You read it here first folks! Our exclusive Free Read this month is an extract from
Elisabeth Hobbes book A Midsummer Knight's Kiss
This month PHS Columnist and Harlequin Historical author Elisabeth Hobbes shares an exclusive extract from her new release, A Midsummer Knight's Kiss , which is available now!
A stolen moment……to reunite them!
Since her mischief-making childhood with Robbie Danby, Rowenna has curbed her impetuous nature and become a lady. When she meets Robbie again in York he’s close to claiming his knighthood, and their newly awakened affection inspires in Rowenna a decidedly adult impulsiveness!
Yet Robbie’s heart appears to belong to another…unless a Midsummer kiss can change everything…?
The news of Wat Tyler’s death has reached York, leading to riots. Robbie Danby is out patrolling the streets while Rowenna is confined to her father’s house for safety.
The unrest had continued into a second day and night. The only thing Rowenna had to be thankful for was that she did not develop the fever that she had feared was upon her when she had become weak, hot and shivery in Robbie’s arms. The flames that had shot through her while simultaneously making her tremble like a newborn lamb had obviously been the temporary result of her escapade in the tournament ground.
Uncle Roger called by the house early on the second evening. Rowenna rushed to him eagerly, hoping for news of what was happening, but he refused to speak in front of his daughters, saying it was men’s business. He chucked her under the chin, turning her face to the light.
‘You look brighter than you did yesterday,’ he said.
Rowenna hushed him quickly. ‘No one knows about what happened beyond you and Robbie, and I intend that no one will, if I’m ever to be allowed to leave the house again.’
‘A Danby woman sneaking around against all good advice. How unusual!’ Roger gave her a conspiratorial wink. ‘Don’t fear. We’ll keep your secret.’
‘Have you seen Robbie since we parted?’ Rowenna asked, trying to keep her voice light. ‘I hoped he might be able to call.’
‘Last night, yes. Not today, though I’m sure he will be safe. He’s a brave lad and knows how to handle his weapon. You saw him in combat yesterday.’
Once again a vision came to Rowenna of Robbie dancing about on light feet to avoid his opponent, thrusting and blocking with the short sword. It was replaced almost instantly with one of him standing at the water trough after his fight, naked to the waist with his skin slick and glowing from his exertion in the bout. Why could she not rid herself of that memory? Why did it cause her skin to burn inside and out whenever she pictured the dark hair travelling from his firm chest down between the supple muscles of his abdomen?
Somewhere, out in the city, Robbie was patrolling and facing the fury of the citizens who had decided they would accept unjust treatment no more. She might even have taken arms herself in protest if she had been a man, if it had not meant standing in opposition to her cousin. Those men would not be battling with blunted swords. She bit her lip and turned pleading eyes on her uncle.
‘If you see him, will you watch over him?’
‘Do you think he needs guarding?’ Roger patted her hand. ‘He’s not a child. I doubt he would welcome my intervention but I’m sure he will be glad to know he is in your thoughts. If you wish, I will try to find him tonight.’
Roger kissed his wife with a thoroughness that made Rowenna’s cheeks flame and departed. Rowenna ran to the window in time to see Roger striding away and meeting a group of cloaked men. They exchanged words. One dropped his hood down and stared up at the window. With her heart racing, Rowenna recognised Robbie. She waved the candle, hoping he had seen her, and received a brief wave in return. She darted from the window and down the stairs into the workroom at the front of the house, ignoring her mother’s protests. The door was bolted and her fingers fumbled in her haste to open it.
‘Bull’s pizz—’ She caught herself mid-oath and bit her tongue. ‘Oh, why won’t you open?’ She succeeded and flung the heavy door open. She ran out into the street in time to see him striding away, bow in hand.
‘Robbie, wait!’ she called.
He halted, spun on his heel and strode back to her. She met him halfway and flung her arms around him. Her breasts pressed against his chest, her arms around his neck. Her lips grazed against the stubble on his cheek, sending a delightful thrill through her.
‘You’re safe. I was so worried.’
She drew back and looked at him, smiling widely, but he looked furious. Her heart lurched. He tugged her arms from around his neck and held them firmly by her side.
‘Get back inside!’
When she did not move, astonished at his ferocity, he scooped her up with a low growl and carried her bodily back into the house, kicking the door shut behind him with a thump. He deposited her on to the workbench. She sprawled in a graceless heap while Robbie glared down at her, hands on hips. His eyes flashed and, with his dishevelled hair in tangles and leather jerkin, he looked alarmingly dangerous.
