She returns to Burnbee to rebuild her broken dreams. After several loads of their honey mead are stolen, she is plagued with problems in keeping her clan and land protected.
Martin Underhill, David, and Daniel McIe request her aid with a wounded man at arms. They are on their way to court to ask assistance of King James in their fight against the reavers. This brief encounter sparks a romance between Marthea and David.
Follow Marthea, David, and friends as they try to protect their lands and clans from the raiders and find the love that they both seek. From Edinburgh to France and back, follow their fate. Mysterious strangers aid them on their journey. The raiders stay a step ahead as they pursue them to the final confrontation. Will love prevail? Will Marthea be able to save Burnbee? Enjoy this story as you race to its conclusion with David and his men.
|Product dimensions:||5.00(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.79(d)|
Read an Excerpt
By Julia Starkey
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2015 Julia Starkey
All rights reserved.
Rivulets of cold rain water streamed down the inside of the coach and pooled on the floor around Marthea McBee's feet. Thank God Coleen had suggested they change into their sabots at the inn. Marthea had been watching the skies all day, waiting for the rain. She had seen the black clouds and heard the ominous thunder. Uncle Ian, Aunt Coleen and she had all tried to convince her father to stay at the Crock and Paddle Inn for the night to avoid the rain. Now Uncle Ian and Peter were driving the horses through the downpour, muck and mud.
She cast a glance at Aunt Coleen huddled beneath the woolen lap robe. The hood of her cloak hid her face, but Marthea knew that a set frown existed. Not a word had been spoken since the rain had started. Even though Coleen was a small woman, she knew how to get around her older brother. Usually Da never had a chance when arguing with Coleen, but this time he won. For some reason he was obsessed with quickly getting to Edinburgh and to the King's court as soon as possible.
Marthea turned her head and looked across the coach at her father. He sat with his back to the river of rain water gushing through the cracks in the ceiling. Occasionally, drops would hit the back of the seat and bounce over onto his jacket. He did not have a cloak and had given his lap robe to Coleen and Marthea to help them stay dry. Water stains were forming on his shoulders and the top of his hat. She saw him shiver as a drop of rain ran slowly down his neck into the collar of his shirt.
"Well, it serves him right," she thought. He would not listen and had been stubborn about the room. Marthea knew that funds were tight. She also knew that if the King had not requested her father's presence, they would probably be at home discussing the coming spring. She had some very interesting ideas on ways to improve Burnbee. If they could grow a variety of foods and make a variety of goods, perhaps the small estate could support them and their people.
She also knew that her father could have afforded them the comfort of the communal room for very little coin. Even though it was not private, at least it was dry. But, No! Da insisted they must go on in this storm. Uncle Ian and Peter would be soaked to the bone. They would all be lucky if they did not catch their death of cold.
The coach suddenly lurched and the trunk and the boxes on the seat next to her father begin to teeter. She reached across the seat and caught them, gently shoving them back into position. She prayed that the dampness would not invade the parcels. She did not have many gowns and the ones in the trunk were fragile. They had been her mother's and several years had passed since they were made. She did not want them ruined by the rain.
Marthea closed her eyes and tried to hold back the tears. She was eighteen years old now but still felt the grief as if it were yesterday. How could it have been eight long years since her mother had died? She could see her mother now, walking through the meadow, the wind lightly blowing her hair around her lovely face, her beautiful smile and tender touch caressing Marthea's upturned cheek as she bent to show her the beauty of the meadow flowers.
The coach bounced again. This time the top box fell into Marthea's lap; the top popped off and ribbons and gloves came tumbling out. Marthea grabbed for the items before they fell on the floor and became soiled. Aunt Coleen helped her stuff the articles back into the box. Coleen's hood slid back and the glare in her eyes reminded Marthea of a crazed animal.
"Are you just going to sit there?" Coleen yelled. "You could at least steady the boxes."
"What are you talking about?" Marthea's father replied. "I don't see why you need all that paraphernalia."
"If Marthea is to be presented to court, she must have something suitable to wear," Coleen stated. "You know when Lysette was living she had twice as many gowns as what you have provided our Marthea for her trip to court."
"Yes, I did provide her with many gowns," her father returned, "however, I had more money, she had her own money, and we had a seamstress."
"Perhaps you should have thought about getting a seamstress and some cloth prior to accepting the King's invitation to court," Coleen huffed.
"Perhaps, I should have come to court alone, then I would not have had to spend any coin on gowns and slippers and such," her father retorted.
"Perhaps, you will ruin any chance Marthea has of making a good match and a good marriage with your stinginess," Coleen returned.
"Because of my being frugal, I can provide Marthea a good dowry. That is what the courtiers want. Many a lass was given in marriage with a good dowry," he explained.
"Would you both cease this arguing?" Marthea interjected. "You act like I am not even here. Am I just some item to be sold for my dowry?"
"Nay child, I did not mean it to sound that way," her father replied. "You ken I love you and want to do right by you."
