Unlike her mother, Lady Jasmine, and older sister, India, Lady Fortune Lindley spares little thought for romantic love. With her fiery red hair and proud beauty, Fortune has no lack of suitors. William Devers is an ideal match--wealthy, well-favored, and eager to have this free-spirited creature as his wife. But it's William's disinherited brother, Kieran--ruggedly handsome and dangerous as sin--who sets Fortune's senses reeling. Caught between the desires of two very different brothers, Fortune ignites both passion and revenge, and discovers a destiny that tests her will to claim a new land, and the one man she will love forever...
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January 07, 2003
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Excerpt from Besieged by Bertrice Small
She was coming. Sweet Jesu, she was coming! Coming back to Maguire's Ford. It had been twenty years since he had seen her last, but he knew everything about her there was to know; for her cousin, the priest, had never been chary about sharing her letters. She had borne a royal bastard by the late Prince Henry Stuart. How could a prince not love her? How could any man not love her? he wondered nostalgically. She had married again, to a Scotsman, and had given him three sons. Her eldest daughter by her second husband was a married woman with two children. She had had so much more these last twenty years, while he had only his memories of her. It had been enough until now. He ran a big hand through his thick hair, still a warm red-gold, but less so than it had been those many years back. His eyes, blue as Lough Erne itself, were troubled. He sighed deeply. Why now? Why when he had only recently begun to feel the lack of a family was she returning to Maguire's Ford? He laid her letter to him aside.
"Rory. Rory Maguire!" Father Cullen Butler had entered the hall, an unrolled parchment in his hand. "Jasmine is coming back to Ulster!" he said excitedly. "I had not thought to see her again in my lifetime. Praise God, and His angels!" The years had been good to Cullen Butler. Despite the snow-white hair atop his head, his face was yet youthful. His blue eyes sparkled.
"I cannot be here when she comes," Maguire replied.
"Ye have to be," the priest said quietly, helping himself to a generous dollop of smokey peat whiskey from the decanter on the sideboard. "Yer her estate manager, Rory Maguire. She entrusted ye with Maguire's Ford all those years ago, and now she is coming back. She will expect to see ye here. Whatever is in yet heart must remain hidden, man. I know it was easier when ye didn't have to see her every day, but she will not be here for very long. A few months at the most. Did she tell ye why she's coming?" He sipped at his whiskey.
Rory Maguire shook his head. "Nay," he responded. "She didn't."
"The younger of her daughters, the one conceived and born here, Lady Fortune Mary Lindley, is being brought over to find a husband. There's no man, it seems, in either England or Scotland that's taken her fancy. A headstrong wench, it would appear. The girl is practically past her prime, but she's stubborn," the priest said with a smile. "She sounds very much like her mother was at that age, and I should certainly know for I was her tutor." He chuckled, then grew serious again. "Jasmine wants to give her Maguire's Ford for a dowry, Rory." The priest settled himself into a chair by the fire, motioning his companion to join him.
Rory Maguire sat down, his hand worrying his thick hair again. "Then 'tis surely better that I go," he replied. "The lass will want to choose her own estate manager, or rather, her husband will."
"Now, nothing is settled yet," the priest soothed his companion.
"And 'tis unlikely ye'll be replaced by a stranger. Jasmine knows it was yer family who were the lords here before Conor Maguire and his people departed with the earls. Even to this day you are still considered the lord of Eme Rock Castle, Rory."
"Only because its English owner has not been in residence," Maguire reminded the priest.
"Jasmine would not dispossess ye after all this time," Cullen Butler replied. "I know my cousin. I helped to raise her."
"We haven't seen her in years," was the response. "This is a woman whose second son has a king for an uncle. And what of her Scots husband? Certainly he will have a say in all of this, Father."
"James Leslie has great respect for his wife, and does not meddle in her affairs," came the certain answer. "Now, enough of yer foolishness, Rory Maguire. They'll be here in early May."
"They? How many of them are coming?" Rory drained his crystal tumbler, and reaching for the decanter poured them a second libation.
"Jasmine, her husband, and the lady Fortune," the priest answered.
"Her servants?" Rory queried.
"Adali, aye, and little Rohana. Toramalli is a married woman, and will remain with her husband to oversee young Lord Patrick who will remain behind at Glenkirk with his brothers. 'Tis wise. The holding will someday be his, and he will better get the sense of his future responsibilites left alone."
"Erne Rock will welcome them as in my family's time," Rory said with a small smile. "I had best move my belongings back into the gatehouse."
"Aye," the priest agreed. "It would be better. Ye'll probably be living there from now on anyways. As I remember, Jasmine gave it to ye for yet own. I believe my cousin means for Fortune to live in Ireland. She's been in touch with the Reverend Steen regarding Protestant families. Of course, there is only one that he and I both agree is suitable. The Deverses of Lisnaskea. Sir Shane's heir is a worthy young man of the right age. He is twenty-three, and the lady Fortune will be twenty this summer."
"How can ye be a party to a Protestant marriage, Father. For God's sake, ye baptized the girl yerself!"
Cullen Butler shrugged. "We're a long way from Rome, my lad," he said quietly. "We both know that if Lady Fortune Lindley is to have Maguire's Ford, then she must be wed to a Protestant. Besides, she's been raised by a Scots Anglican stepfather; and Jasmine, like my Aunt Skye, may God assoil her good soul, is a law unto herself where her faith is concerned. If Fortune is her mother's daughter then she will treat all with equality and tolerance. Twenty years ago there were no Protestants in this village, yet now there are, and a church for them as welk We all get on because Samuel Steen and
I will have it no other way. My Aunt Skye, who was born an O'Malley, was fond of quoting Queen Bess, who often said, 'There is but one lord Jesus Christ. The rest is all trifles.' I'm sorry to tell ye that the damned woman was right, even if Rome would excommunicate me for even thinking it, let alone saying it aloud. I love the church else I should not have devoted my life to it, Rory, but even the church can be wrong sometimes. And not just our church, but the Protestants as well. How some of them can justify their bigotry, and believe God does too, is beyond me! So I sanction, without publicly saying so, a Protestant marriage between Lady Fortune Lindley and Sir Shane Devers's son. Will it not be good to have a young couple at Erne Rock, and please God, children too?"