Lord of Desire
Tempt him if you dare...
He Is Every Woman's Fantasy...
Darkly handsome and sensual, Lord Brand Risande--known as "The Passionate"--is temptation incarnate. But his prowess on the battlefield and in the bedchamber hides a bitter secret: the betrayal that has sealed his heart. Now as this most feared warrior rides out to possess the lands he has won in war, he engages his most formidable enemy ever.
And One Woman's Destiny.
Lady Brynnafar Dumont is prepared to do anything to protect her people--even seduce the savage Norman knight who defeated her father. Prepared to face down a cold-blooded beast, she instead confronts a wickedly attractive scoundrel who wants nothing to do with her. It's enough to sting a lady's pride...and strengthen her resolve. Innocent as she is, now she must use all her charms to defeat Lord Brand in the only battle worth fighting--the one for his love.
4 1/2 Stars from RealmsOnOurBookshelves~Dream Mistress
"Paula Quinn writes so vivid, so intense that you completely forget the world around you and only want to read more of these engaging characters she has created."
5 ANGELS!~Fallen Angels Reviews
"Lord of Desire is an unforgettable outstanding debut romance novel."
5 STARS!~SingleTitle Reviews
"Lord Of Desire is spectacular!"
5 ROSES!~A Romance Review
"Paula Quinn has crafted a novel worthy of movie rights."
4+ Stiff~RBL Romantica
"Paula is going to be a powerful presence in the romance genre, her gift for creating characters that don't just tug on your heartstrings, but YANK them loose altogether, will leave you breathless!"
5 ANGELS from Fallen Angels Reviews~Naomi
"Lord of Desire is an unforgettable outstanding debut romance novel. Readers will not want the tale to finish; the plot is as enthralling as the characters. I have thoroughly enjoyed the story, from the delicious and innocent introduction to Brynna to the fast paced climatic conclusion. Lord of Desire has already received many glowing reviews and I am pleased to add Fallen Angel Reviews' voice and highest recommendation to these. This medieval romance is a definite keeper for your historical collection. Paula Quinn's next release, Lord of Temptation will be released in February, 2006 and is on my list of must-have new releases."
5 STARS from Single Titles Reviews~Trang
"Lord of Desire is spectacular!
Summer 1064 A.D.
The carriage came to a halt on the side of the dirt road. Lady Brynna Dumont peeked her head out of the small, curtained window to see why her troupe had stopped. Her hand, holding back the velvet curtain, was delicate. Her skin was smooth and white against the bright red of the lush fabric.
"Derrick, why have we stopped?"
"There is a fallen tree up ahead, m'lady. We must move it before we can continue. It will be a while, I'm afraid."
Frowning at the delay, but willing to make the most of such a magnificent day, Brynna flung open the carriage door, eager to explore her surroundings. Layers of blue linen cascaded over a dainty slipper before she stepped out onto the forest floor. Her eyes, as green as the leaves that sang in the soft breeze, scanned the surrounding woods dense with summer growth. She breathed in the fresh scent of morning dew just as Sir Nathan rode past her on his snorting black destrier.
"Get back inside the carriage," he commanded, swinging his mount around to face her. "It could be dangerous out here."
Brynna narrowed her eyes on the permanently furious face of her uncle Robert's most trusted guard. Sir Nathan sat tall and menacing in the saddle, the glint in his hard gaze attesting to the fact that he ached to take her over his knee and whip her into dutiful submission. She huffed at him just thinking of it. Never.
"I will be fine, Sir Nathan." She offered him a cheeky smile. "Just see to the tree. I am anxious to return home to my father."
She felt his smoldering eyes on her back as she walked away, but she ignored him and tilted her face to the canopy of leaves above her. She closed her eyes and drew in a deep breath. Lovely, she thought as a slight breeze kissed her cheeks and sent a silky wisp of copper hair across her face. She swept the lock back with one long, elegant finger and cast a quick glance over her shoulder at Nathan. He was busy barking orders to his men. Brynna's feet were light, and no one watched her as she slipped through the trees.
Brynna strolled through the forest, ducking around the ancient branches and pushing at vines that clung to her gown. Somewhere behind her, she could hear Sir Nathan still bellowing orders on the proper way to hoist a fallen tree from the road. Happy to be out of his sight, she began to hum. The cantankerous knight had been in her uncle Robert's service since God spoke the first words of creation. Sir Nathan was highly respected, even by her father, but that hadn't stopped Brynna from arguing with him at every opportunity. Of course, she wasn't the one who picked the fights. Nathan was a crusty old soldier who didn't believe ladies should ride horses, wear boots, or speak until spoken to. She was still undecided if the summer spent arguing with her uncle's commander had been ghastly, or exhilarating. The daughter of Lord Richard Dumont, mightiest warrior in England, loved a good fight, same as her father.
