Today I’m delighted to be sharing an excerpt from Andrea Matthews’ novel Ride with the Moonlight as part of a blog tour hosted by The Coffee Pot Book Club. Ride with the Moonlight is the second book in the Thunder on the Moor time-travel series set on the Scottish borders in the 16th century.
Walt scanned the market square a final time, making sure everyone was still in place. One mistake could doom not only Will, but everyone involved.
“They’re hanging him now.” His brother Duncan grabbed his shoulder, his voice strained with urgency. “We canna wait any longer.”
Walt stepped away to get a better view of the road that led to Alnwick. No sign of his father, or anyone else, for that matter. Not even a stray cow wandered across the path. And yet his father’s last command echoed through his mind. Do nowt till I’ve given the word. Walt’s hand shook with anxiety as he rubbed it across his mouth, pinching his lips together. But ye’re no’ here to give it, Da.
“Why are ye no’ doing something?” Michael asked. “Are we to let him hang, then?”
“He’ll give the signal when he’s ready.” Duncan slapped his younger brother across the ear before turning back to Walt. “Pray it winna be too long in coming though, aye.”
The ladder clattered to the ground, and Walt cast one last look down the road. Still no one. He gave a firm nod, and as Will’s legs dangled helplessly in the early morning air, Walt darted across the square and grabbed them, lifting his brother on his shoulders.
“The rope, Michael!” Walt struggled to keep his brother aloft while Will desperately gasped for air. An image flashed through his mind of a ten-year-old Will balanced on his shoulders to pick apples. He was a lot smaller then and not so heavy. Where was Michael?
Walt twisted around to find his brother was otherwise occupied. Carnaby had caught on quicker than he’d expected. His cousin Davie lay sprawled on the ground, unconscious, and Carnaby was now crossing swords with Michael.
“Pull, Walt!” Will wheezed, his voice a raspy croak as the rope tugged at his neck.
“Haud tight, lad,” Walt said. “I’ll no’ let ye die this day.” Steadying Will with one arm, he wielded his sword with the other in a desperate attempt to keep his brother from choking. Still, each time he moved to parry a blade or dodge a dagger, the rope tightened around Will’s neck.
All around them, kith and kin met with resistance. Fosters and Hetheringtons, Milburnes and Dodds came from all directions, but Richie Carnaby was just as prepared and challenged them from every quarter. One of Walt’s cousins clutched his arm as blood seeped through his fingers. It ran from another cousin’s nose while a tooth dangled precariously from the man’s mouth. His brother Duncan yelled when a sword sliced his side, but to a man, they would not give up the fight. Walt cringed as he parried an exceptionally wide blow and heard his brother gag. It would all be in vain if he couldn’t get that rope from around Will’s neck.
One group of Carnaby’s men seemed to have their hands full holding back the cheering crowd, and Walt held his breath as his cousin Dick made a break for the gallows. Unfortunately, he was stopped short when the hilt of Cuthbert Carnaby’s sword slammed into his face and knocked him unconscious at the base of the gibbet itself.
Walt continued to struggle, holding Will between life and death, but it was becoming a losing battle, even with the melee that surrounded them. A fresh contingency of the serjeant’s men was pouring out of the moot hall, armed to the teeth with everything from pikes to crossbows.
“Hem the crowd in,” Walt shouted to his uncles. The serjeant wouldn’t risk using the crossbows if there were innocent townspeople at risk. Richie Carnaby must have heard his command, for he grabbed a pike from one of the men and headed straight for Walt. God’s nails! His sword would be useless against that. Walt gritted his teeth, preparing for the blow, when his brother Dennis plowed the staff of his bill into the serjeant’s privates. The man sputtered out one profanity after another but doubled over in pain.
“Get back to the horses.” Walt grimaced as his brother clocked Richie over the head, just for good measure. They’d pay dearly for that later.
“Rory can handle them fine,” Dennis said, but before Walt could warn him, Cuthbert slipped his sword up against the man’s neck and stopped him in his tracks.
