Meet Robin’s rakish nephew, Will Scarlet, a man whose talents with the sword and the ladies are legendary–until his desire for one woman changes everything.
December 2, 2008
A Passionate Lover…
A swordsman for the Sheriff of Nottingham, Will Scarlet has finally emerged from his famous uncle’s shadow. But when he’s unwittingly drawn into a bloody battle between the Sheriff and a nobleman, it’s impossible to tell friend from foe. A woman’s screams lead Will straight into the carnage to save her–but the ravishing young lady is not the helpless maid she appears to be…
An Amorous Lady…
Meg of Keyworth lost her sight to illness years ago, but that hasn’t stopped her mission to save her imprisoned sister, who’s been arrested by none other than Will Scarlet. Meg wants to hate Will for betraying her family, but he sparks heated desire in her heart–a desire that only he can satisfy. Meg is lovely and loving, and bedding her is sensual bliss. To please her in every way is what he wants most, for Will knows he will cherish her forever….
“The leading man will win readers’ hearts as only a bad boy can. Lofty writes adventure romance like a born bard of old.”
~ RT Book Reviews
“Lofty…wrote an intelligent romance, and she treats the reader as if the reader is intelligent as well. I always enjoy and respect that. A-”
~ Smart Bitches Trashy Books
“Those looking for derring-do will find it, as will people who want some raw, searing encounters between two people fighting to find love.”
~ Dear Author
The horse charged and wove through Charnwood Forest. Leaves and twigs like whips scored Meg’s face, tugging her hair, and every lash stung anew. She burrowed her head into the hard solace of her captor’s chest. Leather overlaid with iron rings bit into her cheek. For whatever mindless moments of flight remained, her safety atop that breakneck mount depended on his skill—no matter whether he proved a champion or a villain.
But no fate could match the woe she nearly suffered. Never had she known a fear as deep and sharp as being wrenched between those grasping male beasts. Faring against a lone opponent worried her less.
He flexed, ducking low over the animal’s neck. Balancing in opposition to quick cuts and jumps, he shielded her from the worst of the battering branches. His breath came in grunting exhales, urging their dreadless pace. Minutes passed as slowly as sleepless nights.
When the horse began to tire, the man straightened and pulled the reins. Meg emerged from the shelter of his body. “Why did we stop?”
“The horse is easily traced.”
Exertion roughened his voice to a gravely rasp. Or, remembering Hugo, she hoped it was exertion. That foul thief had sounded similarly winded when thrusting into her. But then, she had as well.
Suddenly aware of her position on the stranger’s lap, she pushed to loosen his firm hold. “What will you do?”
“Calm yourself. I mean you no bale.” His breathing slowly regained a usual cadence. “With mine, your account will establish the circumstances of the ambush. I’ll not be held answerable for that morass.”
Meg rubbed a thumb against her lower lip. He must have given the attack a great deal of consideration, studying facts while navigating the forested terrain. By contrast, the wild ride had concealed her logic in a mist of dread and frustration. She swallowed the mineral taste of fear and collected her scattered reason.
He swung from the fatigued horse and pulled her to the safety of still, sure earth. “Will you help me, woman?”
She kept her head bowed. Her captor had brought low two men, perhaps more. To save himself from hanging, he would protect her.
The lie came easily. As always.
She could not see his reaction. In truth, she had not seen a moment of the carnage on the road—nor anything else for five long years.
But the truth mattered not at all. As long as he believed her testimony valuable, he might keep her from harm. Lord Whitstowe and his knights would lay hold of them soon. She only needed to disguise her impairment until their arrival.
Straightening her skirts, she ran a hand over the alms-bag at her waist. She smiled to herself, reassured, for she could always resort to other means if her deception failed.
“Where shall we go?”
He did not answer.
“At least tell me your name, good man.”
“I’m called Will Scarlet.”
Again she waited, resisting the urge to fidget. He must be watching her, and she hated the sensation of a prying gaze on her face, her body. Eyes tenaciously downcast, she could do nothing but suffer the examination and imagine the worst. Apprehension blossomed into spite.
