The arranged marriage between Englishman Stephen Montgomery and Bronwyn MacArran, a Scot, goes badly until threats against their lives bring them closer together
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Jude Deveraux is the author of more than forty New York Times bestsellers, including Moonlight in the Morning, The Scent of Jasmine, Scarlet Nights, Days of Gold, Lavender Morning, Return to Summerhouse, and Secrets. To date, there are more than sixty million copies of her books in print worldwide. To learn more, visit JudeDeveraux.com.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Bronwyn MacArran stood at the window of the English manor house, looking down at the courtyard below. The mullioned window was open against the warm summer sun. She leaned forward slightly to catch a whiff of fresh air. As she did so, one of the soldiers below grinned up at her suggestively.
She stepped back quickly, grabbed the window, and slammed it shut. She turned away angrily.
"The English pigs!" Bronwyn cursed under her breath. Her voice was soft, full of the heather and mist of the Highlands.
Heavy footsteps sounded outside her door, and she caught her breath, then released it when they went past. She was a prisoner, held captive on England's northernmost border by men she'd always hated, men who now smiled and winked at her as if they were intimate with her most private thoughts.
She walked to a small table in the center of the oak-paneled room. She clutched the edge of it, letting the wood cut into her palms. She'd do anything to keep those men from seeing how she felt inside. The English were her enemies. She'd seen them kill her father, his three chieftains. She'd seen her brother driven nearly insane with his futile attempts to repay the English in their own kind. And all her life she'd helped feed and clothe the members of her clan after the English had destroyed their crops and burned their houses.
A month ago the English had taken her prisoner. Bronwyn smiled in memory of the wounds she and her men had inflicted upon the English soldiers. Later four of them had died.
But in the end she was taken, by the order of the English Henry VII. The man said he wanted peace and therefore would name an Englishman as chief of Clan MacArran. He thought he could do this by marrying one of his knights to Bronwyn.
She smiled at the ignorance of the English king. She was chief of Clan MacArran, and no man would take her power away. The stupid king thought her men would follow a foreigner, an Englishman, rather than their own chief because she was a woman. How little Henry knew of the Scots!
She turned suddenly as Rab growled. He was an Irish wolfhound, the largest dog in the world, rangy, strong, hair like soft steel. Her father had given her the dog four years ago when Jamie'd returned from a trip to Ireland. Jamie had meant to have the dog trained as his daughter's guardian, but there was no need. Rab and Bronwyn took to each other immediately, and Rab had often shown that he'd give his life for his beloved mistress.
Bronwyn's muscles relaxed when Rab's growl stopped -- only a friend produced such a reaction. She looked up expectantly.
It was Morag who entered. Morag was a short, gnarled old woman, looking more like a dark burl of wood than a human being. Her eyes were like black glass, sparkling, penetrating, seeing more of a person than what was on the surface. She used her lithe little body to advantage, often slipping unnoticed amid people, her eyes and ears open.
Morag moved silently across the room and opened the window.
"Well?" Bronwyn demanded impatiently.
"I saw ye slam the window. They laughed and said they'd take over the weddin' night ye'd be missin'."
Bronwyn turned away from the old woman.
"Ye give them too much to speak of. Ye should hold yer head high and ignore them. They're only Englishmen, while ye're a MacArran."
Bronwyn whirled. "I don't need anyone to tell me how to act," she snapped. Rab, aware of his mistress's distress, came to stand beside her. She buried her fingers in his fur.
Morag smiled at her, then watched as the girt moved toward the window seat. She had been placed in Morag's arms when Bronwyn was still wet from her birth. Morag had held the tiny bairn as she watched the mother die. It'd been Morag who'd found a wet nurse for the girl, who'd given her the name of her Welsh grandmother, and who'd cared for her until she was six and her father'd taken over.
It was with pride that Morag looked at her charge now nearly twenty years old. Bronwyn was tall, taller than most men and as straight and supple as a reed. She didn't cover her hair like the Englishwoman, but let it flow down her back in a rich cascade. It was raven-black and so thick and heavy it was a wonder her slender neck could support the weight. She wore a satin dress in the English style. It was the color of the cream from the Highland cattle. The square neck was low and tight, showing Bronwyn's firm young breasts to advantage. It fit like skin to her small waist, then belled out in rich folds. Embroidery entwined with thin gold strands edged both the neck and the waist and fell in an intricate waterfall down the skirt.
"Do I meet your approval?" Bronwyn asked sharply, still irritated over their quarrel about the English attire. She bad preferred Highland clothes, but Morag persuaded her to wear English garb, telling her to give the enemy no reason to laugh at her in what they referred to as "barbaric dress."
Morag chuckled dryly. "I was thinkin' it was a shame no man would be takin' that gown from ye tonight."
"An Englishman!" Bronwyn hissed. "Do you forget that so soon? Has the red of my father's blood faded before your eyes?"
"Ye know it hasn't," Morag said quietly.
Bronwyn sat down heavily on the window seat, the satin of the dress flowing about her. She ran her finger along the heavy embroidery. The dress had cost her a great deal, money that could have been spent on her clan. But she knew they would not have wanted to be shamed before the Englishmen, so she bought dresses that would have been the pride of any queen.
Only this gown was to have been her wedding dress.
She plucked violently at a piece of gold thread.
"Here!" Morag commanded. "Don't destroy the dress because ye're mad at one Englishman. Perhaps the man had a reason to be late and miss his own weddin'."
Bronwyn stood up quickly, causing Rab to move protectively to her side. "What do I care if the man never appears? I hope he had his throat cut and lies rotting in some ditch."
Morag shrugged. "They'll only find ye a new husband, so what does it matter if this one dies or not? The sooner ye have yer English husband, the sooner we can go back to the Highlands."
"It's easy for you to say!" Bronwyn snapped. "It's not you who must wed him and...and..."
Morag's little black eyes danced. "And bed him? Is that what's worryin' ye? I'd gladly trade with ye if I could. Think this Stephen Montgomery would notice 'twere I to slip into his bed?"
"What do I know of Stephen Montgomery except that he has no more respect for me than to leave me waiting in my wedding dress? You say the men laugh at me. The man who is to be my husband holds me up for their ridicule." She squinted at the door. "Were he to come through there now, I'd gladly take a knife to him."
Morag smiled. Jamie MacArran would have been proud of his daughter. Even when she was still held prisoner she kept her pride and her spirit. Now she held her chin high, her eyes flashing with daggers of crystal-blue ice.
Bronwyn was startlingly beautiful. Her hair was as black as a moonless midnight in the Scots mountains, her eyes as deep blue as the water of a sunlit loch. The contrast was arresting. It wasn't unusual for people, especially men, to be struck speechless the first time they saw her. Her lashes were thick and dark, her skin fine and creamy. Her lips of dark red were set above her father's chin, strong, square on the tip, and slightly cleft.
"They'll think ye're a coward if ye hide in this room. What Scot is afraid of the smirks of an Englishman?"
Bronwyn stiffened her back and looked down at the cream-colored gown. When she'd dressed that morning, she thought to be wed in the dress. Now it was hours past time for the marriage ceremony, and her bridegroom had not shown himself, nor had he sent any message o...
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Book Description Pocket, 1982. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Never used!. Bookseller Inventory # P110671450344
Book Description Pocket, 1982. Paperback. Book Condition: New. book. Bookseller Inventory # M0671450344