Warrior Of Fire (Warriors of Ireland)

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9780263248227: Warrior Of Fire (Warriors of Ireland)

A warrior with fire in his soul! 

Fleeing an unwanted betrothal to the cruel king, Lady Carice knows her days are numbered. She has never felt desirable—until she meets Norman soldier Raine de Garenne. Soon she longs to experience passion, if only for one night... 

Aiding beautiful Carice's escape jeopardizes Raine's mission, for if he does not kill the king, his sisters will pay the price. And as each step toward his goal brings him closer to betraying Carice, he knows he'll have to make a choice. His duty...or his heart.

"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.

About the Author:

RITA Award Finalist and Kindle bestselling author Michelle Willingham has written over thirty historical romances, novellas, and short stories. Currently, she lives in southeastern Virginia with her husband and children. When she's not writing, Michelle enjoys reading, baking, and avoiding exercise at all costs. Visit her website at: www.michellewillingham.com.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Ireland, 1172

Carice Faoilin was not afraid to die.

She had been sick for so long, she didn't know how it felt to be an ordinary woman any more. She didn't remember what it was to awaken without pain, to walk in the sunlight and enjoy each day as it was given. Most days, she stared at the walls, confined to her bed because she was too weak to move.

Until now.

In a matter of days, soldiers had invaded her home, demanding that she fulfil her delayed betrothal contract. She was ordered to accompany them to wed the High King of Eireann, Rory O Connor. The Ard-Righ had a brutal reputation, and few women wanted to wed him, herself included.

Perhaps she should have gone meekly, obeying the High King's orders as a woman should. But then, Carice had never been the obedient sort. She wouldn't have agreed to the betrothal, had her ambitious father given her a choice.

She was not going to lie back and offer herself up as the sacrificial lamb—even if this escape attempt killed her. And it very well might.

Each footstep felt leaden as she struggled to disappear into the dark forest. She'd chosen a long branch to use as a walking stick while she made her escape. A small voice inside her warned her, You don't have the strength to reach shelter. You're going to die tonight.

She silenced the voice. She had lived with the prospect of dying for so long, what did it matter any more? Worrying about it wouldn't change anything. Instead, she preferred to fight for every breath, living each day as if it were her last.

Although today might be her last day if she didn't find shelter soon.

With every step she took, the air seemed to grow colder. There was snow upon the breath of the wind, and Carice huddled within her cloak, leaning heavily upon the staff. Her feet were half-frozen, and her fingers were numb. She didn't know how long she'd been walking, but she prayed to find a warm place to sleep. Please let there be shelter somewhere close by.

Her prayer was answered when she reached the far side of the forest and ventured into an open field. Just near the horizon, the moon illuminated a fortress with a tall limestone wall surrounding it.

When she drew closer, she realised it was an abbey, not a fortress. Never had she visited this place, though it was only a few days' journey from Carrickmeath, her home. But tonight, it was her best hope for shelter.

I don't know if I can make it that far, her body reasoned. Every muscle in her body ached, she was starving, and the distance appeared vast.

If you don't keep going, you'll freeze, her brain reminded her. And death by freezing didn't sound very pleasant. She had to keep moving, especially since she'd made it this far.

Carice continued walking across the snowy meadow, counting the steps as she did. Though her legs were shaking from exertion, she forced herself to keep going. While she walked, she hoped that the monks who dwelled within the abbey would grant her a place to sleep and a warm fire. Or, at the very least, a place to collapse from exhaustion.

It was the promise of getting warm that kept her walking. Snowflakes began descending from the sky, the barest drifting flurries.

Just a little farther, she told herself. Don't stop.

When she reached the abbey, strangely, the gate was open. A crow cawed at her arrival swooping down to inspect her presence. Inside the grounds, the scent of smoke lingered like a harsh memory. A fire had ravaged the outbuildings, and the battered stone structures were charred and lay in ruins. Another building nearby was in better condition, but it, too, had visible damage, along with the nearby roundtower that was missing its roof.

'Is anyone here?' she called out.

There came no answer, no sound at all. She walked through the open space, her feet crunching within the wet snow. Near the cemetery, she spied four freshly dug graves. Snow covered the earthen mounds, and she crossed herself at the sight. A chill crossed over her spine as she wondered what had happened here. Were all the monks dead from the fire? Clearly, the abbey had been abandoned.

Carice walked up the stairs leading to the main sanctuary. There was no wooden door remaining, and inside, the chapel was dark and cold. At least it was better than remaining outside, she reasoned. The fire had not reached the inner sanctuary, for the scent of smoke diminished as soon as she walked inside the space. At one end, there was an altar with a larger chair beside it. Spider webs lined the corners of the walls, and a savoury aroma caught Carice's attention.

