Sir Robert Alain de Bellencombre has been granted what every man wants: a rich English estate in exchange for his valiant service at the Battle of Hastings. To claim this reward, the Norman knight must wed the estate's Saxon heiress. Most men would leap at such an opportunity, but for Alain, who broke his vow to his dying mother by failing to protect his youngest brother in battle, it means facing more easily broken vows. But when rumors of rampant thievery, dangerous beasts, and sorcery plaguing a neighboring estate reach his ears, nothing will make him shirk duty to king and country when people's lives stand at risk. He assumes the guise of a squire to scout the land, its problems, and its lady.
Lady Kendra of Edgarburh has been granted what no woman wants: a forced marriage to an enemy who may be kith or kin to the man who murdered her beloved brother. Compounding her anguish is her failure to awaken the miraculous healing gift bequeathed by their late mother in time to save his life. Although with his dying breath, he made her promise to seek happiness above all, Kendra vows that she shall find neither comfort nor love in the arms of a Norman…unless it snows in July.
Alain is smitten by Lady Kendra from the first moment of their meeting; Kendra feels the forbidden allure of the handsome and courtly Norman "squire." But a growing evil overshadows everyone, invoking dark forces and ensnaring Kendra in a plot to overthrow the king Alain is oath-bound to serve. Kendra and Alain face a battle unlike any other as their honor, their love, their lives, and even their very souls lie in the balance.
The pewter goblet hit the trencher with an ungodly clatter. Bloodred wine seeped across the white table linens, reminding Kendra of what Del’s blood must have done the night he was ambushed.
As a servant rushed to right her goblet and blot the stain, she leaned against her carved, tall-backed chair on the dais of Edgarburh’s feast hall, certain she had imagined the voice that had startled her.
She wished Del’s condition could be righted as easily.
Her seat gave her the best view of the Cristes-mæsse festivities, which at present consisted of a muzzled, scruffy bear being goaded through its awkward paces by an equally scruffy man to the raucous amusement of the crowd.
Kendra couldn’t share in the laughter.
With the tip of her dagger, she chased slices of stewed apples around her trencher, racking her brains for something—anything—she hadn’t yet tried to help her brother, either to heal his wound or cure the fever and cough invading his lungs.
Invasion. She gave a soft snort. Not three months earlier, Del had risked his life in the service of King Harold against the invading William of Normandy. Del had been one of the lucky few to survive the battle, only to be cut down on their father’s lands by one of William the Bastard’s knights. The enormity of the outrage still blazed within her heart.
Even greater kindled her wrath over the decree accompanying the coronation announcement: she must wed one of these ruthless Norman warriors.
This very day, her father was paying court upon the new king, offering his—though not his daughter’s—acquiescence to the betrothal in hopes of currying favor enough to present his complaint about Del’s attacker. He possessed the knight’s shield, though the coward had eluded capture. Waldron kept the shield locked in his quarters, for he couldn’t risk losing his one tangible link to the Norman swine.
Kendra’s heart had screamed the truth, although her father had refused to hear it: Sir Delwin Waldronson had fought for King Harold, his attacker was one of William the Bastard’s retainers, and justice would be denied.
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