Release date: April 25, 2016
Sent alone to Scotland to wed a wild Scot and serve the needs of her father and her king, Lady Jessamyn intends to escape the marriage and train horses for the good sisters at a nearby nunnery. But her intended is not the wild, boorish monster she imagined—just Baron Raeb MacKai, a man struggling to provide the best for his clan. It could be surprisingly easy to surrender her heart to him, until she learns his plans involve deceiving her family and attacking the king’s ship that bears her brother.
Raeb is done watching everyone he loves live in poverty and despair. His betrothal to a wealthy English heiress will solve a decade of problems, and the Scots’ secret plot to keep King Edward I from getting a foothold on their rugged coastline will secure his family’s future. If he must deny himself the spirited woman who would warm his bed and his heart, so be it.
Neither is willing to give an inch in this clash of loyalties, but can either defend their hearts?
Sensuality Level: Sensual
Historical romance author Rue Allyn lives in southeast Michigan with the love of her life and one tyrannical cat, where she works daily to make Happy Ever After come true. Find Rue Allyn at RueAllyn.com, on Facebook, and on Twitter @RueAllyn.
An excerpt from Knight Defender:
Mid-April 1295, the northwest coast of Scotland
Baron Raeb MacKai strode along the steep track leading from Dungarob keep to the harbor. Far below, a solitary ship edged up to the lone dock set in sun-sparkled waters. On this rare, cloudless morning, the bay shone like a jewel set in dark, craggy gray, rimmed with drab despair. Ships had become rare visitors to the bay, so this vessel most likely brought the woman who would restore Clan MacKai’s fortunes.
He had no illusions about his home. The small village bordering the harbor was ramshackle at best. The dock balanced on ancient footings, just barely steady, and—save for the ship—empty of all but the smallest derelicts. The roads—if they could be called that—were narrow and rock strewn. Walking was a hazard. The people moved slowly, thin and haggard from too much work and too little food.
Stones rattled down the cliff side of the track.
“Slow down, Raeb. I’ll go with you to greet your future wife. ’Twill be some time before anyone debarks, so ’tis no need to hurry.”
He stopped and watched his sister Neilina skip along the stone-littered path. Younger by three years, she had absolute faith in her view of right and wrong.
“If courtesy to my betrothed is your purpose, go back to the keep,” he growled. “I tell you now I’ll no have a single body—sister, clansman, or servant—give the least kindness to the woman arriving on that ship.”
A line formed between Neilina’s black brows, which arched more delicately than his over MacKai gray eyes. He hadn’t expected his sister to be happy with his order.
She halted beside him, studying the scene below as he did.
A woman now stood on the ship, observing the docking process. Her tresses shone like a beacon in the dark night of his people’s poverty. Reports gave her alabaster skin, robin’s egg-blue eyes, lips of the most delicate pink, an angel’s figure with slender hips and breasts as soft as down. All the praise probably disguised a pampered, pale weakling who would wither and die in Dungarob’s hard winters. Luckily for Lady Jessamyn Du Grace, she wouldn’t be here long enough to see a single snowflake.
She moved smoothly as she disappeared belowdecks a moment before a group of men supervised the removal of a small white steed from the ship to the dock. Raeb snorted in mild disgust. Unlike the destriers and coursers that once filled the Dungarob stables and glens, this horse, like the woman, was clearly too delicate, too refined for the challenges of the Highland coast—his Highland coast. Which was why the woman with her puny mount was here.
Beside him Neilina’s fingers drummed against her hip. Best to let her air her objections. It would not change his mind, but it would make her feel better.
“No greet our future baroness? You would have her condemn the entire clan before she even meets us and no doubt see you as the biggest boor on earth! Are you mad?”
He rolled his eyes. She could complain of his rudeness all she liked as long as his English betrothed didn’t become Neilina’s latest cause. “Nae,” he agreed without compunction. “I dinna care what the lady thinks.”
“You actually wish our sisters and the entire clan to be as callous as you? English she may be, but ’tis no reason for rudeness.”
He shrugged. “’Tis no more than any English deserves, be they king, pauper, or a coddled lady too stupid or cowardly to know better than to accept a match with a Scot.”
His sister’s gaze narrowed. “Are you so certain she’s a lack-wit or a coward? With a godfather like Edward I of England, she may have had no choice in the matter, especially if she is a properly obedient and humble goddaughter.”
“Her father is one of Edward’s favorites and a verra influential man. I doubt even the king of England would try to force Lord Du Grace to give his daughter where he didna wish, especially since the man might rebel and take others with him, if his cherished only daughter were made unhappy.”
Neilina snorted. “King Edward’s no reputed to be a man easily intimidated by others, and given his disputes with the pope, I am no certain he cares for any opinion save his own. I still say your orders are absurd, and rudeness is no way to start married life.”
Raeb frowned. Mayhap, in her champion’s way, Neilina only wished to see her brother happy. Too bad he couldn’t explain the marriage would not take place. To keep the plan safe, only a group of trusted allies and his captain of the guard knew the truth. Certainly telling his high-minded, judgmental sister would be foolish.