Mid Week Tease: Red Robin and the Huntsman #MidWeekTease #MWTease
Hello, lovelies! This week I’m teasing you with a new snippet from my holiday novella Red Robin and the Huntsman. In it, we get a look at Duncan and Roberta: The Early Years, and see how things went sour between them. Man, I’m a mean author…
Many thanks to Angelica Dawson for hosting us, and make sure to hit the list after the teaser to see other great Mid Week Teases!
Getting ready for bed was a matter of shucking out of the day’s clothes, giving himself a quick wash with the now-cold water left on the dresser, then climbing into bed. The sheets were as cold as the water, and Duncan wondered if perhaps his men in the camp weren’t better off after all. At least they would have a decent fire, unlike the pitiful pile of twigs burning in his fireplace.
Waiting for the bedclothes to warm up, he thought about the woman sleeping not a hundred yards from his own bed. I suppose I should consider myself lucky I have a room at all. Considering the way she was looking at me, she would’ve put me in the stables if Devines hadn’t spoken up.
He turned over in the chilly bedclothes and remembered a happier time…
“Hellas?” Roberta Duquesne’s eyes widened at the news. “For how long?”
“Six months, give or take,” Duncan said, pacing the length of her father’s sitting room. He’d come straight from the barracks with the news and was too excited to sit down. “Possibly longer if we’re held up by storms.”
Being chosen for the Ypresian military delegation that would be sent to the island nation was an incredible honor, especially for an ensign fresh out of the academy. The ambassadors of King Matthias and King Cresus of Hellas had been working for the past year on a massive trade treaty between their countries. After all the details were finally hammered out, it would be sealed by the marriage of the king’s son Crown Prince Lucas to the Hellene heir Princess Danaë, once both of them were old enough to wed.
Even better, the treaty would also involve co-training of the two countries’ military forces. This delegation was the test case to see how that could best be achieved. Duncan wasn’t all that enthusiastic about having to spend time on a boat, but the experience he would gain in Hellas would be invaluable for his career. Once he returned to Ypres, he would be one of the officers setting out the track for the entire army’s future. His father was already lieutenant commander of the Ypresian army; he might even surpass that someday and become Lord Commander himself.
So he was disappointed when Robin sank onto a chair at his news, confusion and dismay warring on her face. Her father, Colonel Gerard Duquesne, had served as the commandant of the military academy for the last ten years. Of all people, she should know that a soldier’s life wasn’t his own. “They only chose three ensigns to go,” he said now, trying to ignore his irritation. “If I do well in Hellas, I’m sure to be promoted within the year.”
She still looked miserable. “But you’ll be in Hellas for half a year, Duncan. That’s so far away.”
“Aye, but it’s the only way we can learn how to fight alongside sailors. They can come here for the land trials, but we have to go where the water is for the sea trials.” He paused in front of the fireplace, relishing the heat. It was only autumn, but Mons had already seen a light dusting of snow. Hellas is supposed to be warm year ’round. Perhaps I could bring her out there for a trip–with a chaperone, of course.
He glanced at her, wondering how to snap her out of this puzzling funk. Their fathers had been army comrades for years, their families mingling at holidays and other celebrations. For most of Duncan’s childhood Robin had been a thin, gawky, annoying girl who insisted on being included in his war games with Ewan and Hamish. After he had gone off to the military academy, determined to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a renowned cavalry officer, all thoughts of Robin Duquesne evaporated from his head until his last year of school when his class was required to attend the academy’s Harvest Ball.
The event was held in order to give the future officers a semblance of social polish, and was always well attended by pretty young women eager to find a military husband. Reluctantly, Duncan had accompanied the other officer candidates to the ball, lurking on the outskirts of the dance floor. His unusual height presented certain disadvantages when it came to dancing; either the girl got a crick in her neck from peering up at him, or he spent the dance staring at the crown of her head. Granted, it also meant he got a good look at her bosom, but that tended to cause a certain reaction below the belt. The offset alignment in heights made it hard to hide his interest and had earned him a slapped face more than once.
He’d been on the verge of leaving when a tall, gorgeous redhead broke free from the feminine throng and approached him. Her pale teal gown made her look like a seamaid rising from the foam and outlined sleek curves that made his palms sweat. “Thank the gods you’re here, Duncan,” she said with a delighted smile. “Will you please dance with me and save me from the lead boots of your brother officers?”
With a start, he recognized Robin Duquesne. The annoying little girl of his memory had grown up into a stunning young woman. It took a moment to find his tongue, but he finally managed, “If you like. I’m warning you, I’m not much better.”
“At least you’re light on your feet. I’m willing to risk it.”
The sparkle in her eyes had been impossible to resist. He led her onto the dance floor, surprised at the way she fit so well in his arms, and found himself gliding around the ballroom with her as if they’d been dancing together for years. Without quite intending to, he found himself courting her. The sniping of their childhood slowly transmuted into easy bantering and a genuine rapport, spiced with sweet kisses and stolen caresses. Best of all, Robin had a knack for anticipating his thoughts, which was why her current dismay at his posting was so surprising.
