Warrior of Ice (Harlequin Historical Series #1242)

Warrior of Ice (Harlequin Historical Series #1242)

by Michelle Willingham

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Overview

Warrior of Ice (Harlequin Historical Series #1242) by Michelle Willingham

Locked in a deadly game! 

Physically and emotionally scarred, Lady Taryn knows no man would want her for a wife. Nonetheless, she's determined to free her father from his merciless overlord and enlists powerful warrior Killian MacDubh to help. 

He has his own motives for confronting the High King… Born a bastard, Killian longs to carve out a place for himself. Unaware of her true beauty, Taryn is an alluring distraction to his plan, but as traitors are revealed and loyalties tested, their forbidden love becomes the only thing worth fighting for!

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781460384626
Publisher: Harlequin
Publication date: 07/01/2015
Series: Warriors of Ireland Series , #1
Sold by: HARLEQUIN
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 288
Sales rank: 169,266
File size: 293 KB

About the Author

RITA ® Award Finalist and Kindle bestselling author Michelle Willingham has written over thirty-five historical romances, novellas, and short stories. Currently, she lives in southeastern Virginia with her husband and children. When she's not writing, Michelle enjoys reading, baking, and avoiding exercise at all costs. Visit her website at: www.michellewillingham.com.

Read an Excerpt

Ireland—1172

His sister was going to die.

Killian MacDubh could see it, even if everyone around him was in denial. Though Carice was still the most beautiful woman in Eireann, her body was fragile. She left her bed rarely, and when she did, she often had to be carried back. Her illness had struck hard, several years ago, and she'd wasted away ever since. This evening, she had sent word that she needed to speak with him, but he did not know why.

Outside, the rain pounded against the mud, but another storm brewed inside Killian. There was a restless anticipation within him, as if an invisible threat hung over all of them. He couldn't place it, but all day, he'd been pacing.

His tunic and leggings were soaked through, and he stood at the back of the Great Chamber. The moment he stepped inside, Brian Faoilin's face was grim with distaste, as if a stray dog had wandered into his house. The chieftain loathed the very air Killian breathed. Though he'd allowed Iona to keep the bastard son she'd brought with her, Brian had forced both of them to live among the fuidir. All his life, Killian had slept among the dogs and dined upon scraps from the table. He was forbidden to possess any rights of the tribe or own any land. It should have taught him his place. Instead, it had fed his resentment, making him vow that one day, no man would call him slave. He hungered for a life where others would look upon him with respect instead of disdain.

He'd spent time training among the finest warriors in Eireann, intending to leave the tribe and become a mercenary. Better to lead a nomadic life on his own terms than to live like this. But then Carice had fallen ill. He'd delayed his plans to leave, for her sake, after she'd begged him not to go. Were it not for her, he'd have disappeared long ago. She was the only family he had left, and he knew her life was slipping away. For that reason, he had sworn to remain with her until the end.

The chieftain leaned over to one of the guards, undoubtedly giving the order to throw Killian out. Within moments, his friend Seorse crossed the Great Chamber, regret upon his face. 'You know you cannot come inside without orders, Killian.'

'Of course not.' He was supposed to remain outside in the pouring rain, amid the mud and the animal dung. Brian refused to let him be a part of their tribe—not in any way. He was expected to work in the stables, obeying all commands given to him.

This time, Killian crossed his arms and stood his ground. 'Will you be the one to throw me out?' His voice held the edge of ice, for he was weary of being treated like the bastard he was. Frustration clenched in his gut, and he didn't move.

'Don't start a fight,' Seorse warned. 'Take shelter in the tower if you must, but don't cause more trouble. I'll bring you food later.'

Killian gave a thin smile. 'Do you think I care about causing trouble?' He enjoyed fighting, and he'd earned his place among the men as one of the best warriors. Beneath his fur-lined tunic, he wore chain-mail armour that he'd taken from a dead Norse invader during a raid. He had no sword of his own, but he knew how to use his fists and had broken a few bones over the years. Every time he won a match or bested a clansman, it was a thorn in Brian's side.

