I’ve been really enjoying writing my new story, so much that I’ve barely updated here for weeks. What better excuse than to share a little of what I’m doing.
It’s the tale of Roger Danby, Hal’s brother from The Blacksmith’s Wife. I was intrigued by what made him such an awful person and wondered if he could be redeemed so I’ve started to try. He’s not being well behaved though. What he did at the end of this excerpt – the first meeting between him and my heroine Lucy – took me by surprise as much as it did her.
‘The chickens were safely shut away for the night. Lucy Carew picked up the lantern from the ground and made her way round the side of the small barn back towards the door of the inn, swinging the light back and forth as she walked.
She closed the door and dropped the bar across. Shivering she unbuckled her cloak and hung it beside the fireplace. The fire was almost spent but she gave the remaining logs a half-hearted prod with the poker and sank onto the stool beside he hearth, enjoying the peace. The rain had eased but the earlier downpour had meant no customers had called since mid afternoon. If she had lived closer to one of the villages people might have called by but there were few travellers at this time of year and the road was quiet.
She took her cap off and unwound the plait, leaving her hair loose. Only a handful of tasks remained then she could go to bed early. Perhaps tomorrow she might wake less weary than she usually was. Her hopes were dashed as a loud hammering on the door made her jump. She was halfway to her feet when she caught herself and sat back down, torn as what to do. She badly needed the money that visitors would pay for their drinks but her head ached. Save for the lantern and the glow from the fire the inn was in darkness. If she sat quietly they would leave. She felt a pang of sympathy for whoever was about in the bad weather but not enough to rouse herself and let them in.
The hammering grew louder and more insistent. It was not going to cease.
A male voice bellowed, “I know someone is there. I saw your light.”
Lucy pushed herself from the stool. Clutching the poker behind her hand she crossed the room and eased up the bar and pulled the door open a crack. It was pushed open with unexpected violence from outside, causing her to spring out of the way with a gasp of alarm.
Two men pushed their way inside. One had his arm around the other’s shoulder and was being supported by his companion. His legs buckled and he staggered as he walked, moaning softly. His black hair was tangled over his face.
Lucy gritted her teeth.
“I don’t want drunks at this time of night,” she said firmly.
“He isn’t drunk, he’s hurt,” the man supporting him said. His words were heavily accented and Lucy struggled out make them out but realised he was not English. He drew a short sword from beneath his cloak and brandished it towards her. She gave a squeak of alarm, clutching the poker firmer in her hand and retreated to the bottom of the staircase.
The man she had taken for a drunk now raised his head that had been lolling to one side. He gave a wolfish grin beneath his thick beard but it was his eyes that transfixed Lucy. Deep brown and fixing her with a stare of such intensity that a sensation stirred inside her she had not felt in longer than she could remember. She felt a blush begin deep between her breasts that was only stayed from spreading by the realisation that his gaze was so intense because he was struggling to focus.
“Ambush,” the injured man slurred in an accent closer to Lucy’s own. “Don’t fear, little dove. We won’t hurt you. If you do what we ask.”
“Are you alone?” the foreigner demanded, raising his sword again and stepping towards Lucy, dragging his companion with him. “Has anyone else come this evening?”
“No one,” Lucy answered, sweat pooling in her lower back at the sight of the weapon. “I’m the only one here.”
Except for Robbie. A sob welled inside her as she thought of her son lying peacefully in his cot in the room above. If these men killed her it could be days before anyone found her, and who would think to look upstairs? Worse, she imagined the child clambering from his cot as he had recently begun to do and coming down to find her body.
“I’ll do whatever you want,” she whispered. “Only please don’t hurt me.”
“Good little dove,” the injured man slurred, grinning crookedly. “Be sensible and we all might live.” He said something in a foreign tongue. His companion frowned and replied.
“We take him upstairs,” the foreigner instructed. “Now!”
Lucy took a step back, shaking her head. Not to the floor where Robbie slept in peace, unaware of the events happening beneath him. She barred the way, finally revealing her poker and brandishing it like a sword. The injured man gave a wheezing laugh. Lurching forward unexpectedly he raised his left arm and knocked it out of her hand. He staggered, as if this had taken the last of his strength, and fell forward towards her. Instinctively Lucy reached her arms out to catch him, her hands sliding beneath his armpits. She stepped backwards and found herself wedged between him and the wall, his weight crushing her. Something sharp scratched her left shoulder through her heavy wool dress and she yelped in pain. She looked down to see the head of an arrow protruding from the man’s right shoulder.
“You’re really hurt!” she exclaimed.
“Don’t let me die unmourned, dove,” the man slurred, his voice deep and husky.
Before Lucy could think how to reply he had reached his left arm to the back of her head, tilted it back and covered her lips with his.’
You’ll have to wait a while to find out how Lucy deals with her unexpected visitor but in the meantime you can read the beginnings of Roger’s story in The Blacksmith’s Wife.
Santiago Cabrera is the inspiration for Roger. Not a bad match for Aidan Turner’s Hal or the cover model used.