Thanks for joining us. Gemi has graciously agreed to give away a copy of her wonderful book, The Crown in the Heather. Leave a comment and tell Gemi what you find most fascinating about her main character, Robert the Bruce. She will pick the lucky winner and send you an autographed copy of the book. In the meantime, enjoy this excerpt of The Crown in the Heather.
An ebbing tide pulsed against the shoreline of Rothesay’s broad-mouthed bay. Elizabeth and I walked side by side, my fingers brushing her forearm, pebbles crunching beneath our feet. A pair of tracks stretched in an erratic trail before us: one set the loping paw prints of a young, long-legged dog in full stride and the other Marjorie’s small, closely spaced footprints where she scampered after him. Seagulls, picking over spilled catch, exploded in a cloud of fulmination, then dove menacingly at the exuberant hound pup. Marjorie covered her head with her arms and let out a screech of terror. At once, Coll bounded in her direction and leapt into the air, his teeth gnashing at the clap of beating wings. Rolling in laughter, Marjorie sought out another petulant flock and repeated the game.
In the distance, fishing boats cluttered the sloping shore. There, fishermen were busily unloading the workday’s yield before darkness descended over the island. The day, although sharply cold, had been unusually calm and sunny for January. Above the silver-black waters of the bay, the peaked rooflines of Rothesay crowded against a deepening blue sky. Inland, snow-topped domes contrasted with the vermilion hues of a sinking sun.
Elizabeth stumbled and I grabbed her by the arm to steady her.
“Careful of your step, Lady Elizabeth.” I tucked her hand within the fold of my left elbow, the fingers of my other hand gently clasping hers. “Perhaps you would prefer to walk on my right, away from the water . . . before you fall in?”
She raised her oval chin, her lips pursed tight as if feigning indignity, and drew her shoulders back. “You presume I’m clumsy, my lord.”
“Well, I’m not, I assure you. I was merely watching Marjorie and her dog playing. Otherwise, I’m quite surefooted.” She winked at me. “As nimble as a cat.”
I fought a grin. “And when you tumbled to the floor last night during the dance?”
She slapped the back of my hand playfully. “Are you mocking me, Lord Robert? Perhaps I should stay closer to you, like this,”—she swung herself around to stand before me—“so you may catch me in your arms next time? Would you?”
For a moment, I forgot myself. Forgot it was past supper and we were overdue at table. Our absence would raise brows. I hardly cared. It was rare we were ever together like this without a crowd of onlookers ogling our every gesture and eavesdropping on every innocent word.
Her fingers wandered up my arms teasingly. “Would you?”
“Would I what?”
“Catch me . . . if I fell?”
A movement distracted me and I glanced up to see Oonagh hobbling toward Marjorie, who stood near the boats waving her arms at the seagulls. In all likelihood, Oonagh had been sent to beckon us back to the castle for the evening meal. In time. I was neither hungry yet nor willing to join the crowd in the hall. I gazed down at Elizabeth, fascinated by the way one of her rounded brows was set higher than the other and the spattering of freckles across her slender nose. I hungry yet nor willing to join the crowd in the hall. I gazed down at Elizabeth, fascinated by the way one of her rounded brows was set higher than the other and the spattering of freckles across her slender nose. I slid my hands around her waist and drew her to me until I felt the slight pressure of her hips against my thighs.
“Like this?” With a sudden heave, I swept her off the ground, one arm snug around her back and the other cradling her legs.
I expected a shriek of protest and an upbraiding; instead, she tossed her head back, laughter bubbling from her throat, and kicked her feet in the air. She reached an arm around my neck and I swung her in a circle: sky and sea and mountains blurring into a streak of shadowy blue and steel gray around us. Not until the ground pitched beneath me did I stop. My knees wobbling, I planted my feet wide and clutched Elizabeth closer to my chest to keep from dropping her.
“Shall I put you down now?” I asked.
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