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111722407 Stuart Elizabeth Bride of the Lion

111722407 Stuart Elizabeth Bride of the Lion

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Published by Vanessa Cheng
Elizabeth Stuart, Bride of the Lion
Elizabeth Stuart, Bride of the Lion

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Published by: Vanessa Cheng on Jun 14, 2013
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Bride of the Lion by Elizabeth Stuart

In an age of chivalry tainted by bloodshed and betrayal, two unlikely lovers are swept up by a passion strong as steel, sensual as velvet; and eternal as the stars...

JOCELYN MONTAGNE Reckless, exotic daughter of a Celtic noblewoman and a Norman knight, left to guard her father's fortress, she fought brutish takeovers with a dagger. But nothing could defend her from the brooding magnificence of the invader who quickened her wild Welsh blood and stole her tender soul.

ROBERT DE LANGLEY Full of arrogance and outlaw vigor, the fabled Lion of Normandy would hold his old enemy's daughter hostage for his plundered lands—until he decreed that he must keep them both. Torn between vengeance and lingering desire, war made them enemies, and passion possessed them.

1994-95 RT Reviewers' Choice—Medieval Historical Romance BRIDE OF THE LION Copyright © 1995 by Elizabeth Stuart. St. Martin's Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10010. ISBN: 0-312-95602-9 Printed in the United States of America St. Martin's Paperbacks edition/August 1995

This book is dedicated to sisters of all kinds: blood, spirit, and the heart. To Bobby Jackson and Nancy Smyth who were there for me as far back as I can remember, who are never too busy to laugh or cry or encourage... To Susan Spanel who has cheerfully given countless hours of time and talent to keep both my characters and myself on the straight-and-narrow path...

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To Karyn Witmer-Gow and Eileen Dryer who have generously shared their knowledge and expertise, their time and talents and blessed common sense... And last, but certainly not least, to Anna Eberhardt and the irrepressible Tiffany, who can makeme laugh through even the darkest nights. One Western England, November 1152 The night was black as a witch's heart. A hint of snow rode the wind. In the shivering flare of a half-dozen torches, the heavily-laden ox wains rolled and bumped through the darkness, their drivers biting back curses as the animals stumbled clumsily against the frozen ruts of the road. A shabby company of knights bunched their mounts closely about the carts. Here and there a man fidgeted with his sword hilt or tested the weight of his shield. This duty was not one of simple escort; there would be no turning back. On this black and bone-chilling night they would win or lose all—including their lives. The sound of hoofbeats echoed eerily from out of the frozen dark. Friend or foe? Men settled deep in their saddles, swords were loosed from their sheaths. A few brief prayers were offered. Surely God in his mercy couldn't intend them to be found out. Not now. Not after they'd been through so much, had come so far. A lone horseman surged out from the shadows.He reined in his mount so sharply the beast reared in protest. In the cart leading the little caravan, a tall, powerful figure rose to his feet. The man was dressed as a simple soldier. A poor, but serviceable mantle cloaked his mailed frame. "What news?" he asked softly. The rider leaned close. "The menare in place. All'sin readiness, my lord." "Well done, Geoffrey. All's in order here as well. The men know their jobs, the consequence of failure. No second chances this time." He hesitated a moment, looked keenly at the rider sitting shadowy and motionless a sword's-length away. "My thanks, Geoffrey, for... for everything." The teeth of the rider flashed white as he smiled. "I've a handful of this rich black earth you love. This England. It's tucked away in my belt. For luck." "Luck?" The man in the cart smiled grimly. "With luck and God's help there'll be a bit more than a handful changing hands tonight. Take care you're alive to hold your share, Geoffrey. I've neither the time nor the inclination to be training another to take your place." "Nor I to find another master so appreciative of my skills, so... so gracious of tongue, my lord." The man gave a sharp crack of laughter. Geoffrey tried to smile, but the effort was beyond him. Tonight meant so damned much. "Take care, Robert. I'll not be there to guard your back." The man nodded and jumped down, moving to the rear of the cart to unfasten the reins of his horse. Despite the hauberk of heavy chain mail, he swung easily into the saddle, the lithe movement bespeaking a lifetime of arduous training and riding to arms. "Pass the word and get back to your post. Belavoir's scarce two leagues away. Pray God we can carry this off for I'll run no more. I swear it. I swear it before

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God!" Geoffrey nodded and raised his hand in a short salute, then disappeared again into darkness. The oxen were prodded into motion; the carts rumbled on through the night. The road led on through the silent countryside. Every minute seemed an hour. The darkness preyed on taut nerves. And then the castle surged up in the distance, blacker than its midnight backdrop of hill and sky, a massive affair of mortar and stone, impossible to take by assault. But not by treachery. The man in the lead reined in, halting the carts with an upraised hand. A grim smile curled his mouth. "Now," he murmured. "Now we wait." *** Jocelyn stared out over the torchlit confusion of the castle bailey, barely restraining the childish impulse to hug herself closely and spin round and round like a top. Within the massive stone walls, the men were making ready to leave. Dogs barked and men shouted. Children cried. Horses twisted and stamped, nervous in the cacophony of noise and the flickering light and ready to be away. The men were leaving. They would be gone a fortnight at the very least. After months of guarding her tongue and her temper, she was going to have freedom at last! Above her and to the right, the door to the keep swung open. A ripple of movement went through the men, and Jocelyn swung to look up, narrowing her eyes against the flare of torches as her father descended the stairs. Behind him came Adelise, gracefully holding aside her skirts, then Brian behind her, laughing, no doubt, at something his sister had said. Jocelyn's anticipation was suddenly tarnished. A flicker of pain, long-fought but not yet conquered, quivered and then went still in her breast. The three made the perfect picture, cut from the same sumptuous cloth of blue and gilt, the handsome Montagne features stamped unmistakably on each face. Tall and slender with eyes the cerulean blue of the sky and hair the unforgettable color of spun moonlight, Lord William Montagne of Castle Montagne and his son and eldest daughter made a picture to gladden the heart as they came together down the stairs. And then there was Jocelyn. She frowned and moved forward quickly. Her father was in a temper; haste and confusion always made him so. She'd best let nothing delay him lest she be the one to suffer for it. "You, girl, has all been made ready? I'd best not get halfway to Oxford and find you've left something off." Jocelyn lifted her head with a poise hard-schooled through the years. "All's in readiness, Father. I checked with Raymond at vespers and again just now. The supplies have been wrapped and packed as I ordered. You've plenty for the trip, though you'll have to buy more once you reach Oxford." Montagne glanced at his youngest daughter, merely nodding at the expected efficiency. "I hate to take

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the last of the salt, but those supplies you ordered from Shrewsbury should arrive any day." He frowned irritably, glancing toward the gate as if willing the supplies to materialize before him. "Christ's wounds, we need that salt! If it doesn't come by tomorrow send Cedric and some of the men to search out that fat merchant and string him up by his heels. "This is butchering month, for Christ's sake! We need to put down Belavoir's pork before the hogs lose their fat. If the king hadn't called this damned council, I'd be off to Shrewsbury myself. I've half a mind to anyway. Of all the ill-conceived times for a council! My bailiff just cold in his grave, and now this rushing about in the middle of the night to catch Lord Borthwick because that damned fool of a messenger got himself lost..." His words trailed off to a grumble, and Jocelyn barely restrained a smile. "I doubt King Stephen would think our swine more important than council. Besides, the woods here are full of acorns yet. I rode out to check when we arrived last week. The swine will stay fat a while longer. Don't fret, Father, I'll see to it." He nodded again and glanced at her absently, his mind already on the long trip ahead and the coming sojourn at court. He motioned for his horse, and his squire brought the animal forward. He reached for the reins. "Stay close about the keep. I don't expect trouble—who would dare here at Belavoir? Still, in these times, you never know." Jocelyn nodded, forcing herself to an appearance of meekness at least. She would do as she liked and he damned well knew it. It was a recklessness they hadn't been able to beat entirely out of her, a recklessness her father despised as he did the Welsh blood that ran, hot and fast, in her veins. Just as he had despised the woman who had given her birth. He seemed to sense her thoughts. "You do as I've told you, girl, and don't be up to your mischief. The folk here don't know you so well as they do about Warford and Montagne. Besides, you're far too old to be acting the Welsh wood sprite and running free in the hills. Watch your sister. Behave as she does and try to remember you're a Montagne." At that Adelise stepped forward. "Jocelyn and I will be fine, Father. But wasn't there something you wanted to ask her before you left?" "What?" Lord Montagne's piercing blue eyes narrowed. "Oh, yes... What is it you'd like me to bring you from Oxford, girl? I've a whole list of trinkets and cloth this pretty baggage has begged for. Might as well add a bit more, though God knows how the animals'll carry it all." Jocelyn gazed back coolly. There was a time she would have welcomed trinkets and cloth. She had asked for them, had waited with childish impatience for them. But the waiting had been in vain. "There's nothing, my lord, nothing I need. Don't trouble yourself on my account." He nodded, his gaze shifting quickly from hers. Cat's eyes. Witch's eyes. Jocelyn's smile became bitter. He had used the words when she was naught but a child, when there weren't tears enough nor even any witch's power to change her slanted green-gold eyes to blue, her dark, unruly hair to the silken sunlit color belonging to Brian and Adelise. "If there's nothing you want then we'll be off," Montagne said hurriedly. "No time to dawdle." Placing a

. instinctively seeking to comfort." saving his brilliant. Yet Adelise's was. Usually Jocelyn spared little patience for women who wept easy tears. "If we hurry we can be up on the wall-walk before the men disappear. she had developed a genuine fondness for the half-sister she had always thought she would hate. Godspeed you. quavering voice won her attention.. "I'll be fine. "God keep you. sorrow was a well-known companion. the low rumble of the drawbridge rising. cupping his daughter's cheek. I leave both Adelise and Belavoir in your care. he disappeared after Brian and the rest of the men. And in these last three years since Jocelyn had left the easy familiarity of Warford and been brought into the household of Castle Montagne. child.. Then her father was shouting an order. "I'll see to them. He might just do it for you. best conquered alone. You can watch them another few minutes before they're lost in the hills. Don't fret. To her. gentled as Jocelyn had never felt it. Brian will be there to see to my needs. flashing smile for the sister so like him. http://www. madam.html foot in the stirrup. rough hand gentled.com/abclit. Jocelyn watched the fond good-byes in silence. And she was God's greatest fool. Her soft heart genuinely ached for every creature in pain. of the pleasure she should be feeling. Adelise stepped forward and caught his stirrup. Adelise was different." The women hurried up the stairs. searching his shadowy face for something she'd never found. best fought in silence. I'm an old campaigner and know well enough how to care for myself. noting the tears that were flowing in earnest now." He smiled then. Jocelyn watched the gates swing shut. She moved forward at once. Don't sleep where there's any damp. Adelise rushed onto the battlements. broke for every pain she couldn't relieve. he hauled himself into the saddle. heard the wail of the windlass and the portcullis's descent. Don't disappoint me. Be sure to wear that fur-lined cloak I gave you. coaxing her to smile with him. Now he pushed past Jocelyn with a cool. his big chestnut sidestepping. The men began to file out.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter." He brushed away her tears. gripping the cold stone and leaning forward. She reminded herself of the freedom she would enjoy these next few weeks. She turned toward her sister. "Jocelyn?" The soft. He leaned close to Adelise with a whispered word that made her laugh ring out. "It's that rogue of a brother of yours we'd best be worrying about. "Jocelyn. "Besides. He swung toward her. fighting the bit. Then he kissed her farewell and swung into the saddle. Make him promise to stay out of trouble." With another curt nod. "Father. wait! Take care of yourself. his large..processtext.." Brian had been speaking to one of his men. It'll be a day or two before Sir Roger and the rest of the men from Montagne arrive." Jocelyn raised her head. well. sliding an arm about Adelise's narrow waist. and be sure—" Montagne leaned down. see to your sister. Oh. but the hurt was still there. watching the bobbing torches as the men snaked their way through the darkness.

Jocelyn hugged herself. still free and in Wales." Jocelyn was still staring at the sky. Instead she leaned against the wall. "Oh. It tore at her hair.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. "The negotiations have barely been opened.html Jocelyn spared scarcely a glance for the men." For a few moments Adelise chattered on. It was early still for snow. That we've gotten to know each other at last..com/abclit.. Isn't it wonderful? I scarcely dared dream. still drinking in the turbulent night. that you'll always be welcome wherever I am. was there ever a woman so fortunate as I?" Jocelyn sucked her breath in sharply. Adelise. Jocelyn." Adelise fumbled for Jocelyn's hand and squeezed it. tried to inject real happiness into her voice. Do you think that they'll be all right?" "Of course. "They're a large company of knights and men-at-arms. You'll be the most beautiful bride in all England. I should say. "Who is it. the wild sweeping power of the wind." Marriage. felt the cold biting deep in her lungs. Adelise certainly deserved it. I just wish—" She broke off. Adelise? What poor man have you smitten this time?" Adelise caught both Jocelyn's hands. She made a silent vow to speak sharply to Hawise. Above her. Jocelyn. scarcely minding the cold. But Father spoke of it this afternoon. "It's such a long way to Oxford and the roads aren't safe. Hawise told me so. didn't dare speak my hopes aloud even to you! Oh. Adelise?" "It's possible I may be betrothed when Father gets back. billowed under her cloak with the biting edge of cold steel against the flesh.processtext. And the happiest. with her mother yet alive. "Congratulations. No outlaws will come anywhere close.. Jocelyn smiled then. Jocelyn. brittle feel of it on the air tonight. but the cold and the wind were too much even for such .. Adelise was leaving. Up here she could almost imagine she was still a child. at one with the freedom of darkness. Nothing's settled yet. Jocelyn. He wished me to know he favored the match. throwing her head back to search the heavens for stars." she added diffidently. turned her head and waited patiently. There are outlaws everywhere." Adelise was saying wistfully. The wind whistled through the wall crenels. "I pray God's mercy upon them. it's Edward! Lord Pelham. Jocelyn. Jocelyn searched for something to say. Up here she felt exhilarated and alive. laughing softly as she squeezed them together in hers. Life would be unendurable. Just what could a young woman like Adelise possibly have yet to wish for." Jocelyn answered automatically. "Whatever are you talking about. dark-drifting clouds shifted and swirled across the sky.. Adelise's fanciful new maid.. http://www." Jocelyn frowned. of course. Adelise. "That we could have had more time together. "I'm so glad we're together. But I want you to know. yet there was a harsh. "I just wish we could have come to know each other sooner.

she imagined. But Lord Montagne had always declined the offers. their father had been loath to make close alliances. Too many men had been sucked into the maelstrom because of a hasty marriage and a politically disastrous blood bond. the hush of another world still upon them as they climbed aboard oxcarts and mounted impatient horses. But Pelham? No father in his right mind would refuse such a prize. Robert de Langley shifted in the saddle. With the civil wars waging for England's crown. Unbelievably so. He sat high in King Stephen's esteem. This might not come off. leaving homes and families far behind." She hesitated. then shimmered and haloed as if through a mist. But sweet Mary in Heaven. "And then I don't know how I should live. ." "Aren't you coming?" Jocelyn smiled. first between Stephen and his cousin Matilda. Of course the marriage would come off. Henry of Anjou. These were good men all. I'll be along in a few minutes.processtext. and had followed him for love and loyalty. Loyalties changed too swiftly these days. A welcome awaited in both camps— whichever way matters turned out. Father swore me to secrecy. Her voice dropped." She heard the soft patter of her sister's feet on the stairs.html happiness. "You go on. and a man's word was no longer to be trusted. she despised women who wept easy tears! *** The priest finished the last whispered benediction. She leaned against the wall. for she was beautiful. shadows blacker than darkness. "You're shivering. searching the darkness above for any hint of stars. you know. to wrap her arms around her sister and give her a quick hug before pushing her gently toward the stairs. And Adelise would be happy. I'm freezing! Let's get downstairs to bed. At the ripe old age of nineteen she'd had more offers than there were rats in the granary stores. God.com/abclit." Jocelyn forced herself to say something comforting. Go inside before you catch your death. then between Stephen and Matilda's son. you know. http://www. yet was distantly related to young Henry on his mother's side. "Jocelyn. with a slim blond radiance that drew men like moths to a flame. The men had confessed and been shriven. I just wanted to tell you here where no curious ears could hear. quite apart from whatever substantial dowry their father might add. Adelise wasa considerable heiress from her de Valence mother. Now they rose to their feet. Jocelyn blinked once angrily and then started for the stairs. I like it up here.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. why did it have to be Pelham? A single star appeared througha rift of wind-torn clouds. Jocelyn told herself woodenly. It glowed alone in the darkness. The man was heir to the earldom of Colwick and a warrior all men admired. Then all was quiet save for the wind. then the distant call of a sentry pacing somewhere out in the night.

betrayals. heading for the road. Stephen of Blois. his insides to quicken as they always did in the last few moments before a battle. through ambushes. on Belavoir land. he was going to fight Henry again and win. Henry was the acknowledged duke of Normandy. masterless. Normandy had been wrested away by Geoffrey of Anjou—the very Angevin the barons were fighting to keep out of England. the king's nephew. he couldn't let them down as he had Adam. leaving his overbearing daughter. He swung his horse out of the shelter of trees. In another few minutes the torches they carried would be visible from the castle. for if there was any man on God's earth he hated. Robert frowned as he always did at thought of the young duke.processtext. But then there had never been any real question of going back. to make him care if he lived or died. Robert had nothing—absolutely nothing—left to go back to. Only for his men had he clung to life. http://www. They rumbled on. had seized the throne. Thus had begun the intermittent civil wars that had annihilated farms and villages in whole sections of England. for the enmity between Normandy and Anjou had run deep. Stephen could scarcely hold his throne in England. Thus most of the great families had either lost their dominions in Normandy or been forced to change sides and support Matilda and Geoffrey and their eldest son Henry of Anjou who now called himself duke of Normandy. but at his death they had repudiated her and the hated Geoffrey. had been forced to admit that. a life he no longer wanted. That he would live and that he would win. One way or another. And somehow. He frowned and drew his mantle tighter against the chilling bite of the wind. and the die would be cast. stole and killed and set up petty kingdoms where they ruled by the power of the sword. Though Stephen was a great warrior and an affable. Even Robert's erstwhile ally. well-liked man. Henry. and many attacked their neighbors. he had proven a weak king at a time when England's need was strength. And so it began. down the last long slope before staring the steep climb up to the castle. And he wasn't about to let Adam down again. He had failed to control his unruly barons. Then a sentry called out a challenge from atop Belavoir's stone wall. it was that overweening son of Satan. led them against increasingly impossible odds. His men followed slowly behind him. The man had sworn to take England and Robert believed he would try. and at last over hundreds of miles of hostile land and a cold and cheerless sea. some way. Count Geoffrey of Anjou. he'd sworn on that small cold grave back in Normandy that he would live. Grasping the sudden opportunity.html For seven long years he had led them. Robert's breathing was steady but his heart had begun to hammer. No mortal man could have foreseen the chaos that had ensued when King Henry's only son was drowned. and her husband. wanted it desperately! In fact. He couldn't abandon them. in enemy lands. his thoughts sliding back to that time last year when even his hatred for Henry hadn't been enough to keep him running and fighting. it would stop. The king had forced his barons to swear fealty to her. . King Louis of France. In the confusing struggle. His eyes narrowed.com/abclit. Now he wanted to live. And in a very short time the running would stop. Or at the very least that he would die on his own land. over the crest of a hill. into hopeless battles and out of them. Matilda.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter.

the supposed messenger from Lord Borthwick. and he was counting on it." "You won't starve before sunrise. don't let me let them down. He glanced toward the gatehouse stairs. for in a matter of moments another voice was heard. Not till morning anyway.processtext. Judas. It had been a lifetime ago. trying not to think of the last time he had passed beneath this gatehouse. He crossed the echoing drawbridge." "No. you fool. We've had no sleep in days and we're three-parts frozen besides.. He sent a quick glance around the bailey. then a band of whoreson outlaws to contend with.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. escorting a load of salt and supplies from the merchant Walter of Rouen. to overcome the guard and disable the drawbridge mechanism." Robert let out a string of curses as creative as they were obscene. It was sixteen years ago." By now several torches had appeared atop the gatehouse. halting at the great earthen ditch that surrounded the castle walls." "We're out of food. no. a few posted inside in the castle. I'll let you know what you missed come sunrise." the man shouted back. A shadowy figure moved swiftly upward. Raoul le Bent. It was his job to get inside the gatehouse. "Over a week ago. He'd been naught but a boy of eleven." Robert returned. We can't let you in. this one with the unmistakable tone of command. "It's past midnight. man. let us in!" "Can't. We've a pipe of good Gascon wine for the lord's table and two barrels of the best Cheshire ale for the rest of the household. The gate swung open and he was staring into the darkened bailey of Belavoir. The thought of his dead son steadied him. flushed with eagerness and pride and the foolish boy's belief that life was good and all things possible.com/abclit. I was told we would be expected. "We're from Shrewsbury town. That would be his man. "Ho! You the wall!" he shouted. we won't. Robert wheeled his horse. Before Adam. Then the drawbridge was starting to move. "A pity you won't be tasting the ale. "With all the delays we ran out. before Normandy and Marguerite and that devil's spawn Henry. It was his only chance. Gifts from Walter of Rouen to the lord of Belavoir. Haven't had a bite since the dawn. You should have made camp somewhere." "Wait!" Robert's fingers tightened on the reins. rode through the arched stone gateway of the castle. You'll have to camp outside. "First one broken axle and then another." Robert shouted angrily. But the remainder of the garrison would be sleeping." "We've had the devil's own luck. His heart was pounding in earnest and every second seemed a lifetime. the heavy portcullis beginning its creaking ascent." With a harsh laugh. .html Merciful Father God.. http://www. holding his emotions in check. "You were. There'd be more on the walls. The soldier must have been impressed. There were scarce a dozen men about.

"It's here. He was home. the excited shouting of men fresh and eager and certain of victory. removing a dagger.com/abclit. He ducked. familiar in his hand. his insides settled as they always did once the fighting began. In seconds all was blood and smoke and confusion. dealt the man a glancing blow and swept onward. Geoffrey. Then a wild exhilaration swept him. Others followed. But it wasn't quick enough.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. His blade found its mark with the ease of long practice. "Now. On Belavoir soil. Arrows began to rain from the walls. The greedy garrison captain stood beside him.processtext. his own men poured from the wagons. A cry rang out. Hurry. Belavoir men were swarming near the base. he ignited a pitch-soaked arrow and sent it arching against the heavens. "Certainly. For the love of God. The first were cut down easily enough." Robert slid the parchment back into his clothing. Robert caught the body as it fell. but they had to take the wooden stairs up to the keep before one of these fools thought to burn them. With one fluid movement. drew out some bound parchment and held it out to the man. sword drawn. kicking but quiet. No one was going to drive him away again! The need for secrecy done. And even with the skeleton force that was all Belavoir could muster. let's have a look at that ale. His heartbeat steadied.html Robert swung down from his horse. From Walter of Rouen to the Lord Montagne. didn't deserve command of an important fortress like Belavoir. Robert drew his sword with the sliding hiss of well-polished steel. A soldier raced toward him. pivoted." One long stride brought him alongside the captain. One deft movement and the garrison commander went down. "Letters. He felt a familiar impact as the weapon cleaved through leather armor. shifted his weight mid-stride and swung at another coming in from behind him. but those that followed weren't so readily handled." he murmured courteously. The hilt was comforting. a host of aroused hornets. Robert stole a glance over his shoulder. Sweet Jesu be praised! The drawbridge was still down. shoved it quickly beneath the cart." The man turned his back and began moving toward the first cart. please hurry! He had almost made the stairs. a flaming signal for Geoffrey and the men waiting back in the hills. He knew it was unwise to get so far ahead. He slashed at a soldier blocking his way. to ready himself for the next man swinging at his head. He felt inside his surcoat." "Give 'em to a clerk in the morning. The man was a fool. Three of his own men were struggling to catch up with him. Then the blessed sound of hoofbeats rang out. for it would be some minutes yet before Geoffrey and the rest of his men could arrive. Another set fire to a load of straw they carried. . it was a near-suicidal quest. Robert fought his way across the bailey like a man possessed. He and his small force had to hold the gatehouse and bailey and take the entrance to the keep. One wedged his cart deftly into the entrance so that the gates couldn't be closed. lifted a foot reflexively to kick the body free of his blade. Half-dressed men stumbled from the barracks. http://www. Second cart.

The flames were already licking at the grease on his boots. murmuring superstitiously. Geoffrey was fighting like a madman. caught. Robert threw back his head. holding their swords. Robert was at a decided disadvantage. sword drawn. To me!"he shouted furiously. And fear. "Robert wait! Don't chance those stairs alone.. Robert held himself very still. They would be with him in minutes. With a strength powered by desperation. "Robert!" He glanced back. And gradually the man gave way. Grease! They were going to fire the stairway. struggling through the crush. spread rapidly. a wild sound.. The man stumbled. It flickered. lost his balance in the slippery footing and went down. lunged forward up the slippery treads. But he couldn't help it. but he fought as he had never fought before. With a wild cry of fear. He might never take the keep. Robert could see into the shadowy. Rage and frustration swept him. He and his men would be sitting ducks. He couldn't go through this hell again! But he was so damnedclose! . here amid the fire and the blood and the carnage. Robert kicked him down the stairway. for God and for us. Halfway up. but had been unheard for well over a year. In seconds they could be an inferno. lunging past up the last few steps in an effort to stop the man holding the torch. because he'd never had so much to lose." His men were rallying to his war cry. the man with the grease keg blocked him. and the platform before the door was aflame. But the man had already touched off the grease. backing up the grease-covered stairway..processtext. And then he began to laugh.com/abclit. Then he caught sight of a man at the top of the stairs sluicing liquid about from a small keg.So close. The door of the keep swung open. firelit hall. Robert drove himself against his opponent. "De Langley. the man before him crossed himself and stumbled backward.. On a lower rung of the stairs. Others followed. The door to the keep stood open. http://www. The heat rushed upward.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. sent up a brief prayer of thanks for the deliverance. He caught hold of the wooden railing. Not again. shouting the age-old cry of his house—a cry that sent chills down the spines of his enemies. These fools thought him a ghost. caught between the archers inside the great stronghold and whatever assault that jackal Montagne could mount from outside the walls. an insane act.html Robert knew a moment of intense relief. A soldier darted out. waving a flaming brand in his hand. But the grease was splattering down the length of the stairs.

Rushlights burned near the entrance and long. be you demon or man?" With a violent start. fighting for control of his twitching.com/abclit. put his shoulder into the crack and shoved his way through the entrance. With the face came the memory. hastened to slam the great door.html With an animal-like snarl of his war cry. stifled breathing. hoping to finish the man. There were hushed sounds of movement.. yet he felt he'd been fighting for hours. he had only to hold fast and defend the door. "My lord. The fierce struggle for Belavoir had lasted scarcely ten minutes. His ears told him something else as well." he stammered out. Robert knew he must look like some specter from hell. the near portion of the room lay empty.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. back there in the dark. "T-the Lion. wavering shadows barred the floor. Robert hesitated in the doorway. but he was ashen-faced. "Man.. The thud of boots told him the man had made the stairs to the upper floor. The man held his sword at the ready. listening. his blood surging with the battle lust that made him long to seek out his enemies. the whites of his eyes showing. looked him over with eyes that were obviously unsure. Robert swung around. but the man began backing away. There could be any number of men back there waiting to fall on him. He lunged forward. Robert launched himself through the flames. Geoffrey and the rest of his men would be moving heaven and earth to get up those stairs.. http://www. Robert caught a steadying breath.processtext. A few feet away a face peered out from behind a stack of trestles—the boy who had wedged the door. but the soldier whirled and fled. a dying fire sputtered. The hall wasn't empty. The guard kicked the boy aside. but those few precious seconds were enough. Here. Robert held his breath. Save for the soldier before him. His heart was pumping wildly. The guard stumbled back through the entrance. Robert lifted his sword and stepped forward. But a stick of firewood jammed it. lifting his sword. Straightening slowly. a grubby kitchen lad clinging desperately to one end. at least most of the time I think so.. lad. But that would be the act of a fool. In the raised central hearth. tingling limbs. "Christ save us! 'Tis the Lion of Normandy up from the dead!" With the smoke and flames behind him. Robert caught the door. He didn't hesitate to press the advantage. "We were told you were . his shield well up. He was only one man against an unknown number back there in the dark." The boy hesitated. disappearing into the great gaping blackness at the far end of the hall. he gathered himself. And he was inside! Two The interior of the great hall was smoky and dim and a hush of fear lay upon it.

Geoffrey was calling frantically. boy. But she'd chosen this room herself for its quiet . the oaken supports had never caught. but I can't see anything of the kind." Geoffrey shouted. conquering the shadows with torchlight and herding the cowering. amazed to discover that her hands were steady. But if that were the case. I've not forgotten your aid. terrified servants from beneath benches and tables and gathering them near the hearth. though he was gaunt as a reed." Within seconds men were pouring into the hall. if only her bedchamber fronted the bailey instead of the rear wall. Robert stepped back to the door. We'll speak later. The men-at-arms have all fled above." The boy crept out of the shadows. Burnt to a crisp." he continued giving a nod to the cold-eyed veterans ringed about him. The cowards!" The boy's contemptuous tone amused him. "You." *** The smell of burning lay heavy in the room. then screaming. for it's just possible we owe this hall to him. Robert lost the boy. "All's well. In age he appeared to be some nine or ten years." "Your pardon. Robert jerked his head toward the rear of the hall. lad. Robert! Don't go any further. The rest all went out at the first sound of fighting. The flames were nearly out.com/abclit. his dark hair long and matted. Have you any notion of their count?" "Less than the fingers of both my hands. "Who's back there?" "None you need worry about. still followed the command of her brain. The intruders had reached the women's quarters. "Mark that boy well. the knight responsible for the men holding the hall. so men swore. http://www. If only she had awakened sooner. Guard his life as you would my own." He turned to Walter le Foret. why had he held the door? "A bit of this blood is my own. lad. To my knowledge demons don't bleed. No more. "no quarter. "I've a notion to rid my castle of some vermin. "Wait." "But I'm not as you see." he said coldly.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. And to those who don't. I've not yet offered my thanks. "Lucky for me they hadn't your pluck. his surcoat and mail liberally spattered with blood. Only servants." Robert glanced down at himself. From down the corridor came the faint sounds of shouting." There was a sudden increase in the noise from outside." "We hold the bailey and gatehouse as well. He was soot-blackened and singed. Quarter to those who throw down their arms.processtext. We hold the hall." he called down. I'm coming up. In the confusion of giving orders and preparing to take the rest of the castle. "And now. Jocelyn slammed the door to the outer chamber and dropped the bolt.html dead. No wonder the lad was unsure. then found him standing unobtrusively against the wall.

It was the weapon she carried on her solitary rambles outside the keep. Besides. She dragged the loose yellow tunic over her shift.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. She knew well enough how to use it. We're far too valuable to be harmed. hesitated as the glint of a dagger caught her eye. Adelise looked near to swooning. http://www." At that. She heard shouts as they realized it was barred. fighting for a plan where no plans were possible. trying hard to be brave but shaking badly. Jocelyn counted the blows. The room was in darkness save for the narrow circle of light illuminated by the single night candle. help your mistress.processtext. The intruders had reached the door to the outer chamber. or I'll put you outside that door myself!" Catching hold of her sister. "It's too late to reach the back stair. back into our chamber!" she said. A rough voice demanded entry. then the ring of an ax against wood. Who would dare? Who would dare attack Belavoir? She spun around. Hawise was doing her best not to scream. her Welsh kinsmen had seen to that. You'll see. We'll be ransomed in a day or two. half-carried Adelise back into their bedchamber. These doors won't hold them off long. and Hawise began a high-pitched wailing. then she picked it up. Stooping beside her clothes chest. Adelise cried out. "Stop that noise! Hawise. he'll wish he'd never been—" She broke off." The men were testing the bedchamber door. It couldn't be happening! What fool would make an enemy of the powerful Montagnes? Someone was speaking in a soft.. Jocelyn doubted the girl's best would be enough. Quick now.html and because from here on a clear day. calming voice. And she was wasting precious time. "Women!" and began to laugh. For a moment. she stared at the blade. She turned back to Adelise. and Hawise was already moaning. "Dress yourselves in whatever you can get on quickly. and would they be willing to settle for ransom? . "Quick. She reached for it and hastily lit more. she fancied she could see the Welsh hills. Adelise was shuddering uncontrollably in Jocelyn's arms. grabbing up the first thing that came to her hand. Someone outside said. The noise of splintering wood filled the room. a week at most.com/abclit. dagger in hand. "It will be all right. her thoughts whirling. It was several seconds before Jocelyn realized the words were her own. Jocelyn moved toward them. There was something about light that made the terror more manageable. working quickly toward hysteria. it was likely the surly garrison captain was already dead. This was insane. Who could it be. "The men must have won the hall before we were even awake. When I find that wretch Edgar of Tutbury.." she said. Jocelyn half-pushed. Jocelyn stepped forward and put an arm around Adelise. And then the thud of the ax began. She could hear voices and the tramp of footsteps. forcing a steady tone. Adelise was dressed in a loosely flowing blue tunic with high neck and tight sleeves—there wasn't time to worry with the lacings of a bliaut overtunic—and she was clutching her arms around herself. she flung back the lid. then a man's triumphant shout. Hawise screamed. gesturing toward the small inner room the sisters shared.

he was cloaked with a regal self-assurance. was even more dirty and bloodstained than they. Though he was dressed as poorly as the others. A grimy. staring as if they'd not seen a woman in years. my lady. Seventeen years of civil war had certainly produced a surfeit of those.. outcast and living by wits alone. They were gaunt and hard-edged. Queen of Heaven. Outlaws. his sword lowered. However. He will pay well if we remain unharmed.com/abclit. A renegade knight perhaps. He moved across the floor toward her. all four of them dirty and bloodstained." Jocelyn sent a swift glance toward the door. quarrelsome neighbor. Jocelyn caught his eyes and held them. dripping blood. ax-wielding soldier grinned at them through the wreckage. he had worked out a truce of sorts with his greedy. She'd half-expected to see badges proclaiming the men in the earl of Chester's service. disheveled beauty. And they were staring avidly at Adelise in all her golden. pray for us sinners now in the hour of our death. Five. Our father is Lord William Montagne.. her breath coming shallow and fast. that would have set well on the highest-born lord. http://www. four. But Ranulf of Chester was an avowed supporter of Henry of Anjou and famous for his treacheries. an odd golden color shimmering in the candlelight. her heart beating wildly. and long-limbed.processtext. You'll not like it if I have to take it away. They were emotionless and cold. this man put her in mind of some far more lethal predator. she lifted the dagger. The door gave way. They put her in mind of a pack of wild dogs. their clothing faded and shabby.html Three. "I think. an instinctive arrogance.. tall. peering through the hole. that you'd best give me that. and I am the lady Jocelyn. Jocelyn shifted slightly. She had no doubt he was the outlaw leader.. grace and power and danger incarnate.. putting her sister behind her. And you . And if his men had made her think of wild dogs. The remaining men poured over the threshold.. The man stopped." "So you're Montagne's get. the lust for blood and conquest setting their eyes aglitter..Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. Jocelyn drew in a deep breath and gripped her dagger tightly. Another man had entered. Holy Mary. One side of his sharply chiseled mouth shifted upward.. Several men crowded close.. six. Though her father supported Stephen. these men wore no identifying markings at all. Jocelyn hid the dagger behind her back and waited. the slightest mockery of a smile. age-darkened oak began to fragment before her eyes. The man with the ax kicked the splintered timber aside and stepped through. "This is the lady Adelise Montagne. The smooth. Involuntarily..

Robert de Langley. of course. weeping and crossing herself. one of the most renowned fighting men of their age. "What terms do you offer? What promise of safety do you make us?" The man stood motionless.html know that I can. more mocking than if he'd laughed outright. And though she'd never laid eyes on the man—she'd scarce been toddling about when he'd left England—there could be no mistaking that wild tawny hair. It came from one of the watching men. Her tongue flickered out. handed his sword to one of his men.processtext. holding her gaze. madam. Behind her Adelise whimpered. both frozen until the spring. "Of course that's what she means. those predatory golden eyes of legend. wet her dry lips nervously. Her nerve endings twitched and tingled. then added softly. terrified jumble of English and French. amber eyes narrowing beneath a rumpled head of thick. He turned back to her." He hesitated. that I hold the entire castle save for this room.com/abclit. Hawise began to sob loudly. Of course he could take it away. of Belavoir. http://www. King Stephen's Norman Lion. instinctively readying herself. my lady. had taken his lands and stolen his castles. But the man merely pushed his mailed hood back. Adelise gave up the quest for courage. Her father had betrayed him. Jocelyn bit down hard on her lip and forced herself to breathe deeply.. Hawise dropped to her knees beside her mistress." "Yourhome?" "Myhome!" The words were said witha fierce possessiveness that rang through the room.. praying in a confusing. That your garrison is either imprisoned or dead. tawny hair. Jocelyn drew her knife closer. smooth courtesy. "Terms? You want terms of surrender?" The voice was incredulous. She had the oddest notion she couldn't look away—the cat charming the hare. "Robert." he added softly. just what terms will it please you to consider?" His voice held a cold. "That I ama man you'll do well not to cross. . Now. These Montagnes were ever an audacious breed. This was unbelievably foolish. Jocelyn felt a frisson of dread slide through her. The man shifted his weight.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. Aymer. She took an involuntary step back. "I might just mention for your consideration." With a gasp of unholy terror. a foresight that had led some at Montagne to label her witch. slid to the floor in a dead faint. "Who are you?" she whispered. That the thought of negotiating terms for the surrender of my own home does not amuse me. but Jocelyn didn't even glance his way. Jocelyn swallowed and held tight to the knife. had celebrated wildly when they'd heard he was dead. indignant.

looked her over carefully.. holding it out hilt first. "I am flesh and blood.html Dead. Her face seemed the palest oval against that wild dark hair. He'd wanted the game to continue." For a moment they measured each other. full mouth. Her eyes were set beneath heavy eyebrows—dark. soon enough. like that of his men. you are still a man. "But. stared as if she could see into his soul. as most of his lessons seemed to be. He didn't think much of women in general. But the young woman facing him was not at all what he had expected.. sent the candle flames flickering around them casting his face in glimmering bronze. neither you nor your sister are in any danger at the moment. that brought a strange. with a small upturned nose and wide. "Give me the weapon. If in truth. And though it was clear she was afraid. though. a foreign flavor— like some Saracen wench set down in England. they gave her an exotic look. There was something else that made her distinctive. "Swear it. The words should have angered him.. It was a lesson painfully learned.processtext. Could I boast other powers. gripped her dagger as if it were a lifeline. He took his time. haunting beauty to a face that might otherwise have been considered plain. some light opaque color he couldn't make out in the candlelight. But it was her eyes that made her unique. for his attention. slightly slanting. He hadn't wanted her to give in. "I so swear. "By the usual methods. "So everyone keeps telling me. They didn't. you'redead!" she said wildly. however." Robert took the dagger. madam. so I hear. She was facing him across a naked blade she quite obviously knew how to use. I assure you you'll not need it. making his voice deliberately harsh." He smiled sardonically. coming scarce to his shoulder. "You're a man of your word." she ordered.. madam. The girl was small-boned and delicate. Dark lashed. conscious of a disappointment as unsettling as it was unexpected. They were large and expressive." She focused those unsettling eyes on him. Certainly not of a Montagne. Despite appearances to the contrary." Jocelyn raised her chin. with a cloud of unfashionable dark hair swirling well past her waist. Then she raised the dagger. even less when it came to specifics. your father would have been enjoying all the delights of hell this year past. then the girl lowered the weapon. He held out his hand. I plan to send him there. had first been caught by the breathtaking loveliness of her sister. "Well obviously you didn't believe them!" Three Robert felt an unexpected flicker of amusement. holding it so that the hilt made the sign of the cross.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. startling arches that flared against milky-white skin. He tucked the weapon into his belt. http://www.com/abclit. her lips parting now as she drew in her breath. he'd been dead for over a year! A sudden draft of air rustled the wall hangings." . she didn't show the slightest indication of backing down.

." She hesitated. one his enemies had learned to dread far more even . had begun to stir and moan softly. One you obviously haven't learned yet from your lord father. And for the love of God. Never negotiate in good faith. lingering on her mouth. ". She merely stared at him a moment. The people of Belavoir are mine now. "In jest you asked for my terms. his was ice. quiet that one or I'll do it for you. and the only available target was Montagne's daughter. his anger unexpectedly coalescing. "And never surrender your own advantage until you are certain your terms have been met. Yours are rejected. then dealt her a sharp slap across the face.. "Let me share a lesson in diplomacy. he had underestimated her. madam. her white throat." Robert remarked. hitting him like a lash.processtext. of a quickening current of feeling he couldn't identify. catching flame. that our door be repaired with.. then turned her attention to the beauty on the floor. The girl met his eyes." He turned and moved toward the doorway. She caught the young serving woman by the shoulder. but for once it was beyond his control." He put his hand to her dagger. nodding contemptuously toward the still-hysterical maidservant. "My lord of Geis!" The girl's voice was peremptory. His eyes traveled over the girl appraisingly." If the young woman's voice was cool. I retain only what I can reclaim of the lands my family held here. That the castle folk here be spared. Lands our dearest sovereign didn't even deem it worthwhile to hold for me in my absence. Now Adam was dead. I've sworn to your safety and that will protect you far better than any thickness of good English oak. The girl knelt and dealt with the situation summarily. Montagne's daughters were an important part of his plan. pulling her into her arms. Lands your father and that hellspawn Chester pledged to protect. The hysteria was conquered abruptly. He swung around. madam. then ravaged and divided while I was busy fighting Stephen's war in Normandy. Her sister was regaining consciousness. murmured a few words that were largely ignored. Montagne and his children had sat here in his castles in safety. for I no longer hold the county of Geis! My estates in Normandy are forfeit.com/abclit. That we three might remain in our chamber. but his men could handle things from here. It gives your opponent too great an advantage. on the generous curve of her breasts. but I give them to you in earnest. someone to punish. "Don't call me that. my title outlawed. glanced at his men who were still staring like starving men bidden to a feast. certainly not from a Montagne! As for your door. http://www. madam. He'd been wasting time here and he didn't know why.html If he had hoped to disconcert the girl. insultingly. while he and his son had been hunted like animals through Normandy and half of France.with a bolt on the inside to insure our privacy. settling it more snugly into his belt. He sent her a smile.. the women especially protected. aware of a rising unfocused anger. and the girl turned her attention to her sister. "Have I your leave to see to my sister?" she asked. I've no time or men to be squandered on foolish women's fancies.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. in luxury even. "Certainly. He wanted someone to blame. and I assure you I need no tutoring on how to treat them." He drew in a breath to stem the familiar flood of bitterness.

It was difficult to breathe. That I'm flesh and blood and no demon from hell. Whatever hehad ex pected from the girl. You are legend to them.html than his frowns.. madam? I've a great deal of experience in the latter of late.com/abclit. staring at the girl. They have remained so in their hearts. in the raw. Robert de Langley was an intimidating. Whichever you find appropriate during our continued sojourn together. "We've matched swords. Robert drew in his breath. . Do them no ill now because they were forced to serve another master. These people should know by now that they've nothing to fear. that his body was flushed and on edge in a way that had nothing to do with the recent fighting. splintered doorway. "Roger. Don't diminish yourself in their eyes. Another cleared his throat. elemental way men had wanted women since the beginning of time. "My lord. find Rolf outside in the bailey. his men scattering quickly in his wake. her thick hair falling like ebony silk to the floor. Edmund.. I expect it will be long and rather boring. One of his men shifted his feet. "I've won a battle and now so have you. listening to the sound of retreating footsteps." Then he deliberately turned and strode out without looking back." he said at last. legend and dreams. http://www." He hesitated. madam." she remarked. overwhelming man! And something about him. "You may address me as my lord or simply as Robert. holding tight to the still-shuddering Adelise. her haunting eyes unfathomable. I am at your service. No one—including you. She continued to meet his eyes evenly. then. He hadn'texpected to come off the worse from an exchange with Montagne's daughter. Aymer. For a moment Jocelyn remained motionless. very little of the former. for this war I will win. "Day or night. shook her to the depths of her being. The people of Belavoirare your people. see that everyone gathers in the hall. "I seek not to tutor you. wanted her in a way that had the blood pooling hotly in his groin. He's to bring whatever he needs and repair this door at once. staring at the shadowy. It will be interesting to see how the campaign continues. smiled again. only to speak a simple truth." The girl didn't flinch or even blush as he had expected. He forced a smile. He wanted this woman. despite the fact that my father has ruled these lands. He held himself perfectly still. a situation poor folk have no power to amend. so conscious of being in the wrong. She closed her eyes. Never had he felt so small. Then a violent trembling seized her. you and Gerard guard the hallway. feel it against his bare flesh. Perhaps you should tutor me after all. So unequal to being a legend. Tell him to stop his work on the stairway. I assure you.processtext. unmoved by his sudden outburst of temper or the calculated insult of his words. it wasn't this. No one enters this room without my order. Perhaps together we can think of ways to make it more pleasurable." He glanced back at the young woman. "Snatching a bit of victory from your defeat. forcing his breath to a normal cadence. aware that his heartbeat was quickening. wrap it around his arms. They've made the best of what they had. about the scorching way he had looked at her. Her face was a mask of alabaster. He had an unexpected urge to plunge his hands through it." The silence that fell was suffocating. He swallowed hard.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter." He turned his head slightly.

I'd say she's worth a round dozen of that other that's got you so hot. as Robert had meant him to. It would be such a perfect. But a dozen? Sweet Jesu. Aymer. Robert caught himself against the low stone ceiling. exquisite pleasure. else every man here'll be sleepless and on edge for a month!" Robert laughed and resumed his descent at a more leisurely pace. of that glorious hair. my lord. Robert grinned. she just might do it. and the men with him knew better.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. He had never stood on ceremony with his men. but every confrontation with a sharp-tongued woman sends me racing for reinforcements as if all hell's demons pursued?" The young knight laughed. made a crude soldier's comment. Best lower 'em if you can. "I thank you that we arealive!" *** He had reached the darkened vault of the stairway before he realized he was running away. dear God in Heaven. Actually. It was something he'd have to look to himself. In the darkness behind him. Lifting a hand.. headlong plunge down the stair. halting his reckless.com/abclit. God knew. he'd wager his last breath that they thought on it a great deal though they wouldn't dare disobey. His lips twitched again. Aymer Briavel skidded and slid into the wall. biting off a curse as he narrowly avoided crashing into his lord. "Tell me. "She was a bit unusual. they'd been living like monks for months. But that other. It was best to keep things light. They'd wait it out. They had been through too much together. "It's the fighting that's got your blood up. It was the fighting and subsequent victory that had roused them all. and if women were available the results were inevitable. Briavel—your blood and your cock. And he'd never been hesitant to admit defeat.processtext. satisfying the need of the moment. at the taut. by the Mass! Did you note that other one? Best keep her locked up out of sight. to own up to being in the wrong. my lord. the vengeance of years.html "God. He blinked at the rush of heat the image evoked. And in my opinion. One conquest made men want another. Especially here at Belavoir. find some willing camp followers or half-clean whores. Took us all by surprise. . uncomfortable expectancy centered in his groin. Why in God's name can I face a full complement of Henry's best Angevin knights without a qualm. and Robert smiled and continued down the stairs. I can't even bring myself to imagine!" The man laughed again." she whispered. He thought again of the dark-haired girl. and laid too many comrades to rest. weathered too many hardships. I'm sure that bloodthirsty whelp of Montagne's would be happy to remove either or both. Since they'd slipped across the Channel and hidden out like outlaws." "Depends on what you want her for. that dark one. fought with them. But he'd never sanctioned plunder and rape. Of how she would feel writhing and shuddering beneath him.. Montagne's daughter. those unsettling eyes. whored with them. lost too many battles. He'd prayed with them. Given a weapon. http://www.

Now the need to return to that simpler time rose up so strongly it was like the anguished throb of a new wound. What a shame that was all he could do.com/abclit. To stand fast for his sons and his son's sons. Right had been right and wrong. though not nearly so large as boyhood memory had painted it. laughing. Two soul-shattering days to destroy four years of high childish laughter. virulent fever had snuffed out his young son's life. He had come home. he'd be thinking about it. the men-at-arms here at Belavoir. Belavoir and all of the English estates would be his. he had taken his men and slipped across the sea. Roger de Langley had built Belavoir to repulse all attackers and stand fast in his absences as he made the rounds of his vast domains in England and Normandy. the emotional wasteland traversed. but he'd never lacked for love and care from the nurses and servants. Robert could almost feel his father's comforting presence. He'd seen kings' castles and bishops' palaces since then. To his boy's eyes that life here in England had been charmed. a man long thought dead. In this great room Robert had played and fought mock battles. He took the last stair. of decades of de Langley power and prestige on both sides of the Channel. to fight Henry again on his own terms. Secretly. He'd watched. The room was large for a hall in England. He'd not yet learned about betrayals. Where most English castles were still little better than primitive wooden forts atop palisaded earthen mounds. Home to retake Belavoir. pausing in the shadowy well and gazing out into the torchlit hall. And when it was done. home to lick his wounds and rediscover a reason to live. wrong. when the rage and grief were spent. secretly relishing the knowledge that while his elder brother Jordan would inherit the title of count and the vast de Langley lands in Normandy. Two anguished days to devour all the good that was left in his world.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter.html Like his men. His mother had died when he was scarce old enough to remember. But it was still a room that spoke of grandeur and wealth. a sturdy wriggling body he still ached to hold in his arms. only to die in a flaming funeral pyre set by Henry's Angevin devils in an abbey where Robert and a half-dozen of his men had taken sanctuary as a last resort. Belavoir had been built of stone. wedged precariously in the smoke-filled stone bell tower. to win his own legendary renown as King Stephen's Norman Lion.processtext. his world simple and secure. alternately praying for his soul and passionately hating the men below as they'd danced. http://www. the only others to survive the hellish ordeal. He'd slipped away in the darkness with Geoffrey and Aymer. Two days as a prelude to hell. sticky-sweet smiles. hadn't needed to harden himself to the pain of living with a woman he'd once loved with . For a moment. could almost hear the echo of people and places and a past long since dead. Home to England. with no shades of maybe to muddy the demarcation. They'd rejoined what was left of his forces and hidden out in France. It was based on the huge fortresses in Normandy and Aquitaine with comfortable innovations copied from Saracen palaces his father had seen on Crusade. around the flames. There the worst had overtaken him. A sudden. But then Jordan had died in the seemingly endless Norman-Angevin struggle and Robert had crossed the sea to become his father's right arm. Only he hadn't been burned alive.

He was thankful to God for his life. Robert of Belavoir. seeing to prisoners and dealing with wounded or standing alertly on guard. in a lightning flash of movement. They were calling his name. he drove it into a table." he continued. Robert hesitated.html all of his soul and then hated with equal intensity—his beautiful wife Marguerite. commission a new statue of the Blessed Virgin as soon as he found a spare moment. but the words were drowned out as a wave of cheering swept the hall.com/abclit. You know we are true lords of Belavoir. drawing his sword from his scabbard and lifting it into the torchlight so that the blood-stained hilt rose on high like a holy relic. There wasn't any going back. That I will defend Belavoir and every man belonging here with my last breath. His men went about their business. holding the sword out before him like a priest with the sacred host. He moved forward again. His hall. "I can see some of you here remember me from my boyhood. Robert frowned and drew in a deep breath. that no Montagne usurper can lay just claim to this castle and lands. conscious of Aymer screaming wildly behind him. I. Then his men were joining in as well. No dark thoughts now. "As God is my witness!" he shouted into the hush. Anxious servants huddled together. So they had hailed him once in Normandy. His name. he pivoted.processtext. One of his men saw him and hailed him. "I swear to you now. thankful for the success this night that had won him back Belavoir. It shimmered in the torchlight. his voice rising. and that simpler time had existed only in a child's imagination. my father. A wall of sound broke over him. he let his eyes roam the hall possessively. "As God is my witness. with the last drop of my blood. whispering and glancing covertly over their shoulders. begun by only a voice or two. swelling and reverberating through the high-ceilinged room like a chant. Gradually the room quieted. He stepped forward into the torchlight. that I will live or die in this place. Some of you may even remember the good times of Sir Roger. and what he could make of his life from this moment onward. Then. Softly at first. He held up his arms. despite what these people here tonight had thought. "I swear to you by this sword my father gave me and by the blood now staining it. last of . The dead didn't return to the living." In a slow half-circle. Beneath his singed clothing and bloody mail. He would hear mass in the morning. So they had hailed him in France. Betrayals couldn't be undone. glowing and quivering as if it drew breath. his own mistakes couldn't be mended. beneath the dirt and dried sweat. More at peace now. of course. Tonight was a victory for his men as well as for him. http://www. And God knew they deserved one. There was only now.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. accelerating with emotion." He put his hand to his sword hilt. he felt the shiver of gooseflesh rising along his skin. it was seized by dozens of throats at once. Before they had hunted him like an animal. It had been a long time.

"like my father was before me. unprotected. the terrible. this night of victory might well have gone differently.. a sword-thrust dealt by a friend. "What's your name. experimentally. http://www. This I do swear upon the soul of my father. boy?" The lad gazed up at him as if he were a god. no. forced a smile for the others—the boy and the distressed young knight. Robert sucked in a sharp breath as the hurt washed over him. "Thank you. my lord. Without him. Robert swallowed hard. helpless against this hurt. So had his own son looked up at him in days gone past.. It's a debt you may be sure I'll repay. "Adam. his hand flexing against his sword hilt." He squeezed the boy's shoulder. upon the soul of my dead son!" For a moment no one moved. Robert put a hand on the boy's shoulder." Robert smiled again. lad?" . A familiar face caught his eye: the grubby serving boy who had held the door open those precious seconds and earned naught but a vicious kick for his pains. The pain was still there. do pledge to hold these lands. Then the room erupted into wild and delirious shouting. I may well owe you my life. Adam. I'm your man. lad. I was bound to do what I could." He said the word softly. dark eyes wild with excitement. "Do you know. He took an involuntary step closer. small face radiant as the sun.com/abclit." Four Theblow was unexpected—a knife blade out of the darkness. Sweet. No one breathed." he added solemnly. he went down on one knee. He died a few months ago. he sent you in his stead to help me tonight. leaving him vulnerable.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. "Adam.html the great House of de Langley. Nothing! When I heard your shout outside. buthe 'd barterhis soul to Satan himself if only his own son might be standing here now! Aymer Briavel had been close enough to hear the exchange." Robert's smile became a bit less forced. "I suppose since my Adam couldn't be here in person. merciful God. Instinctively. the smiling faces that were balm to his bitter spirit." The boy shookhis head. Robert felt the tension of these last few weeks rush from him. aching tightness in his throat that made it so difficult to speak. that Adam was my son's name? He wanted so badly to come here. It had been a long time since he'd spoken it aloud. but he didn't live to see Belavoir. Adam. even if you weren't of this earth. you know. basking in the adulation. Adam Carrick. beckoning the boy to stand beside him. "Oh. Robert held out a hand. my lord! You owe nothing. I buried him in Normandy.processtext. The lad scampered to him. "Who was your father. He pivoted again.

It was a great tragedy when he fell. I wish I could bring my own Adam back. and the searching of the outbuildings and walls for any remaining enemies. well. Just like he said. But he was filthy and dressed in rags a serf might have scorned. He wished his father had lived to see this night. This was no serf or kitchen boy as he had surmised. No casualties at Merlan. Some crude jest of Montagne's most likely. http://www. "He always told me you'd come back here. happy servants. my lord. my lord. Your father had the heart of a lion and nerves I was oft wont to envy myself. rose to his feet. If only the grown men. Because of the bow. the so-called valorous commanders he'd dealt with had had half this lad's courage. He had great skill with a bow.. And. A tragedy for me and for England. And he could work magic with a bow. His men had swept all in their path. a hint of shyness entering his voice for the first time. He'd been outside the keep. the shouting. That's all. He stood watching his delirious men. And I suspect that they're both very proud.processtext. seeing to the removal of bodies. "I wish I could bring him back to you. Normandy would be in English hands this night. Clair. But I suspect wherever they are. my lord. And Adam. "It's obvious where you come by your courage.. Robert stood very still." The boy nodded. "Three castles. dark eyes far too serious in his gaunt child's face. lad. here you are. "I did what I could. And his old friend Edward Carrick. he was going to do it. the disposition of prisoners. Both fell easily to our forces. lad.com/abclit..Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. Geoffrey was hurrying toward him." Robert slid a finger beneath the boy's dirty chin. But tonight was just the beginning.. only one at Harclay. He died at the battle for St. It was clear he'd been put to work as a menial. half his loyalty. Three castles in de Langley hands!" Wild cheering swept the room again. "My lord! William Jarrett just rode in from the outlying manors of Merlan and Harclay.html The boy squared his shoulders proudly. Edward of Shrewsbury? You're Sir Edward Carrick's son?" The boy nodded. It had been a night of complete victory. tilting the thin face gently toward him. "Edward Carrick." "My lord!" Robert turned. . that they're both rejoicing right now." His eyes danced with triumph. You used to call him your Welshman in jest. "Edward. He was going to take back every handful of de Langley soil in England." Robert gripped the boy's thin shoulder. The lad was well born. That I should be here to aid you." The boy grinned and glanced away. for with God's help. "But you're—" He bit back the words.

Adelise had finally dropped off to sleep. but Jocelyn didn't feel like putting his faith to the test. Maine. Jocelyn felt a shiver run through her. but de Langley had fought on. But her father had rejoiced. Not after what they'd been through. her blood racing. his son Henry the undisputed lord of Normandy. *** The muffled sound of cheering faded away. Within months the unpredictable young duke had wed Eleanor. But slowly the tide in Normandy had shifted as battles began to go awry. It was said his life was charmed. trapped by Henry's men in a church and burned alive while men watched. Wherever a rebellious vassal held out against Count Geoffrey and his young son Henry. he'd felt secure in the de Langley lands he had stolen. turned certain defeats into victories. For years now. The fire had burned low in the chamber's wall fireplace—one of the unheard of innovations Belavoir boasted—and Jocelyn hadn't dared open the door to ask the guards for more fuel. Jocelyn caught her breath. still whimpering softly. the scandalously beautiful and newly-divorced former wife of the king of France. the Montagne women were going to help. The servants were sullen. Then an even more unbelievable story had swept the land: Robert de Langley was dead. God-fearing men everywhere had shuddered and crossed themselves. It was said King Stephen had wept openly. Then word had come last fall that Count Geoffrey was dead. de Langley was sure to be leading them. For the first time in years. had taken to his bed for several days. Not tonight. that no mortal man could touch him. Besides. for Jocelyn hadn't had the heart to force the terrified young maidservant to sleep alone on her pallet. the Angevins had been the acknowledged lords of Normandy. Until tonight she'd thought half the legends about the man to be that—merely legends. She'd always dreaded these visits to Belavoir. As the men owning enough property in England had given up and slunk home in defeat. Jocelyn remembered. and so had Hawise. Not with what might be yet to come. to any of the de Langley holdings. sent her heart pounding.html And. but it was impossible for the Angevins not to fear him. Wherever border raids from France and the disputed territory of the Vexin were successful.processtext. http://www. as one after another of the great barons had gone over to Geoffrey of Anjou. and Touraine. of the scorching way he had stared. strained her ears. That when fighting he had the strength of a dozen knights. the cunning and dexterity of a devil. de Langley was sure to be stirring the caldron of discontent. but no further sounds drifted up from the hall. Robert de Langley had seemed confident his men would obey him. He'd been unable to drive them out. Not with the memory of the way those men had looked at Adelise still so fresh in her mind. but the memory of facing de Langley. Anjou.com/abclit. He'd been a thorn in the flesh to the men of Anjou for years. the room was cold.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. She closed her eyes. countess of Aquitaine. Now she wasn't so sure. like it or not. The three women shared the great bed. she snuggled closer to her sister's warmth seeking comfort. not outright disrespectful—not after her father had ordered . Drawing the covers beneath her chin. willing the much-needed sleep to come. In battle after battle he'd rallied Stephen's forces.

no one had moved. It was only on her last sojourn at Belavoir. she'd risen quietly and left the room. Jocelyn thought again of that night and thanked God for it. I would speak with you. She just hoped someone remembered to tell the story to the man with the lion's eyes. though Jocelyn had done all she knew to be fair in her dealings. "I said up. that she'd inadvertently won them over. too. Jocelyn blinked sleepily and shifted her head. Take no longer than that for I . Her hand went to her hip. rubbed at the ache. He'd struck her with the flat of his blade! She sat up and shoved her tangled hair back. her dealings were considered fair. murmured unexpectedly. Since she was a child." Her eyes snapped open. instantly awake and outraged. It was the first anniversary of Robert de Langley's death. De Langley stood by the bed. For a moment neither moved. It would be too much to say that she was welcomed—no Montagne would ever be in a de Langley's castle—but the miasma of hate that had stifled her like heavy wool in July had lifted. He'd struck her. madam. madam. had spoken words that could have sent them all to their deaths. I'll await you out here in the antechamber. No one had spoken. and a young kitchen boy had been wildly and bitterly defiant. he turned and headed for the door. Making an unexpected midnight visit to Belavoir's lonely chapel. sir! Have you forgotten how to knock?" "I assure you. Jocelyn had ignored the outpouring of venom. dropping to her knees and saying a soft prayer for de Langley's soul." De Langley sheathed his sword. before anyone else found the evidence.processtext. Then the man grinned. aware of a sharp aching in her hip she couldn't identify. she'd caught a half-dozen servants there lighting candles. she had faced her enemies head up." Before she could comment. and shimmering with purpose. she was conscious of a slight change in the atmosphere at Belavoir. golden. She had been accepted. for when she awakened they were the first thing she saw. obviously. There were even a few cautious smiles. "I'd advise you not to test me further. "Your sojourn in hell must have burned away your manners.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. http://www. I suppose that accounts for it. taking a few seconds longer than necessary to meet her eyes. By the next day. had calmly lit a candle and added it to the ones in the rack. "You're the Welsh one. the flat of his sword resting on the mattress alongside her body. 'Twould be a shame for you to have to find out for yourself just what. eyes wide to enable her to see the next blow coming. long-lashed. I've lost a great deal more than manners in the places I've been. When Jocelyn finished. a dozen more severely and publicly punished as a warning—just slow. madam. pretending stupidity.com/abclit. "You may have five minutes for whatever you think necessary. for her Montagne blood.html two killed. hesitating briefly in the doorway to suggest that the candles be removed before morning. They had hated her. passive. She must have slept. Servants moved more quickly to do her bidding." Jocelyn's gaze didn't waver. haunted by those unusual eyes.

"My sister is good at a great many things. "Do you weave?" he asked unexpectedly. She opened the door with a defiant shove." He turned away from the loom. Now it caught the light in a thousand golden. "I doubt there's time for much else. Then they returned to her face." Amusement flickered briefly in his eyes." In five minutes Jocelyn was ready. besides the obvious thing lovely women are good for. that is. traveled slowly over her in a way that made her shift her weight uncomfortably. I did knock. I'm told. Facing a bloody. impassive." He hesitated in the doorway and glanced back. honey-rich reflections. An odd little shiver slid over her. How is it this task falls to you?" His eyebrows rose. Robert de Langley was alive. "You see to the household. So it hadn't been a nightmare. It is beautiful. yet your sister is the elder by a year. . I am in a hurry. then dragging her heavy hair back and tying it with a leather thong. he shut the door. Jocelyn released her long-held breath. but a trace of humor still lightened his golden eyes. is it not?" He turned. http://www. The man stood beneath the window." And with that. Light filtered in through the thin. It's nice to know she's good for something." "I think not. "Oh. scraped hide of the window covering. but that is my sister's work. "Yes. illuminating the loom he was contemplating. De Langley obviously knew she was part Welsh. Let him make fun of her if he dared. Jocelyn had a fleeting thought that a woman might sell all she possessed for such hair. madam.html assure you. madam. His smile had faded. lacing up the sides with quick fingers so that it hugged her slim body. Now she pulled a russet bliaut over the loose underdress. have taken over in the absence of the bailiff." she said with a trace of impatience.processtext. what are you going to do?" Jocelyn glanced down at Adelise.com/abclit. rampaging lion in his den just doesn't happen to be one of them!" "So you agree. the smooth-shaven planes of his tanned. taking a moment to study her opponent. He was even taller and broader of shoulder than she remembered. back turned toward her.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. and she scorned the new French head coverings Adelise had taken to wearing. high-cheekboned face. In the shadowy torchlight last night his thick hair had seemed darker. "You would do well at court. "Besides. There wasn't time to make the usual braid. Jocelyn. His golden eyes met hers. Tears of helplessness were already brimming in her sister's blue eyes. not daring to remove it. "Very. She had slept in the yellow gown from last night. Something. and the intricate tapestry Adelise had been working. You were sleeping so soundly you just didn't hear." Jocelyn stiffened. tawny-brown. "Find the chamber pot. It ismy den?" "Lands in England belong to whomever is strong enough to take them and hold them these days.

one that had kept her sleepless till dawn. do you? With any luck we'll have two days. a perfect parody of his mocking expression. however.processtext." De Langley smiled grimly. Amazing. before he discovers the message from Lord Borthwick was a ruse. of course. but this time the look in hiswas chilling. "After you. You don't think your lord father is going to ignore the fact that I'm here. isn't it?" She ignored his sarcasm. obviously unimpressed. madam. I've learned to do whatever is necessary for survival. before he comes racing back here to see what's afoot. "And if he doesn't choose to pay your price. I plan to set a humiliatingly high price. Jocelyn forced herself to ask a question.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. "They tell me you read and write and handle household accounts yourself. "What is it you want of me?" "I want you to take me through the castle. What then?" The man met her eyes. we'll discover what you're worth to Montagne. I thought you would. We'll be preparing for a siege. It was necessary for survival. her voice even.html "Another of the things the lovely Adelise isn't good at?" Jocelyn kept her face emotionless." Jocelyn lifted her eyebrows. how to see to the running of a manor. I can write a bit in all four as well." "I see." Jocelyn forced herself to ask one more question. "And what of us? Adelise and myself?" "Why." Five Jocelyn sized up the man who stood across from her. "A siege?" "Certainly." He motioned toward the door. sir?" "Enough to get by. I learned early how to manage a keep. madam clerk. "My mother died when I was ten." "Such an excessively learned woman. My sister does well enough at Montagne where she is known and loved for herself.com/abclit. madam. for both our sakes. that we don't have to find out what that is. Here. "And I warn you." "Yes." He paused thoughtfully. Is it true?" "I speak and read four languages." A ruse? So the whole thing had been carefully planned all along. The blood and dirt of last night were gone. http://www. But his casual assurance this morning was even . go over the account books with me. show me what's laid by for winter. "And how many do you read. so too the dangerous glitter of destruction and death in his eyes." Jocelyn swung around in surprise. the situation has been quite different. "Like you. My father was seldom in residence at Warford Castle where I was raised. three perhaps. Let us hope. We've work to do this morning. I didn't believe it of a woman at first.

her pulse throbbing in a way that made rational thinking impossible. but his eyes probed hers questioningly. of the sheer animal threat she was responding to on some instinctive level. Something my garrison here wasn't offered when your father took control. She hadn't a doubt either that her father would do little to ransom his half-Welsh daughter. started to smile.. http://www." She swung round to face him. "Did you really think that I took Belavoir without loss of life?" She looked up. it was blood! A whole pool of it. madam. But her heart had begun an unsteady pounding. but I don't require such haste as this." She willed her breath to a steady rhythm. the strength in his grip. we'd best be about it. It took Jocelyn an instant to realize she was studying it for blood. She kept her voice steady by a major effort of will. Her pace picked up. She hesitated. Wondering if it might be someone I knew. I. "Belavoir had a good harvest this year. the daughter of a repugnant marriage wrought of greed and politics. two servants were scrubbing at a brownish stain on the floor. Whatever is necessary for survival. Perhaps we would both be the better for a bit of good ale and some bread to steady us before we start. At the head of the stairs de Langley caught her arm. eyes wide. How could anyone not fear such a man? How had her father dared steal his lands? She stepped into the corridor. "It's just different seeing it this morning. "I said I was in a hurry. Down the hall. She could hear de Langley's soft tread behind her. She was almost running. nor have I. She felt the warmth of it through her sleeve. "You've not yet broken your fast.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. "They were all given quarter if they threw down their arms. She hadn't a doubt that he meant it. The fingers were long and graceful." She moved toward the door and shoved it open without looking back. was overwhelmingly aware of the man at her back. If you wish to see the stores." Jocelyn stared at his hand.processtext. Two soldiers standing guard stared curiously as she walked past. The daughter who had been nothing but an embarrassment to him all her life. "Wait. It will take us some time. breath shallow and fast. but couldn't stop herself. Was she really so obvious? "No. forcing herself to hold his unnerving gaze. One of the women glanced up. but Jocelyn was rushing past. Blessed Christ.html more chilling.com/abclit." His words were calm.Blood. His gaze followed hers and his hand fell away. Sir Edwin de Beouff was castellan then—a good fighting man." Wondering if a few days hence it might be my own. trying not to think of what she might find downstairs in the hall. a .. the hand well-shaped and clean.

if he's the best Montagne can field against us." "The salt." Jocelyn almost choked on her ale." "I assure you. but the man was a fool.processtext.html childhood friend.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. but Sir Edwin was put to death along with all of the men-at-arms. and Jocelyn was amazed to find everything clean and running smoothly. "The salt we've been waiting for." she said. Unfortunately for them. "You brought your own ale on a sortie to take a castle?" "Actually." He took a long sip of ale. "But some more than others. Here in the bailey. Save for the different faces. "I'm sorry if his death distresses you." He turned abruptly and started down the spiraling stairs. she would never have believed fighting had taken place here only last night. At de Langley's order they were served ale and cheese and some good white bread Jocelyn knew had been baked for her father. But what of the garrison commander? Edgar of Tutbury. I was pretending escort for a cart train of supplies from Shrewsbury.com/abclit." "Dead. It was filled with hurrying servants and deferential." she said. http://www. that he was left here responsible for the castle? For you and your sister? God's blood. And she and Adelise would be caught in the middle." "How is it. Sir Edgar was a man I neither liked nor trusted. "I didn't know." De Langley's eyes were flat and cold and lifeless." Jocelyn found her voice with difficulty. As an example. they had little choice. madam. "Take care or you'll diminish the legend. No doubt more would die once her father arrived. madam. "The death of any of God's creatures distresses me." They reached the hall." Her anger rose at the arrogance of the man. then." "So that's how you took the place so easily." Now it was Jocelyn's turn to take a long sip of ale. "Now you do. even as we speak. Montagne took the castle. "I had a bit of trouble persuading the real escort to abandon it. she was overwhelmingly hungry. my men and I have nothing to fear. my people held out here for over six months. She was surprised to discover that despite her fears." she responded coolly. "that the legend is growing. "I brought it in with me last night. The food tasted good. his eyes meeting hers mockingly above the rim of his cup." He nodded.Sir Roger! Sir Roger and the men from Montagne were coming. An example of what happened to men loyal to me." "I suspect. She stared at it suspiciously. It got my men and myself through the gates. "The knights he allowed to be ransomed. the ale even better. . Though they knew I couldn't hope to come to their aid. there was nothing easy about it. Men had died last night. "Cheshire ale—the best in the west country." de Langley said. When they were too weak from hunger to fight. by name." He frowned. well-behaved men-at-arms.

