It’s another First Kiss Friday and today I’d like to welcome my guest Avril Borthiry who is sharing an excerpt from Isolated Hearts . Be sure to read on to learn about Avril’s giveaway that will remain open until Sunday when she’ll choose a winner. Happy reading, my lovelies!
Luc halted Minstrel at the edge of the forest. He kicked his leg over the stallion’s back and dismounted, setting the axe and rope down before turning to help Giselle. She all but fell into his arms, hair spilling over her shoulders.
“My braid came loose,” she said, eyes bright. “The ride was wonderful. He’s an amazing animal. Would he let me ride him alone, do you think?”
“Nay.” Luc set her down. “That is, I doubt it. No one but me has ever taken his reins.”
Luc was hard, the result of firm female breasts pressing against his back as they’d travelled. He’d have little trouble chopping down a tree. God knows, he needed some kind of physical diversion.
The exercise that morning had helped, but he still had a surplus of repressed energy. Not all of it was lustful, either. Warmer days had made life on the island more pleasant. He and Giselle had settled into a routine of sorts. Attraction aside, he’d grown used to her and genuinely enjoyed her company.
Even so, due to his discomfort, he released her now with a measure of abruptness and some of the joy in her expression faded.
“This way,” he said, beckoning her to follow. “I’m eager to see what you think of this… whatever it is.”
He paused at the top of the hill and drew Giselle to his side. “Close your eyes,” he said, “and tell me what you hear.”
Instead, her eyes widened. “Look at this place. These stones. They’re… why, they’re magnificent. Did they originate here, do you think?”
“I don’t know.” Luc fidgeted. “Close your eyes, Giselle. Tell me what you hear.”
She huffed at him but did as bidden. “I hear the birds.” She frowned. “Waves on the rocks. Um, the breeze through the pines. You, breathing. And my voice, telling me what I hear.”
He stifled a laugh. “Very droll.”
“Well, you asked.” She opened one eye and peered up at him. “Is there a purpose to this?”
“Come with me.” He led her into the circle.
Standing in the center, Giselle pivoted, her inquisitive gaze sweeping over every one of the monoliths. Luc looped his thumbs into his sword belt and waited.
“It’s magnificent, but I really don’t see…” Only as she faced him again did her jaw drop. Her hands flew to her ears. “Oh, my God. I’ve gone deaf.”
Luke chuckled and shook his head. “Nay, not deaf.”
“But I can’t hear the waves or the birds. It’s…”
He nodded. “Totally silent.”
“But how can this be?” She stepped out of the circle and back in again. “’Tis beyond curious. Some kind of magic, perhaps?”
“I wish I knew. There’s no obvious explanation for it. Nor for the light we saw.”
Expression thoughtful, Giselle placed her hand on one of the stones. “It’s not harmful.”
Luc raised a brow. “How do you know that?”
“I…” She looked at him and shrugged. “I’m not sure. It’s just something I feel.”
“Hmm. Well, it doesn’t seem to do harm. But it’s troublesome that Minstrel won’t come near the place.” He glanced up at an uncluttered sky. “The birds don’t like it, either.”
Giselle hugged herself and gazed out over the island. “There’s something strange about this entire place, don’t you think? I’ve felt it since the beginning. I think Ninian tried to explain it to me, but I couldn’t understand him.”
“I’ve felt it, too.” He gazed out across the sea. “And I still cannot fathom why Ninian did not own a boat. His supplies had been recently replenished. But by whom?”
“Mmm, it is odd.” Giselle shaded her eyes against the sun. “Look at that. I don’t think I’ve ever seen the mainland so clearly defined. It’s like I could reach out and touch it.”
“So close, yet so far,” Luc said.
“How far do you think?”
“I’d estimate twenty miles. Maybe a little more.”
“Not terribly far, then. Could you perhaps build a raft using wood from the trees?”
“I have considered it”
“I am neither shipbuilder nor carpenter. Besides, there are too many risks attached to such a venture. For now, at least, you’re safer here.”
“Me?” Giselle pondered for a moment. “So, in other words, if I wasn’t here, you’d attempt to build a raft and escape this isle.”
He gave her a bemused glance. “Since you are here, your statement has no merit.”
“I believe it does. Answer me. If I was not here, would you have already made an attempt to escape this place?”
“Probably. But that does not mean ––”
“I’m a hindrance, then.”
Luc blew out a breath. Was the girl spoiling for a fight? “I did not say that.”
“Nay. Why must you provoke me, Giselle? Cease with this foolishness.”
“Not till you admit it.” Defiance shone in her eyes. “I’m quite aware of your reluctance to play nursemaid. Being given this mission dented your pride, didn’t it? You try to hide it, but it shows plainly in your face, in how you look at me sometimes and push me away. You blame me for this mess we’re in, don’t you? But it’s not my fault we’re––how did you so charmingly put it––stuck with each other on this forsaken piece of earth. You could have refused my uncle’s request. Or ignored your misplaced sense of duty and simply saved yourself the night of the fire.”
Giselle’s fingers ploughed through her hair, raking it back from eyes alight with anger. When her hand fell to her side, the rebellious tresses tumbled forward again, swirling around her shoulders in shimmering waves.
Luc’s groin tightened. Christ. “Have you finished?”
She scoffed and folded her arms. “See? You don’t deny it, so why not admit it? I’m naught but a pain in your knightly arse. It would have been better for you if you’d let me drown with poor Anna.”
He looked heavenward and threw his arms wide. “As you wish then, my lady. I admit it. You’re a thorn in my side. An irritating burden. It would, indeed, have served me better to let you drown. Abandoned you to the same fate as your unfortunate maid. There. Is it what you wanted to hear? Are you satisfied now?”
