Read an Excerpt
On the golden crescent visible at high tide, a horseman cantered towards the headland. An emerald green bandanna tied back glossy black hair from his face. His white shirt ballooned as he rode, muscular thighs gripping the horse’s flanks.
Fingers laced, two young women giggled their way across the dunes above, to scramble into a sandy bowl, sheltered by swaying grass and sea thrift.
‘She’ll never catch us now,’ said Rebecca, fingers raking her copper curls. ‘I won’t let her spoil our fun.’
‘Biddy’s only following your father’s orders,’ said Catrin. ‘He wants you to make a good marriage.’
‘It’s not fair! Marrying me off to someone who’s a hundred years old.’
Catrin frowned. ‘He’s a wealthy lord.’
‘Born back in the last century. You do the sums! Once I’m in the old goat’s clutches, I shan’t see you any more. As for Biddy – she’d chop off her head rather than leave my father. I’ll have no one to talk to.’
Catrin looked down at the dry sand trailing through her fingers.
Rebecca’s eyes narrowed. ‘You know something, don’t you?’
But her cousin’s attention was elsewhere. On the beach below, a horseman had appeared. The horse’s hooves kicked at a wave, sending watery diamonds into the air. Catrin pointed him out to Rebecca and they watched him vanish around the headland.
‘He rides well.’ Catrin smoothed her skirt around her legs.
Rebecca bent her head towards her cousin’s ripe-corn mane of hair and whispered.
Catrin gasped. ‘You wanton!’
‘Why? I know what you really meant. And you still haven’t answered my question. I might be forced to tickle you.’ Rebecca knew her companion would confess to murder once subjected to this torment.
Catrin upturned her palms. ‘I’m to be married too.’
‘What?’ Rebecca froze.
‘You and I will be wedded and bedded by summer’s end. It’s what’s destined for young women like us.’
Rebecca scrambled to her feet. We’ll see about that.’ Her defiant cry merged with the mew of the gulls fussing overhead.
The girls retraced their route. Laughter drifted down to the shore where the horseman had turned to ride back towards the opposite cliff. His lips twitched at the glimpse of snowy petticoat peeping from skirts swirled by the breeze. His gaze followed the two slender figures climbing the path snaking through the dunes until it dipped sharply, swallowing the tops of the girls’ heads.
‘Pretty,’ he told his horse. ‘A fair milkmaid and a fiery goddess. This peninsula shows promise. Maybe I’ll enjoy my stay with my uncle even more than I anticipated.’ He pressed his thighs against the animal’s flanks. ‘Come,Sofia. I need sustenance and so do you.’