It was the faintest scent of food, like a roasted fowl. Someone had been here recently. She spied bones upon the floor and her stomach growled at the thought of a hot meal. It seemed that she could never satiate the endless hunger tormenting her. She pushed back the cravings and called out again, 'Is anyone here?'

But there was still no answer.

This time, she began exploring a narrow hallway at the back of the sanctuary that opened into a spiral staircase. She guessed that it likely led towards the abbot's private chambers. Since there had been food scraps left behind, then there might be someone sleeping above stairs.

Her skin prickled with a rise of nerves. It wasn't wise for a woman to approach a stranger, alone with no guard. But she had no alternative. Right now, her body was reaching the end of its strength. She needed to rest before she could continue her journey, for it was the only way she would survive what lay ahead.

Carice steadied herself before climbing the narrow stairs. After the sixth step, she had to sit for a moment to calm the dizziness. She listened hard for the sound of anyone, but only silence met her ears.

It will be all right, she told herself. If the abbot was here, surely he would find a place for her to sleep. And if he was not, then she would remain in his chambers until dawn. She reached deep inside her for the last of her strength. She crawled up the remaining stairs, struggling to reach the top. The stone floor was cold beneath her hands and feet, and she fought to stand once more.

Carice leaned heavily upon the wall, stumbling towards the first room. Inside the chamber, she spied a narrow bed with rumpled coverings upon it. The curtains were drawn back and hot coals lay upon the hearth, as if there had been a fire recently.

A trace of fear crept over her, but Carice was too tired to care any more. If there was someone here who intended to harm her, there was nothing she could do about it. She lacked the strength to move.

Exhausted, she stumbled towards the bed, seeking its comfort. She huddled beneath the woollen coverlet, so grateful for a place to sleep. It didn't matter if someone had been here before her, or if they were still here. Nothing mattered except being warm and sheltered.

But as she drifted off, Carice sensed a presence in the room...almost as if someone was watching over her.

The woman sleeping on his bed was the most beautiful creature he'd ever seen. From the moment he'd heard her enter the abbey, Raine de Garenne had watched over her from the spiral stairs, remaining in the shadows while she had explored the sanctuary. He didn't know why she was here, but it was clear she was alone.

Fragile, too, like a snowflake upon his palm. She had collapsed after reaching his room, and now she was sharing the very bed he'd slept within.

Why had she intruded within this place? He remained standing in the shadows against the far wall until he was certain she was asleep. The room was growing colder since the peat fire he'd lit earlier was dying down.

He added more fuel to the hearth until the fire grew hot. The dim light illuminated her features better. Her long dark hair was not black as he'd imagined, but a warmer brown with hints of gold and red. It hung to her waist, and her skin was pale against the coverlet. How had she come to the abbey, and why was she alone? He couldn't imagine anyone leaving a woman like her unguarded, unless they had died trying to protect her.

His mood grew sombre as he thought of his own failings. You should have died for Nicole and Elise, his conscience taunted. You should have sacrificed your life for theirs. He was haunted by his sisters' fate even two years later. He'd believed he could get close to them and free them from captivity by joining King Henry's soldiers. Instead, he had been sent to fight with the Irish Sea separating them. He should have known that the king's men would never let him remain near his family.

But there was no means of unravelling the past, no reason to dwell upon the bitter memories now. Nothing would change his sisters' captivity until he carried out the king's orders. He would return to his commander just after dawn, and if he succeeded in his task, he might win their freedom.

Raine held fast to the thought, for it was the only shred of hope remaining.

Now, he questioned what to do about the woman. Raine pulled a chair beside the fire, considering his choices. She didn't belong in the abbey any more than he did. He rested his forearms upon his knees, and the amber firelight revealed a long scar—a visible reminder of the battles he'd faced. Most of his scars and burned flesh were hidden beneath his chain mail armour, the cost of survival.

He stared into the fire, knowing he had no right to live. As a soldier, he'd stolen countless souls from the earth. He ought to feel guilty about their deaths, but he didn't. There was a stony sense of emptiness where his heart had once been. His sisters' lives depended upon his obedience. He was chained to this life of a Norman soldier that he didn't want, and he would continue to fight until he had earned back their freedom or he died. He had put aside any dreams he might have held for his own future, for he deserved this prison after failing to save his parents.

Mercenary, some had called him. A heartless murderer, the Irish would say. His soul was already damned, according to the priests, and he regretted nothing. As long as his sisters were alive and whole, none of it mattered.

Raine moved to stand beside the young woman, and her scent caught his attention. The air of innocence surrounded her, and her face was soft like a spring morning. It was doubtful that this woman had ever touched a weapon in her life.

He leaned down, reaching to touch a lock of her hair. It was not a heavy silk like other women he had known. No, it was fragile, like her—tangled and damp from the journey. As he studied her more closely, he realised how very thin she was, half-starved and frail. This was not a woman who had missed a meal or two. She was fighting for her life.

