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Kinley MacGregor

Midsummer's Knight



A tournament in Rouen

"Simon, Help!"
Simon of Ravensood loo!ed up from his ta"le inside the "lue#and#hite striped tent$
%hrough the tent's opening, he sa &hristopher of 'lac!moor running toard him as fast as he
could$ 'arely three years younger than Simon, &hristopher asn't the !ind of man to ever run$ He
as normally slo to move, reluctant to e(ert
himself, and had never once raised his voice$ Some might call him la)y, "ut Simon !ne otherise$
&hristopher as a dedicated man, al"eit a leisurely one$
&hristopher's tunic as torn, his face pale$
Simon stood up immediately, his letter forgotten as he sa the panic reflected in &hristopher's green
eyes$
%he younger man rushed into the tent, straight to him$
"*hat is it, Kit+"
&hristopher gra""ed Simon's arm and pulled him toard the entrance$ "&ome ,uic!ly$ Stryder
needs aid$ He's a"out to
"e torn asunder$"
Simon didn't hesitate$ Spinning out of &hristopher's grip, he gra""ed up his sord from the cot and
"elted it on as he ran
for the list here Stryder had "een training$
&hristopher's elder "rother, Stryder, the fourth earl of 'lac!moor, as a man of many enemies and
one of Simon's closest friends$ -t asn't the first time Simon had heard of opponents attac!ing a man
hile in the confines of a tournament or
practice, "ut oe to those ho ould attac! Stryder in such a coardly fashion$
.o one ould ever attac! a friend of his ith immunity$ Simon ould have the villains' heads$
/r so he thought$
He s!idded to a halt as he came to the field here Stryder stood in the midst of hat appeared to "e
to score of omen$
Man#hungry omen to "e precise, ho had a taste for an earl ho as still in the prime of his life
and fighting proess$
%hey surrounded Stryder li!e a sea of shar!s hungry for a morsel of flesh$
Among other things$
A tall, slender "londe shrie!ed, "Stryder! %a!e my favor$"
"- love you, 0ord Stryder!"
"Move aside, you fat co$" another oman shouted, "- can't see him$"
"0ord Stryder touched me!"
%he screams of the omen ere deafening as they el"oed and shoved one another in an effort to
reach the poor man in
their center$ Stryder as trying desperately to e(tract himself, "ut the more he tried to flee, the more
the ladies held him fast$
Simon "urst out laughing at the sight of one of the most poerful men in &hristendom "eing
captured and 1ostled a"out "y
mere omen$ -t asn't often anyone sa uncertainty from Stryder of 'lac!moor$
And Simon had to admit he en1oyed seeing his friend at a loss for once$ -t as refreshing to !no
that Stryder really as human and not the soulless demon of 'lac!moor legend$
"Stryder+" Simon called, raising his voice to ma!e sure it carried over the omen's$ "%he leech
gave me the cream you re,uested$ He said your rash should clear up soon, "ut in the meantime, 'tis
highly contagious$"
Silence descended on the crod almost instantly$
"*hat did he say+" one of the omen as!ed$
"Rash," another repeated$
"-'ve no ish for another rash," another chimed in, stepping "ac!$
"2ust ho contagious is it+" Stryder as!ed, his "lue eyes dancing ith merry mischief as he 1oined
the game$
Simon !ept his face serious, his tone dire$ "3(tremely$ %he leech says you should "e ,uarantined
"efore you spread it a"out
the castle and ma!e everyone ill from it$ He said it could cause you to go "lind if you're not careful$"
/ne oman shrie!ed and 1umped aay hile the crod as a hole pulled "ac! only slightly from
Stryder$ Some of the
more intelligent omen loo!ed s!eptically at Simon$
"*hat sort of rash is this+" a short, dar!#haired oman as!ed$ "-'ve never heard of such and - see no
rash on 0ord Stryder$"
Simon dropped his ga)e to the area 1ust "elo the man's "elt$ "%hat's "ecause it resides in a most
private place$" He
cluc!ed his tongue at his friend$ ".e(t time - tell you to refrain from houses of ill repute, you'll "e
listening to me, on't you+"
%he omen made various noises of distress and ran for cover$
Stryder eyed him, his face a mi(ture of mirth and murder$ "-'m not sure if - should than! you for
that, or "eat you$"
Simon offered him a lopsided grin$ "*ould you rather - left you to them+"
Stryder ru""ed the "ac! of his nec! and froned as he sa the "lood on his hand here one of the
omen had scratched
him$ ".ay, - suppose not, "ut - ish you could have thought of a "etter tale$"
"4ery ell, then, ne(t time - shall tell them you are "etrothed$"
Stryder laughed openly at that$ ".o there's an event that shall never happen$ %he earth as e !no
it ill perish long
"efore the earl of 'lac!moor ever ta!es a "ride$"
".ever say never, my friend," Simon arned$ "5ar more stu""orn men than you have proclaimed
that and fallen to
&upid's "o$"
"Mayhap, "ut -'m not li!e other men$"
And neither as Simon, "ut then the to of them had a different calling6one that too! "oth their
lives aay from the
thought of matrimony$
.ay, neither he nor Stryder ould ever marry$ %here ere too many other lives that depended on
"oth of them$ %oo many others ho loo!ed to them for protection$
A ife ould never understand their commitments$
Stryder 1oined him, and they headed "ac! toard the tents$ "2ust promise me one thing, Simon$"
"And that is+"
"%hat on the day - pledge my troth to a oman, you'll run me through$"
Simon laughed at that$ "7ou'd rather "e dead than married+"
Stryder's face turned deadly serious$ "Aye, - ould$"
Simon nodded in understanding$ As his mother had, so had Stryder's mother died a violent death
during her son's childhood$
-t had "een one of the things that had forged their friendship years ago, a shared tragedy that alloed
them to understand
each other$
/ver the years, even more tragedies had "ound them closer than "rothers$
"4ery ell$ 'ut - still say a "etrothal is 1ust hat you need in order to deal ith your legion of ra"id
admirers$ A ife
ould ease them "ac! and allo you some time to go a"out your "usiness ithout ladies throing
themselves at you$"
%he humor returned to Stryder's eyes$ "Hmmm, a lady ife$ 5ind me a ench ith a level head
hom - can "e tempted "y, Simon, and - might ta!e you up on that$"



5ran!furt, Germany
%hree months later

%he roar of the crod as deafening, "ut then it alays as henever Stryder of 'lac!moor too!
the field$
Knights ere dressed in full tourney armor as they ere introduced "y the heralds to the eager
crod that had gathered
for today's sport$
Simon stayed in the "ac!ground, atching Stryder's "ac! as he alays did$ -t as hat he as "est
at$ His "rother, 8raven, had oft referred to him as his anchor$ *hile others sought glory and fame,
Simon sought only to protect those he loved$
He had learned long ago that glory and riches meant nothing hile standing over the grave of
someone ho as dear$
.either "rought comfort or armth$
.either "rought true happiness$
/nly friendship and "rotherhood did that$
And, of course, love$
Simon didn't need trou"adours to rite songs a"out him$ He held no desire to ma!e any oman
soon$
3(cept for one$
She hose name he dare not say "ecause she as the one thing he could never have$
0ong ago, in a "arren land, hen he'd "een nothing more than a starving "oy yearning for home, he
had made a promise that, so long as he lived, he ould spend his life helping others return home to
the families that loved them$
Home$ -t as the one thing he'd lac!ed groing up$ Aye, 8raven had loved him, "ut as children
they'd had no real home$ Ravensood had "een harsh and frightening$
.ormandy had "een endless and unfriendly, and even no he didn't ant any thoughts at all of
/utremer$
%he only thing Simon had ever "een a"le to depend upon as the three men hom he considered
his family68raven of Ravensood, Sin MacAllister and Stryder of 'lac!moor$
8raven and Sin had alloed him to survive the horrors of his childhood at Ravensood, and
Stryder had "een the one
ho had !ept him sane and hole hile living in the hell that as a Saracen prison$
%here as nothing he ouldn't do for them$
"Si+"
Simon loo!ed to Stryder, ho as to his right, mounting his horse$
/nce settled on his horse, Stryder flashed him a taunting grin$ "Are you daydreaming again, man+
9ic! up your sord
and stand ready$"
Simon scoffed at him$ "8aydreaming+ Ha! Merely plotting the ay - intend to spend my innings
this day hen - unhorse you$"
Stryder laughed aloud at that$ He inclined his head toard the red ri""on Simon had tied around his
"iceps$
"*ho's the fortunate lady+"
"She's no concern of yours$"
He smiled !noingly$ "Mayhap -'ll ta!e a "it of pity on you then and let you get in a fe "los
"efore - undignify you$
*ith any luc!, she might "e illing to !iss your in1uries$"
-f only Simon could "e so luc!y$
'ut alas, his lady as far aay from him$
She ould alays "e so$ -t asn't possi"le for a pe""le to touch a star$ And she as a star$ 'right,
shining$ 7et so far
a"ove him that he dare not even loo! at her "ecause in the end, he could never lay claim to her$
He glanced don at the ri""on and his heart ached$
%he heralds called them to field, and the day proved to "e a long one$
Ho Simon gre eary of the tournament circuit$ :nli!e Stryder, he sa no use in it$ 'ut he
stayed out of loyalty6
Stryder needed someone to protect him ho as "eyond "ri"ery$
And for the price on Stryder's head, those people ere far too fe and rare$
As the day finally dre to a close, Simon found himself ith Stryder and &hristopher, al!ing
toard their tents as
omen tried to gra" Stryder and proposition him$
"-t's a sad sight, isn't it+" &hristopher as!ed earily$ "Methin!s - should have the armorer ma!e a
larger helm for tomorro
so that it can fit over Stryder's "ig head$"
Simon laughed at that$ "-ndeed, "ut - fear a shortage in steel might occur if e tried to
accommodate his ugly noggin$"
Stryder scoffed$ "7ou're "oth 1ust 1ealous$ - have my choice of "edmates, hile the to of you sleep
alone$"
Simon passed a !noing loo! to &hristopher$ "-t seems to me, Kit, that there's only enough room in
his "ed for him and
his ego$ -t ma!es one onder ho he ever manages to s,uee)e a oman in$"
&hristopher laughed$
"A po( on "oth of you," Stryder said$
Simon smiled$ "And one on your ego$"
Stryder grunted, al!ing ith his head don as he fum"led ith a !notted lace on his cuirass$
*hen they rounded a tent, a shado caught Simon's eye$ He "arely had time to react as a man came
rushing at Stryder
ith a dran dagger$
'efore the assassin could reach his friend, Simon gra""ed him and, after a "rief struggle, thre the
man to the ground$
Simon disarmed him ,uic!ly and held him pinned "y his nec!$
Stryder curled his lip in disgust$ "%hese attempts on my life are "ecoming ,uite monotonous$"
Simon loo!ed at him drolly$ "9ray they don't "ecome successful$"
Stryder nodded as he pulled the assassin up$ "%han! you, Simon$ &hristopher and - ill see him to
the guards$ *ould
you care to 1oin us in the hall+"
Simon ent to touch the ri""on on his arm, only to reali)e it had "een torn off during the struggle$
His stomach shran!$ ".ay, - have something - need to do$"
".ot another letter$" &hristopher moaned$ "- sear, Simon, you've gotten to here you rite more
than - do, and -'m
a minstrel$"
Simon didn't say anything as they left him alone$ -nstead, he searched the ground until he found the
tattered pieces of his ri""on$
-nstantly relieved, he clutched them in his hand and pulled the letter out of his tunic, here he had
laced it tightly against his chest$
-t had "een delivered 1ust this morn as he'd "een donning his armor for the tourney$
He "ro!e the Scottish seal, and as he opened the letter, he found a tiny loc! of "ron hair$
Herhair$
He held it tightly in his hand, not anting to let it go$ 0ifting it to his face, he smelled the faintest
trace of her scent$
Simon smiled$
%hen he eagerly read her feminine script$
My 8earest *arrior,
- hope this finds you ell and unhurt$ - fear the last messenger you sent ill never "e "ri"ed to
carry another
of your letters to me$ -t appears -rather damaged him a "it in my enthusiasm to relieve him of his
vellum "urden$
- only hope his an!le heals soon$
7our ords touched me deeply, and - am truly sorry that you are homesic!$ - as going to send you
a "it of
soil, "ut thought it might "e rather ridiculous to "urden you ith such$ .ot to mention that dirt is
rather the same, isn't it+ And if you dropped it, you ouldn't "e a"le to reclaim it$
So - thought perhaps my hair might "ring some comfort to you$ - hope you on't notice the "it of
singing
around the ends of it$ - fear - learned a valua"le lesson the day "efore yesterday$
*hile daydreaming of you and your last letter, - "ecame distracted in the !itchen and asn't paying
attention
to here ; set don the candle$
'ut - discovered something most important$ 0arders catch fire rather easily$ And once "urned,
sandstone is impossi"le to clean$ %he coo! has "anned me eternally from the !itchen and at first
for"ade me ever to
parta!e of her services again$
After some consoling, she has at last granted me the right to eat, "ut only so long as - sear never
again to
enter her domain$
- miss you, my dearest$ Kno that herever you are tonight, my thoughts and heart are ith you
9lease ta!e care of yourself and may God grant you peace and health until you find yourself home
again
ith those ho love you
3ver yours,
K

Simon held her letter to his heart$ Ho he anted this oman$ .eeded her$
-f only he ere Stryder$ %hen he could court her$ 9ropose to her$
'ut as Simon of Ravensood, he could do nothing more than pine aay for his star, !noing that
the day ould never
come hen they could "e together$
He had found her only so that he could lose her$
5ate as often unmerciful$
Sighing, he too! his letter and headed for his tent$ At least there, for a little hile, he could pretend
to "e someone else$
Someone ho could offer his troth to his lady love$

&hapter ;

