So much fun to read–and seriously, check out that cover! 😉
“Wicked” by Sasannah Chapin
“The Keeper of the Keys” by Axa Lee
“The Maiden’s Kiss” by Layla Chase
“My Loveliest Vision” by Renee Luke
“The Invasion of Nefyn” by Lizzie Ashworth
“The Promise of Memory” by Regina Kammer
“On My Honor” by Betrix Ellroy
“A Falcon in Flight” by Connie Wilkins
“To Love a King’s Man” by Emma Jay
“The Bodyguard” by Jacqueline Broker
“Broken Vows” by Anya Richards
“Poetry and Amber” by Axa Lee
The first missive arrived without fanfare, passed through the iron bars of the barbican by a lone messenger dressed entirely in black.Sir Geade read the note, lifted a graying brow and then passed the small scroll to Lady Edwina, who held it beneath the oak table to read it. Not that everyone wasn’t aware of the queer fact that she could read.Prepare for a wedding or a siege.With all gazes resting on her, Edwina schooled her expression into a neutral mask. “Should I thank him for the warning, Geade?”
Sir Geade snorted. “He gives us time to retreat to the keep, stock the larders and call our neighbors for assistance. Perhaps we should.”
“What sort of warrior would give away his plan?” she murmured, not the least bit alarmed. Not yet.
“Either a fool or one who’s supremely confident.”
She traced the bold scrawl scratched across the parchment with her fingertip, knowing instinctively the bold knight had written the message himself. No proud scribe would pen a note so spare.
Grimvarr had been written across the bottom—as if she should already know his name and the two syllables should strike fear. “An odd name for a Norman knight.” As she swept from the hall, she would never have admitted that the word wedding had caused her more alarm than siege.
In response to the warning, Edwina ordered the stores replenished and the flocks of sheep brought closer to the keep, but otherwise went about her business without worry.
Who was this baseborn knight with designs on her demesne? Her overlord had assured her the choice of husband from among the eligible men in the region—once her grief was passed. That Edwina had every intention of nursing her grief for as many years as she could was a secret she kept to herself.
But by the time the second missive arrived, she’d learned a thing or two about the mysterious Grimvarr. Lord Alred’s steward had been a font of gossip concerning the knight who’d earned the Duke of Normandy’s trust by barreling into the royal pretender to save him from an assassin’s arrow. That act had earned him the gift of her demesne. A fact she found humiliating to learn in such a manner, but since her overlord had yet to apprise her directly of the news, she preferred to assume it was only rumor. How could the pretender give a gently bred woman to a barbarian?
Grimvarr was a Viking—or at least half the demon race, his father having abducted a Norman maiden and returned her promptly to her father when she’d spoiled his enjoyment by getting with child. And although he’d been raised by a Norman peer, he chose to dress in the fur and skins of his barbarian father.
No doubt Alred’s man had embellished the tale to cause Edwina worry. His master would love to see her squirm after she’d refused his latest suggested mate, claiming she’d marry the pig keeper before she’d wed a man who’d already sent two wives to the grave in childbirth.
While she kept her chin high and her comments derisive of her new “suitor” whenever he was mentioned in company, she’d suffered nightmares over the days before the second note arrived.
This message was longer.
I bring 25 knights, a hundred bowmen, swords and shield to arm every man, and one siege machine. Yield to me or face consequences.
Geade grunted, but worry creased his rugged brow.
“’Tis a love letter,” she muttered, determined to keep the bastard knight’s looming menace from raising alarm among her people. “He intends to impress me. No different than any of the other preening knights who’ve tried to woo me.”
“Perhaps he simply gives you fair warning, milady.” At her reproving glance, Sir Geade shrugged. “Our requests for reinforcements from Alred and Rathburn have gone unanswered.”
“They simply need time—”
“They know he approaches. Perhaps they fear him.”
“He bluffs!” she said with a dismissive wave of her hand. “What landless bastard commands such a force?”
He sighed. “Perhaps you are right. However, I would sleep easier if you remained inside the walls—at least for the coming weeks,” he amended when she gave him a scowl.
It rankled that her freedoms were curtailed by an upstart. Still, it was worrisome no one had answered her calls for assistance. Was he truly so imposing?
Her answer came one morning when the mists melted away to reveal glints of the armor and weapons of the force that spread across the meadow below the castle’s dirt motte. Guards had alerted Sir Geade, who’d awoken her before dawn to tell her they had visitors.
As she strode the length of the curtain wall peering down at the small army, she felt her first real frisson of unease. It seemed the knight hadn’t been bluffing after all.
Another note was passed. She held out her hand for the message, broke the seal, and unrolled the parchment. After a quick glance, she ripped the message to bits, tossing it over the castle walls. She hoped Lord Grim’s eyesight was good, because she didn’t want her response to his demand that she open the gates missed.
Indeed, a horse burst from the line of mounted knights and rushed forward to a spot well beyond her archers’ aim, where he reined in his horse and stared up at the curtain wall. The man astride the huge black warhorse fixed her with a glare she couldn’t miss despite the distance, and she shivered. Was it him? Good Lord, he was large, freakishly so, with shoulders made to appear even more broad by the black bear sash he wore over his armor. His arms were bared except for a wide golden band surrounding one thick bicep. His thighs were like tree trunks as he straddled his great warhorse. There was little she could tell about his face other than the strong jut of his chin and sinfully dark gaze hidden behind the nosepiece of his conical Viking helm. Long dark hair waved from beneath his helmet.
As she gaze down, an unexpected thrill pulsed through her. Completely unwanted. Irresistibly mystifying. Why after all the suitors she’d ousted from her keep, did this one make her breath hitch? Edwina drew a deep breath and slowly shook her head. It was only the thrill of the challenge he presented. She lifted her chin and turned her back.
from Delilah Devlin’s “Pleasure in Surrender”
Delilah Devlin is a prolific and award-winning author of erotica and erotic romance with a rapidly expanding reputation for writing deliciously edgy stories with complex characters. Whether creating dark, erotically-charged paranormal worlds or richly descriptive historical stories that ring with authenticity, Delilah Devlin “pens in uncharted territory that will leave the readers breathless and hungering for more…” (Paranormal Reviews). Ms. Devlin has published over 100 erotic stories in multiple genres and lengths.Her titles include Cowboy Lust, Smokin’ Hot Firemen, High Octane Heroes, Cowboy Heat, Down in Texas, and Texas Men. Her short stories have been featured in Fairy Tale Lust and Passion. A USA Today best-selling author, she lives in Arkadelphia, AR.