Willow by @laurelodonnell is a Stress Busting Festival pick #historicalromance #newrelease #giveaway
Author: Laurel O’Donnell
Genre: Historical Romance
Could she ever trust him after he broke her heart? Will he pick her over his loyalty to the Templar Knights? Can they find the love they once shared?
It is Willow Hawke’s fault her sister is in peril. Charismatic and beautiful, she has always been able to get what she wants from men. All of them but one. When he returns, she wants to punish him for leaving her and lifts a book from him. But she never imagines the consequences of her action nor the adventure she will be swept up in.
Ridiculed by his father, mocked by his brother, Christian Sterling searches for a family to belong to. He believes he found it in the Templar Knights. Tasked by the Grandmaster with delivering a book to a monk, Christian is angered when Willow steals it. With dangerous men searching for it, Christian knows he must find the book and prevent it from falling into the wrong hands. Thrown together, they must run from bounty hunters, traitors, and mercenaries all searching for the book. The betrayal runs much deeper than they think. Can Willow and Christian trust each other enough to fall in love again?
“Start a fire,” she said.
That made sense. She would need to see to stitch his wound. He gathered twigs and placed them in a small pile. She crossed the expanse, handing him a char cloth and flint. Of course, she would have a char cloth and flint. He remembered John telling her, “Fire can be the difference between life and death.”
Christian squatted beside the pile of wood and struck the flint. A spark leaped off, igniting the char cloth. He sheltered it with his hand and carefully brought it to the twigs. They caught fire.
He handed her the flint and fire striker and sat at the base of the tree. A flickering light leaped to life in the twigs, dancing happily.
Willow knelt near him, examining his cut.
He didn’t think it was that bad. He would have endured a hundred cuts like it to be this close to her again. Her blonde locks reflected the red from the fire. He stared at her slightly furrowed brow as she inspected the wound. When she ran a cloth across the cut, he hissed.
She looked up at him.
His breath caught. Her large eyes were a deep sapphire. And she was so near. Was this a dream?
She grinned and turned back to his wound.
“It’s cold,” he explained. But it was a beat too late. For a moment, he regretted ever having left her. Yet, it had been the right thing to do. He refused to be sorry.
She worked at stitching his cut in silence, which was fine with Christian. It allowed him to study her. To behold. To memorize. Because he knew he was going to leave her again. For her own good. For her own safety. He couldn’t stay with men chasing him. He couldn’t stay with the book.
A golden strand had come free from her braid and brushed his nipple. Her face was so close to his skin he wished she would just lay her cheek against it. His manhood twitched. God’s blood! No other women had ever affected him like this. He clenched his jaw and rested his head against the tree, closing his eyes.
“Does it hurt?” she asked.
He shook his head, letting her soft voice float around him to relieve the flaring burn from the cut. Her fingers skimmed his hard stomach. He was aching, all right. It took all his willpower not to show his arousal. He wanted to poke his finger right into the wound, to take his mind from her.
Finally, she sat back with a satisfied nod. “Not a lot of movement, or they will split open.”
He opened his eyes and regarded her work. Beautiful. The stitches were precise and small. She had gotten better.
She picked up a flask of ale and gently poured it over the stitches. “It needs time to heal.”
She snapped her gaze to him with what looked like surprise rounding her eyes. Then, they softened, and she nodded. She rested on her heels and began to unlace her leather armor.
Christian straightened. “What are you doing?” he asked. His voice came out more alarmed than curious.
She didn’t lift her gaze. “I have to look at my cut.” When she turned to him, her eyes glittered with amusement. “Don’t worry. I won’t take everything off.”
He parted his lips to reply but snapped them shut. It would be better if he said nothing. She opened her leather armor and removed her arm from it. Then, she slipped her arm from her dress. Beneath it, she wore a chemise. For that, Christian was grateful and disappointed.
He stood, trying to hold his side still. It was tender and sent pulsating warmth and twinges of displeasure at the movement through his torso. He knelt beside her and took her arm in his hand.
She turned to him in surprise.
For a moment, he thought she was going to pull away from him, but then she relaxed. He eased the chemise down her arm, being sure to trail his fingers along her skin to the cut and tipped ale over it. It was a thin slice, nothing serious, but should be cleaned and wrapped. Her skin was warm and smooth in his hand, and her muscles tensed beneath his touch. “Where’s the wrap?”
She handed him the cloth. He held it against her skin and draped it around her arm. He was glad to have something to do, a distraction from her smooth skin, her thin chemise, her lips. He finished by tying the fabric in a knot.
Willow moved her arm in a circular fashion. “Not bad. You’ve had practice.”
“I’m a good swordsman, but not that good.”
She indicated his side with a jerk of her chin. “Apparently, not as good as you think.” She gathered the cloth.
He stood, and she did so at the exact moment. They faced each other, the moonlight falling over her face like water. It made her blue eyes glisten and sparkle. His gaze glided over her face, the skin of her cheeks, her pert nose, to her full lips. His eyes lingered there like a starving man. “Talk,” he told himself. “Do something with your lips before they do something they shouldn’t.”
“Sage let you come with me. She must trust me.”
Willow laughed softly, and it sounded like the jingles of a bell. “Sage doesn’t let me do anything. I wanted to come.”
“To make sure you weren’t going to bleed to death.” Her voice was soft and enticing. “Why else?”
“Maybe you wanted to see if I was as good a kisser as before.”
Her eyebrows rose, but her focus dipped to his lips. “You weren’t that good before.”
“I’ve had more practice.”
“So have I.”
He leaned forward and pressed his lips to hers. A jolt of electricity shot through him as if he had been struck with a bolt from heaven. He half expected her to pull away. He half expected her to slap him. What he hadn’t expected was when she dropped the cloth and reached up to entwine her arms around his neck. He hadn’t expected her to open her mouth to his exploration. What he hadn’t expected was her to kiss him back.
Buy Links (including Goodreads and BookBub):
Goodreads - https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/59516732
What’s your favorite way to combat stress?
Stress sucks the life right out of you. It's horrible. It makes you want to curl up into a ball and shelter beneath a blanket. My favorite way to combat stress is to exercise. I try to do it six days a week, whether I feel like doing it or not. I have a Peloton membership and ride the bike, but my favorite exercise is lifting weights for the upper body.
Why is your featured book a stress busting read?
Willow is an escape. My readers will get to go along on an adventure, away from their troubles, for a little bit. I hope my readers fall in love with the characters and root for their victory while they read the story so they forget about their stress. Thank you for featuring Willow!
One lucky reader will win a $75 Amazon US or Canada gift card.
Open internationally. You must have a valid Amazon US or Amazon CA account to win.
Runs May 1 – May 31
Drawing will be held on June 1.
Critically acclaimed and bestselling author Laurel O'Donnell has won numerous awards for her works, including the Holt Medallion for A Knight of Honor, the Happily Ever After contest for Angel's Assassin, and the Indiana's Golden Opportunity contest for Immortal Death. The Angel and the Prince was nominated by the Romance Writers of America for their prestigious Golden Heart award.
When not writing, you can often find her lounging with her five cats or researching ideas online for the next book. She loves to visit the Renaissance Faire, spend time with family and hear from her readers.
She finds precious time every day to escape into the medieval world and bring her characters to life in her writing.
Social Media Links:
Website - https://www.laurel-odonnell.com
Twitter - https://twitter.com/laurelodonnell
Instagram - https://www.instagram.com/authorlaurelodonnell/