Published by Entangled Publishing on August 27, 2018
Purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo
A determined sister . . .Madeleine Vernon’s dreams should be filled with elegant gowns and marriageable men. Instead, she dreams of avenging her brother’s death. But when she’s captured by the queen’s men, she’s forced to become a spy by her mysterious yet undeniably attractive captor.
A rakish spy . . .After years of working for his father in Queen Elizabeth’s service, Nicholas Ryder is close to going his own way. But now he’s got a feisty beauty he must protect or risk her execution as a traitor to the crown. She’s a distraction he can’t afford, but he also can’t stop thinking about her.
A dangerous lie . . .It is Nicholas’s job to foil plots against Elizabeth, and he sends Maddy into a household of suspected traitors to garner what information she can. As the line between captor and prisoner blurs, deceit, betrayal, and desire become a perilous mix. Ultimately, Nicholas must decide whether duty to the queen is more important than winning Maddy’s heart.
She charged into battle with the zeal of one who demands justice and will accept nothing less.
They had been riding all afternoon on the old Stanegate Highway, from Carlisle east toward Naworth Castle, where the rebels were mustering. There were five of them besides herself—two friends she had persuaded to join the fight and three others they had picked up along the way. It was a frigid February day, piercing deep to the bone with an unforgiving cold. When the beacons came into view, at last, their flames a call to battle, she glanced at her companions triumphantly.
They scarcely had time to give their mounts a rest and let them graze and drink before the order was given to move out. She kept the bright red banners, adorned with white gryphons, in view and hoped her friends remained close by. There were infantry and horsemen as far as the eye could see, though they looked like a ragtag lot. Nobody in mail or armor. She rode on, keeping her eyes on the banners ahead, from time to time searching the crowd for her friends. But to no avail.
The queen’s forces assembled in the distance. It was almost as though they wished to sneak past. No judge of the difference between brilliant or foolhardy military strategies, she accepted chasing after an enemy who clearly did not wish to engage as part of a plan. Lord Dacre was their commander, and in her vengeful fervor, she would follow him anywhere. On his orders, they gave chase until finally, circling ahead of the queen’s southern army, they lay in wait near the Gelt River where Hell Beck joined it.
In mere moments, her belief that justice would triumph shattered.
Hundreds of horsemen at the rear of the queen’s army began a vicious attack, pushing Dacre’s troops out onto the heath. She dismounted, electing to take her chances as one of the infantry. Within minutes, mayhem ensued. Mounted troops wielding lances made short work of the men, most of whom carried nothing more than dirks. A lucky few were armed with pikes. Arrows flew, and she ducked every time she saw a bow raised. But before long, the smoke from the harquebuses was so thick, she could see nothing, nor could she hear anything other than the screams and shouts of both the rebels and queen’s men. What a fool she’d been, expecting an orderly military action. She’d gotten chaos instead.
Their footmen broke through and tore into the rebels with pikes, and cavalrymen attacked with lances. She looked on helplessly as men around her were run through with rapiers or felled by blows to the head. Springing to her feet, she lunged onward, too fired up—and apparently too brainless—to sense the inevitability of the outcome, or even the extreme peril she was in.
Having removed her travel cloak, she shivered in her thin shirt and doublet. Neither did much to ward off the bone-chilling cold. Ahead, mist rose from the river like a curtain of gauze. She tripped over more than one lifeless body, both human and beast. Shouts of command and cries of the wounded were muted in the dense air. Clutching the handle of a dirk that had belonged to her brother, she longed for the chance to put it to use. If she could surprise one of the queen’s men, catch one of them unawares…a life for her brother’s life. That was all she wanted.
The wind rose, clearing the smoke. Glimpsing an opening, she plunged forward, straight toward a giant of a man wearing the queen’s badge and without a weapon to hand. She was ready for him. With an upward thrust, she aimed for his heart. But with one step back, he was out of reach. She was stabbing at the air. He brought a beefy fist down on her wrist and knocked the dirk out of her hand, then gave a low chuckle before grasping the back of her doublet and hoisting her a few feet off the ground. “God’s wounds, you’re no bigger than a wench,” he said.
“Because she is a wench, fool,” a second man said, stepping out of the darkness. This one wore a short beard. Or perhaps it was only stubble—she couldn’t tell in the dark. He reached down and picked up her dagger.
“We could have some fun with her, I’ll warrant,” the giant said. He still held her aloft as though she weighed no more than a cloth doll. While he mulled it over, she kicked him in the groin, as hard as she could while swaying in the air. He doubled over and dropped her, and the second man laughed. She leaped to her feet and ran.
Unfortunately, she managed only a few steps before an arm hard as stone and every bit as unyielding wrapped around her. It was the bearded man. The terror, the panic, all the unacknowledged dread she’d been holding inside now burst out in one long, agonized plea. “Let me go, I beg you. I have a family to look after.”
He snorted. “A bit late to think of that, is it not?” He ordered the giant to bind her hands behind her back, and they dragged her, one on each side, to an area where prisoners were being held, and dumped her to the cold ground. But not before they’d spotted the scabbard tied at her waist and relieved her of it.
The next day they marched to Carlisle Castle, and she, Madeleine Vernon, daughter of Philip and Blanche Vernon of Carlisle and sister of the executed Robert, found herself thrown into a dank, stinking cell, fit only for murderers, thieves, and rebels.
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