By winter's end, will she survive the sworn pledge or be forever haunted?
Newlywed, Rhianwyn Mulryan is blissfully happy. But a magical pact she made with three close friends foretells the impending end of her enchanted life. Over the next year, as the seasons change, the women will exchange lives. With the first transformation, Rhianwyn will experience her friend Selena's life as a harlot where she'll need to fend off the cruel brothel owner and evade a mysterious murderer. Worse still, until she's herself again, Rhianwyn must battle the powerful attraction to her husband, Broccan––or risk destroying everything she loves most.
Celebrated knight Sir Broccan Mulryan is unexpectedly content in his harmonious life with his beautiful wife. But jealous rivalries and disturbing visits from his past force a dangerous journey to another kingdom. Upon returning, Broccan is distressed to find his beloved Rhianwyn completely changed. Not only that, but he's suddenly absurdly attracted to her best friend, a harlot.
As winter's chill descends, the fires of friendship and romance flicker. Can true love weather the season? Or will the magical spell destroy them all?
Contains mature themes.
Release date: January 31, 2023
Publisher: Tule Publishing
Print pages: 340
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Winter's Haunting Pledge
Leigh Ann Edwards
Broccan Mulryan peered around the large fieldstone hearth into the timber-beamed kitchen, amused by the altercation now taking place. Few dared lock horns with Brockwell Manor’s overbearing cook, but he knew his feisty bride of two moons could hold her own with Haesel.
Rhianwyn tucked her hair behind her ear, a sure sign she was annoyed.
“I only use one corner of this enormous room and I don’t interfere with your cooking,” she said.
“Still, I won’t tolerate that disgusting-smelling tea and those pungent herbs in my kitchen!” Haesel replied. “I preferred it when you and your husband barely left your chambers for a moon.”
“Believe me, I preferred that, too,” Rhianwyn said, “but now that Broccan’s wound has healed, Sir Severin’s ordered him back training with the other knights.”
“I must insist you find another hearth to brew that wickedly odorous concoction, Lady Brockwell. If my bread smells…or God forbid, tastes of herbs, I’ll hold you accountable. Now leave me to my duties. Not everyone marries into wealth; some of us must toil to earn their keep.”
Broccan held his breath as his beloved placed her hands on her hips—a precursor to her temper erupting.
“For the last time, call me Rhianwyn or Lady Mulryan. I’d gladly work if I was able to offer my healing again. I did not marry for wealth and, in my opinion, your damn bread would be improved if it tasted of herbs and wasn’t dry and flavorless!”
Haesel gasped, and Broccan nearly laughed aloud at her outrage. Haesel was well known for her bread. Even now his mouth watered at the delicious smell wafting throughout the manor.
“I’ll have you know Lady Davina Brockwell employed me here thirty years ago. She believed my bread was the finest in the kingdom.”
“Evidently the woman had poor taste in bread and husbands!” Rhianwyn replied.
“I demand you leave my kitchen at once, Lady Brockwell, or I’ll take this up with your husband!”
“Oh…don’t get your damn shift in a knot; I’ll leave your bloody kitchen!”
Broccan stepped into the corridor, attempting to suppress his mirth. Matty, the woman who’d cared for him since he was an infant, joined him, smiling.
“Another battle of wills in the kitchen?”
Broccan nodded. “Like most every mornin’.”
“Rhianwyn and Haesel have crossed swords from the beginnin’,” Matty said.
“Haesel isn’t a notably cheerful woman but insultin’ her bread would be the greatest affront.” Broccan grinned.
“As your lady knows.” Matty laughed as Rhianwyn came from the kitchen, her face rosy.
“Good mornin’, my beautiful wife.” Broccan leaned down and kissed her. “Come join me in breakin’ fast—or would you like to go back and have it out with Haesel?”
“Have it out with her all right!” Rhianwyn growled but gave him a warm smile. “You should’ve seen the look on her face when I vilified her bread.”
“You might’ve reminded her it’s your kitchen and you could dismiss her without pause.” Broccan kissed Rhianwyn again and took her in his arms. She buried her face in his chest and clung tightly.
He moved her away slightly and looked into her eyes. “Rhianwyn, if you’re truly distraught about this, I’ll dismiss Haesel this instant.”
