Hello everyone! I'm posting the new novel that I'm working on. This post is the first of two installments, which will then lead into the re-written version of "Rebel Mine"...a sequel to my Guy of Gisborne story, "The Tempest."
It's just a little something that was in my head, and it got me back on track with my writing, so hopefully there will be much more to come in the following months. We'll see what happens! I hope you enjoy it.
The smell of the sea.
It was a pungent but invigorating scent…one that fired his nerves with anticipation. Leaning out of the carriage window, Sir Guy inhaled the ocean breeze deep into his lungs.
Home, he thought. I am home.
With eagerness he watched as they passed the village. Only a few miles more, and his journey from court would at last be done. A squire had ridden ahead to announce the arrival. All of the household would be assembled in greeting, and he could hardly wait to be there. He smiled to himself, impatient but joyful…until the carriage began to slow. When it stopped altogether, he called out in confusion…almost in anger.
“Why have we stopped?”
His driver answered. “A traveler beckons, my lord.”
A traveler? he thought. What nonsense is this? For a moment, he feared a disguised bandit might be upon them. It was not unheard of for thieves to act as beggars in need, only to steal all that a traveler possessed. Gripping the handle of his dagger, he peered out the window with a cautious eye…and his wary frown turned to a smile. This was no beggar. No thief. It was a dark-haired little figure, coming down the road as fast as she could. A moment later she leapt into the carriage, throwing her little arms around his neck. She squealed with joy.
“Papa, I missed you so!”
He winced at the force of her hold, which was strong for a girl of five. But his joy at seeing her, at feeling her loving enthusiasm, eclipsed the small discomfort.
“Evelyn Elizabeth Gisborne, what have you been doing during my absence? And what mischief is this, coming to meet me? You should be waiting for me at home, properly assembled with the rest of the household.”
Her blue eyes lowered, her expression sheepish. “I am sorry, Papa. I lost my patience.”
He smiled, kissing her forehead. “You are forgiven. Let us go home together.” He tapped the roof to signal the driver. As they moved on, Evelyn chattered away, having all manner of things to tell him about, particularly her siblings. But in her clever way, she inquired first, rather than making a bold report.
“Do you wish to know what they’ve been doing?”
He could not help but be amused. Though she was very young, she was aware that he disapproved of gossip, even the innocent telling that went on among youngsters. But being a child, she found it difficult to hold her tongue. He nodded, giving her silent permission to speak.
“Thea and Owen have quarreled all the time. Mama has punished them, but they soon begin again.”
“What of William? Is he ailing still?”
“He is much better, Papa.”
“And your mother…how does she fare?”
“She has been very sad. She misses you terribly.”
He sighed, but smiled. “Well we shall remedy that soon enough.”
At last they came upon the drive. Seeing it, Guy had the urge to mimic his daughter…to go rushing ahead without thought for appearances. But as the lord of the manor, he knew he needed to maintain an air of control. Though it was a difficult role to play, he managed to do it, remaining in his seat until the carriage slowed. When at last it came to a stop, he could be still no longer. Stepping out, reaching in to lift Evelyn, he carried her with him as he came forward to greet everyone. But before he could speak a word, eight-year old Thea came rushing forward. As she marched with an angry stride, her black curls bounced. Her bottom lip protruded in a furious pout.
“Papa! Owen is an awful beast! He knocked me down and muckied my dress!”
Following behind her was her younger brother, six-years old, who was in turn followed by Claudia, their nurse. Guy held up his hand to her, allowing his youngest son to speak. Owen’s dark eyes were narrowed, his brow crinkling in defiance. “She tells lies, Papa! I am no beast!”
“You are so!”
Guy made his presence and his displeasure known. “Silence, the both of you! I return from a tedious journey to find this? Naughty, disobedient children who should know better. You shame me.”
Thea attempted to explain herself. “But Papa…”
“Do not speak. Either of you. Since you behave so poorly, you will have no supper.” He turned to their nurse. “Claudia, take them to their rooms and confine them there for the remainder of the night.”
Thea began to cry. Owen spilled no tears, though his lip trembled as he and his sister were led away. Guy looked around, searching for the face he most wanted to see. He turned to his housekeeper.
“Where is my lady?”
“She has gone walking, my lord. I will have a lad fetch her straight away.”
Guy shook his head. “No, I will find her. You may all return to your duties. See my belongings home.”
She curtseyed, leading the rest of the staff back to their routines. Guy turned his attention to Evelyn. She looked away sheepishly, as if expecting to be punished as her siblings has been. But his expression softened. His voice became tender once again.
“Let us go and see William, shall we?”
She turned to look at him, perking up. She smiled, nodding, and together they ventured inside.
