Melanie Dickerson – Romantic Excerpt – Part 2 of 2

Shannon here: Historical Romance author, Melanie Dickerson shares a romantic excerpt featuring her fictional characters’ first meeting. Comment on any post dated May 16 – 20 for a chance to win a copy of The Healer’s Apprentice. Deadline: May 21, 11:59 pm central time. Here’s Melanie:

How do my hero and heroine meet?

My hero and heroine are Wilhelm—also known as Lord Hamlin—the oldest son of a powerful duke, and Rose, a poor woodcutter’s daughter turned healer’s apprentice. They have seen each other in passing, but they meet for the first time when a boar gashes his leg and Rose must tend his injury.

Rose has not done too well in her job so far. She nearly faints when a boy comes in with a serious cut on his arm and the healer, Frau Geruscha, has to sew up the gash. Now the duke’s oldest son, Lord Hamlin, shows up while the healer is away and Rose must overcome her squeamishness to help him.

Excerpt from The Healer’s Apprentice:

Rose so wanted to impress her mistress, but had failed miserably. Frau Geruscha never turned ashen at the sight of blood, never shrank from the bad smells, never grew squeamish when sewing up a wound.

O God, make me like Frau Geruscha.

            A commotion in the courtyard cut her musings short. She put her broom away in case the noise was the result of someone in need, coming to the healer for help.

            As the shouts drew closer, her stomach knotted. Frau Geruscha was away and might not be back for several hours. Please, let them not be coming to see Frau Geruscha. She stood in the middle of the room and held her breath as she stared at the door, waiting.

            “Frau Geruscha!” a masculine voice boomed. Someone pounded on the door.

            Rose rushed to unlatch the door. Three men stood at the threshold. The middle one’s arms were draped over the shoulders of the other two. His head hung down so that she couldn’t see his face. Sweat dripped from the dark hair clinging to his brow.

She recognized the men on either side as the two knights who yesterday had traveled alongside Lord Hamlin and Lord Rupert. That meant the one in the middle was—

            Lord Hamlin lifted his head, his face pale. His eyes riveted her with a look of pain.

Rose couldn’t stand there gaping, so she spurred her mind to action. “Lay him on the bed. Where is he hurt?”

            The two knights eased him down. “Right leg,” one of them said. “Wild boar gored him. Where’s Frau Geruscha?”

            Of course they wanted Frau Geruscha, the healer, not her lowly apprentice. “She’s gone.”

            “Where?” The man with the dirty blond hair barked the word, tension showing in the wrinkles between his eyes. “Where did she go? We’ll fetch her.”

            “I know not. The woods somewhere, gathering herbs and visiting the sick.” She averted her eyes to Lord Hamlin’s leg, lest the man’s dismayed expression drain her of courage.

            She sank to her knees beside Lord Hamlin. The dark stain on his hose indicated an injury on the outside of his calf. The boar’s tusk had sliced through his leather boot, its jagged edges dangling open. “Help me get this boot off.”

            The knight nearest to her was twice her size, with red hair sticking straight up on top of his head. He bent over and tugged on the shoe.

            “Ahhhg,” Lord Hamlin groaned.

            Rose glanced up. Lord Hamlin’s eyes were closed and his features clenched in pain. Compassion squeezed her stomach like a fist.

            Once the boot was off, blood dripped from his foot off the side of the bed. She grabbed a knife from a nearby shelf and half-cut, half-ripped the cloth away at his knee. The material stuck to his leg, held on by dried blood.

            Running to the adjoining room, she fetched a bowl of water and a clean cloth. She dipped the cloth into the water and repeatedly soaked his leg until the water turned bright red.

She must not focus on the smell or sight of the blood, must not dwell on the fact that this was Lord Hamlin—the duke’s eldest son—bleeding all over the floor.

[A few pages later …]

The maiden turned from the window with dread in her face. He hoped the tea worked. The pain in his leg made him clench his teeth, but he bit back a hiss, since the girl looked as though she might cry herself at any moment.

            He set the cup on the floor and lay flat, letting his head sink into the prickly, straw-filled pillow. She placed a low stool next to him then rummaged through a basket at the foot of the bed and withdrew black string and a needle.

            “So what is that you’re stitching me up with?” He forced his tone to sound calm, hoping to put them both at ease.