" She raised challenging eyesto his. as he had put it. Drink up. Perhaps I'll get it back one day. watched him lift his cup to his mouth. he must have thought he had nothing to fear. Personal things. Jocelyn took out her keys and opened the chest where Belavoir's records were stored.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. down the page. then calmly tore a piece off for herself. his eyes scanning quickly. accustomed to responsibility for the welfare of others. "Yes. If I read you a list of them. . "A private joke." He hesitated. that smile she had hated so last night. "It's a long and ugly story. with that traitorous pact he and the earl of Chester have to refrain from attacking each other. "Besides. and even the empty pigsty. She watched him eat. Then he held out one hand. stared thoughtfully at his long bare fingers. When word of this leaked out—of his return from the dead and his easy success last night—he would only become more so. "How satisfying to disappoint him." He was silent so long. by morning at the latest. De Langley caught up a parchment roll and opened it. and Jocelyn studied him covertly. making the lightning calculations to decide how many mouths it would feed for a month. Not that she wouldn't have expected it by now. They ended up midday in the dead bailiff's office. madam. my father thought us safe behind these walls. Enough. stables. Besides. brewhouse. dairy. The man astonished Jocelyn with his appetite for detail. Robert de Langley had been a legend within his own lifetime.com/abclit. smithy." They were quiet for several moments. we've no time. who would dare risk attacking us? My father's only real enemy was thought dead.html She'd forgotten in all the excitement. There's much to be said for coming back from the dead. "Most of the men went with my father to Oxford. "How did you do it? How did you get out of that burning church and survive all this time with none the wiser? They say your body was found." De Langley smiled. I'm quite certain it would astound you. Far better than her father had ever been. thoughtfully. with his insistence on seeing everything for himself. when I take it off Henry's corpse. The men might be here by evening. as he pushed back from the table and rose to his feet. tramping through the bakehouse. though. peering into every niche of every storeroom. One scarcely fit for such pretty ears. Jocelyn and the lord of Belavoir spent the morning trailing over the castle and outbuildings. He was obviously a man well-used to command. with me dead. He glanced up and caught her smiling. eating. Henry has this annoying passion for stealing things that belong to me. that Henry of Anjou even wears the ring they took from your hand. He would be a good lord for this place.processtext. she thought he had chosen to ignore her. We've a great deal of work to do this morning. short and bitter. madam?" he asked. "I did hate to lose the ring. hardening. his eyes narrowing. How could she best use the knowledge? She reached for the bread. Even with a small force as garrison. It's widely known Belavoir is impregnable. lifting his imperious eyebrows. forced herself to offer itto the man across from her. What a sweet day that will be. she asked." And work they did. It belonged to my father." He flashed her another smile. madam. With the way his quick mind took in a roomful of grain. http://www." "Yes. So he did read. Unable to contain her own curiosity.

"We might find a few things in common. A current of something dangerous and uncomfortable eddied around her.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. She'd never talked this easily with any man save Edward of Pelham. They've a tendency to come calling on Englishmen—usually after dark. I was only thinking that enough to get by in Normandy is certainly better than much of England can boast. You threatened him with your dagger." Jocelyn shook her head. more's the pity. earthy and completely incomprehensible. No fear of Rome. guarded look. but English and Welsh from the servants and nurses I'd had. then glanced away self-consciously. couldn't look away.com/abclit. Her eagerness for learning had been an object of scorn to her father. no. sir. It was like that moment last night when she couldn't move. and I've much to see to." Jocelyn met his eyes. Surprisingly. With it went much of her fear. I'd not have thought it. Years of bitterness dropped away.html "Private. one of my mother's brothers did." His words were so obviously said in jest Jocelyn couldn't resist a smile. I'll send for you if I need you again. you'd probably all get along quite well. some new emotion flickered to life in their depths." "Don't tell me." de Langley said. I'd learned to speak not only French. So Robert de Langley had a sense of humor. "I'd something of a gift for languages. changed. that set every nerve in her body tingling. "My father believed in education. no." she said. At six the priest in our household began instructing me in Latin. I might add. then a flash of comprehension dawned. something powerful. deep and generous and somehow at odds with his usual. and I'm certain you shall. "No. It was a beautiful laugh. Something that made her heart slide into her throat.processtext. Rare as hen's teeth in my experience." De Langley laughed again. much against his better judgement." "My father. "By the time I was three. She wondered if Robert de Langley would feel the same. her near-magical facility for languages another cause for his fear and suspicion. De Langley glanced down and broke the spell. "My mother made it possible for me to learn to read and write. In the silence Jocelyn could hear the measured sound of her breathing. http://www. Come to think of it. but as I recall. but it's getting late. We Welsh are a godless lot. Then his eyes caught hers and the laughter abruptly faded." For a moment he looked puzzled. For a moment neither spoke. so I'd not find myself at the mercy of some dishonest cleric or bailiff some day." The man laughed outright. "Remain here in the marches long enough. and him only because he'd been bent on wooing Adelise." Jocelyn was still smiling. They narrowed. "I think I'd enjoy meeting these Welsh kinsmen of yours. "There's a great deal here to go through. the erratic beat of her heart." "A wise woman. Get back to your room and take your meal with your sister. yours must have as well." . you know.

I assure you. She couldn't let this continue. She was ashamed she hadn't thought of Adelise. "We'll get back to this tomorrow or the next day perhaps." Jocelyn moved toward the door. we've no meat put away for the winter. he seemed to be fighting a smile. She would be even more terrified by now. In fact. "This afternoon will be far too busy. "And here I was fighting for my very existence across the sea and imagining Montagne's life here at Belavoir to be pure bliss. "A strange confession coming from the lady Jocelyn Montagne." He turned. And all to no cause. and I doubt these men will be so easy to overcome as the ones you found here last night. Jocelyn hesitated at the door. Her sister would be wondering what had happened to her. not when she could stop it. Sir Roger Carswell may not be a legend. there would be serfs killed. By afternoon the first of them should be getting back. We must still send word to bring the people in." Jocelyn met his amusement with an icy dignity. http://www. then swung around. "Tell me. "A company of knights is on the way from Montagne." His finely contoured mouth turned upward.html Jocelyn nodded. her fertile imagination picturing the events now in motion." "Oh?" "As you most reasonably pointed out this morning.processtext. There'll be good eating tomorrow for all. A little matter of a dead bailiff and some salt I was holding hostage." she said. madam. "I have a confession.com/abclit. Do you ever speak to your lord father in this manner?" "Sometimes." he put in. "I've noticed men aren't terribly discriminating when they fight. and even the innocent women and children who got in the way. And neither you nor they will ever be brought to see the incredible stupidity of it all. Along with the knights and men-at-arms. What a pleasure to find I was wrong. "Laugh if you will." For a moment surprise held him speechless. When the dust settles and the killing is done." she said. "You must bring in your men. But then there always were when great lords fought. you will still hold Belavoir and my father's men will still be outside. "I shall remember that if ever I chance to face him across a ." de Langley was saying." He looked at her as if she had grown two heads." he murmured." "But not very discriminating. but he is a good fighting man and no fool. When Sir Roger and the men from Montagne arrived. sir. the young swineherds. Not with her and Adelise inside. And to what real purpose? They couldn't hope to take the castle. and the servants. those woods would become a killing ground. sir. A fortress without meat isn't a fortress for long. "This morning some of my men along with some servants and swineherds began to search the woods for Belavoir's hogs. They'll be murdered.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. You've sent children out there. He wasn't angered by her words or even worried.

" With a quick breath of relief. His very size was intimidating." she said. then glanced back at him over her shoulder." He was so close she had to lift her chin to look up at him. http://www. "I apologize in advance then. See that food and wine are sent up for our Montagne guests. I fear this one's taken the notion that we're barbarians. but got only pain for her trouble. "They're not coming. and he used it to good advantage." Jocelyn swallowed hard." she managed to get out. "How is it a Montagne worries about children and serfs?" Jocelyn had never met a man so unpredictable. There could only be one reason why. madam. The man was compelling. "When you come to know me. all her claims were like smoke on the wind." she snapped. There was something dark and uncivilized burning in de Langley's eyes. but when Robert de Langley stood this close." De Langley reached out and caught her hair. "Both you and my father may go to the devil—together or separately—in whatever barbaric fashion you choose. "Gerard!" he shouted. No one is coming from Montagne. "Gerard." He gave her a curt nod. throwing open the door. Robert de Langley wasn't concerned." Jocelyn felt a prickling chill race over her. so powerfully and overwhelmingly male. "Until we meet again. Jocelyn slipped past him and out into the passageway where a young soldier was waiting. He didn't need to be. and it was growing more difficult by the second to hold his gaze. Then he turned back. the person isn't made by the name. "I didn't do it for you. She tried to pull away. sir. But I do appreciate the warning..processtext.html sword. we can't have that. Before all this is over I expect I shall have distressed you a very great deal. "Contrary to your belief. With a sudden frown he released her hair and stalked away. And of course. She could claim that she wasn't afraid. but something in the tone sent a thrumming awareness of danger shivering through her. "Besides. madam. when he tangled his hand in her hair and stared at her like this. The death of any of God's creatures distresses me.. you will discover I leave very little to chance. The feel of his hand was unnerving. I told you. escort this lady to her chamber. madam. "You'd best go now. "The messenger my father sent off never got through. ." His voice was soft." "But some more than others.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. are they?" De Langley moved toward her until only inches separated them.com/abclit." Jocelyn started to move away. her breathing accelerated. Her heart began to hammer. His hold on her hair had tightened. drawing it over her shoulder.

Like her eyes. But he was hot and hard and he wanted a woman. he'd decided when she opened them in that shadowy bedchamber just after dawn. She had gotten off lightly. half-groan. So long as she was slightly built and had dark hair that felt like warm. Strangely enough. Reflective. It wasn't black like he'd thought last night. Green. as a matter of fact. What would the Montagne woman do if he suddenly appeared in her chamber and explained what he hadreally wanted from her today? .processtext. unwilling. he didn't have to like women to enjoy what they were made for. Like the daughters of Eve everywhere. ease himself so he could get back to work. http://www. deliberately trying to block out the memory of the way the young Montagne woman had stared at him. Like clear spring water over mossy stones. And he'd learned to enjoy what they were made for a great deal indeed. But the only business he seemed able to envision had nothing whatever to do with provisioning Belavoir. and it had been a long time since he'd had the chance to indulge it. a wanting he couldn't seem to will away this time. or what a supposedly civilized man did with a female hostage of good family. Quite the contrary. So long as she had slanted green-gold eyes that gazed back at him as if all of heaven and hell resided there. that bitch Marguerite. the way her hair had felt against the sensitive flesh of his wrist. rich brown so dark it seemed black until the sunlight sparked its russet sheen. He'd learned years ago not to trust women. he closed his eyes. struggling to get his mind back to business. nor even to like them. But he'd also learned that.Literally. yet oddly fascinating at the same time. The planning. With a soft groan. the fighting had to come first. And so damnably bewitching he'd almost forgotten himself just now. *** Robert stared at the girl.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. Several had even solicited his men openly last night. In fact. She was relieved to be leaving. contrary to what he'd believed as a youth. an odd green-gray tan. He grinned and threw open the door. With a sound that was half-laugh. It was an impulse he was finding increasingly difficult to control. He had never seen eyes the color of Jocelyn Montagne's. He'd learned it from the devil's handmaid herself. Yet somewhere in that complex mix of fear and relief an unexpected emotion stirred. had almost laid hands on her. He had a passionate nature. Robert gave up the struggle. to drag his eyes away. but a deep. she knew. He shifted uncomfortably. Now those weeks of living like a monk were rising to haunt him. Changeable. heavy silk in his hands. mesmerized. the hiding. it was anticipation. Discipline had been lax about Belavoir. He turned away. willing his mind to return to the business of the afternoon. He would find one now. he still wasn't even certain what color they were.com/abclit. that incredible hair was deceptive.html frightening. Now he caught himself staring again. moving purposefully down the corridor. There were numerous women here who had serviced the garrison. Tan. Deceptive. perhaps unable. It didn't matter who the woman was so long as she was young and clean and expected nothing more of him than a coin. but then they'd lightened to a shade almost yellow in the wan autumn sunlight outside.

She thought of the others as well. women." he said with a bow. Adelise had lit candles halfan hour ago and was obviously trying hard to forget her anxiety and focus her mind on her weaving. As much as she did love her sister. her plump. round face still blotchy from a recent bout of weeping. for while grains.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. sir. the addition of meat occasionally kept the strength and spirits up." The man was tall and darkly handsome. peas. God give her the grace to endure confinement with these two. became aware of a soft knocking on the outer door. now industriously plying her needle.com/abclit. of the frenetic activity that must now be taking place. his voice cultured and deferential. of pretending to be calm for her sake. Still she jumped likea startled doe with every sound from outside.html A chuckle escaped him. Her blue eyes were watery. From what he'd seen of her so far. Lord Robert bade me beg your attendance below. Most certainly not my company. Jocelyn frowned and poked up the fire. No doubt many would die. A man was standing there. and beans would form the staple of everyone's diet." she murmured. She thought now with a kind of guilty longing of the excitement Robert de Langley had spawned wherever they had gone this morning. his bold lion's eyes. but there was really little to do. Slaughtering season was one of the busiest times on any estate. and she sensed that Hawise needed occupation even more than she did. For a castle under long siege a goodly quantity of food of any kind. "I fear you lie. "Jocelyn! Jocelyn. http://www. but then the hours had dragged. he expected she would do a very great deal indeed. was beginning to tell on her nerves. She glanced at the young maidservant. of all the men. "I doubt your lord has ever begged for anything in his life. It would be even more crucial to de Langley and his men. His eyes were open and honest with an easy humor hinted by the crinkle of laugh lines at the corners. Jocelyn paced across the floor. but meat especially. The afternoon had been incredibly tedious. could be a deciding factor in the eventual victory or defeat. and one of the most crucial to the welfare of all. He has some questions to put to you. "Why. Biting her lip impatiently. and children Belavoir supported. a whole afternoon of reassuring Adelise. "My lady. Six Thelate autumn dusk came early witha creeping chill that settled into the room." . She had slept for a time.processtext. She had started some mending. Jocelyn crossed the floor and swung the door open. She thought of Robert de Langley. either by the sword or the slow stalk of hunger before this battle of wills between her father and Robert de Langley came to an end. open it of course! Do you want them to hack it to pieces again?" When Adelise still did nothing. One she'd not seen before. "I am Sir Geoffrey Talmont. what should we do?" Jocelyn glanced at Adelise. of his arrogant stance.

A large sow had just been slain. Sir Geoffrey." Jocelyn smiled." she said. Sir Geoffrey put his hand to the iron ring and dragged the postern door open. He was staring at Adelise with the stunned expression Jocelyn had learned to expect from any man beholding her sister for the first time. "I'dthought battles confusing. Belavoir seemed deserted. but this is beyond me. chilly corridors of the castle. you help them. "Let us say. Felice. He moved closer to Jocelyn. http://www. lady. Sir Geoffrey chuckled. paradoxically. but it also. "I've ." she said. They moved through the confusion. then. my lady. "I believe we are perfectly comfortable at present. Aenor." "Very well. recovering himself more quickly than most. "That I will believe. The noise and stench hit Jocelyn like a blow." He glanced up." They moved through the narrow. anything more to eat or drink? Let me know and I'll see to it personally. is there anything I might fetch for you or your sister? Do you need more fuel for the fire.com/abclit. sir. Adelise's fragile blond beauty might stir lust in most men. Robert de Langley had materialized out of the darkness. awoke a desire to protect her. run to the kitchens and get some barley and oats on to boil. To Jocelyn's surprise. then turned politely back to Jocelyn. She gazed out over the bailey. Margaret. madam.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. When she turned back the man had entered the room." He glanced once more at Adelise who was regarding him as if he were some netherworld devil. "I see they found the swine. Jocelyn lifted her skirts and kept walking. save for a guard or two. Over it all the sound of pigs grunting and squealing and the acrid smell of scorching fleshand singed hair carried to her on the chill evening air. "Certainly. The butcher was laying aside the needle-sharp sticking piece. that he wishes to speak with you. dragging potsand utensils of all kinds. turning the pale stone a soft gold." Jocelyn turned. They hurried down a steep back stair near the barracks. "What are you about.html The man's face lit with amusement. but no." Jocelyn nodded. Blood was running everywhere." "Not something a knight has much training for. Torches burned." She started through the door. You're letting it all go to waste. extra blankets. Then she stepped forward into the chaos. I confess. shouting and hurrying back and forth from the kitchens. girl? Bring your pail and catch that blood. and the wind this evening is chill." Jocelyn moved across the floor and retrieved her cloak. We'll be going outdoors. "While I'm here. "Glennis!" she called sharply. "I'm ready. "You'll need your cloak. Hurry now! How can you think to have black puddings if you idle your time now?" "You've arrived in good time. In the gathering darkness. "Thank you. but the man stopped her. people were swarming around great bonfires. Edwyr." de Langley agreed.processtext. throwing wavering shadows across the walls.

whomever these people belong to. I've no desire whatsoever to be shut up again in that wretched room. My own ignorance. hungry children distress me far more.processtext.com/abclit." "Crying. I suppose. It was the first time Jocelyn had seen the man even remotely unsure of himself." De Langley's voice was cool. Strictly as a favor. "Actually. you might recommend someone to oversee this. madam. especially with darkness catching us. but I've no idea who best should do them. exasperated. "I thought perhaps." Jocelyn glanced out over the milling crowd. I relinquish command of all this magnificence to you. I could never be brought to consider it shameful. My Welsh blood is so oft trotted out. Sir Geoffrey chuckled. We'd best get whatever's to be gotten now." She threw back her head. I suggest you try something less obvious." "Certainly. madam." She studied de Langley suspiciously. And I suspect there will be nothing even remotely edible within miles." He hesitated. "There's no need for you to do it personally. "Madam. I've never learnt the skill of sitting and holding my hands in idleness. Beside her. my lord—" She broke off. "That's the third time now you've brought up my mixed blood.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. I did mean it as a compliment. It was obvious he didn't relish the uncertainty.. "What a very practical mind you have.. I remember the essentials of what needs to be done from my boyhood. The wind swept the man's heavy hair back. even here at Belavoir last November during the slaughtering season. Without a bailiff to assign tasks. "Very well then." There was a moment of silence. Besides. The squeals of penned up pigs. de Langley wasn't angry. even in the Montagne household. "Actually. knowing the people here. Still. sent his cloak billowing and snapping. Whoever is left after you and my father are done trying to kill each other. "Insult you? No. we're running in circles and losing precious time. madam. It must be the Welsh coming out." ." "In other words. http://www. creating flickering unearthly shadows on the ground behind him. And you'll find I offer precious few of those. "It is a bit overwhelming. I'd consider it a boon to be out here with something to do. the crackling of the fires seemed unusually loud. She had found herself too often the butt of jokes to so easily let down her guard. they will still need to eat. the sting is gone. madam. I'll see to it myself.html set several men to removing the hooves and singeing four carcasses. let the smile come at will. A smile curled one corner of his mouth. With the fires we should be able to manage well enough. I'm aware that blood and killing distress you." To her surprise. I've done it oft enough at my own keep of Warford. To women especially. I'd be doing you a favor by allowing you to slave out here with us through the night.?" She felt a smile tugging her own mouth as well. up to your ankles in blood and hog entrails?" Jocelyn nodded eagerly. If you mean to insult me.

Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. His men were helping as well. Even his knights were taking Jocelyn's orders and doing all these unknightly tasks without a murmur. turning away. to know he wasn't the type for wanton cruelty. taking her first rest in hours. Jocelyn smiled. then lifting to seek out the tall. de Langley's golden eyes glimmered with amusement. moving among his people. And through it all. but she was suddenly excited. It was amazing under the circumstances. Even when you were dead. Jocelyn was aware of Belavoir's lord. I'll return command of your castle in the morning. But with this man she found it easy. "When you come to know me. He wasn't a man to be trifled with. Jocelyn began organizing the confusion around her. her eyes wandering over the children. She had already sent a group of servants up to the hall for a few hours' sleep. "Are you by any chance hinting. The work was proceeding smoothly. a boiling caldron there. Still. never even thought of doing with the men of her acquaintance. tasks Jocelyn couldn't imagine her brother or any of his wellborn companions doing.html Jocelyn accepted with another nod. I've cut my hand." "Now why does that not surprise me?" he said. Her fear of Robert de Langley had eased. she had seen enough of him to think he would be fair in his dealings with her and Adelise.processtext. holding her cold-numbed fingers out to the flames. half-buried in the straw. exhilarating." Sir Geoffrey laughed outright. It was something she'd never done before. the bladders readied to hold the abundant and necessary lard. enjoying matching wits with Robert de Langley. and more swine would be coming in the morning. http://www. She moved toward a pile of straw and sat down. The meat was portioned up and readied to be salted and smoked for huge hams and the all-important bacon. With a curious sense of satisfaction. In the light of the bonfires. I fear. One of the kitchen women was moving toward her. you will discover that I never hint." "Mycastle?" The mocking inflection wasn't lost on Jocelyn. madam. snatching up a child who was wandering too near one of the roaring bonfires. The intestines were cleaned to make sausage skins. and sweetbreads off to the kitchens. She hesitated beside one of the fires. "M'lady?" Jocelyn turned. Belavoir has always been yours. Oblivious to the noise and confusion. Even some of the long. lending a hand with a heavy carcass here. powerful figure moving among the fires. ." She thought of that midnight scene in Belavoir's chapel. my lord. kidneys. those who weren't standing guard duty. Soon men were disembowelling and cutting up the singed carcasses while women hauled the livers. "M'lady. that the legend might exceed the man?" Jocelyn remembered his arrogance of the morning. "Very well.com/abclit. but there was still a great deal to do."Especially when you were dead. and his temper was near as legendary as his fighting skills. stiff hair was saved for sewing the leather the hides would provide. my lord. several children were sleeping wrapped snugly in blankets. the hooves scaled and saved for gelatin. "Certainly.

" Jocelyn rose to her feet...Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. Her eye fell on Alys. http://www. Now. "Alys. but even sluts have to eat. "Alys. She might as well use them to benefit us all for a change." She studied the woman's wrinkled." Laughter swept the group. "Sluts have their place in the scheme of things. lie down and get some sleep. impotent fury swept Jocelyn. A few ribald comments were offered." Alys smiled again. "Nothing serious. It was obvious the sentiment was weighted heavily in Jocelyn's favor. a superior. Find Maude and tell her I said to dress this for you. "Thank you. but it was obvious she was more interested in flirting with a nearby knight. "Felice. Jocelyn began walking away. Alys. knowing smile." Several of the people nearby had stopped work to listen. At that. A cold. jumped when a deep voice sounded unexpectedly from the shadows. her voice perfectly flat. The young woman pretended not to hear. sultry eyes narrowed. I for one'll be waitin' t'see what our new lord says first. now!" Jocelyn snapped. we've need of you here. but didn't budge. No. "Take Margaret's place at the table. Alys won't have any trouble stripping and cleaning those entrails." Jocelyn called. "While you're there. But a lady like you. Margaret.. You've been out here all night." "If I say move. on second thought.processtext.I doubt you'd even know what I mean." The girl was still smiling. there's those of us not fancying to jump any longer at the word of a Montagne.com/abclit. "A . and I know your back's been ailing. Before I have that insolent tongue cut from your mouth." She turned and caught the other woman's surprised gaze. I do be all-powerful weary. "Alys. Take Margaret's place. over here!" The woman flashed her an impatient look. "I doubt our new lord would be likin' that. you'd best do it and quickly!" Jocelyn replied. full lips curved in a derisive half-smile. She sauntered toward Jocelyn. change with Felice. Margaret was a good worker but she was getting on in years.. Alys hesitated uncertainly. weary face. He seemed to have quite a fancy for it a few hours ago.. then took the knife Felice held out. The attractive young woman was pretending to work." As the woman moved away. but she kept her face expressionless. taking the woman's bleeding hand. The knight wisely moved away.html Such a clumsy creature I be sometimes. Someone will wake you when it's time to come back. the tanner's daughter." The woman nodded. the young woman turned. I'd suggest you get busy or you might find yourself hungry come winter. you get up to the keep and get some sleep. lady. even in the dark.. Jocelyn glanced around for someone to take her place. "D'ye still think t'be giving us orders here? And you a Montagne? Well. ". No doubt she's good with her hands.

Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. It was too much. sir. because you were handling the wench. "You'll find it easier to manage your servants. although she didn't know why." Jocelyn drew in a steadying breath.." Jocelyn turned." "I gave her no reason to think that whatsoever. "if you restrain yourself from bestowing your favors among their ranks and spend your coins with bought whores!" De Langley's smile didn't waver.. "Would that really be fair. but I tell you this. "And not that it's any of your business. Seven Jocelyn watched Robert de Langley stride away through the crowd. I'll have no difficulty managing Alys. sir? You've given the girl reason to think you favor her. but since you do seem so interested. that made something hot and uncomfortable uncurl in the pit of her stomach.com/abclit. met the amusement in his eyes and finished coolly. Perhaps I should anyway. sir. "I. I didn't interrupt just now. or a blessing?" At her words something changed in his eyes. Alys is a difficult enough creature to manage without your encouragement. "So long as she pleased him. I'll have that backside she's so proud of laid bare and flayed with a lash.html masterful defense and flanking attack. None at all." Jocelyn swallowed hard. Robert de Langley stepped out of the darkness. Nor will she find old routines continued." De Langley smiled again. madam? I should certainly like to know howyou view the matter. madam. And in a heartbeat Jocelyn was reminded of why she had feared so last night. Let me know if she offers further insolence. Your strategy was inspired. madam. his wide male grin like a match set to oil." But Robert de Langley had already turned away. I took the very talented Alys for one of those bought whores you seem to know something about. "I do assure you. I assure you Alys received good coin of the realm for her services. Which is it. Obviously she expects to see old routines continued.. I. yet the bailiff here allowed her to shirk her work so long as she—" She broke off.processtext. last night you as much as accused me of rape. "And does your wife consider that a curse. http://www. She's one of the kitchen servants." Robert de Langley moved toward her. The conversation was insane and improper. don't!" Jocelyn was taken aback by his callousness. In fact she was furious. madam. madam. I favor no woman. . Tonight you're berating me for bestowing my favors. Not even when it had brought down a beating upon her head. in the hard line of his mouth." Jocelyn was far from cowed. a knowing smile. Never had she so regretted her sharp tongue as she did at this moment. "Let's see." she snapped.. "My wife is dead. If she's given you trouble before—" "No. "I suppose only you and the girl know for sure. a smile that made Jocelyn's insides shift and tighten. the set and tension of his face.

It had been nearly eight years and her mother's loss still grieved her. She had managed her manor and seen it running smoothly." He nodded and turned away. It was written in the sensual way he moved. "My lady. bringing a castellan to rule Warford and taking Jocelyn away to Montagne. he had remembered that he had another daughter. She frowned and bit her lip. from the castle's men-at-arms. After her mother's death. "No. when she had finally gotten rid of him. or the very real need to sire heirs. even one as unprepossessing as herself. Quite apart from love. It was easy to see that he was a man who enjoyed women. time did bring acceptance. Everyone except her father. http://www. Sir Geoffrey was waiting expectantly.com/abclit.processtext. despite her youth. I'll send my men off to bed now unless you've need of them. of exceedingly rare and painful visits. It was no small wonder a man like that had taken a woman like Alys to bed so quickly. "Sir Geoffrey. she had been forever having to protect the maidservants. In the end. a daughter who had grown to womanhood in the wild and dangerous Welsh border country. He had appeared unexpectedly. Jocelyn had learned about men early from managing her own keep of Warford. But from the powerful emotion she had seen on de Langley's face. And she had been as powerless to stop the disintegration of her world as she had on that other day when all she loved was destroyed. We'll be done in a couple of hours. a fellow by the name of Wat said to tell you he's singeing down the last of the carcasses. which seemed rare.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. He was obviously the captain of de Langley's knights. men had physical needs that needed to be met. At least for tonight. it was he who had won." Jocelyn looked up. first from the insufferable bailiff her father had sent and then.html The great Lion of Normandy was obviously vulnerable. How fresh was Robert de Langley's loss? Jocelyn knew from experience that time didn't wipe out the hurt. But Jocelyn had persevered and. the husky. Life went on. the frank. I've no further need of them. she had won. and in a way she would never have expected. Still. she suspected the new lord of Belavoir hadn't accepted anything as yet. of insolent challenges and subtle undermining of her authority. assessing perusal he gave all women. even physical abuse by some of the individuals her father had sent to rule her. It had to. He must have loved his wife a very great deal. It had taken her a long while to make her people take her seriously." He glanced back. "How long has your lord's wife been dead?" . had gained the respect of everyone who had mattered. There had been months of struggle. the day her mother had died. After fourteen years of indifference. intimate tone of his voice.

" The man returned her smile with a thoughtful look. "I angered your lord just now. "In point of fact. He would be spending most of the day in the wood with a contingent of men. longing to lose herself in the oblivion of sleep. I didn't know the woman was dead." The word was curt. "We buried him some months ago. "I will. I won't. "You've no need to look so fierce." "No. ". the less said about the lady Marguerite the better.html A strange. He was four years old. http://www. We'll be at this again in a few hours. for hogs required too much of an estate's precious foodstuffs to be maintained once the acorns and beechmast were gone from the woods.. "I don't mean to pry." he added. In the firelight. . but the swine were still coming in. shuttered look dropped over his face." When Jocelyn finally crawled into bed herself she was so weary she ached in every muscle and was chilled clear through to the bone. *** The following day passed in a blur of squealing hogs and dripping red meat. By late afternoon. Jocelyn heard. "Why do you ask?" Jocelyn felt herself flush unexpectedly and was thankful for the darkness. A fine lad. "You might as well know. Despite the situation here. But like last night. Robert de Langley donned his hauberk and had his gray destrier saddled and brought around. sir.processtext. she found herself lying awake. He's lost a great deal. And like last night." Jocelyn nodded. "And there's not a man among us that won't give his own life to see he doesn't lose aught else.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. Jocelyn was heartily sick of her work. I spoke of his wife." He glanced up. "Forgive me then. Adam. the knight's eyes narrowed and the planes of his good-humored face shifted and became hard. The poor creatures couldn't be slaughtered nor the carcasses disposed of fast enough. Lord Robert had a son as well. hasn't he?" "Yes. I meant no disrespect. either." she said softly. Despite my name.com/abclit. "Get your men to bed. madam." The knight hesitated.. If the time is right. lady." Jocelyn smiled. sir. She snuggled beneath the heavy covers. Would you tell him that for me?" Sir Geoffrey stared hard at the ground.disrespectful. Very hard. I'd really no desire to tear old wounds. Three years. madam. It was rare in these times to see loyalty such as this. All but a handful of Belavoir's swine would be slaughtered. She's been dead now three years. I just—" She took a deep breath.. The men were confining them in makeshift pens. I was. They had set up a line of sentries to keep watch for Montagne. And a reminder of her death had the power to make the man look as he had just now." She searched for a word.. I assure you I'm no danger whatsoever to your lord. but my lord took it hard. she was thinking of Robert de Langley. "I see. I'd suggest you not mention that.

" Jocelyn turned and glanced up to the castle ramparts to the lone figure of Robert de Langley silhouetted against the sky. "Felice." he called over one shoulder. "Montagne is coming!" The news swept the crowd like a stable fire. "There's still a group out looking for swine. Just several of the boys off on their own. "Keep the gates open until I say. find Maude. She put down her knife. "Will there be fightin' then." "Thank you. lady. too. My prayers will be for us all as well. making her way toward the battlement stairs. Soldiers ran and men crowded together atop the gatehouse. Then she turned. eager for battle. Felice. "I pray not." Geoffrey nodded and turned away to give orders." de Langley ordered.processtext. Jocelyn watched curiously. "My lady. Jocelyn could hear horses. you help them. Someone was coming and coming fast. From her place in the crowd nearby. And get these fires out!" She glanced around. Tell her I said to fetch her medicines and bandage cloth and to pour up fresh water. wondered if even he knew. Jocelyn's heart began to pound.com/abclit. "Get the archers up on the walls." The woman paused. She wondered now what he would do. The rest of you women. gather up all the knives. Sensing the tension. sent Jocelyn a quick. her stomach clenched. Jocelyn turned to the milling servants and began giving orders of her own. "Keep the horses here." "I'll be prayin'.html Suddenly a shout rang out from a man on the wall. Sir Geoffrey went hurrying to Robert de Langley. De Langley took the stairs up to the battlements two at a time. the gates swung open. shy smile. The very people she had been laughing and working alongside a few moments before now stared oddly at her.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. "For all of us. the horses snorted and stamped. "Lower the drawbridge." "Devil take it. "Aenor. The drawbridge was lowered. The Carrick lad's among them." The woman nodded." The bailey was thrown into instant confusion as men caught up their weapons and scrambled into position. Glennis. my lady?" Jocelyn hesitated. then went to a basin to wash her hands. http://www. they were told to return by mid-afternoon! Who is it?" "None of our men. anything you can carry and get back into the keep." Robert de Langley went very still. We may need it. Robert de Langley and a band of his knights galloped in. We may need them. I don't think—" . a great many of them. They may make it yet. get this meat up to the kitchen! Will and Edwyr. pails.

"They'll never make it in." A shout came from the near wall. Think what you would want. She suspected he could feel hers as well. Please." . She was so close she could feel the warmth of his body. "So would you." she said. my lord. resuming his vigil to the east." "Aye. you may stay if you wish. his mouth a grim line." "I'd rather stay here." "I'd much rather know what's happening." He turned back then. I believe you and I are alike in that respect. That is indeed them." His eyes moved over her thoughtfully. my lord.. "Your father rides fast. She made straight for Robert de Langley. interrupting the young soldier who had dogged her steps all day." His head snapped up. His eyes narrowed. "That bit of haze off there to the right." At the top of the stairs the cold wind gusted over the wall." he muttered. get the lady downstairs and back inside. even if it is distressing." He glanced at his man. She held his eyes.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter.html Jocelyn didn't pause. You might see that which will be distressing. The cloud had grown much larger. De Langley was staring fixedly at the oncoming force. "I send you away for your own sake. But you'd best go back down now. My man will see you to your chamber. "I'll not overset your plans by getting killed." "I appreciate your thoughtfulness. http://www.com/abclit. "Very well. I'll send for you if need be. "I do prefer you alive." Jocelyn squinted into the wind. "You can do that just as well from up here. I suspect.processtext.. madam. madam. tugging at her cloak. "Who told you to come up here?" he demanded without turning around. "You were ordered to watch me. "It's the lads! Three boys and a half-dozen swine. lady." Jocelyn countered. Individual horses and riders were becoming distinguishable." she added. "don't send me back to wait without knowing." "I don't suppose dead hostages are of much use. She leaned against the wall beside him and squinted into the wind. Gerard. I've annoyed you enough without that." he muttered dryly. They've just broken out of the trees to the west. For any number of reasons. Is that them?" "You've good eyes." Jocelyn glanced up." "But. "If even one arrow comes over that wall. "The worst possible timing. but don't say I didn't warn you." Jocelyn mused. my lord. making her face tingle. "No one told me I couldn't.

Get them in if you can under the cover we'll provide. The time had come. We're going out!" Robert plunged down the stairs. he was almost as eager as his mount. settled himself more deeply in the saddle. "Our cause is just. pulsating roar. ignoring the two steps at the bottom entirely. De Langley's hands gripped the wall crenel. drew it down over his head and secured it. Belisaire struck the chestnut in the shoulder. Robert shifted the comforting weight of his shield to his left.html "Who are they?" Jocelyn asked. focused on his target. His men streamed out behind him. the sound of his voice steadying the excited stallion. Robert set Belisaire toward the gate. We should be able to drive them back with a few hard passes. then make the keep under the covering fire of our archers. Just three boys who will never be men. the force of the stallion's body knocking the smaller animal backward and down. Le Bent. The stallion responded with an explosion of powerful muscles that had them flying over the drawbridge and down the long hill in seconds. ears flattened in excitement. de Brie. http://www. hold the keep. Montagne's forces saw them and hesitated. teeth bared and snapping at the unfortunate man at his head.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. It was what he did best. The stallion arched his thick neck. "Belisaire. Despite this dangerous shift in plans. The two sides met with a shuddering shock of bodies and steel. a tall knight on a rangy chestnut." Robert positioned his helm. hold. Then he whirled. This was why he'd come home. Leave the gates open unless you see Montagne overpower us. then grabbed his steel helm from the man who had rushed to help him. "The rest of you follow me. "Geoffrey. His knights were swinging onto their horses. "Mount up. and then raced for the stairs.. a deafening clamor of noise. Montagne's men are worn from a forced march. This was the life for which he'd been born. make for those boys. "Mount up!" he shouted down into the bailey. He was fighting Montagne at last. They'll be confused. Easing up on the reins. He lifted his sword." They stood watching for several more seconds.We are in the right." He swung Belisaire toward the gate. . God make us strong. and he began to run. "Let's show Montagne how men fight!" he shouted. Use the archers and the rest of the men as you decide. He swung into the saddle.com/abclit. The hapless rider was powerless even to get in a blow as he was trampled by steel shod hooves. shifted his mailed hood over his head. Robert drew in his breath.processtext. His own destrier was sidling and backing. God be with us!" "For God and for us!"his men shouted back.." he ordered firmly. fighting the bit in his eagerness. "Three boys. He felt his feet connect with the hard-packed earth of the bailey. Robert caught up the reins. shouting and eager. not knowing who we are. went white at the knuckles. They bunched together in confusion. then straightened and surged forward with an angry.

allowed himself a moment to search the field. protecting his right side. but his own men were fighting like devils. crippling stroke. men shouted in triumph and screamed in agony. then swung around. with a stark economy of motion that was unstoppable.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. He could hear the sound of his own labored breath whistling through his nose guard. but Robert wasn't ready to return to the keep. striking at everything that moved. driving Belisaire broadside into one of the horses. And above it all rang the clatter and rasp of steel against steel. As if in answer to his need. Jocelyn held her breath. He maneuvered his mount with his knees. He spurred toward the man. Two knights came at him at once. He heard the familiar grunt of thrashing. His blood was up and he wanted Montagne. he sighted the red boar insignia Montagne had taken to wearing. flailing hooves and spreading circles of red. He freed his sword. had already swung to take on another opponent. his shout of hatred ringing down the field. . http://www. then matched blows with the enemy knight for several seconds. struggling horses.But never had she imagined anything like this. He narrowed his eyes. The animal stumbled but regained his footing. Horses snorted and squealed. He lifted his head. Men surged first one way and then the other. his rider lifting his shield. swung and fell. He swept past. readied himself to face the other knight. Without hesitation the stallion checked and moved left. He laid about him with his sword.processtext. watching as Robert de Langley surged across the plain like an angel of death. He wanted vengeance. Montagne's forces outnumbered them. His great blade swung and fell. But the man was backing off. the silken passage of fine steel through soft flesh.html Robert fended off a sword-thrust with the upper corner of his shield. searched the field through the anonymity of his helm's eye slits. Screams came to her easily on the wind along with the clatter and ring of steel. With the heatof the fighting upon himhe wasn't going to proceed by his plan. feeling the satisfying crunch of separating mail. He wanted it now! *** Jocelyn gripped the edge of the wall obliviousto the fact that the rough stone had cut her hand. Not now.com/abclit. finishing him quickly with a sword stroke the man never even saw coming. Robert followed swiftly with a powerful. The fighting was spread out on the plain belowher. had even watched one rough tournament melee Brian had told her was almost like battle. She had seen men practice at fighting. drawing alongside the man. Montagne's men were beginning to fall back. in an effortless hypnotic rhythm that drove the men back. A surge of power and excitement carried him. He was going to win. He fended them off with sword and shield. Robert hesitated. His sword rose and fell with a grace that was both beautiful and terrifying to behold. the heavy breathing of men fighting for their lives. Robert shifted his knee. then droppedout of sight in a sickening crush of shimmering steel. bashing him in the face with the edge of his shield.

All around her the men on the walls began to cheer. She drew her cloak close. Blood reddened the man's back and one whole side of his body. knew he was still upright in the thick of the fighting. God.html The arena of fighting narrowed. It seemed unthinkable that he might die.com/abclit. The knights were dismounting.God keep him. she had forgotten she wasn't alone. God. Caught up in the drama below. she recognized a bay stallion her brother often rode. had never experienced emotions as confusing as the ones she was experiencing now. She spared scarcely a glance for Brian. her heart hammering painfully in her throat. A host of catcalls and taunts followed the arrows over the wall. she watched the lord of Belavoir. "Please. tightened. Jocelyn came to herself with a start. Two men caught him under the . The men were safely inside. she couldn't drag her eyes from de Langley... Her sweat-dampened shift clung to her body. by how it had affected her. her father and his forces raging in impotent fury outside." The fighting went on. please. Not now. the drawbridge groaned upward. In the grip of a bewildering awe. but she caught glimpses of his gray stallion. don't let him fall. And then for no reason she could see. involuntary litany. Jocelyn was surprised to find her legs weak." she whispered. Opponents came at de Langley from all sides. The Belavoir men clattered across the drawbridge and swept through the open gates. http://www. in what had become an impassioned. God. and Jocelyn's heart slid into her throat. Her eyes were riveted on that gray horse. on the legendary man who rode as if the animal were a part of him. In the press ofmen and horses. It dripped from his torn surcoat. he disappeared. shaken by what she had witnessed. blinked against a surge of tears. Then the gates swung shut. The archers atop the walls sent a volley of arrows hissing toward the Montagne men. And she was more than a little surprised and ashamed to realize her eyes had been all for de Langley. De Langley broke free.. his home and his people and three boys who might yet become men. Please.. She couldn't bear to watch yet couldn't drag her eyes away.processtext. Not after all he'd been through. His men began streaming back toward the keep while de Langley himself and a dozen others circled and fought a rear-guard action with a handful of Montagne men brave or foolish enough to try to follow. In the crush. Robert de Langley was fighting with all of his heart and all of his soul for all in the world he had left. He helped drag one of his men from the saddle. hadn't thought once where her own interests lay. her heart racing as if she'd been fighting alongside the men. making her shiver in the icy wind. She gripped the crenel edge tighter and leanedout. that she hadn't looked once for her father. untilthe struggle was centered on one small area of the field. "Please. the battle abruptly shifted. God. please. staining the brown bailey earth. She swallowed against a sudden tightness in her throat. God. She had never known anyone remotely like Robert de Langley.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. It seemed impossible he could come out alive.

It was only a skirmish. yes. The heat and rage of the fighting were obviously still upon him. Jocelyn followed him into the hall. I suppose. "Your father should be dead. and his eyes swept the battlements. He had removed his helm." she added.processtext. His eyes narrowed. Jocelyn started toward him. madam. http://www. Still half-overwhelmed by what she had seen. I would consider it a holy miracle. they're all right. "Come here.com/abclit. madam." "I'm glad I was able to offer you entertainment." De Langley hesitated. He held a quill in his hand. "Well. then she saw Adelise." Eight By the time Jocelyn and the knight named Gerard came down from the wall walk. Bring your sister. his golden eyes blazing with anger. Jocelyn searched the room for de Langley. "Has there been fighting?" Jocelyn nodded. "Sweet merciful Christ! Are they all right?" Jocelyn put out a hand to steady her.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. "I'm not sorry I stayed though. if that's what you're asking. Her arm tightened about her sister in warning." he shouted. if I've anything to say in the matter!" Jocelyn felt Adelise gasp and begin to tremble. madam. keeping her arm about Adelise. that my men didn't spend their blood to no cause!" "From what I could see 'twas Montagne men did most of the spending. I doubt my father can say the same. He sat alone at the high table. Jocelyn stepped forward at once. blood-spattered armor." Jocelyn said evenly. "It's time we raised the stakes. on who that one is.html shoulders and supported him up the stairs into the hall." "If it's only one. I've lost none yet." he added in a voice that boded no good. Even from this distance she could tell he was in a rage. Robert de Langley had gone into the keep. His face was flushed and hard. Lord de Langley and his men went out to meet him. Will be soon. was scratching furiously at a sheet of parchment. and did you enjoy your view?" "Enjoy is not the word I would use." "Most. Women were already hurrying to the wounded. but he was watching them. Robert de Langley swung around. "Bring me the women! The Montagne women. De Langley pushed back from the table and stood in full.. "Yes. Robert de Langley sat still at the table. glancing over her shoulder toward Belavoir's lord." Adelise's pale face turned even whiter." "That depends. Why was the man so furious? From what she'd seen he'd done a magnificent job of fighting off the Montagne . "What's happened?" Adelise whispered.. "Father's come. then came round the table. but I fear one may go soon.

But even in battle I don't butcher men from behind.. "My lord. the predator selecting his prey. The girl whimpered and tried to move." de Langley said. dragging her head back roughly against his shoulder. Adelise lifted her chin. "That's what your father did on the field today. so unexpectedly. distracted. He held her easily as she struggled. Pray don't regard any—" "So I am a murderer. a thousand of one such as you! And if he dies. "My lord.processtext. this is beneath you! Let her go. "No! No. I suggest that you pray now.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. it's you who will pay for his blood." Jocelyn glanced back over her shoulder toward the injured men. "Since you've called for his death.. I'll not help.com/abclit. "You've voiced that sentiment before. It is a matter between you and him. It's a matter I'll think long and hard on how to repay. You're a murderer! I hope your man dies. lady?" In a poorly chosen moment of bravado. sir.. madam. She just learned of the fighting. He moved closer. I hope you all die!" "Do you now?" The silken words sent a shiver of unease through Jocelyn. I suppose some would agree with that. May God decide it. "My sister is overwrought." Jocelyn sucked in her breath. He caught up a fistful.You! And I assure you I'll not make it easy. Jocelyn could tell he was losing control. I don't wait until they're outnumbered. catching Adelise and spinning her around and back against him." Adelise made an inarticulate sound of protest. "Well..don't!" The blade glittered dangerously next to Adelise's white face. eyes riveted upon Adelise. If you'll allow it. His hand shot out. "I suggest you pray for that man as you have never prayed in your life. you've formed a singularly inappropriate idea of my character!" . but her head was pinned against his hauberk. dragged off her wimple to send her silvery hair cascading free." he murmured against her ear. "Both my sister and myself are held to have great talent with healing. He is worth a hundred. But as to your wounded. http://www. but I've no intention of discussing it with you. held down by someone else so I can hack at them from the rear. we will see what can be done. my lady Adelise Montagne." His large hands clenched convulsively. Robert de Langley drew his dagger. De Langley's eyes swept past Jocelyn and focused on Adelise." "If you think vengeance beneath me. "What? Can it be you've no wish to help. madam. And if that man dies—" He broke off.html forces. sir. This had come upon them so quickly. She had never seen any man look as Robert de Langley did now.

"Oh. "Please." Adelise closed her eyes and caught her lower lip between her teeth." he said. "You're going to cut her." He smiled thinly." . No civilized man would do such a thing. I've no doubt my father will recognize it. Surprise and respect mingled in the look. When I murder people. I'm not going to kill her!" he snapped.. But my sister has had enough. but she bit her lip and managed to hold her head steady. willed him to look at her." Jocelyn sought his eyes." she repeated. "If you want something to unsettle my father. "Hold still." He looked up. "Don't you think your lord father will recognize it?" Adelise whimpered again and attempted to struggle. have we not. holding it out. such fine texture. Besides. "I'm going to cut off a piece of her hair. relieved breath.processtext. you're far to lovely to kill. "I'd suggest you hold still. yet." He caught up a length of Adelise's hair.com/abclit. "You're a monster! Amonster!" she cried. Very still. "Let her go. Tears ran from beneath her lashes. drawing in a long. You're frightening her half to death." Jocelyn took the knife. pressing the blade against it. And you most of all. I'm afraid I am all that is left. I'm sure. Jocelyn could stand it no longer." De Langley drew in a deep breath and glanced around. for a moment. "Give it to me. Her sister was sobbing. "Give me the knife!" she snapped. for you'll have lost an extremely valuable hostage!" De Langley glanced down at her. I generally make sure it's intentional. madam. rubbed it between his long fingers. "We've already ascertained. aware that every eye in the hall was riveted upon them. for the love of God.. almost fell. http://www. A pity. You may let her go now. this is most certainly it. The girl staggered. madam. It severed the hair as if it had been warm butter.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. that dead hostages are of little value." De Langley released Adelise. Adelise" she said. A little token to remind Montagne what I hold in my hand.. I suspect your father will think the same when he receives my missive. She hadn't really believed he was going to hurt Adelise." she said.. and then we'll all be sorry. I'd hate to cut that pretty throat by accident. from your point of view that Duke Henry and his men weren't more thorough. "Perhaps you're right. and she knew from his eyes the exact moment he mastered his rage. he lowered the knife. We've all had enough!" To her surprise. "Such unusual color.. "Let her go. it wasn't her fault. "We have been. "I believe this is what you wanted. Still.. "You and all of your blood should be hunted down and destroyed!" De Langley eyed her contemptuously.html "Whatever outrage my father committed. Jocelyn reached up and caught a length of hair in back. madam. then caught herself against the table. She stepped forward and held out her hand. She held it up.

though. Aymer Briavel.. She struck out in the only way she knew. I will be. of these last two days of his tireless. "Then get yourself off to bed. "How long has it been. "He is dear to you?" "He was with me when that church was burned around our ears.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. For any fear or hurt I've caused you. http://www. Your woman can help you to rest.html He caught Geoffrey's eye. madam." Geoffrey moved forward with alacrity. since you've slept more than a few minutes at a stretch?" "Something in the nature of five years. "Come. The sun is setting and regardless of what my father might like. Instinctively. oddly enough. Still I. I'm afraid your words frightened her. "I'm sorry. He's unconscious. She thought of that terrible fighting." Jocelyn shook her head. "Forgive my sister. madam? I'd have thought you more likely to come at me with this. "I don't want him to die alone. sir." He hesitated. Yes. my lord." His eyes lifted to hers and held for a moment. For .processtext. Her own anger was rapidly cooling. barely made the safety of the gates. Jocelyn touched his arm." That brief hesitation spoke volumes... All at once she became aware that she was still holding tight to his dagger." The rage and excitement that had carried him had faded. He put a supportive hand on Adelise's arm and helped her stand.. You are rather daunting. "And I. her thoughts. when you are angry. Jocelyn could see now how utterly exhausted de Langley appeared. that we've been through hell together." Despite the lingering tension. She held it out. I believe. sleepless work. of the father and brother he had lost. Events like that forge a bond between men. Adelise has always been close to our father.com/abclit. drew in a deep breath. When she glanced back. glancing over his shoulder to where the women were caring for the wounded. for what my father did to your friend." An ocean of pain lay concealed in the words.. Jocelyn smiled. he can do little for now but make camp. As Sir Geoffrey had said." De Langley took the weapon.. I'll fetch you some wine. he is dear." Jocelyn watched her sister move toward the stairs. toyed carefully with the point of his blade. jerked his head toward the stairs. my lord. lady. through. "I must sit with one of my knights. Jocelyn understood now the reason for his rage. "See the lady back to her chamber. the man had lost a very great deal. "You might say." "So I've been told. I didn't really think you meant to harm her. "An apology. I know. "After that first fright. the wife he still mourned. I suspect she'd be happier once she's above stairs." De Langley shook his head. lifting his eyebrows with something of the old mockery. the young son he had buried so far away. my lord. And after. speculative look in his eyes. through—" He broke off. And with good cause. madam. sir. a thoughtful. of the many sleepless nights that had doubtless preceded this. Robert de Langley was staring at her.

but there was something about the smile that was odd." De Langley lifted his knife blade. Jocelyn sucked in her breath as his hands began working down the length of the braid. of the many women who had doubtless lain beneath him. realized too late that it was a mistake. on the dried . madam?" "No." Jocelyn hesitated a moment. releasing it." She glanced back. She reached up self-consciously. She was reminded unexpectedly of Alys. Jocelyn held herself still. "Wait.processtext. "I understand. She focused her eyes on his chest. could only stand there." she said softly and started to turn away. "Does your father read. but there's still a little something I need. His thumb rested against her pulse point. "I've a note readied to send off. the fingers curling about the nape of her neck with a tension she'd never been conscious of before. why didn't he just cut off her hair and be done? He smiled." With the words. she jumped as if she'd been burned.html what I may cause you still. releasing the braided knot at the nape of her neck. self-consciously. he slid one hand beneath her hair." De Langley nodded." An inexplicable sadness swept Jocelyn. "Let down your hair. She tried to say something to break the tension. but the man was obviously serious. Catching up the braid. With a major effort of will. forced. Her heart began pounding. She could feel the heat of his body. using his knife to slit the thong at the bottom. She glanced up. "Don't be afraid. powerful. as his hands worked the length of her hair and then combed through it slowly again. madam. I assure you I shan't cut your throat. Every nerve in her body jangled. of the woman who had lain beneath him. he swung it over her shoulder. Jocelyn swallowed hard. but couldn't manage it. shivery feeling coursing through her. But my brother Brian does.com/abclit. could feel it somehow transmitted to hers. And when the back of his knuckles inadvertently brushed the side of her breast. It was large." "What?" "Montagne has two daughters. The man was certainly taking his time! God in heaven. Robert de Langley was close. http://www. "Let down your hair. pointing to her hair. She knew he must feel the surging rush of her blood. her whole body tensed and flushed. I doubt I've the energy just now to repeat that last performance with you. The sensual tugging against her scalp sent a tight." The ghost of a smile eased the weariness about his mouth. De Langley stepped closer.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. The thick rope of hair fell nearly to her waist. his long-lashed golden eyes focused on her with an intensity that was overpowering. madam.

processtext. He drew the dark severed lock across his palm. I imagine. "Is there nothing of your father in you? The castle folk here say not.html blood staining his hauberk. She needed to get a clear breath. And any others here who are wounded. It's time he learned I'm back from the dead to haunt him. to free herself from the grip of whatever it was she had just experienced. I expect." Jocelyn found her voice. Jocelyn found the young knight without trouble. A point very much in your favor. and dried moss. "He would like to think not. The wound is a bad one. "Well." "Then you've made the wrong acquaintances. The wonder of it was that he hadn't slain both her and Adelise outright. "I've heard it. and what do you think?" Jocelyn glanced up.com/abclit.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. There were a more than dozen anxious men ringed about Aymer Briavel. yarrow. The blood loss had been so rapid he had barely maintained enough consciousness to remain mounted and reach the gates. So that was why Robert de Langley had broken off the fighting. you can be sure. "Same sire. "I was hoping Aymer might regain consciousness if only for a few minutes. I am far from his favorite child. as I'm certain you've heard as well. but I would appreciate it if you would do whatever you can for my man. "Strange. his hand fell away." he repeated. sicklewort. Robert de Langley was bending over her. all her life she had been found wanting. had taken a blade through the edge of his back and out one side. Have you sent for your priest?" De Langley nodded. madam." . I doubt there's ought to be done. Enough to speak to the priest. Still. She had bound his side and back as tightly as she dared. measured it against the spun silver of the one beside it." He hesitated again." He started to turn away. "I'll see to him." All her life Jocelyn had been measured against Adelise. And his wounds were indeed bad. speaking softly with Maude while she did. different dams.. "I must get these tokens off to Montagne. Whose had it been? With a last tug of her hair." Jocelyn swallowed and stepped away. She had cleaned the wounds as best she could then packed them with poultices of crushed willow. It was little wonder he had been in a rage when he got back. but the blood still oozed from both wounds." she whispered. http://www. She checked the man's bandages. stared at the hair in his hand and frowned." "I would appreciate it. He had a huge hacked gash across his shoulder." De Langley held her eyes." "Not to the people of my acquaintance. if you do have unusual skills. Then he turned and moved away. "I think he's in God's hands. Jocelyn frowned. The woman was as skilled a healer as Jocelyn had ever seen.. then hesitated. "I know you'll need to go to your sister. With the same sire that the two of you should be so different.

I'll sit with him." Jocelyn shook her head. Lord de Langley said the same." In a matter of minutes. By God's grace. I've not seen such friendships among my father's men. there was little pride and no honor. As the early hours of evening crept by. He's a good man. a good man yet readily capable of things that aren't good. "How is he?" "The same. his eyes on the unconscious man." She glanced at the dying man and frowned. "Actually. Jocelyn stared curiously at the knight across from her." "A shame. I find your lord difficult to describe." Jocelyn glanced up. I can eat here as easily as anywhere else. It was true. Nothing inside seemed out of place. A good friend. From her vigil beside Sir Aymer's pallet. yet I find it impossible not to respect him. She watched Robert de Langley move about the keep. I don't understand it. It may be too much.. the priest was kneeling at Jocelyn's side. The man left nothing to chance. They were like starving wild dogs here in the . A flush stole over her face. I'm afraid. though the bleeding is lessening. and she added with some embarrassment. Jocelyn directed the workings of the castle folk. food had to be prepared." Geoffrey nodded and sat quietly. lady. It was obvious he didn't really believe her father would attack. watched as the priest anointed the unconscious man with the holy oil. checking with his sentries. all of Robert de Langley's men seemed different from the men she had known all her life.. She listened to the comforting words of the sacrament.html Jocelyn shook her head. "But I've no idea how much blood he's lost. packing fresh poulticesof honey and herbs against her work.. He is an easy man to fear. "I've sent a woman to fetch me something. Sir Geoffrey came by and knelt for a moment.. But so had the earl of Chester. "This knight is a friend. setting his men to sleeping in shifts.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. while you go and get something to eat. "He's bleeding still and in the stupor oft caused by such. Jocelyn removed the blood-soaked bandages. The injured men had to be stitched up and cared for. She tried to put her thoughts into words. Then it was over and the men were scattering resignedly to their duties. His men seem to worship him. you say. I don't think it likely to happen. it's a clean wound.processtext.com/abclit. in some respects he was dishonorable. When it came to the getting of lands. yet he leads them out to court death against impossible odds. Sir Geoffrey was different. http://www. thinking of the wild fighting she had witnessed. so had several of these western marcher lords. He had taken an oath years ago to respect and protect the de Langley lands. not after whatever it was he had written on that parchment. Is it because you have been through so much together. But it was more obvious still that he was as good as his word. of what de Langley had said of her father. so. because your lord is so. Despite her father's fierce pride. carefully stitching the layersof muscle and flesh back together. He seems a hard man but not harsh." She floundered for words and found nothing appropriate.

done things.html marches. We've been through things. What he says he will do. And not a man among us would have it any way else orany other man as our lord. I swear it. least of all Lord Robert. can you? Nor can I. She thought of her father's indifference at her mother's death. his lands and all he has lost. "You can't atone. "You say my lord is a hard man and that is true." He hesitated. "I find myself shamed tonight. "I'll go at once and see what the lady desires." Jocelyn struggled to return Geoffrey's smile. That I'll be up later. but sweet Christ. "Would you do something for me now." Geoffrey grinned. but the man across from her seemed to be seriously considering them.com/abclit. Robert de Langley isn't the man to shift with the wind norto think lightly of his vows. most men won't see or do in their lifetime. snarling and fighting among themselves for a bit of choice meat. No man here holds Aymer's injury against you.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. "Send for me if you've need of anything. We all have! I tell you this. He's taken homage of Stephen and sworn to uphold him as king. sought for a lighter tone and foundit. else it's me that'll be ripped limb from limb. http://www. madam. These are hard times. Well. There's a magic in Robert de Langley.processtext. "But enough of this. by vows taken for convenience and broken as readily for the same reason. in this world or the next. body and soul. madam." "Will you see that food is sent up to my sister and her woman? Ask whoever takes it up to tell her that I am helping out with the wounded. he's been forced to be. "My thanks. "You say we are different." she said. for that which you haven't done. sent her another smile." Jocelyn nodded. if I could give back his wife and his son.. "And as to the reason men still follow him.. my lady." She offered the wordsin jest. if there's any change in Aymer." ." Jocelyn smiled. Anger and disgust surged up." "I'll be most happy to take care of it personally. If I could give your lord this man's life. I swear it before God!" If Geoffrey was surprised by her outburst. sir. sir. You could rip him apart limb from limb and he'd not go back on that. "There are many who think England would be a great deal better off. "Shamed by an honor that shifts like the wind. but Robert is Stephen's man." He smiled. most certainly." He glanced up. of attempting the impossible and oft times pulling it off. sir?" "If it's within my power. And they had little respect for anything. of his obscene rejoicing when he'd heard the news of de Langley's horrible end. We follow him because we can't help ourselves. then added gently. madam. madam. as happy to kill each other as they were their traditional enemies across the Welsh border." He rose to his feet." He hesitated again. I would. though.it didn'tshow. "But you can't. and you'd do well to remember my words. if this is the end waiting for each of us with the next sunrise. why I can only say that he has the gift of saying the unbelievable and making men believe. Only our Blessed Lord knows if there will be harder yet before all's done. perhaps we are. I've things to see to now. "I'm surprised you've not made him king.

cross-legged. Your men.processtext. I'm not. I've watched too many children die. The way my men and I have lived these last years was no way for boys to grow up. my pleasure. "I sent them away. They finished the meal in silence and a servant fetched them two cups of ale. "Any change in Aymer?" Jocelyn looked up." ." Somehow Jocelyn couldn't imagine her father or Brian doing anything of the like." He squatted and placed one of the bowls beside her." Jocelyn widened her eyes in surprise." "I suppose I should be thankful for that. "Ah. then settled himself on the floor. madam. madam. madam. lady. "I assure you. Especially if it has to do with the getting of food. My men have learned to work if they want to eat. though no worse.html He bowed. There was nothing frightening or awe-inspiring about the legendary Norman Lion now. Jocelyn had noticed de Langley had no squire." Jocelyn thought of the son he had lost." "I suspect you'll have trouble making the boys believe that. It seemed the simplest thing. Geoffrey moved quickly across the floor and soon disappeared into the shadowy well at the base of the stairs. He lifted some into Jocelyn's bowl to accompany her beans and bread. "Living the life of an outlaw is a humbling experience. "I've noticed you do that often —the simple things—even if they aren't the ways of a lord." "Those boys had a beating from one of my men and then such a tongue-lashing from me they're probably all wishing they had met their fate. You'll find few jobs beneath our dignity. the fighting too vicious. too. Those boys were just an excuse." Jocelyn watched him walk away. began methodically slicing up the fresh pork in his bowl." Jocelyn watched Robert de Langley eat." He frowned. "Your supper. "The same I'm afraid. It's difficult to pretend to a knight's pride when your stomach is rumpling so loudly you're afraid your enemies will find you just from the noise." He shrugged. "I was hungry. I didn't expect you to bring it. I was amazed they helped with the swine. "Is that why you went out to meet my father today?" He shot her a hard look. I wanted to fight your father. "When I sent for food. Robert de Langley was standing a few feet away holding two wooden bowls. "Don't make it something it wasn't. The whole keep is making me out to be a hero. There weren't many left anyway. Besides. I was coming to check on Aymer. She asked him about it. Yet in an strange way that inspired even more respect.com/abclit.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. the risks were too great. of the three boys who had made it safely inside the gate this afternoon and of what he had risked to make it so. http://www." He drew his dagger. that there were no young men in training among any of the knights in his service.

