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  A Battle Lord’s Heart

  Book Three of the Battle Lord Saga

  by

  Linda Mooney

  Copyright © 2011 by Linda Mooney

  Warning: The unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this copyrighted work

  is illegal. Criminal copyright infringement, including infringement without monetary

  gain, is investigated by the FBI and is punishable by up to 5 (five) years in

  federal prison and a fine of $250,000.

  Names, characters and incidents depicted in this book are

  products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any

  resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons,

  living or dead, is entirely coincidental and beyond the intent of

  the author or the publisher.

  No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any

  form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including

  photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and

  retrieval system, without permission in writing from the author.

  ISBN 978-1-4507-1946-9

  The Battle Lord Saga

  The Battle Lord's Lady

  Her Battle Lord's Desire

  A Battle Lord's Heart

  For more information about Linda Mooney books

  And titles, please visit her website.

  www.LindaMooney.com

  Chapter One

  Target Practice

  “Battle Lord about!”

  Although the call had been made loud enough to be heard on this side of the compound, it filtered much softer through the closed windows.

  Atty slowly opened her eyes to the empty indentation beside her on the bed. If she put her hand on the pillow she knew she’d find it still warm and smelling of him. That man could dress faster than anyone she knew. Atty grinned. He could also strip faster.

  After her revelation yesterday, Yulen had gone outside and personally rung the bell to gather the townspeople together. She’d watched from the bedroom window as he proudly announced the news that she was pregnant. Then, to her surprise, he confided in them the additional problems they would be facing. He told them about the high infant death rate among Mutah, and the undeniable risk of miscarriage and stillbirth. Once he had explained, he’d asked for their help in watching out for her, requesting that they notify MaGrath if at any time they saw she was in distress or needed help.

  When he was finished, he’d stepped off the short dais into a sea of congratulatory wishes and handshakes.

  That night, when he’d made love to her, she could tell something had changed between them. At first Atty couldn’t put a clear definition on it. It wasn’t until he had fallen asleep with his warm palm resting possessively on her abdomen was she able to grasp a small sense of what it was.

  In his well-ordered yet highly stressful life, she was the one thing that remained elusive. His most cherished thing in life, even greater than life itself. But she was Mutah, and because she was, there would always be the chance she could or would leave him again—voluntarily or involuntarily. Deep down, somehow, he had managed to keep that fear of losing her at bay. Yet, the wound inflicted upon him when she’d been removed to Wallis on their wedding day had not healed. Neither would it ever be forgotten.

  Until now. Until the moment when she’d whispered for the third time the news of his impending fatherhood against his lips. The news had acted like an all-encompassing salve, soothing over that wound, that fear. Healing him totally, and finally ridding him of the rank blackness that had been festering in him these past months.

  The baby was part of him, and the legacy of Alta Novis. The baby could never be taken away from its destiny. Which meant Atty would never again leave him, or be forced to leave him, as no one would dare to separate the mother from her child.

  That hope and belief was what he now clung to and fervently believed.

  At that moment she had become that much more precious to him. So when he had taken her into his arms and made mind-numbing love to her last night, it no longer had the frenzied sense of fear it had always held. He would no longer allow those demons to pursue him or cruelly taunt him with the possibility it might be their last night together. Their last night in each other’s arms, in each other’s bodies.

  Her eyes widened. Suddenly it became clear why he’d treated her with such venom when she’d gone outside the compound in pursuit of the Bloods. It was because she’d left him. Not because she’d left the compound or its protection. Not because she’d disregarded his strict orders. She had left him.

  A soft knock at the door drew her attention. A scant second later a familiar round face popped around the edge of the door. “Oh, good, you’re awake! You know it’s well past breakfast, and the tables have been cleared,” Berta told the figure partially wrapped in a sheet. Seeing the woman’s face fall at the loss of a meal, the housekeeper grinned. “Ah, but I knew you’d be starving, so I brought up a tray.”

  She opened the door wider and bustled in with a fully loaded tray, and sat it on the small writing table. “The Battle Lord said to let you sleep in if you wished.” She smiled even wider. “It’s wonderful news to hear you’re carrying a baby, Atty. You know you can count on me if there’s anything I can do to help you out.”

  Getting up on her knees and drawing the sheet tighter around her, Atty brushed a long lock of hair out of her face. “Thanks for the tray, Berta. What would I do without you? Yes, there are a few things you can help me with! I just wish I knew where to begin first.” She gave the woman a look of absolute confusion. “Berta, how long have you lived at Alta Novis?”

  “Ah.” The housekeeper dropped her chin as she thought. “Fortyyy- four years, Atty. In that time I’ve seen this place grow and get busier. I worked for your husband’s parents, and I’ve married and had four of my own children.”

  “Four?” Atty sat with mouth agape. “And they all lived?”

  Berta started and opened her mouth to make a comment, when she remembered what the Battle Lord had told them. Mutah women had difficulty conceiving and carrying a child, with the odds heavily against them that the baby would be born alive even if they did manage to make it through the nine months. Immediately her slight irritation was replaced with deep sympathy.

  “Yes, all four nice, healthy children. Three boys and a girl. They’re all grown up now, with families of their own. My two youngest live here. Blakeney and his wife live in Port Destiny, down to the south. And Dannson and his wife live in Foster City.” Berta cocked her head as she watched the woman get up from the bed and go over to the tray to reach first for the mug of milk. “You already know my daughter’s husband. He’s the compound’s knifesmith.”

  Atty’s eyes brightened. “Cavender! Your son-in-law is Cavender? He made my Ballock.”

  “I know. He told me all about his encounter with you. Life here in the compound is the same as it is where you’re from. Everyone is connected to everyone, one way or another, or knows all about everyone else. Whatever you do to one of us, you do to all of us. The compound grapevine is strong and thriving in Alta Novis,” she smiled.

  Her observant eye noticed how the Mutah woman wrapped a link of sausage in a slice of toast, rolling it together before taking a bite out of it as she went over to the bureau to get out some clean clothes. When Atty dropped the sheet to dress, the housekeeper was taken aback by the woman’s ease with having her in the room. Then again, she told herself, there weren’t many people she was comfortable enough having around in close proximity. Atty made friends easily, but the housekeeper had quickly learned she trusted only a handful.

  “Damn.”