To celebrate here on the Chatelaines, I'm running a special contest:
One lucky reader who comments on either today’s post (10/28) or last Wednesday's (10/21) by midnight ET on Sunday Nov 1 will win autographed copies of The Grail King, & Deep Magic, along with an autographed copy of the November RT BookReviews magazine featuring yours truly and the Druids of Avalon on the cover!
Please consider including your email with your post so I can contact you quickly if you win! And if you don’t…check out more chances to win at www.joynash.com.
Also, if you plan to pick up a copy of Silver Silence, it would be great if you could do it near the book's release date of Oct 27, because a book's release weeks sales are the most important to the publisher!
Thanks and good luck to all!
And now an excerpt from Silver Silence...
The shore was cold and damp. The seat of Rhys’s breeches was wet where his arse touched the ground. The discomfort was welcome. Or, if not exactly welcome, tolerated. It allowed Rhys to focus on the wretchedness of his body, rather than the wretchedness of his soul. For that small distraction, he was grateful.
Silence spread like a woolen blanket over Avalon. Far off, a raptor screeched. The village, however, slept. Rhys had tried to do the same, on the spare pallet in Trevor’s roundhouse. He was as tired as he could ever remember—exhausted in soul as well as body. But sleep would not come.
Sleep never came to him easily, here on Avalon.
Aye, he could drop off at a moment’s notice camped by the road, under trees and sky. He slept effortlessly in vermin-ridden haylofts, or wrapped in a thin blanket in front of some stranger’s hearth. And he’d slumbered soundly in any number of beds belonging to widows and whores.
But here in Avalon, surrounded by the people he loved, and who loved him in return, he could not sleep. His loneliness was too profound, his hurt too deep.
He wanted what he could not have. Desperately.
Gwen had scolded him soundly for staying away so long. He was sorry to have frightened his twin. Once they had been so close, they had shared nearly every thought, but now Gwen’s husband was first in her heart, and her connection with her twin had faded. Still, his sister loved him deeply, even if she understood him less well. He wondered if she suspected that Breena was the reason Rhys had stayed away so long.
Now that he could no longer tell himself she was too young to give herself to a man, he could not look at her without wanting her beneath him. Or on her knees, her red lips parting eagerly. Or bent over a bed, or chair, or even a log, as he slaked his lust like a rutting beast. Or with her wrists bound—
He broke that sickening thought with a shudder of raw guilt.
Marcus would kill him for even imagining such things about Breena. But Rhys couldn’t help it. He might travel to Hibernia, or the far northern isles…he might warm the beds of a thousand whores…he might drink himself to oblivion, or walk until he dropped…. And still he would not be able to wipe Breena from his mind.
The worst of his torment, perhaps, came from the knowledge that had he truly belonged to Avalon, he would have been able to have her. If his grandfather had not condemned him to a life of homelessness. Even though Cyric was dead, Rhys did not for one moment imagine he could give up his wandering on Avalon’s behalf. He’d seen, through Cyric’s magic, the terrible future Britain would face if Rhys abandoned his search for Druid magic. Only by bringing the most powerful Druids to Avalon, to be trained in the Light, could he ensure that darkness would not overtake his land and his people.
Aye, Cyric’s vision of Britain’s precarious future meant that happiness was a blessing Rhys would never know. Perhaps there might have been hope, had Breena been raised in poverty, as Rhys had been. Until four years ago, Breena’s home had been a prosperous Roman estate. She’d been born to luxuries Rhys hadn’t even known to dream of during his own childhood. The comfort and security of the Celtic settlement of Avalon was a primitive life for her. The hard life of a wandering minstrel’s wife? He almost laughed. Unthinkable.
He stared into the fog and the darkness. He should not have come. Visiting Avalon, far from comforting him, had only driven loneliness and hopelessness deeper into his cold heart.
He would have known her voice at a hundred paces. As it was, she spoke from only a few steps behind his back. He dropped his head and pressed his forehead to his bent knees. He could not face her. Not now. Perhaps if he gave no answer, she would simply leave.
He should have known better. Even as a small lass, Breena had been too stubborn for her own good.
“Rhys, what are you doing here all alone? Are you…all right? You’re not ill, are you?”
He admitted defeat by lifting his head. “Nay.”
He didn’t look back as she approached. His body tightened as she neared, the scent of roses wafting before her. He could not suppress the wholly inappropriate hardening of his body.
She stood beside him, just visible in his peripheral vision, hesitant, shivering. His first instinct was to pull her into his arms and warm her. But because he had some measure of honor left, he did not.
“Why are you here?” Her teeth chattered a little. She rubbed her arms. “The whole village is asleep.”
“You are not.”
