Excerpt: Mackenzie's Cross by Sarah BarthelConsidering the size of this year's tournament, there were still seats available in the hall. Duke and Duchess Kensington sat in their high back chairs, observing the gathering crowd. Duke Evad was on the Duke's right side and Duke Briggiton sat next to the Duchess. At the high tables, Sir Ledding, Sir Patrick, and Sir Gothar were seated with their parties. Their places signaled to all that they were the Duke's favorites to win. Other lesser nobles were seated at the lower tables. At the lowest tables, local land owners and castle help who were favorites of the Duke were seated with them.
On tiptoes, Mackenzie looked around the room and asked, "Is the pilgrim here?"
Adilla took a moment to glance over the guests before speaking. "He’s by the wall. There. Sitting by himself."
Mackenzie glanced where Adilla had indicated. A middle-aged man sat at one of the lower tables, slightly separated from the others. His brown robes were stained by the juices dripping from his beard. The images Mackenzie had of the religious man cracked as she watched him devour his meal. She wrinkled her nose in distaste, then returned her attention to the Lord and Lady.
Duke Kensington and Lady Evelyn were the picture of love. Holding hands, they sat in matching gold chairs, each adorned in velvet.
Barely above a whisper, Mackenzie asked, "How is our Lady fairing in her condition?"
Adilla turned her head slightly with an amazed expression. "You did not hear? You must be deaf to the kitchen gossip." Adilla continued as Mackenzie shrugged at the mock scolding. "The baby shook itself loose before she returned."
“What?” Mackenzie demanded.
“She lost the baby.” Adilla sighed.
At her words, Mackenzie clutched her hand to her stomach and sighed. "And after such hope," she exclaimed. To be married for eighteen years and never produce an heir must be awful. Mackenzie turned a sympathetic gaze upon the couple.
While the two laughed at the players, Lady Evelyn used her free hand to feed her husband bread and wine. Her smile was too rigid, and her laugh was uncommonly loud. The lady consumed nothing herself. What anguish bereavement must cause. Instead of being consumed with sympathy, Mackenzie turned away.
"Roger?" A panicked shout from Lady Evelyn carried across the hall. "My Lord, please answer me!" As she continued to cry out, silence filled the hall.
Duke Kensington's body convulsed in his chair. Each tremor shook him closer to the floor. His facial muscles tightened, divulging great pain, and his face turned an awkward shade of yellow, then gray. He reached out, seemingly looking for something to break his fall. Lady Evelyn grasped one of his arms, trying to control his body before he hurt himself. Inadvertently, he punched her in the face. Seconds later, he fell limp, slumped down and then dropped his head on Lady Evelyn's shoulder. A drop of blood and yellow saliva spilled from his lips and landed on his wife's dress.
Adilla grabbed Mackenzie’s arm. "Oh, heavens, no."
The knights at the high table were frozen, and half out of their chairs. Duke Briggiton and Duke Evad moved their gazes from Lady Evelyn to the Duke's body, determining who needed their help more. Lady Evelyn's face had lost its color. She opened her mouth in a silent scream as the Duke's lifeless body slid down her arm.
Duke Evad caught Lady Evelyn’s shoulders. She trembled violently, and then pushed her dead husband away. Duke Briggiton caught Duke Kensington before he hit the floor. Immediately, they looked for a way to save him. He opened Duke Kensington’s mouth and made a great show of feeling inside before checking the rest of the body, then he pulled his eyelids closed. Above the sound of Lady Evelyn's sobbing, Duke Evad whispered something to Duke Briggiton, before laying the body on the ground. He stood up, carefully dusting off his sleeves. “Duke Kensington is dead.”
Pub Date: May 14, 2013 | Topaz Publishing | Formats: Ebook, Paperback
When Duke Kensington dies, how can a young kitchen maid stand up for what she believes and save her best friend?
Mackenzie’s life has always been one of duty. However, in a land where even the Brotherhood of the Knights are becoming power hungry mongers, how can a young kitchen maid maintain her morals when tempted with all she’s never had?
In the end, the truth is even more complicated than Mackenzie had ever imagined.
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About the AuthorSarah Barthel was raised on a steady diet of old Hollywood musicals and classic literature. It instilled in her a love for looking into the past to discover new passions.
Nurturing her love of language, she learned French, Latin and Japanese. This led her to study in Paris and host a Japanese exchange student. She followed her passion to American University in Washington DC, where she studied British literature and history.
Since then she has thrown herself into writing. She loves to find unique, and unexplored ideas in familiar settings. A member of the Society of Children's Writers and Illustrators, she currently lives in the Chicago suburbs with her husband, daughter and two crazy dogs.
You can connect with Sarah on Facebook.
Virtual Book Tour ScheduleTuesday, May 13
Spotlight at Peeking Between the Pages
Wednesday, May 14
Spotlight & Giveaway at SOS Aloha
Wednesday, May 21
Guest Post at Just One More Chapter
Thursday, May 22
Excerpt at Let Them Read Books
Monday, May 26
Review at Book Nerd
Friday, May 30
Guest Post at Susan Heim on Writing
Wednesday, June 4
Review at Staircase Wit
Review at History From a Woman's Perspective
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