Lindsay and I share a penchant for unusual settings. In fact, we are fellow bloggers at Unusual Historicals.
RETURN OF THE BORDER WARRIOR is no exception. The spine says “Tudor,” but it’s Tudor with a twist. Yes, Henry VIII sits on the English throne, but my book takes place on the Scottish side of the border where the king in question is James V, Henry’s nephew.
The returning warrior is John Brunson, youngest son of the Brunson Clan. Stubborn and strong, they are the most feared family on the turbulent Scottish Borders: The family that will kneel to no one!
John comes home after years of serving as a “big brother” to the young Scottish king. John is a man with something to prove, both to himself and to his family. As the only blue-eyed Brunson, he’s always felt as if he didn’t belong. Now, he no longer wants to. As soon as he enforces the king’s command for peace, he plans to return to his life at court and leave the valley of his birth for the last time.
But first, he must persuade Cate Gilnock to release his family from their promise to avenge her father’s death. Cate is a woman fierce as a warrior, but behind her eyes John senses vulnerability and secrets she refuses to share. Bit by bit, he falls in love with her, and with each step, he is drawn back into the life he thought he had left behind forever. Because of Cate, he discovers he is more like the rest of his family than he thought until, finally, he must decide: Is he truly a Brunson? Or is he the King’s man after all?
RETURN OF THE BORDER WARRIOR is the first of three books centering on the Brunson Clan. CAPTIVE OF THE BORDER LORD, January 2013, will tell the story of John’s sister, Bessie Brunson and finally, Black Rob Brunson, oldest son and leader of the family, meets his match in TAKEN BY THE BORDER REBEL, March 2013. Books will be available both in the US and the UK, in print and electronic versions.
Here’s an excerpt from Chapter One of RETURN OF THE BORDER WARRIOR. John has come across Cate, practicing her sword fighting against her own shadow. He thinks to play with her, easily besting her sword with his dagger, but the woman proves more capable than he imagined…
He jumped just in time to escape a touch. Now was not the time for distractions. He had expected a playful joust. Instead, he faced a warrior.
He swung high, but she held up her sword, turned sideways, to block his stroke. A clever move, but lifting the two-handed sword had strained her strength and when she lowered it, her arms shook.
Seizing on her weakness, he attacked and they crossed blades again. Prepared now, he leveraged his strength against her sword. Though she kept her grip, he pushed the blade away, coming close enough to feel her chest rise and fall, nearly touching his.
Close enough that his mind wandered, careless of the blades, thinking that under her tunic and vest, she had breasts. Now he could see her face, the angles of it, sharp and cleanly sculpted as her sword. Yet thick lashes edged her brown eyes, disguising some of the hatred there.
Panting, she shook her head. Yet her lips parted, tempting him to take them. She was, after all, a woman. A kiss would be mightier than a sword.
He pushed her sword arm down, pulled her to him, and took her lips.
She yielded for a breath, no more.
But it was long enough for him to lose his thoughts, to forget she held a sword and remember only that she was a woman, breasts soft against his chest, smelling of heather…
In a flash, she turned stiff as a sword and leaned away, though her lips did not leave his, so he thought she only teased.
When he felt the point of a dirk at his throat, he knew she did not.
“Let me go,” she said, her lips still close that they moved over his. “Or you’ll be bleeding and I’ll leave you to it, I swear.”
He eased his arms from her back and she pushed him away, wiped her mouth, and spat into the dirt.
He touched the scratch she’d left on his neck, grateful she had not drawn blood.
Her eyes, which he had thought to turn soft with pleasure, narrowed, hard with fury.
“It’s a Brunson you’re facing,” he said, trying a smile. “Not a Storwick.”
She raised both sword and dirk, the larger wobbling in her grip. “It’s a man I’m facing who thinks what I want is of no consequence if it interferes with his privileges and pleasures.”
Had he imagined the echo of the bedchamber in her voice? No more.
He raised his eyebrows, opened his arms and made a slight bow. “A thousand pardons.” Words as insincere as the feelings behind them.
She frowned. “You are a stranger here, so you know no better. And because you are a Brunson, I’ll let you keep your head, but I’ll warn you just once. You will not do that again. Ever.”
She lowered her sword, slowly.
You are a stranger. She was the Brunson, besting him with a sword, displacing him at the family table. His temper rose. “And what if I do?”
The blade rose, this time, not pointed at his throat, but between his legs. “If you do, you won’t have to worry about bedding a woman ever again.”
He swallowed, gingerly, his body on fire. Only because she had challenged him. Nothing more. No man could desire such a woman.
“Then have no worries on that score, Catie Gilnock,” he said, flush with anger. “When next I bed a woman, it most certainly will not be you.”
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