One of the major frustrations of not writing as much as I used to is that I miss writing historical romance stories.
The last one I wrote was His Protector, as part of the Men of Valor series which was back in 2012. Gosh, that's eight years ago.
What about you? Do you miss reading my historicals? Did you read Oma's and Jide's story?
Here is an excerpt. Enjoy. ❤️
Igboland, West Africa pre-colonization
Oma stood across the courtyard, hidden in the shadows beside the palace barracks long house. It was a dark night, the silver moon hidden behind ominous clouds. The air stirred. Leaves rustled in the shrubs behind her.
Pulse thumping, she pushed her back into the cool mud wall and glanced behind, at the dense foliage. In the gloom, she could not see much. Crickets chirped. An owl hooted.
Body frozen, ears pricked up and breath held, she stood still waiting for someone to spring from the bushes.
Exhaling the breath nearly busting her lungs, she returned her gaze toward Prince Emeka’s quarters.
The head guard, Jide stood outside talking to another of the prince’s guards. The square was lit with bare-flamed lamps hanging on wall sconces several feet apart. From her vantage point, she could not hear the men’s conversation but she could watch them unobserved.
The two men were a contrast of light and shadows. However, she easily recognized their outlines.
Lofty like an iroko tree, Jide stood a head taller than his colleague. His skin was of the darkest ebony and his bulky muscles tight and hard.
For a moment, she remembered the several occasions she had walked past him or stood close to him. She had always been tempted to touch his skin and find out if it was as firm as it appeared.
A warm shiver crawled down her back. Heat coiled in to her belly and a slow ache erupted at her core.
The sound of conversation drew her back to her location. Her spine stiffened in alertness. Soon the conversation died away as the people talking walked by without noticing her skulking in the shadows.
She glanced back to where the guards stood together.
Jide turned and stared in her direction. Her breathe hitched as his gaze seemed to connect with hers. She pressed her bare back against the wall, the rough stones scratching her skin.
Surely, he could not see her.
Holding her breath for several pounding heartbeats, she stood still, and made sure no part of her body was exposed.
After a while, he shook his head, said something to his companion and strode away.
She let out a deep breath, grateful he had not seen her.
The last thing she wanted was to be apprehended before she had achieved her objective.
She had specific instructions to undertake, her brother’s well-being at stake.
After what seemed like a handful of inhalations and exhalations, the other guard walked off in the other direction. Having monitored their routine for a few nights, she knew he had gone on patrol and would not return immediately.
This was her chance to act.
With haste, she glanced left and right across the courtyard. Keeping to the shadows as much as possible, she crept to the prince’s chambers. With each step, her pulse raced, her hands clammy with fear.
It did not matter how often she had done this. Each time fright made her body tremble.
The penalty for spying was severe.
Yet she could not help it.
Briefly, she stopped outside the main entrance to the prince’s chambers, an archway framed by sculptures of the gods. A prickly sensation raised her skin in gooseflesh. Did the wooden deities know her intent?
She turned and looked behind. No one else was out there. Pulse still sprinting, she wiped her clammy hands against her light cotton wrap skirt and peered into the prince’s obi.
The chamber was dark. All the lamps extinguished.
The gloom worked well for her as she could evade notice more easily. However, it would prove difficult to move through the room with speed. She needed to accomplish her task and be gone as quickly as possible. She also needed to walk through the room based on her memory not sight.
Luckily, she was one of the maidens who served the heir to the throne and his family and had been in his chambers frequently, although, never under the cloak of darkness.
She took a step in and tried to remember the location of each furniture so she would not knock into anything and rouse attention. When her eyes adjusted to the night, she saw the outline of the wooden furniture and bronze sculptures including the prince’s ornate chair on the far end of the wall.
No light or sound came through the entrance to the private inner chamber. Had the prince retired early?
Feeling emboldened by the darkness and silence, she took a step forward in the direction of the inner chamber.
Before she could take a second step, strong arms wrapped around her waist and lifted her off the hard clay floor. She gasped, knocked breathless as her body rammed into an immovable solid object.
She twisted her torso to look, mouth opened ready to scream.
“Do not make a sound.”
The rumbling masculine voice was harsh and low. A mere whisper. Yet, there was no mistaking the command.
Nor the owner.
The chief palace guard. The last person she wanted to encounter tonight.
In the darkness, Oma could not make out his expression but guessed it would be stern and unforgiving.
Apprehension dropped into her stomach like heavy boulders. She lifted her chin bravely and glared at the looming, dark man holding her against his rigid body. Excitement flared in her core.
“I warned you.”
Before she could do anything, his lips descended on hers.
Stunned, she opened her mouth to protest. He took advantage and gained entry with his tongue.
For a moment, she was unsure of what to do and froze.
Never had she been involved in such an act before. Mouth fused with mouth.
Intruding on one of her friends kissing her betrothed was not the same as living it, feeling it, as Oma did now. No man had ever pressed his lips against hers. Her body had never felt these alien sensations currently invading her.
Jide's tongue twirled and wriggled like an atilogu dancer in her mouth, wrecking havoc on her senses. His mouth tasted like udara fruit, sweet and rich. His scent was of the fresh earth after a rainy day.
For the first time in her life, she was aware of her femininity. Aware of heat coursing through her body. Aware that she wanted to yield her body to this man.