Belavoir's lord might not consider himself a hero. One of the kitchen boys. She searched for a name. my lord.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. I'm at least two-parts asleep right now and will be good for little come the dawn unless I catch some rest for a few hours. then sighed and leaned back against the wall.com/abclit. Jocelyn stared at the sleeping man. but there were obviously others who did.." He gave one last tired sigh.processtext. closing his eyes. We'll find out just how well I handle temptation. Can I trust you to see to Aymer. She was beginning to wonder if he might not be right. And she'd wager something else as well. Men casually shifting positions. yet warmly intimate for all that." he ordered. slightly mocking. good or ill?" She nodded. the sight of his fingers clenching the stone." Jocelyn watched for several minutes. I don't want him to die. As she watched she saw other shadowy figures moving about the room. A thin. remembered vaguely that the boy was called Adam. how many children he'd had to watch die. She'd wager he was the one the servants were all gossiping about.. Three boys. and see.. She thought of that moment up on the battlements. The one who'd railed at her so vehemently that long ago night in the chapel. that he was one of the three Robert de Langley had risked everything for this afternoon.html He took a slow sip of ale. how many friends. raggedy form crept out of the shadows. Jocelyn realized. Nine . ". then drew a blanket over Belavoir's sleeping lord. to wake me if there's any change. She wondered how many battles Robert de Langley had fought. There was a magic in Robert de Langley. He didn't stir. "And can I trust you not to conjure some weapon from thin air and put an end to me once and for all? I'll be quite defenseless while I sleep. He held her gaze a few seconds more. Lying down on the empty pallet. He stared thoughtfully at an empty pallet a few feet away. the one who had held the keep door during the battle for Belavoir. calling to one of his men. moving nearer their lord ina subtle but unmistakable ring of protection. It was thoughtful.alone.. "He's a good man. then set several guards to watch over the hall. Sir Geoffrey Talmont had said. he curled his right arm under his head for a pillow. he had said. Just three boys who won't become men. http://www. A smile she'd no doubt she would still be calling up come the winter of her life. He issued a string of orders. And she very much feared she was becoming one of them. And then he had gone out to fight. "Go to sleep then. stationed himself fora protective vigil not three yards from where de Langley slept. He lifted his eyebrows and smiled. She smiled. "Wake me if there's any change in Aymer. then turned. "Madam." Anyone less defenseless than Robert de Langley— awake or asleep—Jocelyn had yet to find." Weary amusement lit his eyes.

It was only to be expected with such an injury. One thing more. "I've not the slightest interest in—" Geoffrey's grin widened. Perhaps he'll think it's Chester changing his coat yet again. Robert allowed himself a self-conscious smile. God knows I've owned that joy oft enough. Geoffrey reached for the pitcher of ale and poured himself a cup. It would be pointless to deny his interest. One debt more to add to Montagne's account. He didn't deserve to waste away like this from a fever's burning fire. "How long do you plan to keep Montagne guessing?" Robert smiled." "Is it? Well. the knowledge of what would most likely happen was like a knife shifting in Robert's gut." "Not for a while. Let Montagne learn how it feels to be betrayed by his own ally. "Give him the same message as before. his gaze shifting to where Jocelyn was changing Aymer's bandages. I've not seen you so intrigued by a woman in a very long time. "What?" "I said she's unusual. Still. He calls for a meeting. "A pity she's Montagne's daughter. He won't believe it's me. one of the best. a heightened awareness of the woman in every inch of his body. Montagne's daughter glanced up. A bit too bold for my taste. It was a sudden acceleration of his pulse. you know he won't. but by some strange perversity of his body and soul. I . his skin like live coals to the touch. The man has too much to lose. and Robert broke off. at least. but there are men who like that in a woman." The man grinned and turned away." "If he gets angry enough he might do something foolish." Robert lifted his ale cup and took a leisurely drink. She is unusual and we've lived like monks too damned long. he thought darkly. "All right. Geoffrey knew him too well to be fooled. If Montagne can't be frightened into coming to terms.com/abclit.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. Now he ached with the hunger for a woman again. "I want him to worry and guess and fret a while longer." Geoffrey grinned. Raoul.processtext. "Unusual. As if feeling the draw of his gaze. That's all. so I'd like to take her off upstairs and bar the door for a couple of hours. taking his keep—my keep—when his back was turned. it was Montagne's youngest daughter that stirred him. perhaps you'll get your wish.html "Mylord. His friend had survived the night—a miracle in itself—but this morning he had been delirious. a stirring of his blood. Taking Alys to bed had provided only a momentary relief. the Montagne herald is at the gate again. http://www." Robert took another sip of ale." "Don't be a fool!" Robert snapped. Their eyes met and Robert felt that strange quickening sensation again. I'm otherwise occupied this morning. Aymer was a good man. I'll send for him when I'm ready to talk. isn't she?" Geoffrey asked.

"I suppose things are bound to get interesting now. He was beginning to wonder as to the wisdom of his plan. "Well. merciful Christ. Robert doubted it would require much bullying and threatening on his part to bring the man to some kind of agreement.html suppose you can do what you damn well please with the girl. They had survived the worst of it together. His grubby fallen-angel child with the wide eager eyes and four-year-old fascination with every aspect of life from why a man couldn't reach the sky to how worms crawled and why they could see in the dark." Geoffrey rose to his feet. every part and parcel of de Langley land the man had stolen. "'Tis only the matter of degree I wonder about. That is the plan." "How many with him. convulsively. Geoffrey knew it as well as he and liked it even less. Raoul?" "No one.processtext. His throat closed up. His blond and blue-eyed joy.com/abclit. He shrugged. Montagne is at the gate himself. Montagne was said to be a doting father.. he'd been told. fighting the wave of pain that almost got the better of him at . I'll see him. He may have a safe-conduct inside the gate." "When have you known them not to be?" "Since taking service with you? Never. His smile faded. He wanted it all. Adam." Geoffrey grinned. daughters weren't particularly important in the scheme of things. "My lord. just once more to hold Adam in his arms! He swallowed desperately. And to pull that off might require more than empty threats. Sometimes things get a bit hotter than at others. just dishonorable. While he'd slept." He emptied his ale cup and pushed back from the table. But that was the problem. "I suppose this deserves some kind of an answer at least. http://www. seeking her own bed just before dawn." Robert smiled at the oblique reference to that burning church. He didn't want just any agreement. All he had were the women. the worst until Adam's death. His whole being ached. isn't it?" Of course that was the plan. beginning to wonder just what he would do if Montagne called his bluff and refused to turn over his castles.Once more. For a moment his defenses crumbled and the vast expanse of emptiness and hurt that lurked round the edges of his consciousness surged out to engulf him. Robert glanced back at Jocelyn Montagne.. with both of them as a matter of fact. she'd been up nursing Aymer. and if a man had a healthy son. I never said the man was a coward." Robert's eyes met Geoffrey's. Tell him to wait. He and Geoffrey and Aymer.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. It wasn't as if he held the man's son and heir hostage. He's demanding entrance. He rides alone.

"In times like these. He didn't plan ever to love—ever to need—anyone like that again. "I expect. drew another deep breath. He didn't ever want to leave himself open to this kind of hurt. And he was alone. leaned over the table and picked up his heavy helm. He had no idea what to say to her but felt an overwhelming urge to say something.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter." Robert managed a smile. oh. The lines of exhaustion weren't nearly so obvious. my lord de Langley." Geoffrey made an overly obsequious bow. Geoffrey. Montagne sat on his big chestnut destrier scarcely a bow shot away. madam." Robert hesitated.. God grant that he didn't lose Geoffrey. "Do me a favor. About Aymer. *** Robert gazed down through the indentation of a wall crenel." Geoffrey said softly. "I don't suppose it would be possible for me to come with you?" "Not this time. my captain. "No.I assure you. that it won't be long until you and your sister are released. "Don't get yourself in the way of a sword-thrust anytime soon. He's burning up with fever. "You're right. Queen of Heaven.. though sometimes I do wonder. my God. "Your father is outside the gates. I suppose we're fools ever to learn to care about anyone. "I was thinking.. anything. I know you've no time to be training another captain just now.." "Only think how barren life would be if we didn't.html times. Is there aught you would have me say for you?" Jocelyn shook her head. It was a beautiful day. I suppose. It was easier this time. "You're right. and he and Sir Geoffrey headed for the door.. God.com/abclit. his men were drawn up and waiting at a distance. Or Aymer. clear and crisp. wondered if it was about to happen again.. He cleared his throat. Let's find out what Montagne's made of." As they crossed the hall Robert found himself hesitating a few paces from Jocelyn Montagne. In the distant . He looked better this morning after his sleep. Jocelyn bit her lip. pray for us poor sinners now. She thought again of the wild fighting. And then the words of comfort were there. however. met the worried eyes of his friend and drew a deep. How could she tell Robert de Langley that her father would care little for any word from her? She studied his face.." he added." Robert smiled again. steadying breath. Friends did make it easier. forcing as light a tone as possible from his still aching throat. it's what I'll be working toward. feeling a strange rush of emotion so confusing she didn't even know how to pray. A shiver of apprehension slid through her.processtext. http://www. why did you have to take my son? "Robert?" He glanced up. Holy Mary. but warmer than it had been these last days. Robert narrowed his eyes against the surprising brightness of a sun they had scarcely seen for two weeks. Come along now." He turned abruptly." de Langley said.

" Robert grinned and shouted down lazily. Montagne? Afraid to meet a ghost?" "I fear no man living. "Who are you?" the man shouted up." Robert taunted. you'd best think again!" "But what if it is me?" Robert called." "What is it." "Things would have gone just the same!" Montagne snapped. I knew that long before I left and came home. http://www. "Come in if you want to talk. let down the drawbridge. "If you think that bit makes me believe you the ghost of a dead man." "You come out.com/abclit." A muffled curse rose on the air. He leaned down. Montagne hesitated. Frankly. Robert of Belavoir.html wood." The drawbridge creaked down. My father died during that battle." he shouted." . You wish to speak to me? Come inside and we'll talk. you know. "Half of England knows about that battle. only a brave man or a fool would come alone into an enemy-held keep. bits of gold brightening the barren backdrop. of vows taken lightly and broken more so. I'll leave the rest to your imagination. "What if I am who I say I am? How does it feel to know your daughters are in the hands of the man you cheated and betrayed. "It's rightful owner. I've often wondered how things would have gone had you held the ground you'd pledged to hold that day.. "England couldn't hold Normandy.. then spurred his horse closer." "Then come inside. He brought the animal under control. And if you don't want to talk. Despite the frequent pain. a few trees still clung stubbornly to their leaves.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. His horse backed and sidled nervously. "Walt." Montagne hesitated. to know his blood ran warm and alive in his veins. The de Langleys would have fared far better if they had done so as well. "Who has unlawfully seized my castle?" Robert leaned down. You and your men melted away on its very eve. Richard. Open the gates. It was a good day for a man to feel his heart beating. that you can ride out again at your wish. I've given my word you'll be safe. In these days of dishonor. He drew in a lungful of sweet autumn air. to work and hope for a better time to come. I admire your courage. Robert smiled.processtext. well. I only wish you'd shown a bit of it seven years ago before the battle of Chretien. All the reasonable men were doing so. "I fear I'm not so inclined. it was good to be with the living. The man had reined in at the edge of the earthen moat. "Come in. Montagne." "Do you take me for a fool? The man's been dead this year past.

http://www. The sunlight slanted off Montagne's armor. half-believing he'd ridden into a trap. slipped his helm up and over his head.what are you?" "Why. It lay at the ready across his thigh. Montagne.." "What do you want. The chestnut shied from the stone.. I'm sure it'll come to you. From his face he knew that Montagne was thinking it." "What. Robert backed nimbly up three steps and drew his sword. "Show yourself." Robert raised his arms. damn you!" Robert paused. "You're free to ride out when you choose. He was just beyond sword-reach of the . "Name of God. Montagne spurred his horse toward the stairs. With one word the man could be his prisoner. it is you!" Robert smiled. let him glance at the gate and gauge whether or not he could make it again. There was a moment of strained silence. "So I've been telling you. Perhaps the lady Jocelyn had inherited something from her father after all. the lord of Belavoir." Robert snapped back.html An obscene curse rose. but he forced the animal against it. "Don't fret. He was over halfway to the bottom. Then: "God. Let the man worry and wonder a little. Take off that damned helm!" "Certainly.com/abclit.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter." "Enlighten me. too.. then the man spurred angrily onto the drawbridge. Montagne?" "Of course not. almost level with the mounted man. de Langley?" "That should be obvious. of how he had ached to put a blade through him yesterday." "Damn you to hell!" Montagne growled. The wind blew his hair back." he said softly. "Do you still not recognize me. Montagne rode through the gates." "Think about it.. gleamed along the naked blade he carried. Robert slowed. Even to a wit such as yourself. Robert thought of how he hated the man. "I've been there. God in Heaven. His mount fretted against the strain of the bit. swung his horse about to face the stairs. He was obviously nervous. Did you ever really doubt it?" Silence lay heavily over the bailey. I keep my word. His sword was drawn. man. moved quickly toward the stairs and started down.processtext." Montagne swallowed convulsively. Robert slid his helm over his head.

I've been to hell and back since then." Montagne snarled. turned the point downward onto the step beside him and rested his weight against the hilt. "I sent you a bit of hair yesterday. sighted down the long gleaming blade. it can be arranged. "I'm aware you hate me. I'll send for you." The man stared back with such venom Robert's fingers tightened on his sword hilt instinctively. though how you can be no doubt only the devil himself knows for sure. "Tomorrow. "Enough of this." Robert met his eyes coldly. "I don't think so. "Very well. I have killed hostages. http://www.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter.processtext. then swore as the animal began to back and fret. Tomorrow. Tomorrow." He smiled. "Let me see them. And don't wager on the fact that I'd not take the life of a woman.com/abclit. de Langley." "Then I suppose there's nothing more to be said. and I'm fully alive to every last damn thing you're not saying. Montagne. installing trusted castellans." Montagne was smiling now. The man jerked at the reins. "Say what you like. "Don't give me that. "There are two. Would you like a finger this evening? An ear come the dawn? I assure you. I know you have my daughter." Robert thought for a minute. I wouldn't blink at the need to kill more." "Now. Not by Christ Jesus himself!" "How do you know there's any now?" Montagne pulled himself together with difficulty. building new castles to protect what I've won. "You're a fool to take me for the same green boy you knew seven years ago.html mounted man. "My lands. Montagne." "Shut up!" Montagne's horse sidled nervously. But I warn you. if I find them in any state other than they were when I left. If you hurt Adelise I'll move both heaven and hell to make sure there's not enough flesh and bone of you left to be resurrected. You'll lose. I've spent a fortune shoring up the crumbling walls of some of your keeps." Montagne shook his head. Take it or leave it. You're bluffing and we both know it. I'm not about to hand all that back over to you. You seem to have lost count. de Langley." he said at last." . Every last tree and serf." Montagne growled. I still think you're bluffing. You're so damned careful of your honor you'd not think of killing a hostage. And God help you." "Don't be a fool. "Stop toying with me. A pity." Robert placed both hands on his sword hilt." "What would it take to convince you I'm not?" Robert drew his dagger with his left hand. Now what do you want? Tell me in plain language. I can see you're flesh and blood. a woman especially. Every last hill and valley. I dislike killing women. Montagne and so will your daughters. you know. de Langley. Montagne. "I want to see that they haven't been harmed.

" she said. "His fever rose in the night. Montagne. isn't he?" Jocelyn studied the boy. it was painful to look upon. Now. "I-I'd like to help.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. he lay quiet." The boy was small. Montagne had been a fool to reveal his true feelings. isn't it? Run. praise the saints. "It's my fault. http://www. Let the man think on it a day or so. She glanced around for a servant and saw one of the young kitchen boys hovering along the wall in the shadows. She only hoped it wasn't that strange sleep that oft presaged death. "It's my fault. But yes. Truly I didn't! He should have left us.com/abclit. I must get at the one on his back. his eyes trained anxiously on the injured man." he cried out. "Stop shouting." The boy was off like a quarrel shot from a bow and back again just as quickly. Robert could imagine the hell his enemy would be going through. If this was the kind of tongue-lashing Robert de Langley had thought appropriate. she was going to have something to say to the man. intent eyes. fetch me someone who can. but we need to move him." He hesitated. Would to God he had left us to fend for ourselves!" Jocelyn frowned. But I'd no idea my lord would fight. so raw. "He's worse. He knelt at Jocelyn's side. I fear he is worse.. flailing about in delirium. He had been restless earlier. "I-It should be me. He could almost pity Montagne. 'Twas my fault. But then Robert supposed a father might be forgiven for acting a fool. But the injured knight was burning up. Adam." With that. "I've already seen to the wound on his side. Let him worry. Jocelyn reached out. Montagne whirled his horse and spurred through the gate.. If you think I could." She nodded. but wiry and surprisingly strong. fetch me more water. Together he and Jocelyn were able to shift the knight so that she could remove the sodden bandage.. I need help turning this man to change his bandages. wondered at the wild look in those dark. lady. but that's to be expected with a wound of this type.html "It's been a temptation. If not. "If you can steady yourself. and she needed more water.processtext. I led the others out. so you might as well say it! Everyone else is. Robert let out a long breath of satisfaction." The boy bit his lip and struggled to gather himself together. but not quite." A spasm of grief crossed the boy's face. but you'll find them unharmed. For now. *** Jocelyn bathed Aymer Briavel's burning face then squeezed the cloth back into the bowl. Having once been a father himself.. his narrow chest heaving with an enormous crushing guilt beyond his ten-year-old ability to manage. "You. Almost. . It's my fault if this man dies. a look so intense. It was difficult keeping her mind on her work when Robert de Langley and her father were probably discussing her and Adelise at this very moment. spending his precious strength until there was little left to be spent. but the boy shrugged away.

biting his lip again."Blessed Mother!" he whispered. so unforgivable that he would fall forever from the favor of the one man who could change his world. "Does this help?" "No one really knows. "You're a young man of good blood. though it was early yet to tell if the dark. but not abnormally so. could remember trying desperately to please a man who wished she had never been born. But at least she'd had a mother's love and protection during those early years."Blessed Holy Mother. And it was little wonder that the boy was now terrified that the mistake he had made was so great.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. even more appalled by what she knew he held back. the muscular arms that lay. She glanced at the terrified child and forced a smile. sympathetic questions. of the superstitious fears her skills as a healer had engendered among the simple folk of both Warford and Montagne. at the man's side.processtext. stinking rot would set in.html It came away with difficulty. Then she turned to the boy. The flesh about the wound was reddened and angry. ill-fed child for the son of an important knight. You can help with that too if you like. Adam glanced at her dubiously. time alone would prove. thinking of the many fevers she had treated in this simple manner. directed him to wet the man's face. She could well remember wondering what terrible thing she had done that her own father couldn't stand to look on her." Jocelyn smiled wryly. little wonder that the boy's act of bravery during the storming of the keep had spun him to such dizzying heights as the two-day darling of de Langley and his men. Actually the wound looked quite good." Jocelyn handed him the wet cloth. It was little wonder Adam Carrick looked on Robert de Langley as some sort of god.. This child had been denied even that. but no one would think it to look at you. She didn't know if Aymer Briavel would live. No one would take this grubby. boy. Adam. She called for the woman Maude. It's the fever that's our worst enemy now. threadbare tunic and dirt-darkened skin." "Me?" Jocelyn nodded." Jocelyn frowned. set her to a careful watch of the fevered knight. Jocelyn began to draw him out. Whether the inner scars ran too deep for healing. I think it does. clotted with dark blood and a greenish ooze that made the boy swallow and loose all color. still as death. "It looks good. She was disgusted by what he revealed of his treatment these last years. That was in God's hands.. . this boy was in hers. told what he could remember of his dead mother and father and the good years before the coming of the Montagnes. "Here. "I thank you for your help with this man. his throat. the boy told his tale.com/abclit. But for the moment at least. I'll need you again later. http://www. Shyly at first. But for now we need look at you." He nodded. And as they worked together. This is normal and to be expected. but the appearances at least could be set to rights. coaxed by easy. She studied Adam's long matted hair. Jocelyn's heart ached. working to ease the dried clots away from the stitches so that she could check her handiwork. I expect.

She hadn't stood idly back to order others in the struggle. By the Cross. "A bit of a handful. like a young man in the household of a one of the greatest knights in Christendom. A large wooden washtub hadbeen drawn up near one of the hearths. one guardian man-at-arms and a filthy. "Perhaps you might say something to persuade him differently. Robert looked at the grinning man standing guard. You must begin to dress and act like your father's son." Robert glanced at the breathless. by the look of things." She smiled. That was how Robert de Langley found them. "My lady. The lady Jocelyn was soaked from head to toe. evidence of a battle. shears. "And the first thing we need do is cut this wild mane of yours. "The Carrick lad." Jocelyn said dryly. while a dripping scrap of a lad was hissing and spitting. else I'll take that soap to the insides of your mouth." A truly obscene soldier's oath filled the room. I hear this was your idea. wide-eyed boy. A few minutes ago I'd have bet a month's wages our Adam would have made good his escape. You set me to watch her.html In normal times you'd be a page.com/abclit. my lord. my lord." He swung to face Montagne's daughter. As one. though. I'll set some of the women to see if they can find you clean clothing—a clean shirt at least. He hesitated in the doorway. Now I'm not so sure. subdued. Adam sank back in the water. And despite her Montagne name. she was a sufficiently awe-inspiring personage that when she swept into the kitchen buildings. put out a hand and ruffled the boy's thick hair. and clean clothing miraculously appeared. struggling boy. She simply ducked the boy under water again. sounding absurd in the high childish tones of a ten-year-old." Robert warned. hot bathwater. my lord." "He has strong feelings about soap and water. Come along with me now to the kitchens. at the scattered puddles of water. amazed at the scene that met his eyes.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. But then he wouldn't have expected her to. "It seemed someone should take him in hand." she added significantly. preparing to become some lord's squire. lad. http://www. The words hadn't shocked her. protesting urchin in tow." . hopeless but hard-fought." Adam protested. for his size. Robert ran an approving eye over the boy. It was getting harder to keep back the grin.processtext. he's a game one. The man gestured toward the tub. I've just learned who he is and what's happened. Seems there was after all. fighting the water and the soap that was being roughly and indiscriminately administered to his flesh. but Jocelyn would have none of it. The lady Jocelyn determined to find if there was a boy beneath the dirt. Robert glanced at Jocelyn Montagne and bit back a grin. Water puddled the floor and drenched the heavy skirts of the women. but I'd not the courage to get caught up in that. All that's happened." "Yes. the indignant servants. Then we must shed some of this dirt. as did several women to help with the indignant. the people around the tub turned toward him. "I see someone's cut that hair. He moved toward the scene of the fight. "Keep a respectful tongue in your head.

Not after. "But I-I didn't think you'd want me. a smile lighting her face. "I was so caught up in the fighting I remained on the field long after our purpose was done. it's me. Children were so simple to please. And he had no regrets—not about that one. I know all that happened was my fault. And clean up your mouth. another time. "Get used to it. "Aymer Briavel lies near death because he is a knight who followed his lord into battle. only God knows for sure. my lord. but I'll need good men aplenty and the boys who'll grow into them. Edward Carrick was as good a man with a blade as they come. I've made my mistakes—plenty of them—and both friends and enemies have died for them..." The boy caught his breath. "They say Briavel is your friend. Your man lies at the point of death because of me. I wish it was me. And they say. I'lllook to see something of the same in his son.. anyway. took a deep steadying breath and finished bravely: "Not after yesterday. With a heavy scowl. a look of overwhelming approbation softening the brilliant fire in her eyes. met his lord's eyes squarely." He hesitated again. . Make and then live with. I've already spoken to my man Raoul le Bent. boy. I'm sorry. of the man's obvious belief that some ridiculous sense of chivalry would keep him from harming a woman. a gut-searing surge of memory sweeping over him. boy. I've long since learned not to fret over what's past. but mine don't. But Montagne couldn't know that.com/abclit. If you plan to remain in my service.. boy. He grabbed up the cloth and began to scrub himself so vigorously Robert doubted that in another few minutes there would be any skin left to clean.I'll try not to fail your son as I did mine. after. Edward." The boy looked as if he'd just been handed the keys to Heaven by Saint Peter himself. It's a decision every commander must make." He broke off. not you. He thought of his meeting just now with her father. He glanced toward Jocelyn Montagne." Robert said.html Robert turned.processtext. because you'll see much of it if you live long enough. I'd best hear no more of it. Montagne's men may have damned themselves to hell with that kind of talk.. forgive me. Me instead of him!" Robert frowned. She was staring at him. http://www. "How do you think to take service with any respectable lord looking like a swineherd? Clean yourself up. That's a decision I'll live with the rest of my life. He had killed a woman in another life.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. You didn't say it. And God help him if that fool Montagne called his bluff. butI know it's true. "As to your future. In his anger he'd obviously been too hard on the boy. I happen to think I'll need you.he thought. Robert turned and walked away. And if any one is to blame. if you're up to the work of it—and work it will be—then get cleaned up and dressed. so terrifyingly easy to fail. He's agreed to spend the afternoon taking you through your paces with a sword. he only knew the legend. Now if you believe yourself ready for that..

Robert de Langley had met with her father yesterday. She had no choice. peering into the small earthenware pot of feverfew. trying to hide her surprise. And it was as Jocelyn knewit would be. He would speak with you above stairs. They were out of the women's quarters now. The man was young and healthy and fighting to live. Adelise's soft heart had been touched by the injured men. In just two days' time. Footsteps sounded at the door and Jocelyn glanced up. would be gone. but all of the injured men were mending without further ills.html Ten Jocelynleaned againstthe dusty shelves ofthe herbroom. then turned into a separate wing of the castle. Adelise's soft touch and beautiful smile did more for an ailing man than any quantity of yarrow or feverfew. Briavel's fever was waning. heading toward that part of Belavoir where her father and brother had always lived. searching for an additional bit of yarrow she remembered seeing. where guests slept when they visited. "Something has happened?"she asked.com/abclit. imaginative Hawise for company hadn't been good for her sister's frame of mind. She had no business being here. She would have good news to give Robert de Langley. She rummaged about amongst the jars. Only a small fuzz of dried plant shadowed the bottom. "Well. after all."My lord bade me fetch you. Robert de Langley would keep bachelor quarters. shehad done what she could to ease their pain and lift their spirits. The knight stopped before the door of the lord's solar and Jocelyn's heartbeat quickened. She had been able to do this one thing to atone for her father's treachery.processtext. at least not any time soon. He had even regained consciousness this morning for a bit.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter." "Very well. She drew in a deep breath and stepped through the doorway. http://www. Theknight bowed and stepped into the room. Despitethe fact that she considered them her enemies. In his absence. lady. she would have little need for the more common remedies. andAymer Briavel was definitely better." Jocelyn followed the knight toward the stairs. . If only she could distill the essence of her sister's smiles. They passed the entrance to the hall and continued up the back stair. Jocelyn's mouth curled wryly.Soon that. and where is your sister?" Jocelyn froze. her steps quickening to keep up with the long-legged knight. He had told her little of the meeting. It was possible he would do just that. girl. He had been curt afterwards. absenting himself from the keep for most of the day. only that negotiations were proceeding. Sitting alone and unoccupied with only the fearful. Oneof Robert de Langley's knightsstood talking to the man-at-arms guarding her. She smiled at the thought. too. De Langley wouldn't have to bury another who was dear to him. she had used months' worth of Belavoir's medicinals. she had coaxed Adelise to stop cowering in their chamber and come downstairs.

sir. but he had stopped several feet away. struggling for control. There was much to do with wounded men in the hall. closing the door sharply behind him. girl. http://www. "I suggest you produce my daughter as promised. three armed and helmeted knights flanking him. "Do let's be . "You left your sister alone to see to our enemies? Devil take you for a fool. He moved hastily toward her." Jocelyn ignored the impulse to brush at her hair. Her father cared little for her—that much she had always known—but it was something else again to have it thrown in her face so blatantly. staring hard at the rush floor. glaring anxiously at her and then toward the man at her side." With that he bowed and stepped back. I swear by the soul of my dead wife that Brian will pull down this castle stone by stone if he has to. my lord. That every man here will rue the day he was born!" "Is that the soul of your first wife or your second?" a voice inquired from the doorway. The muscles of his throat worked once as he swallowed. girl! What if Adelise came to harm in your absence? By God's wounds. She had never been able to please him. I was sent to fetch the lady Jocelyn. by God. "I've no notion. "When last I saw my sister." Her father drew in a quick. she was working at her loom. where have you been? You've dust soiling your robe and cobwebs in that tangle of hair. ached. that's good news at least. you knave. Her father was fast working himself into one of his tempers.com/abclit. where is the other? Lady Adelise?" The man beside Jocelyn stiffened. Sir Geoffrey Talmont stood unobtrusively to one side." Montagne's eyes narrowed. I was afraid—" He broke off. She felt an unexpected urge to reach out and touch him. old. And yes. her throat muscles knotted. There was an anxious look on his hard. Surely you could have made yourself more presentable. "Where is Adelise? Tell me. "By the Mass. is she well or ill?" Jocelyn met his eyes. Nor was Adelise. daughter. you'll find no advantage to it! My son commands our forces now. No one spoke. sir. "The other. I doubt it would have made much difference in any case. "Well. Jocelyn glanced around the room. His face looked lined. nor was I given a chance to repair my appearance.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. father. Montagne whirled toward Geoffrey Talmont. and in the presence of strangers. "I've come straight from the herb room. She wondered if that was what Belavoir's lord intended. Robert de Langley was no where in sight. and reinforcements have been sent for. We have taken no hurt in this place. Her father was armed and wearing his hauberk. staring at Jocelyn. Montagne paced forward and back and then stopped.processtext. still-handsome face. more anxious than Jocelyn had ever seen it. If this is some knavish trick to get me here alone. I do begin to wonder at this delay!" Jocelyn didn't answer. she was well. Jocelyn averted her gaze but kept her head high.html Her father was frowning. Without warning. I didn't know you were here. relieved breath.

" Jocelyn swung toward the door. drawing Adelise from behind him. They will remain for a time as my guests—hostages if you will —to stand surety for your pledge." Montagne struggled for control. catching his daughter up in his arms. in open jerkin and shirt. She felt like a pawn in a chess game." de Langley said dryly. His sword and dagger were belted at the waist. I'll get off your lands. but scarcely noticed. as Montagne covered the space in two long strides. despairing cry. dangerous smile she had feared so in the beginning. Either agree or get ready to do what you think necessary. his arm still supporting Adelise. Jocelyn watched the reunion.html specific about our oaths. These are difficult days. Papa. I assure you. my men would revolt if I asked such a thing." De Langley stepped aside. de Langley. Adelise was the valuable piece that would decide the game. "All right. "I'd oblige you if I could. a half-dozen of your vassals—men of my choosing—and the eldest sons of the ones remaining are to be given over to me. "Montagne. But I'll do a great deal of damage to you and yours before I oblige you in that. Montagne struggled to hold his temper in check. you can see for yourself that your daughters are well." Robert de Langley moved into the center of the room." Tears welled in her eyes. casually dressed as if for hunting. "Oh. "You've heard my terms and there'll be no negotiation. Why." "There will be no negotiation..Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. half-dragging the girl into the room. sir!" De Langley shrugged. though I suppose it scarcely matters with a man well known for breaking them. "I'm willing to negotiate terms. It's hard for a man to keep his vassals in hand. Both of them. My terms are these: complete withdrawal of your forces from my lands and your signed pledge not to make war on myself or my vassals. "Where's my daughter?" "Here. http://www. I shall do the same. you did come!" De Langley released her and Adelise stumbled forward." "You can rot in hell. half-supporting.. and soft doeskin boots. "Perhaps. but I can't do what you ask. drew a breath and released it. de Langley. The lord of Belavoir stood there. as you well know. that glittering. She knew it. but he wore no mail. her terror so apparent Jocelyn had to resist the urge to rush to her side." Montagne glanced up. watched Robert de Langley watching as well. "Papa." "What a pitiful lord you must be. How long that happy state continues is entirely up to you. chausses. To be sure you hold by your word." There was a long moment of silence. won. Adelise was ashen-faced and trembling. gave one soft. And he was smiling. Montagne.processtext.com/abclit. Adelise looked up. "Enough of this affecting sight. I want my daughters released. and everyone else in the room knew it as well. sobbing. I'll even give you my .

"I intend that every move I make shall be most excruciatingly public.html pledge not to return to fight you for them. I won't give you Brian as a hostage." "Never!" Robert de Langley's face hardened. I'm done wasting my time.processtext. "I don't intend to get you off my lands only to have you take half back within the week." Robert de Langley appeared unperturbed. "Get out." Montagne snapped. To show my good faith. And I suspect your neighbors would much prefer fighting with me than against me. That is. Papa no!" Adelise cried out. then give me your son. that none will condemn your behavior. I keep one. "That should satisfy you. http://www. "Papa—" "Hush!" De Langley appeared to be considering the proposal. You know full well it will take time to garrison my castles." Montagne forced a tight smile. de Langley. Brian Montagne will do very well in lieu of the other hostages." De Langley paused." de Langley returned.com/abclit. De Langley nodded." De Langley smiled thinly. you may keep one of my daughters as a hostage. I need to be sure you won't come back. I intend for people to learn of it. I doubt I need fear our lord king. and that's final. But I'll give you no hostages. Montagne. I've told you that. I intend the whole land should learn of it. A lovely woman can provide some entertainment. "Stephen will have your head if you harm any woman of gentle birth. "You wouldn't dare. We'll see just how proud the ." "I can't do what you ask. We all know Stephen overlooks these lapses of honor amongst his barons. you're wrong. "Very well. "If you fear your own vassals. I'll honor any pledge I make." Adelise gasped and turned her face against her father's shoulder. Montagne.." "If you think none will learn of this." "Wait. clenched her fists so tightly she could feel the nails digging into her palms." "I'll leave it then." "I make the choice. "Men get bored during a siege.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter.." Montagne blustered." He jerked his head toward the door. if there should be a siege. isn't it? You plan to go back on your pledge. to set up loyal castellans and establish my vassals.." de Langley returned. "So long as I bring him my sword and a goodly number of fighting men. "I'll make sure—" "Oh. you keep one. No man of honor would countenance that. but that doesn't mean I intend going back on my word." "Papa." He smiled again. "Ask them and see. You can be sure I'll keep my pledge. But the choice of the women is mine. Take it or leave it. "It's obvious then. Jocelyn held her breath.. just look at Chester and yourself." "No!I mean.

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Montagne name remains after one of your daughters is the castle whore for a few months." He hesitated, lifted one eyebrow sardonically. "Now, shall I tell you which one I want?" With a low growl of rage, Montagne reached for his sword. De Langley jumped back, kicking a nearby table onto its side between them. In a flash, his men had their swords out and were forcing Montagne against the wall. Adelise bit back a cry, covering her mouth with both hands. Jocelyn rushed to her and put her arms about her sister. "You forget yourself, sir," de Langley said coldly. "I suggest you not do so again. Now get out before I forget the provocation you had for that action." Montagne was still holding his sword at the ready. He measured the blades between himself and de Langley, then rammed his weapon back into its sheath. "You have until tomorrow at sundown to bring me an answer," de Langley said. "After that, I'll know how to proceed. I've been contemplating my revenge for years. I can take it on you or your daughters. You choose, Montagne." He hesitated. "Now get out. And don't forget. It's your choice." Montagne glanced at Adelise, but it was to Jocelyn he spoke. "See to your sister," he said gruffly. Jocelyn's arms tightened about Adelise. "I will." "Papa... do whatever you have to," Adelise managed to get out. "My love to Brian... a-and you. Remember that, Papa. Remember it!" Montagne nodded and turned stiffly toward Robert de Langley. "You'll have your answer, de Langley. And I pray God that you rot in hell!" Then he headed for the door, wrenching it open and stalking off without a backward glance. Robert de Langley met Jocelyn's eyes briefly and then looked away. "Get them out of here, Geoffrey. See that they have whatever they need." Geoffrey sheathed his sword wordlessly escorting the women to the doorway. At the threshold, Jocelyn turned back. "A fine performance, my lord," she said. "But I pity your soul if it was aught other than that." Robert de Langley didn't respond, only stared at her with eyes that were flat and cold and told nothing. Jocelyn knew de Langley was bluffing. No man of honor would even think to do what he had threatened. He was bluffing. He had to be. But what if she were wrong? It was impossible to get Adelise quieted. She lay across the bed, sobbing so wretchedly Jocelyn feared she would become ill. Nothing Jocelyn could say or do, no reassurance she could offer, seemed to make any difference. After a time Jocelyn stopped trying. She ordered the flighty Hawise to build up the fire, then sent the girl away and poured herself a cup of wine from the flagon Sir Geoffrey had provided.

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Drawing a stool near the hearth, she sat down and sipped the wine. It was good, her father's best, the one he saved for. important occasions. Jocelyn permitted herself a wry smile. Sir Geoffrey was offering what comfort he could, or perhaps it was only the token offered the condemned. She took another drink, staring thoughtfully into the fire, listening to the soothing crackle of the flames, the soft weeping from the bed behind her. Robert de Langley was a hard man—he'd had to be, as Geoffrey had said. But he was also well aware of her father's pride, well aware, by now at least, of his affection for Adelise. Might not the man be trading on both to force her father's hand? She poked absently at the fire, becoming aware that the weeping behind her had stopped. She rose and moved to the bed. Adelise was lying curled toward the bedcurtain, eyes wide and staring, swollen from countless tears. Jocelyn climbed onto the bed beside her. "Sit up, Adelise." She held out the winecup. "Drink this. You'll feel better." Adelise shook her head and closed her eyes. "I suppose it's foolish to think of Edward right now," she whispered. "But I... I can't help wondering... wishing all this hadn't happened. I mean... it's ruined now. Everything! Oh, God, Jocelyn, Ihate that man! That horrible man!" Jocelyn stroked her sister's hair back, tucking a damp strand of spun silver gently behind one ear. She thought of Edward of Pelham, his handsome face, his pleasant manner, of his many kindnesses to her and Adelise, his attentions to them both while he was laid up at Montagne last month with an injured shoulder. But it was Adelise he had obviously wanted, which didn't come as any surprise. "You'll have your Edward," Jocelyn said. "Father will do as lord de Langley has asked. He won't risk your being harmed. We'll be away from here by tomorrow, and you can begin making wedding plans." Adelise shook her head, turning away with a look of anguish. "Oh, Jocelyn, you don't know!" She swallowed hard, drew a deep, shuddering breath. "Y-you just don't know what's happened. He... kissed me," she whispered, squeezing her eyes tight shut. "He kissed me... touched me—" Her hands clenched convulsively at the bedcovers. "Oh Jocelyn, it was horrible! He said he wanted me. That if Father didn't do what he said—" She broke off again. Tears slipped from beneath her closed eyelids. "And then he forced me out into the passageway, told me where he was taking me. He said Father had come, but I didn't believe him. I thought he meant to... to—" Adelise turned her face into the pillow, unable to go on. "If he touches me again, Jocelyn, I-I'll kill myself! Surely God will forgive me. Surely Our Blessed Lady will intercede." "Don't say such a thing! Not to anybody. It's mortal sin, Adelise!" Jocelyn drew in a sharp breath. "Promise me you won't say that again. That you won't even think it!" "I can't help thinking it," Adelise whispered. "Oh, Jocelyn, you just don't know what he's like, what he's really like! And I keep thinking what I might have had with Edward. But now that's all ruined!" Jocelyn frowned, tried to think of something comforting to say and couldn't. Of course Robert de Langley would want Adelise. Every man who wasn't a babe or near dead of old age did. But Adelise had always been carefully protected before. She had never so much as spoken to any man alone. Their father had cared for Adelise like a nervous hen with an only chick, but now all that care and concern had only

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put Adelise in more danger. Jocelyn's frown deepened, her thoughts sliding back to that time nearly four years ago when she had first come to Castle Montagne. Her father and older half-brother had treated her like a mistake to be corrected, improved, or at the very least kept out of sight. It was Adelise who had seen through the icy indifference Jocelyn had feigned, who had offered warmth and love and acceptance, returning good even for the ill Jocelyn had meant. On several occasions she had even come between Jocelyn and the punishment their father intended. Adelise had made life bearable, even good at times. She had brought about an uneasy truce between Jocelyn and the Montagne men, encouraging their grudging acceptance of Jocelyn's unusual ways, her many talents. Besides truly loving her sister, Jocelyn owed Adelise a great deal. And the Welsh paid their debts. Always. For good or for ill. She slid abruptly from the bed. "I must leave, Adelise. Will you be all right here alone for a bit?" "Oh, Jocelyn, don't go!" "It will only be for a bit." Jocelyn forced a smile. "There's something I must see to. Here, sit up and have some wine. Sir Geoffrey took it from Father's best, I'll be bound. We might as well drink it as to leave it for Robert de Langley." At that, Adelise did sit up. Taking the cup Jocelyn held, she made a wry face. "You're right. I don't want him to have it." She sipped the wine, her eyes meeting her sister's above the rim of the cup. "Be careful, Jocelyn. I doubt either of us are safe from that man, not even after all you've done to help." Jocelyn nodded. "I'll be careful." Then she slipped from the room, telling de Langley's man outside the door a hasty improvisation, "Your lord wished to speak with me again once my sister was resting. Will you go with me now to find him?" With a nod he set off down the corridor, and Jocelyn followed, her heart pounding painfully against her ribs. She hoped Robert de Langley would agree to see her, prayed he wouldn't still be in the same foul temper of half an hour ago. The door to his solar stood slightly ajar. She could see several men inside, and she bit her lip uncertainly. This wasn't a good time. She would have to come back. One of the men glanced toward the door. "My lord," he murmured, nodding in her direction. Robert de Langley turned, frowned. "Madam, what do you do here?" Jocelyn took a deep breath and stepped over the threshold. "I need to speak with you, my lord. Alone." "Alone? Here?" De Langley stared at her thoughtfully. "This is neither the time nor the place. Besides, nothing will change for any discussion we might have."

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Jocelyn moved into the room. "Sir Aymer Briavel will live because of me. You owe me something for that if for nothing else, my lord. A few minutes of your time and attention is all I ask." She hesitated, added softly, "Is that so much to exchange for the life of a good man?" "Very well, I will grant your request, madam. As you said, I do owe you something for your help." De Langley's men melted away without a word. The last one left, closing the door behind him. Jocelyn swallowed hard. She had been alone with few men in her life, her father and brother, an occasional bailiff or two. Certainly no one even remotely resembling Robert de Langley. Certainly never in the intimacy of a private sleeping chamber. But this was no time to be thinking of propriety, not with the discussion she was about to initiate. "Well, madam...?" Jocelyn's heart was pounding so loudly she was sure he must hear it. She met his eyes. "I would speak to you about what happened here this afternoon." His frown deepened. "There's nothing more to be said." "Oh, but there is. A great deal, I believe." "I told you before, madam. I'll do whatever is necessary to secure my lands. If it harms you or your sister, I'm sorry. I'll grant you that much at least." He hesitated. His mouth hardened. "I'm sorry," he repeated, "but it's your father's choice at this point, not mine." She heard regret in his voice, regret and determination. Sir Geoffrey's words came back to her.What he says, he will do. She tooka long, steadying breath. There was only one thing to say. She had prepared herself for the possibility. "Then I would ask you to grant a request, my lord de Langley. Use me if you must. Use me instead of Adelise."

Eleven Robert held himself still, so still that for a moment he was sure even his heart had stopped beating. Inside him something ached over the injustices of life.If anyone is hurt, madam, I'll take care it not be you. "No!" he said, so sharply that the girl flinched. But she didn't change her expression, just stood there, staring, her eyes like the rare colored glass he had seen once in a Paris cathedral. "No," he repeated more softly. "Let's hope that a choice doesn't become necessary, that your father will do as I ask." "Certainly... but I must have your word on this. It's of the utmost importance to me." His eyes narrowed thoughtfully. "Do you even know, madam, what you are asking? Perhaps I should enlighten you with the details." "I wasn't convent-raised as my sister, but bred up in a rough border keep with servants and coarse

"If you hesitate because you think my father cares little for my fate. http://www.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. "In addition to all the obvious reasons my father prefers his eldest daughter. "Not to me. holding it out to her. "It scarcely behooves me to agree with you. When he glanced back the girl was still staring.processtext." Robert wondered what that speech had cost her." The faintest hint of amusement lightened her face. he and my mother trod separate paths. He's made that clear enough." He lifted his eyebrows. adding coolly. for the first time. "Do you now?" "Yes." For a moment there was silence between them. you are right. She and I went our own way. He and my mother didn't suit. Welsh blood—even the blood of princes—isn't fit to mingle with good Montagne stock. yet have I heard it said that all women are alike for such a purpose. but then she died." . you do owe me something for the life of your friend. He poured himself a cup of wine." Jocelyn shook her head.com/abclit." She hesitated again. and that Adelise would be next. he was polite to my mother. he did marry to secure his borders while he was off about his wars for the king.html men-at-arms to hold in check." At that she did look up." She hesitated again. A becoming flush stained the girl's cheekbones and. "I am not. Choose me if it becomes necessary to force my father's hand. wondered at the kind of father. who could make such an admission necessary. After all." "And a poor payment you would have me give you. After all." she said. visited often with kinsmen in Wales. her gaze shifted uncomfortably from his. of course. so pleasing to look upon as my sister." She drew in her breath. perhaps. after he remembered he had another daughter. "He won't let it go that far. I do know what I am asking. you may add one more. but I would. "Your father is a fool. He'll give what you ask." Robert said at last. just the two of us. You may spare me the details." Robert murmured. "Youdo know that. taking the wine. however. All the Welsh are such savages. In me he sees her failings and more. her heavy eyebrows archingin polite disbelief. "Oh. to redeem my improper upbringing. Save for occasional visits during the year." The girl stared down into her cup. he brought me back to 'civilize' me. That fact was brought home to me oft enough in my childhood. "After that. refusing to meet his gaze. turning away. you know. We were happy enough. my lord. 'Twould bemost unfilial andcompletely disrespectful. and drank deeply. She lifted the cup and drank. But I do have value of a sort. but her gaze never wavered. I hope. With me he will learn you mean what you say. I'm sure of it. I do know the most important ones. He dared not antagonize her family. "And I know that Adelise would never survive it. He poured another cup of wine and moved nearer. "And why is that? Why is the lady Adelise the favored child?" "That should be obvious.

to wrap it around his throat.com/abclit. I assure you I'd have used them ere now. Her chest rose and fell unevenly. He couldn't help remembering the way it had looked that first night—a wild. bewitching fallof silken-hot darkness. I am not a witch!" the girl snapped.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. still studying her appreciatively. feeling an unexpected sense of kinship with this girl. It's because I watch people and I think and sometimes I sense what they're going to do. exotic way. shrugged. and splashed more wine into his cup. around his— "I said why are you staring.html "And true. carefully drawn back and braided. my lord.. at the alabaster skin of her throat. a way that aroused both his blood and his brain. spread it over her bare breasts. Because I'm a healer. madam. Robert stared at her mouth as she drank. I may look different from every other woman in Christendom. "You're not what?" "A witch. turned abruptly. He'd made more than his own share of jests at life's misfortunes." He swung back. couldn't keep his mind from thoughts of kissing her. a way that was challenging and provocative. you've no need to fear that. Judas." "But you were looking at me so oddly. The girl was different. "And I assure you." he interrupted.. He smiled then. "Despite what you may have heard. sir?" Robert swore. "Oh. the smooth woman's curves beneath the plain brown cloth of her bliaut. I'm sure your people have told you by now. but you've no need to fear me. He wanted to loose it over her shoulders. to run his hands through its heavy waves. He watched Jocelyn Montagne drink." The girl lifted her cup and drank deeply." She frowned. but in an earthy. "Did I miss something? Were we speaking of witches?" "Some say that of me. http://www. "It's because of my eyes and these God-accursed eyebrows. He wanted to see it that way again. If only he could. as indifferent. teaching her that there was more to life than the ugliness she had seen thus far. there aren't many at Montagne who'd agree. I am not afraid of witches. You may do with me what you will. She wasn't as poised. He stared at her hair. shapely body. I assure you I can't give you the evil eye. teaching her all the sensual pleasures of the flesh.processtext." Robert felt a smile. he was behaving like a fool! "Oh." . eyebrows lifting in surprise. of exploring that small. as she wished to appear. for pity's sake. on any number of people!" Robert frowned and took a slow sip of wine. He'd been having them often these last days—visions of tasting that wide. There are those who would say I deserved what I got. passionate mouth." he said. If I'd any extraordinary powers." "But I'm not—" "No. The very stillness and privacyof the room weighed down on him. "I didn't think you were. "No." Robert finished. studying Jocelyn Montagne over the rim of his cup.

drawing her toward him. "In fact.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. putting down his cup and walking slowly toward her." he said softly. She lifted her chin higher still. Jocelyn realized irrelevantly. "I am not so foolish. but a rush of heat suddenly suffused Jocelyn's chest. . He was doing it again. "I could tell you. And I have nothing. She felt like a rabbit about to be eaten by a fox. But he wasn't a man who was easily intimidated." "But I'm not done. to say about the lovely Adelise." Jocelyn forced herself to hold Robert de Langley's stare. But her heart was beating so hard it was painful. madam. I'm well aware you are made of much sterner stuff. flaming across her cheek bones. just why that is. bloodless Adelise today for policy's sake." An odd half-smile curled one corner of his beautifully shaped mouth. "If you think to frighten me as you did my sister today. He had kissed the shivering. "If you're done. She didn't struggle. men who had imagined all the things he had been imagining just now but had been too intimidated to do anything about it." Robert allowed his smile free rein. A warm golden color deepening into amber then ringed with gray about the irises. He might as well kiss the lady Jocelyn for pleasure. He halted in front of her. and any respect he had shown her these last few days she attributed to that fact alone. lifting his hand to trace the line of her jaw with one finger. Her pulse drummed like thunder in her ears. an unsteady pounding of her heart. sliding one arm about her waist. a lamb about to be savaged by a lion. Perhaps she would find it pleasurable as well. And something about the look in those untamed golden eyes set up an uneasy tightening in her stomach. She drew in her breath and stepped back." she said coolly. Staring. She was held against his chest by a strong arm encircling her waist." His eyes were beautiful. http://www. this and a great deal more if he agreed to what she asked. This was the treatment she could expect. clinging desperately to a courage that was rapidly draining away. I don't frighten easily." he murmured. and he was done with imagining. that much she knew. He reached for her. you are wasting your time and mine. His hand feathered down her spine. I've been told. absolutely nothing. we need to talk about Adelise. "I've that kind of face. Jocelyn held Robert de Langley's eyes. She could see herself reflected in them. No doubt there had been men who had looked at her like that.html "Do you tell me no man has ever looked at you like that before?" "Men have looked at me oddly all my life. experienced the oddest sensation that she was drowning in them.processtext. madam. Belavoir's lord admired boldness. trying to intimidate me. Trying to make her back down. If her father didn't turn over his lands. I've scarcely begun. then. rising to her throat.com/abclit. His touch was cool.

of the wild pounding of her heart. intensified and grew. I'm not going to eat you. It was almost. no pain. At least not today.processtext. His tongue glided along her full lower lip. She thought of Alys. wetting it.. watched the heavy downward sweep of his lashes. tightening whirl of her stomach. for with all your learning I suspect you know little of this. surprised by the exquisite pleasure of holding him. pressing her against him. sucking it into his mouth in a way that made a tiny shiver run through her. He bent her back further against his arm and she grasped his shoulders. the sensual. She stared up at him. sucked at them. All women may be similar. but they are not exactly alike.html splayed out at the small of her back. It would have been futile. http://www. an awareness of his size and power and strength. He was going to kiss her. what Adelise had so fearfully described. but she didn't try to push him away. Instead an overwhelming feeling of warmth and security enveloped her. dozens of intriguing variations to explore. She could feel his powerful chest muscles shift and tighten beneath her fingers. She closed her eyes. of the tilting. most intimate sense of belonging. His hand was large and strong and warm. full texture of his lips. No man had the right to have such eyelashes. tasting it. You tempt me far more than you know. of Adelise. De Langley's hand rose again. The heat of his body enveloped her. His mouth settled over hers. She had never in her life felt so fragile. seduced them into opening. She had never been so conscious of her own smallness. so tightly and exquisitely drawn. as his hand slid beneath her chin. madam. of her softness. you know. Her whole body began to warm. Whatever horrible thing had happened to Adelise was about to happen to her. eyes wide. the curving lines of her mouth. Amusement danced like tiny flames in his eyes. His gentleness was so different from what she had expected. almostpleasurable! He shaped her lips with his own.. Especially not for the purpose we've been discussing. If this was a kiss.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. it wasn't so bad. Then he was tilting her head back. of the way a woman's body could fit so perfectly against a man's. melting sensation flowed through her." Jocelyn's throat went dry. She felt no humiliation. his thumb tracing her cheek. a warmth and tenderness begetting the strangest. Perhaps we should explore some right now. turning her knees to jelly. intimately stroked the suddenly sensitive contours of her throat. velvet sliding of his mouth against hers. On instinct Jocelyn's hands rose to his chest. the hardness of that lower male part of him pressing boldly against her belly.com/abclit. She had the fleeting thought that it felt good against her bare flesh. There must be scores of interesting differences. She felt the firm. could feel the hardness of his thighs against hers. to tingle. a shiver that rippled." He was smiling openly. . so female. "You need not look at me like that. of his overwhelming and discomfiting maleness. "And I will tell you something further. her jaw. For a moment more he hesitated. to ache where it met his. This wasn't the rough mauling she was expecting. She watched him lean close. A weakening.

"He's reached Montagne's camp. And she must . After the shattering effects of that kiss. What had she been thinking? What had she been doing? She could see Sir Geoffrey Talmont standing just inside the doorway. the most cynical laughter Jocelyn had ever heard. his hard body pressing against her soft one. I fear. save when he seized the crown and started us all down this miserable road?" Jocelyn was still standing where Robert de Langley had released her. rhythmic thrusting against her own. "Geoffrey. It's Stephen. still trying to regain her equilibrium. She gasped and tried to turn away. "It's the king's standard the men carry. by the large hand that caught and cupped her chin as he deepened the kiss. and then laughter. clenching it in one hand.html Then he was inside her mouth. "Would you have me defy my sworn liege lord?" He turned then. a hot. A flood of heat washed through her. too strong to fight. this had best be important!" Geoffrey! Jocelyn came to her senses with a start. "Christ. picking up his empty winecup. You didn't answer when I called." Geoffrey hesitated. sucking her down. Geoffrey.. as his tongue began a slow. and she ceased to think at all. uncomfortable quickening in the deepest. Then a strange. This was what the woman Alys must have meant. what must have frightened Adelise. but she was anchored by the curve of his arm. most secret part of her. No doubt we'll have company soon. Stephen himself. shivering tension began to build.processtext. so still he could have been carved from stone. then de Langley's muttered groan. damn it.com/abclit. He held on to her a moment. http://www. watched the explosive shatter of pottery against stone. As if from a distance she heard a voice. dragging her into a dizzying whorl of sense and sensation." Geoffrey waited. "Do we let them in?" For a moment longer there was silence. The desire was powerful. A large force is heading up the road. his eyes still trained on his lord. where the only thing that mattered was his mouth against hers. it was difficult to take in what the men were saying.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter." De Langley went still. breaking the kiss just when she was realizing how desperately she wanted him to continue. He lifted his head. his tongue exploring her so thoroughly." he muttered. a wanting for even more. man. "Forgive me. "But then when in God's name did Stephen ever have a sense of timing. it was shocking. "One more day. and it is important. "Let them in? Of course we let them in!" De Langley ran a hand through his hair. just one more day! One more day and we'd have had everything!" He hurled the cup against the wall. Robert. so intimately. then reluctantly let her go. frantically pulling away from Robert de Langley..

he still can't even understand why he's so oft bitten. Robert. found Jocelyn's eyes riveted upon him and seemed almost surprised to find her still standing there. well aware she was flushed and uncomfortable. man. because it didn't make sense. one of his favorites. for the Montagnes were a power here in the marches. Geoffrey was holding the door open. "I want to win. De Langley was right about something else as well. "Get back to your chamber. Geoffrey! Christ Jesus. "I'm sorry. You know something willbe negotiated.com/abclit. disaffected rebel. Robert de Langley was right. The king would be delighted to learn he'd returned from the grave. The king needed her father's good will. I just want towin! And for the first time in years. And for the first time in nearly three years she found herself thinking that Adelise Montagne was a fool.html have missed something. Her father would be furious if he ever found out. the heat of his touch. at least for her and Adelise." With a visible effort.processtext. I'm sick of negotiation and political foot-dragging that goes on for years! I'm sick of being bound by my oath and my king when others just take what they want! We'll never get all of it back now. remembered how his arms had felt around her. Robert de Langley was Stephen's man. her breathing wildly unsteady. and she would be ruined! She heard the door close behind her. how his kiss had made her feel. Stephen was nothing if not chivalrous where women were concerned—stupidly so. the strange shifting and tightening in her body his kiss had caused. such carefully controlled rage in any human being. But by now her mind had begun to function. I've no doubt he'll take both you and your lady sister under his protection. I've not come this far to give up!" He glanced up. She was unable to meet his gaze. She lifted her hand. And her father had been treating recently with Chester. They held the border peace and blocked the earl of Chester's design to seize all of the west of England for Duke Henry and his Angevins. Everything would soonbe over. And the pity of it is. She could still feel the tingle. Prepare yourself to meet your king." "I know. wishing she could disappear. The king would never allow any harm to come to them. . de Langley pulled himself together. man. eyes blazing. trailed her fingers slowly across the base of her throat in the way he had done. so be it. It hadn't been painful or humiliating or any of the things Adelise had led her to believe. Not without losses that are damned unnecessary! I've been through this before and I'll bedamned if I'll let it happen again!" He turned. God knows Stephen has ever a place in his heart and his court for every woman. madam. his dark eyes missing nothing." "But I don'twant to negotiate! Judas. but all's not lost. It would be difficult to get his lands back. http://www. To have been caught in Robert de Langley's private chamber being passionately kissed by the man! And several of his men could attest that she had come there of her own free will. child. Not without months or years of fighting. her father had often said. Yet she had never seen such bitterness." Jocelyn stumbled across the room. we could have. She remembered that odd light in Robert de Langley's eyes as he had bent to kiss her. "Well.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. and mad dog.

but Stephen was immediately beside him. had personally seen to Robert's knighting and followed his early career with such joy.. We've much to catch up on. There was a watchfulness in his eyes. joy as well as a perplexing problem." "I'm well aware of that.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. Come. accompanied by the jangle of harness and lances as England's king and his small retinue clattered through the open gates of Belavoir. So many have been taken from me. I only wonder if you know how things truly stand here in England. But come inside. a reserve Robert sensed was habitual. I'm alive as ever I was and as happy to see you. as the truth of Montagne's impossible tale suddenly flared in his eyes like sunrise. come and meet the legend.html Twelve Thesound of trumpets echoed on the crisp air. was lifting him up in as crushing a hug as his six-foot frame and long soldier's arms could provide. "But I can scarce be faulted for attempting to regain what is mine. "We are well met. "It is you. by our Blessed Lord Savior. I dared not believe it true until now!" Robert had gone down in the dirt on one knee. forcing a smile as his sovereign lord. http://www. Come and meet my dear friend." . Your Grace. I never thought to look on you again this side of the grave! God is good. such incredulous joy there could be no doubting. one arm still gripping Robert's shoulder as if he feared his friend would disappear if he let go. you've not met my justiciar. "Aye.. There was no doubt Stephen was pleased to see him. You have given His Grace much joy this day. Robert stood in the bailey. It seemed an odd pairing with Stephen's effusive charm. yet you He has restored. I do wonder if I'm not dead or dreaming. A problem we must solve with all dispatch. More difficult still because the man had been a lifelong friend to his father. "Robert. Richard. God is infinitely good." "Faulted. you are neither. searched the crowd for him.com/abclit. "Robert! Robert de Langley! By Christ. Robert's smile became a bit less forced. Stephen spurred to within a few feet of him." Robert said. "Robert." Stephen pushed him away." A middle-aged man of average height and shrewd gray eyes approached them. Stephen of Blois. my lord. You whom I've almost looked on as a son. and then he began to laugh. I would say we do!" Stephen turned. no. gripped his shoulders and looked him over critically. Robert nodded as did Richard de Lucy. Brilliantly colored pennants fluttered and snapped in the wind. isn't it?" he asked anxiously. swung from his snorting destrier and was beside him in three short strides. Tears stood in the king's eyes and his face was suffused with joy. It was difficult to resist the charm Stephen of Blois had always had in such abundance." Robert said. of the dangers here in the west. Richard de Lucy. de Langley." Robert's smile was now genuine. we are well met. "By my troth. "Never fear.processtext. De Lucy sent him a cool smile." "By the splendor of God.

"I believe I do. She only hoped Sir Geoffrey and Robert de Langley would hold their tongues as well. A young page stood in the hallway in the silver-and-blue livery of England's king. stepping back. His kiss had been too confusing.processtext.com/abclit. Stephen had aged a lifetime in those years. He had continued to think of his king as the hale and vigorous warrior. http://www. And God help him! *** The summons came with the darkness. "His Gracedoes us much honor.html De Lucy would be a man to reckon with. For now I just want to sit down and talk with my dearest Robert. but the outward shell of the man was beginning to deteriorate. gesturing for Stephen to precede him. They went toward the keep stairs. Robert thought. It was ridiculous. flamboyant way that made all love the man that led few to respect the king. Belavoir's lord would have far more important things on his mind than a kiss stolen from a woman who meant nothing to him. The knock came again. a sudden breathlessness overcame her. she told herself wryly. But he hadn't expected this. "Lady. To his surprise. He had expected the silvering hair. but she was actually nervous. his broad shoulders rounded and stooped. My sister and I will be pleased to accompany you. She expected he had forgotten it entirely by now. Your Grace. you and your sister are bidden to attend His Grace the king. She hadn't told Adelise what had happened in Robert de Langley's room. Pray God he hadn't already sided with Montagne. Jocelyn hastened to open the door. She was reluctant to talk about it. Just one of his scores of variations. "We will talk business later. But then with Stephen here. to sup this night with him and his lords." Jocelyn nodded. Jocelyn had been expecting it." "Of course. Robert narrowed his eyes at the thought. God help England if this aging. at the dismal realization that the earth was about to shift beneath his feet again. the added lines defining the face of a man who had always lived life to the fullest." "Good. Robert hesitated. Without warning." . taking the king's arm as Stephen clutched at the railing and hauled himself up." De Lucy said. the flaxen-haired god he had last seen nearly six years ago. All the outward charm was still there —the easy. well-meaning man was all that stood between her and that fire-eater Henry of Anjou. The reality was far different. de Lucy pushed past him. She glanced across the floor to where her sister was adjusting her tunic.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. For the first time Robert became aware that Stephen's tall frame seemed slightly bent. had been by turns both reluctant and eager for it ever since she had heard the flourish of trumpets signifying the king's arrival. Leicester and I have come up with a plan—" "Enough of this!" Stephen said. her heart began to hammer uncomfortably. reluctant even to think about it.

good-humored face still showed traces of the extremely handsome man he was held to have been. They followed the page into the crowded. all of them. You truly are a treasure. Stephen laughed delightedly. She ." she whispered. a gold and pearl-encrusted crucifix hanging about her neck from a narrow ribbon of silk. But then it mattered little enough what she wore. ignoring the stares and whispers. "My dearest child. of what might have happened since he had sent her away. She sank into a low curtsy. Lady Jocelyn of Warford... to Robert de Langley's coldly impassive countenance. she allowed her sister the precedence accorded the eldest." Adelise smiled shyly and murmured something inarticulate. but it was lined now with the cares and griefs of nearly seventeen years of a vicious civil war. As they entered. wouldn't think of him. She looked ethereally lovely in an ivory gown of the finest wool with an overtunic of velvet that matched the blue of her eyes. Only his eyes seemed young. Jocelyn found she couldn't keep her eyes from the man." he said gruffly. smiling. but Adelise slipped an arm about her. her father to his left. shamed by the sudden rush of warmth that rose to her cheeks." So together they moved between the crowded lines of trestle tables. Your Grace." He nodded toward Jocelyn. what a pleasure it is to meet you.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. Stepping aside. Jocelyn hesitated. Robert. "And the other. Perhaps. He came around the table and down the steps." Despite her earlier promise to herself. They were green and alive with a handsome man's appreciation for a beautiful woman. The king's broad. http://www. The material wasn't as fine as she could have wished. Rumor held that the death of his queen some months ago had broken both his will and his health. "We've been together through this trial.html Adelise joined her in the doorway. a blush staining her cheeks a most becoming shade of rose.com/abclit. She wouldn't look at him." Jocelyn rose to her feet in time to see the king studying Adelise appreciatively. Lady Adelise of Montagne. The king was seated at the high table in the chair of state. but it was her best and she knew the color looked good on her. Robert die Langley sat to his right.processtext. ofwhom you've heard much. reaching out to take Adelise's small hand between his large ones. "Ah. Come down here now and make your peace with the Montagnes. He had certainly spared no glance for her. "My eldest. drawing her close. "We'll face the end of it together as well. Her father came around the table and down the steps. torchlit hall. I can see why you were so loath to give this bewitching creature up. glancing back over his shoulder at Robert de Langley. She took the opportunity to study him. rumor was right. Jocelyn's eyes swept from her father's frown. "I would present my daughters to you. And they were trained on Adelise. There was no hint as to how these last hours had gone for him. The room would be filled with men who would have eyes for none but her sister. Jocelyn smoothed the soft gold wool of her own tunic self consciously. Your father has spoken proudly of you and I see his fondness hasn't led him to exaggeration. holding out his hand to Adelise and lifting her up beside him. the crowd stilled. It had happened often enough now that most of the sting was gone. All noise died away. to Stephen's beaming smile. her silvery hair uncovered but braided modestly. in this instance. Stephen of Blois was in his fifties now and looking every day of it.

glancing out over the assemblage. that you've heard grave threats made by this man in the presence of your father. I know that and believe me. a treaty that will keep all in the west secure. my liege.com/abclit. glittering throng. no chains of gold nor even the simplest ring." The two stared at each other. wondering how the man himself could look so coolly self-assured in his worn velvet tunic. his golden eyes more arresting. effortless grace of a cat. Robert. I do value it.processtext." Stephen paused for breath. He wore no jewels. Contracts insuring a just end to this dispute. Robert de Langley of Belavoir is well known to me—he has been since his childhood—and I assure you upon my honor and his own that there is no better man anywhere. who had murdered his friends and seized his castles and lands. Robert de Langley had spent his life and his patrimony fighting for Stephen across the sea. back to Adelise whose hand he still held. "We've much cause for celebration this night and will look forward from here and not back. his tawny hair like heavy-burnished gold in the torchlight. The volume of noise and excitement was swelling rapidly. "I'm here. He seemed taller tonight. anxious affection in his eyes for the man who had given all for his cause. Jocelyn clenched her fists at her sides. At this moment contracts are being drawn up to be signed on the morrow. as your father has sworn to keep peace with him. He has also sworn to keep peace with your father. far more than you may think just now. "I know that. God's blessings upon England and upon you both. Something swelled and tightened inside her until it was difficult to catch her breath. The king lifted his voice. The proud old houses of de Langley and Montagne will soon be joined in a treaty to insure no more discord. "We have won this day an end to the feuding between the houses of Montagne and de Langley. retaking his home against all odds. He had returned to England. http://www. wondering if she were the only one here who burned at the injustice. Robert has sworn upon holy relics that he never meant harm to you or your sister. She remembered that Henry of Anjou wore a ring he treasured. that he never had any intention of carrying out those threats. and now. as I always am when you call. though it was obviously now the worse for many seasons of wear. "It's my joy to inform you that our friend Robert de Langley and the lady Adelise of Montagne will soon be joined in the holy estate of marriage. placing Adelise's hand in Robert de Langley's." He hesitated again. and a slow burning anger began heating her blood like a flame. and he had lost it all: lands." . wealth. I'm well aware that you've been held here against your will.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. An end to this new threat to England's peace." If the words hinted at a bitter irony neither his face nor his voice gave more away. Stephen turned. He was dressed in a tunic of crimson velvet that must once have been magnificent. as he moved down the stairs with all the wary. "However. a peace which has been so long fought for and so dearly won. he was being forced to entertain and make peace with the very man who had betrayed him. and Stephen was the first to look away. so calmly unconcerned in the midst of this powerful." He turned. "My dear child. How could Stephen do this to him? And how would she ever be able to hold her tongue? Robert halted next to the king. to add insult to injury.html watched as he rose to his feet and walked around the table. He smiled down benignly. even the family he had obviously loved.

