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Ice Maiden

Author(s): Jewel Adams

ICE MAIDEN
One man’s greed sends Amy Bonner back in time and into the arms of a very determined 15th century lord. If a kiss is heaven then Amy just found paradise. The moment of bliss suddenly feels crushed by the memory of the stalking beast with death’s talons. She can’t help but wonder how long it will take before someone discovers she is an imposter?
“Such sweet, wicked hopes…my Ice Maiden.” He stirs the lady’s passion and lights a blaze that a man can burn in eternal ecstasy within. Bern wants what he holds more than any spoils from battles fought and nothing will kill his desire to make the Lady Amelia…His!
Together Bern and Amy fight time and man to keep the love they discover.
 
 


Published by JA Creations

Copyright © 2013 Jewel Adams
All Right Reserved
 
Names, characters and incidents depicted in this book are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental and beyond the intent of the author or the publisher. This is a work of historical fiction and as such word usage, grammar and spelling can be depicted of the setting and should not be confused with current word usage, grammar and spelling.
No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.
Electronic formats are numerous for the variety of readers now available. Due to the different formats there can be problems with fonts, spacing and words. Please realize the novel is edited and copy edited, and that these types of errors can happen after the fact.
 
Credits
Cover Artist: Beverly Haynes
Editor: Juliette Ashton
 
 

PROLOGUE

 
“How dare you claim this dig is yours? Peter, you barely lifted the sifter. Morgan castle is my find and I have every intention on letting the university know.” Amy grew furious the more she thought of what he did. She crushed the article about Peter Humbolt and his great find at the new site for Morgan castle and threw it at his gloating face.
“Now Amy, I mentioned you in the article.”
“As your assistant!”
“You know that they respect a man over a woman in this field. I was only trying to help you get recognition for the find.”
She stormed pass him, “I suppose you expect me to fall for that bullshit.”
“You really should, it will only be a huge stink if you muddy the waters.”
“I have every intention of muddying those waters, Peter.”
She pulled off her gloves to climb the perimeter wall. The last rain left the trench in a foot of water and mud. The sump pump must have stopped working again. She glanced back over her shoulder, finding him staring at her. “You might want to get your nails dirty before the press arrives.”
“You never did know when to quit, Amy.”
She just shook her head at him in disgust. When she started to walk away he called out to her.
“Can’t we talk this over?”
Stopping in her tracks she took a deep breath to steady her nerves before speaking to him. That was all the time she had before the blade of the shovel hit her head. Amy stumbled back and sank to her knees. “Why?”
“Glory and greed, Amy Bonner, why else?”
The next blow sent her falling back into the muddy water at the bottom of the dig.
Peter stepped to the edge and tossed the shovel in on top of her, watching as she sunk to the bottom and out of sight. “Such a shame.”
 
 

