Friday, February 8, 2013

Hot Excerpt: Midnight for Morgana by Shirley Martin


A Sexy Fairy Tale

 When Prince Keir attends the fair in a faraway city, he never expected to meet his future bride there. But seeing a beautiful woman with blue eyes and blonde hair, he knows this lady was meant for him. Clad in satin and fur and riding a sleek white horse, she surely must be a princess. Prince Keir will accept nothing less than a princess as his bride. But he is in for a surprise, for Morgana is not what she appears to be. 
Tired of drudgery and housework, Morgana wishes she could attend the fair and meet other young people. When a good witch grants her these wishes, she gets more than she bargained for. But when Prince Keir comes to her house, he is the last person she wants to see.



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Excerpt:
Chapter One

“And don’t forget to press our dresses so that we can visit Lady Dunreith tomorrow.”

Morgana clenched her hand on the chairback. “I won’t forget.”

After her sisters left for the fair at Dornach, Morgana sank onto a rickety kitchen chair, thinking of all she must do this evening and wishing she could attend the fair. Her head propped on her chin, she sat there for a long time, ashamed of herself for her futile brooding, too well aware that self-pity would not get her chores done. If she weren’t the youngest, would her life be any different? But after all, she and her sisters were triplets, only a few minutes separating their birth order. In the deepest despair of her soul, she felt it really was not fair. She was eighteen; she had a life to live.

Morgana sighed, missing her mother, dead these many years. If only she could take her troubles to her father, but as usual, he had withdrawn to the library, his face buried in one of his books.

Her gaze drifted around the kitchen, a large room she kept spotless, like all the other rooms in this spacious but ramshackle house. But there was only so much she could do to maintain their home. A loose shutter banged in the wind, and she wished her father had the money to repair the shutters and crumbling stone walls outside. Why, one strong wind and she feared the house would fall apart.

Pots and pans hanging over the fireplace gleamed by the burning embers there, and strips of lit hickory bark cast wavy shadows across the flagstone floor. The floor was clean, the maple table shining with lemon wax, a wooden bowl of fragrant apples in the center. The cleaning and cooking kept her busy from dawn to dusk, the tasks neverending. Even though her father was a lord, the family couldn’t afford servants.

Just once, wouldn’t it be nice if she could go to the Saturday night fair at Dornach, if she could meet other young people, hear the music of the band and visit all the stalls? What if she met a young man there who fell in love with her and asked her to marry him? She smiled at her fanciful thoughts and pushed herself to her feet, chiding herself for her foolish fantasies. Useless daydreaming would not get the dishes washed, her first chore for the evening. Then she must put the beans to soak overnight, press her sisters’ dresses, and–

A knock on the door jolted her from her morose thoughts. Who could it be? No one ever came to visit at this late hour. Well, only one way to find out.

She opened the door, surprised to see an old woman with gray hair, dressed in black from head to toe, a black shawl tied across her chest. Her gray hair was twisted in a bun. “Come in,” Morgana said, her puzzlement increasing.

“My name is Gwenith, and I’d like to know, why aren’t you at the fair,” the woman asked, “instead of working in your father’s kitchen?”

Morgana made a helpless gesture. “How can I go? I have nothing to wear and no money, no way to get to the fair. Besides, I can’t take a chance on my two sisters–Alana and Nola–seeing me there. If that happened, they would beat me senseless for leaving the house.”

She waved her hand around the kitchen. “Just look. I have to wash the dishes and sweep the floor, put the beans to soak. And you see those dresses slung over the chair? I have to press them for my sisters.” She plucked at her shapeless brown dress, the cotton tattered and faded with countless washings. “Most important, I have nothing to wear.”

The old woman pursed her lips. “If you could have new clothes for the fair, what would you choose?”

“Oh!” Morgana pressed her hands to her warm cheeks, overwhelmed at the thought of new clothes. Her imagination ran wild as she considered all the gowns she had always dreamed of. “A light blue satin dress and a dark blue cloak with shoes to match.”

“Good choice. Light blue will go nicely with your blonde hair and blue eyes.” Gwenith snapped her fingers. “Done!”

“Oh, my!” Morgana looked down at herself and gasped. The most beautiful dress enclosed her slender body, the lustrous material shimmering by the firelight. Its neckline fell slightly lower than what she normally wore but was still within the bounds of propriety.

Its bodice revealed her nicely-rounded breasts and hugged her narrow waist, its soft folds falling from her hips, the hem skimming the floor. A dark blue satin cloak draped over her shoulders, fur-lined, for the weather was cool, and fastened with a shiny silver brooch at her throat. Dark blue satin slippers encased her small feet, the satin decorated with delicate gold embroidery.

“But how will I get there?” Morgana asked, reverting to her earlier despondency. “My sisters took the cart.”

Gwenith stepped forward and opened the kitchen door. “Just look.”
Beyond the kitchen door, a milk-white mare waited, its gold bridle and gold saddle sparkling in the moonlight. Morgana clapped her hands, her eyes brimming with tears of happiness. “My goodness!”

Gwenith handed her a white satin purse, its jingling sound a sure sign it held a few coins. “Now you can go to the fair. But you must not speak to anyone, least of all your sisters. And no matter how much attention the young men pay you, just ignore them.”

Morgana frowned, a cold feeling deep in her stomach. “But the dishes, the dresses I must press–“

”Never mind that. When you come home, you will find all your work done for you.” She smirked. “Yes, even your sisters–the ungrateful wretches–will find their clothes pressed.” She wagged a finger at Morgana.

“One more thing to remember. You must come home at midnight.”
Her spirits sank. “But I have no timepiece. How will I know the time?”

“You will hear the bells toll the hour. As soon as the bells toll twelve times, come home straightaway. As you know, this is an all-night fair.”

Copyright (C) 2012 Shirley Martin

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