. Then with one soft. find someone and tell them to send wine and food to the old lord's solar. Your Grace. Jocelyn hadn't the remotest idea who he was—someone important because he was seated at the high table. We'd no warning of this. Her father was pushing through a crowd of soldiers. her brother Brian was also fighting his way through the crowd. Don't be concerned. "Is the girl apt to be hysterical." "Someone should have thought of that. however. At the moment. their hands on their weapons. she didn't care whom she offended. Brian. "I'm afraid so.com/abclit. Everywhere men were rising from their seats looking uncertainly toward their lords. She was still reeling from the announcement the king had made." He would have pushed past her. your father and de Langley among them." Jocelyn snapped. "Help me. "Brian. before the announcement was made in such a fashion.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. didn't even try to stop her graceless slump to the floor. trying to reach a laver of water." Brian turned a smoldering look upon her. She looked around the hall." The room erupted in chaos. please. Jocelyn pushed forward and dropped to her knees beside Adelise. her already pale cheeks bloodless. Adelise stood frozen. Jocelyn glanced up. this happens quite often." "Then don't blame the girl for an honest reaction. http://www. It was used as the solar in the old lord's day. We can revive her there in privacy." The man nodded and swept Adelise up in his arms just as Brian reached them. Halfway across the hall. "My bride-to-be is obviously overcome with her good fortune. if that whoreson de Langley has even touched Adelise—" . He met the consternation in Stephen's eyes with a shrug of one shoulder. Only swooning from excitement and her refusal to eat. sir. "We were trying to avert a war. truly. then." She began chaffing her sister's hands as a strange man knelt beside her. you see. "Please.html Jocelyn felt as if the floor had been cut away from under her. "If he's hurt her. That's the greatest service you can do Adelise.. My sister does this sometimes with so much excitement. De Langley simply watched. There's a withdrawing room just off the rear of the hall.. Of such things are wars oft made!" The man drew in his breath in surprise. She turned to the stranger. You know how Adelise gets when there is aught going on.. That and keeping the peace in this hall for her sake. Your Grace. From what I've seen. Jocelyn turned to block her brother's path." "Then we must remove her at once. my lords. but Jocelyn caught his arm. don't be alarmed.processtext. There's no need for concern. Adelise crumpled at de Langley's feet. no one moved. I'll kill him! So help me God. "She is fine. whimpering sob. These treaties are held together by a thread. to say things she ought not when she wakes?" he asked in an urgent whisper. For a moment that seemed an eternity. madam! We hadn't time to think of some foolish girl's sensibilities. Half the men in this room are waiting for any excuse to start a brawl.

Besides." Brian jerked his arm from her grasp. the chill in his eyes she couldn't trust. It's possible this won't come off." Then he bowed and was gone." Adelise wiped at her cheeks with the back of one hand. Adelise's name will be dragged through the dirt as it is..Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. i-in any way—" She bit her lip. But there was something in the petulant set of his mouth." Jocelyn hesitated. "Oh.. our hotheaded brother among them.. Brian. "Oh.html "No one is hurt. Several had weapons drawn. though.. Jocelyn.. Adelise had opened her eyes and was sobbing into her hands. my lord. "Adelise has simply fainted from the excitement. you wouldn't be telling me to be calm. "I'll quiet my men and be along in a few minutes. "You've a right to be upset. "God knows there'sbeen food enough in this matter for all the gossips in England.him! Father can't ask it. Montagne men and those of de Langley are at daggers drawn already. How awful the very thought of. Adelise." She studied his face and her fingers tightened on his arm. his face the harsher.processtext." Jocelyn murmured. Brian. But we must be very. Jocelyn. listen to me. "See to your men here and don't let them start a brawl. "Ican't!" . of being with that man. then bent and took her sister's shoulders firmly between both hands. He's already threatening de Langley. "If you can arrange for us to be left in peace a few moments. "Thank you." she said sharply. more masculine version of their sister's.. You've no idea how awful he was to me. If he starts something." "I'll do what I can." Jocelyn said. I can't marry that man!" Adelise wailed. Tell Adelise. He can't!" "Adelise." He glanced back over his shoulder at the angry Montagne men. Imagine how foolish she'll feel when she wakes and discovers all the fuss being made. "I can't marry him. you are almost contracted to Pelham.. You know how rumors willfly. something that had sometimes made the hairs along the back of her neck lift uneasily. After all. She would never forget the satisfaction on his face. I know you fear Robert de Langley. The man frowned and stepped back.. but I'll not be able to keep them away for long.. I can't. "For now. "Please. for once just doas I ask. but not. http://www. the impotent rage on her mother'sas she had fought the swelling and blood to determine if the fragile bones of her daughter's face were broken..com/abclit.very careful what we say." The tears began flooding her cheeks once again. there are scores of men out there just looking for any excuse to spill each other's blood. for her sake. Anything might touch off a fight. it might be well for those treaties you favor. You know Brian's temper. especially Brian! But if all this were happening to you. there could be men killed. Her brother was a handsome man." The stranger was just settling Adelise in a chair when Jocelyn entered the chamber. A great deal can happen between the announcement of a betrothal and an actual marriage ceremony. once when she was an outspoken eight and hea spoiled young know-it-all of thirteen he had struck her. you know I don't want anyone hurt. "Anyone! Anyone.

Adelise. The matter had been unfortunate for Robertde Langley's plans as well. and most in Belavoir were abed. I'm sorry you're so unhappy. burying the jealousy in the furthest reaches of her consciousness. who had never hurt anyone in all her life. You know I would change it for you if I could. She deserved a man like Robert de Langley. She felt an odd little catch in her chest. Stephen and his forces—her father and de Langley included—wouldbe riding north to the aid of Ralph de Toneil.com/abclit. She didn't want to listen to more of her sister's weeping. more than willing to detour to the aidof one of his more important barons—especially one who seemedto be wavering in his loyalties. I don't mean to make light of what's happened. Above the keep stairs a pair of sputtering pine torches flared and guttered inthe wind. I'm certain of it. A freezing blast of air gusted across the courtyard. She frowned. All else was dark and still.html Jocelyn thought of Robert de Langley. But all will be well. twin pools of light shivering golden against cold stone. The night was sharp and clear. Stephen had hurried to Belavoir with his army. leavingthe com fortable warmth and light of the kitchen buildings for the darkness of the deserted bailey. to have to comfort her yet again about her coming marriage to Robert de Langley. Lifting the latch.Jocelyn spoke a few last words to the cook. a baron who had the misfortune to hold lands not far from the land-hungry earl of Chester. Jocelyn thought of her sister. taking in an endless ebony sky so spangled with stars it brought an ache to her throat. http://www. quiet hoursof the night were upon them. Adelise was all that was perfect and good. of the way a smile softened his hard face. She was the only kind of woman who could. Jocelyn stopped and threw back her head. hopeless regret. Drawing a deep breath. An uncomfortable feeling swept through her—unexpected longing. like the pain that had come so unexpectedly. carrying the faint. she didn't want to go in and lie down beside Adelise.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. There was one otherwho hadbeen hurt by Chester's aggression: Adelise. of change and loss and the coming harshness of winter in the border country. "Oh. Come tomorrow. Somehow we will make it all come out right. The long sessions of drinking and talking had ended. She caught up her cloakfrom a wall peg and drew it around her shoulders. the way his beautiful laughter had sounded on the one occasion she had heard it. Unfortunately for Chester. She wrapped her arms around Adelise and hugged her close. Jocelyn slippedout." Thirteen Midnighthad come and gone and the still. earthy smell of dry leaves and dead bracken. of the way he had kissed her. then angry. The insatiable Chester had laid siegeto his castle without warning in the hope of taking it before word leaked out. de Toneil had managedto get a man through the lines and to the king. She thought of the way his arms had felt around her. The king had been within a day's ride of Belavoir when her father's surprised messengers had come across his trail.processtext. a sudden resentment toward her sister that shamed and unsettled her. . smiled at a sleepy spitboy who was turning great slabs of porkover one of the open fires. Despite the cold and her own weariness.

Holy Mary. until the king had made his astonishing announcement. to nurse the pain in secret as a wild animal would some injury. She had no choice in the matter. a pervading. On a night like tonight. A jumble of emotions had swept through her then— anger. Not yet. an inquisition into the treatment she and Adelise had received at Robert de Langley's hands. For just one year to be so heart-stoppingly beautiful every man turned to stare. A woman belonged to her father until she was wed. Jocelyn walked slowly along the edge of the keep. wondering if she had been bitter. And God help the woman if she were given to a man who made her life hell. feelings she would have hidden from an impressionable young daughter who was having a difficult enough time of her own. please don't let me be such a fool! Hugging her arms about herself. For the truth was she would have foolishly bartered all the remaining years of her life to trade places with Adelise for just one. the battlements would be deserted save for a few sentries.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter.processtext. a glittering prize for the man who had never wavered in his loyalty. She studied the distant stars. Robert de Langley was one of the finest men in England. Stephen was granting him the lucrative office of sheriff of one of the nearby shires. thinking of her mother. It was just as obvious they'd had no choice in the matter. to her husband thereafter. she who had always prided herself on her cold practicality.html She shivered and hugged herself. hurt. . incomprehensible hurt unlike any she had ever known. but she truly believed that it wouldn't last long. de Langley was demanding an impossibly high fee as repayment for all his lost revenues over the years. Don't let me be a fool. But she couldn't go back to that small room they shared. golden torrent of wonder and fear. It was obvious the Montagne men were against any blood bond with de Langley. She was being foolish. no fine would be levied for his aggression. to sooth any qualms he might feel about giving his daughter up to a man he feared might abuse her. Adelise and her rich dowry had been deemed a proper settlement by the king and his council. But first had come the interminable interview with Brian and her father. Then Robert de Langley had swept into her life on a passionate. her clear-eyed acceptance of life as it was. jealousy. making for the stairs up to the wall-walk. To pacify the father of the bride. In fact. In addition to the restoration of his castles and lands. Adelise would soon lose her fear and discover a rich and rewarding life as his lady. http://www. She truly wanted to rejoice in her sister's happiness. But Adelise's marriage would be nothing like that. Jocelyn had seen that well enough in her own parents' marriage. gracious Mother of our Lord. Jocelyn wanted that for Adelise. Within a few weeks or months Adelise would be married to a man who terrified her simply because she was an heiress and the king had ordered it so.com/abclit. Jocelyn felt a keen sympathy for her sister's bitter unhappiness. Stephen had said. a storm of powerful emotions Jocelyn hadn't even begun to recognize until it was too late. frustrated by the ridiculous feelings she seemed unable to control. Her mother must have felt a terrible loneliness and frustration being wed to a man who despised her. Her instinct had been to slip away and hide. for there was no way out. the finest man anywhere. First she had been simple-minded enough to dream of Edward of Pelham just because the man had been kind to her. For just one year to be Robert de Langley's lady.

my lord de Langley." "Nor I." "Oh. "How does your sister. that I'd taken a vow. Jocelyn could just make out his hard handsome features. whirled. Anger resonated in his voice." "That it has. His arm lay so near. something she was forced to keep hidden most of the time. "How then. a holy vow never to wed again? I thought I was done with such things after that last time—" He drew in a sharp breath.com/abclit. She was stunned any man could so love a woman that he . Jocelyn thought she could feel the heat of it.processtext. sweeping over the battlements. a wildness that spoke to something inside her. She wished to God he had never touched her. madam." He moved closer. bitter laugh. came the king to force this?" she asked. madam. "I have none." Jocelyn gasped." "Ah. "You're fool to be walking about alone at this hour. in his arms. that she had never discovered what it was like to stand." She was quick to recover command of herself. as if I couldn't guess." she answered honestly. leaning against the wall and staring out over his darkened land in silence.html She reached the top of the stairs without challenge. even for a moment. I just didn't want to go in. but I've a sword and a dagger at hand and the wit and power to use them. He was her excuse. but there was a freedom in this place. God himself can't help the man Stephen of Blois decides to favor. A shadow darker than the surrounding blackness disengaged itself from the wall and moved toward her. Up here it was cold and uncomfortable. but she couldn't see his expression. His brother is bishop of Winchester." Jocelyn scarcely blinked at the blasphemy. There wasn't much of a moon. "This betrothal has been a shock. We'll have a dispensation by the end of the week. But then she didn't need to see his expression. she wished he would hold her again. but she couldn't say that. bitterness in every taut line of his body. There are more than a handful of men in this keep who would thrill to the knowledge that you had been murdered during the night. and the wind was strong. "He's a man with much respect for such things I've been told. "You should be abed." De Langley gave a short. "Do you know. "As you are. Jocelyn stepped into the shadowy protection of the wall." "Not well. http://www. What's your excuse for such foolishness?" Jocelyn turned and stared out over the shadowy countryside. easily enough. Foolishly. For all of us.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. tearing through the crenelated teeth.

This was an unlooked for opportunity. But somehow making an alliance with your father. It was the only way any man could have meant them. madam. Half my time and energy will be squandered traveling." He laughed again. Jocelyn realized. If she had any other she'd have been ruined by now with the spoiling she has had since the first day she drew breath. "Aye." "Neither are weeping. so am I. When he said nothing. At least you don't drop at my feet each time I frown. Adelise does have courage. she forced herself to go on." She waited for him to respond.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter." He turned to her. I would speak plainly to you. my lord. From somewhere deep inside she found the strength to respond in like fashion. wailing females who swoon at the first sign of difficulty. that shielded and protected her and indulged her every whim. cynically this time. Sweet Mother of God. his arm inadvertently touching hers. a quiet courage that comes to her aid when those she loves are in danger. almost obscenely rich wife. I wonder sometimes if I would be alive this day if not for her. It would far better have been you." He was waiting. So does my old friend Robin of Leicester. "And be she ever so lovely and rich. Time and energy my enemies will be happy to see wasted.com/abclit. what would it be like to be loved by such a man? "I'm sorry. Sorry for being forced to take an incredibly beautiful. "Perhaps it has. my lord. sweetest nature of any creature on earth. that my time as a dead man has addled my wits. Adelise was bred up in a household that cossetted her." He shifted nearer." she said.. "And I hope you do show her that she has no reason to fear you. for my sister's welfare touches me greatly." Jocelyn hesitated. Richard de Lucy. She has stood in my defense on many occasions. "If she is tender and easily frightened it is because she has never faced hardship or challenge. I've no fancy for lands so far to the east as your sister's dower lands lie. was it not? Things in Normandy may be different." "My sister is afraid of the man she thinks you are. "And is that the reason for what you did this afternoon?" . I've no doubt you could show her quickly enough not to be. but then it was a reward the king was intending. My father and brother have raised her so. Adelise has the kindest. I've little desire for a wife who lives in fear of me. "Besides. He'd meant the words as a jest.html would actually take a vow never to wed again when she died. If she is shy and biddable it is because she has molded herself in that fashion to please them. seeing him rewarded for taking my lands and murdering my people doesn't seem like a blessing no matter how enticing the rest of the package. looking down at her. she will make you a wife more wonderful than any you could ever dream. If you do.processtext. but here in England sharp-tongued shrews with small dowrys are seldom considered in that light. "My lord de Langley.. The king's justiciar. "You are wrong to hold her in contempt. "Ah. perhaps the only one she would have to help Adelise. http://www. thinks I'm insane.

It was only an affair of the heart so far." He leaned closer.com/abclit. http://www. it is." He caught up the edges of her mantle. and she was swallowed up in its too-large folds. That and the fact that I love Adelise a very great deal. You must be freezing to death in this wind.. wished she could read his thoughts. "My lord. Or so I've been told. Edward of Pelham. yes. grasping her arm." Jocelyn tried to ignore the feel of his hand on her arm. why wasn't this mentioned earlier?" "Because nothing official had been done. Somehow I think not." And before Jocelyn knew what he was about. Worse yet. I don't suppose it would." He turned. It was happening already. When you do you will better understand what I did. a man who had already asked for her hand. "Who is this man your sister wishes to wed?" "It isn't necessary that you know that. She wants this marriage no more than you.." Robert de Langley let out a breath that frosted like smoke on the cold night air. There was a gentler. madam. Adelise's heart. So why did it cause her such pain? "It is Pelham." "That's only because you don't know her. the overwhelming essence of the man." "So I had surmised. "By the Mass. woman. She—" Rude laughter interrupted her words. if I tell you her heart is already taken by another. "Come. "I've scarcely the imagination to envision anyone wanting it less. tried to focus only on what he was saying. what if I fight and wound him in some friendly joust or engagement? Can you imagine what your sister's feelings would be then? If you truly wish me to have a care to your sister. . Judas. was there ever such a muddle!" He released her abruptly. The less said about it the better. been devastated by the loss of his son.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter.processtext. Have patience with her fears." "Perhaps you'll understand then. She didn't want to be reminded of the afternoon. it is very necessary that I know. be gentle with Adelise. a most advantageous marriage that would have been. no such consideration would have swayed the king. If only she could reach that part of him. of the sacrifice you were willing to make for her sake. caring side to this man. in the lingering warmth and subtle scent. He had obviously loved his wife to distraction. he had unclasped his own cloak and flung it around her.html Jocelyn's heart skipped a beat. I must know to keep from hurting her unwittingly. perhaps less." Jocelyn said. "No. I only wonder if she is worthy of your feelings. I'd best get you in before someone comes in search of you. "Yes. no contracts signed." "On the contrary. I expect. From what I've heard." "What?Devil take it. madam. drawing them together. give me his name. he was showing a tender concern for Adelise. this isn't a cloak for such weather." Jocelyn wished she could see his expression. "A man she was hoping to marry. There are too many other considerations for anyone's feelings to weigh." "Pelham. Think how difficult it would be should I become friends with the man. "It's late.

Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. ." He was standing so close his shoulder brushed hers. that familiar breathless sensation seizing control once again. "There. I shouldn't be surprised. I suppose." A surge of humiliation washed through her. She thought of him naked. Kissing her. She wanted so badly to touch him. Her heart began racing. reminding her of the way he had touched her this afternoon. This man who would be her sister's husband. Obviously she hadn't fared well in the comparison. liquid heat she remembered so vividly. Now she thought of him like that. that's better. But I can assure you. While she had liked it far too well. powerful muscles. http://www. And of a sudden she realized that all her notions of honor and decency were not what she had supposed. She thought of the sensual way he had touched her. far more difficult to fight. possessing. With a deep. You're liable to catch your death. so very hopelessly to be her own. She wanted it more than she could ever recall wanting anything else on earth.com/abclit. needing the support. to explore the flat. Merciful God in Heaven. He'd kissed scores of women. she had seen men unclothed before. shuddering breath. In her healing. the way his fingers had felt against her bare skin. she was committing adultery. She remembered his kiss of a few hours ago so clearly she barely held back a groan. If you must be about on such a night. Her whole body began to ache. to feel his body joining with hers. she pulled away. she was trembling. for she was foolishly hoping he would kiss her. you've nothing to fear in that regard. the harsh reality of cold stone beneath her hands. He hadn't liked it. to warm with that powerful. a warmth akin to that she remembered when she'd once had too many cups of strong wine. of the shattering effects of his kiss. madam. hard planes and curving muscles of his body. And somehow she knew with a certainty she could never have explained just how right it would be to lie with him. With her own sister's husband! "Are you afraid of me?" he asked softly. hundreds probably. "After the way I behaved this afternoon. "No!" Jocelyn leaned against the wall. so close she could feel his breath in her hair. His large body covering. hadn't liked kissing her. turning her to face him. A heady sensation of warmth washed through her. To lean into his chest and run her hands across his shoulders. for pity's sake wear something better suited. so intense. The image had been overwhelming. This man she suddenly wanted so desperately. But then he had kissed Adelise.html His hands lingered beneath her chin. to tingle. knew what was done in the getting of children. all golden-hot eyes and sleek. her small one.processtext. It was an unfamiliar variation on the old pain—only far more humiliating. He caught her shoulder.

as you said. halting her without a sound as he slid past. a kiss that nearly undid her. Do you always command?" He laughed. one relieving himself against the wall. Behind her. And what were these men doing out? With tensions high and two feuding lords within one keep. foolishly—shamefully—that wasn't the reasoning she wanted to hear. Jocelyn slowed. If she moved. And. we must be up betimes. but didn't. He slowed. madam. she would betray herself. Preoccupied with her thoughts. another muttering drunken curses at his companion's careless aim. and I am tired and cold and. You'll be freezing and—" He caught her hands. Not of you. his hand closing around her elbow. "I suppose I do. explain that she had no reason to fear him. http://www. She was humiliated. They reached the steps and he stood back. She forced herself to stare up at him with something of the old effrontery. "Certainly. They stood at the base of the stairway. I can see that with you for a sister. "Take this back. if she breathed. She longed to pull away. it's been a long day. too breathlessly. did such odd.." She was talking too fast. inexplicable things to the pit of her stomach. And we both have to be up betimes on the morrow. He would only reassure her again. Robert de Langley must have felt the same. The curses below exploded into an argument. . "Come. Something about this wasn't right. his right hand shifting to his sword hilt. he lifted her hands to his mouth. Sweet Mother of God. brushing a warm kiss against their backs before he released them. what if he guessed and what if he laughed? She fumbled her hands free of the heavy draping folds of his cloak starting to remove it. One of the men shoved the other and both lurched forward against the stairs." His sister. It is only late.processtext. no doubt.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. leading her wordlessly along the walkway toward the stairs. Jocelyn was halfway to the bottom before she became aware of the men. my lord. I shall have to mend my ways. It was such a beautiful laugh. ashamed.com/abclit. the men-at-arms were all being carefully kept to their barracks. Jocelyn caught her breath against the ache. Unexpectedly. And what if he guessed? Dear God." He took her arm. As you said. and. "Do you always argue. holding them together between both of his. but one I was bred to. sir.. almost missed her footing and caught herself against the wall. allowing her to precede him. We'd both best get inside. Perilously close to tears. sir. were flailing drunkenly at one another. madam?" She strained to free herself. Jocelyn's heart began racing. An irksome habit. a chill shivering the length of her spine.. where were the sentries? She'd seen none all night.html "I-I'm not afraid. In a moment they had their swords out..

putting all her weight behind it as she wielded the long metal pin like a knife. There wasn't time even to be afraid. drew in her breath. She continued to watch. No wonder half of Normandy and most all of England had longed to follow him. forcing herself to wait. The two men below must be a diversion. But the lordof Belavoir needed no aid. She caught the faintest glimmer of steel. And there. the men had leaped toward Robert de Langley. Shewatched for several moments. She caught up her skirts and whirled. footsteps. slipping stealthily down the stairs was a man. .com/abclit. She steadied herself. deadly glitter of polished steel in the starlight. anchoring the broach against her palm.a whisper of boot leather against smooth stone.html De Langley's sword was outas well. tangling his arms and his sword. De Langley was outnumbered. The would-beassassins were so obviously outmatched she couldn't imagine why they were still fighting. counting off the dwindling seconds until the man came within reach. Jocelyn caught the faint. And from the look of things. Robert de Langley had been defending battlement stairs all his life. Against the reach ofa sword it wouldn't be much. She had a wild. hurrying upward. She glanced upwards.processtext. http://www. but in close quarters the long metal pin could make a weapon. Jocelynsuckedin her breath. Get back upstairs!" he hissed. so long as that man was an accomplished swordsman. She probed through the wool for his throat. madam. The darkness shifted. This was the man coming in for the kill. She drew back against the wall. "Quick. She understood the attraction—the "magic" Sir Geoffrey had called it—for she felt it herself. The man was struggling to drag off the cloak. She stepped closer. felt the pin scrape then catch in flesh. She squeezed her fingers against the clasp. she flung it up and over the man's head. Now! Swinging the cloak from her shoulders. stirred. knowing instinctively that anyone rushing to de Langley's aid would have shouted and called for help. She gouged it home with all her strength. irrational longing to take upa sword and rush into the fray at his side. On the narrow stone stairs the man above held an advantage. her breath coming shallow and fast. fumblingfor the circu lar bronze clasp on de Langley's cloak. She swungaround. mesmerized by the spectacular swordplay. unless— The faintest of sounds caught her ear. covering his face. There wasn't time to call for de Langley.but he was obviously holding his own.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. why they didn't just turn and flee. her fears began to fade. then slowly. Jocelyn leaned against the wall. She heard a grunt. Dropping all drunken pretense. Soundlessly. There was that in his voice that brooked no argument. the first clattering shock of steel meeting steel in earnest.

my lord. clawing at the cloak. He struggled to free himself. http://www. No wonder men became drunk with it. "By the Mass.ever do anything like that again! This wasn't a game we were playing. don't ever. here I'd thought to find you fainting from fear. He was strength and warmth and safety in the darkness. listening to the wild throbbing of his heart. She twisted the pin again and he tried to fend her off. No wonder Robert de Langley's men thought him invincible. save for my arm. I'm fine. "Are you certain you're all right?" The exhilaration of the fight still gripped Jocelyn. "Judas. Robert de Langley managed to fling one of his attackers down the stairs. braced herself against the wall and shoved. She rested her cheek against his chest. A splintering pain shot through her foot. She liked the sound of her name on his lips.. "Madam. I should have known better. yes. The man cursed and groped blindly for her. what her whole being ached for with an intensity that was overwhelming. Those men were in deadly earnest..processtext." Jocelyn didn't try to speak." The voice was sharp. And I greatly fear you'll do worse if we don't find your cloak..html The man's surprised grunt turned to a cry of pain. the pounding of her heart. but the man lost his balance and pitched over the edge." he was saying. despite her own breathlessness. "Jocelyn." Jocelyn smiled. drinking in the exhilarating feel of his arms wrapped around her. "Madam. dropping half the height of the stairs to land with a thud and a curse on the hard bailey earth below. He teetered on the edge of the stairs. And victory. "Yes. liked the obvious concern in his voice. So this was what battle was like. Jocelyn. the rushing of her blood had yet to subside.She was drunk with it. Despite the danger and her fear. for the love of God. which you're crushing. and Jocelyn kicked it down the stairs. are you all right?" He caught her arm. That whoreson cur took it with him over the edge. dropping his sword as she stabbed at his arm. along with your broach which I stabbed into his cowardly hide!" Instead of releasing her as she had expected.. The sword clanged noisily against the step. A few steps below her. saw him focus on her and gather himself like a cat." she managed. It was obvious he thought so himself. "But I . she saw his head emerge.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter.. "And you?" "Certainly!" He snapped the word out as if amazed she could doubt it. de Langley crushed her against him and gave a shaky laugh. arms spread like an outraged bear. Jocelyn leaned against the wall. fighting for air. fleeing quickly into the darkness. The other turned. But she truly must sound like a madwoman. Another few seconds— She ducked under his arms. "You could have been killed. Another few seconds and she wouldn't have a prayer. madam. I'm fine. Jocelyn began to laugh. In the darkness. questioning. She sidestepped him.?" "Yes.com/abclit. De Langley bounded up the steps to her side.. He was what she longed for. kicking at his knees.

but I'll not be caught unawares again. But I thank you for your words.. the better to recognize him by daylight. I've never gone into battle with a woman to guard my back. This could never have happened if my own men had been allowed to remain on guard. searching the shadowy recesses of the walls. It hadn't been real. you will do very well. Together they hurried down the stairs. anything might happen. and for your aid tonight. In future she would see him only as Adelise's husband. that was warm and brilliant and devastating as the sun. yet she couldn't see him party to this ambush in the dark. along with that unforgettable moment of closeness. Jocelyn. that jackal should carry a scar. who the men were?" "Who they were? No." She heard the amusement in his voice and made the mistake of glancing up at him.That was reality. It would put him in a most difficult position. My father is loath to fight him. I'll have to think of an appropriate way to show my gratitude. even though Stephen himself has ordered it. I'd no notion my enemies would act so swiftly.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. "You might have enemies besides those of the house of Montagne." He glanced over his shoulder. If I didn't know better. I'll tell—" "You'll tell no one. A broach pin is weapon enough to cut a man's throat. Jocelyn fought for composure. However. He could only be speaking of her father.html was in earnest as well. "I do apologize for the insult. "I'll wish you a safe journey then tomorrow. especially in any encounter with Chester. We might not fare so well if those men find friends and come back. Stephen wouldn't thank me even if I could prove it." Jocelyn sensed his withdrawal before he released her and stepped away. madam. At the very least. how overwhelmingly alone she felt outside Robert de Langley's arms." Jocelyn nodded. However. to trace that beautiful mouth with her . "I might.com/abclit. I prefer to pursue it in my own way. It was a curiously intimate gesture. In such a state. Who sent them? Most probably. shivering now in the wind. She felt an extraordinary need to reach up and touch him. Certainly someone has either drugged or bought off Stephen's sentries.." Jocelyn smiled again. for the familiar icy poise that had always sheltered her from hurt. On the morrow. She was amazed at how cold she was suddenly. he would be leaving. but I would ask you to have a care. http://www." A chill of apprehension slid through her. more warmly familiar than a kiss. "We'd best get inside now. don't you think?" De Langley rested his chin against the top of her head and chuckled. then. The exhilaration was gone now. then escorted Jocelyn quickly to the chamber she shared with Adelise. my lord. I must rearrange my thinking. Have an extra contingent of men you trust at your back. He was smiling a smile that caught at her heart and made it turn over. it seems. I'd swear you were one of my veterans. discovering de Langley's cloak and broach pin in the shadows alongside the wall. "Do you know. "We can look for the man tomorrow.processtext. reveling in the warmth of Robert de Langley's approval. He knelt to retrieve them. I know how to care for myself in battle." "I do assure you." she offered. You must not speak of what happened here tonight.

Jocelyn. on the relationship you and I will soon share. I will do as well by the lady Adelise as I can contrive. I will value her at her true worth and do my best to give her her heart's desire. madam. after what I have put you through. sister. Jocelyn leaned against the door.com/abclit. deftly smoothing the heavy. blinking against the hot blaze of tears in her eyes. at least. For what you did for me tonight. sir. but amusement lurked deep in his eyes.. God be with you and keep you safe. it would be churlish indeed to refuse. "I do swear to you now that I'll do my best to make a good husband. To see if he can find some bracken to put down in the stables. Peter be finished layin' fresh rushes in the hall. Within the next few days. you'll never regret patience and care spent early in the game. I'll tell her myself when I see her. Robert de Langley bent and brushed his mouth swiftly against hers. catching Jocelyn's shoulders. pressing her fingers against her mouth." Jocelyn's throat closed up. She had never felt so close to losing control to splintering and falling apart." The maidservant hesitated. besting the urge. "A kiss of peace between us. who could shake her so badly with naught but a touch or a look. to cup his face with her hand. that I will grant the request made of me tonight." "Again?" Jocelyn bit back a sigh. After what we have been through tonight. I do swear to you. disappearing around a darkened corner. She had never known a man so overwhelmingly physical. Fourteen M'lady. And she was certain she had never hated any thought so violently in all her life.." He took a step nearer. She didn't even try to breathe." His smile was gone. I sewed on her wedding tunic last night. striding down the corridor without looking back. "Foryour sake. That.processtext. "Very well then. embroidered coverlet on her father's great bed. the king of England would be sleeping here.. It needs one last fitting before I can finish. She swallowed hard. don't disturb her. "See if you can find Adelise. "Thank you. Raising her head. Said to tell you he's takin' his cart down by way of Three Springs Meadow. "She's still in the chapel. Hissister! She was soon to become Robert de Langley's sister. she shoved a wisp of hair from her eyes. but since you've just risked your life in my cause. I assure you. "You've no need to show me gratitude." "I'm not known as a patient man. Elen.. I'm done here as well.html fingers. Father Matthew be with her now." She straightened." ." And with that he was gone." Jocelyn gave a practiced jerk to one corner of the bed covers. Only think on what I said tonight about Adelise.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. madam. http://www.

html The woman left. They even drew steel on each other last night. and Jocelyn herself so distracted she could scarcely keep up with all that must be done. but with Adelise distraught and their father and Brian off fighting for Stephen. If her mind sometimes wandered to darker thoughts. He brought his men to join the king two days ago and couldn't be dissuaded from riding here for the wedding. but the others are just behind me. madam." Brian grimaced and stepped into the room. her feelings unmanageable. more's the pity. She'd had eighteen long and painful years of learning to manage her thoughts. But she was secretly thankful for the activity. She leaned her forehead against the icy stone. She had thrown back the shutter and golden sunlight streamed in along with an abundance of fresh. cold air. deeper waters. control her feelings. Jesu." he was saying. But it hadn't been honest —that ambush in the dark—and she had the oddest feeling that Brian had been involved. It felt good to her heated skin. I wouldn't actually murder the man.processtext. tempers frayed. she sewed on her sister's wedding clothes by the light of an extravagant half-dozen candles. impossible yearning for what couldn't be. if only Pelham had spoken sooner. of the journey back to Montagne and the overwhelming task that had naturally fallen to her: turning Montagne inside out to prepare for a visit by England's king and for Adelise's grand wedding. "I rode on ahead to warn Adelise. of preparing Adelise's clothing for a suitably grand wedding. He and de Langley have had words. Her half-brother Brian stood framed in the doorway.com/abclit. He'll soon be blood kin. Time was short and servants harried. she knew her place in the world well enough.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. Stephen would have had to find some other heiress and we wouldn't even be in this mess!" . she supposed that was just her burden to bear. "Jocelyn. She thought of the last week. Even under the best of circumstances the preparations would have been overwhelming. She worked hard through the days directing the cooking and cleaning. After all. she drew quickly back. "Pelham's coming. Brian. not thatI wouldn't welcome a good honest fight between us. And if her thoughts were sometimes unruly. seemed to realize to whom he was speaking. "God's love. "You can't fight him. why couldn't de Langley have stayed dead! I'd give five year's rents from Montagne if only someone would put him away! If only someone could get rid of—" He glanced up and caught himself. predictable track she had set— that of making Montagne ready for a royal visit. concentrating on the tiny. perfect stitches. And she kept her thoughts rigidly to the safe. Brian. the gathering together of the mountain of provisions they would need. the job was nearly impossible. Adelise would be contracted now. trying to catch his breath." "Pelham? Oh. Then at night when the castle quieted. and Jocelyn moved to the window recess. quick! Where's Adelise?" Jocelyn swung around. http://www. to a foolish." Jocelyn stared at her brother." "I know that! Don't you think I know that?" he snapped. "God. "That isn't the worst of it. though Leicester and de Lucy separated them quick enough. no! He's the last person on earth Adelise needs to see. He hesitated. the elegant silken embroidery that was her wedding gift to Adelise.

She won't take this well. when he had won Belavoir and stepped through her shattered doorway. "We'd best warn her quickly. The gates were open and Jocelyn could see the first of Stephen's men riding up the long hill. She reached down and clutched the railing. She paused on her way down the stairs. her firm lectures to herself this last week. I'm afraid. as a matter of fact. And despite all her efforts to the contrary. De Langley reached the foot of the stairs. singling him out easily enough as he strode across the floor. as a smile warmed his face and he walked straight toward her." she said instead. probably sinful as well. Why was it no one ever remembered that fact? "Adelise will likely still be in the chapel." She tried to smile.com/abclit. an easy. the kiss they had shared that had somehow touched her soul. She would never forget their first meeting.Two Montagne daughters. and Jocelyn realized she must look a fool." he said. despite her rigidly practiced self-control. "She spends most of her time there. "You see. As if feeling the intensity of her gaze. sensual grace that affected some place inside her—a place she had never even known existed before. instinctively searching for Robert de Langley. But there are two of us. Jocelyn's whole body quickened and flushed. By the time Jocelyn had checked her bedchamber and the rest of the women's quarters.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter.processtext." She pushed past him. She wanted to rest her cheek against his chest. And no matter how hard she tried. yet here she stood staring down at one man. They tried the chapel. She wasn't ready for this. but she found pleasure just in watching him. We had word Chester had lifted the siege. It was ridiculous. "Back all in one piece. Involuntarily. Her pulse was racing. The man moved with an unconscious arrogance. de Langley swung around. "So I see. She had dozens of duties to perform." "Aye. that the king didn't have to engage him. a wild and rebellious yearning swept through her.html Jocelyn kept her gaze steady on his. no matter how diligently she prayed for deliverance. Ranulf of Chester will never stay to fight if he thinks the . hadn't prepared herself well enough for this meeting. Jocelyn was aware the moment he saw her. I could have told Stephen how it would be. She forced herself into motion down the stairs. Her eyes swept past the king and Brian. She wanted to run down the stairs and be swept up in his arms as she had that night out on the battlements. her stomach twisting into knots. she wanted to say. she could neither forget nor regret the way he had touched her that afternoon in his chamber. all that effort and we didn't so much as see the backside of his men. http://www." They hurried down the spiraling tower stairs and out into the sunlit bailey. leading the way out the door. the men were already entering the hall. felt the heat in her body surge as their eyes connected. She had never felt so helpless. even without you to guard my back. but Adelise wasn't there. so out of control. to feel warm and wanted within the circle of his arms. did tell him. trying to reconcile herself to this.

you would think so.. aye. Won't Chester just do the same thing as soon as Stephen's back is turned?" "Out of the mouth of babes. but this isenough!" Pelham didn't take his eyes from de Langley's." De Langley turned. "Oh. And yes. Pelham lifted his voice. The lady was in the process of being contracted to me. the king ordered us to keep our distance. "I want a word with you. golden eyes brilliant." de Langley finished coolly." "After last night. I've nothing whatsoever to say to you. It might behoove Stephen to discover just how you came by that talk. "How dare you.. perhaps murdered as well. I'm certain the Montagnes would like to hear it as well. and it please Your Grace. I've just learned you murdered your first wife. "I would say that you must have some interesting contacts in Normandy. His face was pale. sir. I might at that." "Not yet. my noble Lion of Normandy?" The whole room hushed. I've the right to . Jocelyn found herself clutching the stair rail so tightly it hurt." From across the room. "Perhaps it won't come to that. Most likely in Henry's court. He fears I'll kill you if you draw steel on me again. face set into a frown. the neighing of a horse came to her clearly from outside in the bailey. But de Langley had deliberately turned his back. Besides. De Langley swung around. http://www.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter." "Don't change the subject! I want to hear how you murdered your wife. as did some of the others. Especially Lady Adelise. I'll not have her abused. sir. "But I'd of thought the king would go after him. Pelham." de Langley murmured dryly.. we'll all hear it publicly. Unfortunately." de Langley said. I'll probably have to do it alone." "We will take this up privately!" Stephen snapped. we will have to do it again. Privately. Perhaps Chester—" "De Langley. Edward of Pelham was moving toward them. Come with me. with the king. Pelham! How dare you come here and make trouble! I've been patient with you. She didn't like the thought of him fighting again. "We need to talk.html odds even or better that the fight might go against him." Jocelyn frowned. I'll probably end up doing it to protect my own borders. She'd worried enough this last week.. you'll talk to me!" Pelham snapped. "Very well. wouldn't you? That's what I counseled. In the stillness.. blond figure pushed through the crowd. "I've been publicly charged. blue eyes dark as a thundercloud. if you don't want this in private. "I've a right to ask. was already moving away. "Oh.processtext. And since I doubt I'll be able to count on my father-in-law..com/abclit." Jocelyn halted on the last step where it was easier to see into his fascinating eyes. "Both of you. Robert de Langley!" A tall. helped along by your father and others who didn't want to fight. What do you have to say to that. Stephen decided against it. Stephen was pushing toward them.

" "But there was more to it. She drew in a deep breath.html answer publicly as well. Everywhere men were whispering. though nothing so sinister as you'd like to imply. it's enough. there was more." "Enough!"Stephen bellowed." De Langley hesitated a moment. you can tell that tale held no truth by the simple fact that the Angevins didn't pursue it. Henry would have been screaming it in every corner of the land!" "No. I intend to. his voice cold as ice. Richard de Lucy. Some say—" He broke off for de Langley had stiffened." He held Pelham's eyes. http://www. Pelham. If I see you within Castle Montagne again. I'll have you put in chains!" Pelham sent him a bitter look. striding out the door without a backward glance. Remember it and thank God and His holy angels that I do understand this ridiculous sickness you have." A long look passed between the men. You barred the door with your sword. turning aside to the king. These ridiculous accusations are nothing but heresay and the gossip of idle men about a campfire. Pelham. you did take care of that!" Pelham snapped. then to have heard the vicious gossip that he had murdered them. "We'll speak of this later. there wasn't any evidence. "Not even herpriest!" "Yes." Pelham paused for effect. eyeing his accuser as if the man were a halfwit or worse. Now get out!" Pelham turned to go. None took it seriously. that ridiculous talk of murder was begun by my enemies. you'll agree.com/abclit." His face was impassive. Jocelyn watched as Brian slid out the door in his wake. The king's justiciar. To be hearing it still! Stephen turned and put a hand on de Langley's shoulder. however. Your Grace. "Certainly. most certainly none worth dying for. Remember that. gathering himself with an effort. Had there been the merest hint of evidence. Any number of people who were present can swear to it. Lord de Langley has answered patiently. I would have you get back to your post. that she was shriven at the last. far more than any fever. "My wife was several months gone with our child. "But even your own men wonder. "God's love. Was there no end to the misery Robert de Langley had faced? To have lost his wife. "I believe we've heard enough. There were reasons we needed to talk alone—not even her priest was welcome. though.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. by the splendor of God I do swear. I saw to it." He shook his head. a bitter time for us both. but Robert de Langley stopped him.processtext. his right hand sliding to his sword hilt. More than enough. Pelham. He put a hand on de Langley's sword arm. moved to stand between the men. Not even the Angevins. so I've heard. "I can see you've no plans to look for the truth. "My wife died of a fever. this is enough. "I would hate to have to kill you. "At a time I was least able to defend myself. Pelham. but as you said. wouldn't let anyone in. Most likely all in their cups. Some . and unborn child. I warn you. She was in the process of losing it. You were charged with seeing to the main camp outside these gates. There's no woman on earth worth killing a good man for. sir." Stephen moved to stand beside his favorite. Then Edward of Pelham pushed through the crowd. you and I.

then laid out an exquisite one of soft rose wool for Adelise." She gave a dreamy sigh and closed her eyes. "Despite what you fear. But Hawise told me. Her father had commanded that both she and Adelise be present.. She said he stormed into the hall and challenged Robert de Langley." Adelise opened her eyes. others thoughtful. "That's only the vilest gossip. Richard de Lucy glanced about the hall. Jocelyn saw to the frantic preparations in the kitchens. wondered if it was reflected in her own. We'll have this all over tomorrow." she murmured. for the love of God. She dressed quickly in her best gold tunic. how it hurts knowing that tomorrow I'm to wed Robert de Langley. "She said everyone's talking of it.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. Jocelyn! Don't you see? You were coming to live with family. sitting down on the bed and bathing her sister's forehead. All were staring curiously at Robert de Langley. then choked. To have your life changed in an instant." Stephen nodded wearily. "But it's not the same. "You can't possibly understand how I feel. He blackened a man's character with no proof at all." Adelise shook her head impatiently. "Oh. returning to her chamber to dress for the supper meal. you are making yourself ill to no cause.. there was no time to think. Jocelyn ached for the pain she saw there." "That's not what Edward thinks." she murmured. my darling. "Adelise. but I'm going to.. tobelong to that man! And he's already killedone wife!" Jocelyn stiffened. you don't understand. "Get this marriage done and done quickly. Find Montagne and tell him. How she was ever going to get Adelise up and ready." Jocelyn's eyes narrowed. "I only wish there was some way I could. He swore it to me himself.com/abclit.html looked angry. Jocelyn. all will go well for you. "Tomorrow. "—thathorrible man instead of Edward!" Jocelyn continued her soothing ministrations with the cloth. her sister took to her bed with a bout of weeping so violent it brought on one of her headaches. That he even defied the king for my sake. that—" She swallowed. When she broke the news to Adelise. Adelise! Pelham only repeated some ugly gossip. To be uprooted and sent where you don't want to be to live with people you fear and distrust. Lord de Langley is a good man and does mean to make a good husband. she had no idea.. Robert de Langley's wife died of a fever. http://www. Another few days and it might not come off at all." Adelise said wistfully. To Jocelyn it was a blessing.processtext. Adelise. In those very words." Adelise whispered. Your Grace. Frankly. I wouldn't have thought him the man to do such a thing. "And how did you hear this? Have you spoken with Pelham?" "No." *** The remainder of the afternoon passed in a blur of confusion and work. "But I do know how it is to have all your dreams destroyed. "Perhaps I don't understand exactly." Jocelyn threw down the cloth in exasperation." . "But.

She wondered how long he'd been listening. Brian glanced back over his shoulder. fighting to hold her tongue. Jocelyn. ..Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. And then she closed the door.. and what are you waiting for? I'd think you would want to see to the kitchens. Sometimes. She slid from the bed. "Leave us. "Here. gazing up at him as if he truly were her deliverer. "You don't understand. Are you forgetting you're a Montagne? No coward's blood in us. "Brian!" But Adelise was already sitting up. to stem the angry flow of words. She seemed to have accepted her marriage as inevitable. You've nothing to be afraid of. don't talk such nonsense. but then how could you? You're always so brave. Life has a way of doing that sometimes. "I'm afraid I'll not be able to get through this tomorrow. her hysteria was over. I've tried to be. She stared at Jocelyn in hurt surprise. I think it a mistake. drink this down. Perhaps he might be of more comfort. Adelise!" Jocelyn swung around in surprise. I've stirred in rosemary to ease her head.html Adelise's eyes snapped open. http://www. if you can. I can't face them.processtext. "I believe I did sayalone. Brian stood in the doorway. but Brian and Adelise were close." He sat down on the bed. Perhaps you can—" "Don't bother yourself. Certainly you must know that. sometimes I really do wish I were dead!" "Oh. "Adelise. "Father told me she must come down to supper. holding out the brimming cup. "I'll bring her with me." she added.." Jocelyn swung around in the doorway. But if you'd just give the man half a chance. "I would speak to my sister alone. but I'mnot! "I'm afraid. *** Somehow they got through that interminable. that there'll be so much worse after that. frowned. Not tonight. no! Don't make me go down. for pity's sake." Brian filleda wine cup. She took the cup he was holding. Adelise. softly." "Brian." She hesitated. and though she ate little and spoke even less. "Adelise. Jocelyn." Jocelyn stared at him a moment. I know you're terribly disappointed.com/abclit. he asked." Jocelyn tried to soften her voice. but I'm not like that.." he said. Tears flooded her beautiful eyes once again. but didn't dare argue. "There's wine there on the chest. uncomfortable meal. staring at her brother in angry disbelief. I swear you'd soon find yourself the happiest woman in all of England!" Adelise shook her head." Jocelyn started to protest. you know. It'll be your head if Father finds anything amiss." When she still didn't move. "Well. Jocelyn. Get her to drink some. meeting her eyes." he interrupted. "Of course you can. Adelise did manage to compose herself and come downstairs. I'll not let that arrogant whoreson de Langley harm a single hair of your head.

The room was cold. Jocelyn followed her sister up the stairs and into their chamber. both in body and mind." he said graciously. sliding between the cold sheets. She dragged back the bedcovers. Robert de Langley would realize what a treasure he had.processtext. Then. trying not to think of where her sister would be sleeping. It was going to be all right. So why did her throat ache and her eyes blur and burn? And why did she long for nothing so much as to be alone where no one could find her? The two women took their leave of the king. She was surprised Adelise was so calm. There are things we must speak of." He raised his cup.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter.html Jocelyn breathed a weary sigh of relief. After that. to the king as well. After tonight she would sleep here alone." Jocelyn met her sister's eyes." Adelise said. but Brian only grinned down the table. http://www. This was no night for frugality. Men lifted their cups and drank dutifully. I suppose we can both drink to that. and something inside Jocelyn seemed to slip and give way. and Stephen's determinedly cheerful banter struck a false note. This is the last night Jocelyn and I will be together as sisters. Adelise blew out the candles and slid into bed . how overwhelmingly weary she was. refusing to lift her cup. madam. Adelise reached for her cup. Adelise would learn to stand up to him. my lady Adelise. but Adelise sat silent and unmoving. "To you. She had expected another bout of weeping.com/abclit. May you soon have everything you deserve. no more toasts were offered until the meal was ending. It was obvious he was enjoying his enemy's humiliation. to everyone's surprise. but it was short lived. had been steeling herself to try to comfort her somehow. Hawise took up her blankets and left without protest. Lord Montagne had the grace to look uncomfortable and lean over and speak to the king." This time the shouts of agreement rang to the ceiling. may you soon find all the happiness you desire. of what would most likely be happening by tomorrow at this time. The altercation was swiftly stopped. It was a deliberate insult to Robert de Langley. They would both be happy. Things grew more difficult when the king proposed a toast to the betrothed couple. but men sat silent and uneasy in its aftermath. both for us and for England. though Jocelyn doubted Adelise had thought that far. "Hawise. you may go now. Besides. She hadn't realized how tense she had been all night. "And to you my lord de Langley. his voice cool. any extravagance would surely be laid on the king. lifting it toward her betrothed with hands that were surprisingly steady. His face was impassive. She glanced toward Adelise." De Langley sent her a thoughtful look. Jocelyn closed her eyes. Robert de Langley rose to his feet. Hawise was brushing out her sister's exquisite hair. The king had barely complimented the first course when a fight broke out between some de Langley men and some from Montagne. "Aye. "To a better tomorrow. All would be well. "Tonight you must find a place in the hall as I told you. Defiantly Jocelyn added an extravagant amount of charcoal to the unevenly burning brazier.

"Oh. It was comforting to speak of the past. No one can ever change that." She forced a small laugh." Jocelyn said. I'm so afraid things will never be the same after tomorrow. don't be—" "No. but that doesn't mean it has to be for the worse." Adelise said at last. "Things change. past laughter. "I'll miss you." Adelise gave a small. For a time the sisters reminisced in the darkness. How would she ever endure life here without Adelise? "Jocelyn?" The voice was small and forlorn. You'll have a great house to manage. you'll soon have a wonderful husband who adores you. "And despite what you think. I. You must work to find the happiness for which you were born. "Yes. "Believe me. You'll always have a home . I'm afraid I'm rather stupid. "I hope so. retelling familiar stories. "Things will never be the same.. you'll be your own mistress. then forced herself to go on. the talk quieted..Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. and that makes me happy. swear you'll come!" Jocelyn thought of Adelise and Robert de Langley. the occasional snap of aged.." Jocelyn reached out in the darkness and hugged her sister tightly. sharing small triumphs. I just want you to know that I love you. How stupid I was not to have loved you from the first. I really hope you'll come to see me after I'm gone." Her voice broke. "More than you can imagine. listen. I've never been clever or strong like you. I do hope so! But I'm afraid. Adelise. I did wish to change it when we were small. I know that. Adelise. trying desperately to regain control. but all will turn out for you for the best. I know it's true. burning wood.. choked laugh at the memory. The room was quiet save for the soft hiss and sigh of the brazier. for any of us. Jocelyn." There was another long moment of silence. Besides." "And I want you to know. Jocelyn. instead of splashing mud all over that beautiful red mantle Nurse had you dressed in." "Jocelyn. Jocelyn. But life does go on and you must go on with it. But things will be better for you. the good parts. None of that matters now. you know. I know you don't think so." She hesitated. though..processtext. that what I said before still holds true." she said evenly.com/abclit. Jocelyn. "Don't be a goose. "Of course I'll come. I always wished I was. Jocelyn closed her eyes against the terrible despair creeping through her. Gradually. You know I'll look forward to it. I believe. we'll always be sisters. Change is hard. And I hope. I. Dear God.html alongside Jocelyn. but now only see how foolish I was. of how overwhelmingly difficult a visit to Belavoir would be." "I'll miss you as well. I'll so look forward to seeing you." "Adelise. I'm afraid.. Adelise. http://www.

her insides knotting with dread." Jocelyn almost laughed at the bitter irony. she allowed herself to breathe. unfocused feeling that something was wrong. I know you and Father don't always understand each other. unpardonable sin. "Don't be silly. Adelise would most likely be keeping vigil in the chapel.. She climbed down from the bed and found her clothing. I suppose you'll know. you've but to ask. "What is it that happens. Adelise was thinking of her. one of Adelise's ribbons. What she found was a piece of parchment rolled carefully and tied with a ribbon. But whenshe reached Montagne's chapel it was empty and dark and her footsteps echoed loudly in a stillness that was eerie and black as a tomb..html wherever I am.For a few minutes she lay still." She cleared her throat awkwardly.trying not to think of what would happen today and what it would mean.. I'd at least like to know what to expect about. I don't quite know how to ask it. if only for a little while. she told her sister how she imagined it would be to share a marriage bed with Robert de Langley.no!" Shesnatched up the page. she sat up. With a sigh. ... in the marriage bed? I've some idea. tothe dreary soundof rain drumming against the roof. her eyes flying along the scarcely-legible scrawl. You always seem to know everything somehow. She shifted toward the center of the bed." Adelise said after a moment.." she whispered. and the odd. as gently as possible. If you ever need someone to speak to him for you. It wasn't so bad as she had feared.. God. reachingfor her heavy bedgown and pulling it around her shoulders. But she kept hearing her sister's strained voice. On the worst night of her life. Fifteen Jocelyn awoke tothe cold and the darkness. Jocelyn stared at the roll. she squirmed back to the narrow cocoon of sheets her body had warmed. Jocelyn. It was writ so poorly she could hardly make it out. "I. but I'm going to feel foolish enough tomorrow night as it is. walking slowly toward the altar. I'm so afraid. instinctively seeking her sister's warmth. God. but as the words and phrases swam together. Adelise. you know. "Oh. Adelise hadn't committed such a grave. aboutthat.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter." "There's just one thing more. "Father's dislike of Robert de Langley won't change his feelings for you. willing herself to go back to sleep. "Please. The priests were right." she managed.. shivering. With a frown. and Jocelyn didn't want to think of her sitting there all alone. and punishment for sin appropriate and sometimes swift. While she had been thinking of Adelise's new husband. Godwas just. if he's still speaking tome. searching the shadowy recesses on both sides of the nave for any sign of Adelise.com/abclit. untying the ribbonwith fear-clumsy fingers.. dressing quickly by the feeble light of the tiny night candle." Jocelyn felt a nagging sense of shame. Then quietly.. That is.processtext. http://www. Adelise had said she wished she were dead. She held her candle aloft. but that side was empty and cold.

Now. he would follow through on that threat. Only a handful of the highest lords had the luxury of a sleeping chamber. Jocelyn sank to her knees on the icy stone. rereading the letter. "You can see I'm no threat. sleeping figures at her feet. stunned at the enormity of what her sister had done. Jocelyn retraced her steps from the chapel." The boy inched the door wider and Jocelyn entered. remembering de Langley's rage once before. but also at the Montagnes. turning blindly toward one of the few private sleeping chambers Montagne boasted. still shivering. and they were doubled and tripled there. But she'd never in her wildest dreams thought she would be visiting the man there in the dark and chill of his wedding morning to tell him his bride had disappeared. "None you need fear. Robert de Langley would be humiliated before some of the most important men in England.html But she had done something almost as bad: Adelise had run away with Edward of Pelham. "What a foolish. He had already threatened to kill Pelham. She should go to her father. "Who's there?" a sleepy voice called out. But as she pictured that horrible scene. "Oh. suspicious boy peered out.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. no doubt. The door opened a crack and a sleepy." she repeated..foolish thing you have done!" She rose to her feet. It would put her father and Brian in an extremely difficult position. He deserved the chance to get himself in hand before tongues began to wag. http://www. Jocelyn had checked with her father's steward to make sure of that. "I've a message for Lord de Langley. her blood ran cold. Something he must hear." She heard the bolt drawn back. she knew it was wrong. when the boy made no move. The rest had to make do with benches and pallets in the side aisles of the hall or camped outside in the rain with their men. It would be up to him to break the news to de Langley. As the probable consequences shifted and whirled through her head. And Stephen. Robert de Langley had been housed with all honors. "Let me in." she whispered. She knocked quickly before she could lose her nerve. . the king would be furious at Pelham. and the whole country shared a laugh over the proud Norman Lion being left at the altar by his terrified bride. Slowly.. Dear God. I've pressing matters to take up with Lord de Langley. As the bridegroom. The letter was addressed to him. trying to decide what to do. Adelise.processtext.' he would make the rest of her life a living hell. Robert de Langley deserved to learn of this before anyone else at Montagne. Jocelyn shivered involuntarily." she whispered. and he deserved to learn of it from a friend. A half-dozen knights were bedded down here in the antechamber.com/abclit. shaking her head in disbelief. almost stumbling over a pair of blanketed. And Adelise. His chamber door loomed up long before Jocelyn was prepared. One of Richard de Lucy's squires. If he didn't murder Adelise outright.

"Harry? God's death." The squire peered out. flaming across her throat and face. a blanket tangled about the lower half of his body.. and you've come on urgent business instead. . "I'm afraid my sister has done something incredibly foolish. she could hear the soft. Jocelyn picked her way across the floor in the squire's wake. heating her chest. Her eyes slid over him. has run away.. The man slept naked. then swallowed hard. still screening the candle.. trying desperately to steady herself and to find words to say.. "Come. how was she ever to tell him this? "I would like to believe." he hissed." "Yes. With Edward of Pelham. it can't be so bad as this. sitting up. Her whole body quickened.. what is it?" Jocelyn recognized the voice and a tight. but a blur of movement caught her eye. She turned toward the bed. "However." Jocelyn swallowed again. The boy hesitated at the door to the inner chamber. fluttering sensation began in her midsection. "Awhat?" And then. "And I doubt Lord Robert will thank you for protecting him fromthat! The man stared. In the silence.html One of the men woke. She saw his fingers flex once against the blanket. was shoving the heavy.?" Jocelyn jerked her eyes back to his. madam. sleep-tousled hair from his eyes. as that boy did. The room was dark save for a soft orange glow cast by the burning brazier. intimate. grinned knowingly at Jocelyn and motioned for her to enter. Lady Jocelyn. then curl tightly into a fist. "Naught but a woman. but his chest and shoulders and long." "Tell me. her heartbeat picked up its pace. muscular arms were bare. Sweet Lady Mary. It was warm. "Certainly. madam. Let her in. His chest rose and fell with his breathing." "Adelise has.processtext. He was so beautiful it made her ache. that you were so eager for my company you couldn't resist coming here. drawing her attention to the floor.com/abclit." Even the pretense of a smile faded. he didn't speak. Robert de Langley lay on a pallet beside the burning brazier. grabbing for his sword. how could you be such a fool! "Well.Oh. I assume the lad erred. a rush of heat spiraling up from her midsection. since it's you. but she doubted they would recognize her in the darkness. She stepped through the doorway. http://www. Adelise.. the thundering of her own heart. shushing sound of the rain." De Langley's smile was obviously forced. chuckled. Others were stirring." At first. looking her fill in the shadowy light before she could stop herself. letting the sword fall back to his side. but the boy's words stopped him. screening the candle flame with the terrible letter. She stared. He had pushed up on one elbow.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter.

" "Thank you. then they dropped to the parchment she held. "from Pelham. She had tried to stay out of his way after learning it was the king's powerful justiciar she had rebuked that day at Belavoir." She watched him read. And despite the urgency of the situation. If she touched him. "I heard everything. He was sleek and athletic and beautiful. the jutting angle of his cheekbone." His hand shot out. "We must think. She glanced back as Richard de Lucy dragged on his boots.. I'm in luck. frowning over the page. Richard. de Lucy turned. but I knowexactly what's to be done. drawing them on beneath the heavy linen shirt he had slept in. though they had never been introduced. I thought she was only keeping a vigil. madam?" .html For a moment longer his eyes held hers. a huge section of the east will go with him. She averted her eyes as a figure that was obviously male grabbed up his hose." "The man's a fool." De Lucy frowned. He shifted forward. She recognized the man. despite her own fears." de Langley said grimly. but that doesn't mean the sentiment for Henry has died out." She nodded. now. her candle bathing him in a circle of golden light. his father will come after you. http://www. "If Colwick goes over to Henry. of course. "But this is to your father." Jocelyn stepped forward and bent to hand him the note. You can't go after Pelham. looking up. just as she'd imagined." he said. I suppose he was counting on that to protect him.." Jocelyn gasped and almost dropped her candle as a pair of long. she knew. naked legs swung from behind the bed hangings. pinning Jocelyn with a glare." "Do you? Then you're ahead of me.com/abclit. Much of the coast will be vulnerable to a landing by Henry's Angevins. "Give it to me. graceful curve of his back. "I'll send a squire to the camp to ready my men. something shifted and tightened and throbbed deep inside her. I don't suppose this will take long. "What a pity to have to disappoint him. He glanced at the paper and frowned. Don't tell me you want to restart these damned wars over a hen-witted female who doesn't have the sense to stay out of the rain? We can do better than that. Things have been quiet these last few years. "If Pelham fights as poorly as he writes. smiled sardonically. She saw the muscles flex and tighten across his shoulders. his firm and angry mouth. on how best to salvage this mess. "Pelham's no fool." Unexpectedly." He hesitated. "Just what does your father have to say about this. and Stephen. watched them ripple down the long. even if it is your right. Now he tapped it thoughtfully against his bare chest. Stephen will want to stand by you. watched the heavy downward sweep of his lashes. but he can't afford to have the earl of Colwick go over to Henry's supporters. I believe. If you kill him.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. his skin would be smooth and warm beneath her hand. "I found it in the chapel when I went in search of my sister. but that doesn't mean you have to be.processtext. "I assume that is a communication from that fool of a girl." he said shortly." De Langley had rolled up the parchment.

processtext. "My father doesn't know. If she said more.. That much was true. I don't makea practice of murdering my wives. I can assure you no man in these rooms will speak of it. If I can catch up to Adelise." de Lucy said. Then he abruptly released her and turned." Robert de Langley murmured. "Harry!" The squire materialized in the doorway.html Jocelyn felt a sudden warmth spread over her face. always." She stood very still." Jocelyn didn't dare glance at Robert de Langley. I'd not have you suffer his wrath on my account.." he said. "I thought." Jocelyn floundered for a word that wouldn't be damning. An eternity of damnation was preferable to a few years spent with me." De Lucy's gray eyes narrowed. http://www. Robert de Langley began to laugh. "A worthy thought.." He held out the parchment." Jocelyn nodded. He caught her wrist. "Sensible. I did wonder for a moment tonight if she might not have taken her life. for your efforts. For a moment they studied each other. even to her. I know." De Langley lifted mocking eyebrows. His eyes narrowed." To her amazement. she would make it worse. madam. She stared at him. perhaps I can convince her to come back." she said. a good way to put it. I won't forget it. smile fading. "You'd best go now. overwhelmingly aware of the feel of his hand on her. his grip on her wrist tightened. and the very stillness surrounding them seemed charged. I believe I've told you before you would do well at court. "I thought Lord de Langley should be the first to learn what had happened. "I see. "Sensible.. but not from malice. "She has done the unforgivable. though she had actually thought of it in those first panicked moments in the chapel. no need to tell him you came here first. to enlarge hastily upon her answer.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. perhaps." "Then I would beg you to forgive my sister. Lady Jocelyn. Despite what some people are saying. and Jocelyn very much feared that he might. Take this to your father. She had certainly never expected to hear him laugh." she said simply.Aye. .com/abclit. but I doubt it is practical. the white-hot. madam. it would be odd indeed if you should catch up to them. of the way his gaze made her body begin to heat. Then none but those involved need be the wiser. he could give me an escort of men. "I thank you." she said." Jocelyn reached out and took the letter. She forced herself to hold his gaze. "I would never have thought you did. blistering rage she had seen following his fight with her father. "You have stood my friend in this. She feared you so. "And you need not fear for your sister. feeling an immense rush of relief. or persuade anyone to a change of plan if you did. "Naturally. "Since Pelham has a head start. It'll be dawn in another hour. The plan sounded foolish. She had expected anger." "Of course not! But Adelise isn't always.

html "See this lady to the end of the hall. but if she heard one more self-righteous comment about Adelise's immoral. my lord. however. If I didn't know better. and a handful of the most important men met with the king in Montagne's solar. The barons were clamoring for action—for redress for Robert de Langley— but Stephen couldn't determine what action to take. "I'm sorry. the whole of Castle Montagne was agog with the news. leaving Robert de Langley for Edward of Pelham. At the door she glanced back. she didn't want to get within reach. assessing look had replaced the frustration and rage of the morning. madam. Robert. Her pulse was racing. Jocelyn glanced up in surprise as he entered the kitchen buildings. Stephen was furious about the dilemma he now faced. If things had gone badly at council. "Sensible? Ah. The lady Adelise Montagne had fled her own wedding. oddly subdued. But he seemed quiet now. her unbecoming." De Langley glanced back. Before anyone learns what's afoot. She had been trying to disguise the meal so that it wasn't so obviously and embarrassingly a grand wedding feast. her heart hammering unaccountably in her chest." "Aye. http://www. Take care. allowing himself only the briefest of triumphant smiles. For a moment." Jocelyn approached him warily. and clean yourself up. "I'll go and change shortly. But why on earth do you ask?" *** In less than an hour. "Go now. "Tell me. would you say that the lady Jocelyn Montagne is a sensible girl?" Robert stared at the man's back. A council was called. I would speak with you. The king was outraged. unfilial conduct. Jocelyn fled to the kitchens. boy. A thoughtful. To sit idly by and do nothing.com/abclit.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. the bride's family stunned and disbelieving. For a certainty she didn't approve of her sister's actions.processtext." They were on familiar ground now. girl. To regain the bride by force and punish Pelham would alienate one of his most important supporters in the east. Richard de Lucy walked to the brazier." Jocelyn nodded and turned to go. the men remained silent." she said. she was going to upend a flagon of ale over some smug male head! It was just before midday when her father came in search of her. There was much to do here and I . "Come here. girl. the ugly talk about her sister. She had felt the back of his hand already this morning when she'd told him the news. unseemly behavior. "You'll need to get upstairs. that none sees you. Jocelyn remained in the hall seeing to the needs of the other men. at least. I'd think you a slattern. while his friend and favorite and best battle commander had his bride and a small fortune snatched from beneath his nose would send the wrong kind of message entirely. in a rage herself. trying to ignore the scowls. "for all the trouble my family has brought you. reaching out his hands to its warmth. At last. most certainly." And then she hurried through the door before she was fool enough to say more.

and do something with your hair. "Of course. "He can't possibly wantme. followed by a shivering chill." "Congratulations. "But I've already told him I knew naught of Adelise's plans." he added. but he's got me over a barrel and won't budge an inch. either. but she knew enough to be wary." "You'll go now. She was reeling from the news. "But then who would have?" Jocelyn struggled to compose herself. you weren't expecting it." he growled." "It's the land girl. It'll make him the greatest power here in the west save for Chester. you do need to listen!" "But. Jocelyn. theland! Our agreement today will make him an extremely powerful man. Her brother's eyes held a cold.html didn't want to soil my good clothes. A rush of heat poured over her.. Adelise won't be punished. "What did you say?" "I said de Langley will take you. The man is willing to settle if I give him what he wants." "Is there some reason.. girl." Jocelyn looked up to see Brian coming toward them..Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter.processtext. "You mean I'm to. "His holdings will stand together now. considering what the man's giving up. Some say we're getting off cheaply." Jocelyn held herself very still.. He'll have all the land or nothing and Stephen's given me no choice. You've already said . "Christ. Why on earth does he want to see me again?" "Because de Langley's agreed to take you." Jocelyn stared at him in dismay. "I told you to wait with the others. "I tried to whittle him down.. I'd tell him to rot in hell if I didn't know Adelise would be the one to suffer for it. "Only your castle of Warford and all the lands of mine that stand between it and Belavoir. The words swirled and pounded and echoed through her head." He shook his head bitterly. Adelise wore a wimple. still unable to take it in." Montagne scowled. He's taking half my western lands as well. "What are you doing here?" Montagne snapped." She swallowed hard. http://www. by the look on your face.. You're to marry this afternoon in your sister's stead. my lord. Get that fool of a woman of hers to see if she can pull herself together enough to put one on you. tomarry Lord de Langley?" she managed to get out. who'd have thought my own daughter would be our ruin? Still. I didn't think to see both my sisters making such brilliant marriages today. Before the council." Jocelyn hadn't moved. an angry smile curving his hard mouth. that I do need to look my best?" "Aye."Today? " "Now isn't that what I've been telling you? Good Christ.com/abclit. "Wear that gold tunic. glittering look that told her he was in a rage. And of course every man here backs him after this ridiculous business with Adelise." He shook his head in frustration. The king wants to see you.