CHAPTER 1

 
Ice maiden be damned!
Bern pressed her back into the lush blanket of emerald grass. No woman could ignore a Randall’s advance once he chose to take it beyond polite dalliance. Bern suffered enough of the Lady’s righteous airs to crush all his good intentions.
Staring down at the close-eyed beauty--lifeless wench, no wonder no man has laid siege to take the fair Amelia’s virtue. Deliberately, Bern raised his hand and let it settle possessively over the full lush breast, watching as the delicate lids fluttered as if the woman were awakening from a deep sleep.
His dark eyes rolled at the truth that said little for his charming appeal to arouse the lady. She practically threw the glove down by her indifference to his courting, daring him to pick up the challenge. Indeed, such an invitation she issued. He could not stop his eyes from traveling over the gentle features tinted by the heather’s own warmth. Night’s dark mystery against the white moon that is what her thick hair looked like framing her proud cheeks. Such loveliness must have life’s passion burning in its heart. I’ll wager that beneath that cold, bejeweled surface there lays a blaze that could blind a man.
His brow creased, his conviction about her never cooled these last weeks, though heaven knew his thinking must be slightly off kilter. Lady Amelia did not play favorites in delivering her wintry blast to a man’s pride, if the rumors were true. More than a score of good knights and lords fled the crystal maiden’s hospitality.
Drawn by what no man conquered, his lips found and tasted the delicate petals of her lips, devouring the nectar her lips guarded with an intensity that surprised even Bern. Her lack of response festered inside his pride like a thorn in his armor. Was he crazy or just prideful and stubborn, to believe this woman protected a caldron that could warm a lifetime of winters?
“Such sweet, wicked hopes--my Ice Maiden.”
The one question which Bern found no answers was why the lady deliberately hid her charms? And she did. Only a blind man would fail to notice the woman’s wiles. Was there more to the lady than anyone discovered? Had she fooled all away from her door?
Bern knew his love of a challenge and adventure might be tinting his desire for this woman. Nay, he may be bored with his life, but he refused to believe he created a vision that didn’t exist.
His thumb played over the hardening nipple beneath the silken covering. If the lady were acting, her body proved its own betrayer, for she swelled in his palm like a ripe plum. The tastes of her lips were spiced with the honeyed groan of submission for the man that could stroke her passionate nature. Bern deepened his discovery, reveling in the fires of victory in his arms where none before existed.
~*~
If a kiss were heaven then Amy just found paradise.
The sensual caress played over her scattered senses. The commanding call grew too volatile to ignore; bolder and more savage than the lethargic darkness she felt surrounding her. Its power refused to be vanquished and she rose to meet the demanding call, yearning to touch the promise filling her with life.
But the storm of feelings she entered became a torrent. Amy felt the lash of unknown fears trying to pull her back into the darkness. The talons of a beast she dare not look back upon held horror in its hot breath.
Caught between two flames of equal devastation, she fought against them with a fervor that left her breathless. Only one held the haven that spoke of protection and the strength. A force that could destroy the terror clawing at her soul and she pushed forward to reach the sunrise of its light.
Bern lost his mind to the erotic dream that rose to surround him. If he wanted to stir the lady’s passion, he lit a blaze that a man could burn in eternal ecstasy within. Once awakened, the woman held out promises of untouched rapture to his male senses and Bern was shocked at the depth with which she could take hold of his life force.
No gentle maiden did he now hold, but a vixen, a lass as wild as her hills and as boundless as the reflected beauty no man held claim to. The treasure he unearthed shined above all bounty of war. Bern wanted what he held more than any spoils of battles fought before and nothing would kill his desire to make the Lady Amelia...His!
The air filled her starving lungs with the force of a gale. Ach...feeling, the bliss, yes, and the pain!
The storm swirling inside Amy tossed her about in an assaulting maze of different sensations. One overrode all others and she gloried in the torrent firing her body. The moment in ecstasy suddenly felt crushed by the memory of the beast that stalked her with death’s talons... “I can’t breathe! The weight, ach!”
“What’s this? Does the Lady wish to deny me?” A fierce anger took hold of Bern over the woman’s sudden struggle to avoid his kiss. “There are no longer any lies between us, Lady Amelia!”
Amy panicked under the lips crushing her own. Yes, the kiss and the man were no dream. The possessive hold he increased to restrain her proved real enough, but so was the fear taking hold of her. Scared beyond thought, passion’s fires cooled and fright’s heat engulfed her. Her only thought was to escape the oppressive hold and run!
Without reflection, her fist started striking the solid wall of brawn surrounding her. ¶
She became a wild thing in his arms. Bern recovered from his shock quick enough to capture her tiny fists and pin them beside her head. He stared down at her flushed face waiting for her to open her eyes. The feel of her breast rising against his chest, proved too pleasant to ignore because of his ire with the lady.
Instinctively, Amy knew he was watching her. She tried to regain her control. God, what was she thinking to strike out at him like that? And yet, she couldn’t make herself meet his waiting gaze. Combating the very real man still holding her and the lingering fears wasn’t an easy accomplishment.
Taking a deep breath she fought back her panic, telling herself there had to be a logical explanation for what just happened. Though nothing she told herself explained why she was in a stranger’s embrace and for a moment, she knew, returning his ardent caresses with her own equally feverish ones!
There was the fear; she didn’t want to look any deeper, horrified at what she might find.
“Who exactly are you angry with, Lady Amelia?”
When she heard no one answer his question, she knew he was addressing her. She turned her head away to strive for a reason why he would call her, Lady Amelia? Lying beneath his virile form wasn’t helping her thinking. Stars, but every coiled muscle burned into her feminine softness. He was no small man! “Please, let me up?”
“Nay Lady, not until I see what scheme now shines in your lovely eyes.”
His coy declaration sparked Amy’s temper.
The gold flashed in brilliant lights, overpowering the tawny blue depths. “So righteous, my Lady?”
“Who the hell are you?”
“Ah, denial is it?”
“God, would you get off me!”
“I prefer this position.”
“You are crushing me.”
“Am I now. A moment ago, you thought differently. Pray tell, what has changed your lovely mind?”
She stared at him as if he were raving mad. If Amy thought he would care, he vexed her. Trying to gather her wits about her, she watched him through half closed lids. If the large masculine body she’d yet to see was making its impression, the total man would probably rendered a staggering blow.
Rich, tiger gold hair flowed about his shoulders, heedless to any kind of order. His face was broad and worn, filled with adventurous lines. Behind the projected devil make care look, Amy saw where he could turn predatory in a wink. Rugged, he was that, but breath stopping and a charmer no doubt, when it suited him. Right now, that powerful square jaw was relaxed, as were the smooth planes of his brow. Tiny arrows shot like lights from the corner of his eyes. The once straight nose held crocked evidence of prior breaks. It was easy to imagine he would be the fighting type, it must be the eyes, their rather fierce darkness. But they weren’t black, rather a deep indigo blue with stunning ebony flakes about the iris.
“I have never known you to be so quiet, nor to show so bold an interest in...me.”
“I am not.” Heat flooded her cheeks at being caught.
“I too find the view very pleasing.”
She couldn’t escape the finger that traced the slight jut of her chin. “So soft.” Her lips parted of their own volition as his finger trailed over her teeth.
She should bite him...
When he jerked his finger away, she couldn’t stop the laughter overtaking her. She really needed to learn some control in his presence. “Sorry.”
“Nay, ye are not, but then neither am I.”
He moved faster than she did. Amy found herself drifting back into the flames of passion under his ruling kiss. She tried to tell herself, she could break free of his power if she wanted to, he denied the lie. Every part of her body wanted to feel his exquisite form.
When he finally pulled his lips back, his smile held male victory over her defeat. She couldn’t even escape his gloating snicker. “Like I said, dear Lady, no more lies.”
Feeling him relax his guard over her, Amy grasped the opportunity. Shoving with all her might she succeeded in rolling him off her. Pushing herself in the opposite direction she glared at him as she lay on her stomach and he came to rest on his side. Before he could reach her she managed to struggle to her feet.
Untangling her legs from the mass of unexpected material, “where in God’s name did all this come from?”
“I have asked myself the same question many times.”
“Ump!” He was lying on the ground, his massive arm pillowing his head as he stared up at her. The arrogance of the man was appalling. Amy didn’t have time to waste on him, though she would have loved to wipe that confident smile off those full lips. Finally free of him, she held no intention of losing her advantage. “It’s been nice.”
Turning she meant to leave him there, but the sudden grip he took of her skirts halted her in motion. “Damn you, release me at once!”
Amy staggered back as he sprung to his feet. His full height made her head tip back. She would have fallen back if not for his hold, off-setting her sway. “Nay Lady Amelia, I have only just discovered the true woman beneath the facade, letting you out of my sight would be a grave mistake.”
She only half heard what he said; her full attention became focused on his--body. “My God....” He truly was marvelous!
Clad in wool stockings and leather boots, beneath the blue velvet tunic, Amy never saw a finer example of a 15th century lord.
The lady’s enlarging eyes moving over his frame filled Bern with a fierce drive to take her back in his arms. He marveled at the change in her now that she quit pretending indifference. So much spirit, by the saints how did she conceal it so long? Being a stubborn sort he stayed longer than any prior suitor. In three long weeks, she successfully shielded this vibrant woman from all male eyes. Everything about her looked new, changed somehow, she felt more alive.
Her awareness of him left her open to discoveries. Amy’s hands moved slowly over the cloaked, damask bodice of the gown that she came to be wearing. Her gaze followed the length of material he still kept a firm hold upon. Only in museums had she ever seen it’s equal. However, the gown she wore was not a relic, there were no frayed or faded edges to mar its rich elegance.
“I...I must go.” She pulled on the gown, not liking the thoughts coming over her, but he wouldn’t let go. “What is your problem? Let go!”
The yank he gave the dress pulled her into his waiting arms. “I think not, you and I are inseparable from now on.”
Though his voice was low and calm in delivery, Amy shrank back from the hostility she confronted in those volatile dark pools. There was no mirth in his meaning, he was serious, and he possessed the physical dominance to insure she complied. The prospects of being on the receiving end of his force made her sway under a cold wave of nausea. Amy felt the beast at her back again and closed her eyes to keep him away.
He may be a fool, but Bern found no ruse in the woman’s sudden paling. If his arm had not been about her waist, she would have fallen to the ground. “My Lady?”
Amy sucked in her breath as he scooped her up in his massive arms with no more effort than he would pick up a child.
“Rest your head on my shoulder. I promise to behave, for the moment.”
Too tired to argue she obeyed his softly spoken order. Her arm went about his neck unconsciously judging its width. He did feel good beneath her cheek, so strong, a protector, “...but a rogue.”
“Aye, I will not change, even for you.”
In spite of the strangeness surrounding her, Amy found herself smiling over his adamant conviction. “To do so would be a crime against nature.”
Bern’s brow shot up over the woman’s whispered conviction. Looking down at her, she appeared asleep or was it peace that appeared to come over her.
He lowered his face to her crown. Taking a deep breath, he drank in the scent of crushed wildflowers in her hair. The sun-kissed locks whipped across his lips, hiding his smile. She wasn’t protesting its freedom now. Strange, after the fuss she made when he had pulled the combs free.
“I am feeling better.”
Bern agreed, she was, in so many ways. “Aye, stay where you are.”
“Where are we going?”
“The castle, unless ye have another destiny in mind, though I would say your Captain might send out the guards if we don’t return soon.” He felt her stiffen. “You did not think he would forget to notice our absence?”
Amy just shook her head and tried to bury herself further against him. Castle? Captain? Dear God, what was going on? Where was she? More importantly, who was she? Dare she open her eyes? Amy struggled with her dilemma in the silence that fell around them. Maybe it was best not to know where he was taking her.
The strangest urge to run seized her. Then he would not allow her to get far; he made that clear enough. Moreover, who was he? She obviously could not ask him, again. There was no question as to who he thought her to be. Amy doubted he would see any humor in her ignorance over his identity, not after the way she reacted to his caresses.