3ngland
3leven months later

"&ongratulations, 0ord Stryder$ - never thought to see the day hen you ould ta!e a "ride$"
Stryder loo!ed up as the older no"leman's ords rang in his ears$ He'd 1ust sat don no more than
five minutes "efore to "rea! his fast after a morning spent training in the list$
He as hot and seaty, and not ,uite sure he had heard the man correctly$
"A "ride+" Stryder repeated s!eptically$
%he old man's i)ened face "eamed at him, and his faded "ron eyes ere "right ith ell ishes$
"And a Scots heiress,
no less$ A fine match you've made, my "oy$ 5ine indeed$" He clapped Stryder on the "ac! and
am"led off$
Stupefied, Stryder froned and returned to his food$ .o dou"t the no"leman had gone daft ith his
old age$
/r so he thought$
%hat as the first of several such encounters, and as the morning ore on hile he ent a"out his
duties, Stryder could thin!
of only one person ho ould spread such unfounded gossip regarding him$
Simon of Ravensood$
He smiled to himself$ Simon had promised him peace hile they ere in 3ngland for the yearly
sho of arms at Stantington$ 3very no"leman in 3ngland, as ell as the !ing, as here for the
event$
Along ith the men had come their numerous unmarried daughters ho ere all eagerly see!ing
hus"ands ith rich purses$
-n other ords, they ere all see!ing him.
.ormally, he ould have "een hounded and mo""ed "y the ealth#hungry omen ho coveted his
lands, his proess in
"ed, and his "ody$
-n that order$
Simon had promised him that if he ould return home for this spectacle, Simon ould !eep the
omen and their scheming mothers far aay$
Stryder still didn't !no hy his returning to 3ngland had "een so important to Simon$ After all, the
man didn't oe him anything and as ,uite free to leave his service at any time$
Still, Simon had anted them to come home, and so Stryder had humored him even though he
hated to "e in 3ngland,
here the past haunted him all too vividly$
A fortnight in 3ngland, my friend$ '%is all - as! of you$ Have no fear, - shall !eep the eager enches
far aay$
He should have !non Simon ould ma!e good his ord$ %he man alays did$
A edding$
Stryder laughed again at the thought$ 0eave it to Simon to concoct such a tale$ He oed his friend a
flagon of ale for his inventiveness$
"Stryder+"
Stryder paused halfay across the yard as he heard the hesitant call of an unfamiliar feminine
voice$ His eyes focused on an average#loo!ing oman ho appeared to "e around Simon's age$
%here as something a"out her that as vaguely familiar, as if they had met once "ut he couldn't
really recall her$
Her light "ron hair as "raided ith a dar! red ri""on$ Her "ody leaned toard plump, and her
eyes ere large and
"ron and possessed a seet, doeli!e ,uality$
She as pleasing enough to loo! at "ut as far from the tall, slender maids ho turned his head$
She smiled a elcoming smile at him that gave him the sudden urge to "olt$
'efore he could move, she crossed the distance "eteen them and thre herself into his arms$
"/h, Stryder!" she cried, her voice thic! ith a Scots "rogue$ "7ou've made me the happiest oman
on earth!"
He stood oodenly as she em"raced him$ "- "eg your pardon+ 0ady, ho are you+"
She laughed at that and pulled "ac!$ "*ho am -+ /h, Stryder, you are a funny one to "e sure$"
She turned "ac! to the man and oman ho had "een ith her$ %hey came to rest 1ust "ehind her$
Stryder !ne the man, "ut he hadn't seen him in ,uite a fe years$
Standing to inches taller ith a "ody that had "een made to slay any man foolish enough to get in
his ay, Sin MacAllister as !non more "y reputation than anything else$ His slac! hair as only
slightly shorter than Stryder's, and the Sin's "lac! eyes atched Stryder and the un!non lady
curiously$
"0ord Sin$" Stryder said, inclining his head to the earl$ "-t's "een a long time$"
And it had "een$ -n some ays it seemed an eternity$ Stryder had 1ust earned his spurs$ 8uring the
cele"ration, Sin had
given him sound advice that had saved his life on more than one occasion$
0et no one at your "ac!$
Sin shoo! his arm$ "Aye, it has$ - have to tell you, - as rather surprised hen my cousin told me
she as to ed you$
-t 1ust doesn't seem li!e the Stryder of 'lac!moor everyone hispers a"out$"
A feeling of dread settled over Stryder$
He asn't sure hat part of that statement shoc!ed him most$ He loo!ed "ac! at the plump oman$
"'eg pardon+" he as!ed$ "&ousin+"
%he oman "eamed$ "Remem"er+ - told you in my letter that my cousin &aledonia"6she indicated
the "eautiful red#haired lady standing "eside Sin6"had married 0ord Sin$ 7ou said in your letter
that you and Sin !ne each other$"
"7our letter+" he repeated in a shoc!ed hisper$
"Aye,"she said, her "ro puc!ering ith a ron$ "8on't you recall it+" She moved closer d him$
"Stryder+ Are you all right+ 7ou loo! ill$"
He as ill$ Sic! to his stomach, to "e precise$ 3(cuse me for a moment$ 9lease+"
Stryder didn't ait for permission$ He "olted oard the hall ith the speed he only used in "attle,
hile pursuing someone
he ished to ill$$$$
Ho odd," Kenna said as she atched her "ethrothed speed aay$ "*hat do you suppose got into
him+"
Sin passed an amused loo! at &aledonia$ &ommon sense, no dou"t$"
&aledonia lightly struc! him on the stomach$ 'Shame on you, Sin$ Kenna might thin! you're
serious$"
"- as$" He sidestepped her ne(t playful "lo$ "'ut not that Stryder should avoid Kenna per se$
More that he should run
from any voman al!ing a"out ith a matrimonial loose$"
&aledonia gasped in feigned indignation$ '/h, than! you so much$ - never reali)ed - as such a vile
cross for you to "ear$"
Kenna ignored her cousin's playful "antering ith her hus"and$ She'd learned the day she met 0ord
Sin that he and
&aledonia shared a deep, respectful love of each other$ %he to of them lived to tease one another$
'ut that asn't here her attention as focused$ "%hin! you Stryder changed his mind+"
&aledonia scoffed at the idea$ ".ay, love$ .o dou"t he had other duties more pressing$ -'m ,uite
certain that he ill
return to your side as soon as he can$"
She hoped so$ %he alternative asn't a pleasant thought$ She'd traveled so far already 1ust to see
him, and in truth his cool reception cut her deeply$
Had she done something rong+
Had he not meant the letters he had ritten to her+
:ncertain and fearful of hat his reaction meant, Kenna e(cused herself and headed for the castle$
She entered the mammoth don1on and made her ay to the stone, curving stairs that led to her
cham"ers on an upper floor$
Surely she hadn't mista!en 0ord Stryder's intent$ Surely$ .ervous, she made straight aay for her
satchel on the des! "y the indo$ She alays stored her most pri)ed possessions inside the dar!
tanned s!in$
Her letters$
She pulled out the one letter on top6the one she had secured ith a special red ri""on that matched
the one she alays
ore in her hair$ %he one she had sent to Stryder hile he as in Germany$ Her hands sha!ing from
orry, she opened it
and sought verification$
As she read the elegant, floing script, the familiar 1oy spread through her, arming every inch of
her "ody$
My dearest Kenna,
%he sun has set no and - find myself outside the ton of 5ran!furt$ %he tournament ent ell
today,
"ut - am rather "ored "y the events, "y the crod and most especially "y the !nights ho recount
their
no"le deeds$
-'m "ored ith much of late$
- miss 3ngland a great deal, "ut Scotland even more$ Strange, isn't it+ -'ve only "een to the
Highlands
once and then only "riefly$
7et hen - read your ords, - can feel the "reath of the Scots inds on my s!in, remem"er the
seet smell
of the air$ %he sound of your voice spea!ing to me$
- cherish the story of your learning e(perience in the !itchen$ 0i!e you, - had no idea ho easily
one could
"urn don a larder, nor ho hard it is to clean soot from sandstone$ - am only grateful that no one,
least
of all you, as hurt and -'m sorry you have no "een "anished from the !itchens for eternity$
5urther, - am glad that the coo! has decided to let you eat again$
0i!e alays, you remind me of the things that are gentle and good, and "ring a smile to my lips
hen - thin!
of you$
- as e(cited this morning hen the messenger came ith your letter$ %his one still held the scent
of your
seet hands upon it$ More and more, - find myself loo!ing for them$ 0oo!ing for my connection to
you$
7our ords see me through the days and especially the long nights hile - remain far from home
and familiar comforts$ - !no e have only met once, and yet - feel as though - !no you in a ay -
have never !non anyone$
- miss you, Kenna$ 3very moment of my day is spent ondering ho you are doing and if
something has made you smile in my a"sence$
- have the loc! of hair that you sent me$ - ear it inside a circlet that rests over my heart to remind
me of your gentle ords and !indness$ -t is my most treasured possession, it and the letters you
send$
-n truth, - can't imagine living in a orld here you are not a part of it$ -f< could, I would gladly
spend the
rest of my life ith you, ma!ing you happy$
Meet me in 3ngland on my return, my lady, and there - ould ma!e true my heart's fondest ish$ A
!iss from your tender lips and a pledge from my heart to yours$
:ntil then, let seet dreams "e ith you$
3ver your !night,
S.

Kenna closed her eyes and held the letter close to her heart$ Stryder loved her$ She as certain of it$
Surely no man could
rite such tender ords unless he meant them$
'ut perhaps she had misread them$
%hey had sounded li!e a proposal upon her first three do)en readings, "ut no that she had seen
Stryder again, she asn't so sure$ He'd acted as if he'd had no idea ho she as, and yet the to of
them had "een riting for ell over a year no$
"Kenna+"
She turned to find &aledonia standing in the dooray$
"Are you all right+"
Kenna nodded as she folded up the letter and returned it to the satchel$ Stryder's ords had "een
ritten for her alone,
and she had never anted to share their precious sentiments$ "-'m 1ust trying to understand Stryder's
reaction$"
5rom the ords he had ritten to her, she'd e(pected him to scoop her up in his arms and cry out in
delight at her presence$ -nstead, he had e(cused himself and run for cover as if the devil himself had
"een after him$
&ould he have "een lying to her all this time+
'ut hy ould he do such+
%heir letters had "een innocent at first, 1ust little notes to each other a"out the eather and hat
they ere up to$ He had
"een the one ho had turned their missives into more serious matters$
9erhaps he had thought her to "e another lady$ 9erhaps he had remem"ered her to "e "eautiful and
elegant li!e her cousin &allie, and no, having seen her again, he as disappointed and regretful of
his ritings$
She shivered at the thought$
.ay, surely not$ He had shared too much of himself ith her$ %old her of his mother's death, of his
"rutal past$
He had told her things she as ,uite certain he had shared ith no one else$
"Men can "e strange "easties$" &aledonia said ,uietly as she shut the door "ehind her and dre
closer$ "7ou've no idea
hat a hard time - had ith Sin hen - first met him$ He as pric!ly and harsh, alays see!ing to
put distance "eteen us$"
Kenna too! comfort at her cousin's ords$ "- find that hard to "elieve$"
"Aye, "ut it's true$ - thin! you caught Stryder off guard$ Give him time to thin! clearly and -'m sure
he'll ma!e good his promises$"
Kenna nodded, even though part of her still anted to cry at the shattering of her dreams$
3verything had started out so simply in the "eginning$ After her "rother's death, she had gone to
5rance to a"ide "y her "rother's dying ish6to return Stryder's heraldic em"lem to the earl and to
than! the man for saving her "rother's life and returning him home$
/nce in 5rance, she had "een enthralled "y the fighting proess of the man in the list, "y the
strength of his sord as he'd trained$
And hen Stryder had removed his helm and she had seen his impecca"ly chiseled features, she
had "een enchanted$
.o man "orn could ever "e more "eautiful than he$
Stryder had "een hurried as he'd left the field, "arely ta!ing time to do more than spea! a ,uic!
ord to her "efore he'd
rushed off$
Her tongue had "een so tied that she hadn't "een a"le to e(plain to him her purpose for "eing there
or to call him "ac!$
Her hands had sha!en so "adly that she hadn't even reali)ed she'd dropped Stryder's em"lem until
another !night had
retrieved it from the ground and returned it to her cold hands$
''5orgive his haste, my lady," the !night had said$ "Stryder is oft harried in his attempts to leave the
list and ma!e it "ac! to
his tent "efore he is sarmed$"
She'd loo!ed up into the face of another handsome man$ His long, dar! au"urn hair had reminded
her much of the men ho graced her Highlands$ His deep "lue eyes had "een arm and friendly$
"- only ished to return this to him," she'd said, ondering hy she asn't tongue#tied ith this
man$ She'd alays "een a!ard around the opposite se($ 'ut for some reason this stranger,
regardless of his handsomeness, had made her feel comforta"le$
%he !night had loo!ed don at her hand and froned at the sord#and#shield "adge$ "*here did
you get this+"
"-t "elonged to my "rother$ He returned from /utremer ith it$"
His arm hand had covered hers, and she had shivered at the calluses on his rough fingers, at the
sound of his deep,
sil!en voice$ "7our "rother's name, my lady+"
"3dard MacRyan$"
A distant light had come into his "lue eyes, as if he'd "een recalling the past$ He'd offered her a
small, gentle smile$
"7ou're Kenna$"
A sensation of heat had gone don her spine at the ay he'd said her name$
"7ou !no me+"
"Aye, my lady, your "rother spo!e of you often$"
"7ou ere ith them in /utremer+"
His smile had faded as he'd nodded$ His eyes had "etrayed the same pain that her "rother's had held
henever he'd remem"ered the years he'd spent imprisoned "y the Saracens$
-t as then she'd !non ho this man as$ 3dard had spo!en of Stryder's right hand$ %he one
man ho had stayed in
the shados hile Stryder had gained fame and renon$ Heas one of the men ho had never
alloed others to !no
his name, "ut ho had comforted and protected them 1ust the same$
"7ou are the *raith$"
He'd loo!ed instantly uncomforta"le at her ords$ "Ho do you !no that name+"
"My "rother never spo!e to anyone other than me a"out your 'rotherhood," she'd hastened to
assure him$ "*e never !ept secrets, he and -$ And -'ve never spo!en of his tales to another living
soul$ - promise you$ He only anted me to !no of
you "efore he died so that - could uphold his foresorn oath$"
%he stranger had inced at her nes as if someone had struc! him$ -t had made her feel even more
tender toard him that
he, too, shared her grief at the loss of so no"le a man$
"3dard is dead+ Ho+"
"/f illness$ He too! a po( last spring$"
"-'m sorry for your loss, my lady$ 3dard as a good man$" He'd closed his hand over the "adge
and started aay from her$
"- shall return this to Stryder and tell him the nes$"
"*ait$"
He'd paused and loo!ed "ac! at her$
"- don't !no your name$"
All emotion had vanished from his face, and he'd "ecome the man of legend right "efore her eyes$
"- am the *raith, my lady$
- have no real name$ .ot in this$"
"&an you at least get me close enough to 0ord Stryder to than! him for protecting my "rother hile
you ere imprisoned+"
He loo!ed aay at that$ "Stryder doesn't li!e personal than! yous$"
"May - at least rite him then+"
%he *raith had nodded$ "Aye$ - shall see he receives it$"
He had left her so ,uic!ly that she hadn't even had the chance to than! the mysterious !night$
'ut then that as hy they'd called him the *raith$ Her "rother had told her many stories of the
'rotherhood of the Sord6the men ho had "anded together to escape the Saracen prison here
all of them had "een held$
0ord Stryder had "een called the *ido#ma!er due to his strength of arm and illingness to !ill
hoever threatened those ho fell under his protection$
%he *raith had "een the one to gather information for them and run interference ith the guards$
He'd "een punished
countless times so that their captors ould "e distracted hile the others tunneled their escape$
3ven no, after spending a year of her life riting letters to Stryder, Kenna didn't !no the name of
that mysterious !night$ She'd as!ed Stryder for it only once, and his response had "een very curt and
odd$
He is naught of conse,uence, my lady$ /nly a hollo, haunted ghost ho is "est left to the
memories of the past$
0et us not spea! of him$
She had never ,uestioned it further$ Her thoughts had ,uic!ly "een ta!en over "y the fantasy of the
fearless !night ho rote to her$ /f the man ho told her so much of his heart that she had "een
poerless against the love that overhelmed her$
9erhaps &aledonia as right$
Stryder had shared so much ith her that may"e her appearance had shoc!ed him$ May"e he as
em"arrassed no "y
his candor and 1ust needed a "rief time to ad1ust to her physical presence$
Aye, that as it$
He 1ust needed a little time to come to terms ith the confidences they had shared$


