Book One In The Brotherhood Of The Scottish Templars Series
Sir William Keith owed allegiance to no one save the mysterious brotherhood of the Scottish Templars. But his task to protect the legendary Templar treasure brought him straight into the path of a bold lass who demanded he help find her kidnapped father, the treasure’s previous guardian.
William dared not abandon Lady Siobhan Fraser to her enemies. She was his best hope for finding the holy artifacts—and a dire temptation to his vow of chastity. How long could he deny the ecstasy that awaited him in her arms? For he knew all too well it’s the forbidden fruit that tastes the sweetest…
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The following scene was deleted from To Tempt a Knight. It was supposed to be a group scene on the night before the battle of Teba took place. However, it slowed the story’s opening and I decided to let it go. I’m delighted to share it here because it’s a fun insight into the ten men and the one woman who made up the Bruce’s inner circle of knights. Enjoy!
On the eve of battle, the countryside stilled in hushed anticipation. Tomorrow they would help the Spanish rid themselves of their enemy, the Moors, with their mighty Templar army. A hundred men clustered around their watchfires, a righteous army of Crusaders, allowing for this one small distraction to their plans as they made their way to the Holy Land.
Surrounded by their army, the leaders gathered. Ten men and one woman sat before a fire–an elite force of warriors, a brotherhood of Templars joined in service to the late King Robert the Bruce. They stared into the reddish aura of heat and flames that stretched upward toward the night sky.
James “Black” Douglas studied his men. They appeared relaxed, lounging on either the ground or the rocks alongside the open flames. They might seem at ease to outsiders, but he’d known these men long enough to feel the tension of the upcoming battle.
Black Douglas rested his battle-scarred hand atop the cylindrical silver vessel he carried suspended from his neck. Robert the Bruce’s embalmed heart lay nested inside. It was a physical burden as well as a psychic one, heavy on both accounts. Robert the Bruce’s dying wish was that his heart be interred in the Holy Land.
To a man they believed in the Bruce’s power to guide them safely through what lay ahead. No matter the odds. The Bruce would give them protection as only the most noble of warriors could.
“How many Saracens are out there waiting for us?” Robert Logan asked as though picking up on Black Douglas’ own thoughts. Robert sat not an arm’s length from the fire, the golden glow of the flames illuminating his earthy, honey-toned features. The man might look as innocent as a soft summer’s day, but he’d seen many a triumphant battle, despite his youth.
“Hard to say,” Black Douglas replied with a frown, not wanting to put words to his own fears about the coming conflict. When had they ever quailed at the odds against them?
“We’ve come up against worse.” William Keith jumped down from his position atop the rock outcropping. He sat next to Black Douglas, eyeing the silver vessel. “We’ll crush them, and move on.” Optimistic but with a deadly intent, a classic Keith response.
“When?” Walter Logan asked. The men called him Walter the Small, though the man was larger than any of them. “When have the odds been this stacked against us? Is this even our battle to fight?”
“The Spanish are with us in this effort, men. We are not alone.” Kenneth Moir pulled back the hood of his cloak to reveal face. The oldest of them, and their one-time abbot, the man’s gaze had the power to calm their nerves. He worked his magic now. The tension among the group dissipated as the sounds of the night flowed around them once more.
“Passing through Spain will be easier with allies.” Alan Cathcart looked up from his quiet reflection of the flames. The other men respected Alan’s wisdom.
“Can we trust the Spaniards to join us in battle tomorrow as promised?” Sir William Borthwick asked, his dark, brooding eyes piercing the others. The scar that ran the length of his cheek gave him a sinister appearance. A benefit when it came to battle. That scar had kept the man alive on many occasions, planting fear in his enemies minds.
“Can we not?” William “Red” Sinclair asked. The reddish glow of the flames mixed with the unruly mass of Red Sinclair’s hair, making him appear fiercer than his Norse heritage already implied.
Walter the Small stood, his giant shadow pitching into darkness the men sitting across from him. “I don’t want to talk about battle. I want to dance. Celebrate being alive.” He grasped the one female in their midst about the wrist, drawing her toward him. “Dance with me, Brianna.”
Brianna Sinclair’s dagger appeared out of nowhere to sink against the flesh of Walter the Small’s throat. “Templars don’t dance.”
“This Templar does.” Regardless of the blade he tried to pull her into a step.
Brianna held her weapon firmly in place.
“What’s breaking another rule to you?” A frown cut across Walter the Small’s normally carefree face. “How many did you break to become one of us?”
Brianna tightened her hold on the hilt of her dagger. “I earned my way in just like any of you.”
William’s chuckle filled the night air. “She’s a more relentless fighter than any man here.”
Walter the Small twisted in her arms, trying to free himself, without success. “You didn’t fool me with your boyish disguise.”
