A Perfect Knight For Loveby Jackie Ivie
Deep in the Scottish Highlands, a stalwart clansman and a wayward bride confront duty and desire. . .
A Man Of MisfortuneWith his reckless, drunken brother bringing ruin to the clan, and the lass he's loved all his life in the clutches of a violent husband, the last thing Thayne MacGowan needs is a spirited, sharp-tongued damsel to contend with--no matter how/b>… See more details below
Deep in the Scottish Highlands, a stalwart clansman and a wayward bride confront duty and desire. . .
A Man Of MisfortuneWith his reckless, drunken brother bringing ruin to the clan, and the lass he's loved all his life in the clutches of a violent husband, the last thing Thayne MacGowan needs is a spirited, sharp-tongued damsel to contend with--no matter how enticing she may be. . .
A Woman With A Secret
Having narrowly escaped an objectionable arranged marriage, Amalie is starting a new life--with a new identity. But her freedom is cut short when a surly but irresistibly handsome Highlander is forced to take her as his bride. If only he knew who she really was. . .
An Unlikely Love
Fate designs an improbable match, and a battle of wills ensues. As Amalie struggles to protect her identity, Thayne finds himself fighting for an unexpected love--and a passion neither can refuse. . .
"Sizzling sexual tension and great repartee."--Romantic Times on Knight Everlasting
"Filled with magic and a love so deep it takes my breath away." --Romance Reader at Heart on Once Upon a Knight
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- 4.10(w) x 6.70(h) x 1.10(d)
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A Perfect Knight for Love
By Jackie Ivie
ZEBRA BOOKSCopyright © 2012 Jacquelyn Ivie Goforth
All right reserved.
Chapter OneAD 1689
Limitless ... that's what it was. And stretching as far as the eye could see.
Amalie inhaled with pure joy, focusing a moment on breaking clouds tinted with a setting sun. Everyone else had dismounted the coach, stretching and yawning as they cleared the door. Amalie ignored them. She knew what they'd be looking at: a hastily erected posting house whose wood was so new it contained slivers, or one hewn from rock looking old and worn before it got finished. They'd also see a collection of horseflesh that might taint any decent stable, before being accosted by more robust and uncouth humanity. It would be exactly like the last stop, and the one before. The only good thing about this one was it was the second-to-the-last one she must visit.
Amalie exhaled and watched the mist from her breath for a moment before it dissipated. It was all so beneath her. She had more immense things to ponder than jostling through a crowd to a sparse attic room, eating a lukewarm and probably unappetizing sup, and bedding down on coarse sheets atop a hard bed. She had freedom. The moment they'd crossed the border she'd felt it. She was free. Absolutely, totally—
She tripped, spinning into a tangled mass of skirts and traveling cape before landing in a bruising cradle without much give to it.
"What the saints?"
Amalie slapped her hand against a massive chest having a total lack of softness. Nothing about him felt remotely soft. Or anything other than hard. Heated. Male. Amalie squinted up at him.
"Good catch, Thayne."
"Now lasses just come raining from the heavens for him, too? 'Tis vastly unfair of fate."
"Hush. All of you."
The man moved his chest with the words and that moved her. His head came around the brim of her hat next, showing the unfairness of the entire exchange. Handsomeness such as his existed only in some night-fantasy capacity. And those, she'd never admit to.
"'Tis fain easier to use the steps, lass."
He had a thick Scot accent that teased her ear. It also required a moment or two to decipher what he said.
He tied her tongue with the view, and then tangled her words with the size and strength of him. She didn't know where her wits had gone. It was just so completely unexpected. Her palm flesh itched and tingled where it touched solid male through a too-thin muslin shirt, there wasn't but a bunched band of plaid cloth intersecting him near her knees, and she was having trouble breathing.
"Nae thanks necessary, miss. It is ... miss?"
He lifted his brows, showing off light-shaded eyes. They combined with perfect features and thick reddish-brown hair. He was extremely tall. Either that or he stood on the loading stool. Amalie could see beneath the coach she'd just fallen from.
