Scold’s Passions

(4 customer reviews)

The Bright Possibilities

Things have not been easy. Xavier Brice has had to fight not only against physical threats to his wife, but also those threats to her peace of mind as they travel to court. But the further they go, the more he is learning about what he needs to do to keep the woman who is his very heart and soul safe. His confidence grows with each step forward they make.

A Haunted Past

Io Brice knows there’s nothing so futile as revisiting the past. It cannot be changed, yet it could do harm. As her dark history steps into the light, can she trust her husband and those she calls family to stand with her? Or must she once again be ready to stand alone?

Publisher’s Note: This steamy, action-filled medieval romance contains a theme of power exchange.

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Sample Chapter

 

“I am capable of getting my own water,” Io Brice barely refrained from screaming as she snatched the bucket away from Liam. She’d had enough and everyone would know that today. She didn’t want to be here on the road. She had never agreed to these measures. She’d trusted her husband when he said nothing but the location was changing for her.

“My lady.” Liam reached for the bucket. “Your lord wants—”

“I am goddamn capable of getting my own fucking water.” She moved to keep the bucket out of reach and saw the same frustration on Liam’s face that she saw on Xavier’s whenever she evaded him. But her ability to continue to move out of reach was quickly hampered when several of her guards closed in on her.

“You will watch your tongue, my lady,” Roth warned in a harsh tone. “You know he will not tolerate such words. If he hears you—”

“He did,” Samuel warned as he peeked back around the wagon.

Io heard the men around her groan, but at the moment, she didn’t care. She’d tried for three days to adapt to Xavier’s restrictive measures, with no other reason given other than it was what he wanted; this afternoon was the end of her cooperation. The small stream wasn’t more than forty steps from the road and she wasn’t being allowed to go to it without a full escort. And a full escort was now twenty, not six, men.

“My lady, give me the bucket. Maybe he will let this pass,” Liam said again, reaching for the bucket even as he looked past Io.

She didn’t need to look behind her to know Xavier was now in the group and she didn’t care if he wanted to let anything pass or not. She was the one being wronged by his overbearing commands. Liam reached again for the bucket, and Io pulled it back then sent it flying. It landed on the other side of the road, away from the stream.

“Io,” Roth hissed in warning.

“What is the matter here?” Xavier asked, his relaxed posture and easy tone not fooling Io in the least. She’d dared use God’s name in vain, and while Xavier mostly ignored any curses she uttered, he wasn’t forgiving when she committed blasphemy.

Io’s guards seemed torn in how to act. They’d move in as if to protect her from a threat but then shift to give Xavier access. She knew were he to behave in an unreasonable or unexpected manner, they’d stand between them. But this time, anything Xavier might plan to do was fully expected by all and, given his few inflexible rules, Io was expecting something very direct.

When Xavier remained calm in his demeanor, a few more men pushed in around Io. Again, they wouldn’t interfere in a domestic matter, but if Xavier’s intentions were anything more than his exercise of a husband’s rule over a wife, they’d stop him.

“There is no matter, my lord,” Samuel chanced. “A misunderstanding about a simple chore.”

“Is that all it is, my lady?” Xavier asked, his eyes going to where the bucket landed.

Io didn’t care to answer. Not when any answer she gave would be wrong because, this time, she was wrong and she knew it. She took a moment to assess her chances of escape and then, stepping away from the protective detail, she headed toward the wagon. She had to pass Xavier to get there, but when he reached out, she was able to twist away.

“Io,” he called as she tried not to look like she rushed to get inside, even though she did. “Io,” he called again, but if he was any closer, it didn’t sound like it. She managed to step up, and when she looked back, she saw he’d not chased her down only because Roth was holding on to his arm. What he was telling Xavier had many heads nodding in agreement, but she didn’t stand to see the outcome.

Pushing aside the tangled linens, she plopped down on the platform that made up her bed. A rather lonely bed these last three nights. For all his bravado in the woods about not caring if anyone knew what they did when alone, he’d utterly abandoned her. She hadn’t even been able to ride up front with him. In fact, she was kept deeper within her personal army. It was now those interlopers who rode foremost in the party. Even when they’d stop to rest or eat, Io was kept with her group and Xavier made no effort to join her, though Mark, Ian, and Jon did. When they’d stood together on the road just now, it was the closest she’d been to her husband in days.

Something dropped heavy in the bed of the wagon and Io looked up to see that bucket, filled with water, sitting there. A moment later, she watched as a foot stepped around from the side, off the wheel, the way all the men seemed to prefer getting in and out of the wagon. When the tarp was pulled back, Xavier was the one standing before her.

