate that I have no say in my life. I hate that my brother can sell me like a cow.” Instead, she turned to gaze ahead. Serenely. She hoped.
What in God’s blessed name had Garley been thinking when he agreed to Langley’s offer? Emelin’s soft snort was unladylike as she answered her own question. What he always thought of—Garley.
“You said your brother arranged for the betrothal?”
His question returned the steel to her spine. She nodded.
“When did he tell you?”
“He didn’t.” The calm that angered her earlier in the knight now served to cushion her. “Lord Osbert’s captain, Sir Humphrey, brought my brother’s message yesterday. I have not seen nor spoken with him for five years.”
Since Stephen disappeared on crusade. Since Garley rid himself of an unwanted dependent. Since he confined her to the convent.
“We did not part on the best of terms.”
The knight didn’t speak again, and she didn’t look at him, afraid she might see pity. She didn’t need pity. She was through with pity. She’d thought herself through with her brother, too.
But he remembered her existence readily enough when money jangled before his nose. The note delivered to her made that clear. The words burned in her mind. Sister, his steward had written, for Garley could not, I have at last found a use for you. Lord Osbert of Langley has need of an heir and I have assured him you will provide one. As the daughter of a proven breeder—how she hated for him to speak of their mother that way—you will give him many sons. This is your last chance. It’s a better one than you deserve.
So she’d packed her bag and set out for her new life. No illusions were tucked away amidst her scant garments. For another line from her brother’s message assured her that the groom has offered to overlook your deficiencies of face, figure, and marriage portion. So keep your tongue in your head and be thankful.
She was grateful for an answer to her secret dream. And perhaps one day, she could thank Garley. But not today.
The rest of the short journey continued in silence. Better that way, Emelin decided. She slanted one last gaze at the man beside her, felt the same strange energy reach out. It must be the unusual warmth of the sun, the unexpected excitement after so many dull years.
It was not the knight.
It must not be the knight.
As they drew closer to the curtain wall, rattling metal signaled the portcullis being raised. Emelin lifted her chin and squared her shoulders. “Mother Mary,” she whispered, “be with me.”
Giles’ silence hid a banked fury. His little nun didn’t deserve such cruel and thoughtless treatment. No lady, no female did. Her brother needed to learn consideration. Perhaps he, Giles, might point it out before he returned to Normandy.
After he killed Osbert of Langley.
Hatred dulled his every ache. Of all places for attack. Right outside the very holding that drew him to England.
His little nun’s God had a grim sense of humor. He glanced at the lady.
Her lush lips wedged between her teeth again; her wary eyes widened. Then her chin lifted, and her shoulders firmed. Like a warrior preparing for battle. His warrior-nun.
Well, good luck to her. God knew she’d need it, wed to Lord Osbert. The third wife. A pity for such a spirited lady to throw away her life like this.
No, she wouldn’t be forced to do so. After Giles completed his task, she would be free of the man. The perfect wedding gift. But right now, she’d draw blood if she gripped her lower lip any harder.
The tip of her tongue flicked that lip, and Giles forgot revenge. His aching muscles coursed with desire, and he longed to sooth her mouth with his own.
His cock jerked. At least one part of his body wasn’t bruised. Just as well their destination loomed near. Lady Emelin of Compton was not for someone like him. A bastard mercenary with no home.
The knowledge didn’t stop his wanting.
He turned a warrior’s eye back to the castle. It hunkered on a slight hill, the top of the old square keep peering over a curtain wall that meandered around the whole like the stagger of a drunken lord. Both keep and wall boasted stone the color of old bones. No defensive ditch in evidence, but a good half-league of open space stretched in the three directions he could see. They approached through the only trees in sight, on a road arrowed toward the now-open gates.
If he owned it, Giles would see a trench dug, filled with sharpened stakes and ready for oil. The rock walls could withstand a fire if enemies attacked. Better that, than slimy, stagnant water. He hated a moat. Nasty, stinking mess.
The wagon at last rattled past triple metal-studded gates, through a narrow passage into the bailey. A bailey lined with enough soldiers to celebrate an attack not a wedding. What could a peaceable baron intend with so many fighters?
Awaiting them stood a gray-haired man whose solid shoulders were matched by his solid girth. Shaggy gray brows pulled together as he eyed their approach. The attitude of the small crowd gathered around left no doubt as to his identity.
So this was the man he hunted. The man he swore to kill. Giles imposed his iron will on the emotion clamoring for release. This moment called for quiet reason.
He searched for something familiar in the craggy face, the sharp blue eyes, the implacable jaw.
Langley stood with hands propped on hips, chin thrust out. As the oxen clopped to a stop, he strode forward.
“There you are,” his voice boomed. “Let me see my bride!” He reached in, grabbed Lady Emelin and lifted her to the ground.
He frowned.
He squeezed her waist.
He growled.
His big hands shoved to her hips and gripped.
“What’s this? Your brother promised me a plain and sturdy bride. Not some frail beauty.” He stepped back to look her up and down. She seemed frozen in place, her expression one of disbelief.
“I expected a woman with some flesh to her. By God, you’d best be breeding in a fortnight, or I’ll send you back. Wait.” His wild gray brows lifted. “You are Lady Emelin, aren’t you? Sir Humphrey, did you bring the right female?”
Her cheeks flamed, throwing her freckles into relief, but she remained motionless. Even at that distance, Giles sensed her humiliation. His fingers curled around the hilt of the sword; his jaw twitched. He quelled the drive to leap out in her defense. A deep breath—two. Knotted muscles relaxed.
Not now. Now was not the time.
The little warrior-nun faced Lord Osbert. “I’ve come from a convent, not court, my lord.” Her voice was deadly placid. “It’s difficult to maintain flesh on hard work and convent food. If you’re dissatisfied, I can leave.”
She turned to the wagon, head lowered. Then she raised it; anger, not humiliation, sparked her eyes as they met Giles’.
A connection jolted through him, a lightning bolt of affinity. There, behind her anger, lurked uncertainty and the flicker of an emotion he recognized all too well. Loneliness.
“Here,” Lord Osbert shouted, “what do you think you’re doing? The wedding is set. The guests are arriving. Come along, my lady. I’ll have to make do.”
She blinked, and the bond with Giles broke. Chin lifted, hands fisted, she turned. Lord Osbert glared, arms akimbo.
“You’ve got spirit,” he grumbled. His lips curled back. “I don’t like spirit. My second wife had spirit. See what it got her. A cold, watery grave because she wouldn’t listen when I said the bridge was weak. Your brother guaranteed a docile maiden who would give me no trouble.”
She tilted her head at Lord Osbert as he blustered. At last she nodded, lips set, one eyebrow arched. “Then I will try to be the wife you deserve, my lord.”

~ You know I just love photo's of Eilean Donan Castle. It is such a beautiful place. I got permission to show their pictures, so every once in a while I like to post them Just beautiful.

 You can find the below pictures as always from DRW Photogrophy