Meet Marie Hall. A wonderfully sweet woman who writes some very head strong characters in some very peculiar situations. I’ve very much enjoyed both her book and eagerly await the third book. She is a NaNoWriMo participant and a very talented writer.
Her message to you:
I am a romantic with an imagination and I use those traits to write stories that entertain and maybe even inform.
I have a degree in History with emphasis in the history of religion (not theology) and I have a degree in Education. I use to teach High School Social Studies and I loved reading student reports. I think I have read a number of works by soon to be authors.
These days I spend my time creating characters the reader will hopefully love and believe in as much as I do. I write both traditional historical romance and historical erotic romance. I always include at least one very factual element in every story.
I also write a blog with a two-fold purpose. The first to give “tips” and words of wisdom to those who are trying to write professionally or even just curios about how writers learn their craft. The second part will give insight into those facts I include in each story and usually links to resources if you want to learn more about the subject/topic.
I hope you find my stories engaging and that you keep reading everything you can. Books open doors in life.
And as always READ ON.
Xavier Brice is a feared man. The king’s own executioner and most loyal servant.
Io Desmond is a nobody who has stayed alive being independent and self reliant. She is loyal only to her own needs.
When the king brings these two people together, wills clash and hearts pound. Xavier must first show Io that trust is possible before his demands for obedience can be met. Io must trust that obedience does not mean subjugation. Together they will give and take in the name of pleasure, pain and love.
Xavier Brice heard the murmurings as he dismounted in the small bailey. The days hadn’t become the long sun filled ones of summer, and the late morning hour produced shadows allowing those whispering worriedly to conceal themselves, but he could feel them as much as hear them.
A short gaunt man rushed from the turret holding his robes as he jumped over the mud puddles populating the poorly kept yards. Since his departure from the building, he’d failed to look up. When he did and his eyes landed on Xavier, he stopped so sudden as to almost fall back into the last puddle he’d so carefully avoided.
Pulling himself to his full height, Xavier turned giving the man a clear view of the coat of arms adorning his tunic in expensive fashion. Few knew him on sight, but no one didn’t know his coat of arms or that the man behind the Axe and Lion was best known for his viciousness in dispatching enemies of the crown. The man who once hastened towards him now hesitated before moving forward to greet the small group of six.
“My lord.” The man bowed formally. “What service might I give you?”
“The master of this house is in?” Xavier handed the reins of his massive mount to Ian who, like the others, still sat their horses.
“He dines in the hall, my lord.” The man bowed and stretched his arm out signaling Xavier to precede him into the crumbling tower before them.
Xavier’s long stride had the man scrambling to catch up even as two of his own men, Jon and Gerald, easily fell in beside him. They had to push through a crowd of goats and kick several chickens from underfoot before entering the filthy hall where dozens sat about eating.
Their appearance brought the room to a tense hush, and the man at the table on the dais choked on the mouth full of food when he saw who was before him.
“My lord.” The man who had greeted them in the yard rushed around Xavier to move closer to his own lord. “Lord Brice of—”
“I know who he is you stupid puke.” Harold Cumbers stood but did not move to greet the men in his hall. “My lord, what brings you to Drahmoore?”
“You have a woman in your house.” Xavier crossed the room and handed Cumbers the role of parchment.
It took several moments for the man to read through and find the name. “You are taking her?”
“By the command of the crown, now fetch her that we might be from this place in haste.”
The lord of Drahmoore laughed. He laughed so hard he had to sit down or risk falling to the floor, but it was not a kind laugh nor did it last long as he sobered and with a smug grin, handed the parchment back to Xavier.
“I knew it would come to pass. The bitch offended the wrong person. Perhaps you will honor us here and take her head while we watch.” He turned to the servant who stood cowering behind the tables. “Fetch Io to me now.”
Xavier watched the servant cower at the order. He hesitated just a moment too long and Cumbers took a swing at his head.
