FantasyFridayI thought I’d post something different today, for Fantasy Friday. I don’t want to post too many excerpts from Twin Curse, or there won’t be anything new to read when it’s published!

So today I’m posting the beginning of another fantasy story I have. (Yes, I have quite a few of these.) Perhaps this will be the one I work on after Twin Curse?

Jack rolled over in bed, trying to snuggle deeper in the covers, but something was wrong.  Her left hand was snagged on something, and its refusal to follow the rest of her body pulled her from slumber.  She rubbed her eyes with her right hand, and then rubbed them again in disbelief.  Sprawled next to her in the bed was a half naked man, sound asleep and snoring, his tousled black hair falling into his eyes.  Even worse than though than the stranger’s compromising position in her bed, was the fact that his left hand was tied to hers with a scarlet ribbon.

She stared at the telltale ribbon in horror.  How had this happened?  She could swear she had never seen this man before.  What on earth was she doing handfasted to him?

Then, a lone memory surfaced.

Jack slowly worked her way around the tables set up outside the inn, clearing away the plates and mugs, not looking much beyond the next table.  It had been an exhausting evening, not unexpected for spring festival.  She had lost track of the number of patrons she had served and cleared up after, but it was over now.  All had moved on to the handfasting ceremony in the square.  She could hear the cheers faintly as the next couple, who had probably known each other no longer than that day, were declared husband and wife for a year and a day, and she wrinkled her forehead in disgust.

The innkeeper had told her to leave the cleaning till later, to come and join in the festivities, but Jack had no liking for that type of ceremony.  She saw no joy in marrying someone she barely knew, and could not celebrate other’s doing the same.  It could only end in heartache.  Marriage was a serious business, and one must be sure that their partner could stay the distance before making such a commitment.

“Not at the festivities?” a cynical voice interrupted her thoughts.  “Surely a beauty like you could find a worthy husband?  Or do you have some physical disability that makes you undesirable?”  The black locks of hair fell in his eyes, even then, and his eyes were hard and bitter.

She snatched the barely touched plate up from in front of him, not even bothering to ask if he had finished.  The fact that it was cold in her hand was indication enough that he had no interest in eating.  “I might say the same of you,” she snapped.  “So I suggest you mind your tongue.”

That bought a laugh from him, tinged with bitterness.  “I’m as good as promised to someone else already.  The choice is no longer mine.”

“You don’t sound very happy about it,” she said.

“Is it that obvious?”

She wasn’t quite sure what to say about that.  She began clearing away the table next to him.  But for some reason she couldn’t just let the conversation go.   “Well, if you’re not happy about it, why don’t you just find someone else?  I’m sure there are plenty of girls hanging around the outskirts of the festivities still hoping to snag themselves a husband?” she pointed out.

“Are you offering?” he asked, one eyebrow raised.

And that was the last thing she remembered.  Try as she might, Jack couldn’t bring up a single sentence she had uttered in response, or even the dirty look sure was sure she must have given him.  Nothing.

Surely she couldn’t have?  She stared down at their hands in horror, the thought too much to voice, even in her mind.  Frantically, she began pulling at the bow on her wrist, wanting to remove the evidence before he woke.  It must be a mistake, something was wrong, but if she could just get rid of that scarlet ribbon, its knots mocking her, then it would all be OK again.

But in her haste, she tugged on the loop instead of the string, and instead of undoing, the ribbon tied itself even tighter.  And her struggles did not go unnoticed by the man, he stirred, muttering under his breath, “Just a few more moments…”

Jack froze, willing him to go back to sleep.