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by Brenda Williamson
Category: Erotica/Erotic Romance/Historical Fiction
Description: In 466 A.D., Fiachra of Kerne is a woman anticipating passionate love in her life, but during the celebration of Samhain the only thing she grimly sees in her future is her arranged marriage to a druid prince she's never met. Rebellious against her father's plot to join two clans by sacrificing her happiness, she flees her village. Bowen of Druce doesn't want a wife, and the elders of his tribe have formed a plot to help him. Yet, when he meets the gorgeous lady that's to become his wife, he begins to rethink his decision. Captivated by her vibrant nature, and alluring body, he keeps his identity from her and assists her in running away. However, is the handsome warrior Bowen of Druce really Fiachra's charming ally or a sly charismatic kidnapper? Her disappearance will start a battle between two clans and it can only be stopped if she and Bowen return to Kerne. This is a new, expanded edition of a previously published version.
eBook Publisher: Whiskey Creek Press, 2008
eBookwise Release Date: November 2008
5 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [89 KB]
Reading time: 49-68 min.
All Other formats: Printing DISABLED, Read-aloud DISABLED
"...just enough twists to be entertaining, with wickedly evil secondary characters to spice up the story and the pace. The love scenes are plentiful, with a touch of humor added in to keep the tone light..." _Mickey, Simply Romance Reviews
"After reading some of the most sensuous love making scenes, I believe the author has taken great care in choosing the best words to create wonderful imagery and in keeping with the whimsical thoughts we have of Ireland."_ Marianne, Whipped Cream Reviews
466 A.D., Ireland
Fiachra clenched her jaw. Playing the dutiful daughter had worn down the last smidgen of her patience. Her father's stern look signaled the end of the argument.
"I give up!" She threw her arms in the air, frustrated by her father's plans for her arranged marriage.
"It will be a good match for me, daughter." Her father's tone softened, a sign of his wavering sternness.
Airic, the druid king of Kerne, was a wise man--as her father, his unreasonable demand bordered on lunacy in her mind. Yet, sometimes she managed to sway his opinion. This argument appeared to be one she would have to work especially hard at negotiating.
"Selling me into a loveless marriage is nay a good match in my eyes." She paced the small room of their modest hut. "And nay only have I never lain eyes upon the man, but he's from ... from ... Oh, how could ye ask it of me? A Druce pig, swine of the land, and I will have to lay with him."
Her father's brow furrowed. It appeared she hit a nerve with a distinct point he had not thought of or had avoided. What man wanted to dwell on the idea another man would lay with his chaste daughter, begetting her with a child?
"He is the son of our enemy, I know, but the druid king of Druce has pledged an alliance by this marriage. We need peace in these hectic times, and we especially need tolerance of those who be nay of our kind."
When Fiachra saw her father would not comment on the subject of the man taking her virginity, she picked another unpredictable topic--religion.
"They have strange practices in their beliefs," she argued.
"They could say the same of us." Her father was never easily lured into a volatile debate, but she could not give up.
"I have heard horrible rumors that they eat their young," she exaggerated, though she had heard gossip of lesser evils.
Her father's riotous laugher filled the hut with his obvious amusement, and she lost another venue to make a case against what she thought was a terrible plan for her life. She didn't want him jolly. The seriousness of her impending future lay within his power to change. She had to make him see that this marriage would not be good for her.
"Do ye have no concern that ye have nay even seen this druid prince?" She spoke calmly, attempting to cover all levels of emotions. "What if he is a horrid, wart-speckled toad? Ye would condemn me, yer own flesh and blood, to such an appalling man? Think of the children I might have."
"I have met his father and the man appears to be as human as I. I do nay think his son will be any different."
Fiachra turned away. Her father would not understand her desires. He'd not feel there was merit in how handsome a man was or if he groomed himself better than a swine.
"Did he describe his son?" Weakened by defeat, she wondered about the man she hadn't met yet. A trickling of hope invaded her thoughts and her curiosity.