“No, you mustn’t. Although obstinately uncooperative, she does make good bread and at least squabbling with her offers some exhilaration. I admit, I’m hopelessly bored, Broccan! Without my healing and you often gone from dawn to dark, I struggle to find purpose.”
“You’ve been keepin’ busy,” Matty said. “You help in the garden and spend time with the dogs. You go ridin’ every day. You walk with Selena and take your midday meal with her.”
“I am grateful for all of that, but I’ve been a healer my whole life and sorely miss it. I mostly avoid the village. Many people require healing and don’t understand that I’m disallowed. It’s difficult to deny them.”
“The king’s approved you continuin’ with midwifery,” Broccan said.
“I do appreciate you requesting that, my love. Regrettably midwifery’s the least favorable part of my duties.” She sighed.
“Matty, will you have breakfast taken to our chambers?”
“Certainly, Broccan. Straightaway or…should I give you some time? I wouldn’t want to interrupt anythin’ of a private nature.”
Broccan smirked. Rhianwyn smiled, too. Their eyes met with powerful mutual attraction.
“But you’re to go to the training field.” Rhianwyn’s eyes became fretful.
“What’ll Sir Severin do if I’m late? Dismiss me as a knight?” Broccan said. “It’s not as though I wanted the position.”
“He could send you to the dungeon.” Rhianwyn cringed even in suggesting it.
“Severin wouldn’t do that. He rather likes me.”
“Who doesn’t?” She touched the stubble on his jaw, then kissed him lingeringly though Matty hadn’t left yet.
Broccan pulled Rhianwyn closer, kissed her more fervently, and she leapt into his arms. Their need for each other was unending and all-encompassing.
“I’ll give you some time.” Matty winked as Broccan carried Rhianwyn to their bedchamber.
“You’re honestly not concerned about perturbing Severin by being late?” Rhianwyn asked as they lay holding one another after a passionate encounter.
“I was far more concerned by the sorrowful look on your face, my Suile Gorma.”
Blue eyes in Irish Gaelic.
She smiled at the endearment and his heart soared. He’d called her that since the day they met.
“You do your best to keep me content, my love, but you can’t carry me off to our bedchamber every time I’m restless.”
“I’ll gladly do what I can in that regard. I did attempt to find a way for you to continue your healin’.” He glanced at the scabbed wound on his shoulder.
Gently she grazed the mostly healed slash. “My heart nearly stopped that day.” He felt Rhianwyn’s body tense even now in remembering. “You would be wounded the one time I agreed to come watch you train.”
“Severin claims havin’ you there distracted me. Ulf jested I did it purposely so we’d have an extended honeymoon. What’s a mere blade if it allows us more time in our bed?”
“Cassian was clearly being overly aggressive—more than permitted during training.”
Broccan nodded. “He wanted to outdo me in your presence. Sure it would’ve been better if Cassian had taken Princess Lilliana to Welshland as planned.”
The king’s failing health had caused the princess’s wedding to be postponed.
“Cassian’s still mournin’ his brother…and he’s greatly displeased that you and I married.”
“I wish he’d find a woman to calm his unease,” Rhianwyn said.
“By several accounts he’s spendin’ time with a good many women. He’s been drinkin’ more than he should, too.”
“I’ll try to speak with Lilliana. If I could examine the king, I might offer my opinion to his malady. Then maybe Cassian could take her to wed her Welsh prince.”
“Since the king ordered you to discontinue your healin’, I doubt he’ll permit it.”
“It’s a wonder Dorsett and Hadley haven’t killed King Thaddeus.” She frowned.
Broccan well knew of Rhianwyn’s animosity toward both men. The king’s drunkard physician couldn’t heal a hangnail. Hadley, Dorsett’s nephew and apprentice, was incompetent even without a drink affliction and was reportedly inappropriate with the women he attended. Yet it was Rhianwyn who was banned from healing. Broccan empathized with the unfairness of the situation. Noting her displeasure, he changed the subject.
“I’m surprised Prince Tyven hasn’t come to whisk Princess Lilliana off to Welshland. He isn’t always patient.”
“You know Prince Tyven of Cymru?”
“I’ve journeyed to many places, Rhianwyn.”
“Still, I feel I’ve just begun to know you when you astound me again.”
“I like astoundin’ you.” He caressed her breast and kissed her shoulder.
