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Growling in frustration, Reynard endeavoured to keep her seated on the saddle as the lady renewed her struggles. But he could tell it was only half-hearted, more an annoyance, a distraction, than a true bid for freedom.

The girl shrieked as they galloped around an obscured bend, speeding toward a low lying branch, which threatened to sweep them both from their mount.

“Duck!” he shouted.

Leaning forward, he pressed the maiden flat against the saddle, his weight heavy on her back, and dug his heels into the mount’s quivering flanks. The bough skimmed over his head as the charger raced down the narrow path, dirt and moss flying in its wake.

“Damnation!” Reynard swore, realizing the troop of men were closing in on them much too quickly. Damn the girl! Why the hell had he decided to take her with him anyway? Hastily, he pushed the thought aside and concentrated on escaping. With his arm still wrapped tightly about her waist, he continued to press her into the saddle, frustrating her futile attempts.

Lunging into the air, the warhorse vaulted over the fallen tree in their path, before plunging deeper into the gloom of Walgrave Forest. Reynard straightened with his priceless human cargo pressed tight against him, unwilling to release her. Tall branching trees of oak, elm, and birch loomed before them in the winding path, their newly budding limbs twisting in the spring breeze.

Shouts and the rumble of hooves striking the earth shattered the quiet of the forest. Somehow he had to lose them for the baron knew these woods as well as he and would not relent until Reynard was captured and Lady Rianna de Termonde—his captive—was safely within the bastard’s grasp. A plan began to form. It would be his only chance to shake off his pursuers.

The path began to broaden, the trees pulling back. Sturm’s hooves cut into the ground, sending great clumps of earth spraying into the air as they passed. And then they galloped into a clearing of sorts, the trail widening before splitting like a fork in three directions.

Reynard sawed hard on the reins, forcing a whinny from Sturm as the destrier reared up on his hind legs, its fetlocks clawing the air. The huge animal, settling upon the earth, snorted in disgust. The maiden gave a startled squeal before twisting around, glaring at Reynard.

“Must you try to scare the life out of me?” she shouted.

He narrowed his eyes. “I would clamp your mouth shut, lest you wish me to gag you,” Reynard replied tersely.

Guilt twisted his guts when she blanched at his tone, trying in vain to shrink back from him. Ignoring the frightened look in her soft owlish eyes, and the ache in his heart, he dismounted. Wrapping his hands around her tiny waist, he pulled her down with him. Taking her by the arm, he quickly dragged her trembling body toward the thick undergrowth lining the path.

Turning to his charger, he barked, “Come.” Sturm dutifully followed.

Hearing the thunder of drumming hooves, Reynard franticly searched the thick bushes and closely knit trees for an opening. Finding it, he pushed Rianna through and, taking the reins, pulled Sturm after him, conscious of the snapping twigs giving way before the large animal. Keeping an eye on the girl, he hustled her deeper until even the grey warhorse was swallowed by the thick green and brown flora. Halting, he released his mount’s reins.

“Stay here,” Reynard murmured as he gently stroked the horse’s muzzle. Turning around, he discovered the girl watching him warily. Before she could even think of running, he grabbed hold of her arm, and towed her through the bushes. Finding the perfect spot, he paused. The foliage appeared thin enough to see through, but hopefully thick enough to hide them. Placing his hands upon her shoulders, he pushed her to her knees, before kneeling behind her. Spreading his legs wide, he pulled her back between his splayed thighs until her bottom nestled tight against his groin, her back to his chest. Wrapping an arm around her slender waist, he locked her to him. Gently gripping her throat, he forced her head back until it rested upon his shoulder. She squirmed and struggled against his restraining hold but he would not budge. She froze when his fingers tightened around her throat to send her heart racing with fear.

“Keep still. If you scream I will have no choice but to strangle you,” he whispered the empty threat, tightening his hold to emphasize his words.

“Do you understand?”

She nodded vigorously, and his hold eased upon her neck.

He peered through the tangle of branches and newly budding leaves to the path beyond. It was empty, but he could hear the rapid approach of pounding hooves.

Reynard’s gaze strayed to her profile, surveying her wide eyes, her softly parted lips while she waited with bated breath. As he inhaled deeply of her scent, a rush of desire coursed through his body, corresponding with the awakening of his loins. He bit back a groan as his hot, thick blood pooled in his groin, lengthening his cock. Hard and straining against the confines of his hose, it pressed toward the warm feminine heat separated by their meagre layers of cloth. Rianna turned to look up at him, and it was his undoing. Gently gripping her chin, his mouth lowered, capturing those full sensual lips in a kiss as tender as it was passionate.