"In what way?"
"How he looks?" She fidgeted with the pocket on her dress. "Might he be pleasing to the eye? Be his features strong and determined? His complexion honeyed by his work in the sun?"
Her father rubbed his jaw, looking as if he pondered her question.
"Well?" she prodded, hoping her father wasn't stalling in telling her that the man was hunchbacked and ugly.
"We did nay discuss the boy's appearance." He held a hand up when she opened her mouth to ask why not. "But he was reported as a strong, capable man who will be able to provide for ye."
"So he is an ox. Does he have any intelligence?"
Her father shrugged.
She knew it useless to inquire.
"Probably nay if he be stupid enough to let himself get trapped into marrying a woman he has never met. Though, if he is unattractive, then he may feel any arrangement is a good one, so long as he gets a wife." She stretched her neck, trying to ease the tension in her shoulders. "Did ye nay ask the man anything of importance?"
"Aye. We went in-depth about how our villages would fair well with the trading of goods."
"That is it?" She folded her arms together. "I will be sold for trinkets."
"Ye and the druid prince be the pivotal links in uniting our clans. I have deliberated extensively on the matter and while I love ye, Fiachra, I can nay let that outweigh the welfare of our people."
"Then bid another to be the sacrificial lamb."
"Yer position is the key to making this work. The druid prince will listen to what ye have to say. He will consider yer station, yer family, and yer clan."
"Only if he is willing. Men can be stubborn. Ye prove that point well."
"He is due to arrive sometime today," he replied, ignoring her opinion yet again. "King Argus and I thought Samhain would be a good time for the handfasting to take place. The start of thy new life with the beginning of the new year will bring ye good luck."
"Ye want me to marry a man I have never met? A man, I might remind ye, who has worked to slaughter our tribe in the past. And if that is nay enough, ye wish it to be done on the most joyous day of the year?"
"What better occasion than to put the bad days behind us and look forward to the future. Samhain is the rebirth of time."
What better time to disappear? Slipping away in the dark and leaving Kerne forever entered her thoughts. Her life had turned into a bad dream and she had seriously debated fleeing her duties. She had done nothing wrong in all her years to be punished this way.
A tap on the wood-planked door turned her attention away from her plight. Her father moved past her and opened the barrier.
"King Argus." Her father greeted the man he let in. "Welcome to our humble dwelling. This is me daughter, Fiachra."
The large man moved into the room. He glanced about and Fiachra felt as if he took inventory of their belongings. For a brief moment, she thought the man might rescind their contract based on their meager possessions.
She stepped back when he came forward.
Glancing down his long nose, he stared at her. "She will do," he stated with a tone that did not instill a sense of approval.
"Pardon me." She bowed her head. "I have festivities to oversee."
She couldn't get out of the hut fast enough. King Argus' coldness and dark disturbing gaze sent shivers up her spine. Outside, men stood guard--those who saw to her father's safety and those who apparently accompanied the Druce king.
She held her chin high as she paraded past the group of men. Not making eye contact with them worked, until she reached the last man. He stepped in front of her and she had to look up.
"Please, let me by," she commanded.
He didn't move.
She pushed at his bulk and swept around him. The crunch of his heavy steps on the gravel alerted her that he followed. Taking longer strides, she hurried to make the space grow between them.
His pace outstretched hers and his hand clamped down heavily on her shoulder. "There's a pretty wee lass, making me chase her for the sport of fun."
"I did nay such a thing." She shrugged off his grip. "Let me be."
Dodging his hand when he reached to grab her again didn't help her avoid a rut in the road. She tripped and fell, landing hard on her bottom.
Showing no sympathy, the brute laughed. Irked by her clumsiness and his insensitive reaction, she kicked him in the shin, making him growl a low curse.
"Ye be a swine, sir."
"That he is, dear lady," a velvety, masculine voice agreed.
