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By Lynsay Sands
Copyright © 2004
All right reserved.
"What does she look like?"
Rolfe ignored the question as they crested the hill and Dunbar
keep came into view. He sighed his relief. The castle
symbolized an end to the sorry task he'd been burdened with,
an end he would be happy to see. While loyal to the King, he
was beginning to think Richard II was going out of his mind.
Rolfe Kenwick, Baron of Kenwickshire was no cupid; and yet he
had already been forced to arrange two weddings, was seeing to
one at the moment, and no doubt would have another to see to
on returning to court.
Rolfe finally turned to peer at the strong, blonde warrior at
his side. Blake Sherwell, the heir to the Earl of Sherwell,
one of the wealthiest lords in the kingdom. He was called the
'Angel' by the women at court. The name suited him. The man
had been blessed with the appearance of an angel, not the
sweet innocence of a cherub, but the hard, lean, pure looks of
one of heaven's warriors. His eyes were as blue as the
heavens themselves, his nose acquiline, his face sharp and
hard and his fair hair hung to his shoulders in long
glistening golden locks. Just over six feet in height,
Blake's shoulders were wide and muscular, his waist narrow,
and his legs long and hard from years of hugging a horse.
Even Rolfe had to admit the other man's looks werestunning.
Unfortunately, Blake had also been blessed with a tongue as
sweet as syrup; honeyed words dripped off his tongue like rain
drops off a rose petal, a skill he used to his advantage with
the ladies. It was said he could have talked Saint Agnes into
his bed had he lived in her time, which was why the men
generally referred to him as the 'Devil's own'. Too many of
them had wives who had proven themselves susceptible to his
"What does she look like?"
Rolfe put aside his thoughts at the repeated question. He
opened his mouth to snap at Blake, then caught the expression
on the face of the over-large man riding a little behind the
warrior and nearly smiled. Little George was the giant's name.
Where Blake was blond, Little George was dark, where Blake
was handsome, Little George had been cursed with the face of a
bull-dog, but what the man lacked in looks, he made up for in
Regaining some of his patience, Rolfe turned back to the man
beside him. "You have asked - and I have answered - that
question at least thirty times since leaving castle Eberhart,
"And now I ask again," the fair-haired man said grimly.
An exasperated tsking drew Rolfe's attention to the Bishop who
rode at his other side. The King had dragged the elderly
prelate out of retirement to perform several weddings he
wished to take place.
Despite having been contracted some twenty years ago, no one
seemed to wish the wedding to go ahead. Not the families, the
groom, nor even the bride-to-be.
"As I have told you - at least fifty times since starting our
journey - she is tall."
"Mayhap a finger shorter than myself."
"Lady Seonaid is well-formed with long ebony hair, large blue
eyes, a straight patrician nose, high cheekbones, and fair,
nearly flawless skin. She is attractive ..." He hesitated,
debating whether it was time to warn the other man of the less
than warm greeting he was about to receive.
"Do I hear a howbeit in there?" Blake asked, drawing Rolfe
from his thoughts.
"Aye," he admitted, deciding if he were to warn him at all,
the time was now.
"Howbeit what?" the warrior prompted, eyes narrowed in
"She is a bit rough around the edges."
"Rough around the edges?" Blake echoed with alarm. "What
mean you she is rough around the edges?"
"Well ..." Rolfe glanced at the Bishop for help.
Bushy white eyebrows doing a little dance above gentle green
eyes, Bishop Wykeham considered the question briefly, then
leaned forward to peer past Rolfe's bulk at the groom. "Her
mother died when she was young, leaving your betrothed to be
raised by her father and older brother. I fear she is a bit
lacking in some of the softer refinements," he said
Blake was not fooled. The Bishop was a master of
understatement, if he said she was lacking some softer
refinements, she was most like a barbarian. He turned on the
younger man accusingly. "You did not mention this afore,
"Well, nay," Rolfe allowed reluctantly. "Nay, I did not. I
thought mayhap it would set you to fretting and there was no
sense in doing that."
"Damn!" Blake glared at Dunbar castle as they approached. It
appeared cold and unfriendly to him. The Scots had not
exactly rolled out the welcome, but then he had not expected
them to. They wanted the marriage no more than he did.
Blake could not turn and head back to England, his future was
set. By noon on the morrow, he would be a married man.
Damn ... life was a trial, and what little freedom a man enjoyed
was short lived, he mused miserably. Then he forced himself
to straighten in the saddle as he realized they were about to
pass through the gates into the bailey of Dunbar keep. He
would present a strong, confident front to these people. His
pride insisted on it.
Blake lifted his head and met the silent stares of the guards
watching from the walls, but soon found it difficult to keep
his face expressionless when the men began shouting to each
"Which one be he, diya think?" shouted one man.
"The poor wee blonde one I wager," answered another, an older
soldier. "He be a fair copy of his faither."
There was a brief silence as every eye examined him more
thoroughly at this news, then someone commented, "A shame
that. I be thinkin-the dark braw one might have a chance, but
the wee one 'll no last a day."
"I say he'll no last half a day!" someone else shouted.
"Whit diya wager?"
Blake's expression hardened as the betting began. Indignity
rose in him on a wave. Never in his life had he been called
'wee' before. He was damned big next to the average man,
though he supposed he appeared smaller next to Little George.
Stiffening his back a bit more, he lead his horse up to the
steps at the front of the keep. The absence of his bride, who
should have been waiting on the stairs to greet him, was an
added insult. 'Twas damned rude, and he would be sure to say
so when he met the woman, he decided as the men in the bailey
gave up all pretense of working and began to gather around
their party to stare. Being the censure of all eyes was
discomfiting, but their mocking smiles and open laughter were
Blake was relieved at the distraction when one of the large
keep doors creaked open. A young boy appeared at the top of
the steps, turned to shout something back into the keep, then
bolted down the stairs.