God, what a mess!
Maybe he was the lady’s husband? Amy swallowed her groan over that possibility. Worse were the voices intruding on her confusing thoughts. She wished she could crawl into a hole.
No! Not a hole!A wild terror filled her at the thought.
“Amelia? What plagues thee?”
Groaning, “Nothing, everything, please put me down.”
“You cannot open your eyes, I doubt your ability to walk.”
She couldn’t find the will to argue with his logic. Something was very wrong with her and Amy was out of answers.
Not seeing the cause of the commotion they drew closer to, went beyond her. She told herself not to show him anything that she felt. He didn’t appear concerned over whatever made the uproar.
In guarded caution, she forced her eyes open. It took all her willpower not to scream out in surprise. Hundreds of men were scattered out before them in some kind of encampment. In one area, she saw men paired off wielding broadswords against each other. In another, they were practicing with the crossbow, another group held lances.
“They are a good fighting lot. Perhaps you would like a display.”
She needed to say something. “I would like that.”
“A tourney then, it will be grand sport and my men need a break from their boredom.”
His men? Amy swallowed hard over the meanings settling in on her.
“Laird Randall!”
“Aye, Craig.”
Amy’s hold tightened about his neck as an equally large man advanced.
“Bern, ye are a hard man to find.”
“If ye truly looked, the task was not difficult.”
Amy felt the other man’s eyes fall to her. “Aye.”
“What is it Craig?”
“The men found signs of a boar in the woods to the west.”
“‘Tis a hunt then. At dawn, pass the word to the men.”
“Aye Bern, with pleasure.”
Amy relaxed as the man moved off.
Bern. Such an unusual name, but then it did fit the man.
“Ye do naught mind my men invading your forest?”
Was he serious? Why did she feel as if her answer mattered little to--Laird Randall? “You did say your men were bored, by all means a hunt should help.”
“Ye are very accommodating today, Amelia.”
“Am I? If it troubles you so....”
Bern’s laughter cut through the air. “Nay my Lady, I prefer the changes I am facing.”
Amy kept her face impassive, but inside she was battling an earthquake of emotions. How long would it take before someone discovered she was an imposter? Something, an instinctive warning, kept Amy from exposing herself. She actually felt as if the noose was tightening about her throat.
The sight that greeted her as they came out of the tree line was enough to condemn her to silence.
The castle stood like a majestic giant atop the rise. Amy didn’t breathe over the beauty they neared. Of all the castles in Wales that she studied, Morgan Castle always held a special fascination for her. She wanted to pinch herself to be sure it was real. It can’t be, how? What her hungry gaze devoured was not a relic. These walls were intact, the perimeter whole, it was thriving and every bit as regal and forbidding a fortress as she always imagined it would have been in the 15th century.
“Your captain looks impatient.”
There was no mistaking what Bern implied. The man coming off the drawbridge looked furious. The guards following in his wake said he intended to back up his anger.
“Put me down, Laird Randall.”
“So, ye remember my name, all is not lost. But say, ‘tis too late for either of us to worry about proper behavior.”
The tightening of his hold about her killed the protest on her lips.
“Ah, Captain Lansing.”
“Save your civilities, Randall. I want answers. Where have you been with Lady Amelia since first light?”
As if the captain just noticed her, his great black brows shot up to a solid line across his forehead. “By the faeries, man! Are ye hurt my, Lady?”
“The Lady is fine, Captain.”
“Can she naught speak for herself?”
They both looked at her. Bern’s lips spread wide in a confident smile, making Amy wonder if it were bravado or ingrained arrogance that made him taunt the man. She decided he liked flirting with danger.
Remaining mute was impossible. “I am fine.”
“Then explain yourself.”
Before she could think of a feasible reply, Lord Randall took control.
Walking past the fuming Captain, “We will be glad to favor ye, Captain, but inside--in more private quarters.”
Against all her queasiness she found her own curiosity rising. There was a cunning light in those dark blue eyes of his. She decided he was up to something and she wanted to moan over the awkward position she found herself in. Amy hated the fact she held no defense to stop him. A chill passed through her, knowing that whatever Laird Randall planned would most assuredly affect her. There wasn’t time to dwell on where the fates landed her. When they passed through the massive gates, her entire concentration became captured by the surrounding activities.
An honest to goodness--Keep! Amy wasn’t sure if she should be frightened senseless or astounded by her marvelous fortune. To actually see the very history she studied felt worth the peril. If she was dreaming she honestly didn’t want to wake up--not just yet, there was so much to learn.
“...isn’t that right, my Lady?”
Bringing her attention back to Bern, her confusion must have been obvious by the increasing frown marring his brow.
“I guess so....” It was a lame answer and his half smile said as much. She didn’t have time to think up a way to correct her error as he ducked into a doorway leading inside the castle. Amy scolded herself, she needed to keep her attention where it belonged. But it was so hard not to let her attention wander with so much to see. Reminding herself that she may only be seeing the inside of the dungeon kept her mind alert to the man holding her.
When he set her down in a chair by the roaring hearth, her hand gripped the massive chair arm to compensate for his missing support.
Bern leaned over her, marveling at the control she exerted not to flinch away from his nearness. Though she tried to keep her eyes lowered, his hand forced her chin up to meet his gaze. “Stay put dear Lady or you may find out how far I will take my words concerning our continued company.”
Amy thought she might shatter like a dust ball before his penetrating eyes. The lips that brushed her parted ones held their own silent threat.
Throughout the scene the uptight Captain did not miss one tiny reaction on her part. “What goes on here?”
“Ah, Captain Lansing.” Bern winked at her before pulling back. “In a moment sire, first the Lady needs refreshments as do I.”
Her cautious gaze followed Bern as he strode forward into the great hall and shouted for a meal and wine.
“Captain, you will join us of course.” The older man grumbled something ineligible as he pulled up another seat near the fire.
Amy tried to relax her hold on the chair after following the Captain’s stern gaze to her whitened knuckles. If she portrayed any outward calm, inside she became a mass of stormy emotions. Obviously, everyone believed her to be Lady Amelia. Even the Captain, for all his anger, didn’t question her identity. Amy carefully watched the servant’s reaction to her as they carried in the laden platters. Their shy smiles at her eased the tightness about her chest.
Bern took his seat beside Lady Amelia. He’d been waiting for her to start denying his obvious authority over her home, when no protest came he decided she was still afflicted by whatever came over her in the meadow. The Lady appeared rattled without her defensive barriers. It was an advantage Bern hoped would last a while longer. Maybe what he planned on doing in the next few minutes would go smoother than he first believed.
“Alright Randall, you have stalled long enough.”
“Your Captain is an impatient man, Lady Amelia.”
God, he really was awful aggravating the man like this, it wasn’t helping the Captain’s temper. Amy wished she knew her own status in all this, anything she said would probably be wrong, but she had little choice if she wanted to prevent these two from going for each other’s throat. “Captain Lansing is just concerned for my welfare.” She hoped she was right.
“As I have every right to be. Haven’t I raised ye since a wee babe? And since that ill fated betrothed up and died, we have been overrun with upstart knights and cocky lairds all thinking they could step in and claim ye! Well I won’t have any no good, garter wearer coming in here and taking over!”
Before Amy recovered from the Captain’s outburst Bern added his own say to the matter.
“First off Captain, I don’t wear garters. Secondly, the Lady seems to have run off her share of the upstarts.”
His knowing gaze swept over her like a north wind. Amy managed to swallow her humor behind her hand and fake a cough. Stars, what a prickly mess she landed in. The Captain huffed a few more times at Randall who sat there scrutinizing them both as if they were the enemy camp.
“She has done no such thing!” The Captain’s gallant protest for her benefit was lost on Randall.
“Let us be serious, Captain. The ruse is up. I do naught know why the Lady chose to act as she has,” Bern took in both their expectant gazes before continuing. “...but, my good Captain, the game is up.”
A kind of numb shock settled over Amy for everything that happened since her awareness of this man came into focus. She tried to rise with the sick panic that took hold of her, but Randall must have sensed her intent. His grip on her arm held her in the chair and actually grew painful.
“No more running and coy escapes, dear Lady.”
Amy shivered under the threat his pronouncement held.
“Make yourself clear, Laird Randall.”
“I intend to, Captain Lansing.”
Amy couldn’t avoid the commanding blue eyes that pinned her in silence. “My intentions are to wed Lady Amelia as soon as the banns are read and not a day later.”
“What!”
Amy felt herself sink back, all the strength she acquired deserted her under his declaration.
“Be silent, Captain! Your protests are useless, the Lady has already agreed.” She again suffered his penetrating gaze. “Besides, even should the Lady have second thoughts, our time together out on the hills, this morn, insures my claim will remain.”
The Laird couldn’t have been more crudely blunt than if he came right out with graphic detail of their coupling. The Captain physically paled as he fell back into his seat in open mouth astonishment. “‘Tis this true, Lady Amelia?”
The condemnation in the old man’s eyes made Amy look to Randall for support, a mistake she couldn’t take back, she played right into his hands.
“As you can well see Captain, it is true.” Bern’s lips kissed the trembling fingers in his hold, a hold she would never again escape? The real Lady Amelia would probably kill Amy for what she just allowed to happen.
“Lass, you had best go to your chambers while the Laird and I discuss the details of your wedding.” Amy’s apologetic eyes fell beneath the old man’s dismissal. She wanted to tell him how sorry she was, but knew she couldn’t. She didn’t even know why she should be sorry, unless....
Her tempered gaze jerked accusingly up at Bern. Had Lady Amelia succumb to the man’s charm before Amy arrived on the scene? Her own cheeks fired over the memory of what his kisses did to her. Staring at him, his smile deepened for what she knew he saw in her eyes. Rogue? Ack, he was so much more. And she was the fallen Lady of the castle.
Rising on unsteady legs Amy called on all her remaining composure not to disgrace what pride Lady Amelia still might have left to her name.
Laird Randall and the Captain rose beside her.
“Lady Amelia, I will move my men within the keep walls by nightfall.”
She felt the Captain stiffen over the Laird’s decree. Feeling she owed the old man something, “Is that really necessary?”
“Aye my Lady, I will naught have my future bride stolen away by some prior suitor or any man that feels obliged to try the walls of your castle.”
“I see.” What could she say? She had no idea if his arguments were legitimate.
“Of course, they will be under your Captain’s authority for the time being.”
Amy looked at the Captain for his reaction to what she felt was Randall’s concession. The resigned nod he gave her made her cringe inside. Amy felt she needed to say something. The Captain had obviously been the Lady’s guardian for years and cared for her more than just a servant might.
“Laird Randall, I expect your men to understand their place while within the keep. Should the Captain have any problem with them you are not to interfere in any discipline he feels necessary.” She could tell the Laird didn’t like her interference. “And should they get out of hand, the Captain has my authority to send your men back to the woods.”
The flash of anger in his eyes cooled before he bowed before her. “Of course, Lady Amelia, but should I feel your welfare is in jeopardy, I am sure the Captain will agree to whatever actions I feel are necessary to rid the area of danger.”
His eyes challenged her to refute his authority, Amy knew she couldn’t. “I am sure neither of us would question your command, if the need arises.” Amy looked at the Captain and felt relieved to see his face more relaxed.
“As you say, my Lady, we would not think of questioning the Laird’s authority in such circumstances.” Amy felt she’d not mistaken the man’s sarcasm, deciding it was probably deserved where Laird Randall was concerned.
“My Lady, I will fetch Mistress Tilly to escort you to your chambers.”
“Thank you, Captain.”
She felt Bern come up behind her when the Captain left them. He was so close she could smell the woodsy scent from the glen still clinging to his hair. She tried desperately not to let him see how nervous he made her.
“Your wiles will not work on me, Amelia. I warn you, do not try to foil me, you will be my wife.”
Her pride came forward against the man’s obvious desire to dominate her will. “Do you always threaten your intended bride, Laird Randall?”
Bern leaned down so his lips were but a breath from her ear. “As I have never had one before, I cannot honestly answer. But in your case it is a precaution I dare not proceed without.”
The thick stone walls and straw strewn floors no longer held any interest for Amy, all her attention was captured by the man intent on becoming the husband of a woman she somehow became!
 
