Saturday, November 8, 2008

Saturday Book News


Chapter One

Coast of England ‐ 1079

All noise ceased as the immense Viking entered the inn. His green

eyes  surveyed  the  scene  quickly,  then  his  strong  legs  carried  him

purposely toward the bar, where Esmeralda Handrian attempted to cover

her nudity with the shredded remains of her gown. Was he to be her fate,

then?  The  nuns  who  had  raised  her  had  not  prepared  her  for  the

possibility  of  being  abandoned  by  her  traveling  companions.  Penniless

and without proof of her identity, she’d been forced to seek shelter at this

inn, only to be stripped and bid upon like a common whore.

Eerie silence reigned until the Viking nodded to the innkeeper and

tossed  him  several  coins.  Behind  him,  his  second  in  command  threw  a

handful of coins to the gathered men, dispersing them quickly.

“Have her bathed and fed,” the Viking told the innkeeper. “And

make sure we’re not disturbed until morning.”

“Of course, I’ll see to it myself.” The innkeeper cowered before the

Viking’s fierce stare, and then scurried away to do his bidding.

Esme gripped her dress, biting her tongue to keep from crying out

in distress. She wanted to scream that the Viking had no right to buy her,

but knew this was not the time. Her only chance was to try and convince

him that there had been a misunderstanding and try to persuade him to

help her.

To her surprise, he swept the white fox cloak from his shoulders

and  wrapped  it  around  her  half‐naked  body.  She  stared  up  at  him,

stunned. She hadn’t expected kindness. A maid came up beside her and

tried to pull her away, tugging at her hand when she remained frozen in

place, staring up into the Viking’s startling green eyes. He met her gaze

for a long, strange moment then waved his hand in an arrogant command

for her to be dragged upstairs to the inn’s finest chamber. 

Esme  bathed  in  the  shallow  tub  provided,  rushing  to  take

advantage of the scalding water before the Viking came for her. The maid

helped wash her long sable curls before retreating, leaving her alone in the

chamber. Taking a seat before the large fire, she raced to stitch the torn

bodice of her gown while the heat dried her hair. 

A tray of food sat on a long wooden table in the center of the room,

untouched. Though she was starving, she didn’t want to put herself any

further in debt to him.

She  flinched  when  the  heavy  door  pushed  open,  and  the  Viking

ducked through. He was so tall; he had to duck to enter the room. As he

straightened  to  his  full  height,  she  pulled  the  cloak  tighter  around  her

shoulders,  desperately  wishing  she’d  managed  to  finish  mending  her


As he shut the door behind him, his hungry gaze swept her from

head to toe. She flushed, and a curious warmth bloomed with her. For one

strange  moment,  she  wondered  what  it  would  feel  like  if  he  held  her,

kissed her, or even touched her intimately. The idea both intimidated and

thrilled her. Ashamed, she dropped her gaze. The nuns would lock her

away forever if they knew what she was thinking.

Ulrich Valda hadnʹt planned on buying a maid for the night, but

the  moment  he’d  seen  her,  he’d  known  she  wasnʹt  in  her  element.

Normally he wouldnʹt have cared. Heʹd use his purchase and set her free

in  the  morning.  But  he’d  been  stunned  by  her  fear  and  innocent

appearance.  When  he’d  entered  the  inn,  she’d  tensed  and  set  her

shoulders bravely before looking him directly in the eye. 

He dropped the bar in place across the door, refusing admittance to

any outsider. Her whole body jolted when the wood made contact. He

was in no hurry; he had all night to do as he wished with her. Noting she

hadnʹt touched the food provided, he sat at the table, poured himself a

cup of mead, and watched her wordlessly. 

They’d come to an impasse.

“You look much better cleansed,” he commented wryly.

“Of course I do!” she snapped, obviously affronted.

He couldn’t hold back his laughter. “Ah, so you do have a voice.

Youʹve not touched the food.”

“And owe you more? I think not. And letʹs get this straight between

us  from  the  beginning;  the  innkeeper  had  no  right  to  sell  me  to  you.  I

simply came in to ask for help and he…started auctioning me off, he—”

She cursed low under her breath as she pricked her finger with a needle.

She put her finger to her lips. 

“What is your name?” He didnʹt try to hide his obvious appraisal.

Her story might have some merit. Her pampered hands were not those of

a working maid. 

“Would it matter?” Obviously frustrated, she drew in a deep breath

before lifting her gaze. “You were the highest bidder.”

“Was my bid not high enough?” He laughed as she calculated her

next move. “It matters not. Youʹre mine for the night. Might as well eat,

the foodʹs been bought.” 

