Read The Frost Maiden's Kiss Online

Authors: Claire Delacroix

The Frost Maiden's Kiss

BOOK: The Frost Maiden's Kiss
5.13Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

 

The Frost Maiden’s Kiss

Book #3 in The True Love Brides Series

 

by

 

Claire Delacroix

 

 

She enchanted him with a kiss—but winning her love would demand all he possessed.

 

After eight years abroad, Malcolm returns to Scotland with a fortune, a companion even more hardened than he, and a determination to restore his inherited holding. But when that companion falls into peril, Malcolm seizes the chance to repay an old debt, trading his own soul for that of his doomed comrade. Knowing his days are limited and determined to leave a legacy of merit, Malcolm rebuilds Ravensmuir with all haste, though he fears he will never have an heir.

 

A night of violence has left Catriona with no home and no faith in the honor of men. She expects little good from a visit to her lady’s brother, Laird of Ravensmuir, a known mercenary. But the handsome laird challenges her expectations with his courtesy, his allure—and his unexpected proposal. Knowing it is her sole chance to ensure her child’s future, Catriona dares to accept Malcolm’s hand. She soon realizes that this warrior fights a battle of his own and that she holds the key to his salvation. Little does she realize her past is in hot pursuit, seeking to destroy all she holds dear—including the laird who has thawed the frost of her reluctant heart.

 

* * *

 

Dear Reader;

 

Welcome back to Ravensmuir!

 

I was very excited to have the chance to finally return to that fictional estate myself, as there was plenty of work to be done there. The ravens were gone, the keep itself had collapsed, the black horses bred at Ravensmuir had been moved to Kinfairlie because the new laird, Malcolm, had decided to go abroad and seek his fortune as a mercenary—and this despite his brother’s disapproval. Malcolm’s homecoming would be a renaissance for Ravensmuir, in my mind, and he required special woman to help him recover from all he had experienced. I was sure I knew the perfect one. My favorite characters are the ones who have their own opinions about how their story should be told. Catriona proved to be one of those characters—while I believed that I’d known her story and the balance she would bring to Malcolm’s life, Catriona showed me that I had it all wrong. As is so often the case—and is the reason I love opinionated characters so much—her version of events is much more interesting than the one I had planned. In fact, I think this pragmatic and wounded woman is a much better partner for Malcolm than the Catriona I had originally envisioned. I hope you enjoy reading their story as much as I enjoyed writing it.

 

The next and final medieval romance in the True Love Brides series will be Elizabeth’s book, which is called
The Warrior’s Prize
. You’ll catch a glimpse of Elizabeth’s story at the end of this book, and there’s an excerpt from
The Warrior’s Prize
as well. That book will be a December 2014 release and is available for pre-order at some portals now. You can find the links on my website, www.delacroix.net.

 

The family trees for Kinfairlie and my other linked historical romances have also been updated on my website, up to the end of
The Warrior’s Prize
, and made more pretty by Kim Killion. You’ll find them under the
Claire Delacroix
tab, all on a page called
Family Trees
. There’s also a bookmark designed by Kim, which lists all of my books. You’ll find that under
About Deborah
on the
Complete Book List
page. These are all PDF files that you can download and print on an 8.5” by 11” sheet of paper.

 

There is one more exciting piece of news about Kinfairlie and Ravensmuir as I write this: there are audio editions in production for both
The Rogue
and
The Beauty Bride
.
The Rogue
is the first book in the Rogues of Ravensmuir trilogy of medieval romances and was my first visit to Ravensmuir.
The Beauty Bride
is the first book in my Jewels of Kinfairlie trilogy, which is the beginning of the linked stories about these eight siblings seeking their happily-ever-afters. These are the first of my books to have audio editions, so I’m looking forward to having them available to you all.

 

Finally, some of you have probably noticed that of the eight siblings at Kinfairlie, Ross will be the only one whose story won’t be told by the completion of the True Love Brides series. In
The Beauty Bride
, Ross went to Inverfyre, as you might recall, to train under the Hawk of Inverfyre, along with his cousins and that man’s sons. (The Hawk’s story is told in
The Warrior
.) My plan is for Ross’s story to be part of another series, yet to come—we’ll move up into the Highlands and Inverfyre for that linked series and see some of those cousins married off, as well. First though, we’re going to take a little break from Kinfairlie in 2015 and follow a band of knights as they journey home from crusade. Look for more news about that series coming soon to my website and blog.

 

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

 

All my best,

Claire

 

The Frost Maiden’s Kiss

by Claire Delacroix

 

Digital Edition

Published by Deborah A. Cooke

ISBN: 978-1-927477-40-3

 

Cover by Kim Killion

Digital Formatting by Author E.M.S.

 

Copyright © 2014 by Deborah A. Cooke

All rights reserved.

 

Without limiting the rights under copyright preserved above, no part of this book may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means, (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise), without the prior written permission of both the copyright holder and the publisher of this book.

 

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

 

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.

 

Monday, December 21, 1427

 

Feast Day of Saint Digain of Cornwall and the Apostle Thomas.

 

Midwinter.