"Y-yes." She sounded weak. And she stammered. It was better than remaining stunned and silent, but not by much. It wasn't possible to converse properly with him, though. Her mouth didn't work.
He let out a pent breath and turned his head. "All's well, lads. She's unwed."
"That's MacGowan luck for you."
The reply caused chuckling about her. The man holding her didn't join in. He turned back to her. Amalie licked her lips and ordered her heart to cease the gallop of beats. It didn't work.
"'Luck?" Amalie asked.
A grin split his face, sending his handsomeness right into beautiful. Amalie's eyes went wide.
"'Tis luck I'll na' be accosted for my actions."
"I caught you."
"True," Amalie agreed. "But I ... don't understand."
"A husband might find my action objectionable."
He cleared his throat. It rumbled through the chest she was pressed to. "'Tis na'exactly the catch. More the delay that has ensued afterward."
"I've yet to release you."
"Oh. Then, do so."
"'Tis muddy through here."
"Now, I truly must object—"
He stopped her words by gathering her close enough their chests touched. Then he took large paces through the muck of the stable yard, moving muscled flesh everywhere she touched.
He was accurate about one thing. It must be muddy. He slipped more than once and that got her gripped even more tightly.
"Iain? See to the door. And you, Sean! Fetch a mug of something."
"Mead! Fetch mead. You ken mead?" Her captor asked the last, dipping his head to her and giving another quick smile.
"Ken?" she asked.
He blew a breath through his lower lip, lifting stray locks at his forehead with the motion. "A bit of mead works well at untwisting knots from a coach ride."
"Put me down," Amalie replied.
"What if I say ... nae?"
"Surely that's ungentlemanly."
He tipped his head to one side as if weighing it. Then he bent sideways and slid her to the wooden floor, keeping a hold on her elbow as if she needed it. She hadn't been mistaken. He was worse than tall. He was gigantic. Amalie looked over at the fourth button down on his too-thin shirt. She'd probably fit beneath his arm. She cleared her throat. It sounded weak.
"I really must leave you, sir. But I do thank you."
"I'd best see you to a prime spot first."
"Prime ... spot?"
She may be at his side rather than plastered to him but her reaction hadn't improved. She glanced up into clear, green-blue eyes and darted her look away.
"For your rest. And meal."
"I've a room reserved. I do not sit in the common room." Amalie knew she sounded autocratic, but it was too late. She could only hope he didn't notice.
"You the governess expected by Clan MacKennah? The one from London-town?"
"Y-yes." Her voice wavered again. Still.
"Sincerest apologies. Your rooms have been ... borrowed."
"What do you mean ... borrowed?"
"They're na' available to you at present."
"Release me at once. I'll take this up with the innkeeper." Her lips set. If he knew her better, he'd know what it meant.
"Nae need. The man's well satisfied."
"Satisfied? How? And with what?" Her voice was growing tart and acidic. Both signs of her temper. Amalie worked at controlling it.
"With copious amounts of silver. What else?"
"That's impossible. My room is booked and paid for."
"It's still been taken."
"You can't take a room."
"It's done, lass. Come. I'll see you a sup fetched and mead." "You stole my room?"
He gave her that innocent looking smile again. "You canna' steal a room, lass. I've but borrowed it. I'll return it. You've my word."
The thick brogue attached to the words was no longer interesting. It was irritating and annoying. Everything about him was. Her voice rose.
"Unborrow it, then. This instant. Rooms have been reserved for me all along this route. And unhand me, as well." She tried pulling her elbow from him, but all that happened was he tightened his thumb and two fingers.
"I ken as much."
There wasn't much of his previous joviality to the words and no leeway in his grip as he twirled her forward. Then he forewent any appearance of a gentlemanly escort to march her across the room, using long loping strides that slid her feet, sending orders above her head the entire way.
"Grant? Clear a spot nearest the fire. You, Sean! A chair. Iain, my cloak. And get me a plaide. A dry one."
He dragged her across the common room as if it wasn't crowded, went through a portal, and entered another room. Amalie's heartbeat was so pronounced it pained her throat, while her mind flashed through every warning and dire consequence she'd been forced to listen to during the last few days.