Fiachra turned her head and looked up at the silhouette looming against the backdrop of a sunny sky. The shadow of a hand wavered before her and she slipped her fingers into the work-roughened palm. It didn't occur to her not to let him help her up from the ground. Something in his unfamiliar accent sent an exciting tremor throughout her body. She never thought of her days as boring or lacking any heart-pounding thrills until that moment.
"She is just a servant, Bowen," the swine grumbled.
"She is a lovely lass uninterested in yer lack of gentility." He pulled her to her feet. "Go away, Orn, and find someone else to bother."
Fiachra tugged her hand just a little, but when it didn't come free, she remained unruffled by her valiant rescuer's boldness.
The brute left them standing alone and she glanced apprehensively up at the man holding onto her. By far, he was more handsome than anyone she knew. His gallantry captured her complete interest. For a moment, they stared at one another--her with a speechless catch to her breath and him with a delightful twinkle in his brown eyes.
"Ye have come from Druce?" she asked, flustered, blushing at his intense gaze.
His stare lingered below her eyes. On her mouth, she decided. It made her tingle as if lightning traveled beneath her skin. The warmth spread throughout her limbs, paring her thoughts down to one--his glorious mouth. Full and ripe for the tasting, she'd enjoy being kissed by him. An image of his lips pressed to hers had a genuine appeal.
"What be yer name, fair one?" The coarse pad of his thumb persistently brushed back and forth over the back of her hand.
"Fiachra," she answered, taking a deeper breath.
"Well, me beautiful Fiachra of Kerne, I be Bowen of Druce."
When he bowed, his dark brown locks swung forward obscuring his face. Intense heat rushed through her veins. He turned her hand over and tickled her palm with a delicious kiss. She took short, unmeasured intakes of air scented by his masculinity. Her nipples tightened, drawing her awareness to a deeper ache.
"Bowen of Druce," she repeated. "I must see to the feast."
His presence rattled her and to move from the arousing scent of the man seemed best.
"As yer guest, ye should see to me first."
"Aye, of course, and how shall I be of service to ye, sir?"
Dimples dented his cheeks and his eyes darkened with a mystery she wholeheartedly wanted to investigate. However, his devilishly handsome features, and his captivating grin, curled her toes to the point of jarring her from her lustful fantasies.
"Ye ask a lot of a man, me lovely maid." He slipped his free hand to her waist and guided her closer toward him.
"How so?" She moved on a cloud of eager wishes aimed for his kissable lips.
"Aye, lass, how so indeed?" His face moved nearer.
She went cross-eyed with his nose almost touching hers.
"Ye tempt a man to ravish ye right in the middle of the village fairway," he whispered.
Fiachra took a sharp gasp of air and stepped back from the seducer's hold. She gazed around, shocked he had the kind of influence over her senses that made her forget her surroundings. Recalling they were in public put a heated blush to her cheeks. Her palm perspired in the grip of his strong hand.
"I must go help with the festival." She yanked her arm to remove her fingers from his loosened clutch.
"Shall I be of assistance?"
"'Tis unnecessary." She spun away, hoping no one noticed Bowen following her.
"Mayhap unneeded, but it does nay mean I should be useless in yer company."
His pace remained uncomfortably close. The heat of his magnificent body inundated her with shivers of excitement when she desired to keep her wits. Even the smell of his sweaty skin appealed to her. The sensual masculine scent clung to the insides of her nostrils, making her suffer the effects of the continuous pleasing fragrance.
Fiachra stopped at a long wooden table laden with food. She made a chore of straightening the arrangement of bowls and platters containing breads, cheeses, and fruits. Her effort to ignore Bowen didn't work because he tried equally hard to keep her mind engrossed by his presence.
He touched her shoulder with a lone finger and she trembled. He slid the tip up, lifting her hair, and stroked the bareness of her neck.
"The fluff of a rabbit's belly can nay compare to the softness of yer skin," he murmured, making the fine hairs against her neck flutter.
