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Authors: The Moonstone

Claire Delacroix

The Moonstone

 

 

North England 1395 – Falsely accused of witchcraft, ever-optimistic Viviane is sure the truth will set her free. But when her execution is imminent, only a wish on an unusual moonstone pendant bequeathed by her father offers any solace. Thinking it harmless, and sympathetic to her plight, the knight escorting her to the execution grants her request – and is shocked when Viviane disappears.

 

Salt Spring Island, British Columbia, 1999 – Suddenly Viviane finds herself in a wondrous realm she believes is the legendary Avalon. Befriended by some rather eccentric locals, she quickly finds the warmhearted island community happily compatible with her sunny disposition. But the hand of justice soon reaches across time and space to bring her back. The hand, however, belongs to the same handsome knight responsible for her freedom. And soon this powerful man, devoted to upholding the law, finds himself caught between duty and a far more powerful emotion…

 

* * *

 

Praise for The Moonstone

 

“Claire Cross has such an amazing talent! Her characters are vivid, her plots exciting and her books a delight!”

The Literary Times

 

“Claire Cross is a fabulous word weaver, threading a clever tale that continues to surprise and enchant with its humor and freshness.
The Moonstone
is endearingly romantic and delightfully hilarious. A thoroughly enjoyable read.”

WCRG on AOL

 

“From the magical imagination of Claire Cross comes another enchanting fantasy.”

Rendezvous

 

“Twists and turns abound in this bewitching story of magical love. Ms. Cross infuses her delightful tale with vivid characters, a nasty villain, exciting love scenes and wicked humor…Bravo!”

The Old Book Barn Gazette

 

“Are you hungry for a marvelous book? Well, look no further than
The Moonstone
by Claire Cross. Writing with wit, pathos, and charm, Ms. Cross opens the door to enchantment and invites us to sit down and partake of a feast…Delightful, delicious and delectable!”

Under the Covers

 


The Moonstone
has everything a romance reader could desire, including, of course, a heartwarming finish.”

Stephanie’s Peppermint Pages

 

“In
The Moonstone
, Ms. Cross demonstrates her elegant flair for drawing the reader into characters and story.”

Romantic Times

 

* * *

 

Dear Reader –

 

The Moonstone
was one of four of my books that were published by Berkley under my pseudonym Claire Cross. All of these books are romantic comedies with paranormal elements – although they are technically not all time travels, I think of them as such because the hero and heroine in each story do come from different times. These books were just fun to write and I really enjoyed reading this one again. I’d forgotten how much I liked Niall and Viviane.

 

I decided to republish these books as Claire Delacroix titles, because these four time travel romances have a lot in common with my Claire Delacroix medievals. It seemed likely that the same readers might enjoy both.

 

The other four books I published under my Claire Cross pseudonym are different – they are either contemporary romances or mainstream books with romantic elements, depending who you ask. Those books – the Coxwell series – I’ve decided to republish under the Claire Cross name. Look for
Third Time Lucky, Double Trouble, One More Time
and
All or Nothing
in new digital and print editions, beginning this summer.

 

As Claire Delacroix, I’ve returned to medieval Scotland again, which has always been one of my favorite haunts. I’ve picked up the story from the Jewels of Kinfairlie and am telling the stories of the other siblings in that big family. The new four book series is called The True Love Brides, and the first historical romance in that series is
The Renegade’s Heart
. It will be published in May 2012.

 

As with my other re-releases, though, I have resisted the temptation to revise
The Moonstone
– this edition is essentially the same as the original print edition. I fixed a few typos and that was about it.

 

I hope that you enjoy Niall and Vivianne’s story as much as I do.

 

Until next time, I hope you are well and have plenty of good books to read.

 

All my best -

Claire

 

www.delacroix.net

 

* * *

 

The Moonstone

by

Claire Delacroix

 

This book was originally published under the pseudonym Claire Cross. This re-release has had only minor corrections from the original published edition.

 

Copyright 1999, 2011 Claire Delacroix, Inc.

 

Smashwords Edition

 

The scanning, uploading, printing and distribution of this work without the express written permission of the author is illegal and punishable by law. Please purchase only authorized versions of any work, and do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials. Your support of the author’s rights is appreciated.

 

* * *

 

The Moonstone

Table of Contents

 

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty-One

Epilogue

 

Excerpt from Once Upon a Kiss

 

* * *

 

The Moonstone

by

Claire Delacroix

 

* * *

 

Chapter One

 

 

North Britain - September 1390

 

Sir Niall of Malloy was not in a good mood.

’Twas the kind of rainy winter morning that made his knee ache in memory of a battle wound he would prefer to forget. His belly growled in mighty protest of the fact that he had not had even the time the break his fast before he had been summoned. ’Twas only made worse by the reason why he had been summoned so early this morn.

