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Author's Message

James Markham needs a bride, so the king orders him to marry Isabel Atherstone. But shes not the kind of woman James thinks hes entitled to. Shes six feet of hardened warrior. As a masked thief, she humiliates him. As a wife, shes even worse.

She came out of the shadows into the firelight, wearing a mans black doublet. Her legs were fine and long, her waist narrow but not fragile. Wild hair curled and clung, wrapping itself insidiously about her arms. Of her face, he could only see her eyes and lips. He saw intelligence and purpose in those eyes, and knew instinctively that she was the enemy.

My lord, your head is badly bleeding, she said. I could not leave you to die.

He smiled.

Do you find me amusing?

A thief with shocking tenderness for her victims? Yes, you amuse me. You do other things to me as well. He lifted his hand, and the sword reappeared at his throat like lightning.

James swallowed carefully. Just return my money, and Ill leave.
She straightened and lowered the swo11rd. A large amount you carry. Ill have to keep it.

You could be noble and return it.

You could be noble and understand that you are aiding a lady in distress.

He chuckled, sensing a lie, yet intrigued by it. A lady? I have known
few ladies who dress as you do.

She whirled before him and curtsied. I need to ride astride.zz

James eyed her up and down, as a slow grin moved across his face. Im sure you do.



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