Book Three in the bestselling Isle of Mull Trilogy!
Here’s what people are saying about To Love a Warrior…
“I loved every moment of this series!”
“One of my favorites!”
“Love love love Lily Baldwin! This series is utterly with great characters and unique perspectives. You’ll love it!”
Destinies unfold. Secrets are revealed. The Isle of Mull will be forever changed.
Half Highlander, half Viking, Garik MacKinnon was not born on the Scottish Isle of Mull, but fostered there in his youth. Now, he leaves behind his home, once more bound for Mull, to join the MacKinnon warriors as they answer Robert the Bruce’s call to arms. He is ready for battle, eager to fight for Scotland’s freedom. What he is not prepared for is his encounter with Nellore, a shield maiden from Mull, whose allure defies all reason.
Nellore has the strength and skill of a warrior but the heart of a woman. When the men are called away to war Nellore must aid those left behind to safeguard their village against attacks from the MacLeans—a feuding clan to the south. She understands her duty to her clan. She is ready to take up arms against the enemy if need be. What she is not ready for is the ache that fills her heart when war pulls Garik from her side.
Desire ignites and battles are waged as both Nellore and Garik learn what it means to love a warrior.
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The sun began its descent toward the vast ocean horizon. Golden tones shone against stark cliffs that towered above the rocky shoreline, lending their hard surfaces fleeting radiance while the day drew its last breath. Nellore peered into a tidal pool, studying her reflection before the approaching evening chased it away.
“What does she say to ye?”
She looked up and found Bridget standing before her. The water lapped at Bridget’s toes and dampened the hem of her tunic.
“Nothing,” she said, confused. “’Tis only I.”
Bridget smiled. The creases around her eyes and lips reflected her age, at which Nellore could only guess. When faced with the question, Bridget always laughed and would say she had forgotten her age long ago. “I am not as old as the sun or the moon,” she had often said. “And the mountains certainly precede me. But to the trees and heather I will always say that I believe I came first.” For many years, Nellore had believed Bridget’s claims and had stared at her in wonder, thinking she had seen the birth of the first tree.
Now, Nellore turned her eyes away from the lady of her clan and stared once more at herself in the still water.
“She will speak, dear one, if ye listen. She will reveal the truths hidden away in your heart, hidden even from yourself,” Bridget said.
Nellore concentrated on the green eyes staring back at her. Her thick, black brows came together as she narrowed her gaze. With all her will she strained to hear, but her soul revealed nothing other than that which she already knew—longing…but for what?
She released a sigh as she stood and wrapped her arms around Bridget’s frail shoulders.
“Were ye searching for me then?” she asked as she breathed in Bridget’s scent and felt peace enter her soul.
“Aye, but my search was not long. I knew just where to find ye,” Bridget said with a wink. “When I was a young woman, I too looked to the sea for answers. I hoped my heart’s desire would wash up on shore. I was hungry like ye are now.”
Nellore shook her head. “I’ve no appetite for food.”
“’Tis not food ye hunger for,” Bridget said with a mischievous glint in her silver eyes. “For some time now, I’ve watched ye staring off into the distance with so much longing. Your soul is famished.”
Nellore shrugged. “I do not ken my own heart other than to know that I crave what I cannot have.”
Bridget took her hand and they started off together down the coast in the direction of the village.
“Ye fill me with such wonder,” Bridget said. “Ye possess boundless strength and talent and yet remain so humble. Ye’ve let go the stubbornness of youth, and ye’ve grown in grace. If only I had been so smart. Pride caused me to stumble as a young woman, but then Ronan suffered from the same ailment. Neither of us could get out of our own way, and fall we did. Fortunately, however, we landed on each other.”
Nellore laughed. “Ye mean fell in love with each other.”
“Aye, we did that too,” Bridget said with a chuckle. “But what is it that ye crave?”
“I’m not entirely certain. There is that part of me that still holds on to my childish dream of valor I suppose. Do not think me ungrateful, Bridget, because I ken my life is blessed, and I love this island. The forests, the moors, the cliffs, the waves—they are a part of me. But there are times I wish to leave. I wish to be with Da and Logan and Garik. I wish to join up and fight for Scotland.”
“Do you ken what you would risk?” Bridget asked.
