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Excerpt for A Legend To Love Series Sampler Collection by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

A Legend To Love

Series Sampler Collection


Alanna Lucas

Aileen Fish

Jillian Chantal

Saralee Etter

Louisa Cornell

Renee Reynolds

Elizabeth Ellen Carter

Susan Gee Heino

Maggi Andersen

Cora Lee

Wendy La Capra


When The Marquess Returns Copyright © 2018 by Alanna Lucas


The Lady and Lord Lakewood Copyright © 2018 by Aileen Fish


Lady Soldier Copyright © 2018 by Jillian Chantal


Her Wild Irish Rogue Copyright © 2018 by Saralee Etter


Between Duty and the Devil’s Desires Copyright © 2018 by Louisa Cornell


A Wulf In Duke’s Clothing Copyright © 2018 by Renee Reynolds


The Promise of the Bells Copyright © 2018 by Elizabeth Ellen Carter


Rogue of the Greenwood Copyright © 2018 by Susan Gee Heino


A Gift from a Goddess Copyright © 2018 by Maggi Andersen


The Duke of Darkness Copyright © 2018 by Cora Lee


His Duchess at Eventide Copyright © 2018 by Wendy La Capra


All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law.


This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner.



More Than Words Press

PO Box 480 042

New Haven, MI 48048


http://coraleeauthor.wordpress.com/more-than-words-press/


Cover by Theresa Spreckelmeyer, The Midnight Muse.




Table of Contents


About The Series

Excerpt: When The Marquess Returns

Excerpt: The Lady and Lord Lakewood

Excerpt: Lady Soldier

Excerpt: Her Wild Irish Rogue

Excerpt: Between Duty and the Devil’s Desires

Excerpt: A Wulf In Duke’s Clothing

Excerpt: The Promise of the Bells

Excerpt: Rogue of the Greenwood

Excerpt: A Gift from a Goddess

Excerpt: The Duke of Darkness

Excerpt: His Duchess at Eventide

A Legend To Love series

About the Authors




About The Series


Legends love again in each Regency romance novel.


A Legend To Love is a series of full-length Regency romance novels written by eleven different authors, where at least one of the main characters in each book is inspired by a legend. You’ll meet our very own versions of Robin Hood, Mulan, Cuchulainn and Emer, Vlad Dracula, Odysseus and Penelope, Romulus and Remus, the Lady of the Lake, Beowulf, Tristan and Iseault, Pygmalion and Galatea, and Dick Whittington and his cat. Each novel contains an Author’s Note, too, that talks a bit about each legend and why the author chose it.


We’ve also put together a heat level chart to give you an idea of what to expect in each book. You’ll find the heat ratings in this Sampler on the introduction page right before each excerpt begins.


1 flame: Kisses only

2 flames: Sexual acts are “off screen” or behind closed doors

3 flames: Sexual acts are “on screen” but described in euphemisms and metaphors

4 flames: 1-2 explicit sex scenes

5 flames: 3+ explicit sex scenes


We hope you enjoy our takes on some of our favorite legends! If you’d like to find out more about the series you can visit us on Facebook and Twitter, or stop by our website.

Chapter One Excerpt from:


When The Marquess Returns

A Legend To Love, Book 1


3 flames: Sexual acts are “on screen” but described in euphemisms and metaphors



Copyright © 2018 Alanna Lucas



Purchase When The Marquess Returns from your favorite retailer.



Chapter One


London, May 1819


The moment Maximus, his brother, and their adoptive mother entered the spacious hall of the grand theatre, curious eyes settled on them and murmurs encircled their small party.

Stares were commonplace whenever they entered a room, especially in this new environment. It had always been the case, although the novelty usually wore off within a couple of minutes. However, there was one lady in particular who kept her gaze centered on them, puzzlement streaked across her face. She tilted her brow, looking at them with uncertainty, almost as if she were trying to understand something. She didn’t attempt to approach but continued to peer intently at them.

“Why is that woman staring at us?” Maximus questioned under his breath, barely able to keep the annoyance at bay.

“Perhaps she’s never seen twins before,” Lucius rebuffed.

Maximus and Lucius were not just twins, they were identical and—according to the local girls in the small village close to their childhood home near Plymouth—were “two of the most handsome men alive, and completely swoon-worthy”. It was a moniker that Maximus did not care for, never had and probably never would. He’d rather be known for his intelligence, or skill with a horse, or knowledge of multiple languages, not for something as fleeting as appearance.

“Perhaps you remind her of someone. Just ignore,” Larentia, their mother, said with nonchalance and a slight wave of her hand. “These women of the ton are often far too absorbed in gossip. Besides, we’ve only just arrived in Town. It couldn’t possibly have anything to do with us.”

“Miss St. Albans!” a cheerful voice crescendoed above the crowd bringing even further attention to their party. A rather plump woman dressed in deep purple scurried towards them. “You’ve finally returned to London.”

“Lady Kenton,” Larentia took the woman’s hands in her own. “It has been too long, my dearest friend.”

“Twenty-three years too long to be exact.” The woman’s warm smile settled on Maximus and his brother. “These must be your adopted sons. It is a pleasure to meet you both at long last. Larentia has written to me often of your adventures. Tell me, how did you enjoy your time on the Continent?”

Their time touring Europe felt like a lifetime ago. When their adoptive grandfather announced he wanted Maximus and Lucius to follow in his footsteps and embark on the Grand Tour, the brothers were just nineteen and—in Maximus’s opinion—naïve about the world beyond Plymouth. It had been a time of great personal growth for each of them. He’d enjoyed visiting new places, experiencing local customs, honing his drafting skills, and spending time with his brother, but he’d always longed for more. However, before he could conclude what ‘more’ encompassed, they’d been summoned home.

So much had happened since they’d returned two years ago.

“It was most enjoyable,” Maximus answered in a tone he hoped did not invite further questions. He was not in the mood for reminiscing, for sharing those intimate details of their travels, with someone he’d just met.

His brother on the other hand…

“I particularly enjoyed the opera in Milan, e le belle donne,” Lucius said before adding his infamously charming smile that quite frequently landed him in trouble.

