It’s been a long time since I’ve read a good historical romance. This one looks like a great place to start!
by Ella Matthews
Letting down her guard…
Might save her life…
With their family name in tatters, Katherine Leofric and her sister are headed for a new life at their brother’s estate. They are escorted by the hardened Jarin, Earl of Borwyn, whom Katherine believes is only after her dowry! Then her sister is abducted on their treacherous journey, and Katherine must rely on Jarin’s protection. Now, seeing a different side to the man she’s sworn to hate, it’s her heart that’s most at risk!
The Earl of Borwyn, Jarin Ashdown, is attending a celebratory feast. Although the food is fabulous, he’d unable to appreciate it as he’s so weighed down by his problems. When Katherine Leofric arrives he is instantly attracted to her. Little does he know that she overheard him talking about her disgraced family earlier and what he said wasn’t complimentary…
The tables groaned under the weight of food Ogmore thought appropriate for celebrating his only daughter’s wedding. As a high-ranking guest, Jarin was sitting at the top table but, unusually, the space opposite him was empty.
Conversation flowed around him, but he felt oddly separate, as if he wasn’t really there; this sensation was getting far too frequent for him. He had to spend so much time pretending, lying to all those around him that he was as calm and collected as always, which meant that dread and uncertainty weren’t burning away beneath his skin. Outwardly he had to portray that inheriting a vast estate hadn’t changed him from the man he’d always intended to be, one who was always in control of every situation no matter his own feelings. It was as if the real him was disappearing behind the weight of the earldom and in his place was a sophisticated puppet.
To the left of him sat a beautiful widow who’d made it abundantly clear she’d be interested in spending time with him after the feast had ended. He’d hoped the raging desire he’d felt earlier for the unusual Leofric girl meant that he would once again be able to take enjoyment in women. There was no reason, after all, for one woman to appeal to him so much. It didn’t seem to matter, though, how many times the widow—whose name he could not remember—brushed up against him, his body didn’t tighten in anticipation. He could no more imagine bedding her than he could picture sprouting wings and flying out of here.
He glanced down the hall. Erik was laughing uproariously at something his neighbour was saying and it looked as if his friend was going to have company this evening. He turned back to the trencher in front of him, piled high with roasted goose, and tried to squash down the envy that was rising up inside him. He knew he was in a position of privilege, a position that some would kill for, but sometimes he felt he would like to swap places with Erik.
A movement to his right caught his attention.
The Leofric sisters were standing huddled together a few steps away, having an intense conversation. Nobody else was paying their strange behaviour any attention but, once again, he couldn’t take his eyes off Katherine. She was tiny. He was sure that the palm of his hand would cover her waist. He’d been wrong about her body, too. She wasn’t well endowed, but he could see delicate curves through her shapeless dress and desire tugged at him once more.
She was evidently furious about something; her sister tried to placate her by putting a hand on her arm, but she shook it off.
Linota shook her head and suddenly broke away, walking towards the space opposite him. Katherine stood for a moment, frowning, then quickly followed her.
Linota slid into the space on the bench opposite him; she smiled sweetly at him and he responded in kind. Behind her, seemingly unwilling to take the last place at the table, Katherine hovered like a dark cloud. She was visibly vibrating with some kind of strong emotion. He knew he shouldn’t stare at her, but he seemed to be unable to pull his eyes away. In contrast, she looked anywhere but at him. Why?
‘Are you enjoying the feast, my lord?’ asked Linota.
Jarin jumped. He’d forgotten Linota was there, so focused was he on her sister.
‘Very much so,’ lied Jarin, who’d yet to take a bite of the rich food spread out in front of him.
Katherine climbed gracelessly on to the bench next to her sister, her slender shoulders rigid beneath the fabric of her dress. He wanted to reach out and knead the tense muscles until she moaned in pleasure. Shocked at his own reaction, he took a swig from his tankard, spluttering as the drink went down the wrong way.
‘Are you all right, my lord?’ asked Linota.
Katherine said nothing.
‘I’m fine, thank you,’ he said, feeling heat rush over his skin.
He was acting like a young boy who had never spoken to a woman in his life. What was wrong with him?
‘Do try some of this goose, Katherine. It looks delicious,’ said Linota, handing her sister a cut of meat.
Katherine took it, but didn’t raise it to her mouth. Jarin wondered if she was so tiny because she didn’t like to eat. He’d heard of such a thing before, but he’d never witnessed it. She looked almost starved and her sister was not much better.
‘If it’s not to your liking, Mistress Leofric, perhaps you would like to try the venison.’
He pushed the trencher towards her.
She still said nothing, glaring instead at the cut of meat in her hand as if it had done her a great wrong.
Linota shifted uncomfortably in her seat, finally hissing her sister’s name to get her attention. At last it worked and Katherine looked up and straight at him.
Her gaze was like a punch to the chest. He momentarily forgot how to breathe as her unusual–coloured eyes took him in. It was as if with one look she could see the real him. Not the man he portrayed to the world, but the man underneath the rich clothes. The one who was feeling his way blindly through a whole host of problems he wasn’t sure he would ever be able to fix.
Ella Matthews lives and works in beautiful South Wales. When not thinking about handsome heroes she can be found walking along the coast with her husband and their two children (probably still thinking about heroes but at least pretending to be interested in everyone else).