01 November 2012

Excerpt Thursday: Return of the Border Warrior by Blythe Gifford

This week, we’re welcoming author Blythe Gifford,  a regular Unusual Historicals contributor, whose Brunson Clan trilogy launches this month with RETURN OF THE BORDER WARRIOR. The series will continue with CAPTIVE OF THE BORDER LORD, January 2013 and TAKEN BY THE BORDER REBEL, March 2013. Blythe will be here Sunday to talk about the series in more detail and offer a copy to one lucky commenter.

RETURN OF THE BORDER WARRIOR is set on the Scottish Borders during the early Tudor era and centers on a family of Border Reivers. Here’s a glimpse of the story, along with an excerpt:


Once part of a powerful border clan, John has not set sight on the Brunson stone tower in years. With failure never an option, he must persuade his family to honour the King’s call for peace.

To succeed, John knows winning over the daughter of an allied family, Cate Gilnock, holds the key. But this intriguing beauty is beyond the powers of flattery and seduction. Instead, the painful vulnerability hidden behind her spirited eyes calls out to John as he is inexorably drawn back into the warrior Brunson clan…

In this excerpt from Chapter One, John has come across Cate, practicing her sword fighting against her own shadow. He thinks to play with her, easily besting her sword with his dagger, but the woman proves more capable than he imagined…

He jumped just in time to escape a touch. Now was not the time for distractions. He had expected a playful joust. Instead, he faced a warrior.
He swung high, but she held up her sword, turned sideways, to block his stroke. A clever move, but lifting the two-handed sword had strained her strength and when she lowered it, her arms shook.
Seizing on her weakness, he attacked and they crossed blades again.  Prepared now, he leveraged his strength against her sword. Though she kept her grip, he pushed the blade away, coming close enough to feel her chest rise and fall, nearly touching his. 
Close enough that his mind wandered, careless of the blades, thinking that under her tunic and vest, she had breasts. Now he could see her face, the angles of it, sharp and cleanly sculpted as her sword. Yet thick lashes edged her brown eyes, disguising some of the hatred there. 
“Surrender now?”
Panting, she shook her head. Yet her lips parted, tempting him to take them. She was, after all, a woman. A kiss would be mightier than a sword.
He pushed her sword arm down, pulled her to him, and took her lips.
She yielded for a breath, no more. 
But it was long enough for him to lose his thoughts, to forget she held a sword and remember only that she was a woman, breasts soft against his chest, smelling of heather…
In a flash, she turned stiff as a sword and leaned away, though her lips did not leave his, so he thought she only teased.
When he felt the point of a dirk at his throat, he knew she did not. 
“Let me go,” she said, her lips still close that they moved over his. “Or you’ll be bleeding and I’ll leave you to it, I swear.”
He eased his arms from her back and she pushed him away, wiped her mouth, and spat into the dirt. 
He touched the scratch she’d left on his neck, grateful she had not drawn blood. 
Her eyes, which he had thought to turn soft with pleasure, narrowed, hard with fury.
“It’s a Brunson you’re facing,” he said, trying a smile. “Not a Storwick.”
She raised both sword and dirk, the larger wobbling in her grip. “It’s a man I’m facing who thinks what I want is of no consequence if it interferes with his privileges and pleasures.” 
Had he imagined the echo of the bedchamber in her voice? No more.
He raised his eyebrows, opened his arms and made a slight bow. “A thousand pardons.” Words as insincere as the feelings behind them.
She frowned. “You are a stranger here, so you know no better. And because you are a Brunson, I’ll let you keep your head, but I’ll warn you just once. You will not do that again. Ever.” 
She lowered her sword, slowly.
You are a stranger. She was the Brunson, besting him with a sword, displacing him at the family table. His temper rose. “And what if I do?”
The blade rose, this time, not pointed at his throat, but between his legs. “If you do, you won’t have to worry about bedding a woman ever again.”
He swallowed, gingerly, his body on fire. Only because she had challenged him. Nothing more. No man could desire such a woman. 
“Then have no worries on that score, Catie Gilnock,” he said, flush with anger. “When next I bed a woman, it most certainly will not be you.”

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.”

Photo credits. Cover used with permission. Author photo by Jennifer Girard