A captivating new writer at an irresistible price
Critically acclaimed as "one of the brightest new writers in the genre," (Publishers Weekly) Madeline Hunter has taken the world of historical romance by storm with her sensually powerful novels that feature strong heroines, provocative heroes, and timeless passion. Now this hugely talented author offers us a new tale filled with her trademark blend of danger, adventure, and sizzling seduction.
The first time he laid eyes on her she had come to his rescue with a sword in her hand. Still Morvan Fitzwaryn had never seen any woman who aroused his interest and his passion more than the unconventional Breton warrior beauty. Anna de Leon took him into her castle and nursed him back to health, little knowing the spark of desire she was feeding with her caring ministrations. It wasn't long before Morvan had vowed to protect and conquer this unconquerable woman with all the sensual weapons at his disposal.
For her part, Anna de Leon had no interest in men as lovers or husbands. She was used to commanding men in battle. But she suddenly had the strange feeling that her well-fortified defenses could be breached by this dark-eyed, smolderingly handsome English knight. When her castle is besieged by an old enemy who claims both her and her lands, Anna finds she has no choice but to accept Morvan's aid — even if the enemy outside her walls is no match for the ally within, who with every tantalizing kiss and forbidden embrace threatens to make her a prisoner of her own fiery passion.
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Madeline Hunter is a nationally bestselling author of historical romances who lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and two sons. In a parallel existence to the one she enjoys as a novelist, she has a Ph.D. in art history and teaches at an East Coast university.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
It was one hell of a way for the son of Hugh Fitzwaryn to die. Killed by a mob of Breton peasants in a house that stunk of cows and dung.
Morvan kicked a bench over to the wall that faced the longhouse door. He sank down on it and rested his sword across his lap.
To his right, in the stable area of the house, his destrier snorted and stamped, aroused by the danger. To his left, on a bed near the hearth, the youth William moaned in pain and madness.
This end would probably be a mercy for William. Better to face a quick death than to endure the agony that burned your brain and deformed your body with black sores.
Where had they come from, this clutch of peasants who shouted curses and threats? He couldn't hear them distinctly, for the walls of the longhouse were stone and the door and one small window were closed. The only light in the chamber came from the fire he had built in the hearth when he had dragged William in.
The whole village had appeared deserted when he had led his men here seeking shelter for William. The disease had manifested itself yesterday, just in time for the gate guard at Brest to deny them entry to the port city. And so they had continued north along the coastal road.
It was only after he sent his men back toward Brest that the villagers had emerged. He had nailed a black cloth on the door in warning, and so they knew that the disease lurked within. These peasants had a right to be angry. The death had already run its course in Brittany and they knew all too well the danger lying in the longhouse.
He eyed the thatched roof above him. They could not risk entering. It would be fire. They only lacked the leader to emerge who would rouse them to it. And the night. It was always easier to do these things at night.
He could have left the squire and gone on, of course. It had crossed his mind, unworthy thought that it was. But he had held William on his horse and the disease would claim him too. The men would wait for him at the last crossroad as planned, would wait, he knew, the full day or even more. But if he went to them he would carry the death with him. Better to stay and die here. John would get the men back to Brest and across the sea to England. They didn't like John much, but they would follow him that far.
The noise outside changed. The cries fell into pauses and shouts. One voice yelled and then the crowd responded. They had found their leader.
William thrashed on the bed, his breath rasping. He called out several times to Sir Richard, the Gascon lord whom they had served until the plague had claimed Richard and his household and Morvan had taken the responsibility of getting William home.
The crowd grew more raucous. Their leader called something over and over and they picked up the chant. Morvan only understood a little of the Breton language, but it sounded like “No more!”
Maybe they wouldn't wait until night.
The chant soared, reaching new levels, the emotion of the mob thundering off the door. He gripped the hilt of his sword as the pounding of his blood matched the rhythms of the screaming peasants. Louder and higher and faster the yelling roared until it doubled in on itself and became an unending violent noise.
Then suddenly it stopped, swallowed in an instant by a hollow silence.
He waited, tensed for an attack. They hadn't left. He could still hear some movement. Compared with the previous din, however, the quiet possessed a physical presence.
The door of the longhouse opened a handspan. A slice of brilliant light fell on the floor. He rose and held his sword ready, to protect the villagers as much as himself.
The door swung wide. Two knights stood at the threshold, in the blinding glare of the afternoon sun. They appeared as silhouettes surrounded by halos, but their bearings and weapons proclaimed their status. Both had swords in hand.
One looked to be in his late twenties. Golden hair swept back from his forehead to his shoulders. He wore full armor except a helmet and was of medium height and build. His dark, deep-set eyes contrasted strangely with the fair hair.
The other was harder to see since he stood farther in the doorway. The sun picked up a glow of blond curls tumbling about his head and shoulders. He was taller than the other, but more slight of build. This one wore no armor, but instead a gray cotte and a black cloak. From his clothes and youthful frame he might have been just a squire, but the authority of his stance said otherwise.
