Excerpt from Chapter 1 of The Great Hunt

By Wendy Higgins

A late summer breeze blew warm over the deep and wide Lanach Creek. Moonlight caught the shock of Wyneth’s red-orange curls as she let her fiancé, Breckon, lay her back on the end of the dock. She could scarcely see his face in the dark of night as he hovered gently above her, but she knew every angle and plane by heart.

Another breeze crested down the creek from the nearby sea, but the couple’s combined heat warded them against it.

“I don’t want you to leave,” Wyneth whispered.

“If it were up to me, I’d stay right here with you. But it’s my duty.” He leaned down and kissed her gently at first, then deeper. Wyneth bent her knee, letting the silken layers of her dress fall back to expose her leg. Breckon’s hand cupped behind her knee, sliding up farther than she’d ever allowed him to touch before.

“Just think,” Breckon said, his breaths coming faster, “in three months, I’ll be back from the sea and we’ll finally marry.”

Wyneth moaned, not wanting his hand to stop moving. “I wish it were now.”

She pulled his face to hers again, feeling brazen and greedy for his soft lips. She hated when he left for the sea; it always filled her with a pang of worry and longing. Wyneth urged Breckon closer.

A rustle sounded from the nearby dark woods. The couple stilled, listening.

The noise came again like a crackle of dead leaves and brush. Definite movement.

In a rush, they sat up, Wyneth pulling her skirts down. Breckon readied his hand over the dagger at his waist.

All was quiet except the warble of water bugs, frogs, and the splashing of tiny waves at the shore.

“Do you think someone’s spying?” Wyneth whispered. She imagined her young cousin Prince Donubhan and his gang of trouble seekers, but the queen would have his hide if he sneaked out after dark.

“No.” Breckon shook his head, a lock of hair falling across his worried brow. “It’s most likely a deer.” But to Wyneth’s ear, he didn’t sound so sure.

He relaxed and gave Wyneth a smile, but the mood had been broken by thoughts of anyone witnessing their intimate time together. It was impossible to find privacy within the castle walls with the royal family, servants, and naval guards running about. The private docks at night had been their only hope without leaving royal lands.

“Perhaps we should go back,” she said halfheartedly as Breckon leaned in to place a trail of warm kisses down her neck to her collarbone. “We can fetch Harrison and wake Aerity and sneak down to the wine cellars again.”

Breckon chuckled. “The only matchmaking I’m interested in tonight is you and I.”

“But that noise—”

“You worry too much. We’re safe and alone out here, I assure you. I’d never put your safety or reputation at risk.”

 

Check out the interview with Wendy here!

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