Outcast and alone, Thomasina MacDonell is hell bent on finding her brother, the only person who can thwart their father's latest scheme to offer her as payment for his gambling debts. Disguised as a lad, she defiantly sets off on foot to locate him—never expecting to find a handsome, Irish warrior riding her beloved horse. The warrior's offer of help and unsolicited advice on how to be manlier sparks an intimate desire to reveal her more feminine side.
Rejected by the love of his life, Sean O'Cisoghe wants simply to return home and heal his broken heart. When a young "lad" steals the horse out from under him, he discerns the spirited woman may be in way over her head against her ruthless father. Finding her brother while keeping her would-be betrothed at bay, Sean must confront the fact that Thomasina has stolen his heart. Will Norman soldiers out for his blood and shifting clan alliances cut short their growing passion?
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They ate in silence. The rain kept up with occasional fat drops that worked their way through the thick canopy to plop on them. It wasn’t long before she was being bitten by a variety of irritating bugs.
“Oh, damn.” Thomasina slapped the bug on her arm. Blood oozed across her soaked sleeve.
Sean sat leaning against a fallen log, oblivious, staring into the flames. His long, powerfully built legs stretched out in front of him. He’d retrieved a skin from his sack which he drank from at steady intervals without offering to share. They’d already found a nearby brook with water for drinking so she assumed it must be something stronger.
“Devil spawn.” She slapped another bug dead.
Sean turned his bright eyes on her, his brows low as if thinking through a problem. His long hair hung behind him, pulled back at the crown. Not really blond. More the color of wheat but it looked soft to the touch. He seemed to see right through her.
“Shite!” She slapped at her leg. She must be one tasty morsel according to all these bugs and he sat there totally unbothered.
At least in the cave there had been no flying things to feast on her, just a few bats that kept to their own area. It had also seemed much safer than this place, less exposed. She glanced into the darkness. She couldn’t make out anything beyond the light from the fire.
“Whoreson!” She slapped at her neck and her hand came back bloody. “What to hell!”
Sean raised his eyebrows now clearly contemplating her. As if she spoke a language he didn’t understand. As if he were just noticing her at all.
“Ye have quite a mouth on ye.” He sounded as if he were making an observation. No expression. “Let me ken when ye run out of expletives. I’ll be happy to supply yer youthful brain with words nae child should ken.”
“I’m not a child.”
Sean swept his gaze over her body and she felt the sudden urge to shield herself from his view. When he looked her in the face, he smiled. A knowing smile. A smile that said “I know yer secret”.
“I would not say ye’re a man yet. Would ye, Tommy?”
Thomasina seethed inside at her own prideful outburst.
Of course she was a child. Just a boy. Not a lass of ten and eight only pretending to be a boy.
Sean kept his eyes on her face. He watched but said nothing. The shadows cast from the fire played across the strong planes of his face. She shivered.
“Are ye cold, Tommy?” His voice pitched lower this time. He took a long drink, his eyes never leaving her.
She wrapped her arms across her chest, hugging herself. “Nae.”
He licked his lips as if whatever he drank were delicious.
A fluttering inside demanded… action. She held out her hand to him. “May I have some?”
“’Tis best not to indulge at such a young age.” His tone remained even but that light in his eyes intensified as if he were holding back laughter.
She kept her hand out. “Please,” she coughed again. “Please.”
Satisfied that her voice sounded more appropriate, she tipped her nose into the air. She tried for that I-will-not-back-down expression that boys get.
His white teeth gleamed and he took another swallow. “Are ye certain?”
Her hand did not waver and it suddenly seemed of the utmost importance that she taste whatever he was drinking. She was not much of a drinker. Her father imbibed too often and too much. She preferred not to be like him. This seemed different somehow. The need to win this stranger’s acquiescence pushed her.
His eyes pierced hers. She felt the jolt down to her toes and she couldn’t explain it. As he moved forward to pass her the skin, his eyes never wavered. They held hers as if in a trance. His warm fingers brushed her palm. Lightning shot up her arm.
“Thank ye.” Her voice sounded breathy.
She glanced at the glistening, pink lips just visible through his heavy beard. His eyes remained on hers. She took a sip. Bitter liquid burned down her throat and she jumped to her feet. Grimacing, she spit it onto the ground.
“Now that is a waste,” he said.
“What to hell is this?”
Sean’s hearty laugh surprised her. He remained sitting but his whole body shuddered with his deep, gut-splitting laughter. She paused to watch him. His eyes were closed. His broad shoulders shook with the sound. The tension in her gut eased a bit turning everything inside pliant.
He opened his eyes, starting as if surprised to see her watching him. He cocked a brow and gave her a sly look. “I did warn ye.”
Thomasina wiped her mouth with the back of her hand and smiled. A heartfelt smile. “Ye did.”
“Ye should have listened to me.”
“Yea.” She raised her eyebrows in expectation. “Have ye had enough fun with me now?” Too late she realized she’d not disguised her voice. She swallowed hard. She waited.
Aside from two years spent in the wilds of the Colorado mountains, Ashley York is a proud life-long New Englander and a hardcore romantic. She has an MA in History which brings with it, through many years of research, a love for primary documents and the smell of musty old libraries. With her author's imagination, she likes to write about people who could have lived alongside those well-known giants from the past.
You can connect with Ashley online on her website, Twitter or email.
Ashley, thank you for sharing with us today about your book. I love your cover art and the excerpt was very intriguing.
Hope you all can stay for a bit to chat with Ashley. Feel free to post your comments below.