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Unwilling Betrayer

Kinswoman to Ireland's greatest warrior, flame-haired Brianna believed that the Norsemen who plundered her land were barbarians, and she would gladly have given her life to help defeat the sea-roving raiders. So when the Viking warrior Wulf Thorsson mistook her for a thrall and carried her off to his Dublin stronghold, she had no qualms about posing as a slave if the ruse would strike a blow against her hated enemies. Although Wulf treated her gently, Brianna vowed never to give in to the passion he roused in her. But weak with wanting, she soon discovered that despite her steadfast resolve the fiery desire of her wavering heart might make her the unwilling betrayer of all she had ever loved!

A Hard Shell Word Factory Release


Joan Van Nuys

Joan Van Nuys was raised in a family of violinists and for many years carried on the tradition of orchestral playing. A writing career beckoned when one of her daughters moved to Norway and Joan began putting her many adventures into story form. A sweet romance featuring a Norwegian hero netted her an agent but was never published. She went on to write two more category romances as Marianna Essex and has since produced seven historical romances. Joan, who recently lost her husband of 45 years to cancer, has three daughters, four granddaughters (two of them Norwegian), three cats, and she has lived in the same old ivy-covered house in northwestern Pennsylvania for many years. She's an avid fan of Star Trek Second Generation, Star Trek Voyager, The Young and the Restless, and she loves reading, gardening, ping-pong and exploring old towns in Iceland, Norway and Switzerland.

Reviews

4- 1/2 Bright Irish Stars!

"This is a big book in many ways. Depicting a time long gone, a culture no longer extant, the author has brought it to glowing life, made the conflict as immediate as today's headlines, all while portraying a love that had to be."

Word Museum


Grade: A!

"When Joan Van Nuys emailed me to offer her electronic book Unwilling Betrayer to be reviewed I told her I'd love to review her book. Since I was busy with many other things (moving for one) I put reading the book off until now. I'm sorry that I did. This was a wonderful book and I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys the Viking period or anybody who just loves a romance."

Romance Book Recommendations

"Wow, was this a great book! Danger and suspense around every corner. Treachery from without and within. And two enemies who should never fall in love, but can do nothing else. And Ms. Van Nuys definitely has a way with dialogue-full of flavor, but not difficult to understand. Too many authors take a heavy hand to dialect, making the work difficult to absorb. Not so with this book. Unwilling Betrayer is definitely a stay-up-until-you-finish kind of book. Wonderful from beginning to end. 5 Stars and Reviewers Choice Award!"

Scribe's World Reviews
Excerpt

Prologue

Kincora, April 1012

The palace of the emperor of Ireland lay as peaceful as was the land itself in the setting sun. Atop a mast on its tallest watchtower, the scarlet and black lion-banner of Brian Boru hung limp, and the moat between the thick earthen walls shone red-gold and unruffled in the last shimmering sun-rays of an eve in early spring. In the dimness within the palace walls were heard only the soft footsteps of the serving-folk as they moved quietly through the fresh sweet-smelling rushes, lighting wall torches and banking fires for the night. Ay, all was serene in Kincora, the royal dun that Brian Boru had built for himself on the Shannon. All, that is, except the thoughts of the Ard Ri himself.

He entered the bedchamber of his wife unseen and watched with veiled eyes as she combed out the mane of thick dark-red hair that hung down her back and over her breasts. It fell to below her hips, soft, lustrous, beautiful. She herself was beautiful. Her beauty never ceased to amaze Brian, for Gormlaith was no longer a young woman. The sight of her smooth-skinned, voluptuous body in the light of the flickering wall torches aroused a flame within him.

He dismissed it. It was mere passion stirring him now. The deep and desperate love he had felt for her in their first years of marriage was long gone. Too many things had happened between them, too many things said and done that could never be called back. He watched her turn as she sensed his presence, and saw contempt flare in her green eyes. It was quickly subdued.

"I am surprised to see you here, my lord," Gormlaith said coolly.

"You be my wife, lady," came the gruff answer. "Why should I not be here?"

She was furious with her husband this night for a hundred reasons, foremost of which was his treatment of her brother, Maelmorda. She was angry with Brian Boru most of the time now, yet it pleased her to see the flicker of desire heating the icy gray depths of his eyes. Slowly, seductively, she donned a green silken bedgown which displayed more than covered her magnificent body.

"You may be the Ard Ri," she said huskily, "but if you think to bed me after seeding every whore between here and Cashel, you are sadly mistaken."

Her languid gaze moved over his tall, muscular form as she placed scent between her breasts, on her wrists and throat, behind her knees, at her temples. She would fight his certain advances, ay, but she knew well she would yield. While she had come to hate him these past few years, she craved his lovemaking. She craved lovemaking with any man so long as he was taller and stronger than she and was comely.

