Today I thought I'd add a small excerpt from Fair Border Bride. Set in the rough world of the borders between England and Scotland in the mid sixteenth century, a pretty girl distracts Harry from his mission:
Harry gritted his teeth, offered his most elegant bow and watched them go. The young lady tossed a swift, laughing glance over her shoulder before the crowd took her away.
Harry turned to the stallholder. “Who was that?”
Of little height but ample girth, the stallholder regarded him from shrewd blue eyes. “Fancy ye chances, lad? That was the lady of Aydon Hall. Margery Carnaby and her daughter Alina. They’re a-carin’ for Sir Reynold, him that’s ill and like to die soon.”
“Aydon? Just north of here?”
“Aye. Right by the Ay Burn. Ye’ll be a stranger to these parts yourself, sir?”
Harry saw no need to deny it. “Travelling north to Edinburgh.”
“Oh, aye. And ye’d be from Lonnun, then, sir?”
Harry gave her his best smile. There was no harm in letting everyone think he was from the south. In fact, it was to his advantage. “How’d ye guess?”
The dark wool shawl draping her shoulders moved as she shrugged. “Ye don’t sound as if ye come from these parts. Ye sound more like gentry. I thought o’ Lonnun, that’s all.”
“It is quieter hereabouts than London.”
Mary handed him a neatly wrapped package and named her price. “Quiet, d’ye think, lad? It’s but a hundred miles to Edinburgh, and ye’ll travel some o’ the most dangerous land in the country to get there.”
Counting out coins into her palm, Harry hesitated, and his gaze rose from the coins to the woman’s rosy, thread-veined face.
“Dangerous for everyone, or just for me?”
Mary choked back a laugh. “There’s outlaws and broken men up in’t hills, my bonny lad, and they’ll shake loose the Border whenever they take a fancy to dee it. They’ll not stop to ask ye name, never mind ye destination, before they slit ye throat and ride off wi ye purse.” She looked him up and down. “They’ll no’ forget ye sword nor ye dagger, either, not even that bonny jewel in your cap. Nekkid as a babe ye’ll be, when those limmers leave ye.”
He resumed counting out coins into her plump hand. “I’d best take care how I ride then,” he said. “For ride I will.”
Her blue eyes twinkled. “Luck be wi ye, sir.”
Harry slid the small package inside his doublet and wandered on, whistling silently through his teeth, wondering if he should have asked about guides for the next stage of his journey. Better not; he didn’t want every village idiot knowing his business. He’d use his own judgement in finding a man who knew the routes through the hills.