Ricorda il nostro accordo,” Maximus warned under a hushed tone as Lady Kenton watched their exchange with interest. The brothers had already argued once today about Lucius’s indiscretions since arriving in London a few days previous.

Lucius raised a brow in defiance, but kept his tone jovial. “Lei non capisce l’italiano.”

“Oh my, and you both speak Italian?” A slight giggle escaped Lady Kenton’s mouth as a deep blush stained her entire face. Turning back to Larentia, she said, “I have not a clue what they are saying, however, I do believe the mamas had best keep a close watch on their daughters with your sons in Town this season.”

Larentia shot Maximus and Lucius her best “behave yourself” warning before clearing her throat. “The play is about to begin.”

“Oh yes, and it should be quite a spectacular performance this evening. Madame Hébert is performing the aria this evening.” The trio followed Lady Kenton up the grand staircase toward her box, passing even more curious eyes. “We’ll have plenty of time to get acquainted later.”

The gentle hum of conversation and general merriment that had filled the theatre lessened—only slightly—as the production began. Even as Maximus tried to focus on the stage and ignore the chatter echoing across the vast gold and green space, his mind wandered, contemplating the disagreement he’d had with his brother earlier regarding Lucius’s current paramour. The woman in question had actually snuck into their townhome and cornered Maximus, believing he was Lucius. Then, upon discovering they were identical twins, offered her services to both brothers. Maximus lost his temper with the woman, which angered his brother.

Why did he and his twin have to constantly be at odds? It never had been this way until their grandfather had passed away and they’d learned they would have to leave St. Albans Manor for London. Looking back, something had begun to change with Lucius that day.

Maximus adjusted himself for the umpteenth time, swiveling this way and that, trying to find a comfortable position. It wasn’t that the seat was uncomfortable, or that he could even place blame on his surroundings—despite all the stares, it was that he was uncomfortable; uncomfortable and restless.

He stretched his legs and, in the process, made contact with his brother’s chair. Two glaring blue eyes met his. “What is wrong with you?” Lucius’s scold rumbled above the performance.

He shook his head, brushing off his brother’s question. They’d already had one argument this evening, and he would be damned if they had another—and this one not in the privacy of their home. He couldn’t do that to Larentia…again.

Damn. Why couldn’t he relax?

He turned his focus to the stage, trying to enjoy… Hell, he couldn’t even recall what he was supposed to be enjoying. A long sigh escaped his lips, earning a glare from all in their box. He attempted to adjust his legs again, this time kicking his brother’s ankle. Lucius eyed him with annoyance, his mouth opened as if to argue, then he snapped it shut.

This was pointless.

Maximus left the box before he annoyed his brother further, and ducked into the hall, his muscles instantly relaxing. Perhaps he just wasn’t used to the city. Except for those couple of years spent traveling across the Continent, he had spent little time in any city, much preferring quiet country life. A quick walk should ease whatever was plaguing him.

Strolling casually, ignoring the couple of theatregoers loitering at the far end of the hall, he began to make his way toward the grand staircase. Before he reached his destination, a muffled argument from one of the boxes halted his retreat.

No sooner had the sounds reached his ear when a woman stormed out of the box in question, colliding with him. He wrapped his arm about her waist to keep her from landing on the floor. They stood chest to chest, hearts beating rapidly.

“Oh,” she gasped. “I…” Her words halted as she glanced up at him. Warm vanilla and sweet lavender encircled them.

Maximus stared into the most enticing eyes he’d ever seen—one emerald green, one deep brown. Her compelling eyes riveted him in place as his heart pounded against his chest anew.

Time halted, and energy surged between them. She stared at him with a tender longing.

Who was this woman?

Countless moments later, the lady spoke. “I apologize for ruining—”

“You didn’t ruin anything,” he quickly reassured her, but couldn’t the find words to say more.

Her mouth curved into a beautiful smile, revealing matching dimples, which sent a whirlwind through his world. He’d always had a fondness for dimples. “I…I best be returning to my party.”

“I suppose I should release you,” he said with reluctance.

“Yes, I suppose,” the words brushed past her pink lips with the same reluctance.

Several seconds passed before he actually did release her, his body instantly feeling the loss. Before he could ask her name, she retreated back into the box, leaving him wondering what the hell had just happened. If not for the remnants of lavender and vanilla clinging to his coat, he might have believed he dreamt the entire scene.

He paced a short length several times trying to convince himself he should not sneak into the box and discover her identity. They had not been properly introduced. It would create a scene. In the end, common sense won, and he decided it was best to rejoin his party.

Maximus took in a deep breath, the muscles tightening in chest, as he reluctantly walked back to his box.

“So nice of you to join us again.” His brother’s tone was laced with sarcasm as Maximus entered the loge. “I hope you’ve settled down.”

His patience was being tested at every turn this evening. Before he could remark, Larentia stated, “Lady Kenton has offered to show us around Town later this week. Perhaps we may see the Egyptian Hall.”

Maximus simply nodded as he took his seat. He had other things on his mind presently. He desperately wanted to discover more about the woman he’d encountered in the hall, and what had caused her to be so upset, and….

His heart sank. What if she was married and had quarreled with her husband? If that were the case, it was probably fortunate he hadn’t barged in on her party. Before too long, he had conjured an entire scenario that had him enraged and wanting to call out the bastard who had upset her.

Damn. He needed to stay calm. He didn’t even know her name. What if she wasn’t married? How would he discover her identity without a proper introduction? He pondered the question for several minutes before an idea struck.

As soon as the play finished, he would rush to her box and casually bump into her again. It was a simple plan without the possibility of scandal. He would be able to talk to her again, and with any luck, acquire her name.

With his plan settled, he rather impatiently waited for the play to end. At least this time he knew what was disrupting his senses—a blonde-haired beauty, with the most intriguing eyes, four boxes away.

Loud clapping thundered through the theatre bringing him back to the present. Larentia and Lady Kenton were deep in conversation about the quality of the play and Madame Hébert’s performance, while Lucius seemed distracted by something, or rather someone, near the stage.

