Back Cover Blurb…
True redemption is earned, not given . . .
The past is something he’d sooner forget . . .
Aaron McNally hates his past. Banished for betrayal, he trades his tartan for a Norwegian title and sword to win back his honor.
She has a warrior’s heart . . .
It’s difficult for Kara Dalgaard to act like a lady, even when her father demands it. After the handsome Jarl Aaron McNally arrives at her home recruiting for the king’s army, she’s forced to participate in a cruel deception to humiliate him. She quickly regrets what she’s done.
However, duty comes before happiness.
Aaron wants a second chance at life—and Kara is everything he’s dreamed of. But the past always has a way of catching up.
Will Kara trust or condemn him to a life of loneliness?
She’d felt uncomfortable around Aaron since the first time they met. Now, under his scrutiny, her insides squirmed with every sort of emotion she could possibly feel. Should she tell the whole truth? Disclose how she’d blindly set out to visit her kinswoman with the intention of finding him first? Or leave out that one detail?
“I’m not angry, Kara.” He eyeballed her. “I’m eager to know what happened.”
Weeks had gone by without contact with her siblings. She knew so little about what was going on in the world. “I cannot speak for my family,” she informed. “Unfortunately, I left in the middle of the night—without my brother’s approval.”
He sighed, releasing her. “Stand.” He helped her to her feet.
She looked down at her braies. “I’ll need a bath and time to wash my clothes.”
“You’re avoiding my questions.”
“Only because I know how wrong I’ve been. I endangered my own life and Amelia’s. My father will never forgive me. And you …” Heat rushed into her cheeks. She’d never be able to tell him the truth. “Thank you for finding me.”
“You’re welcome.” He breathed out heavily. “Answer me.”
“After my father left, I grew restless. I decided to visit my cousin in the northlands.”
“Why the secrecy? Doesn’t your father allow you to travel? And why are you dressed as a lad again?”
She couldn’t keep track of all his questions. “Yes.” She shrugged. “My sire affords me the freedom to visit my kinsmen.”
“Like this?” He pointed at her breeches.
“No,” she admitted. “I believed I’d be safer riding with my armor on.”
“You’re lying to me and I don’t like it.”
“Don’t you trust me?”
He grinned. “Have you given me reason to trust you?” He regarded her carefully, circling her twice. “The last time you were dressed like this, I suffered greatly. Remember?”
“I apologized for my part in that charade. Didn’t I?”
“And my father made amends. I know it will take time to recover from it. Can’t you forgive me yet?”
“I’ll consider it. But until then, this will never do.”
A chill rushed through her body. His teasing tone made her unsure of herself. “Is something wrong?” Her gaze followed him.
“Indeed there is, lass. You can’t wear breeches while you’re under my protection.”
She went stiff. Retaliation? Now? In the middle of the forest? In front of his men? Although she knew she’d been wrong on many levels, she wouldn’t allow him to embarrass her. And could he possibly speak any louder? His men were gawking. “Why?”
“Are you prepared to hear the truth, Kara?” he started. “I’ll give you the courtesy of honesty. First, this unsightly gusset on the back of your breeches …” His intrusive fingers flicked their way up her arse. “It’s unacceptable. And there’s a small hole here. And this …” He twirled her around. “Look how grimy the leather is. Is this dried blood on your thigh?” He caressed her leg.
For the love of Odin. He touched her so intimately. She tried to stifle the rising heat inside her body. “Wouldn’t it be more prudent to ask me to change, instead of pointing out every flaw in my leather?”
“Yes,” he said. “But not nearly as amusing.”
She frowned. All right, she deserved a little backlash for what she’d done to him. “I’m happy to provide some entertainment for your men, Jarl McNally, but I’m very tired and hungry. Can’t we start over?”
He edged closer. “I don’t want to start over. I’m quite happy with the short history we share.” His smoldering eyes made her legs weak. “You’ll change into a gown because your father would disapprove of what you’re wearing.” He pressed his body against hers and whispered near her ear. “And so do I.”
She gritted her teeth. The happy reunion had turned into something else. His chance to manage her life. “And what shall I wear?”
Amelia stepped forward, leather bag in hand.
“The maids living at the camp donated three dresses,” Aaron said. “Pick one and go behind those trees and change.”
Her gaze traveled from Aaron to the thicket he’d indicated. “I’ll do as you ask.” Her maid gave her the satchel.
“And while you’re clearing your mind,” Jarl McNally added. “Please consider telling me the real reason you left home.”
Wasn’t he listening to anything she’d said before? “I told you already, I was on my way to visit my cousin in the northlands.”
“You expect me to believe that you coincidently headed in the same direction I was going?”
“Yes.” She bit her lower lip. Did he suspect she’d really set out hoping to find him? Her shoulders drooped. She wanted to go home. “Tell me, where am I going?”
A surge of excitement and fear overtook her. She’d prayed for time alone with him. Now that she had it, well, she wasn’t sure what to do.
“Sir …” They both faced Tayte. “We should go, milord.”
Aaron inspected the sky. “Aye, tis late,” he agreed. “Hurry.” He gave her a gentle push.
Kara walked to the trees. What kind of pigheaded man thought about what a woman should wear in the middle of a fight?
Only Aaron McNally.
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