“Will Scarlet,” she said. “That’s an unusual name.”
“You’ve not heard of me?”
A glimmer of emotion peeked through. At last. Her thoughts bounced in busy circles. She searched for a hint, traveling along a tally of pikers and sharps she knew, but found nothing.
“Should I have?”
“We waste time,” he said. “Anyone can catch us out in this clearing.”
Navigating Charnwood’s uneven terrain required her entire notice. Breaks in Scarlet’s steady gait helped her anticipate logs and brush. Scuffing through the autumn leaves, his footfalls became her guide, even as she grew resentful of his sure-footed grace.
Brambles snagged her skirts again. She stumbled and tripped.
“Keep up, or I’ll abandon you to the sheriff’s men.”
A shiver dusted her skin. “But you’re one of them, I know. You were not among Whitstowe’s party, and that man you killed—he knew your name.”
He stopped short. Even near enough to touch, he revealed little. The insulating leather he wore concealed any body heat. His respiration and heartbeat escaped detection. He hovered within her awareness like a menacing wraith, bristling the delicate hairs at her nape.
“For the moment, accept that I’ve renounced my association.”
Surprise of surprises, he talked. She needed to define the hazy line between fostering a useful conversation and provoking him too greatly.
“I appreciate what you’ve wrought on my behalf. I prefer to stay in your keeping.”
“Then do as I say,” he said, his voice low and close. “I’ve no need for your questions.”
Banking her defiance, nurturing her dislike, she nodded. “I understand.”
He turned and resumed their trudge. Meg stumbled nearly as often as she stepped. Without great success, she attempted to solve the basic problems of poise and motion.
For his part, Scarlet muttered useless orders. Pick up your feet. Mind that branch.
With each brusque sentence, she studied his words. Edgy impatience could not disguise the melody of cultured speech. No matter his posturing, he was no brute. The vice of fear that had squeezed her since the ambush loosened. Mindless men could behave as animals, but she might appeal to one accustomed to reason and rules.
Apparently tired of issuing orders without results, Scarlet lapsed into silence. Meg’s isolation returned, blanketing her like a thick fog. That she was so lonely for companionship, craving even the random commands of her murderous captor, galled her.
And she missed Ada. What an irritating turn of events.
Only the sounds of snapping branches, halting steps, and their matched respiration intruded on the heavy quiet of the wide woods.
But the menacing rush of a river stopped her heart.
Fear snaked a crooked path through her insides. Old terrors burgeoned. Sliding below the surface. Losing the hard thump of earth beneath her feet. Clutching at a liquid void, deafened by the gurgle of water. Only one terrible sense would remain: She would learn the river’s taste as it filled her mouth.
Panic gorged on the calm she had barely maintained. She pulled free of his hold and stumbled, grasping the nearest means of support: Scarlet’s upper arm. He cried out. Lashing against the creature causing his anguish, he yanked her cowl. Her skull snapped back, dragged by his grip on a handful of cloth and hair.
His gravelly voice hissed near her ear. “You first.”
She did. He flung her away, disorienting her. She landed on her knees with a splash. A scream burst forth, certain the water would consume her. But her frightened brain identified the mud slinking between her fingers at the river’s shallow edge. With an exhausted gesture of good sense, she shoved the alms-bag behind her back, keeping it dry.
“You said nothing of your injury,” she said. “I didn’t intend to cause you more hurt.” When silence answered, she sat on her heels and turned to Scarlet. “Hello?”
“Telling you shouldn’t have been necessary.”
Anxiety crumpled her weary body. He was farther downriver than she guessed. Pain laced his words, conjuring an assortment of ghastly images. How much of that stench had been his blood?
“This wound should be obvious to anyone who can see. But you cannot see, can you?”
Trees creaking, birds singing—the river’s vigor obliterated every noise in the forest. All that remained was the sound of her pumping blood.
“No. I cannot.”