From Library Journal
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Rendezvous "Her gifted prose is always a treat." --This text refers to the Mass Market Paperback edition.
From the Publisher
Journeying from England to Scotland to wed a highlander, Lady Brenna had resigned herself to the arranged match. But when a band of fierce, painted warriors captured her en route, she fearlessly met their demand to marry their leader -- the quick-tempered laird Connor MacAlister. She couldn't know that her capture was merely the first act of vengeance against her betrothed, Connor's sworn enemy. Brenna harbored no illusions that her husband was in love with her; after a hasty forest wedding, MacAlister assured her she could return home once she had borne him a son. But she could not deny that she had once proposed to MacAlister -- ten years ago, when she was just a child, and the visitor to her father's castle charmed her with his dazzling, unexpected smile. Now, as she sets out to win the brave chieftain whom she has come to adore, a legacy of revenge ensnares Brenna in a furious clan war -- and only her faith in her gallant hero can save her... --This text refers to the Mass Market Paperback edition.
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It wasn't love at first sight.
Lady Brenna didn't want to be presented to company. She had far more important things to do with her day. Her nursemaid, a dour-faced woman with God-fearing ways and clumped-together, protruding front teeth, wouldn't listen to her arguments, however. With the determination of a hedgehog, she cornered Brenna in the back of the stables and then lunged forward. Never one to let an opportunity or a little girl slip past her, the nursemaid lectured her charge all the way up the hill and across the muddy courtyard.
"Quit your squirming, Brenna. I'm stronger than you are, and I'm not about to let go. You've lost your shoes again, haven't you? And don't dare lie to me. I can see your stockings peeking out. Why are you dragging that bridle behind you?"
Brenna lifted her shoulders in a shrug. "I forgot to put it back."
"Drop it this minute. You're always forgetting, and do you know why?"
"I don't pay attention to what I'm doing, like you tell me to, Elspeth."
"You don't pay attention to anything I tell you, and that's a fact. You're more trouble than all the others put together. Your older brothers and sisters have never given me a moment's worry. Even your baby sister knows how to behave herself, and she's still sucking on her fingers and wetting herself. I'm warning you, Brenna, if you don't change your ways and give your parents a little peace, God himself will have to stop his important work and come down here to talk to you. Just how are you going to feel about that? You don't like it much when your papa has to sit you down on his knee and talk to you about your shameful behavior, now do you?"
"No, Elspeth. I surely don't like it. I try to behave. I really do."
She peeked up to see if the nursemaid believed she was contrite. She wasn't, of course, because she really didn't think she'd done anything wrong, but Elspeth wouldn't understand.
"Don't you bat those big blue eyes at me, young lady. I don't believe you're the least bit sincere. Lord, but you smell. What have you gotten into?"
Brenna lowered her head and kept quiet. She'd been chasing after the piglets just an hour before, until the tanner put their mama back in the pen, and Brenna's peculiar stench was just a small price to pay for all the fun she'd had.
Her torture had only just begun. Even though she had had a bath just a week before, she was bathed again, and in the middle of the day, of all times. She was scrubbed from head to toes, and so thoroughly she had to cry about it. Elspeth wasn't at all sympathetic to her wails, and Brenna eventually got tired of crying. She barely struggled at all while Elspeth dressed her in a blue gown and too-tight matching slippers. Her cheeks were pinched hard for color, her white-blond tangles were brushed into curls, and she was then dragged back down to the hall. She would have to pass her mother's inspection before she could be left alone.
Her oldest sister, Matilda, was already seated at the table with her mother. Cook was there too, going over supper arrangements with her mistress.
"I don't want to meet no company today, Mama. It's sorely wearisome for me."
Elspeth came up behind her and poked her in her shoulder. "Hush now. You mustn't complain. God doesn't like women who complain."
"Papa complains all the time, and God likes him just fine," Brenna announced. "That's why Papa's so big. Only God is bigger than he is."
"Where did you hear such nonsense?"
"Papa told me so. I want to go outside now. I won't run after the piglets again. I promise."
"You're staying right where I can keep my eye on you. You're going to behave yourself today. If you don't, you know what will happen to you, don't you?"
Brenna pointed to the ground. "I'll have to go down there." She dutifully repeated the threat she'd heard over and over again.
The little girl didn't have any idea what was "down there"; she only knew it was awful and she didn't want to go there. According to Elspeth, if Brenna didn't change her sorry ways, she was never going to get into heaven, and just about everyone, including her family, wanted to go there.
She knew exactly where heaven was because her papa had given her exact directions. It was right on the other side of the sky.
She thought she might like it, but really didn't care. Only one thing was important to her now. She wasn't about to be left behind again. She still had nightmares at least once a week over what her mama referred to as the "unfortunate" incidents. The terrifying memories were still lurking in the back of her mind, where everyone knew all little girls tucked away their worries, just waiting for the right opportunity to jump out in the dark and scare her. Her screams would wake her sister, of course. While Elspeth was busy soothing baby Faith, Brenna would drag her blanket to her parents' chamber. When her papa was away from home doing important work the king could give only to someone as trustworthy and loyal as he was, she'd sneak into the big bed and cuddle up next to her mama, and when her papa was home, she'd sleep on the cold floor right next to Courage, his beautiful silver-handled sword Mama swore he loved almost as much as his children. Brenna felt safest when her papa was there because his loud snores always lulled her back to sleep. Demons didn't try to crawl in through the window and nightmares about being left behind didn't visit her when she was with her parents. Those horrors wouldn't dare.
"Please tell Brenna to keep her mouth shut when company arrives, Mother," Matilda requested. "She shouts every word. She does it on purpose. When will she stop the vile habit?"
"Soon, dear, soon," her mother replied almost absentmindedly.
Brenna edged closer to her sister. Matilda was bossy by nature, but now that their brothers were away learning how to be as important to their king as their papa, her condition had worsened. She was becoming as bothersome as Elspeth.
"You're a pain in the arse, Mattie."
Her mother heard the remark. "Brenna, you will not use such common language again. Do you understand me?"
"Yes, Mama, but Papa says his arse is paining him all the time. It aches something fierce, it does."
Her mother closed her eyes. "Don't sass me, child."
Brenna's shoulders slumped. She tried to look pitiful. "Mama, I'm sorely weary of everybody telling me what to do all the time. Doesn't anybody like me?"
Her mother wasn't in the mood to placate her daughter. She waved her hand toward the cluster of chairs on the opposite side of the hall.
"Go and sit down, Brenna. Do not say another word until you are given permission to speak. Do it now."
pardThe little girl dragged her feet as she crossed the hall.
"Don't make her sit there all alone too long, Mother. The unfortunate incidents have made her difficult. Papa says it's going to take her time to recover."
Mattie was defending her. Brenna wasn't surprised by the show of loyalty. It was her sister's duty to watch out for her while her brothers were away. But it made Brenna angry that Mattie had brought up the unmentionable. She knew how much Brenna hated being reminded of what had happened to her.
"Yes, dear," her mother replied. "Time and patience."
Mattie let out a loud sigh. "Really, Mother, how can you be so calm about it? Have you no guilt? Even I can understand forgetting one of your children on a single occasion, but twice? It's a wonder the child lets you out of her sight."
Elspeth moved forward to offer her opinion. " 'Tis my fear you'll never catch a husband for that one, mi'lady."
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