Aodh Mac Con Rardove has just returned to Ireland after decades away and taken over the castle the Queen of England refused to give him. He intends to conquer everything: the castle, the lands, the lady. The lady, of course, has no intention of being conquered so easily.
But then, things don’t always turned out as planned….
The paleness in her cheeks went even paler. He’d shocked her. The realization caused a small, strange tinge of disappointment, that a woman who’d single-handedly held a castle beyond the Pale with ten men would be shocked by such a thing. It seemed somehow . . . diminishing. But then, Aodh had a taste for rebellion today, and nothing but more of the same would serve.
A movement at the far end of the hall caught his eye. One of his men, Turlough, poked his head though a door. Good. They’d made it through to the northern side, which meant they had secured the castle. Rardove was his.
And so, where was the hot satisfaction of conquest? The rush of triumph? Where was…everything?
Lying at the bottom of the pit that had marked his life for too many years, no doubt. Intrigues, battles, courtly maneuvers, it was all same: nothing. Apparently even coups of English castles did not rise to the level of interest.
He exchanged a brief nod with Turlough, then turned back to Katarina.
“My lady, if you will—”
All he saw was a blur of green silk, then she punched him in the face.
The impact, hard and square, landed directly on his jaw.
Caught utterly unawares—as he’d never been before, never, not even when his father told him he was leaving Ireland —Aodh reeled sideways. It was enough for her to launch herself forward and slam her body into his, directly into his ribs, so hard and fast he stumbled backwards and hit the ground, she on top.
She jammed one knee hard into his groin and bent one of his fingers back almost to breaking, while her other hand—so sinuous and slender it was all but ungrippable—snaked in between their writing bodies and began tugging his accursed blade out of its sheath.
With a lunge, he pushed up off the ground, lifting her with him, and backed her up against the wall hard. Predictably—how well he knew her, to already be predicting things—she wrestled like a wildcat. Whirling hair, arms, legs. He finally simply pinned her to the wall, her feet dangling in the air, their faces pressed together, cheek to cheek, hers pinned against the stone wall, until he stilled everything that was writhing and flailing and kicking on her curving, rampant, berserker body.
With one, he caught hold of the feminine hand snaked around the hilt of his sword and gripped her wrist so hard she cried out.
She also, wisely, froze.
He reached overtop with his other hand and wrenched the sword free with a vicious twist, then tossed it onto the floor and kicked it away. Fire burned in his veins, the deep-burning coals of a fire relit, urging him to smash and destroy. He inhaled slowly, forcing himself to calm. They stood like this for a moment, her pinned between him and the wall. He supposed she could kick his shins, but she’d impact against his greaves, and it would hurt her far more than him.
She seemed to agree. At least she didn’t move.
He pulled his head back and looked down. Their eyes met, inches apart. Pale and beautiful, with slim, dark eyebrows, arcing over what appeared to be intelligent brown eyes. A shocking discovery, considering her recent actions.
“If you were a man, I would kill you right now,” he said quietly.
She shifted the only thing he did not have restrained, her left hand, and lifted it and laid the cold edge of a blade against the side of his throat.
“If I were a man, sir, you would already be dead,” she said quietly.
It was his dagger, one of many strapped to his body. In the melée, she’d succeeded in getting it free. In the distraction of him staring into her eyes, trying to ascertain if she was mad, she’d succeeded in getting it to his throat.
A rush went through him, hot and intense. “You are left-handed,” he observed grimly.
A humming filled his stomach, deep and low. He’d come for battle, and that this slim audacious woman had given it to him, while undefended, in a clearly hopeless situation, outmatched, outflanked, overpowered, bespoke great . . . boldness. Of a kind he’d not seen in a long time. Either that, or idiocy.
She did not appear idiotic. Of course, she’d not appeared reckless either, when he met her in the bailey. She’d seemed calm, clever, pale and beautiful. Then she’d simply launched her body into his and turned into a bold, roaring-mad hellcat.
Perhaps everything in her was latent. Who knew, idiocy might rear its head at any moment. Or more boldness.
Although it was difficult to see how she could become more bold than she was at the moment.
Small wisps of dark hair brushed beside her mouth. Aodh knew battle and fights; he’d expect her lips to be dry with fear, parched and tight. But they were wet. Parted and wet, her chin up, her cheeks a sort of hot red. Her slim body was pressed hard up against his, female curves barely detectable against his armor. But the vivid hot flush of her was clear. Her mad, energizing fearless self was the clearest thing on his mind.
“Are you going to use it, lass?” he said.
She blew out a swift, hot breath. “I am using it.”
He gave a low laugh. It had been a long time since he’d felt this hum inside him, this energized, this vital. He leaned closer, until his mouth was an inch away from hers, until he felt the honed edge of his exceptionally sharp blade indent the flesh of his neck.
“Do it,” he whispered. “Or drop it. Now.”
Thanks to Kris Kennedy for sharing this excerpt with our readers. CLAIMING HER will be available for purchase this summer at all e-book retailers. Make sure you mark your calendars!