James reached for his tankard of ale and shook an errant strand of hair away from his face, grown long from neglect. He had haphazardly tied it back with a leather thong.

Sir Geoffrey, his eldest knight, limped into the room, and James gave him a quick glance. “Is she finally here?” James asked.

Sir Geoffrey cleared his throat. “I beg your pardon, Lord Colchester. Two gypsy women are here, not one. Their wretched shrieks are loud enough to wake the entire estate, if not all of England.”

James frowned. He thought he had heard distant screaming a few moments ago. “Are they here willingly, as I asked?”

“Not exactly. I assumed ’twas best for you to speak with both of them.” Sir Geoffrey doffed his cloak and threaded a wrinkled hand through his white hair. He perused the sideboard before selecting a ripe pear. “May I sit?”


The knight’s heavy profile cast a stooped shadow along the candle-lit room. He angled his chair near the fireplace and grabbed the flagon of ale from a nearby table, taking a lengthy swill. He had been James’s loyal knight since childhood, so he was allowed liberties many believed too lenient. James would have trusted him to fight the very devil---bringing a fortuneteller to the castle should not have tasked him.

“Everyone could hear their screams, except for Lord Jeremy, of course,” Sir Geoffrey continued. He squinted at the sleeping child in the earl’s lap. “Poor boy.”

“My son may have been born deaf, but he is not poor.” James clenched his jaw and slammed down his tankard with more force than he intended. The boy sighed in his sleep.


  1. Mary Marvella // March 7, 2008 at 1:19 AM  

    Writers use seduction to keep us reading. What a seductress you are.

  2. Joanne // March 11, 2008 at 9:26 AM  

    Thank you, Mary. Glad you're enjoying the excerpts.