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Above their heads the air grew thicker, the sun heavy through a skein of clouds. Even for a northern summer, the day seemed long.
'Is this an afternoon without an evening?' Sarmatia asked Laerimmer. 'The sun's still high.'
'It's close to midsummer,' replied the Kingmaker. 'Soon, we'll celebrate the solstice on the Sacred Hill.'
'Not this year, thanks to Sarmatia,' put in Anoi spitefully.
There was a loud crack of thunder following her words and after that a heavy silence. Time stretched on. Finally, harsh as the call of a buzzard, came a horn blast, and from different directions, several answering notes.
'Fearn has reached the Beaver River,' said Laerimmer. 'Now the others will wait for him to lead them here.'
Sarmatia's heart quickened. She wet her lips, an act not missed by Anoi.
'Do you think that will help you?' she asked, scornfully. 'Fearn was with me this morning, as he should have been last year, when Waroch died.'
Midsummer is for feasting, bonfires, charms and lovers. Midsummer Maid in
A Knight's Choice and Other Romances.
The village smith glanced up, dice in hand, and Haakon grinned at the man's guilty expression. "The priest will know nothing from me," he mouthed, aware that serious bets were being laid and lost. He turned about to find Clare again, his mood soaring like the skylarks as he saw her, still blessing the land, still safe.
Later, he planned to walk with her to the stream at the bottom of the hill and float a midsummer candle across the water, bearing a wish for their joining. For now, there was pleasure enough in feasting his eyes on her trim figure and her pretty face. She was far enough away for him to stare at her frankly, and he took the chance to do so.
Were I a unicorn of the wildwoods, I would come to lay my head in your lap, he thought, wishing he were the stitchwort, daises, and white campion she was scattering, or better yet, the marigolds tucked within her bodice, a golden glow between her breasts. Her long, loose hair had strands of marigold in it and for the rest was as brown and glossy as hazelnuts. Her face was tanned, tinged with rose, with a narrow nose and a full mouth, and her wide, dreaming eyes were spaces to lose himself in. Today she was dressed in white, a simple, long shift, loose and unbelted, a linen thing that should have been as plain as a shroud, but on Clare, animated by Clare, the gown seemed to sparkle. The chalky white of her dress set off the rich brown of her hair and her flawless lightly-bronzed skin. Even at this distance, half a field away or more, he saw how the cloth caressed her subtle curves, her tender breasts and rounded rump, and his throat choked with desire.
This collection also includes details and an excerpt from my Prairie Rose Publications Romance Novel, Dark Maiden.
As custom demanded, she was robed in a plain gown of undyed linen, with a tiny iron brooch that had been her mother’s as her only jewellery. Cool grass, damp and sparkling with dew, stroked her ankles. Ahead, the eastern sky showed pink, a promise of heat and good weather to come.
“Come, you fey of water, of earth, of fire, grant me my wish in payment of my flowers,” Ffion mouthed, aware she must walk to the hill-top in silence. How else would she hear the saints and spirits? Last midsummer her father’s steady breath and peaceful, wordless contentment had matched her own as they strolled together, now the empty space beside her was an aching void.
Please save him, she silently begged, as she cast another posy into a tiny, hidden spring that welled up from the bright green grass, hoping some force would hear her tumbling thoughts. He deserves life and a son, one who will not care that Sir Bors could cut off the Faircrest land from the rest of this realm of England. Lord Tancred has been a good steward.
She stopped herself from protesting aloud that Sir Bors, if he married her, could only do worse. “Save us,” she said steadily, and bent to unlace her shoes to ford the stream.
Intent on her sacred task, Ffion stepped into the swift-flowing spate, shoes in one hand, the hem of her linen gown in the other. The sweet chill of the water snatched the breath from her lungs and for an instant she almost stumbled.
Her rocking on the smooth stones saved her. A stinking shadow raked along her flank and she heard Sir Bors curse.
“Hell’s bells, wench, keep still!”
He should not be here. Only a Firefall can walk the bounds. Only a Firefall can enter this river. Fast on her indignation came fear. He means to catch me!