Archaean bounty hunter Marek Coinnich isn't particularly fond of Engels. In fact, he prefers them dead. But to save his injured brother, he must enter the manor of an Engel enemy. Marek finds himself enthralled by the slave girl nursing his brother back to health. When his enchantment with her lands them in a compromising position, he refuses to let the young beauty pay for the misunderstanding with her life.
Brynn of Galhaven prefers to keep to the shadows. When she is ruined by an outsider, she barely escapes with her life and finds herself left alone in an unforgiving land. Through her struggles to survive, Brynn discovers a world she never imagined and never forgets the enemy Archaean who stole her heart.
Marek can’t deny his desire for Brynn, but these are wartimes, and she is the enemy. And though love knows no prejudice, the world in which he lives isn’t nearly as forgiving.
Historical Romance with strong Fantasy element.
Covered in a thick blanket of darkness, Brynn was trapped between the snares of restless sleep and dreaming. Indistinct shouts bounced from wall to wall. The echoes of pounding hooves reverberated through her as horses raced through the courtyard. She searched the space around her for the cause, but found nothing. A horse shrieked in the distance, turning her dreams into a twisted nightmare. Fierce wind blew against her face, roaring as if the skies were to rain in hellish fury. Her older brothers barked orders to one another. Three black ravens circled the sky.
Searching the vast emptiness surrounding her, Brynn pawed the air. Desperate to find her brothers, she sought their frantic voices. Something was terribly wrong. She urged herself to move forward, but heavy wind gripped her shoulders, pinning her against the darkness. A strong gust violently shoved her away from the aberrant visions of her brothers.
Brynn fell to the balcony floor with a thud, which startled her from restless sleep. Gathering herself, she realized the terror was no dream. Men with torches ran beneath her balcony shouting commands. Servants chased after their masters, trying to keep pace.
Swollen drops of rain spattered across Brynn’s face. A storm approached. Could her father’s men be strapping down the area in preparation? No, there was far too much commotion below. A different kind of storm was brewing.
Making her way to the stairs, Brynn clutched her quilt tight around her chilled body. She reached the spiral stairwell and started her descent, one stone at a time. Brynn paused just as the entrance doors to Galhaven Manor flung open in furor. Brynn stepped back and tucked into the shadows. Armed guards burst through escorting four massive men. Brynn spotted her brothers, Michael and Marcus, at the center of the madness. Her betrothed, Julian, followed behind with a sword drawn. Her father, Bertram, waddled not far behind.
The strangers towered above those who confined them. From their sheer size, Brynn knew they outweighed and could easily outmaneuver any Engel in the manor. Underneath the grime, muscle, and leather was the unmistakable sight of pale yellow hair. As dirty and matted as it was, she knew who the intruders were.
Archaeans in the manor.
Her stomach roiled, twisting and curling into tight knots as she fought to keep its contents down. She’d never actually seen an Archaean before, but legends of battles in centuries past flowed through her mind. Archaeans were fierce warriors from the north. They spoke no language any civilized citizen from Galhaven understood. Their only purpose was to spill the blood of their enemies — her people, the Engels. They were born and bred for it. There was no reasoning with them, no mercy. The warriors had come to kill them all, and her father allowed them into their home.
The people of Galhaven feared Archaeans, and for good reason. Villages caught between the borders had been all but abandoned over the years. The two realms never ceased to be at war.
An Archaean was arguing with her father, but she couldn’t make out the muffled words. One of the warriors — a tall beast clad in leather — pointed to the warrior who favored his injured arm. A crudely fashioned sling immobilized him from forearm to shoulder. The one speaking with her father was tall and broad — a truly wondrous sight. Never before had she seen such an abundance of restrained strength in just one man.
“Brynn! Why are you out of your chamber?” said a familiar voice from behind.
Brynn clutched her chest then the wall to keep from tumbling down the stairs. “By the gods, Magda — you gave me a fright!” She tugged on the nursemaid’s sleeve. “What’s happening?”
“I overheard Master Michael shouting about an alliance and your father must honor it or face being reported to the army commander.”
“Who are they?” Brynn eyed the men with fascination. There were only a handful of people in Galhaven with pale hair and light eyes — herself being one of them. No one ever mentioned her abnormalities — though they were blatant — but rather graciously spared her further humiliation over her years. Her father, Bertram, a wealthy nobleman and Lord of Galhaven, had only wanted sons. Strong, willing, and loyal sons. When his third wife gave birth to the fair-haired Brynn, he ordered the unwanted babe kept out of sight — if alive at all.
Bertram dreamt of wealth and higher nobility for his sons and expressed his feelings on the matter frequently. As three of the five sons perished — from battle, sickness, and an untimely accident — he’d come to realize his continued wealth very well might fall on his only daughter… the pale, quiet, repulsively towheaded, out of sight Brynn.
Because of her father’s hatred for her, Brynn knew she was different. Her spirit sang like no other.
Magda placed a palm on Brynn’s shoulder. “Warriors from the north. Archaeans.”
“But why are they here?” Archaeans had no business being in peaceful Galhaven, unless they were surrendering to the militia.