Seorse dropped his voice low. 'Why are you here, Killian?'

'Carice sent for me.'

His friend shook his head. 'She's worse today. I don't think she can leave her chamber. She was sick most of the night, and she can hardly eat anything.'

A tightness filled up Killian's chest. It bothered him to see her starving to death before his eyes, unable to tolerate any food at all. The healer had ordered Carice to eat only bread and the plainest of foods, to keep her stomach calm. But nothing seemed to work. 'Take me to her.'

'I cannot, and you know this. Brian ordered me to escort you outside.'

He wasn't about to leave—not yet. But as he moved towards the entrance, he glanced behind him and saw a hint of motion near the stairs. Brian's attention was elsewhere, so Killian hastened up the spiral steps. Seorse sent him a warning look, but his silent message was clear. He would not let Brian know that Killian was still here.

Carice was struggling to walk down the stairs. Her skin was the colour of snow, and she held on to her maid's shoulder, touching the opposite wall for support. Instantly, Killian went to the stairs and offered his arm. 'Do you need help, my lady?'

'Call me that again, and I shall bloody your nose, Killian.' Her dark brown hair was bound back from her face, and her blue eyes held warmth. She was far too thin, and he could see the bones in her wrists. But her spirit was as fiery as ever.

'You should not have left your room, Carice.' He moved up the spiral stairs, and she gestured for her maid to go.

'I'll sit here a moment and talk with you,' she said. 'Then you can carry me back to bed afterwards.'

'You're too ill,' he argued. 'You need to go back now.'

She shook her head and raised a hand. 'Let me speak. This is important.'

He climbed a few more of the stairs to reach her side. Carice sat down, steadying herself. 'Father shouldn't treat you this way. You are my brother, and always have been, even if we do not share the same parents.' She reached out her hand and squeezed his palm. In so many ways, she reminded him of his mother. Gentle and strong-willed, she'd made it her task to take care of him. 'You deserve a better life than this, Killian. It was wrong of me to ask you to stay.'

He didn't deny it, but he knew that once he left, he would never return to Carrickmeath. 'One day I'll go. Perhaps when you are married and are no longer fighting my battles for me.'

She drew back, her face serious. 'I'm not going to marry anyone, Killian. This winter is my last. I may not live until the summer.'

Uneasiness passed over him, for her proclamation wasn't a jest. Each season grew harder on her, and it was only a matter of time before she lost her fragile grasp on life. Though her body was weak, her inner strength rivalled a warrior queen's.

'Father doesn't believe me. He thinks I'm going to get well and wed the High King, becoming Queen of Eireann. But he is wrong. And so I have taken matters into my own hands.'

'What do you mean?' She wasn't planning to take her own life, was she?

'I will not marry Rory 0 Connor,' she said. 'I have made arrangements to leave this place.' Her face softened, and she admitted, 'Father has been delaying my journey to Tara for my marriage. He's told the High King of my illness, but soon enough, the King's men will come for me. And I will not have my last moments be shadowed by marriage to such a man.' She reached out and smoothed his hair. 'I know Rory is your father, but I am glad you are nothing like him.'

'I will never be like him.' The stories of the High King's ruthless actions were well known. Rory had plundered and burned the lands of Strabane and Derry, even ordering his own brother to be blinded, in order to seize possession of the throne. It was one of many reasons why no one dared to stand against him.

'In one way, you will.' Carice's hand rested upon his cheek. 'You have the blood of the High King within your veins. You are destined to rule over your own lands.'

While he wanted to believe that, he didn't know if he would ever overcome his low birth. Men respected his fighting skills and his strategies, but he needed far more than that to win a place for himself.

