Oh, I am such a space cadet. I didn’t even tell y’all where this book can be found and all that kind of important detail! Well without further ado: Like almost all of Deirdre’s work at present, it is at JMS Books. Since it was just released on October 13 it is still on the main page but you can also find it on my author page where it will be from now on. Here’s the link: http://www.jms-books.com/deirdre-odare-m-191.html?zenid=H99z74RNAgkcGBjjoT42S3
Now how about an excerpt? It is a m/m romance and is adult level in several spots but this excerpt is PG-13. Let’s find Martin on his journey to his new post:
Martin FitzHugh leaned forward and peered through the coach’s rain-streaked window. Even when a flash of lightning briefly lit the night, he could see nothing. The rest of the time, so deep was the darkness, he felt it to be solid. However, sound made up for any lack of vision. The wind, shrieking as if in torment, ripped the remaining leaves from the trees and hurled them down where a pounding rain flattened them into the mud. The great hooves of the four horses squelched and slurped as they strained into the traces. The coach itself creaked and groaned as it twisted and lurched along.
After that, Martin slumped back, bracing himself in a corner and praying the vehicle would not upset, while he tried to shut the storm out of his awareness. For the tenth or perhaps fiftieth time, he questioned his sanity. What had possessed him to accept a position at some remote Welsh hold? It might as well be Darkest Africa for all the civilization he had seen the past two days, while they followed a deteriorating road deep and yet deeper into the hill-cut region. By now, they must be in an impenetrable wilderness.
Although he could barely understand the driver’s thick accent, Martin thought he had said something like “Ve iz nearly there now, sor,” in answer to his timid question as to their whereabouts. That had been hours ago, around sundown, before the storm struck.
I believe my life is turning into a cliché. Martin gave a wry chuckle at the wild thought.
Indeed, it was a dark and stormy night, perhaps the darkest and stormiest he had ever experienced. His waning faith that he would arrive safely at Ravensrawn declined to nothing. If the coach was not struck by lightning or crushed beneath a falling tree, surely the horses would bolt, causing it to careen from the road and sink into a bottomless swamp or go flying off a cliff.
The coach jerked to a stop. Martin only realized it once he noted no more jolts, tilts, and sloshes. Although the storm had not abated the wind carried broken snatches of speech to him. The muffled words were too few to make any sense of. Much as he dreaded sinking his new boots into the muck, he contemplated alighting to find out what had happened. Had the coach mired or broken some critical part? He could not believe there would be highwaymen out on such a night as this.
Before he could act upon the thought, the door against which he had been leaning fell open so suddenly he almost tumbled out. Black against black, a hulking figure loomed over him and a pair of quick, strong hands seized him before he fell…even before he could resist. He muttered an oath of protest upon finding himself borne through space. For a moment, wind and rain lashed him. Then, he settled upon hard thighs and the rounded pommel of a saddle, as an enormous, oily-textured cloak enveloped him, cutting off the wind, the wet, and the cold. A powerful arm gathered him close as the horse surged and wheeled away from the coach.
Martin found himself bundled so thoroughly he had to struggle to find a crack to stick his nose through. He inhaled the cool, damp air and willed himself not to give in to the fear, which threatened to overwhelm him. Had terrible turned to even worse?
However, even terror could not nullify his native curiosity. Although he doubted his captor could hear him above the noise of the storm, to which was added the sounds of the massive horse driving through the night, he framed several anxious and indignant questions. “Who are you? Where are you taking me? What do you think you’re doing, anyway?”
The answer came in a low-pitched rumble of a voice, somewhere above him. “I do not think I am doing anything. I’m merely doing it. What I am doing is taking you to Ravensrawn, bypassing a bridge washed out by this devil-spawned storm. As to who I am, ‘tis nothing you have need to know. It would never do to have the urgently needed tutor for the young earl and his sisters swept away to sea in a flood, so I came to fetch you thither. My apologies if the conveyance does not suit. I could arrange for no better at short notice.”
“You know me then…who I am, I mean?” The revelation took Martin by surprise. How could this faceless man recognize him in the pitch-dark night?
When the rider laughed, the motion rocked him a little in those powerful arms. “Could there be so many young gentlemen traveling to Ravensrawn when the road leads nowhere else and by his Honor’s coach at that? Who else could you be but young Master FitzHugh?”