Her throat tightened and her skin prickled up. Try as she might, she couldn’t keep her arse from clenching as he ducked down and moved closer. He was too tall to move with grace in the cramped space, but he moved with speed and it was enough to prevent Io from taking up a defensive position. Not that there was one she could take to stop him from whatever he planned to do. She barely bothered to lean away when he took a seat next to her on the platform.

“I got you the water you wanted,” he said, shifting closer.

Io crossed her arms and leaned back against the wall. “I do not want it,” she snapped. His stiffening told her she should’ve thanked him and been done with it.

“Io,” he started.

“I can get my own water. I am not incapable of doing things for myself.”

“No one says you are,” Xavier said then sighed and leaned back against the wall, too.

“Then tell them to let me do things.”

“You can do as you need, take a man with you.”

“It does not take two people to get a bucket of water from a stream only several steps away. I do not need a fucking escort to get my own water.”

“Either take a man with you or send a man to get it,” he said, his voice tight, telling her he was using restraint. But damn it, so was she.

“They are soldiers not servants and I will not use them as such.” She turned her head to look away from him.

“Then you should have brought your own servants. You did not, so they will have to act in the place of one.”

His words jerked her around to stare at him. “Do you mean to tell me it would be safe enough for Ann or Jude to fetch the water, but it is not safe for me? Or do you say they are little more than beasts to be sacrificed if danger comes?”

“That is not what I am saying at all, and you know it,” he almost snarled.

“I know no such thing. If Ann could have fetched the water alone, then I should be allowed to,” she said, her voice rising. “It is just for this way of thinking I did not want them to come with me. You would so willingly let them find harm in service to me. No, I will not have it. I can take care of myself.” Turning, she took the few steps needed and kicked the bucket out of the wagon. “I can take care of myself.” She turned back toward Xavier who pushed up off the bed. “I have done it far fucking longer and better than you ever have.”

If she intended to be hurtful in her words, she couldn’t have chosen better. Xavier jerked back as if she had slapped him. In the dim light, she saw him pale and then redden. He said nothing as he pushed past her and leapt from the wagon. She watched him pick up the bucket, turn and set it, empty, on the boards. “I do not need water, my lady,” he said and caught her eye. “To use soap effectively on your mouth. You will do as I command and allow the men to serve you. And you will hold that scold’s tongue in check, or I promise you will be most displeased with the outcome.” He reached up and yanked down the flaps engulfing Io in darkness so she could only hear him step away. A moment more, she heard the call to start moving.

They were at an impasse. She was allowed to do nothing without several of the men doing it with her. She did her best to ignore them, and she did even better not only ignoring but annoying Xavier. Refusing to take her meals from the supplies, she began collecting edibles when they stopped or when she walked rather than rode. Xavier put a stop to that when it came time again for her to ride the roan mare. When she refused and started to walk, Xavier informed her she would either ride the roan or she would ride the wagon. And she’d ride no other horse until she’d ridden the mare in turn. For three days, she sat and fumed in the wagon. She knew the men were trying to reason with him on her behalf, but as her small collection of nuts and berries dwindled and her body began to ache from the confinement, she gave in, agreeing to ride the mare, muttering the entire time how she wondered if Xavier would care when the animal killed her.

She at least was left relatively alone to tend the horse before she saddled it. And as much as she would hope the animal showed its true nature before she got on, for the most part, it remained still and quiet. Very nearly done grooming the mare, Io took a moment to enjoy not having twelve men standing so close she could spit on them without effort. She’d nearly forgotten how solitude could be enjoyed. At the house, she’d places to go and simply close the door, be alone with her thoughts and if need be talk to herself to work out any problems she might have. The wagon didn’t offer her the same relief as she didn’t want to be there and Xavier too easily used it as a punishment.

Bending, she lifted the blanket and tossed it over the horse, growing weary again when the larger beast tossed its head and then shook all over. She stepped back and waited, but it settled and she made to reach for the saddle, only to have it snatched up and tossed on the horse by the one most likely responsible for her new situation.

“I thought you might never come out of that wagon again, my lady,” the prince said with a smile that might be charming if she was a stupid woman or a whore, as they all assumed.

“Io.” She watched him move to pull the reins down from where she’d hooked them on a branch.

“Seems you are no longer so pleased with Lord Brice, Lady Io,” he said quietly as he stepped closer, and Io watched from the corner of her eye as her men also closed in.

“Io,” she corrected more forcefully, almost out of habit, but as much as before she’d known Xavier. “Just Io, I do not care for the limitations of titles.”

