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Norman heiress, Matilda Comyn is desperate to escape her grasping guardian and reclaim her inheritance. After a lifetime of being let down by men, she wants to rule her lands on her own terms. She can’t escape without help and battles her mistrust when compelled to join forces with a Welsh spy.
Huw Ap Goronwy has a rival claim to Matilda’s castle and has sworn a blood oath against the Comyns. When his king rules they must marry, he struggles to reconcile his attraction with his need for revenge. But they must form a truce if they are to seize their castle.
Risking capture and death, they will only succeed if Matilda learns to trust, and Huw allows his love for Matilda to overcome his need for revenge.
Page Count: 294
Word Count: 76599
She gave a harsh laugh. “Coed Bedwen. Even now, is that all you can think about?”
“What else is there?” He certainly wasn’t thinking about tasting her lips, teasing them into a smile. No. She was a Comyn. He mustn’t forget his oath. He forced his face into an expressionless mask and faced her.
She had blotted away her tears and was standing straight, her chin up, face composed. “Our…our marriage, for a start. We should discuss it.”
“What is there to say? I already know your thoughts on the matter. You want me to die or journey to the Holy Land. Believe me, I have no intention of doing either.”
Matilda winced. “So you haven’t forgotten that.”
“I rarely forget anything. You can be sure I’ll check my food and drink very carefully from now on.”
“But you did.” He rubbed his temples. Tried to ignore the beguiling scent of honeysuckle. “All I want is Coed Bedwen. As the king has made it clear the only way I can achieve that is through marriage to you, then marry we must. However, don’t expect me to succumb to your underhand tricks next time—I’m on my guard now. Coed Bedwen is mine, and I intend to keep it.”
She tilted her head to one side, studying him with narrowed eyes. “Why is Coed Bedwen so important to you?”
She spoke in Welsh, but Huw answered her in French. He needed to remember she was Norman. A Comyn. It was harder to do that when they spoke Welsh. “You know why. You managed to get me to explain at length when you drugged me with that damned poppy.”
She shook her head. “It was important to your grandfather and father because it was their home.” Her steady gaze bored into him, stripping away his outer layers, probing for his soul. “Why is it special to you?”
He wiped damp palms on his tunic. He must be standing too close to the fire. “I don’t understand. You know the answer—my vow to my father.” And thank the saints that even drugged, he had withheld the true nature of the vow, had only said the vow was to win back Coed Bedwen.
“But your vow was just taking on your father’s burden. Here’s why Coed Bedwen is special to me—it was my childhood home, the last place I was happy.” Her voice took on a wistful tone.
She turned away to face the fire, hugging her arms to her chest. “It was so beautiful. I used to love standing on the walls with my mother, listening to the birdsong, watching the river and the trees swaying in the wind. My mother could name all the hills we could see stretching away into the distance, and would tell me stories of the fair folk that lived inside them, feasting and dancing.”
Huw swallowed. “My mother used to tell me those stories, too. Before she died.” Then he wished he could have eaten his words. The last thing he needed was to feel empathy for her. It was already hard enough trying to match his knowledge of Matilda with the Comyns of his father’s memory. He didn’t want to think too closely about how similar their childhoods had been, both having lost their mothers at a young age.
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