'I am a bastard,' he pointed out, 'and the Ard-Righ will never acknowledge me as his son.' It was well known that the High King had sired dozens of bastard children, and he had little interest in them. Brian had travelled to visit Rory, hoping to receive compensation for Killian's fostering, but the King had been away, and his retainers had refused to grant anything. During those years, Rory had been King of Connacht, before he became High King of Eireann.

'That could change,' she argued. 'And I know you will fight for the life you want. Just as I will fight for the death I want.'

The words were chilling, for Carice was the one good part of his life. Her quiet spirit and kindness had helped him to push back his hatred of Brian. Without her, there was no one to fight for.

'Carice, don't,' he said, not wanting to speak of it. 'You cannot give up.'

She ignored him and continued. 'I have asked the MacEgan tribe for help. Someone will come and take me to our holdings in the west. I ask that you help me to leave. Do not let Father's men stop me.' Though her face remained strong, he caught the rise of tears in her eyes. 'If I stay, I will have to marry the High King. And I do not wish to endure that wedding night.'

She took a slow breath, her hands trembling. 'Help me escape, Killian. You're strong enough to fight this battle.'

He bowed his head, knowing that it was peace she wanted. And so he gave a vow he knew he could keep. 'I swear, on my life, that I will never let you wed King Rory.'

Her shoulders lowered with relief, and she touched his hair, resting her forehead against his. 'Thank you. I cannot say when I will leave, but one day soon, I will be gone. I know Father's men will search for me, but keep them searching to the north instead. Tell them I went to visit friends, if you wish. The MacEgans will protect me with other false stories, if needed.'

'So be it.'

She leaned against the wall, and he suspected she had not the strength to return to her bed. 'You are the brother of my heart, Killian, no matter what my father says. I pray that one day you realise how worthy you are.'

He reached out to lift her into his arms. 'I'm taking you back to your chamber. Rest, and trust that I will keep you safe.'

Taryn Connelly had never rescued a captive before. She knew nothing at all about how to infiltrate the High King's fortress at Tara and steal a prisoner away, but her father's time was running out. If she didn't organise soldiers to save him, his life would be forfeit. But finding warriors was proving to be a problem.

Her father, King Devlin, had been a good man and a strong ruler. But the last group of men who had gone to rescue her father had all been returned to Ossoria—without their heads. She shuddered at the memory. King Rory had made it clear that he was not going to release his prisoner.

Her mother, Queen Maeve, had insisted that the remaining soldiers stay behind to guard their province, and they were all too glad to obey.

Taryn refused to leave Devlin there to die. It wasn't fair and it wasn't right. Someone had to save him. And though she wasn't strong enough to lead men into battle, she could find a warrior who was.

A sudden rise of nerves caught in her stomach, for she had never left Ossoria before. For so many years, she had remained hidden away, so that no one would look upon her scarred face. Her father had warned that others would scorn her for the physical imperfections if she dared to leave. But now, she had no alternative. Given the choice between facing a jeering crowd and saving his life, she would set aside her fear and risk everything.

Her mother opened the door to Taryn's chamber, staring at the open trunk of Taryn's belongings. Inside lay not only fine gowns, but a box filled with gold pieces, silver chalices, and a small bag of pearls.

'You cannot save him, Taryn,' Maeve said. 'You saw what happened to the last group of soldiers who went to the High King.'

'If you were in his place, would you want us to go about our lives, not even trying to bring you home?' she countered. 'He's my father, not a traitor.'

She was certain of that. Devlin had answered a summons, only to be taken by the King's men and bound in chains. And whatever the reason, Taryn intended to bring him home. 'I will not turn my back on him.'

Her mother was silent, her expression tight. Around her throat she wore a gold torque set with rubies, while her long red hair fell to her waist. 'I know you believe Devlin was a good father. He tried very hard to make you think well of him.' Her voice was calm, but it held the unmistakable edge of loathing.

