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The Beltane Choice by Nancy Jardine
Can the Celtic Tribes repel the Roman army?
Banished from the nemeton, becoming a priestess is no longer the future for Nara, a princess of the Selgovae tribe. Now charged with choosing a suitable mate before Beltane, her plan is thwarted by Lorcan, an enemy Brigante prince, who captures her and takes her to his hill fort. Despite their tribes fighting each other, Nara feels drawn to her captor, but time runs out for her secret quest.
As armies of the Roman Empire march relentlessly northwards, Lorcan intends to use Nara as a marriage bargain, knowing all Celtic tribes must unite to be strong enough to repel imminent Roman attack. Nara’s father, Callan, agrees to a marriage alliance between Selgovae and Brigante, but has impossible stipulations. Lorcan is torn between loyalty to his tribe and growing love for Nara.
When danger and death arrive in the form of the mighty Roman forces, will Nara be able to choose her Beltane lover?
“Leave me be, Brigante. By Rhianna, unhand me!” Her order had the effect she requested, though did not expect. Crashing to the ground, her swollen leg jarred a further time on the rough banking.
“You got what you wanted, did you not?” he gibed nastily, her attempt to hide the mutter of pain having been unsuccessful.
Unwilling to guard her tongue, she railed. “How would you know that? Revenge is all you care for.”
“Revenge? Aye, I want revenge, but I desire much more.”
His tone controlled, Lorcan loomed, his questioning relentless with barely time for a breath in between. Nara’s refusal to answer remained firm, yet her silence fanned the flames for he insisted.
“The warrior riding this fine horse–who was he to have such a prized animal? I know now he cannot have been your husband!”
His gaze strayed to her chest. Again. Nara felt a flare of gratification when he appeared exasperated with himself on realising. Ignoring his hurtful probing, and the tingling at her chest, she rolled to her feet and hobbled to the other side of the filly, favouring her weight on her good leg.
“Give answer. Was he your husband?”
“Nay, not my husband.” She confronted him, her words beseeching. “What did you do with Cearnach? I see no sign of him.”
Ignoring her plea, Lorcan tugged the horses away, keeping both reins when he agilely mounted the stallion.
He pulled her filly forwards, kicking his heels into Rowan’s flesh. Turning their direction south-eastwards he headed for the flat river’s edge leading to the deep forests far to their left.
If she escaped, she would be done with the infuriating man. Whirling around, she darted off for the edge of the woods.
Again, a humming spear blocked her path.