Risk Everything [NOOK Book]

Overview

WHEN DARKNESS FALLS

Upon a moonless midnight, his face in shadow, a silent man came riding. Could it be? Is it him, so far from his lands and his people? Meghan can make no mistake, not when her heart cries out his name: Rolf MacDaidh. She had loved him once, in secret-and now the man they called the Lord of Vengeance wanted her.

To Rolf, Meghan of Blackthorn is more precious than gold. But he must forget his bygone dreams of her as his bride ...

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Risk Everything

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Overview

WHEN DARKNESS FALLS

Upon a moonless midnight, his face in shadow, a silent man came riding. Could it be? Is it him, so far from his lands and his people? Meghan can make no mistake, not when her heart cries out his name: Rolf MacDaidh. She had loved him once, in secret-and now the man they called the Lord of Vengeance wanted her.

To Rolf, Meghan of Blackthorn is more precious than gold. But he must forget his bygone dreams of her as his bride and remember that she is no more than a captive now. Yet her beauty bewitches him still-and her spirit kindles a passionate desire that cannot be tamed.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781420113976
  • Publisher: Kensington Publishing Corporation
  • Publication date: 7/1/2005
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 201,578
  • File size: 683 KB

Read an Excerpt

RISK EVERYTHING


By SOPHIA JOHNSON

ZEBRA BOOKS

Copyright © 2005 June J. Ulrich
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-8217-7883-8


Chapter One

Southeast of the Kyle of Tongue, Scotland, 1074

Meghan of Blackthorn slipped from her bed in the dead of night. She did not light a candle, for guards atop the battlements would note it.

Sprawling on the cold, wooden floor, her head beneath the bed, she pulled forth the clothing hidden there. A warrior's attire. She made haste to don them until she came to the last items. Helmet and chain mail. When her fingers touched their cold links, she sighed with satisfaction.

She soon sighed with frustration.

'Twas no easy task alone. After several failed attempts, she draped the mail on the side of the bed. She leaned over, her upper body level with the bottom links, and lifted them. She burrowed inside the armor much like a dog scrabbling through a tight tunnel, arms entering first, then head and shoulders. She gasped for air when her head and arms popped out their openings.

She grinned as she tied a coarse leather thong around her heavy hair, then stuffed its length inside a conical helmet complete with nose guard. Hidden beneath the armor, she would pass for a young warrior intent on carrying out Mereck's orders.

Simple blinked when Meghan lifted her from her perch, clasped her tight to her chest, then covered her with a dark cloth. She prayed the sparrowhawk would not take fright and expose her with loud, distressed chirps.

Casting quick, uneasy glances over her shoulder, she padded below to the keep's entrance and grasped the heavy door. Bit by bit, she opened it. She cringed when it made dull, scraping sounds. Why had she never noted it? She slithered through the narrow opening and raced down the castle steps. When she entered the dark stable, she released a long-held breath.

Happily for her, the warriors lodged their horses in a separate area. Working with quick efficiency, she readied Storm and mounted. As she rode out into the bailey toward the gathering patrol, her wary eyes did not miss a single detail.

'Twas still dark as midnight when she fell in line behind the last warrior. She kept her eyes lowered, her back straight. Had the moon been full, she would not have found an easy time of it as they passed by the guards at the gatehouse.

The horses' hooves made little sound on the thick carpet of damp leaves of the forest path. Half a league from Blackthorn, she lagged behind and guided her mount off the path.

Meghan had not felt this free in months. She dreaded the heated dispute she would have with Connor when she returned to the castle and he caught her.

Nay, no mere dispute. Her brother's efforts to rule her always turned into a resounding brawl. He would yell and bluster and threaten to beat her. She would react by screaming threats at him to even dare think on it. Never one to pass up a challenge, Connor would attempt to do just that. They would end up wrestling in the dirt like undisciplined, grubby squires.

Of course, if he appealed to their cousin Damron, the laird of Blackthorn, she would be in serious trouble. Knowing their cousin and his stern ways, she was sure he would blister her bare arse till she couldna sit for a sennight or more.

