Princess and the Shepherd
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A shepherd who can’t remember his past, a princess who is devastated by the idea of an arranged marriage. In Maisie’s attempt to flee from the arrangement only weeks before the wedding, she encounters Benjamin, a shepherd under the impression that she’s a thief trying to steal his sheep. When a relationship blossoms under the pretense of her being a kitchen maid, what will Benjamin think when he finds out the truth?
His footsteps slowed, but he didn’t slacken his grip on his dagger as he approached cautiously. Even female thieves could be dangerous.
“Don’t hurt me, I beg you!” she gasped, struggling further.
He rounded to the front of her, caution in every movement. Her snagged hair covered her face, and it wasn’t until then that he realized how awful the snag was. How had she managed to tangle herself so soundly?
“You tried to steal my sheep.”
“I didn’t! I swear!” She struggled again, but it did nothing but worsen her predicament.
“He looked frightened and lost. I thought to return him to the flock. I promise I didn’t mean to bother you. Please don’t hurt me.”
He furrowed his brows as he surveyed her up and down. She was dressed in peasant clothing belonging to a kitchen maid, the threads fine and without any holes despite her station. That meant she must work for a wealthy noble who could afford to make their servants look presentable. Even though her snagged hair covered her face, he recognized the honesty in her voice. She truly hadn’t been trying to steal his sheep, but rather, she had been trying to do a good deed.
Bless her heart.
Benjamin sheathed his dagger, and the woman relaxed considerably.
“Stop moving,” he ordered softly, eyeing the tangled mess of branches and hair. “You’re only making it worse. Allow me to help.”
The woman stopped struggling and allowed him to move closer. He touched her hair, startled at how soft it felt. A servant’s hair shouldn’t feel this soft. But then again, she must work for a noble family, and perhaps her position gave her certain advantages such as washing her hair with good soap.
His fingers gently untangled her hair, careful not to hurt her. He ‘tsked’ when he had trouble untangling a particularly tough knot. “How did you manage to do this? I’ve seen sheep get caught in brambles that tangle less than this.”
“Well, if you must know, it started when a shepherd startled me out of my wits, and I ran for my life.”
He couldn’t help himself. He released a deep, throaty laugh, which received him a smile from the part of the woman’s face that he could see. “I don’t know who was startled more—the shepherd enjoying a mischief-free morning or the kitchen maid trying to do a good deed.”
She stiffened at the mention of kitchen maid, which only managed to pique his curiosity. Was she a runaway? Was she a thief after all and got caught stealing from her master? Or perhaps she was mistreated as a servant and ran for her life. It was even possible she was out for a morning stroll. All alone. Possibly miles away from her master’s home.
“What’s your name?” he asked, attempting to keep her distracted as he pulled her hair free from the tougher tangles.
“Mais—” she started, but quickly clamped her mouth shut. She cleared her throat and tried again. “My name is Mae. And yours?”
“Benjamin. But if we’re going by nicknames, you may call me Ben.”
At last, her hair came free, and she released a sigh full to the brim with relief. “Thank goodness. I thought I would be stuck all day.”
Mae moved her hair away from her face, and he sucked in a sharp breath of surprise. She was breathtakingly beautiful. Her soft honey-brown hair accentuated her gentle heart-shaped face. Her eyes were a deep green, and her perfectly-shaped pink lips formed a smile when she caught him staring.
His gaze quickly flashed to her finger, noticing how bare it looked without a ring. As far as he was concerned, Mae was not married, and it was very possible that she was running away from a master. Obtaining a husband could be just the escape she needed, and as it was, he was without a wife. As a peasant, he was well off, having a sound livelihood with a large flock of sheep. He could take good care of her. It would not be difficult to convince her father to agree to give her away to him.
And he needed to snatch her up before someone else did.