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The feet of the creature didn’t touch the floor as it floated gracefully towards her. Lise shrank back against the bare stone wall. The spirit came abreast of her and stopped. Large limpid eyes turned in her direction. She held her breath, terrified her stepfather’s tales were true and her soul would be taken from her, leaving her an empty husk.
“Hello.” The spirit's green eyes smiled at her, although its lips didn’t move.
“Hello,” Lise gasped in response.
The spirit nodded and continued down the stairs. Lise sagged with relief and hurriedly continued her climb before the full impact of what she’d seen registered in her mind. The being’s lips remained still when the eyes smiled, and they had not moved when it spoke. The words had come directly into her brain!
Ellie ignored the cultured voice. The man couldn’t be talking to her. Everyone yelled when they spoke to her.
“Excuse me. Could you tell me how to find the road to the coast?”
Slowly Ellie stood and tilted her head to look at the stranger on the road outside the yard. The glossy golden coat of his nahhar dazzled her and she gasped in wonder at the beautiful, dark spiral horn pushing through the russet mane. The rider coughed politely as the nahhar shifted restlessly.
She glanced up. Dark brown eyes looked patiently at her from beneath an untidy mop of black hair. Hands, slightly darker than the nahhar’s coat, loosely held the reins. Her heart hammered nervously against her ribs and her cheeks flushed red as she tried to remember his query.
“The road to the coast?” he repeated, eyes twinkling with good humour. “I thought I knew the way, but I seem to be lost.”
Ellie self-consciously tucked a dark auburn curl under the green striped scarf she wore to keep her hair tidy while she worked. Rough palms rubbed up and down the sides of the work tabard protecting her dress. She licked her lips nervously and struggled to answer his question.
“This is the right road, Sire,” she managed to say. “Carry on for another two stones and the road merges with the coast road.”
“Capet,” the stranger commented. His mount moved restlessly, nodding its horned head up and down.
“Your pardon, Sire, I don’t understand.”
“I’m a Capet, not a Sire.”
“Sorry, Sire...I mean Capet.” She stumbled over the words, her blush rising again as she tried to rectify her mistake.
“Thank you for your help.” The Capet smiled. Nodding pleasantly, he set his heels to the nahhar’s side and trotted off down the road.
She watched until he disappeared round the nearby bend, then started piling firewood into her tabard. Her thoughts remained with the stranger. I wonder if all the nobles at the sky castle are as young and good looking.
“Ellie, where are you, girl?”
By the tone of her mother’s voice, she knew she’d stayed in the yard too long and looping her tabard around the wood she hurried into the house.
“What have you been doing girl?” her mother asked crossly as Ellie placed the wood at the side of the hearth, but the woman didn’t wait for an answer before she continued. “Here. Take this lunch out to your father and brothers.”
Reluctantly, Ellie picked up the basket and left the kitchen to make her way to the distant field where the men were planting cardo bushes. Usually, she objected to any suggestion these oafs were her blood relations. When Ellie was five years old, her real father died leaving her mother Mehrnaz penniless. She’d married Horgarth, a widowed northside farmer, believing it to be the best solution to her situation. Mehrnaz soon found she’d become drudge and bedmate to Horgarth, and skivvy to his half grown sons. In time, she produced another two boys, tying herself irrevocably to the farm. The three older males treated Ellie and Mehrnaz as slaves at their beck and call, but ignored them completely at other times.
Ellie sighed and shifted the heavy basket to the other arm. If only they had carried on ignoring her. In hindsight, she realised she’d been lucky to be a late developer, but now her breasts strained against the material of her clothes and she’d seen both stepbrothers sneaking looks at her when they thought no one was looking.
The men stopped work when Ellie entered the field and stood wiping the sweat from their brows as they waited for her to reach them. Her stepfather snatched the basket from her arm and walked towards the tall, leafy tree where he and his sons always settled to eat their lunch. Ellie turned to go, but found her way blocked by Bor, the elder of her stepbrothers.
“Not going are you, Ellie?” he asked. “Stay for a bit and keep us company.”
“I’ve got work to do back at the house, Bor,” she protested, and tried to step round him.
“Russet and Gold caught my attention from the very first page. It reads much like a fairy tale, and I have always loved a good fairytale. Lise’s mother sends her away to protect her from her stepfather and brothers. Along her long journey to London, she meets Caplet who helps her find employment. Like all good fairytales, Lise finds true love.
Sue Perkins offers readers a delightful tale of romance. In this tale, there is a wicked stepfather and brothers, and instead of a princess, there is a duchess. The characters are well-developed and the story line enchanting. Perkins is a talented author, and I will be watching for more of her work.”
5 Stars! Reviewed by Debra Gaynor for ReviewYourBook.com
5 Stars! Fantasy, romance... “Russet and Gold caught my attention from the very first page. It reads much like a fairy tale, and I have always loved a good fairytale. Lise’s mother sends her away to protect her from her stepfather and brothers. Along her long journey to London, she meets Caplet who helps her find employment. Like all good fairytales, Lise finds true love. Sue Perkins offers readers a delightful tale of romance. In this tale, there is a wicked stepfather and brothers, and instead of a princess, there is a duchess. The characters are well-developed and the story line enchanting. Perkins is a talented author, and I will be watching for more of her work.” – Reviewed by Debra Gaynor for ReviewYourBook.com
Book Publisher: Whiskey Creek Press
No. of Pages: 318
Paper Weight (lb): 13.2
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