She'd been told a Scotsman was barbaric. How ancient villages had been raided by Vikings, and those in turn became governed by Highlanders. Supposedly the culture hadn't progressed much since. She'd been warned how any veneer of civility got wiped away by the Covenanters of the '60s. It had all seemed so far-fetched and ridiculous. And she hadn't paid enough attention. That much was patently obvious.
"I'll scream. I swear." And if her voice would work beyond a whisper, she'd have already done it.
He moved with the word, folding her into an embrace of sorts. She'd known he was large, muscled, heated, and solid. Being clamped against him with her head tilted upward was unnecessary proof. Amalie opened her mouth but he'd forestalled her with a barrage of brogue-filled words, colored with what sounded like genuine fear.
"'Tis nae whim, lass! You ken? You need to quiet and assist. 'Tis life or death!"
Light whooshed from the fireplace, flaring with the influx of air from an opening door. Amalie didn't see it. She was suffering too many impressions at once. All of them strange. Odd. Foreign. Hard, heavy heartbeats at her nose. The odor of rain-wet wool. Huffs of breath touching her cheeks. The sensations combined to bombard her, making her tremble slightly within his embrace. All of it was unwarranted. Unladylike. Unbelievable. His arms tightened, pulling at her pinned hair, crushing her bonnet out of his way as he lifted her. She heard a whisper and then everything went to absolute shock as his lips came down on hers.
Amalie fancied her first kiss a chaste one, delivered upon promise of a betrothal. A quick meeting of her lips with those of a shadowy suitor, with her hands upon his shoulders while her breasts heaved toward him. She'd relived it often in her mind. She knew the pose by rote. Yet the moment this Thayne's lips touched hers, it obliterated absolutely everything.
Her hands were trapped between them, branding her palms with heat. A thunder of heartbeats tapped at her palms. He was rock hard, and his chest wasn't the only portion exhibiting that. Everything felt hard. Unyielding. Even his lips. They weren't soft, romantic, or remotely shadowy. They were rigid, bruising, and hot enough to scorch. Pings of sensation hit at her nose. Breathing was especially difficult as it mingled with the force of his.
Then she felt something so horrid, she was grateful her eyes were tightly shut as something completely illicit and totally alien happened, exacerbating the blur of hummed sound in her ears. An odd flurry of thrills ran over her head, down her spine, and all the way to her toes, before racing back. From there the shiver went right to center at each breast tip, making them tight and sensitive. There wasn't any way to stop it or control it. Amalie didn't know what the reaction was. She'd never felt such a thing before. And worse! The man holding her somehow knew. The instant flinch in his frame and his quick intake of breath told her.
Amalie heard the thudding of boots, then angry words, all of it coming in disjointed snippets of sound. It was akin to eavesdropping on a party from the nursery—back when that's all she'd known. The words carried threat and then she heard a clank of sound that could very well be a sword leaving its scabbard. And she didn't even know what that sounded like.
More sounds of metal filled the space between heartbeats in her ears, more footsteps, and then more words, angrier and more threatening in tone.
"I'll have your head!"
There was a bit of quick grunts, sounds that could mean blows, and Amalie stiffened. The man holding her did the same. Cold invaded, stealing her breath, and muting the warmth. Even his lips felt cold. Then someone behind him spoke loudly and with a bit of amusement coloring the words.
"'Tis clearly a mistake, lads. We've got the wrong MacGowan."
Sounds of a scuffle died. With it, the ability to stand. Amalie sagged into Thayne.
"Someone should put a leash to your laird."
The man holding her gave the slightest reaction to the conversation behind him, grasping her even tighter somehow.
"Well ... you ken how our Jamie is."
"Keep him from my daughters. Or I'll send him to hell. You hear?"
More words got exchanged in the room behind her, blending with the noise in her ears, before she heard footsteps leaving and a door close. That's when Thayne finally pulled his lips from her, lifted his head, and lowered her to her feet. He didn't release her. His continued touch was horrid and yet heaven-sent. Her entire frame was trembling and her knees didn't feel like they'd hold.
