Title: Daughter of the Overking
Author: Ashley York
Genre: Historical Romance
A mistaken identity. A gruesome murder.
Trained as a warrior...
Brighit of Clonascra despises the trappings and demands of womanhood and is far more comfortable training for battle. Long held alliances require she set aside selfish dreams and take Darragh as her husband. The union intended to promote peace between the clans is interrupted by the shocking murder of a neighboring king and she quickly discovers there are far worse things than being wed.
Trained to be king...
Darragh of Drogheda has no wish to be king, but he is an obedient son and supports his father's plans. His marriage to Brighit, however, will be no hardship at all since he finds her most intriguing when she fights him at every turn. A she-warrior indeed. Her persistent dismissal of him merely blows the fire aflame and sets him down the path to discovery of all her most tightly held secrets—secrets that could cost him his life.
Darragh merely shrugged. “The wedding can happen in a fortnight, or it can take place this very night.”
He was pushing it a bit. His mother had expressed a desire for the priest to be present and he was at least a two-day journey away.
Wetting his lips, he gave her his most charming smile. “I believe it should be this very night that I take ye to my bed.”
“Ugh!” Brighit rolled her eyes. “Ye want this even less than me.”
That was a bit of a surprise. In truth, he was the envy of all the lads, both in his clan and her own. Brighit was a beautiful, feisty woman. He wasn’t sure how to reply.
“So? What is it ye want?” Brighit’s expression revealed nothing. “I promise I’ll not leave—”
“Yer promise means nothing.” Darragh raised a hand when she opened her mouth to protest. “A display of how insulted ye are will not change my mind. I know ye better than that. Instead, let us have a truce.”
She remained silent, her lips tightly sealed.
“Ye will not misbehave again—and I will agree to wait to take ye to wife.”
“Until next summer?”
“Oh no. No one will agree to waiting another year. Yer behavior demands ye be taken to wife now.”
“Then how long will ye give me?”
“A fortnight is all.” Admittedly, her enthusiasm for putting off the inevitable stung a bit. “But any disobedience will result in the truce immediately being set aside.”
Her skeptical expression was almost comical. Almost.
“This can no longer be avoided, and they are not inclined to break the betrothal. Yer father is eager to see us wed.”
Her eyes rounded. Brighit’s love for Sean ran deep, and if she’d been given an opportunity to find a man she could love, no doubt that man would have known that same depth of feeling. He tapped down the regret that clawed at him.
“Ye’ll be in good hands. Everyone knows that.” It seemed irrelevant that Sean also found him lacking.
In a flash he grabbed both of her wrists and drew her flush against him. A scowl on his face, he said, “Yer defiance will be the death of ye.”
She immediately began to struggle against his greater strength. A futile waste of her energy.
“Let me loose, Lord Darragh.”
“And ye’ll not use that insulting term again.”
“I am not yers to command yet.”
He smiled at her winded tone. “I need only say the word.”
She ceased her struggle, and he loosened his hold.
“Did ye never learn in all yer training that the protection of a village against attack is of primary importance? Yer ridiculous attempts at stalling show ye are no true warrior, no matter how many lads ye’ve bested. Our parents may have decided on this betrothal when times were better, but there is trouble brewing now. The joining of our clans is imperative for everyone’s protection.”
He hadn’t expected her eyes to dampen and the irritated way she brushed the tears aside convinced him they were genuine. An overpowering need to soften his words took hold. “I speak to ye as I would to any of the men under my command and not to upset ye.”
“I am not upset. Yer spittle went in my eye.”
He bit his lip to keep from smiling at the obvious lie. “If ye agree to wed as soon as it can be arranged, we can return and see this done. ’Twould be best for all.”
“No?” Darragh was beside himself. “Ye still wish to act the spoiled child with no regard for—”
“I want the fortnight.” She swallowed again. “Please.”
That last word cost her. It was there in her eyes—that and her sincerity. He had a sneaking suspicion she would still fight the inevitable, although he’d swear she felt guilty now for making such a fuss. Was Sean so very protective of her that she’d had no idea of the troubles?
It would certainly be easier to proceed if she could offer some sort of concession, mayhap even apologize for the way she’d been behaving to show she’d had a change of heart. Darragh snorted. That would never happen.
“Well?” she asked. Her face was tight, as if she was ashamed of having shown any emotion at all.
“Convince me of yer sincerity,” Darragh said.
“I am sincere.”
“Then show me ye’ve accepted the inevitable, that ye’re willing to become my wife.”
Her eyes widened in irritation. “I am.”
“That’s the problem with prevarication.”
“Prevarication? When did I ever lie to ye?”
“When ye flashed yer lashes and begged me not to tell yer father.”
“It works for the other lasses, why not me? They get whatever they want. All the lads begging at their feet, telling them how beautiful they are—” She averted her gaze. “—and they’re not so very beautiful.”
A telling statement of how she viewed herself, but he resisted the urge to reassure her that not one of those lasses compared to her in looks or intelligence.
When she finally turned back, her expression had softened. “I do not normally prevaricate.”
He crossed his arms about his chest. “If ye say so.”
“I do say so. Ugh!” She blew an irritated breath. “I canna convince ye when ye won’t believe what I say.”
Brighit’s nose flared in irritation just before she shook her head in a most defeated way. The idea came to him in a flash, and Darragh smiled at his own thought before sharing it.
“A kiss. A kiss will convince me.” He half expected her to slap his face for even suggesting such a thing.
Only she didn’t. Her eyes widened, and she glanced at his lips before wetting her own. She was excited by the idea. Could it be she’d never been kissed before? He’d bet his favorite horse she had not, not with Sean as her father.
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Survival in 11th century Ireland was never guaranteed, and tribal rivalry made love matches few and far between. Afterall, what good was love when you were being pursued by a ruthless enemy...except when it strengthens your reason to go on.