None of it mattered now. She was finally going back home to her father and she couldn't wait. Well, she corrected herself, she could wait a little while longer just to enjoy this splendid day.
Nathan's harsh voice pursued Brynna through the trees and into a small glen, where it finally blended with the call of blue jays overhead. Carpeted with yellow jasmine and blue linseed, the splendor of the meadow washed over her. Brynna smiled and lifted her skirts to run through the luxuriant field. She dropped to her knees beneath the shade of an old willow tree and then lay down in the tall grass, delighting in the delicate yellow and blue petals that tickled her cheeks.
An odd sound captured her attention. At first she thought she was dreaming. She sat up and looked around. She was alone in the glen. The beguiling laughter drifted across the fragrant air and, like a siren's song, drew her toward a large cluster of currant bushes. The man's laughter was so wonderfully inviting. It was most definitely a man's voice, for the tones were deep and rich. But unlike the gravelly pitch of the men's voices in her uncle Robert's garrison, this voice was not rough to her ears.
Kneeling before the dense bushes with bated breath, Brynna parted the branches.
It was definitely a man. He floated on his back, just a few feet away, in a lagoon painted with sunshine and discarded dogwood blossoms. The sight of his naked body made Brynna's cheeks burn and her lips part. Golden columns of light glistened off the corded muscles that sculpted his chest and upper arms. Dipping his head backward, he gathered a mouthful of water, then shot it from his lips like a fountain.
Brynna sighed looking at the scene before her. All around the small pool pink and white dogwood trees which shed their dainty blossoms at the slightest breeze, grew. Like snowflakes in summer, hundreds of tiny petals drifted through the air, many coming to rest upon the water, covering its surface. And there, in the middle of paradise, was the most breathtaking man Brynna had ever seen. Though he swam alone in the lagoon, he played as though others were enjoying the day with him. He dived deep into the crystal blue ripples, entering a world known only to him. Down he went like a sun-kissed fish, deeper and deeper into his private world.
Moments stretched as Brynna watched the sun-dappled surface for any sign of him. Alarmed, she stood up, surrendering her hiding place amid the foliage. She wanted to jump in, but hesitated, since she didn't know how to swim. He suddenly burst through the surface with a thunderous splash of jet-black curls and diamond-crystal droplets. He rocketed out of the water until Brynna saw his whipcord tight belly... and beyond. With a swift turn of his body, he vanished again, only to come back up.
Brynna felt that she was watching a merman. Mayhap, beneath the water snaked a great, scaled tail, powerful and iridescent.
Indeed, he looked happier in his aqua playground than any human had the right to be. Joy filled his face; his smile was ecstatic, heating Brynna's skin, her muscles, her blood. Never had she seen such erotic, intoxicating pleasure in a man's face. The water was his lover, kissing every part of his body at once; he closed his eyes, surrendering himself to the sheer delight that consumed him. When he opened them again, he lifted his face to the sun.
Heart stilled, Brynna gaped at the color of his eyes gazing into the heavens. Eyes that absorbed the rich blues of the sky while reflecting the depthless green of the sea. She wanted to stay there forever and watch him caught in his private fantasy. She was heated in places she had just discovered existed.
The sound of a horse approaching from the opposite end of the lagoon startled Brynna out of her delicious reverie. She snapped her head in the direction of the intruder.
A woman seated atop a white gelding appeared out of the trees, a dream coming to life. Pale blond hair fell in silky splendor down her back, reaching her saddle. Her face was beautiful, her form as delicate as the sprouts freshly sprung from the grass that grew around the lagoon.
When he saw her, the man in the water smiled. "Colette, you're late," he called out.
"I'm surprised you noticed." The beauty threw him a teasing smile that oddly, didn't reach her eyes, before she dismounted and tied her horse to a nearby tree.
Brynna gasped when the woman slipped her cotton gown off her shoulders. The dress tumbled to the earth as if an angel had shed its gossamer wings. And all the while the swimmer watched her, gliding toward her so effortlessly not a single ripple wavered around him.
Oh, dear God, what should I do? Brynna beseeched. She could tell by the raw hunger in the man's voice that the couple was not just going to swim together. How could she escape now without being discovered? Would she have to watch? Oddly enough, the thought both intrigued and troubled her. She wanted to dream that she had discovered this merman, that he was hers alone. She could swim with him, travel to his world below the surface, and share the ecstasy that impassioned him.