&hapter =

Simon, you've "een li!e a "rother to me all these years$ "%is a damn shame that - have to !ill you
no$" Stryder's angry tone as lo, lethal$ 3ven so, it rever"erated through the empty hall here
Simon sat, eating a light repast to tide him over until
the evening meal$
Simon cho!ed on his "read at the une(pected ords and the heartfelt sincerity of Stryder's voice$
Stryder's eyes ere cold and unfeeling, devoid of the friendship that Simon as used to seeing from
him$
'"%hat's it," Stryder said, his ga)e narroed "y rage$ "7ou go ahead and cho!e$ -'m not even going
to "other saving you
from it, "ut "efore you die of asphy(iation, could you at least tell me ho it is -'m supposed to
ed+"
Simon cho!ed even more$
Stryder was going to !ill him for this$
As Simon reached for his mead to help clear his throat, Stryder continued his angry rant$
"Apparently, Simon, - have "een riting to my future ife$ And 1ust for clarity, let me repeat that$ I
have "een riting to
my future ife$"
His glare intensified until it ould rival the devil for heat$ "8on't you thin! that it is rather difficult
for me to do such a thing
since - rite to no one, hmm+ 'ut then, since - don't rite, ho is it ho ansers all my personal
letters+ /h, aye, - !no$$$$ "%is you, Simon$ You."
Simon too! a deep drin! of mead as his mind raced$ He'd !non this as coming, "ut he had hoped
for a little more time to thin! up some ay to e(tract all of them from this madness$ "7ou told me to
anser your letters as - sa fit$ .ot to "other
you ith their content$"
"Ansering my letters does not re,uire a "etrothal$ %ell me of this oman$ -s she at least ealthy+"
"She's very nice$"
"Simon!"
Stryder gave him a glare so sinister that Simon could almost "elieve the tales that claimed Stryder
had sold his soul to 0ucifer$
Had Simon "een any man other than himself, he might even have flinched, "ut Simon flinched from
no man's anger, and most especially not from Stryder's$
%hey had !non each other too long and had "een through too much for Simon to fear him$
'ut hen it came to annoying him, that as another matter entirely$
"*hat say you+" Stryder as!ed, his voice even angrier$ "-s this a 1est+ *ho is this oman ho
claims - have proposed to her+"
Simon met Stryder's stare levelly and ondered ho he'd gotten himself into this$
:nfortunately, he !ne$
-t, li!e all ills of the earth, had come from a oman$
And not 1ust any oman as she$
0i!e 3ve ith Adam, she had lured him into disaster against his ill and his common sense$ *hen
he should have run,
he'd stayed, and no he ould pay a steep price for it$
His donfall had "ut one name$
Kenna$
Kenna ith light "ron hair and eyes that ere golden "ron and "right$ She as a small slip of a
oman, rather plain in loo!s, "ut she held an inner "eauty that had enchanted him from the moment
Simon had read her first letter$
:nfortunately, said letter hadn't "een intended for him$
She'd ritten it to Stryder, the earl of 'lac!moor, self#styled "ar"arian cur, !non to possess the
rath of Armageddon$ *hen Stryder entered a room, renoned arriors "ro!e into a seat lest they
incur his notice$
Stryder ho as every oman's fantasy$
Stryder ho as the "ane of Simon's e(istence$ At least at this moment, "ecause the oman Simon
loved as in love ith Stryder, hose heart ould never "e captured "y a single maid$
At least not for any longer than a night or to$
8amn Stryder anyay for putting him in this position$ 'ut then if not for Stryder and his proess,
Simon ould never have
met Kenna$
He ould do anything for his lady$
"7ou said if - could find you a level#headed oman, you ould marry her$"
Stryder sputtered at that and loo!ed at him as if he'd gron three heads$ "Are you mad+"
Aye, he as$ Mad for a oman ho had spilled her heart out to him as the one she thought as
destined to "e her hus"and$
"-f you meet ith her, you ill see$ She ould ma!e a good ife to you$"
Stryder cursed$ "Simon, hat ere you thin!ing+ 7ou proposed on my "ehalf+ Ho could you do
such a thing+>'
Simon cringed at that$ He'd "een riting to Kenna for so long and signing the letters as Ever Your
Knight, S, that he had forgotten the one small fact that in her mind the S stood for Stryder, not
Simon$
He hadn't reali)ed the mista!e until her ne(t letter had come to him$ -nstead of her riting, My
8earest *arrior,she had penned, My Dearest Stryder.
%he ords had struc! his heart li!e a "lo as they'd reminded him all too clearly of hat he had
done$ *ho she thought
him to "e$
He as such a fool$
"-t 1ust happened$"
Stryder narroed his eyes$ ".ay, Simon$ 5oul eather 1ust happens$ 8isaster 1ust happens$" He
glared meaningfully$
"8eath1ust happens$ 'ut people do not get "etrothed ithout design$ 7ou ill get me out of this, or
so help me - ill
have your head and your "ulloc!s$"
Simon 1ust loo!ed at him$ ".o there's an empty threat if - ever heard one$ &alm yourself, Stryder$
Meet ith her$ She's
not li!e other omen$ 7ou ill see$" Simon stepped forard and loered his voice$ "'esides, she
!nos of us$"
"3veryone !nos of us, Si, e happen to "e rather famous6or infamous, as the case may "e?'
".ay," Simon said, giving him an arched loo!$ "She knows of us." He spo!e in an even loer tone,
enunciating each ord sloly$ "Her "rother as 3dard MacRyan$ 8o you remem"er him+"
Stryder's eyes turned dull as the repressed memory of their captivity in the Holy 0and came "ac! to
him$ "He's the one
- saved from the crocodiles$"
"Aye$ She is the sister he spo!e of on so many occasions, and even after his death, she is still
a"iding "y his oath to our
cause$ -t as his praise of you that caused her to rite to you that first time hile e ere in
.ormandy$ -t as her
"rother's fondest ish that the to of you should meet$"
"*hy+"
"'ecause the to of you are the people he loved most in this life$ She anted to than! you for
saving his life and seeing him home again$"
"%hat didn't re,uire a "etrothal$"
Simon dre a deep "reath as he struggled against his untoard emotions, hich demanded he "eat
Stryder and ta!e Kenna regardless of the conse,uences$
.ay, it didn't re,uire a "etrothal$
He'd "ecome so comforta"le ith Kenna that he'd let his common sense slip and his careful guard
don$ He had confided things to her that he had told no one$ /ver the course of the last year, he had
laid "are his thoughts and his heart to her$
And she had returned the courtesy$
Simon sighed$ "Have no fear, as soon as she comes here, - shall set things aright$"
"%hen you'd "est "e a"out it, since - sa her right "efore - came see!ing you$"
Simon's heart pounded at the ords as happiness flooded him$ "Kenna is here+"
Stryder nodded$
His food forgotten, Simon started for the door$ "*here is she+"
"She as ith Sin MacAllister last - sa$"
Simon faltered at the name of his childhood friend$ "Sin "rought her here+"
"- ould assume so$"
Simon clenched his teeth at that$ %hings had 1ust "ecome tice as complicated$ .ot that it mattered$
Kenna as here$
She as the most important thing to him, and no he ould "e a"le to see her again$ %o touch her$
Hear the sound of her voice $$$
After all these nights of struggling to remem"er her precious face and "eautiful smile, he could see
her again$ 5eel the armth
of her physical touch$ Smell the light lavender scent of her s!in$
-t ould "e heaven$
He left Stryder in the hall and ent to find the oman hose amusing insights and anecdotes had
stolen his heart$
-t didn't ta!e long to ascertain her herea"outs$ He found the !ing's steard and learned that she'd
come to the castle the
night "efore, after Simon had retired to his tent$
0ord 8re(ton had given her, Sin and &aledonia rooms in the castle$
Simon made for the area posthaste$ He ran up the stone spiral steps, desperately see!ing the oman
he loved$ -gnoring the maid ho gasped and hurried from his path, he sprinted don the hallay to
the last door$
%he room that held her$$$
He !noc!ed on the door ithout hesitation$
"3nter$"
Simon closed his eyes and savored the lilting "rogue that single ord "etrayed$ She as here! 'y
all the saints in heaven,
she had come at his re,uest$
As he reached for the handle, his courage faltered$
Kenna didn't !no him at all$
All this time she'd made the assumption she as riting to Stryder$ 3ven though he'd meant to tell
her the truth a"out ho
he as, he'd never had the heart$
At first it had all seemed harmless enough$ 2ust a fe notes "ac! and forth on nothing of any
import$ :ntil last &hristmastide$
-n a moment of ea!ness, he had shared his mother's death ith her$
She'd responded ith such precious ords of comfort that he hadn't had the courage after that to let
her !no his real identity$
-f she ever learned the truth $$$
She ill thin! - "etrayed her$
5ear sliced through him at that thought$ He ould never do such a thing, and yet she ould "elieve
it$ Most li!ely, she'd never forgive him for it$
She ould hate him eternally$
.ay, he couldn't "ear that$
*hat as he to do+
He heard her approaching the door$
His heart hammering, Simon did something he'd never done "efore$
He fled$
Rushing aay from the room, he found a shadoy alcove here he could hide himself$ He'd "arely
crammed himself into
it "efore the door sung open$
Her sil!en voice assailed his "ody ith pleasure$ ''Hello+ -s anyone out here+"
5rom the shados, he sa her$ She as far more "eautiful than he remem"ered$ Her chee!s ere
flush, her eyes "right$
She ore a deep scarlet !irtle that made her pale s!in glisten$
He hardened instantly at the sight of her$ Ho he yearned to go to her, ta!e her in his arms and taste
her full, moist lips$
%o sample the full "ounty of her soft curves and pale s!in$
He anted her in a ay he'd never anted anything$
-t too! all his ill not to leave the shados and touch her$ %o yield to the "urning ache in his loins
that demanded he claim
her for his on$
'ut he didn't dare$
He had no right to this oman ho hadspilled her heart out to him hile thin!ing he as someone
else$
'y all rights, he6ho !ne everything a"out her6should !no nothing at all$
8amn him for his foolish stupidity$
She loo!ed around the corridor, then stepped "ac! into the room and shut the door$
Simon still didn't move$
He as torn "eteen the desire to go to that door, !ic! it open and ta!e hat he anted and the
need to run for cover lest Kenna learn of his tric!ery$
'ut as it tric!ery hen he hadn't meant it that ay+ He'd never really lied to her$ He'd only failed
to correct her misinterpretation$
3very ord he'd ritten to her had "een the truth$ 3very feeling real and honest$
"Simon+"
He started at the familiar voice that came from the opposite end of the hallay$
Stepping out of the shados, he sa the Mac.eely lairdess$ She as even more "eautiful no than
hen he'd left Scotland$ Her long, red hair as "raided don the side of her face, and she ore a
deep "lue !irtle that accentuated the perfection of
her "ody$
"&allie," he greeted$
A arm smile curved her lips as she pulled him into a sisterly hug of affection$ "*hatever are you
doing here, and hiding in
the shados, no less+"
Simon stepped "ac!$ "0i!e the others, - have come for the sho of arms$"
She nodded$ "-s your "rother, 8raven, ith you+"
".ay$ He didn't ant to travel ithout 3mily and the "oys, and he felt it as too far for the
youngest to 1ourney$"
&aledonia too! his arm in hers and led him toard the room here Kenna as$
His heart pounded more ith every step that too! him closer to his doom$
9erspiration "ro!e out on his forehead$
:naare of his panic, &allie continued$ "%hen - shall 1ust have to stop at Ravensood on my ay
home and ma!e sure to
see them and 8ermot$ And spea!ing of my errant "rother, have you seen him recently+"
Simon shoo! his head$ ".ot since - released 8ermot's custody over to 8raven, "ut 3mily has
ritten to say he is ell$"
"Good$"
Simon salloed as she reached for the door handle$
Run!
%he command as so strong that he asn't sure hat !ept him from heeding it$
'ut "efore his common sense could return, &aledonia opened the door$
Simon's ga)e met Kenna's instantly$ She sat in a chair on the other side of the room, 1ust "efore the
open indo ith a
small psalter in her hands$ Sunlight streamed in through the indo, here it lightened strands of
her hair to form an angelic halo around her face$
She as "eautiful$
8esire hit him fiercely$ -t as all he could do to "reathe$ His "ody as instantly hot and cold$
He found himself una"le to move$ :na"le to "rea! eye contact ith the one oman ho had
haunted him for the last year$
%he one oman he ould give up his life for$
Kenna couldn't move as she sa the man "eside her cousin$ His dar! au"urn hair as a "it longer
than as the 3nglish
fashion, "ut he ore a small, stylish goatee that had "een perfectly manicured$
He as taller than most men, ith a lean, muscular "uild that "espo!e poer and strength$ 8eadly
grace$ His "lue eyes
ere riveting in their stri!ing color$
%ruly, he as a most handsome man$
And it too! her a full minute "efore she reali)ed ho he as$
%he *raith$
%hey'd seen each other only once, "ut she had never forgotten the handsomeness of his features$
%he ay his "lue eyes
ere a"le to sear her ith his passionate heat$
He loo!ed at her no li!e some hungry predator ho had 1ust found its ne(t meal$ %he intensity of
that stare made her hot
and nervous$ And oddly enough, it "rought a strange thrill to her$
%here as an aura of dangerous poer surrounding him$ /ne of possessiveness$
She couldn't fathom hy, "ut the sensation didn't lessen$
"Kenna, have you met Simon+ He is the friend of Sin's ho came ith him to Scotland after e
married$ His elder "rother
is the one 8ermot as sent to live ith$"
Kenna as completely stunned "y the nes$
"7ou'reSimon+" she said, her face "rea!ing out into a smile$ -t as all she could do not to laugh at
some of the stories she
had heard from &allie and Sin a"out this !night$
-t as hard to fathom that the dangerous predator "efore her could "e the !ind, good#natured man of
hom they had spo!en$
He as far too intense for that$ 5ar too intense ever to follo the orders of someone else$
She had imagined Simon of Ravensood as a small, gentle man, not as someone ho toered over
her cousin ith such a steely and dangerous demeanor$
He inclined his head toard her$ "-t's good to see you again, my lady$"
&aledonia loo!ed "ac! and forth "eteen them$ "7ou !no each other+"
"*e met in 5rance hen - ent to see 0ord Stryder$" Kenna rose to her feet and placed her psalter
in her seat$
As she neared Simon, she tilted her head to loo! up at him$ *hat as it a"out this man that made
her !nees ea!+ Made
her "urn to reach out and touch him+ %o "rush the stray loc! of hair "ac! from his forehead and to
!iss the "ared s!in+
His ga)e as guarded, cool$
"7ou refused to tell me your name then$" she said$ "*hy+"
Kenna as fascinated "y the ay his muscles rolled under his supertunic as he shrugged his
shoulders$ "7ou ere more interested in Stryder than you ere in me$"
She had the impression that those ords seemed to ound him someho$
"Have you heard the good nes, Simon+" &allie said$ "Kenna is to marry Stryder$"
%here as a very su"tle tensing to his features$ /ne that loo!ed li!e pain$ "&ongratulations, my
lady$ - hope he ma!es you happy$"
&allie froned at that$ "Are you all right, Simon+ 7ou seem rather reserved$"
He cleared his throat and offered her a smile that didn't ,uite reach his eyes$ "5orgive me, &allie$ -
didn't rest ell last night$"
"8o you still travel ith Stryder+" Kenna as!ed him$ "/r are you !night to another lord+"
A fierce heat came into his eyes at that$ 5lic!ering$ 'urning$ Her ,uestion had offended him, she
could sense it$
"- am alays my on !night, my lady$ - travel ith my friends and "rothers until - feel the urge to
leave and go my on ay$"
"'rothers+" &allie repeated$ "- thought 8raven as the only one you had$"
".ay$ - am "astard "orn$ - fear my father as rather free ith himself, and - have a large family to
"urden henever the
mood stri!es me$"
Kenna laughed at that$ "7ou sound li!e Stryder$ He once said the very same thing to me$"
%here as no mista!ing the panic that flashed across his features$ "- had "est "e going$ %as nice
seeing you "oth again$"
He as out the door "efore Kenna could even open her mouth to return the sentiment$
"*ell, that as certainly odd$" &allie said as she rested her hands on her hips at his hasty departure$
"- don't thin! -'ve
ever seen Simon so stiff and guarded$ He's normally much friendlier$ - can't imagine hat has gotten
into him$"
Kenna "arely heard the ords$ %here as something strange here$ Something very strange$
Stryder acted as if he didn't !no her, and Simon ,uoted almost ver"atim an anecdote that Stryder
had once ritten to her$$$$
Stryder$$$
Simon$$$
A "ad feeling settled over her$
.ay, surely not$
Her chest tight ith apprehension, she gra""ed her letters and e(cused herself from &allie, then
ent "elo to find one of
the to men ho had her perple(ed$
-t as Stryder she sought first$ She found him alone in the sta"le, readying his horse for a ride$
"My lord+"
He paused and turned to face her$ She had the distinct feeling that he as "iting his tongue to !eep
from cursing$
/nce again she as struc! "y the handsomeness of his features, "y the ay his "lac! hair curled so
"ecomingly around
his face and shoulders$
Stryder of 'lac!moor as a man to ma!e any oman ea! in the !nees$ 7et he didn't ma!e her
arm the ay Simon had$
"My lady$" he greeted her cooly$ 8ispassionately$
And it as then she !ne the truth$
%his asn't the same man ho had ritten to her$ %hat man had spilled out his heart and soul to her$
He had "een open and funny$ *arm and enchanting$
%he man "efore her as too guarded and closed to her$ She had "een tric!ed, she !ne it$
.o she anted proof "efore she let loose her rath on them$
So she handed Stryder her letters$ "Are you the man ho rote these to me+"
He turned them over and loo!ed at the 'lac!moor seal$ "%hey "ear my mar!$"
"Aye, they do indeed$"
He froned as he handed them "ac! to her$ "%hen they are from me$"
"'ut you didn't rite them$"
He moved aay$
"9lease," she "egged, ta!ing his arm to stop him$ "- must !no$"
"*hy+"
"'ecause these are tender ords," she said, holding the letters up to him$ "9oetic ords$ *ho
ould dare rite me such
hile signing your name to them+ *as this some cruel game you played+"
His eyes dar!ened, as if her accusation greatly offended him$ ".ay, lady$ - ould never play ith
another in such a manner$
- may have committed many crimes in my life, "ut moc!ery has never "een one of them$"
She pulled the top letter off and removed the red ri""on$ "Read this and tell me hat you see$"
A tic started in his 1a$ "- can't read that$"
"*hy not+"
"'ecause - can't read$ - never learned$"
All the "reath left her lungs at that$ Stunned, she could do nothing "ut stare$
She'd anted the truth and no she had it$ Stryder as illiterate$
"%hen ho rote this to me+"
"- did$"

