Wedding for a Knightby Sue-Ellen Welfonder
Even a marriage by proxy can't spoil the joy Lady Amicia MacLean feels when she is wedded to Magnus MacKinnon. With his quick wit and dashing smile, the roguish warrior captured her heart when she was still a girl. It's not until he returns from battle that Amicia discovers the truth: the union was made to fill empty MacKinnon coffers with MacLean gold. Magnus knew nothing of this marriage. Honorable and proud, he intends to rebuild his clan's fortune coin by coin himself-and wants nothing to do with his bonny new bride. But Amicia is not one to give up without a fight. She plans to invade Magnus's bedchamber, offer tantalizing glimpses of what every husband has the right to see, and settle for nothing less than the total surrender of the most stubborn knight in the realm!
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Wedding For a Knight
By Sue-Ellen Welfonder
Warner ForeverCopyright © 2004 Sue-Ellen Welfonder
All right reserved.
Chapter OneTHE ISLE OF DOON, ONE MONTH LATER
"A PROXY WEDDING?"
Amicia MacLean shot from her seat at the dais table, her fine good humor of moments before, forgotten. The pleasure she'd taken at having both her brothers beneath the same roof again for the first time in well over a year, soundly replaced by wave after wave of stunned disbelief.
"To Magnus MacKinnon?" Her heart so firmly lodged in her throat she could scarce push words past it, she stared at her brother, Donall the Bold, proud laird of Clan MacLean and bearer of the most startling news she'd heard in longer than she could remember.
Wondrous news. And joyous beyond belief ... not that she was about to voice any such admission.
Too great were the disappointments of past assurances of a suitable match, too numerous the empty promises and hopes of e'er having a family-a home-of her own.
A husband to love her. "You needn't speak his name as if he's unworthy, lass." Clearly mistaking the reason for her wide-eyed astonishment, Donall MacLean raised his hand for quiet when others in the smoke-hazed great hall sought to voice their opinions. "The MacKinnons may be in sore need of your dowry, but Magnus is a valiant and influential knight. You could do worse."
She could do no better, Amicia's heart sang, long-cherished images of the bonny Magnus racing past her mind's eye, each fleeting memory dazzling her with its sweetness.
Just recalling his dimpled smile and twinkling eyes weakened her knees.
And he'd been but a strapping young lad when she'd last seen him, years before at a game of champions held on the neighboring Isle of Islay. He'd won every archery competition, each trial of strength, and turned the heads of all the lasses with his easy charm and fine, quick wit. Magnus the man would no doubt steal her breath. Of that, she was certain.
"'Tis said he is of arresting looks, ardent, and a warrior of great renown," Donall's wife, the lady Isolde, chimed in from the head of the high table, her words only confirming what Amicia already suspected.
Her pulse thundering ever louder in her ears, Amicia scanned the faces of her kinfolk, stood silent for a few agonizingly long moments, using each precious one to steel her backbone and make certain naught but cool aloofness touched her brow.
Could it be true? Dear saints, dared she hope?
If this offer, too, proved fruitless, she would die. Wither away inside and plead the saints to have done with her and make her demise swift and painless.
She narrowed her eyes at Donall, moistened annoyingly dry lips. "Be this a true offer?" she asked, hugging herself against an answer she'd rather not hear. "Has Magnus MacKinnon declared himself, or is this another of your well-meant but doomed-to-failure attempts to see me wed?"
Her other brother, Iain, set down his ale cup and swiped the back of his hand over his mouth. "Sakes, lass, think you Donall or I can do aught about the troubles plaguing our land in recent years? You ken why it's been difficult to court viable suitors for you."
Amicia squared her shoulders. "I am well aware of the myriad reasons we've been given for each broken offer," she said, her gaze fixed on the inky shadows of a deep window embrasure across the hall. "What I wish to hear is whether Magnus MacKinnon himself seeks this union?"
The words proxy wedding and sore need of her dowry jellied her knees.
The glaring silence spreading across the dais end of the cavernous great hall answered her question. Her belly clenching, she glanced up at the high, vaulted ceiling, blew out a nervous breath.
Faith, the quiet loomed so deafening she could hear every hiss and crackle of the pitch-pine torches lighting the hall, the low-rumbling snores of Donall's hounds sleeping near the hearth fire, and even the wash of the night sea against the rocks far below Baldoon's massive curtain walls.