Adrenaline rushed through his veins. There was no time to lose. He would worry about the next step once he found her again.

Emerging into the hall, excitement quickly gave way to frustration as his progress was hindered by several parties loitering in the hall engaging in lively talk about the evening’s festivities, both on stage and in the audience. Maximus edged around them and waited near the box the lady had retreated to. With each passing minute, he became more anxious as more and more people filled the corridor. He watched as Larentia and Lady Kenton strolled past, and Lucius disappeared in the opposite direction. He could not be bothered with his brother’s antics at the moment. Besides, he was his twin, not his keeper. He watched as the crowd dispersed and still no one emerged from box number four.

His insides turned as he struggled to formulate a new plan. Perhaps he could enter the loge, mistaking it for his own, claiming he’d forgotten…well, he didn’t know what, he’d conjure some item when the time came. He maneuvered past the strolling guests, sucked in his breath, and pulled back the curtain.

Empty.

A heavy sigh escaped his lips. Where had she gone?

~~~

“Renovations on the cottage are almost complete. You’ll finally be able to leave Warrington Hall.”

“I enjoy spending time with Lady March,” Sabina corrected her brother. Plus, she couldn’t imagine being alone day after day, removed from Warrington Hall and those she held dear.

Titus ignored her comment, continuing on to extol the positives of the renovation. “I believe you will be most pleased with the small library,” he said with much enthusiasm.

Since her lifelong dream to marry and have a family of her own would never be, it was nice to know that she would have a lovely cottage, far away from the gossips, to call her own. Despite her circumstances, she still fared better than most spinsters, thanks to her brother. He might be several years younger than her, but once he reached his majority, he had always ensured her future was secure.

Before she could express her appreciation for what Titus had arranged, her sister-in-law—Eunice, interfered. “The final steps into spinsterhood,” she said with a snicker. “And a fitting end for the Cursed Heiress.”

“Eunice, that’s enough,” Titus half-scolded. Sabina could not blame her brother for not taking a firmer approach with his wife. He had to endure her—and their mother—every day he took a breath, not to mention still being in need of an heir. She truly felt for him.

“You shouldn’t take that tone with your wife,” their mother said as she took Eunice’s hand, lovingly folding it within her own.

Eunice raised a triumphant chin before taking another jab at Sabina’s expense. “I suppose living the life of a spinster in the old hunting cottage is better than being at Lady March’s side constantly.” Eunice clearly had learned the disagreeable art of insulting Sabina from her husband’s mother. For two women not related, the similarities and jibes were endless.

As if enduring her sister-in-law wasn’t trying enough, Mother decided it was her turn to chime in, “I still can’t quite comprehend how you managed to swindle His Grace and Lady March into letting you reside with them all these years.”

Mustering what little bravado she had left in her soul, Sabina retorted, “Perhaps if you had been more—”

Mother’s eyes turned ice cold and filled with hatred. “What? More of a mother?” She clutched her hand to her chest, her performance rivaling those of the actors on stage. “I was grieving the loss of my husband.”

“And my father.” Sabina shook her head, trying to erase the memory of that horrible day and her mother’s unkind words. She did not want to suffer another lecture, followed by an argument, and conclude with more insults. Instead she settled for a plea. “I rarely see you and Titus. Do you not think it possible that we could have a pleasant evening just this once, Mother?”

“I agree with Sabina.” For the second time that evening, her brother came to her defense, but she was certain he would pay the price later.

“Of course, you do,” cried Eunice. “You always side with your dearest sister. You don’t care for me.” Sniffling, she buried her face in her hands.

Or sooner it would seem.

“There, there, Eunice, darling.” Sabina’s mother, the woman who’d given birth to her, who was supposed to love her, was comforting the instigator. Mother raised her gaze to Sabina. “Look what you’ve done.” Hatred blazed in her eyes. “What have I done to deserve a daughter like you? I’ve been cursed since the day you were born.”

The words seared straight through Sabina’s heart, striking at her very core. Tears burned the corners of her eyes as she fought to control her breathing. One would think she would be used to the barbs after enduring so many years of them, but they still hurt. Since her father’s passing, all she had ever wanted was her mother’s love.

Desperate to escape, even if only for a moment to regain her composure, Sabina swallowed the hard lump in her throat, raised her chin, pulled back the curtain, rushed from their box none-too-gracefully, and straight into a wall. Only this wall was warm and smelled like a pleasant autumn afternoon in the country.

Firm arms wrapped about her waist, keeping her from falling. She glanced up into the most handsome face she’d ever seen.

“Oh…I…I’m…” She sounded like such a ninny instead of a woman of thirty.

She lost herself in the sea of his clear blue eyes. The theatre, her mother’s cruel words, the constant stares, all faded away and settled into this one perfect moment. His warm hands penetrated through her satin dress, searing her skin and sent her heart thundering.

She tried to think of something intelligent—or at least somewhat witty—to say but she was not used to conversing with handsome men who disrupted her senses. “I…I apologize for ruining—”

“You didn’t ruin anything,” the handsome stranger’s deep masculine voice quickly set her at ease. His fervent gaze stirred a long-forgotten flutter in her stomach.

She did not want the moment to end but did not want him to be caught with her either. She fought to control her swirling emotions. “I best be returning to my party.”

“I suppose I should release you.” It almost sounded like he didn’t want to.

Her heart soared for a brief moment before reality pierced it with an arrow, sending it crashing to the ground. Although there was something familiar about him that she couldn’t quite place, it was clear this gentleman was new to London, otherwise he would have already set her to her feet, bid adieu, and run the other way. The gossipmongers could be altogether too cruel to those who came near the Cursed Heiress.

“Yes, I suppose,” she whispered. Despite the glorious feel of his warm hands holding her, it was for the best. Her life’s path was clear, straight and narrow.

Although not quite ready to face her family, she slipped quietly into the box and took her seat, praying her mother might have some compassion for her frayed nerves.

“So, you’ve decided to return?” Mother’s tone was hard and disapproving.

Sabina had hoped to have a pleasant visit with her brother, but current company made it impossible. Rigidly holding her tears in check, she tried to maintain her composure for peering eyes, tried to ignore her mother’s slights and Eunice’s harsh glare, tried to ignore the stares and hushed mockery from the gossipmongers, but she was only human.

Mustering whatever calmness still within her power, she politely excused herself. It was the one positive aspect to being a spinster—she could come and go as she pleased. No sooner had she retreated down the grand staircase than curious onlookers were weaving tales about the Cursed Heiress. She picked up her pace and never looked back.



*** End of excerpt When The Marquess Returns (A Legend To Love, Book 1) by Alanna Lucas ***

Chapter One Excerpt from:


The Lady And Lord Lakewood

A Legend To Love, Book 2


1 flame: Kisses only



Copyright © 2018 Aileen Fish



Purchase The Lady And Lord Lakewood from your favorite retailer.


Chapter One


A violent dream held Vivienne, the widowed Viscountess Avalon, deep within its darkness and wouldn’t let her escape. Shadowy figures swarmed around her, threatening and maleficent. Heavy fog kept her from seeing exactly where she was, but some inner sense told her it was the woods near Lake Avalon. The shadows gathered behind her, guiding her—no, forcing her—toward the shore.

When she cleared the trees, the fog thinned, allowing her to see a few feet ahead. Still the shadows came closer, and she stepped into the cold water to stay beyond their reach. Hesitantly she inched forward. First her half-boots grew damp, then her hems soaked up the cold water. Vivienne shivered, but a glance over her shoulder showed the shadows still approached.

The lake shimmered in a radiating circle ahead in the direction she felt compelled to go. Tiny waves rippled outward as if a pebble had been tossed. In the center a face appeared. A kind, gentle face. Her great-aunt Nimue. She remained just below the surface. Vivienne’s heart raced in fear. Was this vision saying her aunt was going to die soon? Vivienne shook her head, pleading, “No, please no.”

Nimue raised her arms and a magnificent sword appeared in her hands. She lifted the weapon above the water but stayed below the surface herself.

Vivienne hesitated to take the sword. “What am I to do with this?”

Nimue was silent, not even sharing her thoughts. She simply lifted the sword again and motioned for Vivienne to take it.

As she did, the last of the fog lifted. The shadowy figures vanished and Nimue swam away. A gruff voice called her name from within the trees. Merlin, who some claimed was a magician, stood watching her.

“What am I to do with this?” Vivienne repeated.

The old man with stringy white locks blending into his long, graying beard said, “You will know when the time comes. Since you are having this vision, the time must be soon.”

She hated answers like this. You will know… Would she ever trust her second-sight enough to be confident in what lay ahead?

“You will,” Merlin said, and Nimue’s voice echoed the words.

Looking down at the magnificent weapon, she marveled at the workmanship. Celtic fretwork covered the handle, surrounding a huge emerald. It was heavy, with the broad blade of an old weapon of battle.

And as she studied it, it faded away, leaving her hands empty. She lifted her gaze to Merlin only to find him gone, too. She was alone at the edge of the lake, her skirt and boots wet but nothing else to show for the odd events.

Then she jolted awake in her bedchamber, snuggled deep under her heavy woolen blankets. Moonlight streamed between the draperies on her window, and the castle was silent. Her dream was so vivid she felt certain she’d lived it, yet her nightgown was dry.

Vivienne hated these visions and the period of waiting afterward as she watched for clues to guide her toward the meaning. Her aunt Nimue might be able to shed light on the clues, but she couldn’t visit her until daylight. Knowing she’d never get back to sleep, she got up, pulled on her robe and slippers, and went downstairs to make tea. Not having seen her aunt for several months, she’d enjoy a brief visit. Nimue was a font of memories and the history of the village of Avalon, and their family’s part in it. Time spent with her was never dull.