&hapter @


Kenna turned to find Simon standing 1ust "ehind her$ His "lue eyes ere dar! and stormy$
"7ourote to me as Stryder+" she as!ed$
He glanced to Stryder, then loc!ed ga)es ith her$" Aye$"
9ain and dis"elief ashed over her$ /h, she as such a fool! Ho could she have ever thought that
a man as handsome, ealthy and ell#famed as Stryder ould ever settle for a plain oman such as
she+
And yet Simon had made her "elieve$ He had fed her mind full of fallacies and lies$
Ho could he+
"- see$"
Her throat tight, she returned the ri""on to the letter, then handed the stac! over to Simon$
"- hope the to of you have a good laugh over this$ -'m sorry - distur"ed you$"
He captured her arm as she started past him$ "Kenna, please$ -$$$"
She aited for him to finish$
-nstead, he 1ust stared at her ith his 1a fle(ed, his eyes snapping, as if he ere de"ating ith
himself$
"7ou hat+" she as!ed$
His ga)e softened$ "- never meant to hurt you$"
"%hen hat did you mean "y sending me those letters, !noing - thought they came from Stryder+"
Stryder promptly e(cused himself and headed for the sta"le's opening$
Alone no, Kenna stared up at Simon, hose eyes held a deep, inner torment$ "- ould never hurt
you," he murmured$
She sensed his heartfelt sincerity, not that it mattered$ *hat he had done had "een rong$
-ne(cusa"le$
And for hat+
5or sport+
5or cruelty+
"'ut you did hurt me, Simon$ 7ou have em"arrassed me and made me feel6"
He stopped her ords ith a hot, demanding !iss$
Kenna as shoc!ed "y his actions$
.o man had ever dared such "efore$ .one$ Her father ould have had the heart of any man ho
dared handle her in such
a fashion, and yet she found Simon's "old possession scintillating and onderfully e(citing$
&losing her eyes, she inhaled the arm, rich scent of him and moaned at his taste, at the sensation
of his hot, firm lips on
hers, of his tongue gently searching her mouth$
She'd lain aa!e for hours at night imagining hat it ould "e li!e to !iss the author of her letters$
/nly then she had imagined Stryder$
'ut it as Simon ho had ritten them$ Simon ho had touched her heart and made her feel
"eautiful and needed$
She pulled "ac! and loo!ed up at him$
"- on't apologi)e for riting to you," he hispered$ "-'m only sorry that you ere em"arrassed$"
Her fury snapped at that$ "*hy didn't you tell me you eren't Stryder+"
"*ould you have ritten to me if - had+"
"/f course," she said emphatically$
She sa the ra dou"t in his eyes, and it made her ache in sympathy$ Ho could he dou"t her,
especially after hat he
had done+
'%ruly+'' he as!ed$ "%ell me, asn't half the appeal of me the fact that you thought - as an earl and
not some landless
!night+ -'m not a fool, Kenna$ - learned long ago that henever -'m ith Stryder, Sin or 8raven,
omen loo! past me
to them$ 'ecause - hold no titles or land, -'m practically invisi"le$ My only purpose has "een to help
omen land titled hus"ands hile - am seen as nothing more than a friend to them$"
He stared at her, his ga)e pro"ing as if he could see the anser he needed in her eyes$ "Had you
!non it as plain and
simple Simon you ere riting to, ould you have continued to do so, or ould you have ritten
me a letter telling me
hat good friends e are and then set your ga)e to another+"
Kenna opened her mouth, then paused$
She didn't ant to thin! herself so shallo$ She'd never "een the !ind of person to discount another
"ecause of their "irth status$
*as there any truth to his claim+
Her ga)e fell to the thin gold chain around his nec!$ She trailed her attention don to asmall circle
of gold that lay nestled "eteen the laces of his tunic$
'efore she could stop herself, she reached up and pulled it out$ A simple, unadorned gold piece, it
as arm from the heat
of his "ody$
She opened it to find her loc! of hair inside, 1ust as he'd promised$ "7ou !ept it+"
"- told you - did$ - !no you don't "elieve me, "ut - sear that - never lied to you$ - only omitted
telling you hat the S
stood for "ecause - didn't ant to lose you$ 5or once, - anted something for myself$"
Her hands shoo! as she closed the loc!et that held her hair$ A thousand emotions flooded her$ She
as still angry over his falseness, "ut not even that could "lot hat she felt for him$
He had !ept her close to his heart, 1ust as he'd ritten$ And as she thought of that, she remem"ered
all the tender sentiments they had shared$ All the secrets and disappointments of their pasts$ %heir
hopes for the future$
%he smiles and laughter his letters had "rought to her $$$
"-'m not some great and no"le champion, Kenna$ -'m only a man ho has nothing to offer a lady
li!e you$ 5or a time, your letters let me "e more than hat - am$ 5orgive me for the pain -'ve caused
you$"
He pulled "ac! and turned aay$
%ears elled in her eyes$
She !ne this man$ Kne him on a level that transcended friendship and lovers$ -t transcended
understanding and reason$
-t most certainly transcended a tiny omission of fact$
"- dell in misery $$$"
He paused at her ords and finished the sentence$"$$$ my heart see!s the light that only your letters
provide$" He gave a half laugh$ "Rather insipid, isn't it+ &hristopher of 'lac!moor alays said -
should !eep to my sord and not pic! up his ,uill$
He says - do far more damage ith in! than - could ever do on a "attlefield$"
She smiled past the tears that cho!ed her$ ".ay, your ords are "eautiful$ - treasured each one$"
And she had$ 3very moment of every day she had atched for a messenger to come "earing another
tie to her !night$
She'd rushed from her duties to ta!e the letters so that she could read them in solitude$
%hey had meant the orld to her$
2ust as he did$
Simon too! a deep "reath$ "-f you ish, - ill help you to marry Stryder, my lady$ - !no ays to
get past his defenses$"
"7ou ould do that for me+"
%he sincerity on his handsome face made her shiver$ "- ould do anything you as!ed of me,
Kenna$"
A tear fell don her chee! at that$ %his as the man ith hom she'd fallen in love$
.ot Stryder and his reputation$ .ot some invinci"le champion$
She'd fallen in love ith a man$ /ne ho had made her feel "eautiful even though she didn't
possess the great "eauty
of her cousin &aledonia$ /ne ho had made her laugh and filled her heart ith arm, tender 1oy$
She too! Simon's hand in hers and held it to her heart$ "And if it's not Stryder - love+"
Simon couldn't "reathe as her ,uestion rang in his ears$
*as she saying $$$
"%ell me hat - can do, my lady, to ma!e this right, and - ill do it$"
"- ould ma!e true my heart's fondest ish$ A !iss from your tender lips and a pledge from my
heart to yours$"
He salloed as she repeated the ords he'd ritten in his last letter to her$
"8o you love me, Simon+"
"Aye$"
%hen she did the most une(pected thing of all$ She released his hand, stepped into his em"race, and
!issed him$
%he feathery touch of her lips on his shoo! him profoundly$ Ho could she ant him+
-t as unfathoma"le$
%his oman hose arm humor had come to him li!e a gentle caress, giving him comfort on a
level he'd never !non
e(isted$ -t still ama)ed him 1ust ho much he'd come to depend on her letters$ Ho much he
depended on her$
"- have nothing to offer you, Kenna$"
"- only ant your heart, Simon$ - as! nothing else from you$"
He smiled at her, una"le to "elieve the reality of this moment$ -t as so much more than he'd ever
dared to dream$ "%hat
- gladly give you, my lady$" He lifted her hand to his lips and !issed it$
He anted to !eep her ith him forever, "ut he !ne the truth$
Her family ould never allo him to marry her$ .ot even his friendship ith Sin MacAllister or
Stryder, or his "lood
relations to 8raven ould "e enough to convince them$
She as an heiress of great ealth ith ties to the Scottish throne$ Her guardian ould set his sights
on a richer, more prestigious hus"and than a disinherited "astard$
-t as only a matter of time "efore they ere separated$
'ut even though fate decreed otherise, he anted to spend time ith her$ *anted to pretend that
there ere no rules
or e(pectations of others to govern their lives$
"*ould you spend the day ith me+" he as!ed$
"*here+"
He shrugged$ "-'m not familiar ith this area$ &are to e(plore the countryside+"
Smiling, she nodded$ "- ould love to$"
Simon left her only long enough to saddle his horse, then he led it over to her$
Kenna as pu))led as Simon approached her ith only one mount$
8id he intend to leave her "ehind+
'efore she could comment, he pic!ed her up and set her on his horse$ %he feel of his arms and
hands on her "ody made
her heart pound$ She'd never !non anything "etter than the sensation of his touch against her flesh$
"*here are e to ride+"
"*herever stri!es our fancy$" He gave her a hot, searing loo!, then mounted his horse "ehind her$
%he saddle tilted dangerously until he as settled "ehind her$ His entire "ody as pressed against
hers$ -t as intimate
and intense$ 3lectrifying$
Kenna trem"led at his actions, especially hen his arms came around her to ta!e the reins$ .o man
had ever done such
ith her$ Men had alays !ept a respectful distance$
'ut not Simon$
He dared hat no other ould$
And she found herself ondering hat other things he ould dare ith her "efore this day ended$
She should "e afraid to
ride off ith him alone, "ut she asn't$
She anted this man$ *anted to "e his and his alone$
He as her champion$
Simon set his heels to the horse and his!ed her out of the castle's "ailey, through the "ar"ican and
out into the meado
that surrounded the castle$
%hey fle across the fields$ %he poer of the horse as evocative, "ut not nearly as much as the
strength of the man ho
held her$ His heart pounded against her shoulder "lade$ 3verystep of the horse thre her "ac!
against him in a scintillating rhythm$
She could feel his hot "reath on her nec!, the steel of his arms coiled around her$
She'd never !non anything li!e this$
%ime seemed to stop as they rode far aay from the orld$ 5ar aay from any other living person$
Simon too! her deep into the forest, here there as no one "ut the to of them$
He stopped "y the shore of a shimmering la!e that gently lapped at the mossy "an!$ He helped her
don$ Simon ,uic!ly ru""ed his horse don "efore leaving the "east to gra)e and drin!$
She aited patiently and admired the ay his muscles fle(ed and "unched hile he or!ed$ -t as
the first time she'd ever noticed the ay a man's "ody moved hile he e(erted himself$ She as
fascinated "y the color that dar!ened his chee!s,
"y the loo! of his large hands "eing so gentle ith his animal$
Simon as poerful$ Strong, and yet tender in his caring$ She smiled at the !noledge$
/nce finished, he re1oined her$ %a!ing her "y the hand, he led her to here a small circle of roc!s
formed a strange ta"le#and#chair design$
"*hat are e doing here+" she as!ed as she al!ed around the small outcropping of roc!s$
".othing$ - merely ant to sit so that - can loo! at you and not have to orry a"out anyone else
distur"ing us$"
Kenna froned at his ords$ "*hy ould you ish to do that+"
"'ecause - have dreamed of your face every night for a year no$ *hen ne(t - leave, - ant to
ma!e sure that - on't
forget even the tiniest detail of you$"
He sat don, then pulled her to sit "eside him on the mossy grass$
Kenna didn't spea! as she atched him$ He leaned "ac! against a roc!, his ga)e never avering
from hers$
%he intensity of that icy "lue stare unnerved her$ She asn't sure hat she should say to him$
Ho strange$ She'd alays had plenty to say to hiilftn letters$ 'ut then their letters had "een safe$
%here as nothing safe a"out the man "eside her$
He was dangerous$ She could sense it$ %his as a man ho had stood single#handedly against his
enemies$ /ne ho
had put his life at ris! for others, countless times$
"3dard used to tell me stories of ho you ould help6"
"Shh," he said, placing his fingertip over her lips$ "-'ve no ish to remem"er my past$ My time in
/utremer as a nightmare
"est left forgotten$"
She nodded$ %he horrors of their e(istence had haunted her "rother until the day he'd died$ /nce
3dard returned home,
he'd refused ever to "e in dar!ness$ %hey had paid servants to stay aa!e all night long, !eeping the
fire and candles in his room "urning until the dan$ 3dard himself had purchased do)ens of cats to
ma!e sure no rodents ould ever "e found
in their hall$
5or the first year of his return, 3dard had "een li!e a madman$ %errified and nervous$ Screaming
out for no apparent
reason, sitting for hours curled up into a "all as he held on to himself and roc!ed endlessly$
All of them had feared for 3dard's sanity until one night, hen a stranger had shon up$ %o this
day, she didn't !no the man's name$ He'd stayed ith 3dard for several months until her "rother
could again function as a man and not a scared animal aiting to "e !ic!ed$
*hen the man had left, he'd handed 3dard the "adge she had returned to Stryder in .ormandy6
the mar! of the 'rotherhood of the Sord, a group of men hose ties to each other ent far deeper
than "lood$ %heirs as a "rotherhood
of sorro and grief$ /ne of unimagina"le torment and pain$
.o there as Simon$ He ho had "een in the thic! of it and yet seemed to have someho
survived it hole and
undamaged$
She marveled at his strength$
"*hat ill you do after the tournament+" she as!ed$
"Stryder ishes to return to .ormandy for a hile$"
Her stomach tightened at the thought of him so far aay again$ "7ou ill go ith him+"
"- haven't decided$ *hat of you+"
She sighed as she thought it over$ "- shall return home$ %he Angel sent ord that there is another
Scot ho needs a resting place for a time "efore he returns to his family$ - shall "e there to ma!e him
elcome$"
Simon nodded$
%he Angel as the only oman ho had "een in their company during their days in /utremer$ /nly
Simon and the other
four mem"ers of the Auinfortis had !non %he Angelas a oman$ %he five of them had protected
her carefully from
their enemies$
He as grateful to Kenna for continuing to uphold her "rother's oath to help save and protect those
ho had suffered
the horrors of a Saracen prison$
Kenna as a good oman, one he ould spend the rest of his life aching for$
Ho he ished things ere different$
Simon sat ,uietly, atching the ind play in the tendrils of her "ron hair, atching her long,
graceful fingers toy ith the
trim of her dress$
He as captivated "y those hands$ Hands he anted to feel on his s!in$ 5ingers he anted to taste
and tease $$$
5or the first time in his life, he felt a!ard ith a oman$ He as so unsure of himself$ So afraid
of saying the rong
thing and ma!ing her demand that he leave her$
He atched as she pic!ed up a "lade of grass and used her hands to ma!e a light histle from it$
"*hat are you doing, my lady+"
She smiled, then "le against it again$ "-'m calling the fey fol!$"
"*hy+"
"So that they can give you "ac! the silver tongue that ooed me so effectively$ 7ou are stiff ith
me no and -'ve no
ish for you to "e stiff$"
He cleared his throat at her choice of ords$ She had no idea 1ust ho sti he as$
She tossed the "lade of grass aside$ "*hatever can - do to ma!e you rela(+"
0ay ith me and let me ni""le every inch of you$$$
Simon cleared his throat at the lecherous thought$
"*ell+" she prompted$
He started to lie to her, "ut couldn't$ He'd never really lied to her "efore$ %hey'd alays had an open
honesty "eteen
them here their feelings ere concerned, and he had no desire to change that$ "- dare not say it$"
"*hy not+"
His "reathing ragged, he held her golden "ron ga)e ith his$ "'ecause hat - ant of you, my
lady, is holly indecent
and improper, and should - spea! these thoughts - fear you ill run aay from me$"
A light fron puc!ered her "ro$ "And ho are these thoughts indecent+"
Simon "raced himself for her re1ection as hespo!e the honest truth to her$ "- ant to taste you,
Kenna, and not 1ust your lips$
- ant to !no every inch of your "ody$ %here has not "een a single night over the last year that -
haven't lain aa!e aching
for your touch$ Aching for your "ody$"
Kenna shivered at his "ra)en ords$ 4irgin she might "e, "ut she ell understood hat it as he
as!ed of her$ Most importantly, she understood the conse,uences of desire met and unmet$
Her mother had once told her ho precious a oman's maidenhead as$
/nce gone, it could never "e recovered$
Men the orld over claimed it as a hus"and's right alone to ta!e that from a oman, "ut her
mother had "een of a
different mind$
Guard it ell for the man you love ith the hole of your heart$ God illing, he shall "e the one
ho marries you$
'ut in the end, all omen should !no love the first time they ta!e a man into their "ody$ -t is the
