The Defiant Bride(70)

By: Leslie Hachtel



The words penetrated and she stopped her resistance. She looked up into William’s handsome face and reality flowed back.

“I didn’t want to kill him, but he gave me no option. Him or me. Or you. Was I brave? Did I do the right thing?”

William crushed her body against his. He held her, rocking her, soothing. “I thank God you are safe. What possessed you to come here alone? What were you thinking?”

“I was tired of being afraid. I didn’t seek him out, but when he appeared, I did what I had to do. It was not my intent to kill him, but what else could I do?”

“You were very brave. I only wish I could have aided you. I would gladly have spared you.”

“I know that. You are my knight and my love. Sometimes we must face things without help. Will you take me home now? There is blood on my hands and I desperately need to wash it away.”

She stood quietly as William gathered the horse. He shot a withering look to the lifeless body of his half-brother, then he helped her mount Moonshadow and together they rode back. William remained silent and she was appreciative. She had taken a life and her thoughts were confused: gratitude, guilt, relief. One day they would speak of this and he would help her sort out her feelings. For now, she would ride toward home with him by her side. It was enough.

Dariana was surprised to see the inner bailey full of people, including the king himself.

“Are you well?” Leah asked, rushing forward. “When you didn’t appear to break the fast, we wondered if aught was amiss.”

The king stepped forward. “Is that blood on your hands, Dariana? Were you set upon?”

It was William who answered. “Aye, your majesty. By a mad dog.”

“Knowing the lady,” Henry said, “the beastie is dead and I can see she is quite intact.”

“Aye, your majesty, ‘tis the fact.” William’s pride was clear.

The king could only shake his head.



Night had wrapped its arms around the castle and all had settled down after the day. Dariana lay in William’s arms, her head nestled in his shoulder. He reached down to stroke her belly and she smiled.

“I never want our daughter to be afraid,” Dariana said.

“We cannot stop life,” he said. “But we can make her strong enough to face whatever comes.” He hesitated. “Are you so certain it is to be a girl?”

Dariana grinned up at him. “At first I thought a son, but now I wonder if the child could be a daughter.. Would you be distressed if that were so?”

“Nay, my love. As long as she is the image of her mother. But—I think I will have to insist that we keep trying until we have a son as well.”

“Well, my lord, if that is your wish. Perhaps we should keep practicing in the meanwhile.”

“You are a lusty wench.”

“And would you have it any other way?”

He answered her with a fervent kiss.





BIOGRAPHY

Leslie Hachtel was born in Ohio, raised in New York and has been a gypsy most of her adult life. Her various jobs, including licensed veterinary technician, caterer, horseback riding instructor for the disabled, and advertising media buyer have given her a wealth of experiences.

Her favorite stories as a child—and stretching into the adult years—were fairy tales by Hans Christian Andersen. It was the happily ever after that was so full of hope and inspiration. It was the love of those stories that led her to eventually want to write romances.

Of all of her jobs, it is writing that has consistently been her passion. That desire was fueled when she sold an episode of a TV show and had a screenplay optioned. Those successes led to her first published novel, Harriet, the story of a female serial killer. Although that was a satisfying piece, it was the lure of the romance that drew her back. So far, she has produced four novels in that genre. One of her historical novels, Captain’s Captive will soon be published by Black Opal Books. Her contemporary romance, Texas Summer is available on Amazon and through Secret Cravings Publishing. And now, of course, The Defiant Bride.

Leslie lives in Memphis, Tennessee with a fabulously supportive engineer husband, a wonderful stepson, Mat and her writing buddy, Jakita, a terrier.


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