Rebel of Ross by Mary Lancaster
Malcolm MacHeth, one time Earl of Ross, languishes a prisoner in Roxburgh Castle while his sons raise rebellion in his name. Optimistically, the King of Scots promises the earldom of Ross to landless Norman knight, Sir William de Lanson, if he can somehow defeat the infamous MacHeths.
It wasn’t quite how William’s disgraced wife Christian dreamed of coming home. Capture by the strange and ferocious Adam MacHeth was hardly part of her plan either, although she and William quickly become pawns in his.
Adam, warrior and seer, fights for his father’s freedom and for his family’s right to claim the kingdom of the Scots. Plagued by waking dreams which threaten his sanity and his life, he’s learned to use his prophecies to further his family’s goals. But when he abducts his enemy’s lady, his dreams and his desires are suddenly more personal.
Surrounded by intrigue, ambition and betrayal, Christian must choose between loyalty and love in order to keep a fragile peace for her people and for the man she loves beyond all reason.
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So it was over. Slowly, Christian turned back to face reality. The mask she’d taken to wearing at the king’s court to hide the disfigurement of one side of her face hadn’t brought her much luck after all.
Those of her husband’s men left alive, swords drawn but wavering, were herded inexorably back into the huddle of fearful women outside the now fully collapsed tent. Their attackers advanced menacingly.
One man moved faster, pushing his way through to the enemy’s front. Their leader, the man who’d observed them so closely from the thick of battle. At his gesture, everyone halted. He strode on alone, giving an impression of a young, incongruously calm face streaked with dirt and yet of dark eyes, even at that distance, not calm at all but deeply troubled, swirling like whirlpools.
“Drop your weapons,” he said in passable French. “Or we’ll kill all of you.”
It might have been worth it to die, just to spite William, who had still no real idea how useful, not to say necessary, Christian was to him in this venture. However, luck seemed to have sent her the local berserker. Judging by those violent eyes, he was too unstable to rely on his mercy for her people.
She opened her mouth to command the men, but before she could speak, she heard the thud of weapons hitting the ground, the clash of steel as others landed on top, and she closed her lips again in silence. The MacHeth legend had won.
As if those wild, unworldly eyes had caught her tiny gestures, the berserker glanced at her, then almost immediately away as Henry formally offered him the hilt of his sword.
His mouth twisted slightly. Christian’s stomach gave a sudden wrench as he took the sword. Almost, she expected him to cut Henry down with it. Instead, he inclined his head rather graciously, like a knight accepting victory at a tournament.
Maybe he could be reasoned with after all.
His men began collecting the surrendered weapons. Others were already stripping the armour from the fallen.
The berserker stepped through the chaos towards the women. This time he had no need to push. The men left standing parted for him without a quibble.
“Which of you,” he asked in the same soft, casual voice, “is the lady de Lanson?”
Close-to, he was no more comforting. Different shades of blood stained his clothes and forearms, his hands and face. Remote yet wild dark brown eyes scanned everyone impartially and still somehow gave the alarming impression of seeing something else entirely—no doubt his recent kills or his plans for the next ones.
Beside Christian, Alys cleared her throat. Christian could feel the other woman’s tension, the failing of her courage, and yet Alys still meant to do it. Her loyalty would have humbled most women. Christian, it angered.
She would not let William do this. These people were in her charge, her care.
She caught Alys’s arm, roughly enough to surprise her into silence. And to disguise her own trembling. “I am Christian de Lanson.”
His gaze crashed into hers. Now that she had his full attention at last, she’d have welcomed the remoteness back with enthusiasm. Dear God, unstable was an understatement. They were the most dangerous eyes she had ever encountered: the eyes of a man who has seen and done terrible things and not yet learned how to live with them.
If he noticed the oddity of her mask, his gaze didn’t linger on it. Turning away, he spoke only three words in the same quiet voice he had used before. “Come with me.”
“No, thank you,” Christian said clearly, and he paused without turning. Now Alys clutched her arm, convulsively. The other women drew back into the wreckage of the tent again, as if afraid his wrath would consume them as well. “There’s no point,” Christian said brazenly. “I am a useless hostage, being worth nothing to my husband.”
“You are William de Lanson’s wife?” The young berserker turned back to her abruptly, impatience clear in his face for the first time.
“I am. But disgraced and barren, my value is not high.”
She actually laughed at his shock. “Ask them,” she added, nodding at her husband’s soldiers. The one whose unflattering opinion she’d overheard earlier stood bleeding among them.
The young barbarian before her looked as if he had no idea what she was talking about. Without warning, he reached out and seized her wrist. His touch shocked her; perhaps it was the rough strength of his bare fingers or their unexpected warmth. But before she could properly register it, let alone object, he dropped her wrist as if it had burned him.
He actually spun away from her so that she couldn’t see his face. It struck her that he was wounded or ill, and the watchful way a few of his men regarded him seemed to bear this out. And yet they never moved to enquire or to help him. In any case, the moment passed before it was properly begun.
He glanced back at her. “Let’s talk,” he invited. This time he didn’t touch her, merely gestured with his arm in a fashion almost courtly. She couldn’t hesitate; she could only pray he wouldn’t perceive the shaking of her legs. She stepped forward, and Alys, reluctantly, released her arm.
“I am Adam,” he said, “son of Malcolm.”
Of course he was. Christian closed her eyes. “MacHeth.”
About the Author
As a direct consequence of the first love, she studied history at St. Andrews University, after which she worked variously as editorial assistant, researcher and librarian. Although she has always written stories for her own entertainment, she began to make serious efforts toward publication in order to distract herself from a job she disliked. She now writes full time at her seaside home in Scotland, which she shares with her husband and three children.
Mary is the author of three historical novels:
An Endless Exile – the story of Hereward, 11th century outlaw hero
A World to Win – a Scottish governess finds love in revolutionary Hungary
A Prince to be Feared: the love story of Vlad Dracula
Blog Tour Schedule
Monday, August 8
Review at A Book Drunkard
Friday, August 12
Review at Let Them Read Books
Saturday, August 13
Interview at The Book Junkie Reads
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