Authors: Kara Griffin
IN LOVE WITH A WARRIOR
A Gunn Guardsman novel
IN LOVE WITH A WARRIOR
All Rights Reserved.
Copyright © 2014 Kara Griffin
Cover Photo © 2014 All rights reserved – to be used with permission.
Cover design by Sheri McGathy http://www.sherimcgathy.com/sheri/book-cover-design/
This book may not be reproduced, transmitted, or stored in whole or in part by any means, including graphic, electronic, or mechanical without the express written consent of the publisher except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
This book contains adult material, reader discretion advised
To my youngest daughter, Emily, the inspiration for Emlyn,
who never ceases to amaze me with her humor, talent, and craziness.
OTHER HISTORICAL TITLES
BY KARA GRIFFIN
~GUNN GUARDSMAN SERIES~
ONE & ONLY
ON A HIGHLAND HILL
A HIGHLANDER IN PERIL
IN LOVE WITH A WARRIOR
~THE LEGEND OF THE KING’S GUARD SERIES~
Coming in 2015
~THE PITH TRILOGY~
CLAIMED BY A CHARMER
~GET COSMIC SERIES~
PRAISE FOR KARA GRIFFIN’S
GUNN GUARDSMAN SERIES
A HIGHLANDER IN PERIL “
I very much enjoyed this story. It was funny, suspenseful, heroic and just a good tell. I very highly recommend the book.” Cindy, Amazon – 5 Stars
A HIGHLANDER IN PERIL
“This book has intrigue, mystery, murder and incredibly romantic scenes that you will have a problem putting it down until the very end and then you will wish it had another chapter so you could keep reading the story. I did not put it down until the last word was read. I recommend this book to any who enjoy historical romance with intense intrigue and suspense.” Jusnana, Amazon – 5 Stars
A HIGHLANDER IN PERIL
“I just finished reading the third book in the Gunn series and "Loved Everyone"--Cannot wait for James story to arrive. I loved Gunn and Bree's story, was fascinated by Kenneth and Elisa but my favorite was Sean and Jordan I could not put it down and will probably read it again soon.” Lorine, Amazon – 5 stars
ON A HIGHLAND HILL “WOW! Holy Highlander! Those Highland Hills will capture your heart and soul not to mention the men. Fast paced and passion filled.” My Book Addiction and More (blogger) – 5 stars
ON A HIGHLAND HILL
“This is another all-nighter from Kara Griffin. Those hot Gunn Guardsman keep me coming back for more. Anxiously awaiting the next Gunn heart stealer” Pam, Amazon – 5 Stars
ON A HIGHLAND HILL
“This book had a great storyline, with humour, action, intrigue and of cause a tender romance. I will be reading more work by Kara Griffin for sure.” Julie, Amazon – 5 stars
ONE AND ONLY “I just finished this book ten minutes ago and I’m still smiling. Wonderful. Absolutely wonderful. ... This story has so many truly fantastic scenes. Oh, the days of men of honor, governed by loyalty, duty, and chivalry. And to top it off, they are all strapping warriors wrapped in the Gunn plaid. Need I say more? This author writes truly wonderful historical romances.” Past Romance, Amazon (reader) – 5 Stars
ONE AND ONLY
“Love the writings of Kara Griffin - strong characters - men & women - entertaining conversations between characters and the romance (sigh). Cannot wait to read the third book!” Stevie Powell, Amazon – 5 stars
IN LOVE WITH A WARRIOR
Besotted by the Princess
James Gunn knew his heart would forever be hers when she bested him in combat. Never had he met a formidable foe such as Emlyn. Mayhap it was the way her body felt above his when she pinned him and he had no choice to submit to her …
A love coveted but forbidden
Princess Emlyn would allow no man to victor over her on the field, especially the arrogant, sexy highlander. It would do well for him to know she wouldn’t fall at his feet and worship him. Aye, he was God-like in his appearance, strong, capable, and a protector: all the things she said she didn’t want in a man.
