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Excerpt

The Truelove Bride
Bantam
ISBN-10: 055358054X

“But you never answered me. How do you feel?”

She walked away across the stone floor in her bare feet, only now remembering that she had on just a nightgown, and not really caring. There was a narrow window to this room set back in the wall, and she crossed over to it and looked out into a cloudless day.

“I feel as if I could sleep a thousand years,” she said to the sky.

“I think two days will have to be enough,” Marcus said behind her.

“Two days?”

“Aye. You would not rouse. We let you be. I suppose you needed the rest.”

A hawk soared by, hovering and then dipping down to the bottom of the window frame, gone from sight.

“I saved your life,” Avalon said, still looking out. “Honor dictates you owe me a boon.”

“What boon?” he asked.

“Release me, my lord.”

His voice was impartial. “Your boon is impossible, my lady.”

“I saved your life!” Her hands clenched on the window frame. The sky was a bowl of sapphire blue; it stretched out to forever before her, just beyond her reach.

“Your mistake, then, for I’m not releasing you. That’s the way of war.”

Avalon uncurled her fingers. “I see how it is,” she said at last. “Very well. I have three manored estates and most of the income from Trayleigh. I have lands that reach almost to the border of your country.”

She heard him stir, come closer to her, though he made no move to touch her.

“There is enough of everything to keep your sense of war satisfied, I would think. Lands and wealth. I offer it all to you. I will petition the king myself to hand it to you. I will sign whatever notes you want. Make it a ransom, if you wish.” She turned around now, sunlight behind her. “Only let me go.”

He was closer than she had thought, not even an arm’s length away. She couldn’t read what he was thinking. There was a barrier up, there was nothing but cool deliberation in his look.

“Not enough,” he said.

“Crops, herds, rent. Fine manors. All of it yours, your people’s.”

“Not enough.”

“It’s all I have,” she said faintly.

“No.”

Now he did reach out to touch her, just her hair, picking up a strand and holding it in the sunlight, letting it wrap around his fingers. He studied it, the halo the sun made bouncing off of it, as if it were worthy of his undivided attention.

“It’s not all you have,” he said slowly, looking up and capturing her gaze.

Excerpted from The Truelove Bride by Shana Abé. Copyright © 1999 by Shana Abé. Excerpted by permission of Bantam, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.