BRIDE FOR A KNIGHT
On the eve of his return to Baldreagan Castle, Highlander Jamie Macpherson cannot believe his eyes: a golden-haired beauty haloed in the moonlight of St. Bride's glade, so delicate and fair she can only be a faerie. With his desire rising like a wave, the knight longs to see her again. The next time is even more surprising: Aveline Matheson is the flesh-and-blood bride of his arranged marriage, a woman eager to discover the pleasures of wedded bliss. And woe to those who would stop their lovemaking!
Yet danger threatens the newlyweds. Jamie's darkest foe has already murdered his brothers and now threatens to destroy every Macpherson. But the enemy hasn't counted on one thing: Jamie will do whatever he must to keep his bride alive and in his arms forever...
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September 01, 2007
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Excerpt from Bride for a Knight by Sue-Ellen Welfonder
NEAR BALDREAGAN, AUTUMN 1347
"The tenth son?"
Aveline Matheson paced the length of the high table, her father's startling news echoing in her ears. Equally distressing, her sister's red-rimmed gaze followed her and that made her feel unpleasantly guilty.
She took a deep breath, trying hard to ignore the sensation that her world was spinning out of control.
"To be sure, I remember there was a younger son, but . . ." She paused, finding it hard to speak with Sorcha's teary-eyed stare boring holes in her.
Indeed, not just her oldest sister, but every kinsman crowding the great hall. All of them were staring at her. Swiveling heads and narrowing eyes. Measuring her reaction as if the entire future and fortune of Clan Matheson rested upon her shoulders.
And from what she'd heard, it did.
Wincing inwardly, she stopped in front of her father's laird's chair and stood as tall as her diminutive stature would allow.
That, and Alan Mor Matheson's fierce countenance. A look her plaid-hung, bushy-bearded father wielded with as much skill as he swung his sword.
Seeing that look now, she swallowed, wanting only to escape the hall. Instead, she held her ground. "For truth, I am sore grieved for Laird Macpherson," she began, scarce able to grasp the horror of losing nine sons at once, "but if you mean to insist upon a union between our houses, shouldn't Sorcha be the bride?"
Upon her words, Sorcha gave an audible gasp.
Alan Mor's face hardened, his large hands splaying on the high table. "Saints of glory!" he boomed, his choler causing his eldest daughter to jump as if he'd struck her.
Ignoring her distress, he leaned forward, kept his attention on Aveline. "Your sister was to be the bride. She was to wed Macpherson's eldest son, Neill. As well you know. Now, with Neill and the others dead, only Jamie remains."
He paused, letting the last two words hang in the smoke-hazed air. "Sorcha is more than fifteen summers the lad's senior and your other three sisters are wed. I willna risk the alliance with Macpherson by denying his only remaining son the most suitable bride I can offer."
Aveline lifted her chin. "Be that as it may--"
"It doesn't matter. Not now." Sorcha touched her arm, blinking back the brightness in her eyes. "'Twas Neill who should've been mine. I-I . . . would have followed him to the ends of this earth, even through the gates of hell," she vowed, her voice thick. "I've no wish to wed Young Jamie."
"Even so, I still grieve for you." Aveline released an uneven breath, a surge of pity tightening her chest. "And my heart breaks for the Macphersons."
Alan Mor hooted. "Your sister is a well-made young woman with fine prospects. Another husband will be found for her," he declared, glancing around as if he expected someone to gainsay him. "As for that cross-grained old goat, Macpherson, that one has e'er claimed the devil's own luck. His hurts will lessen once he remembers the bonny bit of glen he'll be getting to graze his precious cattle. Not to mention the well-filled coffers he wheedled out of me."
A chill slid down Aveline's spine. She said nothing.
If her father had brimming coffers to offer Munro Macpherson, he'd likely filled them with stones--or empty words and bluster.
Sure of it, she watched Sorcha whirl away and move toward the hearth fire. With her shoulders and back painfully straight, the older girl's face looked pale in the torchlight, her eyes shadowed and puffy. Worse, her stony expression voiced what every Matheson knew.
Neill Macpherson had been her last chance to wed.
Few were the suitors willing to accept Sorcha's large-boned, overly tall form for well made. And even Alan Mor's most cunning double-dealing and swagger couldn't transform her plain face into a pleasing one.
Indeed, not few were those who shook their heads over Neill's acceptance of her.
But he'd agreed for the sake of an alliance.
And now he was dead.
Shuddering, Aveline curled her fingers into her skirts, the image of the MacPherson brothers' last moments flashing across her mind.
Not that she'd been there.
But everyone born of these hills knew the treacheries of the white-water cauldron known as Garbh Uisge, the Rough Waters. They filled the deep, birch-lined gorge that divided Matheson and Macpherson lands.
A danger-fraught chasm, alive with a wildly plunging waterfall and splashing, boulder-strewn burn, the surging cataracts and clouds of spume now posed a forever reminder of nature's wrath. Leastways when served by the splintering of damp, age-warped wood.
The unexpected collapse of a narrow footbridge neither clan had been willing to refurbish, each laird insisting his neighbor made more use of the bridge and ought to dole out the coin for its repair.