His words possessed a charm too captivating to ignore. She once again glanced about for witnesses to her wanton allowances. Who saw her succumbing to his magic? What would happen if the druid prince saw one of his subjects paying court to his bride? While it might free her from a marriage, she had to think of the devil teasing her with his stroke.
"Ye be very beautiful." The tantalizing freshness of his breath circled her nose.
"I thank ye for the compliment, now please go away," she pleaded, nervous she had led him too far.
"I think nay, me lovely lass. Be I nay due some reward for chasing off the swine who attempted mauling ye?"
She turned her head and his warm lips caressed her cheek. The searing heat of desire swept up from her neck to her face.
"Ye ne bold, sir."
"Do ye take offense?"
"Aye, ye have nay right to ... to..." She couldn't think.
Bowen's hand eased around her middle and lay gently over her belly. His fingers squeezed repetitively, almost like a calming caress, yet her insides turned into a fireball of unsteady reactions.
"Ye were saying?" His lips brushed her jaw.
"Ye be an arrogant, brazen man, and..." She twisted in the circle of his arm.
She should have chastised him for his forwardness. Still, she sought his kiss and her gaze went to his mouth before she lifted her lashes to look into his mesmerizing brown irises. Unlike anything her imagination had conjured to represent the men of Druce, Bowen ruined her chance of having any feelings for the druid prince she hadn't met.
Over his shoulder, the sight of her father emerging from their hut stopped her just short of the impetuous move of placing her lips against Bowen's.
"I have an errand, pardon me, please." She had to disappear before her father made her socialize with the Druce king, or before she found herself trapped with the Druce king's son.
"Fiachra." Bowen grabbed her arm, his grip slipped down until her fingers tangled with his.
"I will go with ye," he declared.
"Please, I can nay be seen with ye."
She glanced back at her father and the man with him. They talked to the brute who had manhandled her and it confirmed her suspicions that he might be the son of King Argus. A repugnant bitterness at the thought of marriage to such an oaf made her ill.
Her father and the others looked in her direction making her decision firm.
"I have to go." She tugged her hand free.
"Why?" Bowen asked again.
"To avoid a marriage."
His head turned and he stared at the men as she did. When he looked back at her, he smiled with some strange amusement. His hand lifted and he caressed her cheek with a tender graze of his knuckles.
"Where will ye go?" He cradled her chin in his palm.
"Far from here."
"Then trust me to help."
She twisted away from him and felt the loss of his touch, as if he had always been part of her attire. She lifted the hem of her dress and pranced lightly through the melee of people starting to celebrate Samhain.
When Bowen followed, the thrill of his presence came with a mixed emotion of distrust. A warrior, meant to serve his king and his clan, she could not hope to think Bowen of Druce would help her disrupt a treaty between her tribe and his.
She went to the outer edge of the sparse woods and glanced up at the hilltop of Tlachtga. The massive heap of wood had long been prepared for the morrow's Samhain fire. Her father would light the blessed blaze to mark the New Year and she would fail to see the joyous event.
"Ye will miss the lighting?" Bowen's fingers folded over her shoulder as he voiced her thoughts.
"Aye, 'tis me favorite time of year, too."
"Mine as well, lass."
A touch of sorrow in his voice infected her with a longing to be loved by him, a silly notion to say the least, yet an intuitive feeling she had more faith in than clear reason. They just met. She was betrothed to another. What chance did she have at the happiness so near her heart that she could reach out and touch with her fingers?
Fiachra moved on, deeper into the forest, farther from Kerne, and beyond her obligations.
"Ye could change yer mind and go back," Bowen told her.
She didn't listen. His size had all the capabilities of overpowering and toting her to the disastrous doom of becoming a swine's wife. However, no matter what he said, she'd not let him return her to his king. As she continued to trudge through the brambles, she wondered what stopped him from dragging her back. Why had Bowen not forced her to return? * * * *