Looking upon his eldest son, Guy saw himself. The same dark hair, grey eyes, and sharp features. And yet the version before him was, in many ways, a great improvement of the original. William was vastly better in temperament, possessing a nature of goodness and charm. Even at the age of eight, he was not inclined to be petty and selfish as so many children were. It pleased his mother very much that he was so mild-mannered, for in being so, he was not suited to a warrior’s path in life. And if Cassia was pleased, so then was Guy. Placing Evelyn at the doorway, where she obediently stood in observation, he came to stand beside William’s bed. The nurse turned to him with a curtsey. Reaching out, he placed a hand on the boy’s head, speaking to the nurse but not taking his eyes off of his son.
“How does he fare?”
“Tolerable, my lord. He will recover soon enough. His cough is not so harsh as it has been, and his manner of sleeping has been more peaceful of late.”
Guy nodded. “Then I shall leave him in peace. When he wakes, inform him of my return, and that I shall come to him again.”
“Yes, my lord.”
Walking to the door, he looked down at Evelyn. “Off with you, child. I will go in search of your mother. And perhaps when I return, we shall see if I’ve brought you anything from my travels.”
She beamed with expectation, hurrying away as he’d told her to. Guy turned towards the stairs, eager to find his beloved wife.
Reflecting on his time spent at court, he recalled hearing the whispers that had followed him at every turn. It was said that he was in constant mourning…fretting over the illness of his son, and missing his entire family in general. But the gossip mongers were most titillated by the rumors of how deeply he pined for his lady. And with each whisper, he said to himself…
What of it? Is it so strange that I should miss her?
They had not been separated since before their marriage. It was a painful realization to wake up each morning and not find her at his side.
But he would not think of those things now…not when their reunion was but a few steps away. Coming upon the orchard, he searched all around for her…his heart beating fast with anticipation. And at last he saw her. She was sitting beneath the cherry tree with her head down. Even from the distance where he stood, he could see how mournful her expression was. He smiled, knowing just how to rectify that sullenness. Ever so carefully he crept forward, intent on taking her by surprise. But a mutinous twig gave him away. It snapped under his foot. She lifted her head to look…and leapt to her feet, her eyes bright with joy. Wordlessly she fell into his arms, tears spilling down her cheeks. He held her tight against his frame, pressing a kiss to her hair. When at last they allowed a slight space between them, their lips met again and again. Their kisses ventured over eyes, cheeks, and all skin that was not covered.
“Oh my love,” said Cassia. “I am so happy to see you. Are you well? Was your journey difficult?”
He gathered her hands in his, pressing soft kisses to her palms.
“Now that I am returned to you, I am very well indeed.”
She smiled, delight in every feature. And it quickly turned to wifely concern. “You must certainly be exhausted. Come, let us to the house. I shall see that you are well tended to.”
“I am rather hungry. And the dust of the road lies heavy on me.”
“Then I shall have a fine meal prepared for you, and a hot bath afterwards.”
“Will you join me in it?”
The corner of her mouth rose instantly…a familiar gleam shining in her eye. She put her arms around his neck.
“Incorrigible devil. How I have missed you.” She kissed his lips, pressing herself against him. As his hands held her waist, drawing her body firmly to his own, she whispered in his ear.
“I shall join you, and see you are welcomed most properly.”
A low rumbling laugh escaped him. “Welcome me here and now.”
She smiled, but shook her head. “Were it not for the lateness of the day, I would consider it. But the children will soon be abed. Let us see them to sleep. They have longed for you as much as I have.”
As she linked her arm with his, walking along towards the house, he sighed.
“I have reunited with our children already, although not as I anticipated. Evelyn was proper enough in her welcome. And I ventured in to look after William, to find him sleeping. But alas, Theadora and Owen were quite a disappointment with their unseemly behavior, and I was forced to confine them to their rooms for the night. Have they been quarreling all the time I was away?”
She sighed, shaking her head. “Not much more than usual.”
“Which is quite often.”
Now she laughed a little. “Owen is much like a little bull, pushing and shoving his way about. Regrettably, Thea is much the same way. It is a miracle that neither has been seriously injured.”
“If only they were as placid as Evelyn. She is spirited, but so very pleasant in temper. I had no fear that she would trouble you during my absence.”
“My troubles have been with William. These many days, I have been so fearful for him.”
“But he is recovering, is he not? I was told as much.”
Cassia nodded. “He is well, praise God. Still, no one can be certain of anything.”
He paused in their walking, turning to her. Drawing her against his breast, he held her close. “Beloved, do not be afraid.” He pressed his lips to her hair, sighing. “We shall stay by his side until you are convinced of his recovery. Will that ease your mind?”
Leaning back in his arms, she looked up at him. A tear fell down her cheek. “I love you, Guy. Few husbands would be so dear. Most would demand that their needs be met above all others.”
He smirked, a cheeky expression that made her smile.
“I shall make demands of you. Do not doubt it, wife. But I will be patient. I love you, and your happiness means more to me than my own.”
Passionately, repeatedly, she kissed him. He returned her affections with equal fervor, longing for so much more…but he held back his eagerness. He was aware that soon enough, if he was patient, he would be greatly rewarded for his efforts.