I'm sorry! It's just a mite too soon to be sending out little tasters from AFTER WHORL-BRAN REBORN, my historical adventure romance that will be published on 16th December 2013.
Keep checking in though, so that you don't miss anything when I start to post them.
Instead, I'll give you a snip from The Beltane choice , Book 1 in my Celtic Fervour series.
Although Lorcan is the main character in Book 1, he has a number of lovely brothers, one of whom is called Brennus. Brennus gets a lot more of the attention in AFTER WHORL- BRAN REBORN so if you haven't met him yet here's your chance. (Below is what I imagine Brennus to look like!)
The story so far:
Nara, a princess of the Selgovae tribe of what is now southern Scotland, has been taken captive by Lorcan - a prince of the Brigantes, of the area that is now the northenmost part of England. Lorcan meets up with his band of warriors who are sheltering overnight in a cave before moving on to their hillfort of Garrigill the next morning. Amongst Lorcan's band of avenging warriors is his brother Brennus.
Nara is meeting Brennus now....
“Brennus? Who guards?”
Urging her to walk beyond to the rounding of the rock face, Lorcan followed in her wake. Without warning a torch brand thrust out flaring yellowish in the moonlight. She reared back when the dark shape of an immense warrior came into view from behind the flames.
“Lorcan, my brother! What kept you so long? So…this is what delayed you?” A gusty roar broke free, bouncing off the echoing walls as the young warrior took his fill of her.
The man’s teasing tone made Nara shrink back against Lorcan. She felt his supporting hand at her back, her mouth suddenly parched. Soon there would be four more of them around her. The prospect filled her with horror.
“This is who delayed me, Brennus.” Lorcan’s tone was firm and decisive while he pushed her reluctant body forward.
A huge cavern was set back from a wide bend in the cliff-face, the front of it a natural open shelf jutting out for five or six paces beyond an overhang which ceilinged high above them. The shelter stretched back so deep Nara could only see a hint of the far wall in the dim light shed by the flickering fire. A clutch of horses were tethered over on the far side of the wide opening, snorting and whinnying gently. One warrior sat guard near them, ensuring no animal strayed too near the edge. A heap of brushwood had been dumped just inside the opening, in far enough to be away from the elements, but the fire was a few paces back and centrally situated.
Nara sensed Brennus’s interest as Lorcan passed over their horses’ reins. Brennus’s silent scrutiny was embarrassing, sexual appraisal clear in the flaring torchlight. She was puzzled. Did this warrior find her desirable? This was only the second Brigante she had ever met, and he too was blatant in his sexual appraisal.
Brennus, though younger than his brother, was at least half a head taller than Lorcan with much wider shoulders. A powerful warrior, his shock of blond hair attractive, he was in fact more handsome than Lorcan, but he made no blood-rush in her veins.
Her gaze trailed Lorcan while he crossed over to one of the horses on the far side rubbing it reassuringly when it whinnied a welcome–evidently his own–while Brennus stroked the flanks of Rowan as he moved the stallion, and Eachna, over to the herd.
“This is a mighty stallion, Lorcan. If you do not claim him I would be happy to. Too bad his former master is not in good shape, not like this powerful beast.”
Brennus’s chuckle rang out across the cavern while Lorcan reached forward and detached the packs of meat from Rowan’s flanks, to dump them on the ground nearby.
Nara swallowed awkwardly. Brennus spoke of Cearnach. Ignored by them both she headed for the warmth of the fire where lingering food smells revitalised her appetite, her empty stomach growling in anticipation of being filled. The warmth of the burning logs licked out to her cold body, their instant heat searing her freezing cheeks; the smell of the smouldering wood reassuring. Throwing her bratt back from her shoulders her bare arms welcomed the fire’s radiance when she stretched her hands out to its blue-tinged orange glow.
The three warriors surrounding the crackling fire had been chatting quietly around its dancing light, smoky sparks billowing around the walls and upwards into the darkness hovering around the natural ceiling, creating strange shadowy shapes around the edges of the cavern–but on Nara’s approach all conversation stopped while they stared.
