Authors: Johanna Maas
Without A Bride
Copyright © 201
2 Diane Meyer
All rights reserved.
All rights reserved. Printed in the
United States of America. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.
This book is a work of fiction and any names, characters and places or incidents are purely coincidental or the imagination of the author.
OTHER BOOKS BY JOHANNA MAAS
THE HIGHLANDER TAKES A WIFE
RING OF DUTY, RING OF LOVE
THE HIGHLAND CAPTIVE
To my family for your incredible support. Thank you for allowing me this one pleasure.
To those that
helped me along the way including
Deb, Deb and Denise. Your advice and support was invaluable.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
1122 AD –
Devon Estates, On the English Border
The bride was beautiful. Her long and nearly white blonde hair flowed across her shoulders and cascaded in soft tresses down the entire length of her back, stunningly encompassing her tiny waist. Her dress was a lightly colored cloth with a deep neckline and full skirts that accentuated her petite curves and natural beauty. Her soft blue eyes and face radiated brilliantly as she looked up to gaze at her intended as the priest said the wedding blessings towards sealing her fate into wifedom.
it was Marie who stood proudly proclaiming her devotion and obedience in front of all and not Kaye. And Kaye was fully and painfully aware of that fact. It had nothing to do with Marie's intended for Kaye admitted that her sister was perfectly and devotedly in love with the man standing beside her as he was with her, it was the fact that Marie was marrying
Kaye. Kaye had always assumed that she would be first.
While she loved her sister dearly
and held no ill will towards her, Kaye was the eldest of the three Devon girls. Being the eldest would dictate in this English society that she be married first. But alas, she would be the
to be wed with absolutely no prospects in sight. That cut Kaye quite deeply and set her into an irreversibly desperate state of mind, a despondency so vivid and so real it made her feel a true panic deep within her heart.
truthful, Kaye was only the eldest by mere minutes but Kaye was the eldest just the same. She watched the ceremony play out before her, her twin sister now standing before all with a slight blush showing upon her cheeks as she proudly said her vows in front of the room. Kaye held her breath as the anguish hit anew for she painfully realized that as of this very moment, she was now officially the only one of the three sisters that had not yet wed.
aye lowered her head in sadness as she fought the devastation as it settled profoundly within her. She could feel the desolation building in her chest as tears began to sting within her eyes as she breathed in deeply, all the while fighting her emotions. For long moments she stood as such as she desperately attempted to hide her misery from all those attending this blessed occasion as vivid memories flashed through her mind of the previous wedding she had attended.
sister Bridget, who was only one year younger than the twins had now been married nearly two full years and even had a child of her own. Her husband was a Highlander, a large warrior who came from several leagues away and deep within the borders of Scotland. Kaye did not begrudge her dear sister Bridget anything either including her happiness, for Bridget was truly contented with her life. But Kaye was just a bit sorry that it was her own cruel luck that she had not found anyone to claim her and she remained as of yet, unwed.
Kaye admitted that i
t was she that had originally been pledged to the large Highlander those two year's now past, since she was the eldest. Unfortunately, she had taken grievously ill at the time that the Lord Bruce had come to claim her as his wife. Kaye had to admit that some of her illness was of her mind's own doing for she was exceedingly afraid of those intimidating Highlanders. They were men so large and so ferocious and their forward and bold ways, just so foreign to her meek and mild temperament. Barbarians are what they were and they frightened her so. For days and weeks even before the wedding party had arrived, her anxiety assailed her and caused great bouts of sickness that ravaged her body into a much weakened state.
t was her dear sister Bridget who had stood in her stead and took her place as the Highlander's wife. Brave Bridget who sacrificed everything and had surrendered herself willingly and saved them all from an assured war when it was found apparent that Kaye could not hold up her end of the bargain. Bridget had also surely protected them from the certain disfavor with their English King Henry and from the wrath of those petrifying warriors.
now, those very same Highlanders had come back to the Devon estates to pay witness to Marie's wedding and now Kaye's one true shame and this hurt and embarrassed her so. She realized most sadly that the great Lord Bruce had not wanted her those two years ago and there was still yet anyone in that time that had laid a claim upon her. Was she that dreadful? That unlovable?
Kaye looked up and across the crowded chamber with anguish upon her heart to the large warriors standing impressively amongst all of the guests. T
he Scotsmen stood proudly in the room, frankly they all stood
in the room with their Highlander dress so different than that of their composed English counterparts. Kaye gazed at the four Bruce clansmen in attendance that sported their identical attire. They each carried a plethora of weaponry strapped to their bodies and other than the boots upon their feet, they were not wearing much else. The material of their distinctive plaids only reached down to their mid-thighs and covered only their midsections with a thin piece of cloth extending from their waists over one massive shoulder. This left strong and muscled arms, bronzed chests and much of their legs so shockingly exposed. Kaye thoroughly blushed at the sight of it.
