Before there was the novel, there were the stories...
by Nan Hawthorne, who also writes under Christopher Hawthorne Moss, Books and Stories b ChristopherHawthorne Moss at http://authorchristophermoss.vlogspot.com
Tuesday, June 1, 2010
Julliana Series: Shannon Uncovers Juliana's Deception (outtakes)
Juliana's chamber door opened slowly. The young woman looked out into the corridor cautiously before stepping out. She held in her hands a covered bowl. Seeing no one about she carried the bowl down the corridor and around a corner to a drain hole cut into the outer wall. There, looking about her one last time, she pulled the cloth off the bowl and poured the contents into the drain. Pink water poured out and down the outside of the keep's wall into a middens. Her quest accomplished, she hurried back to her chamber.
Once inside her bedchamber she went to where she had rinsed out several rags of the blood of her current menses. To her surprise, the rags were not where she had left them. She looked about for them puzzled.
"Sure, an' be ye lookin' for these?"
Juliana spun to find herself staring at the O'Neill. "Oh, aye. I use those rags to wash."
The man looked amused. "Always a quick answer, dubhín?" He brought the damp cloths over and handed them to her. She gave him an irritated look.
"Shannon, what dost thou mean coming into my chambers?" Now that he was close she could smell the drink on him. "Drunk already this morn," she thought.
But Shannon was not drunk. He had taken a tankard of ale to sip on his way to her rooms so that he would smell freshly of the malt and hops.
He feigned inebriation. "Ma croidhe, I came to see ye and found the door ajar. I thought it an invitation to come and see ye."
Juliana took the rags from his hand and turned to lay them over the edge of the mantelpiece to dry. When she did she found Shannon's arms coming around her waist from behind. She stiffened. He put his face into her neck and breathed in the scent of her hair. One hand rose to cup a breast.
"Shannon," she snapped. "Stop!" She pulled loose and whirled. "I will call for help!" she threatened.
The dreamy look contained a spark of defiance. "Nay, I think not. I am that certain ye would not want it known that ye are beddin' another man but the King." He stood staring at her.
Juliana thought fast. She allowed the annoyed look on her face to melt into coyness. "Oh, Shannon, my dearest. Thou knowest I wouldst fain have thee stay with me. But I am with child! I shouldst not think the King wouldst care to have his child bathed in thy seed." She looked up at him through dark lashes.
Shannon stood, grinning wryly. "Now an' I don't think we need to worry about that, dubhín." He reached to her and placed a palm on her belly just under her breasts. Then he closed his fingers on the fabric of the gown she was wearing. A deft tug loosed the folded fabric she wore under her kirtle from where Juliana had tucked it under the tighter bands of her bodice. He released it and it fell to the floor. Juliana stood stunned --- with no hint of pregnancy.
"Shannon!" was all she could say.
He stepped forward and kicked the pile of fabric now come loose from its folds to the side. He took her in his arms again and the look of drunkenness was gone.
She gazed up at him pale and trembling. "How didst thee know?"
Shannon smiled and the smile held a trace of tenderness. "I told ye, did I not, that I have been present for births, both at the beginning and ant the layin' in? I've spent no small time passing the time between with a sweet colleen. Sure and I know a woman with child when I see her.. and when she is not with child." He pressed his lips to her forehead.
Juliana pushed him away and gave him a pleading look. "Wilt thou tell the King?"
Shannon looked at her long and deeply. At long last he replied, "Nay, ma croidhe. He need ne'er know." She relaxed only slightly. "I was after wonderin' how ye'd planned to see this through, darlin'. Mayhap ye plan a miscarriage and a long time abed to recover?"
Juliana pulled herself away and walked over to her dressing table. "I have thought of that. I hath not worked out yet how to accomplish the plan though."
"And how did ye plan to keep the King with no child? I be that certain the man would welcome being released from his duty to ye."
Juliana flashed an angry look. "Cruel man!" she shot at him.
The two stood in tense silence for a while. Shannon leaned back against the mantel. "I be thinkin' whate'er plan ye have would be after goin' more smoothly with an accomplice."
The dark-eyed woman cast an appraising look at the man. "What meaneth thou?" She came to him slowly and stood before him, looking into his eyes, probing.
He grinned wistfully. "Well, if ye must fake a miscarriage, it should be easier to do with someone willing to cut himself to provide the bloody sheets. And with someone who can attest to the other evidence of a miscarriage."
Juliana nodded. "The court knoweth that thou and I have brought a woman to bed and mayst believe I wouldst prefer only thee to care for me." She advanced and leaned against him She let her voice take on a hint of his accent. "Someone of me own kind." She did not see Shannon's inward look that bespoke irony and disgust at her transparency.
