Brianna de Beauchamp slipped from the castle
hall unnoticed. Her feet carried her in the direction of the stables. If a
score of mounts belonging to Mortimer's men were being accommodated, she wanted
to make sure that her palfrey, Venus, was kept safe from the other horses.
She got only as far as the courtyard when the sight of two snarling, growling
canines who looked as if they were about to kill each other, filled her with
dread. "Brutus! No!" she screamed, and without hesitation threw herself between
the combatants and flung her arms about her father's black wolfhound. Her
eyes widened in horror as she looked at his opponent. "Hells teeth it isn't
a dog at all, it's a wolf!" A male descended upon her and roughly dragged
her away from the two animals. "You stupid girl! Have you no common sense?"
Furious, she drew back her hand and slapped his dark, arrogant face. "How
dare you bring your wild beast to Warwick?"
grabbed her hand, forced it behind her back, and stared down at her with fierce
gray eyes. "My wolf is tame, which is more than I can say for you. They are
only challenging each other to test the boundaries. Let nature take its course,"
he ordered. To Brianna's amazement the two long-legged animals circled each
other with their lips drawn back to show their fangs, then they stopped and
stood eye to eye, growling in their throats. When both stood their ground and
neither backed away, it was a stand off. She raised her eyes to stare at the
intense, dark face of the male who held her in his iron grip. "Take your hands
from me, Wolf Mortimer." "You know my name." He let go of her wrist. "You have
me at a disadvantage, mistress." She raked him with a haughty glance. "And always
shall." How in the name of God could this uncivilized lout be the son of Roger
Mortimer, who is the epitome of chivalry?" "Brianna, is that you?" She swung
about to look at the tall young man who spoke her name and realized he must
be Edmund Mortimer. He had been a gangling youth the last time she had seen
him. "Indeed it is, Edmund. Welcome to Warwick." She gave him a dazzling smile,
hoping it would affront his loutish brother. "They are serving ale in the hall.
You must be parched. Come, Brutus!" The wolfhound trotted to her side and Brianna
turned and said coldly, "Keep your wild beast in the stables. He is not welcome
in the castle." "She is a bitch," Edmund corrected gently. "She is indeed,"
Wolf Mortimer declared. "A bitch who needs taming." He touched his cheek where
she had slapped him, then threw back his head and laughed insolently. Brianna
took Edmund's arm and walked briskly toward the castle. "Your brother is uncouth."
He looked down at her apologetically. "I'm afraid it is a Mortimer trait." "I
don't believe that. Your father is one of the most charming men I have ever
met, and I'm not the only female to think so. He is renowned for his fatal attraction."
Wolf Mortimer stared after the pair until they entered the castle. The impact
of the beautiful female had been like a blow to his solar plexus. The moment
she slapped him, a raging lust ignited and ran through his veins like wildfire.
His nature was both impulsive and decisive and he knew instantly that he wanted
her. Not only was she exquisite to look at, she was all fire and ice. She was
a spirited female who would give as good as she got, rather than being meek
and submissive and the thought excited him. I recognize your towering pride,
since I have the sinful trait myself, Brianna de Beauchamp. Your challenge is