Sir Lucan Wylde is a forgotten man. Having survived the dark curse thrust upon him by a powerful Enchantress, he has returned to a world that has long since forgotten him. One hundred and fifty years have passed since he served the King of Shardizar as a Knight Mage of the Royal Order of St. Alby. Having once again sworn his fealty to his King, he realizes he can’t remain at Court forever. He yearns for his home, and having heard that a merciless pack of Wolf Shifters now rule over the county where he was born, he determines that he must embrace his birthright and usurp the shifter who rules over the County of Cambria with an iron fist.
Nerienda Kyneswyth is a woman with a mysterious past. Born in the Kingdom of Avonry she was forced to flee her home long ago for the safe haven of Shardizar, after her love for a man destroyed her life. Lucan’s mother aided her when she first arrived in the small village of Glynneath, and gave her a home when she had nowhere else to go. When Lucan returns to Glynneath, they join forces against the cruel Lord Ulwyn and along the way she falls for Lucan and he falls madly in love with her. Can his ardent love restore her faith in men?
“You need to leave now,” Neri said, taking a step toward him, and then feeling the sexual energy crackling between them, she backed up, attempting to put as much distance between them as possible.
“I disagree. Perhaps you’re the one that needs to leave. This is after all my family’s Tavern.”
Her mind raced. She couldn’t organize her thoughts well enough to actually give him an argument to dispute his statement.
“Your mother willed me this establishment on her deathbed. She didn’t want it falling into the wrong hands as the Wylde Family has run this place for hundreds of years.”
He chuckled. “You expect me to believe that? I had hoped for more from you.”
“I do not lie,” she said, looking away from him. She couldn’t allow herself to connect again with his hauntingly beautiful eyes. They would enthrall her and she’d be completely lost.
“Truly? I find that extremely hard to believe. Very few people in this world can be completely honest. There are times when telling a little white lie can be the difference between life and death.”
She groaned and rolled her eyes. “I make a habit of always telling it how it is. Some do not like that practice, and it’s landed me in hot water on more than one occasion.”
Lucan watched the beautiful woman in front of him as he intentionally riled her passions. She was like an ethereal creature. He’d seen lots of women, and none could compare to her beauty, none save for perhaps Ava. This woman was not only enchanting but she was enchanted. She had an air of the Otherworld about her and though she looked like a wispy creature with her small stature, her large eyes and pixie ears, she had steel inside of her. He could see that just by the cautionary glint in her eyes.
She’d seen sorrow, and she’d been through terrible hardships. Not only that but her heart had been broken, and he wanted to tear that devil of a man from limb to limb. He didn’t know why his heart reached out for her—perhaps this was the elusive love at first sight that many talked about. He never quite believed those romantic tales and now, now, he wished he hadn’t been such a cynic.
He wanted to see how she would react to him when she was fit to be tied, and right now, the way her cheeks were flushed and her hands trembled told him that she possessed a conscience. She had a good heart.
He could tell that just by the way the Tavern had been lovingly cared for. His bedchamber was basically unchanged. She hadn’t altered it too much to fit her feminine needs.
Her bright sky blue eyes dazzled him right down to his core. He resisted the urge to close in on her and charm her right out of that fluffy towel she wore like a shield from his curious gaze. He wanted to take her to his bed, and enjoy the carnal delights that would await them in each other’s arms.
They hadn’t yet formally introduced themselves but she knew who he was and he was fairly certain that she was the mysteriously enigmatic Changeling, Nerienda Kyneswyth.
“I take it that Ava told you all about me,” he drawled, excited to watch her reaction.
She nodded her head and moved to her large feynwood wardrobe. The same wardrobe that had held his clothing when he’d been a boy. She reached inside of it, and pulled out a sheer lacy contraption that looked like it was midnight black. He wanted to see more of it, even though it looked as if she was determined to keep it from his prying eyes.
She kept her back to him, and dropped her towel to the floor.
His eyes razed over her bare backside. Her ass was unlike any other woman’s butt that he’d ever seen. She slipped the shift over her head and he watched as it draped her curvaceous body.
He used every ounce of willpower he had to keep himself from crossing the short distance between them and taking her into his arms.
His libido had been unusually strong since he’d emerged from that bloody forest. He knew why, as he’d been starved of female companionship for one-hundred and fifty years and as he’d been quite the randy bugger before he’d been struck by the dark enchantment it was safe to assume that his sexual drive wasn’t going to cool down any time soon. Algernon had encouraged him to be a rake and told him to sow his wild oats while he was young and had the looks of a God.
“From the way that the Princess spoke I was led to believe that you were a decrepit old lady. I thought I was going to meet a hag, not a beautiful maiden.” He heaped on the charm, hoping to see some kind of a change in her visage. She still looked as if she had a wall up, she would be hard to reach, and yet, he wanted to rise to the challenge. He knew exactly how it felt to have demons.
