As I’ve said to my husband, Seumas has been behaving like a little jerk. One of the fun quirks of being an author – when a character won’t cooperate. Poor Seumas – he tries! Here’s the latest excerpt of Sons of Alba, Book 2: Son of Redemption.
The revelry of the feast – the best Seumas had ever attended – had no power to cheer him. He sat sullenly over his trencher, pushing food around and eating little. Of drink, however, he took his share and more. Dadaidh gave him more than one glance of warning.
“Seumas Ruaidh …” he said at last, and Seumas stood abruptly, took his jar of ale with him, and stomped out into the corridor. There was a handy little nook in the wall – a hollowed out alcove with an arrow slit above a bench, just big enough for Seumas and his ale.
He made short work of the ale jar. Glancing into the empty vessel, he debated whether or not to fetch another, but decided he’d rather stay and put it down on the floor beside him. It tipped over, and rolled a distance away. With a heavy groan of frustration, he moved to retrieve it, but stopped. There were voices at the end of the hall.
Peering around the corner of his refuge, Seumas saw the unmistakeable bulk of his cousin at the open doorway into the courtyard, flanked by his staghound puppy and his father’s dog. A young woman, tall and willowy with long light brown hair walked up to him. The Ard Righ’s granddaughter.
As he watched, they shared a conversation he couldn’t hear, but their manner with each other was obvious. They knew each other well, rather better than Seumas wagered the Ard Righ would think they ought. Confirming his suspicions, the princess leaned into his embrace, he kissing the top of her head. Then they parted, Donnchad kissed her hands, and they returned to the feast. The corridor was silent once more.
It was the final stone on a cairn of injustices. His cousin had everything – the kingdom, the castle, the wealth, the acclaim, even the princess of all Alba. He clenched his fists in vexation.
A serving girl swept along the corridor, laden with a tray of pastries for the feast. She saw the forgotten ale jar and picked it up, muttering under her breath. Then she caught sight of Seumas in his hiding place and gasped.
“Oh! You startled me. I did not see you there.”
He smiled a lopsided half-smile at her. She was a pretty thing, her hair in loose brown waves framing a pleasantly round face with open green eyes, and a still more pleasantly round figure. Seumas felt a familiar stirring he’d not noticed since before the battle.
“I’m sorry to frighten you. I just had to get away from all the merriment.”
“Oh, I know you. You’re Donnchad mac Dhomhnaill’s … I mean, the Righ, now … his cousin.”
“Seumas mac Ruairi.” He chased her eyes, looking for another glimpse of the flicker he’d caught when she’d spoken his cousin’s name. “And yes, Donnchad is my cousin.”
Yes, there it was – an eager light of interest, with a distinctly sad shadow behind it. This one loved his cousin. And she knew she’d lost him, too.
“I’m surprised he hasn’t snatched you up, a pretty girl like you.” He stood up from the bench and took the tray from her hands before she could protest. Before he knew what he was even doing. He set down the tray on the bench.
She blushed prettily. “Oh, no. The Righ is much too high for one such as I to hope for.”
The girl said it as though repeating someone else’s words. They probably were – like the countless maxims his parents constantly quoted at him.
“What’s your name, a chaileag alainn?”
She coloured still more. “Giorsal.”
“Giorsal.” He repeated the name in the exact tone of voice that made a girl melt – the exact tone that made Fionnaghal melt.
The thought of Fionnaghal gave him pause. He remembered the feeling of her close to him, the trust in her eyes, and guilt and longing mingled in him. Then he imagined her eyes tinged with reproach as she judged him and found him wanting. She couldn’t understand him, no more than his parents could. He banished her shade and focused on the very real girl before him.
She was breathing quickly, the flush not fading from her cheeks, her honest eyes wide – ripe as the barley at harvest, as ready as a grazing deer before the hunter’s bow. He took her hand, felt the racing pulse in her wrist, a flutter but not a flinch. He smiled and took the other hand, and slowly, very slowly, drew her closer.
Then he leaned toward her, as carefully as he would approach a skittish horse, and kissed her. Just a little kiss, a mere brush of the lips, close enough to feel a warm plume of her breath and then away.
Her eyes were very wide now, her lips parted ever so slightly. He smiled again and brushed a lock of hair back from her face, then slipped his hand to the nape of her neck. Her eyes closed by reflex, and she was his for the taking, if he wanted her.
He kissed her again, this time deeply, felt her open to his lips like a bloom.
“Seumas Ruaidh, a word, if you please.” Dadaidh’s voice was deadly calm, like a forest with no birds.
Giorsal took a sudden step away, the back of her hand pressed against her lips and her eyes wide in surprise. Then she took up her tray and disappeared into the great hall.
Dadaidh stood in the hall, his muscled arms crossed over his chest, his face dark and fierce. Seumas turned to face him, fists clenched in defiance, chin raised as a defense against the shame that threatened to engulf him.
“A mhac, I …”
Seumas gave him no chance to speak. “I’ll never be a man to you, will I?” He stalked through the door into the great hall, escaping his father in the sea of revels.
Let me know what you think! And feel free to share your own excerpts for critique, too. 🙂