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Born a bastard child of Lord Raybourne of Valdenwald, abduction, rape, murder and mayhem set the prelude to beautiful Edreia’s birth in Anglo Saxon England. Sixteen years later she suffers hardships that change her life forever following the fall of England during the Norman Conquest. When Valdenwald comes under siege by the Norman army, its leader, Mikkel, claims Edreia amongst the spoils of war as his mistress. Vowing never to submit freely to his passionate nature, Edreia’s life becomes a conflicting struggle between hating him and loving him, intensifying after Cadena, Mikkel’s betrothed, shows up unexpectedly at Valdenwald. A battle of wits ensues between Mikkel’s mistress and his betrothed; finally culminating in a diabolical plot between three of Edreia’s enemies to murder her. Struggling to stay alive, the prospect of an insecure future allows slim hope for what she has come to desire more than anything else: Mikkel’s love.
A hand grabbed Edreia’s arm, spun her around, and then another hand grabbed her other arm, imprisoning her. She jerked, squirmed, dropped her basket, and fought with all her strength to loosen those restraining hands. Fingers bit into her arms while fear pummeled her senses, causing her heart to pound so loud she could hear its racing rhythm. She recalled grandmother’s story about what the Norman dogs did to innocent maids.
“Let me go,” she cried. Her strength melted like butter and her knees buckled sending her to the floor.
The hands released her long enough to produce a flint spark, which touched off the light of a candle, nearly blinding Edreia.
She struggled to her feet, and a strong hand grabbed her arm.
“I have slept here many nights waiting for you, maid. After I learned of your gift with the herbals, I knew you would return for them.”
He ripped the hat off her head, allowing the mass of riotous undulating golden colors to cascade down about her shoulders.
Tremors of fear ran through Edreia at what he likely planned to do to her. His threatening voice left her shaking.
“Let me go, Norman Beast. Release me and leave me be,” she cried out, trying to pull from his grasp.
“On the contrary, my simple lad, I would get to know if you are boy or girl,” he jibed, running his eyes over the garb she wore.
“You will have to kill me first,” she spat, her lips trembling with fear and apprehension. She backed toward the door and escape, but for every inch she gained, he distanced her by two, until his giant form hovered before her like an impregnable wall. The door was open behind her, but not a single plan could she make that would enable her to put enough distance between them. He loomed like some evil prodigy from hell, ready to envelop her very existence.
“Maid, you can run and you can hide, but you can’t escape me. You are a product of war and I claim you as my prize. You’ve disguised yourself well with boy’s clothing, but now you will cease your disguise and admit you are my servant.”
Anger welled up inside Edreia. This man had destroyed her father and usurped Pitney’s inheritance. He had conquered the castle and the fiefdom, but he would not conquer her. She would resist him until the last breath in her body.
Straightening her shoulders up to her full height, she stood with daring, gazing into his gray eyes. “You destroyed the only kin left to me. Would you for a minute believe I could ever pay service to you? I deplore you, and ask only to be left in peace from your foul pursuits.”
“You read me falsely, maid. I have no desire to abuse you. I desire your company and the opportunity to know you. Whatever rewards you choose to grant me thereafter will be by your own regard.”
“I have no desire for your company, Norman cur.”
“Maid, you insult me with your vehemence. While I am a warrior fighting for the crown I serve, I am neither dog nor other animal. I am a man with feelings much the same as you. You are a fetching maid whose company I desire, and in return I offer you protection from my men. Would you decline such a worthy exchange?”
“You are a murderer, milord Mikkel, and I detest you. I would rather die than relent to what you suggest. I implore you to search among the servants for those maids more willing to service your needs.”
He inhaled a deep breath of air and exhaled. “Should I desire the used goods of others, my lady, I might readily take your advice. You, on the other hand, shine with virtue and that, my lass, is the prize that intrigues me. You shall warm my bed, but I prefer you come willingly.”
“Your lust seeks more than you deserve, milord. I shall not warm your bed, nor fulfill your desires.”
In frustration, he flung away her arm and turned away a moment. Edreia had waited for just such an opportunity.
Grabbing her basket, she fled out the door, and with the grace of a doe, sprinted through the darkness toward the opening in the great wall and escape.
She could hear him behind her, but knowledge of the path gave her the advantage. He didn’t take time to shoe his feet, and the rocks, cinders, and debris worked havoc with his tender soles. Edreia gained distance on him. Curses echoed behind her, as he fought the elements strewn naturally in his path, leaving his feet sorely bruised.