"Hmph, Then you should have spent a little more time preparing her for the court," Aunt Coleen huffed.
"Tis alright, Aunt Coleen. You have made mother's gowns quite suitable. You have also made the trappings to wear along with them. I am sure I will be the prettiest girl in the court," Marthea stated.
Although inside her mind she felt that even the best dressmaker in Paris could not sew a dress to make her beautiful. She was not her mother. Her mother's gowns had to be remade and it had taken two gowns for each of Marthea's gowns. Oh how she wished she was as beautiful as her mother had been, but fate had not been with her; she had taken after Sir Robert McBee.
Sir Robert was the typical highland knight. Six and a half feet tall, his strong shoulders were broad. His arms showed the strength of his fighting ability and even though his legs were covered by hose, the muscles were still visible. He had long black hair and blue gray eyes. He was not particularly handsome, but when he smiled, a glitter of humor shown in his eyes and he warmed the room with his presence. No wonder her mother had married him.
Aunt Coleen settled back against the seat, pulling her hood up over her face. Marthea could hear the uneven breathing and knew that her father was in for a tongue lashing. Marthea bit her inside lip to keep from stirring the disagreement between her father and his sister. Da had not wanted to bring Marthea to court; it had been Aunt Coleen's idea to use this opportunity to present Marthea.
Da rarely talked about the King and the politics that had divided this land for so long. When her mother had been alive, they had been at court each season. She could well remember them coming in from dancing at the palace.
Her mother's laughter rang through the house as her father swung her around and up off her feet. The way her mother's eyes were shining and the grin on her father's face told her that they were deeply in love. Marthea longed to have that kind of love.
Since her mother's death, her father had refused to go to court. He would have refused this time too, except the King had personally requested him. After much thought, he had decided that Coleen was right. It was time for Marthea to go to court and to be wed. She needed to have a good dowry, as she was so plain. A marriage might also give him some allies and some grandchildren. He needed an heir, a male to keep his estate. He also needed some help in stopping the thievery that had been occurring with more and more frequency.
Even though Marthea did not want to leave Burnbee, she knew her father was right. Somewhere in the back of her mind was a romantic notion she might even find a man that would love and cherish her as Sir Robert had her mother. She longed for a man that would love her and give her children; someone who was kind and would protect her. Her choices would not be many, but even if the man was not handsome or young, she could live happily as long as he was good to her.
As the late afternoon shadows were deepening into night, the rain was slowly lessening. Marthea could not make out the looks on her father and aunt's faces. She only knew that this damp, bumpy ride was taking a toll on her backside. She ached to stretch and relieve herself. In normal weather the trip could have been accomplished in five to six hours from the inn, but who knew how long this trip would take with the rain and the storm. As the darkness settled in with the dampness, she shifted her weight to her right hip and tried to get comfortable for the remainder of the ride.
"Lass, are you all right?" her father whispered across the coach.
"Aye, Da. I don't mean to be so tiresome. Tis just so long of a trip. The rain and dampness but reaches into the bones causing them to ache," she replied.
"Aye, tis well I know. Those battle wounds from my youth do pain me so. Mayhap I should have had us stop at the inn," he sighed.
"Ye ken it would have avoided much argument," Marthea grinned.
"Aye, but ye ken I get an idea in my head and oft times cannot think clearly till tis done," he grinned back.
"Well, let us trust Uncle Ian to get us there in one piece. Perhaps some dry clothes, a hot meal, and a warm bed will do wonders," Marthea smiled.
Her father closed his eyes and leaned back on the seat. A glance at Coleen showed her head drooping down on her chest. Her breathing was regular. She must be asleep or at least pretending to be. Marthea closed her own eyes, but began thinking on her mother again.
Lysette had been French, the ambassador's daughter. Her auburn hair was thick and long. As a child, Marthea could remember her mother wearing her hair up in braids wrapped around her head. At night her mother took them down and unbraided them, brushing out the knots and leaving her hair long and flowing. Her eyes had been green and her skin was so soft. Marthea could almost smell the scent of her mother's perfume as she bounced along in the coach. How she wished, her mother could be here to brush her shiny auburn locks. She could still remember those gentle hands brushing the knots from her hair. Her mother would have known how to present her to the court. Her mother was so graceful.
Lysette had been beautiful on the inside, too. She was a healer and she cared for the many people on the estate. The folks had called her to tend their wounds and help with the births of their little ones. She was always preparing food or making clothing for those who had none. The keep was clean and ran efficiently, with always a kind word and a helping hand.
Her favorite pastime had been working with the bees. In fact, her mother had been the one to domesticate the wild swarms and increase the amount of honey produced on the estate. Marthea's father had made that honey into mead, as well as all the other products to come from the hives. The mead made on Burnbee estate was the best in Scotland. Her father also made fine whiskey. Both were delivered to the court at the King's direction.