Father. No Montagne will be wed in such a fashion!" "Certainly you may try. in a matter of minutes. as her father had none-too-gently reminded her. Father? On Stephen? On Robert de Langley? Well. But as you said. "I did assure him that de Langley was safe this time. Father. She would thank God on her knees for such good fortune. there's nothing to be done now. The king's younger son is taken with some trifling illness and Stephen is beside himself to get to his bedside." Brian shrugged his shoulders in apparent resignation.. that no eager swains were waiting to snatch this bride away. if we didn't all think he was making a joke." "Brian. Damn me. I'll insist that it be put off." "I'm sorry. http://www. girl." Montagne looked grim. It didn't matter that she wasn't his choice. But Robert de Langley was no Montagne." Jocelyn forced a smile. I've little enough to pack." Montagne nodded and turned back to Jocelyn. A rider's already been sent to the army with orders to break camp.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter." Jocelyn met the mockery in her brother's eyes squarely." "Now?Christ on the Cross! Your sister deserves a bit of time to prepare herself at least.. For land and for peace. Perhaps someone should remind de Langley of that." "Get yourself in hand. He was a fair man." Brian sent a derisive smile toward Jocelyn.processtext. Because anything would be better than this! "What is it Jocelyn? Too surprised to speak?" Brian's smile was cold. It didn't matter if he didn't want her at all. taking possession of the land and keeping it aren't always one and the same.com/abclit." "My lord. I can make myself ready in a trice. Don't take out your spite on Jocelyn. my lord Montagne?" a page called from the doorway. a husband beyond her wildest hopes and dreams. She was being married for land. boy." "Who shall I take it out on. "You mean after all this threatening and haggling there's not even to be a wedding?" "Imean thereis to be a wedding. One of Stephen's men rode in from the south. "I just came to tell you there's been a change in plan. just like her mother had been. Richard de Lucy has sent for the priest. "We're in enough trouble as it is." Montagne snapped.html enough today to put us beyond forgiveness so far as Stephen is concerned. Your sister isn't to blame for this —not this sister anyway. everyone else was as well when de Lucy came up with this preposterous idea. it appears there's to be little time. "Well. As you know. but seeing half my inheritance signed away just doesn't sit easily for some reason. Everyone is running and shouting and packing. I thought I'd best come and tell you. though the king near had my head for even suggesting it." . "Believe me. "Don't trouble yourself. "His Grace the king is calling for you. Stephen is hell-bent on seeing this done before he leaves. that's enough.

Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. everyone here knows the truth of this lamentable situation.processtext. Your Grace. certainly no one fit to wed with a man of Robert de Langley's stature.html But when Jocelyn followed her father into the hall." Stephen's gaze shifted to Jocelyn." Stephen called. The entire house was upset this morning. carrying to every ear in the room. of course. "I'm aware of that. And as Stephen strode away. You will get yourself a good husband this day. Jocelyn's heart sank. Jocelyn's step faltered. more regal than Stephen. Men were arming themselves and shouting orders. for witnesses were vital and the more to view the transaction the better. save your presence. In her rough woolen tunic and stained bliaut. She cursed the impulse that had led her to help out in the kitchens. spreading hush as they began to notice her." Montagne nodded stiffly. Jocelyn shivered as she hurried across the bailey after her father. She didn't need more bad omens to add to the weight of this day. madam. eyes filled with anger ashe turned to speak to the king. She would remember it only as one of the most humiliating days of her life. your son will have told you what's happened. No one is expecting anything from you." The king's voice was loud with impatience. lady. He looked magnificent. I've been trying to salvage something in the kitchens. in a tunic of fine brown wool with a heavily embroidered surcoat of tawny velvet that matched the shade of his hair. "Congratulations. http://www. This was her wedding day. "Besides. Montagne. to change my—" "There's no time. "Certainly." Jocelyn dropped into a curtsey. Jocelyn felt a fleeting sense of relief that the rain had stopped. and I would reach him as soon as possible." He indicated Jocelyn with a wave of his hand. Besides. All was noise and confusion and arguing and then an unnatural. But now I must beg a moment to make myself presentable. It will take only a minute to fix my hair. but there wasn't any help for that now. "Ah. Lord de Langley and the earls of Leicester and York await us there now. even at her best. "My daughter is willing. Weddings were traditionally performed outside the church door. she knew she must look more like a serving woman than a daughter of the house. "I regret this haste. squires and servants were running about packing. We understand your concern. His face was rigid." Stephen interrupted. and that was the comparison everyone would be making. it was all Jocelyn could do to hold her face expressionless and stare straight ahead. The door swung open and Robert de Langley walked out onto the steps with the priest. Sixteen Therain of the morning had stopped but the day was gray and sullen with a damp biting wind blowing from the north. Your Grace. A new woolen cloak . but there's no time to linger. he barely managed a smile.com/abclit. her courage almost deserted her. stepping out of a circle of men and hurrying toward them. William is taken with a fever. she would never look anything remotely like Adelise. My priest is already making ready in the chapel. pushing through the crowd already gathering at the chapel steps. She saw his mouth tighten.

and for the first time. His face was drawn. The man who had kissed her once and hadn't cared to repeat the experience. obviously disappointed. eyes dark with concern. But she held her head up. the Son. impossible to take in. considering what the man's giving up. Well. the Holy Ghost. And he was angry. But de Langley was holding tight to her hand. The man who was to have been her sister's husband. De Langley took the ring from the priest... Jocelyn. and then he lifted her hand to his lips for a swift kiss. as she promised to take Robert de Langley to husband "till death us do part. had dreamed of it.. carrying voice all the lands he would grant her to hold in dower. I do thee wed. as she followed the words.com/abclit. everyone thought he was making a joke. walked stiffly up the chapel steps.. She was actually married.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. and he was reading aloud in a clear. It was a gracious and graceful gesture." It was all Jocelyn could do to hold her hand steady.. To Robert de Langley. not her Welsh half-sister everyone took for a serving wench. She looked swiftly away. but in the deepest recesses of her heart. and Jocelyn felt the tears. Then it was her turn." The priest blessed the ring and the ceremony was almost over. and what did you expect? Were you hoping the man would be pleased? It was bitter to admit. Then somehow she was standing beside Robert de Langley before the church door. She blinked them back. With a strange sense of detachment. you might just getit. Jocelyn found the courage to look up at him... but the list was so lengthy she knew he was being generous. behind her eyes. She had wanted this. The priest turned to open the chapel doors so that as many of the party as could squeeze inside could attend the nuptial mass.. sliding it onto each of her fingers in turn. De Langley took her hand. drawing her to one side of the . But then he had been expecting to wed the beautiful heiress Adelise Montagne. a woman with dark hair and slanted witch's eyes and a sharp. with the fear and shame sweeping over her. Jocelyn's insides knotted at the realization of how ridiculous she would look paired with this man.. The ring came to rest on her third finger. "In the name of the Father. shrewish tongue he had laughed at more than once. Jocelyn heard de Langley repeating his vows.. perhaps she had. her legs felt shaky and weak.. Her heart was racing. "With this ring. The words were a blur. De Langley's agreed to settle. fool. shivering anew with the cold. but he caught her staring and forced a tight smile. http://www.. Be careful what you ask for. Then the priest was beginning the ceremony." he finished. hot and humiliating.html swung back from his shoulders and supple cowhide boots encased the lower half of his legs. He had obviously gone to the great trouble and expense of getting new clothes for his wedding. amazingly steady. had stopped just short of praying for it. heard her own voice.processtext. A joke. She heard the priest.

from the look in his eyes as he had wrapped it about her. But she couldn't help remembering how he had looked this morning in the warm intimacy of his bedchamber without them. "I do know what I shall get you for a bride gift.processtext. He might be hot-tempered. I'm fine. I'm sorry we've had no time to talk. a flustered. He looked imposing. "This has all been handled damnably. but she was certain he would never be cruel. taking an inordinate amount of comfort from that simple piece of cloth. yet a wedding ring reduces you to tears?" Jocelyn lifted her chin. "On the contrary. It seems the only way I shall get to wear my own. It reminded her of those moments she had shared with Robert de Langley on Belavoir's stairs." Then the king was calling impatiently and they were hurrying into the chapel for the mass." He searched her face. Robert de Langley was a fair man. truly. "You'll need this.html doorway." "No.it 's as cold inside that chapel as out. Her husband had said he was pleased.. eyes downcast..Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. clasping them with the circular bronze clasp she had used as a weapon that night at Belavoir. 'Tis only this bitter wind. fidgety feeling skittering along the edges of her nerves. we shall just have to make do. "I'm not crying. Her husband. then frowned and stared down at her hand.. The metal was cold. madam. easing the distant look he had worn.. reassuringly solid beneath her fingers. Jocelyn sat stiffly. You must be excessively displeased by this turn of events. "I shall have to remember how dangerous you can be with one of these. With the thought her spirits lifted a bit. She drew his cloak tighter.com/abclit. "Displeased? Is that what you think?" Amusement flickered across his face. "What. remote. and then he was unclasping his cloak and draping it about her shoulders. http://www. she had seen enough of him to realize that. reminded her that there was a beginning of friendship between them at least." A faint smile played about his mouth." He glanced up quickly atthat. she was thankful at least that she had brought him what he desired. She cast a sidelong glance at him now. reaching up to touch the familiar circular broach beneath her chin. incredibly handsome in his fine new clothes. couldn't help thinking that she would be sharing that chamber tonight. And while she was a sensible girl and realized his pleasure stemmed from the return of his lands. fighting for the pride that was all she had left. And what woman could hope for any greater blessing than that? . Jocelyn. fidgeting with her wedding ring. setting his eyes alight. madam? You could face me alone and unflinching over a dagger. For the rest. I am most excessively pleased by what has happened... I—" But he was already drawing the edges together beneathher chin." He gave her hand a squeeze." "I see. Most of it anyway. well. Save for the wind." "I'm sorry as well.

laughing. Someone at the door there just bade me fetch you quick. that they would be celebrating his marriage without him. She pushed open the keep door. The excited whinny of a horse. Robert forced another smile as the shouts rang out from all over the hall. Robert did the same. and servants had wrestled great kegs of ale and casks of wine into place along the walls. and Leicester and York. her husband had disappeared as well. heavily chased and jeweled for Robert. Stephen of Blois was a rarity in these times—an honorable man. and also because it was expedient to believe it. Stephen shared a hurried round of drinks. not making polite conversation in such exalted company as this.com/abclit. and Jocelyn glanced toward the stables. and at their head. and most of those were allies or vassals of Montagne—not a situation that made him feel like celebrating. He believed Montagne's pledge of peace because it would never have occurred to him to break his own word. leaving her to move alone among their guests enduring the odd looks. He had argued with de Lucy about it. Elen?" The woman shook her head.. Most of these men would be leaving with Stephen. of course. a rosary of coral and pearl for Jocelyn. thanking God for whatever disaster must have occurred in the kitchens. "What is it. It was good to be away from all those watching. She was used to working in the background.. A half. then handed out his gifts—a silver wine cup.html The mass ended and the bridal couple were swept from the chapel and into Montagne's great hall. http://www. sharing a bawdy jest with some of the men. It was good of de Lucy. then called for one last toast to the bridal couple. and Jocelyn forced herself to smile and say something she hoped was appropriate.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. Stephen sent for the horses to be brought around. the rattle of steel caught her ear. from Brian's derisive smile and her father's angry frown. Beside her. He hadn't bothered to inform them. the overly hearty congratulations of men uncomfortable with an awkward situation. speculative eyes." Jocelyn nodded and excused herself from the kindly earl of Leicester. Such costly gifts were signs of great royal favor. beg pardon." Jocelyn turned to the nervous maidservant. For with Stephen's leave-taking. He had recently lost his wife and any illness in his family. but they do be asking for you in the kitchens. . smiling easily. stepping out into the cold and damp of the outer stairs. Both men had been friends of his father. rode Robert de Langley.dozen mounted men were moving toward the gate. and it was a relief to discover he still had allies in this viper's nest of traitors and fair-weather friends that seethed about the aging king.processtext. was enough to terrify him. however. but not even that wily old fox had been able to change the king's mind. *** "My lady. Only a handful were pledged to remain for the wedding festivities. "I don't know. no matter how trifling. Musicians had already begun to play. The best de Lucy had been able to do was to arrange for good men like the earls of Leicester and York to drop out of the king's escort and remain here so that Robert would have allies as well as potential enemies at Montagne. Robert took a slow sip of wine.

. and she moved closer. ina clear. She felt frozen. while we still can." He lifted his eyebrows." His eyes swept back to hers. and she watched the open gates flash by. to leave her withouta word. He was leaving. She would have wagered her life Robert de Langley wasn't the man to slink away like this. reaching up for the hand he held out. "Convenience had nothing to do with it. .. she had been inside the keep. staring up at the man who was now her husband. As I told you. stepped deliberately into the path of de Langley's huge warhorse. madam. ". "Just what would you have me tell my father and all our guests?" "You may tell them anything you like.. the weird.. If her husband were leaving. he could damned well look her in the face and tell her so! She watched the men advance. The gray brute slid to a halt." *** They rode through that long. carrying voice." she said coolly. had gone through with that farce of a wedding only to satisfy the king. had so nearly been left behind. smiled that slow.?" "Yes.html Jocelyn sucked in her breath. unholy music of a hunting wolfpack rent the night. "With Stephen gone and most of my men shut outside these walls. I do leave little to chance.processtext.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter." Jocelyn stared at his hand.we are leaving. For the moment they hold it. madam. So he hadn't been pleased. A surge of anger swept her. Brian's laughter. I sent that message. darkness ruled the land. "How convenient I happened to be on my way to the kitchens." she murmured.unless you've a taste for abduction. She had so nearly missed this. mocking smile she had hated so in the beginning. So come. huddling deeper into the old fur-lined mantle her husband had found for her. madam. Suddenly she was in motion down the stairs. I can't be sure of our safety. Beyond the feeble. If so I'll be glad to oblige. "Of course not. Robert's arms tightened around her..com/abclit. "You are leaving. She settled awkwardly into the crook of his shoulder. strengthening her. shifted warily toward the door. "Leaving.. confounded. later. From somewhere off in the distance. sputtering efforts of the torches. unable to believe what she was seeing. allowing him to swing her up before him for all the world as if she had done it scores of times. She thought of Stephen's obvious contempt." That forced her into motion." she announced. http://www. unable to reverse all her rage and her anguish so quickly as this. "Come. and Jocelyn shivered." Robert held down one hand. was striding out into the center of the bailey where the men would have to ride past. dreary afternoon and well into the night. He spurred his mount into a gallop." His gaze narrowed. felt his arms slide about her in a way no man had ever held her before. Now. the host of pitying eyes she would be facing in the hall.. Scarcely two minutes ago. from the safety of Belavoir. "My men took the gate just now by surprise.. while our way is still clear unless. but they can't for long without loss of life.

"It's true." Jocelyn nodded. And his words were kind. "I see. My own father has given him the kiss of peace. Still she wanted to know the truth. to return it to what it was before Robert came back from Normandy. but now even her insides felt like ice. madam. There are those sworn to Stephen who have leanings toward the Angevins." "Sir Geoffrey!" Jocelyn was surprised at the reassurance a familiar face offered. "I assure you I'll take no offense. "Ithank you. Without the saving grace of a child. easing the awkwardness of the situation.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. you and all you own will simply return to the control of your family." "It's Robert's way to do the unexpected. "I thank you for telling me. I would ask you to tell me the truth if you will." "Very well. and her excitement died. My lord's luck was with him this day. but the man wasn't the one she sought. What a simple way to alter the distribution of power here in the west.processtext. But it's good to see you. "I understand." "So we leave unexpectedly and ride through the night. was surprised even more at how much she had needed it. It's kept him alive these last years. He had placed her with trusted men near the front of his army while he rode with the rear guard. Your lord sits high with the king. squinted against the wavering flare of the torches. They'd no liking for being on the other side of a high wall from their lord. but would it not be a simple way to more than double the holdings of Montagne?" Jocelyn had thought she was cold before. who might lie in ambush were our route known and timed in advance. I may call you that now in truth. Jocelyn felt a brief stir of excitement. Not for speaking . I fear your lord got an unlooked-for bride. "In case of pursuit. I believe. And there's no need to ask forgiveness. A muffled figure was riding down the column of men toward her. not even at the order of the king." There was little Jocelyn could say. there are others who might seek advantage. but now she glanced uncomfortably over her shoulder. It was her family those men hadn't trusted." Jocelyn said. "My lady. we did have some excitement this morning.. "May I offer my congratulations. holding the men steady. http://www. Forgive my plain speaking." she said. Is the danger really so great that we must flee secretly like this through the night? Would anyone dare seek to harm him now? The truth. "Sir Geoffrey. you become his only heir.html She had never been fearful of the dark nor of traveling through wild back country. hadn't dared ask her husband." she repeated." Geoffrey offered." she said. accidental or otherwise. At Montagne I remained in camp. I suppose. She was surprised when the rider swung in beside her." He flashed a familiar smile." "No indeed." "Your lord father may well plan to keep the peace.. "I'd not thought of that. Should anything befall him now. She hadn't seen her husband since the first half-hour of the ride.com/abclit. I'd begun to think your lord had left you in the wilds of Cheshire. You do know Robert is the last of his name." he had told her. "However.

http://www. He'd been forced to learn the hard way to take what he wanted. "What's that?" "It should be our camp. He knew well enough how to pleasure a partner. He didn't want to give her a distaste for the marriage bed. "I would tell you. his tent will be set up to get you in from the cold. He'd been right that first night. I told them you would ride to the end." Jocelyn didn't know whether to be angry or to laugh. they were both still laughing when the weary column stumbled into camp. this was his wedding night! He glanced toward the cluster of trees where his tent was set up. most likely shy of him as well. His wife had impressed his men. he'd . They should have food prepared by now. even as she had taken from him." At that Jocelyn did laugh. the self-control needed to seduce a skittish. grinned. Besides. Jocelyn Montagne was an unusual woman. a distaste for him." Geoffrey hesitated. even. in the spirit of plain speaking. many of his men were already asleep.html the truth.processtext. Geoffrey had anticipated most of his orders so there was really little to do. He ate a quick. even that bitch Marguerite had liked him in bed! Marguerite had used that. But Jocelyn had endured enough for one day. You've made me a rich man this night. He smiled as he handed Belisaire over to his man and headed toward the campfires. She would be exhausted. Geoffrey joined in and. He'd never had any complaints from women before. rolled tight in the oiled cloth groundsheets and blankets they carried. thinking of Jocelyn. he wasn't sure he had the patience just now. of the scalding images he'd been wrestling with all day. her mind running to thoughts of ambush. Judas. He should be seeking his own rest. had she taken! But Jocelyn was as different from Marguerite as sunlight from shadow." "I did..com/abclit. that we didn't think to get nearly so far tonight. Robert sent men ahead to ready a resting place for you. picked it up and drank thoughtfully. and he knew well enough that wasn't easy to do. My lord was ever a man for plain speaking. He'd been a fool for her at first. that she had been laughing.. Some of the men even took wagers on how long you would last ere we were forced to call a halt. Not ever. "Who won? I should like to reward the man. had wanted her since that night he'd taken Belavoir. used him. that his lady had made all that terrible ride without complaint. "That should stand you in good stead. He reached for his wineskin. He wanted the girl. the first time she had laughed in many a long and miserable day.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. She tensed. at the last." He smiled. cold meal beside the fire. to the obvious surprise and admiration of the men around them. lady. a green youth in the threes of a first and very painful love. and Christ. In fact. but blood of Christ. not with an interested audience encamped not a dozen yards from his tent. It was one of the first things Robert was told when he rode in nearly an hour later. And for all that he wanted the girl." They rode on in silence until Jocelyn caught the flicker of firelight ahead through the trees. lady. virgin wife properly.

frowning as the icy. http://www. to scrape the mud from her stained skirts and beg a comb from Sir Geoffrey to make herself presentable.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. However. to give his new bride whatever time she needed. Still.. Jocelyn wrapped herself in her blankets and curled up. chilled and shivering on the fragrant pallet of pine boughs. wrapping himself in its warmth. People were glancing at one another. There could be any number of reasons her husband hadn't come. He closed his eyes. Jocelyn. . He wasn't going to come. as she'd so often been about him. *** Jocelyn leaned over and blew out her candle. smothering darkness engulfed the tent. He was acting in pure self-interest. no matter whom she had wed. Well.. the man who'd brought food and wine had left two cups.html come to respect her as well. why he'd avoided her all afternoon. heavy mass of hair back over her shoulder. She shoved the loose. sliding one arm about her waist as he drew her against his side. He wasn't a green boy ever to fancy himself in love again. a woman he could respect for his wife. an emotion he hadn't felt for a woman in a very long time. She had thought her husband would come to talk to her at least. Robert grinned but one glance at Jocelyn's carefully expressionless face told him she found nothing whatever amusing in the situation. An aching sense of loneliness welled up. embarrassed that she had gone to such lengths to try to wash herself. she could think only of one. grinning. turning to help his wife from her mount. Tears burned behind her eyelids. he would grant her the same. He suspected that Jocelyn de Langley would be a woman well worth the wait. And for all of that he was willing to wait. embarrassed by what she had thought. She had no hint what he wanted.com/abclit. This certainly wasn't the way he'd planned to spend his wedding night. Be careful what you ask for. surprised and uncomfortable. She'd begged for patience and care for her sister.processtext.. He owed her better. slid warm and wet across her cheeks and into her hair. still smiling. that he might. *** They reached Belavoir at midday. Jocelyn deserved better from him than a quick tumble in a flimsy tent in the midst of a rough camp. Robert slid from his horse. an eager bedmate. She'd not seen her husband in hours. could think only that Adelise would never have slept alone on this night. as they realized he had brought home the wrong bride. She flushed in the darkness. He reached for a blanket. He reached up and lifted her down. swallowing all her courage and even her pride. but he did want a peaceful home. Already the cheers of his men and the scores of servants gathered to welcome them home were dying out. Marguerite would have called him a sentimental fool. of course.. whether he would even be joining her tonight. The bitch would have been wrong. though she'd asked nothing for herself.

a few choice comments were even shouted by the more daring. Just do what you can. She had gone instinctively to the bedchamber she and Adelise had once shared. His people were smiling now. The lady Jocelyn of Warford has agreed with me that we are well suited. I did feel a most pressing need to be elsewhere." The girl left with the clothing and Jocelyn moved toward the tub. amazed by the power her husband was giving her. All will vouch for that fact. The mud'll be easy. met the host of speculative looks with a candor he had always found effective.com/abclit. The people of Belavoir were smiling. "You are thinking I've brought home the wrong wife. lazy grin through the crowd. but the stains may well be set.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter." Jocelyn was listening in disbelief." he said loudly. "I do assure you I'm well able to tell one woman from another." he added." "Thank you. http://www. allowing the maidservant to untie the side lacings of her bliaut. to have a bed made up and colorful hangings back on the walls. to lift it over her head along with her tunic and chemise. but it hadn't taken long to get a fire blazing in the hearth. She was awed by the effortless way Robert de Langley controlled the crowd. but not-entirely-truthful way he was describing how she had come to be his wife. She had no chance to stiffen. that I've actually brought home the right wife—the wife of my choice instead of the king's decree. "I'll brush and clean these as best I can. some even nodding at her in approval. Her father had never been able to threaten or coerce even one small portion of such loyalty or acceptance as this. Alison. Robert waited a moment for the noise to die down. She has done me the very great honor of becoming my wife. relishing the soothing liquid warmth that rose up . He turned to his people. Seventeen "Madam. her word will be as mine and if any offense is offered to her it will be the same as an offense to me. Then his arm tightened around Jocelyn. Ask any of my men. Jocelyn eased into the steaming water and sank down." Jocelyn stepped forward and lifted her arms. It is she who will be your new lady. orI will know the reason why.html She stiffened at the intimacy but didn'tpull away. not daring to trespass in the lord's chambers. "We left Montagne rather suddenly." A surge of laughter followed his words. save the ordering of my men for war or defense. listening attentively. your bath is ready. The room had been closed and icy. shifting her so suddenly she was taken by surprise." Robert continued.processtext. as the crowd laughed again and began to cheer. sent his slow. You will give her your respect and prompt service. "I tell you. In all things. but you are wrong. shivering. by the easy way he swayed people to his side. by God's grace. no chance even to think as he drew her against him and covered her mouth with his own as the crowd and her heart thundered in concert through all that swift and unsettling kiss. "I would ask you to join with my lady and myself on the morrow for a day of feasting and celebration. He lifted his eyebrows. amazed even more by the flattering.

With the thought she curled up on the bed. hadn't had the chance to steel herself against its effects. Rising dispiritedly. she knew. What she needed was sleep. But then the lord of Belavoir didn't seem in any hurry to find out what he'd gotten. something she disliked in others and hated even more in herself. She would probably be wearing that same stained gown and bliaut for a long time to come. She would manage Belavoir and see to her husband's comfort just as she had seen to her father's. Jocelyn dragged it through her hair.com/abclit. bindings wouldn't help when she needed help most. Her father would be furious at the way they had left. http://www. She finished her bath. Thank God for hot water and the power to order it whenever she chose. then washed her hair and wrapped herself in a towel before the hearth. evaluating her nakedness in a way she'd never done. Jocelyn frowned at the firm.html about her. She had left Montagne with nothing but the clothes she was wearing. Her waist was appropriately narrow. If she had thought she could get away with it. while he had turned away. when she met Robert de Langley without benefit of any concealing cloth between them. unexpected position as the lady of Belavoir. She hadn't been expecting it. It had been a quick kiss. However. picking up the cloak she had worn and wrapping herself in its warmth.processtext. She wasn't laughing now. This was the first time she'd been warm in the whole of two days. All would look brighter after a rest. She'd been much too warm outside in the bailey when her husband had kissed her. she realized. Just what would her husband think when he decided to take her to bed? Her flesh was creamy white. Her husband had sent back a messenger saying he had been called away suddenly on a matter of urgency. And since she had nothing to do until Alison came back with her clothing. That wasn't entirely true. She was giving in to self-pity. She picked up a cloth and began to wash her body. In a matter of minutes. Still it had been hot and possessive. that she had the exalted. She should be thanking all the saints that she was out of Montagne. She'd heard some women bound their chests for the slim silhouette that was so desired and had always laughed at such vanity. she didn't have much hope of getting anything soon. that he would send for his wife's things. She should be thankful. laughing with the crowd. the room was cold: it took hours to heat a stone-walled chamber properly. Picking up the comb she had borrowed. round fullness of her breasts. She would just have to do the same. drawing the cloak about her. she might as well see if she could get some. smooth and supple to the touch. Even with the fire. after all. that she would have time to prepare herself to meet him with all the poise and self-possession a man looked for in his lady. . Still. Jocelyn told herself. a kiss any husband might give his wife in public. That quick kiss had nearly destroyed her. It was what she'd always done.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. forgetting his wife as he was drawn into the affairs awaiting him at Belavoir. she was asleep. branding her senses and shattering her resolutions. And it had made her realize just how difficult it would be to live with a man like Robert de Langley and hold onto even the tiniest shreds of her pride. She frowned. she moved to the bed. she'd have done it in an instant. but her hips and breasts curved out more generously than was desirable for any highborn lady with pretensions to beauty. And somehow she would find the strength to keep her feelings to herself.

com/abclit. Or even wherehere was. She was at a decided disadvantage dressed as she was. His heartbeat had accelerated alarmingly. drink. His gaze shifted from hers. http://www. but she couldn't ask him to leave. there is. Have I truly slept all afternoon?" . "Here. He had begun this visit in innocence. The women he'd sought out most of his life had been sexually confident. madam. And she was thirsty. disoriented face. And if he was any judge of women. She grabbed the edges together.. I believe you are still two-parts asleep. he doubted her shyness was going to last long. madam. to her glorious hair.. as I recall.html *** "Well." "It will. She felt as if she had been swimming far beneath the surface of the sea and was still struggling to reach the top. "Yes. lifting it for a drink and then holding it down to her. It wasn't easy with her husband studying her in that odd way he had that made her whole body heat and her flesh begin to tingle.processtext. She clutched the cloak with one hand and reached for the cup. are you going to sleep away the whole afternoon?" Jocelyn awoke with a start. For a moment she couldn't think why he was here." He glanced about the chamber. It had tasted sweet this afternoon.." she said. "I-I am sorry. She was obviously shy of him in this new married state. fighting to recover the poise she had lost so completely. then she added self-consciously. that she wore nothing at all but a cloak—a cloak that had dipped dangerously low on one bare shoulder. "In this very room. to that bit of white shoulder clearly visible through it all. letting his gaze wander from his wife's flushed. but he'd known from the first that she didn't dislike him. feeling her face flame as she raised her eyes to the unsettling golden ones of Robert de Langley." Her face flushed at the memory." He couldn't resist a smile as he added. "I'm sorry. "All things do ease with practice. "I meant only to sleep for a short time. It seemed a lifetime ago that he had dealt with innocence. Is there something you would have me do?" Robert smiled. letting his gaze linger on the door his men had rebuilt. He filled his cup and moved back. his groin was heavy and tight with the need for release. Do you remember?" "Certainly I remember. Robert. my lord." Jocelyn shifted further up against the bolster. She started to sit up and discovered. I believe I did give you leave to do so within a few minutes of our first laying eyes on each other. "We've been married two days now and I've yet to hear you call me by name. sure of themselves and of what they could offer a man. Robert. so soft and seductive it was all he'd been able to do to drag himself away.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. but he didn't think now that he would be able to end it that way. though your name doesn't come easily to my tongue. "Very well. Jocelyn. The wine tasted good. Yet he found himself pleased that his wife knew little of coupling." he said. trying for a normal tone." He stepped away to a chest where a flagon of wine stood with several cups. dropped to her wide mouth.. too late.

" He reached out. you couldn't possibly have been pleased by the change. what man wouldn't be pleased to have you for a wife?" . that she could lose everything of importance and end with nothing of herself left at all." he said slowly. "About all that has happened.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter." she murmured. madam. "A few of my mother's things I held dear for sentimental reasons alone. You could have done much better. had gotten it out between them at last. to her horror. while Adelise's mother was a de Valence and held a very great deal indeed." She glanced up and met his eyes bravely. She held her breath. then wondered if she truly wanted to know. tightening in a way she couldn't control. That same sensual mouth had been warm and hard against hers this afternoon. She swallowed and looked away. His voice became softer. http://www. Her eyes rose to his mouth. instinctive fear that she was in waters far over her head. "But I never meant that bargaining as disparagement of you. Her whole body was responding. leaning forward to take the cup and drink from it himself She studied his lean brown fingers curled around the cup. "Good Christ. Judas. Your mother held nothing in her own right save the castle and lands of Warford." Then. Your sister's action made it possible to push for everything I wanted and more. my lord. Jocelyn. I've no regrets of these last two days save that I came to you like a pauper. "There was talk occasioned by the disparity of the dowry you and your sister would have. "In truth. whatever gave you that idea?" "My brother said the match was all Richard de Lucy's idea. watched his face to see what it would reveal. "You had thought to marry an heiress. couldn't help remembering the feel of them against her bare throat." Jocelyn shook her head. And you did earn that sleep. How would she ever be able to hide her feelings when she reacted this strongly and the man hadn't even touched her? How would she respond when he finally did take her to bed? She knew a sudden. That at first everyone thought it a joke.com/abclit. you may have as much money as you like for clothes and whatever else you've lost. madam. I'm sorry." He hesitated. Her husband had land but little money. he was easing down onto the bed beside her. "We do need to talk. Jocelyn. tensing. That I shamed you before your friends." "What your family said is untrue. held her voice steady with an effort." he was saying.'" Jocelyn lifted her chin. The bed shifted slightly as he reached to put down his cup. Despite what you told me outside that chapel. she'd said it. Just over an hour.html "No. If your father refuses to give up your things. and he would need what he had to pay troops. I'll do my best to make it up to you. I believe. "I wasn't forced to any unwanted settlement. And I won't lie to you. My father even mentioned your being 'forced to settle. "There was nothing of any real value. I did bargain for all I could get. an uncommonly beautiful heiress. had kissed her senseless a few weeks ago." There.processtext. ran his knuckles gently along her cheek. I expect. I greatly regret you were denied the joys of a real wedding day—all the attention and fuss and new clothing all women set store by.

She didn't want to begin with lies between them." "I don't need to look at myself. forcing her to look up at him.. trying to make him understand. exquisite loveliness of a rose. was told to look at her. "But you. and she had traded on her looks as a shrewd merchant would rarest gold." Robert sat back and stared at his wife in amazement." She stared at him. I didn't 'settle.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter." he said softly.html Jocelyn stiffened and drew away. "Hers is a beauty that steals all eyes—at first. In fact. even if he did mean them for the best. He'd always taken his own physical attractiveness for granted. and she needed to think. To do so would have been to lose most of the those lands he did so hate to offer up. that she might feel discomfort or shame in the intimate setting of a marriage bed. he'd never lain with a woman who wasn't sure of herself and her effect on a man. clutching that ridiculous cloak to her chest. She was huddled against the pillows." she managed to say. lift it to my nose and sample its fragrance for myself. Robert. he'd never seriously considered that she might not be aware of it herself. He couldn't help thinking of the way she had come to him yesterday morning to save him from shame. not even if they are offered with the best of intent. fragile loveliness of a lily. Beckoning eyes and eager female bodies had been plentiful since he was barely fifteen. to me at least. I did push for it as much as I dared without letting your father know I wanted you. if you think I'm offering mere flattery." "What I see. but Jocelyn said nothing. I want to be able to respect you. All dark and velvety and begging to be enjoyed. Don't you see? To believe what you say without question." he said dryly." He hesitated. Jocelyn." . "You do have the earthy. They needed to talk. "I want to be able to trust you. Something I might admire from a distance with little desire to touch. Now he frowned as he fumbled for words to make up for what years of neglect had obviously done to this woman. Jocelyn obviously believed what she was saying. And of a sudden he found himself thinking that Jocelyn de Langley deserved a great deal more than life had dealt her thus far. to compensate for the humiliation his own schemes had put her through yesterday. Jocelyn. "You do not have to say that. "I wasn't ashamed to marry you. madam.' as you so wrongly believe. I believe. a darker. Believe me.processtext. I want so badly to reach out and stroke its petals. blond fairness so favored by his countrymen. too. emulate her.com/abclit. We can have that. His first wife. madam. is that I shall have to buy you a mirror. She wanted a marriage based on friendship and trust if nothing more. I've had only to look at my sister all my life. had been hailed as one of the greatest beauties in all of Normandy. But you've beauty of a different sort. "Adelise is uncommonly fair. The idea to match the two of us was hatched between de Lucy and myself within minutes after you left us yesterday morning.. She couldn't think when he touched her like that. at least. Don't give me false and pretty words. quieter beauty that is just as compelling and far more desirable. and for a moment he was wholly at a loss. "Sir Geoffrey told me you were a man who favored plain speaking. and I would rather by far have you do me the honor of speaking the truth than offering me flattery as a misplaced kindness. "You cannot have looked at yourself. I'm not some mindless fool and have no wish to be treated as one. Adelise has the fair. madam." He leaned forward and caught her chin. to respect myself. http://www. the way she had offered herself up weeks ago to spare her sister. While her beauty wasn't the boyishly slim. He had never had to wonder if women found him desirable.

http://www. unbelievable words. "But it is." Jocelyn was staring at him. "Aye. strength and utter defenselessness." he murmured." he murmured. "Dark and rich and sweet as sin. brilliant and shimmering as stars.html He lifted a handful of her hair and inhaled deeply. He gathered up her hair. His mouth left hers. began kissing the sensitive flesh at the base of her throat. The gentle tugging sent a host of pleasant. my lord. your sister is beautiful. a rare feeling of tenderness stealing over him. He shifted her down against the pillows. and the very plainest way I do know how to speak. the woman I want right now." she said. as mesmerized by his sensual movements as those beautiful. it's by far the most beautiful thing I've ever heard. brushing gently across her cheek. Robert bent and touched his mouth to hers. running his fingers through it.. Robert let his grin widen. that I do like your plain speaking." . "No one has ever compared me to a rose before. "A weed. "And I would liken your brother to that part of a horse where the tail is attached. dark. sensations that were wreaking havoc on every one of her disordered senses. How could this woman not know how desirable she was? "Oh. madam?" he whispered. "You do have the most exquisite hair. That is the truth upon the surety of my soul. shivery feelings spiraling downward from her scalp. but never a rose. of the fact that she was suddenly warm and breathless. that I've sorely underrated the power of pretty words. eyes wide and wondering. Jocelyn had never known such tenderness. as if her coloring were a fact that had somehow escaped his notice. Jocelyn. Jocelyn was a totally disarming combination of boldness and vulnerability. She was overwhelmingly aware of the soft bed beneath them. And even if you didn't mean it." she said slowly. swept it back over the pillows away from her face. "but you are the woman I've wanted in my arms and in my bed since that first instant we met. then brushed its silkiness against his mouth. Unable to contain himself any longer.processtext. a tormenting. wrapping it about his hands. "What say you. once. that every part of her seemed to be aching for this man's touch.. nuzzling beneath her ear." Her face lit with her smile.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter." Robert said." he said again. I'm not so sure I know how to be a rose. physical ache." "My brother did liken it once to a horse's tail. perhaps." He hesitated." she murmured." Robert lifted his head and stared down at his wife. The kiss was brief and chaste but amazingly tender. "I would say. Enough to send a man to hell for his thoughts alone. felt desire rushing up through his body. "Would you be so terribly wroth if we did have a wedding afternoon instead of a wedding night?" Jocelyn caught her breath at the incredible sensations he was arousing. "Just follow your feelings.com/abclit. Jocelyn stared at her husband. I only hope you're not disappointed. but I think. He was toying with the strand. obviously listening. Robert swallowed hard. aye. "They won't lead you astray.

of wanting his mouth against hers so badly that nothing else mattered at all. Do you know that? Do you have any idea the incredible pleasure I find just in looking at you. "I forget all else when you do that. He did have such glorious hair. And somehow it was the best. Silkier textured. It makes me wonder just what other surprises you've kept hidden. exploring the warm softness of her mouth. explored her. Thicker. this feeling of heat and arousal. Jocelyn arched against him. it is my pleasure!" He shifted over her then. as if nothing held her anchored to the bed. He lifted his head at last and Jocelyn was surprised at the intense degree of disappointment she felt. settling warmly over her breasts. delighted when her tongue met his in her own tentative exploration. all narrowed and smoky and burning with some inner fire. .Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. Jocelyn. She felt his palms. Jocelyn decided. She curled her fingers through it. quickly. letting go all of her restraints. opening his mouth over hers. It was even better being kissed by him like this. that there were dozens of intriguing types to explore? She longed to grab for the cloak. sweetheart. "Ah. in being able to touch you like this at last?" She reached up and touched his mouth. He held her. http://www.processtext." he said. beginning slowly. This was what she remembered. She was swept away by sensation. but pride kept her motionless. being completely possessed by him. flowing into him. The sudden rush of air chilled her. Cooler. "You have quite a talent for this.com/abclit. brought her to her senses. teasing her lips with his tongue and encouraging her to open to him. She had forgotten she was naked." He gave an odd little laugh that ended on a groan. grinning down. No doubt a man like her husband had stared at scores of beautiful women. "Ah. pressing her down into the mattress. as if all her bones had melted suddenly." she whispered. His eyes came back to hers. "You're perfect. It felt better than she had imagined. felt his fingers curl possessively around her fullness. flat and hard against the sensitive crests of her breasts. all hard and muscular and male. reaching into his hair. "Just kiss me again. before she could lose her nerve. stroking his throat. her whole body fluid and aching and weightless. as their kisses continued to deepen. sweetheart. sensual thrust of his tongue. and she gave herself over to the incredible pleasure of carrying him. Her hands rose to his shoulders and clung there. All her insecurities came rushing back. opening her mouth with one sliding. giving herself up completely to the heady. as he trailed one finger slowly along her collar bone and down across the curve of her breast. drugging power of his kisses. Her hands slid upward. Her lips parted and he deepened the kiss. He was wonderful to touch. Hadn't he told her himself that women were different. Instinctively. he had caught the edges of his cloak and pulled them back. His hands slid up her ribcage. She made no move to cover herself as he looked his fill. Then he caught her nipple between his thumb and forefinger and began to rub gently.html With that he bent and kissed her again. Jocelyn opened her mouth wider and took him in. the most natural feeling she had ever known." And before she realized his intent.

processtext. He held her eyes for a moment.html Jocelyn sucked in her breath. fighting to hold herself steady. this hot wet feel of his lips and tongue. hadn't counted on getting this carried away this quickly. teasing it in a way that made her gasp and cry out. She squirmed up against him. She wasn't prepared for anything remotely like this. love.com/abclit. "Then it's good we are wed for I do know by now that I am well and truly lost. as she clutched at his shoulders. unbearable tension centered deep between her thighs. her chest. "That. that she didn't seem to be able to stop them. to find a balance between feeling and thought. He didn't touch her there but she wanted it. rising to slide from the bed. quivering flesh of her abdomen. She twisted back into the pillows. He had just evoked the most incredible throbbing sensation between her thighs. She'd been a fool ever to think she might pretend indifference to him. to this." Robert muttered. He caught his hands in her hair. It was a prelude of what was to come and she welcomed it. But then he lifted himself off her suddenly.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. the valley between her breasts. already dragging off his tunic. God. too. She could feel the need building." He said nothing. But Jocelyn was exquisite. He was breathless." he said softly. against the bare. trapping her face beneath his. She shivered as his mouth trailed a dizzying wake of sensation down across her body and back." he whispered. almost out of control. could feel it rising over her like a swift-running tide. this will only take a moment. gasping and breathless. her hips. her body so incredibly responsive she was like a harp that could be played with the merest . how she wanted it! She heard soft whimpering sounds. "Easy. most secret part of her. rocking his hips against hers and Jocelyn lifted herself to meet him. soul-wrenching kisses that made her groan. Jocelyn took a steadying breath. a cry of frustration slipping out before she could bite it back.. for it was becoming impossible to think. dragging her mouth from his to get air. She rose. but she knew she had pleased him. Jocelyn lay back and closed her eyes. turning back to stare at his wife. realized vaguely that they were coming from her own throat." With that he began kissing her throat. is the way it all begins.. stroking her breasts. http://www. He had waited too long. wanted it with a fierceness that was frightening in its intensity. Her blood heated and pulsed to a yearning. catching her mouth for more of the deep. sensual patterns against the insides of her thighs. He jerked his shirt over his head. and his smile might well have seduced any woman of flesh and blood. wanting him against every part of her body. And then he stunned her by opening his mouth over the tip of her breast. curling her legs around his. sucking it. tracing slow. His mouth continued its magic while his hands ranged over her. "andI do assure you that where we are going will soon become a right familiar place. then bent and pressed his mouth to a place he seemed to favor that lay just beneath her ear. He shifted between her thighs. Her eyes flew to his in amazement only to discover that he was obviously well aware of what he'd done. this exquisite feeling in her breasts. this melting and throbbing and wanting in the deepest. my sweet. But it was a losing battle. shaking. Jocelyn. "You aren't lost. His gaze was hot and knowing.

He bit down hard on his lip. then lifted and spread her thighs with hands that knew her body far better than she did herself. arching up helplessly against his hand. the lower half of her body was heavy and aching and tight with the need for more. matching his body to hers as she curled around and into him.com/abclit. easing the pain. She had never felt so vulnerable in all her life as she did stretched out here beneath . couldn't get close enough to him. groaning as her hands slid the length of him in a manner that was anything but shy. ripping at the cords that bound them. he sliced through chords and good linen.processtext. her face flushed. The sum of her being seemed centered between her thighs. Her breasts ached. wanting the naked. Never doubt your effect on me. tightening her arms around his neck. "Robert. Sweet Lord. craving the sweet.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. He was heaven to touch. He shifted again. down his back. is something wrong?" He sucked in his breath. He muttered another oath. He had wanted to go slow for her sake. She felt the hot rasp of his breath against her. He was buried inside her. "Yes. so clumsy. He kissed his way across her chest. she had more. let his ruined garments drop to the floor along with his dagger. http://www. her body beneath his as he captured her mouth with his own. I've tied my own clothing in knots. His wife was looking worried. She ran her hands up his smooth.. With one practiced movement. She couldn't get enough of him. wild kisses she was showering across his face and throat. as his fingers parted her sensitive flesh and stroked inside. tearing thrust of his body. She might not understand if he laughed. fumbled across the coffer for his dagger. She whimpered and shifted against him. Jocelyn's eyes were cloudy with passion. he had her flat on her back.. She was ready for him. they were both ready! And he couldn't even get out of his clothes! The sudden humor of the situation saved him unexpectedly. down to her belly. She twisted and cried out. rigid and swollen. stretching himself over her. He dragged her against him. sweetheart. instinctively seeking reassurance. couldn't breathe. I'm so eager. went mindless. something's wrong. her mouth swollen from his kisses. silken feel of her body against his. suddenly. reaching for her shoulders. but her naked. not you. She couldn't think. Jocelyn. This wasn't at all what she had expected. urgent grip on her shoulders. Grabbing it up. cursing savagely as they knotted in his haste. And then he was naked beside his wife on the bed. half-reclining pose was so provocative that a new wave of urgency hit him. his painful. He dragged at his chausses. hairless chest." She looked doubtful. a forced and painful intimacy that was suddenly overwhelming. but now who was seducing whom? Jocelyn opened her mouth for him. but with me. wasn't the exquisite thing his body had promised at all.html breath. welcoming the thrusting of his tongue. And then with one sharp.

She arched into him. Jocelyn groaned and grasped his shoulders. I think you must know. shuddering. clung to him. letting her body adjust to his. A long. as sensation built on sensation until she thought she would surely die. Reality began to return but it was difficult to reorient herself. http://www. why didn't he say something? Robert shifted to one side. eyes closed." he whispered shakily.. drawing her even closer. Then her husband was rolling off of her.processtext. "Judas. "The rest. Then he shifted deeper. love. I'd not be breathing now!" . a deep internal stroking that reawakened the need.. dear God in heaven. She was barely aware that he was groaning. kissing her mouth. pleased?" "Judas. "Were you. Robert gave a low." He waited a few seconds. madam. I do believe we owe Edward of Pelham far more even that I had first thought. her throat. fitting himself tighter. shuddering breath slipped from her. as their bodies strained and slid together. "If I'm not badly mistaken. "That's all the pain. digging her fingernails into his back as some incredible explosive force began to gather. She was gasping. reality spun away. every last vestige of control and self-protection crumbled and torn away. All pride and poise and dignity disappeared. throaty laugh.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. drawing her into the curve of his shoulder. God.html him like this. afraid to believe she had heard correctly. the shameless way she had behaved." Eighteen Jocelyn lay perfectly still. I do promise you'll like.com/abclit." She drew in a shaky breath. almost sobbing for breath as the convulsions began to ebb. and Jocelyn forgot to be uncomfortable. kissing her. if I'd been any more pleased. She hung mindless. burying her face against his throat.. And then her whole being shattered. For several moments she lay still. gasping out her name. holding himself back with an effort. Anguish. She couldn't believe what she had done. stroking her. and the emptiness between her thighs was unbearable. He drew out of her and began to thrust. as the wild throbbing pleasure began to fade.. his arms tightening around her. Wave upon wave of unendurable pleasure that swept over her and away. that sent every other awareness spinning into blackness. convulsed. "What do you mean?" she managed in a small voice. Awareness blurred. love. quivering—the essence of eternity somehow distilled.

He couldn't get enough of touching it. He'd learned early in life that sex was a pleasure. quite like that. like that?" she asked softly. making her arch her breasts against his bare chest. but she also seemed terribly unsure. she'd done her best to destroy him. I crave them already as a starving man does food. "I'm thinking. what it will be like when we finally do get it right. sweet. She had tried to use it to bend him to her purpose. "For the man there is always some pleasure. For the woman it depends on the man..Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. Her eyes lifted to his. "You've a mouth made for that. love. But then.com/abclit.html She said nothing further and Robert pushed up on one elbow. let one hand range up her body to stroke and fondle her breast." "I've never done much of either. I imagine you know that. couldn't suppress hislaughter at the look of awed satisfaction that lit her face as the thrill of her power began to dawn. Don't be stingy with them. you know. He hadn't known until marriage that it could be a weapon more vicious than any blade. Jocelyn began to laugh—deep and throaty and sensual. staring down at his wife. He'd given her that power because he had worshiped her. raising wide. trailed it slowly. "For the woman it depends on the man. He lifted his head and stared. They were soft and liquid and just now they looked very green. I think. "Very much." he whispered. Robert." To his utter delight. "I wanted to be able to talk to you before our marriage but there wasn't time. And when she hadn't been successful at that. She looked incredibly beautiful lying here beside him. wondering eyes to his." He groaned as her hand slid lower. I assure you. At least someone did tell me that once." He hesitated. And this did make a person vulnerable in the most intimate and personal of ways. "And realizing there's no good way to put what just happened between us into words. "Laughter and kisses. was already wanting the feel of her against him again. http://www. He frowned and drew in his breath. but I hope to do a great deal more now. wanting her answer while knowing full well that he had." "I was many things that day. long and slow. so wildly uninhibited in her lovemaking. experimentally down his body. to humiliate and cripple and maim. . nuzzling the curve of her throat." He drew her closer. and then look so guarded and uncertain now that it was done? But then Jocelyn didn't like being vulnerable—that much he'd learned. She hadn't even stopped at using her own son.processtext. Marguerite had been a master at using it to tease and torment." He smiled. "if we are this good without practice." "Is it always. "Just think. I didn't want you forced unwilling into this." he said. bending her head back over his arm. But seldom. Unwilling wasn't one of them." he said. There was no place for Marguerite in this bed. on how best to tell you how very much you did please me." He bent and kissed her then. He had never heard his wife laugh before. "Did I please you?" he asked. How could any woman be so responsive. Her skin was rose-petal softness. "And on how the woman feels about him.." She gave him a teasing smile as she lifted one hand to his chest.

. the sheerest. for the fire in the hearth had burned low and the room was growing dim. softest linen Jocelyn had ever seen. Robert had obviously poured it for her before he left. languorous feeling. had just spent the most unbelievable afternoon of all her life in his bed.com/abclit. Adelise. felt her muscles protest in several exceedingly odd places. unbelievable things to her body and taught her to do the same to his. was surprised to hear them sounding in her own voice. madam." she whispered." She heard the outer door open. Did other people feel like this all the time? Was this how it was to be wanted. "For I do intend to be. She glanced around and discovered she was alone. was married to the Lion of Normandy." *** When Jocelyn came to her senses the second time that day. confident of who and what you were? Could any contentment ever match such a thing? She thought of her sister. whatever you choose to be. And the wonder of it was that he had wanted her. smiling. calling for someone to enter. muted whispers. She. She had obviously slept." He lifted his head then. "I've something to show you..Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. All were held for her inspection or came tumbling across the bed in a riotous spill of peacock hues.. a sense of security unlike any she had ever known. wherever you are. http://www. madam. A cup of wine sat on the nearby coffer and she reached for it. mind. you're awake. had flown with him as high and as far as he had wanted to fly. He crossed the room quickly. called her his sweetheart and love.html "Judas." His teasing. cherished. But then she shifted her body. Robert had lain with her. Not that I'm complaining. sipping the wine. aware of a warm. Jocelyn. And at once there was a crowd of milling. and Robert stepped in. bent to take her mouth for a swift kiss." His smile was incendiary. Jocelyn Montagne. women with trim and shears and lengths of cloth: exquisite velvets. she could tell it was late. that is exactly what I want you to be. He had left no doubt about that. He had told her she was beautiful and somehow made her believe it herself. be happy. of the incredible gift Adelise had given her without even realizing it. "But whatever you are. She was struck with renewed wonder by the sheer improbability of all that had occurred. It hadn't been a dream. "Good.processtext. confident temptress vanished. chattering people in the room. my lord. guiding it lower. "You've shown me quite enough for one afternoon. done exquisite. "Am I supposed to be shy?" "I was done with shy women when I was barely fifteen. But good things do come to those who wait. finest woolens. Then the bedchamber door opened. For a moment she lay unmoving." She wasn't sure where the words came from." He caught her hand." he said. worrying you might be shy of me. She pushed herself up against the pillows. "I've not shown you nearly enough. wondering if she had dreamed all that had taken place. She lay back. There were footsteps. and to think I did keep myself from you last night. "Oh. He had responded to her and with her and in return she had held nothing back.

" Jocelyn watched in amazement as the women collected their burdens and left. doing his best not to laugh. we are never going to get out of this room. you know. I have many desires." He handed the material back to the servant." "I'm no spirit." she said." "I don't think it would matter to me even if you were. I suppose. quiet descended. It was too much. my lady de Langley. his beautiful eyes narrowing as he bent and took her mouth for a slow kiss. You were not exactly quiet this afternoon. your instincts are right." "So that's all the thanks I get for being a gentleman. "Aye. "They're all so beautiful.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter." He grinned as Jocelyn's eyes widened. It was delightful to tease her. Velvet was a rare and incredibly expensive cloth.. "Start with this. She stared at her husband. "If you keep looking at me like that. They please me. "Aye. and that saffron wool there.. do you prefer?" She reached out almost reverently.html Robert sat down." He caught up the green." He grinned." They stared at each other. awed. too fast. then he reached out and caught her chin. "I doubt anyone much past the great hall heard us here this afternoon. and then she twisted.. but they donot include sleeping alone. And the scarlet. http://www. "In this as in other important matters. madam. "I. grabbing up her pillow and thrashing him across the face ." Her eyes flashed once.. She said as much." Robert sat back and shook his head. "I hope you like my bedchamber equally as much. I don't know. Most especially not with you under the same roof. Go now. How was I to know you were interested? You didn't even come to talk with me last night.processtext. as a quick flush stained her throat and flamed across her cheek bones. But since it came along with those supplies and salt I took from Shrewsbury. While Adelise had several pieces." he added. "I couldn't help thinking you might not appreciate losing your maidenhead in the midst of a camp of avidly listening men-at-arms. holding it near her face. she had never owned so much as one scrap." Jocelyn smiled." He sent her a swift grin. "I didn't want to presume. reaching swiftly for her unsteady wine cup as she clutched the blanket to her chest and stared." "Robert. "I keep expecting you to vanish on a puff of smoke. you are joking?" "Yes. A small fortune in precious cloth lay here before her eyes.com/abclit. Your mistress can choose from among the rest tomorrow. evil or otherwise.. stroking a sumptuous velvet of forest green. She had been hoping he would ask her to share his bedchamber but hadn't dared ask." "I believe I might like that. madam. "Don't worry. Use the pattern you cut from her gown. madam. which. you.. The door closed. I hope you won't mind moving.

processtext. talk. as she glanced uncertainly toward the door. and he caught her hands." . this playful. bent his head and began to nuzzle her breasts. sliding his hands up her narrow ribcage to capture and caress her soft breasts. but his wife was cat-quick.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. amused." "You don't. twice.html and chest with it once. He held her there with the weight of his body. this would have been the one. but she was already backing across the bed.oh!" Her breathing was becoming unsteady. This was a side of his wife he'd not seen before. He caught a glimpse of her bare body as she slid from the bed.. catching her as she got the door open and was halfway through. http://www. jerking up the cloak they had discarded during their earlier lovemaking and wrapping it around herself. Her hands strained against his and he released them." He watched her inch toward the door. His body quickened in response and he studied his wife with a strange kind of awe. as if she couldn't quite believe what she'd done. struggling and laughing. the woman who most nearly pleased him. he was reaching for her. trapping them against the door. her huge eyes gone even wider. helplessly. and then a third time before he could stop laughing and collect himself. though her laughter had gone a bit breathless. "Robert." she said breathlessly. "Robert. "I fight to win.. sprawling grab across the bed.. began to knead the back of his neck. stop!" She pushed at his shoulders. we do need to get dressed and go down.com/abclit. He grinned and winked at the wide-eyed maidservant just entering the outer chamber. who matched him in all things. He kissed the bare expanse of her shoulder.. shoving his wife. her chest rising and falling unevenly against his face. "I wonder what punishment I should exact for the crime of striking your husband. waited until she had almost reached it. There'll be." She pushed at him again. "Robert. fight fair. He found only air. beginning to feel something besides amusement as well. With the third hit. Had he searched the world over.. Remember it.. he was off the bed and around it. Always. spontaneous creature who was far more entrancing than she would ever suspect. "We're going to be late getting downstairs. holding that ridiculous blanket to her chest. against the panel. Then in a flash. still laughing... her expression hovering between laughter and horror. She shrieked once and began to laugh as he caught her about the waist." he drawled.. green-gold eyes. swinging her easily off her feet and dragging her back through the doorway. He watched. you know. He felt her shudder against him. Her fingers settled against his shoulders. How had he gotten so lucky after all these years of hell? Jocelyn tried to squirm out from under him. I-I. cupping her satiny hips against him instead. I've severalextremely creative ideas. to feather restlessly. Jocelyn. kicking the door shut. been able to pick from all the women in the land. through his hair. saw desire flame to life in those slanting. "That's not going to save you.. He made a swift.

Perhaps he was bewitched as Aymer had said. The least we can do is make it truth. the man is bewitched!" Robert laughed with his men. I. "Jocelyn. if you don't know it." Nineteen "Mylord. but Robert didn't believe that peace would last long." she quoted. seeing to his lands. His wife was a witty conversationalist. He smiled. no. No matter how much he selfishly enjoyed the delights of having his new wife with him. are you certain you'll not stay the night? The wind has come up and it'll be dark in a matter of hours.. "Thank you. but he had refused. checking with the knights he'd set up as castellans as the Montagne forces departed." Her sudden attack of shyness had passed. He did want to get home to Jocelyn. don't mind being a legend. though I doubt you hadthis in mind. Jesu. however. but he had never found a woman who pleased him so much. still grinning. my sweet. men who would eventually become his vassals. don't let me wake up. incredulous grin. As was inevitable in this kind of exchange. "He means thelady of Belavoir is expecting him. he would be making a bid to recover the rest of the de Langley lands from Chester.com/abclit." Beside him Aymer Briavel rose to his feet as well. it was impossible not to laugh.processtext. one hand riding her bare backside as he crossed the floor. food. Then she reached up and looped her arms about his neck. the new castellan for the castle of Steadford. letting him know she recalled their first meeting as clearly as he. He lifted his head with a wide. "Just don't let me wake up." Aymer grinned across the table at Walter le Foret. but you'd think it just yesterday from the way he behaves. http://www. back-lit by stars. She was smiling. when we get around to it. the departing Montagne forces would strip the estates bare of animals. He didn't bother denying the charges because they were true. Jocelyn had begged to come along. Thus far the warlike earl had been quiet. Not only was the weather getting worse. He'd split his army. "You are legend and dreams. Please.html That stopped him. but he would be riding close to Ranulf of Chester's borders. though God knew it needed to be done that way. The cold will be biting. Robert. The people of Belavoir are expecting me." She was staring at him in such dismay. He couldn't cover every castle and manor personally. he wouldn't risk taking her where the danger was great. He'd been gone for a week. we are already moving into the area of legend in the talk below stairs. "I've never seen so eager a husband in all my life. a bold and . Walter. he didn't intend to let it last. for one. As I distinctly recall. every scrap of value if they got half a chance. "You did call me a legend once in this very room. He's been married now well over a fortnight. her eyes wide and luminous. sending roughly a third with Geoffrey on a similar mission to the south and west while he took a third and went north. Idid!" He dropped her onto the center of the bed..Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. anticipating his reunion with Jocelyn. At least not in this regard. As a matter of fact. Come spring." Robert pushed back from the table and rose to his feet. Walter. "We can send for something to eat later. my lord de Langley. He scooped her up over his shoulder.

then moved to her place at the table. his strength obviously returning. "It's early yet. forcing a smile for the boy who had become her shadow these last weeks. firelit chamber where he'd spent far more time than he ought these last weeks." The woman nodded and Jocelyn moved disconsolately toward the table. "My lord'll be back. in his most carefully correct voice. grumbling a little among themselves at the cold. Jocelyn thought with a smile. Cook wants to know how much longer till supper. he would ride through dark and cold and. eager to learn the manners and behavior any other boy of his breeding would have taken for granted by this age. It would be a hard. she could give him a damned good game of chess. She was teaching those lessons as best she knew. fire-shot silk. and he had a vocabulary that might have put any hardened man-at-arms to the blush. The boy was uncommonly bright. she had so looked forward to tonight. His men were already mounting up in the bailey. Robert glanced out over his men. His friend's injury was a good month old. And to top it all off. And he very clearly worshiped her husband. He said he would. her eyes going longingly toward the keep door. She was being ridiculous. But she had begun teaching him something else as well. He was acting as her page. The stew'll keep nicely but the pasty'll ruin if it be put back over the fire. of skin like warm alabaster and hair like dark. But then he thought of Jocelyn. of the cozy. "An extra shilling's pay and a double portion of ale for every man if we make it to Belavoir before the castle's abed. We'll serve now. watching as Aymer lifted himself gingerly into the saddle. ." The boy nodded vigorously." Jocelyn glanced up. Adam.html intelligent partner." he called out. cold ride back this afternoon—and all because he wanted to sleep with his wife. If he had any sense he would stay here at Steadford with Sir Walter. howling blizzards if he had to. Robert swung onto his horse.com/abclit. A cheer went up and Aymer grinned at Steadford's new castellan. but he still tended to favor his side. that did make two of them. unfailingly eager. Well. http://www. and she had a passionate nature very nearly matching his own." Jocelyn frowned and gave in. Still. If she hadn't already been his wife. "Yes. He would have sent word if he were going to be detained overnight. while Robert worked with the lad at arms practice. please. Walter? Bewitched!" *** "M'lady.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. For a woman like Jocelyn. "May I pour you wine. Margaret.processtext. "My lord said he'd be back but he must have been detained. my lady?" he asked. "I'm sure he will. Adam Carrick wanted to learn to read and write because he had heard his lord set great store by such things. "What did I tell you. he would have made her his mistress without a qualm." She watched as the boy deftly poured her wine without spilling so much as one drop." a small voice piped up. God forbid.

there's riders sighted. Jocelyn stepped out into the bailey hugging her arms about herself in the cold." "Ah. "As it happens. Thank you for letting us in. Besides I've seen Adelise." But within a very few minutes Jocelyn's excitement was changed to dismay. then quickly away. Despite the way de Langley behaved. the knight responsible for the castle garrison. "M'lady. Sir Edmund will see to your men and horses. Come inside where you can get warm. "But come inside. as you know. "They are a small enough force..I really do come in peace. smiled.html The outer door swung open on a bitingly cold rush of air. And married." a man called out." "I'm so very happy for her then. but I don't know that my lord would wish them inside while he is away." she said guardedly. Still I hope we can put it behind us. Brian.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. I convinced Father it was only fair to let me bring you your things. slipping off like he did." Within minutes." Drat Brian! Why did he have to come now? "Are your men armed and ready. A peace offering. I see." Jocelyn sent him a smile that was genuine this time. "Let them in then. Adam. then. to find out how you fared. had wine poured and gave orders for the meal to be served. http://www. "Is she well? Happy?" "Well and deliriously happy." The man hesitated. He shrugged. grinning. But tell your men to be on their guard." she said. Between . They left just yesterday morning.processtext. "You were right. and she and Pelham have been at Montagne. It was Brian Montagne who sought admission to Belavoir for himself and his men. With good cause. We can talk and be warm at the same time. "What. Jocelyn's heart began to race. Brian was dismounting and moving toward her. but we weren't expecting you. sister. She begged me to bring you a letter for her.. I was beginning to think we were to be left outside to freeze. "Well. is de Langley not here?" "He's expected back any time. "They're comin' up the hill. "I'm sorry. Sir Edmund Hervey. I was angry. And if he did have her things it meant her father was at least trying to put a good face on this treaty. glanced at Jocelyn." "That was a difficult day for us all. sir?" Sir Edmund nodded." She forced a smile." She led Brian into the hall." Brian glanced around. She drew in a deep breath. "Your brother says he has brought your things from Montagne. if you will.com/abclit. Father has forgiven her. "He did say he'd be back. my lady. as if there were ever any doubt. I'd have been well served if you hadn't after the way I behaved at your wedding. It would be a terrible affront to her family if she refused to let her brother inside the gates." Jocelyn was suddenly glad her brother had come. came toward her out of the darkness. what took so long.

