Master of Craving
Blood Sword Legacy, Book 3
“Tabke’s alpha heroes and strong-willed women captivate. Her third Blood Sword Legacy novel is a powerful battle-of-wills love story that resonates with the atmosphere of the era and simmering passion, betrayals and politics that add depth to a stirring tale.” —Romantic Times
“The third book in the Blood Sword Legacy series starts with a captivatingly gripping scene, and each new compelling scenario contains additional attention-grabbing circumstances.. Karin Tabke has created a rewarding masterpiece, one to be savored again and again.” — Amelia, Singletitle.com
Master of Craving, the third book in the Blood Sword Legacy series, is a sensual historical romance that takes readers into the world of medieval knights.
Eight mercenary knights, each of them base born, each of them bound by unspeakable torture in a Saracen prison, each of them branded with the mark of the sword for life. Each of their destinies marked by a woman.
‘Twas whispered along the Marches the demon knights who rode upon black horses donned in black mail wielding black swords would slay any man, woman or child who dared look upon them. ‘Twas whispered their loyalty was only to the other and no man could split them asunder, nor was there enough gold or silver in the kingdom to buy their oath. ‘Twas well known each of them was touched not by the hand of God but by Lucifer himself.
‘Twas also whispered, but only by the bravest of souls, that each Blood Sword was destined to find only one woman in all of Christendom who would bear him and only him sons, and until that one woman was found, he would battle and ravage the land…
…but the darkest secret whispered was that there was one among them whose violent craving for the one woman he could not have would be the spark that would set an entire region on fire, and nearly bring down a kingdom, with the aftermath to be felt for the next thousand years.
Read an Excerpt
Having survived the great battle of Hereford, Stefan de Valrey lies naked in the wood at a pond’s edge where he has bathed away the battle stench, tended his grave wounds and ponders his next move. For the Normans were slaughtered by the combined forces of the mad Saxon Earl Edric and his Welsh allies King Rhiwallon and Bleddyn. His brother Blood Swords have been captured by the Welsh kings and, Stefan will do anything to see to their safe release. Anything.
Stefan grabbed his sword and rolled over, prepared to do battle, but instead found nothing. Had he dreamt the low sensual laugh?
He heard it again, closer now. His blood warmed as he conjured up a face and body to go with such an exotic sound. He hurried to Apollo as fast as his damaged leg would allow, and pushed the huge horse back farther into the thick wood. He warned him to silence, knowing the horse would stand still until given the command to move. Stefan turned and made his way back to the edge of the thick copse of foliage he hid behind. For long moments he stood, wondering for the second time if he had dreamt the voice. The light sound of footsteps crunching along the rocky path to the secluded pond heralded a visitor. He crouched, wincing at the pull of skin and muscle on his damaged thigh, and rethought his position. As he made to adjust, he stopped all movement.
“Jane, hurry, I must get out of these mud-caked rags!” called a melodic female voice in Welsh.
Stefan crouched lower. Not moving a single muscle, he watched as a wood nymph danced into view. His eyes widened. She was tall, slender, and, as his gaze raked her body, buxom. He smiled. She was undressing in a most uninhibited manner as she hurried toward the inviting pool. And, he could see why. Her emerald-colored gown was covered in mud on one side, as was her long sunburst-colored hair.
When she yanked the kirtle from her body, he held his breath. The soft linen of the chemise beneath molded against her full curves in the soft breeze. “I cannot believe I fell from my horse!”
“You have become too arrogant, milady,” an old woman said, hobbling into the clearing holding a cloth bundle. “’Tis time someone brought you down a peg.”
A noblewoman? A Welsh noblewoman? He grinned wider, and silently thanked Rhys and Wulfson for their tutelage of the language. He would repay them handsomely when next they met.
The eager lady did not wait for her maid to help her undress further. She sat upon the stone he had himself just lain upon and unlaced her soft leather boots, untied her garters, then rolled down short white chauses. His body tightened when she stood and pulled the chemise from her body. Heat filled him as he slowly stood, unable to turn away, indeed, could he have. Transfixed, he took in every sensual inch of her body. She was tall for a woman and majestically golden. Golden hair, golden skin. Her breasts were full and rose high upon her chest. His hands opened and closed, wanting to feel the soft firmness of them beneath his fingertips.
He envisioned his large calloused fingers gently brushing across a pink nipple, feeling it come alive beneath his touch. His cock filled as his eyes traveled down her flat belly to her rounded hips and to the blush-colored triangle between her thighs. He hissed out a low breath. She was breathtaking, and at that moment, Stefan knew what it meant to want something so badly that he would give his right arm to possess it. His cock lengthened at the spectacular sight, and had she been alone, he would have been so bold as to show himself, Adam to her Eve. He wanted to join with her, and mate.
“You are shameful!” Jane scolded. “What if there are bandits in the wood?”
“Keep watch, Jane, I will be but a few minutes. We have been riding hard for days. The dirt of the road clings to me and you know I have not bathed since we departed Dinefwr.”