The rest of the
room was filled with the politest and most proper of English society and all from the northern estates very near the Scottish border. They were smartly dressed in the latest fashions, conservatively covered and hair well groomed and neatly formed. Most of the gentlemen sported dark colored trousers that fully covered their legs and tailored jackets that fell well down to their knees. Light colored shirts peeked from below their smart lapels and generously covered them fully to the uppermost part of their necks. Regardless of the warmth that was spreading throughout the crowded hall on this mid-summer's late afternoon, they were entirely covered and neatly dressed.
hall erupted into cheers as Kaye's new brother-in-law, Lord Stephen, leaned down to chastely claim the lips of his bride as the ceremony was concluded and the priest pronounced the happy couple, husband and wife. It was an innocent and proper kiss and the bride blushed scarlet for the act of it. Once it was over and it was quickly over as English decorum did dictate, the blissful couple walked hand in hand as they performed their duty of greeting and mingling with their guests until the celebration dinner could be served.
Kaye's twenty-one years, she had never been so forlorn for the life she feared she would have now. She realized that the dreams that she had dreamed as a child were simply nowhere near coming to fruition. She had always assumed she would have been happily married years before this, already having a dear husband and even children of her own. But alas, at this dark and wretched moment, she realized that her hopes were now just a fruitless aspiration.
thought desperately back to when she was but a young child herself, when she had often dreamed of the day when her handsome, well mannered and well dressed knight in shining armor would simply gallop into their courtyard and declare his never-ending love for her. He would romantically ask for her hand and carry her away to his cheerful home where love and a mutual respect would flourish until the end of their days. And of course, they would live happily ever after where they would be blessed with a few strong sons and a beautiful daughter or two that would complete their joyful home. Those dreams of yesteryear were fading quickly as her reality began to bite unbearably at her heart for no one had yet to ask for her.
Kaye stood alone in the overly crowded
and animated great hall as the throng of people moved around her with a smile cemented upon her face and a void lying heavily within her chest. She tried to be jovial as she attempted to show contentment and remove herself from her melancholy state, but the fear of her unknown and unplanned future was continuing consume her.
Attempting to shake her sorry
circumstance, she looked around at all the blissful people attending the festivities realizing that most were guests from Lord Stephen's side of the family and were visiting the Devon estates for the first time.
gazed across the room as her eyes alighted on her new brother-in-law who was the only son of an important duke and whose large estates abutted the Devon's own. He had extended family on both his father's and his mother's sides in attendance and covered several outlaying estates, spreading all along over the northern side of England. Most of their lands were adjacent to the Scottish border and near in proximity to each other with the families being very plentiful in number.
It was quite apparent that the
Lord Stephen's family were all truly English and the English tended to gather at any opportunity they could as they gaily celebrated any chance they had. It was quite acceptable when families would travel for days to their destinations and then visit for an excessive amount of time in celebration, all at the host's insistence and expense.
Very few from the Devon side were present for the
Devon family was very small in number and all those surviving lived upon their family estate. Her only extended family members present were her uncle on her mother's side, Roger and his son, Matthew. They lived in a sizable dwelling just directly outside of the Devon keep's walls.
y outside visitors representing the bride were Kaye's sister Bridget and her husband Alec Bruce and the three other Scottish clansmen who had all surprisingly, made the journey. It was unexpected for when Bridget exited the Devon home on her wedding day nearly two years previously, most assumed she would never return and never be seen by her family again. But when the missive reached Bridget telling of her sister's impending nuptials, she insisted they make the journey and her lord surprisingly agreed.
As was the trepidation on that day that the Bruce clansmen entered the courtyard
those many months ago when Lord Alec came to claim his wife, so was the mood three day's previous. Five from the clan unsuspectingly crossed the lowered drawbridge and entered the crowded square, surprising the Devon family and all their visitors within the keep.
Their impressive party, though small in number, caused quite the furor when they
entered the gates and regally moved up the path. As they approached, the distressed and proper Englishmen stepped back as they provided a wide berth for the approaching delegation. Lord Alec and Lady Bridget proudly led the group and were accompanied by Tor, who was Alec's cousin on his mother's side and two other loyal clansmen named Gerard and Gerald.
looked once again across the crowded room spying her brother-in-law Lord Alec who was a very large and imposing figure. He was blessed with a massive and capable body, long dark hair and sported rugged good looks. He stood quite proudly with his arm possessively circling her sister Bridget's waist with forever a commanding look upon his face. One glimpse of his person, noting his strength, his attire and the feel of his aura as he stood near and one knew immediately that he was quite unlike any other. So apparent was the Scotsman's hardened life, their warrior ways and their unfamiliar traditions. Kaye acknowledged quite vehemently that it was perhaps best how events had transpired, for she was quite set in her English ways and found herself quite anxious by the unknown and feared traditions of these Highlanders.
clansman named Tor, the one that Kaye acknowledged was the most notable of the other three, was just as tall as his cousin Alec and also quite daunting. Kaye noted that he sported very blonde and unbound hair that extended well past his shoulders. She had also noticed immediately that he had striking blue eyes that were the color of sapphires which would sparkle as they caught the firelight. Tor's well muscled chest and ruggedly handsome face made him pleasant to gaze upon, but only
at a distance
. She admitted quite honestly that when he was near he sent chills up her spine and her heart beat profoundly within her breast for he was extremely large and frightened her so. She gazed fully at the commanding figure and at his sparse attire and his plethora of weaponry, understanding that his strange customs unsettled her as much as it had when the Lord Bruce had originally come to their home nearly two years ago.