Medieval Historical Romance by Jaclyn M. Hawkes
Never in all the kingdom has there been a more brave and protective champion. Nor such a loyal and capable maiden. And they loved each other desperately.
But is their love strong enough to withstand all their dark age holds—danger, feudalism, disease, and unfair oppression?
Yes, they truly loved each other desperately.
They loved their kingdom more.
Praise for Warrior’s Moon
“This book has adventure, memorable characters, and tons of action. There is even romance! I absolutely loved it!!!” ~Laura (Goodreads)
“I loved this book! Great characters, I love a strong female lead. I really enjoy all of Jaclyn Hawkes books, but I must say this in one of my favorites!” ~ KMon (Amazon)
Chantaya spent another restless night what with memories of being accosted and then wondering why Peyton had pulled away from her so obviously. She wasn’t sure if he was vexed with her, or just fatigued from worry and two late nights, but he wasn’t his usual happy self and it in turn made her feel inexplicably irritable. She couldn’t help but wonder if he was deeply regretting his kissing her head when they were upset. She hoped not.
She’d thought a lot about what her mother had said during their conversation about romance and that last comment about being acquainted with lots of young men had struck a chord with Chantaya, especially after how Peyton’s kiss had effected her and now he’d pulled so hard away. Maybe her thoughts about Peyton becoming more than brotherly were exactly opposite of what he was thinking or what he wanted. She had no way of knowing except to know for sure he wasn’t happy with something just now.
Deciding that at fifteen, it was certainly time to begin the process of making sure she knew what she preferred in a husband, she finished her morning chores and decided to go into the village and do some studying on just what kind of man she desired to marry. She stopped at the Wolfgars to see if either Peyton or Tristan were around to go with her, but both of them were out helping their father with a thatching job over east, so she pulled the hood of her cloak up and set out on her own. After all, she was already older than her mother was when she’d met her father and they’d met in a village. At a shoemaker’s shop, if Chantaya remembered correctly.
She started at the millers and picked up flour, but there were only the miller’s sons and she knew from long experience she definitely wasn’t interested in ending up one of their wives, not in this lifetime certainly. They were shy and backward and nondescript and she hated the way they wouldn’t ever look at her when they said something. She couldn’t sit across a breakfast table from that for life, that was a sure notion.
Moving on to the smithy, she dropped off the kettle that needed repairing and paused only a moment to admire the brawny shoulders of the apprentice there before she noticed the trouble the young man had with a skin condition on his face. No doubt, the constant heat and perspiration from the fires made his skin worse, but nevertheless, she didn’t think he was the one for her. Not when Peyton and Tristan were both incredibly handsome and had superior shoulder muscles anyway. She wondered if she should tell the smithy’s apprentice about making a balm of bitterroot to smooth on his face of a night. ‘Twould certainly help with those lesions if she could figure out a way to bring the subject up.
Shaking her head at the thought, she turned next to the cobbler two shops down. She had no notion if there were any young men here, because she so seldom purchased shoes, but her mother’s needed repairing and Chantaya had to have a new pair for winter anyway.
Stepping into the door, she looked up and into a beady pair of eyes and was at once wishing she had Peyton with her. The cobbler had to have been twenty five years her senior, but that didn’t stop him from looking her up and down and then grinning up at her almost leeringly. She quickly left the shoes to be repaired, then stepped back out of the little shop where she paused on the stoop to roll her eyes and take a deep breath. Heavens! Growing old alone like Mordecai was looking better by the moment. This was the least enjoyable morning she’d had in months.
She shifted the heavy bag of flour to her other arm and flexed the elbow that had begun to tire. She was only going on to the market. This inventorying of potential husbands was dreadful and made her shoulders ache. She should have picked up the flour last.
