Authors: Virginia Henley
She drew in a swift breath and her heart skipped a beat. His words disarmed her. He was a man of the world, and a woman's body probably held little mystery for him. It was different for Raven, who had so little experience of men. But Heath gave her no time to change her mind—he lifted her from the bed immediately and deposited her gently into the bath. She watched him fill his hands with soap, and her lavender-blue eyes widened when she realized he intended to lather her all over.
“You wicked devil, you are enjoying this!”
He grinned at her. “The question begs: Are you?” His lips twitched. “You needn't answer if it makes you feel unladylike.”
“It makes me feel
His teasing grin vanished as he bent toward her and looked deeply into her eyes. “I can read your thoughts, Raven. You don't feel the least shameful. You feel a little shy, slightly breathless, and a tiny bit afraid. But danger excites you, you told me so yourself.”
She licked her lips.
I in danger?”
“I hope so, Raven.” he murmured intensely. “I hope you are in danger of losing your heart. …”
“This, the third of a Plantagenet trilogy, is HENLEY AT HER BEST—A LUSTY MEDIEVAL TALE FULL OF BATTLES AND ROMANCE sure to please her fans and introduce historical readers to her delightfully bawdy romances.”
“If you love immersing yourself in history steeped with sensuality, then
The Marriage Prize
is your treasure of the season. It is a story that reads like an old ballad or legend of real people, real passions and accurate history; think Sharon Kay Penman with lots of sex.”
“Ms. Henley writes books filled with the spirit of the medieval times. A good read for those who like medieval romance!”
“With her beautiful, spirited heroine and virile hero, Henley weaves a sensual, fast-paced medieval spell that is CAPTIVATING, HUMOROUS AND HISTORICALLY RICH.”
“A Year and a Day
is unquestionably Virginia's finest work to date.”
“STEAMY SEX … MEMORABLE CHARACTERS … BLOODY BATTLES … NICELY PACED NARRATIVE.”
“THE BEST BOOK EVER WRITTEN BY ONE OF THE GREAT WRITERS OF HISTORICAL EROTIC ROMANCES, the incredible Virginia Henley. Similar to
, the story brilliantly mixes erotic sex and history.”
“I WAS UP TILL DAWN DEVOURING
A YEAR AND A DAY”
“HENLEY KNOWS HOW TO KEEP A PLOT
GALLOPING ALONG. That, and an
element of frank eroticism, make this one an enjoyable
addition to Henley's shelf of historical romance genre.”
A Woman of Passion
A Year and a Day
The Dragon and the Jewel
The Falcon and the Flower
The Hawk and the Dove
The Pirate and the Pagan
The Raven and the Rose
The Marriage Prize
For Marjorie Hopcroft
Eskdale Castle, Scottish Borders
ou stole my heart the first time I ever laid eyes on you!” Heath Kennedy murmured low. Concealed behind a high stone wall, the tall, dark figure watched the lovely female as she stood in the deepening shadows of twilight. Her beauty was enhanced by her regal bearing as she lifted her head with pride. She was darkly beautiful, her skin smooth as satin. It was not just her face that was exquisite; her body too was perfection. Her slender legs were the longest he had ever seen. When she turned her head and gazed in his direction, Heath wondered if she sensed the presence of a male.
Heath knew she would put up a fight once she realized what was about to happen. But it would avail her naught; he had planned the mating for a sennight, carefully watching her, following her, stalking her as she frequented her favorite haunts. At twilight she always wandered down to the River Esk, dallying pensively until the moon rose. This meadow was a perfect place; high stone walls on three sides, the river on the fourth, made escape impossible.
Heath rode slowly through the gate and quietly locked it behind him. She saw him immediately, but his presence was familiar and she trusted him implicitly. As he cantered toward her she tossed her head in a gesture that was both playful and enticing. She watched him intently as he slid from the stallion's back.
“Tonight is the night, my proud beauty.” His white teeth flashed in his darkly tanned face.
The moment he slapped his stallion's rump, she knew what would follow. She began to flee like the wind, intent upon escape. Her pursuer followed, steadily closing the distance between them. Fear washed over her, making her shudder uncontrollably. Too late, she realized that he had her cornered, and she screamed.
Heath felt a moment's regret that she must suffer fear and pain, but he ruthlessly crushed the emotion. The end justified the means. The male must dominate, the female must submit; it was the law of nature. Cornered and trembling, she was still ready to fight. The moment he lunged at her, she bit him savagely.
Wild with the instinct to copulate, the black stallion reared its powerful forelegs, sank its teeth into the mare's satin neck, and mounted her with brute force. As the stud thrust into her, the lovely Barbary suddenly yielded to his mastery and her scream modulated to a soft feral cry of need. She quivered as the dominant male buried himself deep inside her, surging in and out with a furious rhythm that unleashed his fierce sexual energy.
As the black stallion drove relentlessly toward his goal, he nipped her roughly on the neck and buried himself hard in her sleek heat. Then, finally, a scream was torn from his throat as his body went taut and he spent his seed. The viscid semen erupted into the fecund mare like white-hot lava, and she tightened on him painfully, ensuring that not one drop would be lost.
