The Rose War Part Two


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I’ve written a novella based on one of Shakespeare’s plays for the A Duke in Winter anthology. I chose Henry VI Part 1 to be silly at first but discovered I liked my idea. The novella actually has parts 1, 2 and 3. In it, Henry Bradley, sixth of that name, has been raised to Duke of Roseleigh. He’s overwhelmed by the responsibilities. The only bright lights have been his encounters with Lady Margaret Ansel, the brilliant horticulturalist who is a daughter of the rival family, the one locked in a feud over roses with Henry’s family. She disappeared, off on a mysterious project of her own. In this bit, he found her hiding in the back when this year’s winner was announced.

*****

“Why did you chase me? I’m perfectly capable of seeing myself home.” She nodded at a man emerging from the shadows. “My footman.”

He had in fact pursued her to see to her safety. Or so he told himself. “I haven’t seen you since December. I wanted a word. Where are you staying?” He took her hand in his.

She let him. A nod had her servant fading back, and she led him up a shadowed street. Joy rose in his heart at her trust. They came to a corner, and she indicated well-lit hostel across the street. “My inn.”

He pulled her back into the shadows, wrapped one arm around her waist and kissed her well and firmly.

“What…” she sputtered.

“That’s why I followed you. Unfinished business from your visit to Roseleigh. I’ve longed for it ever since.” He kissed her again more tenderly.

After a moment of hesitation she responded, her hand coming up to slide into the hair at his temple. His exploration of her mouth grew more intense, and he ran his tongue across her lips until she opened to him. At his entry she froze, and he stilled. Then she moved on a moan and began to imitate his actions. He leaned back against a brick wall and pulled her against him, his arousal tight against his belly.

When she gave a gentle shove he loosened his hold, but didn’t let go.

“You are kissing me on a public street,” she whispered.

“So I am. Thank goodness for darkness. But yes, this isn’t the place.”

She sighed and leaned her head against his chest. “This will never do.”

“Do you think your father would let me court you properly?” he whispered in her ear.

She stiffened and pulled away. “Never. Nor would your aunt and sister tolerate it.”

“They have naught to say about it. Neither does your father. You’re of age are you not?” He cupped her cheek with his hand, startled to realize it shook. “We need to put an end to this ridiculous feud. Maybe I can convince the Rose Council to disallow red roses,” he said with a smile.

She started. “I hadn’t thought of that. It might work. No plain red or white. Perhaps a temporary ban. You might be able to convince them. Then I’ll—”

“You’ll what?”

“Come back next June. I’ll show you then. I’ll be here whether I’ve succeeded or failed. We can talk again then. If you still want—”

“My dear Lady Margaret you are no dewy schoolroom miss. You can tell very well that I want you. I will want you next summer too. But why wait?”

Note: excerpts from works in progress may have not yet been edited, will likely undergo change, and may not even make it into the final work!

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