most precious
gift a oman can give to a man to let him !no he is her first$
Kenna !ne all too ell the realities of her position$ She as the !ing's cousin, hich made her a
direct lin! to the throne
of Scotland$ 0ove ould have no place in her marriage$ 9olitics and practicality ere all that
mattered$ -t as hy Stryder ould have "een a good match$
'ut Simon $$$
Her cousin ould never approve such a marriage$ She !ne that$ And yet she anted no other man$
She anted her poetic !night$ -f she ere forced to endure a marriage of alliance, then she anted
her one day of love$
Her one moment spent ith a man ho made her feel li!e a oman$
5or this one instant in her life, she didn't ant to "e the dutiful lady$ She anted something for
herself$
%hat something as the man "efore her$
"Ma!e love to me, Simon$"
Simon's heart stopped at her hispered ords$ He couldn't ,uite "elieve his hearing, and yet there
as no denying the
sincerity on her face$
"Have you any idea hat you're saying+"
She nodded$
Simon salloed$ He should get up and leave$ He had no right to hat she offered him and ell he
!ne it$ *omen descended from !ings didn't "other ith !night#errants ho had no prospects for
anything "etter in life$
He as appalled at himself for not getting up immediately and returning her to the castle$
7et he couldn't leave$ His "ody refused to o"ey him, and his heart$$$
His heart needed her$
And hen she leaned forard to !iss him, all of his sense left *rit$ He couldn't thinle"f leaving
no$ .ot hen all he
anted to do as stay$
He cupped her face in his hands, reveling at the softness of her s!in$
8eepening his !iss, he laid her "ac! on the arm grass and let the softness of her s!in seep him
aay from the realities
of their situation$
He closed his eyes and alloed her to invade every sense he possessed$ Her mouth as seeter
than honey, her touch su"lime$ He groled, needing more of her touch, desperate to lie ith her,
na!ed flesh to na!ed flesh$
'efore this afternoon ended, they ould "oth "e ell sated$
Kenna trem"led at the foreign sensation of Simon on top of her$ His eight felt so good to her, his
lips even more so$
She felt his hand drop don to the laces of her !irtle hile his hot, demanding !iss stole her "reath$
Her senses reeled from the cascade of emotions and sensations that sept through her$ %he orld
around her careened$
Her "ody seemed to "e on fire, and it flamed even higher ith every touch of his hand on her s!in$
His fingers played ith her laces until he spread her chemise open, "aring her nec! and the top
sell of her "reasts to his
hot ga)e$
Kenna atched in fascinated ae as he clipped his head don to tease her s!in ith his hot mouth$
8esire coiled through
her, pooling itself into a deep#seated thro" at the center of her "ody$
Simon could "arely dra his "reath as he tasted her arm, seet s!in$ Her lavender scent
permeated his head, ma!ing
him "urn ith aching need$
He couldn't remem"er ever "eing harder for a oman, ever anting to taste one more$
She as his Aphrodite$ Starving for more of her, he parted her !irtle even more until he could free
her right "reast$
A light flush covered her s!in$
"8on't "e em"arrassed, my lady," he hispered, then he used his "eard to lightly tease her taut
nipple "efore he dre it
deep into his mouth$
She moaned in response$
Arching her "ac!, she laced her hands through his hair, pulling him close to her "ody, murmuring
ith pleasure hile he
lic!ed and teased her taut areola$
He parted her gon even more until "oth her "reasts ere "are to his hungry ga)e$ Simon too! his
time sampling her,
moving from one "reast to the other hile she ran her hands over him$
*hat he ouldn't give to ma!e her his$ %o "e a"le to claim her as her rightful hus"and$
He ached ith the !noledge that one day she ould lay li!e this ith another man$ 'e forced to
allo some other to
touch her$
%he thought rung a "itter curse from him$
She stiffened$ "8id - anger you+"
".ay, love$" he said, lic!ing his ay "ac! to her lips$ "7ou could never anger me$"
"%hen hy6"
He !issed her to silence, unilling to spoil the moment ith hat had ruined his mood$
'ut only for an instant$ %he taste of her arm, elcoming mouth as all he needed$
Kenna sighed in contentment as Simon gently teased her lips$ *ho !ne !issing could "e so
pleasura"le+
-t het her appetite for more, made her long to see him "are$ *ith a courage that astounded her, she
tugged at his surcoat
and tunic$
He laughed at her eagerness "efore he pulled "ac! long enough to divest himself of his garments$
Kenna salloed at the sight of his "are, tany s!in gleaming in the sunlight$ He as super"$
3very part of him$ 'iting her
lip, she reached out ith her hand to trace the taut muscles of his shoulder don to his poerful
"iceps, then over to his pectorals$
He hissed at her touch and held himself still for her e(ploration$ And e(plore him she did$ She ran
her ,uesting hands don
his chest to his hard, steely a"domen, here every muscle as ell defined$ 8on to the small trail
of hairs that ran from
his navel to the aist"and of his "reeches$
Kenna hesitated to go any further$ She desperately ished to see all of him, and yet she as a "it
scared$ She'd never seen
a man na!ed "efore$
*hat ould he loo! li!e+
"8on't stop there$" he said, tugging at the laces at his aist$
Her throat dry, Kenna yielded to the curious part of herself and too! courage in the hot, yearning
loo! on his face as she
gently san! her hand don into his "reeches$
She found him instantly$ He as sollen and et and hard$ Her hand trem"ling, she rapped her
fingers around his shaft$
He groaned$
He held himself a"ove her ith one arm and used his other hand to cover hers$ Kenna shivered as
he shoed her ho to stro!e him$
"7ou li!e this+" she as!ed, moving her hand don to the "ase of his shaft$
"Aye$ - do$"
*anting to please him more, she cupped him in her palm hile he teased the flesh of her nec! ith
his mouth$ &hills
covered her from his hot "reath$
She found it hard to "elieve that she as doing this ith him, that they ere a"out to share the most
intimate of all
e(periences together6 and yet hy shouldn't they+
%his as something she didn't ant to share ith anyone else$ /nly Simon had ever made her feel
omanly$ 8esira"le$
/h, ho she loved his hands on her$ %he feel of him in her on hands$ He as so soft and hard as
he roc!ed himself
against her$
Simon pulled "ac! and removed his "oots and "reeches$
Kenna lic!ed her lips at the sight of his "are, masculine form$ He as all sinuous poer$ All golden
s!in and muscles$
-f she could, she'd spend the rest of her life staring at that lush, onderful "ody$
Her desire for him tripled, leaving her "reathless and ea!$
He reached for her, then removed the rest of her clothes$ Kenna shivered, feeling terri"ly
vulnera"le$
She !ne she asn't a "eautiful oman$ Kne she had never driven men ild ith desire$
'ut she anted to do that no ith Simon$
"Am - disappointing to you+"
Simon as aghast at her ,uestion$ "Ho could you as! that+" He'd never anted any oman more
than he anted her$
She smiled at him$ "- didn't ant you to regret this$"
"- could never regret you$"
He gathered her into his arms and held her close$ %he feel of her "ody against his as enough to
drive him to madness$
He !issed his ay sloly don her s!in$ 5rom her nec! to her "reasts, then loer and loer$
%here as no part of her he didn't ant to sample$ .o part of her he didn't ant to touch$
Kenna's eyes idened as she felt his handpro"e her "eteen her legs$ Her entire "ody "urned as he
slid his fingers in and around, teasing her ith pleasure$
He pulled his hand aay, then covered her fully ith his "ody$ Recapturing her lips ith his, he
parted her legs ide and
slid himself deep inside her$
She hissed as pain spread through her$
"Shh," Simon "reathed in her ear$ "-t'll pass in a moment, - promise$"
She "it her lip and aited as he remained perfectly still$ %he fullness of him felt so strange$ She'd
tried to imagine hat it
ould feel li!e to have a man inside her, "ut nothing had prepared her for the reality of it$
-t as so intimate to have him there hile he loo!ed don at her$
He smiled tenderly$ "7ou are "eautiful, Kenna$ A treasure truly$"
She reached up and laid her hand against his chee! as she stared into those searing "lue eyes$ "-
love you, Simon$"
He dipped his head don and !issed her, then sloly started to move against her$
Kenna moaned at the sensation of his "ody thrusting against hers$ She let her love for him ash
over her$ Her need$
He returned to her mouth, his "reath stealing hers as they !issed and stro!ed each other ith their
hands and "odies$
Simon could "arely "reathe as he lost himself to the softness of her$ He had seldom !non comfort
in his life$ Seldom
!non tenderness$
His life had "een spent ith those ho'd had little to no regard for him$ He'd alays had to prove
himself$ 'ut not ith her$
She loved him for hat he as$ .ot for his sord arm, not for his a"ility to thin! ,uic!ly$
She loved him for his heart$
*ith her he didn't have to pretend to "e anything he asn't$ He could "e soft ith her$ Gentle$
-t as so unfair that he couldn't !eep her$
She ran her hands over his "ac!, her touch searing him to his soul$ She as all he'd ever anted in a
oman$
And everything he couldn't have$
'ut she as his for this moment$
8elighting in that fact, he lost himself to her$
Kenna moaned as all her pain faded aay, to the pleasure of Simon inside her$ %he hard strength of
him filled her to overfloing$ She'd never !non anything more su"lime than him sliding in and out
of her, over and over, until she as "reathless and ea!$
"/h Simon," she "reathed in onderment$
Her "ody clenched and unclenched ith his movements$ Her ecstasy mounted until she as sure
she ould die from it$
And then, 1ust as she as certain she could stand no more, her "ody "urst around her$
Kenna held him close as she cried out from it$
Simon groled as he felt her clima($ :na"le to "ear the pleasure of her "ody clutching his, he
1oined her in orgasm$
He nu))led her nec! ith his lips as ave after ave of pleasure rac!ed him$ %he scent of her filled
his head, ma!ing him
di!!y.
He didn't move for several minutes "ut stayed there in her arms, letting her softness soothe him$
Afraid he as hurting her ith his eight, he pulled "ac!$ "%han! you, my lady$"
Kenna smiled up at him$ %his as so strange$ %he feel of him still inside her hile he spo!e to her$
He as so handsome, his face flushed, his hair damp from e(ertion$
Reaching up, she "rushed his damp "angs "ac! from his forehead, then traced the line of his 1a$
Ho she ished they could stay li!e this$ 'ut it as impossi"le$
She sa the reluctance in his eyes "efore he ithdre from her$ He pic!ed her up from the ground
and carried her toard
the ater$
"*hat are you doing+"
"- plan to "athe you, my lady$ 3very part of you$"
She "it her lip at his ords as a rush of e(citement ent through her$
He carried her to the la!e and set her don to stand aist deep in the ater, then he made good on
his promise$ He ran
his hands over her heated s!in, "athing her ith a tenderness that seemed at odds for a !night of his
cali"er$
He dipped his head under the ater$
Kenna atched the ater play over the muscles of his "ac! as he "ro!e the surface, then caught her
up to him$ -t as
a ic!ed sensation to have his et "ody pressed up against hers$
"- am so glad you came ith me today$"
She smiled up at him as she touched the loc!et that held her hair$ "As am -$"
After they "athed, they lay na!ed on the grass, aiting for their "odies to dry in the sun$
Simon loo!ed so good spread out under her$ She particularly li!ed the ay dar!, au"urn hair dusted
his legs and chest$
%he ay his shaft loo!ed nestled in the dense hairs "elo his aist$
%ruly, the man had no e,ual$
Kenna lay on her stomach, mostly for modesty's sa!e$ She as draped over Simon's chest as he
played ith her hair and
told her stories of his travels ith Stryder$
"He does not snore," she said ith a laugh at his latest declaration of Stryder's faults$ -f she didn't
!no "etter, she ould sear he as only recounting the man's shortcomings out of 1ealousy$
"0i!e a "ear$ - sear it$ %here are times he's so loud that he a!es himself up ith it$ He'll gra" his
dagger and "randish it a"out, demanding to !no ho aa!ened him$"
She laughed again$ "He ould !ill you if he ever heard you repeat that$"
Simon's smile made her heart light$ "He's heard it oft enough$ - ma!e no pretense of niceties to
him$"
"%is a onder he tolerates you," she said as she ran her hand over Simon's chest$ She'd "een tracing
circles over his s!in
the hole time they lay there$
5or some reason, she couldn't get enough of touching his "are s!in$
"%olerates me+ "%is a onder - tolerate him$ %ruly the man is a "east$"
"He can't "e too "ad if he sees the good in you$"
Simon leaned up to capture her lips in a light !iss$
Kenna sighed in satisfaction$ *hat a onderful day this had turned out to "e $$$ and an emotional
one$
%his morning, she'd assumed she'd spend the day ith Stryder$ .ever ould she have guessed the
day ould end li!e this$
%hat the man of her dreams as Simon of Ravensood$
Simon pulled "ac! and sighed istfully as her stomach rum"led$ "- fear - should return you "efore
you're missed and Sin
sends a search party to find you$"
"- ish e didn't have to$ &an e not run aay together+"
His fingers played across her chee!$ "- ish e could$ 'ut - have my on oath to the 'rotherhood
to uphold$ - am the only one Stryder trusts at his "ac!$ He has enemies ho ould do anything to
see him dead$"
"- !no$ 'ut - ish$$$"
She couldn't finish the thought$ .ot that she needed to$ Simon !ne her ishes the same as she did$
Simon tuc!ed a strand of her hair "ehind her ear$ "And there is the matter of your cousin, ho
ould never rest if he
thought - had ta!enyou aay from your home$ Malcolm ould never leave us in peace$"
Again he as right$
"9romise me that you on't 1ust leave me, Simon$ Sear to me that you'll alays rite to me$"
"- promise$"
Heart"ro!en, she moved aay from him and got up$ .either of them spo!e as they dressed and
mounted the horse$
Kenna couldn't stand the thought of hat as to come$ -t tore through her li!e a vicious "lade,
carving out her soul$
Ho she ished she had "een "orn another$ Some lesser#!non lady hose position ould have
"een e,uivalent to
Simon's$ %hen perhaps there ould have "een a future for them$
All too soon they returned to the castle$
Simon rode them into the sta"le, and the first thing she sa there made her entire "ody run cold$
"Are you all right+" Simon as!ed as he slid don from his saddle$
Kenna couldn't anser$ Her ga)e as fastened onto the roan stallion in the nearest stall$ -t as a
horse she !ne ell$
-t "elonged to her younger cousin Malcolm6 the !ing of Scotland$
She shivered at the thought of hy her cousin ould "e here$
'ut she didn't have to onder for very long$ .o sooner had they entered the castle than she as
"esieged "y the entire gathering of 3nglish and Scottish no"les$
A hush fell upon the crod$
Salloing, Kenna forced herself forard$
Malcolm as seated on the raised dias in the Great Hall, ne(t to King Henry -- of 3ngland$
Her spine straight, she forced herself to al! forard so that she stood "efore her cousin$ Simon
stayed "y her side, his presence giving her comfort as she curtsied$
Malcolm loo!ed uncomforta"le$ "&ousin Kenna, e have "een searching for you all afternoon$
*herever have you "een+"
She forced herself not to loo! at Simon lest she "etray either one of them$
"5orgive me, Ma1esty," Simon's deep voice rum"led$ "- fear - detained her$"
Malcolm's loo! as harsh$ "And you are+"
"Simon of Ravensood," King Henry ansered$ "He is "rother to the earl of Ravensood$"
"And a personal friend of mine$"
Kenna passed a grateful loo! to Sin MacAllister, ho spo!e up from the small crod that as
gathered to her left$
Sin as a friend and advisor to King Henry and had "ecome a trusted ally to Malcolm as ell$ 'oth
!ings loo!ed to
the man favora"ly$
Malcolm rela(ed$ "%hen he is trustorthy+"
"- ould trust him ith my life," Sin ansered ithout hesitation$
"Good," Malcolm said$ "- ould hate for anything to come "eteen my cousin and her marriage$"
8read consumed her$
"Marriage+" Kenna repeated$
-t as then she sa Stryder of 'lac!moor as he made his ay through the dense crod$ %he loo!
on his face as one
of hell rath$
He passed a murderous glare to Simon, then offered her a forced smile$
"8earest," Stryder said in a voice that as far from arm$ "-t appears that on the morro e shall
ed$"