Stepping inside, she selected a packet of needles, a spool of darning thread and some lamp oil before glancing around the store in a half hearted attempt to take stock of any young males, then rolled her eyes and even crossed them. Land of Liverpool! The clerk was easily as wide as he was tall and he smiled up at her with thick lips that bulged under a sparse collection of stringy, intermittent, apricot colored whiskers. He pushed off of a low stool to stand, set aside the pastry he was eating, wiped his hand on his trousers and asked if he could be of assistance.
Oh, gracious! She’d forgotten the Larimer’s son. He never even attempted to speak to her when Peyton or Tristan was with her. She wanted to put a hand to her forehead just at the thought of marriage to this rotund young . . . She wasn’t even sure what to call him. Fellow maybe? He seemed nine years old, but then he had those odious whiskers. What had she been thinking to come in here on a husband scouting excursion. Oh, Chantaya! Spinsterhood it is for you! Utter loneliness would be better than this.
Quickly, she paid for her purchases and nearly leaped out the door and headed for home. This was more than enough getting to know the available men. She’d stay unmarried for the next several decades at least after this morning.
She met Peyton coming down the cobbled street and she finally took a deep breath. My, but he was the most refreshing sight she’d seen in ages. Tall and fit, bold and handsome. Oh! And distressed about something. She finally took in his grimace and wondered what had upset him as he strode up to her.
He carefully took her bag of flour and glanced her up and down as if checking to see if she was well and whole, then asked, “What are you doing, Chani? I’ve been near all over the village looking for you.”
“I’ve simply been making my needed purchases and errands. Pray, whatever is wrong, Peyton?”
People were watching the two of them and she turned and headed back down the way toward their homes as his grimace deepened, and he asked, “I was just concerned. You’ve been making purchases from every possible merchant in town? The blacksmith, Chani? You don’t even own a horse. And alone? What’s gotten into you? I thought you hated this kind of venture.”
She sighed and rolled her shoulders. “Don’t I indeed. It’s been dreadful.”
“What has? Has someone offended you? Tell me who and I’ll speak with them.”
“No, no, no, Peyton. I’m well. It’s just . . . ” She hesitated and then admitted to him, “My mother and I were just conversing the other day of how I should begin to be acquainted with different boys . . . Well, men, so that I might . . . Well, so that when I got married, eventually, in time, of course, I’d not ever wonder if I’d chosen correctly. I was just fretting about that and decided that since I needed these errands done anyway. . . And well . . . ”
Peyton stopped dead still in the middle of the cobblestone street and turned to stare at her with wide eyes. She finished lamely, “And, yes, well . . . Well, after this morning, I think I’ll simply become a spinster. Like Mordecai. Well, not that Mordecai is a spinster, but . . . Marriage is just now seeming to be a life sentence of punishment. What? Why are you staring at me so, Pey? What?”
“Married! To the Shockleys? Or Quigley Larimer? Chantaya!”
He was fairly shouting even though it wasn’t much louder than a whisper. She rolled her eyes one more time and turned to continue walking down the street. He once again fell into step beside her as they headed out of the village proper and she said, “I know, Peyton. Why do you think I declared I’m to be a spinster? ‘Twas a thoroughly discouraging experience, I can tell you. I can’t even conceive of truly facing any of them across my porridge of a morning. Oh, can you imagine? Ugh!”
Still quietly, but very heatedly, he said, “No! I cannot imagine! Why under heaven would you conceive of such a thing? And you’re fifteen. Why are you all of an instant concerned with marriage?”
“Oh, stop shouting. You’re being an old ogre.”
“I’m not shouting in the least. Answer the question.”
“I’ll not let you bully me, Peyton Wolfgar. Fifteen is young. I know that. But I have to commence somewhere. My mother was married at sixteen. I’m concerned that . . . ”
“Well, your mother married far too young! You’re but a child. And you can’t go around considering marrying the likes of Quigley! That’s revolting!”
At that, she turned on him, ready to do battle, then reconsidered, and began to walk again as she said, “Please, Peyton. You’ll make me heave my entire breakfast onto the cobbles. Please. Don’t use the M word in the same conversation as the Q word. ‘Twould make me nauseous.”