He'd seen folk who had starved to death before, men and women alike. And although he shouldn't care what happened to a stranger, he felt an invisible force drawing him closer. She needed someone to watch over her, someone to take care of her—the way he wanted someone to protect his sisters.

His mood darkened as he went to fetch her another blanket from the chest. He laid it over her, and she moved slightly, snuggling close within the blanket.

Dieu, how long had she been walking outside? He thought about awakening her but decided to let her sleep. She looked exhausted from her journey. He adjusted the blanket and touched her hair once again. His questions could wait until morning.

Raine lit a torch in the hearth and then left the room, closing the door to keep in the heat. He walked down the stairs and through the sanctuary. Although the worship space was untouched by fire, he could feel the presence of the holy men...and their screams haunted him still.

He blamed himself for their deaths, for being unable to save them. The devastating fire had claimed the lives of every man, and he'd been granted only a few days' leave to bury the bodies.

Raine walked outside to the kitchen, needing a distraction. He had eaten his own meal hours ago, and the truth was, he knew very little about cooking. Among the Norman soldiers, his food consisted of hunting meat and roasting it. However, the monks who had once lived here had root vegetables stored underground before they'd been attacked. He supposed he could find something for the woman to eat.

He paused, feeling like a thief. But dead men had no need of food, he reminded himself. There was no bread, but he found dried meat he didn't recognise, parsnips, and some walnuts. Would she like any of it? He wasn't certain, but it would have to suffice. Raine started to gather it up in a bundle, but then he stopped short.

What in the name of the Rood was he doing? Bringing her food and blankets as if she were a treasured guest? She was a stranger and an intruder. He ought to awaken her and demand to know why she was here. There was no reason to let her stay.

Raine seized the food and strode through the kitchens, slamming the door behind him. He didn't know this woman. He didn't know anything about her except that she was dangerously weak, and the sight of her stole his breath.

It was an undeniable fact that she would die if he turned her away. And the last thing he wanted was one more death on his conscience.

But he could save her.

Raine slowed his pace back to the donjon, letting out a low curse. He knew what would happen to a beautiful woman travelling alone, if he forced her to go. He bit back a curse at the thought.

She's not your responsibility. You must return to your commander and your duties.

He knew that. But when he entered the sanctuary and climbed the stairs bearing the bundle of food, he couldn't stop thinking about his sisters. They were alone in England, hostages of the king. Was anyone protecting them? Or were they at a stranger's mercy, like this woman was?

No, she was not his to protect. But neither would he abandon her. He had finished burying the holy men, and before he returned to his commander and the other soldiers, he could bring her to safety. At least then he would know that she had come to no harm.

Raine pushed the door open, and the chamber was warm and inviting. The peat fire glowed upon the hearth, casting shadows within the room. A simple cross hung upon one wall, and beside the hearth was a wooden chair. The woman was sleeping within his bed, her breathing deep and even. He moved silently, setting the food down on a low table before returning to the shadows.

Raine knew he should be resentful that this woman had stolen his bed. Instead he felt...grateful that he could give her a place to sleep. There was the sense that he could watch her sleep, all night long, and he would enjoy the peace upon her face.

She stirred a moment, and he remained against the far wall out of the light. But a moment later, she sat up in the bed. Her long brown hair hung over her shoulders, and her eyes opened. They were a clear blue, like a summer sky. A sudden wariness crossed over him, for she was easily the most beautiful woman he'd ever seen.

Which meant that her presence would be missed, and men would pursue her....

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Book Description HarperCollins Publishers, United Kingdom, 2015. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. A warrior with fire in his soul! Fleeing an unwanted betrothal to the cruel King, Lady Carice knows her days are numbered. She has never felt desirable until she meets Norman soldier Raine de Garenne, and soon she longs to experience passion - if only for one night.Aiding beautiful Carice s escape jeopardises Raine s mission, for if he does not kill the King his sisters will pay the price. And as each step towards his goal brings him closer to betraying Carice he knows he ll have to make a choice.His duty.or his heart.Warriors of IrelandFighting for honour and for love. Bookseller Inventory # AA89780263248227

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Book Description HarperCollins Publishers, United Kingdom, 2015. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. A warrior with fire in his soul! Fleeing an unwanted betrothal to the cruel King, Lady Carice knows her days are numbered. She has never felt desirable until she meets Norman soldier Raine de Garenne, and soon she longs to experience passion - if only for one night.Aiding beautiful Carice s escape jeopardises Raine s mission, for if he does not kill the King his sisters will pay the price. And as each step towards his goal brings him closer to betraying Carice he knows he ll have to make a choice.His duty.or his heart.Warriors of IrelandFighting for honour and for love. Bookseller Inventory # AA89780263248227

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