Here’s probably the last excerpt from Sons of Alba, Book One: Son of Strength before it goes to the publisher. Hope you enjoy!
When Iseabail gave Thorfinn’s leg her seal of approval, he could barely wait to be up and out of the castle. The first fair day they had, he was begging to go and follow Donnchad everywhere. Mathair relented, but only on the condition that Liosa go along to keep him out of trouble. Liosa secretly doubted her ability to keep her hard-headed brother from following his own way, but she kept her thoughts to herself. She wasn’t about to destroy her own chances at freedom.
They found the prince playing at camanachd with the young warband, charging like a herd of deer up and down the fields in the streaming afternoon sunshine. Thorfinn’s excitement was at a fever pitch as they rode up to the sidelines. He wanted to join them, but Liosa shook her head before he even asked.
Donnchad stopped the game and ran over to greet them, his face flushed and his dark hair wild. “Glad to see you about, a Prionsa,” he said to Thorfinn. Glancing up at Liosa, he smiled and smoothed his hair behind his ears.
“Please, don’t stop on our account,” Liosa said from horseback. “We’d love to watch.”
Donnchad grinned and ran back to join his team. A youth with brown hair and a scant beard shouted Donnchad’s name and knocked the ball in his direction. Donnchad whirled his stick deftly and hit the ball midair, sending it to another teammate. Then he barreled through a knot of opponents that stood between him and the goal. His teammate passed back, but a defender tipped the ball away.
Donnchad changed direction with surprising agility for a lad of his size. Turning with a mighty twist, he whacked the ball with all his might, sending it like an arrow through an impossibly small gap and into the goal. His teammates cheered and his opponents roared in rage, and the play continued. Liosa, despite her ambivalence to the sport of men, followed the ball with uncharacteristic attention. The young warriors played with unreserved joy, giving every ounce of strength for the love of their game. They played like heroes, and Donnchad was their hero-king.
It was a near thing, but in the end Donnchad and his team were victorious. They gathered by their two spectators to talk about the game. Thorfinn was the loudest of all. But Donnchad hovered ever near Liosa’s horse.
“Come on, Donnchad!” one of the warriors called. “Let’s go and get something to eat!”
“Ah, leave him!” said another. “He’s not thinking of his stomach just now.”
The lads erupted in raucous laughter. Liosa didn’t understand the jest at first.
“Yes, leave him to his pretty maid!”
Then comprehension dawned, along with the bloom of blood in her cheeks. The boys were teasing Donnchad about her. He glanced at her, and his face was as red as hers. His eyes apologized.
“She’s not his, an Amadan. Who’d want a lout like Donnchad, anyway?”
More laughter. Donnchad’s lips compressed tightly as he drew further within himself. The poor lad was humiliated! Liosa had to do something.
“I’ve been remiss!” she called, her clear voice sailing above the low bass rumble of the warriors’ shouts. As one, they all turned to gape at her in surprise. Yes, I have a mind of my own, she thought wryly.
“What is it, a Bhan-Prionsa?” Donnchad asked through a face pinched in acute misery.
“I’ve forgotten to bestow a prize upon the winner.”
“And what do you suggest?”
“A kiss, for the victorious captain.”
Before Donnchad could speak, she leaned down from the saddle and brushed her lips against his upturned brow. She smiled as she pulled away, unable to tear her eyes from his shocked, yearning gaze. Then, amid the raucous cheer that went up, she turned her horse back toward the castle.
“Is anyone coming?” she asked, looking over her shoulder. Her heart was pounding at what she’d just done. It would be better if her kiss had meant nothing to Donnchad. But she rather hoped it had meant everything.
As always, please feel free to comment and give feedback of any kind! I’m always looking to improve my writing. Also, feel free to share your own work.