~~~

Climbing the steps in the shadowy hallway of Camelot Castle, Richard Bedivere, Earl of Lakewood, dreaded what he was to hear from his dear friend, Uther Pendragon, 1st Duke of Camelot, who lay on his deathbed. The story Lakewood had been told was the duke and his horse stopped to drink from a pond on the far end of the estate. Shortly after they continued their ride, the horse dropped to the ground gasping and retching before it died. The duke’s leg was trapped beneath the horse and his companions struggled to free him.

When they helped him stand he doubled over in pain, clutching his belly. The only reason his companions could discern from both horse and man falling ill was that something in the water must be deadly. His friends helped him onto another horse with a groom behind to help him stay on. The poor young man nearly fell several times when the duke slumped to one side or the other, but he kept His Grace from falling. Everyone was surprised the duke survived the return trip to Camelot Castle, but he said he must say goodbye to his son, Arthur.

Arthur was only a babe, a mere three years old and now he was doomed to live without either parent, his mother having died giving birth to him. Someone would be appointed guardian until Arthur came of age, and his father’s men would protect him with their lives, but Lakewood’s heart ached for the empty future the boy faced.

The castle was oddly quiet. No footmen scurried about tending to the duke. No chambermaids ducked into hiding as Lakewood reached the end of the hallway. Had His Grace already died?

When Lakewood entered the duke’s bedchamber, the older man stirred and motioned for him to approach. “Come, Lakewood. Come close. There is something you must do for me.” He paused, panting hard, his face tight with pain. One arm was tucked tightly across his gut.

The room reflected the way Lakewood felt, dark and somber, the heavy curtains blocking the daylight. In the pale glow from the candle beside the bed, his friend looked pale, wan, his eyes sunken deep. His brow was furrowed with pain. “Of course, Your Grace. Ask anything of me.”

“Find Merlin. He’ll know what to do.”

Lakewood stepped closer to hear better. “Who did this to you? He must be caught and punished. I’ll make certain of it.”

“There isn’t time to go into that. Just find Merlin.”

“Who is Merlin? Where does he live?”

His Grace coughed, wheezing heavily. “Find him.” He stilled so quickly Lakewood thought he was dead, but after an endless wait his chest rose slightly.

“What should I ask of him?”

“He’ll know. Just find him, Lakewood.”

Seeing the duke’s valet hovering in the shadows of the heavy curtains on the poster bed, Lakewood asked him, “Why isn’t the doctor here?”