“The limitations?” the man scoffed but then, tilting his head to the side, considered her more. “Perhaps you are correct; some titles might have limitations.”

“All titles have them,” Io countered.

“Not mine.” He laughed.

“Even yours.” She snatched the reins from his fingers and moved to prepare to mount.

“Well, I have found none yet.” He reached for the rope used to hold the animal during grooming.

“Really? Did your title break the limitation you have to gain access to another man’s wife?” Io saw his grin slip. “Does your title enable you to force willingness beyond base duty from the men you now must beg protections from because your title, alone, cannot give it to you?” Now he glared at her. “I assure you limitations have presented; you simply cannot see them. You have restrictions placed upon you by that title you wear with so much pride as to be sinful. Perhaps someday, when you see them, you will also see what you thought was pleasure and happiness was but an illusion.”

He did seem to be considering her words, though not for long. “Rather like the illusion you and Brice try to present about your happiness. At least such anywhere outside of the sheets.”

“There is no illusion in our marriage. It is hardly perfect, but it is more than satisfactory. Beyond the sheets as well.” Io stepped back as he pulled on the horse’s head and she began to resist and swing her hindquarters about.

“So Lord Brice doesn’t keep you hidden back here, surrounded in every way that you cannot so much as take a piss on your own, not because he finds you a bitter disappointment? Not because he fears your incompetence will show? I would never have believed the king would burden his favorite knight with a woman who cannot be trusted with so much as the simplest of things. Though why he bothers now, I cannot think, for sure, once you are before the eyes of the king, it will all become rather obvious. Perhaps it was not a woman equal to the man his majesty wanted for Xavier. Perhaps it was only a distraction to keep him from learning he has become obsolete, useless.”

Io pressed her lips together to keep from responding. It wasn’t true. It wasn’t. So then, why was doubt creeping back in? Of course, she was useful. She had accomplished any number of important things before they’d begun this journey. Xavier was satisfied with how she managed the house and shires. Wasn’t he? He’d only forced her to delegate more so she’d have more time to deal with the more difficult tasks. Hadn’t he?

“Well,” His Highness went on, “it is of no concern of mine. If Xavier is happy with a wife such as you are.” He tossed the rope at her as he walked away. She was watching him when the mare screamed out, reared up and swung around. Io was knocked hard to the ground. All she could think to do was cover her head with her arms as the hooves pranced over and around her.

“Io. Io,” Liam called, dragging her to her feet, out of the way of the men trying to calm the horse whose eyes were rolled back white in its head. “Io, are you hurt?” Liam asked, trying to hold her away and look her over. “Are you hurt?”

She wasn’t incompetent, and he didn’t want her dead.

“Lady Io?” Roth called then slapped his hands together in front of her face. The sound was startling. Enough so, she shoved aside the fear and let the anger out.

“I told you,” she screamed at them as she worked to pull free of the hands that held her. “I told you. I cannot ride this thing,” she yelled again as she pushed through the group. Picking up her skirts, she ran for the wagon, which had moved some distance back in anticipation of her being mounted today. It took several tries to climb inside, given the steps were stored and the flaps secured, but once in, she made her way to the bed and let go the sobs she’d held back. Not just the ones caused by fear she’d be trampled, but the ones caused by fear what the prince said could be true.

Maybe Xavier was happy with her, but only because he knew he was no longer in the king’s esteem and she was the best he might hope for. And what if she was found to be as incompetent as the prince suggested? If Xavier wasn’t out of favor, would another royal also see she was hardly someone worthy of a man like Xavier?

She pulled the furs in closer to smother the sounds she made. Why was she on this trip? She’d been happy at the house. Happy believing all was good and right with life. Now she was, in fact, not seen as capable of doing as much as relieving herself without a full escort. Who was subject to such treatment, but for the imbeciles of the world?

“Io, are you hurt?” Xavier’s deep voice rolled over her. “Come, sit up.”

She shrugged off his hands when they settled on her shoulders, and when they came back for a second try, she rolled to her back and slapped at them. “Get off, leave me alone.”

“Io, stop. Settle.” This time, he grabbed her, holding on until she was out of breath and unable to resist. He pulled her to a sitting position and then brushed the hair from her face. “Are you hurt?”

“I told you,” she snapped. “I told you I cannot ride that mare. I told you. Do you just want me dead to keep forcing me to try?”

“Io, are you hurt? Were you stepped on?” Xavier asked, ignoring her question.

Swallowing down the bile, she sniffed and shook her head. “No.” She managed to lift her head and catch his eye, but she couldn’t hold his stare. “No, I was not stepped on… this time.”