“Now.” The servant dashed away. “Sit, eat. Surely the end of that one is a reason to celebrate.”
Xavier’s left hand curled around the hilt of the sword he wore. He saw the other man’s gaze fall there before it nervously came back to meet his. “Fetch the woman.”
“She will be brought here as soon as she is found.” Realizing it wasn’t going to be his blood shed this day, Lord Cumbers took his seat. Several tense moments passed before he gained enough confidence to speak again. “The notice didn’t say for what offense she is to meet her end, although I can think, myself, of several.”
“You presume much and know little,” Xavier said in a quiet tone, masking his disgust of this man, his words and his house. Again silence ruled and the longer it drew out, the more impatient Xavier became. He was about to demand Cumbers fetch the woman himself when a disturbance from the far left caused everyone to turn.
“Touch me again, ghoul, and I will break off every finger on your hand.” The feminine voice rang out clear.
Xavier’s eyes fell on the figure clinging to the walls and the shadows as she moved up to the dais. He could make out nothing of her looks other than she appeared rather small. She moved smoothly and if not with haste, at least at a pace he wouldn’t call leisurely.
Cumbers turned as she approached. “Io, you have—”
“What in fucking damnation causes you to have me drug into this hellhole you call a house?” the woman yelled as she stepped from the shadows into the torch light.
Her loose, dark gold hair swirled around her waist in a thick cloud, and the flame from the torches gave a sun-like glow to her smooth skin. Her features were delicate, but her words were not.
“I detest this cesspit you call a hall and that you bring me in while you eat, damn you to hellfire you son of a whoring bitch.” She made a swipe at the man’s meal. He blocked her, keeping it from ending on the floor for the dogs.
Xavier’s face heated in outrage. While she was visibly a beauty, her words and cutting tone were of the lowest, base person to be encountered. Again his hand curled around his sword hilt. He tightened his grip least he grab the wench and correct her vulgarities. He schooled his features when he felt Cumbers’ eyes fall on him again.
“Hold your tongue you bi…” Cumbers stopped his insult when Xavier leaned forward.
The woman turned her head slightly, perhaps noticing there were strangers standing in the hall. She hardly spared him a consideration before turning back to face the man who, until this moment, had been responsible for her. Clearly a responsibility he’d failed at most completely.
“Well, you shit? Do you plan to sit like the stupid pig you are, or to speak that I might be gone?”
Strange how her voice could be so vibrant and rich though she spewed words few men dared to let past their lips. What might she sound like speaking of bodily pleasures? Of non vulgar things? Xavier mentally shook himself before he allowed himself to indulge in those thoughts. For certain he’d learn the latter, she’d curb that filthy tongue in his presence or he’d curb it for her.
“It seems you leave us this day, Io, and good riddance to you.” Cumbers turned away to look at Xavier and his men. “Take her. I do not care if she dies here or there, just knowing she will be no more is enough.”
The woman turned, looking at Xavier and the men with him. If he waited to see fear or uncertainty in her expression, Xavier knew he’d have to wait a long time. Rather he saw contempt, even anger and perhaps a bit of curiosity. All strange for someone told she was about to die. Even if the claim was fully false.
“You are Lady Io Desmond?” Xavier let his gaze travel the full length of her. Servant rags hung off her in a shapeless manner. Her hands settled at her hips. He could tell both by the narrowness there and her bony arms she lacked adequate food and lacked it for some time. His eyes flashed to Cumbers, that man didn’t lack for food and his table held a fair bounty.
“I am Io. Who are you and what cause have you to call me out?”
It was possible for her to speak without words like a harpy’s and as he suspected, it was not unpleasant. “Sir Brice, my lady, and you are to leave here and come with me. Collect your belongings and make ready to be gone.” Xavier expected nothing less than compliance. After all, he always received it from everyone. Not this time. The woman stood there for a long moment before she threw her arm out in a dismissive gesture and snorted, actually snorted at him.
