The beautiful lady Fiachra of Kerne is anticipating passionate love in her life, but during the celebration of Samhain the only thing she grimly sees in her future is an arranged marriage to a druid prince she's never met. Rebellious against her father's plot to join two clans by sacrificing her happiness, she flees her village.
When handsome Bowen of Druce meets the vibrant Fiachra, he keeps his identity from her in an attempt to get to know her better. But is the charming warrior prince Fiachra’s charming ally or a sly chrismatic kidnapper?
Fiachra and Bowen's disappearance will start a battle between two clans that only be stopped if she and Bowen return to Kerne.
Glancing down his long nose, he stared at her. “She will do,” he stated with a tone that did not instill a sense of approval. King Argus’ cold and dark disturbing gaze sent shivers up her spine.
“Pardon me.” She bowed her head. “I have festivities to oversee.”
She couldn’t get out of the hut fast enough. Outside, men stood guard—those who saw to her father’s safety and those who apparently accompanied the Druce king.
She held her chin high as she paraded past the group of men. Not making eye contact with them worked, until she reached the last man. He stepped in front of her and she had to look up.
“Please, let me by,” she commanded.
He didn’t move.
She pushed at his bulk and swept around him. The crunch of his heavy steps on the gravelly ground alerted her he followed. Taking longer strides, she hurried to make the space grow between them.
His pace outstretched hers and his hand clamped down heavily on her shoulder. “There’s a pretty wee lass, making me chase her for sport.”
“I did nay such a thing.” She shrugged off his grip. “Let me be.”
Dodging his hand when he reached to grab her again didn’t help her avoid a rut in the road. She tripped and fell, landing hard on her bottom.
Showing no sympathy, the brute laughed.
Irked by her clumsiness and his insensitive reaction, she kicked him in the shin. He growled a low curse.
“Ye are a swine, sir.”
“That he is, dear lady.” A velvety, masculine voice agreed.
Fiachra turned her head and looked up at the silhouette looming
against the backdrop of a sunny sky. The shadow of a hand wavered before her and she slipped her fingers into the work-roughened palm. It didn’t occur to her not to let him help her up from the ground. Something in his unfamiliar accent sent an exciting tremor through her body. She never thought of her days as boring or lacking any heart-pounding thrills until that moment.
“She is just a servant, Bowen,” the swine grumbled.
“She is a lovely lass uninterested in thy lack of gentility.” He pulled her to her feet. “Go away, Liam, and find someone else to bother.”
Fiachra tugged her hand just a little, but when it didn’t come free, she remained unruffled by her valiant rescuer’s boldness.
The brute left them standing alone and she glanced apprehensively up at the man holding onto her. By far, he was more handsome than anyone she knew. His gallantry captured her complete interest. For a moment, they stared at one another—her with a speechless catch to her breath and him with a delightful twinkle in his brown eyes.
“Ye have come from Druce?” she asked, flustered, blushing at his intense gaze.
His stare lingered below her eyes, on her mouth, she decided. It made her tingle as if lightning traveled beneath her skin. The warmth spread throughout her limbs, paring her thoughts down to one—his glorious mouth, full and ripe for the tasting. She’d enjoy being kissed by him. An image of his lips pressed to hers had a genuine appeal.
“What is thy name, fair one?” The coarse pad of his thumb persistently brushed back and forth over the back of her hand.
“Fiachra,” she answered, taking a deeper breath.
“Well, me beautiful Fiachra of Kerne, I am Bowen of Druce.” His devilishly handsome features and his captivating grin had made her toes curl.
When he bowed, his dark brown locks swung forward obscuring his face. Intense heat rushed through her veins. He turned her hand over and tickled her palm with a light kiss. She took short, unmeasured intakes of air scented by his masculinity. Her nipples tightened, drawing her awareness to a deeper ache.
“Bowen of Druce,” she repeated. His presence rattled her. To move from the arousing scent of the man seemed best. “I must see to the feast.”
“As thy guest, thee should need to see to me first.” Dimples dented his cheeks and his eyes darkened with a mystery she wholeheartedly wanted to investigate.
“Aye, of course, and how shall I be of service to ye, sir.”
“Thee ask a lot of a man, me lovely maid.” He slipped his free hand to her waist and guided her closer toward him.
“How so?” She moved on a cloud of eager wishes aimed for his kissable lips.
“Aye, lass, how so indeed.” His face moved nearer.
She went cross-eyed with his nose almost touching hers.
“Thee tempt a man to ravish thee right in the middle of the village fairway,” he whispered.
Fiachra took a sharp gasp of air and stepped back from the seducer’s hold. She gazed around, shocked he had the kind of influence over her senses that made her forget her surroundings.