"Thank you, son," Blake slid off his mount and smiled as the
lad took the reigns of his mount. His smile faded, however,
as he noted the mixture of pity and amusement on the boy's
face before he turned away. The child retrieved the reigns of
Rolfe, the Bishop, and Little George's horses as well, then
lead them away.
Shifting uncomfortably, Blake raised an eyebrow in Rolfe's
direction. The other man merely shrugged uncertainly, but
worry crossed his features before he turned to give
instructions to the soldiers escorting them.
Scowling, Blake turned to peer up the steps at the closed
double doors of the keep. The upcoming meeting was becoming
more intimidating every moment and he took the time to
mentally calm himself and gird his courage. Then he realized
that he was allowing himself to be unsettled by a meeting with
a mere female.
Blake paused and gave his head a shake. What the Devil was he
worried about? Women had always responded well to him. He
was considered quite attractive by the opposite sex. He
wouldn't be surprised if his soon-to-be-bride melted into a
swoon at the very sight of him. Her gratitude at being lucky
enough to marry him would know no bounds, and her apologies
for not meeting him on his arrival would flow unending.
Being the Angel, he would gallantly forgive her, then they
would be married. After which he would have done with the
business and head home. There was no law and no line in the
agreement stating he had to take her with him. Blake thought
he should leave her here, making regular if infrequent visits,
until he had a home where he could set her and forget her.
Blake did a brief scan of those present, searching for the
woman he was to marry and spend the rest of his life with, but
there seemed to be none present. Women that is. Other than a
servant or two, the great hall was entirely inhabited by men.
It mattered little, he reassured himself, he would meet her
Blake moved toward the head table, slowly gaining the
attention of man after man as first one spied him and nudged
another, who nudged another and gestured toward him.
Ignoring their rude behavior, he moved up the center of the
room until he stood before the grizzled old man he suspected
was the Laird, Angus Dunbar. The room had fallen to silence,
a hundred eyes fixed on and bore into him from every angle and
still the man did not look up. Blake was just becoming
uncomfortable, when Rolfe moved to his side and cleared his
"Greetings again, Lord Dunbar."
Angus Dunbar was an old man with shoulders stooped under
years of wear and worry, his hair was grey and wiry, seeming
to stand up in all directions. He took his time about
finishing the chicken leg he gnawed on, then tossed the bone
over his shoulder to the dogs and raised his head to peer, not
at the man who had spoken - but at Blake himself who
immediately had to revise his first opinion. Had he thought
the man old? Worn down by worry? Nay. Gray hair he might
have, but his eyes spat life and intelligence as he speared
Blake where he stood.
A brief flash of surprise shot across his face, then his mouth
set in grim lines and he sat back. "Soooo," he drawled.
"For guid or ill ye finally shoo yersel=". Ye look like yer
Blake took the time to translate the man's words through his
heavy accent. Once he was sure he understood, he gave an
"Weell, 'tis too late." His pleasure in making the
announcement was obvious. "Clockin' time came an' went an'
the lass done flew the chicken cavie, so I ken ye'll be
"Cavie? Thinkin' linkin'?" He turned to a frowning Rolfe in
"He said hatching time came and went and the girl flew the
chicken coop, so he supposes you'll be tripping along," the
other man explained, then turned to the Laird, anger beginning
to show itself. "What mean you the girl flew the cavie?
Where is she gone?"
Dunbar shrugged a dismissal. "She dinna say."
"You did not ask?"
Angus shook his head. "'Twas nigh on two weeks ago noo."
"Am I to take it then that you are breaking the contract and
are willing to forfeit her dower?" he asked.
Dunbar sat up in his seat like a spring. "When the Devil
sprouts flowers fer horns!" he spat, then suddenly went calm
and smiled. "To me thinkin', 'tis ye who forfeit by
neglectin'yer duty to collect yer bride."
"But I am arrived to collect her." He flashed a cold smile.
"She ran off to St. Simmians."
"'Tis an abbey two days ride from here," he explained with
amusement. "She asked for sanctuary there an' they granted
it. Though, I canna see the lass in there to save me soul."
"Damn," Rolfe snapped, then his gaze narrowed on the Scot.
"I thought you knew not where she was?"
"I said she dinna tell me," he corrected calmly. "I had one
o' me lads hie after her when I realized she was gone. He
followed her trail to Simmian's, but had no luck in gettin'
her out. Men're no'allowed inside, ye ken."
"Aye, I know," Rolfe muttered irritably.
Angus Dunbar turned his gaze back to Blake, eyes narrowing on
the small signs of relief he saw on the man's face and in his
demeanor. "Well? Ye ken where she be now, lad, why do ye
tarry? Go an' fetch 'er, she must be bored by now an'may e'en
come out to ye."
Blake glanced at Rolfe. He had been thinking for the past
couple of seconds that he may have just slipped the noose they
would place on his finger in the form of a ring, but the
expression on the other man's face and his would be
father-in-law's words told him he had thought wrong. They
expected him to fetch her out of the abbey to wed. To his
mind, it was rather like asking a man to dig his own grave,
but it seemed he had little choice.
Sighing, he turned to lead the Bishop and Lord Rolfe from the
room, but at the door to the keep he paused and waved them on
before he returned to face the Dunbar. "You say the Abbey is
two days ride away?"
"Aye. Two days. Doona fash yerself over it, sassenach. Go
fetch yer bride." He grinned, some of his grimness falling
away as he added, "If ye can."
Excerpted from The Chase
by Lynsay Sands
Copyright © 2004 by Lynsay Sands .
Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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