SPOTLIGHT: The Red Wolf’s Prize by Regan Walker

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HE WOULD NOT BE DENIED HIS PRIZE…

Sir Renaud de Pierrepont, the Norman knight known as the Red Wolf for the beast he slayed with his bare hands, hoped to gain lands with his sword. A year after the Conquest, King William rewards his favored knight with Talisand, the lands of an English thegn slain at Hastings, and orders him to wed Lady Serena, the heiress that goes with them.

SHE WOULD LOVE HIM AGAINST HER WILL…

Serena wants nothing to do with the fierce warrior to whom she has been unwillingly given, the knight who may have killed her father. When she learns the Red Wolf is coming to claim her, she dyes her flaxen hair brown and flees, disguised as a servant, determined to one day regain her lands. But her escape goes awry and she is brought back to live among her people, though not unnoticed by the new Norman lord.

Deprived of his promised bride, the Red Wolf turns his attention to the comely servant girl hoping to woo her to his bed. But the wench resists, claiming she hates all Normans.

As the passion between them rises, Serena wonders, can she deny the Norman her body? Or her heart?

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EXCERPT


02_The Red Wolf's PrizeRenaud lingered at the high table in the hall until he glimpsed the servant girl with the brown plait carry a pile of linen through the entry heading toward the stairs to the bedchambers. Slowly rising, he nodded to Geoff and followed after her.

Quietly, he stepped through the open door of his chamber. The girl had her back to him as she freshened the bed, the stack of clean linen resting on a nearby chest. He did not acknowledge her but went directly to the trestle table, poured a goblet of wine and sat, pretending to examine a drawing of the lands surrounding the manor.
She turned. “I can come back later, my lord.” She spoke meekly, barely looking at him as she hurriedly finished with the bed and began a hasty retreat to the door.

He replied in the English tongue, as he did to all save his men. “Nay, you may stay. Your work will not disturb me.”
Out of the corner of his eye, he saw her back stiffen. Slowly, she retraced her steps and resumed her work. Her movements were rushed as if she were trying to complete her assigned tasks in haste. Was she nervous at being alone with him? Even with that, Renaud thought she was graceful as she walked to the shelves near where he sat. She held her head high, unusual for a servant in the presence of her lord. Though her long plait was the dull color of country earth, her profile was refined and her features delicate. He rose and silently moved to stand behind her where she dusted a carved box.

She must have sensed his approach.

“My lord?” she said, turning to face him.

Blue-violet eyes held his gaze only a moment before looking down at the floor. Set in her ivory face they reminded him of violets in the snow. So mesmerized was he that, for a moment, he forgot his question.

“Your name is Sarah?”

Keeping her eyes focused on the floor, she said, “Yea, my lord.”

“How long have you been at Talisand?”

“All my life, my lord.” Her voice was soft, a low purr, and with her words a flowery scent drifted to his nose. He was captivated and wanted to touch her. How long had it been since he’d had a woman? And this one was causing his manhood to stir.

Turing back to the shelf, she resumed dusting the carved box, as if to put an end to the conversation. His gaze shifted to her hand as she set down the box. Delicate fingers and ivory skin. It was not the hand of a kitchen wench.

“Let me see your hand.” She started at his request, and though he could see she wanted to resist, she did not fight him when he reached for her hand and brought it close to his body turning her palm upward.
It told him much.

“These blisters are new. You have not always worked in the kitchens nor done the wet work of the laundry, have you?”
She shook her head in silent agreement.

“What were your tasks before I came to Talisand?”

Looking down at her feet, she said, “I was with the Lady Serena, my lord.”

“Ah, a lady’s handmaiden then.” So that is where the girl learned to speak so well, for her speech was not that of an ordinary servant nor her manner that of a scullery maid.

He waited for her to say more but when she did not, he said, “Tell me about her.”

She looked up. “What would you know, my lord?” Blue violet eyes held his. He could get lost in those eyes.

“How does she look?”

“She is tall and her hair is the color of summer wheat, my lord.”

“And her character?”

Turning her gaze again to the floor, she hesitated before speaking. “She loves her people and her family, my lord. She is very loyal. Had she been a man, she would have fought with her father at Hastings. Most of all, she loves Talisand and would die for its people.”

Her voice, nearly breaking at the end, told him her words were spoken with deep emotion. She was close to the Lady of Talisand and to the old thegn.

“I’m told her brother took the lord’s place for a time,” he said, hoping she would continue to talk.
She raised her eyes to his. “Yea, Steinar did lead Talisand for a time, but then he was drawn away by other battles.” When she spoke the young man’s name, a tender look came into her eyes. Did she love the old lord’s son? Mayhap she was his leman. The possibility was not to his liking.

Still holding her hand, he looked down at her palm seeing other signs. “These are the calluses of an archer. How is it a lady’s handmaiden comes to use a bow?”

The girl’s eyes shifted to her hand where Renaud had begun moving his thumb across her palm in slow sensual circles. He was not unaffected and, he suspected, neither was she.

“Rhodri taught me, my…my lord.” She spoke in a halting whisper, confirming his touch was disrupting her thoughts. Then she added hastily, “I was not the only one. It was the old lord’s desire that Rhodri should teach all at Talisand who cared to learn.”

Renaud remembered that when the young servant women had been returned to the demesne, Sir Niel had taken several bows from them.

He stopped stroking her palm. She tried to pull back her hand but he had no intention of releasing her. “Who is this Rhodri?”

“He is a Welsh bard, my lord, who is also skilled with a bow. The thegn met him on his travels and invited him here. He lived among us for several years.”

“Where is the Welshman now?”

“I know not, my lord. Peradventure he is in Wales, though his music and his skill with a bow are much in demand. He may yet be in England.”

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About the Author

03_Regan WalkerAs a child Regan Walker loved to write stories, particularly about adventure-loving girls, but by the time she got to college more serious pursuits took priority. One of her professors encouraged her to pursue the profession of law, which she did. Years of serving clients in private practice and several stints in high levels of government gave her a love of international travel and a feel for the demands of the “Crown” on its subjects. Hence her romance novels often involve a demanding sovereign who thinks of his subjects as his private talent pool. Regan lives in San Diego with her golden retriever, Link, whom she says inspires her every day to relax and smell the roses. For more information please visit Regan Walker’s website and blog. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

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