Leaning close, he fairly spat, “That’s not the half of it, Chantaya Kincraig! Have you stopped to consider what a marriage entails? Have you?”
She sighed. “In truth, I’ve tried not to. It frightens the dickens out of me. Would you please stop snapping at me, Peyton? I beseech you. I’m quite frustrated as it is. I don’t deserve this. I did nothing wrong. Do you suppose I wanted to go about this morning taking stock of all of the misfits? It simply had to be done. Please, ‘twas dreadful enough as it was without you haranguing me. I don’t understand why this morning has made you so distressed.”
He stopped again and stood, this time on the wooded path headed toward their homes. At length, he simply asked, “Why?” He left the bag of flour balanced on his shoulder and put out both of his large, calloused hands. “Why? Why today? Pray. Help me understand why you would do something like this?”
His tone had softened and for some reason that prompted the tears that had been threatening all morning to well into her eyes. She looked aside and tried to blink them away in embarrassment. She wasn’t usually a crier, but she’d felt this way for two days now. He reached into his pocket and took out a handkerchief, handed it to her, and said gently, “I’m sorry. Please forgive me. But I must know. Just tell me, Chani. It’s me, Peyton. We’re friends. Remember? Why are you worrying about marriage suddenly?”
She shook her head and swiped sadly at her tears. “I have to, Peyton. Don’t you see? I’m only fifteen, but I am fifteen. And not a single other male in this village intrigues me. Not a one of them interests me enough to make me want to stop fooling with a sword and the neighbor boys and worry about how my hair looks. Doesn’t that seem like a problem to you? I’m supposed to get married to someone, sometime. And like it! Do you know what married couples do, Peyton? I don’t know about you, but those things concern me! And it might not be that far off. My mother truly was less than a year older than I am right this very moment. What am I going to do?” The last sentence came out sounding as troubled as she felt and it brought on a whole new spate of tears she hurried to mop.
He was silent for so long without moving or doing anything that she finally looked up, worried, but all he was doing was standing there with his face changing from surprise to confusion to concern, to something that she wasn’t even sure what it was, but suspected he was trying not to laugh at her and it made her mad. At least that was better than heartbroken. In disgust, she turned and began to stride up the pathway to her cottage, but he caught her arm and stopped her.
She spun back on him. “What? I haven’t the time to stand here and endure you laughing at me, Peyton. Let me go and see to things.”
“No. Wait. Don’t be angry. I’m not laughing at you. I swear it. Well, I mean I am smiling at you. But only because you’re adorable. I’m not belittling you. You’re right. Marriage is a big thing. Huge. And truly, some of those things married people do are uhm, uh, concerning. Well, in truth, it’s more that I can hardly wait for those things, but I would guess I shouldn’t admit that, huh? Sorry.” She rolled her eyes and looked up at the sky. He quit smiling and loosened his hold on her arm and said, “What I’m trying to say, Chani, is that . . . ”
He hesitated and she looked back at him and he finally said, “I don’t have an idea what I’m trying to say, Chani, except that . . . I think your hair is beautiful, just the way it is.”
She quit pulling at her arm and looked up at him in confusion. “What?”
“Your hair. I think your hair is magnificent. Especially when it all comes loose and hangs down your back like it does.”
“Peyton, this isn’t about my hair. Haven’t you been listening to me?”
“Yes, Chani, I have. But for the life of me, I don’t understand why all of a moment of a Tuesday morning you need to go inspect all of the local drivel for marriage. And what’s so wrong with the neighbor boys? You’ve never taken issue with us before. I thought you liked me. Is there suddenly a problem?”
She stomped her bare foot. “Oh, Peyton, don’t you give me that! You know as well as I do that I near worship you. But, what does that have to do with marriage? Or my hair, for that matter?”
“Pray, you tell me, girl. You’re the one who’s of a sudden desperately in need of matrimony. Where did this come from anyway?”
