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His Clandestine Bride by Tora Williams

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  • Snowed in with the man who abandoned her five years earlier, Norman widow Isobel de Brockton is terrified he will discover her secret. If Edmund Granville finds out, she risks losing all she holds dear.

    Edmund is determined to earn the king's favor by catching a fugitive. The last thing he needs is to be stuck in a castle with the woman who cruelly cast him off. But after Isobel's young son is lost in a blizzard, Edmund learns the truth behind their separation.

    Now he resolves to reclaim his bride, but the deep wounds of their past haven't mended. Can they finally heal their damaged hearts and seize their second chance at love?

    Rating: Sensual
    Page Count: 288
    Word Count: 75600  
    978-1-5092-2507-1 Paperback
    978-1-5092-2508-8 Digital  

    Excerpt

    The Welsh Marches, January 1139

     

    The clatter of iron-shod hooves upon the bailey cobbles distracted Isobel from her steward’s rambling monologue. She cut him off with a slice of the hand and rose from the desk.

    “We weren’t expecting visitors, were we?”

    “None, my lady.”

    Strange. Molbren Castle was the most isolated of her late husband’s holdings and saw few visitors. That was why she liked it; even without the warfare raging between King Stephen and Empress Maude, she had reasons of her own for wanting seclusion.

    She opened the shutters, and an icy blast tore through the barred window. It whipped her veil across her face and scattered the steward’s parchments around his cramped chamber. While he gathered them, muttering under his breath, Isobel leaned across the sill and peered out into the bailey to see the castle gates swing shut behind three horsemen. The leader sat tall in the saddle, the fine cut of his knee-length gambeson emphasizing his broad shoulders and powerful frame. There was no mistaking the challenge in the arrogant tilt of the chin, how one hand rested on the pommel of his sword: cross me at your peril.

    She tightened her grip on the shutters. Who was it? Why was he here? She strained her eyes in vain to make out any identifying badge. Shivering, she slammed the shutters shut, smoothed her veil, and composed her features. She would greet the man civilly, show him there was nothing here to interest him, and pray he left at the earliest opportunity.

    Out in the passageway, she was poised with one hand upon the newel of the spiral staircase when the solar door flew open and her young son dashed out. He ran up to her and tugged her skirt. “Are you going to see the visitors, Mama? Can I come? I want to see the horses.” Will turned pleading eyes to Isobel.

    She paused and tousled the mousy brown curls so like her own. “Not this time, my heart.” It wouldn’t do for strangers to see how young and vulnerable the new lord of Molbren was. “Stay here and be good. We’ll look at the horses later.”

    Will’s face fell. “Very well.” He shuffled back to the solar.

    Praying Will would have the sense to stay out of the way, Isobel hurried down the stairs and into the guard room; the two men on duty sprang to their feet. Summoning one, she ordered him to follow. To the other she said, “Don’t let any strangers in without my permission.” Then she lifted the trailing hem of her bliaut and swept through the main door and down the steps to the courtyard.

    The visitors, accompanied by three of her guards, were walking their horses toward the stables. The leader, a head taller than his companions, had his back to her. Something about the set of his shoulders, his upright posture, struck a chord in her memory. As did the shock of raven hair. She’d run her fingers through hair just like that, while smiling at promises that had proved to be naught but empty words. It couldn’t be him, though; Edmund Granville was in the Holy Land, and she prayed he would stay there.

    Nevertheless, as she approached the group, the blood beat in her ears. She couldn’t drag her eyes from the stranger. Dear God, let it be a stranger! If he would only turn, she would see her eyes played tricks on her, and it wasn’t the one man who could destroy her peace, take away the only joy in her life.

    Then the man turned, and the world went gray.

    “Edmund,” she whispered, hugging her arms to her chest. How was this possible?

    Edmund’s eyes locked with hers, and for the merest instant they widened, then his features settled in a calm mask. But she knew what she had seen, and it gave her a measure of hope: he hadn’t known she was here.

    He hadn’t come for Will.

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His Clandestine Bride

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