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About the Author
Date of Birth:April 5, 1944
Place of Birth:Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Education:B. A., University of California, 1966
Read an Excerpt
Autumn in the reign of King Henry I. Stone Ring Keep, home of Lord Duncan and Lady Amber, in the Disputed Lands at the northern reaches of Norman England.
"Which will it be," Ariane whispered to herself, "a wedding or a wake?"
Ariane stared at the dagger in her hands, but no answer came to her save that of candlelight running like silver blood over the blade. As she looked at the ghostly blood, the question rang again within the silence of her mind.
A wedding or a wake?
The answer that finally came was no comfort to Ariane.
It matters not. They are but different words for the same thing.
Beyond Stone Ring Keep′s high walls, the wind wailed of coming winter.
Ariane didn′t hear the mournful cry. She heard nothing but echoes of the past, when her mother had pressed the jewelled dagger into her daughter′s small hands.
In her mind Ariane could still see the dark flash of amethysts and feel the cold weight of silver. Her mother′s words had been even more chilling.
Hell has no punishment greater than a cruel marriage bed. Use this rather than lie beneath a man you do not love.
Unfortunately, Ariane′s mother had not lived long enough to tell her daughter how to use the weapon, or upon whom. Whose wake should it be, the groom′s or bride′s?
Should I kill myself or should I kill Simon, whose only crime is to agree to marry me out of loyalty to his brother, Lord Dominic of Blackthorne Keep?
A yearning tremor went through Ariane, making the rich cream and russet of her tunic quiver as though alive.
Dear God, to be so blessed as to know that kind of fidelity from my family!
Dark nightmare turned, threatening to break through the wall Ariane had built against it. Grimly she shifted her thoughts from the night she had been betrayed first by Geoffrey the Fair and then by her own father.
The blade of the dagger bit delicately into Ariane′s hand, telling her that she was holding the weapon too tightly. Distantly she wondered what it would feel like when the dagger bit far more deeply into her flesh.
Certainly it could be no worse than her nightmares.
"Ariane, have you seen my -- oh, what a lovely dagger," Amber said, spotting the quicksilver gleam as she walked into the room. " ′Tis as finely made as any brooch."
The voice startled Ariane out of her grim revene. Taking a slow, hidden breath, she loosened her grip on the jewelled dagger and looked toward the young woman whose golden outer tunic highlighted the colour of her eyes and hair.
"It was my mother′s dagger," Ariane said to Amber.
"Such extraordinary amethysts. They are the exact colour of your eyes. Were hers violet, too?"
Ariane said no more.
"And your thoughts," Amber continued matter-of-factly, "are the exact colour of your hair. The darkest part of night."
Ariane′s breath caught. Warily she eyed the Learned Lady of Stone Ring Keep, who could discern truth simply by touching someone.
Yet Amber wasn′t touching Ariane now.
"I don′t have to touch you," Amber said, guessing the other girl′s thoughts. "The darkness is in your eyes. And in your heart."
"I feel nothing."
"Ah, but you do. Your emotions are a wound that has been concealed rather than healed."
"Are they?" Ariane asked indifferently.
"Aye," Amber said. "I felt it when I touched you the first time. Surely you must feel it too."
"Only when I steep."
Ariane slid the dagger back into its sheath at her waist and reached for the lap harp that once had been her joy. Now it was her consolation. The dark, graceful curves of the wood were inlaid with silver, mother-of-pearl and camelian in the form of a flowering vine.
But it wasn′t the harp′s elegance that lured Ariane. It was the instrument′s voice. Her long fingers moved, calling from the strings a chord that was in eerie harmony with the storm wind, a wildness that was barely contained.
Concealed, not healed.
Hearing the harp speak for the silent harpist, Amber wanted to protest the combination of fear and rage and grief that burned just beneath the Norman girl′s calm surface.
"You have nothing to dread from becoming Simon′s wife," Amber said, her voice urgent. "He is a man of intense passion, but it is always disciplined."
For an instant Ariane′s fingers paused. Then she nodded slowly. Gradually the sounds she drew from the harp became less wild.
"Aye," Ariane said in a low voice. "He has been gentle enough with me."
Much gentler than he will be when he discovers that his wife is no maiden.Enchanted. Copyright © by Elizabeth Lowell. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.