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Pleased to have a moment's respite from the noisy celebrations going on in the hall below, Sir Trystan DeLanyea strolled along the upper wall walk of his father's castle.

The harvest had been a good one, and all who lived in or near the castle of Craig Fawr were feasting and playing and dancing in the great hall. By this time in the evening, the air was thick with the scents of smoke, tallow and sweating bodies mingling with expensive perfumes and spices.

Taking a deep breath of the cool, refreshing air, Trystan sighed and leaned against the inner curtain wall's merlon. His father had spent years building this fortess after his return from the Crusade. Now it was as strong and comfortable as any lord could wish for, as well as an imposing tribute to his father's determination and trading acumen.

As Trystan let his gaze rove over the inner ward, he spotted the place where, three years ago, he had finally hit a perfect bull's-eye with his lance, something not even Griffydd, his elder brother, had ever been able to do. That had been a great day - until that imperinent wench Mair had happened by with a cartload of ale and ruined his delight by observing that the targets seemed to be getting larger every time she came to the castle.

Although he was the Baron DeLanyea's son, she had never respected him, or even liked him. She had always teased him and made sport of him, from the days they were children.

He didn't doubt it would have been different if he were the eldest, like Griffydd, or a baron in his own right, like his cousin and foster brother, Dylan.

But he wasn't. To all sundry around Craig Fawr, Trystan was still looked on as a "boy," as Dylan persisted in addressing him, even though he had earned his knighthood.

Someday, though, that was going to change, Trystan silently vowed. He, Sir Trystan DeLanyea, was going to become the most famous, wealthy and respected DeLanyea of all, more so even than his father, who had lost an eye fighting with King Richard in the Holy Land.

Trystan permitted himself a small smile as he considered again the very pleasant way he had realized he could start his journey on the road to fame and success: he would marry the proper wife, and who better than the most beautiful and desireable Norman noblewoman he had ever met, Lady Rosamunde D'Heureux, who was visiting here with her father?

Although Sir Edward D'Heureux did not boast a great title, his family had far more power and influence within the court than many, including Trystan's own. Any man allied with him would have tremendous opportunities for advancement. Indeed, the man who could win Lady Rosamunde's hand could surely expect notice from the king himself. and a man who had the notice of the king could go very far indeed, certainly farther than an older brother already married to a woman from the north, or a cousin ensconced in his Welsh castle.

The chance of such a marriage didn't seem at all impossible as Trystan recalled how Lady Rosamunde had smiled and danced with him in her demure, ladylike way before she had retired for the evening.

He should retire, too, he thought as he stifled a yawn. He should be waiting to escort Lady Rosamunde to the chapel for mass in the morning.

He turned and headed back toward the stairs leading to the inner courtyard. He passed the sentry on duty near the first watchtower and, barely noticeding the guard's brisk salute, continued around the tower and entered a more secluded part of the wall walk. The rays of moonlight did not penetrate this dim corner of the walk.

Suddenly, two hands reached out and grabbed his woolen tunic, yanking him backward into the darkest part of the shadow. Before he could call out, the person attacking him pressed her voluptuous body against his and kissed him passionately.

It was a kiss such as a man might dream of. The perfect kiss, firm and yet soft, lips moving with hot, fervent desire, taking his very breath away. Her mouth tasted of honey and spices, like mead, and wisps of hair tickled his cheek.

A man could well get drunk on such a kiss.

As his own ardor increased and his embrace tightened about her shapely form, Trystan wondered who it was.

Lady Rosamunde? She was too timid and delicate for this earthy passion, and she would taste of wine.

One of the serving wenches? Aye, perhaps, if there was one so bold.

Did it matter?

The heady scent of mead seemed to mingle with the night air and become a part of it, and him, as he gave himself up to the enjoyment of this unexpectedly passionate moment.

Then, as suddenly as the kiss began, the woman broke it and shoved him away. "You're not Ivor!" she cried in an angry whisper and an all-too-familiar voice.

A curse flew from Trystan's lips, in no small part because he should have known who would taste and smell of mead.

"By God's holy heart, Mair!" he declared in a whisper just as angry as he grabbed her slender shoulders. "What in the name of the saints are you doing?"

He couldn't see the young, unmarried woman who brewed ale and mead for her living very well, but he knew she had been at the feast. How could he miss her, in her best gown of scarlet silk trimmed with green and gold, as fine as any high-born lady's garment? A well-fitted gown it was, too, no doubt designed to show off her shapely form and attract male attention. Round her head she wore a circlet of scarlet ribbon that streamed out behind her like a knight's pennant as she danced.

Aye, Mair had been everywhere at the feast, it had seemed, dancing and smiling and laughing and tossing her rich, chestnut mane of hair about like some kind of demented, blithe spirit of festivity, flirting with all the men - except for him, because she knew better.

"As even you might guess, I am waiting for Ivor," she retorted, as mocking and bold and shameless as always.

"The captain of the guard?" Trystan demanded, thinking of the dark-haired, muscular fellow his father had recently promoted to that position.

"Not that it's any of your business," Mair replied as, with a disdainful sniff, she went to push past him.

Hearing the sound of approaching footsteps, Trystan shoved her back into the corner and blockaded her there with his body.

"What do you -?" she protested.

"Be quiet! The last thing I want is for anybody to see us together," he growled quietly.

She laughed softly, the mischievous sound so low, he knew only he would hear it. "Oh, we mustn't have that, must we, or Angharad will be thinking her prediction is about to come true."

The guard made his turn and started back toward his post, something Trystan only half-noted, just as he only partly paid attention to Mair's reminder that Angharad, credited with the Sight, had ridiculously prophesied that one day he and this impertinent alewife would be married.

The greater part of his mind was desperately trying to ignore the sensation of his body against Mair's, and the memory of that kiss. "You and I both know Angharad is dead wrong about that," he muttered. "I would never marry you."

This book is part of Margaret's Warrior Series. As with all Margaret's books, however, this one is written with the understanding that not everyone will have read the previous books in the series, so a new reader shouldn't feel lost.

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From the book A WARRIOR'S KISS by Margaret Moore
Imprint Harlequin Historicals; Publication Date March 2000
ISBN #0-373-29104-3
Copyright © 2000 by Margaret Wilkins
Published by arrangement with Harlequin Books S.A.
Cover Art Copyright © 2000 Harlequin Enterprises Ltd.
® and TM are trademarks of the publisher.