&hapter B


"9ardon+" Kenna as!ed, una"le to fathom hat Stryder had 1ust said$
*ith any luc!, she'd gone deaf this afternoon and had misheard him$
:nfortunately, she asn't so fortunate$
Malcolm smiled$ "*e are very proud of you, cousin$ An 3nglish champion ill ma!e a fine alliance
for our family$ 7ou
have chosen very isely for your hus"and$"
Kenna struggled desperately to maintain composure$ She dared a ,uic! glance at Simon, ho stood
as still as a statue$
%here asn't a single clue as to his mood, e(cept for the angry tic in his 1a and the pain in his eyes$
"Ma1esty," she said, ama)ed at ho level her voice sounded, given the fact that hat she anted to
do as run screaming
from the room$ "Might - have a ord ith you in private+"
Malcolm hesitated$
".o, please+" She pressed$
%o her relief, he agreed$ %hey ere shon to a small antecham"er 1ust off the Great Hall, here
they could spea! ithout "eing overheard$
'ut to her further chagrin, King Henry came ith them$
*hen Stryder tried to 1oin their company, she put her foot don and "anished him from the room$
-f only she could do the same ith Henry$
.ot that it mattered$ She refused to marry Stryder$ Such a thing ouldn't "e fair to either one of
them no that she !ne
the truth$
"*hat is rong+" Malcolm as!ed as soon as the three of them ere se,uestered$
Kenna too! a deep "reath and "lurted out her desire$ "-'ve no ish to marry Stryder of 'lac!moor$"
%he to !ings e(changed shoc!ed loo!s$
"&aledonia assured us that you loved the earl," Malcolm said$ "%hat you have spo!en of nothing "ut
him for months no$"
She "ristled uncomforta"ly$ "- as rong$"
She cringed a "it more as the ords came out sounding more li!e a ,uestion than a statement of
fact$
"*rong+" Henry repeated$ "0ady, are you daft+"
Malcolm arched a regal "ro at the harshness of the older !ing$ "/ur cousin is ,uite sound$ 9erhaps
there is a fla ith
yourchampion$"
Henry scoffed$ "/ur champion is undefeated$ %est his steel yourself and you shall see that none can
touch him in proess$
*e assure you, the fla is not ith Stryder$"
"9lease, Ma1esties," she said "efore they started a ar over this$ "- "eg you not to fight$ %here is
nothing rong ith 0ord Stryder or myself, it's 1ust6"
"7ou love someone else$" -t as Henry ho spo!e$
Kenna loo!ed aay$
"-s this true+" Malcolm demanded$
She nodded$
Her cousin sighed as he considered that$ "And ho is this man+"
She cho!ed on the anser, too afraid that "y spea!ing his name she might do him harm$
'ut then she didn't have to say it$ Henry did$ "Simon of Ravensood$ -t is hy the to of you ere
together$"
Silence rang in the room for hat seemed an eternity$
Kenna had no idea hat to say$ She as terrified of doing anything that might cause Simon to get
into trou"le for her actions$
"Kenna+" Malcolm's voice as deep and calm$
She met Malcolm's ga)e levelly$
"*hat say you a"out this man+"
"- do love Simon, Ma1esty$"
Malcolm's ga)e turned steely$ Speculative$ "And again *e as! you, ho is this Simon of
Ravensood+ -s he someone
of ran! or privilege+"
Henry shoo! his head$ "He is a !night#errant ho travels ith our 3nglish champions$ He has
neither title nor any prospect
for such$"
Malcolm's ga)e turned dull as he nodded in than!s for Henry's honesty$
*hen he loo!ed "ac! at Kenna, her heart shran! at the sadness and regret she sa on his face$
He ould offer her no hope$
"Kenna, you !no the ealth that comes ith your hand$ 7ou are the last of your father's children$
*ould you have us
marry you to a landless !night+"
"-f you're as!ing me for the anser in my heart, Ma1esty, then the anser is aye$ -f you as! my
head, then - !no the truth$ 9lease don't torture me ith it$ As alays, - ill do as you command$"
Her cousin's ga)e softened a degree$ "*e have come here to see you ed an 3nglish champion$" He
loo!ed over to Henry$ "7ou ere to hold a sho of arms tomorro, ere you not+"
"Aye$"
"%hen the inner shall ta!e my cousin's hand$"
Kenna as shoc!ed "y Malcolm's une(pected ords$ "*hat say you+"
%he familiar determined fire returned to Malcolm's eyes$ "7our Simon has "ut one chance to in
you, Kenna$ 9ray tonight
that he is as deft ith his sord as he as ith inning your heart$"
/ver1oyed "y his ords, Kenna thre herself into his arms and hugged him tightly$ -t as a "reach
of eti,uette, "ut she
!ne her cousin ouldn't mind$
"%han! you!" She !issed his chee!$
Malcolm patted her on the "ac!, then released her$
*ith a curtsy to "oth !ings, Kenna too! her leave and rushed to find Simon, ho stood in a corner
ith Sin and Stryder$
.one of them loo!ed particularly happy$
Still over1oyed "y her e(citement, she had to force herself not to em"race Simon$
"All is not lost!'' she announced to the dour group$
"Ho so+" Simon as!ed$
"Malcolm has granted us a reprieve," she replied$ "-f on the morro you in the sho of arms, he
ill allo us to marry$"
Simon arched a dis"elieving "ro$ "-f I in+"
"Aye$"
Her enthusiasm aned at the stunned loo! on Simon's face$
Stryder and Sin "urst out laughing$
"*hat is so funny+" she demanded$
"7ou've never seen Stryder fight, have you+" Sin as!ed$
Kenna froned at that$ "Aye, - have$"
"%hen did you not notice the fact that no one "ests me+" Stryder as!ed$ "0east of all, Simon$"
"3(cuse me," Simon groled$ "- happen to "e second only to you, Sin and 8raven$"
"%hat ould ma!e you fourth then, ouldn't it+" Sin as!ed$
Simon cast him a feral glare$ "- should have let the Mac.eelys poison you$"
"-t doesn't matter ho is "est," Kenna said$ "Simon ill in tomorro$"
Stryder scoffed$ "- dou"t that most seriously$"
Kenna lifted her chin as she eyed the handsome earl earnestly$ "- do not$ 5or if you in, ny lord,
and - am forced to
ed you, then - can issure you, you ill regret that victory for the rest of your life$"
Stryder stiffened at her ords$ "8on't threaten me, my lady$ - don't ta!e !indly to it$ And - ill not
lose to Simon or any other man$ - tave never in my life "een defeated, and that is me title - ill fight
to the death to protect$ .o me ill ever "est me$"
'efore she could contradict him, Stryder spun a"out angrily and left them$
"Ho dare he!" Kenna started after him, "ut Simon stopped her$
"9ay him no mind, love$ Stryder has good reason for his ords$"
"He might at that, "ut - ill not let him in on the morro$" She met Sin's "lac! ga)e$ "&an you not
help Simon to train+"
Sin shoo! his head$ "*e have only one night$"
"Aye, "ut surely6"
"-t on't happen, Kenna," Simon said$ "- ill fight ith every ounce of my strength for you, ma!e
no mista!e a"out that$
'ut - am not the fighter Stryder is$ - have no delusions a"out hat fact$"
9erhaps, "ut she !ne in her heart that it ould or! out$ -t had to$
"- thin! you ill "e surprised "y hat you can do$"
Kenna and Simon spo!e little for the rest of the night$ After supper, &aledonia too! Kenna upstairs
to her room hile
Simon ent to find Stryder, ho hadn't shon himself to eat$
He found his old friend sitting up on the parapet ith a flagon of ale nestled in his arms, much li!e
a "a"e$
Simon let out a disgusted "reath at the sight$ "*hat is it ith you and Sin that the to of you li!e to
do this+"
Stryder didn't anser as he finished off his ale$ ''*hy are you here, Simon+"
"- anted to tal! to you a"out tomorro$"
Stryder didn't turn to loo! at him$ -nstead, he continued to stare out at the inner "ailey far "elo$
"-'m not going to thro
the match$"
"- !no$" Simon ould never as! such a thing from a man ho had spent his entire life running
from his past$ Running from
the little "oy he had once "een$ -t asn't in Stryder to lose, and he ould never as! his friend for
such a sacrifice$ "- don't
ant you to thro it$"
"%hen hy are you here+"
"- anted to ma!e sure e are still friends$"
"5riends$$$" Stryder laughed, and it as then Simon reali)ed the man as drun!$
3(tremely drun!, 1udging "y the ay Stryder o""led as he tossed the flagon aside and reached for
the second one that
as set don "y his foot$
Stryder righted himself and returned to staring out at the yard$ "7ou get me "etrothed to a oman -
don't !no and no
- am told - have to fight to marry her on the morro even though - ant no ife, especially not one
ho ls in love ith
someone else$ -f e eren't friends, you'd "e dead no, Simon$"
"- didn't mean for this to happen$"
Stryder loo!ed up at that, his eyes haunted$ '2ust as - never meant to get you and 3dard captured$"
9ain sept through Simon at the reminder$ Stryder had "arely earned his spurs hen they lad
folloed Simon's father don
to /utremer$ Still a s,uire, Simon had thought it a grand adventure, until they'd met up ith the
small "and of &rusaders$
Simon's father had scoffed at the fools, "ut Stryder had "een young and intent on proving limself$
Stryder had anted to follo after the &rusaders so that he could in glory and fame$
Simon had chosen friendship and gone ith Stryder, never !noing hat ould come of his
decision$ %hree years of their
lives had "een sacrificed to that fateful day$ %hree years of living in filth and s,ualor$ /f fighting
rats and serpents for every scrap of food$
Simon's flesh still "ore the scars of that time, "ut unli!e Stryder, he had chosen to "ury the internal
scars$ %o try his "est
to forget every degradation and horror they had e(perienced$
"- never "lamed you$"
"And -'ve never understood hy you didn't$"
"*e are "rothers, Stryder$" 2ust as he as "rother to Sin and 8raven$ He'd had to align himself to
all of them to survive$
%heir shared tragedies had "onded them$
Stryder too! a deep "reath$ "8o you love her+"
"Aye$"
"%hen ho can you stand here so casually hen you !no that on the morro she ill "elong to
me+"
"'ecause she never really "elonged to me$" %he truth stung him deep, "ut "oth he and Stryder !ne
it$
"- am truly the *raith$" He laughed "itterly at the irony of that$ "She didn't see me until it as too
late to do anything
a"out it$" His heart aching, he forced himself to add, "I !no you ill honor her$"
"And if she dies "ecause of the curse of my family+"
Simon rolled his eyes at the lunacy of that ,uestion$ "7ou're not cursed, Stryder$"
"Aye, "ut - am$ *hy else ould - "e forced to marry my "est friend's love+" Stryder ru""ed lis hand
over his head$
"*hy are you here ith me anyay+ 7ou should "e ith her this night$ God !nos the to of you
may never have
another one$"
Simon froned at his ords$ "7ou're "eing remar!a"ly understanding a"out all this$"
"-'m "eing remar!a"ly drun!, Simon$ - plan to drin! so much that this night ill "e nothing "ut an
unremem"ered "lur$
&ome the morro, you and - shall have to fight$" Stryder loo!ed up at him$ "- don't ant to fight
you, Simon, you are one
of the fe people - consider family, ind family is something - have very little of$ .o go$ - ant to
"e alone in my misery$"
Simon nodded$ He ell understood that sentiment, though tonight, for the first time, he had to ish
to "e alone$
He anted Kenna$
And yet he dare not see! her out$
-f he did, he ould spend this night ith her, and he couldn't do that to Stryder$
He appreciated Kenna's confidence in his a"ilities, "ut he !ne the limits of his proess$ He could
never defeat Stryder$
8amn the 5ates for it$
&lenching his teeth, he left Stryder to his ale and ent to see! hatever comfort he could in his
tent$
-t as a calm, ,uiet night$ Most of the !nights ere still in the hall, "oasting of ho ell they
intended to do on the morro$
A sennight ago, Simon ould have "een headed "ac! to his tent to rite to Kenna, to tell her all
a"out his day and to
speculate on hat the morro might "ring$
'ut he couldn't even ta!e comfort in that anymore$ %heir days of riting letters to one another ere
over$ -t ould "e
unseemly of him to continue to correspond ith the countess of 'lac!moor hile he rode ith her
hus"and$
%he pain of the thought as almost enough to send him to his !nees$
Heartsic!, Simon entered his tent and moved to disro"e$ He had stripped don to his tunic and hose
hen he heard a
light noise "ehind the curtain that separated his dressing area from the "ed$
Suspicious of an intruder, he reached for his sord$
*ith it held at the ready, he pulled "ac! the curtain, then fro)e$
%here in his "ed as the one oman he ould sell his soul to possess$
Kenna$
Her thic!, avy hair as don around her face$ She ore a gau)y hite chemise that as so sheer
he could easily see
the "right pin! tips of her "reasts$
He'd never seen a more "eautiful sight than her aiting for him$
"7ou shouldn't "e here," he said, loering his sord$
"%his is the one place here - do "elong$ - don't ant to "e ithout you, Simon$"
He as hum"led "y her ords$ 'y the fact that she ould ris! so much to "e ith him tonight hen
he needed her so desperately$
He should send her on her ay$ -t ould "e the no"le thing to do$
'ut having lived his life for others, he found himself selfish tonight$
5or once, he anted something for himself$
He anted her$
He dropped his sord and made his ay toard the "ed here she lay aiting$ Ho he ished he
could have her ith
him li!e this alays$
Kenna held her "reath, half e(pecting Simon to send her aay$ He had a loo! a"out him that
arned her he as divided
in his intentions$
'ut there as no division in hers$ She as concentrated on him and him alone$
She shivered as he dre near her and pulled "ac! the covers$
"- !no not hat "rought you here tonight, my lady$ - am only glad that you came$"
Kenna smiled at him$ "- ould alays come for you, my !night$ .o matter here you go$"
He pulled his tunic off and gathered her into his arms$ Kenna sighed at the sensation of his s!in
under her hands$ He as so steely and arm$ She loved the ay his muscles rippled "eneath her
hands$ %he ay he stared at her as if she ere some
tasty morsel he longed to devour$
His loc!et fell don to nestle "eteen her "reasts$ 5ire tore through her as she elcomed him$
''8on't leave me, Simon," she hispered$ "9lease in for me tomorro$"
"- shall do all ithin my poer to in you$"
He separated her legs ith his !nee$ Kenna moaned at the feel of his hard "ody lying against hers$
She felt him from her lips
to her toes$
He !issed her then, hot and passionately$ She ran her hands over his "ac! as he "ulged against her$
Her "ody thro""ed, anting him inside her again$
He opened her chemise and slid his hand don to her "reast, hich tightened and ached for him$
*ith a grol, he left her lips and dipped his head to ta!e her sollen nipple into his mouth$ She
hissed at the feel of him
there hile she held his head to her$
She couldn't imagine anything more pleasura"le than Simon touching her$
He too! his time tasting her, teasing her, "efore he "egan a slo trail don her "ody$
Kenna had no idea hat he intended$ He lifted the hem of her chemise, "aring her loer half to his
hungry ga)e$
She shivered at the sight of him staring at her most private place$ He nudged her legs farther apart,
then ran his finger don
her et cleft$
2ust as she thought the pleasure couldn't get any "etter, he dipped his head don and too! her into
his mouth$
Kenna cried out in ecstatic surprise$ She'd never imagined a man doing this to her$ He as relentless
in his tasting of her$
And hen she came for him, it tore her asunder$ She e(pected him to enter her then$
He didn't$
-nstead, he pulled "ac! and loered the chemise to cover her$ He moved to lay don "y her side
and pulled her so that
he cradled her head against his "are chest$
"7ou didn't ta!e your pleasure$"
"Aye, love, - did$ 7our pleasure as mine tonight$"
"- don't understand$"
"- can't ta!e you again, Kenna, !noing that on the morro li!e as not you'll "elong to someone
else$ - can't send you to Stryder carrying my child$ -t ouldn't "e fair to any of us$"
" And if -'m already carrying your child+"
"- can't undo that$ - can only ensure that - don't cuc!old him from this moment on$"
Kenna salloed the tears she longed to eep$ %his as so unfair$ She as getting the very thing
she'd anted6marriage
to Stryder$ /nly it asn't hat she needed$
She needed Simon$
She lay ,uietly, listening to Simon's heart "eating "eneath her chee!$
She sighed$ "8o you remem"er hat you rote to me last &hristmastide hen you ere in
5landers+"
"%hat - hate duc!+"
She laughed$ "Aye, you said that too$ 'ut - as thin!ing more of your telling me ho you ished
you could have a family cele"ration li!e the du!e of 'urgundy$ 7ou rote of ho his children had
"een around him as ell as his "rothers and sister$ 8o you remem"er it no+"
"Aye$ Men ever see! to o"tain hat they !no they can never have$"
"%he day might come6"
".ay," he said, interrupting her$ "3ven if - ere to "ecome landed, there is no other - ould have,
Kenna$ 7ou are the only oman - ould ever ,uest for$"
"7ou ould change your mind, Simon, if you ere given lands$"
".othing ould change$ -'ve !non many omen in my life, of all stations, and - !no my heart$
-n all my 1ourneys there has never "een another oman ho made me feel hat you do$ 7ou are my
friend and confidante$ - have trusted you in ays - have never trusted anyone else$ -t's not in me to
"e so open ith people, and yet - have told you every thought and dream - have ever possessed$"
She as armed "y his ords$
He "alled her hair up in his hand and lifted it to his face$ &losing his eyes, he inhaled the scent$
She as aed "y the action$ "- can't lose you, Simon$"
His 1a fle(ed$ "*e do hat e must$"
"'ut6"
".ay, Kenna$ .o matter hat e ant, the dan ill come and tomorro ill see us parted$"
"'ut if e6"
"%here are no "uts$ - ill not see you running from the family that loves you and ma!ing them sic!
ith orry$ Stryder is
a good man$ He ill see you cared for$"
"*ill he see me loved+"
His crystal "lue eyes ere dull, tortured$ ".ay$ He ill never allo himself to love a oman$"
"And - ill never love him$ %ell me here either Stryder or - ill find happiness in that+"
"7ou ill find it$ Someho$"
Kenna groled at him$ Ho she anted to throttle the stu""orn "east$ *hat as it ith men that
they ere ever "lind+
He !issed her on the "ro and held her face in his hand$ "Sleep, Kenna$ - need my rest if - am to
fight$"
She nodded, even though hat she anted as to argue more$ She'd learned long ago that once a
man set his mind to
anything there as no changing it$
'ut as she lay nestled in his arms, she prayed for a miracle$ /ne that ould see her ed to the
champion of her heart and
not to the champion of 3ngland$