“Go with you where?”
“When you need to know, you will be told. Now do as I said, collect your belongings and…”
“I will be told now, before I do any collecting of anything.”
“My lady.” Xavier thought her hesitation due to the idea she’d die in his care.
“Fuck the ‘my lady’,” she snarled.
“Take care, Io, you play a dangerous game with a deadly man.” Cumbers leaned in as he spoke, perhaps the first showing of any care for the woman.
“And care you now, why? I think life to be nothing but dangerous. I surely have been no safer in your care these last eight months than anywhere before.” She stopped glaring at Xavier to focus on the lord of the house with a look that should’ve killed him. “Or do you forget how you trapped me this past morning, again, in the gallery to grope at me like some drunkard in an ale house with a whore?”
Cumbers surged to his feet, tipping back his chair in the process. His hands collected at the woman’s throat and tightened. She took hold of his wrists in an attempt to pull the hands loose.
The drawing of swords had people scrambling for shelter. The two combatants on the dais failed to notice until the broad steel blade passed over Io’s left shoulder and under Cumbers nose.
“Let. Go,” Xavier said, calm and clear.
“She lies,” Cumbers whispered.
“Then it will be dealt with, by me.” He angled the sword tip down so it rested on the man’s Adam’s apple. The simple act of swallowing now would lead to a nasty cut. His hands fell away and he stepped back.
“Get from my house, witch, and I hope your end is as horrid as your presence has been to me.” Cumbers took several more steps backwards before turning and departing.
“Collect your things and make ready to leave, my lady,” Xavier whispered in her ear, “and quibble not for I am most desirous to hurt someone at this moment, and I care not if it is you.”
“If your purpose is my end, sir, then get to it here and now for I have preference of a death close to a churchyard rather than where I will lay out for the dogs to feast.”
Xavier stepped back, sheathing his weapon. He took her arm and turned her to face him. “I think death would not cure you of your ways. But I am sure in the time it takes to reach our destination you will indeed be well healed. Now fetch your things.” He swung her away from him, landing a mighty smack to her rump as he did.
She turned to glare at him, but a moment later turned back and moved off, hopefully, to do as he commanded.
“That one is going to be a burden, Brice,” Jon said as he and Gerald came up beside him. “Why exactly are we to escort her north?”
“I cannot begin to imagine, but that is what the King wants, that is what we do.” Xavier spared one more glance in the direction the woman went before he headed out to the bailey where he would wait for her.
Expecting it would take several hours, he ordered the horses fed and watered and his men to eat from the supplies they carried. It would be well on to sundown, he was certain, before they were able to travel from here and they’d likely get no more than a few miles before having to camp. He made plans with his men, consulting a map for possible locations to make camp. Then he spent time adjusting previous plans to meet the rest of his army who hadn’t come on this detour. Less than an hour later, he again needed to adjust his plans.
Reviewer: Laurel Lasky
This is the first time I read a book by Marie Hall and after reading this I plan to read the second book. What an amazing awesome story. She delves into the psychological insecurities of Io who has been abused all her life and Xavier who helps her overcome the past and look forward to the future. His discipline is harsh but it becomes obvious that he cares for her. The characters are so well developed, you can feel the emotions and laugh and cry. I can hardly wait to read the next book.
United by a royal contract, Io Desmond has found pleasure and pain under Xavier’s firm and steady hand. But trust is not something Io affords to anyone, and without it she cannot receive the full measure of what Xavier will give her.
Bound by love and lust, Xavier Brice would give Io the affection and discipline she requires to feel cared for and safe. But he’s never faced anything like the inner demons holding Io away from the offer of home and stability.
If Io’s doubts and fears prove stronger than Xavier’s promise of protection and devotion, the challenge could tear them apart. If Xavier’s promise of commitment and dependability can rise above, then together, through the pleasure and the pain, they will find love.