"Take yourself to your own bedchamber, Boru, for you will not stay the night here." She lowered herself onto her silken bedcovers, fully aware of the ravishing sight she made.

Brian ignored her words. Devoid now of any desire, be observed the thrust of her breasts nearly tumbling out of her bedgown.

"Where have you been until now, Gormlaith?"

"Walking," she snapped. It was a lie. She had been with her lover in the souterrain beneath the palace since late afternoon.

Brian's icy eyes narrowed to slits. "So. Walking..."

"Is that so strange?" Her own eyes flashed emerald fire. "Since when does the Ard Ri care where I go or what I do?"

Brian did not lie. "You are right, I no longer care. 'Tis Maelmorda who interests me. I would know what went on here that put him in such a towering rage."

He had learned from the palace guard that the king of Leinster had arrived late yesterday bearing tribute, and then had stormed off this day shortly before Brian and his men returned from the second royal residence at Cashel. Brian had sent a lieutenant to fetch him back, whereupon Maelmorda had slain the man on the spot and gone his way.

"I am waiting, Gormlaith. What happened?"

Gormlaith laughed, her little teeth sharp and white against her cherry lips. "As if 'twere some mystery why he constantly smolders. He be king of Leinster, yet you--"

Brian's forced smile held more fury than warmth. "He is king because I say he is king, lady. I allow him to be king."

Gormlaith went on as if he had not spoken: " -- yet you hold him hostage as if he were some petty earl, demanding subservience and tribute. 'Tis an outrage, Boru, that you should drain the riches of his kingdom so."

Brian's bearded jaw tightened. The woman knew well why her brother was held hostage and made to pay such heavy tribute. He was a troublemaker, as was Sitric, her son by the Viking Olav Kvarnan. Brian himself had striven endlessly for peace and unity among Celts and Vikings alike and had attained it, whereas Maelmorda and Sitric fomented unrest to enrich themselves. In the last conflict they had begun, he had defeated them both soundly, yet, he had been merciful. He had restored their kingdoms in return for their allegiance, and had even given Sitric his own daughter, Emer, in marriage. He himself had wed Gormlaith, for she was ravishing and he had wanted her. He had even come to love her. Now she was a complainer and a whiner and a trollop, and her weasel of a brother was growing troublesome again. He persisted, low: "What happened whilst I was gone, woman? I would hear it and I would hear it now. I will not ask again."

Gormlaith was incensed, seeing there would be no lovemaking this night. She rose from her silken bed, disdaining to cover one full white breast now exposed to his angry eyes. She stood tall, six feet of haughty Irish royalty, lithe, graceful, more beautiful, more desirable than any other woman in Ireland, high-born or low, and well she knew it. She glared at him.

"He came yesterday," she said, her voice dangerously soft, "bearing the tribute you outrageously require -- three superb pine timbers from the forest of Fidh-Gaibhli to make masts for your damned ships."

"Ships he agrees we must build if we are to have a strong navy." "Hah. 'Twas an idea you forced on him!" Her breathing grew heavy and her blood ran fast. It was always thus when she thought on Boru's subjugation of this weak but handsome brother of hers. "He himself helped carry the timbers through mountains and bogs and in so doing, ripped a button from his tunic."

Brian answered stiffly. " 'Twould seem a small thing to put him in such a state. He slew the man I sent to fetch him back, lady."

Gormlaith's face was white. "I care naught for your man, Boru. As for the tunic, 'twas an elaborate silken thing banded in gold and buttoned with worked silver which he said you gave him. I trow 'twas worth a fortune, but I deemed it an abomination, a disgusting badge of vassalage. You give him expensive gifts to soothe the fact that he, the kind of Leinster, must carry your damned tribute on his own shoulders like a common thrall!"

" 'Twas his own choice to bear it thus, I assure you."

"Know you this, O great Ard Ri, I tossed the wretched thing into the fire, silver and all, rather than have it mended. And first I spat on it! Maelmorda sees finally that the time for tribute is ended. He is his own man now and will stand up to you. If be had any doubts as to the wisdom of such a move, they disappeared when your son insulted him over the game board."

"Insulted him? Murrough?"

"Murrough," she spat.

Brian looked on her in disgust. By the gods. Her damned brother had slain one of his favorite lieutenants in cold blood, and all she could talk about was silver buttons and an insult during a game of draughts. He was at the end of his patience. He allowed her to rant on only because he had been sucked into a deepening whirlpool of memories. What had happened to them and to the love he had once felt for her? Was it his doing that there was nothing but lust between them any more? His doing that she now took one lover after another? He shook his head. He did not know.

"Hear you what I said?" Gormlaith cried, her eyes wild. "Your miserable son called my brother a coward before a room full of men!"