* * *

Baron Rothwell and his men thundered into the clearing in a high rage. Somehow the knave had eluded him, with Lady Rianna no less. But he should have known for Sturm was one of the swiftest horses this side of England, caring for no one but his master. The baron pulled hard on the reins of his black charger, holding up his gauntleted hand to the men.

“Where the bloody hell could they have gone?” Baron Orlingbury demanded furiously, pulling alongside Rothwell, glaring at him.

Baron Rothwell met his stare calmly, before turning to survey the clearing and forked paths with his keen gaze.

“If I knew precisely where they had gone, we would not be stopping now,” he returned, peering down each path. There was not a hint of a moving branch or bush down any of them, except for the gentle breeze, no broken stem or twig to indicate a recent passing.

“‘Od’s blood! They could not have vanished into thin air!” Sir Devall grumbled angrily, reining in on the other side.

“I doubt very much that they have,” Rothwell commented dryly. He paused for a moment, something catching his eye, and turned his attention to the three trails. “That one leads to the river, though I doubt he would go there unless he was seeking a bath.” He pointed to the narrow path on their left, winding its way through the trees. “And the other meanders back to the village of Maidwell.” He gestured to the right.

“Then what of the one in the middle?” Baron Orlingbury asked gruffly.

“That one leads out of Rothwell and into Corby. ‘Tis most likely his choice,” Rothwell returned.

“Then why the bloody hell are we sitting here with our thumbs up our arses while he’s getting away with my daughter?” Orlingbury demanded, his voice rising in rage.

“Indeed,” Sir Devall commented under his breath.

Rothwell glared at him before turning to the men milling behind them. “Sir Bernard!”

“My lord?” the knight piped up, nudging his horse forward.

“Return to Sudwic with news that we have gone ahead to track down the prisoner. Then gather as many supplies and fresh horses as you can, enough to last us a sennight, and follow as quickly as possible.”

“Aye, my lord,” Sir Bernard answered, saluting his baron. Wielding his mount around, he sprinted off in the direction from whence they had come.

The baron turned to the rest of the men. “We go now, but keep your eyes and ears peeled. Our prisoner knows these lands as well as any of you.” Peering at the bushes one last time, Rothwell dug his heels into the ebony’s flanks. Off he galloped down the path toward Corby, his men and Baron Orlingbury thundering after him.

* * *

Reynard was lost in a world of lust, his whole being centered on the girl moulding her body to his, and not on the party of knights galloping away. Immersed in kisses he had no right to give, and she no right to take. Her breathy moan incited the passion pounding through his veins, engorging his cock, as he devoured her lush lips, her tongue. His hands rubbed up and down her back, pulling her closer. Lost to the bonfire blazing between them, he could feel her pressing into him, her arms tangled about his shoulders. Their lips, tongues, and breath mingling in the wild heat of hunger. He groaned when her breasts teased his chest through the thin layers of their clothing. Her fingers wandered through his hair as she met the searing lust of his kiss. Never would he have expected this frightened, shy girl to be capable of such stunning passion. She was like a living, moving flame in his arms, consuming his senses as desire pounded through his veins, engulfing him.

His cock, hard and thick, throbbed with the need to thrust into her pliant, wet heat finishing what he had started. It strained against the confines of his braes, testing the stitching of his hose in its desire to plunge deep inside her, to erupt in orgasmic pleasure. Reynard did not know when, but during the kiss she had turned in his arms. And clinging to him, returned his embrace in full fervour. In truth, he had only meant to keep her from crying out, from revealing their location to his cousin, not to drown in this ecstasy—beyond anything he had known before. And though he was absorbed in the lust flowing through him, he knew full well his cousin and men had galloped away, taking the bait as he’d hoped.

In self-preservation, he ended the kiss. He pulled back to study this exquisite goddess, his body screaming for gratification.

By the gods she is beautiful.

Her full lips, softly parted, were swollen, bee stung from his kisses. A soft pink blush touched upon her high cheeks and crept down the slender column of her throat. His gaze roved lower to see her breasts straining against the fine wool of her light green riding grown. Her nipples hard as rose buds pressed into the cloth, instinctively seeking his heat. Reynard had to clench his hands into fists to keep from reaching out and touching them, or from pushing her onto the grass and ravishing her as his engorged shaft demanded. No matter how much he wanted to oblige the tide of passion rising within, he could not. There was still the small matter of escaping.

