In his heart she was his woman.
Cyrenne’s life is pledged
Gareth has always hated the
Visions of death, reflective agonizing screams of her comrades, kept Cyrenne tossing and turning all night. By the time she awoke, to the annoying twill of birds, irritation and depression were her morning companions.
The gamy whiff of roasted calderon, and the little that lay in her stomach, sent a wave of nausea to her throat. Her head pounded.
Remembering she had company she grabbed her dagger and sat up.
Sunlight plunged like a knife into her sleep deprived eyes. She winced.
Smoke from dying embers curled toward the sky.
A carafe of wine lay on its side, reminding her of a conversation told through the cloud of drink and a man whose intense masculine presence stirred strange emotions within her.
She glanced to his bedroll glad to see it empty. Struggling to her feet, she rolled up her blanket, slung her bow and quiver, of arrows, over her shoulder and glanced around.
Thankful Gareth was nowhere in sight, she made her way to the river to wash the sleep from her eyes.
A woodpecker stabbed a tree. The sound echoed through her head like a blast of gunfire caught between mountain ranges.
At the river’s edge she bent and doused her face.
“Good morning, Sunshine.”
Cyrenne’s head snapped upright and she caught a ragged breath.
Gareth stood waist deep in the middle of the river.
Water dripped from his hair, slithered down his hairless chest. He shook his head, shooting water droplets through the air. His gaze fixed on hers he lifted both arms and raked his fingers over the top of his head, then smoothed the dank tendrils away from his forehead.
The deliberate movement bulged his muscular upper arms and massive chest.
She jerked to her feet and boldly met his gaze. Her heart collided with her chest.
“Have you no shame?”
A flush of heat seared her cheeks, but she wouldn’t turn away.
He shrugged. “There is no shame in keeping one’s body cleansed. Tell me…,” a sly grin lifted the corners of his mouth, “…you are not one of those women who believe touching one’s body is evil?” He ran his palm sinfully over his chest and she knew he tried to make her uncomfortable.
A tug in the apex of her thighs caught her off guard. She squared her shoulders, determined to seem unaffected – only she was, more than she should be.
The air, charged with primal energy, slammed into her.
“Perhaps you prefer the aroma of sweat to that of fragrant oils?” He bent over, cupped water in his hands, and let it dribble over his chiseled, magnificent, torso.
Entranced, a strange heady quiver warmed her body. Logic demanded she leave but her feet remained rooted.
“That a man would anoint himself in any scent leaves me to believe he is anything but a man.” She couldn’t tear her gaze from the gleam of sun-drenched droplets making their way across his firm, concaved, abdomen. Her knees wobbled, and she cursed under her breath.
“I can attest olive oil, when applied by the hands of a fair maiden, has enormous powers.” His grin widened. “But then you misunderstand me. I referred to your daily regime.”
Keenly aware of her filthy, slept in garb and the soot from the campfire in the creases of her fingers, Cyrenne struggled to maintain an even, conciliatory, tone. “I need not defend myself to you–you are an insufferable excuse of a man — no . . . dragonwort.”
“Dragonwort?” His hearty laughter bellowed through the small clearing.
Her nails cut into her forearms.
“You compare me to a small wilting flower? I can assure you I am not.” He took a step toward the shore.
Horrified, curious, Cyrenne drew out an arrow, positioned the notched end on the string, and aimed. “Take one more step and you shall be without that which you are so quick to boast about.”
“Surely you jest.” Un-intimidated he strode through the water.
“I jest not.” She gripped the bow tighter – drew back her bowstring. A knot formed in her belly. He halted mid-stride and she thanked the Deities above.
“I think I hear my hounds afoot.”
“Your mockery does not amuse me.”
One more step… No! Her heart pounded with foolish anticipation. I dare not see more.
“Quickly hand me my tunic lest I be torn to shreds.”
“I shall do better. I shall leave.” She spun on her heel. Her hand shook, an understandable reaction, given her inexperience when it came to men and their sexuality.
Pondering the mysteries of the flesh deterred one from focusing on war tactics and strategies.
She stumbled over an entwined mandrake root and caught herself. Slow down. Gather composure; lest he think I scare like as a woodcock running from its own shadow.
Branches rustled behind her and she knew Gareth reached for his garb.
Confused by the sudden flash of heat and jitter of nerves battling her belly, Cyrenne pushed all thoughts of his naked body from her mind.
Meeting Gareth had served a purpose. She now knew how to save her comrades. And no man was going to stop her from carrying out her mission; even if he was pleasing to the eye.
Every aroused muscle screamed in protest as Gareth recalled the way Cyrenne had stood watching him, her eyes filled with curiosity. Despite the brisk chill of the water, a lustful heat stirred his blood, continued to course, despite his best efforts.
She’d demanded he stop; but he’d sensed her desire to see more. He’d heard the anticipation in her slumberous voice.
Gareth strapped the leather sandal around his ankle and shoved to his feet.
He knew women, knew them well, thanks to Anacone. He’d become a man in her arms that winter when he was thirteen. She had taught him the fine art of pleasuring a woman, how to caress the right spots with more than his hands, how to tease and take his time till a woman was right for the taking. Cyrenne had that look, sober or drunk. But, he’d kept his promise to her. After very little sleep, he had jumped into the river.
Gareth slipped his leather jerkin over his wet shoulders and glanced into the thicket where she had disappeared.
