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Claire Delacroix

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THE SCOUNDREL

 

by

 

Claire Delacroix

 

 

Dear Reader:

 

It is true that I acted boldly, brazenly, wantonly…and I confess, I have only myself to blame. I knew what sort of man I was dealing with, knew Gawain Lammergeier was a rogue and a thief. Yet when I schemed to seduce him and reclaim what was rightfully mine, I never imagined I would succumb to the charms of this reckless, golden-haired scoundrel.

 

Make no mistake, I took what I came for - the sacred relic stolen from my father that can restore the fortunes of my keep. I should have been content then, to return home with my prize. Alas, I let desire rule me. For I have dared to tempt Gawain - to best me, bewitch me and even bed me, in pursuit of my treasure.

 

—Lady Evangeline of Inverfyre

 

* * *

 

Praise for THE SCOUNDREL

 

 

“Original and cleverly plotted, with many twists and turns.”

Romantic Times

 

“A delightful romp through medieval times in a game of cat and mouse…
The Scoundrel
is an enjoyable read; mixed with passion, humor and an unexpected plot that kept me turning the pages.”

Romance Junkies

 

“Ms. Delacroix has written an enthralling and compelling story.”

The Old Book Barn Gazette & TheBestReviews.com

 

“The highly talented Ms. Delacroix is a first-rate writer. She tells the story from each character’s point of view, in first person! She has taken a task that can oft fall flat and has made it phenomenal. She takes you in and keeps you there. Her pages are filled with full-bodied characters and real-life happenings. The pages of this book are filled with one believable event after the other. Can you tell I liked it?”

Romance Readers’ Connection

 

“Claire Delacroix has woven another romantic tale and thrown a twist of the mystical into it. A thoroughly enjoyable read.”

HistoricalRomanceWriters.com

 


The Scoundrel
is worth reading and re-reading.”

Bookloons

 

* * *

 

Dear Reader;

 

The Scoundrel
is a book very close to my heart. After writing
The
Rogue
, I wondered whether love could redeem a lost soul. Shouldn’t love conquer all? I didn’t think Gawain was entirely bad, although he was certainly naughty. Could the right woman turn him around? I began to wonder what kind of woman would compel Gawain to change – because I quite liked his James-Bond-variety of audacity and derring-do – and Evangeline, a fiercely passionate woman, presented herself to me. I had a wonderful time writing this book, redeeming a previous villain and showing that love could indeed conquer all, and I’m delighted to make this book available to readers again.

 

Once again, I’m excited to send this book out in the world with a wonderful new cover – and once again, that cover is the work of the talented Eithne O’Hanlon of Ni Anluain Designs. I think she’s done a terrific job with this cover illustration, as well.

 

As with all of my re-releases, I’ve chosen not to revise this book, but to republish it essentially as it was published in the first place. All three of the Rogues of Ravensmuir medieval romances are now available in both new digital editions and new print editions like this one. This month, all three of the Rogues of Ravensmuir medieval romances are becoming available in new print editions. The linked series, The Jewels of Kinfairlie, is already available in new print editions. You can learn more on my website.

 

I’ve also returned to Kinfairlie and Ravensmuir and am happily writing medieval romance again.
The Renegade’s Heart
, the first book in a new four-book series called The True Love Brides, will be published in May 2012. This new series picks up the story from my Jewels of Kinfairlie series, following four more of the siblings at Kinfairlie as they meet their romantic matches and find their happily-ever-afters.
The Renegade’s Heart
is Isabella’s story and I’m very excited to have the chance to finally tell her tale. Visit my website for more information about this series and other upcoming releases.

 

I’ve enjoyed revisiting
The Scoundrel
, and hope you enjoy reading it, as well.

 

Until next time, I hope you are well and have plenty of good books to read.

 

All my best,

 

Claire

http://www.delacroix.net

 

* * *

 

The Scoundrel

 

By Claire Delacroix

 

 

Copyright 2003, 2011 Claire Delacroix, Inc.

 

 

Cover Design by Eithne O’Hanlon of Ni Anluain Designs

http://www.nianluain.com

Cover Design Copyright 2011 Eithne Ni Anluain

 

Digital Edition

 

The scanning, uploading, printing and distribution of this work without the express written permission of the author is illegal and punishable by law. Please purchase only authorized versions of any work, and do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials. Your support of the author’s rights is appreciated.

 

* * *

 

The Scoundrel

Table of Contents

 

Prologue

 

An Unwitting Pawn

I

II

III

IV

V

VI

 

A Cornered Queen

VII

VIII

IX

X

XI

XII

XIII

 

An Unlikely Knight

XIV

XV

XVI

XVII

 

Endgame

XVIII

XIX

XX

XXI

XXII

 

An Excerpt from THE WARRIOR

 

* * *

 

The Scoundrel

by

Claire Delacroix

 

* * *

 

 

Prologue

 

 

Inverfyre, Scotland - All Hallow’s Eve, 1371

 

When darkness fell and the shadows in her chamber took vaguely human shapes, Lady Elspeth of Inverfyre understood that the dead had come to add her to their company.

