Breena sagged against the wall. Gareth's kiss had felt...strange. Like the kiss she'd shared with Penn. Not at all like the times she had kissed Rhys.
"What a touching scene."
She nearly jumped out of her skin. "Rhys!"
He sketched a mocking bow. "At your service...Lady Antonia."
"You were spying on me! How long have you been lurking outside that door?"
He shrugged. "Long enough."
She met his gaze. His tone might have been light, but his eyes flashed with icy fury.
Her own tumultuous anger answered. "Are you at my service, Rhys? I confess I'm surprised to hear it. I thought you'd offered your services to Nesta."
"Lady Igraine's maid is brazen."
"And you encouraged her! You stroked her arm. You kissed her in front of everyone!"
"Rather than slip away, you mean, to meet my lover in the castle steward's office? By the gods, Breena, I could throttle you! What is going on? Why are you masquerading as a dead woman, under the nose of a sorcerer? I am telling you, your folly ceases this instant."
Air hissed through Breena's teeth. The arrogant swine! How dare he order her about. "Just...stop it, Rhys. My folly is none of your business. Now step aside. I must return to the feast--"
"Nay," he said, grabbing her wrist as she tried to brush past him. "You are not going anywhere, Bree. Except out of this castle with me. Tonight."
His voice vibrated with rage. His fingers pinched. Dear Goddess. Rhys's anger had frightened her at a distance. In close proximity, it was terrifying.
But she would not bend. He was in the wrong, not she. She drew herself up to her full height. Unfortunately, her full height put her eyes hardly higher than his chest.
"Let me go," she said quietly. "You are hurting me."
"Too bad." He did not release her. "You are lucky I do not turn you over my knee. By the gods, Bree! I thought you were kidnapped."
"I was not. I am in this time and place of my own free will."
"I see that," he growled. "And it ends now. We are going home."
She stiffened. "You have no say in this. None at all. How did you even find me? You should not have been able to follow us."
"Us." The word dropped from Rhys's lips like a stone. "Who is this 'us,' Breena? You and Uther's Druid, I suspect."
"You...you know of Myrddin?"
His eyes were intent, even in the gloom. "There are very few Druids in this time. So far, I've seen but two, and heard tell of only one other. The magic I followed through the Lost Lands was not Dafyd's. Nor is it Lady Igraine's. That leaves me with one possibility. Myrddin." Abruptly, he released her. "Am I right? Or is there another Druid of whom I am not yet aware?"
Breena rubbed her wrist. "No. You are right. Myrddin brought me here."
"Where is he now?"
"I...do not know."
"He left you here unguarded?"
"No. Gareth protects me."
"That pup?" He swore. "I will have the sorcerer's head for that."
"Myrddin is not a sorcerer. He is descended from the Druids of Avalon. He even claimed he once met you."
"Then he is a liar as well as a sorcerer," Rhys said. "I am sure I have never encountered the man."
"He is not evil," Breena insisted. "He follows the Light."
Rhys snorted. "I am not inclined to call artful manipulation a service to the Light."
"Myrddin did not manipulate me. I knew what I was doing. And I trust him, Rhys. He carries the symbol of Avalon, carved on his staff."
Rhys made a cutting motion with his hand. "I would expect nothing less from a charlatan. The man practices deep magic, Bree. Deeper and more dangerous than any I have ever known."
"In our time, perhaps. But Rhys, magic is different in this Britain. There are fewer Druids, it is true. But the Druids who do exist possess power far greater than ours."
"I can well believe that," Rhys muttered. "Dafyd's power is very strong. The magic Myrddin cast to bring you here is lethal. We are both lucky we are not dead. I cannot believe you would involve yourself in such a spell."
She glared at him. "Then you are a hypocrite. Because you would not be here unless you cast Myrddin's spell yourself! You may preach against deep magic, Rhys, but time and again, when it suits your purposes, you do not hesitate to call it."
"You speak of my shifting. I cannot deny calling that magic, when the need is great. Each time, I feel my human soul slip a bit farther from my grasp. Aye, shifting is dangerous magic. But it is nothing, Breena, compared to the magic that brought us to this place. How can casting magic so powerful possibly be in service to the Light? You are a child if you believe that."
She lifted her chin. "Myrddin does serve the Light. And so do I, in coming to this time. It is necessary."
