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A knock sounded at the door, then it opened and a tall man stuck his head in. He grinned.
“Lachlan, come on in, then.” Alasdair motioned the kilted man forward. “M’lady, I would like for you to meet my brother, Lachlan.”
The man’s tawny, golden-brown hair was long as a pagan’s and hung halfway down his chest. His amber-brown eyes, several shades lighter than Alasdair’s, held her own in a startling, direct manner. Waves of magnetism emanated from Lachlan. She suspected no lass he set his sights on would retain her virtue for long.
“Mistress Carswell is the MacIrwin fairy I told you about who saved my life.”
Both men grinned at her—a devastating picture, to be sure, with their virile good looks.
Gwyneth’s face heated with the ridiculous comment. Fairy, indeed.
She stood and curtsied. “’Tis a pleasure, sir.”
“I assure you, m’lady, the pleasure is all mine.” He bowed. Coming forward, he grasped her hand and pulled her upright. “Alasdair, I believe your words were ‘bonny MacIrwin fairy,’ and I must agree with you. Ne’er have I seen such lovely blue eyes.” Lachlan kissed her fingers.
Good heavens! What silver-tongued charmers these MacGraths were. Heat rushed over her.
Alasdair cleared his throat, and Lachlan released her.
Gwyneth’s gaze locked with Alasdair’s, which harbored a glare, and his brother stepped away to stand at the mantel. Something unspoken had passed between the two men. And something possessive in the way Alasdair watched her now held her captive.
Oh dear.Her knees going slightly weak, she reclaimed her seat.
“I’m forever in your gratitude for saving the life of my beloved brother,” Lachlan said over his shoulder. She glimpsed a hint of a smile and wondered the reason for it, though she thought she knew. My Fierce Highlander copyright 2011 Vonda Sinclair
London, England, 1618
"Lady Angelique! Come back, sweeting!" ancient Lord Chatsworth called.My Wild Highlander copyright 2011 Vonda Sinclair
Sacrebleu! Angelique Drummagan rushed down the corridor, eased open a door and slipped inside a dark drawing room, one of many within the maze of Whitehall Palace. She prayed Chatsworth would pass by. He fancied himself her suitor and did naught but drool on her hand every time he was near.
Heavy breathing and moans sounded from across the room. She turned and froze, her eyes searching the near darkness. Who was here? Only the shifting moonlight glinting off the Thames provided any illumination, revealing chair backs and settees.
A high-pitched giggle pierced the air from several yards away, in the vicinity of a sitting area near the cold hearth.
"Shh."A long moment of silence stretched out, broken by sounds of kissing.
"King James wishes her brought before him forthwith," a muffled male voice said outside the closed door.
"She vanished in this passage," Chatsworth said.
A pox upon the old lecher! And the king, too. Angelique crept across the Turkish carpet and slid behind the brocade window drapery.
"Ooh, I'm impressed with your swordplay skills, my laird." Lady Eleanor's voice, breathy and excited, shattered the quiet of the room. She was the one moaning and giggling?
The harlot."I'm not a laird, but I do thank you for the compliment."
A Highlander? Angelique would recognize that tongue-rolling speech anywhere.
She had never known Eleanor, countess of Wexbury, to dally with anyone below a viscount. What was she doing with a barbarian? That's what her mother—God rest her soul—would've called him, or any Scot. And Maman should know; she'd been married to one.
Eleanor cried out with carnal pleasure. Angelique's face burned hot. She couldn't comprehend how a woman found pleasure in the act. Never again would she entrust her body and heart to any man. Since men were naught but faithless pigs, she knew she only had duty before her, not happiness. Not love. That had been a foolish child's dream.
Eleanor gasped for breath and the Scot made a growling noise. The height of pleasure, some said. Surely the French term le petit mort—the little death—was more accurate. Nausea gripped Angelique even as shocking excitement quickened her heart beat. A dark, hidden part of her wondered… No, never again. I cannot marry and be subjected to a man's lust. She pressed trembling fingers against her throat and found it damp with perspiration.
The door opened and lamplight reflected off the white walls.
"Lady Angelique?" Dryden's nasal voice echoed through the room. He was the most vexing of the king's courtiers.
The two lovers became silent.
"I know you're in here. I heard a noise."
From her position behind the draperies, she noticed the light moving across the floor.
A thump sounded, then rustling.
"Sir Lachlan? What in Hades are you…?"
"I was but…resting," the Scot said.
"Have you seen Lady Angelique?"