 

CHAPTER 2

 
Seeing her distress, Mistress Tilly sent all the ladies away from the chambers, leaving Amy alone with her troubled pacing. Where the solitude should have helped her sort out some of what happened Amy only found herself adrift in a sea of unanswerable questions.
“How did I come to be here?” After falling into an exhausted sleep, yesterday, Amy woke to find she still remained.
Again she turned to walk the cool stone floor of Lady Amelia’s chamber. The tower rooms were awash in the noon sun flooding through the stained glass windows. Each of the circular panes were set strategically in the three outside castle walls to capture the sun’s warmth and light at all angles. The room was large and impressive, with a huge fireplace at its inner wall. The sleeping chamber set back in a raised alcove. A huge bed took up the entire space, great heavy drapes hung from the ceiling to be closed for complete privacy.
Amy’s fingers absently ran over the elaborate stitches grazing the sheets and pillows.
Wrapping her arms about her, her eyes swept over the delicate feminine items about the area. The embroidery stand with its unfinished piece, the gold-inlaid lute leaning up against the wall, to the veiled pearl and velvet head pieces hanging from wall pegs beside the lady’s setting table. “Where did you go, Amelia?”
Amy didn’t want to ponder what might have happened to either of them. What she couldn’t avoid was the present. Nothing and everything said she was really here, in what appeared to be the fifteenth century. The castle was Morgan Castle, of that she was positive. Though she never really saw so much of it intact, she couldn’t be wrong. She couldn’t dispute the obvious that everyone believed her to be Lady Amelia Morgan, not Amy Bonner, Professor of Archeology, in Wales on a dig in 2009.
“Peter...” Amy cringed at the unwanted memory and the events she refused to let invade her mind. With them came fears she refused to deal with right now. “The beast--Oh, Amy what has happened to you? I’m not going back, am I?” The lack of answers didn’t change her fate. “What am I going to do? And that, that Randall! What in the world can I do about him?”
“I told you before Amelia--nothing.”
Amy spun about and had to grip the bed drape to keep from falling. “You! How did you get in here? Get out!”
Bern planted his booted foot on the hearth, his body coiled tight, ready to prevent the flight he saw in her eyes. “Who is Peter?”
Her sharp intake of breath vibrated between them. “No one.” She hated the breathless shaking in her voice, knowing he heard it too. How much more did he hear? She tried to remember what she might have said aloud.
Straightening before his piercing gaze, Amy attempted more confidence than she felt. “Leave my chamber, Lord Randall.” His casual stance in her room irked her beyond belief. On top of everything else, dealing with his inflated ego was more than she could tolerate.
“And if I don’t? Will you summon your aging Captain? He is a good man, but you have both taken quite a risk in hoping he could protect you much longer.”
“You really are insufferable! How can you stand living with yourself? I’m surprised your ego hasn’t killed itself off!”
“Such sharp words, but then I guess I do deserve your ire for destroying your self-imposed fortress.
“Why you--you--Get out!” Her temper kept rising, even knowing what it cost her in the past didn’t tame its fire against his arrogant hide. “In fact, get out of my life!”
“Tch, tch, such spirit, I do hope you save some for our wedding night. I so love your passionate side.”
Amy’s cheeks burned under his seductive gaze. Unconsciously, she sought something that she could pick up and throw at him. But remembering what just his touch could do to her she stopped herself from reaching for the metal goblet by the bed.
“You know, Amelia, or should I call you Amy, it does fit you better, yes Amy, I like the sound of it.”
So he heard. Her arms wrapped around her waist to keep herself from swaying.
“As I was saying--Amy. I am beginning to doubt the claim of a distant betrothed in your life. In fact, I think he was a figment of you and your Captain’s vivid imagination to keep all curious suitors away.”
“That’s absurd.” Wasn’t it? Amy prayed he didn’t see the question in her own mind. Heavens it could very well be as he said and he knew more than she did of Lady Amelia.
“Nay Amy, in all honesty it really was quite brilliant. An aging Captain of the guards, with hardly an army to back him, left to defend a maid’s honor, what better lie to help keep her safe. Tell me, what ruined your ploy?”
Amy couldn’t stop from moving away from his unrelenting gaze. “I don’t know what you are talking about, you heard the Captain, he died.”
“If he were a real man, to do such an unforgivable thing, how long ago did he meet his demise?”
Trapped! Nothing she gave as an answer would do. “It hardly matters now.”
To her relief, “You are right of course, it doesn’t have any bearing on the present. But this Peter might, or should I call him, The Beast?”
The only credit Amy could give herself was that she didn’t faint before his probe. She made herself meet his hard gaze to stay him from advancing on her.
“Is it silence then, Amy? To let me draw my own conclusions might be worse than the truth?”
He waited for her answer, but Amy pressed her lips tighter, she had no way to appease his curiosity.
“You must enjoy testing my patience--you see Amy, you are leaving me no choice but to kill the man, should he appear.”
The protector and slayer of her beast? Feelings were becoming reality. Amy wondered what he would do, if she gave him her approval to do just that should Peter arrive.
It took all of Bern’s control not to go to her and shake the truth from her succulent body. What he really wanted to know was if the hatred he saw sparking those bejeweled orbs shined for him or for the man she spoke of with so much emotion. If her ruse to fend off all suitors had been because of a lover she pined for, Bern knew, he could very well slay the man on sight.
Whatever he meant to her, the Lady wasn’t going to be bullied into telling him. Bern smiled, there are many ways to learn what I want--Amy!
The shaking inside her was winning and Amy felt at a loss as to how to get rid of him. “Is there anything else, Lord Randall?”
She could chill a man to his bones when she took a mind to. “Just that I will fetch you for the feast tonight. Captain Lansing thought it would be prudent to announce our engagement immediately.”
Her brow arched in speculation over the Captain’s part in the evening plans. “Then I suggest you leave, so I can get ready.”
When he pushed off the hearth she forced herself not to back away.
“There are still many hours before the feast.”
He kept walking towards her, “I--it takes me a very long time to dress.”
“Really? Ah, but then this is your engagement feast, you will want to look extra beautiful tonight.”
Amy felt her knees wobbling as he stopped in front of her. The back of his hand brushed her cheek. “But I cannot imagine you being any lovelier except to lay naked in my arms.”
Oh stars, his lips were burning her brow--temple, “Please...stop.”
“I do naught think I ever want to stop where you are concerned.”
Closing her eyes she tried so hard not to give in the shattering sensations he created inside her, but his lips were playing havoc with her sensitive eye lids.
“Like satin Amy, all softness and warmth...”
“Ah, here ye be Lady, I have summoned your bath up, and Lord Randall, how fortunate I have found ye, Captain Lansing is in the yard bellowing like a wounded stag about your men, ready to send them right back to the forest he is.”
Bern rested his lips on Amy’s brow, her smothered giggle earned his reluctant smile of defeat. “Thank you, Mistress Tilly.”
Amy couldn’t believe the self defeating humor she saw in his eyes.
“I have made a mistake, my Lady, it seems you have guards aplenty.”