"And was it necessary to vanish so suddenly, without a trace? Marcus, Gwen, Owein--By Annwyn, Bree! They were frantic when I left them."
"Oh, gods." She closed her eyes on a rush of guilt.
"And more than a sennight has passed since then," Rhys continued mercilessly. "Just think how anguished they are now. They likely believe we have both perished."
"Then...they don't know you followed me into the future?"
"Nay. I was alone when I found the remnants of Myrddin's spell. When I followed it into the Lost Lands, I had no idea where it would lead."
"I am sorry for their pain. I truly am. But they will understand, once I return--"
"Ah." He crossed his arms. "So you do intend to return, at least."
"Of course I do! Myrddin has promised to send me home. As soon as my task in this time is done."
"You do not have a task in this time. You cannot. You have no right to even breathe the air around us. And neither do I." He dragged a hand down his face. "Breena, nothing either of us do in this Britain could be right or good. On the contrary, the longer we stay here, the more likely it is that we'll do great harm. We have to return at once to the standing stone, and retrace Myrddin's cursed spell. And hope to Annwyn we can find our way home."
"You are welcome to leave, Rhys, if you think it right. But I am not going anywhere. I trust Myrddin."
He cursed. "You were always too trusting, even as a child."
She stiffened. "What I was as a child has no bearing on what I am doing now. I did not follow Myrddin into the future blindly. I have my own purpose in coming to this time."
He grasped her shoulders and gave her a shake. His scent--angry, male--filled her nostrils. "If that is true, then you are suffering a delusion. You have no purpose here. And you are not staying. We leave tonight."
She grabbed his forearms and tried to break his grip on her shoulders. He responded by shoving her against the wall.
Pure rage pounded in her ears. "Let me go. I mean it. If you do not, I...I will cry out. There are soldiers in that courtyard. They will be on you in an instant."
He shifted his hold on her, anchoring her more firmly. "You would betray me? Stand by and watch them drag me away? I would not be able to use magic to escape. Not without Dafyd learning of it, and that I will not do, for it would lead him to you." His fingers bit into her shoulder. "So? What are you waiting for, Bree? Scream."
Tears gathered in Breena's eyes. "I would not do that, Rhys. I would not betray you, ever. You are...you are far too dear to me."
Stark silence ensued. Their gazes locked. Rhys's eyes were shadowed; Breena could not begin to guess what he was thinking.
Air hissed between his teeth in a long, weary sigh. "Oh, Breena. You foolish, foolish lass. Whatever am I to do with you?"
His grip on her shoulders relented. His hands slipped up to frame her face. His head dipped; his body became her cage. He pressed his lips to her forehead. She felt the scratch of his stubbled jaw against her skin.
It was a chaste gesture—not what she wanted from him. But as his mouth lingered too long, and his arms tensed, she felt his turbid emotions churn into something darker.
His hips moved, surging forward to pin her lower body against the wall. His arousal burgeoned, throbbing against her lower belly. A shocked thrill ran through her.
A sweet, desperate longing twisted inside her chest. She'd wanted him so badly, for so long. Her breasts were pressed against the hard planes of his torso. His lips moved to her temple; a deep shudder ran through his body.
He bent his knees and moved his body downward, aligning his hips with hers. His phallus, rock hard, lodged in the cradle of her thighs. His hardness rubbed a spot that made her knees go weak. Instinctively, she parted her legs. He moved again, and she whimpered.
He responded with a groan. One of his knees intruded between her thighs, urging them to part wider, as wide as her skirts would allow.
Her hands stole around his torso, stroking and clutching. He was so solid—all muscle and sinew and bone. A heated tremor flashed through her. Her head went light. Her body softened in some places; it tightened in others. She was aware of a series of rapid, delirious thoughts.
Rhys had never wanted her as a woman.
He wanted her now.
His fingers touched her chin; he tilted her head.
His breath bathed her cheek. Her jaw.
In another instant, she was going to kiss him.
Rhys was going to kiss her.
END OF EXCERPT. LIKE
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» Come with me to the United Kingdom! In 2006, I traveled to England, Scotland and Wales, where many of my books take place. Photos and travel diary entries appear on my blog. The following links will take you directly to the places in England and Wales that appear in my Druids of Avalon series.
Day 6: Doune
Day 9: Caerleon
aka Isca Silurnam
Day 11: Glastonbury
and Cheddar Gorge