A passionate tale of danger, adventure, and romance that sweeps from a Saxon stronghold to a lovers' bower in the cool, jade green forests of Wales.
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July 01, 1994
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Excerpt from Midnight Warrior by Iris Johansen
April 20, 1066
THE LIGHT BLAZED across the dark heavens like a banner unfurled for battle.
Brynn stared up at the midnight sky in fascination and delight. It was like watching a mysterious flower blossom in the shadowy depths of the forest. She had prayed it would still be there tonight.
"Did you do it?"
She stiffened but did not turn around. She had come to this tiny room in the back of the stable hoping to steal this time for herself, but she should have known she would not be permitted to enjoy this wonder alone. At least, it was only Delmas. Perhaps she could rid herself of him quickly. "Did I do what? I don't know what you mean."
She heard his steps behind her and then felt his heavy hand on her shoulder. She felt a surge of revulsion but didn't move.
"Look at me."
She reluctantly turned her back on the glory in the heavens and gazed boldly at him.
He immediately looked away as he usually did when she directly confronted him. "Be quick, I'm weary and would seek my bed," she said.
"Not too weary to do that," he snarled as he gestured at the sky. "I want it stopped. Do you hear? I want it gone."
She stared at him in astonishment. "I beg your pardon?"
"Don't pretend innocence." His eyes glittered wildly in the moonlight. "It's your doing. I know it. You brought it to destroy me so that you could return to your precious Gwynthal."
She wanted to laugh. She had not dreamed even Delmas could believe something so outrageous. "I waved my hand and a comet streaked through the sky? Don't be foolish."
Pain streaked through her jaw as his palm made contact.
"Send it away!"
She shook her head to clear it of pain and darkness. It had been a long time since Delmas had struck her, and she cursed herself for miscalculating the depth of his fear and panic. She could not afford to make such mistakes. He might offer her little protection, but it was all she had in this foreign land. "I didn't bring the comet."
"I watched your face when you saw it last night. Everyone else in the manor was filled with fear but you . . . you were triumphant."
He had mistaken her wonder for triumph. She supposed she should have pretended to share their fear, but it had not occurred to her. In truth, she had been amazed at their terror. Miracles occurred every day and this was only another. Wasn't a rainbow a miracle? Why did they not marvel at the changing seasons? And surely the birth of a child was the most glorious of mysteries. "You were mistaken. I only-"
He struck her again, harder. "I want it gone from here."
She reached out and grasped the wall to keep herself upright as the room swam around her. She had given up trying to convince Delmas she had no magical powers and now used his fear and superstition to protect herself. The ploy had worked very well for the past three years, but now his belief was a danger in itself. She must find a way to soothe his fear. "All right. I did it."
Satisfaction lit his face. "I knew it. Now send it away."
"I cannot send it away." She took a hurried step back to avoid the blow she knew would come. "Not at once. The magic is too great and must run its course, but I will make sure it harms no one."
He frowned uncertainly.
"It is all I can do," she said firmly.
"It will go away?"
"Yes." She breathed a prayer she was not lying.
"Soon." She added quickly, "It takes time to break a spell as strong as this one." She closed the shutters of the window to block out the sky from him. "Now may I go to my bed?"
"No." He gazed at the shutters and then evidently decided to accept the partial victory. "Lady Adwen needs you. She woke in great distress and sent her servant to rouse me. It was then I discovered you had left your bed."
"Why did you not tell me at once?" She moved quickly toward the door. "Have you summoned Lord Richard?"
"He knows. He was occupied." Delmas followed her into the hall. "He said to call you and he would be there shortly."
Occupied with his latest leman, Joan of Danworth, no doubt, Brynn thought bitterly. Adwen could die and he would not care. Indeed, she was sure he would prefer it. He had not been pleased when Lord Kells, Adwen's father, had sent Brynn to Redfern to care for his daughter. A wife unable to bear children was an intolerable inconvenience to a man as hungry for power as Lord Richard. To be free of that wife and retain her fat dowry would be very tempting. God knows, it would not take much to rid himself of such a frail burden: a little neglect, a window left open to induce a chill . . .