“All right,” he said softly, then used the heel of his hand to wipe at her face. “Come on,” he said as he pulled her off the bed and then back toward the end of the wagon. He brought her to the very edge before jumping down and turning so he could lift her down. “Come,” he said again when she hesitated to follow him.

He was headed right back to the roan. And the animal was saddled and ready to ride. Io stopped in her tracks and was about to turn back when Xavier caught her elbow and forced her to stay. As they approached, Samuel stepped around with a small cloth in his hand. There was a good amount of blood on that cloth.

“Not sure what it might have been, my lord,” he said, pulling on the reins to make the mare turn her body and drop her head. “It is a small cut but deep.”

Io looked now where Xavier was running his hand over the mare’s chest. The small wound oozed blood, but the horse barely trembled when Xavier touched it directly. “Did you hear anything, Io, before she became upset?”

“Hear anything?”

“A branch snap or… anything?” he pressed.

“No.” Was the sudden infliction of pain the cause of the horse going wild?

“Well, it is not too grievous; she is sound,” Xavier said, moving around the horse but keeping his hands on her at all times. He checked the saddle cinch then the bridle before turning to hold his hand out to Io. “I’ll give you a leg up.”

“I am not riding that,” Io said, taking a step back, only to have Xavier match her. “No.”

“Io, its growing late. We need to be on the road.”

“No.” Was he mad? She rather thought so when he reached out, grabbed her arm, placed her beside the horse and, without so much as a warning, lifted her into the saddle. He thwarted her attempt to get down and stilled her with just a glare as he forced her leg over the horn and her foot into the stirrup. But he held the reins as Liam stepped up and boosted him on behind her. The mare gave some protest at the added weight, but Xavier brought that under control.

He put the animal through a few maneuvers, and once satisfied, he gave the reins to Io and settled behind her.

“Let us be on our way,” he said, indicating Io should bring the horse around and start them down the road, which she did, Xavier shifting around behind her. “This horse is not dangerous, Io. But it does seem to have the misfortune to be near you when it is injured.”

“I did not do this,” Io said, hurt he might think such of her.

“No, you didn’t. But I think your clear dislike of her, your distrust, makes her an easy target to use against you. You must be willing to ride her, more now than before, or next time someone acts to hurt her, you might again be hurt as well.”

It made sense. The groom who’d put spikes under the saddle knew Io hadn’t trusted the mare. Knew too, she thought Xavier was going to use the horse to try to kill her. In fact, that was exactly what Io believed, even now, if she was honest with herself. At this moment, the horse was walking easily down the road without a twitch of the ear. Xavier promised her he’d selected only horses he was sure she could manage.

“Who here would—” Was there some real danger to her out on this road?

“Io, the only reason Artus… the prince, “Xavier corrected himself, “is with us is because he found himself at the wrong end of someone’s sword. The disruption caused when… have you named this animal yet?” he asked, and Io only shook her head. “You should. You cannot keep calling her the bad horse.” For a moment, only his tone was a bit teasing, but then he was serious again. “The disruption caused everyone to look away, look toward you. It left us open to ambush or even his assassination.”

“You do not sound as unhappy about the latter.” Io guessed the longer those men were with them, the more disliked they became. No one in Xavier’s ranks was anything less than dutiful, behaving as expected and required. But it was all done grudgingly. Something she pointed out to the man herself.

“It would be a slight blight on my reputation if something… unfortunate happened to the dog before he is returned to his family.”

“A slight blight?” Io quarried, only to feel him shrug before he wrapped his arms around her and rested his chin on her shoulder.

“His father has three sons to replace him.” Again, Io pressed her lips together to prevent a response. “Show no fear to these people, Io. Showing fear will signal their attack.” He placed a kiss on her cheek then urged her to move to the front of the procession. He rode behind her until they stopped at midday, then he allowed Wednesday to be saddled. Io was ready to put what was said this morning behind her. The prince, not so much.

 

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4 reviews for Scold’s Passions

  1. Redrabbitt

    The Worship series is one that must be read in written order to grasp the entire life and situations that play out in each book. There are key characters that are critical to each story in this ongoing saga. Just as in any great adventure, there are so many emotions, angst, and dialog. I gained a new respect for Xavier and his men, at the lengths they are willing to go for their Lady Io. His men, the knights, and warriors that are sworn to protect the crown and Xavier will protect Io even to the death if need be. I will also readily admit there are times that I get so mad at Xavier and punishes Io without hearing her out first.

    “No matter how much he explained what he imposed was for her safety, she always too issue and defiled him. Form the very first days, she done it.”