She shrugged. The taste of freedom was worth the punishment she might receive.

Mereck had taught her much about escaping. All manner of ways. The commander of Blackthorn's army would not be pleased that she used one of them now to thwart him. He had forewarned the warriors to confine the women within the keep.

He had cautioned them about one woman in particular.

Her.

Dawn's faint golden rays winked through the fluttering canopy of leaves when she came to her destination. After removing Simple's hood, she released her. "Fly, little one, but dinna think to prey on a plump hare," she cautioned.

'Twas not long after that she stalked her own prey, a buck making its hesitant way through the forest. He oft raised his head and looked around, then went back to his feeding. Slow and easy, she raised her bow and sighted down the arrow. Taking a deep breath, she drew the bowstring taut. A whoosh of air left her lips as she freed the arrow to zing its way to the target.

Moments later, she stood over the buck she had cleanly killed with an arrow through its heart. Simple swooped down to land on a bush and study the deer. The bird's small head twisted from side to side as if pondering how to strike. Meghan shook her head and clucked her tongue.

"Ye canna attack such a beastie, silly bird. 'Tis bad enough ye think to bring down cook's chickens and not the wee animals ye should be huntin', isna that right, Storm?" she said as she threaded her fingers through the horse's mane.

Warm and sticky now, she tugged off her helmet. Her hair tumbled down, and she lifted it, allowing the cool air to soothe her neck. How could warriors stand such confinement on hot days?

Simple swiveled her head, searching the woods on all sides. Meghan froze. The hair on her nape prickled. Her skin crawled, and shivers ran down her spine. How had she missed it?

She felt them.

Eyes. Everywhere.

As if hands explored her body. And not as a lover would do.

She lowered her head and peered from the corner of her eyes. How far had she strayed from Storm? Fleet as a hare, she spun around, took two leaps, and sprang onto her mount. As her bottom hit the seat, she kicked the horse into action.

Whoops of triumph rang out as men and horses burst through the trees. Guiding Storm with her legs, she whipped an arrow from the quiver and notched it. She bent low over Storm's neck as she threaded him through a narrow opening in the trees that a warrior hampered with weapons could not manage.

Men raced to block her escape. To her thinking, one fool tarried too long when she charged toward them. He soon wore her arrow in his leg. Startled, he jerked back on the reins and strove to keep his balance. She streaked past, his loud curses ringing like music to her ears.

Who were they? So many of them. Deep within Blackthorn's borders. And falsely wearing the Morgan colors.

Sweat trickled between her breasts as she wove her mount through the dense forest.

Meghan ducked and swerved, dangling from the side of her horse to avoid low-hanging branches. Bushes and trees on all sides appeared to reach and grab for her, seeming to ally themselves with her pursuers. Her hair escaped its tie and flew free, whipping her cheeks with the leather strip that clung to small twigs and leaves caught in the tangled strands.

"Dinna let her get away!" a voice shouted behind her.

"Circle and cut the lass off," yelled another.

She veered to the right. A large brown steed pressed close. The rider's heated body reeked of pungent sweat. His fingers snatched at her left arm. She leaned far to the right. He overreached and grabbed his horse's mane to upright himself.

"Devil take it," he shouted, furious now. "Do I get my hands on her, I will tear her off that beast."

"Not afore I have the pleasure of teaching this warrior woman her place," bellowed a horseman bearing down on her.

She would bet it was the man she had injured.

"I will gut any man who harms her."

Meghan flinched. This man's tone was cold and hard. 'Twas surely their leader. Her heart lurched, then thudded in her chest as prickles of fear burrowed through her. His voice had a familiar ring, but she could not place it.

It was hidden, locked tight in her memory. Lurking ...

Teasing ...

* * *

Rolf MacDhaidh had watched and waited for the opportunity to seize this foolish and intrepid girl, sister to the man he had once called friend. Meghan had done as he knew she would-entered the woods alone to hunt.

Now she became the hunted.

As surely as she had felled the deer, he would bring her to ground. When the chase started, he had spied her helmet on the grass. As he scooped it up, a faint scent of heather stirred his loins. He patted the hard shape of her headgear as he placed it in the bag tied behind his saddle.

