The Border Bride
The Borderlands Trilogy: Book 1
Jemmy scarcely heard the priest's final words. He was stunned by the finality of what had just happened. Bound for life, that's what the priest had said. Why hadn't he considered this before he jumped feet first into his father's plan?
He turned to the woman beside him, grasped her jaw and turned her face to his. He pushed back the veil and regarded her coolly, careful not to let his expression betray his surprise. Last night he'd been told that Maude Darnley was her father's pampered darling, a harsh, demanding mistress who was heartily disliked among the Aylsford servants. No one had thought to mention that she was beautiful.
Her eyes were just the color of the summer sea and her hair shone like a pagan bonfire against the gray stone walls of the chapel. He had a sudden impulse to reach out and bury his fingers in the shimmering curls, just to see if they would feel as warm as they looked. When she jerked her chin from his grasp and lifted it proudly, he felt reluctant admiration.
She was so small, so delicate—somehow he'd imagined she would be tall and stout, a formidable lady. She bit her lip, then released it with a little grimace of pain. Of course, he realized, staring at her cut and swollen mouth. They must have beaten her to get her here at all.
His pulse steadied and he felt swift pity for the poor frightened maid who stood before him, trembling from head to foot. This wasn't her fault—even if she was a Darnley.
It seemed Jemmy had always known, as if he had been born with the knowledge, that Darnleys were murdering, heartless things, not really human at all. It had been easy enough to dismiss such tales as nonsense—when he was safe across the sea. Now every instinct warned of danger. Though Jemmy couldn't see what danger this lass could possibly pose to him, he had relied upon his instincts too long to doubt them now.
But danger or no danger, the Darnley wench was now his wife. When he put his hands on her shoulders and pulled her towards him, she stiffened in sudden fear.
"Calm yourself," he ordered. "I'm not going to hurt you."
She allowed herself to be drawn into his embrace, her slight frame trembling in his arms. She smelled faintly of some light flower scent, very different from the bold musk and ambergris that Spanish ladies favored. Lavender, he thought. That's what it was. In Spain, where the gardens were so highly scented that it made a man dizzy just to walk in them, he had forgotten the sweetly subtle scent of lavender. It brought back a thousand tumbled images of childhood: sunlit days and long cool nights, his mother's smile, Ian's laughter, all of them a part of him he could not escape, no matter how far or fast he traveled. It filled his senses as his arms tightened around her without conscious thought or plan, his fingers twining in her soft, bright hair. Bending to her, he brushed her mouth with his.It was no kiss at all, just the merest token that courtesy demanded, yet at the first touch of her lips he felt himself stir as eagerly as an untried boy. Surprised and none too pleased at his body's unbidden response, he released her so abruptly that she stumbled. Stopping his instinctive gesture of support, he spun upon his heel, already calling for his horse before he'd reached the door.
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No one can remember a time when the Darnleys and Kirallens were not at each other's throats. The marriage of Maude Darnley to Jemmy Kirallen promises to end the bitter conflict—but Lord Darnley has no intention of keeping his sworn word. Instead he sends his baseborn daughter, Alyson, to masquerade as Maude while he prepares for a devastating surprise attack. Alyson has no choice but to comply, but she finds Jemmy is not the barbarian she feared. He is a man of honor, and in his arms she finds a love that threatens to tear her heart in two. If Alyson reveals the truth, her young brother's life is forfeit—but if she stays silent, she will condemn the man she loves and his entire clan to certain death.
"Full of intrigue, action, and Scottish folklore, English's romance is captivating." – Booklist