(formerly Alonsa's Choice)
In a dangerous
world, sometimes the greatest risk is love ....
“I’ve waited so
long,” Günter muttered. “So long ....”
The sound of metal
pots clanging outside the tent reached Alonsa like a distant alarm.
Abruptly, Günter’s face changed. Shock slackened his features as he
looked down at his hands on her, her hands on him. He released her
as though burned, and her skirts slid back into place.
She felt bereft at
his withdrawal, and she took a step toward him. He threw his hands
up between them, and she saw that they shook.
“Nay,” he rasped,
gesturing toward the tent flap.
He seemed incapable
of more than one word at a time. His chest heaved; his forehead
gleamed with sweat.
Slowly, she became
aware of her surroundings. She had forgotten everything: her
honor, her virtue ... Dios mío, Martin! Her hand flew to her
mouth and shame seeped through her bones. She had forgotten even
“Martin.” He said
the name first. A look of self-loathing crossed his face. “The day
we buried him ....” He gazed around the tent and shook his head.
He let his head fall forward. “I’ve dishonored my friend.”
“We,” she whispered,
“have dishonored him.”
She more so than
he. Günter would hate her, not want her like this, if he knew how
she had caused Martin’s death. Yet, if Günter were to reach for her
again, she would be unable to deny him. What she had felt, what
they had done confirmed even more the vow she had sworn.
Her fear returned
twice fold. She must leave. She must. For she knew with all the
certainty of the heat still pounding through her body that Günter
would not survive if she stayed.
With a sob, she
turned away. “Go,” she begged.
“Alonsa, wait.” She
felt his hand on her shoulder. “It isn’t as bad as it seems.
Martin would have understood—”
She jerked away. “Por
He sighed from
“This is not how I
would have wished it, true. I would like to have let you mourn a
bit. I would like to have honored his memory for a time before
....” He stopped.
When he spoke again,
she heard the wry tone in his voice.
“Before leaping on
you like some wild animal. Still. It is obvious to me now that
Martin understood something I did not.” He circled around to face
her, and lifted her chin so that he looked into her eyes. “Alonsa,
you must listen to me now. I have something important to ask you.”
She looked up at him
and the intensity of his expression made her heart pound with
anxiety. Please do not ....
“Will you be my
wife?” he asked softly. “When the time is right? Say yes, and you
will fulfill the wishes of two men.”
She backed away from
him, panicked at the thought. “No! How can you ask such a thing of
me? I could never marry you!”
He flinched, and she
could tell she had hurt him. She had not intended that, only to
His features settled
into a cold mask, his tone icy when he spoke again. “Why not? What
is wrong with me? It cannot be that I am a soldier. Martin was a
soldier. He seemed good enough for you.”
His eyes narrowed
into points of emerald fire. He reached for her, wrapped a warm
hand around the nape of her neck beneath the loose braid that lay
damp against her skin.
“You have someone
else in mind, mayhap?” His words cut into her. “Has some rich old
merchant in the baggage train offered his jewels for your pretty
neck? Has some young noble dazzled you with his shiny, untried
His thumb traced hot
circles in the shallow dip just below her ear. His eyes flashed
fire at her, and at their depths lay a passionate yearning that
nearly undid her. “Tell him you’ve changed your mind. You belong
frightened her, and yet it excited her as well. Goosebumps rose
along her skin in response to both his touch and his intensity.
She broke away. “Do
not be ridiculous. When would I have made such plans?” She clasped
her hands around her arms and tried to erase the shivers he had
caused, turning her back on him. “I have no man in mind. I think
now only of God.” She turned to him, straightened her back. “I
have decided to consign myself to a convent. I intend to become a
His eyebrows flew
up. “What?” he roared.
“Shhh! You will
arouse the entire camp with your bellowing.” She glanced anxiously
over his shoulder at the open tent flap.
“No more than you
did with your moaning, Sister Alonsa,” he observed.
She felt the heat of
a blush cover her entire body. “You confused me! You—”
“Do not say I forced
you,” he softly interrupted, but she did not miss the steel in his
voice. “We both know the truth.”
Her eyes locked with
his. Tension vibrated between them.
She sighed and
looked away. “Yes. To say otherwise would be a falsehood.” She
stared at him then, willed him to understand. “It is not my intent
to injure your pride or your feelings, Günter. I simply do not wish
to marry you. Nor any man. It is for your sake that I refuse, not
my own. Please do not ask me to explain further.” Because if he
had thought her mad before, he would certainly think her so if she
told him the entire truth.
He stared at her for
a long moment. He stepped closer, then, towering over her. She
“Don’t be afraid.”
He spoke in a soft voice, as though he sought to gentle a trapped
but injured animal he wished to aid.
Do not be afraid?
vantage point, Günter seemed as imposing as a mountainside. She
noted the sharp planes of his face, from the sensual slash of his
mouth to the ruffled dark-blond hair that she had tangled in her
fingers just moments ago. She could not look away. She clenched
her trembling hands behind her, stared at his mouth, and cursed her
“I do not fear you,”
she denied feebly. Just your kisses and
your touch ....
“I have always
known you belonged to me.” His eyes roamed over her face. He moved
closer still, until his chest brushed her breasts. “Always. Mayhap
before we ever met.”
“Now who speaks as
one insane?” Her voice sounded husky, as though she had just arisen
from his bed after a night of ardent lovemaking.
He smiled slowly.
“I want you to speak to me like that after the first time I take
you,” he said in a gravelly whisper. “Low and soft, like a woman
well-pleasured. Which you will be.”
Her hand moved of
its own accord. The slap rang out in the quietness of the tent, her
palm stinging from the force of it. Though it left a red welt
across his cheek, he did not react.
He stared at her,
his proud nose flaring, his green eyes narrowing to slits. He slid
his hand once more around her waist and pulled her to him. She
resisted the draw, pushed with her palms against his chest. He
leaned into her, and she thought he would kiss her again.
Instead—to her surprise—he buried his face in her hair and inhaled
deeply. His hand rose and fisted there for a moment, but he
released her. She almost fell backward from the sudden loss of his
strong arms encircling her.
clenched. Then the corner of his mouth lifted in a provocative
smile. He made a loose fist with one hand and gave her chin a light
“Fight me, then.
Run, if you must. Hide—if you can. But you will not escape your
fate.” He pinned her with the heat of his gaze. “I am your
fate,” he vowed, and turning on his heel, walked out of the