For the moment, Meghan had eluded them. She had turned his men into hapless hunters. Baffled them with her skill. He shook his head as they crashed through the trees, searching for her. He could hear the thud of her horse's hooves fading in the distance.

One thing was certain. They had forced her farther from Blackthorn and toward the Morgan's southeastern border.

The men's tempers grew short. 'Twas no longer sport to them. They grumbled about what they would like to do to the woman who made a mockery of their skills.

Rolf whistled, loud and shrill. They cursed even harder at this signal to come to him.

"Return to Rimsdale."

Orders, abrupt and short. They stared at him, not moving.

"You canna mean it, Rolf. After the many hours we stalked this prey?"

"Alpin, your scowl willna change my words. Return and see your wound is tended," Rolf directed as he outstared his friend.

"We have not seized the girl." Alpin forced the words through gritted teeth. He hissed as he broke the shaft off the arrow lodged in his thigh.

"Go." Rolf frowned at the blood on the man's tunic and jabbed a finger in the direction of Rimsdale. "Bid Ede cleanse your injury and bind it." He turned to his first-in-command. "Dougald, have the men dress the deer. Leave me enough for three days. Hasten all from Blackthorn's land afore they are spotted."

Alpin glared at him as he jerked hard on the reins. His mount whinnied and flung its head about.

"Are ye not coming, Rolf?" Dougald raised his brow, questioning his lord.

"A small matter is not finished as yet."

After the men were through dressing the deer, he watched them fade into the forest.

Rolf stretched and rolled his shoulders. A slight smile lifted the corners of his lips as he thought of this unexpected turn in their hunt.

He rode until he deemed he was close to where she hid, to keep guard though not be seen. Sliding off his mount, he watered the horse at a stream, then fed the beast. Working with quick efficiency, he gathered wood and built a fire.

While the meat cooked, Rolf washed himself. He grinned and nodded his head. 'Twas not long now. His blood quickened. He looked forward to the morrow with feral anticipation. His prey would learn she could not run from him. He knew where Meghan would go to ground. She believed she had outwitted them. When she thought she was safe, she would learn she was not.

He would be there.

Waiting.

Chapter Two

Meghan raced Storm through a stream swollen with last eve's rain. Icy water splashed her face and soaked her leggings. When she deemed she had eluded her pursuers, she led Storm back into the forest. Half a league from the stream, the tense muscles in her face relaxed. She had not forgotten the cave's location.

A rocky lip overhung the entrance that faced a steep drop to a loch below. The ledge leading to it was but wide enough for Storm to walk behind her. Gripping his bridle, Meghan kept his head close over her right shoulder as she led him. He huffed softly, uneasy.

"Dinna fret, Storm," she whispered as she stroked the soft hair between his eyes. "I was proud of ye today. Why, ye were swift and slippery as an eel when ye wove between the trees and evaded the knaves."

Simple flitted from one tree to another as Meghan coaxed the horse through the narrow entrance. The bird acted with a rare bit of good sense, and her head bobbed as if agreeing.

The pleasant scent of pine drifted into the cave. Traces of sunlight filtered through the entrance. It was as she last left it. Ample enough for herself and Storm. She led him to the back and whispered, "Down." Storm snorted and shook his head, showing his annoyance with her, reminding her of Connor when he scolded her.

Simple landed at the entrance to the cave, then hopped over to her. Meghan held up her wrist, and the sparrowhawk alighted on the leather armband. Her fingers caressed the soft gray feathers on its wee head as she sat down to wait. Men shouted and horses crashed through the brush on the hill above. Hearing their vivid curses, she clamped a hand over her mouth, squelching a nervous laugh.

Men didna like to be bested by a mere woman.

When she heard the deep whistle of their leader, her heart skipped a beat. She coaxed Simple onto a small makeshift perch she had fashioned when she was but ten and three. Grasping her bow, she notched an arrow, ready to send it flying should she have the need. She stared, unflinching, at the cave's entrance. Muscles tense and ready, she listened and waited.