And astonishingly handsome. The feverish chills threatened to return.
‘Have you lost your senses?’ Robbie thundered. ‘It isn’t safe out there!’
Rowenna hopped from the table and faced him, arms mirroring his. ‘I was standing in front of my own house!’ she exclaimed.
‘Which was no doubt bolted and the windows shuttered for good reason,’ Robbie snapped. ‘I’ve spent most of today doing my best to avoid being hit by rocks or worse hurled by an angry m-mob and keep the peace. Believing you were all safe inside was the one worry I didn’t have to consider.’
‘And I worry when the people I care for are marching around the city at risk of death!’ Rowenna’s cheeks flamed. ‘I didn’t think it would be dangerous outside here.’
‘Of course you didn’t.’ He rolled his eyes, but there was humour in them. ‘What did you want?’
‘Just to see you and check you were safe. Your father said he hadn’t seen you today. I asked him to watch over you if he saw you.’
Robbie’s brow knotted. ‘There was no need to do that. I can look after myself.’
Rowenna bit her lip, realising she’d blundered. Roger had been right to predict Robbie’s resentment. ‘He said the same, but it eased my mind. You must both indulge me. I know you can look after yourself, but don’t turn away anyone who wants to do the same.’
Robbie looked slightly mollified. Rowenna put her hand to his chest to pacify him, feeling the shape of the muscles beneath his leather jerkin.
‘Will you please tell me what is happening? Your father said there was nothing to trouble us with, but I don’t believe him. He grows too protective over us. I’m not too stupid to understand, or too weak to withstand the knowledge.’
Robbie’s eyes lost a little more of their annoyance. A flicker of a smile crossed his lips.
‘No one would ever call you weak or stupid.’
He wrapped his arms around her, giving her a brief squeeze. Rowenna smelled smoke and earthiness and had to resist burrowing in closer to drink in his scent. She leaned back to stare at him.
‘Tell me, then. I know you don’t keep things from me.’
‘Very well, if it means you stay indoors. The friary has been breached. The city militia are attempting to suppress the violence and force the mob back, but it is proving difficult. My skill with the bow was brought to the attention of the commander this morning.’
His voice brimmed with pride. Rowenna hugged him tighter. ‘Well done. Is it over now?’
‘Not yet. I’m being sent to guard the bridge at Lendal and fire warning volleys at anyone who attempts to cross.’
He unwound his arms from around her. Rowenna reluctantly let him go. ‘I’m needed. Before I go, can you spare me a cup of wine? I’m a husk.’
Rowenna took the stairs two at a time. When she returned he was staring through the half-closed door at the road. His shoulders were tense and his manner watchful. Real fear flooded Rowenna and she had to force herself not to beg him to stay with her. He needed to do his duty and she would not stand in his way. She held the cup out to him and he took it, fingers brushing against hers. He drank slowly, looking at her over the rim. His gentle brown eyes were shadowed from not enough sleep. Remorse flashed through her at having created problems by distracting him.
‘You look a mess,’ she said with a forced smile.
She ran her hands through his hair, rearranging it in a neater fashion across his forehead, tucking stray curls behind his ear as if making him neat would ward off any danger. Her fingers brushed against the lobe and his eyes widened.
‘What are you doing?’ he asked.
‘I cannot arm myself and fight at your side and I have no favour to give you.’ She bit her lip. ‘I shall make you presentable enough so that if you meet with the Mayor himself he will marvel at your knightly bearing.’
She straightened his collar and unexpectedly her eyes stung. It would most likely be Mary’s place to do this before long. She widened her fingers over his neck, leaned in and, with her heart in her throat, kissed his cheek. She felt his jaw tighten, but he rested his face against hers and they stood motionless together.
‘I can’t stay,’ Robbie said.
‘I know. Stay safe,’ Rowenna answered.
‘I should be saying that to you.’ Robbie felt for her hand and squeezed it. ‘Stay indoors now and bolt the door after I go.’
She nodded obediently, determined not to cause him any more concerns.
He strode away, bow across his back and the hood of his deep green cloak pulled down to hide his face. At the corner he turned, saw her standing there and pointed at the door.
She darted back inside and bolted the door.
Elisabeth Hobbes latest book, A Midsummer Knight's Kiss is available now. You can find out more about Elisabeth on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or at elisabethhobbes.co.uk.
What are you reading this month? Have you recently read a book you think everyone should hunt down? Let us know in the comments or on Social Media using #amreading.