Excerpt


ICE MAIDEN
One man’s greed sends Amy Bonner back in time and into the arms of a very determined 15th century lord. If a kiss is heaven then Amy just found paradise. The moment of bliss suddenly feels crushed by the memory of the stalking beast with death’s talons. She can’t help but wonder how long it will take before someone discovers she is an imposter?
“Such sweet, wicked hopes…my Ice Maiden.” He stirs the lady’s passion and lights a blaze that a man can burn in eternal ecstasy within. Bern wants what he holds more than any spoils from battles fought and nothing will kill his desire to make the Lady Amelia…His!
Together Bern and Amy fight time and man to keep the love they discover.
 
 


Published by JA Creations

Copyright © 2013 Jewel Adams
All Right Reserved
 
Names, characters and incidents depicted in this book are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental and beyond the intent of the author or the publisher. This is a work of historical fiction and as such word usage, grammar and spelling can be depicted of the setting and should not be confused with current word usage, grammar and spelling.
No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.
Electronic formats are numerous for the variety of readers now available. Due to the different formats there can be problems with fonts, spacing and words. Please realize the novel is edited and copy edited, and that these types of errors can happen after the fact.
 
Credits
Cover Artist: Beverly Haynes
Editor: Juliette Ashton
 
 

PROLOGUE

 
“How dare you claim this dig is yours? Peter, you barely lifted the sifter. Morgan castle is my find and I have every intention on letting the university know.” Amy grew furious the more she thought of what he did. She crushed the article about Peter Humbolt and his great find at the new site for Morgan castle and threw it at his gloating face.
“Now Amy, I mentioned you in the article.”
“As your assistant!”
“You know that they respect a man over a woman in this field. I was only trying to help you get recognition for the find.”
She stormed pass him, “I suppose you expect me to fall for that bullshit.”
“You really should, it will only be a huge stink if you muddy the waters.”
“I have every intention of muddying those waters, Peter.”
She pulled off her gloves to climb the perimeter wall. The last rain left the trench in a foot of water and mud. The sump pump must have stopped working again. She glanced back over her shoulder, finding him staring at her. “You might want to get your nails dirty before the press arrives.”
“You never did know when to quit, Amy.”
She just shook her head at him in disgust. When she started to walk away he called out to her.
“Can’t we talk this over?”
Stopping in her tracks she took a deep breath to steady her nerves before speaking to him. That was all the time she had before the blade of the shovel hit her head. Amy stumbled back and sank to her knees. “Why?”
“Glory and greed, Amy Bonner, why else?”
The next blow sent her falling back into the muddy water at the bottom of the dig.
Peter stepped to the edge and tossed the shovel in on top of her, watching as she sunk to the bottom and out of sight. “Such a shame.”
 
 

