Excerpts from The Luck of Two Magpies, copyright 2012
May not be reproduced without author’s specific permission
“Squire!” Lord Grifon bore down on them, Herculean strides all but making the earth shudder.
Elisa tried out a curtsey. “You startled us, my lord.”
He fixed her with a curious stare, then aimed a scowl at his squire. “What in Lucifer’s name do you here?”
Jack bolted upright. “M-my lord! I offered to acquaint Lady Elisa with the well.”
Lord William sputtered something unintelligible until his voice found a pitch somewhere between incredulous and volcanic. “The lady whom?”
The poor squire staggered so badly she snatched at his arm.
“Unhand my man!” the Earl commanded, turning the full brunt of his temper on his squire. “How dare you call any woman—let alone a lady—by her Christian name?! Have you learned naught? Think you the rules of chivalry old-fashioned? They are not! They are as essential a part of knighthood as knowing how to repair a greave during battle!”
Jack had gone quite pale. That Lord Grifon irritated her was a fact of life, but to find out that he frightened his own squire, who held him in such warm regard, was intolerable.
She whisked away all traces of her scowl, fixing the Earl with round eyes and a simpy smile. “Excuse me, lord,” she cooed in a syrupy voice.
His eyes bulged; his arms twitched. “What is it, ma dame?!”
She batted her eyelashes and flounced from one hip to the other. “What’s a greave?”
The whites of his eyes were so red that their blue irises took on a neon hue. He spluttered, unable to answer. Well, truth be said, he looked about ready to have a fit.
She focused a saccharin smile on him. “Will you pitch a penny in the well and wish with us, my lord?”
“Why would I throw away my good money?” he said through clenched teeth. “And hereafter, you will not interfere with my squire’s training! He has much to learn in addition to his chores.” His glower had physical mass, so that aimed at Jack, the Squire caved as if punched. “You were to fetch Penny for me near an hour past!” He jerked his head in the direction of the stables.
Jack fled at once, leaving the Earl to loom over her. “And here is a lesson for you to learn, as well.” His face was a foot from hers and as red as a beet. “Our women are not so familiar as to put their hands upon men who are not known to them.”
“Why, he would have fallen if I hadn’t held him up!”
“As I said, lady. Our women do not take such liberties with men they know not!”
“Then I’m awfully happy I’m not your woman!” She’d had about all she could stomach from William Grifon today, and it wasn’t even noon.
His glower took her in from eyes to mouth and back until his anger no longer carombed off her, until his face was close enough that she felt the warmth of his breath on her nose. He was about to kiss her!
Her mouth fell open. “Hic!”
He reeled backward, the color gone from his face. It came back in a rush as an arrogant smile twisted his features. “That is twice you did try to kiss me, and twice have I resisted.”
“Me?! Why you—Bite me!”
“And that is twice you did make the offer! One day I shall happily take you up on it.” He spun about and marched off stiffly, ranting loud enough to be heard. “Great saints! She will drive me to madness.”
“You betcha, Buck-o!” she yelled.
It was amazing the way the air seemed to part for him. His feet sank into the rows Jack and she had trod on, and as he approached the sycamore tree, the magpies ceased their jarring cries so suddenly she thought she’d gone deaf. “Oh, hell!” she said, as much to reassure herself she hadn’t as anything else.
She slid off Dasher’s back and climbed the rocks, settling on a flat boulder to view an idyllic meadow scene—a perimeter of young pines swaying softly, red squirrels gorging themselves on nuts. It would be nice if William were here. Despite her fear and resistance, she had to admit she had feelings for him. But did he have feelings for her? Had she confused courtesy for caring, and polite conversation for attraction? Was the kiss they shared on their picnic merely an exploratory foray found lacking?