 

* * *

 

Prologue

 

Scotland

 

“Tell me that it does not get colder,” Rafael said, his tone grim. Malcolm and his companion had just entered the forests outside of Kinfairlie, and the tree branches hung thickly with ice. Snow was falling with purpose but at least the forest gave shelter from the biting wind. Malcolm had never seen such a storm, but he doubted his companion would believe as much.

It was not ideal weather for a homecoming, although Malcolm felt the weather echoed his own mood. He felt cold himself, chilled by what he had done to fill his bags with gold and silver. The wind and snow swirled around them obscuring the landscape from view, and he acknowledged that he felt lost.

Kinfairlie. He was within moments of home. As much as he wanted to see his family, he did not want to face his older brother’s censure. There would be disapproval, even more of it than before. Alexander had been displeased when Malcolm had chosen the life of a mercenary over his inheritance of Ravensmuir: that brother would be disgusted to learn how much blood stained Malcolm’s blade now.

“I am chilled to my very marrow,” Rafael complained. “I cannot even feel my toes. Have you not heard of the marvel known as fire in this remote place?” The mercenary cast a glance around himself and his disgust would have been comical if Malcolm’s mood had been lighter. “It would not surprise me, as evidently the inhabitants here are unfamiliar with the sun.”

It was falling dark early, far earlier than had been their experience on the continent. Rafael was from the south of Spain, his skin a rich golden hue from the sun’s caress, his eyes and hair of darkest brown. His teeth flashed when he smiled, which was usually after the death of an enemy. Rafael was better as friend than foe, the perfect warrior to have at one’s back, and his bitterness made Malcolm feel a little less cold himself. Rafael had seen much, experienced more, and expected less than any man Malcolm had ever known.

“I can understand readily enough why you left this miserable place,” Rafael continued. “The mystery, my friend, is why you would ever return.”

“You will have your feet before a hearty fire soon enough,” Malcolm said, hoping it would be so.

His companion made a sound of skepticism. “That fire will be thawing a corpse at this rate,” Rafael muttered. “How much farther?”

Malcolm halted his horse at a familiar crossroads in the midst of the forest. The right road would take them to Kinfairlie. His family would be gathered for Yule, and the hall where he had grown up would be filled with music and candlelight. There would be children and merriment, a board groaning with food and greenery decking the hall. Rafael would have his fire and more.

Such joys were not for Malcolm, not yet. He did not know what he would say to Alexander, much less how he would explain Rafael’s presence by his side. There was no disguising what Rafael was, much less what Malcolm had become.

They were mercenaries and warriors for hire. Killers.

He had earned the nickname Hellhound with his blade and his ferocity, and was no longer the man he had once been. It was easy enough to guess that Alexander would perceive the truth, and disapprove of him even more.

Malcolm decided he could do without a fight on this night.

“Straight on. It will not be long now,” he said, gesturing to the road that led to Ravensmuir.

It quickly became clear that this was a neglected road. It had never been that busy, but since the destruction of Ravensmuir’s keep, Malcolm supposed it had no real destination. If not for the parting of the trees in the forest, he would never have guessed it ever had been a road.

“This is a path to no good end,” Rafael complained. The horses were laboring heavily, up to their knees in snow. Rafael looked at Malcolm with suspicion. “Where are we destined that is worth the sacrifice of five good horses?”

“Ravensmuir,” Malcolm admitted, breathing the name of the holding he loved more than anything.

“For the love of God, why?”

“Because it is mine.”

Rafael laughed. “
You
are a lord with a holding to your name?”

“I am,” Malcolm said with such quiet conviction that his companion sobered.

Rafael’s eyes lit with curiosity and something Malcolm chose not to name. “For how long has this been so?”

“Years now.” Malcolm spared the other man a glance. “For as long as I have known you and more.”

“And yet you never breathed a word of it. All this time, I fought beside a nobleman who pretended to have naught to his name. The Hellhound, lord only of all he seizes.” Rafael slanted a glance at Malcolm. “One has to wonder why the secrecy.”

“More a wound than a secret.” Malcolm tried to swallow the lump in his throat and failed. “My uncle died in the keep of Ravensmuir.”

“Of old age? Poison? An assassin’s blade?”

“There are caverns beneath the keep, secret passages that wind down from the hall to the sea. My forebears used them for…trade.”

Rafael laughed again. “Trade in items that had to be hidden. I understand now that you come by your tendencies honestly. Your forebears were pirates.”

“Not all of them. They had a thriving business in the sale of religious relics.”

“I knew there was more to you than met the eye.”

“But my uncle Tynan did not approve of this. Like his father, he was an honest merchant, trading in cloth and other luxuries.”

“He would use the same contacts in the east for both,” Rafael noted. “And if a treasure slipped between the cloth, who would know?”

“Nay,” Malcolm said hotly. “My uncle was honest through and through. He ran a fair trade and refused to traffic in relics. That was what killed him.”

BOOK: The Frost Maiden's Kiss
5.13Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

Thieves Dozen by Donald E. Westlake
Fires of Delight by Vanessa Royall
The Painted Lady-TPL by David Ashton
Top of the Heap by Erle Stanley Gardner
El jardinero nocturno by George Pelecanos
Others by James Herbert