21 February 2013

Excerpt Thursday: TAKEN BY THE BORDER REBEL by Blythe Gifford

This week, we welcome back author Blythe Gifford,  a regular Unusual Historicals contributor, whose Brunson Clan trilogy concludes with TAKEN BY THE BORDER REBEL, a March release from the Harlequin Historical line which is available in print this week.  (The series launched in November with RETURN OF THE BORDER WARRIOR and continued with the January release of CAPTIVE OF THE BORDER LORD.)

Blythe will be here Sunday to talk about the series in more detail and offer a copy to one lucky commenter.   

The Brunson Clan trilogy is set on the Scottish Borders during the early Tudor era and centers on a family of Border Reivers.  Here’s a glimpse of TAKEN BY THE BORDER REBEL:

As leader of his clan, Black Rob Brunson has earned every dark syllable of his name. But, having taken hostage his enemy’s daughter in a fierce act of rebellion, he is tormented by feelings of guilt and torn apart with the growing need to protect her—and seduce her!
Stella Storwick feels Rob’s disdain from the first. Then slowly she starts to see behind his eyes to a man in turmoil. Something he has no words for, something that can only be captured in a heart-wrenching kiss.... 

In the excerpt below, from Chapter One, Black Rob Brunson has been out inspecting his land, looking for signs that the family’s blood enemies, the Storwicks, may be planning a raid, and pauses at midday in the hills overlooking his valley.
Something shifted.  The wind.  A scent.  A sound.  He stiffened, alert, and turned his head.
Above him and to his left, sat a woman, silent and stiff, eyes fixed on him warily as if he were a Storwick.
He fashed himself for not looking carefully before leaving his horse.  What if he’d been surprised by the enemy?
Neither spoke, looking.
Dark hair tumbled across her shoulders, but he would not call her beautiful.  At least, not from this angle.  Eyes and lips fought for control of her face.  Her nose was too strong.  Her chin too sharp.  She looked vaguely familiar, but he had seen every far-flung Brunson at one time or another.  Still, he could not summon which branch of the family was hers.
“You’re far from home,” he began, still trying to place her.  The Tait cousin lived nearest, but he had no daughters.
She drew herself up into a crouch, like a wary animal ready to run.  “Nay so far.”
He raised and lowered his shoulders, sorry he had frightened her.  He motioned his head uphill, toward the border.  “Storwicks are no more than five miles away.”
Not taking her eyes from his, she stood slowly and took a step back, as if nearness to the enemy had just occurred to her.  The blush on her cheek paled.  “Have I crossed the border then?”
“Nay.”  He rose to his feet, uncomfortable that she stood while he stretched on the grass.  
What was the strangeness in her accent?  “It’s just over there.”
Her eyes widened.  She turned to look over her shoulder.  Then ran.
That was when he recognized her. 
Stella Storwick didn’t look back, praying for her feet to run faster.
But the Brunson kept coming, strong as a charging ram, trampling the grass behind her.  
Then he was in front of her, cutting off her escape as if she were no more than an unruly ewe.
She dodged.  Left.  Right.  Thinking she could confuse him.
He was a broad man.  She could be quicker.  More steps, her skirt and the grass holding her back.  If she crossed the border, she would be safe…
But next she knew, he grabbed her arm, whirled her around, and both of them tumbled to ground.  She on her back, pressed to earth, he straddling her legs.
She lifted a clawed hand to scratch his eyes, but he caught her wrists and held her arms tight against the dirt without effort.  Even when she shut her eyes against him, he surrounded her, warm and smelling of leather.
“You’re Storwick.”  He did not ask a question.
She opened her eyes.  His were brown.  And murderous.
“And you’re Brunson.”  Close now, she knew him, the man she had seen near half a year ago at Truce Day.  Fool she was, not to have recognized him immediately.
Not just a Brunson.  The Brunson.
A flash of heat crackled through her body.  Hatred, no doubt.
He was one of the Black Brunsons.  Broad of shoulder and brow, dark of hair and eye.  Yes, he had the brown eyes that marked all his cursed clan.
“You’ll not take me.”  She braced herself, stiff armed and legged, as if that would stop him.  “I won’t let you.”
He froze, then turned to spit in the dirt in contempt.  “Brunsons don’t treat women so.”  Disgust now, in his eyes.  “It’s your kind who do that.”
One villainous kin of hers who had done that.
She knew the truth of the whispers about him, though the man had never dared touch her. 
No one dared that.
“That’s not what I’ve heard.”  A lie, but one she hoped would keep him off guard.  She tugged against his hold.  An iron manacle would have given way more easily.
He released her hands with a look that warned her to keep them quiet.  “You’ve heard wrong.”
She pushed herself up on her elbows.  “Then let me go if you don’t mean to take me.”
He sat back on his heels and crossed his arms, his very silence ominous.
She held her breath to stop her speech.  He had not guessed which Storwick she was.  Or that she had come to the hills to spy on his precious tower.
“How far behind are the others?”  He stood, pulling her to her feet, keeping his hand on her wrist while he gazed toward the English side of the border.
“No others.”  Foolish admission.  She had told no one her plan when she left this morning.  Perhaps that had been unwise.
He turned back, sweeping her with a glance head to toe.  One that said she might be daft, but he wasn’t.  “You wander the hills alone with no horse?”
She shrugged to hide the shaking.  “Sun doesn’t often come like this.  I wandered too far.”  And had hoped to wander farther.  A horse would draw attention.  “Let me go.  I’m of no use to you.”
“Oh, you’re of use to me.  You’re going to serve as a hostage for the good behavior of the rest of your people.  If they ride to rescue Hobbes Storwick, you’ll be the one to pay.”
She blanched.  Thank God.  At least her father was alive.
They had not even been sure of that.
Blythe Gifford has been known for medieval romances featuring characters born on the wrong side of the royal blanket. Now, she’s launching a trilogy set on the turbulent Scottish Borders of the early Tudor era, starting with RETURN OF THE BORDER WARRIOR, November 2012, Harlequin Historical.  CAPTIVE OF THE BORDER LORD will follow in January 2013, and TAKEN BY THE BORDER REBEL in March 2013.  The Chicago Tribune has called her work "the perfect balance between history and romance."  Visit her at www.blythegifford.com, www.facebook.com/BlytheGifford, or on Twitter @BlytheGifford.  

Author photo by Jennifer Girard.  Excerpt Copyright © 2013 by Wendy B. Gifford.  Permission to reproduce text granted by Harlequin Books S.A.  Cover Art Copyright © 2013 by Harlequin Enterprises Limited.  Permission to reproduce text granted by Harlequin Books S.A. Cover art used by arrangement with Harlequin Enterprises Limited. All rights reserved. ® and ™ are trademarks owned by Harlequin Enterprises Limited or its affiliated companies, used under license.