Reynard watched, captivated, as Rianna slowly opened her eyes. A deep crimson flush stealing into her cheeks as the whirlwind of passion receded from her gaze. He saw a hint of the emotions she must be feeling flash through her delicate features—shock, dismay, and finally anger. Without warning, she pulled back and slapped him full across the face. The blow so hard his head twisted to one side.

And then she was jerking out of his loose embrace as if to escape.

Growling, he grabbed her arm in a steel grip, yanking her back to him.

“I may have deserved that, demoiselle, for taking such liberties as kissing you, but do not even think that you are going to get away from me so easily,” he hissed.

And then all was calm.

Reynard rose, attempting to mask the lust and anger boiling in his veins with indifference. He tightened his grip in warning, mashing flesh and bone, causing her delicate knuckles to turn white. She gasped in pain, her eyes widening in shock and fear as she began to tremble.

He instantly loosened his hold, but refused to let go. Turning away from her, he dragged Rianna behind him to where Sturm stood stock motionless, waiting for his master’s further command. Reynard was appalled at himself for harming her. But her slapping him in the face, the rejection of the passion they had just shared, cut through him like a knife and sent fury careening out of control to clash with the lust already pounding through his veins. That she could so easily disregard the fact she had helped him escape the castle and the baron’s wrath, though he’d not asked her. Or the amorous kisses they had shared when she’d merely thought him an escaped prisoner. But what stabbed deeper than he would ever admit was her forgetfulness—she did not recognise him. Nor did she recall the oath that had bound them together for the last seven years. It only served to remind him why he had not dallied with such women in recent times, not since Maggie’s death.

Taking hold of the horse’s reins, he guided his captive and mount into the now empty clearing. Without giving her a chance to run, he swung Rianna up into the saddle, mounting behind her. His arm around her waist, he pulled her hard against his chest, leaving the maiden no choice but to lean against him. Taking the reins in his free hand, he clucked at Sturm and dug his spurs in the charger’s flanks. The warhorse sprang forward, directed toward the left path and Tove River.

A long moment of silence passed as they made their way through the heavy brush dotting the winding path. Rianna sat still as stone in his hard embrace, seemingly trying to keep her back from touching his chest.

“Where are we going?” she asked, so softly he might have imagined it.

“To the river,” he responded sharply, coldly.

He felt a shiver run down her spine as her back became more rigid.

Reynard stared down at her golden head, aware he was playing the fool for even caring he’d frightened her again. Anger still rolled through his veins from her rejection of his kiss, his touch. But then he should have stayed the hell away from her.

Had not the death of one woman been enough to teach him?

Reynard thought he’d learned his lesson well. But apparently he had not learned well enough, for he’d wanted her, and she had rejected him. Gritting his teeth against the fury rising within, he swallowed down the anger. One thing was certain, he would keep the madness from controlling him, no matter how alluring this maiden might be. Nor would he ever touch or kiss her again.

More eBooksellers:

A Knight of Passion
by Ingela F. Hyatt

Book One of A Knight Trilogy

Samhain Publishing

Historical Romance (Explicit)

Re-Release

eBook: September 2009
ISBN: 9781599981147

Print: July 2010
ISBN: 9781605049311

2006-2012 Ingela F. Hyatt

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Chapter One

1148, Sudwic, Northamptonshire

“You are mine, ma petite.”

Reynard Devin de Fauconer growled low into the woman’s hair, a whisper above the pounding of heart and hooves. Despite his claim, she continued to struggle against the arm wrapped hard around her waist.

“You bastard. How dare you take me!” she cried, lunging forward, fighting against his grasp.

He grunted as her elbow smashed into his ribs. The instant his hold loosened, the girl dove for the reins. She screamed, teetering to one side, slipping from the saddle.

Fear slammed into his gut, twisting his heart. If she were to fall now, she would be trampled by the stampeding hooves. His heated passions responsible for yet another woman’s death.

I will not let that happen!

Heart lurching, the knight leaned forward and slipped his arm about her waist. He yanked her back, slamming the girl hard against his chest. Tightening his grip on the slack reins, he urged the destrier faster, desperate to calm the clash of dread and rage, swiftly rising within his breast.

Doubling over his arm, she began wheezing like an old woman.

“If you ever act so foolish again, my lady, I will beat you.” Reynard snarled furiously.

He felt her stiffen at his words, her heart pounding in time to his. Guilt instantly assailed him, but there was no time to soothe her fears, not with their pursuers bent on their capture.

cover by Natalie Winters

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