Midnight's Bride [NOOK Book]


The Heart Of A Warrior

Mereck of Blackthorn has vowed never to love-for he is cursed with baresark blood and it runs hot. But he must take a wife. When he meets Netta of Caer Caldwell, he is willing to spirit her away from her father's violence, even if he refuses to give her his heart.

The Soul Of A Lover

With her father determined to be rid of her, spirited Netta cannot escape marriage to the heathen Mereck....

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Midnight's Bride

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The Heart Of A Warrior

Mereck of Blackthorn has vowed never to love-for he is cursed with baresark blood and it runs hot. But he must take a wife. When he meets Netta of Caer Caldwell, he is willing to spirit her away from her father's violence, even if he refuses to give her his heart.

The Soul Of A Lover

With her father determined to be rid of her, spirited Netta cannot escape marriage to the heathen Mereck. But she soon learns that he is not the barbarian he believes himself to be-and his kisses fire her blood with a passion she longs to claim.

"Has every element of a classic Joanna Lindsey: biting repartee, steamy sexual tension, a bold heroine, a powerful hero. Johnson knows how to spin a tale.an accomplished debut."

-Romantic Times (starred review) on Risk Everything

"Very intense."

-New York Times bestselling author Susan Johnson on Risk Everything

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781420104035
  • Publisher: Kensington Publishing Corporation
  • Publication date: 10/1/2007
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 305,411
  • File size: 646 KB

Read an Excerpt

Midnights Bride



Copyright © 2007 June Ulrich
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-8217-8049-7

Chapter One

Wycliffe Castle, England, 1073

Lynette glared at the man who stood before the fireplace. Shorter than she, his dirty breeches bagged over scrawny bones. His tunic, stained with the food he had eaten in the past several days, drooped off one narrow shoulder. Baron Thomas of Durham had mayhap a dozen gray hairs on his head, even fewer teeth, and could not hear past the width of the table.

"Blessed Mary! He is older than you, Father," Lynette cried. "I thought I would lose my morning meal when he touched my hand. I cannot bear to think of him as husband to me. Nay! I'll not do it."

"Aye. You will." Baron Wycliffe's jaw set, his eyes glared his hatred. "Pretending to be great with child will not change it," he said as he stabbed a finger into the bulging pillow hidden beneath her clothing. "This is your tenth suitor in as many months. Your sisters tire of waiting for you to find the perfect spouse. The man does not exist." He slammed a fist on the table. Spittle flew from his lips with his bellowed words. "Hateful girl. You are all of eighteen summers. You will soon be too old to tempt even such a man as Baron Durham!"

"He is as skinny as James of Hexham was fat." Lynette rolled her eyes in disgust. "Every time he looksat me he drools through the few black teeth he has in his head. Hmpf! He tries to squeeze my breasts and asks if they are soft as a plump kitten."

The doddering old man leered at her through watery eyes. She glared back at him.

"I'll stay in my room until he is gone. I'll not marry him. Not now. Not ever."

"Aye. You will. Refuse and you will feel my stick across your back," her father shouted. "You will have naught but water and stale bread until you come to your senses."

He yanked her out of her seat, near toppling her to the ground. As if they performed a play for his amusement, her intended groom beamed with delight.

"I relish spirit with me bedsport," Durham said. "Show the girl we mean business, milord. We'll have our weddin' soon as she drops the babe." He cackled with glee, but his toothless grin faded when the baron grasped her hair and dragged her from the great hall.

At her bedchamber, he shoved Lynette through the doorway then slammed the door behind her. The heavy key grated in the door's lock. It was not the first time he had done such. He ordered it placed there after her first suitors bolted from the castle. Each time she sent a man sprinting across the drawbridge, her father beat her and tried to force her hand. He did not reckon with her strong will.

The sun had started to wane when Lynette's stepsisters unlocked the door. Watching her handmaid and servants carry a tub and buckets of hot water into the room, Lynette was instantly on guard. Her father had never before allowed her to bathe after he confined her. 'Twas part of her punishment.

"We hope to bring you comfort while you think on marrying the baron tomorrow." Priscilla spoke in such a prim and proper manner as to make the shortening of her name apt. "Here is your favorite soap to soothe your spirits," she said as she placed a small vessel of heather-scented soap on the stool.

"And I brought a tray of cheeses, bread and wine. Father seeks to force your hand, and we wished to help you through this trying time." Elizabeth patted Lynette's shoulder, but she failed to hide the glitter of malicious excitement in her eyes.

"Two goblets? Who will share with me?" Lynette studied their faces. Why would either girl do anything pleasant? They forever wailed and complained, urging their father to marry her off without any thought of her feelings. Though she distrusted them, she welcomed the hot bath and was grateful for it. She was even more thankful when they left the room.