Did they ken she was there? Nay.

Again, a whistle split the air, sounding far behind the men above. She relaxed her taut muscles and returned the arrow to her quiver. 'Twas not long before all sounds of her pursuers faded into the distance. She settled down to bide her time.

The sun crept toward the horizon while she waited, but she was not so brainsick as to think it safe to leave her haven. No Scot intent on grabbing a hefty ransom was without a trick or two beneath his plaid. A trick not related to that other part of him that lurked there.

Nay, she could not leave. But Simple could.

Deep in thought, her fingers pinched her lower lip, pulling it forward. She studied the sparrowhawk. For the last fortnight, with guards aplenty around her, she had trained Simple to return to the mews without her. When the bird arrived, the head falconer rewarded it with a choice morsel. Never had they attempted it this far from Blackthorn. Still, 'twas worth the chance.

Her gaze darted around the small area, searching for what she needed. When the hair at her temple teased her face, she remembered how the leather thong whipped her cheeks. Though it was still tangled in her snarled hair, she worked it loose. After sliding the dirk from its sheath strapped to her thigh, she cut a strip four fingers wide. As she tied it to Simple's right ankle, she hoped the small raptor would remember its lessons well. Coaxing it onto her wrist again, she padded over to the entrance.

"Well now, wee lovey. Fly home to Simon for a treat worthy of an eagle."

Simple blinked at her.

Meghan shook her finger much as she would when cautioning a youngling. "Dinna think to seek yer own prey, for I willna be there to soothe yer feathers if ye neglect to look where ye go."

Poor foolish bird that she was, she could likely forget her training and do herself harm trying to sink her talons in the arse of a Heeland cow. After a cautious glance, Meghan ventured a pace out of the entrance. Lifting her arm, she tossed the bird into the air. The sparrowhawk took flight, circled and climbed higher, then descended.

Meghan groaned. Simple circled again, then climbed and was soon out of sight.

Continues...


Excerpted from RISK EVERYTHING by SOPHIA JOHNSON Copyright © 2005 by June J. 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
( 33 )
Rating Distribution

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4 Star

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 33 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 27, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Thoroughly Enjoyed, Great Romance Novel

    This books pulls you in quickly and holds your attention. I couldn't help but route for the heroine and found myself biting my nails and grinding my teeth during her emotional turmoil. I enjoyed the book so much I sought others by this author and plan to follow her work. I won't get into details of the book because other reviewers have done a good job of it.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 16, 2006

    this is one of the best I love it!!!

    can't put this book down is one of the best I had I hope you read it then you will now why is so good.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 2, 2006

    Risk Everything

    SINCE I READ A BOOK A DAY IT IS UNUSUAL TO FIND A FIVE STAR THAT DESERVES A 10 INSTEAD. STARTS OUT FAST AND NEVER LETS UP. YOU WANT TO FEEL SORRY FOR ROLF EVEN IF HE IS BEING A VENGEFUL AND HATEFUL MAN, FOR A WHILE THAT IS. AND MEGHAN IS NOT ONLY A STRONG WOMAN SHE IS VUNERABLE AT THE ENDING. RUN DON'T WALK TO BUY THIS BOOK!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 26, 2006

    Risk Everything

    Some books I keep to read at a later date. This book stays in my nightstand to be re-read over and over-perhaps not in its entirety but there are so many worthwhile chapters it is hard not to start at the beginning and reading until the end--again. The hero is handsome (gee surprise) and vengeful--the heroine is stubborn and so vunerable near the end. I see this is Ms. Johnson's first novel--hence the low cost--but I hope it isn't her last.The villians are disgustingly vile (hooray!) but will they get their just rewards? Can't say enough good about this book--so just read it for yourself.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 4, 2005

    AN EXCEPTIONAL READ

    From the first chapter, I was hooked. What a great book. There was adventure, humor and exquisitive sexual energy pulsing through every chapter. What a delight to see that there is a new historical writer in town that will keep you entertained for hours!!!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 3, 2005

    One of the best historical romances I have ever read!

