Authors: Gilbert Morris
A WINSLOW BREED NOVEL
Published by Howard Books, a division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
When the Heavens Fall
Â© 2010 by Gilbert Morris
All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form whatsoever. For information, address Howard Subsidiary Rights Department, 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020.
In association with the literary agency of Greg Johnson
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
When the heavens fall: a Winslow breed novel / Gilbert Morris.
Sequel to: Honor in the dust.
1. Elizabeth I, Queen of England, 1533â1603âFiction. 2. EnglandâCourt and courtiersâFiction. 3. Great BritainâHistoryâTudors, 1485â1603âFiction. I. Title.
ISBN 978-1-4165-8747-7 (pbk)
ISBN 978-1-4391-7082-3 (ebook)
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2
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Edited by David Lambert and Lisa Bergren
Interior design by Jaime Putorti
This novel is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental and beyond the intent of either the author or publisher.
To Mary Moye
Many thanks for your encouragement and for your friendship!
Johnnie and I could not do without you!
Now, you just behave yourself, Master Brandon Winslow, and keep your bloomin' 'ands where they belong!”
“Why, Becky, they belong right
Becky Elwald slapped his hand and tried to frown, but she was unsuccessful. “You're a saucy one, you are! Tryin' to destroy a young woman's virtue, that's wot!”
Brandon whispered, “You're a lovely girl, Becky. And you're the one who agreed to meet me at such a late hour. Surely you knew what to expect.” Perhaps she needed a few more minutes of sweet talk and then he'd win her heart as well as her willing kisses. At the age of sixteen, Becky had a figure that would tempt a saint
Becky abruptly shoved Brandon back and shook her head. “You said you'd read me poetry. I thought you had love on your mind, not lovin'. Get out of this barn! If my pa catches you, he'll skin you alive.”
“He couldn't catch me if he tried. Come on, sweetheart, give us another kiss.” He caught her wrist and pulled it up to his lips for a soft, tender kiss
She stilled, and Brandon sensed her relinquishing the fight. “You ain't but fourteen,” she whispered, “too young for this sort
“I'm old enough. And you are too delectable to ignore.”
Becky's lips parted as he leaned down, and he knew he had won her. She wasn't the first girl who had caught his eye, and as the future Brandon Lord Winslow, master of Stoneybrook, he certainly had his pick among the young women of the shire. But her hesitation and reluctance had piqued his interestâthat and the challenge of avoiding her stern father. It was rather like plucking a ripe pear from the tree of a curmudgeonly orchard owner. Finding her alone, away from her father's squinting gaze, it had become a delightful game
Brandon ignored Becky's feeble protests and continued his quest. He had given little thought to girls until this year, preferring to spend his time in hunting, learning the ways of knights, and mastering the weapons that his father provided for him. But now he wanted to know what the mystery of women was all about. He lowered her to the straw and smiled as he felt her surrender beneath him. He ran his hand”
“What be you a-doin', girl? And you, boy, you got no right to be here!” James Elwald burst into the barn, his eyes blazing with anger, a staff in his hand
“Brandon just came toâto visit, Pa!”
“You think I'm blind? Get you in the house while I deal with this rascal!”
Brandon rose and moved swiftly toward the barn door, but Elwald raised his staff and brought it down, striking him hard on the shoulder. He raised it again, rage in his eyes, but Brandon was strong for his age and very quick. He caught the staff as it came down and yanked it from Elwald's hand. Without a second's hesitation he swung the staff, and the blow struck the older man in the head
Elwald crumpled to the ground. Beckyâwho hadn't made it to the doorâlet out a scream. “You killed 'im, Brandon!”
Brandon's heart skipped a beat. He well knew what would happen to him if Elwald were dead. All his father's influence
could not help him if he'd killed a man. He leaned over and put his hand on Elwald's chest
He looked up at Becky with a reckless grin. “Why, he's all right, Becky. He'll have a headache, but he's too mean to die.”
Becky was trembling, and her eyes were enormous. “'E's a vengeful man, Brandon. You'd better get out of 'ere!”
Brandon laughed, came forward, took her in his arms, and kissed her. “I'll be back. We'll finish what we started.”
But there was real fear in Becky's eyes as she pushed him away again. “Stay away from 'ere if you know wot's good for you! You don't know my pa.”
Brandon laughed, then turned and left the barn. Outside the door, a huge yellow dog rose to greet him. Brandon put a hand on his head. “Well, how about that, Eric?” he said. “If the old man hadn't come in, I would have had Becky. What do you think of that?”
Eric barked, then reared up to put his paws on Brandon's chest. He was covered with scars from fights with other dogs and even a few with wild pigs and their saber-like tusks
“Ah, well, there'll come a day! Let's get back before Father finds out I'm missing.”
Brandon broke into a loping run, and the dog came after him at a gallop. He was not even breathing hard when the shadow of Stoneybrook Castle rose before him twenty minutes later. A huge silver moon threw argent beams on the frozen earth, and a ghostly hunting owl sailed overhead as he and his dog passed through the gate. There was no one stirring at this time of the night, and Brandon loved the silence that held the castle as if in a spell. He'd taken more than one thrashing from his father for sneaking out on midnight forays, but he knew he would do it again. It was not that he did not love his father, but a wild longing took him at times, driving him to find an adventure to break the monotony of daily life. He could bear a beating but not the boredom
He whispered, “Come on, Eric. Let's go to bed.”
Brandon moved along the stone floor to a winding stair, making no more noise than one of the tiny mice that shared the castle with the Winslows. Stoneybrook was an ancient castle; the walls were almost as strong now in 1546 as the year it took form. It was not as large as many others built during earlier days, but it was home to the Winslows and something to be proud of
Moving quietly, Brandon made his way up the stairs and entered the room on the third floor that had been his place for as long as he could remember. Without bothering to undress, he threw himself on the bed, and the big dog whined and plopped down beside him. Brandon hugged Eric for warmth but was too excited for sleep. He relived the sweet kisses he'd stolen from Becky and already was purposing in his mind how he would find her alone againâin a place where they wouldn't be interrupted