Io Desmond Brice pushed through the tent flaps with a huff and threw herself, face down, on the bed. Men. They were an impossible lot. Even as she drew the edge of the fur over her head, she heard the most impossible of them enter the space.
“Io?” Xavier Brice’s tone was laced with annoyance and she felt the flesh on her backside quiver. “Why are you being so difficult?”
Of course, she was the one being difficult, of course. It couldn’t be him. It had to be her, not him with his impossible demands. Not the two soldiers standing outside, who were supposed to be at her command. No, of course, it was her. She pressed her face into the thick bedding and screamed.
“Io.” Xavier’s sharpness was expected. She didn’t even look up. “Do not behave like a child. I will not have it.”
She was startled when he jerked the fur from her head. That he could move without her hearing was annoying. Like a damn cat, for a man so sturdy and built, he should shake the ground when he walked.
“Io.” His fingers dug beneath her chin and forced her face up so she had to look at him. He’d that expectant look, saying, tell him now, or be prepared to not sit for a week. And well, she still couldn’t sit, she could hardly move even three days after he’d taken a cane to her. The worst pain he ever inflicted. All for not telling him she’d concerns, for lying. That wasn’t going to happen again. Right now, just his hand would kill her, she was sure. But no one was listening to her, people were supposed to listen to what she said. Xavier said, as his wife, she’d the ability to command people and she should use it. Well damn, she tried, and failed. How was she supposed to be his wife and command people if they ignored her?
“I am not being a child.” She pouted. His lips curled up on the ends and he gently brushed the hair from her face. “It is not impossible what I ask, it changes nothing for them.”
“Io, what exactly did you ask them to do?” Xavier squatted down, resting his arms on either side of her.
“Not to wear their tunics into the market.”
He gave her a quizzical look. “Why do you not want them to wear their tunics?”
“Because you said I am supposed to be able to command.”
“All on my own, without needing anyone.”
He nodded again.
“Well if they go with me, into the market place, wearing your standards, the only reason people will listen to me will be because they fear you. That makes me all by myself, powerless. It makes me nothing if I am not yours.” She dropped her head back to the bed. “Nothing more than your trained bitch.”
“Io,” he snapped. His hand cracked down on her seat.
Her howl was probably heard through the entire camp, tears sprang to her eyes and her legs kicked against the bed in an attempt to ward off the searing pain. Several long moments passed before she could draw in a full, deep breath through the pain. In that time, Xavier climbed on the bed and stretched out next to her. He set his hand on her hip and forced her to roll to her back. Io scrambled to get her feet flat so she could hold her arse off the bed. But as she lifted up, Xavier’s hand pushed her down and his foot kicked her feet out. She cried out again.
“Are you listening to me now, my lady?” As much a question as a command, Io sniffed and nodded. “Look at me then.”
Io wiped at her tears with the back of her hand then turned her head to face her husband. This man who could inflict such pain on her, who just renewed a pain she thought might kill her, now slipped his arm beneath her to cradle her softly.
“Io, you are not now, never have been, and never will be any man’s trained bitch.” His arm tightened and he pulled her a little closer, allowing her to roll to her side facing him and giving her some relief. “You know what you are to me, do you not?”
She sniffed once then again, for good measure, when she saw him smile. She gave him a curt nod.
She felt her face heat and her throat tighten a bit. It was a ridiculous thing to say, especially about herself. She didn’t mind so much when he said it. It was still nonsense, but it sounded nice coming from him, especially because he was usually panting it out after a bit of bed sport.
“Io,” he warned, “say it.”
She made a small choking sound then rolled her eyes before sighing like he was more burden than he could know. “A goddess, I am a goddess.”
