Excerpt: Secrets of Midnight

Excerpt: Secrets of Midnight

Book One: The Man of My Dreams

“She’s coming right for the stable, my lord! Oh, cover me up, I’m begging you! She’s seen me and she’s got that look on her face—fit to kill, God help me!”

“Who’s fit to kill?” Donovan demanded, but he got no answer as Gilbert burrowed like a frightened mole into the filthy straw and horse dung.

Cursing, Donovan dropped the shovel and went to the stable doors just in time to see the most curious sight—an auburn-haired wench riding recklessly toward the entrance atop a black and white pony with the rolling gait of a foundering ship, her plain brown cloak flying like a sail behind her, her legs so long and the stout little pony so squat that the stirrups were bouncing uselessly, the irate rider’s feet skimming the ground.

For Donovan could see that the young woman was furious. As if he weren’t standing there, she dismounted at a run and swept past him into the stable, dark eyes ablaze, her face flushed pink with indignation.

“Where are you, Henry Gilbert? I saw you run in here, you sniveling rat! You’ll not hide from me again!”

Donovan watched in bemused silence as she crisscrossed from stall to stall, kicking at the straw. A jilted mistress? Some local chit found herself in the family way and left to fend for herself? If so, Gilbert had clearly scorned the wrong woman. As she reached the last of the stalls, not having found her quarry, she lunged for a pitchfork resting in a corner.

“Come out now and face me like a man, you worm! If you can have a hand in taking the food from a babe’s mouth, then you can answer for it too!” With that, she jabbed at the straw in the closest stall, then the next, drawing nearer and nearer to where poor Gilbert lay huddled.

“I’d suggest you show yourself, Gilbert,” Donovan advised dryly, thinking that whatever the man had done to inspire such wrath, he probably deserved it. “She’s got a pitchfork—”

“Yes, I do, and I certainly don’t need your help, thank you very much!” Corisande said in exasperation, whirling upon the resonant male voice that had sounded behind her. She could see a tall strapping shape in the shadows, but the morning sunlight was so bright coming in from the stable doors that she couldn’t make out the man’s face. “Just go about your work, whoever you are, and I’ll tend to my own business!”

She did, too, turning back to the stalls with a vengeance and stabbing the pitchfork into another heaping pile of straw as the horses added their nervous whinnying to the fray. But just as she came to the last partition, the pitchfork poised above a suspicious-looking lump that bore the rounded leather point of a man’s boot at one end, Corisande’s weapon was wrested from her so suddenly that she fell backward, crying out as a steely masculine arm clamped around her waist.

“I think that’s enough, Miss—”

“Easton. Corisande Easton!” came Gilbert’s muffled voice. “The parson’s daughter, God help us!”