UPDATE The winners are…Katrina Whittaker, Gail Siuba, and Jana Leah!
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For those fans of the Night Fall series, here’s another tale—slightly removed from the timeline by a few centuries… You honestly don’t have to read any other story in the series to enjoy The First Knight. And isn’t that cover droolworthy?
The story is set back in Merry Old England, in a musty old castle. My heroine’s plucky and determined to trap her former betrothed in marriage, but he has brought back an “affliction”, which makes his lust a dangerous thing to tempt. And once the deed is done, another problem presents itself that only a naughty ménage can solve. Of course. Ahem. I do love my job. Enjoy! ~DD
The First Knight
While hiding her true identity, Maddie must seduce the mysterious Lord Garon to cement their marriage contract and ensure she won’t be returned into her lecherous stepfather’s care.
Fresh from Crusade in Palestine, Lord Garon has a secret he must hide, a hunger that must be fed, and a dark and uncertain future. Having shed himself of a fiancée he’d never met, he’s home to lick his wounds. The only thing he wants is a warm-blooded meal—but the new housekeeper is strangely insistent on giving him so much more.
Maddie’s seduction doesn’t progress without complications, but one secret from her own past might put an end to the love she nurtures for her dark, tempestuous lover.
To celebrate the release of The First Knight, I’m giving away copies of Night Fall stories, one each to three winners! All you have to do is answer two little questions!
Do you like ongoing series? How many sequels do you prefer?
And excerpt from The First Knight…
Maddie shivered at the creaks and groans the portcullis made as it slowly rose. The rain-laden wind carried the noises and filled the silences in between with a howling that sounded like the hounds from hell had arrived at the castle gate.
Shouts outside the curtain wall had alerted them only minutes before of Lord Garon d’Albermarle’s arrival. With only a bliaut covering her sleeping shift, Maddie stood on the first step of the keep, holding a tray with a goblet of wine, ready to offer a proper greeting to her overlord.
“Are you sure this is the way you wish to go about this, M-Maddie?” Egbert asked, fidgeting at her side.
She swallowed against the sudden dryness in her mouth and nodded.
“It be on your head then,” he said, his always-mournful tone as dire as one of Father Ansel’s Sunday sermons. She sent thanks above that the cranky priest was away, or her deception wouldn’t last past the introductions.
The clatter of dozens of hooves on the cobbled bridge beyond the gate filled the castle yard with thunder. From the encroaching darkness, the sounds were as ominous as the dark shapes looming on the gatehouse walls. The torches she’d ordered lit sputtered and flared, distorting and elongating shapes, so the men riding through the entrance appeared as tall as giants.
Already tired and on edge because she hadn’t slept since a messenger had arrived, warning the castle of his lordship’s arrival days before, Maddie’s fevered imagination painted them darker and larger still.
“Be they devils?” Egbert asked, his narrow shoulders shaking. “No one travels on a night with nary a speck of light in the sky.”
“Hush!” The storm whipping at her clothing and the fatigue from months of worry over this very moment combined to make her hands shake and blackened an already foul mood.
The horsemen entered the bailey, and a large figure separated from the contingent who approached the keep. As he drew closer, her fears weren’t eased one whit. The warrior sat atop a huge black destrier, forcing her to raise her gaze quite high to seek his face.
He wore a helm that left only his square, stubbled jaw exposed. The darkness cast by the metal nose guard concealed his eyes. Only his mouth gave a hint of his mood—a thin, straight line with the corners crimped downward.
Under his stare, Maddie’s knees trembled, but her tray never rattled. She squared her shoulders and shot a glance about her at the castle folk. “Stephen!” she called to the stable master. “See to their horses.”
In moments, boys scrambled to accept reins, and the creak of leather and the clank of iron filled the air.
The stable master himself approached the dark warhorse at the foot of the steps, but the mounted warrior’s gaze never left Maddie.
She licked dry lips with an even drier tongue. “Lord Garon?” she asked, although there could be no question who led this contingent. All gazes remained on his intimidating figure. “Please come inside, milord. Your people will see to the comfort of your men.”
His mouth twisted. “And who will see to mine?”
Maddie’s heart leapt to the back of her throat. “I will, milord.”
A long pause indicated he looked her up and down. “And who might you be, madam?” he asked, his voice a deep, hollow rumble.
Maddie remembered to curtsy, and then straightened, girding herself to speak the lie aloud. “Your housekeeper. I take care of things now.” The latter, at least, was the truth.
Lord Garon grunted. Without a glance at the stable master, he tossed down his reins and dismounted.
When he turned toward her, Maggie’s breath caught. Lord, he’s a tall man. I thought it was just the horse.
Maddie lifted the ornate chalice from the tray to deliver her much-rehearsed welcome.
Instead, his lordship’s lips pressed into a tighter line, and he brushed past her.
She was left gasping on the bottom step. “What a rude ogre!” she exclaimed, annoyed he hadn’t fallen in line with the first step of her plan.
“Watch your tongue, madam,” an accompanying knight said tersely as he followed the lord up the steps. “He has exceptional hearing.”
“M-Maddie?” Egbert said, nodding toward the door.
She shoved the tray at his belly and grasped her skirts high to rush up the steps.
The plan had seemed so simple. All she needed was to get him alone and addle his sight with a little wine or ale, so he’d not care she wasn’t the comeliest creature in the keep. Then she would seduce him.
And the sooner, the better. The longer she took losing her virginity, the greater the risk he would discover her identity. The truth was, she would rather copulate with the devil himself than be returned home.
However, this business of copulation, which had seemed a simple, messy, perhaps even enjoyable act—according to the cook—now promised to be a daunting trial.
The lord of the keep had turned out to be a giant and as dour as a priest at confession. The thought of being naked with him and accepting his manstaff into her body frankly petrified her.
She rushed through the massive doors, hoping her preparations would meet with his approval. Nothing else could be allowed to mar her well-thought-out plan.
His lordship stood in the center of the hall, his hands fisted on his hips. Unlike his men, he wore no chain mail, only a leather hauberk to protect his body. He’d removed his headgear, revealing hair as black as midnight and a face as hard as carved granite.
He was everything she’d remembered and more—more frightening, more imposing—and more beautiful because of the differences. Thanks be to God, he hadn’t recognized her.
His gaze narrowed on the hall, and she looked around to see what might already have displeased him.
Around him, servants scurried, delivering warm food to the men-at-arms as boys eagerly divested them of their armor. If she hadn’t been observing him so closely, she might not have detected the change in his posture. He scarce seemed to notice the din of activity. His mouth lost a little firmness, his hands unclenched on his hips, and his chest rose and fell deeply.
In that instant, Maddie lost a measure of her fear. Here was a man savoring his first night home after a long absence. He had a heart and cared for something at least. Perhaps he wouldn’t be a complete troll when making her his wife.