Title: Night of the Owl
Author: Judith Sterling
Genre: Time Travel Romance
PhD student Ardyth Nightshade has renounced men and pursues her twentieth-century career with single-minded focus. When fate whisks her to medieval England, she meets her match in a man whose passions mirror her own. Can she sacrifice ambition for a love she never sought?
Hugh, Lord Seacrest confounds all who know him. He refuses to marry without a meeting of minds and hearts, and no lady has even approached his ideal…until Ardyth. But she's an odd one, with unique skills, shocking habits, and total conviction she needs no man. She also harbors secrets, and in the midst of rumors, plots, and murder, trust is fragile.
A woman outside of her time. A man ahead of his. They must take a leap of faith to forge a bond that will shape history.
“Lady Ardyth,” Dominy said in a smoother tone. “You have quite the voice.”
She fought a frown. His compliment sounded sincere, and yet…oily. “Thank you, Archdeacon.”
“I never would’ve expected so heavenly a sound to come from…” He reached a hand toward her arm.
She took a step backward, avoiding his touch. “From a woman?”
He caressed the cross at his breast. “You read my thoughts.”
“ʼTwas only a guess.”
“An unnaturally accurate one.” His gaze transfixed, he stepped closer. His hand slipped off the cross, seeking her arm once more, and the fingers made contact.
She jerked her arm away. “Touch me again and you might not have a hand to stroke your…cross.”
He dropped his hand, and his ruddy complexion darkened further. “You should address me with respect. I’m an archdeacon.”
“You’re a fop if you think your title will garner respect your actions do not earn.”
His dark eyes widened. “Insufferable…”
“A word, my lady.” Hugh was suddenly at her side.
Relief flowed through her, and excitement followed on its heels as she turned to face him. “Only a word? Why so modest? Let’s have a whole conversation. Someplace calm, where we can enjoy a leisurely stroll.”
His gray eyes twinkled. “I’m to meet my mother in the solar soon, but I have time for a stroll. In the lower bailey?”
“Excuse us, Archdeacon.”
They left Dominy open-mouthed and alone, but not for long. He strode to the table where Giles was sitting and plopped down beside him on the bench.
What could they have to talk about? Perhaps they’d swap complaints about Ranulf.
Or maybe they’ll have a staring contest, she thought with a grin. A battle royale to see which scowl outlasts the other. Both men were champs, as far as she was concerned, but Isobel could definitely give them a run for their money.
Not that it mattered. What did matter was Hugh and this unexpected chance to spend time with him. Side by side, they cleared a path through the crowded hall and quieter waiting room, then entered the forebuilding, with its succession of high arches.
Hugh slowed his stride but carried on toward the exit. “I heard what you said to the archdeacon.”
“Are you going to scold me?”
“Good, because I’m not sorry for what I said. I don’t know how other women have dealt with his attentions, but if he wants to draw breath, he’d better not bother me again.”
He chuckled as they started down the broad steps. “Heaven help him if he does!”
“Ah, so you’ve learned not to underestimate me.” That’s one small step for woman; one giant leap for womankind.
“I suppose I have, but don’t underrate him either.” They reached the bailey floor and continued walking in the direction of the mill. “He believes you’re a bad influence on Seacrest.”
“He hardly knows me. How would he…” The question trailed off as realization dawned. “Lady Isobel, of course. That’s why she invited him.”
“And why he asked to speak with me earlier.”
“To warn you against me?”
She arched an eyebrow. “And what say you? Am I a bad influence?”
“Need you ask?”
“Well, aye. I cannot read your mind, and in the whole of Seacrest’s history, I’m still a newcomer. Almost a stranger.”
He stopped in front of the large barn that served as the granary. She also halted and scanned the bailey, basking in the soft evening light and the hush which had settled over the land. She would miss the stillness, the slower pace of life, when she returned to her own time.
She longed to confide in Hugh: about her true identity, the 1980s, everything! She’d come close to dropping the bomb in the sea cave after the ill-fated kiss but caught herself in the nick of time. A good thing, too. He would’ve thought she was crazy, and she wouldn’t have blamed him one bit.
If only she could tell him. She sighed, and her heart ached as she turned to him.
A warm breeze riffled his hair, and his eyes seemed to bore into her soul. “You’re no stranger, Ardyth.”
Her name on his tongue was like an aphrodisiac. Her heart fluttered and quickened its pace. Heat crept up her neck and into her face.
He took a step closer. “The other day, you said I prized Lady Isobel’s opinion over yours, but you were mistaken.”
“Oh? Then why did you ignore me the past two days?”
“Why do you keep your plans for the future a secret?”
“One has nothing to do with the other.”
She jumped. The sound came from inside the granary. “What was that?”
With a frown, Hugh glanced at the building, then started up the ramp toward the door. She followed close behind him.
The spacious interior was quiet, as it should be this time of night. Sacks of threshed grain, barley, and rye crowded both the main floor and loft. A tarp-covered cart stood close to the door. All was still until…
The velvety flap of near-silent wings ruffled the air above them. A barn owl glided down from the loft and landed on a lower beam.
She smiled up at it. “ʼTis you we heard!”
Hugh moved closer. “This might be the same creature whose feather became your quill.”
“Do you come hither often?”
“On occasion, in the evenings. ʼTis peaceful, and I find it satisfying to stand amid the stores that feed all of Seacrest.”
The owl’s gaze moved back and forth between them, then settled on Ardyth.
Again, she smiled. “Sweet owl, if you did lend a feather for my pen, thank you.” She stared into its dark eyes, and the medieval symbolism associated with the raptor leapt to mind. “How could anyone think you’re evil?”
“How could anyone think you are?”
The tenderness and depth of emotion in Hugh’s voice struck her unawares. She lowered her gaze to his, which was every bit as dark and inviting as the owl’s.
“Hugh.” He was a breath away.
If money were no object and there wasn’t a pandemic circling the world, where would you go for a Spring Break vacation and why?
England! It’s been nearly two decades since I was there, and I long to see it again. A line from a Robert Browning poem springs to mind: “Oh, to be in England now that April’s there.” Sigh…
My family and I are planning to visit in August, and we’re hoping we’ll still be able to go. Fingers crossed!
What’s your favorite thing about Spring and why?
Growing up in Florida—where the only real season is summer—I never appreciated spring. But now that I’ve lived in locations with real winters, I enjoy the return of color to the landscape.
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Judith Sterling is an award-winning author whose love of history and passion for the paranormal infuse everything she writes. Whether penning medieval romance (The Novels of Ravenwood) or young adult paranormal fantasy (the Guardians of Erin series), her favorite themes include true love, destiny, time travel, healing, redemption, and finding the hidden magic which exists all around us. She loves to share that magic with readers and whisk them far away from their troubles, particularly to locations in the British Isles.
Her nonfiction books, written under Judith Marshall, have been translated into multiple languages. She has an MA in linguistics and a BA in history, with a minor in British Studies. Born in that sauna called Florida, she craved cooler climes, and once the travel bug bit, she lived in England, Scotland, Sweden, Wisconsin, Virginia, and on the island of Nantucket. She currently lives in Salem, Massachusetts with her husband and their identical twin sons.
Social Media Links:
Website – https://judithmarshallauthor.com/
The Wild Rose Press – https://www.thewildrosepress.com/authors/judith-sterling
The Captivating Quill – https://www.thecaptivatingquill.com/Author/Judith-Sterling
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