" 'Tis best to stay off this subject, Gormlaith," Brian said grimly.

"Nay, I will not!"

She was magnificent in her anger, but Brian was unmoved. Beauty without loyalty or love to soften it was a harsh, too-bright thing. He felt empty, remembering his first wife, long in the ground. She had known of loyalty and love. Even a child knew more of loyalty and love than did Gormlaith. Into his thoughts skipped a sturdy little maid, her hair the color of autumn, eyes green, a laughing elfin face. Brianna. His own foster daughter and daughter of his dearest friend. Little Brianna who had declared her love for him and demanded be wait for her to grow up. He smiled at the long-ago memory. That little maid of ten winters had had more love and loyalty in her little finger than Gormlaith ever could summon in a lifetime.

"I demand an apology from Murrough," Gormlaith raged, pacing the floor. "And when next my brother returns, if ever he does, Murrough will apologize to him, also."

"Murrough knows of what he speaks, Gormlaith. 'Tis common knowledge that the king of Leinster shows the white feather when the battle heats."

"Damn you, I will not hear it! The prince will apologize' -- Gormlaith's eyes smoldered -- "or you will answer to Maelmorda's Leinstermen. Methinks you will answer to them in any event."

Brian spoke between clenched teeth. "If there be any answering to do or apologies made, 'twill be from Maelmorda to me. 'Tis my man who lies with his skull split open."

"You accursed spalpeen." Gormlaith's face was whiter than white. She spat at his feet. "A pox on your beards, you and that scut-son of yours!"

As soon as she said it, she died inside. More and more she had hurled insults at Boru, but this was the ultimate, cursing his beard. She watched his handsome face blanch and then turn red. She straightened her shoulders and raised her chin high. Never would he know the terror she felt when he looked at her so.

Brian's voice was thick with his rage. "You have stirred the pot one last time, Gormlaith."

She gaped, her luscious mouth open. "Wh-what mean you?"

"You have interfered in my life for the last time. Get you gone from my sight."

"I -- understand not what you are saying..."

"Methinks you do, lady." His gray eyes glittered. She had been a thorn In his side and an ache in his heart for too long. Out of mercy he had not brought her before the judges for her adultery, but now, now she had called down shame on his beard and on Murrough's. There was no higher insult a woman could offer her husband. "Get you gone from Kincora, Gormlaith," he said low. "I divorce you."

Gormlaith's heart stopped. "Brian, nay! Let us talk--"

"The time for talk is over. I want you out of here."

"My lord, you cannot!" She began to tremble. This could not be happening again, this being put aside. First Olav, then Malachi, now Boru. Suddenly her trembling was with rage, not fear. Men! She hated them all, for they had brought her nothing but grief. Her two former husbands, Boru, her son, her brother. Her flesh was seared by the flames of her hatred.

"I divorce you, woman," Brian declared. "Tomorrow you will attend to your affairs and get you hence. My men will accompany you to Leinster or Dublin, whichever you prefer, but at Kincora you will stay no longer, I promise you." He turned and strode toward the door.

Gormlaith leapt in front of him, her beautiful eyes ablaze. "You will regret this, Boru. Mind you that I have vast influence and connections. My lineage towers over your own. I am daughter of a king, sister to a king, mother of kings, and have wed none but kings. You will find no other to equal me."

The emperor shook his head. "You are wrong, Gormlaith. On any street corner, I can find such as you." He made no move to ward off the two stinging blows she dealt him on his cheeks.

"You bastard! Let the truth be known then -- too long have I languished here at Kincora craving the embrace of a real man. I will go to Dublin and 'tis glad I am to leave!"

Brian's laughter erupted. She was making it easy for him to say goodbye. "By all means, go to Sitric and his Viking court. If you stir up but half the trouble for him that you made for me, be will be too busy to join Maelmorda in any mischief against me."

She could have slain him. In truth, Dublin was the last place she wanted to go. Sitric's moldering stronghold on the Liffey was a far cry from her luxurious quarters here at Kincora. The only bright spot in the whole dismal picture was that his warriors, tall, brawny Vikings and Norse-Irish, were lusty and virile and could be had with no effort whatsoever. Already she had sampled many of them.

"I hate you, Brian Boru!" She was scarcely able to choke out the words. "You call yourself emperor of all the Irish, but to me you are naught but Brian of the Cattle-Tribute. Brian the Cow-King. Know that I will see you dead for this."

" 'Tis grateful I am to be forewarned," Brian said quietly. Gazing down on her from his great height, his hand on the door latch, be saw that her eyes glimmered. It was the first time he had ever seen her weep and he was touched. "You be a troubled woman, Gormlaith. I wish you naught but peace."

"Go!" she screamed. "Go, bastard! I hate you!" Her slipper hit the door as it closed.