More cherished than gold are the Jewels of Kinfairlie, and only the worthiest may fight for their love…The Laird of Kinfairlie has unmarried sisters, each a gem in her own right. And he has no choice but to see them all wed in haste.
Like a heroine in an ancient tale, Vivienne waited in the highest chamber of Kinfairlie’s tower for her fated lover. In the darkness he came for her, cloaked and hooded so that she would not see his face. He loved her sweetly, thoroughly…and Vivienne knew she had met her destiny.
But in the morning light, her dream is shattered. Erik Sinclair of Blackleith is no romantic hero but a disinherited warrior who arranged her abduction to regain his own legacy. Outraged by Erik’s insistence that he needs her solely to beget a son, yet ensnared by the passion he awakens, Vivienne realizes that there is more merit in her taciturn spouse than he would admit. Erik is skeptical of her growing faith in his honor and her desire to recapture his stolen birthright…
Little does he suspect that his rare gem of a bride intends to capture his barricaded heart as well.
“A beautiful, heart-wrenching, deeply emotional story. Five hearts!”
The Romance Studio
A Kindle Bestseller
The Rose Red Bride is also available in an audiobook.
You can listen to a sample on my Audio page.
An excerpt from The Rose Red Bride:
It was a moonless night, the perfect night for a nefarious deed. The hidden man shifted his weight off his damaged leg by force of habit, ensuring it would be as rested as possible when the moment came to move, and remained still and silent. His scheme was perfectly wrought.
Despite his resolve, guilt pricked at him as he waited. It was not in his nature to deceive, or even to wreak vengeance, though circumstance had driven him to do both.
He had told Alexander the truth, though he had not confessed all of it by any means, and the truth was not all his own. And indeed, not all he had said was the truth. He had no ambitious cousin, for example, though his brother was ambitious enough for an entire family. He had no intent of wedding Vivienne before a priest and witnesses on the following morning.
He did, however, have need of a son.
The bells of the chapel in Kinfairlie village rang, then tolled the hour. Midnight. He tensed as he listened, fearful that all might not be as Alexander had pledged.
But it was. A hue and a cry was raised on the far side of the keep, and he heard the sentries race to that point.
With nary a moment to lose, he stepped out of the darkness and flung his grappling hook skyward with practiced ease. It caught and held on the parapet on the first try, and the scratch of its movement across the roof was lost in the din of Alexander’s distraction.
He took a deep breath and swung himself into the air, wincing as his left boot collided with the wall. He grit his teeth, ignored the pain, and climbed, his heart thudding with trepidation.
For truly, the most difficult part of his task lay ahead of him. He had seduced no woman but his late wife, and
Beatrice had been willing.
Vivienne might not be willing. After all, the man who scaled Kinfairlie’s tower, unobserved on that moonless night, was not Nicholas Sinclair.
And the woman he meant to bed and kidnap this night was the only person in Kinfairlie who knew the truth.
* * *
Through the haze of dreams, Vivienne heard the bells in Kinfairlie village toll midnight. Her posset had put her to sleep, whether due to its heat or its ingredients, she could not say. She was warm within her cloak and comfortable upon her pallet and she spared only the barest sleepy glance at the windows.
And then he came.
She sensed his presence, like a prickling along her spine. She knew he arrived, knew with a certainty that should have been alarming for its vigor. She turned and opened her eyes and saw his silhouette against the window. He was wreathed in starlight, his fair hair gleaming with an unnatural light.
He had come for her. Vivienne did not dare to breathe.
He paused for a moment, the night sky framing his silhouette within the frame of the window, against the greater darkness of the chamber. She knew his gaze grew accustomed to the shadows, she knew he sought some hint of her location, or even of her presence. He was large, larger than her brothers, larger than any man she had ever met.
She liked that he was tall. Vivienne was tall herself and did not find comfort in standing beside a man shorter than herself. It was petty, to be sure, for a man’s measure lies in his spirit, but still she was glad to find her destined partner taller than she. She liked that his shoulders were broad and his hips were lithe. She liked that he was wrought lean but muscular, and she liked the golden glint of his hair.
Nicholas had had blond hair, Nicholas who had so cruelly cast her aside when she refused to surrender her all in exchange for another of his empty promises.
Perhaps she had found Nicholas alluring because she had known her destined lover would have hair like spun flax. Perhaps some knowledge of her fate had led her so close to making a fool of herself.
It did not matter, not any longer.
Vivienne stirred without intending to do so and the straw of the pallet rustled. He pivoted, listening, and she felt the weight of his gaze as keenly as a touch. No doubt he could see clear through to her pounding heart, for fairies were said to have uncommonly keen vision.
No matter, for Vivienne had nothing to hide.
“Vivienne?” he asked, his voice low and rich.