Recalling they were in public put a heated blush to her cheeks.
Her palm perspired in the grip of his strong hand.
“I must go help with the festival.” She yanked her arm to remove her fingers from his loosened clutch.
“Shall I be of assistance?”
“’Tis unnecessary.” She spun away, hoping no one noticed Bowen following her.
“Mayhap unneeded, but it does not mean I should be useless in thy company.”
His pace remained uncomfortably close. The heat of his magnificent body inundated her with shivers of excitement when she desired to keep her wits. Even the smell of his sweaty skin appealed to her. The sensual masculine scent clung to the insides of her nostrils, making her suffer the effects of the continuous pleasing fragrance.
Fiachra stopped at a long wooden table laden with food. She made a chore of straightening the arrangement of bowls and platters containing breads, cheeses, and fruits. Her effort to ignore Bowen didn’t work because he tried equally hard to keep her mind engrossed with his presence.
He touched her shoulder with a lone finger and she trembled. He slid the tip up, lifting her hair and stroked the bareness of her neck.
“The fluff of a rabbit’s belly can nay compare to the softness of thy skin,” he murmured, making the fine hairs against her neck flutter.
His words possessed a charm too captivating to ignore. She once again glanced about for witnesses to her wanton allowances. Who saw her succumbing to his magic? What would happen if the druid prince saw one of his subjects, paying court to his bride? While it might free her from a marriage, she had to think of the devil teasing her with his stroke.
“Thee are very beautiful.” The tantalizing freshness of his breath circled her nose.
“I thank thee for the compliment, now please go away,” she pleaded, nervous she had led him too far.
“I think not, me lovely lass. Am I not due some reward for chasing off the swine that attempted mauling thee?”
She turned her head and his warm lips caressed her cheek. The searing heat of desire swept up from her neck to her face.
“Thou art bold, sir.”
“Do thee take offense?”
“Aye, ye have nay right to...to...” She couldn’t think.
Bowen’s hand eased around her middle and lay gently over her belly. His fingers squeezed repetitively, almost like a calming caress, yet her insides turned into a fireball of unsteady reactions.
“Thou were saying?” His lips brushed her jaw.
“Ye are an arrogant, brazen man, and...” She twisted in the circle of his arm.
She should have chastised him for his forwardness. Still, she sought his kiss and her gaze went to his mouth before she lifted her lashes to look into his mesmerizing brown irises. Unlike anything her imagination had conjured to represent the men of Druce, Bowen ruined her chance of having any feelings for the druid prince she hadn’t met.
Over his shoulder, the sight of her father emerging from their hut stopped her just short of the impetuous move of placing her lips against Bowen’s.
“I have an errand, pardon me, please.” She had to disappear before her father made her socialize with the Druce king, or before she found herself trapped with the Druce King’s son.
“Fiachra.” Bowen grabbed her arm, his impermanent grip slipped down until her fingers tangled with his.
“I will go with thee,” he declared.
“Please, I can nay be seen with ye.”
She glanced back at her father and the man with him. They talked to the brute who had manhandled her and it confirmed her suspicions that he might be the son of King Argus. A repugnant bitterness at the thought of marriage to such an oaf made her ill.
Her father and the others looked in her direction making her
“I have to go.” She tugged her hand free.
“Why?” Bowen asked again.
“To avoid a marriage.”
His head turned and he stared at the men as she did. When he looked back at her, he smiled with some strange amusement. His hand lifted and he caressed her cheek with a tender graze of his knuckles.
“Where will thee go?” He cradled her chin in his palm.
“Far from here.”
“Then trust me to help.”
When she twisted away from him, she felt the loss of his touch as if he had always been part of her attire. Lifting the hem of her dress, she pranced lightly through the melee of people starting to celebrate Samhain.
Bowen followed. The thrill of his presence came with a mixed emotion of distrust. A warrior, meant to serve his king and his clan would not help her disrupt a treaty between her tribe of Kerne and his of Druce, would he?
Fiachra went to the outer edge of the sparse woods. She glanced up at the hilltop of Tlachtga. A massive heap of wood had long been prepared for the morrow’s Samhain fire. Her father would light the blessed blaze to mark the New Year, and she would fail to see the joyous event.
“Thee will miss the lighting?” Bowen’s fingers folded over her shoulder as he voiced her thoughts.
“Aye, ’tis me favorite time of year, too,” she said sadly.
“Mine as well, lass.”
A touch of sorrow in his voice infected her with a longing to be loved by him. A silly notion to say the least, yet an intuitive feeling she had faith in more than clear reason. They just met.
She was betrothed to another. What chance did she have at the happiness so near her heart that she could reach out and touch with her fingers?