Sir Roark will do anything to gain land, even beguile an unwilling lady into marriage. He knows she’s much better off with a man to take control of her besieged castle, to say nothing of her desirable person. But it isn’t long before he discovers that, although her eyes sparkle like sunlight on sea waves, her stubbornness alone could have defeated Saladin.
Lady Alyss is determined to hold her family’s castle, protect her people, and preserve her freedom— until her brother’s dying wish binds her to a stranger. Still, she’ll allow no rugged, over-confident, appealing knight to usurp her authority, even if she must wed him. Especially since he thinks a lady’s duties begin and end with directing servants. Alyss has a few surprises for her new all-too-tempting lord.
But when a common enemy threatens everything, Roark and Alyss face a startling revelation: Without love, neither land nor freedom matters.
Anger drove her to answer without thought. “No one can force me to marry.”
He stepped back. “Sir Baldwin, tell Lady Alyss of the messenger who just left.”
Baldwin shot her a pained look of apology. “From Windom he came, milady. The new master there commands an interview tomorrow, under order of Prince John. I sent him on his way, but it don’t look good. This new master’ll be here early in the morn, I’m bettin’.”
Alyss stood, chin high, arms crossed beneath her breasts. “Let him come.”
Sir Roark chuckled. “By God, my lady, we’ll deal well together.” He grabbed her shoulders and pulled her against his broad chest.
Before she could protest, Sir Roark’s mouth was on hers, and she was forced to clutch his sleeves. Only to keep from tumbling over, of course, because her traitorous legs threatened to collapse. Then the tip of his tongue brushed the seam of her lips, and she lost all thought but his taste and the strangely comforting arms holding her up.
The kiss had been a damned mistake. Roark had meant it as a statement of possession. But her softness hit him like a mace. When he inhaled the rich fragrance of spice and roses and woman, his intent changed. He hauled her closer, slanted his mouth, stroked his tongue along the seam of her lips. At her whimper, a flicker of guilt undercut Roark’s stirring of desire. He ought not do this to the lady. He ought to gather his belongings and be on his way.
But the memory of the recent messenger lingered. That one portended nothing good. If Roark gave in to his inconveniently awakening conscience, by tomorrow night Chauvere, its people, and its lady would be the property of the neighboring lord. Of that, Roark was certain. So the way he saw it, either Lady Alyss married him or she’d be forced to accept someone else. And if Windom’s representative was any indication of his master, she’d not like that alternative.
What would it take to persuade her? A sudden pain burst between his legs, and he gasped, eyes blurry. The little hell-cat had kneed him. Even though chain mail deflected some of the impact, he used every bit of his willpower to remain standing.
Apparently persuasion took more than a kiss.