01 December 2016

Excerpt Thursday: THE SAXON OUTLAW'S REVENGE by Elisabeth Hobbes

This week, we're pleased to welcome author ELISABETH HOBBES with her latest release,  THE SAXON OUTLAW'S REVENGE. Join us again on Sunday for an author interview, with more details about the story behind the storyBe sure to leave your email address in the comments of today's post or Sunday's author interview for a chance to win a digital copy of the novel. Winner(s) are contacted privately by email. Here's the blurb.

At the mercy of her enemy!

Abducted by Saxon outlaws, Constance Arnaud comes face-to-face with Aelric, a Saxon boy she once loved. He's now her enemy, but Constance must reach out to this rebel and persuade him to save her life as she once saved his… 

Aelric is determined to seek vengeance on the Normans who destroyed his family. Believing Constance deserted him, he can never trust her again. Yet, as they are thrown together and their longing for each other reignites, will Aelric discover that love is stronger than revenge?

**An Excerpt from The Saxon Outlaw’s Revenge**

Disguised as a serving boy, Constance Arnaud is travelling to the house of her brother-in-law for the first time in seven years when the party is attacked.  The ambush has been masterminded by Aelric, now going by the name of Caddoc.

The air filled with cries of anger and exertion. The guards were pulled from their mounts, but had succeeded in drawing their weapons and began to return the blows they were dealt.
Stomach knotting, Constance staggered back against her horse. Running was futile. She was too slow and where would she go anyway? She crouched on the ground, trying to make herself as unobtrusive as possible against the mare’s legs.
The man from beneath the bridge had been kneeling beside Rollo. Seemingly satisfied that the bodyguard was no threat, he cleared the ground in a handful of strides. The guards would be no match when the odds were four against two.
But four against three...
As the hooded man passed her, Constance hurled her stick at his legs. It caught him a blow on the ankles and he tripped forward. He threw his arms out, recovering his footing almost instantly, and whipped his head round to see who had obstructed him. His hood slipped back and Constance caught a glimpse of his face, or at least the hair that flopped down to his neck and the wild, shaggy beard that covered his jaw. His blue eyes were strikingly bright amid the blond tangle and now they narrowed with fury as they regarded Constance.
‘There’s another over here!’ he shouted.
Cursing her own stupidity Constance pushed herself to her feet. The assailants had been so intent on capturing the guards they had overlooked her presence so to draw attention to it had been the height of foolishness. Now she was most probably going to die alongside the guards. She lurched sideways as her weaker leg sent her off balance, but threw herself in the direction of the woods. She aimed herself blindly at the thick undergrowth, her only hope being to find somewhere to hide. Before she had gone five paces a pair of hands seized her from behind.
‘No, you don’t, lad!’
The man she had tripped wrapped his arms tight around Constance’s waist, pinning her arms to her side. She threw her head back, trying to wrestle free, but his grip was unbreakable. His arms locked around her with a strength she had never before encountered and she felt herself lifted off the ground as easily as a child. She kicked and bucked wildly, but her resistance made no difference and she was carried back to the road.
Her captor threw her to her knees and cuffed her round the ear with the back of his hand. The blow wasn’t very hard, clearly intended as a warning rather than to cause injury, but nevertheless it set her head spinning. Once she had been hardened against such treatment, but now the violence came as a shock. She bit back tears. No man would weep at such a blow.
‘Stay still and you might live, boy,’ he growled, his accent curling oddly in Constance’s ears. Whoever he was his accent did not sound like the men of Cheshire.
The man trained his sword on Constance’s breast, hardly casting a glance at her face. Despite her terror Constance let out a long breath of relief. Her disguise had not been discovered. She tilted her head to try to see what was happening behind her. Her blood chilled. One guard lay dead, the other bravely stood his ground against three men, but even as she watched he was knocked to the ground and pinned on his belly by a foot in the back. The cart driver hauled the monk to kneel beside Constance as the nearest brigand began to hack at the straps holding the pannier containing Constance’s strongbox to the saddle.
‘Get the box quickly, Ulf,’ Constance’s captor said, speaking with an authority that confirmed what she had suspected—he was the leader. ‘I want to be gone before anyone else appears.’
He reached down and seized hold of her by the neck of her cloak, leaning his face into hers. Constance braced herself for discovery of her deception, but a roar of rage made them both start. At the river’s edge Rollo had clambered to his feet and was staggering towards Constance, blood smearing his lips and chin. She sobbed with relief, her terror abating slightly, but her optimism was short lived as her supposed saviour lumbered past them, knocking Constance aside as though she had not existed. He aimed instead for the two men who were freeing the small, iron-hinged box from its leather bindings.