            One side of her mouth went down as if she were avoiding his gaze. “Catgut, my lord.”

            She stared down at the needle and he watched her draw in another big breath. She closed her eyes as she made the sign of the cross. Her lips moved silently, then her long lashes swept up, revealing warm brown eyes that brimmed with determination.

            His heart beat faster. 

            “When Frau Geruscha sews up a wound, she tells the person to think about something else, to imagine they are in a favored, peaceful place.”

            Wilhelm nodded and closed his eyes. He could do that. He wouldn’t think about the needle, the catgut, or his leg.

Her soft fingers, gentle and tentative, touched his bare leg, near the wound. But he couldn’t think about that, either. He’d think of a stream … Yes, with the sun glittering on it … a nice grassy bank and a big tree. The leaves are moving with the breeze … the grass is cool.

            There it was, the stab of the needle piercing his flesh. His leg tensed in spite of himself. He forced a moan to the back of his throat. The tea wasn’t working.

            I’m floating above the stream, watching the water glide over the rocks. The breeze rustles the leaves … birds are singing. The sun is bright and warm …

            His eyes watered. He wanted to groan against the fiery pain reopening in his leg. He tried to ignore it, but he couldn’t see the stream or the tree or the grass anymore.

He opened his eyes. The maiden was bending low over his leg. Her hair fell like a curtain around her face, but she sat at an angle and so he had full view of her features. She bit her lower lip, and he thought he saw her chin quiver. Was that a tear glistening on her eyelashes?

            The pain was intense, radiating from his leg to his whole body like flames of fire. He wanted to cry out, but he wouldn’t do that to her. No, he wouldn’t make a sound. Instead, he would concentrate on making her think he was asleep. He would relax each muscle in his body, starting with his legs … going up to his stomach … relaxing his arms … now his face. Yes, he was on the stream bank again, watching the leaves of the tree, hearing the water rush along.

            Time seemed to stand still as he fought to ignore the pain. Sweat slid from his forehead into his eyebrows, into the corner of his eyes and down his cheeks, but he didn’t move to brush it away. At some point he stopped seeing the stream and tree and opened his eyes again. He saw Rose, her hair glowing in the sunlight, and heard her soothing voice.

“It’s almost over now.”

            The pressure near the wound lifted as she removed her hands from his leg. He watched her disappear into the storage room.

            Raising his head, he looked at the crisscross of black stitching. The whole area throbbed and burned, but he was relieved to see the wound closed.

Wilhelm collapsed back on the pillow, his thoughts filled with the maiden, Rose. He remembered the compassion emanating from her eyes. And that was the thing that had surprised him. Plenty of people were afraid of him, and he’d received many amorous looks from women, but he wasn’t sure he had ever seen such raw compassion.

            He closed his eyes and saw her again as she’d looked standing at the window, and a warm, pleasurable sensation flooded him.

            Must be the herbs.

About the book: The Healer’s Apprentice is also a double finalist in the 2010 National Readers Choice Awards in the Inspirational category and the Best First Book category and a Christy Award finalist in the Young Adult category.

In this historical romance loosely based on the Sleeping Beauty fairy tale, a woodcutter’s daughter becomes the town healer’s apprentice. Rose’s job is to care for the sick and injured in Hagenheim Castle. But she gets sick at the sight of blood and is more suited to making up stories than sewing up wounds. She is determined to overcome her weakness and prove herself a competent healer, or she faces marrying a disgusting old merchant her mother has picked out for her.

Lord Hamlin, the future ruler of the region, is injured and Rose must overcome her squeamishness to save him. He is everything that is noble and good, but loving him is forbidden. He is already betrothed to a mysterious woman in hiding.

With two noble-born brothers vying for her affections, Rose learns that the people of Hagenheim are not always who they seem.

About Melanie: Melanie Dickerson is the author of The Healer’s Apprentice, a fairy tale retelling and medieval romance. She believes God is the creator of healthy romance and hopes to share that vision with her readers. She is an active member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), as well as her local chapter of Romance Writers of America (RWA). A former teacher and missionary, she earned a degree in special education from The University of Alabama and now lives near Huntsville, Alabama, with her husband and two daughters. You may visit her on her website, www.melaniedickerson.com and write to her. She enjoys hearing from her readers.

Come back May 20th for Mary Connealy’s romantic interview and a chance to win a copy of  Deep Trouble.

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