He  nodded  toward  the  table,  and  she  finally  moved  closer  to  it,

selecting only an apple from a tray before quickly moving back beside the

fire, trying to hold his cloak closed over her naked body. She ate the fruit

quickly, as if she hadn’t been fed in months.

“Now,  what  is  your  name?”  Ulrich  moved  from  the  chair  and

poured a second cup of mead, handing it to her. He topped off his cup

and sat back, knowing he made her anxious. Standing abruptly, he took

the core from her fingers and tossed it into the fire beside her. 

“Esme. And you are?” An edge sharpened her voice. 

“Iʹm Ulrich Valda.”  

Comprehension  swept  over  her  features.  “Ah,  the  Viking  trader,

Iʹve heard stories of you, sir. Are they true?” She softened, curiosity filling

her fine, dark eyes.

“That depends on the story. What do they call you besides Esme?”

“Esmeralda,  sir.  Esmeralda  Handrian.”  She  seemed  frustrated

when  he  showed  no  recognition.  “Esmeralda  Handrian—as  in  Lord

Gehard Handrianʹs niece. Surely youʹve heard of him?”

He  frowned.  “Anyone  who  knows  the  coast  knows  of  Lord

Handrian. His trading center is run well, fair prices for goods.” 

She only nodded her head at his words. 

“If you are his blood, what have you done to disfavor yourself?”

“What do you mean?”

“You had to have done something to wind up being bid on in the

inn tonight.”

“I did nothing, sir. And if youʹll let me explain, itʹs not as you might


He  inclined  his  head  for  her  to  continue,  and  she  finally  sipped

from her cup. 

“I was on my way home from the convent. We left three days ago,

and my companions were paid to see me home. Only yesterday morning I

awoke to find theyʹd abandoned me, taken the horses and all our supplies,

including my clothing and money.”

“Why not stay at the inn where you spent the night and send word

ahead to your uncle?” 

She  looked  at  him  as  if  he  was  a  complete  dolt.  “I  would  have,

except that my companions forced us to go further than the planned stop

last  eve,  making  me  believe  we  could  make  this  inn  by  night  fall.  We

couldnʹt and were forced to camp. When I awoke they were gone and so

was everything else we had with us.” Her slim fingers rose to stroke the

back of her neck. When she saw him watching, she dropped her hand.  

“I see.” 

“Do you?” She stood, glaring at him in the dim light.

Ulrich  wondered  if  she  realized  the  portrait  she  made,  her  hair

glowing in the firelight, her long slender legs peaking from his cloak with

each step she took, her slim fingers holding the wrap closed around her. 

“I knew it was only a half dayʹs travel to this inn. It seemed wiser to

make my way here, closer to Uncle. But in the last year, the innkeeper has

changed.  He  did  not  know  me  and  wouldnʹt  allow  me  time  to  explain

before  the  men  started  bidding  on  me.  You  walked  in  and—”  She

shrugged. “Iʹm not going back to the convent. Anything I find further on

my journey would be better.” 

They were both quiet for a while, and Ulrich finally tried a different

approach. His mind reeled with possibilities, now that he knew who she

was. Lord Handrian was not a man to anger if you wanted to continue

trading in his port. If this was truly his niece, heʹd best tread carefully. 

“You did not appreciate your schooling?”

“Itʹs not the schooling I dread; itʹs the monotony of time, sir. I didnʹt

always board at the school. While my father was alive I lived at Handrian.

I was free there, to ride and wander the fields, to shop the docks and stroll

among the traders. I had friends and we were happy, we laughed…” 

He groaned silently. She was beautiful, and Ulrich didnʹt need a

beautiful, spoiled woman on his hands. 

“Why send you away?” He shifted in his chair, watching her every

move. She was a bit thin for his taste, but she was young. Sheʹd fill out

with a few years behind her. 

“My  uncle  felt  it  best.  He  wanted  me  educated.  I  donʹt  think  he

understood taking me from one life and putting me behind the convent

walls would be so…” She stood and started pacing once again.

“Stop  wandering,  girl.  You  make  me  tired  watching  you.  Come

closer so I can see you clearer.” 

She hesitated then sat beside the fire once again.  

“Iʹm not an animal,” he snapped, losing his patience. “Come here!” 

With a defiant lift of her chin, she slowly approached him, leaning

over his chair to bring her face close to his. When he lifted his hand to

touch her, she pulled back quickly, moving to the other side of the room.

He laughed at her retreat, thinking it was a good thing her uncle had put

her in a convent. She was beautiful and strong‐willed, a temptation to any

man’s good sense.

Best  not  to  let  himself  get  involved  with  Lord  Handrian’s  niece.