Constance’s mouth fell open in shock and disbelief. The bodyguard was supposed to protect her above all else. Rollo drew his weapon as he ran. Constance’s captor let go of her cloak, closing the distance between himself and Rollo with a bellow of warning, but he was too late. With a cry Rollo thrust his sword straight between the shoulder blades of the nearest man, who buckled at the knees, falling forward. With a speed that stopped the breath in Constance’s throat the hooded man twisted round. He had his weapon raised by the time he completed the turn but before he could reach Rollo the cart driver had pushed the monk aside and planted his own weapon deep in Rollo’s back, twisting viciously.
With a grunt Rollo fell forward, landing almost on top of his victim. The cart driver fell to his knees beside the bodies and gave a keening sob of anguish.
‘Wulf! My son!’
He pushed Rollo’s corpse to the side and rolled the limp body on to its back and cradled it protectively. The hooded man dropped to his knees alongside and put his arm around the older man’s shoulders. He gently pushed the dead man’s hood back and the victim’s head lolled to one side.
He was only a boy. Constance sagged back on to her heels, a burst of compassion punching her in the stomach at the sight of the father’s grief. Her head felt far too light and she feared she might faint, but through her terror it struck her that she was unobserved once more. The two deaths had granted her a reprieve that she would surely not get again. She began slowly to edge towards her horse, never expecting to make it, and surreptitiously releasing her dagger from its sheath as a precaution.
There was a cry, then hands on her shoulder. She twisted around and swiped sideways with the dagger at whoever was behind her. It barely penetrated the leather jerkin of the hooded man and didn’t strike flesh. He seized her wrist, tightening his fingers and digging the nails in until the pain forced her to let go of the weapon with a shrill cry. He kicked it away and pushed her to the ground.
‘I told you not to move. It wouldn’t take much for Gerrod to spear you like a pig ready for the spit and right now I wouldn’t stop him.’
‘Why not let him?’ Constance said. Her throat tightened with terror. Somehow she had had the presence of mind to deepen her voice. ‘You’re going to kill us anyway, aren’t you?’
Did she mean it? Every sense screamed no, she wanted to live, whatever it took.
‘You don’t have to die if you’re sensible,’ the man said. ‘We want what’s in here, not your lives.’ He gestured to Constance’s strongbox.
‘That’s mine!’ she exclaimed angrily.
The man laughed without humour.
‘Is it worth more than your life, lad?’
Constance sat back on her knees, her leg burning with pain. She bowed her head.
‘You’ve got ballock stones to keep trying, I’ll give you that,’ the hooded man said, a touch of admiration creeping into his voice. He snapped his fingers and pointed to Constance. ‘Osgood, search him.’
A short, broad man stalked towards her.
‘Put your hands up,’ he instructed.
She lifted them a little.
‘No. Behind your head.’
Constance did as she was instructed, aware of how the action caused her breasts to lift and jut forward. Osgood’s hands fumbled at her waist.
‘Nothing else, Caddoc.’
He began moving higher up her body. She recoiled in horror as he brushed against the swell of her breasts, then closed his hands over them. He gave a cry of shock and let go as though he had been stung.
‘He’s a woman!’
Constance brought her fist round and smacked Osgood hard across the nose. He cried in pain. As his hands came up protectively she spun away, rising to her feet only to be seized by the neck from behind. She glared up into the blue eyes of the hooded man, Caddoc. He pulled her close to him so their faces were almost touching and examined her intently.
‘Who are you?’ he demanded. He lowered his hood, tilting his head to one side and narrowing his eyes.
Constance’s heart missed a beat as the gesture sent her spinning back through time.
‘I know you!’
‘I don’t think so,’ he said curtly. His gaze moved to Constance’s dagger that was frustratingly just out of her reach. His jaw set. He pulled Constance’s cowl off to reveal the coil of hair she had concealed so carefully.
‘Tell me who you are,’ he repeated. He looked back at her and brushed a hand through his hair, pushing it back from his face. A deep white scar ran the length of his neck and his left ear was missing the lobe, coming to an abrupt stop at the cartilage.
Constance’s heart stopped and she blurted out the name without thinking.
His face twisted with shock.
A searing hot flush raced across Constance’s throat and chest, turning to a chill that left her trembling violently from head to foot. Nausea overwhelmed her, tightening her throat and twisting her belly.
‘Help me, Aelric.’
Her voice sounded distant and dreamlike in her ears and her legs began to shake. She felt herself slipping away from the world, floating to the ground. Felt his arms seize her before she hit the track. The last sight she saw was his eyes; wide, disbelieving and filling her vision, before blackness consumed her.

Get your copy of The Saxon Outlaw’s Revenge now at:

Harlequin: http://www.harlequin.com/storeitem.html?iid=68296

Learn more about author ELISABETH HOBBES at her website.