On the beautiful, remote Scottish coast, two lovers are drawn together by a dark legacy and a wild and dangerous desire...
Rumors of a truthsayer have brought Katla Svensdottir to Orkney, searching for a way to clear her brother's name. What she finds is far from what she expected. Gavin is a recluse, driven close to madness by the voices that crowd his mind. Katla strikes a bold bargain--offering to share Gavin's bed in exchange for his help. But as she watches this proud, magnificent man struggle to keep his humanity, she knows that more than her brother's fate is at stake.
Gavin's mysterious abilities have grown more powerful over time, as have their terrible consequences. Katla is the only person whose thoughts are hidden from him, though he longs to know if she shares his passion. At last he has found a woman who can calm the demons within him--yet the truth he has sworn to reveal may tear her from him forever...
"Boldly sensual and richly emotional." --Booklist on A Storm of Passion
"Terri Brisbin keeps me turning the pages." --Victoria Alexander
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Kensington Publishing Corporation
September 28, 2010
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Excerpt from A Storm of Pleasure by Terri Brisbin
Gairsay Island, Earldom of Orkney April 1098 AD
The sun had barely broken over the morning's horizon when Earl Magnus's men rode into the village. It took but moments to realize their arrival had little to do with honoring her father for his work on the earl's behalf. Indeed, their swords brandished against the gray and cloudy sky and their shouts and demands for her father and brother to present themselves told Katla Svensdottir the seriousness of this dawn visit.
Wrapping her cloak around her shoulders and covering her hair with a scarf, Katla crept outside and approached the gathering from the side. Using several smaller outbuildings as cover for her movements, she made her way around to a place where she could hear and see without being seen herself. She caught her brother Kali's eye as he was dragged forward to stand next to their father. With a narrowing of his gaze, Kali warned her to stay away.
Sven Rognvaldson was a bear of a man, and though his hair might carry the gray of age, his broad shoulders were still strong and muscled from years of hard labor and fighting. His raised voice could still send chills down her spine with the essence of command it carried.
And one thing she knew with certainty about her father: he did not allow any question or insult to his honor to go unmarked. Many men had fallen beneath her father's sword for questioning his actions or his intentions. Katla remained pressed against the storage barn out of sight, but not out of hearing distance.
"By what right do you dare this?" Sven's voice nearly made the wall behind her shake with his anger.
"In the name of Earl Magnus," the man replied loudly but not as loudly as her father had yelled. "He demands your presence in Birsay on the morrow to answer to the charges against you."
Katla could not stop herself from stepping closer to the commotion then. No one would dare challenge her father without permission from the earl; to gain it, the matter must be of the utmost importance. The earl did not meddle in his chiefs' personal business or in the way they handled those under their command or on their lands. If no one encroached on lands or cattle or slaves belonging to another, the earl concentrated on other matters that would line his pockets, fill his byres, or increase his standing in the eyes of the king.
A few of those watching turned to look at her as she took one step, then another forward, visible but not in the center of the trouble. Not yet. She waited for her father to gain more information from the earl's man--she knew him well enough to know he was waiting to weigh his choices. Escape? Fight? Surrender? Katla read the expressions on his face as they passed through his thoughts. Only surrender was not truly a choice he would make and the soldiers seemed to know that.
To a one, their stances tightened and the air filled with tension as her father took a step toward the earl's man, growling a question at him, just loud enough for the two of them to hear. Magnus's man's face reddened and he rose to his full height, shoulders squared and legs spread.
A fighting stance she recognized at once, as did everyone else watching the scene unfold.
Her father drew his sword before anyone could say a word, but another of the earl's men anticipated his action and thrust his sword first--into her father's chest! Chaos erupted in that moment and several minutes passed before order returned to the yard and to her father's people. Katla pushed her way past two of the soldiers to her father's side as he lay on the cold ground. Blood poured from the gaping wound in his chest, and she knew his death was close at hand. Of all the ways she had ever considered he would meet his end, this death was not one of them. Shock threatened to overwhelm her until she felt her father's hand tighten around her wrist. Leaning down, she searched his face as she heard her brother arguing nearby.
"Girl," her father rasped out. "Katla."
She watched as he struggled to hold on to whatever moments of life yet remained. "Father?"
"Save him," he ordered with far more vigor than she would have thought possible. "Do what you need to do, but save him."
"How?" she asked in a whisper. "Tell me how!"
Kali was younger than she by two years and though he would inherit most of their father's lands and power when the time came, he was still a brash and sometimes foolish young man. In spite of having different mothers, they were closer than most siblings were and Kali accepted her counsel when the words of others went ignored.