Taryn tensed, for she'd known that her parents' marriage had never been a happy one. Her mother had miscarried many children over the years, and it shadowed her moods at all times. She controlled every moment of each day and kept the servants at her beck and call. Those who disobeyed were punished for any infraction.

Maeve sighed and paced across the room. 'I am sorry, but you cannot go to Tara. And you may not send more of my soldiers on Devlin's behalf.'

My soldiers? Taryn bristled at that. As if she'd already given up on her husband?

'They are still Father's men, too,' Taryn corrected.

But Maeve's face turned cool. She walked to stand at the window and said, 'I have not, nor will I, give permission for you to take soldiers against King Rory. Every last man of them would be killed, including yourself. And I am not a woman who sends others to die needlessly.'

Not even for your husband? Taryn wanted to ask, but didn't.

'I do not intend to take an army,' she told Maeve quietly. 'I go only to plead for Father's life. Surely there is no harm in appealing to King Rory. I am no threat to the High King.'

'You will not leave,' Maeve said. 'And that is final.' Her gaze swept over Taryn. 'The Ard-Righ will not listen to anything you have to say.' She reached out to touch Taryn's scarred cheek. 'And unlike other women, you cannot use your looks to win his attention, I fear.' Her mother's touch burned into her skin like a brand.

Taryn knew she would never be beautiful, and she would bear the disfigurement of her face and hands forever. But to hear it from her mother was a blow she hadn't expected. She stepped backwards, lowering her gaze to the floor. 'I do not want King Rory's attention.'

Far from it. She knew she had a face that made men shudder, and she was too tall. Her hair was black instead of her mother's fiery colour. They shared the same eyes, however. More than once, Taryn had wished that she did not have to see those icy blue eyes staring back at her in a reflection.

Sometimes she wished that her mother had been taken captive, instead of her father. Maeve never seemed to care about anyone but herself. And it hurt to imagine Devlin in chains, suffering torture.

