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Excerpt Thursdays continue with this clip from: A Gift of Ash and Frost.

This short story kept wanting to be longer. The two main characters were fascinating, as were the rest of the men in the household. Perhaps someday I'll get a chance to go back and explore their story further.

Summary: When new residents come to the Grange, Mathias applies for a job at the house and is hired on at the housekeeper’s request for the Christmas season. He finds there a temptation of the body and heart in the form of the house’s master, one that he is ill-equipped to handle or resist … not that he has the desire to do so.



A Gift of Ash and Frost available at Dreamspinner Press.

Buy Link: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?cPath=55_128&products_id=1435

Read a Review from Elisa Rolle: This is one of the best historical gay romance I've read lately, my only regret is that it's too short and left me with the desire to read more. - Elisa Rolle

***
The house itself was quite beautiful, at least to my eyes, used only to the inn and the one room in which I grew up. The rooms here each had a purpose and were furnished in different styles and colors and named accordingly. Next to the library, all dark burgundy and wood my favorite was the Fleur-de-Lys Room with its blend of dark blues and whites. But it was to the library I returned time and time again.

Before my mother had given up on everything she taught me to both read and write; skills useless in my daily life but ones I struggled to keep up. She had told me tales of the homes she had visited as a young woman and the great libraries there, but to enter a room and be surrounded by books had been beyond my ability to imagine.

It was here that I next saw Mr. Mason. I had brought a load of wood in from the back and placed it in the basket beside the coalscuttle, careful not to leave a mess on the hearthrug. I should not have lingered but the very smell of the room was intoxicating and I was drawn to the shelves full of volumes with their leather binders. I dared not pull one out but I let my fingers trace from one to another in a wishful caress.

“Oakes.”

I started at the sound of his deep voice. My hand dropped back to my side and I turned to acknowledge him. “Mr. Mason, Sir.” If my voice shook, well, this was not the man I wanted to catch me lagging behind in my duties.

He came and stood beside me. His hands clasped behind his back as he looked out the leaded window into the approaching dusk. “What is the debt Mrs. Osgood spoke of?”

I wondered how he had heard her whispered comment. “It was many years past.” And better left alone.

“That is not an answer. I would appreciate hearing under what guise you entered the household.” He continued to stare out the window rather than look at me. I could not blame him.

“Mr. Osgood was an…acquaintance of my mother.” I coughed, uncomfortable with the tale I was about to relay. “He suffered an apoplexy and cramping of his heart during an ill-advised moment of exertion. Rather than embarrass both my mother and Mrs. Osgood I arranged to have his body found near his doorstep.” I shrugged my shoulders. “Mrs. Osgood knew better.”

“Indeed.” I do not know what I expected from him in response but he still managed to take me by surprise with his change of subject. “Your speech is somewhat educated and I find you tarrying when you should be elsewhere. Are you a book lover then?”

The question seemed odd and I struggled to comprehend why he did not order me back to my duties. “I have my letters.”

“Really?”

I know not if he intended his disbelief to show but my pride was pricked by his tone and without thinking I blindly pulled out a volume and let the pages fall open. The candles were not yet lit but there was enough light for me to see the faint print.

“Numberless are the world’s wonders, but none more wonderful than man.” At first the words came hesitantly to my lips as I was out of the practice of reading aloud but I only stumbled once.

“Sophocles.” Mr. Mason responded. “Definitely out of context, but interesting.” Sapphire eyes turned to face me and once again I was trapped in their depths. Unexpectedly he reached out his hand and stroked the scar on my cheek.

“Where did you get this mark?” His voice was quiet and I found I could not take offense as he was touching me again.

“My father.” I waited for his fingers to cease their motion but he merely continued to caress my cheek much as I had the books, wishful and wanting or so I dared to imagine. The quiet of the room drew close around us and I realized I was trembling.

“Did you deserve it?” His head tilted to one side and I was close enough to him to smell the sweetness of his breath and the hint of verbena from his jacket as well as a fainter hint of citrus from his skin.

“Nay.” I think I spoke the words but perhaps I merely breathed them. This close his eyes were a color I could not describe, dark and rich, outlined with a ring of black and with a small mote of black in the iris of the left. I had never seen such thick, dark lashes, not even on my sisters.

“Where is your father now?” His hand slid down to my throat, the palm warm and surprisingly rough upon my skin.

I knew not why he questioned me so but like before I would have given whatever he desired as long as he stayed near. “Long dead and gone, thank the Saints.” I wondered what he would think of my unfilial attitude.

“Saint Jerome said the scars of others should teach us caution, but I find I am not inclined to be cautious today. What do you think?”