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Meet Colleen “Garnet” Gleason
Colleen Gleason is an award-winning NEW YORK TIMES and USA TODAY bestselling author who’s written in so many genres she can hardly keep them straight. From medieval historical romances to modern-day gothic romances, to dystopian paranormal romances, as well as steampunk (for teens), Colleen has tried on just about every genre possible. The only thing she hasn’t written—yet—is anything with a sad ending.
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Excerpt follows the entry form!
A LILY ON THE HEATH
by Colleen Gleason
When he came into the Great Hall, dripping but not the least bit chilled, Malcolm found it just as he expected: filled with people everywhere, the space loud and close. Yet he hadn’t broken his fast and there was food to be had, so he tamped down his irritation and searched for an empty place among the trestle tables.
“Warwick!”someone called, and he turned to see Lady Judith.
For some unaccountable reason, his chest tightened and he meant to keep walking…but before he could force himself to do so, his feet turned and brought him over to her. It was rude, he told himself, to ignore a gentlelady’s hail. She sat at a small table next to one of the lesser fireplaces, a chessboard arranged in front of her.
He swiped the long, sopping hair from his forehead, careful not to stand so close he’d drip all over her and the table as he gave a brief bow. “Good morrow, Lady Judith,”he said politely, noticing her own clothing was still damp.
Of course he’d seen her walking by the training yard earlier—how could one ignore that beacon of fiery hair, especially in a colorless morn such as this? Little wisps of it fell from her coiffure, settling over her shoulders in frizzing curls. She wore no veil this morrow.
“I beg of you, my lord—a game of chess?”she asked. He opened his mouth to decline, but as was Lady Judith’s way, she barreled on, “I’ve taken two games already this morning from my opponents, and no one else is brave enough to challenge me. ’Twill be a long day cooped in here if I’ve naught to occupy my time, for the queen is locked away with her steward and has no need of me this morrow.”
Mal could think of a variety of ways she could occupy her time—dancing, jesting, flirting and talking with all of her friends, sewing and whatever else ladies did when they weren’t torturing men—but declined to mention them. Instead, he shook his head. “Nay, my lady, I dare not. I’m soaked to the skin and would be a poor opponent, dripping all over the table as I am.”
“But there is a seat for you right next to the fire,”Judith pointed out with a smile. “You’ll dry in a trice, and as I suspect you haven’t broken your fast, there will also be cheese and apples from the page who hovers just yonder.”
He looked down at her, realizing he’d been maneuvered quite neatly into doing her bidding. There was no honorable way out of the situation, and he realized it wasn’t such an unfortunate thing after all. “Very well, Lady Judith. But I trow, if you play chess as well as you maneuvered me, I doubt I’ll have a chance for checkmate.”
She laughed merrily and he felt his own lips tugging into a smile. Like a bolt of sunshine, her good humor and vivacity were near impossible to resist, and he felt himself relaxing a little. “You’re too kind, Lord Warwick. But I challenged you because I hope for a good battle on this game, at the least.”
They made their first few moves, playing in silence for a while. Mal had the stray thought that it was unusual for Judith to be quiet for such a stretch, but when he glanced up and saw her coppery brows drawn together, he realized she was concentrating on her game. He grinned, determined to be the one to give her a good battle this day. And as she pondered her next move, he had the opportunity to look upon her without feeling awkward.
He noticed her slender hand, delicate and graceful as it hovered over her queen’s rook. There were scratches and one deep scar near the wrist and he wondered if it were from her hunting falcons or some other mishap. Her skin wasn’t the same pearly white as that of most ladies, who spent much of their time indoors. Instead, her hands, throat, and face were a pleasing golden color, faintly brushed with amber and honey freckles.
Mal’s mind wandered, wondering if the freckles and sun-kissed coloring extended beneath her clothing, where he could see the curve of her breasts and well knew the shape of her hips, for they swayed enticingly as she walked…then when he realized his folly, he snatched his thoughts back to the game. Foolish, man.
She was not a suitable wife for him. She was too…loud and energetic and, he sensed, she would demand much from any husband she might take. Attention. Conversation. Chess games.
“I saw you this morrow,”Judith said, taking his king’s bishop with a flourish. “In the training yard.”
“Aye,”he replied, considering his next move. She’d done what he expected, fallen into his own trap on the board…but he must decide whether to spring it yet, or lull her into a false sense of security. He grinned to himself. She was a worthy opponent thus far, however, causing him to rethink his strategy more than once.
“I believe you will make a fine husband indeed,”she said, startling him so his hand jerked. He nearly knocked over his queen and sent two other pieces awry.
“A fine husband?”he managed to say in a normal voice. But he didn’t have quite the courage to look at her, for he feared what she might see in his eyes. And yet, his thoughts flew to that secret desire, long tamped away and nearly forgotten until only yesterday. Mad. You are mad to even think of it.
“Yes indeed. Is that not why you are here? At court? To find a wife? That’s what you said last evening.”Her voice was amused—until she looked down and saw that he’d taken her bishop. “A pox on you, Mal! I had plans for that holy man!”
He couldn’t hold back a rumbling chuckle. “Well, then, mayhap you should put your attention on the game in the stead of my business, Lady Judith.”
“But I vow I could help you with your business,”she told him, chewing on a fingernail as she looked at the board. “I am well-acquainted with all the ladies at court, and many others. I have been known to help make many a match of them. And I could,”she added, looking up at him even as her face was angled toward the board, “help you determine which would be worthy of a man such as you.”