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Authors: Dawn Thompson

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The Falcon's Bride

BOOK: The Falcon's Bride
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RAVE REVIEWS FOR

DAWN THOMPSON!

THE WATERLORD

“Original, intriguing, and captivating,
The Waterlord
blends paranormal fantasy and historical romance with panache. [Ms. Thompson] puts a fresh spin on a delightful plotline.”

—RT BOOKreviews

“It is a pleasure to read an author who can make her fictional world come to life.
The Waterlord
and Ms. Thompson earn a perfect 10.”

—Romance Reviews Today

THE RAVENCLIFF BRIDE

“A seductive brooding tale of dark love. Victoria Holt, move over!”

—Bertrice Small, Author of
The Last Heiress

“With its delicious Gothic overtones, haunting suspense and thrilling climax, Thompson’s tale sends just the right amount of chills down your spine . . . Thompson creates such appealing characters that you’ll be hooked.

—RT BOOKreviews

“For a novel that will entertain and give you chills, grab a copy of
The Ravencliff Bride
; it is guaranteed to appeal to fans of Gothic and paranormal romances.”

—Romance Reviews Today

HER CAPTOR’S VOW

He raised himself on one elbow, searching her face in the moonlight. “Who said I was going to rape you?” he demanded.

“Y-you did!”

Her posture clenched, Thea held her breath as his hand cupped her face then slid the length of her throat and came to rest upon the soft swell of her breast. Her heart began to pound. As if it had a will of its own, her nipple hardened against his thumb as he grazed it through the stiff linen fabric.

“You do not pay attention,” he murmured. “I have no intention of raping you, fair lady. I am no Cosgrove. Ros Drumcondra does not rape his women. He does not have to. What I said was, he ought take care because you are a winsome lass and I am tight against the seam.” He drove her hand down to his sex to prove the point. He was thick and hard. “I also said that, just as in days of old, I will have you before him, and that when I’m done, you will want no other.”

Other
Love Spell
books by Dawn Thompson:

THE WATERLORD
THE RAVENCLIFF BRIDE

D
AWN

T
HOMPSON

The
Falcon’s Bride

Dorchester
Publishing

For DeborahAnne MacGillivray,
for her friendship and support,
and for all the great Ladies in Waiting.

DORCHESTER PUBLISHING

Published by

Dorchester Publishing Co.,
Inc. 200 Madison Avenue
New York, NY 10016

Copyright © 2006 by Dawn Thompson

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, without the written permission of the publisher, except where permitted by law. The scanning, uploading, and distribution of this book via the Internet or via any other means without the permission of the publisher is illegal and punishable by law. Please purchase only authorized electronic editions, and do not participate in or encourage electronic piracy of copyrighted materials. Your support of the author’s rights is appreciated.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

Trade ISBN: 978-1-4285-1764-6

E-book ISBN: 978-1-4285-0232-1

First Dorchester Publishing, Co., Inc. edition: September 2006

The “DP” logo is the property of Dorchester Publishing Co., Inc.

Printed in the United States of America.

Visit us online at
www.dorchesterpub.com
.

Contents

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty-one

Chapter Twenty-two

Chapter Twenty-three

Chapter Twenty-four

Chapter Twenty-five

Chapter Twenty-six

Chapter Twenty-seven

Chapter Twenty-eight

Chapter Twenty-nine

Chapter Thirty

Epilogue

The Falcon’s Bride

Chapter One

Cashel Cosgrove, County Meath, Ireland, December 1811

Thea Barrington hugged herself for warmth before her bedchamber window. Outside, unprecedented snow swirled, falling and lifting, borne upon a fickle wind that hadn’t ceased to blow since she and her entourage arrived in County Meath. The blizzard was a phenomenon seldom seen in the region, which never got more than a dusting, or so she’d been told. It had been a harsh and bitter season at home in England as well. This winter it had even snowed in Cornwall, something that only happened every ten or twenty years. Was it a sign, an ill-boding omen? Under the circumstances, it certainly seemed so.

Thea shuddered, pulling her shawl closer about her shoulders. Not even the blazing hearth fire could warm the turret cubicle; and to think, this cold inhospitable place was soon to be her home. How had she ever let them persuade her?

“Fie, miss,” her abigail said. “Such a Friday face. Why,
you’d think you was headed for a funeral instead o’ a weddin’.”

“The snow has covered our carriage tracks already,” Thea replied, avoiding a direct response. “It’s as if the brougham never even passed this way—as if it didn’t exist. Could it all be a dream, do you think?”

“A dream, miss?”

“I wish . . .” Thea couldn’t finish the thought. How could she expect the simple maid to understand when she didn’t herself?

She should be ecstatic. Nigel Cosgrove, the second son of the third earl of Ridgewood, just home from the Peninsula on half-pay, was the catch of the season. He was tall, and handsome enough—a blue-eyed Adonis with hair the color of burnished gold and a nearly sterling reputation, except for that one unfortunate incident concerning the Covent Garden lightskirt. But he couldn’t have killed her. They wouldn’t have acquitted him otherwise, would they? Thea pushed that to the back of her mind. Again.

“What is it ya wish, miss?” the abigail asked, jogging her memory.