Magda seemed to have heard her thoughts. “They are free fighters and pledge allegiance to no man. I hear they serve under the command of Brockington, but that cannot be possible, since Brockington serves the militia.”
Brynn strained to listen to the argument.
“I must return you to your chamber,” whispered Magda as the altercation escalated. “With strange men in the manor, it is best we keep everyone safe in their rooms. Come.”
The nursemaid took Brynn by the hand and retreated upstairs. They both melted into the darkness.
Exhausted from the commotion and endless questions about Archaeans, Brynn dozed off to the muted sounds of disorder, ready to dream once more. Peaceful sleep didn’t come. Instead, her dreams were haunted by visions of warriors invading the entrance hall, their strange voices echoing in her thoughts between sleep and consciousness. The blended scents of smoke and rain, sweat and leather lingered in her nostrils, fueling her restless dreams.
In the wee hours of morning, Magda jolted Brynn from her dreams. Her voice was strained and stern — not a Magda Brynn easily recognized. “Your presence has been requested by your father. Get out of bed and dress. Quickly, now.”
Brynn rubbed the sleep from her eyes. “What?”
Magda pulled the bed covers down. “You must hurry! Your father insists upon it.”
“Let me sleep, you daft woman.”
A light slap to each cheek pulled Brynn from her daze. “My girl, wake up now!” Magda nudged Brynn’s shoulder.
Brynn groaned in protest. Remnants of her fitful dreams played fresh in her memory. She reflected on the few rare moments of freedom spent with her brothers. They had played long and hard in a meadow with mock battles and silly games of capturing warring flags on horseback. It was a memory she recollected often — one she tried hard to hold on to, for soon after that joyous day the peace had been broken, treaties severed, and war declared.
Brynn rummaged through her wardrobe. She grabbed a worn shift, a simple skirt, and a belt to hold it all in place. The plain clothes smelled of horse sweat and hay but would serve well enough for whatever her father needed at such an hour. She made her way to the door, hopping on one foot while slipping a boot on the other.
Brynn rushed to the stairs to catch the nursemaid. “Magda, wait!” She blindly followed the old woman down two more sets of stairs and into the dark depths of the manor. The air — moist and humid — clung to her like a blanket. The strong smell of fouled dirt and mold stung the insides of her nostrils, making her eyes water.
As she turned the last corner, out of breath and damp with sweat, Brynn stumbled into Magda’s backside. Righting herself, Brynn peered around the nursemaid. In a dimly lit corner on a long wooden table lay one of the Archaean warriors. Another warrior sat in a rickety chair to his left, which threatened to give way to his size. Two more Archaeans leaned against a back wall, standing guard.
As Brynn entered the room, Bertram rose and motioned for her. A nervous twinge took root inside her belly.
“Michael tells me you have a steady hand,” said her father.
Brynn lowered her head. “Yes, my lord.” Panic washed over her.
“And you are knowledgeable with herbs and tinctures. Is this true?”
“Yes,” she replied, hesitant. “But only with animals. I have never—”
“Quiet. Come here.”
“Yes, my lord,” she whispered, obediently stepping forward and taking the basket of rags from Magda.
“This man is injured, and by the treaty of Suffolk, we must see to his medical needs.”
“I have never treated a man before, my lord.” A few medicinal tools rested on top of the linens in the basket. Brynn timidly took one and swallowed hard. “Are you sure you wish me to do this?”
“Do it now.”
Taking a deep breath, Brynn commanded her feet to move. She approached the man on the table. Her legs felt numb, as if they weren’t her own. Brynn wondered if the warrior in the chair could hear her heart’s loud thumping. She thought it might leap into his lap at any moment.
“More light?” she asked, setting the basket beside her patient.
Magda retrieved an oil lamp for her.
“Thank you.” Brynn surveyed the wound. A blood and mud-crusted rag covered the man’s shoulder. She touched the skin around it, testing for signs of pus and fever. He moaned under the pressure of her fingers when she set to work peeling away the layers of bandage. The rags fused together, heavily soiled with blood. She did her best to remove them gently, but as she worked at a particularly matted piece, the Archaean groaned in agony and spewed words in a language she couldn’t understand.
A tug on her shoulder jerked her from her task.
Startled, she turned to face the warrior behind her. “My apologies. I don’t mean to pain him, but the bandage… it must be removed. There is something—”
“An arrowhead.” The man glanced at her, his eyes flickering with curiosity. He took in her every inch, judging her and unraveling what little composure she had left.
Through grime and sweat covering his face, Brynn could clearly see his intrigue. He understood her babbling. He spoke her language, used her words. Brynn wasn’t at all expecting that from an Archaean.
Stay calm. Breathe. “Will you tell your friend that I—”
“Brother,” the Archaean interrupted. “He is my brother.”
“Very well, would you tell your brother I need to remove the arrowhead? He will feel the pain, but at least...” Brynn’s voice quieted as the warrior’s eyes raked over her again. His appraisal burned her skin even in darkness. She wanted to see those eyes — see if they were like hers — but ghostly shadows obstructed her view.
The man muttered a few words to his brother, clasping his hand. “He is ready.”