Sophie, Grégoire, and Cédric strolled along the canal and climbed the arc of the bridge straddling it. They stood admiring the reflection of the setting sun on the water. Rising above the rooftops was the bell tower of a church, the echo of its peals at the hour of vespers still reverberating through the cooling air. A cluster of dark clouds advanced from the west.
“A sea storm approaches, by the looks of it.” The falconer tilted his head back, studying the sky.
“We’d best get you back to the inn before the rain starts.” Grégoire aimed his words at Sophie, but she ignored him, instead watching a swift that had just plucked an insect from the water’s surface and shot up again toward the bell tower.
“Do you think the swifts have a nest in that tower?” she asked, turning to Monsieur de Montavon.
There it was again, the twinge of excitement she felt every time she looked into his eyes.
He held her gaze long enough to tell her without saying a word that he felt it, too.
“Surely, there are more peaceful spots to settle down.” He grinned at her.
“But the view they must have!” she protested. “There are some advantages to their perch, surely.”
Grégoire seemed bored by the conversation. “Maman and Papa will be looking for us,” he said idly. “They’ve no doubt arrived at the inn by now and are thinking of supper. They’ll soon start worrying.”
Sophie watched another swift disappear under the peaked roof of the bell tower. “Start worrying?” she said. “They never stop.”
“With a jewel as precious as you to fuss over, they’ve no choice,” he retorted.
She saw the glance her brother exchanged with the falconer. Irritation rose within her. She was no child, and yet she was still treated as one.
“There was a vendor roasting chestnuts in the square near that church the other day,” Monsieur de Montavon said. “Let’s walk back to the inn that way.”
The three of them descended the bridge and followed the canal toward the church, the amber streaks of the sunset rapidly becoming obliterated by a layer of clouds. Patches of golden torchlight illuminated the houses lining the canal. Sophie tucked her hand around Grégoire’s elbow, though it was the falconer whom she longed to touch. His arm swung close to hers. If she stepped a fraction to the left, she might brush against it.
Just before they reached the church and the small square, the first few raindrops splattered against the cobblestones. There was no sight of a chestnut vendor. Sophie drew in a breath. She could swear the scent of roasting nuts lingered in the air. Or was it wafting from the vaulted stone arcades in the building across from the church?
“Ah, too late,” the falconer said with regret.
“Perhaps he’s over there,” she said, pointing at the arcades. “Don’t you smell chestnuts?”
Grégoire scoffed. “I smell nothing but the wind, and a deluge is coming. Let’s return to the inn.”
“Please, I want to see.” She turned to the falconer. “You’ll accompany me?”
A gust of wind tore Grégoire’s cap from his head and sent it skittering across the cobblestones.
“Blast!” He scurried after it.
The falconer proffered his own arm, and she laid a hand there. Clinging to the crook of his elbow seemed too forward. But even this light touch made her heart jump nearly into her throat.
They stepped into the shadows of the vaulted arcades.
“So,” Monsieur de Montavon said softly. “Does the scent of roasting chestnuts truly linger here?”
Hail began to drum against the stones in the square.
She smiled up at him. “Perhaps it was a fancy of my imagination.”
They both fell silent for a moment.
“Kiss me,” she whispered. The words tumbled from her lips before she could stop them.
The look of surprise in his eyes was quickly followed by one of enthusiasm.
“Is this something you do often?” he inquired teasingly. “Slip into the shadows with a stranger and demand to be kissed?”
“You are the first, to be perfectly honest.” Peering around a stone column into the square, she laughed at the sight of her brother darting to and fro as his cap leaped in the wind. “I’ve never been alone with any man save my father and brothers.”
“I find that hard to believe. You must have many suitors.”
“None whom I wish to kiss.” She tipped her face up to the falconer’s.
His expression was serious now. He leaned close and fitted his lips to hers.
She kissed him back eagerly, resting both palms flat against the embroidered velvet of his doublet, feeling the warm resistance of his muscles through the fabric. He put one hand on her back and pulled her gently to him. His lips were soft against hers, inquisitive, sensitive. She forgot the rain, the hail, the illusion of roasting chestnuts, her brother. Everything around her disappeared. Everything but Cédric de Montavon.
1454. A noble French falconer. A spirited merchant’s daughter. And a fateful decision that changes their destiny forever.
When Cédric is recruited by the Knights Hospitaller to the Greek island of Rhodes, his wife Sophie jumps at the chance to improve their fortunes. After a harrowing journey to Rhodes, Cédric plunges into the world of the knights—while Sophie is tempted by the endless riches that flow into the bustling harbor. But their dazzling new home has a dark side.
Slaves toil endlessly to fortify the city walls, and rumors of a coming attack by the Ottoman Turks swirl in the streets. Desperate to gain favor with the knights and secure his position, Cédric navigates a treacherous world of shadowy alliances. Meanwhile, Sophie secretly engineers a bold plan to keep their children safe. As the trust between them frays, enemies close in—and when disaster strikes the island, the dangers of their new world become terrifyingly real.
With this richly-told story of adventure, treachery, and the redeeming power of love, Amy Maroney brings a mesmerizing and forgotten world to vivid life.
Amy Maroney lives in the Pacific Northwest with her family, and spent many years as a writer and editor of nonfiction before turning her hand to historical fiction. When she’s not diving down research rabbit holes, she enjoys hiking, dancing, traveling, and reading. Amy is the author of the Miramonde Series, a trilogy about a Renaissance-era female artist and the modern-day scholar on her trail. To receive a free prequel novella to the Miramonde Series, join Amy’s readers’ group at http://www.amymaroney.com. (Just copy and paste into your browser.)
Book Title: Island of Gold
Series: Sea and Stone Chronicles
Author: Amy Maroney
Publication Date: September 8, 2021
Publisher: Artelan Press
Page Length: 380 Pages
Genre: Historical Adventure and Romance