Almost imperceptibly, she shook her head and looked back at her brothers, not surprised to detect faint flickers of guilt flitting across both their handsome faces.
"I mislike being cozened," she said with all the serene dignity she could muster. Taking her seat, she helped herself to a blessedly welcome sip of finest Gascon wine. "Nor will I allow it. Not so long as I have a single breath in my body."
"God's mercy, lass, it ill becomes you to play so stubborn." Donall eyed her from his laird's chair, a great oaken monstrosity, its back and arms carved with mythical sea beasts. He raked a hand through his raven hair, the same blue-black shade as Amicia's own.
"Nay, Magnus knows naught of the union," he admitted, holding her gaze. "But he will hear of it upon his arrival on MacKinnons' Isle. He's been gone some years, competing in tourneys, as you likely ken, but he is expected home within a fortnight and his father is certain he will welcome the match."
Amicia stifled a most unladylike snort. She did rake her brothers and everyone else at the table with a challenging stare. "Old Laird MacKinnon will be desirous of the filled coffers you'll send along as my dowry. All ken he burns to rebuild the galley fleet they lost to a storm a year or so ago."
"That is as may be, but he also loves his son and would see him well-matched and at peace," Donall countered. "And I would be glad of the marriage, too. Our late father and old MacKinnon were once good friends. Wedding you to Magnus would seal our truce with the MacKinnons once and for all time."
Amicia's heart skipped a beat, and a tiny spark of excitement ignited within her breast. She glanced aside, half-afraid all the desperate hope in her entire world must be standing in her eyes. None of the previous betrothal offers had sounded near as solid, as well deliberated, as this one.
None save the relentless endeavors of a chinless apparition of a lordling whose name she'd long forgotten. Ne'er would she forget Magnus MacKinnon's name.
Truth to tell, it'd been engraved on her heart since girlhood, and sailed through the cold and empty dark of countless lonely nights now that she was a woman.
Pushing aside every warning bit of her good sense, she scrounged deep for the courage she needed to believe. To trust that, like her brothers, she, too, could find happiness. A purpose in life beyond slinking about her childhood home, useless and pitied.
Welcome, aye, but not truly belonging. A wildly exhilarating giddiness began spinning inside her, a dangerously seductive sense of rightness. Lifting her chin before she lost her nerve, she sought Donall's eye. "The old laird believes Magnus will want me?" She had to know.
"On that I give you my oath," Donall said without a moment's hesitation.
Amicia's heart caught upon the words, her suspicions and wariness falling away as if banished by a gust of the sweetest summer wind.
"Old MacKinnon even sent you his own late wife's sapphire ring to seal the pact," Iain spoke up. He dug in the leather purse hanging from his waist belt, then plunked a heavy gold ring on the table. "Sore-battered by ill fortune as the MacKinnons have been in recent times, you'll ken he wouldn't have parted with such a fine bauble unless he truly wished to see you wed his son."
"'Tis been long in coming, but you needn't suffer doubts this time." Iain's wife, Madeline, gave her a warm smile.
Amicia nodded her thanks, her throat suddenly uncommonly thick. Hot, too. As were her eyes. Blinking furiously, for she loathed tears and e'er sought to avoid shedding them, she snatched the ring off the table and curled her fingers around its comforting solidness. Wee and cold against her palm, it meant the whole of the world to her.
"So-o-o, what say you now?" Donall leaned back in his chair, folded his arms.
Tightening her hold on the little piece of shining hope already warming in her hand, Amicia gave voice to the last of her doubt. "Tell me first why there must be a proxy wedding if Magnus is expected to arrive on MacKinnons' Isle within the next fourteen days?"
"Only because he is returning from Dupplin Moor," Iain answered for his brother. " 'Tis the old laird's hope that having a bonnie new bride to greet him will sweeten his homecoming."
"Come you, Amicia," Donall urged, leaning forward to replenish her wine cup. "I swear to you for here and hereafter, I would not give you to MacKinnon did I not believe he will be good to you."
Amicia drew a deep breath, straightened her back. She didn't doubt Magnus MacKinnon would treat her well. She wanted him to want her.
To love her with the same fierce intensity her brothers loved their wives.