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Warrior of Ice 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
countrygirl707 More than 1 year ago
A TOUCHING RETELLING OF A CLASSIC TALE I must confess, that I have enjoyed every story by Michelle Willingham that I have read, this book being no exception. However, whereas normally I can jump into one of Michelle's stories right away, I didn't find that to be the case this time. The circumstances of the meeting between Killian and Taryn were a bit of a stretch for me. I went along with the story anyhow and of course, was not disappointed. There was a point near the end of the book, as well, where someone experienced an injury with unrealistic consequences. By that time, I was so embroiled with the story that I was able to overlook it. Where Michelle's writing excels is in describing the unfolding of Taryn and Killian's relationship. I found myself thoroughly entrenched in this beautiful story of two people who found healing in other. There were a few twists and turns in the plot, which added to the excitement of the adventure, and I found myself anxiously anticipating what the outcome would be! Taryn is a woman who although she was rather naive about certain things, had a good head on her shoulders when it came to reading people and dealing with them. When her circumstances brought her into Killian's life, he observed that she was different from others in his past. Of course, this didn't escape his notice, especially considering how he had been and was still being treated by others. Killian's devotion to a woman who was like a sister to him was very touching to read about. Of course, after what he had been through, he carefully guarded his heart, just like Taryn did because of her disfigurement. You will not be disappointed in reading about how Killian and Taryn managed to break down the defenses in the walls of each other's hearts. Fans, such as myself, of animals in stories will love reading about the ones introduced in this book. I also loved reading about some familiar characters from Michelle's MacEgan Brothers series, which I would also highly recommend. Note: I received an advance copy of this book, for an honest review.
MyBookAddictionandMore More than 1 year ago
#1 in the highly anticipated "Warriors of Ireland", series. An absolute must read, especially fans of historical Ireland, the Norman invasion, romance and passion! Fast paced and filled with secrets, passion, misguided love of a parent, treason, adventure and the power of love. I loved the way the Hero was absolute in his covictions and his attraction to the Heroine, no matter her appearance. He showed us all beauty is in the eye of the beholder, for beauty is only skin deep. Action packed tale that the reader will need tissues for the ending is a true tear jerker. Ms. Willingham is an amazing storyteller! She bought the characters to life, the reader can feel their pain, the challenges of the Medieval era, and the passion if romance though the pages if "Warrior of Ice". I loved this story, and the premise of an absolute love no matter the cost. Expertly written and carried out on the pages of a true Historical Romance during Medieval times in Ireland. A must read! Highly recommended! *Received for an honest review from the author and Net Galley* RATING: 4.5 HEAT RATING: HOT REVIEWED BY: AprilR
Daimy More than 1 year ago
*****Another amazing read from Michelle Willingham***** I was captivated from beginning to end. I couldn't put my Kindle down from the first moment I started reading it. I love the fact that the Heroine is beautiful on the inside as well as the out side even if she does not believe herself to be. I love that the Hero is not only handsome but under all of the icy exterior has a heart of gold. Michelle Willingham's book has a vivid internal and external landscape taking you back in time. She makes her books come alive in a way that makes her readers wish to be there. I love Taryn's inner strength and Killian's character in spite of everything he has been through. I think this book is exceptionally well written and very captivating and entertaining. It really gives a you a sense of time and place (which few historical romance authors do well). I can honestly say that it made me cry in some parts and it also made my heart swell with happiness and joy by seeing the characters grow and develop in the story. I love the romantic scenes and love the fact that the romance happens gradually in this story, it is not rushed as in some other books I have read. I will also say that Michelle Willingham is one of my favorite authors and with this new series will continue to be. Everything she writes is gold. I love and have all of her books (which if you do not have them you should definitely think of buying them specially the MacEgan Brothers Series you will not be disapointend). I love, love, love this story and really can't wait for Killian's sister Carice story to come out. Buy her books, I can guarantee you will love them as much as I do. 
KahlanMercy More than 1 year ago
Warriors of Ireland Book One - Loosely connected to the MacEgan Brothers series. On her way to plead for her father's release, Lady Taryn falls into a deception to save another's life. She gains the attention of a beautiful warrior, Killian MacDubh. He doesn't see her scars as a curse, although she can't really believe that. Queen Maeve, Taryn's mother, is also on the trail. She's trying to convince her daughter that interceding on Devlin's behalf can only cause more heartache. If you're looking for a story about finding your inner beauty and the true worth of a man, this is the book for you. I received an advance copy in exchange for an honest review.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Warrior of Ice is a wonderful story about Taryn, a scarred woman with royal blood and a heart of gold and Killian, a man who is considered nothing more than a slave, a slave with ambitions of more than what he believes his birthright allows. Taryn is on a quest to free her father who has been condemned as a traitor and Killian reluctantly agrees to accompany her while also providing her safety. Without giving too much away, complications arise that lead them both to question themselves and each other. They also discover that what they thought they wanted becomes more of a challenge every day they are together. I am a fan of all of Michelle Willingham’s books and have to say I truly enjoyed Taryn and Killian’s story. I loved the fact she was physically scarred but still remained beautiful on the inside. I would usually shy away from a book with a physically flawed character because I tend to lose interest however; the dimension and traits given to Taryn were captivating and had me immediately liking her. Killian was a likable and handsome hero with character flaws but eventually he realizes his true potential and lives up to it. The historical aspects of the story were quite detailed and show how much research Mrs. Willingham puts into her work. I’ve read many Scottish historical romances (they happen to be my favorite) but have found very few Irish historical romances that compelled me to finish reading them. I did feel that her physical scars were mentioned quite a lot but I don’t think it took away from the story. A lot of conflict and challenges happen which balances the story very well. Their chemistry does not disappoint and is hot and passionate. Taryn and Killian have their own tragedies to battle but love eventually conquers all. I highly recommend this book. It is well worth the time to read it and will make you anxious for the next installment.