Loud guffaws were followed by vulgar comments.
“Now we know why you tarried.” One young warrior gestured lewdly at Lorcan, his laugh a ribald hoot. “Took your time, did you, Lorcan? Not a boy? Instead it is a woman well grown.”
Nara went on full alert when the warrior’s speech faded, his gaze blatantly feasting on her face and chest.
Yet another reached out to snake a hand around her calf, dragging her close to him. Kicking out wildly she barked, “Keep your hands and comments to yourself!”
“Ah hah! A woman with spirit. Is that why you kept her, Lorcan? And with the sign of the spear on her arm? Come closer, Selgovae captive.”
The man laughed, ignoring the fact her kicks had connected hard on his thigh, the impact much more effective than her feeble attack on Lorcan of Garigill. The warrior’s hands continued to snake around her legs as he scrambled to his knees not put off by her censure, or lunges, at all. His words cajoled, a feral gleam lit his eyes in the sparkling firelight, his tongue snaked over his upper lip hair, and his slashing scars stretched his cheeks.
The third man joined in the amusement, his hands tugging at her bratt.
Nara batted his head while she struggled, but the warrior snared her to his body, his brawny arms imprisoning. Then she was free…but only to be trapped in the arms of the first one. Too late to remember Lorcan’s warning about staying close by him. Was she now to be left to these ravening beasts to slake their lust on? Was Lorcan going to let his marauding band do as they would and then dispatch her?
The thought was horrifying but, by Rhianna, she would not go down without a screeching fight!
The three warriors tussled her protesting body back and forth, their wicked mirth of what they would do to her echoing around the cavern, till she stumbled and fell to her knees. One of them forced her to the ground and had her flat and squirming under him before she could retaliate. His lips slammed down making her want to retch while she bit and struggled free. His hands were all over her breasts, squeezing to the point of pain, his lower body grinding hard against her as she shrieked and scratched any part of him she could reach. Her strength was all but gone when the hands lifted away from her body, the crushing lips plucked away and her legs were no longer compressed into the cavern floor.
She truly was free.
Strong arms had hauled the warrior off her, and only then did she hear the crack of Lorcan’s fists connecting brutally with the warrior’s jaw–a double blow which smacked the smaller man across the cavern floor. Lorcan followed with his body as he hauled the warrior upright and renewed the attack of his fists to the man’s chin. Another two blows followed, the warrior’s retaliation halted by Lorcan twisting the man’s arm behind his back and holding him in an excruciating arm lock.
“You will leave the woman alone, Fergal!” Lorcan’s command was ferocious as he dropped the grip and thrust Fergal to the ground, his glares even more severe as the warrior lay prostrate nursing his already swelling jaw.
Nara looked at Lorcan, a flush of relief at being free of the warriors’ clutches making her legs tremble and her breath hitch in her throat, glad she was not on the receiving end of his powerful fists. Yet, though he defended her he did not look towards her; not yet finished with his men. When he strode to confront the other two, his decree was severe.
“None of you will touch her. Do you hear me?”
“I hear you,” Fergal slurred while he noisily clicked his jaw back in place. He did not seem pleased with the situation but did as Lorcan bid as he slunk out of the cavern, no longer amused. The other two sat down, looking equally displeased. Not ashamed, nor apologetic…riled they had been thwarted in their pursuit.
Nara sidled closer to Lorcan. For protection. To feel less threatened, if that were possible, for the hostility in the cavern was palpable, their insolent stares continuing. It lay heavy on her conscience that she sidled closer to the man she had been trying to escape from earlier.
“Then what does she here?”
It mattered not who blurted the question; Nara was sure it was in all of their minds.
“Enough!” Lorcan snarled into the tense silence. “It was not the horse of a boy, as we had expected, but the Selgovae woman is my captive.”
The men looked away from her and stared into the flickering fire, frustrated tension knotting their neck and arm muscles. Nara felt they were only a short breath away from defying Lorcan while she stood close to him. Though the situation remained volatile, Lorcan’s order permitted no opposition, his rage visible in every taut muscle when he hunched over the fire warming his hands. He rubbed his bruised knuckles where he had contacted with Fergal’s jaw, then he removed Cearnach’s bratt and spread it down.