She was all ready to snap back at him and then instead, let out a long breath and her shoulders slumped as she said, “The other night. At the tavern. They tried to tell that man to stay away from me. That I was Peyton Wolfgar’s girl. And that you would protect me from him. He didn’t listen, but that’s not the point. The point is. I’m not your girl. I’m more your little sister who gets on your nerves sixty three times a day, who you’re good to put up with and watch over. I’m nobody’s girl. And even that’s not the point. The point is, there isn’t anyone round here whose girl I’d care to be.
“Other than you and Tristan, or maybe Tommy Bertram, but he’s simply like a charming puppy, other than you two, I don’t even care that I’m nobody’s girl, ‘cause they’re all morons and dimwits. But that’s not good. What if I turn out like Ingrande Fergson? She’s getting to where she can scarce get round by herself, but there’s no one to watch over her. And folks think she’s pure strange living all alone all these years with only that ugly cat. That cat’s gonna die and then where will she be? I don’t want to be like that.” She paused and looked down, and added sadly, “But I don’t want to have to marry a dimwit.”
She stopped and took a deep breath and looked up at him wishing the tears would just stop already and was thoroughly taken aback when he set her flour sack down, came close and wrapped both arms round her and started to laugh. A soft, warm, deep chuckle that she could hear right through his chest that rested under her ear as he held her. She didn’t know whether to be thoroughly offended or just bask in his hug and trust the knowledge that he would never laugh at her mean spiritedly.
While she was still wondering how to feel, he pulled her even closer and said, “Chani, Chani, Chani. What’s a body to do about you?”
She sniffled and shook her head against his chest. “I don’t know. Even I don’t know what to do about myself.” He laughed softly again and said, “I don’t know either, girl, but I do know that if you go off and wed some squatty, corpulent dimwit just so you don’t end up like Ingrande, you’ll break my heart into ten million shards and I’ll pure waste away until I die with loneliness. They’ll bury me up next to your father and your baby sister.”
She completely stilled in his arms for a long, long moment and then finally, pulled away from him slightly so she could look up at him in absolute confusion. What under heaven did he mean by that? He simply looked down at her with those sweet, brown eyes that she wanted to lose herself in and then finally, totally at a loss as to his meaning, she asked, “What does that mean, Peyton?”
He gave her a smile that seemed almost a little sad and gently smoothed a tear off of her cheek bone with his thumb as he asked, “Do you truly not understand what it means, Chani? You know me better than I know myself.”
Shaking her head, she sighed tiredly. “I don’t know what I understand just at this moment, Pey. All I know is that this whole growing up notion frightens me immeasurably and the thought of facing all of it without you makes me want to magically turn back time until I’m seven again and you’re making mud pastries with me at the pond. Wouldn’t it be delightful if we didn’t have to grow up and make decisions?”
“No. Because I do want to grow up with you, Chani. Truly, I want to grow old with you. You needn’t face anything without me. Why would you? We’re best friends. That’s what friends do. They stay together. They cover the chinks in each other’s armor and watch over each other. Always.”
“But what about marriage, Peyton? You must recognize that we can’t simply be best friends forever. What would our spouses say? You’ve seen how distraught Mrs. Darnell becomes when her husband goes drinking and begins to converse with that blonde woman he almost married instead of her. I don’t believe there’s truly room for a husband and a best friend in a marriage. ‘Tis about one too numerous for a couple. It couldn’t be harmonious.”
His voice softened. “What if the best friend was the husband? Wouldn’t that be harmonious?” She was searching his eyes almost desperately, trying to figure out what he was intimating and he seemed to understand that as he went on, “Chani, is there no way you could ever consider marrying me? Someday. Not right now. When you’ve had a chance to grow up a portion. Certainly, you look grown up. Unbelievably so, but fifteen is quite young. Is there no way we could simply keep on being best friends and someday go beyond that?” He grinned at her and added, “You wouldn’t have to marry a dimwit. Or grow old with only an ugly cat.”
