Benedict Silvester is a rogue and a flirt! His skill as a musician means he is always traveling...and he charms women wherever he goes. Yet he is on a special mission: to accompany Rozenn Kerber to England.
Rose is frustrated with Ben's frivolous behavior and annoyed that his wicked smile continually occupies her thoughts, for he can never offer the stability she craves. But on their travels, Rose begins to suspect that he may have a serious side, that Ben is more than he appears....
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January 31, 2008
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Excerpt from An Honorable Rogue by Carol Townend
Even though it was Witches' Night, the first time the door latch rattled Rozenn was not alarmed. The sun was yet to set, and she was expecting her young friend, Mikaela.
In any case, Hauteville, the quarter of Quimperl� in which Rozenn lived, was scarcely the town slum. At the top of Quimperl�, built on the edge of a rocky outcrop overlooking the main town and castle, Hauteville remained a reasonably safe place in which to live--even the lawlessness that followed the recent killing of Duke Conan had not reached Hauteville. However, this was 1067 and the times were uncertain, so just in case it wasn't Mikaela, Rozenn shoved the silver coins she had been counting back into their pouch and draped some sewing over them. Her little hoard--except that now it was not so little--was growing.
Perhaps today was the day to tell Mikaela she planned to leave Brittany, possibly for ever....
As she expected, it was Mikaela outside; she was busily fastening a garland to the door in the fading evening light. Overhead, screeching swifts traced arcs in the sky; house martins darted in and out of their nests under the eaves.
'You've come straight from the tavern,' Rozenn observed.
'Mmm.'Mikaela's fingers were busy with the garland, tweaking, adjusting. 'How did you work that out?'
Mikaela and her father ran the local tavern, the White Bird, and since a veil was not practical for cooking and cleaning, Mikaela often dispensed with it and forgot to put it back on when she went out about town.
Rozenn glanced at the garland, a Midsummer's Eve garland. Yellow St John's wort gleamed against glossy bay leaves; corn marigolds winked out from between trailing strands of ivy; yarrow and elder flowers nodded in the warm breeze that was drifting up the narrow street from the river and port below....
'Pretty.' Rozenn smiled. Mikaela was using the same rusty nail she had hung her garland on the previous year, and the year before that. Mikaela was a creature of habit. And very superstitious.
Mikaela shoved her plait over her shoulder and threw her a look. 'Pretty's not the point, Rose. This is meant to protect you.'
'Against witches.' Rozenn managed not to laugh.
'Of course. Don't roll those brown eyes at me. This--' Mikaela flicked at the St John's Wort, dusting her fingertips with the heavy pollen '--will see you safe till the feast of St John the Baptist on the morrow and this--'she indicated a sprig of bay '--wards off witches and evil spirits--'
'Oh, Mikaela...' Rozenn shook her head with a smile '...you're wasting your time. I don't believe in the old tales.'
Mikaela gave the garland on Rozenn's door a final tweak and stepped back to admire her handiwork. 'Maybe that's your problem,' she murmured, wiping pollen on to her skirts.
'I beg your pardon?'
Mikaela shrugged. 'Too serious, that's your trouble. You could come down to Saint Columban's tonight, find out who your true love is.'
Rozenn's lips tightened. 'Midsummer madness. No.'
'Please, Rozenn. Nicole and Anna are coming. It would do you good to join in. See it as a bit of fun. Your time of mourning is over, there's no need to feel guilty.'
'I don't feel guilty,' Rozenn said. 'I simply think it is folly, a waste of time and sleep. Walking seven times round a church at midnight, for heaven's sake. As if that will tell you your true love. It's utter lunacy.'
'You don't have to believe in it, it's fun.' Mikaela took her hand and squeezed it gently. 'Per wouldn't mind. He'd want you to be happy, to find someone else.And if the spell does work--' she grinned '--you'll learn who your true love is.'
'But I already know that,' Rozenn said, before she could stop herself.
Mikaela's jaw dropped. 'What?'
Rozenn could have bitten out her tongue; she had planned to be subtle when she told Mikaela her plans, not blurt them out like a fool. Abruptly turning her shoulder, she fingered the gold cross she wore on a chain round her neck and gazed down the cobbled street as it ran down to the quays and the castle in Quimperl� proper. Overhead, the house martins threaded back and forth across a pink-streaked sky.
'Nothing.'Rose wiped her forehead with the back of her hand and sighed. Young Anton was toiling up the hill, pulling a hand cart laden with bales of cloth, destined doubtless for Mark Qu�meneur, the town's main tailor now her husband was dead. 'That boy will have to hurry if he wants to get to Mark's workshop before he locks up for the evening.'
'Rozenn Kerber, don't you dare change the subject!'
Rozenn sighed. 'It was nothing, Mikaela, I spoke out of turn. It was so hot in Countess Muriel's solar today, my brain must have addled.'