Celebrate weddings with Soul of the Wolf by Judith Sterling @WildRosePress #historicalromance #books
Title: Soul of the Wolf
Author: Judith Sterling
Genre: Historical Romance
A Norman loyalist, Lady Jocelyn bristles when ordered to marry Wulfstan, a Saxon sorcerer. She nurses a painful secret and would rather bathe in a cesspit than be pawed by such a man...until her lifelong dream of motherhood rears its head.
A man of magic and mystery, Wulfstan has no time for wedded bliss. He fears that consummating their marriage will bind their souls and wrench his focus from the ancient riddle his dying mother begged him to solve. He's a lone wolf, salving old wounds with endless work. But Jocelyn stirs him as no woman ever has.
Their attraction is undeniable. Their fates are intertwined. Together, they must face their demons and bring light to a troubled land.
Jocelyn’s stomach quivered. Could violence be a family trait, lying dormant within Lord Nihtscua? A compulsion at his very core?
Alice, her handmaiden, bent lower to scrutinize the bridal gown’s hem. Then she wiped the sweat from her brow and stood. “Done.”
A loud knock sounded on the chamber door, and Tilda rushed to heed it. Jocelyn and Alice shared soulful glances.
At the threshold stood Meg. Her violet eyes twinkled as she caught sight of the bride. “You look stunning, Lady Jocelyn. Nigh unto a princess.”
Jocelyn’s heart raced. “Thank you.”
Meg winked. “Courage, my dear. We’re ready when you are.” She turned and disappeared down the stairs.
Courage seemed useless in the face of utter paralysis. Jocelyn’s feet felt rooted to the floor.
Move, she commanded herself. You can do this.
“My lady?” said Alice.
Jocelyn inhaled deeply. The sweet aroma of mingled chamomile and mint filled her senses. “I’m fine...and I’m ready.”
Tilda smiled. “Then I’ll guide your ladyship to the chapel.”
Jocelyn followed her out of the chamber and down the spiral stairs. Alice trailed behind. The trio passed through a smaller room, then climbed another staircase. Jocelyn kept her gaze glued to the stone steps, partly to avoid tripping, but also to focus on something other than her pounding heart. Poise was imperative.
All at once, Tilda halted before an ornately carved, stone archway. The sanctum’s painted walls waited just beyond. “We’re here,” she whispered, backing up to join Alice in the shadows.
Jocelyn’s stomach, racked by nerves and hours of hunger, growled in protest. ’Twas a tortured sound, but so untimely it forced her to crack a smile.
Well, the sooner I marry, the sooner I dine.
Turning, she bestowed grateful smiles on the two bright-eyed handmaidens. Then she straightened her shoulders and entered the chapel alone.
The guests numbered four: Emma, William, Robert, and Meg. Above the altar was a large, stained glass window; before it stood the priest and bridegroom.
Jocelyn’s pulse quickened. Wulfstan looked resplendent in royal blue. The collar, sleeves, and hem of his tunic were embroidered with silver thread, and a bejeweled belt encircled his waist.
His attire was grand, but his eyes ruled her thoughts. Until this moment, she’d believed she had a clear memory of their color. But the memory couldn’t compete with the here and now. His eyes were ethereal, intense, alarming. And they’d been riveted on her from the instant she entered the chapel.
She wrenched her gaze from his and fixed it on the short, bald priest. With head held high, she approached the altar and stopped at Wulfstan’s side.
The priest sniffed and opened his prayer book. “Brethren,” he intoned, “we are gathered together in the presence of God and his angels and of all the saints to join together two bodies, which is to say, of this man and of this woman, that they may be but one body and two souls...”
Wulfstan looked down and shifted his weight from one leg to the other. She could almost feel the stress emanating from his body.
“I charge you now,” the priest continued, “by Father, Son, and Holy Ghost that if either of you knows any reason why you may not legitimately marry, you should say so now.”
Without warning, her stomach howled. The stone walls and vaulted ceiling reverberated with the wretched noise.
The priest’s head snapped up, triggering a muffled laugh from one of the guests. Jocelyn’s forehead and cheeks were on fire.
Perfect, she thought. This day just gets better and better.
She stole a glance at Wulfstan. He stood statue-still, except for the telltale twitching of his lips.
The priest cleared his throat and continued the ceremony. All was calm...for about two seconds.
She tightened her abdomen as another hunger pang coiled within her belly. Don’t you dare!
Determined to quell any further gastric solos, she focused her will on the task. How long she fought the battle was uncertain, but suddenly she felt the priest’s stare.
“Your ladyship?” he pressed.
Wulfstan leaned toward her. “We’re waiting for your answer. Will you take me as your husband?”
Again, her cheeks burned. “I will.”
The priest turned to the bridegroom. “Take her ladyship’s hand.”
Wulfstan’s warm fingers grazed her palm. Then his whole body went rigid. His eyes took on a faraway look.
“My lord?” she said.
He didn’t respond...in any way.
The next instant, Meg was at her side. “Wait,” the older woman cautioned. “Let him finish his vision.”
Jocelyn’s skin prickled as she recalled Sir Robert’s words. Lord Nihtscua could invade one’s thoughts and plunder cruel memories.
She looked at the altar. Its massive gold cross and candlesticks were precious indeed, but there was no greater treasure than the mind. Memories were sacred and deserving of privacy.
Wulfstan’s arm jerked. Startled, she turned back to him.
His face was pale and beaded with sweat, but the vision appeared to have ended. Brusquely, he dropped his arm. Then his gaze locked with hers. His crystalline eyes seemed to pierce her soul.
He knows something. But how much?
The priest cleared his throat. “Shall we continue?”
Wulfstan blinked and turned to him. “Aye, Father Cedric. Continue.”
The guests fidgeted on the benches, and Meg retreated to her seat. Jocelyn’s stomach was as quiet as a tomb.
The good father glanced heavenward and heaved a sigh of relief. “Then take your bride’s hand.”
Wulfstan complied, this time without incident. But his hand was now cold.
Jocelyn stared up at the arched, stained glass window. Its colors were also cold, dimmed by the sunless sky.
Father Cedric squared his shoulders. “Now, repeat after me...”
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