Because Niall sorely disliked executing prisoners.

He particularly disliked executing women prisoners.

But that was precisely what he had to do this morn. At least, he had to go to down to that miserable pit of a dungeon and accompany some poor misbegotten soul to her demise. There were finer ways for a man to start his day, Niall was certain.

Indeed, ’twas in moments like these that he found the employ of the archbishop particularly onerous. Of late, there were just too many days beginning like this one. Niall had a difficult time believing that the hearts of so many men and women in this corner of the land were rotted with evil.

Indeed, he was heartily skeptical that witchcraft had any truth to it at all. As much as he hated to even consider such a traitorous thought, Niall believed his patron was dead wrong. Sorcery was the stuff of tall tales alone.

Yet ’twas the plain truth that a scarred old warrior like himself had few other options for earning his keep. Niall was not more than eight and twenty, though his soul felt shriveled beyond all since his injury.

How he missed being in command of his own fate!

Those days, however, were gone for good. The cold in the nether regions of the castle brought the ache in his knee to a bellow, which was fitting enough for his circumstance. Niall limped along the old stone corridor grumpily, hating that he was no less fettered than the many prisoners moaning within their damp cells.

’Twas no consolation that the old hag who was to die was likely more uncomfortable than he. Niall’s heart twisted in a most unsoldierly fashion at the task before him.

One bad fall and he had gotten soft.

Niall could not have said why he felt particularly troubled by the women condemned by the archbishop’s court to die, for he was quite certain that he had been completely spared his comrades’ weakness for the fair sex. Either that, or his trying sister had cured him of any such inclinations.

Women were, after all, a powerful amount of trouble.

Niall growled and crumpled the parchment beneath his tabard, a telling reminder of that truth if ever there was one. ’Twas a letter he had received this very morn from Majella and his mood soured yet more at the recollection of its contents.

One would think after seven children, Majella would have the wits to know how she had come by them. Or to at least consider the unholy cost of supporting them before she parted her thighs once more.

But thinking had naught to do with the life of his sister. It never had. She was a creature of passion and impulse, though so warm and charming that even Niall could forgive her many sins. Twice widowed, Majella and her brood would be virtually penniless - were it not for her brother’s consistent support.

’Twas a support he felt he owed Majella’s children, for there were no others forming a line to fulfill the duty. And ’twas not the fault of the children that they had no father.

’Twas also a support that depended upon Niall continuing to do the archbishop’s will. Even when he did not agree with it. He ground his teeth and did not trouble to hide his foul mood when he entered the guard’s antechamber.

“Number seven,” Odo declared without even glancing up from his ledger. The half-eaten round of bread resting beside Odo’s book prompted Niall’s innards to complain once more at their neglect.

Perhaps after this deed was done...

But Niall knew he would have no taste for a meal by the time he had looked into the eyes of a condemned woman. Sooner begun, sooner finished, he reminded himself. Niall retrieved the appropriate church key and stalked down the hall.

“Oho, and mind yourself, Niall.” Odo called after him, with a cheer that was far from welcome. “Do not be letting our witch cast a spell upon you! The archbishop intends to watch this one twitch in the wind himself.”

Niall grimaced at the choice of some folk in entertainment as he made his way down the fitfully lit corridor. Scrawny hands reached through grated openings in the cell doors, voices called in supplication. He swore he could hear the rats scuttling across the floor, and somewhere in the distance, something vile dripped with sickening regularity.

How Niall loathed this place.

How he loathed being dispatched to the dark for even a moment. He expected that most of these troubled souls did not even understand what they had done amiss, nor even how much time had passed since they stepped into these clammy shadows.

Niall suspected that few of them cared any longer.

He turned the key in the heavy lock upon the door of the seventh cell with purpose, anxious to return to the sunlight. He would not think upon the numbers here who would never feel that warmth again. He would not feel guilty that he did not share their fate.

At the sound of the key grating in the lock, the prisoner within the cell gasped. ’Twas typical enough. Niall nudged open the door, the hinges creaked bitterly at the movement, and the woman seated within glanced up and smiled.

Smiled.

Niall gaped, his boots suddenly rooted to the spot. He had not expected a condemned witch to be quite so young.

Nor indeed, quite so cheerful.

“Good morning,” she said in a most friendly manner. A delightful dimple deepened in her left cheek. “I had begun to despair that anyone would come at all.”

She was anxious to be put to a gruesome death?

The witch’s clean but simple garb was markedly at odds with the filth of her surroundings. Her face glowed with good health, though her skin was fair, her auburn locks were gathered with a ribbon tied in a pert bow. She stood and smoothed her skirt, the move revealing that she was both tall and graciously made.

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