It’s Excerpt Monday again, organized by Bria Quinlan and Mel Berthier from Romance Divas.
Today’s excerpt comes from Chapter Two of my fantasy romance novella Perhaps Magic. This is the story of Finntán and Clíona and it is a prequel to my series that begins with Missing Magic.
“Commander Finntán, I want to speak to you!” Lady Clíona’s light clear voice rang along the red brick-walled corridor.
Tán halted his instructions to his steward Ronat and caught himself smiling as he looked up from the letter he held. Lady Clíona was a welcome interruption, calm, easy on the eye and a blessed marvel at managing his four lively boys.
But she was bearing down on him with sharp light in those normally placid winter blue eyes of hers and high color flushed her cheeks.
Tán heaved a breath. Damn, now what? More problems. And no time to deal with them. He was tired and hungry and Ronat and the others had hit him with too much news all at once from the moment he rode through the gates. He’d not had a breath to even shed armor or wash away road dust. Whatever mischief his three foster sons had got up to while he and Finn were away would have to wait an hour or two while he caught up on the Íathlíamór events of the past six days. “I’ll see you at supper, Lady Clíona. We’ll have plenty of time to talk then.”
“Now, Commander Finntán. If you’ll excuse us, Ronat? Gentlemen.” She glared at Tán’s aides and guards, as if she had sincere doubts about that designation. She swung back at Tán. “I need speak with you about your son. Now.”
Nettles and shit, what could Finn have done in the bare hour he’d been home to have her in such a fit of temper? Clíona, who, he would have sworn on the Four Treasures, hadn’t a temperamental bone in her body, fairly trembled with whatever had infuriated her. It must be serious. Perhaps she meant Niell rather than Finn. He loved Niell dearly, but the boy found mischief like a lodestone attracted iron. “Very well. Give us a moment, men. In my study, Lady Clíona?”
He did not need a misbehaving fosterling on top of everything else. He led the way through the study doorway and stifled a groan at the mountain of correspondence on his desk that would need to be dealt with soon after the armload Ronat already carried.
Sprawling heavily into his chair, he leaned on one elbow and motioned for her to sit. Clíona, however, remained standing.
He didn’t think he’d ever seen the woman anything but serene or calmly cheerful before. Tendrils of honey blond curls escaped the wreath of braids about her head, adding to her frazzled appearance. Her hair was always tidily braided, usually in the neat crown as she wore it now or one long supple braid swaying along her spine. She was beautiful with that high color in her face. Her gray gown hugged a tall, graceful body blessed with lush hips and breasts certain to delight a man’s hands.
He frowned. Clíona? Beautiful?
“Commander?” She had her hands set at her hips.
Dragon shit and piss. Focus, man. He tore his gaze away from where it shouldn’t be and focused back to her face. “What–”
“What happened?” Her light voice snapped at him with a crack that would do a training master proud. “What did you do to Finn?”
“What?” he sputtered and sat up straight. “What did I do? What are you talking about?”
“He’s distraught. What happened at Bladinn?”
“He is not distraught. He’s just tired. You interrupted my meeting to tell me my boy is tired?” Tired, yes, from his vigil, and yes, Finn had been quiet on the ride home, but he was certainly healthy. A good supper and a night’s sleep in his own bed and he’d be put to rights.
“I know distraught when I see it. Something happened at Bladinn.” Angrier than even before, she spoke slow and crisp, as if she was speaking to an idiot.
“Nothing. I have no idea what you’re nattering on about. Finn’s simply tired, as am I. Put the boy to bed and let him sleep. He’ll be fine in the morning.” Their ride on Finn’s first pilgrimage to the ruins of Bladinn had been pleasant, the weather fine. Finn was a good boy, with a bright, inquiring mind, and he’d listened well to all Tán had to say about their duties and responsibilities as princes of Íathlíamór and loyal servants of the missing High Queen.
“Our journey there and back was utterly uneventful. He made his vigil. He’s a fine boy.” And Finn had been perfectly well when Tán fetched him from the summit that following morning.
And why in Donnd’s name was he defending himself to her?
“Made his vigil! Are you out of your mind! He’s only seven. You made your seven year-old son sit alone all night at the summit of Bladinn!”
“He needs to know his duties as future lord of Íathlíamór.”
“Finn is not one of your warriors yet, Commander. He’s a child still and small for his age at that.”
Tán ignored the stabbing squeeze of his heart. “He’s a strong, intelligent boy. Finn and the boys are warriors in training. You cannot mother and coddle them as babies forever. You care for them, admirably, but–”
“No, of course they aren’t babies any longer, but they are still boys, children. You can’t make a lad take his vigil at seven.”
“Finn’s near eight.” Yes, most lads who made the vigil went the summer of their tenth year, but his son was not most lads. Finn was to be Lord of Íathlíamór, a Champion of the Queen, and someday, Tán hoped, their Commander after him. Tán’s uncle had taken Tán on his vigil the winter of his eighth year. That had been a damn cold, unforgettable night sitting alone amidst the ruins.
“Not for three more months.”
“The lads aren’t babes any longer and have no need of your nursemaiding them every moment.” Damn, she was truly lovely when fired with emotion. Why was she still here unmarried, chasing after his boys like a servant when she should have a husband, home and a brood of her very own? She’d been the dearest companion of his wife, but really. “Why are you still here when there is nothing to keep you from finally returning to your father’s home?”
Clíona jerked as if he’d struck her. She stared at him, color bleaching from her face, then broke and bolted from the room.
Well, idiot, that had come out badly. Why he was always stuffing his boot in his mouth around her was beyond him.
