Sneak Preview - Dark Deceit

Two days until Dark Deceit is out!
 ~happy dance~


Dark Deceit is the first in The Anarchy Trilogy, set in 1140s Gloucestershire and Normandy. Murder, changing loyalties, betrayal - and hope.


A historical novel with suspense and romance elements, it tells the story of Alleyne, a young heiress forced to defend her family manor following her father's murder, and Geoffrey, investigating under-sheriff with issues of his own. After calling Will, an old friend, for help, Alleyne must decide which man to trust. The wrong decision could lead to danger and loss.





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, investigating 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 reluctantly 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.


Here's an excerpt:
...

  De Mortagne stood talking to the guards, hands pointing to different directions. Eventually, the men walked towards the gate but he strode in the opposite direction, to the stables. He stopped in the doorway. An instant later Alfred appeared from within, arms crossed in front of his chest. During their brief conversation, the boy’s body relaxed, then he nodded in approval.
  What was that man doing now? She hoped he did not plan to use Alfred for his investigations. The boy was too young to be involved in any reckless actions.
  “I will speak with him,” she said aloud and drained her cup. Grabbing her cloak from the hook behind the door, Alleyne left her chamber.
  She rushed down the stairs, wrapping her cloak closer around her, and threaded her way through the crowd in the hall. With ale flowing freely, the noise had risen. All earlier restraints were forgotten. As she pulled the door to the bailey open, she bumped into the under-sheriff. For a moment they stood close, her hands on his chest, his on her arms. She stumbled as his eyes bore into hers.
  “Apologies, my lady.” De Mortagne stepped back. He released her as she regained her balance.
  “No, it was my fault. But thank you.” She lifted her head to meet his gaze. What fortunate timing. “I should like to go for a walk, Sir Geoffrey. Would you care to accompany me?”
  “Certainly, Lady Alleyne.” He held his arm out and she put her hand on his. Dusk had fallen, but it was still light enough for them to stroll across the deserted bailey without a lantern.
  She pointed to the allure. “Let’s head for the walkway. I’d like to discuss some matters in private.”
  “No problem at all. I see you’ve calmed.” Geoffrey fell into step alongside her.
  “I’ve had time to think and clear my head. So, yes. I’m calm now.”
  When they reached the steps she removed her hand and lifted the front of her skirt just enough to ensure she wouldn’t trip over. She sought the rough stone wall with her other hand to steady herself. De Mortagne followed her careful ascent. Once they reached the top, she ordered the sentry there to join his companions above the gate and turned the other way. She leaned against the parapet near the spot where the parapet met the back of the manor house, allowing the breeze to ruffle her hair. De Mortagne joined her as she gazed over the rolling hills melting into the encroaching darkness.
  “Tell me, how far would someone go to gain this?” she asked with a wide sweep of her hand. “Kill? Possibly kill again?”
  “Anything for property and power for some men.” He shook his head. “Those who don’t live by the rules.”
  “I suppose many don’t. By the way... I saw you earlier in the yard, talking to Alfred.” Feeling him straighten, she faced him. “What exactly are your plans to catch my father’s killers, my lord?”
  “Do not fret for the boy, Lady Alleyne. He’ll come to no harm.” He lowered his head and smiled at her. “I asked him to listen out for any rumours. Nothing sinister at all.”
  “I would like to believe you.” Her voice shook.
  He turned towards her, his expression solemn. “I’ll stay until I’m certain de Guines has no other tricks up his sleeve.” His voice was soft but strong at the same time, determined. Reassuring.
  “Thank you. You don’t know how grateful I am.” She sighed, a shiver of relief rushing through her. “But you must have other duties to attend to? Especially since Matilda isn’t crowned queen yet. Things could still go wrong.” She dropped her head so he could not see her confusion. How could she tell him about Will without insulting him?
  De Mortagne placed his forefinger under her chin and tilted her face up before he dropped his hand to his side again. When their eyes met, she saw encouragement. And something else she could not identify. Something deeper. Blushing, she smiled and opened her mouth to thank him again. His kiss came as a surprise, warm and soft. It lasted barely an instant and at first she thought she imagined it. Then a wave of guilt engulfed her.
  Alleyne took a step back and aimed at his cheek but he was quicker, catching her wrist just inches from her hand’s aim. Damn the reflexes of a trained knight! She steadied herself against the manor wall with her other hand.
  “Forgive me, Lady Alleyne. That was most inappropriate.” He turned away.
  “I could have you thrown out right now.”
  “That wouldn’t help you much in catching your killer.” He stated the obvious, her empty threat exposed for what it was. His voice gave her a chill. Gone was the warm, soothing tone. She had almost believed him. But he was an under-sheriff, a lowly knight with unknown loyalties. One not to be trusted. She straightened her back.
  Will must arrive soon. She trusted him.



(c) Cathie Dunn 2012


Want more? You'll find another excerpt, blurb and trailer on my website! Follow news about Dark Deceit on Facebook! :-)


Dark Deceit, released from Crooked Cat Publishing this Friday, will be available at Amazon and Smashwords (later also B&N, Sony & Apple).



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