Today I can announce that the Lyrical Press First Frost Anthology will be available on the 11th of November 2013
I am so pleased to have one of my short stories in this collection.
Here is a little taster to entice you to read my story Keep The Fire Burning.
Each time he looked her way, his lingering gaze caressed her and a shivery rush of pleasure rose on her skin. She did wish he’d stop because it would do her no good to capture more wonderful memories of this precious time with him. She’d get him back to the castle somehow, maybe late tomorrow, judging by his limping, and then she’d return to her village and offer her aunt her humble apologies for being out so long.
Him being a prince, chances were her reputation would be tarnished after a night in the forest, even if she claimed they hadn’t done more than walk and sleep. She didn’t care, for she’d live the rest of her days remembering his closeness, his fragrant male scent and the gentleness in his eyes when he’d said he was too much for her to bear. A quivery little sigh left her.
“Cora? Do you need to rest?”
His concerned expression melted her inside and she shuddered with the need for something she could scarce name. “No,” she whispered. “Old Gerald’s hut is near. The place has been deserted since he died but it’s still sound, or it was before the tremor. I sheltered there one time when a rainstorm came. I hope the place survived the earthquake.”
“You mean for us to spend the night up here on the Ridgeway?”
Heat flooded her cheeks, and if her limbs grew any softer, she might not stand. “Yes, for we can’t toil like this after dark. We might lose our way. The wolves might come, or worse. There is food in the saddlebag and drink too. We’ll have enough to survive.”
Why did he doubt the pack held food and drink enough? And why had he been bathing naked in the magic pool in the mountain before the tremor happened? And why did she ache to be as close to him as she could? She opened her mouth to ask but thought better of it. “We’ll last the night, my prince.”
“Stay a moment?”
“Forgive me. I’ve only ever hunted in the forest. I’ve never hunted on the paths up to the Ridgeway, only ever ridden here to the cavern with the pool. Walking in the forest is as unfamiliar to me as the court would be to you.”
“That’s alright. I know the common paths and where I can usually find shelter or mushrooms.”
“Yes, they go in the pot and help the meal spread for more days, or for more mouths. My aunt wanted a good many of them, but sadly I found none today. I’m afraid my aunt will be annoyed. I’ll take so long to get back and then arrive bearing no mushrooms at all.”
“Fear not, fair Cora, I will explain everything.”
“You can’t. You’ll be in the castle.” She didn’t add, and we’ll never meet again, for to say the words would be a bitter squib in such a wondrous day.
“Once I am home I’ll have horses to ride to your village, have gold sent by the sack if I choose, and gifts such a wise and fair maiden would welcome.”
A little shudder of pleasure raced through her, swiftly followed by the response she’d been taught to make to lustful knights or merchants with a heavy purse. “Sir, I might only be from a village but even so, I’m not for sale. I’ve helped you because it was the right thing to do and for no other reason.”
His brows drew together and his cheeks flushed. “I wasn’t trying to buy you, but reward you.”
She squeezed his hip. “For now let’s not talk about anything but getting to the hut, sire, please?”
He nodded and they took a couple paces.
“I didn’t mean to offend you, Cora.”
“Oh, my prince, you didn’t offend me. It’s the rest of the world and all it exacts in payment for living that offends me.”
“You make the world sound a sad place.”
Half hidden in the last of the ripe wealth of summer growth, with tall weeds and summer flowers lingering, stood Gerald’s hut. She lurched to a standstill. “Look you, sire. We’ve found it.”
“Gerald was a charcoal burner. His hut is simple, but he always encouraged all kinds of plants here. He said just because his job might be dark, it didn’t mean he had no heart for the light. You rest on this log.” She eased him onto the big log old Gerald had placed so he could enjoy the evening sun.
“Did you know Gerald well?”
She nodded. “Yes. He was a friend of my grandfather.” An edge of pride and slither of pain sharpened her voice. “Not that it matters. He was a good man and he’d not mind us using the hut for a night. I’ll gather some kindling for a fire. You look to see if there is a tinderbox in the pack?” She handed over the saddlebag and paused for a second, frozen by the Prince’s handsome features and the tilt to his jaw as he smiled. A little sigh escaped her before she eased off the basket straps from her shoulders. No man had ever made her long so much to be something she was not.
“Don’t go too far,” he called, as she crossed the clearing by the hut. “The dark will come soon.”
“It will if you don’t find the tinder box,” she called back, and bending, picked up small scraps of lichen and bits of twiggy growth to put in her basket. Being a prince, he might not understand the importance of a fire for safety as well as warmth, and she’d bet he’d never slept in anything but a feather bed. Tonight he was in for a few surprises.
What will I do if he surprises me? Fiery heat scorched her cheeks at her hope for such wickedness.
A tingling of delicious goose-bumps pebbled her skin. Her friend Rose had whispered with a massive grin the morning after her marriage night, “Gavin said he’s never been so hot in his life.”
A little wave of prickles raced down her spine. Perhaps if she got a good fire going the prince would be warm enough without any need for her help. Unable to resist, she looked back to where he sat in the sunlight rummaging through the saddlebag. He glanced up and smiled, waved the tinderbox with an expression of triumph, and his glowing brown eyes stole the decision from her. If he wanted her to warm him tonight, she’d be glad to do it.