"Dryden, the lamp, if you please," Chatsworth said.
"What is it?"
In the silence, the light shifted again, growing brighter as it moved in her direction.
Mon Dieu, do not let them find me, s'il vous plaît. Angelique's pulse roared in her ears. She detested Chatsworth, and now, to be discovered lurking about in a dark room while a Scot coupled with a lady harlot would be exceedingly mortifying. They might even accuse her of spying on them.
Dryden yanked the drapery aside.
"Parbleu!" Angelique blurted and pressed a hand to her mouth.
Dryden sent her a vile grin. In the background, Chatsworth scowled, then shot a murderous glance at the man they'd called Sir Lachlan, who stood in a darkened corner.
Where had Eleanor crawled away to? Angelique couldn't see her beneath the carved furniture in the dimness.
"You and Sir Lachlan?" Dryden snickered. "His Majesty will likely find this interesting."
"Non! I was not—Lady Eleanor was—where did she go?" Embarrassment flamed over her. Now, they thought she'd been with the Scot? Never."No need to lie, mademoiselle. Come. The king wishes to see you." He ushered her toward the door. "You, too, Sir Lachlan."
"Indeed." Dryden waved him forward.
The Highlander stepped into the light. The giant was more than a foot taller than she, broad shouldered and wearing a belted plaid, leaving the bottom portion of his muscular legs bare. She'd seen few of these barbaric articles of clothing since she was nine years old and her mother had taken her from Scotland.
His face was ruggedly masculine with a square jaw and hard chin, enticing to a woman's baser instincts, but not refined. This was the same man she'd seen leaving Lady Catherine's bedchamber the night before. Then, he'd been wearing trews. Dallying with two women at court? Or perhaps more? Lecher.Amusement sparkled in his eyes before he bowed. "M'lady."
"Sir." She curtsied.
The Scot's darkened eyes fixed upon her in a too-knowing way. To cover the heat rushing over her face, she strode from the room.
Feeling like a prisoner headed for the block, Angelique walked beside the Highlander through several rooms and dark-paneled corridors, taking two steps for his every one. Dryden and Chatsworth followed. She would not be surprised to feel the prick of a sword at her back. Glancing around, she found the men empty-handed.
They passed through four doors, guarded by numerous courtiers and royal servants before reaching the antechamber with its gleaming ebony furniture upholstered in the finest red velvets. Numerous candles lit the room and glimmered off the gold leaf.
What did the king want? He'd sent for her two days before at Hampton Court Palace, though he hadn't been ready to meet with her until now. She disliked leaving the comfort of the queen's household, but King James was her guardian and she must do as he bid. Chatsworth and Dryden had been searching for her before they found her in the room with this Highlander, so the summons could have naught to do with him. Why had they asked him to accompany them?
They neared the king's private rooms and an usher opened the carved door. "Lady Angelique Drummagan and Sir Lachlan MacGrath," he announced.
The four entered. The men bowed, and she curtsied deeply before the king.
The scrawny, aging monarch, wearing overblown clothing in colorful silks, occupied an ornate chair on an elevated platform. Buckingham, his favorite courtier, a regally handsome dark-haired man in his early twenties, stood next to him, along with several other members of the aristocracy.
"You have found her." King James turned his rheumy, unsteady gaze toward the tall man beside her. "And Sir Lachlan, I'm so glad you have joined us once again."
"Your Majesty, 'tis a supreme honor." Lachlan bowed.
Dryden whispered something to another courtier, who whispered to Buckingham. And he proceeded to murmur into the king's ear.
The frail monarch's eyes widened. "The two of you have…met?"
Angelique's face heated. "Non. Not in truth."
The king frowned at his courtiers but his expression lightened when he looked at Lachlan. "It matters not. This is my ward, Lady Angelique Drummagan, the new countess of Draughon in her own right." He motioned toward her. "My dear, meet Sir Lachlan MacGrath, a hero to whom we owe much."
The cursed MacGrath took her hand and kissed it. "'Tis my great pleasure to make your acquaintance, m'lady." His rich baritone and the Scottish burr appealed more than it should have.
In the bright candlelight, she saw he was a most visually interesting man. His tawny hair was too long by far and not of the current style. His eyes gleamed like a tiger's eye stone. It was not the color that arrested her, but the expression—assessing and sensual. She had come upon many a rogue like him in France, and barely escaped marrying one.
She jerked her hand away but remembered her manners just in time and curtsied. Not too deeply, because he didn't deserve even that. "An honor, Sir Lachlan."