It was a night that might have come from an old tale. The sky was blacker than black, the stars obscured, nary a sound carrying through the windows but the murmur of the wind in the trees.

It was the festival Samhain and, though the church had forbidden the celebration, the land heeded its ancient rhythms. On this night, legend told that the veil betwixt the worlds drew thin and that the dead came to visit the living. Elspeth, come to this land from the court of Burgundy, had never given much credence to local tales, not until now.

Indeed, she had no choice - she could see the dead, clustered ’round. Their phantom whispers rustled in the darkness, telling her a truth she did not want to hear.

Elspeth took a painful breath, relieved that it was not quite her last. She still had one deed to perform, one she had avoided in the hope that she would not be required to do it at all. Exhaustion filled her every sinew, just as pain racked her very bones. It would be blissful to be free of the agony, and Elspeth did not care at this point whether hell or heaven was her fate. No pain could be more fearsome than what she had already borne.

Still she would have borne it longer, if that might have made a difference. She closed her eyes and listened to the sounds of her daughter arguing yet again with Fergus.

“You should release Aphrodite,” Evangeline said, referring the gyrfalcon recently granted to Fergus as a gift. Her daughter’s tone was precisely right, in Elspeth’s opinion, neither pleading nor insistent. Fergus could take no insult from such reasonable speech. “She yearns to return to her nesting site. It will only drive her mad to deny her instincts, and a mad falcon is of no value to hunter or falconer.”

It was a reasonable argument, one Evangeline had presented with respectful persistence. Elspeth held her breath, as she listened for the reply, though she suspected already what it might be.

Fergus laughed, his manner mocking. Elspeth winced. Had there ever been a man more given to ignoring good sense?

“Oh, you have a whimsy, Evangeline,” Fergus said in the manner of one indulging a stupid child. “Only a woman could believe it wise to cast away a prize such as this!

“But…”

“I will never let Aphrodite fly free - what fool would spurn a bird fit for a king? You may rest assured that whatever her instinct, she will learn to prefer my hand.”

“She will lose heart.” Evangeline was persistent, though Elspeth guessed that her daughter understood the battle to be lost. “A falcon is most clever, more clever than a hound. A haggard falcon, taken long after its infancy, is never a good captive. This is why we have never captured haggards at Inverfyre.”

“You capture no falcons at Inverfyre, to my knowledge. That is why it is so delightful to be granted a gift such as this bird.”

“Aphrodite must be permitted to return to her nest, wherever it is, there to meet with her partner.”

“And who are you to grant me counsel?” Fergus mocked. “Remember your place, Evangeline. You may be a beauteous woman, but beauty is less pleasing when accompanied by a viper’s tongue.”

There was a pause and Elspeth suspected that her determined daughter had to grit her teeth. “I think only of the value of the bird to you, Fergus,” she said with a deference that must have been feigned. Truly, Elspeth had taught the child well! “I would not have your prized gift wither - how impressed would the donor be if Aphrodite died?”

“She will not die! What do you know of gyrfalcons?”

“I am the daughter of the laird of Inverfyre, baron of the greatest falconry in all of Christendom,” Evangeline snapped. Elspeth averted her face, disliking that her daughter’s pride could not be better confined. Fergus would take affront. “I am born to a centuries-old lineage of falconers. It could be said that I know something of falcons.”

“To be born at Inverfyre does not grant one innate knowledge of falcons or falconry,” Fergus retorted. He was wrong, more wrong than he could know, but Elspeth knew this man could be taught nothing. “Fear not - Aphrodite will be smitten with another male.”

“Falcons mate for life.”

“No, Evangeline, they do not. That is the kind of whimsy I expect to hear from a woman prone to chattering nonsense.”

Elspeth grimaced at Fergus’ dismissive tone. The pain chose that moment to revisit her, and she gasped at the vigor of its bite.

Immediately, her daughter was leaning over her, eyes filled with concern. “Mother? How do you fare?”

“Not well.” Elspeth coughed and caught her breath. She laid a hand over her daughter’s hand, so much younger and smoother than her own. “This night will be my last.”

“Do not say as much!”

“It is the truth, Evangeline.”

“Nonsense! A healer comes from Edinburgh even now. Do not lose heart so readily as this.”

Elspeth sighed, knowing she could not persuade her daughter of what she knew to be unassailable. “Then, aid me to sit up, if you please.”

Evangeline pushed pillows behind her mother’s back and smoothed the hair back from her brow. Elspeth noted that Fergus lingered in the doorway, the gyrfalcon Aphrodite perched upon his gloved hand, though he clearly wished to be elsewhere. He stroked the bird’s back with a bejeweled hand, his gaze assessing. The bird’s hood was splendidly wrought of green leather, embellished with gold and topped with a crest of peacock feathers.

Fergus himself was finely attired as well, seemingly every gem of Inverfyre’s treasury stitched onto his clothes. Fergus’ fine garb, however, could not hide his age. He was elderly, vain, and not terribly clever. Not for the first time, Elspeth wondered why Gilchrist had chosen Fergus as his successor. Her husband had had many failings, but she had always admired his ability to judge character.

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