She hesitated for a minute while she tried to figure out if he was saying the same thing she was hearing and then asked, “But, Peyton, aren’t we truly too good of friends to get married? I mean, we know everything about each other. Even the dreadful stuff. And indeed I do get on your nerves sixty three times a day. You can’t deny it.”
“Chani, who has the strongest marriage we know?”
“Your parents. Why?”
“Well, don’t you think they’re best friends and know even the yucky stuff?” She nodded. “And you only get on my nerves seven times a day and that’s actually two times less than I get on your nerves and it makes for interesting conversation. Don’t you think? We still seem to enjoy being with each other enough to do it every single day for hours and hours.”
She was thoroughly surprised with where this discussion was going, but finally got brave enough to ask, “But what about the marriage part, Peyton? The only in marriage part. Wouldn’t we want to be able to someday do that kind of thing with whoever we marry? Otherwise, we’d never have any children. Don’t you ever want children? We don’t even kiss each other. We don’t even hold hands.”
At that, for the first time in this conversation, Peyton looked uncomfortable and Chantaya felt an incredible disappointment settle into her stomach as he actually blushed and then looked skyward for a second before he answered, “About that . . . ” He still hesitated and then looked back down at her, gave her a crooked smile and said, “Uh, Chantaya, would you be completely disgusted with me if I said that, uh . . . On second thought, maybe I shouldn’t be quite that honest with you. How about if we try this? Perhaps we could simply keep being friends like we always have been and maybe, in time, we’ll decide that we want to kiss each other.”
She shook her head. “Peyton, if we’re going to actually have this conversation at all, shouldn’t we be absolutely honest with each other? Always? There’s no way I’m going to talk about someday marrying and in the same discussion agree not to always tell each other the truth. That couldn’t make for a strong couple.”
“For the most part, ’tis true, Chantaya. But there probably comes a point where people who love each other, but aren’t actually wed, shouldn’t speak concerning some things because it could be dangerously provocative. I’m not sure if you comprehend what I mean. But there’s also a point where maybe we shouldn’t speak of some things because it might frighten one of us.”
“Which one of us?”
“You one of us.”
“Why wouldn’t it frighten you?”
He gave her that grin again. “Uh, for the reason that . . . Uhm, remember when I said I’m rather looking forward to some of those things in marriage? I suppose I lean toward being a rogue, because I, uh, I imagine those things are going to be wonderful! Sorry. Just being honest.”
She could feel her eyes widen and said hastily, “I think you’re right. Maybe we shouldn’t talk about this. One of us is definitely frightened.”
He put a gentle hand to her cheek and touched her softly, then shook his head. “Try not to be, Chani. None of this should frighten us. It should make us happy and excited. We do love each other. This isn’t anything more than the natural progression of a lifelong friendship. We know each other. We know we can trust each other, no matter what. We like each other. We have fun with each other. In truth, is there even any other option? Can you truly say you could walk away from me someday without looking back?”
Leaning her cheek into the palm of his hand, she thought about that and then met his eyes and shook her head. Tears welled into her eyes again as she whispered, “Never.”
That made him smile as he whispered back, “Me either.”
For a long, long moment, they stood there looking into each others eyes in the dappled sunshine of the path and then Peyton slowly lowered his head and gently kissed her once on the mouth, ever so softly. Raising his head, he leaned close again and kissed her once more on the soft spot of her temple and said, “See, it might not be too bad.”
Jaclyn M. Hawkes grew up in Utah with 6 sisters, 4 brothers and any number of pets. (It was never boring!) She got a bachelor’s degree, had a career and traveled extensively before settling down to her life’s work of being the mother of four magnificent and sometimes challenging children. She loves shellfish, the out of doors, the youth and hearing her children laugh. She and her fine husband, their family, and their sometimes very large pets, now live in a mountain valley in northern Utah, where it smells like heaven and kids still move sprinkler pipe.
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