A tiny grin lifted one corner of his full lips. Though she already loathed him because he was a Highlander and a debaucher, something about him defied her to look away.
"Through his cunning and sharp wits, Sir Lachlan has saved the life of our dear marquess of Buckingham and broken up the den of conspirators," King James said. "We knighted Sir Lachlan a fortnight ago but we believe he deserves an even greater reward. Do we not, Steenie?"
"He will also receive a title." King James gave her a toothless grin. "Earl of Draughon."
What? Her late father's title?
The shock and silence threatened to render her senseless on the floor. What had the king meant?
"Yes, my dear, I have finally found you the perfect husband. He is Scottish, as you are. He is pleasing to look upon and…"
"Pray pardon…Majesty." Fearing she would faint, she quickly curtsied and fled the stateroom as if Lucifer himself chased her. She would die before she'd marry a Highlander whose favorite pastime was lifting skirts.
Lachlan watched the lovely red-haired lass dash from the room. What the devil had just happened? Had the king said something about a husband? And the earl of something? He shouldn't have drunk so much sack earlier.
He shook his head, attempting to clear it. Facing the king, Lachlan could hardly believe he stood once again in His Majesty's opulent private chambers—Lachlan, a Highlander and a second son with no title, nothing but a canny wit and a sword. During the past several weeks, while he'd been at court, enjoying every moment of the drinking, feasting, hunting and other, more carnal, pursuits, he had not been caught in such a compromising situation. And now His Majesty wished to leg-shackle him to a prickly lass? It made no sense. Clearly, Lachlan had overstayed his welcome and should've already departed for his clan's Kintalon Castle in the Highlands.
"Well, then," King James said. "Has there ever been a bride unafraid of the holy state of matrimony?" He grinned. "A toast!" He motioned to his courtiers and servants, who scrambled about for drinks.
Future bride? Lachlan shook his head. Nay, he could never marry. He loved women too much to settle with only one.
"Your Majesty, pray pardon… what are you saying? You wish me to marry Lady Angelique?"
"Yes, yes. I understand you two already know each other, in a sense." James winked.
"Upon my honor, I did not touch her. She happened upon me in the room where I was napping." Had she already been in there when he and Eleanor had arrived, or had she slipped in later? And who had she been hiding from?
"Very well." The king glared at Dryden. "He did not touch her."
Lachlan accepted a crystal glass of the king's prized Greek wine.
Marriage? God's teeth! 'Twill be a disaster."So, what say you, lad?"
Damnation, he should say naught. He should keep his tongue trapped firmly betwixt his teeth, but given the dozens of aristocratic gazes burning into him, including the king's, he could not play a mute this late in the day. Marriage? He could not entirely grasp the concept, except that it might be torture. But he could not offend the king by refusing. Besides, he had mentioned an earldom, had he not?
"I…I don't rightly ken what to say, Your Majesty, except I thank you. I'm overcome by your generosity." Lachlan bowed. Saints! What did I utter? He was afraid he'd just agreed to get married.
No, not that hot button. LOL. What topic raises your hackles?
Many, many moons ago I used to be a hairdresser. One of the first things I learned in hair school is there are two topics you never discuss with a client: politics and religion. There is a reason for this rule. These are two very sensitive subjects that can bring very passionate, very different reactions out of each person.
Now, before anyone starts gasping behind their hand and whispering that Esme has blogged about a no-no topic, let me be clear that that is not my intention. In this day and age, those are not the only topics that get a person’s defensive attitude revving. There is a wide spectrum of sensitive issues out there that if not handled in the way the reader believes, it’s throw the book against the wall time. I’m simply curious as to what is your topic?
Mine is how some heroines with weight issues are portrayed. I get self-image issues, trust me on that, and I honestly love a book that digs deep into the struggle of self-image. However, once in awhile, I come across a book that really pisses me off. Mostly because the woman’s issues make her completely inadequate in everything she does in her life. I can’t grasp that. I have self-image issues. Horrible ones actually. But that doesn’t mean I’m not confident in every other aspect of my life. Where does it say that just because you don’t like your belly or are carrying around extra weight that you hate, that you have to fail in everything else you do? That you can’t be a strong woman in your career? You can’t refuse to beaten down and fight for what you believe in? It’s a stereotype that is hard for me to swallow.
So what is yours?
