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Extras

Listen to me discuss "behind the scenes" details, and read my essay about why I love the Middle Ages!








 



The Bodyguard Who Came in from the Cold
by Gayle Callen

Book 4 of the "Secrets and Vows"
(The books do not have to be read in order.)

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Margery Welles is a favorite of the king, and he gifts her with an immense dowry and the choice of her own husband. She’s not sure she even wants to marry, because of the secret haunting her. With hordes of suitors eager for a wealthy bride arriving to court her, and the king’s deadline approaching, Margery feels trapped by her dilemma—until the arrival of her long-lost friend Gareth Beaumont, who’s matured into a fearsome knight, a man she’s powerfully attracted to.

Since childhood, Gareth has sworn to defend Margery, even though he’d been forced to leave England many years ago. But upon learning that she’s in danger, Gareth risks everything to return and act as her bodyguard, even as he pretends to be just another suitor. They both agree their attraction should go no farther, but can the heat of desire growing between them make Gareth long to stay for good?

Note: This book was previously published as My Lady’s Guardian. This edition has been enhanced with photos, audio, and author notes.

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Reviews

"Settle back and enjoy the fast-paced, engaging, emotional and sensual tale of a knight and his lady."
Romantic Times Magazine

"A fun and rewarding story, with just enough intrigue and passion added for spice."
Romance Reader Reviews

"Gareth and Margery are characters to remember."
Affaire de Coeur Magazine

"...fans will relish a tale that highlights the thrilling heart-thumping elements
that make historical romances so enjoyable."
Book Browser Review


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Excerpt

(The following is the property of the author and Avon Books, and cannot be copied or reprinted without permission.)

Prologue

England, 1475
 

Through his narrow window, twelve-year-old squire Gareth Beaumont watched the inner ward burn. The night was dark, lit only by the flames. The shrieks of women and children, the groans of men as they fought the blaze, filled the air.

He had seen this in his nightmares and his waking visions. Everything had been muddled, but the fires had raged in his mind for days. He should have known it meant attack.

He wanted to bang his head against the wall to shake out these incomprehensible visions that haunted him. But he couldn’t escape his legacy, the Beaumont Curse.

Now Wellespring Castle’s stables and outbuildings were alive with flames. It was just like his parents’ fate all over again: they’d died three years before in a fire, leaving Gareth with nothing but painful memories.

But at least this time he could do something. He flung open the door to his room and raced down the corridor.

The inner ward was a nightmare of smoke and flames, and the screams of horses and men. The gatehouse held firm, keeping out the invaders, while fire illuminated the archers manning the battlements. At the stables, Gareth joined the line of men passing buckets of water from the well to the fire.

His eyes watered from the smoke, and his lungs ached with the need for fresh air. Although his skin was hot, a sudden chill of foreboding worked through him. Not now!

The vision began as but a sound, a child’s sob. Sometimes he could pretend he didn’t see the visions. It made the headaches worse, but that was better than knowing useless information he couldn’t understand.

But this time he knew who it was—Margery Welles, the eight-year-old daughter of the viscount.

In the mists of his mind he saw her impish face contort in a scream of terror. She wasn’t with the women, as she was supposed to be.

He broke from the line of men and raced through the inner ward, dodging soldiers. He finally saw Lord Welles by the gatehouse. The viscount was a tall, broad man with gray peppering his dark hair, and a craggy face that always looked in control.

Gareth came to a stop before him, coughing from the smoke. “My lord, your daughter—I fear she’s in danger.”

The firelit ward retreated as he was caught in the formidable gaze of Lord Welles. They stared at each other, and for an instant, fear touched his lordship’s eyes.

“Gareth, she is with the women. Do you know otherwise?”

Before Gareth could respond, he heard a great rending of wood and a sharp crack.

Lord Welles caught his arm and dragged him away from the swarm of soldiers who rushed to defend the gatehouse. “Baron Hunter and his men have broken through the first doors. There will be a battle. Saints above, I wish my sons were here—but you will do. Get Margery away.”

“But my lord, how—”

Lord Welles leaned into Gareth’s face and spoke in a hoarse, urgent voice. “Take her into the undercroft below the great hall. You’ll find a stack of barrels in the north corner, and a hidden tunnel beneath them. Lead Margery out into the forest and await my word.”

“I’ll find the women and take them all—”

“Margery first!” Lord Welles said, grabbing Gareth’s arms and giving him a quick shake. “If you get her out to the forest before the castle itself is invaded, then you may return for others. I can’t take the chance that Margery could be harmed. You must protect her. Promise me!”