Reaching for her wine, she tilted back her head and downed it in one great, throat-burning gulp. She looked around the table, half-expecting to see disapproving glances aimed her way, but saw only well-loved and expectant faces.
"Well, lass?" Donall reached across the table and nudged her arm. "Will you wed MacKinnon?"
Amicia looked down at the sapphire ring in her palm. It had the same deep blue color as Magnus MacKinnon's laughing eyes. Dashing a fool trace of moisture from her own, she leveled her most earnest gaze on her brother and prayed to all the saints that her voice wouldn't crack. "Aye, I will, and gladly," she said, her heart falling wider open with each spoken word.
And if by chance he didn't want her, she would simply do everything in her power to make him.
Many days later, on the mist-cloaked Hebridean isle known as the MacKinnons' own since time beyond mind, Magnus MacKinnon paced the rush-strewn floor of Coldstone Castle's once-grand laird's solar, sheerest disbelief coursing through him.
Crackling tension, tight as a hundred drawn bow-strings, filled the sparsely furnished chamber and even seemed to echo off its pathetically bare walls.
An even worse tension brewed inside Magnus. His brows snapping together in a fierce scowl, he slid another dark look at his hand-wringing father. "I will not have her, do you hear me?" He seethed, pausing long enough in his pacing to yank shut a crooked-hanging window shutter. "Saints, but I'd forgotten how draughty this pile of stones can be!"
"But, Magnus, she is a fine lass," his father beseeched him. "Mayhap the fairest in all the Isles." Magnus swung back around, and immediately wished he hadn't because the old man had shuffled nearer to a hanging cresset lamp, and its softly flickering light picked out every line and hollow in his father's worry-fraught face.
Magnus's frown deepened.
"It matters not a whit to me how bonnie she is," he snapped, and meant it.
The saints knew he'd had scarce time for wenching in recent years. And now, since the horrors of Dupplin Moor, he had even less time and inclination for such frivols.
In especial, wifely frivols. Setting his jaw and feeling for all the world as if someone had affixed an iron-cast yoke about his neck, he strode across the room and reached for the latch of another window shutter. This one kept banging against the wall and the noise was grating sorely on his nerves.
Truth be told, he was tempted to stand there like a dull-witted fool and fasten and unfasten the shutters the whole wretched night through.
Anything to busy himself. And help him ignore the sickening sensation that he'd been somehow turned inside out.
That the sun might not rise on the morrow. His father appeared at his elbow, his watery eyes pleading. "The MacLeans-"
"-Are well-pursed and rightly so," Magnus finished for him, turning his back on the tall, arch-topped window and its sad excuse for shuttering. "They ken how to hold on to their fortunes."
"'Fore God, son, set aside your pride for once and use your head. Her dowry is needed, aye, I willna deny it. Welcome, too, but that isn't the only consideration." Clucking his tongue in clear dismay, his father set to lighting a brace of tallow candles, his age-spotted hands trembling.
Magnus glanced aside, ran an agitated hand through his hair. He would not be swayed by pity. And ne'er would he take a wife to fatten coffers he'd failed to fill. Not Amicia MacLean.
Not any lass his stoop-shouldered da cared to parade before him.
And if they all came naked and bouncing their bonnie breasts beneath his nose!
The back of his neck hotter than if someone held a blazing torch against his nape, he strode across the room and snatched the dripping candle from his father's unsteady fingers.
"Mayhap your father's idea isn't such a bad one," Colin Grant broke in from where he rested on a bench near the hearth, his wounded leg stretched toward the restorative warmth of the low-burning peat fire. "I wouldn't have minded going home to have my da tell me he'd procured a fine and comely lass to be my bride."
At once, sharp-edged guilt sliced through Magnus, cutting clear to the bone. Colin, a friend he'd made on the tourney circuit and who'd fought beside him on the blood-drenched banks of the River Earn, didn't have a home or family to return to.
The Disinheriteds and their Sassunach supporters had burned the Grants' stronghold to the ground ... and Colin's kinfolk with it.
Naught remained but a pile of soot and ash. That, and Colin's unflagging determination to rebuild it as soon as he'd recovered his strength. But even if he could, which Magnus doubted for Colin's coffers were as empty as his own, Colin's loved ones were forever lost. They couldn't be replaced by all the coin in the land.