"Is it cold?"
"I will warm you," the merman promised silkily. His voice was the softest breeze on a sweltering day, lulling in its gentleness, calming Brynna's anxious heart.
The girl stepped over her clothes with grace that made Brynna feel like a towering oaf, and made her way, naked, to the edge of the lake.
He swam toward her. And then to Brynna's shock and mortified delight, he stepped out of the lake. Water cascaded down his glistening back, over hard, round buttocks, down muscular thighs and strong calves. He wasn't a merman after all, Brynna thought, biting her lower lip. Taking his lover's hands, he walked backward into the water, gently pulling her along. She protested, gasping when the cold water licked her feet, but he laughed merrily and pulled her in deeper. When the water reached his waist, he let himself go, falling backward into his liquid lover's embrace while holding the woman in his arms, keeping her barely afloat on top of him.
Brynna wanted to turn away, to run, but she couldn't. She had fallen under a spell, enchanted by the sound of his laughter, the hungry way his fingers stroked the wet body resting on his chest.
He disappeared beneath the surface, releasing his lover. She followed, and Brynna waited, counting seconds in her mind. It was too long. They should have come up. Brynna waited, anxious to see his face again.
An instant passed, and then another, drawing on Brynna's nerves until she could barely stand it, and then the surface broke and the couple exploded upward like a geyser. The man held his lover's waist, bringing her up first. The woman's mouth was open, sucking in a life-giving breath, as though it were her last. Held closely in the masculine strength of his arms, she smiled as she slipped down his body.
Brynna could see the passion in his face. Oh, she could see it, so intense it vibrated and rippled outward like the water around them. His lips curled into a wide, hungry grin that reached his eyes as he drank in the woman's face.
"I love you."
The words were clear to read upon his lips, to see in his eyes. Brynna groaned softly, wishing they were being said to her.
He kissed his lover's neck, blazing a fiery trail to her breasts.
Brynna stopped breathing.
He disappeared again under the water and the maiden threw her head back as her lover had done before, alone in the water, in euphoric ecstasy.
Biting her lip, Brynna tried to imagine what he was doing to the beauty under the surface that caused her to gasp and groan, and then cry out.
He surfaced again, this time behind his flaxen-haired lady. He wrapped his arms around her chest and whispered into her ear-words that made her smile as radiantly as the sun itself. Then he lifted her slightly onto him and lowered her again.
Thankfully, Brynna caught the groan before it could escape her lips. But the fire he had ignited in her could not be quenched, and she knew she would never forget it.
LATE AUTUMN 1065
Brynna paced her bedchamber, creating a worn path in the rushes. When she could not take another moment of waiting, she slapped her palms against her thighs and turned her tight, frowning lips on her handmaiden. "What can possibly be taking them so long?"
Alysia watched her mistress from the edge of the bed. She shook her head, afraid to say a word. Lady Brynna was a good-natured woman, though at times she sported a temper hotter than fire. Today was one of those times. Still, Alysia never had seen her this furious before. But then, so much had changed since the lady's father, Lord Richard Dumont, had returned from battle, defeated. Alysia knew that her mistress's only concern was that her father had returned alive, but the Norman bastard had beaten him. It was a shock to all who lived at Avarloch, for no one had ever defeated Lord Richard. All their lives were about to change with the arrival of Lord Brand Risande. The victor was coming to lay claim to the castle and Lord Richard's title. But even worse than having a Norman lord rule Avarloch were the rumors that he had been spoiled by betrayal. Whispers had reached as far north as Aberdeen about the dark knight, how his heart had turned cold and cruel. Poor Alysia had spent many a night with the other maidens and with the serfs and vassals of the castle fretting over what would become of them when Lord Richard and Lady Brynna were cast out like unwanted baggage. But Brynna did not worry. She just grew angrier by the day, vowing never to leave her home no matter what manner of beast moved in.
When the witan, a council of the Anglo-Saxon nobles, arrived this morn to counsel with Lord Richard, they forbade Brynna from attending their meeting. Alysia sat quietly for most of the day while Brynna spewed forth curses and accusations that made the swarthy handmaiden cringe in her own skin.
"It's treachery, Alysia." Brynna fumed. "Our king, who is himself a Saxon, conspired against my father."
"But why?" Alysia asked.
"Because my father has gone to the church to voice his displeasure with the way King Edward rules England. Edward is weak and has placed too much of this country's fate into the hands of his brother-in-law, Harold of Wessex." Brynna's auburn hair was loose, save for two strands braided at her temples and pinned to the back of her head. When she whirled in her pacing, thick waves shimmered and fanned outward like flames around the waist of her organdy gown. "Edward is a coward who would turn this land over to a Norman rather than stand up to my father's scrutiny."