“Someone went after him. He should arrive shortly.”

The duke didn’t look strong enough to survive shortly. “Who is Merlin?”

The gray-haired man shook his head. “I’ve never heard of him.”

Someone would know, but Lakewood had no idea who to ask.

Placing a hand on his friend’s shoulder, Lakewood whispered a prayer. “We’ll take care of Arthur,” he then said, and left the bedchamber.

Before leaving the castle, he climbed another flight of stairs to the nursery where young Arthur played. The lad waved a wooden sword at his nurse, who was on her knees performing an adequate rendition of a dragon.

“Die, dragon,” Arthur cried, gently pressing the wooden blade to his nurse’s neck. She gasped and moaned, then rolled on her side and lay with her eyes closed. The boy laughed.

Suddenly noticing Lakewood’s presence, the servant jumped to her feet and smoothed her skirt, brushing a stray lock of mousy brown hair off her cheek. “May I help you, my lord?”

“No, I came to see how Arthur was faring. He grows so quickly.”

“Yes, sir. He’s already learning to write his letters. Soon the duke will need to hire a tutor.” Her face softened when she realized the duke wouldn’t be alive to hire anyone.

“Arthur will be fine. He has many uncles to watch over him. We all feel as though he was our own son. I’ve heard the other men say it.”

Arthur looked solemnly at Lakewood, meeting his gaze. “My father will be dead. Lord Percival says so.”

“Yes,” Lakewood said. “We will miss him greatly.”

“I will be Duke of Camelot.”

“Yes, and your father’s friends will protect you and Camelot. Always. Have no worries on that.”

“Lord Percival says I will be fostered with Sir Kay. What does that mean, Lord Lakewood?”

Lakewood glanced at the nurse, who nodded in confirmation.

“It means you’ll live with Sir Kay’s family so you won’t be alone. Sir Kay will teach you to rule wisely, fight mercilessly, and be just like your father.”

“I’m my father’s son. I know all these things already.”

Chuckling softly, Lakewood refrained from arguing with the three-year-old. “Yes, you’ll be a fine duke and Camelot will continue to thrive. I must go now. Listen to your nurse and do as she says. One is never too old to listen to good advice.”

The innocence of the young lord wrapped itself around Lakewood’s heart and squeezed. Arthur had no idea what lay ahead when he inherited the dukedom. The duke’s nephew, Martin, wanted Camelot for himself. The law and the entailment decreed who the dukedom went to and Martin was next in line to Arthur. Only upon Arthur’s death would Martin inherit.

And Martin wasn’t above murder to achieve his goal. Look at what he’d done to the duke. Oh, he wasn’t foolish enough to kill anyone himself. No, he had men to do that sort of thing. The problem was that the duke was the local magistrate, so investigation would normally fall to him. The knights in Uther’s circle of friends had already begun asking questions, beginning with those who worked for Camelot.

Maybe this man Merlin that Uther mentioned had information they needed to charge Martin with the duke’s death. Whatever killed him, Martin was behind it. Regardless of what Merlin knew, the Duke of Camelot had asked Lakewood to find him, so find him he would.


*** End of excerpt The Lady and Lord Lakewood (A Legend To Love, Book 2) by Aileen Fish ***

Chapter One Excerpt from:


Lady Soldier

A Legend To Love, Book 3


1 flame: Kisses only



Copyright © 2018 Jillian Chantal



Purchase Lady Soldier from your favorite retailer.


Chapter One


Galloping at full speed with the wind blowing her hair out of its formerly neat and tidy style and sure she'd lost several ribbons in the process, The Honorable Matilda—Maud—Somerset almost flew over the neck of her horse when she pulled on the reins too hard.

Her mother standing on the porch of their country house, clearly agitated, was enough to cause Maud consternation. “It appears we’re in trouble again, Khan.”

Two grooms appeared. One took control of her large black horse and one assisted her off the animal’s back.

As soon as she was on her feet, her mother strode over to her. In a tone as frosty as if were mid-January instead of July, said, “Would it be unreasonable for me to expect a bit of decorum from you? Here you are dressed again in some long-deceased female’s gown you found in the attic and acting like a hoyden.”

“I was merely exercising Khan. What harm is there in that?”

“When you've been told the mother and father of the young man your uncle and father have chosen as your potential groom are coming to call, I do expect you to be ready and properly attired.” Her mother flicked one of the loose ribbons. “I blame your father. He should never have allowed you to learn about firearms, swords and crossbows. He's ruined you.”

Glad she'd left the crossbow she'd been practicing with behind the folly, Maud pasted an apologetic smile on her face. “I'll go right up and change. I'm sorry, I forgot.” She turned toward the front door.

Her mother grabbed her arm—a bit too tightly— and squeezed. “You'll use the servants’ entrance. Our guests are already inside and you cannot walk past the morning room in that sorry state.”

Maud knew her mother was right and even though she had no desire to marry, she knew she had to obey her parents. She plodded along, reluctant for the meeting to come.

Behind her, she heard her mother add, in a soft voice as she followed her own rule of a lady never raising hers, “And don’t drag your feet in that manner. It’s not attractive for a young lady to be heard arriving by the shuffling of her slippers.”

Maud muttered under her breath, “Even in riding boots, I presume.”

“I’m sorry, did you address me?” Her mother’s tone was slightly brusquer than it had been.

Deciding there was nothing to gain by further discussion with her mother, Maud made haste to the servants’ entrance.

As she walked through the back hallway, she passed a couple of maids who averted their eyes when they noticed her. They were used to her being in their domain by now. It seemed more and more that Maud was banished to the non-family side of the house. When she was under marriageable age, her father allowed her to learn the art of swordsmanship and other battle skills along with her brother. It hadn’t been a problem to anyone in the house except her mother and older sister, but they tolerated it.

Until her sister became betrothed. Suddenly, it was urgent that Maud make a better impression in the county. After all, she was next to be on the auction block on the marriage mart. Hiding her natural love of the outdoors and its pursuits was well nigh impossible for her, but she was doing the best she could to suppress her natural tendencies.