She glared at him. “Bastard.”
He laughed at the irony of her insult and stepped toward her, coming to within an arm’s length. “May God protect me from the folly of women. What do you want from me, Giselle? Are you merely testing the limits of my patience? Or is this some feminine wile? An irrational way of seeking compliments through insult? Very well. How’s this? You look incredibly beautiful at this moment, my lady, with the blush of anger on your cheeks, fire in your eyes, and that hair of yours flying about. I am totally aroused. My cock is as hard as steel. I want nothing more than to kiss you. Touch every part of you. Make love to you right here, on the grass.”
The color on her cheeks deepened as her gaze flicked to his groin. “Liar,” she whispered.
“I’m a bastard and a liar?” He laughed again, snaked his arm around her waist and tugged her against his erection. “There. Can you feel that? You drive me to madness, lady. I live every day in perpetual frustration.”
Her eyes widened and her chin lifted. “Release me.”
The demand had as much substance as a dried flower. But did she mean it? He hoped not. He’d never been so aroused, but he would not force her. He relaxed his hold, searching her face for some indication of what she truly felt. He’d release her in a heartbeat if he thought she actually feared him. A flush still colored her cheeks and her chest rose and fell in an impassioned cadence. Were these responses created by fear? If she truly sought release, why did she not struggle against his grasp?
He touched his thumb to her bottom lip and heard her sudden intake of breath. Luc lifted a corner of his mouth, knowing beyond a doubt Giselle wanted him as much as he wanted her. But reason refused to remain silent. To act on his desire would be madness. Utter folly. He had taken an oath and, although the original plan had changed, he felt sure one day they would be found and rescued. He would complete his mission and return to claim his estate.
Then Giselle moved against that rigid part of him and Luc’s resolve died like a candle’s flame in a gale. Release? Aye, the girl would have her release. And, by Christ, so would he.
He cupped her face, bent his head, and kissed her. It was a gentle embrace, one suited to virgin lips. He moved his mouth over hers, touching the seam of her mouth with his tongue. She tasted of salt and the way she leaned into him drew a growl from deep in his throat.
Her lips opened beneath his and she whimpered as his tongue met hers. Luc’s heart beat with such force he feared for his ribs. He broke the kiss. “You have no idea what you do to me,” he murmured, gazing into her eyes as he cradled her head in his hands, “and not once have I regretted saving your life.”
A small frown settled on her brow. “But…there are times when you seem to resent me.”
He smiled and pressed a kiss to the corner of her mouth. “I do not resent you, Giselle de Courtenay. I resent the way you make me feel. You are my weakness. My downfall. My torture. Since the day you stood on the deck of that stricken ship, terrified yet defiant, and released me from my oath, I have wanted you. Ached to caress you. To take you and make you mine. I fight it every day. Every waking hour. Aye, and even in my dreams.”
“I have wanted you, too.” Giselle stroked her fingertips along the line of his jaw. “I have dreamed of being in your arms. Of being kissed by you.”
There were tears in her eyes. And desire, damn it. Maybe it was due to their forced isolation. Maybe the strange atmosphere on the isle had stoked his most feral desires. Maybe it was even love. Whatever the reason, all thoughts of abstinence vanished. Luc was beyond redemption. A man drunk on arousal. He had to have her. At that moment, there was nothing he wanted more and to hell with the consequences.
He kissed her again and, this time, Giselle surrendered with more confidence, returning his kiss with unabashed passion. She whimpered and pressed against him. Luc lifted his head and hissed through his teeth.
“Easy, little maid,” he murmured, fingers seeking out and tugging at the laces of her robe. Moments later, the dress fell from her shoulders and tumbled around her feet.
How’s that for a cliffhanger!
By Avril Borthiry
An enigmatic Scottish laird and a young French noblewoman. An unforgettable night of passion. And a subsequent quest to reunite an illegitimate girl with her Highland sire.
Giselle de Courtenay’s chosen escort is an honorable but surly knight. Luc de Warenne is less than impressed with his assignment. He’s a proud warrior, not a nursemaid. Still, all he has to do is deliver the girl safely to her Scottish father and then return to France to claim his substantial reward. It seems straightforward enough.
But fate decides to take Giselle and Luc on a detour. In a tragic turn of events, they find themselves thrown together in a fight for their lives. Their refuge, a mysterious island with its ancient circle of stones, raises more questions than answers.
After their spectacular rescue, Giselle and Luc are forced to decide where their futures lie. Will the bitterness of deception keep them apart? Or will love and a sprinkle of Highland magic lead to a happy ending?
Buy Link or FREE in Kindle Unlimited: https://www.amazon.com/Isolated-Hearts-Avril-Borthiry-ebook/dp/B07VY3T2ZS
About the Author:
I was born and raised in the beautiful Lake District region of England, but now live in Ontario, Canada. I create unique tales of love, conflict and courage inspired by the history, romance, and legends of the British Isles.
Besides being a writer and a poet, I’m also a proud Mum, a besotted Nana, and I’m totally owned by a 14lb rescued Bichon.
I’m always thrilled to hear from readers, so feel free to contact me if you have any thoughts and questions about my books. I will respond to you, I promise!
Simple question. What is your favorite film version of a book?
The winner will receive an e-book copy of my featured book, Isolated Hearts. Please note, the winner will be required to provide their Kindle email address in order to receive the formatted book file. This allows me to send the book directly to your Kindle or Kindle app.
Winner will be announced on Sunday evening!