If you like historical romances, a complicated hero, and a heroine who falls in love with a medieval bad boy but won’t back down to him, then you should enjoy Annabel and Brodie’s story.
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Annabel Henderson’s life has fallen apart yet again, worse this time than before. She lost her beloved younger brother, then her mother a year ago, and now her father. His dying words talk of his regrets; warn her of someone or something that he was unable to fully explain. Confused, grieving, she is left alone in the Scottish Highlands to deal with her father’s body and wondering how she can continue on with her family’s tinker trade traveling from village to village. She must do it, for it is the only life she knows. In her heart, though, she yearns for a man to love her and to help her with the trade. Instead her first encounter is with the famed Great Scottish Devil returning to his home of Urquhart. The Devil is more annoying and demanding than he is handsome. How dare he think to take charge of her life!
Brodie Durward isn’t sure he can deal with another problem in his life. He’d barely survived being taken prisoner and seriously wounded in the final battle of the Crusades, left with the loss of his memories. Still struggling with that, he had to go to England and save his sister Maggie from being hung. All he wants now is to return to his family’s holding of the Castle Urquhart. He hopes the once familiar surroundings and being around his clan will help him completely heal and regain his memories. Then he and his men run across a young lad apparently trying to steal the valuables off a dead man. Such a travesty can’t be tolerated! But the “lad” isn’t a boy at all. The supposed bandit is a tiny sprite of a woman, far too pleasing to the eye for his comfort, and furious at having been called a thief. And then she tries to refuse to travel with him under his protection, claiming she doesn’t need it, doesn’t wish to go in that direction. He has no patience for her foolishness. She will go with him!
He forced his warhorse into a gallop and thundered down the hill. He pulled his sword from the scabbard on his back at the same time he roared, “Stop, thief!”
The boy jerked away from the fallen man, gasping, his gaze darting toward Brodie and Douglas.
As they rode to within a dozen feet of the trembling thief, the lad pulled a dirk from his boot. Small hands shook, but kept the knife in front of him. Amber eyes were wide in fear, yet held determination as well.
“Drop the weapon, lad,” Brodie snarled, holding his three-foot sword in warning. “Step away from the man.”
The boy blinked and tears sparkled in his eyes. Slender shoulders shuddered beneath the dirt-dusted white shirt, and then straightened. A pouty lower lip trembled for but an instant. Then anger spread across a face that appeared too delicate for even a young boy.
“I’m not a thief!” the boy protested. He had the gall to glower at Brodie, to continue holding the ridiculously small weapon out in defense.
“’Tis a lass!” Douglas said in shock.
Brodie, too, had surmised that from the “boy’s” all-too-feminine voice, more so when the “boy’s” chest had thrust out in anger. There was no mistaking the swell of plump breasts shoving against the front of the shirt. It took him a second to come to terms with the surprising discovery; it took another second to get beyond his surprise and back to his fury.
He slid from his horse in a quick move that caused his kilt to lift slightly before falling in place at his knees again. When he focused on the lass, he found her eyes had widened even more. Pink colored her cheeks and she didn’t appear to be breathing, just staring.
To his annoyance, Douglas chuckled behind him. “I dinna think the lass has seen a mon in a kilt ‘ere. Or what a mon doesna wear under a kilt.” He chuckled again.
Disgusted, Brodie strode toward the lass, who was now scooting back toward the wagon, still brandishing the useless dirk. He pointed with his sword at the clearly dead man. “If ye killed him, ye will die here as well.”
“I didn’t kill him.” She swallowed hard, tears creeping slowly down her cheeks. “He’s my father.”
Brodie heard Douglas dismounting, walking next to him. He lowered his sword, studied the young girl, puzzled at the dark hair cut roughly to chin-length. How could he have not recognized her as a female? God’s teeth, had his loss of memories affected his…
No. No, his cock was even now stirring to life. But, good God, she was but a child! His gaze went to her chest. All right, she was a very endowed child. He scowled in annoyance. She should not be affecting him so. Aye, he refused to allow it!
“Ye should no’ be out here alone,” he bellowed.
Douglas glanced at him with a raised eyebrow but said nothing.
The girl, though, shot to her feet, brushed away her tears, and scowled right back at him. “I wasn’t alone until my father died.” At the last word, some of the spirit went out of her. “You do not need to interrupt your travels because of me. You can leave at any time.”
His men started down the hill behind them. The many hooves plodding over the ground drew everyone’s attention. His shoulders stiffened. He didn’t like the idea of his big, brawny Highland soldiers seeing this tiny sprite of a female. Especially with her standing there wearing boy’s-sized braies, which fit her slender form far too well for his peace of mind. And, in her anger with him, her breasts had thrust forward even more, pushing against the fabric of her shirt. He could see her nipples, dark rose-colored buds, pebbled hard.
“Ye have no’ hidden yer woman’s body well enough.” He motioned her toward the wagon. “Find something to cover up with.”
She didn’t move, simply continued to scowl defiantly at him. “You cannot tell me what to do.”
“I have fifty men riding closer by the second. Men who’ve been many days on the trail, many days without a woman.” That all might be true, but he knew none of his men would harm her. He would never allow it. And not a one of them would want to tangle with him.
As if she hadn’t heard the pounding hooves or seen their approach, she looked toward the hill now thickly covered with armed soldiers and powerful horses. The color left her face. “Please, take your men and continue on your way. Please.” She glanced back at the ashen-faced, middle-aged man near her feet. The dirk she held lowering to dangle in her limp hand. “Leave me to bury my father in peace.”
Brodie saw the miserable grief in her expression, fear as well. He knew all about fear, all about grief. Ever since the clansmen who’d brought him back to Urquhart from Tunis had told him about the deaths of his father and his older brother, he’d been grieving. But his grief hadn’t been as wrenching as hers clearly was, because he didn’t actually remember his father or his brother.
“We will see to the burying of yer da,” Douglas stated in a tone that brooked no discussion.
Nodding in agreement, Brodie grew more anxious as the other men neared. He reached over his shoulder to slide his sword back into its sheath. Thinking quickly, he went to his horse and pulled the plaid fabric he used to cover him as he slept on the ground at night from a pouch. He walked to her and easily relieved her of the dirk. Then, as she watched him in astonishment, he draped his plaid around her.
“There. ‘Tis better.” He stepped back, relieved at hiding her woman’s assets that had been making him uncomfortable. And now none of his men would see them either.
Frustrating lass that she could be, she started to pull the plaid off, but stopped when he gave her a fierce glower. “You’re a most annoying man.”
“Aye, he can be, lass,” Douglas chuckled, grinning when Brodie turned the glower in his direction. “He is not called The Great Scottish Devil for nothing.”
Her eyes flashed wide as she gasped, “I’ve heard of you!” But instead of cowering as many people did when they were around him, she gave a soft laugh. “Tales of you are known all throughout the lands. Tales spread by tinkers, added to by maidens fair—and not so fair—eager to be taken to your bed. Your reputation as a lover nearly surpasses your reputation on the battlefields.”
She smiled and studied him. “As such a feared warrior, I thought you would be more battle scarred. Breathe fire even.” She blushed and looked at his kilt. “I can understand why you are lusted after, Lord Devil.”