Her captor went in a twist to look out at the room, granting her a perfect view of thick muscled neck with a grosgrain ribbon attached to a bit of stubble on his chin. Amalie blinked. Her bonnet had come untied? It was one of her plainest, without any lace, bows, or feathers, but she couldn't afford to lose it. She narrowed her eyes and concentrated on the mundane misplacement of her hat. As if it mattered.
She hadn't lost anything. She could feel the bonnet trailing from her shoulders.
"That was close." Somebody said it from behind MacGowan's bulk.
The words rumbled through the chest she was still pressed to, making her gasp, which made him harden even further. And all of it even worse as she could swear she felt thighs against hers. Even through her skirts.
Thayne swore. Amalie held that gasp, yet still he hardened somewhere as if she'd reacted, sending prickles of annoyance through each palm where they still pressed against his chest. The man was worse than she'd been warned.
"They doona' suspect anything?"
Thayne answered again, with another resultant tightening of something in his frame. Amalie's fingers got cursed with every nuance of him. And his shirt wasn't helpful in the slightest.
"You heard. They think you Jamie. Out for a bit of rape and pillage. As usual."
"'Tis a foul night, lads. Full of accursed deeds."
This time his arms moved, pulling her closer, and that just wasn't fair. Or reasonable. And it was making everything spin.
There was a chorus of 'ayes.'
"Nae sign of Dunn-Fyne?"
If he said one more thing, she was going to open her mouth and scream. It would be better than swooning.
"He'll na' be far. Ammon's his mon."
"Christ. And his Mother Mary."
He spit the curses out, moving her with them. He followed with more words, said in a language she couldn't possibly comprehend. And then he took a deep breath, held it for long heart-thumping moments before releasing it. "That was close. And my actions are totally unforgivable. I doona' even ken why I'd ask, but I should still try. Lass?"
Amalie turned her head and shut her eyes the moment he'd moved back to her. He probably gave her a bit of smile to match the cajoling tone in his brogue. As if handsome looks and charm would grant him forgiveness. It had probably worked before, though. Not today. And not with her. She wasn't listening, and for certain she wasn't looking.
"You believe me, doona' you, lass? 'Tis a matter of life or death. I swear."
He whispered it to the area above her ear. The spot instantly tingled. She lifted her shoulder against it, opened her eyes, and felt her jaw drop at the sight of drawn swords and what looked to be mallets his men held at the ready.
"Thayne! Quick! There's nae time! She's dying!"
Everyone pivoted to face the speaker who'd opened a door on the opposite side of the room. His hissed words got an immediate response. Amalie wasn't given a choice. Thayne simply lifted her and followed, running up the two flights of steps that should've echoed with the volume of boots.
If he'd just give her a moment, she'd tell him. She believed him. She did. This much intensity and action had to have life and death at its core. She no longer cared about the stolen room or the outrage of her first kiss. She was overcome. Shocked. Scared. She needed to be alone to work through it. Amalie's known world was structured, soft spoken, rarely disturbing, closely organized, and scripted. There wasn't anything dramatic about it.
The room they'd purloined was in the attic, small and sparsely furnished, as a second-class paying passenger deserved, and it was crowded. It reeked of poorly washed linens and sweat, while grassy-smelling smoke came from a fireplace that hadn't had the flue opened enough. Or they were using wet wood. Or something. Amalie's eyes smarted the moment they'd arrived. Then, she was blinking against the sting. Through a candlelit haze she heard the sound of whispered voices and the soft sound of weeping. And the muted sounds of what had to be an infant getting suckled.
"How ... is she?"
Thayne's voice was soft but it was the only soft thing about him. The words echoed through where he'd pressed Amalie; close ... like a shield. Both his arms were about her torso, just beneath her breasts, pressing immodestly where they shouldn't. Which was another stupid mundane thought. None of this was modest.
Excerpted from A Perfect Knight for Love by Jackie Ivie Copyright © 2012 by Jacquelyn Ivie Goforth. Excerpted by permission of ZEBRA BOOKS. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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