“Six months isn’t that long, if you think about it,” he offered.
She scoffed at that. “Easy for you to say. What am I supposed to do while you’re off learning naval warfare?”
“I assumed you’d keep doing what you’ve been doing. Helping your ma, studying with your da, volunteering at the widows and orphans’ home, that sort of thing.”
Her eyes narrowed. “I see. So you go off to learn naval battle tactics, while I stay home with my parents and do charity work.”
Her chilly tone was as clear as a trumpet call to battle. “If there’s something else you want to do while I’m gone, you don’t need my permission,” he said, trying to sound conciliatory. “Go off and do it.”
“How kind of you. Unfortunately for me, the one thing I want to do requires the assistance of a husband.”
Duncan smothered a sigh. He knew she didn’t mean bedding, much as he longed to get her naked and under him. She wanted to marry him. “Robin, we’ve talked about this.”
“Yes, we have. You didn’t want to get married until you graduated. I could see your point, so I waited. Then, you had to find your footing in the army. Once again, I saw your point, so I waited. Now I learn that you’re heading off to Hellas for six months, give or take.” An elegant hand rose, opening in a sharp gesture. “Were you ever planning on marrying me, or was this all some elaborate ploy to stay in my father’s good graces?”
Duncan bristled. “That’s not fair, and you know it.”
“Isn’t it? I know Father was the one who drew up the list of officers to be sent to Hellas.”
“Which my da approved,” he shot back.
“Your father would’ve never put you on that list, and you know it. He’s bent over backwards to stay away from your military career.”
He tried to tamp down his rising anger. For the gods’ sake, why was she being so irrational? “I didn’t need my da’s help to get this posting, or yours,” he snapped. “I earned my way onto that list. I had the highest grades of my graduating class, and I’ve excelled at every training opportunity I’ve been given. I’m a damned good officer, Robin, and I deserve to go to Hellas.”
In prior years, she would have shouted at him, giving as good as she’d gotten. Now, her expression closed off, leaving him with a marble effigy of the woman he loved. Damn it, Robin, why can’t you see how this will help both of us? Sighing, he knelt down in front of her chair, taking her cold hands in his own. “Don’t you understand what this can mean for me, love? Quicker promotions, better postings, more money for a household.” He rubbed his thumbs over her delicate skin, trying to warm it. “And I need that money if I’m to marry you. Do you want to live in some run-down boarding house while I’m deployed? Because that’s all I can afford for you at the moment.”
She looked away, profile limned by the firelight. “I suppose not.”
“No, I didn’t think you would.” He lowered his tone, making it persuasive. “So I go to Hellas, do the best job I can do, and line things up for a promotion when I get back. And after that, we’ll get married, if that’s what you want.”
Now she turned back, storm-blue eyes focusing on him. “Is that what you want, Duncan?”
He paused, aware that he was treading on dangerous ground. He had always assumed that they would marry at some point. He had no issue with the idea, especially if it got Robin into his bed, but he wanted it to happen at the right time with regards to his career. Taking on a dependent (or more, if she got pregnant early) wasn’t on the schedule just yet.
But saying that out loud would just anger her even more. “Of course I want to marry you. And we’ll talk about it in more detail when I get back from Hellas, I promise.” He leaned closer, gazing into the storm-blue eyes he loved. “Trust me, Robin. Please.”
She hesitated for a moment, then nodded. “All right. Go to Hellas and make your mark. But I’ll expect regular letters, understood?”
“Of course, love.” He kissed her, breathing in her honeysuckle perfume as he memorized the softness of her lips. Gods, he truly would miss her. “I’ll write you every day, I promise.”
He had meant to keep that promise, even bringing paper, sealing wax, and ink with him to the island of Rhodope where the training would commence. But there had been so much to do, what with the working on the integration of Ypresian and Hellene fighting styles, teaching sailors how to ride horses and learning how to handle sail lines and tillers. And then there were the multitudinous tasks delegated to him and the other ensigns by their superior officers. By the time he reached his cot every night, he barely had enough energy to crawl under the thin cotton blanket and fall into dreamless slumber. He kept meaning to write to Robin, would remind himself to do just that the next day before drifting off. And then the next day would dawn and he would be back in the grind.
It wasn’t until his delegation was preparing to leave that he found himself with enough time to compose a letter. He had sat there, staring at the blank paper, a drop of ink hanging off the nib of his quill. Why even bother? It’ll take a week to reach her, and I’ll be there less than a week afterward. Better to save all the news for when I can tell her in person.
Cheered at the thought, he wiped off the quill and put it away. Two more weeks, and he would be back in Mons with his beautiful Robin. Everything would be wonderful then.
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Posted on November 22, 2017, in Belaurient Publishing, Lady of Thorns, Mid Week Tease and tagged fantasy romance, Mid Week Tease, nicola cameron, Red Robin and the Huntsman, two thrones. Bookmark the permalink. 16 Comments.