I love inner conflict, though I’ll admit that a great kidnapping scene and the hero rushing in to save the day will get me every time. Yes, I’m a damsel in distress, hero on a white horse, Rapunzel let down your hair, sort of reader. Hmm. Maybe this explains my current obsession with Once Upon Time. I love that show and all its fairy tale references. Have you seen it?
Anyway, what I love even more is inner conflict, the fight with one’s self. I’ve seen really bad inner conflict that I didn’t connect with, and some that was freaking awesome that made me feel awful for the characters. Because, you know what?
I really get being torn. Swearing you’ll never do something AGAIN, but meeting that one person that makes you want to take back every vow you’ve ever made to yourself. It’s a tough road, full of past experiences that made you make the decision in the first place. Fighting yourself shouldn’t be easy. It should be one of the hardest things you’ve ever had to do.
I think that is where a lot of inner conflict fails for me. I’ve seen too many stories where it starts with a fantastic inner conflict, that I truly jive with, only to have the hero or heroine do away with their self-made promises too quickly because they’ve met the love interest and it’s an instant switch from great inner conflict to outside conflict.
I’d really prefer to stay with the inner conflict. Even better is a perfect combination of the two.
I have a few vows I’ve made to myself over the last two years, and I won’t share them because I have an idea for a contemporary I’d like to write using them, but to my core I feel like I will never go back on these vows. I have my reason why I’ve made these decisions. They’re deep rooted with a lot of dark chewy soil keeping them planted. But it does make me think, being a romance writer and all, what would happen if I did meet the man who could make me want to rethink my current stance. All I know is right now he’d have to be one hell of a dude to get me to.
So my advice to newer writers, don’t shy away from inner conflict. It really is a potent plotting device. The only thing is: it can’t be shallow. Not something that leaves the readers wondering why in the world she was still harping on it, it wasn’t a big deal.
If it’s stopping your character from her HEA, it IS a big deal. It’s your job to dig deep, and truly understand every crevice of why your character is the way she is, everything that happened in her past to make her who she is. Once you get that, and can transcribe that on the page, the readers will be riveted.
|The Sky Bridge from a different angle. It curves in an interesting way.|
Brrrrr. It’s cold. Our heating went out two days ago, just in time for the coldest days, so far, of this winter. We’re on a first name basis with the heating and air guys, lol, but it looks like we’re finally going to have to say goodbye to them. Our landlord just approved a fancy smancy new heating and air unit. I’m thrilled about the air part. Summer here is miserable. Miserable! And window units don’t do much to hold back the oppressive heat. So I may be shivering in my footy pajamas, but I have comfortable days of summer on my mind. So excited.
Anyway, I’ve been stuck on a scene for a few weeks now, so when the holidays came up it was pretty easy for me to say, “Kids are home. Noise level is up. I’m taking a break from writing.” That’s exactly what I did. I haven’t written anything really since Thanksgiving. Mostly because of this one scene that was just meh, and I mean meeeeeeeh. Nothing was working. It was boring. And nothing I added in seemed to make it any better.
Some writer power through and write anyway. Others go back and rework what they’ve already written because somewhere they’ve painted themselves into a corner.
I walk away.
I’ve learned that some scenes just aren’t ready to be written. Eventually it will be, but at that point in time, it’s just not going to happen and forcing it causes more harm than good.
Sometimes I walk away for only a few hours, sometimes its a few days, and then I have the rare occasion that I take a break for weeks over a scene. Here is what happened and the end result:
After staring at the screen in disgusts for days, I finally closed the project. I mean seriously closed it completely out. I usually keep my current project open 24/7 on my desktop. I didn’t think about the project at all. Honestly because when I did it was with frustration and those I hate this story, it sucks vibes. That’s just bad thinking and doesn’t help cleanse any bad writing mojo. So I just don’t think about it when I get like this.
Monday, a new day, a new year. It was time to revisit old Aidan. I opened up the project and went down to the dreaded scene. I started reading. Huh. This wasn’t complete crap. In fact, it wasn’t crap at all. You say what, Aidan? Really, you want to do that?
And just like that the scene was written.
If I do say so myself, it’s a pretty rockin’ scene now. If I’d powered through, it wouldn’t have been anywhere near the scene I have today. If I’d tweaked the previous chapters, again, it wouldn’t be the same scene.
So I’m okay with walking away when I need to because I know my characters won’t stay silent forever.
Wishing everyone a wonderful New Year!
Thanks for being our guest, Vanessa!! Everyone, here is an excerpt from one of my favorite scenes in Bound to You.