“O-of course, my lord,” he stammered.

“Now go!”

When Gareth searched the great hall and didn’t find her, he knew Margery would go where she felt safest. He found her alone in her bedchamber, leaning out a window to watch the destruction below. He hauled her away from it and closed the shutters, weak with relief at having found her unharmed.

She looked at him solemnly, all dark hair and wide blue eyes. She wore white billowy nightclothes. “My father will win, won’t he, Gareth?”

“Of course,” he gasped, still breathing hard. He found garments hung on pegs and brought them to her. “But he wants me to take you to a safe place.”

“You have to leave while I—”

Ignoring her protests, Gareth pulled her smock over her head. She was soon dressed and well-wrapped in a cloak. He led her down through the levels of the castle to one of the entrances to the undercroft. He lifted the trap door, grabbed a torch off the wall, and descended into the darkness below the main level, holding her hand.

Wooden beams arched overhead, dripping cobwebs. Barrels of salted meat and foodstuffs were stacked high. He led Margery to the north corner and had her hold the torch while he started to drag barrels away.

“Gareth, what are you looking for? A hidden treasure?”

“A secret tunnel.” Above them, he suddenly heard the pounding of many booted feet and a distant scream. He threw himself at the next barrel. Where was the tunnel?

He glanced at Margery. He could see tears glistening in her eyes but still she held the torch high.

As he dragged a fifth barrel aside, Gareth heard the clash of steel over their heads. By the saints, was the entire castle overrun? In despair, he realized he wouldn’t be able to rescue the other women. If he tried he would most certainly be captured, and Margery would be alone.  

Lord Welles’s words echoed through his mind. You must protect her.

Gareth would prove himself worthy of his lord’s trust. He would never let any harm come to Margery.

Feeling a sudden draft of cold air at his feet, he shoved the last barrel aside and saw the outline of a trap door. When he lifted it, dust and dirt billowed through the air.

He quickly took the torch and led her down a short staircase. The tunnel was made of earth and damp rock, carved out of the ground, braced with rotting wood. When they’d walked at least a hundred paces, tree roots began to poke through the ceiling. Soon all he had to do was push past the roots of a tree, and they were in the forest.

He knew they were only a few hundred yards from the castle. He could hear shouts, weapons clashing, and the hissing roar of fire. He put his arms around Margery and led her back into the tunnel.

He used the sputtering torch to light a small fire near the entrance. Still kneeling, he turned and saw her gazing bleakly back down the tunnel.

Gareth didn’t know the first thing about comforting a little girl. Feeling awkward, he held out his hand and she took it, crouching beside him. She stared into the fire as one tear slid down her cheek. Swept by a feeling of tenderness, he put his arm around her. She leaned into him.

“What else did Father tell you?” she murmured.

“He told me to keep you safe, and that he would send for you as soon as he could.”

“You won’t leave me?” She turned teary, pleading eyes up to him. “You’re always trying to get away from me.”

He hugged her closer and pushed the tangle of hair from her eyes. “This isn’t like our games,” he said, feeling a stab of guilt. “I promise I won’t leave you.”

~oOo~

Gareth awoke to the chirping of birds outside in the forest as the sun rose.

With a gasp, Margery sat up straight. “Father?”

“Not yet,” he said reluctantly. “Are you hungry?”

She shook her head.

“Of course you’re hungry. Do you know how to fish?”

She looked at him out of the corner of her eye, and he saw some of her liveliness return. “I tried to follow you the last time, but you sent me home.”

He sighed, feeling another ache of guilt. “Your voice scared away the fish. I’ll wager you still can’t be quiet.”

She gave him a teasing glare and shoved him aside. “You just show me how to fish, Gareth Beaumont.”

He dug his fishing hooks and string from the pouch at his belt, and soon they were lying side by side on the embankment of a small creek, dangling their hooks in the water.

Gareth pulled in a small, wriggling trout.

Margery lifted her chin. “I shall get a bigger one.”

He barely kept from smiling. “I’d like to see you try.”

And try she did. He was impressed, even as he cooked his own fish. She perched on the embankment, fishing mightily, ignoring him as he smacked his lips and ate his trout. He saved half for her.

He needn’t have. Soon she caught her own fish, and it was bigger, just as she promised. She took it off the hook, learned how to remove the bones, and even cooked it herself, though she burned her fingers before she was through.

