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FREE download until February 4!

Just a quick plug to let you know that The Queen’s Almoner will be available for FREE download from Amazon now until February 4th.

Here is a sneak peak from The Queen’s Almoner:

Even on this winter morning, the sun stretched forth its dull fingers and lit the ample room with its bleak radiation. Mary sat, writing her daily correspondence. She usually performed this task in the sanctuary of her antechamber, and used this room for reading instead, but this morning she sat at the dark mahogany desk, with her head bent, yet her back stiffened in perfect posture. David Rizzio sat at another table close by, also writing correspondence and performing the tasks that Mary found too tedious to do herself.

I cleared my throat so as not to startle them before stepping into the room.

“Good morning, Thomas. I didn’t see you at supper last night, nor breakfast this morning. I do hope all is well. Are you ill?”

“No. I am fine. Just a little trouble sleeping last night. That is all.”

“Indeed! I know what you mean. I had a little trouble myself,” she said with a ruffled look.

“Yes. About that….I saw Chastelard being brought back to the palace this morning.”

She snuck a glance at Rizzio then proceeded. “I’ve already been scolded on that account, Thomas. No need to repeat the reprimand.”

“Nay. Not a reprimand. Just curiosity. The man did sneak into your bedchamber with who-knows-what intentions.”

“I admit, I was a little put off by his wanton behavior….”

“A little?” I scoffed.

“All right then, I was very put off by his behavior,” she acquiesced. “But, then I realized that I might have been partially to blame. I am much too familiar with him and must have led him to believe that there was more between us than just a mutual appreciation of poetry.”

I stared at her. Had we not just had this conversation a fortnight ago? I tried to warn her, to convince her to tell him outright that she had no feelings for him and to send him away. Then again, maybe there were feelings there. Feelings she did not…could not admit to. I glanced at Rizzio who was busy trying to look occupied with his work, but his hand had stopped, and a blob of ink had congealed on the page beneath the spot where his quill had come to a halt. It felt like someone had stuffed my mouth with a linen rag. My tongue grew thick and my mouth dry.  I licked my lips and then swallowed hard before continuing.

“Are you quite certain there isn’t more there than you want to admit?” I was out of line, I knew it, and her eyes narrowed toward me in confirmation of my offense. “Mary, I cannot tell you how to conduct yourself. Please understand that my only concern is for your safety and reputation. It is at my highest recommendation that you rid yourself of this rogue once and for all. Put a stop to this, I beg you, before it’s too late.”

In one instantaneous moment I saw hurt and choler flash in those striking green eyes. The gold flecks of fire that lied dormant on her melancholy days ignited and set her eyes aflame with defensive daggers. “Thomas, I know that you feel obligated to look out for my welfare as a brother would look after a sister. But I am not a child. I am free to make my own decisions, and I feel that I am quite capable of determining when my reputation is in danger.”

By this time color had flushed her cheeks and she was standing in an effort to level her eye contact with mine. A quick glance at Rizzio showed that he was hastily gathering his materials in order to make a swift exit from the room.

It was my turn to be wroth, and I did not wait for Rizzio to leave the room before speaking. “I don’t think you are. I am sorry that you are offended at my concern. But I have heard the rumors that fly about you while you are oblivious to their threats. You asked me to stay on here—to serve you. I gave up my living—a valued and highly sought-after position in service to God Almighty, to serve you. You wanted my advice, my insight. Mary, you do not think like a Scot. Your head is so full of French frivolities that you have crowded out all reason and good sense. You underestimate the power and control of the Lords of the Congregation. Any misstep, no matter how insignificant, could cost you everything.”

“Here you are. You and I are now alone in this room. Will not people chatter?”

“I am not under your bed and you in your night clothes!”

“But I am the queen.”

“It doesn’t matter. You are a foreigner in the eyes of the Scottish people, a woman, and a Catholic. For these you are already condemned.”

Her face showed injury and indignation concurrently. “But I am the queen!” she repeated.

I raised an eyebrow, unimpressed. “Not for long,” I countered, adding, “not if you continue in this vein of reckless behavior.”

She moved toward the door, but instead of walking out she shut it.

“Are you telling me that I am not capable of controlling this land?” She stepped closer to me, her face so close I could feel the warmth of her sweet breath, a mixture of honey and spice.

“I’m confused. How did this conversation turn into a discussion about your ability to rule?” I stepped toward her, bracing myself for the ensuing battle of wits.

Her eyes still flaming and her cheeks still flushed enhanced her beauty so profoundly that I found myself swaying under her power to entice. She felt it too, for I watched the amulet that hung from a platinum chain around her neck, rise and fall in swift, jerky movements as the air moved in and out of her lungs in quick, short breaths. Her lips, soft and round drew my attention away from the bobbing amulet, its unearthly force attempting to pull me down into its devilish snare. 

“You are intoxicating,” I whispered.

The color of her eyes changed from a striking green to soft amber with only traces of the earthy green substance remaining. Before I could say anything more, the dragon inside her subsided and she was the gentle queen again. She wrapped her arms around me and buried her face into my chest like a lost child, repeating over and over again how sorry she was for getting so angry. Had she heard what I said? Or had I merely thought the words? I had not received the response that I had hoped for, yet I took advantage of the proximity of her nearness anyway. I kissed her lightly on the head, drinking in the aroma of lavender and rosemary that so lightly bathed her hair.

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