“Yes, my goddess.” He rolled her on top of him and squeezed. “Do not slander my wife again by calling her a bitch.” His hand went to the back of her head forcing it down to meet his lips. The kiss was short and sweet. When he broke it, she was disappointed. His arms again wrapped around her, and he relaxed into the bed. Holding her in place on top his chest, he was quiet for a while. “Io, you know it doesn’t matter if your escorts wear the standards or not…”
“Then I want them to not wear them.” Io put her head down and listened to his heart beating.
“I want you to understand that you can use your status as my wife…”
“I do not want to use your status. I want to do things on my own, the way I did them before you. I want to know people will listen to me because of me, not because of you.” She ducked her head a bit knowing what would come when she added the next. “I need to rely on myself, Xavier, if you are ever…”
“Io,” he yelled, rolling them over, pinning her under him with his full weight and glared at her. “I am not going to abandon you and I am—”
“I do not accuse you, I do not,” Io quickly clarified, before she again felt the weight and strength of his hand. “But will you be standing beside me, always? Your presence there, to threaten? Are you going to follow me about and stare down anyone who says nay to me?”
“No, Io,” he relented, relaxing so his body molded against hers.
“Then people have to want to do as I ask, regardless if I am your wife. I have to know they will act as I will have, because I will have them.” Because, though she wouldn’t say it, she still couldn’t trust he wouldn’t do as everyone did her entire life, and send her from him.
“Io,” he sighed. “It does not matter…”
“It matters to me.”
“Very well, I will tell them they are not to wear their tunics.” Xavier rolled off her. Io covered her eyes with her hands and growled. “What?”
“Do you not ever listen to me?”
“I do not want you to tell them anything. I want to tell them and have them do what I ask. I am not asking them to do anything so much that they should question me. It is not as if I ask them to help me escape you.” She rolled to her side and set her hand over his heart. He covered it with his own, then lifted it and brought it to his lips. A soft kiss, a squeeze and then he placed it back over his heart.
“Very well, Io. I will speak with them about needing to follow your commands without my consent.” He turned and looked at her. “Io, they will still consult me when they feel your commands are… questionable.”
“And I will not fail to invoke your name if I must.” She knew it could be useful, for now and however long he’d have her, to have a man with Xavier’s reputation supporting her.
“Have you given up on your plans to go to the market today?”
“I am not sure. What plans did you make?” Her hand settled on his hip and then slipped to his groin. He already grew hard.
“I did plan a bit of sword play.” He groaned when she squeezed him.
“Is that what you will call it today, my lord?” Io teased.
“With my men, Io, sword play with my men.” A deep grumble rolled in his throat.
“Ah, well, if they are better at it then I.” She giggled when he lifted his hips and pressed into her hand.
“Io,” he called.
“No one is better than you.” He rolled back over and pressed his lips to hers.
Io went to the market the next morning. When her escorts came to meet her, they came without their tunics. She frowned, knowing it was Xavier’s command, but it was a start. She wasn’t going to lose herself completely. She could still control some things. The things he insisted she try and control were less important to her, the things he’d try and make her forget to control, those she wouldn’t ever forget. Not when it meant surrendering.
This series must be read in order to fully understand and keep up. We learned more about Io’s isolation and movement from location to location. About the death of her mother and that the Queen mother has dispatched men in search of Io to kill her. I know we will learn even more in book 3. Xavier Brice and Io are united under royal contract, but he is determined they will be wed in the church, in the eyes of God and man and not just by decree. They have traveled for months from where he rescued her and has been slowly trying to train her in her position as his wife. Io has had nothing but pain and heartache her entire life, and when words are spoken harshly, she takes then literally and leaves the camp and is nearly raped. Xavier is not a man to go up against, he is a force to be reckoned with and that is not only in his position in the Kings army but with his men and especially with Io. His punishments to her are harsh and painful, but hopefully lessons to be learned. There are multiple forms of punishment that include caning, tawse and paddle and even a painful unguent is used. Although they have engaged in oral and anal sex, Xavier will not consummate their marriage until vows are made in the church, which is eight months in the making.
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