Side by side, they knelt at the edge of the brook and cleaned the fish smell from their hands. Something suddenly glittered beneath the surface. Gareth grasped the object and rose to his feet for the best light. It was just a gray stone, but imbedded in the center was a cloudy piece of crystal that caught the rays of the sun. Margery reached for it in delight, laughing.

In her haste, she knocked it from his hand, and it bounced along the rocky edge of the brook. As Margery picked up the two pieces of the broken stone, her breath caught on a muffled sob. Gareth knew that her grief had little to do with the stone.

“Margery, look, ’tis just as shiny as ever. And now there’s a piece for each of us, so we can remember today.”

She looked at the two stones, then gave one to him. When she lifted her face, he felt his heart give a painful lurch at the redness of her nose and eyes.

“I shall keep this always,” he said.

A smile tugged at one corner of her lips, and she clenched the shining stone tightly in her fist.

His gaze rose over her head in the direction of Wellespring Castle and he tried to mask his worry. If he could keep Margery busy, she wouldn’t have time to be afraid.

For three days, they waited for word from Lord Welles. They slept in a bed of leaves in the tunnel by night, and played games of survival by day. He taught her to snare rabbits, then how to cook them. They played hiding games in the forest, moving from tree to tree in an attempt to outwit each other. He made two pouches, so they could each carry their crystal stone on their belts. She was his first friend, and he pretended that someday when she found out about the Beaumont Curse, she wouldn’t care.

On the fourth day, they heard soldiers riding through the forest. Gareth retreated to a little fort they’d built high in the trees and held Margery close. Hoarse voices called her name.

“’Tis my brothers!” she said in relief.

He found himself rubbing the crystal stone in its pouch at his waist and waited for her to climb down to her family, leaving him alone once more.

She took his hand. “Will you still be my friend when we go back?”

“Forever.” The word reverberated through his soul like a blood vow. He had discovered what it was like to be a man, to take care of someone.

She descended from their perch and into the waiting arms of her brother Reynold, only three years older than Gareth. James Markham, Earl of Bolton, not yet twenty, watched Gareth closely as he reached the ground.

“My lords,” Gareth said, bowing his head stiffly. “I hope all is well at the castle.”

They hesitated, and he knew in that moment that his visions, though unclear, had not betrayed him.

Margery pulled away from Reynold. “Father?”

Her brothers looked grim.

“Not Father!” she cried. “But where is Edmund?”

“He is fine,” Reynold said as she buried her face in his tunic and sobbed. “He is with Father’s body.”

Gareth’s chest felt tight as he watched her tears. Reynold guided his horse out of the clearing, taking Margery away.

James looked Gareth over. “When we arrived home, we searched the castle for Margery and found the tunnel open. How did you know to escape?”

He could hardly say that strange visions haunted him. “Your stepfather told me about the tunnel, Lord Bolton. He asked me to keep her safe.”

“My thanks to you,” James said grudgingly.

“How did your stepfather die?”

“An arrow. We lost five soldiers, and others are wounded—but Hunter will never bother us again. I shall go to the king with this treachery.”

Gareth soon came to realize that Margery’s brothers did not quite believe his story. Within a week he was sent to another household to finish his fostering. Surely Margery would tell her brothers that it was all a mistake, that Gareth was her friend, that his knowledge had not been gained by betraying them to their enemies.

But Margery’s brothers never came back for him.
 

Chapter 1

 
June, 1487

 

Gareth Beaumont gasped for air and came up on his elbows, wide awake in an instant. He bumped his head on the tent pole, and a shower of water leaked inside to splatter across his face. He ignored it, staring into the murky darkness, the dream still fresh.

Margery.

The old bitterness welled up in his mind. Her brothers had abandoned him, setting his life on a path of desperation and loneliness.

He breathed deeply, trying to calm his pounding heart. ’Tis just a dream, not a vision.

But he knew better. A dull ache groaned to life behind his forehead, and his stomach gurgled with queasiness. It was a vision all right, of Margery Welles—whom he hadn’t seen in twelve years.

She was in danger again.

He sat up, resting his head in his hands. She was not his concern; she had brothers to take care of her problems. Besides, she must be married already, even have children.

The past was dead, and he could never go back to it. Why would he want to? He certainly knew early in life that he could count on no one but himself. At his final foster home, he’d been jeered at, called Warfield’s Wizard because of the visions he couldn’t control. To earn respect, he’d become a fierce fighter. It kept people away, just like he wanted, and it also kept him from starving.