Better  men  than  he  had  been  tied  to  the  land  because  of  women  who

weren’t nearly as beautiful as Esme. He’d not let her beauty bind him to

the mistake of his lifetime.

A  woman  of  Esme’s  background  would  be  expected  to  marry  a

man who would enhance her stature. Ulrich was not that man. On the

other hand, he accepted that her plight had become his. If she was truly

Lord Handrian’s niece and he didn’t help her, his trading days in Port

Handrian would cease.

Esme knew if she stayed close to the Viking, sheʹd want to touch

him.  He  was  larger  than  life  to  her.  The  stories  sheʹd  heard  of  his

conquering ways had always amazed her. Heʹd found trading to his liking

and  was  successful  beyond  anyoneʹs  dreams.  He  was  known  to  be  fair

when  dealt  with  fairly  and  quick  to  conquer  when  angered.  All  she

wanted to do was touch him, to feel the width of his shoulders under her

fingers, to know what his blond hair felt like against her skin. The entire

time she’d been in the convent, her private dreams had always been about

the fair‐haired, green‐eyed warrior who would come and take her away

and make her his own. 

Now  that  she  stood  in  the  same  room  with  such  a  creature,

confusion vexed her mind. What was right and what her body told her

she  wanted  were  two  different  things.  Suddenly  she  wondered  if  she

might not have both—Ulrich for the night and a way home. For the first

time since waking that morning and finding sheʹd been abandoned in the

woods, she smiled. 

Nobody  would  ever  have  to  know  she’d  let  him  touch  her  and

teach her what it meant to lay beside a man. The idea made her tingle in

lower places, and her skin heated at the idea of his touch. Esme thought

about  all  the  time  sheʹd  spent  in  extra  prayer  after  asking  the  nuns  a

question about sex or love and laughed aloud at the irony of the situation. 

Ulrich would have the final word, but at least her mind would be

clear that she tried to keep herself pure. If she wasnʹt holding the cloak

closed around her she would have crossed her fingers in hopes heʹd not

heed her next words. 

“Ulrich, please take me home to my uncle. I assure you heʹll reward

you well.”

“I travel in the opposite direction. Itʹs impossible.” 

“Then send me home with several of your trusted men. Theyʹll be

rewarded for their time and trouble.”

“Why  should  I  believe  you  really  are  his  niece?  You  could  be


“How  dare  you  call  me  a  liar?  You  have  no  reason  to  believe

otherwise and besides, once we got to his castle, what would you expect

me to do if I wasnʹt his blood?” She began to pace again, mumbling under

her breath. She didn’t care if he made out an occasional phrase. She cursed

the fates that had hindered her journey and given her a strange gift she

shouldn’t accept.

“Somehow I donʹt think Lord Handrianʹs niece would speak as you


“You don’t know anything about me, only that you think Iʹm some

whore you can buy for a nightʹs pleasure.” And that was her quandary.

She wanted to be with Ulrich but as a lover, not as a paid whore. 

She gathered up her gown and brought it to him, dropping it on his

lap. “Here, does this look like the gown of a street whore? No, look at the

fine weave and quality of the stitches. Ulrich, please see me home and

youʹll be rewarded, I swear to you.”

“I canʹt do that. Iʹve done what I can for you, girl. Iʹve taken you

away  from  the  drunks  downstairs,  given  you  a  bath  and  food.  On  the

morrow, I head inland.”

“A horse, then. Loan me a horse, and when you travel back to the

city heʹll be returned and youʹll be rewarded.”

“And  what  if  you  come  upon  another  innkeeper  who  doesnʹt

believe you are who you say? What then?”

“Donʹt  you  see?  Thatʹs  my  point.”  In  her  utter  frustration,  she

forgot to hold the cloak closed, giving Ulrich glimpses of her body under

his  furs.  It  occurred  to  her  she  should  feel  uncomfortable  about  the

situation. After all, the man was a virtual stranger. But for some reason

she  didn’t  care  that  he  saw  her body.  Perhaps  she  was  offering  herself

silently with her actions. 

“With you as my guard, no one would dare…”

“Dare what, Esme?”

“Dare to treat me as they did today.”




Having been born and raised on Long Island, NY, my husband and I were both eager to leave the urban lifestyle behind us and explore our futures. With his encouragement I'm living my dream of writing romance novels full time. Our new rural setting allows us time to enjoy time together
and guiltless hours in my imagination indulging my other passion. When I realized my works consistently tended towards the erotic I gave myself permission to explore places I might not venture in real life.

1 comment:

Sandy said...

Hi Lillith,

Good luck with your writing and your new lifestyle. I found your story quite interesting.