“Nothing, Annie, I’m just tired. It’s been a long journey, and I’d much rather take myself off to bed than face a formal dinner downstairs in that dreadful dining parlor. Why, it’s so vast, I shall have to shout to make conversation, and if a fire won’t warm this little cell, I shudder to wonder how I will survive the meal down there without my chin-chilla fur pelerine.”

“You’ve got the prenuptial jitters, is all,” said Annie. “That’s what my mum calls it. You’ve got ta go down. You heard Mr. Cosgrove, her ladyship is anxious ta meet ya. Ya can’t be disappointin’ his mama. No doubt she’s wore the cook out preparin’.”

Well, I’m not all that anxious to meet her
, Thea thought ruefully. If her ladyship was so anxious to make her acquaintance, why wasn’t she downstairs to welcome her upon arrival? By all accounts, Annabella Cosgrove, Countess Ridgewood, was a termagant of the first order—at least, so went the tale. Why else would she be exiled to such a horrid place, the most distant and desolate of all the earl’s properties, while he languished in Bath with his mistress in style?

Thea almost laughed. Her own family was no better. Hadn’t her mother cried off from making the journey, feigning an attack of pleurisy and staying behind on their Cornwall estate? Hadn’t her viscount father excused himself over “Crown business,” when everyone knew he was keeping a Drury Lane doxy in Town, and couldn’t bear to miss her Christmas performance? Oh, he would arrive in time to give the bride away, of course. In the meanwhile, Thea’s brother James, older by one year, an architectural student under the tutelage of John Nash on Christmas recess, had been recruited to serve in his stead for proprieties’ sake. And it was the last thing James wanted, smelling of April and May himself, with a girl of his own left to fend for herself in Town over the holidays. Were all marriages so fractured? Would Thea’s be the same, with no love to recommend it—at least on her part? She expected so.

“What say you come away from that window, miss, and let me tuck some ribbons in your hair before ya go down?” the maid asked, interrupting her thoughts. They needed interrupting; Thea was becoming positively forlorn. “These pretty blue ones?” the maid chirped on. “They’ll look so fine against your black hair, and they match that frock just perfect.”

Thea started to turn away from the diamond-shaped panes in their lead fretwork, an obvious addition to apertures
that were scarcely wider than arrow slits, when movement below caught her attention. Someone was walking across the courtyard.
Walking
, in such a storm? It was a woman, her gait more a stagger as she plowed through the heavily mounting snow that had already buried the well-manicured grounds.

Where had she come from? There was nothing but rolling hills for miles in that desolate stretch, where the River Boyne wound its serpentine way through the valley. The villages of Drogheda on the east and Slane on the west were each at least five miles distant, so she’d been told. Even Oldbridge, the nearest hamlet, was a good two miles downstream.

The woman couldn’t have walked from any of them. Not in such a storm. The closest structure was the curious burial mound Nigel had pointed out on the way. Newgrange, called
Si An Bhru
in the old days, he’d told her, a strange Megalithic passage tomb, where supposedly only once a year, on the winter solstice, sunlight shining through the roof box lit up the chambers for seventeen minutes. A curious tourist attraction, but certainly no one
lived
there. It had piqued Thea’s interest, however, and she had made up her mind to be among those who would witness the phenomenon two days hence, weather permitting. That didn’t seem likely now.

“There’s someone out there,” she said.

“Where, miss?” The maid craned her neck for a view through the narrow window.

Thea pointed. “She’s coming here. Never mind the ribbons, Annie. I shall go down as I am.”

Without a second thought, Thea made her way below just as the heavy iron ring on the front door banged like thunder on the dented plate beneath. The sound echoed along the empty stone passageways. It ran her through like a
javelin. James met her on the landing, and followed her down to the sound of raised voices funneling up the stairs.

A tall strait-laced butler was standing in the open doorway, his arm across the span barring a ragged-looking woman from entering. Snow making little whorls about his feet dusted his shoes and trouser legs, which were snapping in the wind. The woman’s shawl and head scarf were caked white, suggesting that she had been out in the storm for some time.

“Well, you cannot come in here, madam!” the butler said, opposing the woman who was pushing on the door from the other side. “Be off with ye! We don’t take in Gypsies. Be off, I say! Or I’ll call the lackeys to put ye off.”

“It’s not charity I’m beggin’,” the woman shouted over the wail of the wind. “Just ta warm me weary bones by your fire, and speak me piece. There’s one inside who needs me. . . .”

“None here needs the likes o’ you!” the butler assured her. He seemed to be trying not to hurt her, but he was clearly out of patience.

Thea gasped, drifting toward the commotion.

“What the deuce?” her brother muttered, sprinting along behind.

They reached the great hall below, flooded now with others drawn there by the din, her fiancé among them.

“What seems to be the difficulty, Regis?” Nigel Cosgrove asked, his tall form alongside the vexed butler blocking Thea’s view. She crept closer for a better look at the woman still begging admittance.

“This person, sir,” said the butler. “She refuses to leave.”

“My man has told you to depart,” Cosgrove said. “We do not admit your kind, and even if we did it would never be by way of the front door. Be off, unless you’d rather I summon the guards from the Watch at Drogheda.”

BOOK: The Falcon's Bride
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