One rapturous hour sparks unforgettable passion between Lady Nicola and Fawkes de Cressy. The memory of their time together enables Fawkes to survive the horrors and perils of the Crusades and gives Nicola the hope and strength to endure a brutal marriage.
Fawkes returns to rescue the woman of his dreams and finds Nicola enmeshed in a dark web of castle intrigue. Fawkes is so altered by the hardships and cruelties of war, that Nicola fears to trust him with her secrets or her heart.
Surrounded by enemies, the battle-hardened knight and the aloof, wary woman must rebuild the bond between them. Only if they dare let the soul-stirring magic their bodies share grow into love can they escape the sinister plot that threatens to destroy them both.
If only he’d get on with it! Nicola took another sip of wine, taking care to keep her hand steady. It felt as if Fawkes was interrogating her. She worried she would give the wrong answer and make him angry. This business about Mortimer riding out to meet him—how she was to know how Mortimer got his information from the outside world? He must have had contacts in London, men who overheard something regarding Fawkes and his plans and sent a message to Mortimer. What did any of this have to do with her?
It must be the rumors. She knew there were those at Valmar who whispered ugly things about her. That she was a sorceress who’d cast an evil spell on Mortimer. That she’d been slowly poisoning him.
She watched Fawkes pour more wine. As he drank it down, she felt a twinge of warning. Having endured one drunken husband, she didn’t want another. Although it seemed unlikely Fawkes made a habit of over imbibing. A drunkard would never have won such acclaim on the battlefield nor attracted a whole troupe of war-hardened knights to his cause. Fawkes was probably drinking because he was nervous. Not that he had any reason to be nervous. He had all the power.
That thought increased her sense of foreboding. Mortimer had been cruel and brutal, but she’d managed to find a way to deal with him. By taking advantage of his craven, fearful nature, she’d been able to regain some control over her life.
But this man… Fawkes was not someone who would be easy to manipulate. He clearly possessed great force of will and was used to being in control. If he were like most men, he would expect her to be obedient and agreeable in all things. How was she to manage that?
The tower room seemed much too small. It was like being caged with a wild creature.
He left the table and approached her. Nicola fought the urge to draw back. He seemed to sense her apprehension, for his fierce expression softened. “I don’t want you to fear me, Nicola. Unlike some men, I don’t believe in striking women. Or children. Or anyone smaller and weaker than myself. If I were ever to feel the need the discipline you, I would choose other, more civilized means.”
Discipline her? What did that mean? His words sounded reasonable and reassuring, but there was an edge of warning there. She must find some way to convince him she wasn’t his enemy. She must make it clear she would never deal with him as she had with Mortimer.
Body rigid, her heart pounding wildly, she said, “Milord, you must understand. Mortimer was a brute. There were many times I feared for my life at his hands. Whatever you may have heard of me…” Her hands trembled as she gestured and this time she was glad he saw. “I did what I had to do to survive.” And for Simon to survive.
His expression softened. His dark eyes again flared with violent emotion. “You forget. I knew Mortimer. He tried more than once to kill me. I have no sympathy for him. None at all.”
She let out her breath. Perhaps now they could begin again, and he would stop playing this game of cat and mouse with her. She nodded. “I’m very grateful you understand. I’d worried you might have heard tales of me, stories meant to portray me as wicked and manipulative.”
He watched her intently. “Aye, I have heard tales. ’Tis good you saw fit to reassure me. Perhaps now, perhaps we can…” He let his words trail off and the atmosphere between them shifted. His dark eyes no longer seemed stern and implacable, but smoldered with frank sexual desire. The tension between them changed, erupting with blazing arousal.
Fire started in her loins and spread outward, making her skin ache for his touch. She tilted her head, awaiting his kiss.
He hesitated, as if even now he feared to take this final step and give into what his body obviously desired. Observing his forbearance, she thought for the dozenth time of how different he was from Mortimer. Mortimer had been a slave to his emotions. This man sought control at all times.
But at last he brought his lips to hers. The blaze took them both.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Mary Gillgannon is fascinated by history, as well as Celtic myth and legend. These interests inspire and enrich her books, both romance and fantasy. Raised in the Midwest, she currently lives in Wyoming with her husband and four very spoiled cats and a somewhat spoiled dog. She also has two grown children and has worked at the local public library for over twenty years. In her spare time, she enjoys gardening, travel and reading, of course!