Ronat peeked his head in the door. “My lord?”
“I’m coming. I’m coming.” He heaved himself out of the chair. He would let her settle and talk calmly with her at supper. Really, she needed to comprehend the boys were no longer babies. They were inheriting a harsh world. He would see them prepared.
It was late when he’d finally left the supper table, head stuffed and cluttered and rattling with all the news and doings and decisions he could handle for one night. Clíona had not joined him for supper and his hope for a quiet relaxing evening had been dashed as the supper conversations had turned into a lengthy debate and brainstorming session. Some conversation still lingered on as he and the last yawning holdouts headed each to his bed.
As was his habit, Tán made his way to the boys’ room before heading to his own room. He’d decided to foster again to give Finn companions, though he could hardly have refused his friends Áed and Laisren when they suggested he train their boys. And taking Garad to make an even four had cemented a timely alliance with Tuirenn of Colltopur. Long ago Tán’s uncle had fostered Áed and Laisren. Now Tán raised their sons. A good tradition.
In the bed closest to the door, Garad slept sprawled face down with all covers tossed onto the floor. Tán spread the covers back over the boy. Garad was a bright one, brilliant at his lessons according to the tutors, but a little immature and pudgy, still getting over being too pampered by his mother, Queen Orlaith.
Marcán slept easy in the next bed, half sitting up, the shuffled leaves of a letter fallen by his hands. The shimmering green and gold of his father Áed’s seal marked one sheet. His bedside lamp guttered in a faint draft. Marcán was the charismatic, hard-headed leader of their little band of brothers and, very much like his father Áed and his Uncle Laisren, had a temper he needed to learn to control.
Next was Laisren’s son Niell, sleeping curled like a pup in the tangled coils of his blanket. The boy was the true athlete among the four, he could climb like a squirrel and had a keen eye with his bow. He promised to be an excellent warrior once he grew some bone and muscle and learned some discipline.
The last bed belonged to Finn. Finn, the beloved son of his blood. The sensible one of the four, diligent and steadfast. Always reading, always questioning. Liadan’s precious gift. His pride, his joy, his sorrow.
But Finn’s covers lay thrown back and the bed was empty. He found his son curled up asleep in Clíona’s favorite chair turned to face the window. During the day one could see the peaks of Bladinn’s mountains, the view now only of a moonless night and sparkling stars. A book lay in his lap and the lamp was dark.
Tán reached down and brushed the bright silk floss of Finn’s hair away from his cheek.
Finn’s eyes opened. “Dadai?”
“Shh, go back to sleep, son. I was just saying goodnight. I’ll put you to bed.”
“Wasn’t sleeping,” Finn whispered drowsily. “Can’t sleep. My head’s too full of thinking. That’s why I was reading.”
Tán smiled. “Reading, again, with your eyes shut, I know. You need to sleep.” He scooped Finn up in his arms. “Promise me to stay in bed and leave the books closed for this night now.”
Finn snuggled against Tán’s shoulder. “Yes, Dadai.”
Damn. So light. A chill oozed through his gut. Clíona was correct. The boy was so small. So fragile. No, he was just young–
But what if he’d got Liadan’s bones and he never filled out to the stature a warrior needed? Tán sank down onto the chair, holding his sleeping son close. What if Finn never reached the strength required of a Champion? What if–
Stop. Tán stamped down hard on his fear. Yes, damn it, Clíona was right, the boy was small, but he’d grow. Boys always grew. He studied his own massive hand spanning Finn’s slim back. He, too, had been small once. Maybe not so small as Finn, but hadn’t he’d been dead slow to his own growing? Áed and Laisren had outstripped him early in height and breadth. And then he’d grown. And outstripped them both.
Yes. Finn, too, would grow. Please. He had to.
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Excerpt Monday links:
Note: I have not personally screened these excerpts. Please heed the ratings and be aware that the links may contain material that is not typical of my site.
|Mel Berthier, Urban Fantasy (PG 13)
Bria Quinlan, Rom Com (PG)
Kinsey W. Holley, Paranormal (PG)
Caitlynn Lowe, Epic Fantasy (PG)
Dara Sorensen, Paranormal (PG)
Christina DeLorenzo, YA (PG 13)
Nika Dixon, Romantic Suspense (PG 13)
Bryn Donovan, Paranormal Romance (PG13)
Kaige, Historic Romance (PG-13)
Julia Knight, Fantasy Romance (PG 13)
Adelle Laudan, Contemporary Romance (PG 13)
Jeannie Lin, Historical Romance (PG13)
RF Long, Paranormal (PG13)
Rebecca Savage, romantic suspense (PG 13)
Crista McHugh, Paranormal Romance (PG 13)
Leigh Royals, Historical Romance (PG 13)
|Jax Cassidy, Contemporary Romance (R)
Maya Doyle, Paranormal Romance (R)
Cate Hart, Paranormal (R)
Ali Katz, Historical Erotic Romance (R)
Inez Kelley, Romantic Comedy (R)
Aislinn Kerry, Paranormal Romance (R)
Elise Logan, Fantasy Romance (R)
Cherrie Lynn, Paranormal Romance (R)
Alina Morgan, Urban Fantasy (R)
Vivienne Westlake, Erotic Historical (R)
Stephanie Adkins, Erotic Romance (NC 17)
Evie Byrne, Medieval Paranormal Romance (NC 17)
Kim Knox, Erotic SF Romance (NC17)
Lauren Murphy, Erotic Romance (NC 17)
Kirsten Saell, Erotic Romance (NC 17)