In her quarters, the maid she and her sister still shared—at least until Charlotte’s marriage—was pacing the area in front of the cold fireplace. “Miss Matilda, we must dress your hair and replace your gown. Miss Charlotte has already been here twice seeking you.”

“I know, Mary. Mama stopped me outside and sent me up the back staircase.” Maud let out a deep sigh and plopped into the chair in front of her dressing table. “Take out these cursed ribbons first and then we can choose my gown.”

“Your mother has already chosen the dark blue one with the silver overskirt.”

“That one again? One would think it’s the only garment she thinks I own. She’s always pressing me to wear it.”

“It does show off your complexion and eyes to an advantage, Miss.”

“You know how lucky you are not to have such a mother as I?” Maud glanced at Mary behind her in the looking glass. She noticed a shadow pass over the girl’s face and immediately regretted her hasty words. She reached over her shoulder and took her maid’s hand where it was busy taking the remnants of ribbon from her hair. “I’m sorry. I know your mother is no longer alive and that wasn’t a kind thing I said.”

“It’s all right, Miss Matilda. I know you mean no harm. I can even understand your anger at your mother. As a servant, I don’t have to worry about an arranged marriage. If it’s not too forward of me to say so, I’m sorry this is happening to you.”

Maud shrugged. “It’s not like I’m the only one it happens to. When your uncle is a duke, no matter how far down the line you are, everyone has an idea on how your marriage can help the family. What the bride wants matters not at all.”

“Miss Charlotte seems content with the choice made for her.” As soon as the words passed Mary’s lips, she clapped her hand to her mouth. “I shouldn’t be impertinent.”

Waving her hand in the air, Maud said, “It makes no difference to me.” She smiled at her maid. “Charlotte has always been Mama’s favorite. She accepts everything decided for her and learned to do her needlework and play the piano beautifully. I’m the disappointment.”

“Oh no, miss. All of us in the household are quite fond of you and your bravery.”

Her hair was finally free of the old ribbons and Maud stood and held her arms out, knowing she’d need to be washed off before stepping into her fresh gown. “Unfortunately, that quality is not one that is desirable in a female.”

Mary nodded and moved over to the ewer and basin. “We should hurry. Someone will be sent to fetch you momentarily.”

Maud knew she was right and stood in silence as she was made ready to return downstairs to be assessed by her prospective groom’s family like a fatted calf. It was all she could do not to cry. She hadn’t even been told who was being considered. How was that reasonable? Knowing the women in her family had been subjected to these kind of marriages since at least before the ancestress she was named for, Queen Maud, didn’t make her any happier about the fact it was happening to her in her own turn.

When she was properly attired, Maud ran down the corridor, hoping neither her mother nor sister would see her. They always moved at a proper, sedate pace and would surely lecture her on her deportment.

At the door to the front parlor, she stopped, took a deep breath and ran her right hand over her hair.

Myers, the butler, nodded a question at her and she smiled. “I think I'm prepared.”

With that, he opened the door with a flourish.

Six sets of eyes turned to scrutinize her. Blood rushed to her ears and all sound stopped except the roaring in her veins.

Of course she knew her parents, uncle and sister. The other couple, she'd never seen before. They appeared amiable with their smiling faces, but she knew she was like one of the insects on display the last time she visited the British Museum. She was sure they were judging her harshly for keeping them waiting.

Her uncle, the Duke of Beaufort, stepped over to her with his hands extended. “Ah, Matilda. Come and meet Lord and Lady Davison. He's a baron.”

So it was possible the marriageable son would have a title someday which Maud supposed was a good match for the niece of a current duke and granddaughter of the prior one. But why wasn’t the potential groom present? Could he be as reluctant as she for such a contract?

She curtsied and, in a demure voice she knew her mother would approve, she said, “Very pleased to meet you both.”

Lady Davison smiled slightly, but her husband still had a frown furrowing his brow.

Knowing her mother would never forgive her if she didn't at least try to charm these people who might very well one day be her family, Maud offered to do the one thing she was talented at in the drawing room. “If Mama would accompany me on the pianoforte, I'd love to sing some of my favorite songs for you.”

“You mean you don't play?” Lord Davison’s brow furrowed even more if that were possible. Now it looked like a big brown centipede was perched above his eyes. Maud choked back a laugh.

“Yes. She plays, but she loves the singing so much, she sometimes accidentally skips a note or two in her enthusiasm for the words.” Coming to her daughter's rescue, her mother led her to the pianoforte.

She whispered in Maud’s ear, “You sing like you've never sung before. Don't disappoint your uncle.”

Not for the first time in her life did Maud wish she was a duke. It must be a wonderful way to live. Everyone wanting to make sure you, and only you, were happy.

“Would you prefer to hear Meet Me by Moonlight or The Last Rose of Summer?” Maud asked her audience who had all taken seats in the gilded gold and white upholstered chairs.

“How about both?” the duke asked.

Knowing she needed to impress the Davisons with her voice, since judging by the sour look on the baron’s face, he didn’t appear to be going to forgive her for her lack of piano skills, Maud took a deep breath and nodded at her mother to begin the first song.

As she sang, she watched their faces. Lady Davison seemed pleased with the ballad, but her husband still had a frown. Maud idly wondered if his beetled brow was his regular expression. Perhaps the man didn’t like anything he could see of the world.

When the song was over, everyone politely clapped.

“One more, Matilda and then we’ll go into the dining room for some refreshments,” the duke said. He inclined his head to her and she did as he bade and moved into the next song, one recently adapted from an old Irish melody. She smiled to herself as she sang. This song was special to her as the old melody had been a favorite of her brother’s.

Before she finished the second stanza to start the third, a blond head popped in the open window and, in an instant, Maud knew she’d never marry Mr. Davison. Not that she’d wanted to marry a stranger, but now she was sure things were going to go seriously awry.

No one but she had noticed the man since the others had their backs to the wall of windows looking out on the lawn. She tried to subtly shake her head to discourage him from speaking.

