I’m still editing so the following excerpt isn’t polished to perfection. But you’ll meet Philippa and Edric and witness the start of their story. The exact release date will be announced later, but let’s just say I’m aiming for July. Enjoy!
They skipped in a circle, round and round. She closed her eyes as her chest pounded in time with the drum, sweat trickling down her spine beneath the layers of linen and silk. The music halted abruptly, and Philippa opened her eyes to see servants running into the hall and her father leaping from his seat. She broke from the circle as her cook jogged toward her, panting and sweating.
“The barn is on fire!” the woman screeched, grabbing Philippa’s arms.
Edric ran from her side on the heels of another servant. Philippa ripped away from her, the shrieks of several ladies fading as she toppled out through the kitchen entrance and dashed across the herb garden. Flames licked the night sky, her former hiding place an orange blaze. Several servants formed a line, hauling water from one end to the other. Edric and other male guests joined them, but Philippa watched the puddles they threw and knew it would never do.
She clambered between the two lines of water bearers, sparks flying out toward her. This was not how she expected the evening to end. Torn between fear and annoyance, she stood there letting the heat waves wash over her sticky skin, mesmerized by how the air became visible in the heat.
“Get back inside!” Edric heaved water onto the fire, steam replacing the heat waves. His eyes pierced hers, some thought or knowledge etched into them.
Philippa tore her eyes from the blaze, blinking as she felt her way in the darkness. She rested a pink cheek against the cool stone of her house and watched them try to put out the fire in vain. She could hear the cook whispering in the kitchen behind her.
“Look what’s happened!” she said. “My cousin said he was on the rise, and here’s the proof.”
“You don’t know that,” another servant hissed. “Homes catch on fire all the time.”
“Doubt if you like, but I know the Jester’s work when I see it. I was there you know, when he burned down the master’s old home. I saw his grinning face disappear into the woods. And now this, and our mistress going her way to where it all started.”
“Hush before someone hears your nonsense and takes you seriously. It’s just a fire, nothing more.”
“Are you all right?” Philippa jumped, riveted by the servants’ conversation. Clare stood behind her, her eyes feverish. “It’s mass chaos inside.”
“It’s nothing to worry about,” Philippa said blankly, leaning her back against the house. “The fire’s contained.”
Clare leaned next to her. “Are you worried about the repairs? The animals?”
Philippa half-smiled. “I have more than enough to replace both. That’s not the problem.”
Clare tipped her head to the side. “If this catastrophe isn’t on your mind, what is?”
“Osbert. It’s silly but this just reminded me of him.”
Clare followed Philippa’s line of sight back to the fire, steam mixing with the smoke as another tub of water hit the fire, her dark blue eyes shimmering. “Things are now the way they should have been the first time. You will have years to get back the happiness you’ve lacked. Edric will see to that.”
Philippa closed her eyes. In her heart, she knew it too. Philippa fiddled with the hem of her burgundy dress, tracing the gold embroidery with her fingers. “I know we’ve only waited mere months for this day, but we both know we’ve actually waited longer.”
Clare placed a hand on Philippa’s shoulder. “You’re done waiting, Philippa. I promise. Fire or no fire.”
Philippa smiled, but somewhere in the back of her mind she knew this was only the start.