The stallion, glistening with sweat, released the mare and almost went down to his knees, robbed of his powerful
strength. The female Barbary, however, had been invigorated. She brushed against him playfully, nudging him with her nose. They stood together, their bodies touching. She blew temptingly through her nostrils, while his heaving breath ruffled her mane.
It had been a magnificent mating. Heath was momentarily awestruck by its primal beauty. He walked slowly toward the mare and gentled her with his hand. His warm brown eyes clearly showed the deep affection he felt toward this particular horse. “Softly, my beauty. You were more than a match for him. You have got him staggering on his legs. If it did not take, he can serve you again, but I warrant he did his job right the first time.”
A month ago, when Heath Kennedy and Ramsay Douglas had ridden north to the Grampian Mountains to bring back the wild, unbroken horses that were allowed to run free in the northern forests to ensure they could withstand cold and severe weather, Heath had seen the black stallion for the first time. He had known immediately that the animal was capable of siring magnificent progeny, especially with the right dams. Ram had laughed and told Heath he could have the horse, if he could capture him. It had not been easy, but when the two men left with the herd, the young stud stallion had a new master, who named him Blackadder.
Heath had worked with him and the rest of the wild horses from dawn till dark, every day for a month, and his efforts were beginning to pay off. He was training the surefooted garrons for Douglas moss-troopers who had to patrol the endless miles of wild, wide-open, rugged carse and moors of the Borders between Scotland and England. Borderers' horses must have strength, wind, and endurance or they were next to useless.
Heath Kennedy stretched an arm above his head as he lay naked in the wide bed. The ache in his muscles was
deeply satisfying, for it came from doing work he loved. Heath's passion was horses; he had bought, sold, and traded them all his life, aye and stolen his fair share too, but he had never been able to breed them, because he had never owned any land. This year, for the first time, he would achieve his ambition, thanks to his powerful brother-in-law, Lord Ramsay Douglas. Heath had helped Ram escape from the Tower of London, where the English king, Henry Tudor, had been about to hang him, and in gratitude Ram had offered him the use of the vast Douglas lands to start his horse breeding. With hard work and clever trading, Heath now owned a dozen good breeding mares, and with any luck his new stud stallion would double the size of his herd within a year.
Heath's smile flashed in the darkness as he absently massaged the rock-hard saddle muscle in his thigh. His cock stirred slightly at the arousing memory of the mating, but he willed himself to relax and soon it lay quiet enough in its nest of thick black curls. He could not wait to see the colt his sister Valentina's lovely Barbary mare, Indigo, would produce. At long last, perhaps Fate had suddenly decided to favor him. Branding Heath Kennedy with the bar sinister of bastardy had not been enough for that wicked jade known as Fate. With cruel delight, she also had bestowed Gypsy blood upon him, doubly dooming him from the day he was born. But Heath Kennedy had laughed in the jade's face and thumbed his nose at the world. His proud bearing deceived all into believing he had been blessed rather than cursed.
He felt a sudden premonition of danger. He forced himself to breathe deeply, slowly, focusing on where the menace was centered. Heath could read minds easily and sense things that threatened about him. He had more physical and psychic power at his command than ordinary men.
His sister Tina was the only being he loved in the entire world, and suddenly he felt her fear flood over him like a tidal wave.
He slipped from the bed and quickly donned calfskin breeches, then took time to pull on his soft, thigh-high boots that concealed a deadly blade. With the stealth and speed of a predator, guided by instinct alone, Heath stalked through the castle chambers until he reached the Master Tower. When he heard Tina's terrified scream, he took the stone stairs three at a time.
Heath paused at the bedchamber door only long enough to hear a male demand, “Where is Black Ram Douglas?” He kicked open the door savagely and it crashed back against the wall, revealing his beautiful sister with the raider's hands about her throat. It took only three seconds for Heath to take the blade from his boot and use it to separate the man's backbone and pierce his heart. The hulking brute gurgled, and a froth of blood spattered Tina's white night rail.
“Are you all right, sweeting?” Heath's gut was knotted with apprehension for his beloved sister, and for the child she carried beneath her heart. The back of his neck prickled at the thought of what Ram would have done to him had he not protected the wife and unborn child Douglas loved more than life.
“Ye took the bait, laddie; we've got ye now!”
Heath whirled to face the door as six thickset Borderers shouldered their way into the spacious tower room.
“He isn't Lord Douglas!” Tina denied desperately.
“Liar!” The barrel-chested leader bared rotting, blackened teeth in a hideous leer. “None but firkin' Black Ram Douglas would dare enter yer bedchamber—it would mean his death warrant.”
“This is my
, Heath Kennedy!” she cried.
“Liar!” The burly Borderer was enjoying himself. “All the firkin' Kennedys have flaming red hair, like yerself, lass.”
“Hush, Tina!” Heath warned before her blazing temper ignited. If they thought they had Ramsay Douglas, they would take him and mayhap leave Tina unharmed. The
resemblance between Heath and Ram was marked, and it was not the first time that one had been mistaken for the other.
“Och, the laddie's in luv, begod! Willin' tae sacrifice hisself fer a bloody woman.” The Borderer shook his shaggy head in disbelief. “Take him,” he ordered.