Duty requires sacrifice...but the heart will not be denied.***
At the time, pretending marriage to her middle-aged widower cousin seemed like the best way to escape a politically motivated betrothal to a brutal knight.
Now, Matilda's journey toward a new life has landed her in hot water--she's been waylaid by a local Norman baron who's mistaken her for a real bride. And he demands First Night rights. Hot water turns to steam in a scalding night of passion...passion she has never known. And now must live without.
Lord Geoffrey is entranced at first sight of the Anglo-Saxon beauty and finds that one night in her arms is not nearly enough. But all he can offer the low-born Matilda is a life in the shadows--as his mistress.
Her head warring with her heart, Matilda resigns herself to her duty in a masquerade of a marriage. It's a choice that could cost her life. For the knight who first sought her hand is back with murder on his mind. Now it's Geoff who's faced with the ultimate choice: which is more precious...his estates or the love of the one woman who can heal his soul?
Author's note: This excerpt from my medieval romance novel, MATILDA'S SONG, is set in Britain a generation after the Norman Conquest. This excerpt takes place during a night-time village dance.
Matilda danced and danced and only sat when she had no breath left. As soon as she could, she was up again. Her thoughts were totally on the music, her body responding to its beat. Her face felt warm and her breath came in short bursts. Her hair had long since escaped its covering and cascaded around her face. Worries were forgotten as she lost herself in the pleasure of the dance.
Night had long since fallen. Crackling bonfires sent wavering patterns of light across the darkened green. Crickets competed with the musicians and added their tones to the musical sounds.
Matilda turned from her last dancing partner to the one standing behind who had put his hand on her waist. Immediately, she was whisked into the exuberant steps of a country dance, with not a moment to catch her breath. Strong hands led her into a twirl and it was only as she came out of it that she saw her dance companion.
She faltered, but was dragged along into the next pattern. Her feet automatically responded, which was just as well because her brain failed her. She couldn't protest. It would be unthinkable to cause a scene after dancing with most of the men in Caelfield this night.
She should be angry with Geoff for his trap, but she could not be. She should be distant and cold, but with him those emotions were not in her repertoire. She longed to move closer than was proper, but somehow found the strength to resist.
Geoff said not a word, but, whenever his hand touched her to lead her into the next segment of the dance, he'd let it linger longer than necessary. Matilda knew she should pull away, but couldn't bring herself to fore go his touch. She hated when the dance caused them to part and longed for the times when it brought them together. She should hate herself for wanting it so.
Conscience be damned. In the flickering light, she gave herself up to the joy of the dance. She breathed in Geoff's scent of soap and leather as if it were the food of life. She escaped into the trance evoked by his eyes. She drifted toward heaven with no care for the future.
She was glad that her feet followed the familiar dance steps on their own because she had no willpower to force them to act. Her body vibrated to his touch, evoking memories of their night together. She allowed the feelings to flood over her, creating a need in her loins that couldn't be satisfied. Her fate took on a dreamlike quality. She was transported from this dancing green to that bedchamber and to the awakening of her body that she still couldn't fully comprehend, but would forever cherish.
When the dance ended, Geoff bowed and disappeared into the crowd. To Matilda, he took joy itself with him.
The night sounds seemed muted, the dancers no longer as happy as they had been, the music embodying less vitality. She felt depleted and her body trembled.
Slowly, she walked alone off the dancing green--as if passing through a dream--to sit with her cousin William at the table. She pleaded exhaustion and declined other offers--not wanting to dilute the memory of that one miraculous dance.