He did not intend to humiliate her. His jest was meant to quell her uneasiness. That she’d drawn a bow on him was charming. That she’d bolted away and misunderstood him was unsettling.
Hearing a commotion, he strapped his scabbard around his waist.
Entering the campsite Boreas, his trusted comrade, lumbered toward him. Wrapped in his big beefy arms Cyrenne struggled against him.
So she hadn’t gone far, hadn’t left for good like he’d thought. The idea pleased him.
“Lukie here, Lad, I’ve pooked a bonnie lass from the woods.” Boreas smiled a wide toothless smile.
Gareth stepped toward them then halted. If he remembered correctly, she insisted she could defend herself. “You’d best–“
“Ow!” Boreas received a swift kick to his shin, gave up his captive and rubbed his leg.
Cyrenne swirled around and landed a solid punch to Boreas’ chest. His body stiffened with shock. His ruddy face a shade redder than his hair, he pulled out a sharp edged blade.
“Boreas retreat,” Gareth ordered above the raucous laughter of his fellow companions. “She is with me.”
Boreas grunted, knew better than to challenge his authority in front of the men, and lumbered toward the campfire.
“Every time we meet you are in the arms of another man. I ask you, why?” Gareth grinned. The woman had spunk. He admired that.
She swept hair from her cheek and stomped toward him.
“That you jest on my account, knowing full well I am not myself, confirms my initial assessment of your character.”
“Ah yes, that of a dragonwort. I do recall. And I recall being told you did not summon my help. Forgive me for not coming to your rescue – again.”
Flushed, her braided hair coming undone, he held back the urge to brush a few loose tendrils away from her luscious mouth.
She stopped within a hand’s pace between them.
The passionate blaze in her dark, insolent, eyes…
Deities be damned, he cursed silently, sunlight paled against their brilliance.
“If your men weren’t such boors preying on innocent women—“
“Innocent? You, Sunshine, can handle yourself quite well. No, I fear my poor friend, Boreas, faced greater danger.”
“Do not call me by that ridiculous name.”
“Ah, but it suits you so well, does it not?”
She inhaled deep, tightened her stance, readying herself for battle.
He would enjoy wrapping his arms around that luscious body; enjoy grappling strength against strength, lusty heat against heat. Gareth backed up. “I thought you’d left.”
“If not for that disgusting attempt on my person I would be long gone. What kind of filthy animals do you call comrades?”
Though he understood her need to lash out at him, her words punched his gut.
“Those filthy animals are my friends,” he snapped. “I owe them my life, my respect and undying gratitude.”
“You should have better control over your friends.” Her lips thinned.
For a second, the desire to ravish her cruel mouth, with a punishing kiss flit, across his mind. “They are of their own free will.”
“Well, restrain them, or my blade shall leave them with no other employ apart from that of a eunuch.”
Gareth grinned despite himself.
“I am glad I amuse you. Do you fancy being mauled? She grabbed his loins.
He stiffened. This woman never ceased to amaze him. “Ah, Sunshine, I thought you an innocent, but if you could just squeeze a little hard—-“
She gasped. Her hand dropped as though burnt. “You are…” she stepped back, stumbling over her own feet, “the most intolerable oaf I’ve ever had the misfortune to meet.”
She was rather stunning flushed with anger and would be quite a feisty tumble in bed.
His gaze traveled over the leather ringed maille, under which her full molded breasts rose and fell with angered breath, traveled over her hips and powerful, bare, thighs colored golden by the sun. Ah, that he could slip his hands up beneath her short armor and feel the silken folds of her womanhood… Painfully erect beneath his own armor his gaze snapped around the clearing. How many of his men felt the same lusty heat? He noticed two men observing them. His scowl spurt their quick departure.
“You had best stay away from my men,” Gareth ordered forbidding further argument. “They have been without a woman for a long time.” A trip into town to be serviced by a few hetairais would do them all a bit of good.
“Then shackle them and let me leave in peace.”
“You wish to leave? Done!” Frustration coiled within him. “Go home. This is no place for a woman.” She’d be safer away from his men, away from him.
“And find a rope for yourself as well.” She spun on her heel.
Watching her walk away, Gareth realized no woman would grace his bed this night. Aggravating wench! He’d spend another restless night unable to get the thought of her, of her fingers curling around his shaft, out of his dreams.
About the Author ~
Petit is a past President of the Long Island Chapter of the Romance
Writers of America. Her love of writing stems back to high school.
She spent hours reading Nancy Drew, Alfred Hitchcock and historical
romances. At the age of fifteen, she wrote a short story for
children, as well as numerous works of poetry. Her love of history
stems from her father, Roger, a Frenchman, whose love of American
history greatly influenced her writing interests.
Newsday and several local newspapers have written articles on Ms. Petit and she was interviewed on TV for her first book, a time travel entitled: A Find Through Time.
She is a past President of the Melville Lions club, and currently 1st Vice District Governor for the Lions of Suffolk County, Long Island NY, a service organization that raises money for the less fortunate – especially the sight impaired.
She loves to ski, raft, horseback ride, and enjoys the theater.
Marianne lives on Long Island and is happily married for 40years. She has two sons, two wonderful daughters-in-laws and four adorable grandchildren.
Click to visit her website for extensive research links and excerpts of Ms. Petit’s books.