Well, not in that way, obviously. I just fancy giving away a free electronic copy of Dark Deceit!
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Dark Deceit, the first in The Anarchy Trilogy, is my latest release, a historical novel with mystery and romance elements. As is my habit, Dark Deceit doesn't fit into a specific box. Will I ever stick to the norm? Nope! ~sigh~
Murder, loyalty, betrayal and hope - all these are elements in Dark Deceit. Set during the English civil war of the late 1130s-50s, the story reveals the difficulties people faced in such times. An under-sheriff with uncertain loyalties; an heiress without a protector; a knight with his own agenda.
On his return from battle at Lincoln, Geoffrey de Mortagne, under-sheriff of Gloucester and spy for the Empress Matilda, assists a dying knight caught in an ambush. Promising to look after the welfare of the knight’s only daughter, Geoffrey stays at her manor while he investigates the murder. Keen to join the Empress on her progress through England, he is torn between his oath and his duty.
Left to defend her manor following her father’s death, Alleyne de Bellac at first accepts Geoffrey’s support. As she doesn’t trust the taciturn stranger, she asks Will d’Arques, an old friend, for help. But loyalties change. Her life in danger and her inheritance at stake, Alleyne must decide which man to trust.
Discover England and Normandy divided by a brutal civil war, where vows are broken as allegiances waver.
Geoffrey stifled a grunt and crossed the hall. He sat on the vacant chair opposite her and silently regarded her through the hissing flames between them. Her eyes shone, green pools in the flickering light. Pools he had dreamed of drowning in. Then he had drowned; a painful death.
Will had aged well. Only a few lines around the grey eyes, his features handsome with the short, straight nose and wide mouth, his blond hair still as thick as in his youth, tumbling down over his shoulders. Yet his appearance belied the fact that underneath all that shine was the body and soul of a mercenary, hungry and ruthless. The coolness of his eyes proved his arrogance had also not diminished.
“So, the lady Alleyne has enlightened you on the latest happenings here?” Geoffrey leaned back, slung one leg over the other and rested his elbows on the arms of the chair. He smiled, knowing well no warmth reached his eyes.
“Yes, she has.” Will gave her hand a quick squeeze. “The poor girl. Of course I’ll be staying here to protect her.”
Alleyne gazed at him, eyes wide with adoration and relief. Youthful stupidity, Geoffrey mused. “I’m sorely relieved to hear. Will you be searching for the killers?”
“Well, old friend, I don’t want to take away your job,” Will hesitated, “but then it appears you haven’t been very successful so far.” He tilted his head to the side. “Apart from last night, so I’ve heard.”
Alleyne leaned forward, her eyes clouded with worry. “That was dreadful. Ancel told me all. How are you feeling?”
“Fine. Thank you for your concern.”
“Oh, I’m so glad. I was worried sick last night.” She nodded vigorously.
Will raised his eyebrows.
Geoffrey should warn her about Will. But in all likelihood she refused to listen. Women never listened where Will was concerned. They learnt the hard way.
“I’m certain the thought didn’t rob you of your sleep, my lady.” He kept the tone of his voice formal, with a sting attached he knew hit home when her face fell.
He turned to the man who had made himself at home much too swiftly. “Though the Norman bastard who knocked me out did not do the best job.”
“Indeed,” Will said, his face unreadable, a mask that hid all sorts of secrets. Was Lord Raymond’s murder one of them?
“He could have killed me, but he didn’t.” Geoffrey held Will’s gaze. “I wonder why.”
“Oh. You don’t think Will…?”
The wounded tone of Alleyne’s voice, and the way she clenched Will’s hand, did not alleviate his suspicions. Had she done that to spite him? At this moment, he did not care. The only thing he wanted was to escape; the sooner the better.
“No, my lady. That would be too coincidental, wouldn’t it?”
Will’s mouth twitched but he remained silent.
“And if Will is prepared to stay and protect you and Bellac, then my duty here has come to an end.”
Her eyes widened. In the flash of an instant, he saw pain and sadness, confusion and relief in them. Poor lass. She needed a safe home with a reliable protector, not a notorious womaniser, to look after her. But if that was what she wanted, who was he to try and convince her otherwise?
“I will continue to have my men search for the killers and will send word should there be any developments. In the meantime, I’ll pack my belongings and will be gone by sunrise on the morrow.” He rose. “I’ll leave you to catch up on the remainder of the gossip.” He bowed to Alleyne, then aimed a cool look at Will.
“Won’t you join us tonight, Sir Geoffrey?” Was she pleading with him or did he imagine disappointment in her voice?
He studied her. She stood, her fingers entwined until her knuckles showed, luminous eyes imploring him.
It was too late. “I’m afraid not. I want to retire at a reasonable hour. As I said, I’ll have an early start.” Her face fell. “But I won’t forget my promise to your lord father. His killers will be brought to justice. Farewell, my lady.”
(c) Cathie Dunn / Crooked Cat Publishing 2012