Luck was not on her side, as Sanderson Grimes, never known for his discretion, called out, “What did I tell you about singing that Irish tune, trusty trout?”

~~~

Shocked as Maud’s parents, sister, uncle and two strangers turned as one to gape at him, Sanderson regretted his interruption. He hadn’t realized the family had visitors. Blundering in was one of the things he tended to do, but he’d been so excited to be on leave from the army, he’d dashed over from his family’s estate almost as soon as he left his kit bag. He’d missed his friend and wanted to see her.

Not paying close attention, he’d merely thought she was singing for her own enjoyment and had somehow mastered the skill of piano playing in his absence.

And now here he was, obviously interrupting something very important if the rage on Maud’s uncle’s face was any indication.

Making the Duke of Beaufort angry was certainly not on his list of things to do this day when he’d been riding through the countryside, but it appeared he’d certainly done so.

Trying to make the best of the blunder he made, Sandy said, “I’m so sorry to have interrupted your musical interlude. I’ve just returned from my regiment and wanted to greet the family.”

“And now you have, so please excuse us, Grimes,” the duke said.

Casting a glance at his good friend, Maud, Sandy backed away from the window. The expression on her face caused him no little consternation. He’d never wish ill on her, but now he was sure she would be the one to pay the price for his error. He hoped the duke wasn’t prone to violence on women. Not that he’d ever heard any rumors to that effect, but one never knew.

He walked off the porch and around the side of the manor to the stables. It was Maud’s special place and Sandy knew she’d come as soon as she could.

Settling in for a long wait as he knew the duke wouldn’t be in a hurry to cut short his visit, he leaned against a bale of hay near one of the stalls.

A stable hand came upon him there, but merely doffed his cap and moved on to mucking out one of the stalls farther down the row.

Sandy closed his eyes and found himself dozing off once or twice. Shaking his head to stay awake, after what seemed to be an hour, he finally decided she wasn’t going to be able to manage to slip away.

He stood and wiped some stray straw from the seat of his breeches just as she came around the corner. She smacked into his chest, causing him to step backward as he caught her by the elbows. “Slow down.”

“Thank goodness you haven’t gone yet.” Maud took his arm. “Come with me. My uncle is readying to leave and I don’t want him to see you again.”

“He was not best pleased to see me, was he?”

“Not in the least.” She dragged him to the far end of the stable block. “Those people were here to inspect me and even before your inauspicious entrance, I wasn’t making a great impression.”

“Inspecting you?”

“It seems I’m next to be betrothed in my family.”

“I didn’t see a potential groom in there. Or did I miss him? Was he hiding in the corner behind your mother’s fake shrubbery?” Sandy smiled, but he wasn’t happy this was happening to his friend. She deserved so much more than it seemed she was getting. He knew she hated being her uncle’s pawn as if she were a chess piece.

“It appears he cannot be bothered to make a search for his own bride.” She shook her head as tears filled her eyes. “I imagine if his parents approved of me, he’s in the same position as I am. No chance to say no.”

“But you think they didn’t approve even before I came in and ruined it all?”

“While the duke is angry at you and perhaps will blame you if they say they aren’t interested in me as a daughter-in-law, I’m sure the putative groom’s father didn’t care for me at all. The sneer he greeted me with never left his face.”

“I can’t tell how you feel about this turn of events, Maud. Are you happy you probably won’t be marrying a stranger or are you sad that you won’t?”

“As you know, I have no desire to marry. What I’m sad about is my family being angry at me.”

He pulled her to him and gave her a hug. They’d been friends for so many years, she was like a sister to him and he hated she was hurting. “Did they yell too badly after I disappeared?”

“No. It was worse than that. The room became eerily quiet and still. I tried to return to the song, but Mama stopped playing. As soon as she did, the duke and my father led the Davisons out of the parlor.”

“What happened then?”

“Once they were out of the room, Mama started crying. It broke my heart, Sandy. I’ve certainly caused my mother some grief in our lives—especially with my love of firearms and crossbows—but I think this was the first time I realized just how much she despairs of me.”

“I know you hate to hurt your mother. We all do, but we all must also remain true to ourselves.”

Maud shook her head. “No, my friend, we don’t. Men are allowed to be true to themselves. Women are not. You and I both know it.”

Sandy knew she was right. It was the way of the world. It would do no good for him to try to convince her otherwise.



*** End of excerpt Lady Soldier (A Legend To Love, Book 3) by Jillian Chantal ***

Chapter One Excerpt from:


Her Wild Irish Rogue

A Legend To Love, Book 4


1 flame: Kisses only



Copyright © 2018 Saralee Etter



Purchase Her Wild Irish Rogue from your favorite retailer.



Chapter One


“Surely the Duke will be there today,” Captain Stephen Killian muttered.

Lieutenant Leary adjusted the reins in his hand as he drove the borrowed phaeton down the wide Parisian avenue toward the Duke of Wellington’s temporary headquarters. The horses were borrowed, too, a pair of bone-setters but the best he could find in the war-weary city. Leary risked a quick glance at his friend and gave a non-committal shrug.

Captain Killian, fresh and crisp in his full regimental uniform despite the summer warmth, cracked his knuckles. “It’s been a month since Waterloo, and Paris is in the hands of the Allies. I need something to do. Surely he’ll have time to see me. Give me new orders.”

“Surely he will,” echoed Leary comfortingly. The horses tossed their heads nervously as they passed a field with Prussians practicing shooting drills. The fabled City of Light was overrun with soldiers from a dozen nations, camping in every city park, eating their heads off and swaggering around town looking for amusement. The new regime of Louis the Eighteenth had barely settled back in power after Napoleon’s second exile to the distant island of St. Helena.

They had just reached the Bridge of Jena, le Pont d’Iena, as the French called it, when Killian shouted, “They can’t do that! Stop the phaeton!”

“What is it?” Leary barely had time to pull the horses to a stop before his friend had jumped down. He watched open-mouthed as Killian sprinted toward the bridge. “Ah, bless ye for a madman, Stephen Killian, what mischief are ye up to now?”