Alysia remained quiet, not daring to suggest that Brynna spoke treason. Not that anyone in Avarloch would betray her for the like. Her mistress was well loved here, as was Lord Richard.
"Now my father has lost his home and my fate is being decided by a council of men I scarcely know. Well, I will tell you this." Brynna pivoted around once more. "If the Norman swine thinks he's going to come here and take my home, he is in for an unkind awakening. I will tear the eyes from his head, I swear it!"
Alysia gulped. It was a slight sound, but Brynna heard it and glared at her, eyes blazing like fire within emerald stones.
"What? I should not kill the bastard?" she demanded.
Alysia shook her head again. "I-I did not say anything, my lady."
"You think I should just leave my home without a fight?"
Alysia had no choice; she had to say something now. "Mayhap he is . . . not s-so bad," she stammered, wringing the edge of Brynna's bedsheets in her fingers. "I heard tell that he is quite handsome and tall and strong and-"
"I care not if he is as tall as Goliath!" Brynna shouted. Then seeing Alysia cower, she lowered her voice and came to kneel before her. "Forgive me, Alysia. I did not mean to raise my voice to you. It is just that . . . that . . ." She didn't finish. Her lips quivered for just an instant before settling into a hard, determined line.
The door opened and one of her father's guards stuck his head inside the chambers. "You can go down now, my lady. The council awaits you."
Brynna cast the guard a dark glare, though he had nothing to do with her father's betrayal, then rose to her feet. "Thank you, Sir Martin." Her voice was suddenly soft, her expression, a mask of calm she wished she felt.
"What will become of you, m'lady?" her young handmaiden asked, twisting her hands in her lap.
Brynna looked down at Alysia with a beautiful smile and reached for her handmaiden's hand. "Fear not. I will do whatever I must to remain here. I will not leave you."
Brynna entered the great hall with all the grace and elegance of a queen . . . much to Lord Richard Dumont's delight. She smiled at her father when his eyes met hers across the crowded table. God's breath, she loved him. He was the most handsome man in the room, but since the men sitting around him at the long trestle table looked like fat hams ready for the roasting, it wasn't saying much. Brynna scanned every face, her lovely smile growing tighter on her lips with each face she passed.
Formed in the time of King Alfred, the witan were a group of nobles who ruled in consultation with the king. They gave grants of land, administered justice, and decided matters such as war and peace, with the consent of their king.
Lord Richard stood up from his seat when his daughter reached him. He took her hand and lifted it to his lips for a tender kiss. "My sunshine," he whispered, and offered her the chair beside his.
Before she sat, Brynna spotted her uncle Robert seated next to Sir Nathan. The cranky knight nodded at her silent appraisal.
"My dear," her uncle began, and shifted uncomfortably in his seat. "You know why we are here." "To decide my fate," Brynna told him. She kept her expression neutral, though in truth she wanted to tell them all to rot in hell. No one was going to force her to leave her home.
"I wish it were so, child," he said quietly. "I would have you come back to my home until your father arranged a proper marriage for you." Sir Nathan grumbled under his breath and Brynna was tempted to smile at him before returning her attention to her uncle. "I'm afraid your fate was already decided when the Norman defeated your father."
Brynna raised a perfectly arched brow. "What do you mean, Uncle?"
"Brynna," her father answered for him. It was most difficult to look into her eyes when she turned to him, but he wanted to be the one to tell her. It was his fault for losing to the Norman-a regret he would live with forever. "The council refuses to forfeit this land to the Normans."
"But what can we do?" She turned and searched the faces staring back at her. "Will the king allow my father another battle with this Norman?"
"Nay, daughter," Richard said, shaking his head. "The council has demanded that the Norman warrior marry you. Having a Saxon wife is the only way to assure that the land partially remains under Saxon rule."
"Wife?" Brynna almost choked on the word. She felt the blood draining from her face and fought to regain control of her senses when the room began to spin. "But I . . ."
"You are ten and nine now, Brynna," her uncle reminded her gently. "Well past the age when a lady should take a husband."
She wasn't ready to become a wife. She didn't want to marry the man who defeated her father in battle. She hated the Norman already. How was she supposed to honor and obey him when she wanted to command him to Hades? She wanted to protest, but when she opened her mouth, only a soft moan came out. She realized this was probably the only way to remain at Avarloch.
