Foolish Bride by A. S. Fenichel

Today I’m happy to announce a new release from my friend and fellow Romance Writer’s Weekly author A. S. Fenichel:

 

Foolish Bride by A.S. Fenichel
The Forever Brides, Book 2
March 28, 2017


Sadly ever after . . . unless some dreams really do come true?
Elinor Burkenstock never believed in fairy tales. Sure, she’s always been a fool for love—what woman isn’t? But Elinor knows the difference between fiction and truth. Daydreams and reality. True love and false promises. . . . Until the unthinkable happens, and Elinor’s engagement is suddenly terminated and no one, least of all her fiancé, will tell her why.
Sir Michael Rollins’s war-hero days seem far behind him when, after one last hurrah before his wedding, he gets shot and his injuries leave him in dire shape. He wants nothing more than to marry Elinor, the woman of his wildest dreams. But Elinor’s father forbids it . . . and soon Michael is faced with a desperate choice: Spare Elinor a life with a broken man or risk everything to win her heart—until death do they part?
Buy Links:
Desperate Bride Book 3 releasing September 19, 2017

Author Bio:

A.S. Fenichel gave up a successful IT career in New York City to follow her husband to Texas and pursue her lifelong dream of being a professional writer. She’s never looked back.

A.S. adores writing stories filled with love, passion, desire, magic and maybe a little mayhem tossed in for good measure. Books have always been her perfect escape and she still relishes diving into one and staying up all night to finish a good story.

Multi-published in paranormal, contemporary and historical romance with Ellora’s Cave Publishing. You can learn more about her books at http://asfenichel.net or visit her on her Facebook page, where she spends entirely too much time https://www.facebook.com/A.S.Fenichel.

Originally from New York, she grew up in New Jersey, and now lives in the East Texas with her real life hero, her wonderful husband. When not reading or writing she enjoys cooking, travel, history, and puttering in her garden.

Website: http://asfenichel.com/
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Roger’s Bride blog tour.

Today I’m happy to announce a new release from my good friend Sarah Hegger plus a chance at some great prizes in her blog tour giveaway:

rb-blog-tour-banner

Blurb:

 A battle of wills . . .

As the oldest son and heir to Anglesea, it is Roger’s duty to stand tall and strong. But his tough exterior belies the heart of a true romantic, a devoted son who yearns for the deep love he has witnessed between his parents and his sisters and their husbands. However, with the Anglesea family jockeying for a more advantageous position, Roger must marry judiciously.

A fight for the heart . . .

Having spent her childhood watching her mother suffer, Kathryn of Mandeville is determined never to marry. To be as a Viking shield maiden of old is her heart’s only desire. But when her sister Matty runs away to escape Roger’s sensible proposal, Kathryn is forced to help Roger find a more suitable bride. Bound by duty, Roger and Kathryn soon discover they are facing a much tougher fight—the one that is within their hearts . . .

 

Buy Links

 Amazon:  http://amzn.to/2fFnXMV

iBooks: http://apple.co/2emgrH6

Nook: http://bit.ly/2fhajip

Kobo: http://bit.ly/2fFOPJ2

rogersbride3-3

Here’s an excerpt::

Chapter 1

Roger wanted to jab his dagger into his eye. He despised failure, hated it, yet judging by his intended bride’s reaction to his courtship performance, he and failure now shared a bed. Love and war, with a clear plan, a man could manage one in much the same manner as the other. Hadn’t a lifetime under the guiding hand of Sir Arthur of Anglesea set this lesson into Roger’s marrow?

Except, Roger’s courtship had veered from the battle plan.

Lady Mathilda had accepted his flowers with her sweet, lovely smile and even moved her skirts to make place for him beside her. Since then, his plan had moved from disarray into rout. Lady Mathilda should be sighing by now, at least peeping at him from beneath thick dark lashes. He’d watched William turn a woman sweet a hundred times.

In her haste to put distance between them, she inched her curvy hips down the bench, almost tipping onto her pert ass. She pressed a fluttering hand to her throat. “Five sons, Sir Roger?”

“Aye.” He softened his tone. A woman would not enjoy being bellowed at like a man-at-arms. “My mother had four, and the two girls. I wager we could do better.” He gave her a tiny nudge. “Aye?”

Agape, Lady Mathilda shook her head. Her nut-brown hair made a silky swish on the bench.

