Genre: Historical Fantasy
Publisher: Carina Press
Date of Publaication: July 1, 2013
Number of pages: 360 pages
Word Count: 71,000
Cover Artist: Angela Waters - Millennium Promotions, Inc
Lord Alex Stelton can’t resist a challenge, especially one with a prize like this: protect a castle on the Scottish border for a year, and it’s his. Desperate for land of his own, he’ll do anything to win the estate—even enter a proxy marriage to Lady Lisbeth Reynolds, the rumored witch who lives there.
Feared and scorned for her second sight, Lisbeth swore she’d never marry, but she is drawn to the handsome, confident Alex. She sees great love with him but fears what he would think of her gift and her visions of a traitor in their midst.
Despite his own vow never to fall in love, Alex can’t get the alluring Lisbeth out of his mind and is driven to protect her when attacks begin on the border. But as her visions of danger intensify, Lisbeth knows it is she who must protect him. Realizing they’ll secure their future only by facing the threat together, she must choose between keeping her magic a secret and losing the man she loves.
Excerpt- Chapter One
Northumberland, England, 1290
“You won the wager with His Majesty,” said Lord Bryce Mitchell astride his Arabian. He cantered down the forest trail with Alex Stelton, the newly minted Lord of Glen Kirk Castle.
“The entire court placed odds on whether I would succeed.” The two men slowed their horses to a walk. Alex glanced at Bryce. “Did you lose much?” He refocused his attention on the trail ahead. “You should have put your coin on me. I only wager when I’m certain of the results.”
“After one year of holding the old stones against the Scots, he actually gifted the castle and his ward to you.” Bryce shook his head.
The ring of surprise in Bryce’s voice and evident disbelief on his face amused Alex. “His Majesty is a man of his word. Did you have any doubt?” asked Alex, his head cocked to the side with one eyebrow raised. His face split into a wide grin.
“About the king being a man of his word or of you holding off the Scots?” Bryce colored his smooth retort with a smirk.
The two friends looked at each other, exploded into laughter, and continued on until they reached the crossroads where they brought their horses to a halt. The tower of Glen Kirk Castle, bathed in the setting sun, peeked through the trees still some three miles to the north. Alex surveyed his new holding. His chest swelled with pride. Mine.
“Though Edward did make you pay.”
Alex was peeved by Bryce’s patronizing tone. He masked his emotions until they were as unreadable as stone.
“Yes, you could say that.” Alex tried his best dismissive tone. Best he forget the king’s retribution for now. There would be time enough to deal with it later.
“Could? Surely you knew if he lost the wager he would find some way to make you pay. He doesn’t lose gracefully at anything, but to actually marry you to his ward by proxy. I can still see the apoplectic look on your face.”
“Yes, Bryce— what about the look on my face?” demanded Alex. His voice sounded strident even to him.
Bryce turned all shades of purple trying to conceal his mirth but he said not one word more. Instead he diverted his attention and polished the gold clasp, embossed with the Mitchell coat of arms, on his cloak.
Alex bristled at being the center of anyone’s jest. He didn’t take it well from his brothers, although the six of them only teased to vex him. Even though he was the youngest, his brothers deferred to him. They knew his worth and, it appeared, so did the king.
His teeth clenched at the thought of his proxy wedding and his humiliation. He knew he had to take a wife. He had to make his own way in the world. The Stelton holdings were extensive but not enough to provide him with an income. He’d have done anything to prove himself worthy of a holding of his own. Maybe even marry. Perhaps even Lisbeth. He never thought he would marry on the whim of the king. He had tried to argue, but there was no arguing with Edward. Faith, the king all but patted him on his head and sent him off like a new page. A page. He raked his hand through his hair.
With a nod of his head, Bryce motioned toward Glen Kirk in the distance. “Marrying Lisbeth does secure your claim to Glen Kirk.”
Lisbeth. He had lived at Glen Kirk for a year and hardly saw her. The only way he knew she was near was the little charms she left or the serenity that surrounded them. She kept herself in the forsaken hunting lodge and managed to elude him at almost every turn.
On odd twinge of disappointment hung round him. She hadn’t been like that years ago when they encountered each other at court. She had laughed and didn’t have a care in the world. Four years later he wouldn’t have known it was her if she hadn’t presented herself at the castle. The impish girl had grown into a poised beauty. Dark hair fell in long waves down her back. Her slender body was punctuated with soft curves that couldn’t remain hidden by the black mourning gown. Large green eyes stared at him from under a fan of long dark lashes. Even with her dour expression her full lips tempted him. He moved uncomfortably in his saddle. How things change. How people change.
“You do know you’re the envy of everyone. Not because the king gave you Wesley’s treasured Glen Kirk or daughter.” Bryce turned serious. “You inherited Wesley’s brewer and ale recipe. That should give you some compensation. I understand it’s a long-held family secret. Wesley was all about family.”
Family. He let his mind wonder. It landed on memories of his early days at court with his parents and siblings. He enjoyed the candor and tumult around the table in their assigned apartment. How he would appreciate that safety and security today in the midst of a court filled with politics and intrigue.
“I intend to leverage our close friendship,” said Bryce, “I’ll sample each batch and make certain it retains its high standards.”
Alex grinned at his friend’s declaration. Lord Wesley and Lady Darla Reynolds had been close friends of his parents. They didn’t bring their daughters to court often but Richard, their son, was always with them and became close to the tight-knit band of Stelton boys. Richard’s death on the Welsh battlefields had been a shock to them all. He and Wesley had spent a good deal of time together consoling each other over a good many tankards of ale.
It was only a short time after Alex left for the Welsh Wars himself that he heard of Wesley and Darla’s fatal accident. He felt their loss deeply. Now in a twist of fate their beloved Glen Kirk and daughter were his.
“Have you sent word to her?” Bryce’s question hung heavy in the air.
Alex broke away from his musings. “No, I will tell her when the time comes.”
Ruth A. Casie is a seasoned professional with over twenty-five years of writing experience but not necessarily writing romances. No, she’s been writing communication and marketing documents for a large corporation. Over the past years, encouraged by her friends and family, she gave way to her inner muse, let her creative juices flow, and began writing a series of historical fantasies. She lives in Teaneck, New Jersey, with her husband. They have three grown children and two grand-children.
Discover strong men and empowered women as they face unexpected challenges. Watch their stories unfold as they encounter magic, danger, and passion. Join them as they race across the pages to places where love and time know no bounds. Ruth hopes they become your favorite adventures.
Personal Blog: www.ruthacasie.blogspot.com
FB Author Page: www.facebook.com/RuthACasie
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