An exclusive excerpt from Starless!
How about an exclusive excerpt from my coming release?
STARLESS is the third book in the Executioner Knights series and it was really a lot of fun.
In the author’s note in the book, I mention that Susanna (our heroine) was originally never meant for Achilles. She was just a secondary character in THE MOUNTAIN DARK and that was really as far as I had planned for her, but as that story developed, and Achilles and Susanna’s relationship developed, I knew I had to make her his mate. A lady knight and a male chauvinist? Good times, folks!!
So – with STARLESS nearly upon us, enjoy this fun little excerpt:
Other than that, the conversation hadn’t been very exciting, but Achilles didn’t much care. He was sitting with Susanna and that was the most predominate thing on his mind. The food was plentiful, the hall was comfortable, and the serving wenches were some of the most beautiful women he’d ever seen. Surrounded by pretty girls kept the soldiers content – and a content army was an obedient army.
It was a smart tactic.
“The food is very good,” he commented to Susanna, one of just a handful of comments he’d made all evening. “Your brother puts on a fine table.”
Susanna was elbow-deep in a trencher of boiled beef and carrots, eating more ravenously than Achilles had seen since she’d been injured. “Of course he does,” she said. “He has the de Tiegh reputation to uphold.”
“And your family has a reputation for setting a fine table?”
Susanna nodded. “That is what we are known for to our friends and allies,” she said, looking at him. “When I was a child, before I went to foster, I can recall feasts like this every night. The finest food and ale to be had, the prettiest serving wenches, and my mother dressed in her very best. She dressed me in my best, too.”
He smiled faintly. “Did you dress as all little girls should? In finery and flowers?”
She fought off a smile. “Believe it or not, I did. Thanks to my mother, I had quite a wardrobe of clothing and she loved to dress me in the finest fabrics.”
“What of your parents? What became of them?”
Her expression sobered. “My mother passed away in childbirth when Samuel and I were eight years of age,” she said. “She died giving birth to another de Tiegh son. After that… after that, my father became very distant with Samuel and me. When Samuel went to foster, my father simply sent me along with him. He wanted us away from him so he could lose himself in drink and self-pity. He died several years ago, leaving the barony to my brother.”
“You were not close to him, then?”
She shook her head firmly. “Nay,” she said. “Not to him, but I was close to my mother. Her death was devastating to me. I have often wondered what she would have thought of the vocation I have chosen. Something tells me she would not have been pleased.”
“What did your father think?”
“He did not care.”
It was a sad footnote to so magnificent a woman. At least, Achilles thought so. He was coming to see that not only was she different from most other women, but beneath that strong façade, she was perhaps more vulnerable than she wanted anyone to believe.
He rather liked that side of her.
“Well,” he sighed, “you are back in the place of your birth and I am sure you will enjoy your time here. Rest, eat the wonderful food Aysgarth seems to provide, and find a seamstress who will make you a few magnificent gowns.”
He whispered the last few words, causing her to flush and look away. “I will,” she said. “I wish I had Cadelyn to advise me on what to wear and how to wear it. It would be her dream come true where I am concerned, for she tried for years to convince me to dress properly. Surely, if she realized we were having this conversation, she would faint dead away.”
He laughed softly. “Someday, you will be able to tell her of this,” he said. “Someday, you will be able to show her.”
“I hope so.”
“I am sure of it.”
A pretty wench came by with a pitcher of wine, topping off their cups and throwing Achilles a rather alluring smile. In times past, he would have quite happily taken her up on her silent offer, but as it was, he ignored her until she went away, dejected.
It was an event, however, that didn’t go unnoticed by Susanna. She saw the wench, and Achilles’ reaction, and a hint of a smile played on her lips.
“Are you certain you want to pass that up?” she teased, gesturing to the wench when he looked at her, curiously. “You told me yourself that you’ve been known to pursue a pretty face. She was very pretty.”
He frowned. “Bah,” he said. “I have seen dogs with better looking faces. Moreover, my days of pursuing pretty wenches are over.”
“Then what am I? Not a pretty face?”
He lifted an eyebrow. “You are pretty,” he said. “But you are the only wench in this entire hall that I can say that about. What I mean to say is that you are the only pretty woman. You are a woman, not a wench.”
“You once called me an Amazon.”
“And I apologized for it.”
Susanna started giggling, trying to be discreet about the fact that they were starting to flirt with each other. It may have been rough to watch, given their unfamiliarity with it, but it was the best they could do.
“I know,” she said after a moment. “I forgave you then and I forgive you now. I will not bring it up again.”
If you haven’t pre ordered STARLESS, there’s still time! At only .99 cents, it’s a special introductory price that won’t last!