07 May 2009

Thursday Excerpt: TJ Bennett

Thursdays on Unusual Historicals mean excerpts! Yay! This week we're welcoming back TJ Bennett, who's celebrating the release of her second book, THE PROMISE, set in the Holy Roman Empire of the 16th century. This is the follow-on to THE LEGACY, which we featured back in June of 2008, and tells the story of Wolf Behaim's brother, Günter.

Make sure to join us on Sunday when TJ will be here to talk about THE PROMISE and give away a copy!

In 1525, Günter Behaim is a professional soldier in the service of Emperor Charles V. Günter has been betrayed by love and promises not kept. As a result, he has sworn to make few promises of his own and keep those unto death. However, when his friend is mortally wounded while saving Günter's life, he gives a pledge to marry his betrothed. To keep his promise, Günter must use every weapon in his romantic arsenal to convince the reluctant woman to marry him. As his passion for her grows, he realizes he is falling in love. Is he prepared to risk his worst fear: having his heart rejected once more?

The Spanish beauty Alonsa García de Aranjuéz is determined to withstand Günter's relentless pursuit. Haunted by a gypsy's curse on any man who loves her, Alonsa yearns for Günter, but fear for his safety forces her to rebuff him. As she struggles to deny the growing attraction between them, she begins to realize that fate may have other plans. With danger surrounding them, will Alonsa bite from the forbidden fruit? Or will Günter be bitten instead by the mysterious misfortune that seems to plague any with the courage to become ... Alonsa's love?

Alonsa sank down onto her knees, slapping the ground with an open hand repeatedly. "Again! Siempre! Always!" She broke off into a stream of rapid Spanish, but even Günter understood that she railed against the Fates.

"Señora!" he called, rising and grasping her from behind. He lifted her, afraid she would injure herself. "Alonsa, stop!"

She thrashed in his arms, and he turned her swiftly around. He shook her again, but she ignored him, and he feared she would lose hold of her senses in her grief. He realized he had two choices. He could either slap her in order to shock her back to sanity, or kiss her. As he had never raised a hand to a woman in his life, he chose the easier of the two.

Günter gripped her head and pressed his hard mouth to hers.

Dios mío.

Alonsa could see, through a blur of tears, Günter's open eyes. He was not even trying and still he made her heart pound in reaction, her knees go weak with desire. His mouth barely moved, yet she felt the lightning heat of his kiss streak through her. She went limp against him from the effect, and his arms encircled her. The moment she stopped moving, he drew back.

She gazed up at him stupidly.

"Forgive me," he murmured, and the warm spice of his breath fanned across her lips. "You were upset. I was losing you. I didn't know what else to do."

He stared down at her, and she felt a subtle tightening in the tension of his arms. His eyes drifted to her mouth, and he frowned. He slowly reached up and traced a callused finger across her bottom lip.

"Was I too rough?" he whispered.

Her breath caught in her throat. The feel of his finger sent little shivers across her skin. It sent mysterious messages throughout her body to hidden places long restrained. It unlocked doors chained shut for far too many years. And it was just a finger, just a stroke upon her lips. What could he do with that hand elsewhere?

"Was I?" he repeated, and absently trailed the finger across her chin, down her jaw, and up the sensitive skin of her cheek.

He tilted his head as he stroked the shell of her ear. She could see his eyes following its progress. He barely touched her, and yet she trembled. He must have felt the tremors, for his gaze returned to hers.

He moved to release her. "Are you cold? I'll get you a blanket--"

Instinct made her clutch at him, though reason screamed a warning in her head.

"No." Please kiss me again.

She gazed up at him in unbearable anticipation.

His eyes narrowed. He looked at her mouth, stared at it for so long she could count the time with the beat of the blood flowing through her body. Then slowly he lowered his head to hers once more. A scant hairsbreadth from her lips, he stopped.

She made a sound like a whimper. She could not help it. She should be ashamed, but she was not. She tilted her face, closed the last little distance between them, and pressed her lips to his.