As the change of seasons comes upon us, it is a reminder of the days ahead, when Mother Earth is shrouded beneath the blanket of snow, the seeds of rebirth nestled snug in their burrows, awaiting the warm breath of spring. In celebration of WINTERS SOLSTICE, Spice-books brings you the first in a Celtic seasonal series, called WINTER' DESIRE. Three authors/three novellas/three eras--each story threaded to the next by the powerful chant of a Druid priestess on the dawn of a winter's morn long ago...
WINTER AWAKENING in Winter's Desire
It was the celebration of the betrothal that would align Wales and England, but Sabeline was aware of her intended's promiscuous ways and so turns to his friend, not looking for more than companionship, but with a stolen kiss beneath a full moon, finding a passion that both deny until they meet years later at the appointed time of her marriage to the Norman Lord. One touch, and a spark ignites between the ill-fated pair. Torn between duty and desire, they succumb to their passions in secret, until fate turns a blind eye and they must seek the powers greater than themselves to quell the evil that threatens their very lives.
Upon her request, Lord Ranulf agrees to meet Sabeline in private to discuss her concerns...I leaned my hip on the table and glanced down near my feet where a thick pallet of sheepskin furs lay spread before the blazing fire. No better than Benedict, my thoughts drifted to easing Sabeline to that rug and having my way with her.
I licked my lips as I stared at the temptation and found my fingers curling against the edge of the desk. I was glad that I wore my jerkin over my cambric shirt as it covered the arousal of her cousin’s teasing. Yet with the late hour, my overindulgence with the ale, and that locked door holding us captive, my predicament indeed grew.
“What is it that I may do for you, milady?” I cleared my throat and I shifted so that the fur rug was out of my field of vision. I watched her pace in front of me, lost in her thoughts and completely unaware of how I mentally undressed her, one piece of clothing at a time.
I blinked, brought back to the present by her voice. “My apologies, my mind is elsewhere.”
“That is precisely what I wish to speak with you about.”
Finding it perhaps it wiser to sit than stand, I sat down and folded my hands atop the desk, glancing up at her as she continued to wear a path in the flagstone floor. “Please continue. I fear I do not understand.”
Her gaze darted to mine even as she continue her pace, as if to stop would lessen her courage to speak her mind. If companionship was all I could ever have, I wanted her always to be able to speak freely. I sighed quietly. “What troubles you, Sabeline?” I asked, adjusting my tunic as I tried to focus on the concern etched on her face.
“It is you, Sir Ranulf. You refuse to speak to me—nay, to acknowledge me at all. Lately, you run off after every meal.”
Were it Benedict seated in this chair, I would better understand these reprimands. “Milady, permit me to point out that it is not my attention which you seek?”
She gave me a shocked look. “Are you daft? That, of course, is ridiculous. This is entirely about appearances, milord.”
Ridiculous? I raised my brows to challenge her statement. “Of course it is,” I muttered.
“I am finding it difficult to explain.” She chewed the tip of her thumbnail, lost in her thoughts.
“Forgive me, milady. I would like to help ease whatever troubles you, but how does this involve me?” I shrugged.
“Do you not see how your behavior affects me?” She slapped her hands on the table and pushed her face close to mine.
“My behavior? Nay, milady, I do not.” Curious as I was to hear her plea, I drank in the curve of her cheek, the slight bow of her kissable mouth. Unable to help myself, my gaze traveled to the view offered from her low-cut gown. What sweet warmth I ventured lay in the valley between those breasts…damn.
“For this very reason, sir.” She searched my eyes. “I have noticed how you look at me. How you watch when you think no one else notices.”
“I am truly sorry if I have caused you discomfort.” I narrowed my gaze on hers.
“Were it me alone that noticed, it would not cause me discomfort, though I must confess I do not know whether your looks stem from pleasure or disdain.”
My eyes met hers. “Would it matter?” It was dangerous, I knew, to press her on such matters but the ale had loosed my tongue.
She straightened as if I had struck her. Fear and desire warred in her eyes. Did I truly want her to answer? For three years I had carried this small flickering flame of desire deep inside, resolved that it would never be fanned except but by my imagination and memory. I held my breath as I awaited her answer.
“This was a mistake, milord. My apologies for taking leave of your privacy.”
She turned to leave. I reached out and grabbed her hand, knocking the chair over as I stood. “I need to understand why you sought me out this night.” I did not let her go as I came around the table to face her.
More than once, she started to speak, but stopped each time as she did everything she could to avoid looking at me.
I took her chin between my fingers, holding her gaze firm on mine. It was wrong of me to insist she remember, too, the power of that kiss all those years ago. She was older now, her future clear, her purpose to be the wife of another man. Every reason I could think of to walk away lay before me, yet I could not remove my hand.
She looked up at me then, her soft brown eyes filled with desire. I did not want to know whether the tension between us was a mistake or not. Indeed, I did not want either of us to think at all. I wanted to finish what we had begun those many years ago. I had to know that the torment was not all mine.
“That night, milord…I did not mean for it to happen,” she whispered. Her gaze lowered to my mouth. So she, too, still carried the memory.
“Any more than you mean for this to happen, Sabeline. Let the blame fall on my head, but I cannot walk away this time,” I spoke as I lowered my face to hers. I did not want to think on the reasons I should stop, or to think about the risk I was taking. She could never be mine, not the way I wanted. Even now, I could not be sure that I was not a substitute for her failed attempts with Benedict. Still for one night, to quench the fire she ignited long ago, I would play the martyr and be her substitute.
Her fingers tentatively touched my lips and, had a sword been at my throat, I could not have stopped myself. I captured her mouth to appease the hunger that lay buried in my soul.
A small whimper emitted from her throat as I slanted my mouth over hers, finding the perfect angle to satisfy. She was as sweet as I remembered, pliant and giving with fierce passion, a preview how she would be in my bed.
I plucked the combs from her hair, driving my fingers into the silken strands. I sensed the pulse of her heart beneath my palm as I cupped her delicate neck and held her face to mine.
Fervently pressing for more, our mouths mated as my hands found the lacings at the back of her gown. In silent jubilation, I freed the knots and her gown loosened, slipping with ease over her slender, pale shoulders.
I met her eyes and waited for her to reveal how far we would venture into this dark and dangerous moment. With her gaze locked to mine, she eased the gown lower exposing the gentle swells of her creamy flesh. My breath caught as I traced my fingers down her throat and glided lower still between her breasts.
I held my hands around her waist as I bent to lavish one and then the other of her rosy tips that were stiff with arousal. Desperate to feel her soft flesh against the hard planes of my body, I unbuckled my jerkin and dropped it to the floor. Her hands wrestled with mine as together we drew my cambric shirt over my head.
In all of my life, I had never seen anything so beautiful as the look of appreciation and desire in her eyes.
Her palm came to rest on the firm muscle of my chest, and I closed my eyes at the savage desire welling inside me. My fists clenched and unclenched at my sides allowing her exploration. I closed my eyes withstanding the tenderness of her kiss upon my skin, the warmth of her face nuzzling the curve of my neck, until I could no longer keep my hands off her.
I cupped her face, bringing her lips to mine as I drank deep of this forbidden wine that consumed all reason. Receiving no protest, I drew her down, turning her beneath me on the soft fur cushion warmed by the fire. Prompted by the ale, driven by passion long denied, I took my fill of kisses that would have to serve to carry through the lonely years ahead.
Read more about WINTERS DESIRE at CELTIC SPICE