The Bruised Thistle
Iseabail is the much adored only daughter of the MacNaughton laird. Upon his death, she is forced to submit to her lecherous uncle who threatens the very fabric of their clan. With her brothers by her side, they plan their escape to get help from outside their uncle's tight sphere of control. Circumstances change and she must travel unprotected and incognito when he puts a price on her head and labels her a murderess. Unable to reveal her true identity even to the handsome mercenary who saves her not once but twice, she must fight her growing attraction or jeopardize their entire plan. With a price on her head and enemies on all sides, her trust is not something she can afford to give lightly…
Seumas MacDonell is a man wounded in body and soul, driven by guilt. Recently returned from the pilgrimage to the Holy Lands, he struggles with finding a purpose for his life. The wound that has left him impotent stands as a testimony to God's punishment for him. When he rescues Iseabail from one of his men, he cannot deny the intense attraction he feels for her. Her protection falls on him despite her apparent distrust of him. In the hope of finding redemption for his sins, he agrees to help Iseabail…but will his feelings for her prove to be the ultimate obstacle to his salvation?
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Iseabail dared not take her eyes off him even as he doffed his tunic. She should have turned away from the sight of his near-naked flesh, should have been intimidated by the sheer size of the man. Instead, all she could think of was how well he was made. As if he had been carved out of stone, in perfect proportion. Any excess flesh chipped away until all that was left was this—a strong broad chest narrowing into the rippling planes of his stomach.
She exhaled loudly, but he did not seem to notice. Had she actually been holding her breath? At the sight of him? She had seen men without their shirts before, in the practice yard at home, but none had looked as good. She forced herself to stop admiring him, but not before she noticed how his long, wavy hair caressed his shoulders.
Stop being ridiculous.
She was totally at this man’s mercy...
“Methinks ye wish to place a curse on me with that look of yours… What is yer name?”
Though she jumped at the sound of his voice, she could not help watching as he poured water from a pitcher to a bowl sitting on the table beside the fire. Mesmerized by the motion and play of firelight over his expansive chest, she did not notice right away when he stopped his movements. She met his eyes. Her heart beat faster and that strange heat centered in her belly again.
He quirked a brow. “I asked ye a question and I expect an answer…or do ye not know how to act with yer betters?”
Her better? Though she seethed inside, Iseabail bit her tongue before she gave herself away. If he but knew how much land her clan called their own...
Nay, Iseabail. Remember the part you play here.
Lowering her eyes, she quietly answered him. “Forgive me, m’lord. I forget myself.” Unsure what else the charade called for, she curtseyed slightly.
“Yer name?” He still didn’t move. His brows were raised in expectation yet again.
“My name is Iseabail.”
He nodded, apparently appeased. “And my name is Seumas.”
His face settled into a slight smile, and he continued with his washing. His muscles flexed as he rubbed across his chest and down his arms, scrubbing the soap into lather then rinsing it clean until his skin glistened. When he finished, he reached for the cloth beside him but turned his face to her.
She exhaled slowly.
“Come here, Iseabail.”
His tone was coaxing, as if to a newly harnessed foal. She took the few steps toward him. When he reached for her face, she tensed and her mouth went dry. He was no better than her uncle, after all, and disappointment washed over her. She glanced down, steeling herself for the imminent assault, before facing him. His hand stopped just short of her face. Their eyes met, and she could tell he was insulted by his tight lips and furrowed brow.
He wiped her cheek with a wet finger. “Ye’re filthy,” he said with disgust. “Make use of my water, and be quick about it.” Seumas walked away, rubbing his hands dry.
Always an avid romance reader herself, Ashley York enjoys bringing history to life through vibrant and meaningful characters, writing historical romance novels full of passion and intrigue set in the 11th and 12th century British Isles. Her latest release, The Saxon Bride, is the first in The Norman Conquest series.
When she is not writing, talking about writing, or thinking about writing, Ashley relaxes with visits to the local pubs listening to live Celtic tunes. She lives in southern New England with her husband and 3 very spoiled animals.