Who likes knights in shining armor?
Please welcome Anna Markland.
My Main Street is in Victoria, British Columbia.
Thank you for the opportunity to share an excerpt from The Taking of Ireland. This novel represents a departure from the medieval romances I usually write. It is set in Ireland in a time of myth, even before the arrival of the Celts. I’ll preface the excerpt with the book’s foreword to give you some background.
I categorize my novels as “steamy”, but this excerpt is pure romance.
My tale was initially inspired by the Lebor Gabála Érenn (The Book of the Taking of Ireland), a collection of poems and prose narratives that purports to be a history of Ireland and the Irish people from the creation of the world to the Middle Ages.
The earliest version was compiled in the 11th century (probably by Christian monks) and tells of Ireland being settled (or taken) six times by six groups of people.
My story centers on the last two groups, the Tuatha Dè Danann, who in the Lebor represent Ireland’s pagan gods, and the Milesians who sailed from Galicia and represent the Irish people, the Gaels.
Most scholars regard the Lebor as myth rather than history, and it was perhaps an attempt to reconcile native Irish myth with the Christian view of history.
I often base my plots on actual historical events, but this tale didn’t provide such a framework, which left my imagination free to soar into the realm of the mythical and magical. It was a scary journey into the unknown at first, but one I thoroughly enjoyed once the ideas began to flow and I got to know my characters.
Bear in mind, however, that my Tuathans and Gaelicians are figments of my imagination and are not meant to be a literal interpretation of the pseudo-historical peoples in the Lebor.
“Myth is more potent than history.
Dreams are more powerful than facts.”
After spending several hours speaking with the men and impatiently supervising trivial tasks, Sibrán returned to the secluded bank, dismayed to see Aislinn shivering. She still sat atop the rock and looked in need of comfort. He handed her the broad leaf on which he’d piled a few choice pieces of roasted boar. “This will warm you,” he assured her. “Careful. It’s still hot.”
“I feel the heat through the burdock leaf,” she agreed, accepting the food with a smile.
“Burdock? Can we eat it?”
“The roots and stems of the plant are delicious. You can try the leaves, but I warn you they are bitter.” She looked to the forest. “I hope Lop isn’t being a nuisance.”
He sat beside her and took a chunk of meat from his own leaf, elated when she didn’t move away. “Don’t worry on his account. He’s gone off somewhere to gnaw on a juicy bone the men gave him.”
Her smile of relief pleased him. “Eat,” he cajoled.
She obeyed and nibbled at a piece of meat.
He shifted his position and sank his teeth into a piece of crispy crackling. It was one of his favorite parts of a roasted pig.
He risked an occasional glance at her face, filled with an urge to taste the grease on her lips. She seemed to have a good appetite and finished the meat quickly. He studied the wilting leaf as she licked her fingers. “You were hungry,” he said.
She turned her doe-like eyes on him. “I was.” Then she reached up and smoothed her thumb over his cheek. “You have a morsel of…”
Her touch sent him over the edge. He cast his food to the ground, took her into his arms and put his mouth on hers. He’d expected to savor the salty taste of the boar, but Aislinn’s warm sweetness and the intriguing perfume of her skin overwhelmed his senses.
Emboldened when she didn’t push him away, he coaxed with his tongue, elated when she opened her mouth and allowed him entry. He breathed his need into her, welcomed her tongue into his mouth and suckled like a starving child.
He lifted his hand to her nape and pressed his fingers into her scalp, growling when she whimpered.
It was more than a kiss. It was a magical, transforming experience, but wetness on his cheek caused him to look at her face. Perplexed to see tears, he pulled her onto his lap and crushed her to his chest. “Don’t weep, Aislinn. For a man and a woman to share such an incredible kiss is a thing of wonder. I accept the gods have led me to this troubled land in order to bring peace and prosperity as the new king. It was our destiny we meet. You were meant to be my queen.”
Sobbing, she struggled off his lap. “No, Sibrán. You have been at sea for too long. There are many beautiful maidens in Inisfail who will be happy to couple with you.”
Angered he’d misinterpreted her feelings, he got to his feet. “I am not a man to make promises without forethought. I want you, Aislinn. I thought you wanted me, but apparently…”
She held up a trembling hand. “It’s of no matter what I want. I am Moqorr’s bondservant and forbidden to lie with a man.”
His throat tightened. Hurtful words escaped his mouth before he had a chance to think better of it. “You warm his bed?”
He caught hold of her wrist before her hand struck his face. He narrowed his eyes. “In Gaelicia death would be the punishment for striking a prince.”
“Kill me then,” she breathed. “I would prefer to die than have you believe I consort with Moqorr.”
The despair in her voice betrayed her hatred of the High King. His anger fled. He gathered her into his arms again. “Then why would he object if you pledged yourself to me?”
She made no reply, but it was of some consolation that she allowed him to hold her as she wept.
Anna’s touch of steam is never too hot. But her heroes are definitely worthy of a little heat. Do you realize the strength they must have to handle a sword? But her heroes know how to be gentle, too. So grab her book, a blanket, your favorite beverage, and settle in for a delicious read.