Ysbail of Ellesmere is a pawn in her guardian's war. For decades there has been unrest between the marcher lords and Owain Gwynedd ap Gruffydd, King of Gwynedd. The most recent war had been the bloodiest she could remember in her eighteen years. Madog ap Maredudd, Prince of Powys, and his allies lost untold numbers of men at the hands of Owain's soldiers. When a settlement of truce is presented to Madog, it's at Ysbail's expense. She is to marry Bedwyr ap Owain, one of King Owain’s bastard sons, and his most notorious henchman. If all the rumors and stories she's heard are true, she knows her marriage will be rife with horror and fear.
Since proving himself worthy with his sword, Bedwyr fights at his king's side. He's shed oceans of blood and sent untold numbers of men to their graves. He's become what his name foretold—the grave-knower. He's afraid of nothing, least of all death. All men fear him, including those who fight at his side, and sometimes even his own king. Terror of him lives within women's hearts; only the bravest of whores accept him into their beds. And children weave their own tales of the monster they hear him to be, embellishing the details to their own gruesome degrees.
When King Owain informs Bedwyr that he's to marry Ysbail of Ellesmere as part of a peace settlement with Madog, Bedwyr is furious. A man such as Bedwyr can only survive on the battlefield. For without love, hatred will send a man like him to the edge of insanity. Then push him over. But when Bedwyr sees Ysbail for the first time, blood-thirst turns to blood-lust, and he vows to show her that she should have no fear of him.
He gazed at her slumbering form. Firelight danced over her flawless skin. She was the fairest woman he had ever seen, her skin perfection but for the flush in her cheeks as she thought to defy him, and that of the passion he awoke in her. The fairness of her features only served to accent the deep blush of her lips.
She did not kiss him like a novice. Following his lead, she kissed him back with equal alacrity. He felt she was yet unsure of her own power over him, but he knew it was only a matter of time before she could control him with a simple touch.
And her eyes were the palest of green. Or were they blue? He could not tell. He only knew they reminded him of pools of seawater ensnared in the white sands along Cymru’s coast, and just as translucent. He could gaze long into her eyes, searching their depths, letting himself be hypnotized by them.
Her features were gentle, innocent. It was as if she had never witnessed any of the world’s horrors, that her heart and soul were pure. In that she was now married to the likes of the Grave Knower was incredulous. More so incredulous was her fearlessness. She never cowered before him. Not even as she stood naked before him, challenging him with her gaze.
Indeed, she was the very opposite of himself.