She did not answer. He did not rise, nor did she move to sit. He glanced up at her, but could not discern her expression in the darkness.
“But you should be asleep,” he said. “Did you follow me, Bree?”
“Yes,” she confessed. “I woke and…I needed air. I opened my shutters, and saw you leave Trevor’s roundhouse. When you did not return….”
“You should not have come after me. You should be in bed.”
She hugged herself more tightly. “I…have not been able to sleep much of late.”
He caught the tremor of fear in her voice. “The silver visions?” he asked sharply. “Have they returned?”
“Yes, the visions….” She blew out a white plume of breath. “But that is not all. You were gone so long. Even Gwen was frightened for you. As for me…I think of you often, Rhys. Especially at night, when I….” Her voice faltered.
Dear gods in Annwyn! He did not want to hear this. She stood so close now, her skirt brushed his knee. Exactly when she’d moved, he did not know.
She sat down beside him. He fought the urge put his arm around her. Or get up and run. He wasn’t sure which he wanted to do more.
“The ground is wet,” he said.
“I don’t care.”
A heavy silence fell between them. It lengthened into awkwardness. The night seemed to contract around him, until the darkness contained nothing but the lap of water on the shore, the shush of Breena’s breathing, and his own pounding heart.
He inhaled her scent. She must have put rose oil in her bathwater. It was a Roman fragrance, very much prized by wealthy women. The aroma seemed to draw a thin, straight line between them. He did not try to cross it. He knew better.
Unfortunately, she did not. “Will you stay the winter in Avalon? I…I do hope so. Everyone has missed you.” She paused. “I have missed you.”
He was ashamed at how fiercely he drank in those four words. She had missed him. His cock responded, even as he fought to remain detached from a rush of tangled emotions. In the grand scheme of things, it did not matter that Breena missed him.
“I’ll stay perhaps a sennight,” he said. “Until the harvest feast. After that…I must go.”
She uttered a sound of dismay. “But that is hardly any time at all! Gwen will not have it, Rhys, I am telling you that right now. She will not allow you to—”
“My sister has no authority over my comings and goings.” The words were harsher than he’d intended.
Breena sucked in a breath. “I…I didn’t mean to imply that she did. Only…only that she loves you. She misses you dreadfully when you’re gone.”
“No one should miss me. I am not a part of Avalon.”
“How can you say that? Why, you’re the most important part of us! Without you, the sacred isle would be all but deserted. Most of us are here only because you brought us.”
It was true. Of Cryic’s original small band of Druids, only Mared and Padrig remained. And Gwen, of course. All the others… Dead. Or lost.
As Rhys was.
“I’m used to wandering,” he told her. “I am more comfortable on the road.”
“What nonsense! You could not possibly be.”
He made no reply.
“Mared says in the past, when Cyric was alive, you visited far more often, and stayed longer. But now that your grandfather is dead, and your freedom greater, you stay away. Rhys, is it…is it because of me? Do you…do you hate me so much?”
He turned so abruptly she lurched backward. He grabbed her arm to steady her. He released her an instant later, as if he’d touched a hot coal.
“I could never hate you.” He swallowed. “How could you imagine such a thing? You are like a sis—
“I am not your sister! I never was, and I don’t want to be. Rhys, I lo—”
“Gods in Annwyn, Breena!” He jerked to his feet. “Do not say it. Please.”
She stared up at him. “Why not? It is the truth.”
“What you want from me can never be the truth between us.”
Slowly, she pushed to her feet, regarding him with sober eyes. “Rhys. You are shaking.”
He was. He turned and paced a few steps away. His hand went to the back of his neck. He needed some space.
But her voice followed. “I understand now why you rejected me that day at my father’s house. I know why you flung all those hurtful words at me. I was too young for what I was asking of you. But, Rhys, that was four years ago. I’m no longer that girl. I’m a woman now.”
He clenched his teeth. Gods. Aye, she was a woman. A lush, tempting….
Her words battered him. “There’s no longer any need to push me away. Don’t you see? I love you, Rhys. I always have, and I always will. And I think you l—”
Something snapped inside him. He spun around, and stalked toward her. “Breena, stop. Before you say something you’ll regret.”
“No! I won’t. I’ll say what’s in my heart. I lov—mmph!”
He’d covered her mouth with his palm. His other hand gripped her shoulder. “Don’t,” he pleaded. “Don’t.”
Her eyes were huge. In the moonlight they looked gray rather than the clear blue he knew them to be. And in them…a spark of dangerous, feminine knowledge.
Her lips parted. Her breath bathed his palm. Before he could react, before he could even think, she tasted his skin with the tip of her hot, wet tongue.
Don't forget to stop by my personal blog Friday Night Reflections, where you'll find more excerpts and more chances to win! All the best!
All the best!