She undressed and stepped into the tub, willing the hot water to relax her. If she could stifle her anger, surely she would think of a way to escape the morrow's horrible event.

"Mayhap I can pretend to have a wasting sickness? No sane man would wed a woman who cannot keep food in her stomach." She raised her brows at her handmaid and waited for her reply.

Mary shook her head. "Nay, lady. How could ye lose a meal if ye have naught but bread and water?"

"Oh, aye. That will not work." Lynette soaped her hands until small bubbles formed, then admired the colors reflecting there. "If we put droplets of mud on my face, and when it dried, colored it with berry juice, would it not look like I had a pox? Surely Father would fear catching it. For certs, after a day or two his anger will cool and he will change his mind."

"Huh. 'Tis more likely the baron will swathe yer face in veils, hurry the weddin', then toss ye both through the gates." Mary took Lynette's arm and urged her to rise.

While the handmaid poured fresh water over her, the door again creaked open.

Lynette turned and gasped, for unseen hands pushed a wobbling Baron Durham into the room. His eyes glittered with anticipation. Now she knew why her stepsisters had brought the food, wine and two goblets.

"Oh, me pretty," Durham crooned. "Water drips from yer pretty, pink tits. I will lick them dry for ye." He smacked his sunken lips together as he shuffled across the room.

"Get out, or I'll have Father throw you from the castle," Lynette shouted and pointed toward the door. Folding her arms over her breasts, she plopped down in the water to hide the rest of her body from his greedy stare.

Drool trickled off his chin leaving wet trails down his tunic. He lurched to a stop a pace from the tub. He looked like she had turned him to stone. She wished she had. He clutched his chest. His eyes bulged, and he coughed violently.

"Begone!" She stabbed the air and glared all the harder.

Finding a spurt of strength, the baron shouted, "Uncover that which is now mine," followed by an obscenity she had never afore heard. A leer spread over his wizened face. The final shout that burst from his lips must have drained him of his last energy. He listed sideways. His arms flew out, grappling for balance. He tottered a moment. He gasped loudly for air, then slithered to the floor like a cracked egg.

Her screams, and those of Mary, no sooner sounded than her father and stepsister charged into the room. Lynette scrambled from the far side of the tub and grabbed her chamber robe. Her family had arrived too quickly for them to have been anywhere but lurking outside her door.

Her stepsisters spied the old lecher's body on the floor. Their shrieks bounced off the stone walls, the shrill sounds mingling and tangling like knots, till Lynette's ears rang. The baron slapped first one face then the other.

"Oh, my beautiful skin," Prissy wailed and grabbed her smarting cheek. "'Tis your fault, Lynette. You made Father angry apurpose." Tears gushed from her eyes as she bolted for the door.

Elizabeth screamed, "You killed that old man to spite us."

Seeing her father's arm rise again, Elizabeth wrapped her arms around her head and sprang forward. Too fast. She slammed into Prissy's back and propelled her through the doorway. They fought like two chickens, squawking and scratching until their father's roar sent them running.

A burly servant arrived to drag the dead man like a discarded sack of grain from the room. He was not out the door before the baron and Lynette started to argue. As in all their disputes, she ended with the same plea.

"Why can I not go to Wales?" She thrust out her chin and clinched her hands on her hips. "Caer Cadwell is mine. If you release my dowry to me, I will hire knights for my protection."

"Ha! And will they protect you from the werewolf Baresarker specters of Caer Cadwell? From the howling spirits of their crazed wives?" He rubbed his hands with glee.

Tremors of fear shuddered through Netta. On dark, stormy nights, she could hear her stepmother's voice whispering in her ears. Ye think 'tis the wind that wails on dark nights? Nay, ye foolish girl. The new Baresarker howls his need for another mate. Brutal he is in his bedsport. A wife lasts but one night. Mayhap two. He leaves them aside the gate, broken and bloody. Not a spark of life in them. Do ye hear him? He waits, hidden, for you. One night he will crush you in his arms and spirit you away. At this point, she would shove Netta into a storage room as dark as a pit in hell, then lock her in.

"'Tis naught but a legend! There is no Baresark." Netta swallowed and lifted her chin, determined to believe this chant she had oft repeated to ward off their spirits.

"You will wed," her father bellowed. He raised his walking stick and rained blows over her back. She ducked under his arm and leaped to scramble across her bed. The oak stick slammed against the wooden tub and broke in half. Pulsing veins bulged on his forehead and neck as he hopped with rage.