Scowling like black fury, he nodded that she should sit down, but she held back for the notion of sitting close to his warriors repulsed her. The same warriors who had been pawing her body only moments before. Though Lorcan still glowered he did not force her; he ignored her while his gaze searched around the fire’s edges.
“Is there food?” His clipped inquiry fell into the uncomfortable silence.
One warrior responded. “Some. It was already darkening when we reached the river track. We killed and guddled sufficient, not expecting more than you.” Reaching towards the fire’s edge the warrior extracted a long stick with the roasted meat of a small animal still clinging to it and indicated baked fish wrapped in leaves.
“Nay, you would not have expected more than me, but this cooked food is better than what we had earlier.” Thanking him, Lorcan rose to approach the horses.
A small glow suffused Nara, since she could only interpret his words as also meaning her.
Removing a chunk of boar meat from its wrapping, Lorcan passed it over. “Here. Fresh kill, but it should fill us a bit more.”
“Aye, but I could not lug the whole beast. That is all we will reap from the kill this night.”
Without a word the warrior’s sharp blade flashed, sectioning the ribs into smaller portions. In moments they sizzled on the fire, the smell tantalizing Nara’s hungry stomach.
Another shiver of apprehension beset her. They had not expected him to bring a live captive, and certainly not a woman. The silence was like a thick bratt all around–heavy, and threatening. She held back from the fire when Lorcan settled again, unsure about going closer. Sensing her still paces away, he confronted her.
“Sit here, woman.” His order was gruff and detached. “By the warmth.”
The warriors edged away leaving a good space, still dissatisfied she was not there for their amusement, distinct resentment abounding. Disturbing shivers overwhelmed her slender frame. Her captor, Lorcan, had to be her protective buffer against their threatening proximity. Close to him, her leg deliberately touched his for reassurance. When he slid his body away, she shivered. He wanted no contact with her. Feeling deeply vulnerable she faced the intimidating scowls.
A complete hush descended before the men restarted their previous conversation. Lorcan passed her a share of the already cooked meat, as he had still not relinquished her own knife. No meat tasted finer as she nibbled, the overcooked drying fish coming a close second. The lightly sizzled boar ribs were soon shared out amongst everyone when they had cooked sufficiently, murmurs of appreciation breaking the high-strung silence.
One by one the men rose from the fire and wandered outside, chatting coarsely together, breaking the inharmonious lull.
Nara’s head bent to dispel humiliation. A light touch at her elbow raised her face as Lorcan’s eyes sought hers in the flickering darkness. A hint of warmth, a softening maybe, lurked there? She was not sure…
“It is to be expected.” His whisper was for her ears alone.
She knew Lorcan’s men were circumspect; their ribaldry could have been much coarser; their actions harder to control. It seemed Lorcan had saved her virginity, and maybe even her life, yet again.
Lorcan turned to Brennus when he sat down beside them. “Well, little brother? Did you have success in the chase?”
Little? Nara smiled at the cavern floor. A misnomer indeed for Brennus was a colossus.
“Nay. I did not follow his trail of blood.” Brennus’s answer was gruff.
“If the gods wish him to live it will be well; if not, there will be a reckoning.”
“Should you have brought the woman here, Lorcan?” Brennus’s voice was hesitant.
Nara winced and lifted her eyes to Lorcan, wondering what he would say.
“Discussion of her will come on the morrow.” Lorcan’s tone was unyielding.
Though he spoke to his brother he held her gaze, his unfathomable. A question hovered; she knew the answer to it for she still had not told him all. When she gave no response, he stood up with an offhand grunt, scowled, and strode off.
Nara trembled, not from cold, but from trepidation. He abandoned her. Her throat hoarse, she watched him approach his horse where he withdrew his own cloak from a dangling pouch. Returning, he spread it behind her. Relieved, her breathing restarted.
“Sleep there. Your own bratt will cover you.”
She scrambled to her feet, looking to the cavern entrance. “I must…”