    The story picks up with Xavier, Io, and his men—the men he trusts with his life, but more so, with the life of Io, heading towards court, and it is a constant battle with Io not wanting to go, refusing, and even being punished. He cannot understand her strong urgent that he go without her, but it can’t be, she must attend court with him. The journey is perilous with those who would bring harm to them—and Io at times is her own worst enemy with her idiocracies.

    “They were heading home, to people he knew, or thought he knew, wouldn’t hurt her. He’d been so wrong. And perhaps that was why she doubted he acted for any other reason than her well being. He could fully believe now that it wouldn’t be a blade that ended him, but the very woman he was wed to would kill him with fear and worry.”

    The men that guard and protect Io have a stronger loyalty to her and her well-being then they do to Xavier, and will even call him out. During the journey, Io’s health takes a drastic turn, mostly caused by a lack of communication—to the point, the men, her guards, are at odds with Xavier.

    “Do you not see her? She is broken. She is worse now than when she first came to us. She will not eat, she will not take aid, she lies down every day at sunset looking like she hopes she doesn’t see the dawn, and when she does, she looks filled with despair. She has no spirit, no will. I do not even know what keeps her alive. She is nearly a walking corpse. You broke her. She is defeated, and no one knows what she must have to lift her back.” –Roth

    The words of others burden Io that the trip to court will show the king that she isn’t worthy of Xavier, that the marriage will be annulled and that he will take a new wife.

    “Beyond the walls of your house, beyond the borders of your lands, I am useless, incompetent, and likely to be found unworthy to continue as your wife.”

    “And it could not matter in the least how another might value you; to me, you are life. I could not exist without you. You are the air I breathe, the beat of my heart. My goddess who gives me reason for being.”

    “It is more than clear that you actually love your wife, and though I must say it came as a great surprise to me, to everyone, her love for you is undeniable.” –Rigatos

    “Io is no princess; she is not even a lady. She has no care or use for titles of any kind, and I will not have them foisted upon her by some crawling dog seeking power of his own. Io is Io. That is all she is, all she wants to be, no man, no bloodline will change that. I have her, as he is, and I will not surrender her. I will always give the crown first consideration in matters that could touch him. But I am not ‘smitten’ with my wife. No, my lord, I am completely in love with her.”

    OMG, the story is a roller-coaster ride with plenty of action and adventure, seeped in danger, saturated in a strong love of two people. It has many twists and turns, and at times, the chemistry and situation between Xavier and Io are volatile one minute and sizzling with passion the next. There are several spankings, and yes, Xavier is harsh on her, but he truly loves her but can be such a man. Io isn’t good at explaining things, and Xavier needs to listen and ask the right questions. Wow at the revelation and without a real cliffhanger, it ended intensely.

  2. Marybeth

    So…this is the continuation of Io and Xavier’s journey. We start out with Xavier being what he mostly is, an ass. He loves her, calls her his Goddess, but he still worries too much about what others think. Xavier does not listen to Io and she gets stolen away trying to prove she is a good wife for him. He doesn’t listen to her when they get her back and then punishes her harshly for something that is mostly not her fault. After the punishment, he again does not listen to her, he holds onto his anger and Io lives in her mind thinking that he is going to leave her. But, they reconcile once Xavier starts to listen and Io realizes that he does still love her and move on, only for Xavier to be an ass again once they get to court. I swear this man is hard to love! There is a HFN ending and there will be two more books until the series ends. Happy reading!

  3. Rhea

    I absolutely love this continuation of the worship series. Io and Xavier are once again thrown into dangerous situations as they continue on their journey to court. The book is full of angst and suspense but also humor and love. The characters are perfectly imperfect and humanly flawed, making them seem so real that you will loose yourself in the story, and the langue used, though easily read and the meaning clearly understood, helps putting the readers mind into the historical context. This series is an absolute must-read.

    I received a free copy of this book via Booksprout and am voluntarily leaving a review.

  4. Julie

    Xavier Brice continues to fight for his wife safety both from physical harm as well as the harm her past memories stow upon her, including the fear of losing her husband.

    Xavier makes it easy to hate him. He severely punishes his wife in anger then goes eight days without talking to her. Yes, he makes it very easy to hate him while he claims to love her and will do anything for her.

    Lo Brice cannot change her past, but can she trust her husband and family to stand with her or will she again end up standing alone?

    We find out in this book as they are heading to court.

    More books are coming in this series. I think there will be at least two more eBooks to this series.

    I received a free copy of this book. This honest review was posted voluntarily.

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