CHAPTER 1

 
Ice maiden be damned!
Bern pressed her back into the lush blanket of emerald grass. No woman could ignore a Randall’s advance once he chose to take it beyond polite dalliance. Bern suffered enough of the Lady’s righteous airs to crush all his good intentions.
Staring down at the close-eyed beauty--lifeless wench, no wonder no man has laid siege to take the fair Amelia’s virtue. Deliberately, Bern raised his hand and let it settle possessively over the full lush breast, watching as the delicate lids fluttered as if the woman were awakening from a deep sleep.
His dark eyes rolled at the truth that said little for his charming appeal to arouse the lady. She practically threw the glove down by her indifference to his courting, daring him to pick up the challenge. Indeed, such an invitation she issued. He could not stop his eyes from traveling over the gentle features tinted by the heather’s own warmth. Night’s dark mystery against the white moon that is what her thick hair looked like framing her proud cheeks. Such loveliness must have life’s passion burning in its heart. I’ll wager that beneath that cold, bejeweled surface there lays a blaze that could blind a man.
His brow creased, his conviction about her never cooled these last weeks, though heaven knew his thinking must be slightly off kilter. Lady Amelia did not play favorites in delivering her wintry blast to a man’s pride, if the rumors were true. More than a score of good knights and lords fled the crystal maiden’s hospitality.
Drawn by what no man conquered, his lips found and tasted the delicate petals of her lips, devouring the nectar her lips guarded with an intensity that surprised even Bern. Her lack of response festered inside his pride like a thorn in his armor. Was he crazy or just prideful and stubborn, to believe this woman protected a caldron that could warm a lifetime of winters?
“Such sweet, wicked hopes--my Ice Maiden.”
The one question which Bern found no answers was why the lady deliberately hid her charms? And she did. Only a blind man would fail to notice the woman’s wiles. Was there more to the lady than anyone discovered? Had she fooled all away from her door?
Bern knew his love of a challenge and adventure might be tinting his desire for this woman. Nay, he may be bored with his life, but he refused to believe he created a vision that didn’t exist.
His thumb played over the hardening nipple beneath the silken covering. If the lady were acting, her body proved its own betrayer, for she swelled in his palm like a ripe plum. The tastes of her lips were spiced with the honeyed groan of submission for the man that could stroke her passionate nature. Bern deepened his discovery, reveling in the fires of victory in his arms where none before existed.
~*~
If a kiss were heaven then Amy just found paradise.
The sensual caress played over her scattered senses. The commanding call grew too volatile to ignore; bolder and more savage than the lethargic darkness she felt surrounding her. Its power refused to be vanquished and she rose to meet the demanding call, yearning to touch the promise filling her with life.
But the storm of feelings she entered became a torrent. Amy felt the lash of unknown fears trying to pull her back into the darkness. The talons of a beast she dare not look back upon held horror in its hot breath.
Caught between two flames of equal devastation, she fought against them with a fervor that left her breathless. Only one held the haven that spoke of protection and the strength. A force that could destroy the terror clawing at her soul and she pushed forward to reach the sunrise of its light.
Bern lost his mind to the erotic dream that rose to surround him. If he wanted to stir the lady’s passion, he lit a blaze that a man could burn in eternal ecstasy within. Once awakened, the woman held out promises of untouched rapture to his male senses and Bern was shocked at the depth with which she could take hold of his life force.
No gentle maiden did he now hold, but a vixen, a lass as wild as her hills and as boundless as the reflected beauty no man held claim to. The treasure he unearthed shined above all bounty of war. Bern wanted what he held more than any spoils of battles fought before and nothing would kill his desire to make the Lady Amelia...His!
The air filled her starving lungs with the force of a gale. Ach...feeling, the bliss, yes, and the pain!
The storm swirling inside Amy tossed her about in an assaulting maze of different sensations. One overrode all others and she gloried in the torrent firing her body. The moment in ecstasy suddenly felt crushed by the memory of the beast that stalked her with death’s talons... “I can’t breathe! The weight, ach!”
“What’s this? Does the Lady wish to deny me?” A fierce anger took hold of Bern over the woman’s sudden struggle to avoid his kiss. “There are no longer any lies between us, Lady Amelia!”
Amy panicked under the lips crushing her own. Yes, the kiss and the man were no dream. The possessive hold he increased to restrain her proved real enough, but so was the fear taking hold of her. Scared beyond thought, passion’s fires cooled and fright’s heat engulfed her. Her only thought was to escape the oppressive hold and run!
Without reflection, her fist started striking the solid wall of brawn surrounding her. ¶
She became a wild thing in his arms. Bern recovered from his shock quick enough to capture her tiny fists and pin them beside her head. He stared down at her flushed face waiting for her to open her eyes. The feel of her breast rising against his chest, proved too pleasant to ignore because of his ire with the lady.
Instinctively, Amy knew he was watching her. She tried to regain her control. God, what was she thinking to strike out at him like that? And yet, she couldn’t make herself meet his waiting gaze. Combating the very real man still holding her and the lingering fears wasn’t an easy accomplishment.
Taking a deep breath she fought back her panic, telling herself there had to be a logical explanation for what just happened. Though nothing she told herself explained why she was in a stranger’s embrace and for a moment, she knew, returning his ardent caresses with her own equally feverish ones!
There was the fear; she didn’t want to look any deeper, horrified at what she might find.
“Who exactly are you angry with, Lady Amelia?”
When she heard no one answer his question, she knew he was addressing her. She turned her head away to strive for a reason why he would call her, Lady Amelia? Lying beneath his virile form wasn’t helping her thinking. Stars, but every coiled muscle burned into her feminine softness. He was no small man! “Please, let me up?”
“Nay Lady, not until I see what scheme now shines in your lovely eyes.”
His coy declaration sparked Amy’s temper.
The gold flashed in brilliant lights, overpowering the tawny blue depths. “So righteous, my Lady?”
“Who the hell are you?”
“Ah, denial is it?”
“God, would you get off me!”
“I prefer this position.”
“You are crushing me.”
“Am I now. A moment ago, you thought differently. Pray tell, what has changed your lovely mind?”
She stared at him as if he were raving mad. If Amy thought he would care, he vexed her. Trying to gather her wits about her, she watched him through half closed lids. If the large masculine body she’d yet to see was making its impression, the total man would probably rendered a staggering blow.
Rich, tiger gold hair flowed about his shoulders, heedless to any kind of order. His face was broad and worn, filled with adventurous lines. Behind the projected devil make care look, Amy saw where he could turn predatory in a wink. Rugged, he was that, but breath stopping and a charmer no doubt, when it suited him. Right now, that powerful square jaw was relaxed, as were the smooth planes of his brow. Tiny arrows shot like lights from the corner of his eyes. The once straight nose held crocked evidence of prior breaks. It was easy to imagine he would be the fighting type, it must be the eyes, their rather fierce darkness. But they weren’t black, rather a deep indigo blue with stunning ebony flakes about the iris.
“I have never known you to be so quiet, nor to show so bold an interest in...me.”
“I am not.” Heat flooded her cheeks at being caught.
“I too find the view very pleasing.”
She couldn’t escape the finger that traced the slight jut of her chin. “So soft.” Her lips parted of their own volition as his finger trailed over her teeth.
She should bite him...
When he jerked his finger away, she couldn’t stop the laughter overtaking her. She really needed to learn some control in his presence. “Sorry.”
“Nay, ye are not, but then neither am I.”
He moved faster than she did. Amy found herself drifting back into the flames of passion under his ruling kiss. She tried to tell herself, she could break free of his power if she wanted to, he denied the lie. Every part of her body wanted to feel his exquisite form.
When he finally pulled his lips back, his smile held male victory over her defeat. She couldn’t even escape his gloating snicker. “Like I said, dear Lady, no more lies.”
Feeling him relax his guard over her, Amy grasped the opportunity. Shoving with all her might she succeeded in rolling him off her. Pushing herself in the opposite direction she glared at him as she lay on her stomach and he came to rest on his side. Before he could reach her she managed to struggle to her feet.
Untangling her legs from the mass of unexpected material, “where in God’s name did all this come from?”
“I have asked myself the same question many times.”
“Ump!” He was lying on the ground, his massive arm pillowing his head as he stared up at her. The arrogance of the man was appalling. Amy didn’t have time to waste on him, though she would have loved to wipe that confident smile off those full lips. Finally free of him, she held no intention of losing her advantage. “It’s been nice.”
Turning she meant to leave him there, but the sudden grip he took of her skirts halted her in motion. “Damn you, release me at once!”
Amy staggered back as he sprung to his feet. His full height made her head tip back. She would have fallen back if not for his hold, off-setting her sway. “Nay Lady Amelia, I have only just discovered the true woman beneath the facade, letting you out of my sight would be a grave mistake.”
She only half heard what he said; her full attention became focused on his--body. “My God....” He truly was marvelous!
Clad in wool stockings and leather boots, beneath the blue velvet tunic, Amy never saw a finer example of a 15th century lord.
The lady’s enlarging eyes moving over his frame filled Bern with a fierce drive to take her back in his arms. He marveled at the change in her now that she quit pretending indifference. So much spirit, by the saints how did she conceal it so long? Being a stubborn sort he stayed longer than any prior suitor. In three long weeks, she successfully shielded this vibrant woman from all male eyes. Everything about her looked new, changed somehow, she felt more alive.
Her awareness of him left her open to discoveries. Amy’s hands moved slowly over the cloaked, damask bodice of the gown that she came to be wearing. Her gaze followed the length of material he still kept a firm hold upon. Only in museums had she ever seen it’s equal. However, the gown she wore was not a relic, there were no frayed or faded edges to mar its rich elegance.
“I...I must go.” She pulled on the gown, not liking the thoughts coming over her, but he wouldn’t let go. “What is your problem? Let go!”
The yank he gave the dress pulled her into his waiting arms. “I think not, you and I are inseparable from now on.”
Though his voice was low and calm in delivery, Amy shrank back from the hostility she confronted in those volatile dark pools. There was no mirth in his meaning, he was serious, and he possessed the physical dominance to insure she complied. The prospects of being on the receiving end of his force made her sway under a cold wave of nausea. Amy felt the beast at her back again and closed her eyes to keep him away.
He may be a fool, but Bern found no ruse in the woman’s sudden paling. If his arm had not been about her waist, she would have fallen to the ground. “My Lady?”
Amy sucked in her breath as he scooped her up in his massive arms with no more effort than he would pick up a child.
“Rest your head on my shoulder. I promise to behave, for the moment.”
Too tired to argue she obeyed his softly spoken order. Her arm went about his neck unconsciously judging its width. He did feel good beneath her cheek, so strong, a protector, “...but a rogue.”
“Aye, I will not change, even for you.”
In spite of the strangeness surrounding her, Amy found herself smiling over his adamant conviction. “To do so would be a crime against nature.”
Bern’s brow shot up over the woman’s whispered conviction. Looking down at her, she appeared asleep or was it peace that appeared to come over her.
He lowered his face to her crown. Taking a deep breath, he drank in the scent of crushed wildflowers in her hair. The sun-kissed locks whipped across his lips, hiding his smile. She wasn’t protesting its freedom now. Strange, after the fuss she made when he had pulled the combs free.
“I am feeling better.”
Bern agreed, she was, in so many ways. “Aye, stay where you are.”
“Where are we going?”
“The castle, unless ye have another destiny in mind, though I would say your Captain might send out the guards if we don’t return soon.” He felt her stiffen. “You did not think he would forget to notice our absence?”
Amy just shook her head and tried to bury herself further against him. Castle? Captain? Dear God, what was going on? Where was she? More importantly, who was she? Dare she open her eyes? Amy struggled with her dilemma in the silence that fell around them. Maybe it was best not to know where he was taking her.
The strangest urge to run seized her. Then he would not allow her to get far; he made that clear enough. Moreover, who was he? She obviously could not ask him, again. There was no question as to who he thought her to be. Amy doubted he would see any humor in her ignorance over his identity, not after the way she reacted to his caresses.
