A couple weeks ago on Red Pencil Thursday when I didn’t have a volunteer, I posted the first 500 words from my current work in progress. It’s a Scottish set novella that’s due out from Kensington in September 2013. Several of you asked for the next 500, so I thought I’d oblige you.
Fife halted when they reached the castle drawbridge. “Shall I ride on alone, milady, and leave the laird know ye’re waiting without?”
“No,” Morgan answered for her. “We dinna want him to see her for the first time looking like something the cat dragged back to the stoop. We’ll blend in with the rest of the folk in the bailey till we find the steward. Then he can whisk the lady away to her quarters where she can be made presentable.”
Irritation sizzled along Cait’s spine. She might as well have been a prize heifer to be groomed for judging at a fair. Unfortunately, Morgan’s logic was sound. The success of the plan, which only she and he were privy to, depended upon her bridegroom being pleased with her.
They rode through the portcullis and handed over their mounts to the stable lads who led them away to stalls butting the tall curtain wall. They were asked politely, but firmly, to leave their weapons on the stack by the barbican. The castle was under the bond of peace this day.
“See to milady,” Morgan told the others. “I’ll find the steward.”
“I’m hopin’ he takes his time,” Grizel said.
Cait hoped so too. There were rows of makeshift booths set up all around the bailey for them to explore. Tinkers mended pots and pans and offered new tin gewgaws for sale. Drapers displayed lengths of linen in saffron yellow, vibrant green and snowy white. Sweet-meat sellers and puppeteers had all the children in thrall, their sticky faces alight with wonder at the exploits of the glove puppets.
“Milady,” Barclay said, a gruff warning in his tone. “Dinna wander off.”
“There’s no harm here,” Cait said as she continued to stroll by the booths, stopping to admire a cunningly wrought necklace of amber set in silver. “All weapons are forbidden, remember.”
Barclay and Fife exchanged a guilty look. Somewhere on their disreputable persons they’d secreted a blade or two. Maybe even a small mace.
She couldn’t really scold them. There was a four-inch dagger hidden in the busk of her bodice which she would never think of surrendering, whether the castle was under the bond of peace or not. Not only did she wear it almost constantly, she knew how to use it.
But before she could ask what small arsenals their plaids concealed, a clattering uproar erupted on the other side of the bailey. A tall, skeletal man was dragging a much smaller one to the pillory in the center of the open space. Cait was swept along with the other fair-goers as they crowded toward this new spectacle. She and Grizel were separated from Barclay and Fife by the press of people.
“But I didna do anything,” the little fellow wailed.
“Ye’ve been cheating people all day.”
“I . . . I demand to see the laird to lay my case before him.”
Clearly the miscreant was grasping at anything to avoid time in the pillory. Cait’s father had often expounded on the character qualities of the laird of Bonniebroch. The list didn’t include mercy.
Thanks for letting me try out my WIP on you. As always, I welcome your comments and suggestions.Please note: The image of the yummy Scotsman is courtesy of Jenn LeBlanc at Illustrated Romance.