Daysong Graphics
DeAnna Julie Dodson 

DeAnna has always been an avid reader and a lover of storytelling, whether on the page, the screen or the stage. This, along with her keen interest in history and her Christian faith, shows in her tales of love, forgiveness and triumph over adversity. A fifth-generation Texan, she makes her home north of Dallas with three spoiled cats and, when not writing, spends her free time quilting, cross stitching and watching NHL hockey. Her first books, In Honor Bound, By Love Redeemed and To Grace Surrendered, are a trilogy of medieval romances, but her newest books, yet to be released, are A Dinner of Herbs, a Civil War drama, and a 1930s English mystery, Rules of Murder. She is currently represented by Wendy Lawton of the Books & Such Literary Agency.

Beloved Stranger

(excerpt from In Honor Bound)

"I had thought the bridegroom would be here, your majesty," Westered said after another half-dozen introductions and the king smiled with faint uneasiness.

"He will be, my lord, at any moment now."

He turned and spoke to one of the pages, keeping his voice low. The boy darted from the room and returned a moment later. Robert's temper flared at the whispered message he brought.

"Tell him he will come and at this instant!"

His voice rang through the suddenly silent court as the page scurried to obey him. Rosalynde paled and moved closer to her father.

"He is strong willed, my son is," Robert said, forcing a smile. "He will make Lynaleigh a strong king one day."

"We will still have a wedding tomorrow, I trust, your majesty," Westered said with concern.

"Of course. Of course. You have my pledge already. Philip is something of a boy yet, my lord, with some wildness left in him, but do not fear for tomorrow. He's never failed to keep an oath."

"Forgive me my tardiness, your majesty."

Rosalynde looked up and was unable to do anything but stare as Philip strode from the back of the great hall, wearing only breeches and an unlaced shirt, barefoot and soaking wet.

For a long time she had imagined this meeting, expecting to see him in all his princely finery, his father's chief courtier, the pride of the kingdom. Yet, here he was, half dressed and dripping, his hair slicked carelessly back from his face, channeling rivulets of water down his bare chest. The raw beauty of the sight made her heart jerk painfully in her breast.

He was still tall and lithe, but he had a man's body now, broad shouldered and hard muscled. There was something different about his face, too, something more than just maturity, but she could not precisely define it. Even with the fine scar high up on his left cheek, he was as handsome as before, more so, but he was not the same.

"Philip, what do you mean to come into my court this way?" Robert demanded.

"I had been hunting and thought I should wash before I met with your guests. I did not think they would find it pleasant to be in the company of a man with blood on his hands." Philip let his gaze rest for only an instant on his father's heavily-jeweled fingers, then he looked him calmly in the face. "I know I would not."

Robert tensed. "Then you should not have come until you were properly dressed."

"I was told your majesty required my presence at once," Philip replied impassively. "I did not intend to displease you with my obedience."

With a quick glance at his guests, Robert went to Philip's side and clasped his wet shoulder, all gracious smiles again.

"Of course you did not, son. I did not realize you were preening for your bride. Still, give her your greetings, now you've come."

Rosalynde curtseyed as her bridegroom turned dutifully to her. Their eyes met and he froze for a moment where he stood, the air rushing from his lungs. She noticed the unsteadiness in his hand as he lifted her velvet-gloved fingers to his lips.

"You are welcome to Winton, Lady Rosalynde. You must forgive me coming to you so ill kept."

"I am always pleased to see you, my lord," she said, her hopeful smile growing uncertain.

She realized that the difference in him was somewhere in his eyes. They were still as deeply blue as she remembered, still beckoning, fathomless oceans that drew her helplessly into them, but the light that had been in them was gone, leaving him as coldly beautiful as the marble angels in the cathedral at Westered.

"You must be pleased, too, son, to see what a lovely creature she's become," the king prompted. "I know how eager you have been to see her again."

"Yes, your majesty," Philip said. "You know how I look forward to tomorrow."

There was nothing in his tone or expression that indicated anything but gracious sincerity, but something in his ambiguous choice of words, something in the concealing depths of his eyes, made Rosalynde apprehensive.

Philipʼs brother, Tom gave her a small encouraging smile, but she was unable for the bewildered disappointment in her expression to face him. He was the Tom she remembered, still the same open-hearted, smiling Tom. Where was Philip? Her Philip?

She had always thought of Philip as hers. Ever since he had come to Westered, she had called him hers and built her unspoken romantic dreams around him. Now at last the time had come for her to see him again, but where was he? Her Philip had gentle eyes and a warm, easy smile. She wondered if the man standing before her now ever smiled at all.

She wanted desperately to escape the scrutiny of the courtiers around her, the expectant glances of his father and hers, and speak to him alone. Surely somewhere behind this cold facade was the boy she had known in Westered. If she could be alone with him, away from the court, surely he would prove to be the gallant, passionate hero-prince she had so long entertained in her fancy. He had to be.

DeAnna Julie Dodson © 2008