"The king sides with the Normans in many things because of his kinship with Duke William," her uncle explained, though it was clear he was growing impatient with his task. His niece should be embroidering a tapestry, not sitting with men, discussing politics. "Lord Brand Risande does not wish to marry, but the king has agreed to enlist the aid of Duke William in the matter. Risande was trained under the duke's tutelage and our king assures us that he will obey William's command to marry you."
"Our king?" Brynna's temper finally flared. She narrowed her eyes on her uncle first, and then on the others. "Do you mean the same king who signed a decree giving away ownership of Avarloch to any noble who battled against my father and won?-a king who did not counsel with you as the law requires before he did this grievous thing? And, why, after he conspired to remove my father from his land, would Edward agree to help us?" "Because," a gravelly voice answered her, and Brynna shifted her gaze to Sir Nathan, "we will bring battle to Avarloch if the Norman refuses you."
"Nay!" Brynna almost leaped from her chair. Her father's hand on her shoulder stopped her. She turned to him. "Father, you cannot agree to this."
"We don't believe it will come to that, Brynna," her father assured her. "Edward may be many things I detest, but he's not simple-minded. If the council comes against Lord Risande, the Normans will surely take offense, especially now that we have involved Duke William. It could start a war." Lord Richard smiled and patted Brynna's hand when she shook her head. "Don't you see, sweeting? If there is war here, Edward must side with the Saxons, and he will lose all alliances with Duke William if he does. He has to help us. He may not want a Dumont in Avarloch, but now he has no choice. As for Duke William, he has already sent me a missive stating that he will arrive here sometime within the next sennight. He made a request to the king that I remain here until he arrives. I don't know why he wants me to stay, but I am certain he doesn't want to go to war over a single castle in England. So you see? There will be no fighting here. The duke will convince his man to take you as his wife. You will not have to leave your home, and Avarloch will remain, in part, a Saxon holding."
Brynna's heart hammered in her chest at the thought of battle in Avarloch. The very idea of her vassals losing their lives made her want to weep. Images of her home destroyed at the hands of warring men hardened her resolve to do whatever she must to ensure that it never happened. And what choice did she have? None. Her fate had indeed been decided when her father lost to Lord Brand Risande. She had to marry the Norman. She turned to face the many nobles who watched her. Her delicate shoulders squared with determination. "I will not let Avarloch be destroyed. Whatever you command of me, I will do. But I will never forget King Edward's treachery against my father. He is undeserving of your fealty and he will never have mine."
A flurry of murmurs went up in the great hall. Beating the king at his own underhanded deeds was one thing, treason was quite another. Sir Nathan, who wore a frown of disgust, shook his head at Brynna.
"You speak treason at your own peril, young girl. If you were my daughter, I would have you flogged."
In that moment the sun fled. Rays of light that had been filtering through the arched windows in the great hall vanished. It seemed the sun sensed her father's wrath and shrank away. Darkness filled Avarloch as Lord Richard slowly rose to his feet.
"Sir Nathan, we have known each other for many years. And mayhap you think that gives you leave to speak to my daughter with such disrespect. You are wrong." Richard's eyes were as sharp as daggers. "I will grant you mercy because you are a good friend to my brother. But never think to lay your hands on my daughter, else I will dismember you and leave your parts scattered upon the moors." Richard's challenging gaze swept over his other guests.
"My daughter speaks her mind as I have taught her to do. You know Risande was sent by order of my own king to kill me. The Norman spared my life, though I know not why. A fierce warrior, he fought like no one I have ever seen, save for rumors of William of Normandy himself.
Edward's efforts to rid England of me have placed one even more dangerous in my stead. The king will realize it soon. When he decides to send someone to battle the Norman warrior, he will need a man whose arm is swifter than the wind and whose heart beats to the sound of a battle drum. And still, I doubt any can beat him. I could not, and now my daughter must pay for my defeat. But this I promise, if she is harmed in any way by King Edward's continued treachery, I will come back from hell if I have to and kill him." He waited for a moment, and when no one spoke, Lord Richard took his daughter's hand and led her out of the great hall.
Brynna returned to her room and threw herself on her bed. Alysia was gone. The hearth fire had died down to glowing embers and her bedchamber was cold. Winter would come early; the Norman was bringing his hated cold with him. Brynna shivered at the thought. She was willing to do anything to save Avarloch and her people from strife, but how would she be able to give her life and her body to a man she did not love?
Her thoughts drifted, as they always did, to a cloudless day two summers ago, when she was in Porthleven; to a man whose eyes were the color of heaven and earth; a man whose heart sang with the pleasures of life. She would never forget the passion in his smile and the way it warmed her loins.
She sighed deeply against her pillow. If only it were him, her magnificent merman, she was going to marry.
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