Brianna thrust him away. “I fooled you all until we were too far from Scotland for you to send me back. That was always my plan. Not to hide who I was forever.”
Red Sinclair frowned at his sister. “Father will not be pleased when he discovers you missing at home. Your maid’s pretense will not fool the man for long.”
Robert grinned. “Brianna fooled me with her deception.” A moment later his smile faded. “But looking at you now, I wonder how. God’s teeth, you look like a girl to me now.”
“My thanks.” Brianna’s sarcasm hung in the warm night air.
Simon Lockhart’s dark eyes snapped to Brianna. “Battle is no place for a woman.”
“Keep your voices down,” Black Douglas chided as he searched the shadows beyond the fire. “No one else but us need know Brianna’s secret. The Templars have troubles enough with half of the world out for their heads. One more charge of heresy is not what any of us needs.” He released a heavy sigh.
“Relax, Black Douglas,” Red Sinclair said, his tone dismissive. “What could happen to us out here?”
William reached over and touched the container that bore the Bruce’s heart. “We have protection above and beyond that of our fellow knights. With the Bruce and our Lord on our side, how can we fail?”
Alan’s steady gaze scanned the entire group. “We are still only men. Albeit men with a cause.”
“And one woman,” Brianna added, slipping her dagger back into its sheath at her waist.
“Our cause will see us through.” William’s determination carried in his voice.
Black Douglas clasped his hand over William’s. “A vow then, from all of us, for bravery no matter the obstacle.”
Alan leaned forward and placed his hand over the others. “For togetherness in the Brotherhood.”
Red Sinclair strode forward and clamped his hand atop the rest. “United by purpose.”
Simon joined the group. “And in spirit.”
Robert stood and came forward, his hand resting atop those of his fellow Templars. “For the betterment of mankind.”
Brianna placed her delicate yet strong hand atop the stack. “For peace among nations.”
Walter the Small’s hand obscured them all with its size. “To glorify His name.”
“A Brotherhood to the end,” Black Douglas proclaimed.
“To the end,” they chimed in unison.
“Russell begins a new series with a wonderfully thought-provoking, emotionally insightful glimpse into what it meant to be a Templar knight after the order was outlawed by the French church. This highly charged romance portrays the emotional agony of a stalwart hero and the woman who comes to love him. Medieval enthusiasts will thrill to this adventurous love story and its explosive conclusion.” — RT BOOKReviews
“This is Russell’s first book in her new series on the Templar Knights. She has taken some known facts from history and woven them into a story that follows the tale of the legendary spear that, at one time, was rumored to be in the possession of Adolf Hitler. It has all the elements: a powerful and handsome hero, a vulnerable but determined heroine and a long journey that forces them together intimately. Romance and treasure make a combination that’s hard to beat and Russell fans will not be disappointed.” — Fresh Fiction
“To Tempt a Knight is a thrilling, fast-paced romance jam-packed with adventure after adventure after adventure. Russell cleverly melds historical romance with religious history, with the crux of the story steeped in the noble effort to find the Spear of Destiny and keep it safe from would-be tyrants. It’s only natural movies like “The Indiana Jones Trilogy” would come to mind during the read – and just like the movies, To Tempt a Knight is a well-researched history lesson made into entertainment. Intense action sequences ensure the action plays out like a film in the mind’s eye of the reader, while complicated, dramatic emotions tug at the reader’s heart strings.” – Romance Junkies
In the light of the moon, the pale woolen cloth nearly glowed. But it was the bloodred cross sewn onto the fabric at the side of the cloak that riveted her attention. A Templar’s cloak.
Siobhan’s gaze shot to William’s. “Yours?”
He nodded as he settled himself on the ground next to the opening.
“How long have you been …” She hesitated, not quite certain how to phrase what she wanted to know.
“Hiding?” he provided for her.
“It feels like a lifetime, but in reality it’s been only four years for me.”
Sorrow lingered beneath his words. “Do you miss your home?”
He averted his gaze, hiding any emotion the darkness might not conceal. “I never truly had a home. All my life I’ve lived by my sword. It shelters me, feeds me, and protects me.”
“It sounds very lonely,” she said, casting a glance at his profile in the darkness of the cave.
“It gives me what I need.”
Siobhan hesitated from asking more because of the dour tone of his voice. She’d touched on something that he didn’t want to discuss. As her eyes adjusted to the pale moonlight, Siobhan looked around the small cave. Nothing but bare, damp rock surrounded them. The soft surge and retreat of the waves sounded below. She crossed her arms over her chest, hugging the scroll close to her, trying to ward off the chill of the night.
“We can’t risk a fire,” he said as though he sensed the shudder that raced through her just then. “Come, sit beside me.”
