Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Another Drive-By

Sorry to keep doing this to ya'll, but just three more days and I'll be done with finals, thank goodness!

Here's an excerpt from Leading Her to Heaven, which is being released in ebook this Friday, and in print March 15, 2008.

Blair Ruthven was experiencing something strange -- for him. He was nervous. Over a woman, of all things. Nerves before going into battle would be understandable, though Blair himself never had them, but nerves over a woman? It was downright embarrassing.

He paced the length of the great hall, back and forth, back and forth, like a caged beast. He hadn't bothered to unhook his sporran or his broadsword when he'd returned, and the accessories smacked against his thigh now as he stalked to and fro. The bright reds and greens of his mantle were a contrast to his tawny, sun-weathered skin, aqua-blue eyes, and unruly, brown hair. Four tight braids framed his strong, masculine face, while the rest of his long mane was left free, hanging down his back to just below his shoulder blades.

It had been three months since he'd signed the marriage contract, but the entire thing had seemed rather surreal to him until this morning, when the messenger had arrived with word that his bride to be would be leaving her father's estate and heading north within the week.

Blair had sent back that he would meet her in Edinburgh and accompany her the rest of the way to Perthshire, his family seat and her new home. Things were quiet for once; a begrudging peace of sorts had been reached between his clan and the Murrays to the south. And the Robertsons to the north were too damn scared of him to try anything foolish while he was gone. He could always send someone to meet his fiancée on his behalf - his brother, perhaps - but he preferred to go himself.

"I wager she's fat an' ugly," his younger brother announced, interrupting Blair's internal monologue. He was sitting at the end of the long dining table, one booted foot propped irreverently on the tabletop, a clay stein in his fist. "All English wenches are."

Blair sighed and ran a hand across the stubble of his beard. "I was promised she is'na fat."

Indeed, the messenger from the English king had come bearing a small portrait of the girl and, if the painting was accurate, she was the farthest thing from fat and ugly the Scottish Laird had ever seen. But he'd also heard stories of the king's crafty use of deception and trickery to get what he wanted. Still, he'd kept the tiny portrait; it sat in his bedchamber now. He hadn't shown it to anyone else, especially not his brother. For some reason, he didn't want any other man to see her.

"Granted," his brother continued as if he hadn't spoken, "I do no mind some fat on my wenches, but for Henry not to want her, she must be dumpy in all the wrong places."

"Ceallach!" Blair exclaimed, using his brother's Gaelic name, as he often did when he was annoyed with him. Which was most of the time. "Ye speak of my future wife!"

"Aye, and it would'na do for ye to get yer hopes up, bràthair." Kelly took another swig of whiskey. "Why did ye ever agree to this?"

Blair sighed. He was tempted to grab the whiskey from his brother's hand and down it himself. Getting good and drunk, that would solve his problems. He couldn't remember the last time he'd been truly intoxicated. He wasn't sure, honestly, why he'd signed the marriage contract. James had been in favor of the match, but would not have forced him into it had he put up a fight, and Blair knew it. "The King thinks it will be good for Scotland," he said finally, the excuse sounding hollow even to his own ears. Good for Scotland -- right. When had a Ruthven ever given a damn about that?

"Aye, an' a nightmare for ye. Fat an' ugly, bràthair, mark my words."

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