She snorted and then turned back to look at him as she settled the red velvet frock she’d pulled out of the wardrobe around her hips. She pulled out a metal belt and wrapped it around her tiny waist. He noted that the belt was equipped with a small dagger—the same small dagger that his mother had carried.
“I’m no ingénue but I’m certainly not an old lady.”
“I can see that, now,” he whispered, causing her to flush when he perused her body intensely. “I actually preferred you in the towel—you looked so damn delicious with it wrapped around your body.”
Her face went beet red at that last remark and she lunged herself at him, stopping just short of impacting with his body on the bed. She must have realized that if she did do that it would put her past the point of no return.
“How dare you speak so impudently to me,” she muttered, giving him a scathing glare. He noted the way her eyes lingered as they sized him up. He was glad that she was just as pleased with his body as he was with hers.
He wished she’d give into her hot head and strike him so they could wrestle a bit and then have a good old-fashioned tumble on the bed. If she gave into temptation, their relationship would be complicated, and complications only opened her up for the sting of betrayal and she could not deal with another man hurting her so vilely.
“Why are you here?” she asked coldly, leaching all emotion from her voice. “And pray, do me the courtesy of telling me how long you shall stay.”
“I’ve come home. I wanted to see my mother’s grave and I also wanted to help restore this village and surrounding area to the glory it once enjoyed. As for the length of my stay—I suppose I’m back for good, unless of course I’m called to action by Grifon and Ava.”
“You misunderstand me. I want to know why you are here in this Tavern…surely, you have a Palace, Castle, or Manor House to build. You might have been born a Tavern wench’s son, but you’ve risen high through the ranks. I know that the King bestowed the lovely title of Duke upon you.”
“I am in no rush to build any monuments showcasing my wealth and new found station in life. Those worldly goods are not as important to me as reconnecting with my roots. I want to free my father’s holdings from Lord Ulwyn’s clutches. He doesn’t deserve them. He is not the Earl of Wythley so therefore, he doesn’t deserve to sit on their ancestral seat of power within Wythley Castle.”
She gasped and moved even closer to him. Leaning forward she bent down and studied him closely, holding herself back from touching his face. He had the same eyes that all of the Earl of Wythley’s had. Same eyes, same forehead, same chin, oh, hell, he was the last Earl’s doppelganger.
“That’s who you remind me of. You look like the Old Earl. He must have been your great-nephew, and if you’re father ever tried to deny you in his life, he wouldn’t have been able to had he ever seen you once you’d grown into a man. You are the spitting image of the Earls of Wythley. You seem to have more Whittier in you than Wylde. Once Lord Ulwyn lays eyes on you, he’ll see the resemblance as the portrait gallery in Wythley Castle remains untouched to this day.”
Lucan’s dark brown eyes darkened to a dangerous degree.
“That man shouldn’t be in control of Wythley Castle. Be that as it may, my relationship with my biological father was a complicated one. My grandfather was more like my father than he ever was. That’s probably why I called him Papa. I saw the Earl on a few occasions when I was growing up, back before I knew he was my father, and all of those times he never engaged me individually. He did look at me as if he wanted to say something a few times but after he had his heir with his wife—he had a boy, I never saw him again. After my Papa passed from this world to the next, my mentor Sir Algernon came into my life. I no longer needed the Earl after that, nor did I want him in my life. We saw each other at Court a few times and when he tried to approach me, I brushed him off. I no longer wanted anything to do with the man who deemed my mother unworthy of him, even though he wanted to be associated with me to share in the glory and honour I had earned as a Knight Mage of the Royal Order of Saint Alby.”
The words spilled liberally out of his mouth. She had no idea why he confided so much so easily to her, but it was as if he was a book and she’d just opened him up.
Darkness permeated him, and yet somehow, he hadn’t been consumed by it. He was an instrument of light—that much she could feel. His magic was strong and had only been used for good.
“Many will ignore their kin until that kin does something that earns attention from a higher rank. Some people are all about money and how high up you sit on the pyramid of life. It’s sad but it’s true.”
Lucan’s eyes swirled with dark emotions. “My father’s line died out. I guess he reaped what he sowed in a way. He could never acknowledge me and now I’m his only hope—I’m his only heir—ah, the irony,” he chuckled bitterly. “Odds are he never believed I would be the only one to carry on his line, I was the bastard born to a woman who was never good enough—even if he loved her, and I believe he might have, he couldn’t swallow his own pride and marry her. He had to keep up appearances that son of a bitch.” Bitterness laced his voice like poison.
Her heart went out to him. He’d been wronged in many ways and she shared that in common with him. She had been treated most foul, some would say her tales of woe superseded his, despite that she still had enough humanity inside of her to feel for the emotional baggage he carried.
Inhaling deeply, she prayed that when she spoke her voice wouldn’t waver with emotion. “And do you want to be the Earl of Wythley along with being the Duke of Cambria? You’ll have a long list of titles to hand down to your heirs should you have any.”
