Bits 'n Bobs Author Blog
The end of our spring blog hop is here! I hope you've enjoyed the fun, romantic, and sensual mix of excerpts from our authors. This season's theme was the first encounter of the hero and heroine. Was it love at first sight, or will there be drama ahead as they search for their Happy Ever After?
I'll post the full excerpt from The Highlander's Welsh Bride below. Do let me know what you think of Carys and Birk's first encounter.
Leave a comment for a chance to win an ebook copy of The Highlander's Welsh Bride. Winner announced next week.
The Highlander's Welsh Bride
Prince Llywelyn was dead, his soldiers fleeing before King Edward’s army. Carys, a distant cousin to the prince, herself a princess of Wales, had picked up arms alongside her husband more than a year ago. Now homeless, her husband buried beneath the good Welsh soil, she seeks shelter in the north, far from the reach of Longshanks’s men. Carys and Wales would never be the same again.
Birk MacLean has been ordered to take a bride and produce an heir. He grows weary of the lasses paraded before him, women of delicate nature and selfish motives. He desires a wife strong enough to help lead one of the most powerful clans in Western Scotland.
One like the Welsh woman sitting in his dungeon, arrested for poaching MacLean deer.
Can Birk convince Carys marriage to him is preferable to a hangman’s noose? And will the heard-headed Scot be worthy of a Princess of Wales?
From the towering Welsh mountains to the storm-swept Scottish coast comes a tale of betrayal and loss, deceit and passion. An epic tale of honor and the redeeming power of love.
* * *
The heavy wooden door slammed shut. Carys peered about the stone chamber. Aside from a pallet on the floor and a bucket in a far corner, the room was empty. Air blew crisp through an arrow-slit, much too narrow to consider an escape route. She rubbed her arms in an attempt to erase the feel of strong hands manacling them, then, unable to help herself, tested the door. It was securely latched.
“Ffwl!” she spat. Fool. Caught doing nothing more than providing food to hungry people.
She stormed about the cramped space, her boots thudding across the wooden floor. “MacLean deer! MacLean people!” she snarled, targeting the absent laird. “Twmffat!” Idiot.
Carys peered down into the frothy churn of water about the boulders at the foot of the castle, measured the width of the window with a hand splayed within its opening.
“’Tis a fair drop.”
Pivoting on her heel, Carys faced the man at the door, amazed he’d entered unnoticed. His bulk filled the entry and he ducked as he stepped inside. He fastened the latch behind him, the click echoing in the nearly empty room, reminding Carys she was trapped.
She glanced up from his hands, now hanging peaceably at his sides, to his face. Dark eyes peered at her from beneath half-lowered lids, thick brows pulled together above his slightly arched nose as he studied her. His nearly black hair hung loose to his shoulders, a bit of curl softening his wide forehead and hard, chiseled features. She was startled to realize her head would likely reach no higher than his shoulder, for she was tall for a woman, and had found it easy to pass for a man. This giant would have been a more familiar figure stepping from a Norse longboat, had his coloring been the pale blonde of that race. She surreptitiously checked his hands for signs of an axe or sword.
A hint of metal glinted from his wrists and at the top of his boot, doubtless hidden sheaths with daggers. Carys’s fingers itched with the need to somehow gain one of the weapons.
And do what? Doubtless the man was an accomplished warrior. His light step and sure balance told her as much. Relieving him of one weapon left him at least two more, and likely others she had yet to discover.
“A short sword at my back, two dirks in my belt, three throwing blades at wrist and boot, and a sgian dubh in the other boot,” he said, as if reading her thoughts.
Carys shrugged. “I do not like being a prisoner.”
“Killing me willnae get ye released. ’Twould be another feat to fight yer way down the stairs and out of the tower. Plenty of men would be anxious to stop ye before ye traveled far.”
“I wish to be released.” Every muscle thrummed with the urge to flee. For more than two years, she’d remained a step ahead of an English prison, aware a princess of Cymru would not simply be discarded as unimportant. She’d spent every waking moment—and many that should have been spent in much-needed rest—avoiding capture. Being a woman in the hands of an enemy held its own special peril. Fear roiled like an angry snake in her belly, sending the acrid taste of bile to her mouth.
The big man crossed his arms over his broad chest, bulging forearms corded with heavy muscle and overlaid with dark, crisp hairs. Carys was impressed, despite herself. With a mental shake of annoyance, she discarded the urge to touch him.
“Ye have been brought here on a serious charge,” the man said with a frown, his voice rumbling deep and ominous.
Carys matched his stance, not bothering to hide her disgust. “Feeding the hungry should not be a crime.”
“’Tis the fact ye poached on land that doesnae belong to ye.” He tilted his head. “Ye are a stranger to our shores. Why did ye not present yerself to the laird’s man when ye arrived?”
A myriad of emotions flushed through Carys, diluting her anger. Loss. Homesickness. Grief. Loneliness. She quickly tamped them down, shoving the sentiments into the deep space inside where she hid them away. She set her jaw stubbornly. What kind of honor did the MacLean laird have if he punished those who fed his people? He sounded no better than Edward and the cursed English.
“I did not see the need. I asked nothing from the clan—neither food nor lodging. Or protection.”
The man gave a short nod. “Tell me how ye came here. There was rumor of a shipwreck, yet no survivors were found.”
Carys’s eyes narrowed. “You must not have searched very hard,” she scoffed, though she knew she’d covered her tracks well. Once away from the foundered Seabhag, she’d not returned, nor allowed Tully to do so. Precisely because of the fear someone would stumble upon the wreckage. She had not wanted to risk anyone discovering a well-worn path to the cave they called home.
The man shrugged. “’Tis possible, yet the captain was known to us and an effort was made to discover what happened to him and his lad.” His gaze pierced her. “Do ye know if any others live?”
“The men were all lost,” she replied curtly, not placing thirteen-year-old Tully in the same category. She clenched her fists, digging her nails into her palms against the threatened return of grief.
Her captor studied her at length. “How is it a woman came to be a hand on the ship? Did they not object? Sailors are a superstitious lot. A woman is said to bring naught but doom to a ship.”
“They welcomed me after I foiled an attempt to rob the ship whilst at harbor one night,” she answered with a tilt to her chin.
“Ye earned their goodwill?”
“Is it difficult for you to imagine I could be an asset?” Temper flared, warming her skin as it crept from her chest up her neck.
“Women have their place,” the man agreed.
“Mayhap ye are an uncommon woman. Ye gave Iain’s men a bit of trouble. Have ye skill with more than a knife and bow?”
Exasperated with the inquisition, Carys flung her arms wide. “I have no more answers for you. Tell me my penalty for slaying your laird’s deer—which I am certain you have gathered for yourselves—and let us be done. I will waste no more time on your land.”
He arched a brow, though in arrogance or anger she could not tell.
“The penalty for poaching the laird’s stag is death.”
* * *
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