Dinefwr? ‘Twas where Prince Hylcon resided. This he knew, for the Dinefwr-Castile bloodline was amongst the finest; not only in all of Christendom, but even the Saracens of the Holy Land traveled to Dinefwr to breed their mares to Hylcon’s stallions.
Intrigued, he watched the lady gingerly stick a toe into the cool water. She gasped in a breath at the chill, when she did her breasts rose higher, as did he. He smiled despite the pain it caused him, as she slowly glided into the pool. Her golden skin puckered and her blush-colored nipples tightened.
“Go, Jane, and leave me. Go down the path and make sure that letch Dag keeps his distance.”
The errant lady slid the rest of her long body into the cool, clear water, gasping at the coolness. Stefan squirmed where he stood, the tension between his thighs overriding the tension of his wounds.
The servant set her bundle down on the rock and untied it, then spread out clothes and a long linen towel. “Here are your clothes, you will have to dry yourself. I cannot guard the path and dress you at the same time. Do not dally, milady, we must be back on the road.”
The lady splashed water at her maid and scoffed. “Dag has lost his way, and because of it, we have lost time. I fear we will never get to Yorkshire.”
“He is not the most intelligent of men,” Jane admitted, then, reluctantly, the old woman moved back down the path they had come.
Stefan knelt on the soft loamy ground and watched captivated, as the wood nymph swam in the small pool, and as he had done, she grabbed a hunk of springy moss from beneath a fern. When she stood and the clear water sluiced down her breasts to her belly, glistening like pearls under the sunlight, Stefan stifled a groan.
She reached over to the bundle and grabbed a bar of soap, and when she lathered it, he held his breath. Her slender hands smeared it across her breasts and down her belly to her thighs. She tilted her head back, her back arched, those luscious breasts pointed to the sun. Her hands slid across her body with brazen familiarity. He wanted to touch her so. She had no modesty, and he could tell just from the way she touched herself she would be an adventurous lover.
She sank deeper into the pool, allowing the water to carry the lather away. When she completely submerged and shot up, her body glistening in the sun, Stefan slowly stood and took a step closer. She put the soap to her hair and vigorously washed it. She went under again, and this time when she erupted from the water, like Venus herself, the erotic image was too much for Stefan. He groaned. She gasped, and turned crossing her arms over her chest. “Who goes there?”
Stefan grinned, ignoring the pain it cost him. How badly he wanted to show himself, and how badly he wanted to lose himself in all of that gold and honey, he could not measure, but even had he the time for a dalliance, he doubted he possessed the strength. ‘Twas a shame, for it had been months since his last woman, and none could he recall as comely as this one frolicking in the water before him. He was just about to move deeper into the wood when he heard another voice. A man’s voice.
“Would you like some company, Princess?”
Princess? Stefan’s interest suddenly went from his cock to his head. A Welsh princess? Mayhap Hylcon’s daughter?
“Dag! How dare you trespass! Turn your back and return to the others!” she commanded.
Stefan eyed the intruder as he emerged from the path into the clearing. Nearly as tall as Thorin, bald, but sporting a full blond beard, hard narrowed eyes, and dressed in the manner of a Norseman complete with battle ax. A Viking. What was a Viking doing with a Welsh princess in the middle of battle-fatigued Mercia? She had mentioned Yorkshire. An area, despite Hardrada’s defeat last year, still heavily populated with Norse.
“I cannot do as you command, Princess Arianrhod. As you have so thoroughly done to my uncle, so too you haunt my every waking thought.” He continued stalking her, as a fox would a plump hen.
“Stop now, Dag! Stop before you do something we will both regret,” she warned, and, though she tried to keep her voice strong and sure, Stefan heard the fear in it.
Dag laughed as if every day he plucked an unwilling maid from the water, and continued his slow, deliberate pursuit. “I will have no regrets. I want you as I have never wanted anything in my life. I will have you.”
The princess backed up to the rock she had undressed on and grabbed the linen from where the maid had set it. She started to stand, to wrap it around her but thought better of exposing herself to the unwanted intruder. Instead, she dragged it into the water, soaking it, then wrapped it around her body. Stefan shook his head. ‘Twould only weigh her down and show off every curve.
She dragged herself from the water on the side of the pond closest to where he hid. He swallowed hard at the display. As forethought, she was a vision, to be sure, in the thin wet cloth. It clung to her full curves, and despite the position she found herself in, the princess’s royal nipples were hard and strained mightily against the cloth. Slowly, Stefan moved closer to the edge of the foliage that shielded him. And, as was his instinct when trouble brewed, he reached for his sword where it lay on the ground beside him.
The Viking nimbly hopped from the shore to one rock, then another, then to the one the princess stood upon. She opened her mouth to scream, but the Viking was quick; he grasped her, slapping his hand across her mouth. The little hellion bit him and punched him with her fists. The damp linen clung to her between them, but now it covered less than it had a moment ago.
Stefan’s impulse was to defend the lady’s honor, but too much was at stake for him to show himself.