All it took was one kiss
Neither could deny their attraction. When Emlyn is betrothed to her clan’s enemy to save her people from being besieged, she beseeches James for help. The only way she can escape her ill-fated destiny and have the man of her dreams is to wage war and triumph. Not so easy a feat for a warrior such as her.
Pont Mynach, Gwynedd, Wales
It was a bonny night to die. Stars sparkled in the darkened sky. The air around them warmed with a soft breeze. Scents of the Earth came to life and permeated the air, and the fresh growth of leaves lent a rustling noise to their quiet prayers.
The peacekeeping gathering took place on the eve of Beltane. Were they home, they would be celebrating the spring festival, drinking, and wreaking havoc, and likely fornicating with the women in honor of fertility rituals. Aye, he could see them now: being merry, dancing, wearing their horse masks in tribute to Rhiannon, the Goddess of fertility, and in honor of the rites of spring. But they were not home.
Bevan stood amongst his comrades, knowing this would not turn out as his lord, Llywelyn, predicted. Being the leader on this hopeless mission, Bevan tried to raise the spirits of his comrades. For this night, they’d die. They all knew the outcome.
There were too many combatants and they’d be overtaken. Many of the men of the Iorwerth clan left their weapons far a field for none would be disrespectful and bring them to the meeting. Bevan regretted following orders and leaving their weapons behind. He should’ve known the English wouldn’t obey their accord.
Within the stone circle, on the sacred ground, they’d come to an agreement. They would fight until their last breath. The English supporters waited outside the circle but would not enter for they were leery and superstitious. For once their pagan customs and rituals aided them in a way they’d never considered.
From his position within the circle, Bevan saw the gleam from the foe’s swords, shields, and axes. Unarmed, outmanned, and in a quandary, they would have to meet their fate with bravery. Alas, they stood inside the stone circle with moments to live for the berserkers waited anxiously for the moment to attack. He heard their war cries, as they began shouting.
Bevan didn’t want to displease the Gods by allowing such an atrocity to take place within the sacred monument. He had to come up with a plan to either thwart the enemy or have the fracas moved to another location, outside the stone circle. The only problem with that was they might not be able to get through the wall of Englishmen encircling their sanctuary.
With all the passion of his ancestors and the heart of a warrior, he raised his fist and yelled their call to arms. Even though not one had a weapon to use against their adversaries, they’d go into the fray and would hope for the best.
Sadly, that was not to be, as each of his comrades ran from the stone circle, through the wall of their shielded opponents. Most were cut down before they could make it through two men. Bevan ran with four of his closest comrades, and lost sight of them when the clash of steel against their mail reached his ears and rang true.
Victory was on the side of the English this night.
He was struck from behind with a hard object and fell to his knees. Bevan watched as the leader of their foes marched toward him. The man gripped his tunic with both hands and raised him to his feet. Beside him stood Gareth, the man Llywelyn banished months ago for his treason against their clan.
“Is this he?” their leader asked Gareth.
“Aye, ‘tis.” Gareth stood with a smirk on his face.
“He is betrothed to the warrior princess?”
“Aye, he is. Won’t be for long, my lord, will he?” Gareth snickered, and kicked the side of his leg, causing him to buckle at the knee.
Bevan tried to dislodge himself from the leader’s hold because no matter what happened to him this night, he wanted to kill the traitor.
It had been rumored that Gareth led their men into an ambush and most were killed. It could not be proved, and taking no risk, Llywelyn had him removed from their land, banished and never to return. Bevan now knew the truth. He indeed was a traitor.
“And ye say this warrior princess fights with the men? That she is skilled and can best a man? Oh that she will be mine.” The leader dislodged one of his hands and shook him. “Ye hear that? Your warrior woman will share my bed and I will be pleased by the sport.” He laughed maniacally, and then thrust his dagger into Bevan’s chest and shoved him.
