You know you work very hard on a novel. Well, for my newest release, Angel’s Assassin, it was a very long road. I started writing it in 2006. In 2007, I entered a ton of contests because I really wanted feedback. Was the beginning strong enough? How about the characters? The plot? That year, Angel’s Assassin took third place in the Marlene contest, third place in the Mary Reade Writers Choice Award, third place in the Winter Rose contest, third place in the Romance Through the Ages contest and finally, winner of the Happily Ever After contest.
It was a good year.
However, I still didn’t think Angel’s Assassin was ready. I went back to revisions. I had previously rewrote the ending four times until I felt it was the right ending for my characters. I was sidetracked by life and other novels. But finally, after all this time, I think it’s ready for you! This is the book I wanted to present to readers. This is the book of my heart. It is exactly the book I wanted to write.
I hope you enjoy it. Here’s a quick scene from my new medieval romance, Angel’s Assassin. Please let me know what you think!
Damien shot to his feet and left the room, fighting back the flow of blood that threatened to cloud his judgment even further, resolving to depart the castle. His word be damned. He had to get away from her. She was becoming a distraction to him, to his mission. She was too damned beautiful.
He moved into the hallway and down the stairwell to the first floor, all the while staying in the comfort of the shadows, in the security of obscurity. Suddenly, a scream echoed down the hallway from just around the corner. His muscles tensed, his knees dipped slightly, preparing for a fight. He cautiously peered around the corner.
Aurora stood in the center of the stone passageway, blindfolded. She wore a glowing smile on her lips as she reached out before her. A group of children circled her, keeping out of reach of her searching fingertips. The children called out to her and scrambled away as she moved toward them.
It took but a moment for Damien to realize there was no threat. He straightened, his jaw tight with tension, and forced his pounding heart to still. He watched the scene for a moment. The laughter, the playfulness of the game was so foreign to him that he found a certain charm to it. He slowly walked towards them.
The children’s laughter quieted instantly and they backed away from his approach. Damien frowned. He had just destroyed their joy with a mere glimpse of him. He could never be part of something so innocent. The children recognized him for what he was. Dangerous. As he advanced, a young boy no older than ten years retreated from him. His round brown eyes reminded Damien of another child. A child less fortunate, a child marked for pain and solitude under Roke’s watchful eye. At Castle Roke, the boys came in young, about the age of the boy before him, usually bought from slavery as he had been. They had nothing and no one to interfere with their training. No one to save them. They were usually wracked with hunger, thin as arrows, deep distressed frowns permanently etched on their lips.
The boy who stood in front of Damien was well fed and happy. His clothing lacked rips or even tattered edges. The boy he remembered from Castle Roke was nothing like this child. His clothing, speckled with stains and tears, had been too large for his malnutritioned body. His eyes were haunted with images of the terrors he experienced. His innocence had been lost. He had never been given the chance to smile or laugh. The boy from Castle Roke had not made it past a week of training. Roke had killed him as an example to the others, an example to Damien, that failure was not tolerated.
Hands brushed his waist, bringing him back to the present.
Damien turned to see Aurora standing beside him, a grin curving her lips. Blindfolded, she couldn’t glimpse the evil she touched.
“Hmmm,” she thought, her hands traveling lightly up his stomach to the V in his tunic.
One of the girls giggled.
The memories of the past faded completely beneath her gentle touch. Damien was rooted to the spot. Surprise and arousal erupted through him. He felt his manhood stir. He did not break the contact as her fingertips moved up to his shoulders, brushing the ends of his hair.
“Could it be — Lady Helen?”
The children teetered with laughter. A boy called out in disbelief, “No!”
Aurora’s playful smile grew. It was apparent she knew he was not Lady Helen. Her searching touch moved to his gruff chin. “Is it — Sir Rupert?”
“No!” the chorus echoed.
“No,” Aurora said definitively.
Damien stood motionless beneath her exploration, his gaze trained on her soft lips. Perfectly bowed and full. It was not the want of this silly child’s game that held him still. It was her. It was the touch of Aurora of Acquitaine. Her fingers were long and slender, bare with the exception of a golden band on her ring finger, etched with a red rose.