" Jocelyn sucked in her breath. Within seconds. but that wasn't true. hands. dozens of shivering. The comments hadn't bothered her before. Brian. that is. Very. My sister Adelise and her new husband have been visiting at Montagne." Jocelyn had washed earlier and dressed for her husband's homecoming in her new tunic of green velvet. Lips. He was smiling as well." "It's far more than the cloth. Still. "You do look well. Brian told her about Adelise's visit. bodies— cold everywhere at first. "No. my marriage does agree with me. Jocelyn. we do have guests!" "I know. but I've no desire whatsoever to kiss your brother. Adelise.com/abclit. sweet. too. "I must assume your marriage agrees with you as well. Jocelyn rose to her feet.html mouthfuls. there's no fear the contracts aren't binding.processtext. Robert had claimed it was his favorite and she had wanted to impress him tonight. the way he was looking at her." Robert turned. smiling. had her laughing with his description of the lord of Pelham as an overly doting husband. flushed and laughing. He would have been a fool not to. If her marriage hadn't been consummated the contracts could have been declared invalid and the lands in dispute. Adelise has it." She picked up her wine cup and smiled at him over the rim. "Congratulations. but he managed to keep his smile. and then hot where they joined. ." Brian's eyes narrowed. "Of course. but something about the way Brian said the words. I'll tell Father there's no chance de Langley hasn't made the marriage contracts binding. caught a glimpse of a tall." Brian had risen to his feet. you know. And then she was in his arms. still holding her trapped against his side. This time she had felt the tiniest stiffening in her husband's body. "I believe my sister was married for reasons other than land. a bit of good cloth does work wonders for a woman. She wanted to tell him her relationship with her husband was no business of his. That look of a woman who knows well enough that she pleasures a man. Moments later they were interrupted as the dogs in the hall began barking. angered though she couldn't have said why. "You'll understand." she said dryly. golden haired figure moving toward her through the crush. she couldn't help being pleased that her very exacting brother seemed impressed as well. "But as you see." Jocelyn stiffened. I've just half-killed my men and our horses getting home to my wife." Jocelyn was suddenly embarrassed.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. "Robert. "Yes. different. Montagne. Adelise's lands did march far better with his than with mine. The difference is in you. not missing a single detail. http://www. did. She and Robert had been subjected to a great deal of teasing about the pleasure they found in each other." he said. "So Pelham did marry her." He met her eyes with a knowing grin.. How could Brian be so tactless? But her husband didn't rise to the bait. stamping men were crowding together through the entrance. She pulled away after a moment. His eyes moved slowly over her.. I've come straight from just such another besotted bridegroom.

said softly. but this is too good a chance to pass up. poured wine. to see that his men were being cared for as well. "If you didn't realize that. more binding to me than any childhood misunderstandings.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. I don't want you to think yourself alone and friendless should you ever find yourself needing aid. certainly did. She moved to the table where the knights who'd come in were drinking and waiting for food. She was relieved to hear Robert's laugh ring out moments later. She would have been determined to like him even if he hadn't so enthusiastically declared himself her life-long servant after she had arrived back at Belavoir. "I told you it was too soon to make a ride. but then one never knows what really motivates a man. http://www. "You and I have never been close." He hesitated again and glanced up. sending her his ready smile." He walked to the saddle pouches his squire had carried up." Jocelyn smiled back. "But we're both Montagne. I've no intention of letting all your hard work go for naught. Jocelyn. I'm weak still. but Jocelyn noticed his eyes flicker to her brother and back. She had readied the room he had always used thinking to make him more comfortable. and Robert excused himself to speak to his garrison commander. odd. "Not at all." She frowned. lady. Besides. "You'll get no argument on that from me. rubbed the letter absently between his fingers.com/abclit. but the last thing she wanted was open hostility between her husband and the rest of her family. Jocelyn led her brother up the stairs. both of the same blood. releasing her as he dragged off his cloak. stood staring at her instead. He drew out Adelise's letter." He hesitated. The man was obviously spent. "But my man outside tells me you've brought home my wife's things. Jocelyn. but instead of handing it over. It was always de Langley. but how will I regain my strength if I don't push? Never fear. She frowned as she stopped beside Sir Aymer." He straightened. but this isn't the time or place to discuss them. She realized her mistake as he glanced around.processtext. for one. Jocelyn told me she had things of her mother's that were dear.html "Certainly. "It seems strange to be a guest in a keep that was once my own. "Whatever is on your mind." she said sharply. yes. Once is enough. She might not trust or even like her brother. you may speak. It was impossible not to like the outgoing. "We do need to talk. "Just see that I'm not put to the trouble of stitching you together again. Aymer grinned. I hadn't meant to say this tonight. to hear her brother join in as they sat together at the high table. "I'm sorry. her husband had a special fondness for the man. I suppose it's no secret I haven't always behaved as I ought." . then hurried to have food brought.. I won't push too far. There are reasons for that." The meal ended." "Belavoir was never Montagne." Robert bent and kissed Jocelyn's forehead.." He smiled. It just does seem. I thank you for that. I didn't mean that the way it sounded. I've learned over the years that at least half the time it's not what it seems." Jocelyn took her husband's cloak." she added with mock severity. You do push yourself too fast. That's a tie that is thicker. I. gregarious Aymer.

Their fights became legend in Normandy. you know that you've only to send for help.A man who murdered his wife. de Langley has had mistresses by the score. No." "And you think you do?" "Enough that I need not fear him. she realized she had been lying to herself. He had to be. the heat may burn for a time. She had always wondered if the barbs he let fly were the resultof deliberation or mere thoughtlessness. You're Montagne and that does mean a very great deal. But as she walked down the passageway.com/abclit. from one of de Langley's own men. She wasn't afraid of Robert. Adelise is almost beside herself with worry." Jocelyn held herself steady with an effort." She held out her hand. adding coldly. http://www." Jocelyn's eyes narrowed. Besides. and the man is obviously hot for you. "I don't see myself as being alone and friendless now. it was that other that had left her so shaken. his own very blue. But if I'm not."I have a husband. her brother was lying. But merciful Christ. Jocelyn. Somehow you've managed to please him. yet even she couldn't hold him." Brian ignored the insult. Jocelyn. you've a husband. too." Brian surrendered the parchment. Jocelyn. Of course. but it doesn't last.html Jocelyn didn't know what to make of his statement. Brian! I'll hear no more of this. "That isn't true. putting the door between them as quickly as possible.. "I've just spent the last few days talking with Pelham." she said calmly. "She never knew him." "You're wrong. We all are. "But I am his wife. Now she found herself considering the possibility that Robert's desire might be a . Brian could still hurt her. He couldn't hurt her any more." "Why? Because de Langley says it isn't?" Brian held her eyes. Robert de Langley is the most honorable man I've ever known. Brian. She had begun to take that fact for granted. She was held to be one of the greatest beauties in all of Christendom as well. And before God I do hope I'm wrong.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter." "So. of course. She had no idea her running away would put you into this mess. Anyone can tell you that. "I don't blame you for being angry. the woman did spend the last few months of her life locked up in one of his keeps!" Jocelyn didn't want to hear any more. That talk of his wife's death she discounted without a thought. very cold. "You've a letter for me. I believe. He made no secret of the fact that he enjoyed her. "Adelise feared Robert from the first.. noneof us had any notion the man would settle for you. that doesn't last! As a man I can tell you. I'm de Langley now." And with that Jocelyn took the letter." Jocelyn studied her brother narrowly. Quite the contrary." "Yes." she reminded him. And even if you discount those ugly rumors about her death.processtext. "Stop it. to think of their mutual passion as some miraculous gift. He heard a number of unsavory things about your husband. But then it didn't matter. was Marguerite de Granson. Her husband was a man who quite obviously enjoyed women. Why. "There's no need to fear now.

his pleasure in her company—in bed and out—just a matter that would run its course with time. "Your first wife?" As soon as the words were out." "It does if it is troubling to you. been hot for her. madam. She opened her bedchamber door.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. She didn't want to read it. And that left her shaken. "Nothing. "I was about to come fetch you. "It can wait until morning. He drew her against him." Jocelyn pitched Adelise's letter onto a nearby table. kissed them all like this. I didn't ride all that way through the cold to fall asleep here beside the fire like a man in my dotage. sifting it through his fingers in a way that was often a prelude to their lovemaking. Not now anyway. catching her shoulders and drawing her back against him. "Would that every one of your wishes could be granted so easily. . She frowned." He grinned. "Did you love her. wondering now what the woman had been like." He held out his arms and she walked into them. isn't it—something he's said?" She turned in his arms. Surely that did mean something. She had thought Robert had loved his wife.com/abclit. "You'd best make it quick. Had Robert wanted her. He broke off the kiss. nodding toward the letter she held. "What's wrong?" he asked. had thought he would still be downstairs." She forced a smile. she wasn't sure she would still want to live. at first? Had the woman gone through her own private hell when the heat between them began to cool? Robert had unpinned her hair. pressing her cheek against his bare shoulder." Jocelyn jerked up her head. though. "If you want to read it." She shook her head. still reveling in the feeling that came over her whenever Robert took her in his arms. madam." He stripped off his tunic and shirt while Jocelyn stared pensively into the fire. He stepped up behind her. "It's nothing that even deserves to be repeated. she regretted them. If the day ever came that he no longer wanted her. sweet? Just what is it your brother said? That is it. I don't mind waiting a few minutes.html temporary thing. slowly unlacing her bliaut. "What is it." He grinned and drew her with him through the doorway and into their inner chamber. Robert. frowning at Adelise's letter as if it had suddenly become a serpent. "How very glad I am that you're home. but had he? Brian didn't seem to think so. He might have held many women like this.processtext. Right now I just want to be with you. too. She didn't want to know. Robert?" she asked suddenly. kissed her in a way that made her whole world begin to spin. http://www. but she was his wife. She hadn't expected Robert here yet. The woman had been a reputed beauty. She thought of the unknown Marguerite.

for a time. She slipped into bed. just in case my dear brother-in-law has thrown that up to you tonight. She wanted to follow. http://www. to put her arms around him again but didn't dare. Jocelyn. said sharply. "I suppose so.html A jangling. we were both put out of our misery.. unsteady cadence of his heart." Jocelyn tightened her arms around him. And of a sudden she wanted to know if Brian had lied. and what I called love became something else entirely. She was listening to the accelerating.. "No. I was a very green eighteen. "Did you really have her locked up?" He didn't pretend not to know what she meant. She knew more of the world of pleasure than I'd ever dared dream existed. staring darkly down into the cup. vindictive nature that would make the Angevins seem saints by comparison. forced herself to continue undressing with what she hoped were calm and measured movements. "My lands. she a stunning and worldly widow of twenty-two when we met." He was quiet for several moments.processtext." he said at last. Marguerite went to the devil where she belonged. "A lust-match more aptly.com/abclit. "I did." He took another drink. bitter laugh." He glanced back. and yes. watching her husband drinking moodily across the room. "Perhaps it's even true in a twisted kind of way. Brian does claim only concern for me. "Never let anyone tell you your sex is the weaker one." . I don't mourn my first wife if that's what you fear. My wife had a will of iron and a vicious. shivering." His eyes narrowed. I may have wished her there. "I didn't know any better at the time. Jocelyn." She drew in her breath. "By the mercy of Christ." Jocelyn forced a smile. "I begin to think your brother and Marguerite might have been a good match.. He may well be trying to drive a wedge between us. unnerving silence stretched between them." He gave a low. That's the kind of thing she'd have thought of. I thought the sun did rise and set in her.. held far more understanding than Jocelyn could have wished. "Is that what he's said? Is that what Brian has told you?" She shook her head. damning herself for asking a question so certain to hurt them both." He shrugged. and as a student I was most extraordinarily apt. "Just that she was very beautiful. but he released her and pulled away. We tore at each other. "But she was heartless." Jocelyn said. My heaven quickly turned to hell. "Not that I didn't think about it once Or twice if we're being strictly honest. punished each other for years." Robert responded wryly. shallow. He's obsessed with the Montagne name." "Your brother is obsessed with lands. but I didn't send her. sensed somehow he had not. "And I didn't kill her. to weigh it alongside whatever else he may have said. I hope you are wise enough to bear that in mind. I did fancy myself very much in love. He took a long drink. That she wasn't able to hold your interest for long. with the importance of blood ties. unable to let it lie." She turned away then. and Jocelyn didn't utter a sound. "I did. "Was it a love-match then?" she asked." "I know that.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. moving toward the coffer and pouring himself a cupful of wine. in case you haven't noticed." he said at last.

Jocelyn ached with a knowledge that was difficult to bear. In the face of such overwhelming bitterness she didn't dare.com/abclit. his arms went around her.." He was staring at her so angrily. of course not I'm sorry." To her surprise. angry. stripped off the rest of his clothing and slid into bed." She held herself very still. then turned away. Respect. Love. He had made that quite clear. eyebrows lifting sardonically. kissed her. so bitterly. drawing her tightly against him. She could hear his unsteady breathing. Jocelyn.html "Why. Robert.. and I've known it in all of its twisted. He lifted his cup in a cynical salute.I should never have asked about it." "Merciful God!" Robert tossed off the last of his wine and turned. He might not love her but he did seem to need her. as the passion between them surged and burned and was sated. Robert. He was tense. Jocelyn. at least for tonight. powerful body she knew now more intimately than she knew her own. "Yes. I locked her up." He stared at her. she reached for him anyway." "Because I caught her trying to turn Geis Castle over to the Angevins.. a good partnership. treacherous forms." "No?" "No!" He drew in a deep breath. if she'd lived. Even when it's good.processtext. but you've called up old demons tonight. Qualities a good marriage. Gathering up her courage. She ached to reach out and hold him. are based on—qualities far more important." Jocelyn didn't say anything. and I'd have kept her caged forever if she hadn't died so soon after. Genuine liking one of the other. What's past is past. He didn't love her. treacherous thing those ridiculous troubadours do sing of as love. A few weeks ago she would have been overjoyed to hear that Robert de Langley liked and respected her. it's not worth the having. anyway?" He blew out the oil lamp. A .Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. more lasting than that twisted. it is usually only a prelude to betrayal or pain. "So much for love. sweet merciful Christ! What do those fools know of it. "No. "I'm sorry. I'd rather by far have what we have together. but she was afraid even to try. could feel the tension in the lean. that he desired her as a man desires a woman.. "So much for love and honor and loyalty among your sex. that for a moment Jocelyn was almost afraid of him. "What do we have. And I fear. Jocelyn lay beside him in the darkness. Robert?" "Desire. "We're not all like that. holding her breath. But as he held her. sweetheart. http://www. I do sometimes fear that I might have killed her myself. You can believe me when I tell you.

my lord. sad almost. aware of an odd pensiveness that came over him whenever the season was mentioned. sleepily offering her aid. "It's only three days till Christmas. For a moment he looked thoughtful. "I'll be with Geoffrey at Leaworth Castle for most of the day. Robert was already drawing his tunic over his shirt. watching and prying into the happenings at Belavoir. madam. "We're taking those new men we've trained for the garrison. It had been four days since Brian had arrived. "Alas. Robert must have sensed her feelings." "Seventy pounds!" Robert whistled and lifted his eyebrows. She was glad he was gone for even here at Belavoir he made her uncomfortable. Not nearly enough! Twenty Jocelyn awoke to the sound and smell of a new fire blazing on the hearth. http://www." Jocelyn smiled. You can get them more cheaply if you use your wits." He glanced down at her. I want them reworked as soon as possible. "No. "What do you plan on doing while I'm away?" Jocelyn stretched again and sat up.html few weeks ago she would have been thrilled with even the tiniest crumb of his affection. "I stole mine. "That would be an elegant animal. taking his smooth smiles. "What? A new destrier?" Jocelyn shook her head. he certainly had an odd way of showing it.processtext. and a good waste of coins. absently brushing a tendril of hair behind her ear. stretching lazily. "The season is important to you?" "Certainly. of her husband dressing hurriedly in the icy chill of their bedchamber." She snuggled gratefully back under the furs that warmed their bed. She pushed up on one elbow.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter." Robert was saying as he moved back across the room with his boots. I do for certain ride his horse. like a contented cat. you'll never guess what your New Year's gifts will be. There's no need for you to get up till the room warms a bit. "It will be our first Christmas together. his unsettling brotherly concerns with him. wanting him to smile with her. If Henry of Anjou wears my ring.com/abclit. But the serpent had entered Eden and she had eaten of the forbidden fruit." He grinned. I fear I've not the seventy-odd pounds for so fine a creature as my lord of Belavoir requires. I need to see to the condition of the walls as well. If her husband's interest was waning as Brian had predicted. for he'd gone out of his way these last days to make her feel cherished and desirable. Now liking and desire and respect weren't enough. ready to play the game. pretending a sudden amiability she didn't trust He had left just yesterday morning. sweet. indeed. He sat down on the bed to pull them on. And I do assure you. my lord. They're crumbling in places and I want all our defenses repaired by spring if possible. made her feel more like the outsider she'd been than the woman she'd become." Robert reached out. And . She thought of the passionate night they'd just spent and grinned. Do you really need to ask?" "I suppose not. I'm dressed already." He did smile at that.

at this reminder of her husband's enemy. as he had taken to calling himself. He had dreamed of his son again last night. armor. Robert would be pitted against him again. who had ordered her husband and several of his men burned alive. wanted to feel a part of him again. "I know a way to heat a room faster than any fire. "Now. the man is a right good judge of horseflesh.html for all his faults and pretensions. grinning. Now the boy's image rose. "What is it. "Are you cold?" She shivered again. We'll wait a bit. sweet?" Robert slid his arms aroundher. perhaps his son might still be alive." Jocelyn's happiness paled suddenly. oh. and heavy cloak.processtext. dry place to take Adam last winter. haunting as always. what think you? Should we turn back?" Robert scowled and ducked his head against the slanting sting of the sleet. He was glad he would be spending it with Jocelyn in the warmth and comfort of Belavoir." Robert caught his hands in her hair. Of a sudden she wanted to be in his arms. "Yes. madam. beckoning. shivering despite his padded gambeson. count of Anjou and Maine.com/abclit." He pressed her back into the pillows. tried . my dear lord. whose gift is this to be? Yours or mine?" Jocelyn reached up and traced his mouth with the tips of her fingers. He was also the man who had disdained the sanctity of the Church. my lord. This autumn had been unusually cold. He had been beaten twice before. but Henry of Anjou or Henry Plantagenet. "Tell the men to fall out and find what shelter they can. he was a battle-hardened commander. Jocelyn shivered as a chill passed over her. Robert waited. "Both. "You are a brazen wench. was no longer a green boy. but if he ever came back to England. "Could you not put the trip off for a bit? You might even consider it." *** "Well. rattled eerily off naked tree trunks and branches as Geoffrey rode down the column of men. For all his youth. I do wonder if that's not why I like you so much. the recognized duke of Normandy and Aquitaine. yet now she was considering them in an entirely new light. could only wish he'd had such a place to take Adam last year. boding ill for a long. difficult winter to come.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. Henry was busy for now with a war with the French king and his own brother. say an early New Year's gift. If he'd had a warm. She'd never had much interest in the wars that had raged through her childhood. http://www. "Do you have to ride out this instant?" she murmured. tilting her face up for a kiss that became hotter." Jocelyn met his eyes. Robert sucked in his breath as the familiar guilt swept through him." Ice peppered the ground. pressing herself against him. What a pity I have to leave. Perhaps this will stop." He chuckled. That's the only way gifts should be given. more demanding as the seconds slid by. He tried not to think of Adam.

html to keep from second guessing that past terrible year of his life. help me to understand. Adam had been thrilled with the toy. my lady did ride out to Harclay this afternoon. Besides.. sharing the happiness she found so easily these days. sired and buried sons with scarcely the blink of an eye. my lord. But when they reached Belavoir. earning a relieved laugh from a huddle of foot soldiers close enough to hear. "You let your lady ride out with no more than six men?" "She was only riding to Harclay. Jocelyn wasn't there to greet them. it was a fact of life. a sensation of panic that swept all common sense aside. Other men suffered losses. Yet he had sired only one. this caring so much—one he tried not to reveal to others. refused ever to be parted from it. eased the aching emptiness his son's death had left. It was a weakness. wanted to be celebrating instead of dreading this season of holiness and joy. to accept. Marguerite had seen to that. Children died every day.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. "Let's get ourselves back to a roof and warm fire. "Oh. Being with her. and the night would come early because of the heavy sky. relieved to put the biting wind at their backs and head home. That's why so many were born.com/abclit. Besides. Sir Aymer did go with her. faltering at Robert's black look. There were a great many things that . But what Sir Edmund had to say didn't make him feel any easier. staring bitterly out at the falling sleet. "She said she'd be back before nightfall. Dear merciful Father God. and the men began to scramble back onto the trail. http://www. had slept with it." Robert was hard-pressed to keep from swearing as he sought out Sir Edmund Hervey to find out the particulars of his wife's trip. And of a sudden he wanted to be back at Belavoir with his wife. For once he wished Jocelyn wasn't so mindful of her duties. This time last year he'd been hard at work carving a crude wooden horse for his son's New Year's gift. It was bitterly cold and the woods would soon be dark. galling bitterness they evoked. He willed his mind to end the memories. "The woods hereabouts are safe enough. And even that one.. forcing the reluctant stallion out of the shelter of trees. He had buried it with his son. But the familiar prayer brought no comfort and Robert opened his eyes." the man said. my lord. It was all in the world he'd had to leave him. To make sure all was gathered for the Yule season.. "The lady Jocelyn did ride out after dinner with a half-dozen men.. A treacherous mix of sleet and snow was falling. you who did give up your only son for love of us." But Robert was already shouting for fresh horses and men. only fools would be about in this weather!" he called. fought off the choking." A cheer went up. "Judas." Robert stared at his man." a passing servant told Robert. Instead he conjured a picture of Jocelyn as he'd left her this morning— warm and contented and drowsy with their lovemaking. eaten with it. incredulous. He swung Belisaire around. Robert closed his eyes against the memories.. my lord. Still he felt a rising fear. But it was harder to keep his mind from the boy as the days raced toward Christmas. the weather was bad and growing worse and there was no pressing reason for him to be riding into a storm and away from sure comfort. he knew. Harclay was only a few leagues away and the home woods were probably safe.. fighting his last bitter recollection of the toy.processtext.

. lady.html could happen to a poorly-protected woman out there. You can be certain I'll finish it all with my own hand." Jocelyn's eyes went a little anxiously to Aymer Briavel." He showed her the blank space on the scabbard facings. "I'm sorry to be so slow in bringing the drawing." The man gave her a wide. Her father had a boar painted upon his shield." Aymer grinned." "He will like it. pointed to another across the back of the belt. I think. not Jocelyn! *** "Is this what you had in mind." she added. "I'm glad it pleases. "Is that the eighth or ninth time now I've told you that?" Jocelyn laughed a little with pleasure. He swung onto his mount and spurred toward the gate. Please.processtext. She was probably on her way back right now. He was being a fool and he knew it. Nothing would happen to Jocelyn. "His New Year's gift. "It's magnificent." she said. and he was a man with bitter enemies. http://www. gap-toothed grin. God. had even done some pieces for the church in Shrewsbury. She handed it back across the table. But he had lost Adam. "The tenth. He couldn't lose Jocelyn. "I'll have it done and back to you the day after tomorrow. Men were beginning to wear such devices. She ran her fingers along the elaborate tracery work of a sword belt and scabbard she had commissioned. She had worked the device in gold thread on a new tunic of crimson velvet she was making for Robert.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. scuffling lions she had seen once in an illustrated manuscript. do you think? Perhaps I should have waited. but his laughter was abruptly cut off as the heavy curtain separating Edwin's workshop from the rest of the cottage was abruptly jerked back. but who's counting?" Aymer began to laugh. "It does look fit for a king. but my lord has been ever about the keep these last days. not even bothering to see if his men were ready to follow. my lady?" Jocelyn sat in the workshop of Edwin the leather worker. She had never felt such a mix of joy and anxiety in planning anything in all her life. Are you certain the piece can be finished in time?" The man studied the pattern. madam. smiling. let Robert choose the design. handing him the pattern she had drawn from memory—two rearing. with the excitement of her surprise. a freeholder working a small piece of land near the manor of Harclay. 'Tis an honor to do this for my lord. I've worked day and night to get it right. It's a surprise. Jocelyn nodded. "Will he like it. The man was well known for his skill in ornamental work. of course. to claim them for their house. her brother wore them embroidered on his surcoats. The piece was a work of art—well worth the length of velvet cloth she had bartered in exchange.com/abclit. Not Jocelyn. too. But I did leave these spaces here at the top for working the lions as you mentioned.

By the Mass. sword gripped tightly in one hand. I should have you beaten." He was furious. "Robert. to help judge the work. or you'll regret it. for just a moment when he'd heard that low. all entirely innocent. "We've been scouring the countryside fearing you both dead or worse! Is this the way you protect my wife. And for a moment. and overwhelming relief.html Jocelyn swung around. Not now." "I've ridden in worse weather than this. "Robert. "I did ask Sir Aymer to bring me. it's my fault. "Robert. For the first time." . http://www. I didn't think you would ever even know. "Robert!" Aymer pushed back from the table. madam. I think I'll do it myself!" Aymer's face flushed dull red. "And that makes it all right. man. We were so close to the keep. "Robert. I'd never have had you worry. he realized. "I just wanted it to be a surprise. cutting him off. didn't want anyone else to know.. He had reached Harclay trying to convince himself that he was being ridiculous. where did you—" "Just what the bloody hell are you doing here?" Robert snarled. as he sought to find his tongue. Truly Robert. good Christ." she blurted out. and it isn't far. but he shook her off.Mine! I asked Sir Aymer to bring me. But then no one could find Jocelyn." "Robert.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. Robert had been in a cold and deadly rage. jealousy. it's my fault. He frowned at his wife. Briavel? You leave that pitiful escort at Harclay and slip off here alone where anything could happen.processtext. listen!" Jocelyn reached for his arm. ashen-faced. "I'll have something to say to you later." He was beginning to feel a little sick with the rush and churn of emotions: fear. he noticed the beautifully wrought scabbard and sword belt lying on the table. "Robert. so out of control he was shaking." His eyes narrowed sharply. stunned to see her husband standing behind her." Jocelyn was staring at him in bewilderment. And he had just relived some of the worst moments of his life. upending his bench with a crash. it's a present. "Don't even try. Your New Year's gift. "Don't tempt me now. husky laughter coming from behind the drawn curtain he hadn't been sure just what he would find.com/abclit." he ground out." Jocelyn said again. rage. I didn't think it unsafe. that his worry about his wife was for naught." "No! No. of course not. and Aymer was missing as well." Robert drew in a long steadying breath. tried to speak in a calmer voice. and it'll be dark before you can get back. I suppose. I wanted it to be a secret. It was innocent. "Do you know that the weather is growing worse by the minute? The road is already icy. the obviously terrified stranger a few steps away. By the time a serf had reported seeing the horses.. I can—" "Don't try!" Robert bit out.

I shouldn't have brought you here alone. She turned to the man. "I'll leave the rest of my escort. She started to say something and stopped. And how dare he think so little of her! She reached Belavoir and went swiftly into the hall.html Robert glanced toward Aymer. He spun on his heel. Give him time. "He didn't think. began walking toward the door. Get her home in one piece. He felt overwhelmed and bewildered by the very intensity of his emotions. managed to smile and apologize for the misunderstanding and make arrangements for the delivery of the scabbard. I know it's not my place to speak. staring back with dark. knew and didn't care. An unnatural hush lay over the room. intercepting her as she walked by.. belated supper to all who had assembled. realizing just in time that Edwin the leather worker was watching in fascination. A surge of blood heated Robert's face." Jocelyn's eyes narrowed.. we—" She broke off as Aymer flushed again and glanced away. but it was obvious he had been." Jocelyn retorted sharply. Aymer knew what he'd suspected! And suddenly it was all too much. "Wait. And for one of the few times he could ever remember. she hesitated. what he had suspected. The servants were moving about the trestle tables." "But I still don't think he understands!" "He understands. searching the room for her husband. shaking the snow from her hair and cloak. Briavel." "Robert. "I'm going to tell him so. madam.processtext. Jocelyn frowned and headed directly toward the stairs. disbelieving eyes. that he still must be in a tearing rage. lady. by all his rage and shame and relief. She knew she was a magnet for all eyes. Just give it time to cool. I've known him many a year. But as she made the cold. serving a hasty.. but Aymer caught her arm.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter.. "He's gone upstairs. all the way back from Harclay in the snow. Sir Geoffrey rose. it's Obvious you've quarreled about something. "But why? Why was he so angry?" "It was concern for you. . he couldn't possibly think we. Aymer knew. In truth.com/abclit. The man was grim-faced and silent.." Jocelyn was still stunned by the swift and unexpected turn of events. I would wait a bit were I you. I didn't think. indeed. but his temper is a hot one. How could Robert be so foolish as to think she could lie with him half the night then ride off on a secret tryst with one of his men. Jocelyn's hurt and disbelief were beginning to give way to anger. still." "He's been 'cooling' as you say.. miserable ride back to Belavoir. madam." "That's ridiculous! We're scarcely a stone's throw away from Harclay." "Lady. he had absolutely no idea what to do. if that was. Robert wasn't there." "He's being ridiculous!" she snapped. caught her breath. wait!" Jocelyn started to follow. http://www. I would tell you to let him cool for a bit.

wait!" The doorlatch was a blur. blinking rapidly to bring the door into focus. His surcoat was wet and rumpled. She shoved open the door to the solar and stalked inside. Robert was standing across the room by the fire."You are angry.com/abclit.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. "Well." Jocelyn sucked in her breath. yes. You didn't deserve that." She drew in her breath. lifted it. slipping off alone with a man without telling a soul you were going. unaware of the grins among her husband's men as she swept through the hall. madam?" "Yes! Did you really think I might be off on a tryst with Sir Aymer?" He wasn't prepared for a frontal attack. "With you. the grooms. Her father had only beaten her. She reached out and steadied herself against the table. lifting one tawny eyebrow." "Jocelyn. The thrust was bitter. adding acidly. so am I!" He turned. He wouldn't speak of it. but I was so foolish I wasn't even afraid. I doubted you could hit any harder than my father. "You're angry still. "I suppose I should have chosen the destrier for you after all. I'm sorry. Geoffrey was right. But Robert was already pinning the door with his shoulder. not any of it. men you would have imagined me lying with!" "It's possible. I am sorry!" Robert caught her rigid shoulders. reaching blindly for the door. "Jocelyn. "Did it never occur to you that I might be off about some legitimate business? That I might have sought Sir Aymer's help? Did it never occur to you that I might actually honor my husband and the vows I did swear before God?" Robert turned silently back to the fire and Jocelyn frowned at his back. Sweet Christ. any number of men I might have spoken to. What was I supposed to think?" "Obviously the very worst thing possible!" she snapped. This couldn't be the man she knew." She turned and took two steps." she announced without preamble. You do seem to like it well enough. I suspect.. But he'd been . madam. But it is the only thing I could think of that might account for the unbelievable way you behaved. But only with you. But then there would have been the horse dealers. I'm sorry. he hadn't even dried his wet hair. he had never mastered this lethal way to strike where she was most vulnerable. madam. http://www. She should have waited. Leaving your escort at Harclay. wait. Robert. It cut to her soul as he had obviously meant it to. Though never again quite so much as before. "Is that what Briavel told you?" "No.processtext. Whatever had possessed him to say such a thing? He hadn't meant it. "Jocelyn. I was wrong. pulling her into his arms. unexpected. She found it. the man she had lain with and laughed with and loved so very much only this morning.html "I'm going to tell him some things he needs to hear." "You behaved in a rather singular fashion yourself.. "They told me not to come up here." Geoffrey said no more and Jocelyn made her way between the tables.

I was worried. "By the Mass. and that is verily the only excuse I have for my unpardonable behavior both this afternoon and tonight." Robert swallowed hard. "And let them all know I've survived the ordeal. overwhelmingly ashamed. Because I do care for you too much. Robert de Langley.. Fast and hard. "I know. "No. to wound his wife because he was angry with himself.." "How could you. Let Sir Edmund deny the gate. seeking only to win. Let's not do it again. "Jocelyn. her closed eyelids. relaxing a little against him. madam. Because I was thinking of enemies like Chester who would give a great deal to have my wife in their hands. "Because I was so terribly worried when I learned you'd gone out with only a handful of men." He kissed his way to the corner of her mouth. And I thank God every day." he admitted instead. "In truth. "Because I was imagining you dead at every turn in the road. feeling a wave of desire sweep through him that was so ." She opened her eyes.com/abclit. until he'd thought he might lose her." Robert tightened his arms around her. holding her stiff body against his. sweetheart. "You were that worried about me?" "Yes. why on earth did you say it?" He hesitated. sought only to hurt." She lifted her chin. pressing her head into his shoulder.processtext. You could hold out indefinitely here with only a handful of men." "I'll go down now and get you something to eat. "Then before God. You can pretend to be away. It was easy to strike out in his anger and fear. burying his face against her hair. Jocelyn." Jocelyn drew in a long. let no one inside Belavoir save the king or one of my own castellans. forgive me. her eyes still swimming with unshed tears. Robert." Jocelyn was staring at him thoughtfully. gave him a wry smile. "Because I was so very angry with you for making me so afraid. I do know that. It's the way I'm used to striking. even think such a thing?" "I didn't." He kissed her forehead. Marguerite and I used to go many a vicious round. The thought of all that could happen to her made him physically sick to his stomach. shuddering breath. eyes flashing furiously from beneath thick wet lashes. I don't like it." He hesitated. And from now on when I'm away. Honestly I didn't. I wasn't thinking. Don't ever go out with less than a score of my men as an escort. Because I was recalling every appalling atrocity committed against every woman I've seen in my twenty-odd years of fighting.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. held her tightly." "I amnot Marguerite!" she bit out. He'd had no idea how much he cared for this woman until today. but if anyone ever got inside the keep.html so angry. "I suppose we've just had our first fight. stared down at her. And he was suddenly. http://www...

to be with me now. It was amazing she could still want him. wide-eyed. but she stiffened. slowly. Jocelyn's lips parted beneath the pressure of his. It was her marriage she feared for. Since he'd been forced to take a wife. He wanted. "I'm not hungry just now. it washed away all his anger and fear. One week. Robert. then smiled and reached up. that she could forgive him so easily as this." He kissed her again.. You need not fear for my soul." Jocelyn turned away. on how the work on the wall progresses. It's a gift. slid her fingers gently through his damp hair.com/abclit. He was no better than Marguerite after all. I want very much to be with you. He'd found that and more in Jocelyn Montagne. laying it away in his coffer. not his soul. an eager bedmate. the pleasure we find in each other. Later perhaps. "How long will you be gone?" "I don't know. "I'll hear mass with my castellan and his household. Jocelyn. He had found a woman who was beginning to touch his heart. a little distantly. at the dying fire. His gift to her had been carefully chosen as well: an exquisitely beautiful ring of looped and beaten gold. laying it carefully aside." She stared at him.needed.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter." He shrugged. Twenty-One "Are you really going to Leaworth tomorrow?" "I am. "I'm sorry. I am. Robert lay staring. against him. a woman of strength and courage. She had laughed when she saw it.processtext. folding it carefully. covering her mouth with his own.. http://www. The unusual Celtic design framed a large oval stone of a clear fiery amber. "But Epiphany is in two days." he murmured. But that night as Jocelyn slept in his arms. What I said was unforgivable. madam.html urgent. "I'll send word. Before God." He drew off the new crimson tunic she had given him. so unexpected. he had wanted a woman who stirred him. But I will understand if you don't wish to. He removed his beautiful new swordbelt. meant only to hurt. There is nothing that pleases me more than being with you. had told him the stone reminded her of his eyes. the reassuring feel of his wife in his arms. Now he lay awake wondering if he hadn't been a fool. as if she were afraid to let herself go. An exceedingly rare gift. Robert broke off. with all the tenderness he knew how to put into a kiss. It will depend on the weather. cursing himself for ever showing his wife that this beautiful thing between them might be used as a weapon. Can you not wait until after that?" Robert smiled. "The amazing thing is that I do. one he could trust and respect. chuckling over her idea of the lions while quite obviously touched by the tribute. He had been lavish in his praise of her gifts. if he wouldn't have been a great deal better off had he settled for her sister instead. two..." Jocelyn frowned as she watched her husband undressing before the fire. beneath him. .

" Jocelyn hesitated. those huge green-gold eyes searching.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter." she returned. http://www. tried to put the indescribable into words. "I'm only thankful we have an outlet sanctioned by Holy Church. They have been since that night we fought. the look he had put there.processtext. Robert was as thoughtful a husband as ever. "Now I know you're only having an attack of low spirits.. As if you do purposely hold me at arm's length. he didn't want to hurt her. love. "Jocelyn. he felt a momentary flicker of doubt. "Are you growing weary of me?" Robert stared at his wife. I would be ever in confession otherwise. You've given me more than I ever dared dream .. refusing to be diverted. anxious look in her eyes. I do lust after you every bit as much as I did that first night we met. and she was beginning to be afraid. There was nothing Jocelyn could put her finger on." He grinned. no grievance of which she could complain. "I wish you wouldn't leave without first telling me what I've done wrong." His eyes narrowed darkly. that her husband was drawing away. "He would be dead by now ifI did.com/abclit. Yet their relationship was definitely changing. Robert. when he had announced in an offhand way that he might be away several weeks. for he cared for his wife. She drew in a deep breath. in your hands when you touch me. I've sensed it there most of all. It would make things difficult. It would be exceedingly difficult to do many of the things we do at arm's length. you cannot convince me they've not. had attended mass together twice a day. "What?" "Things are different between us. hating the strained." Robert forced a smile. yet ever since that night of their fight. But he wasn't about to let himself repeat the mistake of caring for her too much." "Then why do you treat me as if I've sinned some great sin against you?" "I wasn't aware that I did. but Jocelyn seemed sensitive to his slightest mood. That's a fact that seems to have escaped your notice. nagging sensation that something was wrong. daring to venture where she most feared to tread." She was still staring at him. And never more so than today. "I would prefer to hear the truth. even if it causes hurt. He was hoping she hadn't noticed any change. "It's as if you aren't really there." Robert glanced up. she had experienced the uncomfortable. as if she could read all the secrets of his soul. as tender and ardent a lover. no man lies with his wife most every night—sometimes more than once in a night—if he is weary of her. Robert." Jocelyn shook her head. And for the first time since their marriage. fought the sudden tightness in her throat.html They had shared a peaceful and happy Yuletide. Surely you don't still think I went out with Sir Aymer to betray you. "Things have been different this last week. "It is even between us in bed. Is that why you wish to go away? Are you. wondered if she might not have gifts beyond mere mortals." She steadied herself. sweetheart." "It's in your eyes when you look at me.

I would really rather know. But she had never understood that so well as now.html existed. comforted in some unexpected way. Others have said as much. Perhaps she would understand. But he didn't want to leave her wondering.. so very glad I didn't die when I was ten. "It is. had never really realized how much she loved him. madam. to sort out his needs. certainly. and he did always wish to see Belavoir. that I doted on the boy to an unnatural extent. "But then you came to Belavoir. I keep remembering his excitement last Christmastide. torturing herself with doubts and fears." Robert squatted down and poked at the fire. and the waiting. more than most fathers." "Because of me?" "No. high-cheekboned face. "You might say. Jocelyn sat for a moment. watching the play of firelight across her husband's handsome. Because of that unnatural bitch of a mother he had." He hesitated. and it is a wound that still bleeds." Robert hesitated.processtext. with nothing. I had kept the boy with me as much as possible since he was a babe. He ached for his dead son. But when I lost my mother. Jocelyn. with only my own miserable existence to drag out. I railed so at God. expecting to see her coming toward me." He glanced up. the existence were all well worth it. "I lost my only son months ago. "I pray God I never be called on to face the loss of a child. difficult. twisted it on her finger as she sent her thoughts ranging back through the years. "It was all so very sudden. but he found himself grateful." Robert stared at his wife. There was no one who really cared if I lived or died. the priest claimed it was a miracle I wasn't struck dead. had been purposely holding a part of himself back from Jocelyn. that He could have left me behind at Warford with. but the hurt didn't fade. blaming herself for things beyond her control. He was a man who cared deeply and passionately for many things. This Yule season has been a difficult one. He would have been five by now." . my reason for living through a long and difficult period of my life. as some did. choosing his words cautiously. and that is a hard truth for a child to understand." she continued. If you're about to take it away again. But Adam was my joy and laughter. meaning well. That was as close to a declaration of love as Jocelyn had ever come. and at ten I was so unprepared for the shattering turns life can take in an instant..Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter." he began cautiously." She frowned at the ring Robert had given her. drew in a deep breath. "It would be wrong to say I understand your grief. looked up and said simply. For months I would hear a voice or a laugh and look up. "I was forced to accept the loss. And I was glad. It was so very difficult to accept that God could have taken her. He had thought he didn't want to hear such a thing." he said. I know that I wished to die for a while." she said softly. "Thank you for not just saying there will be other children.. you see. And he did wish to be away from her. perhaps it's true. http://www. "Well. get himself more in hand. if he told her some part. What could he say? The season had been painful. "You say I've been different.com/abclit." She hesitated.. You have been the good part. Robert. at least. it was one of the traits she had so admired from the first. breaking off. "For years it was difficult. wondering what he would be doing if he were here with me now.

For a long time he held her. that you didn't die when you were ten. his mount stumbling. "But there will never be another Adam de Langley just as there will never be another Gwendyth Montagne.. "Not that son of the devil. Henry of Anjou landed at Wareham on Epiphany with some thirty or more ships full of men." Jocelyn drew in her breath. I'll pray for your son." . "Come inside and warm yourself. Robert might not realize he loved her. try to find what happiness we can for the time we have.html "God willing there will be. loving. reaching up to drag himself into thesaddle. but I'll send for him at once. sir. It's of the utmost importance that your lord march at once!" Jocelyn stared at the man in disbelief." The man shook his head. here in England! They do say demons transported him across the Channel on the very wings of one of the worst gales in ten years. "Wait. Jocelyn had never realized before how very deeply one person could love another. too. You may ride on with your news to the other lords here in the west. forcing herself to think coherently. And to Jocelyn. as I do pray for my mother every day. But her contentment was about to be shattered. exquisitely gentle in return." The man glanced at his horse." Robert moved toward the bed and sat down. I bear an urgent message for Robert of Belavoir from His Grace." he said at last."Henry?But that's impossible! He is. He would realize it himself in good time.com/abclit. We're different people because of them. though. "I'm glad. She had only to be patient. and they stared together at the shivering flames across the room. King Stephen. There was no distance between them that night as they lay together. the news coming toward her on the swift feet of a reeling. You must eat. No man could behave with a woman like that for the sake of mere liking and desire. very softly. We've no time to waste. half-frozen messenger from the south." he called out. "My husband is away. "I must ride on to reach him. her husband's words and the tenderness that went with them were enough to allow her to bid him a satisfied good-bye on the morrow. "Lady. lady. pulling his wife into his arms. stepping forward to hand Jocelyn the parchment bearing Stephen's seal. in any case. but she was certain he was beginning to. The man was spent. madam.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter." she responded. and who's to say that isn't the very purpose for which they were made? We must go on with our own lives. He slid from the saddle. to her husband that night. he is still fighting a war with France!" The man turned. and she gave all of herself. If I leave now I can reach my husband before dark. almost foundered. "You're right. http://www. and we can return by tomorrow. your mount is spent. The man carried the insignia of a lung's marshal and Jocelyn ordered the gates opened at once. almost sinking to his knees as Sir Edmund Hervey caught him. to spend the next week in contentment." Jocelyn returned.. then nodded. He's made it already as far as Devizes. waiting for him to return to Belavoir. saying nothing. I'll never make Montagne on this animal. everything she knew how to give. catch your breath and then my man here will find you a fresh mount. Robert was tender.processtext. He is here. You'll not make two leagues.

The bitter cold had frozen the mud and they went swiftly. If they pushed on. Still. But it was so dark tonight. fur-lined cloak Robert had given her.html And in scarcely a quarter-hour. clinging mud slowed their pace to a crawl in places and every rain-swollen stream caused a major delay. She couldn't sit idly by. She was determined to reach Robert. Robert would be ashamed of her if ever he learned her fears. at least. the hooves of their horses making noisy crackling sounds in the ice-rimmed puddles between the ruts. waiting and worrying. she found she could think of only two things. Her hands were so numb she could scarcely cling to the reins and she had long since ceased to feel her feet. She closed her eyes against the darkness. One of the last nights they might ever have. Sir Edmund had tried hard to dissuade her from going. Jocelyn huddled in her cloak. http://www. to know that she was wasting one of the last few nights she and Robert might have together." The disappointment was bitter. She was a warrior's wife. riding out at the head of some two dozen mounted men. gritting her teeth against her misery. pressed the ring Robert had given her against her cheek. it was difficult to curl up alone behind the blanket screening her corner pallet in Littlefield's hall. "My lady!" Jocelyn turned. Jocelyn tried to focus her mind on familiar thoughts of work—the clothing. wind-torn afternoon giving way to rain and a bitingly cold January night. Darkness caught them still a long way from the castle with a gray. Jocelyn bit her lip with her shivering. too. Jocelyn found herself dressed in her warmest gown and a heavy. they would only be courting disaster. to spend every second they had left together before he rode south. Sir Aymer recognized the men on watch in Leaworth's gatehouse. but the manor of Littlefield is only a few minutes away beyond this hill. Everyone had thought him safely embroiled in his affairs on the Continent. the enormous effort required to get her husband and his men off to war.processtext. that there would be a few more years peace. sweeping panic that rose over her in waves. But Jocelyn was adamant. and they were passed inside the walls . weapons and food that would have to be collected and packed. but the thick. And for the first time she understood what a truly terrible thing it could be to love. But as the long cold miles stretched behind her. so cold here on the floor alone with only one blanket. but Jocelyn agreed. but we'll be able to get both the men and horses out of this wet. Henry of Anjou claimed he would be king of England. She was stronger than this. As she rode. She would have to do better. fought the dangerous. will be but meager shelter. "My lady. so too had Aymer Briavel. it's still too far to Leaworth. It was impossible and terrifying that the Angevin devil could have landed in England. And he wanted her husband dead! They rode hard for Leaworth Castle. It's a small place. He was riding toward her out of the dark.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. *** Night shadows still cloaked the land when the Belavoir party was back on the road the next morning. wiser. Sir Aymer headed up her escort.com/abclit.

beginning to weep. saw one of the men gasp and blink as if she were an apparition. Her eyes swept the woman." But Jocelyn had already reached the door." She heard a rustle of bedding. far too terrified to speak. Most were still sleeping in the side aisles of the hall or ranged around the raised central hearth. had the point against the woman's throat before she knew what she was doing. Some strange woman in Robert's bed! "What do you do here?" she snapped. The polished hilt of a dagger shone dimly on the nearby coffer. She reached for the bed curtain and drew it back. "Robert. sickening crest. "Robert. There were no private upstairs apartments at Leaworth. my lady. She recognized several of the men from Belavoir. but Robert wasn't there. Jocelyn stared for a moment. Jocelyn jerked back her hand as if she'd been bitten. And then the truth hit her.." the woman gasped. Only a handful of men were awake when she entered. Have mercy. There was a woman here." she called. Jocelyn snatched it up. blue eyes..html without fanfare.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. I fetched the lord wine. the sound of a shifting mattress as someone abruptly sat up. a body Robert would have been enjoying while she'd lain awake last night worrying for him. "How dare you? How dare you come here to my husband's bed?" The woman clutched the blanket to her chest. overwhelmed by a bitterness." she called over one shoulder. "I. far down.com/abclit. before God. I did but do as my master bade me. not waiting for the others. the very stupidity of the question making her reel. http://www. wait! I'll fetch my lord. where did you spring from?" he gasped. and a shapely body hinted at beneath the bed coverings. sweeping her up and over a dizzying. "I but did as I was bade. That is all. "Lady! Christ's mercy. "Belavoir. into a whirlpool of pain. "We are weary and frozen and so very glad to have reached you here. a hatred so powerful she had never even dreamed such a feeling existed. have mercy. Awave of disbelief took her. mistress! Oh. with honey-gold hair. "I asked a question.processtext. Jocelyn slipped from her mount. by way of Littleton. s-stayed as he asked. "How came you to be here?" The woman was either too stupid or too frightened to speak. about the same age as Jocelyn herself. flinging her down. I do swear.. unable for a moment to take in what she saw. Jocelyn flicked the knife point. only the usual first floor storerooms below and the vast open hall with the lord's chamber partitioned off at the back. Have mercy!" . for the love of God. Jocelyn opened the door." "Lady. already heading for the lord's solar in back of the hall. lady. A few sleepyservants were setting out pitchers of ale and watered wine on one table with some leftover bread from the night before. She was young. Oh. She swept past the table. She was surprised Robert was still abed for even on the bitterest days he rose early. found herself staring into the terrified eyes of a stranger." she hissed. and ran swiftly up the stairs and into the hall..

I do swear on my soul!" Jocelyn nodded. You know you can't. Jocelyn swallowed hard. I said! Close the door and wait for me outside. not with this pretty fool. "I. never! Never before. I'll not be staying here after all. Sweet Mary intercede for her soul. only a month! And Robert had been within a half-day's ride of her.. we did arrive unexpectedly. "What's your name?" "Edith. hadn't expected to have to deal with it quite so soon. Had . It was so very difficult to believe her husband had grown weary of her already. Her eyes moved over the woman again. They had been married a month. her hand not to shake.. then reached deliberately for the blanket. "The fault lies elsewhere. an incredible disbelief.processtext. and where is my lord?" Edith had managed to stop her sobbing. She knew that.html Aymer's voice came softly from behind them. she couldn't kill this woman. but she had to believe it." It was only then that Jocelyn became aware of the sound of excited male voices coming to her from the hall. willing her voice not to tremble. "Lady." "Madam. "Get out and close the door. of the noise and commotion in the doorway. no. But she wanted to." she said. used in the same way he used hers. a body Robert would have caressed. "Well. flinging it back to reveal the exquisitely-shaped female body she had expected. In truth we—" "Get out. a certainty that she had strayed somehow into a nightmare. She was growing sick to her stomach. for she did most assuredly want to! Aymer still hadn't moved." For a moment more there was silence. the torrent of golden hair.com/abclit. and any woman who thought differently was in for a great deal of hurt. enjoyed. Jocelyn hadn't even noticed the sound of the door. It was God's truth and man's defense. She lowered the knife. Still. Edith. Men weren't expected to be faithful. she hadn't expected the hurt to be so painful. I don't know. you can't kill her.. She forced herself to imagine every sickening image she could call up. "I don't intend to kill her. "Oh. He was gone when I waked. The evidence was here in living flesh." Jocelyn drew in a steadying breath. "I'll do exactly as I wish.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. Then the door closed softly as he left. Jocelyn stared at the woman. still eyeing the knife. She didn't turn around. No. lady. sick with an ungovernable rage.." she countered coldly. http://www." the woman said. noting the vivid blue eyes. mistress. Now go outside and tell our men to ready themselves." "And have you lain with him before?" Edith's eyes widened with horror. Merciful Christ.

Jocelyn was already moving toward the door. pitched it down beside the woman on the bed. I've urgent work back at Belavoir and cannot wait. stared at it and then at Jocelyn as if her mistress had truly gone mad. She had never so abused her own power. something gave way inside her. since I've seen neither of them.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. terrified creature on the bed. Jocelyn lifted her chin. "Youdeliver it!" she said acidly. murmured cautiously. where he had pleasured himself with this woman. I take it." She narrowed her eyes.. Robert had lied. I do order you to stay here. She wanted to get out. waiting for her to emerge. She owned little of any value herself. but this was certainly appropriate. began hacking it off with the dagger. He had lied even in this small thing." she responded without looking back. Now she understood both his suspicions and his rage." Jocelyn lifted the king's letter from inside her bodice. "Find your lord then and give him this. wondering now if that were really true. she would have had no choice if Robert had wanted her. She had hung it about her neck as protection from the weather.. Jocelyn fumbled for the costly ring her husband had given her. incredulous. madam. remembering how outraged Robert had been when he had come upon her and Aymer together. to deliver this letter personally to your lord.com/abclit. My lord would have my head if any ill did befall you. I may keep this?" she asked." "But any man here can deliver this." she said stiffly. run his fingers through it as he did hers? At the thought. Jocelyn caught up a fistful of the woman's hair. the woman wasn't to blame.." Aymer was staring at her oddly. Besides. had to get out quickly." Jocelyn held his eyes. But outside the door the men were all awake now. "For your loss. http://www. with Sir Geoffrey. "I've two dozen armed men outside and am perfectly capable of getting back to Belavoir without you.processtext. She suspected that Robert would understand this as well. the bed where Robert had lain last night. the castellan here. moved directly toward Aymer Briavel as if nothing out of the ordinary had occurred. "For the loss of your hair. madam. "One of the servants said they rode out with Sir William. "I think it far more appropriate that way. at the carpet of severed hair. We must begin making preparations for war." He nodded. "I. Jocelyn stared at the sobbing." . All at once she was ashamed.html Robert played with it. In fact. and a half dozen men just at daybreak. She was a servant.. "Yes. had never taken out her anger on someone who couldn't fight back. She twisted the ring from her finger. It was all over in an instant. A mass of hair littered the bed like a sea of shorn wheat. "I ride with you. He had said he favoreddark hair! And with that." The woman picked up the ring. "My lord is obviously still out.

she knew.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter.html Then she turned without waiting for his answer. *** It was late afternoon when they came within sight of Belavoir. hands riding sword hilts as they drew their mounts to a halt. either at her or too pointedly away. A groom held Jocelyn's mare as Aymer boosted her into the saddle. http://www. that he would probably have mistresses at all his castles as a great many lords did." Jocelyn was instantly surrounded by a host of grim-faced soldiers. wondering how she would ever reconcile herself to the knowledge that her husband lay with other women when he chose. In fact he'd made it painfully clear he did not. If she'd found him with that woman. her hands curled within the warm fur of her cloak. her burning eyes. crossing the room as men scrambled to get out of her path. "Is there any message. She lifted her head. if you'd but wait a bit.com/abclit. She couldn't. Her escort from Belavoir was already mounted and waiting in the bailey. She kicked her mare into a canter as the gates swept past in a hot blur of tears. "Lady. for a long time to come. My lord will wish—" "No!" It was difficult to retain her composure before all these curious eyes. "My lady. She was beginning to feel only hurt. "I don't recognize him. The day had warmed just enough to make the roads nearly impassible again. there's a man riding toward us from the castle. The news must have spread like lightning for all were staring. that he desired her. Robert had told her he liked and respected her. gathered her reins and swung her mount toward the gate. She stared up the hill toward Belavoir. cry! Aymer hurried to catch up with her as she went down the stairs. grateful for the rush of cold air against her flushed cheeks. "It's all right. She was cold and miserable and the worst of it was that she knew she had none to blame for her disappointment this morning but herself. She stepped outside. "Lady.processtext. She was the one who had loved him too much. not enough to provide ease to the travelers. wait!" Aymer called. who had foolishly broken her heart for a simple infidelity no man would think twice over. There was something familiar about both the man and the blooded bay stallion he sat." she said wearily. She had made fool enough of herself without this." one of the men called out. This morning's scene would be remembered.wouldn't. It would be talked of. wondering just how much more she was going to be called on to endure . Brian had warned her of what was coming and for once her brother had been right. Jocelyn rode with her head down. But she was still reeling from the hurt. Robert de Langley wasn't the man to be satisfied with any one woman for long. She was only glad Robert had been away.. He had never said he loved her. anything you'd have me tell Lord Robert?" But Jocelyn didn't answer. The saving rage was gone. didn't dare even look back..

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in one day. "You may be at ease. It is only my brother. He does mean us no harm."

Twenty-Two "Do you know what you're going to say?" Robert squinted up the hill toward the dark, forbidding bulk of Belavoir Castle. This was the first time in all his life he had ever dreaded reaching home. "No," he said baldly. "What can a man say when he's in the wrong?" Geoffrey didn't respond and they rode on through the darkness. "Is Aymer still in a pet?" Robert asked at last. "Aye, he wouldn't talk much even to me. He'll apologize for his outburst later, I'm sure." Geoffrey hesitateda moment, then added carefully, "Your men do like your lady wife, you know, Robert. They've taken to calling her the Lioness among themselves." Robert twisted in the saddle, and looked at his friend in astonishment. "Thewhat?" "The Lioness. It's a term of much admiration and respect, I believe." Despite all the grim happenings of the day, the heaviness and worry in his heart, Robert chuckled. "It fits her," he said. "By the Mass, it does fit. I only wish she might believe it when I tell her." He hesitated, wondering if Jocelyn would believe him about anything ever again. He had caused her a great deal of hurt—and all for nothing. For a fruitless effort to distance himself with a woman he couldn't even bed until it was Jocelyn herself he had imagined in his arms. And the worst of it was that with Henry rampaging in England, he would have so little time to make this up, to ease a hurt he had never even meant his wife to know. He thought of his enemy, of the dangers he would be facing within a few days. This would be a personal war, both for him and for Henry. The Angevins had been trying to rid the world of him for years. He didn't believe they'd succeed, still he didn't want to ride off and leave his wife with only that last ugly scene at Leaworth for a memory. "You'd best hope she lets you get close enough to tell her anything at all," Geoffrey was saying, amusement in his voice for the first time all night. "Aymer did say in all seriousness that he feared for that poor woman's life this morning. You may have your lionesses, Robert. I'd not want a woman like that wroth with me!" They were nearing the great curtain wall and the outer gates of the castle. The drawbridge was already down in expectation of his arrival, but across the bridge the gates and portcullis were still shut. One of his men hailed the gatehouse and Robert stared thoughtfully up at the towering blackness of the walls. "I'd be well served, you know, if she kept me locked outside here to freeze." But the portcullis was lifting, the gates already swinging open. Robert nudged his mount forward onto the drawbridge. It was a measure of how deeply he cared for his wife that it was Jocelyn he'd been thinking about all day, Jocelyn he'd worried about instead of this latest astounding move by Henry of Anjou. The Angevin had done the one thing no one had expected, the one thing for which no one was prepared.

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In the middle of a winter truce in one war, he had plunged into another across the sea. It was a brilliant stroke, and one he should have been expecting. Robert frowned as he rode into the bailey, thinking of the difficulties involved in fighting a protracted winter campaign, the difficulties for him especially since he had just retaken his lands. Since word of his resurrection had leaked out, men had been pouring into Belavoir seeking service. He had been expecting it, had counted on it to swell the thinning ranks of his veterans, and he had hoarded the coins won in those last raids across the Channel for the sole purpose of buying men. Still he didn't have nearly so many men as he would need and, despite Geoffrey's tireless efforts, they weren't as well trained as he would have liked. He glanced up from his musing, some inner sense calling a warning. The bailey was darker than usual. Only a few torches burned in the gatehouse. He lifted his head, narrowed his eyes, listening to survival instincts well honed through the years. "Ware, Geoffrey," he murmured, swinging Belisaire around, easing back toward the gate where his men were still filing in. A soldier stood back from the gate, holding a blazing torch well away from his face. This wasn't the usual practice at all. His men usually crowded close, seeking a word, a smile, some bit of notice, when he rode in. "Well, Piers, how goes the night?" he called. The man coughed, muttered thickly, "All's well, milord." All's well... but he had no man named Piers! With a sharp jab of his spurs, Robert crashed his stallion into the man, making a swift and bloody end to the imposter. "We are ambushed!" he shouted. "Ware, hold the gate!" It was only an instant of warning, but it was enough. Cold-numbed hands grappled clumsily for swords and shields, but his men were able to withstand that first rush of attackers swarming out from midnight shadows along the walls. Robert sent Belisaire careening into the thickest of the group, laying about with sword and shield, trusting his men to hold the gates as he'd ordered. They couldn't retreat for they'd lose Belavoir, leaving Jocelyn a helpless hostage. Still he knew better than to let his only escape route be cut off. The fighting surged and swirled and raged all around him. Swords clanged and screeched together, thudded against leather armor and clanged off chain mail. Men shouted and horses squealed with rage and pain. Robert hacked off a hand grasping at Belisaire's bridle, dismembered a sword arm thrusting for his stallion's belly. It was difficult to make out anything in this confusion of darkness and blood, still it sounded as if... as if— He squinted into the writhing, whirling darkness and sucked in his breath. Sweet Christ, they were killing the horses! These men were killing the horses, putting his knights on foot, then overwhelming them with greater numbers. His knights had little room to maneuver anyway, while his infantry were spent from a

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long, exhausting march in the cold and the mud. He glanced up at the grim black outline of the keep in a rage. His men didn't stand a chance hemmed up here like this, but sweet God in heaven, Jocelyn was in there somewhere! Belisaire trumpted with pain, lashed out as a sword point clipped his flank, as another laid open his shoulder. Robert loped off another arm, kicked free of his stirrup and sent a man reeling with a vicious, smashing boot to the face. Only a few yards away another horse went down, squealing and thrashing. Robert fought his way to the knight's rescue. "Fall back," he shouted, grabbing up his man and carrying him toward the gate. "Fall back. Out... get out if you can!" Just ahead he could see a handful of his men furiously defending the gate. The enemy were trying desperately to close off his retreat."De Langley," Robert shouted, plunging through toward the gate."To me! Out... out!" His men were hacking their way toward him, streaming through the gate and on to the safety outside. The fighting narrowed, intensified, as the entire struggle funneled down to this one narrow hole in the wall. Robert swung from the saddle, sending his stallion galloping through the gateway and out. He deliberately took up a position in the worst of the fighting near a hacking, slashing demon he recognized as his second-in-command. "Robert, get out!" Geoffrey shouted. "It's you they want. Get out! Now, before you go down!" Robert beat back a man with his shield, hacked at three others who were trying to catch him about the waist. Geoffrey was right. There were far too many men here, and they were focusing their efforts on him. "Fall back!" he shouted. "Back!" Gradually Robert and the handfulof men still with him inched their way from the deathtrap the bailey had become. Only the most desperate and vicious of fighting gotthem safely through the gate and back across the drawbridge. "Robert... God be praised!" It was Aymer who grabbed him first as he came off the bridge. Then more of his men were crowding close, reaching out to touch him, to speak a word, as if they wanted reassurance he was still flesh, as if they couldn't quite discount the legends. They stood together in the darkness staring grimly across the moat at Belavoir's walls. "Robert, she wouldn't..." Aymer hesitated. "In truth the lady Jocelyn was angry this morning, but I swear she'd never—" "No," Robert said abruptly, forestalling a defense that was completely unnecessary. "She wouldn't." *** They made camp outside in the cold as best they could, treating their own cuts and bruises, sending the more seriously injured by wagon to Harclay. Robert slept for a time, but at first light he was up and staring at the shadowy walls of Belavoir in a bleak and silent rage. One of his worst fears had come to pass, and there was absolutely nothing he could do about it.

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Geoffrey brought him watered wine and some bread to break his fast. "Have you thought any more on whom it might be?" "Have I thought on anything else?" Robert countered. "It could be anyone who supports Henry. Chester, I suppose, he's treacherous enough to murder me in the dark. Though if I were a betting man, Geoffrey, I'd put money on my own dear family by marriage." Geoffrey didn't respond and Robert took a long drink. "Judas, I do pray it's Montagne! I'll not have to fear so for Jocelyn if that be the case. Besides being his own flesh and blood, she's worth more alive to the man than she is dead. He has only to wait for my death to regain all he's lost and more." "Wait for your death, or arrange it?" Geoffrey asked quietly. Robert took another long drink, thought of that frantic letter from Stephen, of a grim-faced young man withreddish hair and eyes like flint, a man he had almost killed once with his bare hands. "Either," he responded grimly. "My lord, they're opening the gate!" Robert swung to his feet, hastily following his man to the edge of the camp. A wave of relief swept him. It was Brian Montagne riding out onto the drawbridge. "Well, brother mine," he shouted, "is this the way you mind a treaty?" "That treaty is no longer binding," Brian called back. "Your liege lord and mine are now at war." So the Montagnes had declared for Henry. Robert wasn't all that surprised. "You turn your back on your rightful king and support the Angevin? I wish you joy of this moment then, for you'll never live to see Henry crowned." "I think I will. It's you, de Langley, you who may not live to do so." "That's in God's hands, of course." Robert couldn't quite resist a taunt. "However, you did fumble your murder attempt last night. What a shame. I'm sure you'd have won the Angevin's everlasting gratitude and favor." "Oh, I think Henry will be grateful enough when he hears I hold Belavoir for him." Brian laughed. "And all because you can't manage your women. What a joke it will be about the camps. The key to the west handed over by a raging, jealous wife. The vital fortress of Belavoir lost because Robert de Langley couldn't keep his cock between his legs." Geoffrey stiffened, but Robert ignored the remark. "And just where is your father in all this. Does Montagne leave a boy to hold Belavoir?" "You'll find out whether I be man or boy soon enough. But as for my father, he is gone with the earls of Chester, Hereford, and Cornwall, with Colwick and Pelham and a host of others to support Henry." Robert frowned. Here was grim news indeed. Men of weight were going over to the Angevin. "Stephen is king, Brian. Henry will be beaten as he was twice before. And ifI find at the end of all this that you've hurt my wife in any way at all there'll be no place on God's earth for you to hide from me!" Brian laughed again and swung his horse toward the gate. "Look to yourself, de Langley! You're the one

But he wasn't ready to deal with Jocelyn yet. It could be a ticklish situation." Aymer nodded. send me word if there's any change. "Just a few sips at a time whenever she starts to wake. glanced up and added sharply. if you chance to see Jocelyn. What would you have her do?" Brian Montagne didn't even look up from his supper." He chewed for a moment. "The hell of it is that I can do nothing to help her. We couldn't get inside there by force were we numbered a thousand times greater than we are.com/abclit. And Montagne will be watching for tricks. clenching his fists. It was a pity he hadn't finished de Langley. Aymer. she wouldn't be up there right now." Robert stood. "Give her more of that wine mixed with poppy. staring grimly at Belavoir's thick walls. Henry will be overjoyed to find he has been in England scarcely a week and has already deprived me of my home. but she would never do such a thing behind my back!" He swung around. "Gather up what men and supplies we can from my other manors and head south to meet Stephen. I'm riding south as my king has commanded.html most apt to be doing the hiding. moving quickly up the steps to the high table. I don't want her dead. Not too much. get ready to face the fight of our lives. Enough to make her sleep. the wench Alyssent me to tell you your lady sister is waking up. "What are we going to do?" "Break camp. do you?" Robert turned. http://www. Aymer." Aymer stared at him incredulously. are staying here." *** The man crossed Belavoir's torchlit hall. A fight would be too dangerous for so small a force. "You know my lady. he had managed to capture one of the most important fortresses in the west. Still. Some day he might be ." Geoffrey frowned. You'll remain here and keep watch. Again. Robert turned. You. she might have come at me with a dagger herself yesterday. It had been a satisfying day and he felt better than he had in a long time. his new liege lord would surely be pleased with him. "You don't believe a word of it." The man nodded and turned away. "My treacherous brother-by-marriage did speak the truth in one thing. you and a dozen men we'll handpick.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. By a rare stroke of good luck plus some fast thinking and hard fighting. Do you really think if Jocelyn had turned over Belavoir for hatred of me. and Brian returned to his dinner. and he'd have to think how best to handle it. "No. the vast tracts of land he would one day control. "You mean we're just going to turn our backs and ride out?" Robert shook his head. "He's lying!" Aymer spat from behind him. his thoughts on the respect he would soon command. flinging her defiance in my teeth for all to hear? God's truth. stared bleakly across the moat one last time. watching the cocky young man disappear inside Belavoir. You'll do nothing to engage Montagne in any case." Robert returned.processtext. mind. "My lord.