Too abrupt? Perhaps. He should have refrained from the nudge for certain, but desperation crept through him with each passing moment. “Of course, that is if you are willing, my lady.”

Gentle, his mother had urged. Woo her with sweet words and smiles. Roger smiled.

She stared at him with huge eyes, dark like aged walnut, and gave him her flawless profile.

Mother had chosen well. Lady Mathilda boasted the sort of beauty that would make any man want to strut and crow like a barnyard cock.

“Your lips.” He gave it another try. Please let the spirit of his brother, William, dwell within him now. “Are as ripe as…apples. Red apples, not green. Not the red and green ones either. All red, like…” Jesu, give him strength. Even he could do better than that. “I mean cherries.”

“You are most kind.” Her chest rose and fell with her quickened breathing, and while a man tried not to look, or get caught looking, she filled out the front of her bliaut with a tasty, ripe bounty.

Roger balled his hand into a fist, tempted to punch his own face with it. He made a dog’s ballocks of this. Give him a keep to tear down, a young soldier to train, a horde of marauding Scots. Anything but this.

Still, he’d vowed to marry, and marry he would. Time to do his duty as the heir. At his feet, his favorite bitch peered at him and whined. She understood him, never needed pretty words from him. Why couldn’t women be more like dogs? Only, with not quite so much fur and the bad breath. There must be something they could speak of. He waded into the oozing silence. “Dogs?”

Lady Mathilda clasped her hands in her lap, fingers white about the knuckles. “Dogs, Sir Roger?”

“Aye, dogs. Do you like them?”

“Nay.”

He should talk about her. That last bit of counsel from older sister, Faye. “What do you like?”

“Me?” She started. A flush stained her peachy skin.

Mother had certainly found him a girl to rival Faye in looks. “Aye.”

“I like flowers.”

There, he had done one thing right. “Flowers are nice. And?”

“Um…” She stroked her skirts over her knees. “Silk. I like silk.”

“Then I shall be sure to clothe you in silk for the rest of your days.”

Her head snapped up and she went taut beside him. “The rest of my life?”

“Indeed.” The rest of his life seemed to stretch in front of him like an endless road to nowhere. Did Lady Mathilda perhaps sense his reluctance to marry? “I am sure we will be very happy together.”

Lady Mathilda sprang to her feet. “Aye.” Retreat bellowed from every taut line of her as she scurried away.

Roger received the message clearly. Lady Mathilda did not favor his suit.

Her full hips rocked with the speed of her flight.

It was a pity for her, then, that Roger of Anglesea had decided he would wed Mathilda of Mandeville. Will she or nil she.

****

Kathryn stuck her head around the screens at one end of Anglesea’s hall and tried to signal her sister. Matty charged straight into hell with all Kathryn’s carefully conceived and executed plans. Why could a person not run a courtship like a battle? It would be so much simpler that way.

Matty stared at Sir Roger like the man had sprouted two heads. Blast! What ailed her sister? Sir Roger fit Kathryn’s requirements to perfection. Not much for prayer, Kathryn had spent hours on her knees asking for just such a husband for Matty. They’d been at Anglesea for two days now, and Kathryn’s relief when she met Sir Roger had made it easy to encourage Matty to welcome the match.

She could not fathom, why today of all days, the usually biddable Matty had taken one of her huffs into her head. Lord above knew, they did not happen often, but when Matty took one of her stands, there would be the devil’s work to sway her. The wedding contracts remained unsigned, on Sir Arthur’s behest, until Roger and Matty both agreed they would suit.

Sir Roger tugged at his tunic neck as he shifted on the bench beside Matty.

If only the man had a touch more address. To be fair, however, Kathryn had not aided his courtship because of his honeyed words and pretty gestures. She had explained all this to Matty.

Matty rose and near ran for the door.

Fists balled by his sides, wide shoulders taut, Sir Roger watched her go.

Matty rushed past and Kathryn dropped into step beside her. “What happened?”

With a shriek, Matty leapt away from her. “Kate?” She pressed her hands to her bosom. “You near scared the life out of me. I thought you were him.”

“Father?”

“Nay, him.” Matty jerked her head toward the hall. She glanced back. “Does he pursue me?”

Sir Roger stood, much as Matty had left him, with a tremendous frown on his handsome face.

“Nay.” Kathryn lengthened her strides to keep up with Matty. “What happened?”

Matty stopped, one foot on the bottom stair. “Did you see him?”