She sighed contentedly and held him tighter. “I wish it could stay like this forever.”
“Why can’t it?” He stopped what he was doing, for she sounded serious.
In the weeks they’d been wed, they’d been undeniably blissful, yet always there was an underlying ominousness with Rhianwyn—as if she anticipated their time together would be short or their happiness soon ended.
“Just make love to me again, Sir Broccan.” She grasped his firmness beneath the bedcovers. “Before Severin sends someone to fetch you when you’ve not broken fast. Then you’d be weak from hunger and possibly suffer injury again.”
“It won’t be hunger that’s left me weakened but how many times my hot-blooded wife demands to be pleasured.”
“Are you honestly complaining?” She smiled.
“Never, my sweet Rhianwyn. I’d gladly love you day and night.” He lay atop her and swiftly saw them joined. He should be at the training field, but how could he miss any chance to hold her in his arms?
She moaned. “You do love me day and night. Your virility and stamina astound me.”
They moved together for some time, staring tenderly into one another’s eyes, their passion uninhibited. Then she gasped, closed her eyes and dug her thumbnail into his arm, signaling her crest. He smiled in pleasing her, then conceded to his own release knowing by her soft sighs that she’d soon slumber. Gloriously content, he rested his head against hers and fell asleep, too.
“Should I leave your tray by the door?” Matty’s voice roused Rhianwyn. She stared at Broccan, now awake, too. She adored waking in his arms.
“Please bring it in, Matty,” Broccan replied, looking at Rhianwyn with discernible love.
Matty set the tray on the table. “One could get lost in here.” She eyed the immense chambers Rhianwyn and Broccan shared.
Broccan hadn’t only taken out the doors between the lord and lady’s chambers, but the entire wall. A lengthy, broad timber beam supported the roof, making the chamber expansive. The two large dressing areas on each side both housed its own huge armoire. The impressive-sized canopied bed was in the center. The entire chamber was decorated in blue, green and brown hues—colors of nature that gladdened Rhianwyn’s heart. The heavy draperies previously surrounding the bed and windows had been replaced by lighter fabric. It permitted sunlight to bathe their chambers.
“Haesel even kept your food warm.” Matty’s eyes glinted mischievously.
“She’s probably just glad to have me out of her kitchen. Or happy to please Broccan. She, like every other female in the land, finds my ruggedly handsome husband irresistible.”
Broccan only grinned and sat up stretching. Rhianwyn held the bedcovers over her breasts.
“With these two large hearths you could brew your mornin’ tea here and even create your remedies,” Broccan suggested. “No one would know you aren’t simply makin’ potions for your hair and skin.”
“Perhaps the tea—however, if anyone found out I was creating remedies, I’d be reprimanded.”
“Few servants enter your chambers,” Matty said. “But now, I’ll let you eat. I expect you should be goin’ soon, Broccan. It’s midmornin’.”
“I will, Matty. I’ll probably be made to stay later because of my tardiness, but I’m not bothered. Being here just now was worth it.”
Matty grinned as she left. Broccan stood and Rhianwyn made a sound of high approval.
“Sure you’re a grand sight to gaze upon, Broccan Mulryan.” She pretended an Irish accent like his. “I’ve a fondness for your very appealin’ arse, so I do!”
He blushed and she made a purring sound. “I’ve a fondness for all of you!”
“I cannot bed you again, Rhianwyn. I’m famished and if I don’t leave soon, Severin will make me train half the night.”
“It isn’t that you couldn’t bed me.” She eyed his once more erect manhood.
Feigning exhaustion, he groaned. “At least allow me to restore my strength first, woman.”
She moved from the bed, and he glanced at her unclothed body with notable interest, too. They were mad for one another and never seemed to get their fill of lovemaking. He took a piece of mutton in one hand and a biscuit with cheese in the other. She smiled and joined him at the table, her long unbound hair mostly covering her.
“Despite being unable to work at your healin’, are you reasonably happy in our life together, Rhianwyn?” He sounded serious.
“I’m blessedly happy with you, Broccan. I love you very much.”
“And I you, my beautiful Rhianwyn. Everything about you makes my heart glad. I adore this life we share.”
She recognized his desirous look.
“You have the loveliest unique pale blue eyes and the shiniest hair. Your flawless skin’s so wonderfully soft. Everythin’ about you is remarkable.”
