Welcome to the castle bedchamber! Ever wonder about the sleeping arrangements in the 16th and 17th centuries? This is the place where I share little tidbits of what I’ve learned during my hours of research for my historical adventures (in and out of the bedroom). Plus an occasional fun scene from one of my books (sorry, only PG-13 on my website).

To start with, here is an except from THE BEAST OF AROS CASTLE: Book One of the Highland Isles series.

Ava has been trying to convince Tor to marry her, to save her best friend and herself from being dragged back to England. It is night, and everyone is abed, except for the two of them.

Her stomach leaped at the sight of Tor sitting on a bench by the fire, bent over something in his lap. Ava clung to the edge of the archway and watched him. He wore his white shirt without the formal sash. She could just make out the muscles moving under the fabric stretched across his broad shoulders. He paused, his face turning so she could see the outline of his profile against the orange firelight.

“Will you be coming out of your hole, little mouse?” he asked, the soft timbre of his voice slicing through the thick silence.

The name piqued her temper, giving her an extra spark of courage, and she stepped forward into the room. Keeping her slippers and skirts whisper-quiet, she moved to the hearth until she could see Tor’s hands. Small wood shavings littered the stone floor around his bench. He held a chisel with a fine point, gouging and cutting a design in the handle of a small dirk. She moved closer to the fire, the warmth a comfort.

“Are ye here to resurrect my dead heart?” he asked. He glanced at her before looking back down at the dirk. He blew against it to scatter the wood dust.

“I…I am here to show you I am a courageous woman, a worthy wife for a warrior.”

“Ye would wed a man with a dead heart, then? I believe that was the topic for tonight.” He set the dirk on the bench and stood, brushing the dust from his kilt. In the thick darkness of the room, the firelight opened up only a semicircle for them, making Tor seem even larger as he filled the small space.

Courage. Ava inhaled through her nose and stepped forward until she could lay her hand across his chest. With a silly quiver of relief, she felt the thudding there. “I’ve found it, milord. Your heart isn’t dead after all.”

He held her gaze. Only the slight tilt of his mouth showed his humor. “The anatomical heart continues to beat in a warrior’s chest even when the heart of a man has withered. It is how we spill the blood of our enemies without remorse.”

Ava wet her dry lips, and his gaze dipped to them. She left her hand lying on his chest. The deep, human thudding against her palm reminded her that he was not some otherworldly beast, but a man. “Where, then, do you keep your other heart?” she asked.

He smiled and placed his hand over hers, threatening to move it. “Some men keep their heart below their kilt,” he said, watching her. Even though her pulse jumped at his implication, she didn’t yank her hand away. The mischief in his eyes said he thought she would.

“Somehow, I do not imagine anything withered below your kilt, Tor Maclean,” she answered. A smile broke along his mouth, showing the edge of white teeth. He released her hand, and she pulled it back to grip her skirt. She turned toward the fire. “And what sits below a man’s kilt has to do with lust, not love. We were speaking of love this evening.”

When she turned back, Tor’s smile was gone. “Aye,” he said. “And that is decayed and dead in me.”

“Do not give up hope. I am a healer.”

His soft laugh had no humor. “That heart is in my skull and shrouded against all women. Ye shouldn’t try to fix something that is dead, Ava. It will only cause ye misery.”

He’d said her name. It had been quick, but the way it rolled from his mouth was sinful, or at least her reaction must be, for a warm shiver ran through her, pooling in her abdomen. “It could be merely ill, not dead,” she said. He began to shake his head. “And I don’t believe I was asking for love, milord, just a wedding. People wed for many reasons that don’t involve love.”

He paused, and she watched his mask slip the smallest amount, enough that she was certain she saw a hint of pain in the annoyance there. “It is my experience that young women aren’t content with merely a name, giving themselves away for the sake of a contract and alliances. And discontent can putrefy into bitterness and hate.” He turned his gaze to the hearth where low flames cast shadows against the floor. “No,” he said. “Lasses want something deeper.”

“Deeper? Are we once again discussing your very alive…heart beneath your kilt?” she baited. A brazen comment, but she didn’t want to discuss love when it was something neither of them could give. He because he felt his ability to love was dead. She because love could never grow from lies, lies she must tell to keep her promise to Grace.

With slow ease, his gaze slid back to her. “We can, if that is your intent.” His gaze fastened her to the wall where she stood. He moved closer. If they were playing chess, he would have called “check.”

Ava could hardly breathe. “I but came for a kiss to revive a broken heart.”

“A dead heart.”

“So you say.”

“That prompts the asking. Can Ava Ellington be content with two out of three?”

Two out of three? Of what were they speaking again? He was so close now that when she inhaled, her breasts nearly touched him. Arms wrought of iron came up on either side of her head as he leaned in, completely surrounding her. Tor Maclean was a mountain of strength, hewn by hours of swordplay and battle. Molten power and hardness, skin over steel, he was the most masculine man she had ever encountered. How could she stand up to such intimidation? How could she hold her own against a tempest?

He dipped his head, lowering toward her lips. Ava shut her eyes as he met hers in a kiss, a gentle kiss, before he pulled back. She blinked her eyes open, her body thrumming with anticipation. This was not a kiss but a peck.

He watched her, his face intense. “A kiss and, alas, my heart is still dead.”

She inhaled and exhaled, the rhythm completely disrupted. “’Tis not a fair chance,” she whispered as her body trembled in need. Need of his heat, his embrace, surely not his fabled heart. Ava ached to move, and being one of action, she did.