She felt the sting of tears and turned away from Bridget’s knowing silver eyes to stare back out to sea…”There is valor inside of me. I want to fight. I am not afraid to die. Death comes to us all. ‘Tis inescapable. If I must die, I would rather do so fighting for my family, for freedom. My da and Logan and Garik do not fight because they are men. If that were true, then all men would be warriors, but they are not. Some are not suited for battle while others are cowards. MacKinnon warriors follow Angus Og and our king because they have defiant spirits. Because they will not stay behind and contribute naught when they can go and fight for what is right, and they are willing to die to defend this country and its people from tyranny. This too is my calling, but instead I remain behind. My strength dwindles and so do my skills.”
“Nellore, I ken ye train before first light every day just as ye did with Logan as a child. For five years now, the men have been gone, and in all that time, I doubt ye’ve lived a single day without climbing a cliff wall or swinging your sword.”
“But I am seventeen. I ken now what in youth is impossible to know—futility. As a child I clung to my dreams, yearning for what I know now to be impossible. ‘Tis folly to keep pouring my soul into the hopes of one day being a warrior, but what terrifies me more than anything else is complacency. Now that I am a woman, I have striven to put aside my warrior’s heart, but alas, I find without that dream my heart is empty.” A sad smile curved her lips as she continued. “I feel like a fool.”
“Your heart will be full once more,” Bridget said. “Never forget that in my youth I was an outcast. The clan that loves me this day, feared and hated me. My life was defined by isolation and anger.” Her tone changed and a warmth entered her eyes. “And now I am the lady of this clan, beloved by all.” She gave Nellore a wry smile. “Stranger things than ye finding fulfillment have happened, my dear.”
Nellore nodded as she stared at the ground.
“Need I remind ye that your story is already touched by magic. I found ye abandoned on the moors only days old, and against all odds ye survived.”
Nellore nodded once more but still did not look up. She had often listened to Bridget recount the tale of how she had been found, nearly dead and alone as a babe on the moors. At the time, Brenna had been childless, unable to conceive—or so everyone had thought. Nellore became the babe Brenna had prayed for, and then not three years later Brenna was blessed with another child. Only Rose had grown in Brenna’s womb and not upon the moors.
Bridget continued with her tale. “I picked up your tiny body and touched a kiss to your forehead and was struck by a vision. In my ears thundered the battle cry of this clan, and I saw the badge of the MacKinnon, a Scottish pine, burst into flames. I knew then what I still believe to this day. Your fate and the fate of our clan are somehow crossed. A time will come when you must raise your sword and your valor will be tested. Hold tight to your purpose and courage lest you defy your destiny and find yourself ill-prepared.”
“I have the skill and the strength,” Nellore said with conviction. “Even Garik commended my ability with a sword.”
Bridget grew quiet and eyed her for several moments. Then she appeared to give her attention over to the belt at her tunic as she said absently. “Ye seem to remember Garik fondly enough. Ye speak of him almost as much as your da and Logan.”
A flash of surprise coursed through Nellore. Then she sighed and smiled down at Bridget. “Ye can cease the appearance of casual observance,” she said. Bridget dropped the ends of her belt as a mischievous smile spread across her face.
“Ye see too much with those silver eyes,” Nellore said.
“Then ye admit it. Ye’re fond of our young Viking,” Bridget said.
“I truly do not ken, Bridget. I suppose Garik does come often to mind, but ‘twas five long years since I last saw him. No doubt he has forgotten all about the dirty, feckless lass that I was.”
“Ye’re not dirty anymore. Perhaps, occasionally a wee bit feckless, but then aren’t we all,” she said with a wink. “Wait until he sees ye now. Look at how fine and lovely ye’ve grown,” Bridget said.
“Nay. I am neither fine nor lovely, but grown I have—too much in fact,” she said with a sigh as she stared out to sea once more. Longing still ate at her heart. “I do think of Garik, and so what does that mean? I will tell ye what it means. It means I’ve traded one impossible dream for another.”
“Why should thoughts of Garik seem beyond the realm of possibility?” Bridget asked.
“The last time I saw him I was twelve and holding a sword to a man’s neck—not the sort of behavior a man looks for in a wife. He is also not of Mull. Doubtless, when our men are at last released from battle, he will journey home to the Orkney Islands. Chances are I will never see Garik again.”
“Well, ye seem to have worked out the mysteries of fate for yourself, and here I thought the future was unknown,” Bridget said, dryly.
“I am simply trying to be realistic. I care not to lose myself once again to childish whimsies.”
“And I am simply reminding ye that stranger things have happened,” Bridget said with a knowing smile.
Nellore watched the surf rise and crash against unyielding rocks. “I can see them now, brandishing their swords, charging into battle atop fine steeds,” she said with a sigh. “If only it were me, Bridget. If only it were me.”