"'Tis well glad I am to be home, Da, make no mistake," Magnus said, deftly touching the candle's flame to the remaining unlit wicks ... without spilling melting tallow all o'er the table and onto the floor rushes. "But I see you've gone a mite addlepated in my absence. I do not want a wife."
"I pray you to reconsider," his father said, his tone almost imploring. He tried to clutch Magnus's sleeve, but Magnus jerked back his arm.
"There is naught to think over," he declared, laying a definitive note of finality onto each word. "I'll have none of it."
Resuming his pacing, Magnus tried not to see Colin's sad gaze following his every angry step. Nay, Colin's reproachful gaze.
He also strove not to notice the chamber's sparseness, tried not to remember how splendidly outfitted it'd been in his youth ... or think about how much of its former glory he could have restored had the fortune he'd amassed over the last three years not been stolen from its hiding place whilst he'd fought a vain battle against the English on Dupplin Moor.
He slid a look at his father as he marched past Colin, and hated to see the old man's misery. But it couldn't be helped. With time and hard work, he'd set things aright again.
He'd also rebuild his da's proud fleet of galleys ... even if he had to work his fingers to the bone and scrape the very sides and bottom of his strongbox to make it happen.
"You need heirs. I ...
Excerpted from Wedding For a Knight by Sue-Ellen Welfonder Copyright © 2004 by Sue-Ellen Welfonder. 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.
Meet the Author
Sue-Ellen Welfonder is a Scotophile whose burning wish to make frequent trips to the land of her dreams led her to a twenty-year career with the airlines.
Now a full-time writer, she's quick to admit that she much prefers wielding a pen to pushing tea and coffee. She makes annual visits to Scotland, insisting they are a necessity, as each trip gives her inspiration for new books.
Proud of her own Hebridean ancestry, she belongs to two clan societies: the MacFie Clan Society and the Clan MacAlpine Society. In addition to Scotland, her greatest passions are medieval history, the paranormal, and dogs. She never watches television, loves haggis, and writes at a 450-year-old desk that once stood in a Bavarian castle.
Sue-Ellen is married and currently resides with her husband and Jack Russell terrier in Florida.
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May i join
Sure. All of you join. Be evil..
Mehh. Im alone xD
Medicine cats share their dreams with StarClan
This would have been a better book had it naught been so drawn out. By the middle of the book you still feel like your reading the beginning and before you know it you reach the end. I was like, 'Thats it? It just started getting good!' This was the first book I read by Sue-Ellen Welfonder and a mighty disapointment.
I love reading historical romance novels. This one was one of the longest drawn out stories I've ever read. Parts that could have been said in two pages dragged out to two chapters. I had a hard time picking the book back up to read just to finish it, unlike other stories I've read this one had a hard time keeping me interested.
This latest offering from Ms Welfonder is well worth the wait. I found the story of Magnus and Amicia a story well worth reading. She visits previous characters and entwines their story with these new ones so wonderfully you feel like you just left one story and continued on with the next chapter. The descriptive talents of Ms Welfonder takes the reader on a journey of lush lands and long forgotten feelings hidden in the hearts of all true romantics. Her ability to make you feel like you are there in her beloved Scotland gives the reader a chance to travel across the sea and never leave your chair. KUDOS Ms. Welfonder your talent onces again shines through even brighter than the sun.
In 1332 Scotland, Amica MacLean and Magnus Mackinnon marry by proxy. For Amica this is what she always wanted as she has loved Magnus since she was a little girl. However, when Magnus arrives two weeks later still in shock and feeling guilty for surviving the Dupplin Moor massacre. He is furious to learn what his father did. He becomes irate, insisting his new bride go home as he will annul the marriage that he has no plans to consummate.---- Amica realizes that her spouse is suffering from more than just battle fatigue syndrome as he also feels culpable for living and has no plans to do so. As she begins to heal him, she works her way into his heart. However, an unknown assailant does not want this marriage to work as that individual wants the two clans at war, which would leave this miscreant as the only winner.---- This engaging fourteenth century Scottish romance stars a fascinating lead male protagonist who simply has given up on living due to feeling guilt from the surviving carnage of his countrymen. Amica is a fine patient person who believes she can nurture her beloved back to health. Though the serpent in Eden subplot adds intrigue, the strength of this tale is the coupling of a feisty female curing through love her hammered hunk.---- Harriet Klausner