When he turned his head, deepening the kiss, she let out a soft moan and capitulated to the feelings of confusion and excitement. All he did was kiss and hold her to him. Still, her body bloomed. She snaked her arms around his shoulders, clinging on tightly. The slow burn of fervor warmed her insides.
Abruptly, he released her body and her bare feet hit the hard earth. In that instant, she missed his touch. His heat. His kiss.
Disorientated, it took her a moment to realize they were no longer in the prince’s quarters. They stood outside, in the dark corner of the courtyard where she had been spying on the guards previously.
“Are you suddenly speechless?” Jide asked, his voice dangerously low.
Heat flushed her cheeks with embarrassment. Fear and excitement made her body tremble.
She stiffened her back, quelling her body’s quakes. Digging into her reserves of boldness, she stared up at the fierce-looking sentinel who towered above her.
Even in the dim light, his features were striking.
Jide did not have the proud handsome features of the Prince of Umunri. Rather it was as if Chiokike, the god of creation, endowed him with intense features in preparation for his life as a warrior—to frighten his opponent, instead of to attract attention.
Yet, his dense curved brows, eyes the color of the blacksmith’s furnace, strong wide nose and full sensual lips drew her to him each time. Even now, she stood mesmerized by him.
The rest of his physique was superb. She could now attest to the firmness of his bulky musculature. She had felt their solidity when he had held her to his body.
Oma had lived through eighteen New Yam festivals. In that time, she had not met any man like Jide. He was the most feared of the palace guards and the heir’s most loyal sentry.
If she wanted to live through another eighteen annual celebrations, she needed to get away from him.
Remembering her situation, she bit her cheek to stop being distracted.
“You caught me unawares,” she retorted and she stared angrily at him.
He lifted his lips up in a half-smile. She looked away, conscious of the way his amused, knowing gaze seemed to bore into her mind.
“Now I have to return to my quarters.” Thinking to get away quickly, she turned, her feet ready to flee.
“Where do you think you’re going?” He grabbed her arm, stopping her before she could take a step away. “I’m not done with you, yet.”
Her cheeks flushed with heat again at his implication of his words.
“Do not think I will allow you to maul me like you did a little while ago,” she injected disdain into her voice.
A low chuckle erupted from Jide. He sounded like a man who was out of practice with laughter. She had not seen him laugh before.
“You did not resist the last time. As I recall, you were speechless. For the first time ever from what I know of you.”
“Do you imply I’m a chatterer?”
Intentionally, she ignored the implication that he observed her activities. It could not be. A man of his station had more important things to do than to watch a maiden go about her duties.
“On the contrary. I merely refer to your refusal to obey my instruction in the prince’s chambers. Why were you there in the first place?”
She had practiced her response in the event of being caught. Yet in front of this domineering sentry who seemed to see through her, she stuttered. “I—I went to retrieve the rest of the dinner utensils that I forgot earlier.”
“You are certain of this.”
“Of course,” she replied. Flustered, she continued speaking to cover her nervousness. “I was plainly not aware the prince had retired for the evening. It was not my intention to disturb him. You must admit it is unusual for the prince to retire this early.”
“It is none of your concern what time the prince of Umunri retires for the day, maiden.” For the first time tonight, Jide’s tone was harsh and reprimanding. She knew instantly she had spoken beyond her station.
“Forgive me for speaking out of turn,” she said, her tone chastised, her head bowed to hide the tears that threatened to cloud her eyes.
It was bad enough she had been caught where she was not supposed to be. Now she seemed to have incurred the wrath of the chief guard. She had failed in her mission. The consequences would be terrible.
“Oma, you are forgiven,” he said, his resonant voice losing its harshness.
He lifted her chin. The calluses on his fingers grazed her skin, searing it as his fiery gaze held her captive. For a moment, she thought he was going to kiss her again. To her chagrin, she wanted him to kiss her. She hoped it meant she had escaped punishment for her offenses this night.
“But I do not believe your reason for going to the prince’s chamber,” he continued, his words sinking her hopes along with her heart falling into her belly. His gaze was stern again.
“To be certain you do not attempt it again tonight, you will stay where I can keep a watch over you. Or are you going to tell me the truth?”
“I—I told you the truth already.” Her nervousness returned along with her body’s trembling. Her heart pounded in her chest in a quick tempo. She wondered if he could hear it.
“Right, you will come with me then.”
Suddenly, rage coursed through her veins at being planted in this precarious position in the first place. Her annoyance was compounded because only moments previously the now implacable Jide had made her feel something no one else had ever elicited from her. Making her think perhaps there was more to him that his forbidding exterior.
Now he would extinguish the light of hope he had lit in her.
“I’m not going anywhere with you,” she replied irritably and clenched her fists at her sides.
He grabbed her arm. She wriggled and pulled but could not get away. She opened her mouth to protest.
“Don’t even think of making a noise. Otherwise I know exactly how to shut you up.”
Remembering exactly how he’d shut her up previously, warmth travelled up her body and stung her cheeks. She could not allow him to kiss her again. She needed her mind clear.
Clenching her fists, she gritted her teeth and nodded instead.
Smiling victoriously, he tugged her arm. She followed him like a festival goat about to be slaughtered.
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