It’s our last round of Medieval Monday for this session. We will have a new theme and start up again in just a few weeks. In the interim, I’ll be plying you with more Medieval Romance to stock your TBR pile (or folder ;-). For this finale, I’m giving you the excerpt from Mask of the Highlander in its entirety. Peace and Love, gods and goddesses!
Kenna stood rooted to the spot, just inside the door of her husband’s bed chamber. Little had changed. The hearth, cold and dark, gaped like the maw of Satan, large enough to consume any unsuspecting human who ventured too close. The bed to which he had bound her sat against the far wall. The blood-stained linens long since replaced. A trunk, where he kept his instruments of torture, stood at the foot, an ominous reminder of what lay in store for her.
Mrs. Dingwell cleaned the room regularly, but the air reeked of a mustiness brought on by disuse. There was an unearthly silence to the granite walls, hung with faded tapestries and notched with arrow slits at random intervals. A single window let in light from outside, but it was not enough to chase away the gloom. Or the memories.
Kenna choked back a sob. The last time she had been in this room, she had prayed for her own death. Now she pleaded silently for the Lord to strike Ty Vass dead where stood. She fantasized about stepping over his dead body, leaving it to whither and rot while she returned to her duties, running the household, raising her daughter, overseeing the welfare of the people she had come to love in the laird’s absence.
When that did not happen, she gave in to her debilitating fear and gave up trying to remain calm. She shook so hard, she worried her knees would give way. Just a few hours ago, she had been at peace, content in the belief that her husband would never return, and they could live out their days in peace. Oh, the difference in such a short time.
She yelped when his hands closed around her shoulders from behind. He gave them a gentle squeeze and rubbed his palms down her arms.
“Ye are trembling, lass.”
She was surprised by his gentleness. He almost seemed to be…comforting her. Indeed, his entire demeanor since arriving had hardly been what she expected. He had smiled more than once, a real smile. Not some sadistic grin that spoke of unvoiced threats, but a genuine smile that lit up his face and revealed a man glad to be home. He had tried to tousle Robby’s hair and had even teased Mrs. Dingwell. The housekeeper had actually blushed.
Kenna tried to relax, but found it impossible to do so. His touch did not threaten to leave marks, but worse was yet to come. She was sure of it. What game did he play at?
Unable to speak past the lump in her throat, all she could do was swallow hard and dig deep for any vestige of courage she could muster. She forced her thoughts to Isla. Kenna would suffer any torment to distract Ty from her existence. She would keep her secret as long as possible, trusting Mrs. Dingwell to keep her daughter out of sight.
“Why so afraid?” he asked. His continued stroking of her arms only increased her discomfort. He glanced around the room. “It does not seem so bad.”
His flippant dismissal of her distress infuriated her. Was he so daft as to think she had forgotten the abuse he meted out? She had survived more in three days that most women suffered in a lifetime, had lived through the suffering and pain and come out stronger. Kenna was struck with the sudden realization that she was no longer the weakling he left broken and battered five years ago. His brutal treatment of her body, and her survival of it, had given her a strength she had not realized she possessed until perhaps this very moment.
She jerked away from him, empowered—albeit frightfully so—by his surprise. She glared at him with the full might of a woman capable of commanding grown men to do her bidding, smart enough to run a large, complex household, and brave enough to protect those she loved. “Ye dare make light of the suffering ye inflicted?”
His dark brows drew together. Confusion crossed his features. Had he forgotten?
“Ye bound me to this very bed, brutally plowing through my maidenhead, laughing at my cries for mercy.”
Kenna’s chest rose and fell with the strength of her ardor. Further empowered by his silence, she continued her tirade. “For three days, I suffered at the hands of the very man who should have been my greatest champion, who instead treated me worse than the lowliest whore. Ye turned what should have been the happiest days of my life into a nightmare. I was a girl, an innocent.”
By now the muscle in his jaw twitched with gusto. His handsome features were clouded with fury. She ignored the warning in her head, and surged ahead. “Now ye return home, expecting your wife to greet you with open arms—and legs, no doubt—while ye callously belittle the torture ye inflicted in this very room.”
Shut up, shut up, shut up, a tiny voice screamed inside her head. You will only make it worse. But Kenna could not stop, despite the every-growing rage that seemed to render him speechless and the certainty that he would punish her for her insolence.
Perhaps she, too, had forgotten. Had her recollection faded over the years? Had she lived with such fear until now it was little more than a faded memory, its intensity diminished by time? She stood taller, squaring her shoulders and fixing him with a look of disdain that would make most men shuffle their feet and look away in shame.
His expression, however, did not reveal a man ashamed of his actions. Only a devil, enraged at being dressed down by a wisp of a lass and plotting the best ways to punish her.
Kenna clenched her fists at her sides, wishing she had a blade hidden in the folds of her smock. She glared at him, her eyes locked on his despite the murderous rage she saw there. “Do with me as ye will. It is yer right as my husband. But know this: I willna cower in fear of ye. Not again. I willna suffer yer abuse submissively. You will have to kill me this time.”
BLURB: Once she was afraid to touch him. Now she’s afraid to let go.
Forced to marry to avoid war between clans, Kenna Cleary endured three days of her new husband’s painful brutality before he rode off to battle the English. In the five years of his absence, she bore him a daughter, increased his holdings, and gained the love and respect of his people. Now he’s home. Must she and the clan learn to endure his cruelty once more?
Can an ancient Celtic god find peace in the mortal world?
The Laird of Domhnul has returned from war a changed man—moreso than his wife or clan can possibly know. Now the warrior faces a new battle, one for his wife’s heart, and his peoples’ trust. He must walk the knife’s edge of deception and danger, while proving he is no longer the cruel tyrant they came to know all too well.
But when his father embroils both them in a deadly plot, can the couple find a way to prevent war between the clans?
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