Californian Gwendolyn Godwyn seeks to learn her family’s history and hopes to restore the bond that once existed between her Italian forebearers and those who live in America. While visiting her ancestral Italian town, Gwen is caught in a violent earthquake and inexplicably thrust through time.
At first refusing to believe what has happened, she nevertheless uses her wits to survive, donning a monk’s cowl to hide her identity as a woman. Ripped apart from all she has ever known, Gwen finds herself in the midst of brutal territorial battles in an era she once blithely called “The Dark Ages.” When the golden Italian summer of 951 emerges from the strife and gloom, Gwen joins forces with a cadre of gallant men, allies in the struggle against the evil nobles, Willa of Tuscany and Count Berengar, kidnappers of Italy’s rightful queen, Adelaide.
Along with Father Warinus and Lord Alberto Uzzo, Gwen seeks to rescue Adelaide and restore her kingdom. In the midst of this great adventure, Gwen falls in love with the complex and passionate Alberto, to whom she reveals her identity as a woman. But can Alberto learn to love her strong and independent nature and help Gwen in her quest to discover her rightful place in time?
Sensuality Level: Sensual
Excerpt from Morgan O’Neill’s THE OTHER SIDE OF HEAVEN, Book One of the Italian Time Travel Series:
~ Our time traveling heroine, Gwendolyn Godwyn, disguises herself as a monk in order to survive the turmoil of medieval Italy. Prior to this scene, Gwen escaped from the castle keep of the evil Count Berengar. Our hero and the man of her dreams, Alberto Uzzo, lord of Canossa, found her running toward the forest, desperately trying to flee enemy arrows. He pulled her onto his warhorse and they rode to the safety of the deep woods ~
Gwen and Alberto rode in silence until she said, “I’m not sure I can guide you to Father Warinus’s camp now. I’ve lost track of where we are.”
“I know where we are and where he is. Barca led me to Warinus last night. Jesus God, when I found out what you had done, I …” Alberto’s voice died in strangled fury.
Gwen squirmed, her mind grappling with the dawning realization of just how lucky she was to have escaped.
“We watched helplessly as Berengar returned to his keep,” Alberto went on. “We were too few against his forces, so he passed through the gates unmolested. We could do nothing; I could do nothing,” he leaned over and spat on the ground, “but change the location of your camp, and pray God you would escape at dawn. A night was never so long as that. When I thought of you inside with… what would you have done if I hadn’t shown up when I did?”
“You would have died with an arrow to your back, or been returned to Garda for questioning. Imagine your fate then. You have made it a very personal matter with Berengar now, and he will leave no stone unturned to find you, to repay you for the insult. We shall rendezvous with Father Warinus and Barca after nightfall, but only if we find Berengar has recalled his men, which is possible. They merely search for a nosy monk, after all.”
Gwen bristled, but choked back her resentment. “Berengar may have more reason than mere insult at having been infiltrated. Somehow, he realized I was a woman and he came after me – barged right into my room – but instead of raping me as he intended, the bastard tripped and fell when his pants dropped to his ankles. I hit him twice with a bucket. I think I broke his nose. Last I saw, he was lying on the floor, unconscious, bleeding, and limp as a dishrag.”
Alberto said nothing, but she could feel the tension ease in his shoulders and heard him chuckling as he nudged his horse forward. The sound was wonderful, and her anger melted away.
“So then,” he said, “you’ve learned to defend yourself, at least.”
“Funny.” Gwen laid her cheek against his back and loosened her vice-grip on him. She flexed her fingers, then opened them and placed them gently around his waist, intending nothing more than to find a secure hold, but the chain mail was slippery. Suddenly, she could hardly breathe, her fingers on fire as she sensed his flat stomach, taut and etched with muscles. Without thinking, her hands explored upward, across his chest, then returned to his waist, wanting more, until Alberto stopped her hands with his.
Flustered, Gwen bit her lip, pressed her cheek more firmly against him, and tried to control her breathing. This was no time for… that. But all she could see from behind her closed lids were his eyes, his lips, and she entwined her fingers with his.
Heracles made his way down a deeply shaded slope, following a path almost hidden by lush undergrowth, and Alberto raised her hand, kissing her palm.
A moan escaped her. She sat up, startled, embarrassed, and terribly aroused. “Alberto, stop,” Gwen could hardly speak, “stop the horse.”
“A moment more,” he replied. “I must water Heracles, now that he is cooled. There is a small stream up ahead where he can drink, where we can… where we will be safe from spies.”
Once they arrived at the sun-dappled glen, the horse lowered his head to drink from the tiny rivulet of sparkling water. Gwen slid to the ground, clutching Alberto’s tunic, but not for balance. She gazed up and touched his knee.
“Alberto.” Gwen had never wanted anyone so badly, so fully. How could she make him understand how she felt? “Get off your horse,” she whispered, looking up at him. “Please come down.”
His movements measured and deliberate, Alberto swung his leg around, dismounted, and removed his helmet. Dropping it to the ground, he drew her close. “I feared you would never get out of Garda alive,” he said, pushing wisps of hair off her brow, his voice rough with emotion.
Holding her hands, he kissed each palm and then gravely searched her face, his dark eyes pulling her into his heart, into his soul.
Gwen wrapped her arms around his waist and tilted her head back to look at him, inviting his embrace. Her pulse pounding with desire, she touched his chain mail. “Alberto, get rid of it. Take it off.”
He released his hold on her to struggle with his chain mail and sword, cursing their cumbersome weight, before dropping them beside his helmet. His tunic and boots followed immediately afterward, and he stood before her, bare-chested, his dark, loose curls touching his shoulders, his eyes looking straight at her, burning her up.
In an instant, she was back in his arms, kissing him as he pulled at her clothes, until she was naked. His arms crushed her body against his, the heat of his bare skin searing.
Cupping her buttocks, he lifted her off the ground. She could feel the swell of him, so hard. The exhilaration of delayed desire, of danger and escape, tore through her and her mouth sought his, desperate to taste, know, and devour. His days-old stubble scraped at her face, the salt of his skin like an elixir.
Clinging to him, kissing as he fumbled with the drawstring of his pants, she felt his fingers brush against her, igniting new fires.
Find out more about Morgan O’Neill:
Two authors writing as one, Cary Morgan Frates and Deborah O’Neill Cordes specialize in recreating pivotal moments in history, epic adventure and romance – with a time travel twist. Their Roman time travel series – LOVE, ETERNALLY, AFTER THE FALL, and RETURN TO ME – was published by Crimson Romance in 2012. The trilogy is now available in e-book format and trade paperback. THE OTHER SIDE OF HEAVEN, Book One of Italian Time Travel Series, was released on May 13, 2013 by Crimson Romance. Its sequel, TIME ENOUGH FOR LOVE, will be published on August 12, 2013. www.morganoneill.com
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