Alys's voice! Brian and Alys? It didn't make sense. Jocelyn lay perfectly still. Slept easy last night. She must have been. That it might truly kill her this time. euphoric images of Robert and her mother clashed with dark. By one method or another. if you've given her more of that drugged wine.html mentioned in the same breath with men like Cornwall and Gloucester. m'lord. I'll be back by afternoon. "Is she awake yet?" Brian's voice. Brian and that insolent tanner's daughter. Twenty-Three She had been sick. Weil try to wake her then. . dreams he was determined to make reality. added almost angrily.. "Let her sleep the rest of the morning. He wanted her alive and well and quiet. For now anyway." Jocelyn held herself very still. "Not yet. he didn't want Jocelyn dead. Nothing seemed to fit. then the sound of the door closing. No retching today. took a few sips of water. wrenching nausea would return. And this was no dream. you'll be sorry! I told you to stop it yesterday. "This is the third day now she's had nothing to eat. girl.processtext. http://www." the girl returned sulkily. No. m'lord.. "Well. maybe Leicester or even Ranulf of Chester. she'll die of starvation if we don't get something to stay down!" Three days? Three days she'd been like this? Dear God." "By the Mass. whirling images into thoughts. m'lord. unsettling ones of Brian. She hadn't opened her eyes. sick unto death." Her brother sounded oddly uncertain.." He hesitated. she was afraid. But it was difficult when her head hurt so much..com/abclit. Afraid the room would start to spin and that horrible. where was Robert? And where was she? "Aye. his father had more than doubled the size of the original Montagne holdings. Jesus. Brian planned to double them again. She wasn't quite certain she could yet and besides. She needed to think." "She's had none since your order. to remember what had happened. Wonderful. Alys. trying to capture and organize the speeding. Jocelyn heard footsteps cross the floor.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. and she was regaining enough comprehension to realize she had no idea what was real and what was not. Memories spun and tumbled with dreams. He smiled a little at his grand dreams. to endure this terrible pounding that was about to take off the top of her head.

"Not too much. He had talked endlessly of the men he feared were going over to Henry. All the pain.com/abclit.. Still it was bitter to watch as Alys turned the cup up and drained it. You'd best wait a bit. the betrayal. She had told it to countless patients herself. But there was something else. They had ridden in together. She didn't want them to know she was awake. Then he had poured them both wine. Henry! Henry of Anjou was in England! Robert had probably already gone to war.. staring out through thin slits beneath her lashes.. "Water. . He'd come to ride with her husband against Henry. Why Alys? Why a woman the whole keep knew she didn't like? Because she was the only one Brian could trust not to aid her. She had ordered a hasty supper prepared. ignoring her dry mouth and the thirst that was becoming unbearable. But after only two swallows. she and Brian. Alys drew it away. her escort and her brother's men. And that had been three days ago. but what was Brian doing here? And why was that sly wench Alys sitting with her? Jocelyn closed her eyes. watching with dark." Alys smiled thinly. be you awake?" Jocelyn opened her eyes. Jocelyn drew in a slow.. It's not good t'be drinkin' so much as t'make yourself sick. And then. But surprisingly. shuddering breath. holding it so that Jocelyn could take a sip." "But. of the dangers of a winter campaign. Yes. She was exhausted from that long ride in the cold and the extremes of emotion she had dealt with all day. That woman at Leaworth! She could certainly remember that. But why had he left her with Brian? She lifted her eyelids. recall all that had occurred.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter.. Brian had been here.processtext. that was it! Brian and his men had been waiting." "You'd best wait a bit. "Don't fret now. something she couldn't quite grasp. of things he would never have spoken of with her before.html She remembered all the way back before Christmas." Jocelyn's mouth was still so dry it was difficult to speak." Alys rose and poured a brimming cup.. My lady. Then the time before Robert had ridden to Leaworth. Alys sat near the bed. and then. as she wiped her wet mouth with the back of one hand. Brian had followed. then excused herself upstairs. managed to force one word. I'll be gettin' you more later. http://www. She could see that clearly enough. He haddrugged her! He must have managed to take Belavoir as well. "I thirst. speculative eyes." Jocelyn knew that. managed to make the words insulting. She remembered leaving Leaworth and riding for Belavoir. Not until she could think clearly. Jocelyn opened her mouth. "Lady. had been in a rage because Sir Edmund wouldn't open the gates. fighting the pain. This was her bedchamber at Belavoir.

With your husband and his men away. to discover the number of men he could put on the field." "Nor will Sir Edmund. By the way. "But then I did manage a bit more than We'd planned." she said bitingly. "You asked for food and lodging for yourself and your men. fashioning for herself the magnificent image of a tall. They rode south to meet Henry at Devizes by a secret agreement days ago. tell me you did not!" "Don't distress yourself. tawny-haired man in a sunlit scarlet surcoat." Jocelyn held her voice steady with an effort. and Jocelyn smiled. too draining even to hate. You'll soon see all has happened for the best. sister.com/abclit. First Adelise runs away taking a considerable fortune with her. you've given us quite a scare. "Well. And she was no longer afraid. Jocelyn. "If I'd known. had even washed her face and made Alys brush out her hair. He and his men are cooling their heels in the dungeon at present. "And what have you done?" "We've declared for Henry. I did tell him when he arrived that you handed the castle over to me in a jealous rage. Hereford. You'd be better served to mind your tongue and listen to what I have to say. Brian. "You've slept so much I feared you might never wake. "You didn't! Brian. it makes a wonderful story to pass on to the Angevins. let herself drift and swirl and become one with the images. The great Lion of Normandy can't even manage the women of our family!" .Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. the earls of Chester. "The man should never have tangled with the Montagnes." Jocelyn felt all the blood drain from her face." "You're too outspoken." He chuckled. Father and I. and Cornwall. madam." Jocelyn put as much contempt as she could into her voice. A man with beautiful golden eyes and two rearing lions upon one shoulder." He grinned. Then the man and the lions seemed to merge. She closed her eyes. http://www. a host of other barons and their vassals by now. I'll never forgive myself for that. but you'll be much better off for what I've done. turning inward in the way she had learned as a child. You may not like it. along with Pelham and his father. I was so foolish as to overrule Sir Edmund and let you have it.processtext. "Nor will your husband either. but I stayed back here to spy out what de Langley was doing. It was difficult to think." Brianremarked as he crossed the room. I'd have warned you that only a little might prove too much.html Jocelyn stared back. but by then Jocelyn had slept several hours and had even consumed some broth Alys had grudgingly sent for. I've heard the story of how you found his mistress. She was better prepared to face him. Salisbury. But then I've never been drugged before. Believe me. I did throw that in his face on your behalf. it wasn't too difficult to take the castle. once you'd so obligingly given us the run of the place. obviously gloating." Brian grinned. *** Brian returned that afternoon." "I'm sorry I frightened you. then you hand Belavoir over to his enemies.

" So much. of course." He smiled. he'll win. and I tell you. Besides. if your lord does even survive the fighting." "What are you saying?" "The young duke of Normandy does hate your husband. madam. Think of the damage you may have done. Brian studied her thoughtfully. yes. "But my husband is not so forgiving. to protect you from men who would seize you for your inheritance." she said dryly. he was too good-hearted to be a king. out of it. You did always wish to live quietly at Warford. I doubt he'll survive the fighting in the south.com/abclit." Jocelyn held his eyes.processtext. you inherit all when he dies. Do you think when he's king he'll leave any stone unturned to find de Langley and destroy him. that is." "It doesn't matter. He does hold most of England. Jocelyn. I've done you a favor. Brian shrugged." "You don't know that. "Of course. and she forced herself to ." Jocelyn returned. what had she done? What would he think? "This is no laughing matter. I'll give you another matter to think on then." she said in as calma voiceas she could manage. No. But her brother was still speaking." he returned with a casualness that was truly chilling. We all will. had Robert always said. You'll be much better. one a growing number of others seem willing to take as well. I've brought you. But Henry will win. you're ready to listen. and I can arrange for you to do just that. Brian! Robert might actually believe you. if Stephen is victorious?" she asked. It was Stephen's main failing." The words made Jocelyn's blood run cold. Your husband leaves no heirs. "And what if Henry doesn't win. "Good. even if Stephen wins. "You were forced into this marriage. "You may have your dower lands. Unless you're breeding yet. You'll need someone to manage things for you. you'll be my protector. OneFa ther and I are willing to take. willing or not. You'll be a woman of substance with those alone. madam. he has never been known to wreak vengeance on his enemies. Besides it wouldn't do any good.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. But for how long? If she died childless. Sweet Mother of God. If you're not already a widow. Jocelyn.A calculated risk.html Jocelyn thought of her husband's bitterness as he had told her of Marguerite and of that memorable scene she had made at Leaworth." "And. A blood bond with de Langley might prove disastrous in times to come. Brian would inherit those lands as well. "Have you thought about that?" "Stephen is strong still. you soon will be. has always been ready and eager to take the strayed lambs back into the fold. "What do you think he'll do to you for this?" "I doubt I'll have to worry about that. too. Your husband is one for lost causes. She was too weak to rage at her brother. I've met the man." Jocelyn lay back against the pillow. http://www. much safer. onto the winning side. "Very well. sooner or later.

This was the man. Jocelyn eyed the guard and her heart began to pump wildly. It's what I would prefer. She swallowed hard." Jocelyn merely stared at him. Brian. The man was tall and broad-shouldered and just beneath his ear. "I can and I will. "But I was told to bring the lady food. "Out. Jocelyn. Maude the herb woman said it was needful." A commotion sounded at the outer door. "There's one thing more you should know. "You've always been good at that." He hesitated. Her head was still reeling. There's really nothing else you can do. "You need to rest here and regain your strength. Perhaps there's something in what you say. the man who had tried to kill Robert that night in the bailey.html listen. My force is small." Brian nodded and called toa guard who opened the door to escort the boy in. And now he'd done this. "You see. lady. Jocelyn stared at her brother. puckering scar disfigured the flesh. your husband will never forgive you." Adam was muttering in a surly.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. smiled. but I've plenty of men to hold Belavoir and keep you closely guarded. uneducated voice." Jocelyn fought to pull her scattered wits together. "There's soup here. Adelise is fond of you. If Maude sent something. there really isn't much to think on. And he was wearing her brother's livery! "Maude said to commend the soup. What was there to say when her whole world was being destroyed? Brian smiled back at her. I sent Duke Henry a message commending your aid in the taking of Belavoir. However there's far too much at stake here for sentiment to play any part. listening." she said. "Said it'd do you good." Brian jerked his head toward the door. You've no choice but to come in with me. Even if he lives. "I would eat now and rest. I can make your life hell. an ugly. Brian." Adam!Jocelyn sat forward at once.com/abclit. He placed the tray on the bed beside her." she managed." Adam directed his eyes significantly toward the soup. it's bound to do me good. looked swiftly away. Brian turned his head. was surprised to find he had dirtied his hair and was wearing a threadbare tunic. I sent two couriers. That the lady would need it for strength." . http://www." He nodded. So Brian had been behind that ambush attempt. "I can be generous if you cooperate.processtext. She glanced up at Adam. If you cause me trouble. Give me time. "Thank her for me. Let me think on all you've said. Brian. and I'd hate to distress her." "I've no doubt of it. "I do feel I could eat. Then he bowed toward Brian and was gone." a shrill voice whined. only one had orders to stumble into Stephen's patrols by design. some bread and weak ale. She swallowed hard. He was obviously masquerading as a kitchen lackey. but I'm too exhausted even to think on it. Actually. forced a smile for his benefit. Jocelyn. "Tell her I'll eat what I can. boy." He held her eyes.

She had always hated inactivity and now boredom became her worst enemy.com/abclit. Jocelyn was already lifting her bowl of soup. ordering the boy to get himself out of Belavoir. lady. It did her good to see a friendly face. sometimes Adam as he brought up her food or water for washing. but Jocelyn continued to be closely held in her apartments at Belavoir. The king arrived to relieve the siege and thousands of men of both sides had drawn up facing each other across the flooding river Avon. No doubt he'd hoped to make her a wealthy widow before she had even awakened. impossible even to cross the swollen river. even if it took her last breath! She stared down into her soup. the nights even worse as she lay in the darkness andthought of Robert. the weeks into a month and then two. Henry laid waste the town. The news of a great battle that should have been fought at Malmesbury and hadn't been. She offered up a short. shoved it under the covers just as Alys returned to the room. So Brian had tried another ambush in the dark. Underneath was a scrap of parchment with a crudely lettered message in Adam's cramped hand. Brian rode south to join Henry. That's all I wanted to know. She had a great deal to think on just now. The days were tortured and endless. She made a pretense of sipping her soup. Do not fear! Jocelyn squeezed her eyes shut in an agony. We are all with you.processtext. Twice now Brian had tried to murder her husband and twice he had failed. was even a little selfishly relieved though she prayed she wouldn't regret it. saw only the sullen Alys and a few of her brother's men." And as her brother disappeared through the door. He would fail in this scheme to hold her as well. *** The days slid into a week. she'd make certain of that. Her brother was wrong. swallowing back all her anguish and rage.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. but the castle had held for Stephen. but then Henry had been handed Stephen's castle by a traitorous castellan who had changed sides at the last moment. A terrible ice storm had begun to rage and it was impossible to fight. It was impossible to plot an escape. "No. Lord Robert did escape the ambush in the bailey three nights ago. occasionally the man with the scar. She was kept hidden away from the rest of the castlefolk. Still." She nodded. http://www. . fervent prayer of thanks for his failure. "Thank you. "Was our father a party to this? Does he know what you've done to me?" Brian hesitated. wondering what he must be thinking of her. she wasn't surprised when he ignored her note. She smuggled a message to Adam. already beginning to plan.html He turned to go. trickled back. Do not fear! That dear fool of a boy would get himself killed! She crumpled the note. A temporary truce was worked out. but Jocelyn stopped him. Do not fear. No matter what happened.

His men were well within summoning distance but far enough not to overhear their words. but she scarcely cared. She would gladly have gone with the devil himself to get outside. Brian knew she hated confinement. I suppose. Brian met her with a smile. He'll take you downstairs." His eyes met hers. She dressed in haste. that it's given you time to think. "It isn't what I'd have chosen. checking several of the fields that would soon be plowed. *** "Lady.html Jocelyn cringed at the news. http://www. So too must the whole country be thinking of her.com/abclit. and he'll take you for a ride." Jocelyn bit her lip. lying awake and frightened all night in the dark. watching her. She prayed earnestly for wisdom.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. She was closer to giving up. "You wouldn't like being . They strolled a few paces upstream and Brian stopped. stopping to water the horses where a shallow stream flowed down from the nearby hills. your lord brother sends word to dress yourself warmly this morning. She hadn't the slightest idea what Brian was up to." Jocelyn slid from her horse. Stephen is strong. you always did hate being shut up. This could be a long war. but Henry is determined. As I recall. snatching out a heavy woolen tunic and bliaut. "Yes." she said." Jocelyn stared at Alys as if the woman were speaking Saracen. My sister and I will walk." Jocelyn spun toward her coffer." "These last weeks have been difficult. And that night. "Take care of the horses. prayed daily and hourly for Robert. "That's what his man said. for the strength and grace to endure. "You seem to be enjoying your ride. she wept in fear and frustration. They rode for nearly an hour. The sun is out. Brian helped her into the saddle. took her arm with a show ofgallantry and led her to the high table where they ate a hurried meal of bread and ale. He knew and had done it on purpose. Brian dismounted and handed his reins to a squire. She was actually to be allowed outside for a ride! She didn't care that it was with Brian. Said to let him know when you're ready. "I hope the need for that is past. She was too thankful to be outside again in the sun and the wind. Then they went outside into the bailey where their mounts were already waiting. servants stopped their work to stare at her in surprise. "Aride?" Alys shrugged. that he would live.processtext. that he might one day forgive her for what she hadn't even done. nearer to total despair than she had ever been in her life. his next words chilling. then swung up himself and they trotted out the gates with a party of armed men following behind. for the first time since she had entered this nightmare. And then her brother came back to Belavoir. was escorted downstairs and into the hall." he said. Everywhere.

kicked at a tuft of dead grass. and beyond." May God in his mercy forgive her. http://www." Jocelyn held her face expressionless. "You do know that the story of how you turned over Belavoir has spread throughout England. "No. frowned. held his eyes.processtext. However. though. She lifted her chin." Jocelyn stared at him in amazement. and see you he will. I hadn't planned on telling you this." Jocelyn held his eyes. We'll be leaving in the morning. "It's become a bit more complicated than I'd first planned. shrugged. "No. But then it all made sense. Whatever she had expected it wasn't this.." she said evenly. The duke wants to meet you. I wouldn't like that at all. "I know." she said swiftly. Jocelyn. "You've not met the man. "I've never thought you stupid. only think.com/abclit. at least not yet." Brian nodded in satisfaction. "Of course. If aught happens to Robert. Your husband is a laughingstock. but if she ever had the chance she was going to cut Brian's throat. "There's something else you must know first. then. Jocelyn." "And you believe him?" she cried. impossible to sway once his mind is made up. You'll have schemed in all this for naught." Brian squatted down beside the stream. You and Father will lose control of the de Langley lands. there's no holding him. "Yes. He's different from any other." When the gates of hell froze shut! ." He glanced up. Henry of Anjou hated her husband." He glanced away. but you're going to have to cooperate now or lose all." "Do you take me for a fool? I've thought of that. madam. he'll never take you back—not unless it's to cage you as he did his first wife. I would know what you want of me. "You cannot hope to go back to him. He wishes to see you. Even if by some miracle he survives this war." Brian frowned. "If I fall to Henry he can make whatever disposal of my person and lands he sees fit. I know you hate me.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter.A lie toan enemy is no lie at all. He wanted his enemy's wife in his hands—even a traitorous wife. I've already given orders. Once the bit's in his teeth. I think you'll go along. picked up a twig and began breaking it into bits. Brian. I need your cooperation.html confined like this to the end of it." He hesitated. he can marry me off to whichever of his supporters he wants to reward. "Are you ready to listen. smiling thinly at her.. Henry assures me that won't be the case. need to know you'll go along with whatever story I tell the duke. held her eyes. to strike a bargain with me in good faith?" An old Welsh saying spun through her head. He glanced back. you know. It was too rich a tale for men to keep to themselves. In fact he insists that I bring you to him at Gloucester. "I'd supposed it had by now.

he didn't want to know. say and do all I tell you there. He had been often at Warford with her mother's kin. not that it would do any good. "I doubt I need tell you. "Your mother had a lover. But he always suspected.processtext. "Aye. I wouldn't have the story come to light any more than you. eyes so similar to Adelise's. though none knew the truth." Brian added." So this was what Brian had come up with. Nothing! And I suspect you're smart enough to know what happens to a woman in that predicament. Ourfather will look a fool or worse. you'll be turned out to starve." he said bluntly." "And if I agree? What then?" . Obviously. You've put your finger on the problem. you'll have nothing. at the memories it evoked." "Liar!" Jocelyn's hands clenched against her skirt. You'll have nothing. truth after all these years of lies. Brian?" He rose slowly to his feet. Jocelyn. http://www. had taught Jocelyn to ride. to say in a voice near as even as his own. gauging her reaction. She was shivering now." he was saying softly. I think. watching narrowly. with no family to lend you support. "How dare you say such a thing? You're lying! I can read it in your face!" "It's truth. A dark laughing face. "Your father and mine weren't the same.html "What is it. smiling a little as she matched him and bid higher. "And what is it you want of me?" she asked.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. I made it my business to know. though. Several if the gossipIheard was true. Black hair and eyes the color of green gemstones." Rhys! Jocelyn caught her breath at the name. this ugly tale to keep her under his thumb. bringing up a daughter who wasn't even his own. "Can you tell me you never wondered why he treated you so differently from Adelise and myself? Why you were never truly a part of our family?" Jocelyn didn't answer. managed to ignore the thundering beat of her heart. You'll be landless. Father suspected. "And the Montagnes will be the center of scandal. learned a man by the name of Rhys was Gwendyth's lover both before her marriage and after. "If this story comes to light." He hesitated. "You're lying! Our father would never have countenanced such a thing. dowerless. madam. "You'll go willingly with me to Gloucester. He had been like another uncle. Your husband is a marked man." Brian nodded. "Bastards can't inherit. Rhys.com/abclit. I knew you weren't stupid. who'll suffer most if it does. to play chess and to use a dagger. Even your marriage can be declared invalid." "Father didn't look too closely. lifted his eyebrows and smiled sardonically. yet so vastly different." Jocelyn steadied herself. had always made Gwendyth laugh. You'll make no effort to reconcile with de Langley. Cuckolded all those years. You're not Montagne but the bastard byblow of some petty Welsh border chieftain. could only stare into his eyes. Jocelyn. Brian didn't hesitate.

make certain you lack for nothing. his horse. can order all as you choose. months before I let you have it. Brian was smiling again. would never get the chance to tell him she hadn't done what he thought. Jocelyn made a lightning grab for his dagger. Jocelyn. She spun about. He rocked back. no one to appeal to save her own kinsmen—her father and Brian himself. another just behind him.html "Then you remain my sister. hoped she wouldn't be damned for eternity for lifting her hand against her own flesh and blood. or even the peril to her soul.." "Rot in hell!"she threw back as she caught up her skirts and began to run for the thickest part of the nearby woods.. She held his eyes. Or was he her brother? She almost hoped not. It was difficult to run. what his men might do." he repeated. his soldier's sharp reflexes sending his right arm out to block. the snorting breath of a horse just behind her. She heard the high pitched cries of men eager for blood. the men would have to dismount. knife lifted. If she could just make that thicket. ..com/abclit. dagger lifting to slash at whatever came within reach. the thundering sound of her own blood rushing in her ears. knew she had little choice. of course. jerking it free of his belt and slashing upward for his throat.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. would no doubt kill her as well if she stood in his way. Then she might have the slimmest chance. His eyes met hers in amazement. I swear. Jocelyn fought for speed. "You'll pay dearly for that. the ground uneven."Bitch!"he said. I'll see you to Watford in peace. Brian had ambushed her husband and twice tried to kill him. She had no legal recourse. Hoofbeats thudded against the earth. for sport. impossible to makeanyspeed. do what you want within reason. You'll wish long and hard for death. that she was a dead woman. You'll be your own mistress. She would never see Robert. Behind her Brian was screaming for his men. Yes. she would pay. Blood gushed through his fingers from an ugly gash along his cheekbone. then backed away. He had betrayed her.processtext. http://www. "You stupid Welsh bitch!" And then he added in a voice that was thoroughly chilling. to run as she had never run before in her life. But a riderless horse galloped past. she could hear closing hoofbeats. They would catch her here in the open.. the rich widow of Robert de Langley. though he wasn't fast enough to stop the blade. Brian would exact a terrible and lingering revenge." Jocelyn stared at her brother. unnaturally soft. Jocelyn struck. Brian held his hand to his face. The dead winter grass was entangling. "No one. "No one will know?" she asked. He had her cornered and knew it. knowing she had missed her target. Without warning. There was a confusion of noise and shouting. be with Robert wherever he is. forgive me. You may visit Adelise. But she wouldn't make it easy. But she no longer cared what happened to her. Merciful God help me. certain of victory... But there was always a choice. She wasn't going to make it. Over the explosive pounding of her heart.

" he said. Then he spat at her feet." Aymer's hand was still gripping his sword hilt. still fighting for breath.. "So that's her. But come. "Here! I have you a mount. reaching for his sword. Aymer stared in disbelief. http://www. "Come. your brother's men will cut us to pieces if we don't outrun them now. just catching the hem of her gown. It had been difficult bringing his lady to safety." Aymer!Jocelyn was sobbing for breath as she flung herself against the knight. "I would teach this knave a thing or two on respect for his betters!" he growled. she raced for the thicket. let it lie. the blood in his face surged hotly. Can you tell me who might give us his direction?" The soldier turned and stared rudely at Jocelyn. traveling through country gone over to Henry." And as she hesitated. arrows embedded deep through their leather armor. pursuing his lord and his king across half the midsection of England. "Hissst. we must gonow!" Twenty-Four "Can you tell me where my lord is? Robert de Langley of Belavoir?" The man frowned at Aymer. if I don't lesson you in the way to treat a lady." he muttered. I have his lady here and my lord will want to know. The Carrick boy sent word you'd be out and so we followed. "We're but a dozen men left to watch. "It is urgent I find him.processtext.com/abclit.html Jocelyn stared back across the field. hoping for just such a chance. Jocelyn didn't wait to see more. you cur!" But Jocelyn grabbed his arm. lady. letting fly in a rapid and deadly rain. "Don't know. "Come. "No!" Jocelyn said. Brian and the rest of his troop had drawn rein in confusion. then shrugged.. He was weary and frustrated and in a rage. he said."Robert. steadying her with both hands. Horses reared and snorted as arrows continuedto fly. I just came on duty." Aymer tried again. "Let it lie. "By our Lord. Two men lay on the ground. raking her flesh as she shoved her way through the undergrowth. Whirling. tearing her clothes. Aymer. "By our Lord Christ!" he snarled. striking man and beast. thudding quivering into the ground." Aymer drew in his breath and turned away. Now he had reached Stephen's camp but he couldn't find Robert." she said swiftly. passed four bowmen busily notching arrows against bowstrings. where's Robert?" "Not here. let's see if we can't find Robert on our own. "No.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. The hurt in his lady's eyes made him want to rage and snarl . The great lords have been riding in and out all the day. lady! Over here!" She fought her way toward the sound.

This was the day she had both longed for and dreaded since she had first learned what Brian had done." "Yes. And now she was going to have to tell him she might be baseborn.shading the woodlands with the tantalizing silver shadows that would soon become color." he snapped. forced smile. . madam!" Aymer drew rein. felt her insides knot with tension. Never fear. That's not what I'm beginning to fear.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. she would thank God on her knees that Robert still lived. "My lord has ridden out along the river hunting for herons with the king. I would see the truth for myself in his face. I can see his colors from here.. Aymer stopped several times to ask questions. Surprise is ever an important part of good battle tactics. Miraculously all his men believed her." Jocelyn didn't respond. a fortress vital for the defense of the west. that she might not hold legal claim to those western lands for which she'd been married. I know.com/abclit. making her throat ache. rising in his stirrups and pointing toward a distant bend in the river and a cluster of horsemen. Tears threatened. welcoming face they had seen. She mounted wearily with Aymer's help. "I've told you Robert didn't believe your brother. Aymer had believed her. Robert's camp was set in a place of honor near the king's silver-and-azure pavilion. did set me to watch for any sign of you. too. her eyes burn. Here along the river." They left the rest of the men and rode out. I'll go fetch him myself. I'll go with you. sent her long suffering champion a small. madam. "He did deny Montagne's words. but Jocelyn didn't dismount again. She kicked her mount into a trot. the air was soft.html and tear that insolent fool into bits. Aymer came back after a hurried conference with the first familiar. He had kept them—her lions. It would go better for them if she didn't reveal her identity. She saw him. They finally reached the de Langley tents. Robert was ahead somewhere. probably Henry's as well. At least he was alive. taller than Stephen as he sat his horse. "No. And she very much feared what Robert might be thinking now. But it had become increasingly apparent these last few days that her name had become a byword among Stephen's adherents. http://www. Because of her he had lost his chief castle. Though the afternoon warmth still lingered." Aymer cursed under his breath as he led the way back to the little band of dirty and disheveled men waiting at the edge of the bustling camp. Robert had been made a fool of twice over by the women of her family. and there is my lord!" Jocelyn sucked in her breath. spring was already turning the grasses soft green. Let him at leasthear what I have to say.. Whether or not he ever believed her. "Come then. let him see me. Jocelyn let her cloak billow behind her as they cantered along the river's edge. She would soon be talking to him. we'll find him. She had thought all her worries were over once she stumbled into her husband's men.processtext. Rest you here. lady. straight and commanding. Please God. "There's the king. Jocelyn felt her throat knot with emotion as she caught sight of the familiar rearing lions fluttering from a crimson standard before his tent. Now she knew they were only beginning. madam. "There they are. cooling as evening approached." Jocelyn shook her head.

After all these weeks of hell. I've a man who can clean my mail. "Aymer and his men were there when I needed them.. She couldn't see his eyes but his mouth was grim. the sound of the wind in the marsh grasses nearby. "Robert. She flung herself to her knees..Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. I think I must hold you now to believe you are real. Jocelyn urged her mount to a gallop. he saved my life. sobbing uncontrollably. I will understand if you can't take me back only say you believe me. he lied! Hear me." She choked on a laugh. I never betrayed you. fighting back tears. I need to hear that!" "Do you remember what you said that morning Adelise ran away?" he asked unexpectedly. Robert. "Oh. mail and all..com/abclit. Robert. buried her face in his scarlet surcoat and wrapped her arms around him. "Brian lied!" she cried out. "That morning when I told youIdidn't make a practice of murdering my wives?" She shook her head. "I-I'm sorry. trembling still.." Jocelyn could hear the unsteady. Brian would have killed me. would never have handed Belavoir over for any cause on earth." She faltered..processtext.html The king's guard had seen them." An involuntary shudder caught her. She stood staring. only stared at her as if he couldn't believe his eyes. Somehow. Tears clogged her throat.. love. unable to believe she had understood correctly. Robert. in the night. She pulled her horse to a stop. Her heart was pounding so violently she could scarcely breathe. blurred her vision. I did sometimes fear I'd never see you again. "Cry if you want. slid from the saddle and ran the last few paces to meet him. I'd have come. tried again. I can't seem to stop!" He held her tightly. His arms closed around her and she twisted and leaned into his shoulder. his face ashen." She reached blindly for his hand. Brian lied to shame you. Robert kicked his foot free of his stirrup and held down one hand. From further away came the rattle and chink of mail and harness as the men of the king's party shifted restlessly. believe me. all her well-rehearsed explanations flying from her head. "I do swear on the soul of my mother. violent beat of her heart. She felt his lips brush her hair.. Robert must have recognized them for he disengaged himself from the group and spurred out across the meadow alone. "Robert. http://www. I know he would. keep it from rusting. sweetheart. Why was he reminding her of that? "You told me you would never have believedIdid. Now that I've begun." "Sir Aymer. sweetheart. How stupid of her to be overcome now when she most needed eloquence. caught her toe in his stirrup and let him swing her up into the saddle. to ruin me! I swear it.. I. drowned her in the memory that could wake her." . I swear it before God!" He said nothing. "Come and ride with me." "I would have come.

offering up a bouquet of violets. "It's good to see you again. Robert caught her shoulder. but it is offered with a right glad heart. madam. For a moment they simply stared. Sir Aymer was armed. I missed you. Then with a low groan. "It doesn't matter. standing aside so that Robert could usher her inside. but she didn't care. "Weil talk. She rose on tiptoe. "All of you.. Jocelyn clutched her flowers. drinking in the sight of each other. I assure you by tomorrow the knave will have nothing left to spit with!" Jocelyn lifted the violets. Robert's men were already gathering when they reached the de Langley encampment. "He was obviously quite lacking in judgement." "Oh. madam. To.processtext.html Robert squeezed her shoulder. He crushed her to him as if he would be a part of her through clothing and steel. The flap closed behind them. opening her mouth eagerly against the slanting onslaught of his. "Just so. They did do it for their lady. drawing her into his arms and kissing her deeply." Geoffrey returned her smile. They would make a strange sight to any passing here along the river." And then he reached to lift the tent flap. given me a memory of joy to replace it.. "It isn't much I fear. She had just escaped hell and hadn't the slightest thought for anything else." She wept until the need eased. pulling his head down against her. stroked her hair. "They did this for you.. Weil talk it all out when we get back. She heard him call out something to Aymer and then the big stallion beneaththem was in motion.. Robert.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. fought for a steady voice as she took the flowers. fresh manchet bread and a platter of cheese. "A man did spit on me today when he learned my name." She glanced around at the rough. turning her gently to face him. I can assure you my men have never brought me a flower in all my days. You've taken the ugliness of that away. held her as if he couldn't get enough of her. Again. Geoffrey stepped forward. inhaled their sweet scent.. so hungrily. He was smiling." He brought his hand from behind his back. Jocelyn glanced around. And everywhere earthenware cups held clusters of violets. http://www." she said haltingly. "Afraid you will disappear. Thank you. but there was a grimness about his mouth. Jocelyn thought she would come apart. and then she smiled. They cheered as Robert swung her from the saddle. smiling as he went down on one knee." he said softly. you know. familiar faces. "I'm almost afraid to touch you. madam. His smile still held. The men have been out scouring the river banks for this small token of welcome. my lady. lady. Robert. "You've but to point him out. to please you. love. She was going to cry. .com/abclit. creating a world of intimacy and quiet.. the most beautiful smile she had seen in all her life." He brushed a tear from her cheek with his thumb. afraid I'll simply wake and find I'm dreaming again. then rode with her face still buried in his shoulder." Geoffrey rose to his feet. I missed you so much at times I did think I would surely die!" He reached for her. "No. A small table was set up with a flagon of wine and two pewter goblets." Jocelyn bit her lip." she said.

And with no further readying he was entering her. unsteady beating of heart against heart. At last all was silent save for the sound of their labored breathing. She would tell him that. joining herbodyand soul in the most primitive and perfect of ways. filling the terrible. "My ignorance made you a figure of scorn and lost Stephen a vital fortress. Robert lay quietly. was gone and he was reaching for her. She arched against him. Then that garment." she whispered. pulling her atop him. I'm only sorry my trust in him lost you Belavoir. everything save that damning tale about Rhys. He was kissing her again. drew a deep. He buried his face in her hair." She reached out to touchhis face. "Because it doesn't. Never once!" He frowned and stared down at her. as if still doubting she could be flesh and blood. but not now. So very sorry. "Not yet." He caught her hand and lifted it to his lips. Robert pressed his face against her throat. "Judas. as if he would possess her more fully somehow. Not for a few moments at least. I'm sorry. Only when the telling was complete and she lay silent and still in his arms did he curse and sit up. groaned and shifted deeper. I'll get it . was relieved to find he was every bit as ready as she. shuddering and emptying himself deep within her. "Don't let it be over. holding her. grasping her. I've been wanting you. lifting it up and over her head. bent her knees.html he swung her up. Robert. Wordlessly. making her tremble and ache and strain against him. I never thought I needed to fear for you. http://www." He groaned again and rolled onto his back. She reached to help him untie the points of his hose. I'd never have left you to face Brian alone. not with your own brother! What did you mean when you said Aymer saved your life?" Jocelyn sighed and stretched against him. not even bothering to remove his shirt as he pressed her down into the bedding. Then she told him all that had happened since she had awakened to find Brian in possession of Belavoir. Jocelyn. would have found some way inside if I'd had to sprout wings and fly over those damned walls myself!" Jocelyn shook her head. She hadn't the courage to risk that yet. But by heaven. achingemptiness she had carried inside. holding her shoulders as he rode her. steadying breath against the stunning pleasure of his words. She turned to help with his mail as he bent and let the heavy hauberk slide from his shoulders to a shimmering heap on the floor. "Why is it that nothing else in all the world seems to matter when I have you like this?" Jocelyn closed her eyes. She spread her legs.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. he caught her gown. holding her. "When I saw you out there today." She tightened her arms around his neck.processtext. wondering about you. the wild. as he shifted her beneath him with urgent hands. kissing her passionately as his hands slid beneath her chemise. cursing all the fates for what had happened between us. too. carried her the few feet to the curtained area at the rear of the tent.com/abclit. "Never once did I think you in danger. holding her against him. Jocelyn dragged off her tunic as he was ridding himself of his surcoat. Jocelyn could never remember wanting to be a part of him so desperately as she did now. "The loss of Belavoir is serious but can be mended. "Despite what Brian might have meant to do. I almost thought you a vision I'd conjured. convulsing immediately with need and pleasure. too. I wasn't harmed.

one of his staunchest allies." Jocelyn smiled and closed her eyes. "No. "I tell you truth. not to mention the fact that my old friend Robin de Beaumont is one of the most influential men in the kingdom. I do hate to call you. He has already sent once and now a second time. The voice came again—Geoffrey's voice. She couldn't get enough of touching him. believed her. "Do you have to go now? Couldn't you just send word you'll come later?" Robert was already pulling on his boots. there is something we need to speak of. that despite all the evidence to the contrary.com/abclit. He did take Leicester's defection very much to heart. They did need to talk. He was staring at his hands. There was so much that had to be said." "But. I am sorry you had to—" "Robert!" Someone cleared his throat loudly from the front of the tent. but he has been Stephen's friend from of old!" Robert nodded. That is thirty major castles. scowling fiercely. rolling closer to rest her cheek on his hard thigh. My father taught that a man has two masters. http://www. but he was already reaching for his hose. Stephen's eldest son is the greatest asset Henry of Anjou has." Jocelyn sat up. He was a man who lived his beliefs. reaching for her crumpled shift and pulling it over her head. "Judas. a great number of men and supplies.. and I've tried to live them as well. "My lord. but the king is asking for you. gulped down a piece of cheese. much given to strange tempers and oddimaginings. God and himself. Stephen is not the same man since Malmesbury. But he has grown sick of war —or so he said in trying to excuse himself in the letter he sent me—said he dreaded what would come to pass when Eustace came to the throne.processtext.html back. "Besides men might be laughing behind my back." His tone was serious and she opened her eyes. stared. Others may well follow. madam—but for your ears alone. he had never even doubted her. but I do assure you. of being close. it's of little concern.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. seeking in vain to straighten his rumpled shirt." Robert tore off a hunk of bread. believe me. "Jocelyn. "Leicester went over to Henry some weeks ago. "Damn Stephen! He must know I'd have come to him in good time. moving to the table to pour out two goblets of wine." He smiled. "You didn't know?" And when she shook her head he said grimly. madam. Jocelyn."What?" Robert swung around at her tone. There's nothing like good steel and a strong arm in helping along a sober countenance. He brought her one." "Damnation!" Robert scowled again. he's long been Stephen's friend. turned the other up and drank deeply. quicker yet to despair. He's suspicious. "Yes. "As for becoming a figure for scorn. It was difficult to believe he had forgiven her. none has dared laugh in my face. madam. He's quick to anger.. To be able to face both with a clear heart is to fear little in this life or the next— certainly not a few petty scandals. sweet." His smile widened. I don't even remember her name! That woman at Leaworth. They've stood me in good stead all these years." Jocelyn stopped. Eustace is vicious and . I dare not.

drawing her close against the lower half of his body.processtext. "They do all call you the Lioness now.com/abclit. Do you think all the tales told of me are true?" "Certainly. Now. "Have you eaten?" "Aye. She smiled as he entered. Stephen alone seems able to rein him in. madam." He grinned again. Jocelyn stared at the rumpled bedding where she had just lain with her husband." He was still grinning. And of a sudden her world. then he bent and brushed a kiss against her mouth. That you slashed Brian's face and hacked his sword arm near to bits. "The king's justiciar is a right crafty and influential man to have on your side. . *** It was full dark by the time Robert came back from the king's pavilion. Stephen." He kissed her lips. It's all over camp that you faced down your brother and his men with a dagger." he murmured. Robert.html undisciplined—courageous. half-believes it himself." Robert finished off his wine and stared at her a moment. at the crushed violets strewn about. "But Robert. that's a lie! I did but cut him once and run for my life. Jocelyn had found needle and thread and was mending a rent in one of his shirts by the light of an oil lamp. it hasn't hurt your cause that Aymer and his men have been singing your praises all afternoon. hinting to Stephen that all wasn't as it seemed. "I wouldn't have you think. madam. that I didn't miss you while we were apart." And then he was gone. Of course. then returned to take her mouth. "If I please you. did you know that? They say that is why I have two lions on my banner instead of one. madam wife. madam.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. all will yet be well. I ate with the king. leisurely this time. yes. was an uncertain place again." He grinned. that is all I care for. making love with a slow tenderness that was almost more than Jocelyn could bear. which had seemed safe and secure such a short time ago. It was difficult tobelieve they could be together again like this. but totally unfit as he stands now to be king. of course. Richard de Lucy has ever been on our side." Jocelyn's eyes widened. "On that. "Of such things are legends made. her closed eyelids. and even loyal men are beginning to curse themselves and wonder and dread what will happen when Stephen is no more. And they do say. forcing a smile and a light tone. "Well. she knew she had to tell him thetruth—all the truth—before she lost the courage to tell him any at all. And when it was over and she lay in her husband's arms. I find I agree. "Don't fret. that the lions are well mated. http://www." They undressed each other. madam. he's boasting to all that the king knew the truth from the first." Jocelyn leaned into him and put her arms around his neck. and what did he say? Does he wish me hanged as a traitor?" "No." She put her sewing away and went to him. "I find myself with the overwhelming need to try out my men's sayings again. The king and his lords and all the rest of the world may go hang." she returned so promptly that he laughed and took her in his arms.

Once again he had surprised her. but now. bit her lip. You need not pretend to the same. passionate eyes. http://www." "I love you." She faltered. "I love you. honestly I do. is even more terrible than all the rest." She drew in a deep breath and he lay still. I've more to tell you. You're my wife. This last is. "But I haven't. "You don't have to say that. It made it all so much harder to say. watching him.html "I do love you. Let any who dare to say differently do so at their peril. I may have no legal claim to Warford. now I don't know. Brian said." Robert turned her over to face him." She was silent.. To her amazement and hurt he looked as if he were fighting a laugh.. I've not forgotten what you said to me about that before. a friend of my mother's—her lover. "I'm sorry if it is a burden to you. I just wanted you to know that first. would almost rather Rhys did turn out to be my father but for what it means to us. Jocelyn. Robert. What was a woman to saytosuch as that? "I need to tell you something. watching her with those beautiful. Jocelyn.com/abclit." His eyes narrowed. feeling her way. why did he have to say it now? "Oh. Only let me be your mistress." She reached to put her fingers against his lips. "I think.. stared up into his handsome face. I. Robert." Tears clogged her throat.Why now? Merciful God. "I wouldn't care. I think. Rhys was a good man.. "After what you did to that poor creature at Leaford do you think there've been women foolish enough to frequentmybed?" Jocelyn blinked. I didn't believe him at first. that you could have any woman on earth in your bed. That wasn't what she'd expected to hear." His arms tightened around her. if I'm baseborn you'll need to marry someone else! I understand that. darkened. Brian threatened to make the tale public. I don't care if you are Montagne or the daughter of a charcoal burner. listening. "I'm so horribly jealous. to all those lands you thought I brought. "I may be the baseborn daughter of a Welshman who came often to Warford with my uncles. more about what happened between Brian and me. I do love you." She lay very still.. Jocelyn. Just because. did you but smile at them. almost since that first day you came to Belavoir. "Don't say anything yet. I know you have other women. his golden eyes.processtext.. and that is what matters.." he murmured." she said softly." "Jocelyn—" "Wait. will reconcile myself to being one of them somehow. he will do so just for spite. but I do love you. She pulled away from him and buried her face in his pillow.. Only don't bring the others where I will have to see them. have waited far too long to tell you that. no doubt. my lord.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter." She hesitated.." she began. "I had meant to tell you that night I came back . madam. because none of them is even remotely like you. you know. have loved you. "I may not be Montagne.. Now.

then softer.processtext.com/abclit. I did not. of love and fear and joy so violent Jocelyn sometimes wondered if . "My experiences at loving have none of them been very good. He was past his prime. Did you really fear I would turn out like her?" "No.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. "You did give me a scare. "That's when it all began to change." she said. My first wife—well." His voice went lower. vindictive bitch. Jocelyn. waiting anxiously in nearby towns or castles with the other women when their men went out to fight. the only excuse a wife would not only accept but be flattered to hear. I wanted only you. I'm glad it was you. I did fight and rail against his sickness." He drew in his breath. and even after that. "But I didn't want to love you. "I can promise I won't betray you. It was a time of overly intense emotions. It was hard. staying with her husband when they rested. "If only one thing in my life could go right." she said." "I know. sent her a wry. available and attractive. choking attempt at lightness. Fathers usuallyquit this life before their grown sons. that she hurt a great many in this life before she quitted it. "I didn't want to care so much." "That time before Christmas. I took her because she was there. But I loved my father and he died." "But I'm not like Marguerite." He frowned. Jocelyn. She was beginning to understand him at last. thinking back. only one amid all the mistakes and defeats and wrong turns." she said gently. I don't understand." Jocelyn sat up. Not all the love and rage and fear in the world are proof against a fever of that kind..toneed any woman so much as I was coming to fear I needed you. "You've come up with the only possible excuse a man could make for taking a mistress. Robert. "I believe you've done it. now my son was another matter. strangled laugh. you know already about Marguerite." "I. madam." He hesitated again. but I didn't want her." His voice was strained. died in battle as he would have wished. but in the end not all my ranting and fighting did any good. ah. self-conscious smile. I didn't take that woman for wanting her. which for me is no very small thing." The silence stretched out between them. Adam I loved too well. gave a low. I mourned but let it pass. madam." He nodded. putting her arms around her husband. love. Suffice it to say that she was a spiteful. enjoy you. Before God. of course not. fighting the terrible ache in her throat that made it difficult to speak..html from Leaford. madam. It was almost overwhelming.. set me to thinking thoughts I didn't want to have. http://www. respect you even." He crushed her against him. He died. "And that is why I chose to like you. in a strained.. this knowledge of how vulnerable a strong man could be. "Adam. Robert. "I cannot promise I won't die. I do thank God it was you!" Twenty-Five Throughout that spring Jocelyn traveled with Stephen's army. but to be expected. andIcouldn't stop it.

thanking God and the Blessed Virgin that it hadn't been her man they'd brought in. Jocelyn hoarded up a miser's wealth of memories and tried not to think of the future. The Angevin army was the smaller." Aymer took her arm. contenting themselves with swooping down and taking castles from each other's adherents instead. he might see half of his force melt away. If he went into pitched battle against Henry. My lord has stayed to calm the king. "What is it? Does my lord have need of me?" "Yes. singling her out after siege or skirmish to inform her some sharp sword-thrust or well-aimed arrow had ended all that made her life worth the living. And everywhere men crossed themselves and prayed for a miracle. glorious days of late spring drifted in. Lady Jocelyn!" Jocelyn turned away from the little group of women. had helped to comfort sobbing widows and fainting mistresses.processtext. madam." "Dear God!" "Earl Roger was with Stephen. They cannot wake him. very bad. sending secret envoys to Henry and trying to decide whom to back. andsome said Henry feared to risk all on one pitched battle. her terror was a secret one. for she lived in terror of the moment a messenger might come. for as one of the king's last trusted friends. madam. The countess Gundreda of Warwick has just surrendered that fortress. Both armies pillaged and raged across England. never speaking a word of her fears. She forced herself to be cheerful in her husband's presence. He collapsed in some odd. She had seen it happen. And every night she went down on her knees. adding in a grim undervoice. http://www. She rose and went quickly to meet Sir Aymer.html her spirits would ever achieve equilibrium again. jerking fit as they were speaking. he was relied on more heavily each day.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. It is bad news. When Robert was with her. but he does hope there is something you . Many of his barons were openly murmuring among themselves. the blow he had hoped for at Malmesbury. *** "Madam.com/abclit. but the two main forces never engaged. "He asks you to come to the king's pavilion. Stephen raged and despaired and dared not risk the one crushing blow that would end it all.. mute and bloodied. Still.. to be cleaned up and readied for burial. And as the soft. She tricked the loyal garrison and turned over Warwick Castle to Henry's men by stealth. drawing her strength and courage from him. Robert carried burdens enough already. For a certainty Stephen was afraid. and she lived and ate and breathed that love. Spies abounded and men everywhere looked askance at each other and kept their own counsel. A courier just rode in with news. and prepared for still more war. For the first time in her life she knew what it was to love and be loved. But when they were apart all her serenity and courage was naught but pretense. It was a day of rare beauty and several of the ladies following the camp had brought their maids and come together here to sew and gossip and enjoy themselves along the river. nothing else mattered.

should be standing there now. he's moved on to despair.html might do for Warwick. "Will this kingdom be won by women and traitors only? What have we come to here? Do men no longer fight in honorable ways? Is all done by quiet and stealth. His squires and men finally removed him to his own tents. This was much better than the usual camp fare. "By the splendor of God." Robert frowned and shook his head. he looked worn. Robert. madam! Lord Roger is here in the king's own chamber." Jocelyn nodded. She liked Warwick. I'm sorry. Then Robert glanced toward her and said with obvious relief. but sometimes there are others listening as well. It's a strange thing. Jocelyn knelt beside the bed." he said sharply. When all was finally done. nor yet any worse. escorted her back through the gathering dusk. He was well past his prime. rotting sickness seeping out from a blacker heart?" Jocelyn stood for a moment. Warwick's youngest squire.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. There is little to be done. but he had insisted on following Stephen so long as he could still sit a horse." Jocelyn sat all afternoon with the earl. it's grim news. It's near impossible to hold him to any purpose when he despairs. "Gundreda and Leicester. She felt his hands and face as Robert described what had happened. "Do what you can. and sometimes when they wake they cannot speak or move parts of the body. Stephen is near beside himself. wondering if she. In the soft light of the candles. Warwick's face was chalk-white." she said. "You do work miracles. "Is Stephen still raging?" "No. He begins to speak of his dead queen. "Aymer told me. It's Robin's hand I see in this. madam. leading her into the silk-curtained bedchamber where the earl had been laid. to go on and on in a litany of betrayal and defeats. I must go back. "The earl is no better. Thomas. but he didn't wake. http://www." And with that he turned away. are there nomen left?" Stephen was shouting. It's bad enough that I hear it. and she went with them to see the man settled." he muttered." "No." Jocelyn studied her husband's face. I fear. half-crippled now in the service of his king." He poured a cup of wine and handed it across to her.com/abclit. He's in God's hands. Such talk does . his breathing shallow. Jocelyn glanced wearily at the table and smiled. "Thank God you are come. "I almost prefer the rage. my love. Robert was waiting inside their tent with wine and a cold supper laid out.processtext. "They've killed him then. but at those words he rose to his feet." "Aye. "My men do. She arrived at the king's opulent tents just in time to hear the royal rage." She curtsied swiftly in the king's direction then went toward her husband." "As are we all. of all people. "Sometimes the person recovers and sometimes not. some black. "I've seen this but few times before. How is Roger?" Jocelyn sipped her wine and sat down. to lament that the Church has refused to anoint Eustace his heir." Her husband was kneeling beside her. Robert.

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spread despair, madam. Something no army needs." Jocelyn took a steadying drink. "How bad are things, Robert? I would hear the truth." He thought for a moment. "We're stronger still than the Angevin forces. We hold most of England save for the southwest and Chester and Leicester's lands... and Bigod's. There are yet more loyal lords than rebel, and even if there are more defections, we've a strong core of mercenaries who will fight so long as they're paid. They are ill men without a strong hand, but William of Ypres is a good general. No, you needn't fear." Jocelyn reached across the table and took his hand. "Then why do I hear that in your voice which speaks of worry?" She forced a smile. "Come, Robert, I would share your burdens if I might." He squeezed her hand and then released it. "It's more the direction we're sliding, I fear," he said slowly. "So many have turned openly against Stephen. They don't know Henry's true nature, don't dream where he will take us if he gains the upper hand. For all that he's only twenty, he's a man who won't be bridled, who will ignore the council of his magnates. I've seen what he did in Anjou and Normandy and I fear it, madam. He rules with an iron hand." "But why do so many turn to him in support, even men of wisdom like Leicester?" Robert frowned. "The land is torn and tired, madam. Stephen is growing old and uncertain and Eustace has made himself the bane of many. The Church begins to eye Henry as the rightful heir, and men do hesitate to take uparms against a man they think might become king. As for Leicester..." He hesitated. "He did but say that he was sick of war, that he wanted to see it ended once and for all. He didn't think Stephen the man to keep this land safe—nor Eustace. Not with a young and hungry wolf like Henry tearing at the door." Jocelyn nodded, fighting to keep her voice calm. "Men fear for themselves and their families. I understand that." She drank more of the wine, forced herself to eat some cold meat. "Robert, what did you mean when you said Leicester was responsible for Warwick?" He glanced up. "Gundreda is Leicester's half-sister. I've no doubt he talked her into that. After all, Roger is old, they have children. It is said Henry is confirming lands and privileges to those who come to him now of their own free will." He sipped his wine, added softly, "I'm almost thankful now, that I don't have a son." Jocelyn put down her knife. She might still be able to sit calmly enough, but she couldn't eat. Before God she couldn't eat! "Robert, do you think if the worst came to pass, if this Henry did gain the upper hand..." She paused, began again carefully. "Do you think he might value you for your skills, for—" "No, madam, he will not. There is much between us, and Henry is a man with a very long memory. As am I." Jocelyn sat frozen for several moments. Robert was studying her but she didn't speak, didn't even try to keep up the pretense. He rose and came around the table, putting his hands on her shoulders, squeezing, working away the sudden tension with the same unerring knowledge of her body that he always brought to their bed. "I've

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frightened you and I hadn't meant to," he said softly. "Haven'tIjust told you our armies are stronger than Henry's, that we do hold most of England? It won't come to that, love—not to what you fear." Jocelyn nodded, blinking rapidly, glad her husband stood behind her, that he couldn't see her face. If only Henry would die, she thought wildly. If only that cursed Angevin would die! Robert drew her to her feet, began kissing the nape of her neck, the sensitive flesh of her throat. She wrapped her arms about him and clung tightly. "Come to bed now," he whispered. "I've no wish to think on Henry or Leicester or even my king. I do wish for tonight to think of us. Only of us." *** The earl of Warwick lingered nearly a week. All in camp went about grim-faced and silent as they waited, for Warwick's illness was a grave omen. Jocelyn was at the earl's bedside as he breathed his last. She had been fetched by a terrified young page who hoped she might yet do what even the royal physicians could not, something to save his lord. Warwick was beyond her help, but she did what she could to comfort the sobbing child and Warwick's despairing squires. Stephen came running at the news, grieving bitterly for his friend. One thing Jocelyn could say for Stephen of Blois: Where he loved, he loved freely and with his whole heart. She could understand Robert's loyalty to this man— could understand as well why men such as Chester and her father could so easily take advantage of him. She slipped out of the tent as the magnates began to arrive, feeling self-conscious in such a gathering without Robert beside her. He had ridden out at the first of the week, gone with some of his men and a host of Stephen's mercenaries to seize a supply train bound for the rebel armies laying siege to Tutbury. She hugged herself as she made her way back to the de Langley encampment, praying for her husband's health and safety. She hated this time of waiting and wondering, this helplessness of not knowing. When she came within sight of her tent she saw a crowd of men gathering before the crimson standard. She hurried.News... Robert must have sent news of some sort!But then she checked, steeling herself. Even from this distance she could tell something was amiss. One of the men saw her and the crowd fell back, revealing a single dirty and bloodstained man at the center— a man she scarcely recognized so stooped and unfamiliar he seemed. "Geoffrey..." Her mouth was dry, so dry the word was a whisper. She dug her nails into her palms and forced herself to keep walking, to hold Geoffrey's dark and despairing eyes. "What news have you of my lord?" The tall knight sank to his knees in the dust before her, so weary he could scarce hold up his head. "It was a trap, lady, the supply train was a trap. We were set upon by rebel forces, overwhelmed by a far greater number striking out unexpectedly." He hesitated, closed his eyes and drew a long, shuddering breath. "They were... like jackals circling round him, led by that hellspawn Chester. I saw my lord go down. He was struck, how badly I don't

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know. I was knocked unconscious, left for dead, I suppose. When I came to, it was growing dark. They—" He choked, swallowed convulsively, then opened his eyes to meet hers. "They were robbing the dead, madam. I crawled away into the bushes, managed to catch a horse and make my way here. In truth, lady, I don't even know if my lord be living or dead!" Jocelyn held herself very still. Her ears were roaring, her heart crowding high and choking in her throat. Everyone was looking to her for guidance—these great rough men, many with tears running down their faces. She tried to swallow and couldn't. "We will assume, then, that he is living. That he can be ransomed. They would not dare—" She tried to finish and couldn't. "They wouldnot!" She searched blindly through the crowd for a face that had been her savior in that darkest moment in Belavoir's woodland when she thought she was going to die. She saw him, steadied herself. "Sir Aymer, fetch Geoffrey to his tent. Get him wine, food, see to aught else he needs. I will be there—" Despite all her efforts, her voice broke. She fumbled for words, for the courage she knew Robert would expect. "I will be there to see to his wounds myself... after a bit." She moved through the crowd, praying to make it inside without fragmenting before these men—men who so desperately needed to hope. One of the men knelt, whispered"Lady!"as she passed, as if the word were both adulation and prayer. Another sank to his knees with the same word and then another. And then all Robert's men were kneeling around her while golden lions fluttered crimson against the brilliant sky overhead. Jocelyn fought a suffocating rush of tears. It was an effort to breathe, almost impossible to speak. "I thank you for your loyalty. We will get him back, I swear. Someone send to Stephen. And find de Lucy. Tell Richard de Lucy all that has passed." Then she turned and stumbled into the dark and quiet of the tent, into a rushing, drowning swirl of memories. Outside in the sunlight, Aymer put his arm around Sir Geoffrey. "Here, lean on me. She's right, you know. Chester will know he can seek a king's ransom for Robert. They won't be fool enough to kill him. He's far too rich a prize." Geoffrey groaned and shook his head. "I didn't tell her the worst, Aymer. I... I could not!" He leaned heavily against his friend and stared back toward the tent. "Before God, Aymer, I know not whether to pray that Robert be living or dead. Henry of Anjou was on that field. I did see his blue and gold myself." Aymer stared at the fluttering lions, the hope dying out of his eyes. "An ill day for us, then," he said softly. "An ill day."

Twenty-Six Somehow Jocelyn got through that terrible afternoon. She managed to gather herself together enough to clean and treat Geoffrey's wounds and to take in what he had to say about the Angevins. Though Robert had always refused to discuss the matter, she knew the enmity between her husband and Henry of Anjou was of a personal nature. And from the despair in Geoffrey's voice, she realized he knew as well.

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Richard de Lucy came at once, assuring her everything possible was being done, that the king stood ready to offer almost anything to see his friend released. Then a courier was dispatched to Ranulf of Chester to inquire after Robert and begin the delicate matter of arranging a ransom. Those next days of waiting and wondering were terrible for Jocelyn, worse even than those darkest hours when Brian had held her in Belavoir. She went on as before, mending her husband's clothing, sewing with her maid, smiling at anxious lord and worried man-at-arms alike— lying awake half the night, beseeching all the saints in heaven for Robert's life. Then the messenger arrived from Chester with a curtly-worded message. Yes, Robert de Langley was alive. No, he would not be ransomed. There was nothing beyond that. Jocelyn's spirits surged. At least Robert was alive. But alive for what? To be held prisoner, caged at his enemy's pleasure? She knew a bit of that now herself, knew such a life would be worse than death for a man like Robert. Doubtless his enemies knew it as well. She'd heard stories of terrible cruelties on both sides in these wars. Was that why they kept Robert alive? And then de Lucy came, bringing hope yetagain. "Ranulf does but toy with us, swine that he is, seeking to raise the price. Tutbury has fallen and they are all to go to Warwick. We will send to him there." Again the couriers rode forth and again returned with a message. Only this time de Lucy came, grim-faced, to Jocelyn's tent. He held out a roll of parchment and she took it, staring at the unfamiliar seal with a sense of dread. "It is for you, madam. From Anjou," he said softly. "That is the devil seal of Anjou." Jocelyn moved instinctively to the table and sat down, staring at the seal as if it possessed some dread power of its own. Then she broke it, spread the page with trembling fingers. The words dipped and swam, bold slashing letters that writhed like blackened snakes across the page: My Lady de Langley, I do commend myself to you. I write to tell you that your lord husband was sore wounded as you must know by now. I have taken him from the earl of Chester and placed him under my protection. My personal physician is in attendance. Your lord is a man of much determination, as you must know by now as well. He is recovering. I write to tell you this so that you will not grieve unduly,so that you may send clothing, letters, any personal items you wish with this messenger. You may trust me to see them safely to your lord without interference. It is my very great regret to inform you, however, that your lord is my prisoner and will remain so... for so long as this land is torn. You may say to that Stephen who does call himself king of England that the only ransom I will accept for Robert de Langley is a crown. Jocelyn lifted her head, staring blindly as the words swam together. "He does say," she said bitterly, "that he will never let Robert go." De Lucy stepped forward and snatched up the letter. Jocelyn reached for her wine cup and swallowed without tasting, without even realizing what she did. Henry of Anjou held her husband—that same Henry who had ordered Robert and a half-dozen men

hate your husband. The topaz ring he had given her. indeed. asking her to entreat Pelham to speak for Robert. She sank back on her heels. to beg them to intercede for him as well. "I'll plead for Robert. This Angevin's mind is difficult to fathom. carefully worded missive designed to prick both his conscience and his pride.. She might say with confidence that Henry wouldn't touch her. not even a trinket. She wrote first to Adelise. "That devil of Anjou will not keep you. Then came the princes of the realm. begging his personal intervention on behalf of so ardent a man of faith as her husband.. to think what Robert would most wish to have. even the archbishop of Canterbury. Robert. no ransom that could ever be paid! She would send Robert's things as Henry hadsuggested.com/abclit. but she would send something else with that messenger tomorrow. She and Adelise had continued to correspond and even Robert and Edward had sent a few cautious and carefully worded messages back and forth. She spent the evening writing letters at a furious pace. but in her heart she wasn't sure. forcing herself to keep her wits about her. Last of all. If he does. She steeled herself for this last one." "I wonder. Then she kissed it and slippeditback onto her finger where it belonged. "if he would even care. a short. "He will not keep you.processtext. If he dares touch me he'll be condemned by the Church and by every honest lord in this land. for the sake of the blood bond they shared. she found something she hadn't expected." Jocelyn shook her head. She wanted everyone to know of her mission. She would take only Geoffrey and three other knights. for the sake of a daughter he had ignored all his life. Now she asked. That was the easy letter. Next she wrote to every prince of the Church. I'll travel with his courier under a flag of truce. begged." *** Jocelyn readied herself quickly for the trip to Warwick." de Lucy said. I won't let the duke deny me. every lord she had ever heard Robert speak of with a kindly word. And deep in the bottom of hiscoffer.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. "He won't dare hurt me. She thought of taking her maid but discarded the idea.html burned alive." she murmured. that he would do what he could for Robert. to know that she went to plead for her husband. "I'm going myself. didn't want a creature who would be weeping and complaining at every turn. The ring she had flung at that woman at Leaford in a rage of jealousy and hurt. She had never asked William Montagne for much. it might be best not to put yourself in his power as well. She had no idea what they would be riding into. she went through her husband'sthings. letters she would have de Lucy dispatch for her on the morrow. "That might not be wise. And there would be no ransom. She even wrote to the earl of Leicester. http://www. De Lucy was frowning. gripping the ring so tightly the edging about the stone cut her hand. a letter to herfather—theman shedid still think of asher father despite all Brian had said. Not if I must move heaven and earth and all that does lie in between!" ." she said rising to her feet.

One man did drag out a bench and Jocelyn thanked him with a smile. "but I tell you I will not slow my pace for a woman." "He's out hunting. though if you drop behind you'll be left to fend for yourself. My lord prince does require his couriers to travel as swiftly as he does himself. "I cannot stop you from coming. "I'm here to speak to Duke Henry. a proud. "We will see which of usit is who falls behind. He was often back and forth between them at all hours of the day and night. "You may find that too quick for your taste. and by virtue of the dry roads and fine June weather reached Warwick by late afternoon. She scanned the town and the castle eagerly. Robert was held here somewhere." she said sharply." Jocelyn jerked to her feet." They traveled as swiftly as the man had boasted. "You must come with me now. looked her up and down rudely. The rest of you wait here. see what he wants done with you. the man bragged. Jocelyn stared at the tents of the army spread like a vast undulating sea along theriver Avon. The messenger grunted and motioned for Geoffrey to follow him. With all his lord's restless energy one never knew exactly where he might be found." He grinned." she said. thankful Geoffrey wasn't near enough to have heard such insolence. If this was the behavior to be expected from the Angevins. England might soon be a sad place. you might find it difficult to travel in the places we'll be. "Look to yourself. Jocelyn dismounted with Geoffrey's help." Brian said with a wide false smile. "I saw some of his men as we rode in. Without a safe conduct from my lord. at the great wall and towers of the castle rising just above the town." Geoffrey whispered as he left. "His man has gone to see where he can be found. They rode along the river and into the huge city of tents. But she hadn't a choice. "I'm glad I see you well. http://www. sister. "You'll not find him tonight. spinning about so quickly the bench was upended. Idle soldiers were beginning to gather around her little group. We . It was a lovely place. though there were none of any standing to take charge.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. at least she prayed to God he was. of the shamed death of the proud old earl." "I'll ask for Leicester. to stare and murmur.processtext." a familiar voice said from behind her.com/abclit. but she couldn't help thinking of its treacherous countess. watched with misgivings as their weary." the man said in his heavily-accented French. She was gambling their freedom—possibly even their lives —on Henry's honor. curt man dressed in the new style from across the Channel." Jocelyn nodded and watched the men stride away. lady. longing for a drink to wash the dust from her throat. "We must find the duke. Warwick. She hoped she would soon see that for herself. But no one had offered even so much as a stool to sit down on.html *** Theyleft at dawn the following morningwith Henry's messenger. The courier had told her the duke kept a fine pavilion in the center of his men as well as a bedchamber awaiting him up at the castle. lathered mounts were led away. Robert's life was worth that and more." Jocelyn swung her fretting mountina tight circle about the man.