“Aye. There is that. I must admit I am he. Now, you are one better than I, for you know who I am, while I do not know who you are.”
“For now I am your humble servant who must remain nameless. The deed is of the moment, not the doer. Hang on now for Nightwind must leap a gorge. It’s not so very wide or deep, yet if you struggle, it might unbalance him.”
“I’ll be very still,” Martin managed, turning his face inward against the warm, solid bulk of the man’s body. Although he considered himself a courageous person, he squinched his eyes shut. There seemed to be nothing he could hang on to, though he felt around inside the bulky cloak.
One had to be mad to go around leaping unseen gorges in total darkness. He could come to no other conclusion. He was the prisoner of a giant mad man taking him who-knew-where. With a free hand, he gathered a handful of the stiff cloak, the only thing within reach. Before he was quite ready, he felt the horse gather itself and spring.
For a moment, it felt like flying and then he heard a splashy thud and knew they were again on solid ground. He could not forebear a sigh of relief. In a few more moments, he heard the hollow clatter of hooves upon wood, perhaps another bridge. Then, through a gap in the cloak, he could see light—smoky, sputtering torches thrust at intervals into metal brackets on a stone wall.
Soon, Martin found himself standing on wet cobbles. He swayed at first, relieved of the cloak, and was surprised to feel the rain had ceased and the wind no longer reached him. He turned to thank his strange benefactor, hoping for a glimpse of his face, only to find the dim lights did not penetrate the shadow of the rider’s hooded cape.
“Thank you, good sir, whoever you might be. I do believe this is Ravensrawn and I have arrived safely due to your concern.”
His benefactor replied to that appreciation with clipped, terse words. “‘Tis of no moment. I’d have been riding anyhow. ‘Twas only a short distance out of my way. Good morrow, Master FitzHugh. I must be off now.”
“Stay,” Martin called. “At least tell me your name so I may inform my employer of the service you’ve done for both him and me.”
“He’ll know.” Those final words were flung back as the stranger wheeled the tall, dark horse and it leaped away into the gloom. Horse and rider seemed almost to vanish in front of Martin’s eyes, swallowed by the night.
Martin stood bemused for a moment, until a gentle tug on his arm turned his attention. He saw an elderly-looking woman beside him, urging him by anxious gestures to come along inside. That seemed a sound idea, as it was still damp and chilly, although the rain had stopped.
Passing through a heavy, planked door bound with massive iron fittings, they followed a set of twisting corridors, and a set or two of stairs, which soon had Martin quite lost. At length, they came to a pleasant room where a bed waited, turned back to warm. A lively fire leaped and danced on a stone hearth, providing both heat and light.
“This’ll be your quarters, sor,” the woman said. “If there be anything ye need, ring and it’ll be brought. I’ll have a bath sent and nightclothes, since your traps have yet to arrive, stuck in yon coach.”
“Who was that man, the one who brought me here?”
The woman cocked her head, birdlike. She made no answer to Martin’s question. “Ned be yer chamberlain,” she said, ingeniously. “He’ll be up soon with a hot posset and help ye to bed. We mun’t be waking Himself so late. In the morning, he’ll speak with ye about your duties, and ye’ll meet the Little Master and his sisters. Good morrow to ye, sor.” With no further ado, the small woman turned and marched out.
Martin suddenly realized the extent of his weariness and the soreness of his body, bruised by bouncing about in the coach. Curiosity must take a place behind the simple comforts of bath and bed. He suspected if he tried to follow the woman, he’d only find himself hopelessly lost.
If this were truly Ravensrawn, it was the strangest manor house he had ever seen, more like some ancient, fabled castle of old. Though fine, the furnishings of his room looked old, more suitable to the fifteenth century than the latter half of the nineteenth. What a strange place he’d come to. Everything went fuzzy and dim then, and later he didn’t truly recall anything else before he found himself in bed, sliding into sleep.
He slept long and deeply, disturbed only by fragmentary dreams of dark riders and bottomless gorges, imprisoning castles and faceless strangers. London and the only home he had known since childhood were weary miles away, farther than he might ever go again. With naught to return to, what would be the use of making the journey? Of course, in time this new position would be no more as the young children of the late Earl of Montcalm would grow quickly beyond the need of a tutor. However, he’d confront that matter when it arose. Perhaps a similar situation would present itself at the opportune time.