“Aye, I did. Great comely fellow that he is.” Kathryn suffused as much enthusiasm as she could into her words. Not as pretty as his brother, William, but Kathryn preferred Sir Roger’s more rugged looks.

Matty shuddered. “He is a brute.”

“Brute?” Kathryn followed her sister up the stairs. “Nay, Matty, but he is a warrior, which is why we agreed you should marry him.”

Matty spun and glared. “We agreed to nothing. You and father said I should marry him.”

“Matty.” It was the first and last time Kathryn would probably agree with their father. “We spoke about this. Remember?”

Matty drooped. Her eyes filled with tears. “I cannot marry him.”

“But why not?” Kathryn climbed closer to her sister. “He may be big and rough, but I enquired everywhere about him. They say he is tough but fair, and kind to his people. Men like this do not come about like the village peddler. We must snap him up while we can.”

“I cannot.” On a soft cry, Matty ran up the stairs.

“But you must,” Kathryn whispered to the empty space. “How else am I to keep you safe?”

***

You’ll find the amazing Sarah Hegger here:

sarah-hegger-bw-copy

Sarah Hegger Social Media Links:

Website: http://sarahhegger.com

Facebook Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/sarahheggerauthor

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Click the image below to enter an amazing Rafflecopter giveaway:
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Conquering William – by Sarah Hegger

I just finished reading this book, and it’s awesome:

 

 conquering-william-meme3

Publisher: Lyrical Press

Release Date: August 30, 2016

Series: Sir Arthur’s Legacy, Book 3

ISBN-10: 1601839162

ISBN-13: 978-1601839169


Blurb

A practical marriage…

He married for convenience, but William of Anglesea had hoped for more than piety from his new bride. Raised in a convent and thrice widowed, prim Lady Alice of Tarnwych seems like an innocent when it comes to the marriage bed—except for the tentative passion he senses in her touch, and sees in her eyes. It seems the bold knight has a new challenge in alluring Alice. But will seducing his intriguing wife lead to his downfall?

An inconvenient desire…

Everything about charming, free-spirited William defies the cloistered world Lady Alice comes from. Duty brings her to their bed—and a long-held hope for a child. Yet after three indifferent husbands, the desire William shows her awakens her own. Little did Alice expect the powerful feelings he would inspire, emotions that make her ready to abandon her rigid beliefs, and the only family she’s ever known—when William’s life is on the line….

 

Buy Links:

Amazon:  https://www.amazon.com/Conquering-William-Sarah-Hegger/dp/1601839162/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

iBooks : https://geo.itunes.apple.com/us/book/conquering-william/id1088652673?mt=11&at=1010loXM

Kobo: https://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/ebook/conquering-william

B&N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/conquering-william-sarah-hegger/1123105724?ean=9781601839169

sarah-hegger-bw-copy

 

 

Bio:

 

Born British and raised in South Africa, Sarah Hegger suffers from an incurable case of wanderlust. Her match? A hot Canadian engineer, whose marriage proposal she accepted six short weeks after they first met. Together they’ve made homes in seven different cities across three different continents (and back again once or twice). If only it made her multilingual, but the best she can manage is idiosyncratic English, fluent Afrikaans, conversant Russian, pigeon Portuguese, even worse Zulu and enough French to get herself into trouble.

Mimicking her globe trotting adventures, Sarah’s career path began as a gainfully employed actress, drifted into public relations, settled a moment in advertising, and eventually took root in the fertile soil of her first love, writing. She also moonlights as a wife and mother.

She currently lives in Colorado with her teenage daughters, two Golden Retrievers and aforementioned husband. Part footloose buccaneer, part quixotic observer of life, Sarah’s restless heart is most content when reading or writing books.

Sarah is the recipient of the 2015 EPIC Award for Historical Romance.

She is represented my Nalini Akolekar of Spencerhill Associates.

 

Giveaway (to enter please go to sarahhegger.com):

To celebrate the release of #3 Sir Arthur’s Legacy, Conquering William I am giving away 3 copies of Conquering William (US winners may receive their copy as an e-book or paperback, international winners will be provided their copy as an e-book only) and 3 $20 Amazon Gift Cards.

To enter, simply become a subscriber to my quarterly newsletter. If you’re already subscribed, or wish to gain additional entries, leave a comment on one of the two blog posts below:

Why I Find That Mindfulness is Vital to My Work & What Cultivating Compassion Shares with Writing Romance

Writing and Research in Historical Fiction: A Peek Into My Method and My Madness

For even more entries, Like my Facebook page and Follow me on Twitter!