&hapter C
%he dan found Simon a!ing up to feel Kenna pressed to his side$ Her arm, sil!en "ody called
out to his, hile her precious, seet scent clung to him, permeating his head$
He lay ,uietly 1ust listening to her "reathe, feeling her s!in against his$
/dd ho a fe months ago he'd anted nothing more than to spend the rest of his life helping the
'rotherhood$ He'd
"een content ith his lot of second "orn, landless !night$ .othing had oned him and he had oned
nothing$
His life had seemed good$ 3ven desira"le$
Kenna had changed that$
.o he anted only to "e ith her$ 5or the first time in his life, he desired to "e a hus"and, a father$
He anted to "e everything to her$ %o see her gro round ith his child and to hold his on son or
daughter in his arms$
He anted to gro old ith her$
:ltimately, he ouldn't even "e alloed to ta!e part in her life at all$ After this day, he ould "e
forced to hand her over to Stryder and al! aay$
-t ould "e the hardest thing he'd ever had to do$
His heart heavy, he forced himself to leave her side and dress$ %here as much to "e done in
preparation for the day's events$
/nce he as ready to leave, he returned to the "ed and stole a ,uiet !iss from Kenna$
She didn't move$
%racing her lips ith his finger, he smiled sadly$ "Sleep ell, my love$ - hope you have peace in
your dreams$" 5or he ould never have any peace in his heart$ .ot so long as they ere forced to
live separate lives$
And ith that, he left her and made his ay to the list, here !nights ere already "eginning to
gather$
Stryder as in the list ith his s,uire, Raven$ %he "oy as ad1usting Stryder's cuirass to allo
Stryder a ider range of
motion during the coming matches$
"Ho fare you+" Simon as!ed$
Stryder's eyes ere rimmed and red$ He snarled in greeting$ "8on't spea! so loudly$"
Simon shoo! his head$ "Given your current state, mayhap - stand a chance after all$"
'ut even he !ne "etter$ He'd seen Stryder recover from far orse things than this and still fight
li!e a lion amongst mice$
Stryder grunted in response$
Simon spent the morning training and resting for hat ould come that afternoon$ 'ut it as hard
to focus on that hile his thoughts continually drifted "ac! to the oman he'd left in his tent$
"God," he hispered, loo!ing up at the clear "lue s!y a"ove his head, "grant me either the strength
to in this or to "e man enough to al! aay and leave them in peace$"
< < <

Kenna o!e to the silence of an empty tent$ %here ere no traces of Simon$ .othing other than the
arm, manly scent of
him on her s!in$
:ntil her ga)e fell to the pillo "eside her, here he'd left a note$
Sitting up, she clutched the sheet to her hile her hair trailed don her "ac!$ She "ro!e the seal to
find the floing,
masculine script that had come to mean the orld to her$

&ourage, my love$ - need you to possess the same fire that led you from Scotland to .ormandy that
first
day hen e met$ *hatever the day "rings, !no that - ill alays love you$ 7ou carry ith you,
my heart,
my soul, my very "eing$ 'e strong for me, Kenna$
3ver your !night,
S
9ostscriptum
S doesn't stand for Stryder$

She laughed at that, even though her eyes ere filled ith tears$
'lin!ing them aay, she ,uic!ly dressed and made her ay to the castle "efore she as discovered
missing$
'ut she didn't stay there long "efore she headed "ac! toard the list, here the men ere training$
As usual, none of them paid her any attention$ -t asn't until a man !ne her titles and status that
their heads turned$
3(cept for Simon$
He cared for her person, not her "irthright$
She found him "y his horse, chec!ing its shoes and rigging$
He straightened as soon as her shado fell over him$ His eyes idened in surprise$
"Kenna$ - asn't e(pecting to see you$"
"- !no$" She handed him the small pac!age in her hands$ "'ut - anted to "ring you this$"
He opened it to find the red ri""on she alays ore in her hair$ %he one her father had given her as
a present 1ust days
"efore he'd died$
%oday as the first day in years she'd "een completely ithout it$
"Since you lost the last one, - ant you to ear my favor, my lord$"
He smiled at her$ "Alays$"
He !issed her lips lightly, then held his arm out so that she could tie her to!en around his mail#
covered "iceps$ Her heart
as ea! and pain#filled at the thought of losing him today$
Silently, she ished him God's strength and mercy$
As soon as she as finished, she too! a small step "ac!$ "Good luc!, my lord$"
He opened his mouth to spea!, "ut the heralds called the !nights forard to prepare for the march
that ould lead them
to the sho$
Simon !issed her hand, then turned and mounted his horse$ He stared don at her from his saddle$
%he gentle "ree)e tugged at his dar! au"urn loc!s, and his eyes "urned ith fiery passion and
promise$
.ever had she seen a more "reathta!ing man$
"God's strength "e ith you$" she said$
Simon nodded, then turned his horse aay and 1oined the others$
Kenna couldn't move as she atched him head off$ -t as li!e something from a forgotten
nightmare$
"Kenna+"
She turned to find &aledonia "ehind her$
"8on't fret, little cousin," &allie said, ta!ing her arm$ "Simon on't let another man in you$"
"- pray you are right$"
&allie pulled her off, toard the area that had "een set up for spectators$ Malcolm and Henry ere
already seated in the highest part, here a striped aning !ept the sun from them$
&allie led her to a seat "ehind the to !ings, here Sin, ho as dressed all in "lac!, as aiting$
"Are you not participating+" Kenna as!ed Sin$
He shoo! his head$ "- never play at ar and -'ve no desire to em"arrass Stryder "y ta!ing this
victory from him$"
Kenna considered his "oastful statement$ "-f you are sure you can in this, then - "eg you to ta!e
the field$"
"*hy+"
"Should you in, - ouldn't have to marry Stryder$"
Malcolm laughed at that$ "*e ouldn't let you out of this so easily, Kenna$"
Aggravated "y the fact her cousin as in earnest, Kenna sat ,uietly and aited for the event to start$
%he day ore on sloly as !night after !night clashed and defeated each other$
Simon fought as if his life depended on the outcomeD indeed it did$
Should he lose this day, she ould !ill him herself$
-t as nearing dus! hen it came don to the final match$
Stryder and Simon$
Kenna held her "reath in e(pectation as the to !nights faced each other$
Simon as e(hausted$ His entire "ody ached from the day's games$ %he last man he anted to face
as Stryder$ Having sparred for years ith the man in practice, he !ne 1ust ho s!illed a !night
Stryder as$
He !ne Stryder's ea!nesses, 1ust as Stryder !ne his$
.ot once in all these years had they faced each other in earnest$
%hat as a"out to change$
%hey ere at ar no, Stryder to protect his honor and reputation, Simon to in his lady$
Simon clenched the reins of his horse and eyed Stryder$ He ouldn't lose this day$ %here as no
ay he as going to
cede this victory to Stryder$ *hatever it too!, he ould in this$
%he earl of 'lac!moor as a"out to taste his first defeat$
%he herald loered the flag$
Simon spurred his horse forard$
He came at Stryder full tilt, ith his lance held at the ready$ %he thrumming of hooves droned in his
ear alongside his rapid heart"eat$ Seat tric!led don the "ac! of his nec!$
Stryder dre nearer$
Simon tensed, ready for the "los$
/ne$$$
%o$$$
He made contact ith Stryder at the same time Stryder's lance slammed into the center of his chest$
Simon groled fiercely
at the pain of it$
%he force of the "lo !noc!ed the ind from his "ody, "ut Simon held his saddle$
'y all the angels in heaven, he ould not "e unhorsed$ .ot today and not "y Stryder$
Struggling for "reath, Simon tossed his "ro!en lance to his s,uire and received a ne one$ He
turned his horse a"out and al!ed it "ac! toard the list$
Stryder inclined his head to him in a respectful salute$ Simon returned the gesture as they aited for
the signal to "egin ane$
He glanced toard the stands here Kenna sat$ He couldn't see anything more than the color of her
gon, "ut he sore he could feel her eyes on him$ Hear her voice urging him to victory$
He ould not disappoint her$
%he flag fle out$
5or you, my love, for you$$$$
"7a!" Simon urged his horse forard$
'ut no sooner had he started forard than Simon felt it$ A slight loosening of his saddle$ -t as
small at first, "ut ith the pounding hoof "eats, it "ecame more pronounced$
Simon cursed as he reali)ed he had no time to veer aay from Stryder and the oncoming "lo$
Grinding his teeth, he met Stryder's "lo full force, "ut his ea!ened saddle ouldn't hold, and the
force of Stryder's lance !noc!ed him "ac!$
%he saddle girdle "ro!e, sending him toard the ground$
-n that moment, Simon felt the eight of his defeat$
8amn it all!
He slammed into the ground so hard that his teeth rattled, his "ones 1arred$
5or a full minute, he couldn't "reathe at all as the crod roared ith e(citement over Stryder's
victory$
Simon lay still, his "ro!en heart hammering$ His saddle lay off to the side, a testament of his ill
luc!$
.ay! Ho could he lose to a tisted piece of fate+
He anted to scream out at the in1ustice of it$
"Simon+"
He "arely recogni)ed Stryder's voice from the ringing in his ears$
"Simon, are you all right+"
He snarled as he felt Stryder trying to help him up$ "0eave me "e$" He 1er!ed his helm from his
head and glared at his friend$
Simon ached to decry hat had happened,"ut he ouldn't "e so childish$ .or ould he undignify
himself$ Such things happened$
He as defeated$
Stryder's eyes "urned ith guilt$ "-'m sorry, Simon$"
-n his heart, he !ne Stryder meant that$ 'ut it changed naught$
Kenna as lost to him no$ 5orever$
"8amn you, Stryder$ 8amn you to hell$"
Stryder's eyes flared in anger$ A muscle or!ed in his 1a$
Simon e(pected him to stri!e out$
He didn't$
-nstead, Stryder turned a"out and headed "ac! toard his horse$
Angry and hurt physically, mentally and spiritually, Simon released the laces of his coif and started
to retrieve his helm from
the ground here he'd tossed it$ 'ut as he reached for it, something caught his eye$
-f he didn't !no "etter, he'd sear it as the fading sun reflecting off a cross"o hidden on the
parapets$
He'd fought enough ars and "attles to ell understand such tactics$ And as he glanced to Stryder,
he had a horri"le reali)ation$
%he "o as aimed for Stryder$
-f he dies, Kenna is yours$
%he thought ent through his mind "efore he could stop it$ .ot that it mattered$
He could never "e happy ith Kenna !noing he'd let his friend die$
Reacting on pure instinct, Simon raced for Stryder$
Stryder cursed as he caught sight of Simon charging him$ "Simon, - sear6"
%he ords "ro!e off as Simon fell forard into his arms$ %he man's eight made him stagger "ac!$
At first he thought Simon as attac!ing him until he reali)ed people around him ere screaming$
Simon as "leeding$
Stryder gaped as he sa three cross"o "olts protruding from Simon's "ac!$
".ay!" he roared, placing Simon gently sideays on the ground$ "Simon+"
Simon shoo! from the pain of his ounds$ His "ro as covered in seat$
Suddenly Kenna as there, her face pale and her chee!s et ith tears$
"Simon+" she so""ed, cradling his head in her lap$
Simon salloed, then coughed up "lood$ Hte held onto Kenna's hand, unilling to let it go$ He
struggled to "reathe
against the pain that shredded him$
Stryder "elloed for a physician$
'ut it as too late$ Simon !ne that$ He'd !non there ould "e no saving him hen he'd seen the
assassin on the "attlements$
"8on't you dare die, Simon," Kenna said, sha!ing him$ "8on't you dare $$$"
He didn't "other to argue ith her$ Such things ere never in the hands of men$
-nstead, he !issed her hand and inhaled her arm, feminine scent$
"8amn it, Simon," Stryder snarled$ "7ou eren't supposed to do this again$ 7ou sore to me you
ould never ha)ard
yourself for my life$"
Simon too! Stryder's hand and placed it over Kenna's$ "%a!e care of her for me, Stryder$"
He salloed "ac! the pain and then let the dar!ness sallo him$


