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Authors: Gerri Russell

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BOOK: A Knight to Desire
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A familiar hurt centered in her chest. Damn them both for not believing in her, for rejecting her. Brianna straightened. One thing she had learned over the last year was that no one could take away her sense of worth unless she let them. And she wasn't about to let that happen to her again. 

"What are you doing?" a male voice came at her from behind.

Brianna lifted the edges of her dress and turned to face Simon. He stood with his sword drawn. She frowned down the length of the blade. "You have no need of that weapon here."

"Answer my question." Slowly he lowered his sword, no doubt reacting more from habit than from any threat by her. "What are you doing?"

"Haven't you ever seen anyone saddle a horse before?"

"With what intent, Brianna?" he asked, his tone brittle.

Her frown deepened at the distrust in his voice. "I'm excited to get going. I didn't want to waste time waiting for you to prepare the horses. I thought I'd take care of it myself."

"Because as well as fight, you can saddle a horse better than I can. Is that it?"

"You taught me how to saddle a horse, you fool. Why would I think I could do it better than you?"

"Because to you, everything is a challenge you must excel at. Saddling the horses is no different than winning a sword fight."

She turned away from him to slip the bit between Magic's teeth then fit the bridle comfortably around the horse's ears before securing it. "Believe whatever motive you like. I've told you the truth." She moved to the tack and snatched up two more bridles. She faced Simon and thrust them into his joined hands, avoiding the sword he still held. "Make yourself useful and saddle the horses you brought with you."

The spark of challenge lit his dark eyes. He sheathed his sword as he strode to Diago's side. "I see the last year has not dulled your tongue."

"'Twas the only weapon I was allowed." Brianna grabbed the horse blanket and settled it over her horse's back, followed by the saddle. A heartbeat later she moved on to Abigail's old gray mare. He moved on to Kaden's horse at the same moment. 

She wasn't racing him, Brianna reminded herself as she finished setting the bridle in the mare's mouth faster than she ever had before. The old horse's gaze followed Brianna as she tossed the saddle onto its back. It was a look that said, "Go easy on these old bones." 

Simon darted a glance at her and picked up his pace.

Brianna's fingers flew over the lashings. When she'd finished she patted the horse on the neck and turned to see Simon had finished at the same moment. 

"Well done," she acknowledged begrudgingly.

He gave her an arch look. "You had a head start."

His words rang in her head and ignited her temper. She had lived for the past year in isolation from her family, sacrificing everything she held dear, and he had the audacity to insinuate she'd cheated. "I'm done here."

"Where are you going?"

"Away from you." She stopped at the door and turned to face him. "We might be partners in this search for de la Roche, but that doesn't mean I have to like you, Simon Lockhart. You are still as arrogant and pigheaded as ever." On those words, she disappeared.

Pigheaded. Him?

"She's right, you know." Kaden sat up in the pile of straw that had been his bed for the night. He yawned, then stretched.  "Have you always been like this around her?"

"What do you mean? I'm no different with her than with anyone else."

Kaden's laughter filled the morning air. He stood, dusting the remnants of the straw from his leather jerkin and breeches. "Watching the two of you is like watching two deer with their horns locked, battling over territory. You're both all muscle and no brains."

"I resent that."

Kaden shrugged. "Resent it all you like. It's the truth."

Simon was surprised by Kaden's words, though he shouldn't have been. Brianna's presence had always set him on edge. Why would today be any different? "What do you suggest?"

"Let the woman win occasionally. She and her visions are helping us, after all."

Let her win
. She would win most of the time even if he didn't let her, but a part of him still couldn't accept her skill. She was first and foremost a woman. "Come on," Simon said, heading for the door that Brianna had vanished through. The sudden silence was heavenly, but that's not why they were here. They'd come to find Brianna and make use of her dreams. He frowned at her retreating back. Before they began this adventure, however, he had one more stop to make.

He had to return to Rosslyn Castle. And this time he would speak with her father no matter his excuses. During their journey to Teba, William and John Sinclair had mentioned secret underground catacombs that existed beneath the old chapel at their home. The catacombs would be the perfect place to relocate the treasure. The chapel was close enough to Edinburgh and the Templar brothers who lived there, that they might help protect the artifacts without major disruption to their lives.

Simon clenched his jaw. Moving the Templar treasure was almost as urgent a task as finding and stopping de la Roche. He had to convince Brianna's father to allow him to use the already excavated tunnels. If not, it might take years to prepare another hiding place as secure as the Sinclair brothers had claimed the catacombs to be.

And perhaps while he was there he could also help bridge whatever divide had come between Brianna and her father.

It seemed like the perfect solution.

He only prayed Brianna would see it that way.

Of course, he didn't have to tell her.