 

 

 

 

Social Media Links:

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Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/28109716-conquering-william

 

Thursday Threads – How to Train Your Knight

This week on Thursday Threads we feature Stella Marie Alden‘s wonderful historical romance, How to Train Your Knight:

howtotrainyourdragon

Title: How to Train Your Knight
Author: Stella Marie Alden
Genre: Historical Medieval Romance
Heat: Sensual

Blurb:

Year of our Lord, 1276.
In the hours just before dawn, blasphemous curses echo throughout the stone manor. A knife clatters to the floor and a feisty young widow is bound, blindfolded, and led to the marriage alter. The king couldn’t possibly have sanctioned this farce of a marriage, could he? After all, she alone transformed a few mud huts and starving serfs into a flourishing town, never once hesitating to pay generous taxes to his royal kingdom. Abandon her beloved people to be ruled by her new husband, an ignorant Templar knight? Never!

 

A murderous witch for a wife? The Beast of Thornhill finds himself in the middle of either a cruel jest or an evil conspiracy. After returning from the Holy wars, he accepts endowment of a small parcel of land in return for saving King Edward’s life. But the reward comes with a warning regarding the estate’s mistress. Despite his insatiable attraction to the black-haired beauty, he allows her time to warm to him while observing her strange, forward-thinking ways. But when all is on the line, will he stand by her through the inquisition or will they both hang for her secrets?
Hook: A feisty widow and a Templar knight? What could possibly go wrong?

 

Book excerpt:

Year of our Lord 1276
“By God, drag her down here! Naked if you must! Bread and water from now to eternity if you can’t!” Sir Marcus Blackwell slammed his fist on the well-worn table and the sound echoed back from every direction. Of all the bad luck. Forced into marriage with a foul-mouthed, murderous widow.

 
He clenched his teeth when the next bout of high-pitched screams and curses exploded from the floor above. Crashes, clanging, and banging followed. He cringed as the Lady Ann’s strident screaming rang throughout the stone manor and probably into the courtyard.

 
“He can’t steal my lands this easily. He’ll live just long enough to rue this day. I shall never, ever, turn my people over to a blood-thirsty, gold-grabbing beast. I’d rather be cursed to hell. Nay, verily, I’d rather marry the devil himself than see myself married to him.”

 
Beast? He’d strangle the minstrel who’d taken his sword’s moniker and baptized him with it instead. He was a holy crusader, deserving of respect, not an animal.

 
Crossing himself while counting to ten, he paced the dark hall lit by a single weak torch. Shadows danced across dark tapestries, beyond a hearth the size of two horses, and over enough tables to feed a small army. Thatch crunched under his boots, releasing a perfume of lavender and grasses. He stopped for a respite of blessed silence. What in God’s creation have I stepped into?

 
When the mayhem started up again, it was from his first-in-command, Thomas D’Agostine. “The devil take it, watch out. A knife!” A dagger fell upon stone with a metallic clatter.
“Damnation. The bitch nicked me.” The smack of a hand against skin, a female yelp of pain, then the battle paused momentarily.

 
“Enough!” The king’s command would be obeyed. Certainly, she’d have to understand that. He stood at the foot of the massive stone staircase and waited for the thundering echoes to cease before continuing at a lesser volume. Envisioning the vile creature, he shuddered. It was far too late to retreat now. He’d wanted the land and bedding the ancient hag was part of the bargain. “I said, do her no harm. Gag, bind, and blindfold the wench if you must. For the love of God, she’s but one woman.”

 

Stella Marie Alden
Buy links and social network links:
Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00WRNKOO
Website: www.stellamariealden.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/stellaMarieAlden
Twitter: @stellamariealde
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/25366748-how-to-train-your-knight

 

Thursday Threads – The Perfect Duke

Today on Thursday Threads we feature Dawn Ireland’s wonderful historical, The Perfect Duke:

THE PERFECT DUKE

Title: The Perfect Duke
Genre: Historical Romance (Late Georgian Era)
Heat Level: Three out of Five

Back Cover Blurb

Known as The Marble Duke amongst the Ton, Garret Weston, the Duke of Kendal sets himself apart from his peers. Nothing will hinder his guilt-driven attempt to become a perfect duke. Nothing that is, save the alluring and imaginative betrothed he’d thought dead. His intended believes-of all things-that she is a Vicar’s daughter. The “perfect” duke needs a “perfect” duchess, but how was he to discern her suitability? Employing her as a governess to his niece seemed like an ideal solution. But whose “suitability” is being tested? His betrothed refuses to see he is beyond redemption. And most grievous of all, she stirs his blood, making him forget what’s important.