He popped the food in his mouth, quickly swallowed, then lifted her upon the table and stood before her.
“I can’t get enough of you my Suile Gorma. If we never had to leave these chambers, I’d be a happy, contented man.”
“And you’re not now?” She pulled him inside her eagerly.
“So very happy, Rhianwyn.” He thrust with renewed vigor.
“Did you want her this much?”
“Your warrior woman with the laugh you liked.”
“I’d appreciate you not mentionin’ her when I’m lovin’ you. And no, I’ve never wanted anyone as I want you. You, my beautiful wife, are a need that can never be sated, an unquenchable thirst, an itch that cannot be scratched.”
She laughed then and he grinned, even as he continued moving with fervency.
“I’m not certain I like being compared to an itch.”
“By God, I love you, woman—from your lovely lustrous light-brown tresses to your pretty toes.”
“And I you, Broccan.”
As they continued to heatedly couple, she gasped and cried out again. Dragging her fingernails down his back, her thumbnail lightly pierced his skin as she climaxed. She pushed against his chest, and he questioned her with his eyes.
“Sit, Broccan…for your legs will become weak and a knight cannot have unsteady legs.”
He complied and sat upon the chair. Rhianwyn mounted him, riding him till he moaned and clutched her backside enthusiastically as his own need was met. Winded, she blew out her breath, her fringe fluttering.
“Now, finish your breakfast and I’ll assist you with your armor.”
“You’re becomin’ a wee bit bossy.” He smirked as she passed him more food.
“Elspeth claims I’ve always been bossy.”
“That’d be the pot callin’ the kettle black. Have you heard how Elspeth’s gettin’ on with her new husband? I don’t envy her being married to that unscrupulous bastard, Godric.”
“I haven’t talked to Elspeth recently. When I saw her at the market a few weeks ago she said she mostly avoids him by working longer days at the castle.”
“I don’t blame her for that. What of Selena? I’ve seen her the few times she’s joined us for supper but how does she fill her days?”
“Selena’s enjoying staying at our guesthouse. She’s accustomed to spending time alone. Shandy kept Selena mostly isolated after her mother died. Selena and I do walk together daily. She’s happy when Keyon stays with us when he visits the village. Selena and Maxim seemed companiable when he slept at the guesthouse when his cottage was being built. But being timid, she’s still very leery of dogs. He’s so shy he mostly avoids others and he likes his dogs better than people, so that’d be a mismatched relationship.”
“Unfortunately, it’s only a few more weeks till she’ll have to return to the brothel. She should finally be with a man before then. When we paid Shandy to permit Selena to stay at our estate, Shandy believed she’d be sharing my bed. You even promised her Selena would be well accustomed to coupling upon her return.”
“Are you offering to bed Selena?”
Broccan threw Rhianwyn a look of disbelief.
“You once pushed for that, but do you actually think I’d have strength left for sardin’ another woman?” Broccan pretended a
“Perhaps you might ask one of your fellow knights. Selena has always looked at Everard with interest.”
“Let’s permit her to find someone of her own choosin’,” Broccan said.
“Selena’s shy with men. She’s somewhat less timid in speaking with you, Keyon and Maxim, but she’d never initiate a kiss much less a sexual encounter unless she was well filled with drink.”
“I won’t be with her, Rhianwyn. I can’t believe you’d want that. I’ve seen how jealous you are when women look my way.”
“Because most swoon over your exceptional good looks and fine muscular form like they want you to ravish them. Corliss Barlow might’ve raised her skirts right there in the village market by how intently she was staring.”
“I doubt that’s true, but she was glarin’ at you. If looks could kill, you’d have been in danger, Rhianwyn.”
“She despises me. She was hoping to become Lady Brockwell. You did court her for a time.”
“Only because you were pushin’ me to wed someone. I had to make it seem I was followin’ through even though I had absolutely no intention of marryin’ anyone but you.”
He leaned over. Kissing her again, his tongue explored her mouth, renewing her desires. By the passion in his very blue eyes, he wanted her, too.
“It’s a good thing you didn’t kiss her like that. Your tongue is magical.”
“Are we still talkin’ about kissin’?” He waggled his eyebrows suggestively. He kissed her throat and breasts, then slowly, teasingly placed kisses lower.
