I hope you’ve all enjoyed meeting the authors who take part in Medieval Monday and discovering why we love the period so much. We’re taking a break while we organise a new round of exciting excerpts to be starting in August. Look out for the next theme which we’ll be announcing soon.
I don’t want to leave you with nothing to read so I thought I’d share an excerpt from The Blacksmith’s Wife where we see the brothers together for the first time along with Joanna, the heroine who marries Hal. If you want to know what happens to Roger and who he finds happiness with you’ll have to wait until August to read his story in Redeeming the Rogue Knight
Sir Roger frowned. ‘What are you doing in the camp? I did not expect to see you until tonight at the earliest.’ His face relaxed into a smile as he drew her arm under his and led her back towards his tent, regaling her with an account of the tournament she had just witnessed. She pushed her thoughts of the stranger to the back of her mind.
Sir Roger pushed back the curtain covering his tent doorway and ushered Joanna inside. He tossed his page a coin.
‘Go buy yourself some sweetmeats.’
The boy ambled off, leaving them alone. Sir Roger pulled Joanna to him, his hands at either side of her waist.
‘I’m surprised at you coming here alone.’ His voice was stern but the glint in his eye told Joanna he was far from disapproving. His eyes took on a hungry expression. ‘You’re usually so modest, too.’
Joanna glanced at the doorway but Sir Roger did not appear to notice her uneasiness. He lunged to kiss her. His lips scraped against hers and his hands began to slide from her waist downwards to spread across her hips. Joanna stiffened. This was the first time they had been completely alone and Sir Roger’s behaviour was more forceful than she had expected. The guards’ mocking words whispered in Joanna’s mind.
She wriggled from Sir Roger’s arms. ‘I brought you a gift,’ she said hastily to hide her unease. She rummaged into her bag until she produced a cloth-wrapped bundle.
Sir Roger unwrapped it eagerly, revealing an ornately decorated belt buckle. ‘Your uncle made this?’ he asked, holding it to the light.
Joanna nodded and rubbed her fingers lovingly over the incised leaves. ‘Though I chased the pattern myself.’
Sir Roger took her hands and drew her close. ‘It’s beautiful. You’ll be a worthy heir to your uncle’s business.’
Joanna blushed with pleasure at the compliment but laughed. ‘His heir? Not I. He has a son now. But of course, it’s been months since you were in York. You wouldn’t know my aunt’s child was a boy.’
‘What good fortune for your uncle,’ Roger said.
‘Perhaps you might congratulate him in person tonight and speak to him about other matters,’ Joanna began shyly.
‘That could be time I spend in your company instead,’ Sir Roger murmured. ‘There’s no rush, is there?’ His hands began moving over her body, one down towards her buttocks, the other sliding towards her breast. He kissed her, his tongue attempting to part her lips. Joanna’s brow wrinkled. This was the very limit of acceptable behaviour before they were married. She began to shift away from his reach, turning so she stood between him and the doorway.
A cold draught blew around her neck and a deep, familiar voice spoke.
‘Roger, it strikes me…’
Sir Roger released her abruptly and stepped back. Joanna turned slowly around to face the speaker, heart sinking as she saw who stood behind her.
The man she had met before stood in the doorway, his hands outstretched in apology. ‘I’m sorry. I saw your boy wandering off. I didn’t know you would have company.’
He did not sound contrite in the least. When his eyes fell on Joanna they held her gaze and his lips twitched. Sir Roger gave a long sigh of annoyance. Joanna’s eyes flickered from man to man.
‘Mistress Sollers, permit me to introduce my brother, Henry Danby,’ Sir Roger said in a clipped tone.
Joanna’s jaw dropped. ‘You never told me you had a brother!’ she said.
‘Half-brother,’ the man said curtly, glancing at Sir Roger.
‘Did I never mention Hal?’ Roger said carelessly. ‘I suppose not. He’s been travelling around the country. Our paths have barely crossed in the past three years,’
Joanna stared in wonder from Sir Roger to his brother and back again. Conscious she was staring at the new arrival, Joanna curtsied. ‘Good day to you, Sir Henry.’
‘Just Hal if you please. I’m no sir.’
‘Hal and I share the same father but we have different mothers,’ Sir Roger explained.
Half-brothers. That made sense. They were too close in age to make any other explanation possible.
‘What Roger means is I’m a bastard,’ Henry added with a humourless smile. He lifted his jaw and crossed his arms, as though daring Joanna to confront him. ‘Though my father did me the kindness of acknowledging me as his. Many would not.’
Taken aback at the harshness of his voice, Joanna stared at him. When they had met before he had seemed good-humoured, for all his mocking words, but his sudden fierceness was unnerving. His brow was knotted and his eyes dark. For a moment silence hung awkwardly between them as all three stood motionless saying nothing.
Side by side the brothers were not so alike after all. They were of equal height and stature and both had hair the colour of a crow’s wing but Sir Roger’s was swept back and tied neatly at his nape. He wore a short, neatly trimmed beard while his brother’s hair fell forward in careless tangles to a jaw rough with stubble.
The resemblance was strongest about the eyes: deep brown, flecked with green and ringed with long lashes set into faces tanned from a life spent outside.