He fell back and hit the ground, feeling the warmth flowing from the wound. As he lay looking up at the night sky, covered with his own blood, Bevan’s last thought was that of his beloved and the danger she was in.
Gunn Keep, Northeast Scotland
Late July, 1224
It didn’t take long for James to get back to his routine on his return home from the border region. He awoke earlier than usual and set off to find embers before he’d take to the fields. When he finished dressing, he tucked the bound parchment pages into a protective pouch and put it inside his tunic for safekeeping. He headed for the kitchens knowing he’d be able to find what he was looking for. Outside, he heard the boisterous voice of the keep’s cook, Gell, shouting orders.
Gell was of an onerous nature and he only spoke softly to their laird’s lady, Bree. That didn’t stop James from entering the kitchens for the man’s bellows were mostly bluster.
“Young James, I don’t deem I’ve ever seen ye this early in the morn.” Gell stood beside a massive, steaming pot, holding a large spoon in his burly hand. His whitened hair stuck out in various places and gave him a comical look.
James stood by the main work table. “Gell, good day. Do you have any—”
“Aye, aye. Been a long time since ye came in here, but I’ve been saving the sticks for you. Over there, in the cup on the shelf.” Gell returned his attention to his pot and dismissed him.
James reached for the cup and found five burnt sticks. They would do well for his purpose. He’d discovered burnt cinders and sticks could be used to draw on parchment. He liked to make images of some of the wounds he tended. Only a handful of people knew his talent for medicinals and of his secret ability. That was the way he liked it for the more people who knew, the busier he’d be.
“My thanks, Gell. These will do well.” He added the sticks to the pouch and grabbed a large apple and a hunk of cheese before heading for the training fields.
He hastened his steps and reached the sloped hillside. Below, on the vast field, many Gunn soldiers already assembled for the day’s exercise. For the next two hours, he used his sword and tested his arm against the younger soldiers. His comrade, Duff, shouted at the unseasoned soldiers. Duff was the most formidable of their clan and was in charge of overseeing the training. His impatience grew to ire, and he all but stomped from the field, calling a rest.
James chuckled under his breath, for his laird really should find someone else to train the younger lads. They would do better under the tutelage of someone who had more patience.
During their rest period, James sat beneath the large oak at the top of the training field. He pulled out his parchment and one of the sticks, and attempted to finish the drawing he’d begun the day before.
Gordy, who had just been promoted to commander-in-arms, and in charge of the gate watch sat nearby. James was proud of the young soldier for he’d matured and finally reached an age where he could be of use to their clan. The lad had proven himself time and again, and they could do nothing but reward him with a prosperous position.
“What are you drawing, James?” He leaned close and got a glimpse before James could hide it. “Let me see it. Och, that’s gruesome.”
James looked down at his drawing and nodded. “Aye, but it’s accurate.” The image was of a battle wound one of the soldiers incurred the day before during training. His leg had been split by the sharp edge of a claymore. One could see the inside of the skin and the muscle. Such things interested him and he’d made images of them since he was a lad. Sometimes the images aided him when he was called upon to mend one of his comrades.
He used the burnt stick to shade the drawing and finished it off. Duff finally returned and called their rest to an end. James was about to take to the field when his friend stopped him.
“Grey wants to see you at the keep.”
“What does he want?” He sheathed his sword and swiped back his hair, for the day had grown warm.
Duff scowled and muttered a blasphemy. “Cosh, what do I look like, your personal messenger? I don’t know. He didn’t say.”
James shoved him and hastened off before he could retaliate.
Along the path to the keep, James wondered what his laird wanted. They had yet to discuss when they would leave on the mission for their king. They’d received the king’s missive on Saint Swithin’s day, a few weeks before, stating they were to go to Wales of all places. James reached the keep a few minutes later and entered. He noticed the look on his laird’s face when he got closer. Grey only wore that expression when something bothered him. It was a look none of the guardsman wanted to see.
