WARRIOR MINE, the spin-off from LOST & BOUND, is still in the works, as is another book tentatively called VOICES. But this week, I had to chase a new wild hare, and it’s different from anything I’ve written before.
Working title LADY ASHLAN’S RETURN, it’s a medieval erotic romance. While it seems like a big challenge, I’m really excited about this story. Briefly, it’s about a noble woman who was shipped off against her will as a teenager, and who returns after eighteen years, seeking vengeance on those who wrecked her life.
Here’s the first chapter of LADY ASHLAN’S RETURN.
A warm sea breeze ruffled her worn grey habit, and her once-white wimple fluttered behind her as Ashlan’s eyes were drawn to the shoreline and the city growing on the horizon. She gripped the wooden railing and nodded to herself. Eighteen years is a long time.
“Is that Haedleigh, Sister Anne?”
Ashlan turned to see Luella standing beside her. “It is. Isn’t it the most beautiful sight you’ve ever beheld?”
Luella’s expression was skeptical. “If you say so, my lady.”
Ashlan gazed across the blue water once again as the sun began to descend in the distance. “Dash it all, by the time we land it will be nearly dark. Finding proper lodgings will be difficult. We should have arrived a week ago.”
If she wanted to be fair, the delay hadn’t been the captain’s fault. Stormy weather had caused them to veer out of their way. But Ashlan had waited long enough and she wasn’t in the mood to be fair.
“Come, Luella. It is time that we got ready to introduce ourselves to Haedleigh.”
Below deck in their tiny cabin, Luella helped Ashlan remove the whimple and faded habit. Freed from the confines of the modest ensemble, Ashlan shook out her thick red locks and sighed deeply.
“The purple, I think, Luella,” she directed.
“Yes, my lady.” From the large trunk Luella removed the necessary underthings and the sleek purple silk gown before helping her mistress dress. While the girl brushed out Ashlan’s long red hair, Ashlan watched herself in the small mirror they’d managed to bring with them. Her mind drifted to that night so long ago when she’d worn a similar gown for Lord Howell’s tournament banquet.
“Hurry, Arabella, we’re going to be late!”
“Ladies are supposed to be late, don’t you know that?” Young Lady Arabella Stewart rolled her eyes for effect.
“I don’t want to miss anything,” Ashlan insisted. At age sixteen, she was a lady-in-waiting to Lady Arabella, who was promised to Lord Alistair Risley.
But she, Ashlan, was promised to no one. Her father, Lord Mereck Balleroy, hadn’t bothered himself to make arrangements for his only daughter, instead focusing his attention on her older brother, Andrew, who would one day be his heir.
“Did you see Lord Henry?” Ashlan prattled. “He’s ever so handsome.”
“And promised to Catherine Addington,” her friend reminded her.
“Well they aren’t married yet,” Ashlan countered.
“You really are so naughty,” Arabella giggled.
Hand in hand, the pair left their chambers and made their way to the enormous banquet hall of Bexley Keep. They stopped just inside the door to get their bearings and gaze in wonder at the sight. The cavernous room, hung with floral garlands and lit with thousands of candles, was filled with knights the girls recognized from the tournament, as well as the noble lords and ladies who’d attended the spectacle. On the far side of the hall, a group of musicians played music for dancing.
Heads turned their way as they entered, with revelers staring at the pair, Arabella, dressed in a forest green silk frock that matched her eyes, her blonde hair cascading in ringlets down her back, and Ashlan, her long red curls nicely set off by her deep purple gown.
Arabella had been the one to choose purple for Ashlan. “It goes with your eyes,” she’d told her friend as the dressmaker had fawned over both girls.
Once dressed, Ashlan had checked her image in the looking glass and she’d been inordinately pleased. The deep purple silk of the gown accented her violet eyes, a trait shared by the majority of Balleroys down through the generations.
In the entry of the banquet hall, while Arabella seemed unaware of the stares they garnered, Ashlan reveled in them. She wasn’t so bold as to think of herself beautiful, but she knew that she attracted the attention of the men in the room.
There were those who considered red hair a curse but Ashlan adored it, knowing that paired with her violet eyes, her ginger locks made her quite unique.
She also knew that she’d been blessed with a plenteous bosom that caused no end of stares, particularly in the scoop-necked ball gown skillfully sewn by Arabella’s dressmaker. Ashlan furtively glanced down at her creamy mounds bulging from top the snug bodice and stood straighter, pressing them out further.
“There you are, you two,” exclaimed Arabella’s brother, Lord Bryce Stewart. Older than his sister, he was of similar coloring, and quite handsome, a thought Ashlan hadn’t shared with Arabella. “Come sit at table before you give the older lords heart failure.”
“Pardon, my lady. What shall I do with these?” Luella asked, bringing Ashlan back to the present. The maid held out the threadbare garments.
Ashlan wrinkled her nose. “Toss them overboard for all I care. Sister Anne is gone. Lady Ashlan Balleroy has returned.”
I have no timeline for the release of LADY ASHLAN’S RETURN. The next book out will be WARRIOR MINE. But until there’s a new release, be sure to stop by my Amazon Author Page. You just might find something you’ll love.