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The Lady of the Forest by Barbara Bettis

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  •  Knights of Destiny

    When her elderly husband dies, Lady Katherine fakes her own death and disappears into the forest with others escaping the brutish new lord. Determined to protect her people, she knocks the wrong man senseless. But Lord Henry isn’t an enemy, he’s the brother of her childhood friend. Although his tender confidence tempts her, she’s bound by duty.

    Henry of Chauvere has found the one lady he wants for his own, never mind she’s tied him hand and foot. When he learns the king has ordered her to wed Stonehill’s ruthless new master, he insists Kate seek haven with his sister. But she won’t desert her friends. Henry vows to solve her problem, provided he catches a traitor before the threat from Kate’s past catches her.

    When a daring rescue compels Henry and Kate to join forces, their attraction grows into love. If only duty didn’t drive them apart.

    Excerpt

    Nottinghamshire, England, October 1197

     

    He was a fine specimen of a knight. Pity he had to die.

    Lady Katherine, late of Stonehill Castle, straddled a low-slung branch and watched the intruder work toward her. Closer he came, guiding his black gelding in a careful walk as he searched the October leaves mounding the forest floor.

    Late afternoon sun reflected off his arm, and she bit back a curse. The traitor wore chain mail beneath his deep green surcoat. Of course. Why would her task be easy? At least his coif lay folded back to expose his head. She could strike there.

    Sharp, thick bark bit through Kate’s rough hose. She ignored the discomfort and leaned forward for a better look. Another sunbeam touched the rider’s rich chestnut hair. A strand drooped across his forehead. He shoved it back with a ruthless jab, revealing a wide brow and strong nose.

    From her vantage point, he looked to be a fearsome warrior. Pray God he didn’t glance up. The ancient oak’s few tenacious leaves didn’t provide nearly enough cover. But his attention never wavered. One step, then another brought him nearer.

    She curled in her lips to cushion her teeth and gripped the knife between them. Breath by shallow, silent breath, she eased into a crouch. Balanced on her toes. Blanked her mind. And waited. He stopped. Right beneath her perch.

    Praise God.

    Kate slid the knife into her hand and jumped.

    ****

    Lord Henry of Chauvere reined in his mount beneath a huge oak and hunched his shoulders in disgust. Sometime during the day, the murdering bastard’s trail had disappeared. He’d been certain Sir Paxton made for Stonehill Castle, the only holding of any size a day’s ride in this direction. If the traitor had traveled along here, the underbrush ought to have provided a clear trail with crushed leaves and snapped twigs.

    Yet, not a sign. Not even horse droppings.

    He’d need to retrace his path to the crossroads left this morning and try north, toward Glenmore Manor. An entire day, wasted because of rain that obliterated any tracks.

    Hell’s fire. The curse loud in his mind nearly obscured the sound. A rustle, a scrape. He turned. In that moment, a moving, breathing weight hit his shoulders. From the corner of his eye, he glimpsed the glimmer of metal.

    A knife. He swiped toward the weapon as he drove his body to the left, opposite the direction the weight pulled. A pair of slim but muscular legs twined around his waist, a slim but strong arm snaked across his neck. The outline of a slight body pressed his back. What in blazes?

    He stilled.

    The weight shifted suddenly, and Henry, his glance searching for the knife, toppled to the ground. He felt a searing blow to the head.

    Damnation. He’d been brought down by a child.

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The Lady of the Forest

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