Dariana refuses to be forced into marriage, even if it has been ordered by the king, so she fakes her own death only to be discovered and tricked into marriage with William, a man she may not be able to forgive.
Furious at being used as a political pawn, the Lady Dariana defies King Henry VII by faking her own death to avoid marrying a man she has never met. Praying the king will not retaliate against her father, she seeks refuge in the forest and learns to fend for herself. When William, a warrior knight, is felled by an arrow, she saves his life and arranges his rescue before fleeing to avoid discovery.
William awakes from his injury to be told he imagined the beautiful woman in the forest. Besotted and determined to make her his own, he hunts her down and tricks her into marrying him, intent on turning her defiance into love. But even as he begins to succeed, their enemies join forces to end the marriage—even if it means that Dariana must die.
When Dariana is abducted, William must track her down to fight for her life and their happiness. And, Dariana, once the most defiant of brides, must channel her own strength of will into survival, both for herself—and for the child she now carries.
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Dariana gazed into the pool of water; the vibrant rays of sun twisted this way and that, dancing on the crystal surface. Her thoughts were mingled, flashes of memory, visions. A part of her took great pride in her survival in so different an existence, but what had she gained? She had lived through cold nights and painful loneliness, but to what end? She was unmarried, yes, and not exiled to a land where even the language was foreign, but she was thought dead.
Perhaps she could do something else, something that would give her life meaning after all. Her thoughts continued to wander and she dipped her hand into the cool water and watched as the ripples further disturbed the shafts of light in their attempts to float on the surface.
All at once, a reflection joined her own. She was jolted at the image, then chided herself for allowing her imagination to conjure it. She stared at the shifting shape and reached out her hand, wishing so dearly it would be real. The water stilled and the reflection behind her grew more clear. Could it be?
Her instinct was to throw herself into the warmth and protection of his arms, but she feared she might be hurling herself into nothing more substantial than the cold water, so she hesitated, waiting for the apparition to dissolve.
"Did you miss me?" William questioned softly. "For I have thought of nothing but you since the day you came to my aid."
She stood and turned, staring at the man who faced her, a smile tilting his chiseled mouth upward. She shook her head, then met the dark gray eyes with her own. He reached out his hand and feathered his knuckles along her cheek. She pulled back as if burned, then touched the place where his hand had been, still disbelieving. He had come back. But at what price? Her secret was uncovered and now her father would pay.
She jumped up and ran. The land was familiar to her and offered her the advantage. She darted between trees and around rocks. Dariana raced until her lungs felt like they would burst, her body screaming from the exertion until she had no choice but to stop and catch her breath. She leaned over at the waist for a moment, inhaling. She lifted her head and he was there, in front of her. She screamed her frustration, but she was winded and no sound emerged. She spun, ready to fly again, but he grabbed her around the waist. She lost her balance and he twisted as they fell. She landed on top of him. The feel of his body was like a lightning bolt through her. Her senses reeled. Her breathing increased. She knew struggling would be futile, so she relaxed.
"I have come for you and I will not be denied," he stated, a man used to his orders being obeyed. He moved her to the side, rose, and held out his hand to assist her.
She ignored it and stood.
"I know who you are, my lady, and I will protect you. But I will not leave without you."
"My lord, I cannot go with you." She needed to find a way to dissuade him. "Please, I beg you. Go away."
"William. My name is William and I cannot live another day, another moment, without you."
Leslie Hachtel was born in Ohio, raised in New York and has been a gypsy most of her adult life. Her various jobs, including licensed veterinary technician, caterer, horseback riding instructor for the disabled, and advertising media buyer have given her a wealth of experiences.
Her favorite stories as a child—and stretching into the adult years—were fairy tales by Hans Christian Andersen. It was the happily ever after that was so full of hope and inspiration. It was the love of those stories that led her to eventually want to write romances.
Of all of her jobs, it is writing that has consistently been her passion. That desire was fueled when she sold an episode of a TV show and had a screenplay optioned. Those successes led to her first published novel, Harriet, the story of a female serial killer. Although that was a satisfying piece, it was the lure of the romance that drew her back. So far, she has produced four novels in that genre. One of her historical novels, Captain’s Captive will soon be published by Black Opal Books. Her contemporary romance, Texas Summer is available on Amazon and through Secret Cravings Publishing. And now, of course, The Defiant Bride from Breathless Press.
Leslie lives in Memphis, Tennessee with a fabulously supportive engineer husband, a wonderful stepson, Matt and her writing buddy, Jakita, a terrier.