"See what you have done? See?" He spluttered as he stared at the splintered wood floating in the water. "Stupid woman. You think to hire knights to protect you? Hah! You have no skill to command a force of savage Welshmen. I've had my fill of you. You seduced the baron to excitement apurpose. You killed him, displaying yourself in such a manner."

"Displaying myself? I was in my bath," she shouted, pointing to the soapy water. "You shoved him into my chamber then lurked outside. I'll not marry a doddering old fool, a filthy young one or any horrid man you pick."

"Oh, yes you will. The next man to come through the castle barbican will be your husband. Be he knight or swineherd with warts on his lips and hair growing from his ears like a forest, I care not. And that, accursed girl, is an end to it."

He stomped so hard leaving the chamber the floor timbers shook. In his rage, he neglected to lock her door.

Afore full light the next morn, Netta listened, her ear against the door's crack. Hearing her maid's footsteps draw near, she whipped the door open, grabbed her arm and yanked her inside so fast the girl flew like a stone shot from a catapult.

"Ackk!" Eyes rounded with surprise, Mary wobbled and grabbed a bedpost to steady herself. "I came fast as I could, milady."

"Blessed saints, be quick!" Netta flicked the backs of her fingers at Mary and then removed her own tunic. As her head cleared the material, her black curls fell over her eyes. She shoved them away to see the maid still hesitated, biting her lips.


"What?" Mary leaned closer and whispered, puzzled. "Be quick about what?"

"I need your clothes."

"Me clothes?"

Netta grasped the hem of Mary's tunic and whisked the garment over her head. Mary yelped in surprise, her arms flapping like a fowl's wings. Before her arms settled, Netta disappeared beneath the folds of the garment.

"'Tis him. I heard the gatekeeper raise the portcullis." Netta's voice was muffled as she fought the coarse cloth. "Surely 'tis a knight who brings many warriors? Their horses clattering over the drawbridge echoed like thunder." Popping her head through the opening, she wriggled the garment down over her slender body.

"What do ye plan, milady?" Mary's teeth chattered, and she rubbed the chill bumps on her bare arms. She groaned when Netta started untying the laces of Mary's leather shoes.

"To dress as you, of course. I must needs use your clothes," Netta mumbled.

Mary seemed in a stupor and did not move. Netta tapped her on the ankle. "Your shoes, too."

"Oh, nay, milady." Mary shook her head and backed away from Netta. "Ye're fixin' to waller in more trouble."

"This time I will not get caught." Netta crawled after her.

"Ha! Ye said that yester morn. Afore ye put the pillow under yer clothes and went to greet old Baron Durham."

"It worked, didn't it?"

Mary pursed her lips. "Aye, too well. He raised sech a clamor the master came a runnin' and found ye."

"I'll be more careful." Netta grinned wryly. "You cannot say I lack practice. I must see what this new suitor is like."

"What can it change?" Mary shrugged and lifted her hands, a sympathetic look on her face. "Even the goose girl heard yer father's yell that since ye killed the baron ye will marry the first man to come through the gates this day."

A huff burst from Netta's lips. "I did not kill Baron Durham." She squared her jaw. "Father killed him when he tried to prove I was not about to drop a bairn. I was in my bath. You should know; you were there. He was old enough to be my father's sire. Anyone of that age could pass on." She grabbed the shoes Mary reluctantly shed.

"The master will beat ye again, like he vowed."

"Let him. I must needs take the chance. I will not go blindly into this." She squeezed Mary's hand. "Do not worry for me. I mean only to peek down into the great hall and see who Father will force me to wed."

Blessed Saint Agnes, I beseech you. Do not let him be as horrid as that brainsick old man.

Mereck of Blackthorn would soon return to the Highlands, for he had finished all but this one remaining commission in England. Over the past sennight, he had heard rumors aplenty of how Wycliffe's daughter had thwarted all suitors. Last eve, a tinker joined their campfire and regaled them with yesterday's happenings.

"Why she done killed old Baron Durham," he had said.

"He thought she was near to drappin' a bairn."

"That killed him?" Mereck's left brow had risen in disbelief.

"Nay," the tinker chortled. "'Twas by coaxin' him aside her bath. He got a look at her neked body."

"You believe the sight of her killed him?" Mereck probed.

"Never heard of old ones dyin' from seein' a neked slip of a girl." He scratched his groin and thought a moment. "Nay, musta poisoned him. What 'bout all the others? Some could not run fast enuff to be rid of her. Stumbled o'er their own feet, they did. She's to be giv'n to the first 'un thru the gate soon's the sun rises, but not e'en swineherds wud chance weddin' sech a one now."

Mereck chuckled as he led his men through the portal of the barbican and into the bailey of Wycliffe Castle. The first rays of dawn barely peeked over the horizon. After pointing at his standard bearer, men atop the walkways gawked at him. Mereck glanced over his shoulder. Caught by a breeze, two banners cracked in the wind. One the Morgan standard, the other, black letters on a field of scarlet. He scowled at the lad, who quickly lowered the second.