On the bridge, two Prussian soldiers were stacking sticks of dynamite at each of the pilings. A third Prussian was unspooling a long wire fuse from the explosives toward the detonator, hidden behind stacks of sandbags on the riverbank.

Killian drew his sword as he ran shouting at the trio of soldiers on the bridge. Two of them dropped their sticks of dynamite and backed away in confusion. The third solider, the one with the spool of wire, held his ground. With a yell, Killian lunged at him, his cavalry sword whistling dangerously through the air before the fellow’s face. Shielding himself with his forearm, the soldier stepped back, tripped over a pile of explosives, and fell down.

Leary sighed. “Ah, fighting to put an end to the war. It’s mad as a hatter, he is.” He leaned forward to rest his forearm on one knee, holding the carriage reins loosely in one hand as he watched the melee. He had witnessed his friend’s fearsome battle fury and knew Killian wasn’t in any danger. But the war was over now, and it was not up to Killian to prevent other soldiers from continuing the war’s destruction.

A Prussian officer in a gold-epauletted uniform began screaming angrily in German. The officer’s high forehead and the beak of a nose over luxuriant mustaches identified him as Field Marshal Gebhard von Blucher.

At Blucher’s direction, two more soldiers drew their swords and advanced on Killian. With a wild laugh, Killian sprang forward to meet both at once. Their swords clanged together and then slid apart with a steely rasp as the three combatants engaged and then danced free. Killian was light on his feet and deceptively strong despite his slender build. A lock of dark hair fell over his forehead as Killian slashed at first one and then the other, feinting and parrying, his blade flickering in the sunlight as if on fire. Their shouts soon became grunts of effort as, slowly but surely, Killian drove the Prussian swordsmen down the bridge.

The soldier with the spool of wire had picked himself up and gone back to his work. Crawling along the ground, nearly trampled by the swordsmen, he attached one end of the fuse to a stick of dynamite. He unspooled the wire as he backed carefully toward the detonator hidden among the sandbags.

Killian noticed him and shouted a curse. “You fool! Do you mean to blow all of us up?”

One of the Prussians saw the danger too. He roared to his companion, gesturing toward the soldier laying the wire. The other Prussian turned and slashed at the kneeling soldier, who cringed back.

On the riverbank, Blucher waved his arms at the soldiers and shouted. The second swordsman stopped attacking the man with the wire and rejoined the fight with Killian. The three-way duel raged on as the two swordsmen pushed Killian back, forcing him to retreat to the highest part of the bridge.

An open barouche pulled up beside Leary. It held four passengers: a British officer, a civilian gentleman, and two ladies, whose faces were hidden by bonnets and the ruffled parasols they carried to ward off any errant ray of sun.

The gold medals on the British officer’s scarlet frock coat glinted in the sunlight as he rose from his seat in the barouche. He had a long, lean face and a high-bridged nose. Dark eyes sparkled under bushy brows as he surveyed the commotion on the bridge.

He called to Leary. “You there! What’s going on?”

Leary nodded respectfully to the Duke of Wellington. “The Prussians will be wishing to blow up the bridge, your Grace,” Leary called back. “Begorra, and isn’t it our own Captain Killian who is preventing them.”

The ruffled parasols fluttered as the ladies gasped with shock.

“What?” roared the Duke. He clambered down from the carriage and stalked toward the Prussian general. “Curse it, Blucher! You can’t just go about blowing bridges up. The war’s over.”

Leary nodded to himself, satisfied that the Duke would settle the situation.

Wellington turned to the combatants on the bridge. “Halt! Swords up, now!”

All three swordsmen stopped, their sword points whipping straight up. Killian stepped back smartly and stood at attention. The Prussians, glancing from Blucher to Wellington, wavered uncertainly between instinctive obedience to a command and their desire to finish the fight.

“Now explain what this is all about, General von Blucher,” Wellington demanded.

Red-faced, Blucher turned to Wellington. “I shall rid the earth of this – this abomination, this disgrace!”

Wellington surveyed the bridge critically. “It’s a bridge. What’s disgraceful about it?”

“Do you know what they call it? Do you?” Blucher shouted. “That monster, that despicable, vile, repulsive—”

As Blucher’s speech disintegrated into strangled German curses, Wellington nodded. “Yes, yes. Napoleon. Go on.”

“He named this bridge the Pont d’Iena!” Blucher snarled. “After the battle of Jena! Jena, where twenty thousand of my brave soldiers were swarmed under and destroyed, slaughtered by that villain’s foul scum! My men! Twenty thousand fine, honest Prussian fathers and sons. I swear to you by all that’s holy, there will be no smug monuments to that heartbreaking disaster. I will erase this disgusting bridge from the face of the earth. I will—”

“Blucher!” Wellington shook his head. “It’s time to stop.”

“I shall stop. After I blow up this bridge.” Blucher turned and barked an order to the Prussians on the bridge, waving them back to solid ground. The soldier who had laid the fuse connected the wire to the detonator. A Prussian engineer stepped up behind the plunger.

Only Killian was left standing at attention on the bridge. He didn’t move. Chin lifted, eyes straight ahead, he stood silently amid the piles of dynamite.

“Ah, Killian, curse ye for the devil’s own fool! Get out of there!” shouted Leary.

Captain Killian flashed a smile at his friend. He shook his head, then went back to staring straight ahead. Passersby gawked at the scene as they walked or rode past, crossing themselves piously, but still hurrying along their way.

One of the ladies in the carriage stood up. Leary caught a glimpse of dark curls as she called out, “Your Grace, you can’t let them blow it up with our soldier still on the bridge!”

As she spoke, a dandified old French gentleman who had been limping along the promenade with the aid of a gold-tipped black cane stopped and raised his quizzing glass to look at her. The dark-haired young lady beckoned to him, at which he bowed and limped over to Wellington’s carriage. His male servant followed at his elbow.

The old Frenchman was elegantly dressed in satin and lace, his pale, pain-lined face framed by an old-fashioned powdered wig. Leary only heard the rising lilt of his question and the lady’s anxious tone as she replied. A few more murmured words, and then the servant sprinted off.

At the bridge, the Duke of Wellington glared at the Prussian general. “If you kill my man, it will mean war between Britain and Prussia, Blucher.”


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