Cara believes fairy tales really can come true, until she meets the unrelenting and arrogant Duke of Kendal. He looks like a Prince, but acts like a Beast. Why must he challenge her at every turn? Her greatest peril is her attraction to the vulnerable, seductive man behind the title. A match between them would be impossible. But can she show him, without losing her heart that “perfect” is in the eye of the beholder?

 

Excerpt

“The horse seems to know you.”

 
“He should. There was a time when I practically lived in the stable. Storm was my favorite.”

 
“What happened?”

 
“I became a duke.”

 
“Oh.”

 
He straightened and forced his features into a mask of indifference. “So, Rachel loves horses.” He turned to face Cara. “I can appreciate my niece’s fondness, but I can not allow her to frequent the stable.”

 
“Why not?”

 
“It is not proper for young ladies of her station.”

 
“Garret, she’s a child.”

 
It was the first time she’d used his name, and somehow, Rachel visiting the horses didn’t seem like such a large request. “I will only allow it if she uses the passageway. At least I can keep the knowledge of her visits to a minimum. If you come with her, you will need to use the tunnel as well.”

 
“I can’t.”

 
“Why not?”

 
She blushed and turned away. “I’m afraid.” She said it so quietly, he wasn’t sure he heard her.

 
“Afraid? Of what?”

 
“Dark, enclosed places. Even as a child, I fell asleep with a candle burning.” She faced him and gave a small smile. “Perhaps I’m afraid that a beast will gobble me up in the dark.”

 
“There are no beasts at Belcraven, Miss McClure. I would not allow anyone to hurt you.”

 
“Anyone?”

 
“Never.” He started toward her and stopped. Damn, it would be better if he didn’t get close to her. As he left the stable, her whisper followed him.

 
“Not even you?”

 

The Perfect Duke

ASIN: B00BT0NGOC

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00BT0NGOC

 

Dawn Ireland Picture

 

Links:

www.dawn-ireland.com
www.authordawnIreland.wordpress.com
www.smpauthors.wordpress.com
Twitter.com/AuthorDIreland
Facebook.com/DawnIrelandAuthor

 

Thursday Threads – The Highlander’s Accidental Bride

Today on Thursday Threads we feature The Highlander’s Accidental Bride by Cathy MacRae:

TheHighlandersAccidentalbride

The Highlander’s Accidental Bride
Genre: Scottish Historical Romance
Heat level: sensual

Blurb:
Chaos reigns between the Scott and Barde clans in 14th century Scotland. To end the generation’s long feud, King Robert II of Scotland decrees Eaden, Laird Scott, and Lady Miriam Barde wed with all haste. When marriage negotiations break down, King Robert threatens Eaden with the loss of his lands and title. Forced to take matters into his own hands, the laird kidnaps his bride, only to find the young woman he mistakenly drags to his marriage bed is not Laird Barde’s daughter, but her lady companion.

Mary Marsh fights for her freedom from the laird and the unwanted marriage, refusing to accept her new life as Lady Scott. Realizing his error, Laird Scott develops an attachment to the feisty young woman he has accidentally married. Can he win her heart and convince her she is more than just a ‘duty’ to him? Or will the bond forged between the lady’s companion and the laird be destroyed by secrets and a feud that will not be laid to rest?

Hook: Shocked to find herself married to the laird, Mary sees little to recommend her new life as Lady Scott. Until Laird Scott sets out to prove their accidental marriage was no mistake.

Excerpt:
King Robert frowned fiercely. “What have ye done?” he asked, his voice hard.

“I’d tried speaking to Barde and doing things the traditional way. He was less than enthusiastic and mentioned hell freezing over as the only possible wedding date. His daughter was equally certain she’d no’ marry into the Scott clan.” Eaden shrugged. The feud between their families was generations old. He hadn’t wanted a Barde bride, either. “So I kidnapped her, carried her back to Scott Castle, and we married the same day.”

King Robert sat bolt upright in his chair, shocked surprise clear on his slack-jawed face. “Ye kidnapped her?” He wheezed, unable to inhale a proper breath, and pointed an accusatory finger at Eaden. “Ye actually forced her to marry ye?”

