Book 1: Renegade Lords
Northern France, January, 1193
Magdalena has just confronted a corrupt town official and been saved from his wrath by a mysterious stranger. She's utterly and inadvisedly charmed, but she is about to discover the true consequences of joining up with outlaws: they might do anything. Anything at all.
…Voices broke out from the other end of the quay. They turned. The reeve's assistant was coming up the quay with an even more officious-looking man. On their heels stalked several armed men.
Tadhg muttered a foul curse.
“Mother Mary,” she said in a desperate whisper. “What more can go awry?”
Tadhg shared the query. He was out of options. There was nothing for it. He made his decision in a heartbeat. Sliding his hands up her arms, he spun her and almost flung her up against the side of the nearest building, then reached up and tore off her headdress.
“Good heavens,” she cried, her hands flying up to capture the silky veil, but he'd already pulled it off and was tugging off her distinctive cloak next.
“Mon Dieu,” she gasped, grappling for the cloak, but he fisted it together with the veil, down by his hip, then stretched out his other hand and planted it on the wall beside her head, blocking her face from the interlopers hurrying down the quay.
“Kiss me,” he ordered.
Her shocked face stared up at him. “I b-beg your pardon?”
“Kiss me, then run.”
“If you kiss me, you're a whore. If you stand there staring, you're a merchant with a pouch of stolen buttons in her hand.”
A second's pause, then she pushed up on her toes and pressed her lips to his.
Dizziness and heat swooped in like hunting birds for Magdalena, dispelling sense and reason and anything else that might have been of use to her at the moment. She had barely touched her lips to his when he descended without mercy, his mouth hard and slanting. There was no prelude, no warning, no kindness or care, no quarter given. She was a whore and he was having her.
He played the ruse exceptionally well.
He plowed her mouth open with teeth and tongue, explored the depths of her mouth with sinful abandon. She could do nothing but cling to him, her hands around his neck, her head forced back, her spine cupped, her body…thrilling.
Madness. Madness, all.
The hand not holding her cloak and wimple closed around her hip and began to tug up her skirts. She made a feeble attempt to stop him, but his grip grew fierce, and he yanked the gown, dragging it up the side of her leg until she felt cool air on her shin and calf.
Her head spun as if she'd been twirled like a top. Picked up by a bird and sent flying.
Her knees grew weak, but she did not break the kiss. She could not. He'd become a field of energy, the way a metal is pulled toward iron, or how one drop of water clings to another. She was affixed to his kiss, to his chest, which she'd somehow pressed up against, to his shoulders, which she'd somehow wrapped her arms around, to his tongue, which was tangled with hers, his hot male breath, his cunning male hand, his hard knee now making all manner of incursions between her thighs, and she, she, reveling in it.
Then—it might have been an hour, or five seconds—he pulled away, took his heat and his kiss and his hard hands and that soaring sensation, took it all away and broke the kiss.
For a second, his head hung beside hers. “What is your name?” he asked softly.
Her name? What was her name? “M-Magdalena.”
He repeated it, “Magdalena,” so it became a hot, accented breath of her name, then he slid his hands down to her elbows and pushed her away. She stood wavering, bereft, panting against the haberdasher's wall.
“Run,” he said.
She stared. “I—”
He gave her a little push. “Run.”