Genre: Historical Fiction
A battle of wills . . .
As the oldest son and heir to Anglesea, it is Roger’s duty to stand tall and strong. But his tough exterior belies the heart of a true romantic, a devoted son who yearns for the deep love he has witnessed between his parents and his sisters and their husbands. However, with the Anglesea family jockeying for a more advantageous position, Roger must marry judiciously.
A fight for the heart . . .
Having spent her childhood watching her mother suffer, Kathryn of Mandeville is determined never to marry. To be as a Viking shield maiden of old is her heart’s only desire. But when her sister Matty runs away to escape Roger’s sensible proposal, Kathryn is forced to help Roger find a more suitable bride. Bound by duty, Roger and Kathryn soon discover they are facing a much tougher fight—the one that is within their hearts . . .
Kathryn skipped to Matty’s chamber with an extra spring in her step. Her nethers ached from Sir Roger’s instruction the evening before, but nothing could dim her happiness. They had stayed in the yards until Anglesea’s Nurse called them in to get ready for dinner. Nurse had not seen anything amiss with her mannish pursuits either, merely reminded her to get the smell of horse off her before she sat at table.
Roger had excused himself to bathe in the barracks. A hard taskmaster, but Roger rode like a dream, and he handled a sword as if it formed part of his arm.
Matty would marry the perfect man for her and finally be safe. She couldn’t ask for better. With Matty safely tucked away in Anglesea, Kathryn need only concern herself with Mother. Still no apparent solution, short of burying the old cur ten feet under, had presented itself, but one step at a time. Matty’s marriage represented a massive stride toward Kathryn’s goal.
Perhaps Roger would allow Kathryn to spend time here at Anglesea with Matty. He had seemed to like her well enough yesterday, and she could make herself useful. She hunted well, tracked better than most men, and most assuredly did not ride like a girl. Indeed, she only need stay until he taught her how to handle a sword as he did. The world beckoned. Adventure. Freedom.
A serving maid smiled at her in passing. “Good morrow, Lady Kate.”
“Kathryn.” She softened the correction with a smile. “I prefer to be called Kathryn, and it is indeed a good morrow.” Holding the girl’s hands, she gave her a quick spin. “It is the very best of mornings.”
Giggling, the girl danced away down the hall.
“Get up, Matty.” She threw open the door to her sister’s chamber. What a marvel Anglesea was, with its separate sleeping chambers. The views of the sea on three sides robbed her of breath every time she strode near a casement. Aye indeed, she would do her best to endear herself to the Anglesea folk. Perhaps she and Mother could spend the winter months here. Did the sea freeze like the lake beside Mandeville? “Matty?”
Matty must have risen already, and had left her linens in disarray. Matty despised mornings, but the prospect of her wonderful groom must have gotten her up and about early this morn.
They’d spoken long after dinner last night. Matty had proven surprisingly stubborn, but Kathryn had worn her down, made her see sense. She could not stay at Mandeville.
Kathryn picked up a discarded wimple. Matty should make an effort to keep her room tidier. Lady Mary had seen Matty and her housed in lovely chambers. Though small, the bright, cheery fabrics and gleam of fine wood furnishings made them feel like visiting princesses. Bright embroidered florals ran across Matty’s bed hangings in a glorious tangle of green and yellow. At the foot of the bed stood Matty’s clothes chest. Open and empty.
Thieves! Matty had been robbed, and right in the midst of one of the strongest keeps in the kingdom. A well-guarded stronghold that shut its gates at night and had men who walked the halls whilst the residents slept.
Kathryn paused before she opened the door and cried foul.
Matty’s wedding bliaut hung from the clothes tree beside the casement. Morning sunlight glinted off the gems sewn across the bodice. Mother had labored for months, each gem stitched with care.
The bliaut stood ready, lonely for the absent bride to don it.
Warning prickled Kathryn’s nape as she strode to the chest. What sort of thief took only the most common day raiment and left the gem- encrusted wedding bliaut?
The fabric alone could have kept a family fed for the year. The cost of the gems? Kathryn shuddered to consider. Father kept a tight fist about his coins, but even he would not send his daughter to one of the richest families in the land looking like a pauper.