“Nay, Sire. I simply saw ‘twas done in a timely manner and without bloodshed.”

“How certain are ye her father is not, this instant, standing before the walls of Scott Castle, demanding his daughter be returned to him? Are ye trying to promote peace or war?”

Eaden gave an exasperated snort. “He cannae cry foul. I have the papers ye signed. And I have men keeping an eye on Barde.” He shifted in his chair uncomfortably. “The marriage is irrevocable. She is now well and truly my wife.”

King Robert collapsed back into his chair. “Do ye no’ ken the ruinous upheaval yer actions could provoke? ‘Tis true I commanded the marriage. I know how ye dinnae favor the alliance. But kidnapping the lass is a far cry from having the marriage properly planned and executed!”

The king stewed for a moment, as if consumed in vigorous contemplation. At last he shrugged. “Scott.” His voice invoked not Eaden’s friend, but Robert II, King of Scotland. “Inasmuch as ye have followed my orders to the letter, if not their actual intent, I hereby commit yer title and land to ye and to yer descendants.”
He leaned forward and clasped Eaden’s shoulder. “I hope ye dinnae have cause to regret yer hastiness.”

Eaden winced. He already did.

* * *
Buy link: http://www.amzn.com/B00BMFPT12

Cathy MacRae2

Website: http://www.cathymacraeauthor.com
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/cathy.macrae.58
Twitter: @CMacRaeAuthor

Thursday Threads – Highland Deception

This week on Thursday Threads we feature Meggan Connors and her fun historical romance, Highland Deception:

Highland Deception

Title: Highland Deception
Heat Rating: Sensual
Genre: Historical Romance
Buy Links:
http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00J3D2JS6/

Blurb:
When Kenneth Mackay, long-banished rogue and thief, returns to the Mackay holding at the request of his brother, he has no idea what he might find. He certainly doesn’t expect to be confronted with his twin’s imminent death, or with the plan his brother has concocted.

Ten years before, Malcolm made a tragic mistake, and, to preserve the family name—and his own skin—he allowed Kenneth to take the fall. Now that he is dying without an heir, Malcolm plans to atone for his mistake: by giving Kenneth his life back. All Kenneth has to do is assume his brother’s identity. But complicating matters is the unexpected return of Lady Isobel Mackay, the daughter of an English marquess and the wife Malcolm didn’t want.

Isobel barely knows the husband who abandoned her even before their marriage, and she’d long since given up hope on having a real marriage with him. Yet when she returns to the Mackay holding far earlier than expected, she finds her husband a changed man. Despite the hurt between them, Isobel’s heart responds to this man who cares for his entire clan as if there were family. Who, for the first time, cares about her as if she is, too.

Falling in love with her husband had never been part of Isobel’s plan. But when their future is suddenly in peril, Isobel must find a way to save him—from himself and from the deception threatening to tear them apart.

Excerpt:

She ignored Grant’s angry protests behind her and ran for her husband’s bedchamber. Slamming open the door, she stumbled inside.

Malcolm lay in the great bed. Alone.

Alone. She tried not to speculate about what meant.

His breathing was shallow, as if he’d been running. As the door bounced back and closed, his sky-bright eyes shot up and met hers.

No, not sky-bright. Darker, the color of the forget-me-nots that bloomed in the gardens in spring. The color of the night sky as it lightened with the first rays of dawn.

“Milord.” She gasped for breath.

Malcolm had never looked at her like he did now. This time, when he studied her, it was as if he didn’t dislike what he saw.

Being honest with herself, Malcolm had never disliked her. After all, the term dislike implied a depth of feeling he almost certainly lacked.

“Wife.”

Isobel flinched.

Grant was suddenly at her back. “Sir, I apologize. She’s faster than you’d think.” He laid a hand on her shoulder, as if to steer her from the room.

She shook him off.

“Indeed.” Malcolm smiled, and a charming dent in his cheek appeared.

How had she not noticed that before?

“We will leave at once.” Grant took her by the arm.

She wrenched out of his grasp. “I’m not going anywhere. Not until I have my audience.” She glanced around the room and saw no sign of Malcolm’s mistress.

“Lady Mackay,” Grant began.

Malcolm held up his hand. “‘Tis fine, Grant. I can always make time for my lady wife.”

Isobel barked a hollow laugh, alleviating the ache, just a little.

