Wild Lavender (The Aurelian Guard #1) by Nicole Elizabeth Kelleher
Publication Date: March 8, 2016
This gorgeous, sweeping historical romance will enchant the readers of Deanna Raybourn, and introduces a wildly talented new voice.
Anna was born of Chevring, a territory renowned for its valorous war horses, in the kingdom of Aurelia. But peace reigns, and her family’s fortune has dwindled. Her father brokers an alliance with the wealthy Lord Roger of Stolweg. The price: his eldest daughter and the secrets to her family’s once great power. Soon after they are wed, Roger proves himself cruel and calculating, a harsh lord who sows the seeds of fear in his people.
He has an ambitious secret, and nothing will stand in his way. Not his new bride, nor his older brother, heir to all that he covets. But secrets have a way getting out, and the people of Stolweg quietly bide their time, coming to love Anna for her noble bravery in standing up to her scoundrel husband. She will prove the leader they need to rise up and bring their underground resistance to flourish.
But it is Larkin, a guard of Aurelia, whose presence brings Roger’s treachery to the forefront, igniting the spark of war. Larkin comes to Stolweg to investigate Roger for treason against the realm and ends up giving all of his attention to Anna. For she not only captures his heart, she may be the only person who can stop the battle that will tear the kingdom apart.
“Nicole Elizabeth Kelleher’s debut novel Wild Lavender is engrossing right from the prologue.” —B.B. Haywood, New York Times bestselling author
Lark had been watching Will and hadn’t noticed that Lady Aubrianne
had rounded on him. When he did, he saw the fury in her eyes.
“Had I known Rabbit would go to such an uncaring clod of a man, I would not have troubled myself to train him.” The temper in her voice matched the fire in her eyes. “Did you not notice that he was hurting? Or worse, you noticed, and you continued to ride him.” He put up his
hands and opened his mouth to speak. Before he could, Will stepped protectively in front of Lady Aubrianne, shouldering Lark a step back.
“What is it, m’lady?” the young man asked. “A burr?”
“A nasty one,” she answered angrily. “A bogburr. I showed them to you once, remember?”
“Aye, brownish-red, almost an inch long. Poisonous, too.”
“I hope this one hasn’t burst,” she said.
They’d dismissed him, Lark realized, unused to being ignored. So he held Rabbit’s bridle straps and continued to scratch his horse. That she had questioned his loyalty to his steed had irked him, but more so that she’d been right to do it. He’d known something was wrong but hadn’t wanted to delay the others.
After they’d broken camp, they’d found themselves in a small fen. Rabbit’s tail had caught on some burrs, and he’d spent nearly a quarter hour removing them. He still had the thorn in his finger to prove it. And damn it, his finger was swollen and hurt like hell. When Rabbit
had grown skittish, Lark dismounted to search once more, signaling the others to ride on. Apparently, he had not been thorough enough. He swore to himself.
“Will, I need you to pull the cinch away while I slip this patch underneath,” she instructed. “Gently. Right here, where the burr is caught.” Will did as asked, and Lady Aubrianne plucked the burr off Rabbit’s coat and slipped the soft leather swatch under the strap.
She patted the great horse and rubbed his side again. “Good boy, Bunny,” she commended him.
Lark’s attention to Rabbit seemed to surprise her. He was cradling his horse’s massive head, murmuring soft noises in the stallion’s ear. “Go ahead, Will,” Lark whispered. Will unfastened the cinch and quickly removed the saddle.
Rabbit’s skin twitched as Lady Aubrianne peeled away the leather patch and probed the area, a raw spot the size of a thumbnail. She pulled first one, then two ugly barbs from the shallow wound. From the bag hanging over her shoulder, she brought forth a small, stoppered pot. A pleasant scent filled the air as she tenderly applied some sort of salve to Rabbit’s coat.
His destrier snorted in relief, and Larkin leaned back to look his horse in the eyes. “Sorry about that, Rabbit. I thought I found them all. Do you forgive me?” It seemed that Rabbit accepted the apology, for he nudged Lark’s chest playfully, nearly knocking him on his seat.
Lady Aubrianne gazed at him speculatively. At least she had ceased glaring at him. And in that instant, when her features softened, he recognized her: Anna.
He took a step back as if someone had struck him in the chest. She studied him for a moment. When it became clear that she didn’t recognize him in return, his disappointment was humbling. What did he expect, Lark thought, that she would rush into his arms, and finish the
kiss that he’d started? He was acting like a lovestruck boy.
She pulled an apple from her bag and tossed it to him. “It’s for Rabbit.”
He caught it deftly but winced. Unwilling concern flitted across her face, and Lark took a moment to really study her. Despite the dark circles under her eyes, she was quite beautiful. Her eyes were as he remembered: light, sooty brown, and like her hair, dusted with gold. And, she still had what Lark liked to think of as a kiss-worthy mouth: full lips that begged to be teased and nipped.
As for her hair, more tendrils had escaped the long braid. He resisted the urge to wrap one around his finger. His gaze rose to follow the curve of her cheek, and he noticed for the first time a greenish-yellow tinge under her eye, as if she had just overcome some illness. Roger was a lucky man to have married this woman. A surge of jealousy coursed through Lark, and he forced himself to pull his mind away from her attributes. When he looked at her again, he found himself condemned by her knowing eyes. She gave a snort of disgust. That she had found his regard distasteful bothered him more than he cared to admit.
(Five (5) Print Copies of WILD LAVENDER)
A graduate of the University of Michigan’s College of Literature, Science and Arts, Nicole Elizabeth Kelleher studied French Literature and Language, Spanish and Mandarin while concurrently attending UofM’s Art School. She moved to France and attended the Université Catholique de l’Œest before relocating to Belgium to complete an internship at a fine arts and antiques auction house. During this time, she traveled throughout the countryside of Europe, immersing herself in its history, architecture, and art. Nicole lives in Northern Virginia with her two children, husband and Tully the Dog.