Chapter Six


Brianna tasted fear as the scenery where they headed became familiar. They'd passed many rolling green fields dotted with acacia trees, but at the sound of the River North Esk, the scene resonated in her memory. They came to the top of a rise and she looked down to see the familiar sight of Roslin Glen bathed in late afternoon light. "Simon, where are we heading? I thought you said it was to Crosswick Abbey?"

"We needed to make one stop first," he replied, bringing his horse alongside hers. "I wish to speak with your father."

"He won't see you."
He won't see anyone
. "He went into deep mourning after the loss of his sons."

"It's been more than a year since they—"

"Grief resolves in its own time," she snapped. She hadn't meant to snap, but then she hadn't ever meant to come back here either. She glowered at Simon. "You should have told me."

"Would you have come?" he asked with a lift of his brow.

"Nay." She'd suffered enough hurt and rejection at her father's hand. She needed no more. 

He smiled faintly. "That's why I didn't tell you. I need you with me. What I ask of your father is great. I thought perhaps…"

She laughed. "My presence will only turn my father against your cause." She reined to a stop at the edge of the bridge approaching the castle. "He is more likely to do as you wish without me nearby. I shall wait here."

His smile faded. "Are you frightened of the man?"

A heaviness came to her throat and she cursed herself for it. The man deserved no more of her tears. "Let's just say my father and I see the world differently."

He studied her as Kaden and Abigail brought their horses alongside Brianna and Simon.

"Is there a problem?" Kaden asked.

"Of course not," Brianna replied, catching the look of concern on Abigail's face. Abigail understood.

Simon's gaze continued to probe Brianna's.

She straightened and looked away, hiding her pain.

"Trust in me, Brianna."

She glanced back at him. She could almost believe him. Sweet heavens, she needed someone with whom she could talk who understood her need to pick up a sword. She was so alone.

Brianna shook herself. What was she thinking? After the turmoil she'd been through, had she learned nothing? She could trust no one. She smiled with an effort. "I need nothing from you, Simon."

A flicker of disappointment crossed his face. "Then if we have nothing to discuss, let us proceed."

Brianna shook her head. "You and Kaden will go alone. Abigail and I shall remain here and set up camp for the night. By the time you get back, darkness will be upon us."

Anger darkened Simon's features. "Have it your way then. Set up camp and, by the heavens, you had better prepare our evening meal before we return."

She looked directly into his eyes. "Good fortune with my father; and by the way, beware the dead wolfhound that haunts these grounds. Mauthe Doog has terrified many a man away from Rosslyn Castle with his eerie baying and sudden ghostly appearances."

His gaze narrowed. "I am not scared of ghosts, your father, or you, Brianna. Be forewarned yourself."

Brianna felt a gust of cold wind as he and Kaden sent their horses cantering over the bridge toward her one-time home. Her gaze followed Simon's broad, mailed back.
Trust him
? The last time she had trusted him, he had exposed her secret identity to the Templars, and broken her heart. She closed her eyes, blocking out the sight of the man's strength and power. A part of her realized he'd had no choice but to betray her. That perhaps things might be different between them now. What would it feel like to have an ally? She was terribly weary of battling her dreams and desires alone…

"He would be kinder to you than your father."

Brianna opened her eyes and glanced at Abigail. "Or he will tear me apart." She shook her head. "I don't want to think about my father or anything else right now except making camp." Brianna dismounted and drew her horse to a thicket of grass. She tied the reins loosely to a nearby branch so the animal could feed. "I will see to the shelter if you prepare a meal."

Abigail slid from her horse. "Or, you could allow me to teach you how to cook over a fire. There will be a day that you might need to know how to cook, Brianna."

She ignored, once again, Abigail's attempt to domesticate her. "I'll go find us a hare."

Abigail sighed, and handed Brianna her horse's reins. "All right, child. But someday…"

Brianna felt her lips pull up in a smile. Not if she could help it.


The sound of baying filled the night air.

Brianna stared up at the twisting shadows cast by the moonlight through the woven ferns and sticks overhead. The shelter she had built for herself and Abigail, and another further away for Simon and Kaden, protected them from the rain and mist, but not from the sounds of the night keeping her awake.

She wasn't scared of Mauthe Doog. She'd seen his apparition twice before in her life: Both times had been on nights before her father had sent her away, first to the abbey, then to the woods.

Darkness closed in on Brianna, wrapping around her like a shroud of black cloth. Thick, lifeless, and deceptively soft, it covered her nose and mouth, pressed against her lungs, suffocating her with memory. She drew a gasping breath and glanced around wildly, trying to see something, anything that would not feed her fear of being sent away again.

Her heart thudded in her chest, pounded against her rib cage as she lay against the ferns. She could only be hurt by rejection if she allowed herself to care. The problem was that she did care about Simon and about helping the Templars rid themselves of their enemy. Would he make her a knight as he'd promised? Or would he reject her in the end as her father always had?

BOOK: A Knight to Desire
6.81Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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