“Are you certain?” Grant’s eyes shifted from Isobel to Malcolm and back again. A wrinkle formed between his brows, and the muscle in his cheek worked as he ground his teeth together.

He’d only ever done that when he was agitated or anxious.

But there was no reason for that, as Malcolm had never truly cared enough to keep secrets from her in an attempt to spare her feelings. Nor had he ever forced others to do the same.

Malcolm’s eyes met Grant’s, and something passed between the two men. Her husband gave Grant a clipped nod. “If you’ll excuse us, Grant.”

Grant released his breath slowly. His eyes narrowed first at Malcolm, then at Isobel. Scowling, he bowed his head. “Mackay,” he said stiffly. He turned to Isobel. “Lady Mackay.”

Isobel watched him go then waited until the door had closed behind him. “So, where is she?”

Malcolm arched a dark brow. “Where is who?”

“You know. Her.”

He lifted a single shoulder, as if she didn’t have a right to know. “I doona ken.”

The silence that fell between them was deafening, damning.

Finally he said, “Your arrival was unexpected.”

She breathed a mirthless laugh. “I have no doubt.” She expected him to look ashamed, but his expression didn’t hold even the slightest hint of remorse. She swallowed against the betrayal rising in the back of her throat and tried again. “Why are you abed?”

“I’ve been ailing. Naught to fash yourself over.”

She approached his great bed tentatively. “Ailing how? Has your cough worsened?”

He glanced down at his coverlet and then brought his gaze back to her face. “For a time, aye. I believe I’m on the mend now.”

Isobel pressed her hand to his forehead, then his cheek. His skin felt cool beneath her palm, if a little damp.

His breath hitched, then he cleared his throat. “Satisfied? As you can see, I am on the mend.”

“Perhaps,” she whispered. She ran her hand around to the back of his neck, then descended to his back.

He wore a thin linen shirt, unsuitable for the cool nights of the Highlands in late fall. She placed her hands between his shoulder blades. He was thinner than she remembered, but there was no mistaking Malcolm’s unique strength.

“Breathe,” she said, and then reminded herself to do the same.
Malcolm.

“I hardly think—”

“If you want me to leave you be, you will appease my curiosity. Breathe.”

Malcolm tilted his head up and studied her.

She fought the desire to look at him for as long as she could before meeting his gaze. Her heart skipped a beat as she saw something in his eyes she hadn’t seen before.

Curiosity.

“Breathe, milord.” Heat spread up her neck to her face, and, to keep her free hand from shaking, she clenched a fist. The warmth of his body seeped through his nightshirt, scalding her hand not with fever but with something else.

The corners of his lips tilted upward before he smoothed his features. He paused for a moment too long, then held her gaze as he took an extended, deliberate breath.

She shoved the raging emotions aside and forced herself to view him as a person who needed her help.

She felt no hint of the cough that had been nagging him before she’d left.

Swallowing hard, she slid her hand between the linen and his skin, against his chest.

His heart rate kicked up.

“Breathe.” She struggled to force the word out.

I feel nothing. Nothing. He needs my help.

She closed her eyes and listened to his breathing, feeling the rise and fall of his chest beneath her hands, the steady beating of his heart. His skin scorched hers.

Her mouth dried, her tongue thick and heavy. She removed her hand. “You seem to have mended nicely.” Even to her own ears, her voice sounded strangled.

His gaze searched her face. “Aye.”

Isobel cradled her hand against her chest and stepped back from the bed, nearly tripping over her own feet. “I will leave you now, sir.”

Malcolm gave her a clipped nod. “Very well, my lady wife.”

“I—I will be in my chambers should you require me.”

He didn’t laugh, as he normally would have. “Then I shall find you there if I do. Or I will send for you.”

She backed up a few paces, bumped into a trunk, and immediately turned her attention to her skirt, trying to smooth wrinkles undoubtedly permanent from long days of travel. It was better than looking at Malcolm.

“By your leave.” Her eyes locked on the floor as she dipped into a hasty curtsy and fled.

The moment the door closed behind her, she put her back against the cold, stone wall, cradling the hand that had touched him as if she had injured it.

She’d touched his skin, felt the heat of his body, and the responding heat of hers.

He hadn’t forced her hands away. He hadn’t mocked her.

Instead, for the first time since their marriage, he’d called her wife.

***

Meggan Connors

Meggan Connors
http://www.megganconnors.com