“Do not even consider that or I’ll insist you stay.” She gently pushed him away. “You should go, Broccan, or it’ll seem you’re being shown favoritism by Sir Severin.”
“I’m certainly not—by any bloody stretch. True, he permits me to arrive late occasionally since I was wounded, but he works me harder than the others. I’m made to spar with anyone who wishes to try to outdo me, intensely train the newer knights, plus show the
pages and squires the moves that apparently come naturally to me, or so Severin says. With Cassian not bein’ in top form, I’m expected to take up his slack, too.”
“What of Ulf? Can’t he assist? He’s also a gifted swordsman.”
“You think our Viking knight’s gifted? I’m not certain I approve—especially knowin’ he’s had his hands and eyes on your lovely arse, placin’ this mark on it.” Broccan traced the red dragon symbol with his fingers.
“Ulf does have rather nice hands,” she taunted.
Broccan lifted her into his arms, tossed her upon their bed, then fell atop her and tickled her. Not only was their marriage bed filled with frequent torrid passion and affection, but it was also a place of joy, merriment and conversation aplenty.
Broccan brushed the tousled locks back from her cheek and kissed her again.
“I love to hear you laugh, my Suile Gorma.”
“I love everything about you, Broccan.”
“Rhianwyn?” Selena called from beyond the door. “I thought we might go for our walk. There’s been a light snowfall, and everything looks lovely.”
“Should we invite Selena in?” Broccan asked. “She could watch while I’m lovin’ you. That’d be an introductory lesson to physical intimacy.”
“Selena’d be mortified, and I wouldn’t be even mildly comfortable.” Rhianwyn shook her head.
“I was only jokin’ but I’ve never known you to be modest.”
“Not with you, but I wouldn’t be at ease having anyone watch.”
“Are you there, Rhianwyn?” Selena called, then opened the door. Rhianwyn grasped for the covers, dragging them over their nakedness.
“Oh my…oh, I…I thought Broccan had to report to the training field early…I…oh…I sincerely apologize!” Her green eyes wide as shields, Selena hastily slammed the door.
Broccan smirked. “Clearly, she’s not ready for those lessons.”
“Poor Selena will be wholly befuddled now.”
“Perhaps we should’ve bolted the door.” Broccan sounded amused.
“It’s fortunate you were lying atop of me. If she’d seen your commendable manhood, she’d either be intrigued or even more wary of being with a man. Although your arse is quite intriguing.” She squeezed his buttocks.
“You were never frightened by any part of me. But I suppose Selena’s never seen men unclothed.”
Broccan tensed. She recognized his jealous expression.
“I have seen some naked men during my healing.”
“You saw another who had nothing to do with healing.”
“How many unclothed women have you viewed, Lord Brockwell?” Her hackles rose. “Besides, I confessed I wasn’t virginal before you and I coupled.”
“I admit it irks me that the other man you were with was bloody Sir Cassian.”
“You should leave straightaway before you have to spar with me.” Rhianwyn’s temper flared. “I’ll go speak with Selena and attempt to ease her humiliation.”
She left the bed, located her own garments in the hastily discarded trail. It had been ages since Broccan brought up her and Cassian’s past intimate relationship. Maybe it was because she mentioned his previous lover, but she’d never been in love with Cassian. She got dressed, tugged on her boots and tied back her hair. Retrieving her purple cloak from the armoire, she started toward the door.
“Be careful while training on snow. It’s common to strain a groin and falling while holding a sword wouldn’t be favorable.”
Broccan went to her. “I shouldn’t have mentioned that.”
She sighed and stepped into the corridor.
“Rhianwyn.” He came after her wearing only his tunic. “Don’t be riled. We haven’t spoken one cross word since we were wed.”
“Promise me you’ll be careful. No matter how vexed I am, the thought of you being hurt is ever on my mind.”
“I’ll be cautious,” Broccan said.
She kissed her fingertips then placed them to his lips. He took her hand and gazed into her eyes.
“I take it you won’t be helpin’ me with my chain mail then?” He smiled at her with that smoldering look that never failed to make her weak at the knees.
“You’re damn exasperating but I love you so much it frightens me to the core.” She went to the wardrobe and lifted the weighty armor. No matter how displeased she was, he was her heart. "Thank you, my beautiful wife. I love you, too, and for you, ...
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