Carefully, he pulled aside her tresses. His heart gave jolt at the sight. She had taken a beating, one side of her face swollen and puffy. Great purpling welts circled her neck, fingerprints clearly visible. He cursed again. Had he just come across some murderous outlaws rather than the harmless peasants he had thought them to be? Anger boiled inside of him. If he had but given chase, he could have brought at least one of them to justice.
God’s blood, he dare not imagine what her last moments must have been like.
His throat tightened. What to do with her? He could not just leave her to rot in the woods. Jake studied her face once more with a sigh. A shame so fine a beauty should meet such an end. Even with the swelling in her face, it was clear she had been blessed with striking looks. Her unmarred cheek offered up smooth and creamy skin, and her dark lashes stood out in stark contrast. A slight scattering of freckles marched across her nose, just visible under the dried blood. Jake smiled sadly. He never understood why most women hated freckles. He thought them wonderfully enticing.
Brushing a finger across her cheek, Jake was surprised at the warmth of it. God’s teeth, if he had only come across her moments before he could have stopped such an atrocity. He pictured the men’s faces and swore he would avenge her. He would bring the outlaws to justice.
As he drew his hand away, an eyelid fluttered open. His heart leapt. Her other eye couldn’t open - it was too swollen to do so - but he could see the immediate panic in her expression. She struggled to turn onto her side to escape him, her injuries hampering her movements.
Fearing she would do herself further damage, he spoke soothingly to her. “Have no fear, lass. I’ll not harm you.”
Either her fear had consumed her or she didn’t understand him, because she continued to try to scrabble her way across the leaf-strewn ground, the dried foliage crunching as her hands clawed desperately at the soil.
Hastily, he wrapped his large hand around one arm, attempting to keep her still. She continued to struggle, in spite of her obvious pain, but her movements were limited and had little effect on his strong grip. Unsure of how to reassure her of his intentions, he grabbed at her other arm, trying to get her attention.
“Calm down, lass. I wish to help. You’ll do yourself an injury.”
She fell limp in his arms, not relaxing under his assurances, but seeming to tire of her exertions. The fear remained visibly etched on her face, but Jake took the opportunity to tuck an arm under her legs and the other under her neck so he could pull her into him. Jake thought she would scream, her mouth worked as if she meant to, but no sound came out.
In the wilderness of 14th century Northumbria, Lady Isabel discovers just how dangerous the borderlands can be. With the loss of her voice and her hearing, there is little hope left for her. But when a brooding knight rescues her, she vows never to become a victim again and buries the secrets of her past in the hope that those hunting her will never find her in the borderlands.
Jake is astonished to come across the beautiful Isabel, near to death, on his brother’s lands. Bringing her back to his brother’s home, he finds himself longing for something more from the courageous woman, something that he thought he would never want again. Isabel works her way into his scarred heart and opens Jake up to loving once more. But will Isabel’s secrets destroy their bond? And with his charismatic brother, Dominic, charming her, does he even stand a chance?