He gave her a scathing look. “I don’t care one flying fart about any of that—you seem to think a lot less of me than I probably think of you.” When he was riled she noticed that his thick Cambrian accent crept forth, and she liked it. She liked the way it deepened his voice. “I was born here, I grew up with dirt on my face, a twinkle in my eyes and a smile touching my lips. I was happy until the day I found out who my father was. I had never felt such soul destroying rage as I did that day, and I warrant I never will again. I couldn’t understand why any man would forsake my mother—or me.” Gruffness entered his voice as a hitch of emotion touched it.
Her heart continued to reach out to him, he’d traveled his own rough path, just as she had traveled hers. The only difference between them was that her entire family had forsaken her, they’d forgotten her in as much time as it took to blink. When she needed help, they didn’t even try to assist her.
Instead, they would have left her rotting in that stinking filth hole of a jail cell, had it not been for the kindness of a stranger who felt she’d been wronged, she still would have been there wasting away. She would always remember the guard who had aided her in her escape. He would be in her prayers until the end of her lives.
The only other person who had helped her was Lucan’s mother and for that reason alone, she would never turn her back on him no matter how much he might irritate her.
“You look knackered, luv. Why don’t you come on over here to this nice soft mattress and take a load off? I’m willing to share, I don’t bite—very often anyway,” he said, winking at her mischievously.
“You are a pig,” she said, tossing her head haughtily.
He laughed at her remark. “No, pet, I’m a Wolf. I’m the big bad Wolf, and I’d love to eat you up.”
Flames of desire scorched her. By the Gods, he was going to be her undoing.
He stood up and came toward her, almost as if he’d sensed that she was in dire straits. Her mind was so muddled. She felt as if it was stuffed with cotton, and yet, she couldn’t flee. She knew she should run, she knew she should bolt as quickly as her legs could carry her and no matter how hard she tried to tell her feet to move, they wouldn’t budge an inch. Damn her feet.
“Did Ava tell you about the curse?”
Mutely, she nodded her head. She couldn’t open her mouth, her voice would crack under the emotional strain.
“I was without a female for so long—I felt like I was dying with each passing hour, and as the hours turned into days, and the days turned into weeks and the weeks into months, and the months into years—I never thought I’d enjoy the companionship of a woman ever again. You see when I was free, I was a lover of the ladies. No other man at Court could compete with my adventurous ways with the fairer sex. I loved so many of them, it would make your hair stand on end. I tried to sate my desires numerous times since I’ve been freed, and no woman could possibly do the job. No woman at the Palace had the kind of substance I required since my long torment. No one could possibly understand the depths of despair I had wallowed in—but I feel that you’re different. I think you just might be able to understand me.”
She snorted. It was a nice little way to pull her into his web. She shook her head and continued to back away from him toward the door leading out to freedom.
“I have never met a man who wanted me for more than what the pleasures of this cursed body could offer him—no man can resist me, and it’s caused me more grief than I could ever endure again. I’ve had many men use me to cool their ardor before and that always led to my destruction. I’ve turned my back on the days where I allowed men to use me and abuse me like that. I’ve grown wise, Sir Lucan. I won’t allow you to ensnare me in your spoken enchantment. You speak a glorious game, and if it were true, I would willingly fall into your arms and allow you to seduce me the way you want to be with a woman—alas, men have been terribly cruel to me. They’ve ruined my life in more ways than you can possibly imagine, and I’ll need to know just how you measure up to my ideals before I fall into bed with you.”
“There will come a day when you’ll regret turning me away right now. You’ll wish you’d never pushed me away. And you’ll want to kick yourself for being so foolish.”
“No, Sir Lucan,” she whispered, as she lifted the latch on the door, and opened it. “I won’t.” She shut the door firmly behind her, and looked down the hall to Elaine’s room.
Leaning back against the door, she attempted to still her raging heart and catch her wayward breath. He wrought changes within her that she couldn’t possibly comprehend.
Finally, after so many years of being used by men, she actually felt something for one. Lucan ignited a fire within her she believed long dead. He made her want to love again—he made her want to go to him and seek safety in his embrace. She couldn’t—if she did, she would break the promise she’d made to herself so many years ago, and she’d set herself up for another spectacular fall.
She needed to rest. She took a tentative step toward the only room available to her. The other rooms were inhabited and Elaine’s room was the only one she could seek sanctuary in.
Sighing heavily, she went to Lucan’s mother’s room to collect her thoughts before she went down to the pub below and had to face the men that awaited her there. Shivering again, she heard the wild wind wailing and crashing against the Tavern. Being with Lucan had taken all of her worries away, so much so, that she’d forgotten about the fierce thunderstorm that was lashing through the village.
Her worries had returned, her demons were back—it was time to continue the good fight.