But he had become too good at his craft, and the noblemen tired of losing. He’d been forced to leave England when he was no longer allowed to enter tournaments. He’d done some mercenary work in France these past few years, but his name and his curse had followed him even there. He had no land of his own, no family, no money. He was so close to poverty that he could smell the stench. The only things he hadn’t sold were his armor and his horse, because without them, he had no chance of earning a living.

By the saints, why did he have to be reminded of Margery after all these years? He wanted to ignore this vision of danger. She already had a family, and none of them needed Gareth.

He had a sudden memory of looking into the intense gaze of her father, Lord Welles. He was the one man who had ever treated Gareth fairly.

And Gareth had promised the old man he’d always protect his daughter.

With an angry curse, he lay back on his blanket. Lord Welles deserved his loyalty, but his children did not. Yet he would go to Margery and find this danger that awaited her. He would do what was necessary to satisfy his oath, and then he would leave.

~oOo~

The sun blazed down on the rolling hillsides and low stone walls of Gloucestershire. In the distance, Gareth could see the bright spires of a castle glittering atop a hill. Hawksbury Castle. As usual, Margery and her family owned the best. He tried to put aside his resentment; only his oath to Lord Welles mattered.  

Gareth’s horse plodded into the shadows of a cool wooded glen, and he could no longer see the castle. He glanced at Wallace Desmond, who for once wasn’t eyeing him suspiciously. Gareth had known it was foolish to approach this unknown danger alone, but he hated asking anyone for help. Wallace owed Gareth for saving his life at a tournament. When Gareth called in the favor, Wallace had been willing to return to his homeland to help the woman from Gareth’s past.

Though the day was unusually bright for England, Gareth felt a sudden cold chill move through him. He’d spent his whole life trying to ignore such warnings, but now he heeded it.

They were near Margery.

He pulled back on the reins, and his horse danced to a halt. He cocked his head, eyeing the woods all around them.

“Wallace, go on ahead. Hawksbury Castle is not far.”

Wallace leaned on his pommel and stared at him with narrowed eyes. “What is going on, Beaumont?”

“Nothing.” Wallace was ignorant of his visions, and Gareth planned to keep it that way as long as possible. Not for the first time, he wondered why generations of a family had been cursed for one ancestor’s crime. “I just need a moment to think on what I will say to Margery.”

Wallace grinned. “Nervous about a mere woman?”

Gareth said nothing. The longer he traveled with Wallace, the more talkative the man had become. Gareth didn’t need friends.

“Very well,” Wallace said. “I’ll leave you to your peace. Who knows, the fair Margery might take a liking to me.”

Margery Welles circled the clearing, keeping the stone bench between herself and a grinning Thomas Fogge. For the third time that day, she cursed her foolishness. Why ever had she thought he was different from all the others—different from Peter Fitzwilliam? Taking Lord Fogge to one of her favorite peaceful places had been the height of stupidity. Now she was forced to fend off his advances, when all she’d wanted to do was talk.

“Lord Fogge, I insist we go back to the castle.”

“Mistress Welles—Margery,” he said, with an ingratiating smile that showed his blackened teeth, “I am so enjoying our private visit. How else can you come to know me?”

“Then seat yourself, my lord, and we will converse.”

Lord Fogge leaned one way. Margery went the opposite way, and found herself against his chest.

“Margery, I ache for one of your kisses. Just one.”

She leaned back in his embrace and turned her face away, but she felt his hot breath on her neck. She had been in this situation one too many times this last month. Why hadn’t she learned by now that every eligible man in England considered her fair game? And yet, what choice did she have? The days were flying by at too fast a pace, and soon the king would need an answer.

Margery felt his mouth on her cheek and grimaced. Just as she was about to bring up her knee and end his lordship’s kiss with pain, Lord Fogge abruptly released her. As she stumbled back against the bench, she realized that he had not willingly let her go. He was caught in the grip of a stranger—a much larger, broader man, who punched him hard in the stomach.

With a groan, Lord Fogge doubled over and staggered against a tree trunk. The stranger grabbed him again, and Lord Fogge covered his head and whimpered.

“Let him go,” Margery said.

The stranger ignored her. His fist connecting with Lord Fogge’s chin snapped the man’s head back.