Her touch eased up to his lips and hesitated. Her smile faded and her fingers continued their blind study across his lips. Softly. Delicately.
He stared at her mouth. No longer smiling, her lips were wet as if she had just licked them.
He had never been allowed to play games, at least not since he and his younger brother, Gawyn, were very young. But this game… this game he had never played. He studied her lips, her smooth skin. The subtle scent of roses floated to him, sweet and fragrant.
She lifted up the blindfold. “Damien,” she gasped. Her cheeks blazed with a flash of red.
A round of cheers erupted as the game ended.
Aurora smiled and looked at the children as she removed the blindfold from her head. When her gaze came back to him, her smile faltered.
“More!” one of the smaller boys exclaimed, tugging at her skirt.
Aurora grinned and laid a hand against the child’s dark hair. She held the blindfold out to Damien. “Would you care to take a turn?”
Damien looked at the blindfold, then at Aurora. “I don’t play games.”
Aurora stared at him for a moment.
In her bright blue eyes, Damien wasn’t sure if he saw disappointment or curiosity.
She stroked the boy’s head and handed him the blindfold. “I am afraid that is all I have time for now.” A unison of disappointed voices welled up around her. “But we shall play on the morrow,” she quickly amended.
The little boy at her skirt looked up at her. “You said you would play.”
Aurora knelt before the child. “I can hardly neglect our guest,” she told him patiently. “We will have time later.”
The boy lowered his head and kicked at an imaginary pebble before following the rest of the children down the hall.
Aurora stood and looked at Damien. “I must apologize for touching you so… inappropriately.” She glanced away from him to study the floor, but not before he saw a slight smile curve her lips.
Damien’s senses flared to life, responding to even the merest glimpse of her smile. She was so damned beautiful. Damien had liked her dainty fingers on his lips, the scent of her in his nostrils. It almost made a man forget who he was.
“I must say that something like this has never happened before. We usually play in the field beyond the castle. With the current situation, I was advised not to leave the castle without an escort.”
When she glanced up at him with luminescent blue eyes that sparkled in the torchlight, Damien was left breathless.
“I hate to be a burden,” she added.
She could never be a burden, he thought as he gazed at her. Her eyes were like gems on a portrait of perfection.
Aurora turned and began to stroll down the corridor.
Damien walked beside her for a silent moment. I’m leaving, he thought to tell her. But the words did not come out of his mouth. Just being with her was intoxicating him into wanting to remain at the castle. Her presence brought warmth to his cold soul, a feeling he hadn’t felt since… since he was a very young child.
“Why did you save me?”
The question caught Damien off guard. She stared at him with such open confusion he scowled. Did she know? Had she discovered why he was there?
“I am forever in your debt,” she said quickly. “Please make no mistake. It is just that… well, you are not from Acquitaine. You are not one of my people, nor a guard. What interest could you have whether I lived or died?”
Damien could not answer. What could he tell her? That she was the reason he had come to Acquitaine? That her life or death determined his freedom? That he hadn’t meant to save her as much as stop the assassin from stealing his freedom? In the end, a partial truth was enough. “How could I do nothing?”
Her lovely brow wrinkled with perplexity. “But you endangered your life…”
“It happens often,” Damien said softly.
Aurora stared at him in distraught concern. “What do you do that often endangers your life?”
Damien hesitated for a moment. He certainly couldn’t tell her the truth. Then, he smiled. “Save ladies from assassins.”
Aurora returned his smile. “A true hero,” she said, a note of playfulness in her voice. “And I suppose there is a lady who needs saving in every town.”
“There is always a lady who needs to be rescued.”
“I should feel slighted. Here I believed you had done such a noble deed just for me and I find it is an everyday task for you.”
“A deed is only noble in the eye of the beholder.”
“It is,” Aurora agreed. “Then, your deed is more than noble. It is… treasured.”
Damien stared at her. “I’ve never been treasured before.”
Aurora looked deeply into his eyes. “A man with your talents should always be treasured.”
“Killing is not usually seen as a treasured talent.”
“I was speaking of saving my life.”
Yes. He had saved her life. But for what purpose? His mission loomed large in the back of his mind. His freedom waited to be claimed. And yet, he was glad she was alive. “You’re welcome,” he finally said.