God, what a mess!
Maybe he was the lady’s husband? Amy swallowed her groan over that possibility. Worse were the voices intruding on her confusing thoughts. She wished she could crawl into a hole.
No! Not a hole!A wild terror filled her at the thought.
“Amelia? What plagues thee?”
Groaning, “Nothing, everything, please put me down.”
“You cannot open your eyes, I doubt your ability to walk.”
She couldn’t find the will to argue with his logic. Something was very wrong with her and Amy was out of answers.
Not seeing the cause of the commotion they drew closer to, went beyond her. She told herself not to show him anything that she felt. He didn’t appear concerned over whatever made the uproar.
In guarded caution, she forced her eyes open. It took all her willpower not to scream out in surprise. Hundreds of men were scattered out before them in some kind of encampment. In one area, she saw men paired off wielding broadswords against each other. In another, they were practicing with the crossbow, another group held lances.
“They are a good fighting lot. Perhaps you would like a display.”
She needed to say something. “I would like that.”
“A tourney then, it will be grand sport and my men need a break from their boredom.”
His men? Amy swallowed hard over the meanings settling in on her.
“Laird Randall!”
“Aye, Craig.”
Amy’s hold tightened about his neck as an equally large man advanced.
“Bern, ye are a hard man to find.”
“If ye truly looked, the task was not difficult.”
Amy felt the other man’s eyes fall to her. “Aye.”
“What is it Craig?”
“The men found signs of a boar in the woods to the west.”
“‘Tis a hunt then. At dawn, pass the word to the men.”
“Aye Bern, with pleasure.”
Amy relaxed as the man moved off.
Bern. Such an unusual name, but then it did fit the man.
“Ye do naught mind my men invading your forest?”
Was he serious? Why did she feel as if her answer mattered little to--Laird Randall? “You did say your men were bored, by all means a hunt should help.”
“Ye are very accommodating today, Amelia.”
“Am I? If it troubles you so....”
Bern’s laughter cut through the air. “Nay my Lady, I prefer the changes I am facing.”
Amy kept her face impassive, but inside she was battling an earthquake of emotions. How long would it take before someone discovered she was an imposter? Something, an instinctive warning, kept Amy from exposing herself. She actually felt as if the noose was tightening about her throat.
The sight that greeted her as they came out of the tree line was enough to condemn her to silence.
The castle stood like a majestic giant atop the rise. Amy didn’t breathe over the beauty they neared. Of all the castles in Wales that she studied, Morgan Castle always held a special fascination for her. She wanted to pinch herself to be sure it was real. It can’t be, how? What her hungry gaze devoured was not a relic. These walls were intact, the perimeter whole, it was thriving and every bit as regal and forbidding a fortress as she always imagined it would have been in the 15th century.
“Your captain looks impatient.”
There was no mistaking what Bern implied. The man coming off the drawbridge looked furious. The guards following in his wake said he intended to back up his anger.
“Put me down, Laird Randall.”
“So, ye remember my name, all is not lost. But say, ‘tis too late for either of us to worry about proper behavior.”
The tightening of his hold about her killed the protest on her lips.
“Ah, Captain Lansing.”
“Save your civilities, Randall. I want answers. Where have you been with Lady Amelia since first light?”
As if the captain just noticed her, his great black brows shot up to a solid line across his forehead. “By the faeries, man! Are ye hurt my, Lady?”
“The Lady is fine, Captain.”
“Can she naught speak for herself?”
They both looked at her. Bern’s lips spread wide in a confident smile, making Amy wonder if it were bravado or ingrained arrogance that made him taunt the man. She decided he liked flirting with danger.
Remaining mute was impossible. “I am fine.”
“Then explain yourself.”
Before she could think of a feasible reply, Lord Randall took control.
Walking past the fuming Captain, “We will be glad to favor ye, Captain, but inside--in more private quarters.”
Against all her queasiness she found her own curiosity rising. There was a cunning light in those dark blue eyes of his. She decided he was up to something and she wanted to moan over the awkward position she found herself in. Amy hated the fact she held no defense to stop him. A chill passed through her, knowing that whatever Laird Randall planned would most assuredly affect her. There wasn’t time to dwell on where the fates landed her. When they passed through the massive gates, her entire concentration became captured by the surrounding activities.
An honest to goodness--Keep! Amy wasn’t sure if she should be frightened senseless or astounded by her marvelous fortune. To actually see the very history she studied felt worth the peril. If she was dreaming she honestly didn’t want to wake up--not just yet, there was so much to learn.
“...isn’t that right, my Lady?”
Bringing her attention back to Bern, her confusion must have been obvious by the increasing frown marring his brow.
“I guess so....” It was a lame answer and his half smile said as much. She didn’t have time to think up a way to correct her error as he ducked into a doorway leading inside the castle. Amy scolded herself, she needed to keep her attention where it belonged. But it was so hard not to let her attention wander with so much to see. Reminding herself that she may only be seeing the inside of the dungeon kept her mind alert to the man holding her.
When he set her down in a chair by the roaring hearth, her hand gripped the massive chair arm to compensate for his missing support.
Bern leaned over her, marveling at the control she exerted not to flinch away from his nearness. Though she tried to keep her eyes lowered, his hand forced her chin up to meet his gaze. “Stay put dear Lady or you may find out how far I will take my words concerning our continued company.”
Amy thought she might shatter like a dust ball before his penetrating eyes. The lips that brushed her parted ones held their own silent threat.
Throughout the scene the uptight Captain did not miss one tiny reaction on her part. “What goes on here?”
“Ah, Captain Lansing.” Bern winked at her before pulling back. “In a moment sire, first the Lady needs refreshments as do I.”
Her cautious gaze followed Bern as he strode forward into the great hall and shouted for a meal and wine.
“Captain, you will join us of course.” The older man grumbled something ineligible as he pulled up another seat near the fire.
Amy tried to relax her hold on the chair after following the Captain’s stern gaze to her whitened knuckles. If she portrayed any outward calm, inside she became a mass of stormy emotions. Obviously, everyone believed her to be Lady Amelia. Even the Captain, for all his anger, didn’t question her identity. Amy carefully watched the servant’s reaction to her as they carried in the laden platters. Their shy smiles at her eased the tightness about her chest.
Bern took his seat beside Lady Amelia. He’d been waiting for her to start denying his obvious authority over her home, when no protest came he decided she was still afflicted by whatever came over her in the meadow. The Lady appeared rattled without her defensive barriers. It was an advantage Bern hoped would last a while longer. Maybe what he planned on doing in the next few minutes would go smoother than he first believed.
“Alright Randall, you have stalled long enough.”
“Your Captain is an impatient man, Lady Amelia.”
God, he really was awful aggravating the man like this, it wasn’t helping the Captain’s temper. Amy wished she knew her own status in all this, anything she said would probably be wrong, but she had little choice if she wanted to prevent these two from going for each other’s throat. “Captain Lansing is just concerned for my welfare.” She hoped she was right.
“As I have every right to be. Haven’t I raised ye since a wee babe? And since that ill fated betrothed up and died, we have been overrun with upstart knights and cocky lairds all thinking they could step in and claim ye! Well I won’t have any no good, garter wearer coming in here and taking over!”
Before Amy recovered from the Captain’s outburst Bern added his own say to the matter.
“First off Captain, I don’t wear garters. Secondly, the Lady seems to have run off her share of the upstarts.”
His knowing gaze swept over her like a north wind. Amy managed to swallow her humor behind her hand and fake a cough. Stars, what a prickly mess she landed in. The Captain huffed a few more times at Randall who sat there scrutinizing them both as if they were the enemy camp.
“She has done no such thing!” The Captain’s gallant protest for her benefit was lost on Randall.
“Let us be serious, Captain. The ruse is up. I do naught know why the Lady chose to act as she has,” Bern took in both their expectant gazes before continuing. “...but, my good Captain, the game is up.”
A kind of numb shock settled over Amy for everything that happened since her awareness of this man came into focus. She tried to rise with the sick panic that took hold of her, but Randall must have sensed her intent. His grip on her arm held her in the chair and actually grew painful.
“No more running and coy escapes, dear Lady.”
Amy shivered under the threat his pronouncement held.
“Make yourself clear, Laird Randall.”
“I intend to, Captain Lansing.”
Amy couldn’t avoid the commanding blue eyes that pinned her in silence. “My intentions are to wed Lady Amelia as soon as the banns are read and not a day later.”
“What!”
Amy felt herself sink back, all the strength she acquired deserted her under his declaration.
“Be silent, Captain! Your protests are useless, the Lady has already agreed.” She again suffered his penetrating gaze. “Besides, even should the Lady have second thoughts, our time together out on the hills, this morn, insures my claim will remain.”
The Laird couldn’t have been more crudely blunt than if he came right out with graphic detail of their coupling. The Captain physically paled as he fell back into his seat in open mouth astonishment. “‘Tis this true, Lady Amelia?”
The condemnation in the old man’s eyes made Amy look to Randall for support, a mistake she couldn’t take back, she played right into his hands.
“As you can well see Captain, it is true.” Bern’s lips kissed the trembling fingers in his hold, a hold she would never again escape? The real Lady Amelia would probably kill Amy for what she just allowed to happen.
“Lass, you had best go to your chambers while the Laird and I discuss the details of your wedding.” Amy’s apologetic eyes fell beneath the old man’s dismissal. She wanted to tell him how sorry she was, but knew she couldn’t. She didn’t even know why she should be sorry, unless....
Her tempered gaze jerked accusingly up at Bern. Had Lady Amelia succumb to the man’s charm before Amy arrived on the scene? Her own cheeks fired over the memory of what his kisses did to her. Staring at him, his smile deepened for what she knew he saw in her eyes. Rogue? Ack, he was so much more. And she was the fallen Lady of the castle.
Rising on unsteady legs Amy called on all her remaining composure not to disgrace what pride Lady Amelia still might have left to her name.
Laird Randall and the Captain rose beside her.
“Lady Amelia, I will move my men within the keep walls by nightfall.”
She felt the Captain stiffen over the Laird’s decree. Feeling she owed the old man something, “Is that really necessary?”
“Aye my Lady, I will naught have my future bride stolen away by some prior suitor or any man that feels obliged to try the walls of your castle.”
“I see.” What could she say? She had no idea if his arguments were legitimate.
“Of course, they will be under your Captain’s authority for the time being.”
Amy looked at the Captain for his reaction to what she felt was Randall’s concession. The resigned nod he gave her made her cringe inside. Amy felt she needed to say something. The Captain had obviously been the Lady’s guardian for years and cared for her more than just a servant might.
“Laird Randall, I expect your men to understand their place while within the keep. Should the Captain have any problem with them you are not to interfere in any discipline he feels necessary.” She could tell the Laird didn’t like her interference. “And should they get out of hand, the Captain has my authority to send your men back to the woods.”
The flash of anger in his eyes cooled before he bowed before her. “Of course, Lady Amelia, but should I feel your welfare is in jeopardy, I am sure the Captain will agree to whatever actions I feel are necessary to rid the area of danger.”
His eyes challenged her to refute his authority, Amy knew she couldn’t. “I am sure neither of us would question your command, if the need arises.” Amy looked at the Captain and felt relieved to see his face more relaxed.
“As you say, my Lady, we would not think of questioning the Laird’s authority in such circumstances.” Amy felt she’d not mistaken the man’s sarcasm, deciding it was probably deserved where Laird Randall was concerned.
“My Lady, I will fetch Mistress Tilly to escort you to your chambers.”
“Thank you, Captain.”
She felt Bern come up behind her when the Captain left them. He was so close she could smell the woodsy scent from the glen still clinging to his hair. She tried desperately not to let him see how nervous he made her.
“Your wiles will not work on me, Amelia. I warn you, do not try to foil me, you will be my wife.”
Her pride came forward against the man’s obvious desire to dominate her will. “Do you always threaten your intended bride, Laird Randall?”
Bern leaned down so his lips were but a breath from her ear. “As I have never had one before, I cannot honestly answer. But in your case it is a precaution I dare not proceed without.”
The thick stone walls and straw strewn floors no longer held any interest for Amy, all her attention was captured by the man intent on becoming the husband of a woman she somehow became!
 