An unusual number of people milled about in the bailey, and his gaze caught the stable master and his helpers. A falconer stood nearby with a young merlin perched on his wrist. The chandler, carrying a rod of new-made candles dangling by their wicks, walked so slowly the candles did not sway. The cook, hugging an empty iron pot, eyed him from his head to his toes, while laundresses, clutching dirty linens to their breasts, shuffled through the dust and headed to the stables.

To the stables?

Why were they all not at their duties? 'Twas interesting. Annoyed by his beard, Mereck scratched his chin and used his gift, his special gift, inherited from his Welsh mother. He freed his mind to search their thoughts for his answers. Words screamed from all directions, making him grimace with pain: savage, poor mite, kill her, shameful, old bastid.

Baron George of Wycliffe lumbered down the wooden stairs as Mereck vaulted from his saddle. He handed his destrier's reins to his squire and turned to his first-in-command. "See to the men. Dinna turn your back," he murmured as he glanced at the lingering crowd.

"Greetings, greetings, my good man." Wycliffe's smile was fawning as he approached. "I see your man bears Lord Morgan's banner. I have heard much of him."

"Thank you, Baron." Mereck's nod acknowledged Wycliffe courteously. "I am Mereck of Blackthorn, friend to Bleddyn ap Tewdwr, Caer Cadwell's overlord. I come at his bidding."

Mereck found it strange he was welcomed so heartily. 'Twas no more than two leagues from Wycliffe that a band of masterless warriors had set upon them, no doubt planning to rob them of their fine mounts. He had not the opportunity to change from his bloodied Welsh war garb.

Could the tinker from last eve be right that a father would marry his daughter to a stranger without thought of her welfare? Even so, would he not have denied someone like him? Blue dye stained one side of his face. He wore a blood-splattered ox-hide tunic, which came to just below his knees, wolf skins draped across his shoulders and leather arm bands from his wrists to his elbows. The size of his sword alone added an extra threat to his appearance.


Excerpted from Midnights Bride by SOPHIA JOHNSON Copyright © 2007 by June Ulrich. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 26 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 26 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 1, 2007

    Sequel worth reading!

    Another winner from this author. Mereck is the ultimate protector. Every woman needs a Mereck in her life. It was fun to see him go from a 'I'm only getting married because I have to ' Baresarker...to a smitten puppy in love.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    An entertaining medieval romance

    In 1073 England, Baron Wycliffe is wary of his beloved daughter Lynette ever getting married. Every male he brings home she finds fault with. Frustrated and wanting her out of the castle, he decides she will marry the next male to enter the gates.---------- Netta disguises herself as a servant to elude her father's plot when Mereck of Blackthorn enters. Although the warrior knows since he was a little boy that he is cursed with the berserker strain that killed his mother in childbirth, he must marry however, Mereck will adhere to the vow he made as a seven year old in 1050 to never love a woman. He meets Netta and agrees to help her escape while also signing the betrothal documents. On the trek back to his home Blackthorn castle in Scotland, she seeks a kindhearted caring person concerned for her safety and as much as possible her comfort. Netta falls in love with her host, but rejects the concept that she could admire and cherish a berserker now to convince her betrothed that he will make a great husband and father when he spent his life persuaded otherwise.------------ MIDNIGHT¿S BRIDE is an entertaining medieval romance starring a likable ¿picky¿ heroine and a fascinating champion with enough mental issues that the British Psychological Society would have a fabulous case study. Although the Berserker romantic subplot has been used often, Sophia Johnson provides an intelligent story line that maintains high tension and critically and slowly evolves the relationship between the lead couple from wary partnership to admiration and trust and more. Readers will appreciate this deep character driven historical in which the love of a caring woman struggles to overcome the lessons imprinted as a small boy as the child is the man.------ Harriet Klausner

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 2, 2012

    Loved it!!!

    This is the first book I read of the trilogy! It had me tracking the rest down. I have reread this one at least a dozen times. Highly recommend. Probably the funniest one in the series.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 16, 2012


    There is something so sexy about highlanders! This is just as awesome as the first book in the series!

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  • Posted December 28, 2011


    I enjoyed this one quiete a bit, but i did find that the naive thing with Netta was a bit much at times

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  • Posted September 10, 2011

    A must read!!!!!Very funny...

    I love her three books....All are funny, well written, and heartfelt. This is the second of the series and my favorite. They are worth the money.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 3, 2008

    A Great Read

    Incredibly funny and witty, there were many times were I burst out laughing!

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