Excerpts from The Luck of Two Magpies, copyright 2012, all rights reserved.
No distribution or reproduction without the author’s express permission
He sat at his books, but try as he would, no figures, no journal entries made sense. All he could see was the woman’s look of awe as it gave way to angry recognition… those eyes.
Aye, those eyes. They flashed so strong. He had never seen any like them before. But, then, she was unlike any woman he had met. That tongue! He wished he had a blade that sharp. She argued as loudly as a man, swore like one, too, and had no table manners at all. And did she not call his dog ‘Dung-kin’?
She must be a spy. But how did she think to use the future as a ruse? No matter. If she wished to have him think she came from the future, then so be it. Let her grow comfortable. She would err in time. All spies did—save Andrew, of course….
He heaved himself from his chair, sifting air in through his teeth. Her knee might have cracked his rib. He tried another breath. Nay. Only sore muscles.
About as sore as his temper. Hard to admit a stranger could fire a rage that blinded him.
She sat beside him and opened the tooled leather box. Amazement fanned her features, and still she said naught.
“You are pleased? Of course, the diamonds were mined in Golconda, but the colored stones are from Muscovy.” They were the best that his silver could buy, but when she tore her gaze from the necklace and stared full into his face, all he saw was bewilderment. He had failed.
And then her features beamed so bright it fair stopped his heart. She giggled like a child as she plucked the necklace from its box and held it close to see it better. The gems wove ‘round her fingers as she caressed them, as he knew she would. They coaxed wonder from its hiding place behind her puzzled stare. “How could you know that aquamarine is my favorite gem?”
He wanted to boast, but would not belittle the moment. “I could not know. I only knew they were for you.” He raised her hand to his mouth, and of a sudden he was glad he had not chosen emeralds. Certainly they would have paled when compared with her eyes. Her hand looked so small in his, so worthy of his protection. Her happiness fired his gratitude, melding the two, leaving him as hot and euphoric as good honey mead did.
Tears stood in her eyes. “You’re right, you know. Honor and protection are more important for a man to give his wife.”
Aye, but, oh, the things she gave him. Things he never thought possible.
She squirmed closer, expression darling in its earnestness. “I’ll never let you down, Will. I’ll be a good match for you, you’ll see. I’ll protect you and care for you and love you, too.”
He bit his cheek hard to keep from choking on his emotion. Finally, though, his throat opened. “If you continue thusly, what need have we for a priest?”
She snorted. “Oh, no, you don’t. We have to exchange vows and rings and—Oh! Will! I have a gift for you, too!” She dashed off the bed to dig through the chest under the window, a trill of a giggle escaping her as a veil and stockings flew from within, fluttering to the floor in disgrace.
At length, she returned to him, a leather pouch the size of a large plum nestled in her palm. As he wondered what it could be, she dropped it into his outstretched hand, a solid weight that took him by surprise. A pleasured smile sprang unbidden when he saw his crest embossed on the sack.
She snatched it from him and tugged open the strings, then shook the pouch briskly until a thing imposing plopped into his waiting palm. A ring. A gold ring.
She smiled triumphantly as he turned it in his fingers. “It’s my design but your mother said it was suitable for a wedding gift.”
Massive, it was. His spade-shaped shield topped it, large and curved to fit his middle finger. At vertical center the Grifon sword sat, pommel at the top, and over it, a magnificent rampant griffin, his eagle beak and talons, each feather of his wings and every lion curl, artfully articulated. And for its eye, it wore her diamond.
What had she done?
“Well? Does it please you? Tsk! Say something!” She showed no mercy to the empty leather pouch she twisted in her fists.
The Hood lass called through the door. He should go, but Elisa waited for his approval.
He nodded, inhaling sharply, scrubbing at his nose before its itch could induce tears. By the delighted gleam in her eye, though, she wasn’t fooled.
“I wanted so much to give you something of my own,” she said shyly, this woman who had crossed centuries to brave his monstrous moods and give him a new life. “I had nothing else.”
He caught the hand that caressed his cheek, planting a kiss in its palm. “You did give me a gift I ne’er dared to hope for. I would not wish you to give up your chattel as well.” How could her features frown and light with triumph at the same time?
“I wore it because I needed it, Will. It was a reminder that once, someone loved me, and in my loneliness, it gave me comfort and strength.” A timid smile grew to become radiance and joy, and how his heart ached for it. “But now I have your love, your strength. I’ll always have memories of Jake. That’s good, but I have a future now, with you, and that’s better.”
She was all things to him—child and woman, innocence and wisdom, to be protected and possessed—but undone by her honesty and struck to his core by her love, he could find no words worthy enough to explain his mind. Besides, in his heart of heart, he knew such precious thoughts should ne’er be aired. To do so was to tempt fate. The devil, surely.
Outside, his mother’s voice commanded John Hood’s daughter, who knocked again, calling once more. “My lady, hurry! We have little time now.”
He was careful to kiss Elisa’s forehead chastely. Wedding or no, guests or no, if he let down his guard now, there would be a delay that would be difficult to explain.
He shoved himself from her bed and marched for the door, the ring clutched tight in his palm as he called over his shoulder, “Come, now. Let us be wed.”