&hapter E


Kenna paced outside the room here Simon as "eing tended$ %he hallay as gray and star!6a
perfect mirror of her mood$ Stryder, Sin and &aledonia, along ith Malcolm and Henry, aited ith
her$
She had anted to stay inside the room ith Simon hile Henry's royal physicians tended him, "ut
Malcolm had refused
to allo it$
"-t as a remar!a"le thing he did$" Malcolm said as if musing aloud$
"He's a rather remar!a"le man, Ma1esty," Sin said$ "He never fails to protect those he loves, and he's
loyal to a fault$"
Kenna listened hile "oth Sin and Stryder spo!e of Simon's "ravery to the !ings$ Sin toldof ho
Simon, at great peril to himself, ent to Scotland to ma!e sure Sin didn't face his enemies alone$
Stryder told of Simon's "ravery in the Holy 0and and again of his loyalty to his "rother 8raven$
Ho Simon had gotten 8raven's ife, 3mily, to safety hile they'd "een under attac! "y un!non
assailants$
.ot that Kenna needed to hear proof of his courage or deeds$ She !ne all too ell 1ust ho no"le
and decent Simon as$
-t as hy she loved him$
%he door opened$
Kenna loo!ed up hopefully and rushed forard$
%he eldest of the three physicians came out, iping his hands against a pale "lue cloth$
"Ho does he+" Kenna as!ed$
".ot ell, my lady$ *e have cauteri)ed the ounds, "ut they are deep$ *e're not sure if they
pierced a ma1or organ or not$
-f he lives to morning, then he may yet rise and recover$ /therise$$$"
Her stomach renched$ "May - see him+"
He nodded$
Kenna didn't ait for the others$ She rushed into the room, to see Simon unconscious on the "ed
hile the other to
physicians pac!ed their instruments and supplies$
Simon lay on his stomach ith a sheet pulled up over him$ His face as pale and ghostly, and his
"ody as covered ith seat$
Her heart aching, she sat don "eside him and "rushed his et hair "ac! from his forehead$
"Simon," she hispered$ "9lease come "ac! to me$"
< < <
5or four days Kenna aited in fear and uncertainty for Simon to a!e, "ut he never moved$
/n the fifth day, Malcolm gre impatient$ "Scotland needs a !ing on her throne, Kenna$ *e canna
ait any longer for
him to a!e$"
Kenna anted to scream out her denial$
'ut she as honor "ound to do as her cousin re,uested, "ecause his re,uests eren't re,uests$
%hey ere !ingly demands$
Simon's "rother, 8raven, ho had come to "e ith Simon, stood on the opposite side of the crimson
"ed$ His handsome
face as dour as he loo!ed from the !ing to her$ "-'ll atch over him for you, Kenna$ 'elieve me$"
"&ome, Kenna," Malcolm said$ "0et us have this edding done ith so *e can go home$"
Her heart heavy, she nodded$
< < <

Simon came aa!e to a vicious pounding in his head$ He heard hispering near"y, then the sound
of a door closing$
He as hot all of a sudden$ %he covers over him seemed stifling, un"eara"le$
He tried to !ic! them aay, only to find them too heavy and his lim"s too ea!$ *hy did he feel
this ay+
He as ea!er than a ne"orn help, and his "ody ached as if he'd "een slit open$
-t asn't until he focused on the sight of his "rother that he remem"ered hat had happened$
"Stryder+" Simon as!ed, hoping his friend hadn't "een shot too$
8raven moved to his side and held him don against the "ed$ "Shh, lie "ac!$"
Simon did, even though he as an(ious to learn hat had happened after he'd passed out$ He met
his "rother's ga)e and
noted that a fe strands of gray ere starting to mar! 8raven's e"ony hair$
"*here's Stryder+" he as!ed$
"He left almost a sennight ago$"
%he ords made Simon's head pound even more$ "Gone+" he hispered$
8raven nodded$
Simon closed his eyes as despair ashed over him$ %hat ould mean Kenna as gone, as ell$
At least Stryder lives$$ ..
Aye, his friend as alive, than!s to him, and married to the oman he loved$ Again, than!s to him$
At that moment, he hated himself$
"8on't you ish to !no ho long you've "een a"ed+"
Simon shoo! his head$ He couldn't care less$
%he only thing that mattered to him as the fact that Kenna asn't here ith him no$
"*ould you li!e me to tell you a"out Kenna's edding+"
Simon snarled at him$ "8o so and - sear, "rother or not, in1uries or not, - shall run you through$"
8raven arched "oth "ros at Simon's rancor$ "5ine then, sorry - tried$"
8raven moved aay from the "ed, then returned ith a cup$
Simon refused to ta!e it$
"7ou need to drin! something$ 7ou've "een6"
"- don't need that$"
*hat he needed as to see Stryder's ife$
Stryder's ife$
%he ords cut through him$
Simon rolled over to face the all and let the pain of her loss seep through him$
*hy couldn't he have 1ust died+ Surely no man could live ith the pain in his heart that he felt$
'ehind him, he heard 8raven set the go"let don on the ta"le "eside the "ed, then cross the floor$
%he door opened, "ut Simon didn't "other to loo!$ .o dou"t 8raven as leaving him$
Good$ He anted to "e alone$
"He's aa!e," he heard 8raven say to someone in the hallay outside$ "'ut a ord of advice, my
lady$ 7our hus"and
is in a foul mood$"
Simon froned at the ords$
He rolled over to see $$$
.ay, it couldn't "e$
He "lin!ed as he sa Kenna draing near the "ed$
8raven glared at him$ "'e nice to her, "rother$"
Simon still couldn't "reathe$ He couldn't ta!e his eyes off the vision that as Kenna$
Her pale face as "right and happy$ Her "ron eyes fair gloed$ She ore a deep crimson gon
that matched the hair
ri""on she'd given him$
"7ou're aa!e," she "reathed, her voice unsteady ith her happiness$
She thre herself over him, holding his head in her hands as she s,uee)ed him$ "%han! the 0ord
and all his saints for their mercy!"
Simon as dum"founded$ He loo!ed at 8raven for an e(planation, "ut his "rother merely stood
aside ith his hands
crossed over his chest, atching the to of them$
"*hat are you doing here+" he as!ed Kenna$
"*here else ould - "e+" she said, pulling "ac! to stare at him$
"*ith your hus"and$"
She laughed at that$ "- am ith my hus"and$"
He as even more confused than "efore$ "8raven said Stryder had left$"
"Aye$ He did$"
"%hen hy are you still here+"
8raven as the one ho laughed this time$ "%a!e mercy on the poor man, Kenna, and tell him
a"out your edding$
He didn't ant to hear the details from me$"
%his as so odd$$$$
"*hat details+" Simon as!ed$
Kenna sat "ac! and too! his hand into hers$
"Malcolm had you and - married "y pro(y$"
Simon "lin!ed$ %hen "lin!ed again$
8id she say hat he heard+
"'eg pardon+"
Kenna's eyes turned arm, inviting$ "After you ere "rought up here, e aited almost a ee!, "ut
Malcolm had to go
home$ He had to "e here to sign the papers in order for our marriage to "e "inding, and since you
ere nohere near to a!ing, he alloed Stryder to stand in as pro(y for you$"
%he !ing's reversal didn't ma!e sense$ "'ut hy+ - don't understand hat made him change his
mind$ - lost the sho
of arms$"
"Aye, "ut not fairly$ 3ven Stryder pointed out that he on only "ecause your saddle failed you$ .ot
that it mattered in the
end$ Malcolm changed his mind "ecause he thought a man so loyal to his friends, one ho ould
sacrifice his on happiness
to see Stryder safe, as orthy of marrying me$ More so, in fact, since Malcolm figured you ould
never try to overthro him$"
"'ut -'m not titled$"
8raven snorted$ "7ou are no, 0ord Simon of Any!$ King Henry has a small "arony for you to
sear fealty over$ Seems
he rather li!es the thought of having a "aron ho is married to a Scottish princess$"
Simon loo!ed "ac! and forth "eteen them, still not sure if he hadn't addled his "rain in the fall$ "
Are you 1esting+"
8raven shoo! his head$
".ay, love," Kenna said ith a "right smile$ %hen she turned serious$ "/f course, you could alays
divorce me$$$"
".ay," he said emphatically$ ".ever$"
She smiled again$ "- someho didn't thin! you ould mind$"
3pilogue
Simon paused outside the small don1on in Any! to atch his ife direct the servants ho ere
helping her plant
rose"ushes in her private courtyard$
%o his chagrin, a light "lue veil covered her "ron tresses$ Ho he loved to "rush his hands through
those long, avy loc!s
at night$ 'ury his face deep in the fragrance of it every time they made love$
She gre more "eautiful, more dear to him every day$
She loo!ed up and sa him atching her$
%he smile on her face made his heart pound$
"Greetings, my lord$" she said, "&are to help us+"
".ay," he said, closing the distance "eteen them so that he could pull her into his arms$ "- rather
li!e atching you$" %hen
he leaned and hispered in her ear, "3specially hen you "end over$"
She s,uealed playfully at that$ "7ou are in a mood this day$"
"My lady, - am in that mood every time - loo! at you$"
She laughed at him, then gave him a smart, chaste !iss$ "'e off ith you, !nave$ - have or! to "e
a"out$"
Simon turned his head so that he could atch the youngest mem"er of the or! cre$ %he youth
had "een nothing more
than a "oy hen he'd "een imprisoned$
Stryder had sent him to them so that they could atch over and help him ad1ust to his nefound
freedom$ :nder Kenna's
care and !indness, the "oy had come a long ay in only a fe ee!s$
"7ou do great or!, my lady," he said seriously$ At least until the imp in him too! over again$
He lifted Kenna up in his arms$
She shrie!ed in protest$ "*hat are you doing+"
"-t seems to me you still have a promise to fulfill$"
"And hat promise is that+"
"%hat you'd give me a child "y ne(t summer$"
He !issed her then and carried her aay from the others$ &arried her to the castle that "elonged to a
man ho had once
had no prospects at all$
*ell, he had them no, and he intended to ma!e sure that he spent his life letting Kenna !no 1ust
ho grateful he as
to her$
Simon sprinted to their upstairs room$ He closed the door and froned as he sa a letter on his "ed$
Setting his ife don, he ent to it$
Kenna came to stand "ehind him as he sa his on "aronial seal$ "*hat is this+" he as!ed$ %hey
hadn't ritten to each
other since "efore their marriage$
She shrugged$ "Read it and see$"
He "ro!e the seal and opened it$
My dearest champion,
Since all good nes seems to come in ritten form, - thought - should tell you this$ - have !ept my
promise$
3ver your lady,
K

9ostscriptum
%he K is for Kenna 1ust in case you might mista!e me for another$

Simon's hand shoo! as he understood her meaning$
She carried his child$
He anted to shout out in 1u"ilation$ He turned to face her$ "Are you sure+"
She nodded$
0aughing aloud, he gra""ed her up in his arms and hirled her around$
"%han! you?' he said, then he loered her don his "ody to capture her lips$
3very dream he'd ever possessed had come true, and he oed it all to one oman$$$$
HisKenna$

F < F < F < F

Multi#pu"lished, romance author,SHERRILYN KENYON !nos men$ She lives outside of
.ashville, %ennessee, ith her hus"and and three sons$ Raised in the middle of eight "oys, and
currently outnum"ered "y the 7 chromosome in her home, she reali)es the most valua"le asset a
oman has for coping ith men is a sense of humor6not to mention a large trash "ag and a pair of
tongs$
*riting asKlNLEY MACGREGOR and Sherrilyn Kenyon, she is the "est#selling author of
several series including, %he 8ar!#Hunters, 'rotherhood of the Sordand "he Mac#llisters.