 

CHAPTER 2

 
Seeing her distress, Mistress Tilly sent all the ladies away from the chambers, leaving Amy alone with her troubled pacing. Where the solitude should have helped her sort out some of what happened Amy only found herself adrift in a sea of unanswerable questions.
“How did I come to be here?” After falling into an exhausted sleep, yesterday, Amy woke to find she still remained.
Again she turned to walk the cool stone floor of Lady Amelia’s chamber. The tower rooms were awash in the noon sun flooding through the stained glass windows. Each of the circular panes were set strategically in the three outside castle walls to capture the sun’s warmth and light at all angles. The room was large and impressive, with a huge fireplace at its inner wall. The sleeping chamber set back in a raised alcove. A huge bed took up the entire space, great heavy drapes hung from the ceiling to be closed for complete privacy.
Amy’s fingers absently ran over the elaborate stitches grazing the sheets and pillows.
Wrapping her arms about her, her eyes swept over the delicate feminine items about the area. The embroidery stand with its unfinished piece, the gold-inlaid lute leaning up against the wall, to the veiled pearl and velvet head pieces hanging from wall pegs beside the lady’s setting table. “Where did you go, Amelia?”
Amy didn’t want to ponder what might have happened to either of them. What she couldn’t avoid was the present. Nothing and everything said she was really here, in what appeared to be the fifteenth century. The castle was Morgan Castle, of that she was positive. Though she never really saw so much of it intact, she couldn’t be wrong. She couldn’t dispute the obvious that everyone believed her to be Lady Amelia Morgan, not Amy Bonner, Professor of Archeology, in Wales on a dig in 2009.
“Peter...” Amy cringed at the unwanted memory and the events she refused to let invade her mind. With them came fears she refused to deal with right now. “The beast--Oh, Amy what has happened to you? I’m not going back, am I?” The lack of answers didn’t change her fate. “What am I going to do? And that, that Randall! What in the world can I do about him?”
“I told you before Amelia--nothing.”
Amy spun about and had to grip the bed drape to keep from falling. “You! How did you get in here? Get out!”
Bern planted his booted foot on the hearth, his body coiled tight, ready to prevent the flight he saw in her eyes. “Who is Peter?”
Her sharp intake of breath vibrated between them. “No one.” She hated the breathless shaking in her voice, knowing he heard it too. How much more did he hear? She tried to remember what she might have said aloud.
Straightening before his piercing gaze, Amy attempted more confidence than she felt. “Leave my chamber, Lord Randall.” His casual stance in her room irked her beyond belief. On top of everything else, dealing with his inflated ego was more than she could tolerate.
“And if I don’t? Will you summon your aging Captain? He is a good man, but you have both taken quite a risk in hoping he could protect you much longer.”
“You really are insufferable! How can you stand living with yourself? I’m surprised your ego hasn’t killed itself off!”
“Such sharp words, but then I guess I do deserve your ire for destroying your self-imposed fortress.
“Why you--you--Get out!” Her temper kept rising, even knowing what it cost her in the past didn’t tame its fire against his arrogant hide. “In fact, get out of my life!”
“Tch, tch, such spirit, I do hope you save some for our wedding night. I so love your passionate side.”
Amy’s cheeks burned under his seductive gaze. Unconsciously, she sought something that she could pick up and throw at him. But remembering what just his touch could do to her she stopped herself from reaching for the metal goblet by the bed.
“You know, Amelia, or should I call you Amy, it does fit you better, yes Amy, I like the sound of it.”
So he heard. Her arms wrapped around her waist to keep herself from swaying.
“As I was saying--Amy. I am beginning to doubt the claim of a distant betrothed in your life. In fact, I think he was a figment of you and your Captain’s vivid imagination to keep all curious suitors away.”
“That’s absurd.” Wasn’t it? Amy prayed he didn’t see the question in her own mind. Heavens it could very well be as he said and he knew more than she did of Lady Amelia.
“Nay Amy, in all honesty it really was quite brilliant. An aging Captain of the guards, with hardly an army to back him, left to defend a maid’s honor, what better lie to help keep her safe. Tell me, what ruined your ploy?”
Amy couldn’t stop from moving away from his unrelenting gaze. “I don’t know what you are talking about, you heard the Captain, he died.”
“If he were a real man, to do such an unforgivable thing, how long ago did he meet his demise?”
Trapped! Nothing she gave as an answer would do. “It hardly matters now.”
To her relief, “You are right of course, it doesn’t have any bearing on the present. But this Peter might, or should I call him, The Beast?”
The only credit Amy could give herself was that she didn’t faint before his probe. She made herself meet his hard gaze to stay him from advancing on her.
“Is it silence then, Amy? To let me draw my own conclusions might be worse than the truth?”
He waited for her answer, but Amy pressed her lips tighter, she had no way to appease his curiosity.
“You must enjoy testing my patience--you see Amy, you are leaving me no choice but to kill the man, should he appear.”
The protector and slayer of her beast? Feelings were becoming reality. Amy wondered what he would do, if she gave him her approval to do just that should Peter arrive.
It took all of Bern’s control not to go to her and shake the truth from her succulent body. What he really wanted to know was if the hatred he saw sparking those bejeweled orbs shined for him or for the man she spoke of with so much emotion. If her ruse to fend off all suitors had been because of a lover she pined for, Bern knew, he could very well slay the man on sight.
Whatever he meant to her, the Lady wasn’t going to be bullied into telling him. Bern smiled, there are many ways to learn what I want--Amy!
The shaking inside her was winning and Amy felt at a loss as to how to get rid of him. “Is there anything else, Lord Randall?”
She could chill a man to his bones when she took a mind to. “Just that I will fetch you for the feast tonight. Captain Lansing thought it would be prudent to announce our engagement immediately.”
Her brow arched in speculation over the Captain’s part in the evening plans. “Then I suggest you leave, so I can get ready.”
When he pushed off the hearth she forced herself not to back away.
“There are still many hours before the feast.”
He kept walking towards her, “I--it takes me a very long time to dress.”
“Really? Ah, but then this is your engagement feast, you will want to look extra beautiful tonight.”
Amy felt her knees wobbling as he stopped in front of her. The back of his hand brushed her cheek. “But I cannot imagine you being any lovelier except to lay naked in my arms.”
Oh stars, his lips were burning her brow--temple, “Please...stop.”
“I do naught think I ever want to stop where you are concerned.”
Closing her eyes she tried so hard not to give in the shattering sensations he created inside her, but his lips were playing havoc with her sensitive eye lids.
“Like satin Amy, all softness and warmth...”
“Ah, here ye be Lady, I have summoned your bath up, and Lord Randall, how fortunate I have found ye, Captain Lansing is in the yard bellowing like a wounded stag about your men, ready to send them right back to the forest he is.”
Bern rested his lips on Amy’s brow, her smothered giggle earned his reluctant smile of defeat. “Thank you, Mistress Tilly.”
Amy couldn’t believe the self defeating humor she saw in his eyes.
“I have made a mistake, my Lady, it seems you have guards aplenty.”


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Genre: Time Travel
Date Published: 05/02/2013
Publisher: Jewel Adams

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