“Laird, Duff said you wanted to see me?”
“Aye, I did. We’ve a visitor.”
James stopped at the buttery and dunked a cup in the ale barrel before he approached and stood next to his longtime friend and laird. He waited for him to elaborate, but Grey didn’t seem to want to impart who this visitor was.
“Is it the king?” He appreciated his friend’s dislike for the king, because their relationship was tedious at best. In the last years the king had caused somewhat of discord between his laird and their leader.
“Nay. It is your father. He wants you to come home.”
James could’ve been knocked on his arse at hearing this news. His father was a treasonous banshee. How could he ever forgive such a transgression? James suppressed his rage, but couldn’t refrain from sounding outraged. “He wants me to what?”
“He wants ye to return home.” Grey leaned against the chair in the great hall of the keep, appearing as cross at the news as James was.
James couldn’t believe what he was hearing. His father tried to kill his own brother to take over the clan. Many still carried the severity and remembrance of it in their hearts. Thankfully, James wasn’t held accountable for his father’s action so long ago. He’d been too young to remember the sordid details. Still, having one’s own father be so vindictive, caused bitterness inside him.
The man’s gall surpassed his transgression, for James would never agree to return to his father’s land. Even if his father hadn’t betrayed his clan, James still wouldn’t consider abiding by his request.
“I’ve been expecting this,” Grey said, “My father told me his brother vowed to come for you one day. We foresaw word from him. He awaits outside.”
James smirked, for he never expected it. Aye, he’d read the messages written hastily throughout the years, insisting upon his return to his father’s farmstead. But he never anticipated his father would display such rashness by coming to retrieve him. For many within the Gunn clan hated his father. Joseph risked life and limb in coming to the keep.
“He dares come here after what he did? Laird, I refuse to see him. Send him away.”
“I cannot. If ye do not see him, he shall never leave. Your father is an obstinate man. He’ll damn well camp on my doorstep until we face him. He’s here,” Grey said, and set his hand on his shoulder. “Best ye speak with him now and get the reunion over with. Do you want me to stay?”
He nodded, but wasn’t appeased with the news of his father’s presence. James waited at the end of the table and hastily glanced at his father when he entered the room.
His father walked with unreserved steps toward him as if his welcome would be joyous. It was far from that, and James kept his expression staid.
“Well look at ye, son. Aye, you’ve done a fine job at getting him ready, Laird Gunn. He looks to be strong enough to handle the tasks to farm my land.” His father’s words seemed prideful and yet James didn’t appreciate his boast.
He remained silent. Farming. Hell, not as he lived and breathed. James hadn’t trained for over twenty years at warfare and protection, to tend livestock and fields. He envisioned standing amid a hill full of fat sheep … What a boring, dreadful existence.
James took in the view of his father, a man he hadn’t seen since he was the age of seven. Not once had his father inquired of his health or welfare. His father had given him over to his uncle to train and raise, but alas he’d been given no choice. Their laird at the time, Mikal, Grey’s father, demanded his word that he’d never try to overtake the clan again. And along with his vow, he had to give his son in forfeit for his treachery.
As far as James was concerned, that was the end of his relations with his parents. His father stood tall, just as tall as Laird Mikal had. He bore the same traits, light hair, lanky body-build, and blue eyes—all from their Viking ancestors. He’d aged and it showed in his drawn face and the gray that streaked his hair. James looked nothing akin to his father, with his dark hair and eyes. He stood taller than his father as well, which gave James a wee bit of mettle.
“James is not pleased by your request, Joseph.” Grey motioned for him to be seated, but his father remained standing.
“Are ye not, James? You knew I would come for you, knew your destiny was to take over the farmstead and toil the land. My brother became laird and I became a farmer. So goes the fate of a second son. I bid your return as my first-born son so you may take over. It is our custom.”
