A man without a past…
Abandoned at a monastery as a young child, Alexander serves two masters—God and the fading memories of his past life—the one he never got to live. As he nears the day to take his vows, he’s sent on a last sojourn into the real world, but what begins as a test of faith becomes a journey to manhood.
And a woman who doesn’t know her own heart…
Born from the line of two kings, Lady Sibylla Mac William is abandoned by her sire as a child and then ruled illegitimate. Though she lives a happy life under her uncle’s protection, Sibylla craves something more, but never could she imagine losing her heart to the would-be monk who unexpectedly arrives to tutor her brother.
Together, they will forge the future of a kingdom…
When dark secrets from the past come to light, Alex and Sibylla’s fates become inextricably entwined. Will Alex choose the safe and secure path he knows, or will he reject holy orders to embrace his true destiny… and the woman he loves?
Twilight made a rapid descent on Cnoc Croit na Maoile, cloaking the forested part of the path in deep shadow and making the way difficult. Twice, she stumbled and a short while later, caught her foot on a root that sent her sprawling to the ground.
Alex was there swiftly to help her back up. “Are ye a’right, lass?”
“Aye. I’m nae hurt,” she lied.
He could clearly see that her face was scratched, her palms were scraped, and her tunic had been torn by a limb. He gently brushed away the dirt and tenderly kissed her palms before entwining his fingers with hers. “’Tis best if I lead ye now.”
Although the rest of the way was easier, Alex was reluctant to release her hand.
“Ye still havena told me what troubles ye, Alexander,” she said, breaking the silence.
“I’ve learned some things about my family since coming here,” he said.
“Aye?” She stopped to face him. “How did this come about?”
“Yer uncle recognized my sgian-dubh. He says he kent my faither.”
“He did? How? What did he tell ye?” she asked.
Alex drew a great breath into his lungs and released it on a sigh. There was so much he wished to confide, but what could tell her? How much did he dare to share? “Only that my faither was an enemy of the king.”
“The king has many enemies,” she replied, “especially in Moray. Did ye ken my máthair’s faither was a king in his own right? His lands stretched from one sea to the other, but his son, Angus, forfeited everything when he rebelled against the crown.”
“My faither found himself in a similar situation,” Alex said. “There was substantial… property… that should have come to him by right through his faither, but the king disagreed.”
“’Tis the Cenn Mór way to do such things,” she said.
“Dinna ye also carry Cenn Mór blood?” he asked.
“Only a quarter,” she corrected. “And I dinna regard that part of me any more than my sire regarded his Scots blood. He was a lowlander by birth who chose to be Sassenach. I, on the contrary, choose to be a Highlander.”
Her answer evoked a chuckle.
“Ye should do that more often,” she said.
“Do what?” he asked.
“Laugh. ‘Tis the first time I heard ye laugh.”
“Monasteries dinna encourage much laughter,” he said dryly.
“But yer nae there anymore, are ye?”
“I am nae.”
“Then ye need to laugh more freely,” she insisted.
They’d emerged from the forested path, Alex halted and turned to face her. “If ‘twill please ye,” he said. “I will try.”
“Aye,” she said. “But ‘twould please me even better if ye would kiss me again.”
Alex instinctively leaned toward her, wanting to give her the kiss, but knowing where it would lead. “I canna, Sibylla,” he said, stroking her cheek. “This should ne’er have happened between us.”
“But it did,” she said. “Do ye regret it so much, Alexander?”
“Regret? Nae.” He shook his head. “I only regret that it canna be.”
He’d gone to the promontory seeking solace for his distressed spirit, and found balm in Sibylla’s kiss. He knew it was far more than carnal lust, but it was futile to think they could ever be together. “I am no one with nothing,” he said. “This can go nowhere.”
“But things can change Alexander,” she said. “I believe our destinies lie in our own hands.”
“Ye do nae have faith in Divine Providence?” He wondered again at her lack of piety.
“I do. I believe God sets many things in motion but the choices we make, for better or for ill, are ours alone. I believe ye came here for a reason, Alexander. I believe our meeting was meant to be.”
Alex, once more, recalled the eerie words of her grandmother. “Lady Olith said as much.”
Her eyes grew wide. “My grandmother spoke of us?”
“Aye.” He hesitated to say more, but found himself compelled to ask, “Is she right in the head?”
“She’s a seer, Alexander,” Sibylla answered. “She has visions.”
“Have they ever proven true?” he asked.
“Many times. She kent her son, Angus, would be killed in battle. She also kent that Domnall and I would come here… what did she say to ye?”
“I dinna remember it well,” he lied. He remembered every word but speaking more of it would only give credence to what he could not, would not, believe.
“Surely ye recall something of her words,” she insisted, “else ye would nae have spoken of it.”
“Sibylla!” A shout startled them apart before Alex could respond; it was Domnall galloping toward them. “What is this!” He flung himself down from his mount with an accusing stare. “Where have ye been, Sibylla? The entire clan is looking for ye.”
His gaze darted from Sibylla to Alex and back again, and then narrowed in suspicion as he took in Sibylla’s torn gown and scratched face.
He took a step toward them with his hand on his sword. “What were ye doing with my sister?”
“Nae, Domnall!” Sibylla quickly interposed herself between them. “’Tis nae what ye think!”
His gaze narrowed. “I ken what I see.”
“Alex did nothing amiss,” she said. “I fell out of a tree.”
“Ye fell?” He snorted in disbelief.
“Aye,” she insisted. “I was in the great oak at the standing stones when Alexander came and—”
His raised a silencing hand. “Enough!” Domnall pierced Alex with a challenging look. “What have ye to say about this, monk?”
“I dinna dishonor yer sister,” Alex said. “I give ye my sacred vow.”
Domnall considered him for a long, tense moment. There was no sign of their earlier camaraderie in his expression. Would he draw his sword? Alex fingered his sgian-dubh, praying he wouldn’t be forced to defend himself.
“In my experience, a vow is only as good as the man who makes it. And I still dinna ken what to make of ye. Come, Sibylla,” Domnall commanded. “Ye will ride back with me.”
“I’m sorry,” she whispered to Alex as she passed, her gaze downcast.
Alex warily watched as Domnall lifted her onto the horse. Of all the sins he’d committed in his life, some might be worthy of mortal punishment, but a kiss certainly wasn’t one of them. Then again, if he had perished under Domnall’s sword, he could never regret meeting death with Sibylla’s sweet kiss still lingering on his lips.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Victoria Vane is a bestselling, award-winning author of smart and sexy romance. Her books have received more than twenty awards and nominations to include the 2015 Red Carpet Award for JEWEL OF THE EAST, 2014 RONE Award for TREACHEROUS TEMPTATIONS, and 2012 Library Journal Best E-Book romance for THE DEVIL DEVERE series. Victoria also has a passion for historical fashion and lives in the beautiful upstate of South Carolina with her husband, two sons, a little black dog, and an Arabian horse.
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