Beside Matty’s wedding gown, where her heavy traveling cloak should have hung, the clothes tree stretched an empty wooden arm into the room. Kathryn’s knees weakened, and she perched on the edge of Matty’s bed. Matty was gone.
The door opened. Ella crept into the room and slammed it shut behind her. Matty’s maid braced her slim back against the door and released a shuddering breath. “Lady Kathryn. I did hope it would be you.”
“Where is Matty?”
Ella’s pallor frightened Kathryn. She looked a breath away from crumpling into a heap on the floor.
“You must tell Sir Royce. Lady Matty said you would.” Tears trickled down Ella’s soft cheeks. Her hands twisted in her apron. “I cannot tell him, Lady Kathryn. I am afeared.”
With a cry, Ella tossed her apron over her head.
Kathryn wanted to shake the girl, but more than that, she wanted answers. “What has happened, Ella?”
“She is gone.” Her apron muffled her voice.
“What do you mean, gone. Has someone taken her?”
Ella shook her head. She buried her covered head in her hands and wailed. “I cannot tell Sir Royce. You must not make me tell him, or I shall die.”
“Never mind Sir Royce.” Kathryn ripped the apron from her head, and gripped Ella by the shoulders. She towered over the smaller, frailer woman. “Tell me where my sister is.”
“I do not know.” Ella collapsed in a heap.
Dear God, grant her patience not to slap the girl into next year. “But you must know something.”
“She begged me to help her.” Ella hugged her knees to her chest. “I did not want to do it, but she cried so and I feared she would make herself ill. ‘Save me, Ella. You are the only one who can help me,’ she said.”
“Help her? Why?” Kathryn needed to think, understand what the bedamned, blighted hell had happened. “Ella, if you do not stop crying, I will give you something to cry about.”
Ella whimpered and scuttled to her feet. She edged toward the door.
Kathryn blocked her way.
“Dear God, help me!” Ella raised her hands to the sky. “God save me.”
“Stop that! And do not move from there.” Kathryn wrestled her temper down. She stood before Ella, and kept her tone gentle. “Ella, I need to know what happened.”
“You will whip me.”
“Nay, Ella, I will not whip you. I merely need to know where my sister is.”
“You said you would make me cry.” Ella sniffled.
Kathryn dug her nails into her palms. “I spoke in anger. Nobody is going to raise a hand to you.”
“Your father will.”
True enough. Father would beat the hell out of everybody if they did not find Matty and find her soon. “I will protect you from my father.”
With a big sniff, Ella scrubbed her apron over her cheeks and peered at her. “She left, Lady Kathryn. Lady Mathilda said she could not marry that great oaf of a man and she took her bits and left.”
“Left?” Her worst fear. Kathryn plopped onto her ass on the hard stone. “Why? Where did she go?”
“That is all I know.” Ella stood and straightened her skirts. “She did not tell me more. You can try to beat it out of me, but I know nothing more.”
“Oh, Matty.” Kathryn dropped her head into her hands. “What have you done?”
Born British and raised in South Africa, Sarah Hegger suffers from an incurable case of wanderlust. Her match? A hot Canadian engineer, whose marriage proposal she accepted six short weeks after they first met. Together they’ve made homes in seven different cities across three different continents (and back again once or twice). If only it made her multilingual, but the best she can manage is idiosyncratic English, fluent Afrikaans, conversant Russian, pigeon Portuguese, even worse Zulu and enough French to get herself into trouble.
Mimicking her globe trotting adventures, Sarah’s career path began as a gainfully employed actress, drifted into public relations, settled a moment in advertising, and eventually took root in the fertile soil of her first love, writing. She also moonlights as a wife and mother.
She currently lives in Colorado with her teenage daughters, two Golden Retrievers and aforementioned husband. Part footloose buccaneer, part quixotic observer of life, Sarah’s restless heart is most content when reading or writing books.
Sarah is the recipient of the 2015 EPIC Award for Historical Romance.
She is represented by Nalini Akolekar of Spencerhill Associates.
Facebook Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/sarahheggerauthor
Goodreads: ht http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8202895.Sarah_Hegger
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