“Call them off, Walt,” Cuthbert said. “Elst I’ll end this one’s life here and now.”
“No’ likely,” Dennis said. He shoved the hilt of his own sword into the man’s stomach and spun away just in time to parry his blow.
Walt scanned the market once more. Where in the name of the Blessed Virgin was Dylan? He’d better not be off flirting with some lass, not when he’d been paying so much attention to Annie. He’d castrate the rogue himself if he . . . Walt heard Dylan before he saw him, riding hard across the square, his hobbler’s hooves clattering on the cobblestones. He prayed his backup plan would work. All the man had to do was ride up and get the rope from around Will’s neck. Walt would take care of the rest, but when Dylan came into view, Walt could only stare in exasperation.
With his sword held over his head, Dylan rose up in the stirrups and ran at the rope, severing it with his weapon and losing his balance in the process. He tumbled into Will, who in turn pulled Walt down with him, and all three fell to the ground.
Walt’s sword flew across the cobblestones, and he reached for the hilt. He needn’t have bothered, for even as his fingers brushed the metal, Richie kicked it out of the way. Though still rubbing his head, the serjeant had recovered somewhat and stood with his men, surrounding them, swords drawn.
Richie Carnaby grabbed Walt by his sleeve and lifted him up. “Looks like there’ll be more than one dancing ’neath the widdie here today.”
“And what crime would ye be charging us with?” Walt asked, though he knew the answer all too well.
Richie shook his head in disgust. “All ye’ve done is cause yer brother more grief, man. And you!” He turned on Dylan. “What exactly was that supposed to be? Ye’ll hang from the gibbet as well for yer treachery, along with the rest of yer kin here, if I have anything to say about it.” He handed Walt and Dylan off to his cousin Cuthbert, then bent down to help Will up. “I’m sorry, laddie.” He loosened the rope around Will’s neck and led him back toward the gibbet. “We’ll have to do this again. I’ll try to make it swift for ye this time.”
After rescuing sixteenth-century Border reiver Will Foster from certain death at her family’s hands, time traveler Maggie Armstrong finally admits her love for the handsome Englishman, though she can’t rid herself of the sinking suspicion that her Scottish kin are not about to let them live in peace. What she doesn’t expect is the danger that lurks on Will’s own side of the Border. When news of their plans to marry reaches the warden, he charges Will with March treason for trysting with a Scot. Will and Maggie attempt to escape by fleeing to the hills, but when Will is declared an outlaw and allowed to be killed on sight, they can no longer evade the authorities. Will is sentenced to hang, while Maggie is to be sent back to her family. Heartbroken, she has no choice but to return to Scotland, where her uncle continues to make plans for her to wed Ian Rutherford, the wicked Scotsman who she now realizes murdered her father in cold blood. With Will facing the gallows in England, and herself practically under house arrest in Scotland, she continues to resist her uncle’s plans, but her efforts are thwarted at every turn. Will’s family, however, is not about to stand by and watch their youngest lad executed simply because he’s lost his heart to a Scottish lass. A daring plan is set into motion, but will it be in time to save Will’s life and reunite the lovers? Or will Ian’s lies prompt Maggie’s family to ensure the bond between them is forever destroyed?
Andrea Matthews is the pseudonym for Inez Foster, a historian and librarian who loves to read and write and search around for her roots, genealogical speaking. She has a BA in History and an MLS in Library Science, and enjoys the research almost as much as she does writing the story. In fact, many of her ideas come to her while doing casual research or digging into her family history. She is the author of the Thunder on the Moor series set on the 16th century Anglo-Scottish Border, and the Cross of Ciaran series, where a fifteen hundred year old Celt finds himself in the twentieth century. Andrea is a member of the Romance Writers of America.
Book Title: Ride with the Moonlight
Series: (Thunder on the Moor, Book 2)
Author: Andrea Matthews
Publication Date: 25th November 2020
Publisher: Inez M. Foster
Page Length: 387 Pages
Genre: Historical, Time-Travel, Romance