To celebrate the relaunch of the de Wolfe Pack World of Kathryn le Veque, Màiri Norris writes a novella from her Ballads of the Roses series. Brábanter’s Rose is the story of a mercenary who knows his life of killing must end and of the woman whose faith and unconditional love makes it possible.
A mercenary with a bloodstained soul.
Elrik of Breda has had enough of death and seeks a place to build a home and live in peace.
An innocent with a secret.
Yrsa of Ottham has lived too long with loss and rejection. She yearns for a place where she belongs.
Sometimes, the intervention of Fate creates magic.
Together, they embark on a quest to fulfill the longings of their hearts… but the cost may be higher than they could ever dream.
“Until death takes me, she will be the fate of my soul, the abode of my heart. I, Elrik of Breda, do swear this vow before this council.”
Yrsa could not sleep. Her thoughts nigh made her dizzy as they circled round in her brain. Elrik was meant for her. She never doubted it, but neither had she expected to find the knowledge confirmed so clearly, more and more each day. The life she wanted with him, the children they would have, the love they would share—all these and more played out before the eyes of her mind until she thought she would burst with desire for him.
The clouds that plagued the land the past many days sped away. Stars popped into the clear sky, filling the dark expanse with the magic of light. As the night deepened, the temperature dropped. She shivered.
From across the fireless pit, he spoke, his voice quiet. “Come lie with me, Yrsa. I can hear your teeth chattering.”
Elrik awoke nigh the dawning, Yrsa warm and relaxed in his hold, her feminine shape plastered close. Gently, so as not to disturb her, he tightened his hold, admiring her fragile beauty. How easily she beguiled him. The press of soft hips and the tempting fullness of breasts urged he take her, now, in the most elemental of ways, but Betek slept nigh.
Now was not the right time. He could wait. Awe at his fortune along with the simple comfort of her presence held greater sway. He wished first to know the woman behind the sweet curves.
He carefully set her from him. Mind and body refreshed, he yawned and stretched. The increasingly frequent—and increasingly violent—dreams of his own death had not bothered him these past nights with Yrsa in his arms. Those images surfaced from some deep recess within to fuel the quiet rage that for long had fueled his life’s purpose, but he was convinced her presence held them at bay. He had slept better than in many a month, for ’twas right he cradled her in his hold.
That much of her dreams he accepted, that they should share a life together. She believed it would come to pass, and mayhap she was right. Certainly, he already thought of her as the missing element of his life, the one person he needed to complete his future even if previously unaware of the lack.
Gold could not absolve a man’s bloodstained soul, but possibly some other coin, less obvious and more precious, might purchase redemption. He had lived long enough to know sometimes the gods or fate decreed two should find each other. These would then become forever one, not only in body and in the eyes of the church and the world, but also in heart, mind and soul. If this woman learned to love him there remained a chance, aye, a slim hope he might find the peace he had not acknowledged he craved until he walked away from war.
She stirred and rolled over to face him. “Good morn.”
He smiled, slowly. Mayhap he might satisfy some need of hers, as well. Aye, he had found his mate, and he would not now part from her.
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