She shivered in delight that he knew her name, that he had anticipated her presence. He must have spied her through the portal between the realms. Her skin tingled with new awareness, her other senses awakened in the darkness that foiled her sight. The night was as velvet against her skin, the fur lining of her cloak was soft against her chin.
“I have awaited you,” she whispered, her voice uncommonly hoarse. She reached for the lantern and fairly spilled the oil in her haste, then fumbled with the flint.
He was beside her in the blink of an eye, the warmth of his hand covering her own. “Strike no light on this night,” he urged. His hand was strong, far larger than her own, so large that her fingers were fairly swallowed in his grip.
Yet his clasp was gentle. His heat loomed beside her, the scent of his skin making Vivienne’s pulse quicken. His thumb slid across the back of her hand in a caress and Vivienne was certain her heart could pound no louder.
“It is the flint and the rasp,” she guessed, barely able to reason beneath his disarming touch. In every tale she knew, fairies spurned metal. “You cannot bear its presence, of course.”
“It is the light,” he murmured. “I would discover you with keener senses than mere sight.” And he kissed her then, claimed her lips with a demand that startled her with its vigor. Vivienne gasped and her hand fluttered against his chest.
Of course, he had yearned for her. He had watched her from across the threshold, his passion running higher with each glimpse. She was not a stranger to him, as he was to her. Though she was far from experienced in such deeds, Vivienne opened her mouth beneath his even as she trembled.
And then his manner changed. It was as if her uncertainty had softened his desire, as if her cautious response awakened a tenderness within him. Indeed, he then courted her response. She felt it in his kiss, how he waited for her to become accustomed to the press of him against her, how he waited for her to respond before he deepened his kiss again.
Vivienne was charmed. Only a lover true would command his passion so that his lady was not afraid.
His fingers slipped into her hair, cupping her nape so that he could feast upon her lips. He drew her to her feet and the cloak she had only cast over her shoulders fell to the floor. He caught her against him before she could feel the chill of the night and she heard the thunder of his heart so close to her own.
She felt his other hand trail over her, touching her curves with a feather-light touch, as if he found her to be the marvel. Her heart raced when his fingertips trailed down her throat, her nipple beaded when his hand swept over her breast, her belly tightened when his hand rested upon her waist. Something hot and unruly awakened within her, something Vivienne had the wits to recognize as desire. There was dampness between her thighs and hunger in her kiss, and she knew precisely what she desired of him.
It mattered little whether they loved first or wed first, for both would be achieved in time. It could be no other way, for they were intended to be together.
When he broke their embrace, she was breathless but anxious for more of this new pleasure. She thought she could see the glint of his eyes and she smiled at him, wondering whether he smiled back. “That was wondrous,” she said.
“More wondrous than any had the right to expect,” he said, though Vivienne could not understand fully what he meant. Was lovemaking between destined lovers more potent? He cast off his cloak, letting it swirl in an arc before he cast it across her rough pallet with a graceful gesture. When he reached for her again, joy rose within
Vivienne. She could do naught but acquiesce, for this was the grand passion that she desired beyond all else.
It was Vivienne who stretched to her toes to demand more of him, Vivienne who let her hands cup his face to draw him closer. His jaw was smooth, like that of a mortal man who had just sheared his whiskers. Fairies, Vivienne knew, were eternally young. Perhaps their men did not even have whiskers.
Her questing fingertips found the pulse at his throat, and she was shocked to find it racing as quickly as her own. “Surely you cannot be afraid of me?” she asked.
He paused, as if regarding her, though Vivienne could not discern his face in the darkness. “How could I have expected such a welcome?” His words were so hoarse that Vivienne felt her breath catch in her throat.
“How could I not welcome you fully?” Vivienne touched her lips to his and revelled in his gasp of surprise. She let her hands slide over him, as he had moved his over her, and knew that she had surprised him once again. He caught her close, and Vivienne let her hands slip into the silky thickness of his hair. She arched against him, bold in her newfound passion, and heard his sharp inhalation.
He whispered something, then caught her up in his arms. He held her captive against his chest for a heady moment, and their kiss left Vivienne dizzy and hot. He knelt on one knee then, with her weight cradled in his lap, and his hand slid beneath the hem of her chemise and kirtle.
Vivienne gasped into his kiss when the warmth of his hand landed upon her knee. His tongue danced with hers, fairly sending sparks along her veins, and Vivienne nigh forgot the weight of his hand.
Then his hand slid up her thigh, his fingertips against her bare flesh, though his kiss did not cease. She gasped when his fingers moved in the heat that none other than herself had ever touched, then she moaned at the sensation. He nibbled at her ear, he kissed her earlobe, he traced a burning path of kisses down her throat, and Vivienne was lost.
©2005, 2011 Claire Delacroix, Inc.