The way his father spoke, commanded his acceptance, but James was not in a mood to placate him. First-born son, indeed, James thought. He was his only son, as far as he knew. Mayhap his parent had other children … but he wouldn’t know such as he hadn’t stepped foot on his father’s land in many a year.
“Customs be damned. You gave up your rights as my father the day you left me here. I am a Gunn guardsman and will remain so until the day I die. I took an oath to my laird and I will not break it. Not for you, not for anyone.” James kept his voice insistent so his father would know outright his regard.
“What speak ye? You were brought here to toughen ye up and to make you strong. Ye had no right to take such an oath. The time has long since passed and your return is needed.” His father ran his hands through his thick mane of graying hair. “You will disobey your father?”
“The only persons I need obey are my laird and my king. You speak falsely. Aye, you know why I was sent here, to what purpose you were bid to bring me. I was given as barter to save your arse from the noose.”
His father approached and stood within a foot of him, his face reddened. He wasn’t sure if it was because of embarrassment or ire. James readied for his strike, as angry as Joseph appeared. His father’s nose flared and his eyebrows furrowed. James kept his hands at his side, knowing he would never retaliate should his father attack him.
If there was one thing James held above all else, it was honor. To raise a hand against one’s parent was a grievous sin. Regardless of the man’s actions, he was still his father. No matter how much he wanted to take retribution against his misdeeds, he resisted.
“I am needed more by my laird. Our clan has been called to war by our king, and I will not let my clansmen face the fracas without me. You’ve survived what twenty-some years without me? I will not return to your farmstead.” James turned and was about to dismiss his father, but then Grey cleared his throat, halting him.
“Joseph, give James time to consider this. In time, he may be willing to give it a try. When we return from our mission, he can come for a stay and ye both can see how it goes.” Grey played devil’s advocate, and James raised a brow. For hell would meet heaven before he’d be willing to return to his father’s land and rule.
His father kicked the chair closest to him. “Your father, Grey, my own brother and laird, promised me my son would be returned when I was ready. I’ve long since sent missives directing his return. Now ye say nay?”
“My father never told me he gave permission for James to return home at any time. If you speak the truth—” Grey frowned fiercely when Joseph cut him off.
“I do. Why would I risk my own life if it ‘twas a falsehood? I know all the Gunns hate me. I probably had many an arrow pointed at my back on the way in here. Aye, I’ve accepted that my kin abandoned me. But I will have the return of my son.” Joseph’s voice rose as his fury intensified.
Grey was about to retort when James held up his hand.
“I can speak for myself, Grey,” James said, taking a step toward his father. He stood practically nose to nose with him. “You dare speak of abandonment? You come here after years of negating me, sending me off when I was a lad to people I didn’t know … I did not deem ye cared. And now you demand my return? I’ve made a life here, Joseph, and one that I am pleased with. I will not do as you bid. I’m certain you can find others who would come and work your land.”
“You are a stubborn man, James Gunn, aye and have the obstinate Gunn blood running through ye, as I have. I will give you six months to return. If you don’t by then, you will never step foot on my land. You will forfeit your inheritance, for my lands are vast and my income great. There are others that would happily reap the benefit.”
“That land is cursed with your foul deeds. They are welcome to it. Farewell, Joseph.” James trod out of the hall and went directly to the barracks. He grabbed his bow and decided a work-out would rid him of the hostility of his father’s visit. He’d take to the quintains and use his arrows to calm. Focusing on the target would allow him to put his father’s audacious request from his mind.
He was about to exit the barracks when Grey and Duff entered. His laird blocked the doorway, as well as Duff’s large body. Their scowls lent to their rigid stance. Duff was the most intimidating of Grey’s guardsmen, and one of James’ closest friends since they were lads. Though he respected them both, he wouldn’t have any qualms about taking his fist to them should they intervene in his quest to get to the fields. They gave no account for their demeanor, which bore as hostile as his own.