“That is enough!” she cried, grasping the stranger’s arm. She stumbled as his arm came forward, but hung on grimly. “You’ve disabled him. He will not be so foolish again.”

The stranger abruptly released Lord Fogge, who reeled sideways, blood dripping from his lower lip. Without a glance at Margery, his lordship darted through the trees toward where they’d left the horses. But she soon forgot him when the stranger turned and looked at her.

She felt a shiver of fear. Her rescuer would have continued to pummel her assailant if she had not intervened. She could trust him even less than Lord Fogge. The man was tall and well-muscled, wearing a leather jerkin over a dark shirt. His bright blond hair was long and shaggy, as if he’d been traveling for some time. Then their gazes met, and Margery forgot to breathe.

She would recognize those intense eyes anywhere.

He was Gareth Beaumont, the boy from her childhood.

Shock and disbelief made her freeze. Not a week went by that she didn’t wonder what had become of him. Almost without thinking, she reached for the purse hung from her belt, and touched the crystal stone through the fabric.

She’d never been able to forget the way his golden eyes seemed to glow with a light of their own. But now a coldness lurking behind those eyes made her realize he was no longer the boy she knew.

She stepped back, barely able to take in the man he had become. He was sun-burnished, golden, his nose straight and strong, his cheekbones as chiseled as if carved by a sculptor. He was so beautifully rendered, yet so male, that it made her uneasy. And in that moment, she felt small and dark and sinful, unworthy to even look upon such perfection. What would he think of her if he knew her secrets?

But this was foolishness. Gareth Beaumont needed to know nothing of her past. He was no longer her childhood friend, but a stranger passing through her land.

And then she remembered the ignoble rumors that had chased him from the country. He was said to be a vicious opponent in battle, who won at any cost. 

He, too, was assessing her, staring into her face, then glancing down her body, leaving a searing path in her flesh. She was shocked and unnerved, aware of him suddenly as a man and not a memory. It showed what kind of woman she’d become, how easily the heat of desire consumed her.

But every man looked on her with a covetous bent, and she was disappointed that Gareth was no better.

“Margery.”

“Gareth Beaumont, can it really be you? I have not seen you in—”

“Twelve years.” His voice was deep, rumbling, as unnerving as his face.

She swallowed. “What have you been doing for all these years?”

“I’ve been traveling through Europe.”

She hesitated, then asked bravely, “Doing what?”

He just stared at her in that cool way of his, and she didn’t think he’d answer.

“There is money to be earned at tournaments, and noblemen to work for,” he finally said. “’Tis as good a way as any to live.”

She remembered then that his parents had died in a fire just after he’d come to foster at her father’s castle. The king had taken the Beaumonts’ land and possessions as payment for a debt. Gareth had no home, no family. It was sometimes so easy for her to take her brothers’ love for granted.

There was a long, awkward silence.

“Did you like Europe better than England?” she asked, then wanted to wince at her inanity.

“Yes.”

She had heard that he had not left the country willingly. She had so many questions, but how to ask without inviting his scrutiny of her life?

“Then why did you come here?” Margery finally said.

“You are in danger.”

Her mouth dropped open in surprise and she sat down heavily on the bench. Her hands started to tremble, but she forced herself to calm down. He could know nothing.

He remained standing, his hands joined behind his back, staring at her with his chilly gaze. He didn’t look like he wanted to help her, or even be there at all.

“How do you know such a thing?” she whispered. She remembered the fateful night of her father’s death. Gareth had come to her room when she’d been in danger then.

“I heard things in London.”

She felt the doubts creeping into her mind. Where had he been? What had he been doing? He might have saved her life once, but she could hardly trust him now—she could trust no one.

She sighed. “Yes, I am much the talk at court.”

“Why?”

“It is complicated. But I assure you, I am not in any danger.” She tried to give him a bright smile, but knew it looked forced.

“Then why was that man chasing you?” he asked dryly.

“For a simple kiss.” She laughed. “Surely you have tried to steal a kiss or two from a pretty maiden yourself.”

She thought he would smile. Instead, he raised one eyebrow. “I’ve never had to.”

Her smile died. Of course he’d never had to. He was as beautiful as a statue of an angel.

In her brittle voice, Gareth could hear the truth: Margery was lying. She avoided looking at him for too long. Why was part of him disappointed? He knew what kind of family she came from: a family that rewarded kindness with banishment. What lessons had she learned from brothers such as hers?