She sat, leaning back against the shale wall, then held the leather casing that contained the scroll in her lap. With hesitant fingers, she brushed the leather surface.
“What’s on the scroll?” he asked, his tone even now.
“I’m not certain.”
Even in the darkness she could see his puzzled frown. “You risked your life for that scroll and you do not even know what it contains?”
She frowned down at the leather that protected the contents inside. “My father sent me to retrieve this moments before he was abducted.” She turned toward William. In the half-light his face was a study of dark planes and angles. “I can’t help wondering if he knew something would happen to him today.” She bit down on her lip as she fingered the container’s cap. “This is all I have left.” She didn’t expect him to understand.
“Open it,” he said softly with no accusation in his tone. Did he understand? Or was he anxious for her to reveal the scroll’s secrets for another reason?
Could she trust him? William had saved her life today. Her own curiosity forced doubts about William’s interest aside.
She forgot about the cold. She forgot about the tragedy of the day. She forgot about everything as carefully, almost afraid to breathe, she opened the leather casing and gently shook out the papyrus scroll inside. She unrolled the papyrus. Straining her eyes in the half-light, she stared down at line after line of her father’s dense code. Even if she’d been able to see it clearly, she doubted she could identify the words he’d hidden in the strange code. She angled the paper toward the cave’s opening, trying to catch what light she could. Dark shapes appeared. A map? She sighed. “It’s too dark. I can’t make anything out.”
“Then any discoveries will have to wait until first light.” He shifted beside her and with a rasp of sound, drew his sword. He set the weapon across his lap, his hand on the hilt. “Just in case,” he said as he settled back against the wall. “You had best sleep. Who knows what challenges tomorrow will bring?”
She knew he was probably right. She rolled the scroll and placed it back in its protective leather casing, then held the treasure close to her chest, protecting what she had left of her life with her father.
She tried to block the sound of the surf, but the further darkness only made her more aware of her surroundings—especially the man sitting next to her, a sword gripped in his hands. “Why did you come to see my father today? Did you know de la Roche would come as well?”
He shifted, turning toward her in the darkness. His face was cast in complete darkness now. And for a moment she wondered if he’d planned that, secluding himself in darkness. “Nay. ‘Tis mere coincidence that de la Roche appeared when he did, although there were those of us who suspected he would show himself sooner or later.”
A gust of cool wind touched Siobhan’s cheeks. She pulled the cape he’d given her closer around herself. “Those of us?” she prompted.
She could feel his gaze upon her. “The Templars. Your father has information we desperately needed.”
“And now that he’s gone…?”
“I am hoping you have that information. Or that the scroll we saved from the fire contains something we can use to find what it is I need.”
Siobhan’s hands tightened on her father’s work. A surge of hope moved through her. Today’s events had taught her one thing. She needed this man’s help if she were ever to rescue her father from de la Roche’s clutches. Could the scroll help her secure his aid?
“What do you need?” she asked, trying to temper her growing excitement. This man was still a stranger. His motives were unproved.
“The Holy Lance. It’s the one piece of the Templar treasure de la Roche wants above all the rest. Your father was the treasure’s guardian.”
A shiver rippled across her nape. Her father had told her stories of many legendary treasures over the years, but she’d had no idea he was so intimately connected to them.
“My father called it the Longinus Spear …” Her voice trailed off in wonder. She shifted, trying to see his face in the darkness. If only she could see his eyes. Then she’d know whether he was being honest or not. “How do you think I can help you?”
“It’s how we can help each other, Lady Siobhan.”
“Please, just call me Siobhan. No one ever refers to me as anything more.”
“Siobhan. Help me locate the Spear, and I’ll help you find your father and get you both to safety.”
She knew nothing about this man, except that he had saved her from de la Roche earlier and that he had gone back into her burning home to rescue the scroll without fear for his own life. Were those things enough to trust him with her father’s life? His deepest secrets?
“Do we have an agreement?” he asked, his voice deep, expectant.
She nodded. Then realizing he could not see her any better in the dark said, “Aye.”
“Then you had best try to get some sleep because tomorrow will be another difficult day if I know de la Roche.”
Instantly, her mood sobered at the reminder of the dangers outside of their dark cave, no doubt the reason he’d drawn his sword. “Will you be able to sleep?” she asked.
Siobhan released a soft sigh. She doubted she’d find sleep this night either. Her lack of sleep wouldn’t stem from the ever-present danger, even though she knew she should be more fearful of discovery than she was. Instead, her mind filled with a million possibilities of what secrets the scroll might reveal.
She shifted her gaze to what little she could make out of William. Did her father truly have something to do with the Knights Templar?
Coded text … Drawings …
What could her father be involved in?