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Welcome to my very first blogfest! What is a blogfest, you ask? (I had to ask, too!) A blogfest is when several bloggers get together and all blog about the same theme on the same day. Then you, our loyal readers, can hop from blog to blog to catch all our different “takes” on the theme.
As is perfectly appropriate for a Valentine’s Day blogfest, today’s theme is…romance! Each of the participating blogs will be sharing an excerpt that highlights the very first meeting of the hero and heroine in one of our books or our latest WIP. So here’s mine, from The Lady and the Minstrel:
At first, she thought the low whistle no different than any other night the wind moaned through the branches. But after a moment, she registered the subtle difference in tone. A soft, pure trill. Of all the unique colors of sound she had lay listening to in the night o’er the past two years, none of them had ever rung so true.
She reached out a hand to still the limb nearest to the window and leaned forward to gaze into the darkness. The clouds skittered across the sky, playing hide and seek with the moon, until suddenly the moon leapt out in all its white brilliance and she saw him, standing directly below her at the base of the oak. Dark hair shone silver in the moonlight and bathed the face she had dreamed of for weeks in all its haunting charm. The minstrel who had smiled at her so boldly in the hall.
He raised a hand. “Please, my lady, don’t cry out.”
“What do you want?” she called softly. “Ought you not to be with the other musicians in the gallery? What are you doing there?”
“Come down and I will tell you.”
“Come down? Are you mad? My father would have my head!”
“What, are you afraid? Then I must come to you.”
She watched with fascinated shock as he wrapped his hands around a low hanging branch and swung himself up into the tree. He scaled the branches, lithe and quick as a cat, and she barely stumbled back in time to allow him room for the final bouncing step that brought him through her window.
“You are mad!” she gasped. “Do you know what my father will do to you if he finds you here?”
The shadows of the chamber closed in around them, shading the features she had committed to heart, but a flicker from the grate fire flashed against his scarlet tunic and dully lit the rough, threadbare cloak she remembered from the village that he had tossed over it. Somehow, without quite seeing his eyes in the dark, she could feel the force of his gaze sliding over her.
“Ah. You are lovelier now than you were in the hall. I had not thought such a thing possible.”
A hot flush rushed into her cheeks, but though she held the coverlet steady, she did not draw it tighter. “Sir, I beg you to leave. If you are found here—”
“If you are afraid, my lady, call your father’s guards. But I swear on my life that I mean you no harm.”
She tried to ignore the soft throb in his voice that spoke of sincerity—or masked his sinister intent. She should scream, she told herself, or at least run for the door. Instead, she only moved enough to force him to shift where the firelight fell across his face. Oh! That was a mistake. The same jolt of attraction she had felt when she’d laid eyes on him in the village, and again a few hours ago in the hall, blazed through her again.
“Who are you?” she whispered.
“My name is Robert Marcel. I brought my lute, should you crave a song.” He motioned to the instrument slung over his shoulder, shrouded now in some sort of supple covering.
She stifled a nervous impulse to giggle and repeated yet again, “You are mad.”
“Nay, I am in love.”
He closed the space between them before she could blink. His arms swept around her, pulling her into a strong embrace, and yet he held her lightly enough that she might have broken away had she wanted to. And for that very reason, because he made no effort to trap her, her hands found his chest of their own accord, not to thrust him off, but to rest there with a hesitant trust. The coverlet slid away to the floor, leaving her clad in her long-sleeved woolen nightdress. She searched his face—a fiercely handsome face worthy of a man reckless enough to climb an oak tree to invade a lady’s chamber!—seeking so much as a glimmer of the lust Strode wore so openly for Lady Lovell, but the flames lit only a solemn longing in the midnight eyes. His voice shook a little as his words spilled out in a rush.
“I have thought of nothing but you since our eyes met that day in the village. And then when I saw you tonight in the hall, so beautiful and so innocent, and you smiled at me, I knew I was lost. ’Tis hopeless, I know, for I am only a poor minstrel, nothing to compare to the noble Earl of Strode. Pray, my lady, do not be afraid. I crave but one kiss from your lips—one kiss to last me a lifetime!—and then I will be gone.”
Marguerite’s heart raced. She had never been in a man’s arms before and she found the experience somewhat dizzying. He did not look like a man who often hesitated to take what he wanted, and yet when he bent his head towards hers, he checked himself just short of her lips. It was that instant of uncertainty in him, briefer than a heartbeat, that nudged her leap of faith in his honor and lifted her willing mouth and drifted shut her eyes.
And then she felt his mouth on hers, gentle, warm, strong, yet somehow cautious, as if weighing something in her, as if waiting…for what? Outrage on her part? Resistance? Oh, heavens! If Marguerite had felt dizzy before, her senses now swam in earnest, and she wound her arms around his neck and let her body melt like fresh butter against him and kissed him back as if all her future hung on this one moment.
He pulled away with a little gasp, then despite his vow, found her lips again, this time with greater force. She tightened her hold, for her knees felt strangely untrustworthy. He did not smell of fresh air and green wood as she had dreamed, but of the smoke of her father’s hall and a faint, fresh hint of mint. Ah! This was better than any daydream, this flurry of snatching kisses he suddenly pressed against her mouth, this quivering little flame inside her.
“Marguerite? Child, are you asleep?”
Marguerite pushed him away with a sharp breath of dismay. “My mother,” she whispered, relieved when Lady Leah rapped gently on the door instead of entering unannounced. “Oh, you must go. Quickly.”
She pushed him toward the window.
“Yes, yes, Mamma, just a moment,” she called.
He caught her hands and held them against his heart. She could feel it beating strongly beneath his tunic. “I shall return,” he said.
“Not here. Not like this.”
“But I must see you again.”
Her lips parted to protest, and he bent forward to kiss them. Her head whirled. Again came the rapping and her mother’s voice.
She pulled her lips away. “Please!”
“When shall I see you?”
“I don’t know. I—Tomorrow. Tomorrow morning, late. There is a place outside the village called the North Glade. Anyone can give you directions. I will meet you there. Now please, go.”
He raised her hands to his lips, swung himself over the windowsill, and vanished into the night
Now click here to find the links to more “first meeting scenes” in our Romance Blogfest!