She jumped up from the bench, and the sun slanting through the trees painted flickering patterns across her face and dress. Her steps were not delicate and ladylike; she paced like a woman with much on her mind. She was clearly trying to keep something hidden.

But still he was a man, and as she walked before him, he reluctantly noticed the grace of her movements. Her strides kicked her pale yellow skirts out before her, leading him to imagine the length of her legs. He broke into a sweat. This was not the way he meant to think of Margery.

Her waist was long and slender, cinched in fabric that molded upward to cup her breasts. Her collarbones arced out like the wings of a bird, and her neck had the unbending grace of a tall woman at ease with her height. Her long hair, dark brown, was pulled back from her face by a yellow ribbon.

And what a striking face Margery had. Her deep blue eyes flashed with intelligence above fine cheekbones. He stared at her mouth and told himself he was unaffected. But the little girl she’d been in his mind was gone, replaced by a woman—and she was as yet unmarried.

He suddenly realized she’d been talking. “What did you say?”

“I asked you to stop staring at me.” She put her fists on her waist and leaned toward him.

He kept his eyes on her face and not her gaping bodice. “You have changed.”

Her face blanched. She stepped backward, and her arms slid up to hug herself. She was frightened, and that made him even more suspicious.

“I have not changed much,” she said coldly. “And neither have you. I recognized you immediately.”

He pointedly glanced down her body before saying, “I have changed a great deal—do not forget that. But one thing that hasn’t changed is the oath I swore to your father. You need protection, whether you want to admit it or not.”

“Gareth, I am fine,” Margery said between gritted teeth. “But please come stay at Hawksbury and rest before you travel on.”

He said nothing.

She looked over her shoulder. “My horse is beyond those trees. Ride with me back to the castle; you must be hungry.”

As they walked through the woods, Gareth thought again of her startled face when he’d said she’d changed. She must have been so protected behind castle walls that she thought the world’s cruelty could never touch her. How naive she was.

She came to a stop so quickly he almost bumped into her. He could see the road just ahead through the trees.

“My horse—” she began, then stopped.

It was nowhere to be found.

He quirked an eyebrow. “I assume it was tethered beside your suitor’s?”

“Of course, but Lord Fogge wouldn’t…” Her voice trailed off and she sighed.

“Your horse is probably waiting for you at the castle,” he said.

She turned around to face him, wearing another forced smile. “I seem to need your help again. Would you mind sharing your horse?”

Reluctantly, he gave a low whistle, and his gray stallion came crashing through the underbrush.

Margery raised her eyebrows. “That is very impressive,” she said dryly.

Gareth lifted his hands to help her, but she put her foot in the stirrup and swung her leg up over the saddle. As she sat down, her skirts settled over the horse like a blanket, revealing her lower legs encased in men’s boots.

“Are you coming?” she asked, wearing what was obviously a smile of pride at her horsemanship.

He stood beside her leg, looking up into her face. Unwanted memories flooded through his mind, and he felt a momentary uncertainty. In a low voice, he said, “Do you remember the last time you rode my horse?”

Her forehead wrinkled with a frown. “Yes. My father had given you your own horse, and I wanted to ride it, too. The silly animal dumped me headfirst into the pond.”

Gareth still had a vivid memory of Margery rising sputtering to the surface as he’d splashed out to rescue her. Every memory of her involved either rescuing her or escaping her.

“Well, that will not happen anymore,” she said, and with a dig of her heels rode off down the path.

He watched as she bent low over the animal’s neck. He grudgingly noticed the flare of her hips and her competent seat in the saddle. At least she was not a pointlessly dainty woman; her brothers had done something right.

She finally turned back and raced toward him. He didn’t move as she pulled up within feet of him, haughty, proud of herself.

She shouldn’t be, since she couldn’t even protect herself. She needed a man for that—and maybe she needed a man to teach her a lesson.

Without a word, Gareth swung up behind her. He heard her gasp softly as he squeezed into the saddle, bringing them in intimate contact. He rested his hands on her waist, feeling the slight curve of her stomach against the tips of his fingers.

She had to learn that most men were bigger and stronger than she was.

But while he was trying to prove her frailty to her, he couldn’t help but breathe in the scent of her hair. The warmth from her body melded with his. The urge to trail his lips down her neck was powerful, primitive, almost too compelling to resist. He hated feeling out of control, pulled along by a woman’s wiles. If his thoughts went any further, she’d know exactly what he was thinking by the pressure of his hips against hers.

He quickly took the reins from her hands.
 

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