"You must find a way," he uttered on a strangled breath. The gurgling sounds from his throat and chest increased until he could speak no more. Katla could only watch in horror as he exhaled his last breath and then moved no more.
The air around her seemed to stop and become silent as she shrugged off the hand of someone pulling roughly on her shoulder. Only the sound of her own breaths and the beat of her heart echoed in the growing silence. Her ears buzzed with a strangeness she'd not experienced before, and she glanced around to see everyone staring at her and the man on the ground. Turning back to her father, she noticed the blood seeping into the ground under her knees and that his grasp of her wrist had slackened, allowing her to move away.
Save him, he'd ordered.
Katla looked over at Kali, pale faced and shocked, knowing he was uncertain whether he should follow his father into death. She struggled to her feet, searching for words that would help. She still knew not the reason for the earl's summons or why her father would attack in such a way, without enough of his own men to improve his odds of success.
The words echoed through her mind as she crossed the short space between her and the man who'd killed her father, the man who now controlled the fate of all those present.
"The earl ordered such an act?" she asked of the one in command. "Did he send you to Sven Rognvaldson?" Straightening to her full height, she glared at him as only Sven's daughter could, a look she'd mastered while yet a child and one that everyone exclaimed was the exact likeness of her father's glare.
"I am Harald Erlendson, retainer to Earl Magnus and sent to bring the traitor Sven Rognvaldson to face the earl's justice." She gasped at his words, both from the insult and from the possibility of such a thing. "He brought on his own death. . . ."
"It is no wonder he drew his sword at your words," she said coldly, spitting on the ground. "No one can make an accusation like that and not expect my father to . . ."
Even as she began to say the words, the realization struck her. They had known her father would strike out, and it had given them a chance to kill him. They'd wanted him to attack and he had, giving them the excuse they needed to execute him without allowing him to defend his honor.
"And my brother? Why did you summon him?" Katla's blood chilled and she prayed that her brother would give them no reason to strike him down in the same way.
"He is also called traitor by the earl," the man said loudly enough for everyone to hear.
The shocked gasps and cries spread through the growing crowd, which Katla suspected was the reason he'd announced it as he had. All this could have been handled differently, but doing it in front of everyone made the insult worse. Suddenly, her brother broke free from those who held him and Katla knew he would go for a weapon. She ran to him and placed herself before him.
"Nay, Kali," she warned. "It is a trap. Do not resist them." For once Kali did not put his vanity before his sense, and he stopped fighting the men. "Do not give them a reason to kill you as they have killed our father," she whispered while the soldiers regained their hold on him.
Katla turned back to face Harald Erlendson. Only bold and public action would forestall Kali's execution, for she did not doubt that his death was their true aim.
"Have you seen the proof that would mark my brother traitor, Harald Erlendson? Do those pointing the finger at my father and brother put their name to such accusations? Who has spoken to the earl?"
From the way his face reddened and his gaze hardened, Katla knew she had touched on some element this man wanted hidden from view. She pressed on.
"If you are a man of honor, you will not allow this, Harald Erlendson." She crossed her arms and met his eyes, waiting for him to take or refuse her challenge. She was only a woman, so he could ignore her and not lose status, but her unanswered questions would spread. "Will you make certain that my brother lives to face the earl's justice?"
Those watching waited for the earl's man to reply, but Katla did not. Stepping closer to him, she lowered her voice and spoke only to him.
"I would be indebted to you, Harald Erlendson. If you could see my brother safely to the earl and make certain that proof decides his fate." She paused and met his gaze with her own. "I would be in debt to you."
Though never called on to use her womanly figure or to flirt as many young women her age did around men, she had practiced such skills on occasion to draw the gaze of young Bjarni Einarson. Her father would have punished her if he'd known of such things, but now she was glad she'd learn to pitch her voice lower and to soften her sometimes stubborn expression by gazing up through the lashes of her eyes. She did it now, understanding that she was offering more than simply her thanks to this powerful man who held her brother's life, and her own, in his hands.
She noticed the flush in his ruddy face and the glimmer of lust in his dark eyes when they met hers. Her body trembled then, realizing what she was promising in exchange for her brother's safety. Straightening her shoulders, she nodded in silent acceptance of the cost. If her father lived, this man would not be high enough in status to approach him with an offer of marriage, but everything had changed in that chaotic moment. Now, the proud daughter of one of the mightiest chiefs in Orkney had bartered her body and her virtue for the promise, nay, the hope of help.
Harald barked out orders to his men, and less than an hour later Katla found herself riding out of their village, captive as much as her brother and with as little control over her fate as he.
Her father had demanded that she do whatever was necessary to save her brother, and she would do all in her power to succeed--no matter the cost.