The younger one spoke. “Put up your weapon. No harm will come to you here.”
Morvan peered past them through the open door. The villagers were gone. He sheathed his sword. The young knight strode through the shadows toward William's bed. “Go no farther,” Morvan warned. “Your people were right. It is the death.”
“I do not fear it.” The other man joined him and together they examined William. Then the older knight went back outside.
“Were you alone?” The voice was young, yet full of authority and command.
“Where are the others?”
“Waiting. About an hour hence.”
“The death spreads quickly and they may be carrying it. We must bring them back. I promise you and yours care, but they must return.”
Morvan told him about the crossroad.
“Will they obey you?”
“Then give me your cloak, so they know we come from you.”
Morvan unfastened the brooch and handed over his cloak, then followed the young knight to the doorway. Outside, in addition to the older knight, were six mounted men-at-arms and a youth no older than a squire. Two riderless horses waited nearby, one a handsome bay mare that appeared almost motionless.
The older knight came forward carrying a small box.
“Ascanio, here is his cloak,” the young knight said. “The others are at the first crossroad toward Brest. We will wait here for the boy to pass, and then meet you at the keep. Tell the servants to have all prepared.”
Ascanio took the cloak and handed it up to the youth. Then he returned to the doorway. “I must shrive him.”
“Aye. But say the sacrament quickly.”
So the older knight was a priest. It was not unheard of, but rare.
Morvan stepped outside into the sunlight. The men-at-arms eased their horses away. The young knight followed and spoke. “The squire is far along. I am sorry, but I have seen this many times. He will die soon.”
Morvan turned to respond. What stood there stopped the words in his mouth. In the clear afternoon light he saw that the young knight was not a knight at all, but a woman.
She presented a startling sight. For one thing, she was very tall. He was a big man, bigger than most, and he judged that she would reach his nose. Her blond hair fell in a tumble of unruly curls around her face and just past her shoulders. The face itself was oval-shaped, with high cheekbones and a straight nose. She was dressed all in men's clothes, the cotte too large and bagging over the belt that held her sword. Soft high boots reached almost to the hem at her hose-covered knees. The loose clothing and black cloak hid the bulge of her breasts, but here in the sun her woman's slender form was unmistakable.
Large sapphire eyes gazed back at him, compelling his attention. “What is your name, sir knight?” The voice should have told him. It was deep and throaty, but possessed a velvet softness. She and Ascanio spoke French to him, the language used by the Breton nobility.
“Morvan Fitzwaryn, my lady.”
“You are English, but Morvan is an honored name here in Brittany.”
“It is a family name. My ancestor rode with the Conqueror, but hailed from the Breton marches near Normandy.”
She smiled, and he realized that she was probably younger than her manner and authority implied. “Well, Morvan Fitzwaryn, you need not stare. Surely you know that our civil war has made some Breton women very strange.”
She was referring to Jeanne de Montfort, the last duke's wife. While her husband was imprisoned by the King of France, she had taken his place at the head of his army. Morvan had met her once in England before her husband had died and she had passed from strange to mad, leaving her son, the young duke, in King Edward's care.
The young woman before him held herself as proud and tall as any man. “I am Anna de Leon. You are on my family's lands. Since you are English, you may be glad to know that we are Montfortists and not supporters of Charles de Blois and the Penthiovre claims to the ducal crown.”
He hadn't even thought about it, and did not care overmuch. Considering the likelihood of his imminent death, the war of succession in Brittany seemed insignificant.
The priest-knight Ascanio emerged from the longhouse. “It will not be long.” He looked skeptically at Morvan, and then at Lady Anna. “You will be well here?”
“Sir Morvan has nothing to gain from harming me, and his immortal soul to lose. Go now, and find the others.” She turned to the youth. “Josce, they are our guests, not our prisoners. Follow Ascanio on this.”
They rode off, leaving the bay mare, who had not moved a hair the whole time. “Your horse has no saddle,” Morvan observed.
“She will take one, but prefers not to. I did not expect a battle today.” She walked back into the longhouse.
She hadn't meant it as a jest. Clearly some days she did expect to be in battle.
When he followed he found her at the boy's bed, laying a wet cloth on his brow. William accepted her ministrations. His delirious moaning ceased and his fitful movements calmed.
Morvan gazed at the young, anguished body. Was this what awaited him? He wo...
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Book Description Bantam, 2008. Mass-market paperback. Book Condition: New. Mass market (rack) paperback. Glued binding. 368 p. Audience: General/trade. Bookseller Inventory # Alibris_0006976
Book Description Bantam, 2008. Mass Market Paperback. Book Condition: New. Bookseller Inventory # DADAX0553591835
Book Description Bantam, 2008. Mass Market Paperback. Book Condition: New. Never used!. Bookseller Inventory # P110553591835