That was part of the problem. The last two shipments had been taken by thieves. The masked bandits had waylaid the wagons as they traveled to Edinburgh. One of her father's men at arms had been wounded. Uncle Ian had also taken a sound beating. He had tried to stand up to the men and been held by one and pounded by another. When he returned to the keep his eyes were swollen shut and his face was so bruised it took a fortnight to heal. The King was hopeful the lairds of the different keeps would come up with a solution to catch the bandits.
Marthea was in charge of the hives now. She had been trying to teach Peter to take over, for if and when she married. He had done well, though Peter continued to be stung whenever he tried to work with them. Marthea was not. The small beasts seemed to trust her not to hurt them or their queen. It was as if they sensed she meant them no harm. She had spent several years training with her mother as a child, assisting her with the hives. Working with the bees had given her much comfort following her mother's death. They were like a small piece of her mother resting in the bit of nature she loved so well.
The coach took a bump and Marthea reached out to steady the stack of trunks, boxes, and parcels. A clip-clop of hooves hitting stone made her peek out the window. As she lifted the cloth shade, a drizzle of water ran down her hand and soaked the cuff of her gown. It was dark and wet outside, but she could just make out some firelight in the distance ahead. Hopefully, this soggy trip would soon come to an end.
They traveled on for twenty minutes more before she heard Uncle Ian slowing the horses. A few minutes later the coach came to a complete stop. Peter opened the door and gave his hand to help Marthea from the coach.
"Step on the box and over to the stoop," Peter directed. "That way you will nay get your feet muddy."
"Many thanks, Peter," she replied as she stepped onto the box then onto the stoop and into a wide open well lit door.
"Miss McBee, Sir Robert, Lady Coleen, We n'er thought to see you this even," the house keeper, Janie stated. She was standing in a night robe with her hair undone. "Watkins and I have been abed for over an hour. We thought you must have stayed somewhere cause of the rain."
"We are sorry to disturb your rest, my good woman. Robert wanted to make it here tonight. We tried to persuade him to stay at the inn, but he could not be convinced," Aunt Coleen said as she entered the hall and begin removing her wet cloak.
Sir Robert and Watkins came in behind her. Watkins carried a lantern and continued walking toward the back of the house.
"Come along then, I will stir up the fire and put some cider on to warm," Watkins spoke as he continued toward the kitchen.
"I'll be along shortly, I will just show the ladies to their rooms so they can change ere they eat," Janie called down the hall after her husband.
"I think I will go on to the kitchen. I need to see if Ian or Peter needs anything," Aunt Coleen whispered.
"I think I will get out of these wet clothes and go on to bed," Marthea replied as she lifted her hand to stifle a yawn. She followed Janie up the stairs and down the hall to the room that had been chosen for her.
The upstairs had four rooms. Two bedrooms on one side of a small hallway were opened and ready for the guests. Janie escorted Martha into a sitting room with a small bedroom on the other side of the hall.
"This will be your room, my lady. Evonne will be here in the morning to wait on you," Janie explained. "The other two rooms are for Ian and Coleen and your father. We have a small room off the kitchen for Peter."
"These rooms are so very nice. It was good of Mr. and Mrs. Douglass to let us use their house when they are away," Marthea said.
"Sir Richard and Lady Douglass are good friends of your parents. They were glad to help your father," Janie replied.
"Thank you. It is most comfortable," Marthea said with a yawn. "I will be so glad to get out of these damp clothes and into my night rail."
"Will ye be needing anything else, my lady?" Janie asked.
"Nay, just a drying cloth," requested Marthea.
"There is one hanging on the back of the chair by the fire." Janie nodded as she left the room.
Uncle Ian and Peter carried in her trunk and all the boxes from the coach then hurriedly left to go to the kitchen for some warm cider.
Marthea slipped off her sabots and removed her stockings. At least the rain had not soaked her feet to the bone. She unlaced her gown and let it drop to the floor then picked up the drying cloth from the back of the chair and began to rub herself dry. She shivered as she removed her shift and then swiftly donned her night rail, backing as near to the fire as she could without catching her night rail afire. The heat slowly began to warm her backside.
As she was trying to get warm, Aunt Coleen came into her room with a tray.
"I have brought you some warm cider and some toasted bread with butter. There is also a slice of ham and a bit of cheese," Coleen said, as she set the tray onto the night table.
"Many thanks, Aunt Coleen. Now that I have my backside warm, I believe that warm cider will taste verra good," she replied.
"Good sleep, my child. Tomorrow will be a busy day," Aunt Coleen said as she headed for the door.
"Good sleep to you also," Marthea replied.
She ate the food on the tray. It tasted so good and she realized it had been a long while since she had last eaten. The warm cider inside her and the warmth from the fire soon had her head drooping. She set the dishes back on the tray, banked the fire, and slid onto the clean sheets on the bed. Pulling the cover up to her chin, she closed her eyes and within a few minutes was sound asleep.
Excerpted from Burnbee's Revenge by Julia Starkey. Copyright © 2015 Julia Starkey. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse.
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