"There be one thing I still do not understand, darlin'," he said, leading.
She leaned her head back to look up at him languidly. "What is that, ma croidhe?"
"I still see not how ye mean to win the King without a child. Before he thought ye bore his child he planned to marry ye off and get thee hence." He eyed her cautiously.
Juliana pulled away and walked to the bed. She looked at him speculatively. "Dost though truly care for me?"
Shannon strode quickly to her. "I want ye. I can care for ye."
She gave him a dubious look. "Thou sadist thou wouldst do anything for me?"
"Wouldst thou give up other women for me?" she smiled.
Shannon laughed lightly. If he said yes he knew she would guess at his duplicity. If he said now she would have every reason to turn him away, ruining his plan. "There be no other women in the world but ye," he said humorously. She laughed prettily.
Shannon started to push Juliana onto the bed but she resisted. "Nay. Shannon. I must know thou art sincere before I let thee take me.," Juliana said.
He looked at her, musing. "What more can I do to win thy affections than to keep thy secret?"
Juliana put a finger to her chin and gave him her most devastatingly alluring look. "An I see thou canst keep that secret, then shall I tell thee what more thou can do to have me." She walked to her chamber door and opened it. She waited for Shannon to leave. As he passed her he leaned down to kiss her on the lips and to place a strong warm hand on her now deflated belly.
"Sure and I can wait, dubhín." He smiled humorously into her face. "Charlatan," he said.
She smiled at him and murmured, "Conspirator."
In Lawrence's counsel chamber Lorin addressed his brother in law, "My liege?"
Lawrence looked up from a map and nodded at the Duke.
"Sire, I wonder if thou hast noticed the O'Neill hath been paying much attention to Lady Juliana of late?" Lorin's face revealed nothing.
"Aye, what of it?" the King said, frowning.
Lorin gave his King a frank glance. "I think that mayhap his intentions should be known."
Lawrence considered. He had succeeded in driving the intoxication with the lady from his mind and his body. Hard work, hard play and his visual mantra of Peter's face had not rid him of his normal urges but whatever had bound him to Juliana seemed at last to have been severed. He knew that he must be constantly alert to avoid slipping into that morass again. "Then why dost thou not speak with him?" he asked his Queen's only brother.
"Begging thy leave, lord, I think 'twould best come from thee." Lorin looked at the King evenly.
Lawrence scowled at Lorin and made a low growling sound. "I must?" he asked. He nodded and ordered, "Bring him to me."
Shannon found himself in the uneasy presence of the King. They had not spoken a great deal since Shannon had been forced to remain in the castle to prevent him from joining his friend Rory in a search for the Queen. Shannon affected a devil-may-care attitude and looked at his King with undisguised impudence.
Lawrence gave him a disapproving look. "Thou hast taken to seeing a good deal of the courtesan," he simply stated.
Shannon looked at his own fingernails. "Aye, m'lord. What of it?"
Lawrence looked at his old friend incredulously. "Thou hatest me that much that thou canst seek to hurt me e'en now?" At Shannon's smirk, he continued, "The lady is thine, if thou are foolhardy enough to take her. Are those thy intentions?" The King left his papers and sat, daring the Irishman with his eyes to be so bold as to sit without leave.
The O'Neill shifted uneasily where he stood. "Aye, " he said slowly. "I have told the lady I be wantin' to take her to Eire with me."
The King's eyebrows darted up. "And the child?"
Shannon disguised a grin. "It is ye'r child, Lawrence, to keep or send away as ye see fit."
Lawrence nodded. "Ever the insolent one, eh, Red Shan? And the lady will have thee?"
Shannon stood straight, "Sure an' I am courtin' the colleen. I hath not won her yet."
The King gave the minstrel a stern look. "Thou mayst consider thee given a second chance."
Shannon let himself look angry and offended, "My liege, ye do the lady a disservice. '''Twas thee who spirited her here to a hellish life, not the other way around."
The King's eyes flashed. Then he relented, "Aye, but it seemeth passing strange that one day thou beratest me for the wrong done to one woman and then another thou defendeth the one I wronged her with." Shannon made no reply.
The King glared. "Tread lightly, O'Neill. I should be grateful if I knew the lady had gone with a man I trust and respect and that I knowest will treat her well... if often lightly." Shannon shot an impertinent look at the King.
"Leave me," the King commanded. "But see to it thou mindest how thou goeth."
Shannon was relieved to be back out in the corridor. He stood for a moment still unsure whether he had been threatened or warned.
Next: Shannon Gets Cozy with Julliana