    Set in Scotland, the year 1074. Rolf and Meghan had fancied each other as children, but Fate sent them upon different paths. ...................................... Meghan of Blackthorn grew up training with her brother, Connor. She is efficient in archery, blade throwing, some hand-to-hand combat, and training animals. Her people affectionately call her their 'Warrior Woman - the Pride of Blackthorn'. Meghan knew that there was some bad tidings between Rolf and Connor, but no one ever told her what happened to cause the feud. ............................... Meghan sneaks away from her brother and her laird for some time alone hunting. She soon finds herself kidnapped by Rolf. But he is no longer the boy she once loved. In his place stood a cold warrior with hate burning within his eyes and a sneer upon his lips. ................................... Rolf of Rimsdale is known as the 'Lord of Vengeance'. He has proof showing that Connor was the one who led the raid two years ago. During that raid Connor hilled Rolf's wife and new born son. It is only fitting that Rolf uses Meghan for his revenge. Where before Rolf once had dreams of Meghan being his bride, now he has dreams of using Meghan to correct Connor's wrongs ... even if it means crushing Meghan's pride and spirit to do it. .......................... ***** OMG! This has got to be one of the very best Historical Romances I have ever read. I cringe at the thought of anyone missing out on this book. Yes, it is THAT great! It has strong characters full of honor and dignity. Lots of action, adventure, romance, and betrayal. I even fell in love with a few of the secondary characters. I hope to see young Garith get his own story told one day. If you are looking for a story that will grab your attention on the first page and never let go, reach for this title. Highly recommended! *****

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 26, 2013

    GREAT DISAPPOINTMENT!

    Exhilarating story with Meghan as a timeless heroine, memorable supporting casts, talented and loyal pets, beautiful scenaries ... all for naught because Rolf, the chosen counterpart to Meghan, was a great disappointment. He was no hero! Abusive, vile, incredibly stupid (spoiler alert! he actually married himself to his dead wife's cousin, who with her lover, had murdered his first wife and their newborn!!! and unbelievably, the lover was his close compatriot as well!!!), Rolf should not have been redeemed. He should never have been a laird of the mighty Highlanders.

    The author should have created a happy future for Meghan--without Rolf, the stupidest "hero" in all storytelling. In fact. I had truly hoped that either Rolf remained shackled to that insufferable second wife for their entire lifetime, or instead, killed them both off quickly so they would be kept chained together in afterlife as fit punishment ... and to spare us readers from further aggravation.

    It was a great lapse in judgment to fate Rolf for Meghan, who deserved a strong partner who could have loved and cherished her equally. Perhaps Mari would be so blessed in her own story.

    Five stars for Meghan; only to be offset by negative rating for stupid Rolf.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 22, 2013

    5 stars

    By far one of the best books I've read of the last 450 I've read the last 2 years. My only complaint is that I think this is a series and now I am out of order. Going to do a search now and see if there are others.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 3, 2013

    The best

    I you hope you wright more of this family they were all great!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 22, 2012

    Great love story

    This is the first sophia johnson book I have read but will definitely be reading more!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 7, 2012

    Written by a talented author, this book will hold your interest.

    Written by a talented author, this book will hold your interest. It was one I saved for future reading pleasure and if you enjoy historical novels, especially ones where the heroine is no wimp, you'll enjoy this one.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted June 6, 2012

    I Also Recommend:

    Enjoyed this book...

    This was the first book that I have read from this author & I enjoyed it. I loved that the heroine was so strong and she didn't cower to the hero. At the beginning of the book, I would have liked it more if the hero would have been a little nicer to our heroine since this was someone that he was supposed to have loved at one time. Still a good book and I will look for more from this author.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 27, 2011

    Like, Like, Like!

    I love everything this author does..... She has a great way of getting her storyline across and keeping you enticed throughout the book... I highly recommend anything Ms. Johnson writes.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 13, 2011

    loved it

    This was a great read. Couldn't put it down.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 26, 2011

    Recommended

    Good book would read another by this author!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 19, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted December 17, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted December 31, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted April 18, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted August 1, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

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