God. "Where is the earl's camp? Please.." Jocelyn turned and raced on. hobbled horses were grazing. Kicking the bench against her brother's legs.then ducked round two horses. The loitering soldiers began to shout and draw weapons. "I demand to see Leicester.Someone was trying to slow her brother at least. hadn't dreamed he would be here in the Angevin camp. she might not live to see Henry. racing between the startled. nervous horses. How dare he say that! How dare Brian set these men on her with such a tale! "Spy! Stop that spy!" Some of Leicester's men were trying to intercept her. As for these men.com/abclit. She spun toward the voice. If only someone might recognize her. shouting. she turned and fled between the tents. She raced past two other tents. . more men shouting. the sharp clatter of swords coming together.. Across a wide grassy space. feinted once as a man grabbed at her. hold them. All her thoughts had been focused on Henry. speak for her. "There she is. fool. it is urgent!" "There to the right. how best to approach so mercurial and powerful a lord. jerked her roughly toward him and gave her a sharp slap. "This lady is my sister and I will take her under my care. She heard Brian's favorite curse quickly bitten off. can you not tell?" The man obeyed. swords drawn. http://www. Stop that woman!" someone shouted behind her. she hadn't even thought of her brother.. If Brian took her. "But I doubt he is. releasing her so quickly Jocelyn stumbled and almost fell. please God let Leicester be here! One of the men caught her. and Brian stepped forward into the confusion..She could see the earl of Leicester's standard fluttering over a cluster of tents. She only hoped Robert's men didn't give their lives in vain. Across the pasture.processtext. Brian must have more men in pursuit." "No!" It was only one word but Jocelyn said it sosharply her men sprang instantly into readiness.html have much to discuss. They are knights of Stephen seeking to spy out our camp. saw a rough soldier look up from the cooking fires he tended. sending them milling and plunging between herself and the men. Robert of Leicester! she screamed. "Leicester?" she called desperately." The man gestured. God.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. She could hear men behind her. a sure and confident authority backed by his status of birth and knighthood. Stephen's spy!" Jocelyn caught her skirts higher. She struck back. on what she would say. If only Leicester were here! She ran gasping. "Robert. speaking the one name she dared claim.." "Let her go! You have a lady.." Jocelyn didn't wait to hear any more. "She's a spy.

family love. No doubt you would like to do the same. I fear if I stand. Then he was striding swiftly across the grass toward her. Brian was standing just a few yards away. the boyish look suddenly reminding her that he was only some two years her senior. "I'm afraid I cannot. I'll help you to your feet." he said softly at last." Jocelyn was overwhelmingly aware of how disheveled she must appear." The duke smiled and stroked his beard. madam. Brothers can be difficult as I know well. "you must be my lady de Langley. "I'll help you." she said breathlessly. Jocelyn glanced around." At such an obvious hint. and just as sharp. the eyes of a man who knew power well and enjoyed the knowledge.com/abclit. my knees will buckle. "I've some sympathy with your plight. of course.html was surprised to see a man standing just to one side of Leicester's tent—a short man flanked by several others. "You are Anjou." Henry threw back his head with a laugh. This was the man who held Robert's life in his hands. My own has made war on me." The Angevin grinned." she said boldly. http://www. didn't dare take her eyes from his face for an instant. eyes riveted on something just past her shoulder. instinctive curtsey in the grass. "I ask your protection. the man she so desperately needed to impress! "You've all heard her. But she was trembling. We shall have to drink to that. She didn't dare turn to see what it was. The duke was obviously enjoying himself for any number of reasons she couldn't even beginto guess at right now. And how can any true knight fail to heed so lovely a lady." Jocelyn hesitated. "And you. Her dress was torn where that man had grabbed her. You may rise. and then she sank to a deep. Despite this odd reception." Henry announced loudly.. She took in his short cloak. "Yes.processtext. knew if she stood she would likely fall flat in the grass before all. and now I've been coursed through your camp like a hare. almost winced at his power as he grabbed it and swung her up. lady. "Ah. She was dusty and sweating and her hair was a dark. my lord. "I've been in the saddle since dawn chasing the fleetest courier I ever beheld. and I shall have to cage him sooner or later. his smile of satisfaction sending her stomach sliding to her feet. "Lady de Langley asks my protection. And Henry was staring at her. and in such obvious distress? You have it. you are indeed most welcome to my camp. "Ah. madam. his arrogant air of command. An odd chill lifted the hairs along the back of her neck. his close-cropped hair and trim. and she knew as sure as if someone had whispered the name in her ear. madam." he said again. "I should like that very much. my lord. his long scar standing like a fresh wound against the sudden chalk-white of his face." she said loudly. tangled mass across her shoulders." She reached for his hand. Flint-gray they were." . reddish beard. how can such a small slip of a woman create such an uproar?" He held out one hand.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. "Come. She was close enough now to see his eyes. I expect.. I expect.

"but I've learned not to meddle. He prowled Leicester's tent picking up items and rearranging things. at least with some men's wives. I had it brought over for myself and my friends. Jocelyn forced herself to smile at this man who hated her husband.com/abclit. and that same sensation of danger quivered along Jocelyn's nerves." she added sharply.. Jocelyn drank as well. At last he halted and stared at her. They entered the tent as pages and servants scrambled before him. He's off on an errand for me just now. "We were set upon by your men." he said. "I suspected you did know why I came. He grinned and drank. I think. with such obvious interest Jocelyn felt it to the ends of her toes. The duke would have a stool for the lady de Langley. We did travel under a flag of truce. "Ah. Henry paced before her like a restless cat. Jocelyn matched his stare. I'm here to see Robert myself. Something of what she was thinking must have shown. that she had lost all control. "It's from Aquitaine—some of my wife's best vineyards. http://www. Henry shouted another order and a servant rushed off to find Robert's men. You'll like it. my lord." Jocelyn had seated herself. She longed to put her clothing to rights. but I doubt he'll grudge us the use of his tent. It was a look of excitement and attraction. for there were a half-dozen grown men stumbling over themselves in haste to obey." he murmured." She hesitated.html He shouted for wine and the brief impression of boyishness vanished." And then he was dragging her with him to Leicester's tent." she began at last. you were calling for Leicester." he said abruptly. as yet another man hastened into the tent. She had seen that look in Robert's eyes oft enough.processtext. water and towels for washing the dust of travel. to brush and redo her hair. "And I you. not knowing what else to do. and in this man's eyes it made her blood run cold.. giving her an odd sideways smile. "To beg me to let him go perhaps? Do you think me that foolish?" Despite her thundering heart. He turned back to her.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. madam. yes. who had tried to kill him for years. "I've heard much of you." she returned. lady. to make sure he is recovering as you wrote. "And. "You're the last man in the land I would call foolish. She longed to ask after Robert. to launch into the plea she had rehearsed for so many miles." His eyes moved over her slowly. "There were four loyal men who came with me. He was looking her up and down. studying him. "You are right. "Come. held his gaze. washed her hands and her face with the water the hurrying servants brought. padded back to her stool on his sweep about the room. unable to hold himself still. But something about this man held her back. food of some sort. but she took the wine goblet the duke held instead. The silence became intense. and Jocelyn had the oddest sensation that she was being swept along on a whirlwind." he snapped. and I would know if mine are living or dead. . "You've not asked after your husband. Jocelyn drank wine and waited." He grinned at that. and here is our wine.

beyond exhaustion almost. madam. I would like to eat. We will play after that if you wish. but first I must see after my husband's men. I should like to play with you." Jocelyn shook her head." Henry was still staring." He took her up quickly on that. lady. "You do have the strangest eyes. she suspected. "That is kind of you. And too much bending. Did he mean that? Or did he just mean that Robert was already dead? Suddenly Henry was laughing. "Certainly." he said. that is.html my lord. understand that. "Just a short while ago." Henry waved a hand dismissively. of all men. "Yes. madam." She lifted her chin. he had to be.. think I would have recognized you even if I hadn't seen your brother snarling behind your skirts. "Come then. I look forward to it. "But I wish to playnow." Jocelyn didn't blink. I hear from Leicester that you are no mean chess player.com/abclit. Jocelyn saw one of the servants pale and begin edging away. I'll send my own physician if you like. This man was insane. eventually. They are good men—or were—and have served my husband faithfully for years. but what I have I will fight to protect." Jocelyn rose to her feet.processtext.. would be disaster. http://www.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter."the duke said softly. only sipped her wine and thought of a burned-out abbey and stared. "The man I most wish to see is my husband. I suppose. "His life is in no danger from me.. Henry turned and pulled a chessboard and pieces from one of Leicester's coffers. my lord." To her amazement. We could wait a bit. You need to eat. "I do have little enough. "But of course you're hungry. I'd been told that. Jocelyn held his gaze. chilled.. I've come to ask for his life. stared back at her. "You meannow?" "Certainly. "Anyone can see to them." Henry's eyes narrowed. but I need to see them myself. warningly." Jocelyn didn't say a word. "Chess. three men were ready to give their lives for mine. lifting his eyebrows archly. you know. eyes still narrowed. shoving bread and cheese from the table a servant was just setting up. "So you shall.. frowning. I'll go with you myself so that none dare molest you. Why wait?" And then he caught himself. I would think." She had caught him completely off guard." She held his eyes." . added with just a hint of defiance. she sensed. but he was beginning to smile again. my lord. We will find these men you so wish to see. She was beyond being shocked. If she bent this time he would only bend and push bend her again. I owe them and him the courtesy of at least seeing if they are living or dead. something that happened rarely. my lord. You.. madam.

none had been hurt." she said. studying the board. then turned her attention back to the board. "Being of the devil's brood myself. Henry had remarked with that odd sideways smile. madam. They were in Leicester's tent. drug you. "Do you know your brother is wanting you burned alive for a witch?" he inquired. I do not fear witches." "We have much in common then. Henry lifted the tent flap and she passed before him and out into the gathering dusk. for he played chess as aggressively as he did all else. My own Angevin ancestress was reportedly the daughter of Satan. Is it true?" "Yes. "And you are of much finer stuff than that other." "He wasn't particularly adroit in his choice of attack. Henry moved a piece swiftly in return. It is said in Stephen's camp that Sir Brian did trick you. madam. my lord. many ears in many places. madam. I do not like yourbrother. miraculously. all his overwhelming energy at rest for an instant "I will tell you a secret. Twenty-Seven "It is your move." he said. "More than you know." At that she did look up. madam." Something flickered behind his eyes." Henry said. http://www.processtext." Henry leaned back. She frowned and moved her bishop. but it was too dark to see the duke's face. "I understand now much I have heard of you. And then he was striding off at so rapid a pace she had almost to run to keep up. The three had been quickly overwhelmed and taken alive for spies." Jocelyn glanced up sharply. They had found Robert's men and. sir. I do not like liars and cowards who plot and connive and rumble about in the dark. Jocelyn didn't look up." Jocelyn glanced at the man across from her. changed in the set of his mouth. "We have yet to see if he'll get any of them. She bit her lip to keep from begging. She had learned already that Henry tracked fear like a hound. "I'm no witch. She and Henry had been at this game well over an hour and she was almost screaming with the strain. "My brother wants many things. that Marguerite. "I have ears. but Jocelyn couldn't read it." he muttered. then returned her attention to the chessboard. that he ambushed your lord in the dark within the walls of his own keep. "I think so. Henry had ordered them set free at once. She and Henry had been cautiously testing and circling each other since then.html The disappointment was bitter.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. If I were my brother would have far more serious maladies to contend with than a single cut to his face!" Henry grinned appreciatively. and she was now nearing . a host of servants and squires and lords ringed about them— for propriety. my lord. Free—with a half-dozen men set to watch. madam." Jocelyn stared at him for a moment.com/abclit. madam.

. madam. that might even put his own king in danger. I believe in these moments that two is far better than three. "Where is the excitement in playing if there's no risk." Jocelyn glanced up. moving to a side table and pouring two goblets of wine.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. just as obviously amused. and Henry was exclaiming in pleasure over his win like a boy. keeping the table between them. All I ask. Her heart thudded unsteadily and began to race. beginning to think she'd been foolish ever to think she might. wondering if she were more weary or he more drunk than she had supposed. Now if you'll excuse me." He moved toward her. And in that moment Jocelyn hated him with a violence that was almost overwhelming. Not even a page stood within sight or hearing. "But you are about to forgive me.html exhaustion. but what else could she have done? She rose carefully to her feet. madam. "I do like you. for all he had done to Robert. I've a surprise for you tonight." He shoved back abruptly and stood. madam! You lose! I wonder what you owe me? I'll think on it. all resemblance to a boy vanished. yes! I have it. "Your brother was a fool to let you get anywhere near him with a knife. He had her nearly hemmed in. For his power and his pleasure in using it. I would never make that mistake. For this farce he had put her through tonight. She saw the move.. This was a man who wouldn't like to lose. "Out! Everyone out. obviously aware of her thoughts. sudden smile. Besides it was late and she hadn't seen Robert. The duke had captured her counselor and all of her pawns. Her king was quickly under attack and quickly taken. She reached for a knight. She'd been a fool to let herself be trapped like this. ignored it. Make him want to live. only do not tell your husband that. murmured wryly. "I've not been very kind to you today. but Robert was already turning to confront the duke. She cried his name and started forward. now!" The room cleared as if by magic. put both goblets on the table beside Leicester's empty chessboard. But Henry had already turned in that abrupt way he had toward the tent entrance. Lady de Langley." "Oh. here you are. "You lose. Henry was watching. about to give me what I want. but there was one obscure move that might gain her freedom. I expect. She was rapidly losing the ability to match wits with this man. Jocelyn held herself very still. I always play for stakes. "Ah. I think. http://www. no prize to be won? Ah. obviously enjoying what he had done. She was beginning to wonder if she ever would. have I?" He sent her a swift. "I wasn't aware we were playing for stakes. yes. He might take it amiss." Then he turned his back deliberately. I expect." Robert ducked inside the tent looking just as stunned and disoriented as Jocelyn felt." He grinned. He smiled. This is what I ask of you. "Your lady will tell you everything.processtext. There were few pieces left still in play. "What's the meaning of this? What's my wife doing here?" Henry was smiling. My lord de Langley. I need not tell you . Someone should have warned you of that. changed her mind and picked up her bishop again. Make him want to live more than anything else on this earth!" Jocelyn blinked in surprise. There was no one savethe two of them. moved her piece in a more conventional way.com/abclit.

"At least he wasn't able to." she managed to get out." The duke nodded toward Jocelyn. He wrote to tell me you lived. God help the man who is cursed with a fool for a wife!" And suddenly Robert was behind her. "Scratches. yes. "At least not all night. and I will kill him for it if I can! That's how they took me. Don't let him keep you up. I've longed for you. "Christ! Oh. He had been expecting her. Betray Stephen and ride out openly with him for all to see." he interrupted softly. "I'm always saying that to you." He grinned again. I wasn't wounded.html that your guards will all be stationed outside." he murmured.processtext. He spun away in a bitter rage. "He holds me. They killed Belisaire. "Bait.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. content to be in his arms. "Weil think of something." "But the duke said—" Robert's face paled with sudden understanding." Jocelyn closed her eyes." Jocelyn moved forward. madam. before. "It doesn't matter. and I'm glad of that. And God help us both. Jocelyn. it seems. added softly..com/abclit. Judas." He traced his knuckles along her cheek. "And what is it he wants you to do?" "Forswear myself. I've longed for you though I'd rather by far be dead than to have you here now. Robert. She was beginning to feel quite sick. "Lady." He paused.. how did he take you? How do you come to be here?" Jocelyn leaned into him. "I'm sorry." Robert's hands dropped away from her shoulders. will not ride with that son of a whore and thedevil! I'll not betray the king nor the vows I did swear before God!" Jocelyn remembered the duke's smile of satisfaction as she had knelt to him in the grass. putting his hands on her shoulders and turning her to face him. He has come to believe that I could be of more use to him alive than dead. "But why? Why would the duke want me? I'm of little value.. That cur Chester did have them slay my horse. "Robert. to see that he was alive and so obviously well. reaching for her husband. madam. that's all. sweet Christ. staring at her in amazement. but he cannot make me dance to his tune. "That son of Satan did but bait a trap. This is my nightmare and my sweetest dream. http://www. you do lookweary. that you'd been sorely wounded but were—" "Sorely wounded!" Robert pushed back and gripped her shoulders. his fingers tightening against her arms. Discreetly." And then he was gone. almost as if he couldn't believe he was . of course.. At least we'll have some time together this way. sobbing his name yet again as he dragged her into his arms. And I will not do it. for you took it!" Jocelyn shook her head in bewilderment. "I came with the courier the duke sent to Stephen's camp. He already holds you.

Then he was inside her. kissing her." Jocelyn turned and kissed his fingers. tightened herself around him." he whispered against her bare shoulder. cupped her breasts. wanting to be a part of him always." She lay for a moment. orienting herself. to angle her face so that he could kiss her again. found her mouth. Somehow Robert had snuffed the lamps and Jocelyn was out of her tunic and shift. It came again. deep. Then came the hush as the world whirled and reeled andsettled around them. The kisses were long. slid possessively about her waist. was helping him off with his hose. It was urgent. she didn't care.processtext. and Jocelyn leaned into him.html touching her. love. irresistible. He bent his head. Jocelyn. still tangled together as if they feared. *** They slept for a time. And despite the dangers they faced. I would most certainly have come to you. a way that left no doubt at all as to who possessed her. "Before God. There's no danger. She had him now. the hushed tread of footsteps. At least she was with him now. http://www. closing her eyes with the intensity of the pleasure as his hands dropped. Was it sin to want so badly. and the magic flared between them again. tense and listening. "The guards are changing. taking him deeper. worshiping her body." Jocelyn smiled. even in sleep. drugging. There was nothing better than this. whispering her name. aching for him to take her in that incredible way he had. And then they were naked together in the soft summer darkness on Leicester's cool sheets. love so deeply? Was it wrong to need one man so desperately that nothing else mattered at all? Robert moved over her. "I never knew it was possible to love a woman like this.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. "Especially a woman like that. Robert rested his chin against her shoulder. listening to the sounds of the night. opening her mouth wider. And sometime deep in the night Jocelyn awakened. Had our circumstances been reversed." . "Even a woman who loses your castles and runs headlong into traps?" She felt the low rumble of his chuckle against her belly. not caring beyond this minute so long as he loved her now. it seemed little short of a miracle that she lay in Robert's arms now. "I've become so accustomed to that. I do love you. A word so soft she couldn't make it out. drawing her back against his chest. straining and shuddering and emptying himself deep inside her. She wrapped her legs around him." He reached to stroke her cheek. I almost missed the sound these last two days they've held me up at the castle. making her cry out with pleasure. I can't fault you. Jocelyn kissed him. laughter. that someone might drag them apart. "Besides. knew she had all of him—body and heart. hot and rigid and tight.com/abclit. body and soul. against her insides.If she died tomorrow.

" Robert hesitated. Henry has provided the best of food. as I recall. wine. The Angevins—Geoffrey of Anjou. "The duke was a bit disconcerted when all his own English troops cheered me as Chester was dragging me down the road from Tutbury. "I meant to ask earlier but was distracted. Jocelyn." Jocelyn twisted around and touched his face. nuzzled her ear. cursed herself for a fool for never having guessed it before. It wouldn't." There was a long." He hesitated. as you see. "Now women. the duke's rescue. Henry was just sixteen but large and strong and forward even then. Ranulf wants my lands so badly. or the hungry look in Henry's gray eyes." He chuckledagain. What a bitter blow for any man. He still hopes to sway me with bribes and sweet words. but she begged to go.. but especially a man like this. didn't he? With Marguerite. "But enough of me. even if he hints it would influence my treatment. all things men crave. pained silence. "Yes. I say this not because I doubt your honor. And suddenly she knew without asking. Oddly enough Robert raised the subject himself.processtext. already a lord in his own right.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. "Robert. http://www. love. "Henry slept with her. "Yes." Jocelyn closed her eyes. Not him. "I shouldn't have taken Marguerite. But tell me what happened. Jocelyn wrapped her arms about him and held him close. Henry is treading warily for now. Don't be alone with him if you can help it. I'm well. love. power. And always with Henry's own Angevin guard. how you came here. I know him and know that it wouldn't. even that hellish game of chess. Just beware of him.html "Are you always so carefully guarded?" "Always. EvenafterHenry made it plain he wanted me alive.com/abclit." Jocelyn leaned back in his arms and told him about her brother. I think he'd have killed me and called it an accident if Robin hadn't stayed within sight. You are of finer stuff than that other—that Marguerite. Henry and some others—myself and my allies were to talk peace withthe help of the Church. been with you like this.." He kissed her neck. But she didn't mention the bit about witchcraft. continued carefully. only because I fear you do love me too much. Set it up so carefully that I walked in on them in the final throes of their lust." Jocelyn shivered and pulled his arms tighter around her. and don't trust him. do you really not understand I would count it nothing if half the rebel army used me if only it won your life?" "No. "The abbot of Clairvaux had arranged a truce in hopes of ending the fighting." Robert admitted.no!Icouldn't stand to think he had touched you." Robert chuckled. already ruling his lands himself.. he did. Thank God for Leicester. The duke is a man with large appetites for riches. "I've no idea what will happen. sweetheart. And she set it up. my dear wife. Not Henry!" The words rang with such bitterness. was no doubt plotting even ." Robert muttered. no matter what he says. women. "And don't let him touch you. and the sound curled soft and seductive against her ear. "It was at Mantes..

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then. We had already come to hate each other, but even with that she could still make me want her as I had wanted no woman before. "I don't know how to explain it to you, Jocelyn. I don't even understand it myself. My relationship with Marguerite was sick, twisted, so much so that it sickens me even to think on it now. It was nothing like what you and I have together. You make me feel... I don't know... whole, right with myself and with you. Marguerite had a way of making a man feel less, making everything she touched into filth." He lay silent so long Jocelyn thought he was done. And she needed to know what had happened with Henry, knew it might hold the key to his life. "What happened after you found them? What did you do?" He laughed bitterly. "What would you expect? I dragged Henry naked from my bed and began beating the life from his body. Geoffrey was with me. He dragged me off the boy and screamed that I couldn't commit murder, that I couldn't slay an unarmed sixteen-year-old who had come to Mantes under a truce of God." Jocelyn thought of the meeting she had witnessed between Geoffrey and the duke just a short while ago, of the odd way they had stared at each other, then looked away. Geoffrey had known. He had known Robert's danger all along. "But that wasn't what stopped me. At that moment I'd no reverence even for God. It was Marguerite. She sat there naked in our bed, the whole room a shambles and the three of us screaming and pummeling each other about on the floor. And she was laughing, the bitch was laughing as if she watched a farce! And I knew then that she had planned the whole thing, planned it to ruin me." Robert sucked in his breath, as if even the speaking of it ripped open a wound. "So I let Henry scramble into his clothing and run. Marguerite was still laughing, excited ifyou can believe it, by the havoc she'd wrought. She informed me that Henry was one of many, that I was so poor an excuse for a husband, she needed a legion of lovers to make it up. "She threw out names, dozens of names, but I scarcely listened. Most of the men she named were trusted friends. I told her I was done with her, that she could couple with the devil every midnight, and I wouldn't care. And then I rode out, thankful I already had a son, that I wouldn't have to touch her again." Jocelyn lay with her eyes tight shut, her arms around him. His words made her insides twist and churn. "So you and Henry became worse enemies than before," "Yes. The Angevins hunted me then with a vengeance, and I fought back with all the hatred and cunning I could drag up from my bitter soul. I expected Henry to boast of what he'd done, but there was never a whisper. It reflected on him so badly, he didn't want it known, I suppose." Jocelyn held him, stroked him, and Robert clung like a boy needing solace. "There is more," he muttered. "If you claim you love me, you'd best hear the whole sick end to it all. "Marguerite had learned she couldn't get my attention any other way, so she set about trying to surrender Geis Castle to the Angevins. I learned of it and raced to end the plot. There was nothing to do but cage her there and set a watch. She was furious, couldn't believe she had lost all her power to sway me. "There is no excuse for what I did then," he added slowly, "but I did pay for it, madam. Christ, I did pay for my sins! Hating her as I did, knowing how she hated me, I let her seduce me. I used her—we used each other—over and over and over until even we were sick of it. And then I rode out, left her screaming

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that I would be back. That I would always come back." He drew in his breath. "And I did, nearly four months later. My steward wrote that Marguerite was dying. I didn't believe it, thought it only more of her plotting. But I went, found her very near death from a fever, from some putrid, rotting sickness inside her." Jocelyn cringed, tasted blood and realized that she hadtorn her own lip with her teeth. She knew what was coming, sensed the terrible thing he was about to say. "Marguerite had conceived a child. An innocent child.My childfrom that day of sickness and lust. She had tried to rid herself of it in the usual way, as she told me then she'd rid herself of others. Only this time the draught hadn't worked. She was forced to try other, cruder methods. My child—children—died because of my lust, because I was too stupidly naive to realize the kind of creature I was tied to." He hesitated. His breathing was rapid. Jocelyn could feel his heart racing, thundering violently against hers. "Marguerite was cunning even at the last, though not cunning enough as she found. She pretended to a fit of terrible remorse, told me that Adam wasn't my son, that he was the get of some stable groom, the result of a few minutes lust in a hayrick. She would make all right, confess all here at the last so no serf's child would be my heir." He paused again, shuddered as if remembering, as if hearing it all again. "I almost think she wanted me to kill her and have that sin to burden my soul, but I held my rage and outplotted her. I pretended anguish, told her I was going for her priest and my steward to stand as witnesses. Instead I sent everyone from that floor of the keep and put trusted men to guard the stairways. "Then I returned and sat with her in that stinking room. I listened to her raging and cursing and screaming insults at me for days while she died. The priest, her women, even my own men thought me insane, but I let no one near for fear she might ruin my son. I did let her priest in at the last. She was unconscious by then, couldn't spew out her poisons. Not into earthly ears at least." He drew a long shuddering breath but Jocelyn sensed he wasn't finished. "And then I went and found the hag who had helped her destroy my children," he added softly. "An old woman of Geis who had long practiced witchcraft. I'd never paid her any mind, but I killed her then, Jocelyn, killed her without a qualm. My own priest knows of it. Now you. I've confessed and done penance, but I don't regret it, madam. I've tried, but cannot!" Jocelyn was shivering. She tried to say something andcouldn't, realized the tears were running down her face, slipping warm and salty into her mouth. "You've no idea how it is to look at a child you love more than your own salvation and wonder if he is yours," Robert said raggedly. "To watch him die and then sob and cry out in the night and to wonder still if it is some other man's flesh you mourn. I know she was lying, I know it! But all the same, I will never know for sure. And that bitch is in hell somewhere, laughing, laughing even now. I might have kept her from hurting Adam, but she did most assuredly come close to destroying me!" Jocelyn fought to steady herself, to speak through the tears that choked her. "Does it really matter, my darling, whose flesh Adam was? Would you have loved him any less had you known for sure he was sprung from some other? I think not. Iknow not! You loved the boy, and he you, and that is what matters. All the flesh and bone and blood in God's kingdom cannot bind one person to another if there isn't love to hold them first.

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"Look at Marguerite! She was obviously the child's blood mother. Yet you were the one who loved and cherished and protected the boy. You were the one who gave him four, almost five years of happiness and love. "That is what makes the tie, Robert. Love is what binds one person to another despite all the hellish plots the devils both here and below can dream up! It doesn't matter whose seed Adam was. You were his father, you and none other. Love him and mourn him for he deserves that. But don't tear yourself apart for the vile mouthings of some foul and evil bitch!" She lay still then, struggling to breathe around the tears that ran unchecked.Sweet merciful God, grant this prayer if nothing else all my days. Let Robert have some time of happiness at least, for he does deserve it. Robert was still clinging to her, but his breathing had slowed to a more normal cadence. "You're right," he said softly. "It doesn't matter whence Adam came. Only that he was mine to enjoy for a time... that he is safe now with God." He rolled over, drawing her close against the curve of his body as if he would make her part of him again. "If only I had known you were out there waiting for me, Jocelyn, I wouldn't have been nearly so desolate," he whispered. And then he smiled. Somehow Jocelyn could tell he was smiling even in the dark, even through her tears. "I'm so thankful, my love," he said, "that you waited for me, that you did not die when you were ten."

Twenty-Eight "Wake up, sweetheart, someone's coming." Jocelyn blinked and opened her eyes, becoming aware of loud voices as someone entered the tent. It would be the duke, of course. No one else could get through the guards. "Stop whatever it is you are doing," Henry called. "You've company. Leicester is returned, and we've brought something to break your fast." Robert grabbed up the coverlet and jerked it over his wife just as Henry caught back the silken curtain screening the private area of the tent. The duke's eyes traveled from Jocelyn's flushed face and tangled hair to Robert's arm curled possessively around her. "Ah," he said softly. "I see all is well. You've been testy of late, my lord de Langley. I did almost hate to throw the lady into the lion's den." "The lady knew she had nothing to fear," Robert muttered. "The lady does not appear to fear much," Henry returned. Jocelyn glanced from one pair of tense and watchful eyes to the other. "The lady would like to get dressed," she said crossly. Henry glanced at her and grinned. "I stand rebuked, madam. Hurry then, for we are waiting." With a flutter of the curtain he was gone, and Jocelyn could hear him talking to the earl of Leicester a few steps away.

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She glanced at Robert. He was biting his lip to keep from laughing. He bent swiftly and kissed her. "I do love you, madam," he whispered. "Whatever happens, I would have you remember that. You've brought me joy and laughter and peace—even now. Always remember that." Jocelyn traced his mouth with one finger. "And you, my love, have brought me far more even than that." He caught her hand, stared at the ring she was wearing. "I see you found this. I didn't know if you'd ever want to wear it again, but I bought it back from that woman, thought it might be good to remind myself of my own folly on occasion." "Of course I'll wear it. To remind me of what we had and what we've passed through. To remind me that things can become even better after trials." She glanced sideways at him and smiled. "To remind my lord husband that his wife has a temper, that she isn't slow to wield a knife." Robert tried to hold it back, but the laughter burst from him. It was odd and wonderful to hear him laugh after what they'd been through last night, with what they were facing now. "It is good to hear you so full of mirth, my lord, but I would remind you that Leicester and I are waiting," Henry called dryly from just beyond the curtain. They dressed hastily and stepped around the curtain. Both men were sitting, but Leicester rose to his feet. He was a tall man, graying and deliberate, the calm center of the storm that so often raged around Henry. "Robert... my lady." He nodded gravely. "I'm sorry, madam, that I wasn't here for you yesterday. I understand there was some trouble with your brother." Jocelyn nodded, forcing herself to smile at Henry. "Yes, but the duke came to my rescue in the most amazing way. Almost as if he'd been expecting me," she added with only the slightest widening of her eyes. Henry met her gaze, amusement lurking round the corners of his mouth. "The providence of God, madam. He does provide for those who work his will. It's a lesson we all should remember. Now come and eat. I'm hungry." A page had spread the table with a cloth and laid out cheese and good white bread from the castle, honey, and two pitchers of ale. Jocelyn lifted her brimming cup and drank. It was good. The duke would demand the best of everything, she expected. "My lord of Leicester returned from Bedford in thenight," Henry was saying. "Imagine his amazement when my guards wouldn't let him near his own tent." Jocelyn smiled at the earl. "I'm sorry if you were inconvenienced, my lord. Robert and I had little choice." Robert had looked up sharply at the name. "Bedford? What were you doing at Bedford, Robin?" Leicester met his eyes briefly, then turned his attention back to his meal without comment. "Bedford is now under siege," Henry answered, biting at a thickly-buttered slab of bread. "We've taken Tutbury and Bedford will fall before long. The earl of Derby did surrender himself finally at Tutbury. He

man. You've fought a fierce and honorable war.. And so I should value you.. Leicester is here and Cornwall. That's the fate this land is rapidly running to. but Henry held Robert's eyes.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. Not toyou!" The room went still. Madam.com/abclit. Robert. His eyes blazed with a strange inner fire. Everyone knows they cannot stop me. sadly." He glanced back toward Robert. leaning forward. Hereford and Salisbury. "Do you value them then." "No. some of the foremost men of the kingdom. and we've both flailed and burned and bloodied each other." he added. won't we?" The duke glanced shrewdly at Jocelyn. killed good men for years for something that wasn't even worth piss! I won. Your lady is looking alarmed and I'll not have that. "You think not? We shall see then." Robert had paled at the news. "That grievance is dead and buried!" Henry snapped. "I would welcome you with all honor. Jocelyn held her breath and even Leicester stopped eating. considering drink. I will be king of England and not even you can stop it. gripped her cup. Now he and his men will take part in the siege. I do swear if you harm my wife for an old grievance between us. "I'm no fool. There wasn't a sound in the room. join us!" Henry cried. Gloucester and Derby. took a long. confirm your lands and give you more. Henry narrowed his eyes and smiled. you fool. Henry. And by God's passion. That he is wanting her burned alive for a witch?" Robert hadn't taken his eyes from Henry's. "Before God. "Did your lady tell you her brother is talking about the camp. will come back from the dead myself to be sure it is done!" All pretense of politeness was abruptly stripped away. but now he glanced contemptuously at Leicester and then back to Henry. Henry sucked in his breath.processtext. My lord of Leicester did but go with him there to oversee all and report back to me. de Langley. "But come. I'll destroy you without remorse if you continue to try!" "I don't fear you. it wouldn't. de Langley. "and Eustace but a poor excuse for one. and I'll win again. http://www.html has repudiated Stephen and sworn himself to me. after the difficult day you had yesterday. you deserve this one for rest and pleasure at least. these men whose honor is like spit in the wind?" Leicester flushed deeply and kept eating. not evenyou!" "I know that! I know it! I've had years of learning it!" the duke shouted. All men know it. I value each of those men exactly as each should be valued. Henry's face was red and mottled. "That'swhat I've been trying to tell you. and prayed. I will see you damned for eternity. my lord de Langley. even those lords still sworn to Stephen. No one will think the less of you if you swear to me now!" . If I read you a list of men who have secretly approached me for terms I swear it would astound you. I wronged you and you wronged me. You could help me stop it if you would. I won't." "Then for the love of God." "I won't swear to you. fought for control of his temper and steadied himself." Robert said softly. Jocelyn held her breath. "But I would win something here besides a burned-out waste of a kingdom. We could stop the burning and killing before the rest of the kingdom goes up in a funeral pyre that does stink to heaven! "Stephen is an old and ailing man. "No.

my lord. "I've no horse. to make me ride one of Chester's mounts. I've no doubt she would make a far more agreeable companion." Robert chewed his bread. "So that's the punishment you intend. stronger man who would take your crown?" The two men stared at each other as if they were alone." Robert said." "Of course. Your lord may well seem to run after martyrdom." "Yes. so softly Jocelyn had to strain to hear. but I don't plan to oblige him. you too will be old. "Finish your breakfast." He pushed back from the table and stood. "Does God exempt me from vows sworn on holy relics simply because they aren't convenient? Someday. http://www. I'm riding out shortly and would have you accompany me. "You agree then. God help me then. Stephen is growing older. you know. stay by my wife." Henry stared for a moment." Robert snapped. "I'll go. "And if I won't?" "Then I'll take your lady wife in your stead. He is ailing. "Yes." Henry said. added dryly.html "I will think the less of me. I'll be fine. "I think it is probably inevitable. That cur Chester cut open the finest stallion I ever bestrode. if you are lucky." Henry was moving toward the entrance and Robert followed reluctantly." Robert rose as well. my lord de Langley. "Of course she'll be safe. perhaps. then slowly began to smile." "My wife stays here. and I found him just as troubling to me dead as alive. still smiling. "Oh. forceda smile witha major effort. So long as the ." Robert held the duke's eyes. will have the mounting of you now from his own stable." Henry glanced at Jocelyn. that I will be king. Robert drew in his breath. Robert. "I've spoken to my lord of Chester concerning his mistake in destroying my property." Henry was taking in the tableau from his place in the entrance.processtext.com/abclit. "Don't look so strained. I will bring him back alive. We will ride. holding onto his ale cup and a slab of thick bread. for the man is so cow handed there'll be no suffering his horse. He's had that once." Henry was saying. "Don't worry. the big gray. "As you may recall that animal was mine. He is going to pay me back." Jocelyn met her husband's eyes." The duke burst into laughter and Robert glanced back toward the table. Is that any reason to betray my king?" Robert asked. "Robin. "I'm done now. for the love of God!" Henry drew in his breath and leaned back. for the love you once bore my father. madam.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. Would you then seeyour friends and vassals drop away? Would you understand and wish them well as they go fawning and cringing to lick the hand of the younger.

"Robert means every word. even the ones Henry had taken prisoner at ." "Don't fret. the more the duke wants him. Henry has wooed and won many of Stephen's vassals. and your Henry isn't a patient man. Not even for me. And that is what this land needs. Henry hasn't a soft bone in his body. "He's not in any real danger. I didn't come to him for gain. many of the high men of the land. He will not swear!" "I know. drew in a long.html lady enjoys my protection. "Robert will never bend." Jocelyn murmured despairingly. he does value me. "I loved Stephen. as Henry obviously believes." "But what of Robert?" Jocelyn asked. http://www. The duke must bend Robert or break him. He won't let things run like this forever. At least not at the moment. shuddering breath. he does wonder why he set her value so high." "But this is no game my lord plays. something between the two of us. That is what makes it all so amazing. I'll tell you this for your comfort." Leicester smiled and reached across and squeezed her hand gently. "If you'll forgive a crude comparison. madam. madam. The more he denies Henry.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. and he will make justice. even myself a little. But once he has what he most desired. madam. And that will be your husband's salvation. one smiling. That is his way." Leicester said calmly. The two men eyed each other. madam. at least as much as he does any man." Twenty-Nine Robert was allowed to see his men briefly the next day." She picked up her cup and drank.com/abclit. for the aching in her throat was becoming unbearable. one grim-faced. There had been just the right inflection to make it obvious what the duke had intended. It's difficult to know this young man." He hesitated. perhaps. He woos her with heat and urgency and finally wins her. "Take heart. the higher his value is set. "Love doesn't enter into it. Leicester stared at her consideringly and then sipped his ale. The duke knows it. this Henry Plantagenet." "But he won't bend. And then they turned and disappeared together from the tent. Henry is much like a man who is hot for a woman who denies him. you know. lady. but because I saw in him the only way to stop the killing." "And you can love such a man?" Jocelyn demanded. trust me. stared at her. Jocelyn puta hand across her eyes. not even her brother would be fool enough to touch her. but I've learned him as well or better than most. He couldn't hold such wolves as Chester and Peverel and Hugh Bigod and the rest of them. Your husband is playing the game in the best possible way it could be played. then sipped his ale again. too. Leicester reached across the table and quietly refilled her cup. She didn't know how much more of this she could stand. But secretly Ibelieve he mistrusts and despises them. "I don't know what was between them." Robert glanced up sharply. and the stake that is set is his life!" she exclaimed despairingly. couldn't keep them from destroying the land. Because Henry knows I seek nothing from him. But I'll tell you something. but Stephen was soft. I hope.processtext. I assure you the duke wants Robert alive. I don't want to know. "He won't forswear himself.

Then Sir Geoffrey and the three knights Jocelyn had brought were sent back to Stephen under the duke's own safe conduct. to push and provoke and see what her husband would do. She had witnessed the incredible Angevin temperby now and was terrified her very outspoken husband would inflame it. She suspected he kept Robert with him so often merely to tease and torment." Henry went back to his chess. Now Bedford had been sacked and burned. my lord duke? Are we going to Wallingford?" Robert asked.html Tutbury. that if there was one thing Henry of Anjou hated. that one day Robert might ride out and not come back. sending them tumbling into places he shuddered even to think. were beginning to drive him mad. Henry looked up from the game of chess he was setting up with Jocelyn. Jocelyn learned then. The talk about the camps was that the entire army was to go to Wallingford. waiting for Henry to ride back from whatever amusement or fight he had been engaged in. and by God's passion. For with all Henry's charm and fat promises. made love to her at night with a passion made more intense by the fragility of the narrow strand of rope they walked. and it was almost certain if they went that the decisive battle with Stephen would be joined at last. It was said by many that they were set for Wallingford. "Why? Will you fight for me if we do?" "Of course not! I do wonder. and Henry had consolidated his control over the south and west and most of the midlands. the duke said. Robert tried to send his wife as well. it was boredom. The king had even built a rival siege castle across the river at Crowmarsh and the two garrisons had been alternately bludgeoning and starving each other. The city. a rope that might unravel without notice. He had made his peace with God and was ready for whatever was required of him. and it was hot and increasingly dusty in the camps. how could he protect a woman if she wasn't within sight? Robert bowed to the inevitable. had been under siege almost continually by Stephen's forces. He had no choice. and these weeks of sitting and talking and playing at chess and dice." Henry only grinned. which had long been loyal to the Angevin cause.processtext. He wasn't afraid for himself. but Henry wouldn't hear of it. He had never been a man who handled inactivity well. But he watched his wife with worried eyes. "So are we going. Lady de Langley had begged his protection. That is all.com/abclit. de Langley. playing at words with the duke and then waiting some more. "Use your head. The Angevin army settled in for siege work which was tedious at best. Robert got up and prowled the tent. She suffered more from the heat and tension than she ever had in her life. It was Jocelyn he feared for. . his wife's future that woke him sweating and trembling in the dark. http://www. Robert knew the unpredictable young duke could be a vindictive enemy. even succumbing to an occasional bout of uncontrollable weeping when Robert rode off with the duke. What would you do if you were me?" "Go to Wallingford. He was almost screaming with boredom.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. The days dragged into high summer.

my lord. This was the first she had heard about her letters at all." Henry tugged at his short beard. "Send him in. there's a man out here begging an audience. sir?" Montagne glanced uncertainly toward Jocelyn. "At Bedford I received a much-delayed letter from my daughter. http://www. in that same gruff voice Jocelyn remembered from her childhood. had a wry humor that could make him laugh even in his darkest hours. my lord. But did Henry know? Would the duke dare call such a hideous bluff? "My lord duke. so he says. "I do thank you for your—" He stopped mid-stride. "And why are you here." Jocelyn stared at the duke with sharp interest. I am just come from Bedford where all has gone forward as you ordered. "Forgive me. He glanced toward Jocelyn. ." Montagne said. "Oddly enough. asking me to come before you. And so I am come. my lady de Langley has stirred up a veritable hornet's nest about my head with the power of her pen. too. the earl of Colwick and his son. Wouldhe forswear himself if it meant her life? Would he cringe and crawl before this man he had hated for years if it came to that? In an instant! He and Henry had danced about the issue for weeks.com/abclit. but I didn't expect to see my daughter here. If it hadn't been for Jocelyn he'd have been mad long before this. "Sir Brian Montagne?" "No. have been besieging me. but keep her safe. She had a way of keeping him sane and calm. William. Indeed. had dared each other with looks and innuendo. Jocelyn looked up. sent him a smile so dazzling it rocked his world. it seems. Merciful Father God. if you must.html He glanced at his wife. eyes riveted on his youngest daughter sitting calmly across a chessboard from Henry Plantagenet. You aren't the first who has come. to plead her cause. "Jocelyn! For the love of God!" He caught himself up with an effort.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. He broke off. sitting so calmly across from Henry. Even my noble lord of Leicester has felt the bite of her pen and entered the listsas her champion." Jocelyn steadied herself. Shall I send him away?" Henry looked up with a scowl. As if feeling the intensity of his gaze. Punish me for my sins and hers. "Your daughter has a passion for letter writing. strode forward and went down on one knee.processtext. "He says he is Lord Montagne." Henry smiled and motioned for a page to pour Montagne wine. Had he received her letter? Might it be possible her father had come here to help? "My lord duke. keep her safe. my lord. Pelham." a sentry called. I believe. The great princes of the Church have dared to hint at excommunication if I proceed—how did they put it? recklessly was the word." Henry nodded and Montagne rose to his feet.

" she said coolly. "I am eager to work my arm. of threat and protection." Montagne whirled toward the corner of the tent. Robert of Belavoir. "I would like that. I suppose. Dare I hope you might partner me with my lord of Chester?" Henry laughed again." "Of course. brought it to his mouth and kissed it. http://www. girl." he murmured. "And I'm happy to listen to any loyal supporter." Then the two men were gone and Jocelyn was staring at her father across the space of a few feet. "My lord. ambush and surprise. meeting Henry's amused gaze. I shall beat you at chess.html "Naturally I am not a reckless man. Besides what place could be better?" Henry reached over and caught Jocelyn's hand. Your lady and her father will have much to speak of in private. "Take care. "You may try." Henry grinned again and released her hand. but you will not win. "I thank you. are you his mistress?" he blurted out. "However. Though I might think on adding that as inducement if it would help change your mind. I think. My lord de Langley. "Not just yet. nodding coldly. especially one so stalwart as yourself." He turned abruptly." He grinned.com/abclit. "And do you think Robert would be here if I were? He would either have killed the duke or be dead himself in the attempt. What say you to a bit of practice so you don't forget the art? I should like to watch. "No. Robert met Montagne's gaze with a burning one of his own. She lifted her eyebrows. my lord Montagne. Now. my lord duke." Montagne frowned. She hadn't risen and he made no move to sit down. you've not felt a sword in your hand for some weeks. my men are here to serve you. I'll see you again." Montagne nodded in bewilderment. you know. we should stay here." he said. I think. He was dusty and dirty and had obviously ridden hard. my lord. "I suppose. more mildly than she expected. taken aback for a moment. Ranulf is stillat Bedford." He stared at her. Then he passed Montagne. I shall find you a partner on which to practice. You are free to command anything at all in my name. "Good Christ. if you please." Henry added smoothly. "You know what I mean. my lord. on such intimate terms with .processtext. "It's just surprising to find you here like this. staring at Robert as if he dared not believe his eyes.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter." Robert had crossed the floor to his wife." Jocelyn held Henry's eyes. "Come. love." And then he straightened." Robert's mouth twitched once. so I've no cause to fear the Church. just now I'm feeling restless and I can see by his pacing that your son-by-marriage must be feeling the same."Andwhen you return. for I've learned to my cost you dare much. "We won't be far. his wife. "Anything within reason I should say. but not just now. Bending. the day you did give me away. Jocelyn held his gaze. he kissed her swiftly. madam." "Nonsense! We will go. "Lady. The duke so loved these games of power. I would think you would have remembered.

A man who would now have me burned alive for a witch." "No doubt. it would be odd. http://www. or am I only now learning bits of the truth. the truth about why you despised me. Rhys of Powis. I'd scarce buried Brian and Adelise's mother. then lowered his eyes and drank deliberately. I would never raise my hand against my own child. or am I sprung from some other seed?" He put his cup down sharply. obviously uncertain how to address her. You are flesh of my flesh. I wanted another son. told me of it the first day we met. who has twice ambushed my husband and twice sought to kill me." He nodded. Others not. All know he is in disfavor with the duke. "And am I your child? Am I blood of your blood. girl." Jocelyn didn't know whether to be saddened or relieved." he said at last. had I not had the siring of you.com/abclit." "Should he?" Montagne stared at her. he was looking at her as if he couldn't believe his eyes. flesh of your flesh. then rose and refilled his wine cup herself. "Brian said she had a lover. you know. felt then that I'd buried my heart and soul with Madelaine!" He twisted his cup restlessly between his hands. that was true. "From that letter you wrote it's easy to see you believe I've fallen far short as a father. girl. Gwendyth loved him before we were wed." "Blood of Christ!" Montagne swore." He scowled. why you couldn't stand to look on me from the day I was born?" Montagne flushed and glanced away. We were about to be overrun by the Welsh from the west and the empress Matilda's faction was looking threatening from the east. Christ. "Where did you hear such filth?" "From your son. I've seen only your son. yes. All the while. Besides. She no more wanted that marriage than I. "But her father—your grandfather—wanted peace. Whatever else you may think of me." He shook his head. and I needed peace desperately." He looked up at her. "I've heard tales of all that has happened. Since you were born some nine months to the week after that. "Some. "You put an end to that. managed to hold her voice steady. a man who claims he is not my relation." He met her eyes. "You look well.html such a prince. Your mother knew no man before me. . To my cost. "I seem to be in disfavor as well.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. "May I sit down?" She motioned for him to sit. "It's a lie. "In later years. As it is Brian has brought much shame to our family." He drew in his breath and came forward awkwardly. "The boy has run mad!" "Has he? Has he truly run mad." Jocelyn gripped her hands together beneath the table. have heard Brian's side of it as well. you've heard lies. I think. his blue eyes moving over her dispassionately. then. you know." "Yes. "I haven't seen you since your wedding. Henry made it obvious he doesn't trust me with my own flesh and blood.processtext.

There will be no more talk of witchcraft. most probably." "Yes." He shrugged and drank. of the man who will soon be our king. I had women enough for my needs. It's obvious." He glanced up sharply. daughter. nor he her. dark women of your mother's race." Montagne's eyes narrowed at her emphasis." Montagne was still smiling. "But I swear to you on the peril of my soul that I had nothing to do with those attempts to murder him. With an ax hanging over both our heads." Hehesitated. "Thank you. "Was it any surprise we separated? That I didn't mind about Rhys so long as they were discreet? Besides. And then he grinned. I can help you with. She would never like this man. "I'm glad. a bond I'd not taint with treachery. that she had Rhys. "You should have been a son. You had the spirit. girl. Father." she said coolly." "How so?" "Henry would make Robert do homage to him. "Brian has taken much on himself these last months.html Gwendyth near died having you." "That. And I lie awake in the night wondering when my husband might be dragged out to be slain. I thought. "So I was tied to a woman I didn't particularly like who made no secret of the fact that she didn't like me. "But he seems on good terms with the duke. Father." He drank again. Men say you've tamed the Lion of Normandy to your skirts. but have no notion how long that will last. that he had come to defend her because they shared the same blood." Jocelyn restrained herself with difficulty.Hewas a wonderful man. that he no longer stands in need of it." Montagne finished his wine and stood." Jocelyn said softly. Thank you for coming. at least. though. you know. I rode here today to speak for him even as you asked. Robertwill not. for a girl." Jocelyn sipped her wine and stared at the table. better by far than I'd expected. A woman who could bear me no sons. "You've done well for yourself. The midwives said it would be a miracle of God if she ever conceived again. http://www." Jocelyn stared up at him. Now I find you the intimate of earls." "If there is ever a cause I will do so." Montagne muttered. It may save Robert one sleepless night in two." "Your husband I may not like for the long enmity that lies between us. But it was good to know he was her father at least. I had never liked those short. It was always out of place. We share a blood bond with this marriage. when your son might succeed in convincing Henry that I am a witch to be burned. Robert and I dance to the tune of Henry's making—and he does so love to call the tune. "Perhaps it's you who should speak for me. "In the meantime. "Thank you." Jocelyn met his eyes. "When did he swear to Henry?" "He hasn't. then." He drank again. So far we are both treated well.processtext." . "Some men like me very well just as I am.com/abclit.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. "So I've seen. I'm about to teach him he has not. seems to think he has outgrown a father's governance.

and your lord." Jocelyn reminded him softly. I find I am glad he was not. Robert would never forgive Henry for refusing to ransom him." Jocelyn was surprised to find the words meant so much. I'm sorry. child. She had thought it too late to care. "The guards say we're to start for Wallingford in the morning. Few great lords do. "You're looking tired again. aging face. sweetheart. my lord." . They must get everyone scrambling and cursing." Jocelyn reached up and kissed her husband. he would have difficulty overcoming his bitterness. She longed to put her arms around him. at least she wouldn't lose him in battle. you must go. But she knew her husband well enough to know that if Stephen lost all at Wallingford. started to go and then turned back. though. There are endless stories making the rounds about you. concerned. Something I can't say for my son. all in just one day. "But you know. I'll send for that girl Henry gave me as maid. Don't worry about the packing. "Aye. I'm not a man much given to past regrets or future promises. Lady de Langley. so I must. but I'd be a poor one could I not admit I'd been wrong. "It's said you're well thought of both in Stephen's camp and here." He hesitated. held her eyes. I will see you again. truly. "I'm well. "For a time these last months. "Can you imagine? I must hold my tongue and pretend to hunt when I would rather by far see them all flayed alive!" "But if the duke has ordered it." she murmured. I was almost hoping Rhy was my father. I know Stephen will meet the duke there. I think." A slow smile warmed Montagne's dusty. and God help me. Robert drew in his breath. And you'll be left here alone to ready our things for travel...processtext. ready to travel. Henry certainly doesn't set his plans to suit the convenience of others. Jocelyn. reminding her a little of the duke as he prowled and frowned and snarled. Well.html Montagne nodded." Robert smiled. "No. You've made me proud of you.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. some so wild I dared not believe them. but Robert was pacing the narrow confines of the tent. Jocelyn. "Aye.com/abclit. I'll make her earn her keep today. "Good day to you. carts and baggage. and it's obvious from your letter that fact was no secret." Thirty Robert was angry. I must now ride off for a day's pleasure at hunting with that devil and some of his traitor lords." His eyes moved over her. making all the men and horses. Pity Leicester and Cornwall. Are you certain you're all right?" Jocelyn smiled. there'll be many earning their pay and more these next few hours. my love. "I never set your value at much. riding frantically to set up new sources of supply. going gratefully into the arms he held out.Pleasure!" Robert spit out. I'll go mad. She was almost thankful the duke held Robert. Ella's dutieshave been light enough. I've just not slept much these last nights. http://www. Robert. if I must sit and twiddle my thumbs while the fate of this land is decided in one bitter battle!" Jocelyn fought the unexpected surge of relief. would never forgive himself for being forced to abandon his king. "To make matters worse.

She lay down and closed her eyes. She wrapped the valuable book and set it aside.com/abclit. she might have admired such a man. boy. she couldn't bear to tell him. She drowsed for a bit. Young Thomas Abenai. a few games and precious books Robert used to beguile the time. and was awakened when one of the guards called. Henry wouldn't hesitate to use. With a weary sigh she rose to her feet. smoothing her hair and dress. there wasn't really much to do. the duke sends for you now. his blue eyes dancing beneath a shock of dark hair. "With him it is alwaysat once!" Jocelyn smiled and rose up on her toes to kiss him again. my darling. but don't think them likely to tell him. even one of Henry's favorites.processtext. but as much as she longed for a babe." . Robert worried enough already. The afternoon heat was becoming oppressive. "You may help the lady. she knew. "Go. and when they were alone she asked softly." Jocelyn answered. Your lord's standard flies from the gatehouse. There is much still to be done. "I thought. didn't trust the girl's prying eyes. I'll be fine. Let me know if there's aught else she needs.html "My lord de Langley. one." Thomas nodded." A familiar figure ducked in with several large panniers for the pack horses. I overheard the duke and Leicester talking of it. http://www. Besides. squire to the dead earl of Warwick. So far. quoting philosophy and law and enjoying the discussing and arguing of it immensely. speaking and even reading a bit in most known tongues. only let me tell this in case we are interrupted. and the duke's own messenger was turned away with arrows and abuse. but it was neither of Leicester's squires. "How do you come here?" Thomas knelt and kissed her hand. If he knew she carried his child she would be a doubly-effectiveweapon against him. one of Leicester's squires is here with baskets for you to pack your things. She was certain now she carried Robert's child. that I might set that much to rights at least. he hadn't become suspicious. spreading her hands across her belly. not sleeping deeply. Is there aught you would have me do?" "Certainly. hoping she wasn't unnaturally pale. a costly book of Abelard her husband had borrowed. She was lucky Robert was usually gone at this time. "Lady. lady. "Send him in. There were clothes to be packed. "We can speak of that later." The guard checked through the baskets then turned to the boy. She didn't send for Ella. my lord of Leicester sent me to make myself useful. however." The boy grinned at that. If only he weren't Robert's enemy. "You're a Godsend. "My lady. Just please. Belavoir is back in loyal hands. The duke was unusually learned. flashed her a warning look as he bowed. reaching out to catch at a table as the room began to spin. "You're to come at once." one of the guards called.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter." Robert scowled. hold your tongue!" Robert grinned then and was gone and Jocelyn set about preparing their little household for the journey. for God's sake and mine. and she knew she needed to lie down. Do you need him?" Jocelyn scrambled to her feet.

processtext. He holds most of the west now.Especiallyif there were danger. It's known only that your husband's men again man the walls. "I came behind you under a safe conduct." The boy nodded." Jocelyn squeezed his shoulder in sympathy. But don't judge your father too harshly.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. bringing my lord back to Warwick to be buried. He was fourteen. It was just the kind of thing to appeal to a hot blooded lad.com/abclit. and Ilearned why I hadn't been allowed back to camp. I would gladly give my life!" Jocelyn studied the boy. grabbed her up. "But it does mean a great deal to me. to say if there is aught I can do for you or your lord. lady. We are getting too good at this. for my father to send me word where to go. "Even if there is danger!" Jocelyn smiled. My lord will value your loyalty. else those sentries will wonder what we've been about.html Jocelyn gripped his shoulder. This will give my lord new heart. There are good men and bad on both sides. Robert didn't blink so much as an eyelash when Jocelyn introduced young Thomas as if the boy were a stranger. too young to piece reason and justice from the tangled mess England had become. How are you here?" The boy rose to his feet. as do I. "Thank you. "I just wanted Lord de Langley to know. "I've been waiting days for an excuse to come here.probably with the help of the servants. There's no saying any longer where honor lies in this miserable contest. http://www. "How did it happen?" "No one knows. suddenly thoughtful. madam. old enough to hold fierce ideals and the loyalties that went with them. be watchful tomorrow. I'll think on it." Jocelyn smiled. but I couldn't. This will do little to stop Henry. Now tell me. I would gladly serve him in anything. My own father! I wanted to spit in Leicester's face and damn them all when he told me. he's taken me in until my father finds me service with some new master. "My men must have overwhelmed them and escaped.Jocelyn thought. such a blaze of joy and hope in his eyes she would gladly have sacrificed every scruple she'd ever held if only to be able to put it there again. "Thank you. An Angevin master no doubt!" Thomas spat. "God in heaven above be praised!" Robert whispered." Robert grinned.We have lived so long with deceit it is second nature. Thomas. and the boy went on. lady. These guards are so sure I'll risk nothing with you here." His eyes flashed. I've been waiting up at the castle since. The earl has been too kind." The two went to work. Thomas. and swung her around in his arms. My father has come over to Henry. "I'll tell him. "And that boy Thomas. Who knows but that God has sent him. Despite what my father has done. "Then my lord of Leicester drew me aside. they . It does mean a great deal to me!" He set her down then. Now you must help me unpack my things and pack again. had things nearly repacked by the time Robert returned with Leicester and Hereford and the host of guards that followed. But when everyone was gone she gave her husband the good news of Belavoir. "As one of the earl's own squires broke an arm.

of this man she loved more than life itself." she whispered before she could stop herself. A shout came from up the column and word was passed back to rest the horses. tantalized himselfwith the vision of himself and Jocelyn galloping up that far bank. Young Thomas came by distributing wineskins. The knights sat their horses on the opposite bank. Robert." He wrapped his arms around her. it will be together." she whispered. And as it's unlikely anything will come of the boy. handing Robert a dripping skin. I'll be behind you. He toyed with the idea of escape. They dismounted and sought refuge from the heat in the shade of a stand of alders. "Do what you want. his heart pounding swift and unsteadily. collecting firewood. At this season. He would have time to think. held his breath. to feel hope after living so long without. The boy was a familiar figure now. It wouldn't be difficult to cross without a ford. the Thames was so narrow he could probably have shouted across and been heard. What if they tried and failed? What if Jocelyn were hurt? He gripped his reins. love.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. they occasionally caught sight of Stephen's advance guards. found her smiling in that odd way she had that told him she knew his thoughts." *** The ride that next day was hot and uncomfortable. Across the winding." he murmured. and fetching wineskins—but nothing unusual happened." Jocelyn reached for him. not even for Jocelyn. "A loose horse galloping . I'll tell you not to fret. pretending to brush at a fly. "I would risk your life for no cause on God's earth. lad?" he whispered. Robert tried to ignore the seductive lure of freedom across the water. "Oh. "It's just so good to feel hope again. He glanced at his wife. at least. my love. Her throat ached. By the next afternoon the vanguard of Henry's army was nearing the besieged city of Wallingford. blue-gilt ribbon of the river. He passed the line of guards without question. I'm afraid. "Do you think once we start to mount up that you might create a diversion. Robert swung it up and pretended to drink.html grow almost lax in their duties. and Jocelyn fought to hide the fact that she didn't feel well. weapons and armor flashing blindingly in the late-afternoon sun. but it was impossible. "Don't do anything foolish. If he were alone he would make a run for it. "Whatever we do. let the duke's archers shoot him down if they dared. watching suspiciously. settling heavily in the pit of his stomach. kissed her long and lingeringly and Jocelyn thought of the child she carried. It was an effort to hold the tears back. And Robert was right: they saw Thomas as he ran errands for Leicester—watering horses.com/abclit. and he was forced to swear to Henry? He would always wonder and tear at himself and know that he should have tried. http://www. But what if they didn't try. and don't fret for me. A cold and unnerving fear washed over him.processtext. She leaned forward." He hesitated.

luminous eyes trained on his." She opened her eyes. "Certainly." He grinned. forcing a smile around the knot of fear in his chest." he whispered. love. Everything depended on those first few seconds of their break. "Well. "for Henry does want me alive.processtext. promise you'll keep going." The boy gave no indication he had heard. I'll be able to barter myself back for your freedom. and it was one of the worst times Jocelyn hadeverspent in her life. Henry doesn't want me in that fight for Wallingford. my lord. love." Jocelyn reached for his hand and squeezed it. I'd think. No matter what happens. safe on the opposite side of the river from Henry and Brian." Despite the guards watching. http://www." *** They rested—or what passed as resting—for a good half-hour. even if I should go down. He had never wanted so badly to kiss her. Jocelyn glanced at him once. "Yes. I want you across there. Jocelyn. Then one of the guards was bringing up the horses. "A few thorns might create a diversion. "We'll have to make a run for it as soon as those horses begin to rage and tear. merely taking the wineskin and handing it across to Jocelyn. "I've been ordered to water these horses. I'll still try for the other side. Need you ask?" Robert frowned. It had been so much simpler before. then leaned back and closed her eyes as if resting. before Jocelyn had come and held his heart in her hand. "I want you with me on the other side. But her face had paled and the pulse in her throat beat wildly. drew in a deep breath." He hesitated. lifting his head. Can you make it? There'll be no turning back once the thing's begun. Either will take you in for love of me." he said. my lord. "Let's plan for that." The boy bowed and walked away without looking back and Robert struggled to hold his excitement in check.. sweetheart.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. and there wasn't time for much planning. Robert leaned forward and kissed her.com/abclit." "Don't wait to see. "I don't think they'll shoot us. wouldn't trade it for anything on earth. to take her in his arms and tell her all she'd meant to him. and there is hawthorn growing along the path to the river. "Now ride for your life. keeping her wide. And if anything should happen to me. her stomach knotting and churning as she wondered what would happen." he muttered. what Henry would do if they failed. Do you understand?" She nodded.. Geoffrey and Aymer know what to do to keep you safe. But he wouldn't trade what they had together. Find de Lucy or the earl of York. Drop behind to the baggage train and get yourself across the river. "And know that in these last few months. He leaned closer in concern. "If—" He swallowed hard..html through camp. managed to smile up at him in that confident way she had. swinging her to her feet. you've . you must keep going. Under the right saddle blankets. "There won't be much time." he whispered. perhaps a baggage cart catching fire if you can manage without danger? I would take my lady across that river and have decided it must be today. Why don't we just plan for that. and Robert caught her hand. Her mouth was dry. "If by some mischance you should be taken. However..

Then the two were grappling furiously for the weapon. roiling water. tossing their riders and scattering the little knot of surprised guards in all directions. .processtext. "Go. Just ahead Robert was swinging his swimming mount from the river channel and back toward her." she screamed. launching himself like a madman directly at the armed knight riding down on her. blinding. as the horses matched each other stride for stride. Miraculously Robert had the sword.html made me the happiest man on earth. Then the river was before them." He boosted her quickly into the saddle for several of their guards were mounting up. to stop her fall. "Robert. urging her horse after the flying figure of her husband. grabbing wildly forsaddle. reins. discovered she could barely stand against the current. too late.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. crumbling earth at the edge of the embankment gave way. in the churning. As if on signal the horses of their guards went wild as several hundred pounds of man and mail bore down on Thomas's carefully placed thorns. Jocelyn bent low in the saddle. http://www. or dodged maddened horses. had shoved the heavily weighted knight into the river and was flinging himself against his next opponent. dumbstruck.. as she fought to hold her face above the surface. making straight for the river. sliding. back!" she shouted again. "Go back!" She struggled to find her footing. Robert landed the distracted guard nearest him a stunning blow to the chin. It was all over in seconds. and she grabbed for his trailing reins. veering wildly into each other and away. choking. but from even nearer by came the shouts and splashing of two mounted knights as they plunged into the water behind her. Robert's horse plunged down the embankment. Jocelyn hit the water. She rocketed forward onto his neck. but the sounds and sights seemed a strange screaming blur. Then he and Jocelyn were galloping through camp. no! Go on. let the river carry her forward and downstream from the knights. none were paying the prisoners any heed. then disengaged hastily and swung away.. pushing instinctively away from the thrashing hooves of her panicked mount. Men everywhere stared. She felt her mount hesitate. then changed his mind. He swept past her. "Go back!" But Robert didn't turn. bunch powerful muscles as he gathered himself for that plunge down the bank.. and they were tumbling headlong into the cold. The man shouted for help. coarse tangled mane. cool and placid as it flowed between high grassy banks. The river had already swept them beyond reach. Jocelyn was only a few strides behind. and tried to stop. but it was too late. All about them men were running and shouting. The man swung his sword and Robert managed to dodge back and catch his arm. swirling waters of the river. And even though Jocelyn was expecting it. Her horse righted himself and began to swim. She lunged toward him. The water swept up and over her head. throwing up a blinding spray of water on both sides. More importantly. for a mailed knight unhorsed in deep water drew a death sentence.. the sudden explosion of horses and riders took her breath. And then the soft. then grabbed up the reins of his mount and vaulted into the saddle. straining back on his hocks only to gather himself and lunge forward. The animals bucked and plunged.com/abclit.

The king countered by sending a force of three hundred knights to quarter at Oxford and harry Henry's forces. "Is it tomorrow. "We've made it!" he cried triumphantly. *** In the next few days Henry laid a hasty siege to Stephen's castle of Crowmarsh. no!" Robert groaned. Nearer by. "Stop it! Stop it.com/abclit. Stephen's knights must have seen them. the one thing he couldn't fight. He didn't think he had ever felt so thankful before in all his life. while he gathered thousands of men and hurried to meet the duke. The horse lunged out into the current. trying to protect her. then?" she asked unsteadily. Henry was swinging down from his stallion. From behind came the familiar raging voice of the duke. Robert squeezed Jocelyn tight in his arms. And just as at Malmesbury. Robert raised his sword in a salute of mute thanks. "Merciful God.andHenry of Anjou. Chester would have killed them if he could. two mighty armies drew upfacing each other across a river.processtext. It was dusk when Robert returned from the king's council meeting. swimming strongly. After a moment the duke lifted his hand." Robert drew in another breath. Across that narrow expanse of water. and just as at Malmesbury no battle was joined. Just a few yards back. finally coming to the rescue of the long-beleagured town of Wallingford. just as a hail of deadly arrows began striking the water all around. risked a quick glance over his shoulder as the rain of arrows abruptly stopped. recognized him.. He stared back across the water.. He reached for her and she caught his arm.html Robert seized those precious seconds to turn his horse downriver toward Jocelyn. kept his horse swimming hard for the bank. wet and disheveled and breathless from the excitement. "By the mercy of God we've made it!" Jocelyn leaned back against him. bending lowover Jocelyn. A half-dozen bowmen wearing the earl of Chester's livery stood along the bank awaiting further orders. She took a step forward. Robert. "By the mercy of God. don't tell me you're to be at the fore!" . "No! Sweet Christ. you fools! I'll have the eyes of the man who hits them!" Robert lifted his head. Jocelyn rose from the table where she had been pretending to sew. their eyes connected. Within seconds Robert's horse had found its feet and was scrambling up the muddy bank. Henry sat his restive stallion. watching. This was what he had feared. arguing furiously with Chester himself. Robert drew in a long breath.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. for they were whooping and shouting with excitement as they galloped along the river toward him. http://www. Jocelyn was right. The disgruntled earl and his men were walking toward their horses. "Will the fighting begin tomorrow?" Robert stood wordlessly a moment and that silence frightened her more than anything else might have done. was dragged alongside his swimming mount until he could lift her into the saddle before him. her heart surging wildly.

I didn't mean—" . God bless Leicester! God bless every man with a grain of sense who had decided to stop this madness before the Thames was a river of blood! Robert held her. hadn't wanted him to carry that burden as well as all the rest." "Our children will be much of an age then. I know. thatit wouldn't be stopped in some pointless battle tomorrow. the king's own brother." "What?" "A truce is declared." For a moment it was difficult to believe her ears. Jocelyn. Then Jocelyn was across the room with a cry of joy and into her husband's arms." Robert nodded. With a major battle pending. of course. but he hasn't men enough to fight all England alone. Judas. what a rough ride that's like to be! The rumor is that the treaty will bypass Eustace and make Henry heir to the crown. she hadn't wanted to tell Robert about his child. murmured against her hair. There isn't to be a battle. Jocelyn.processtext. a few of the most powerful magnates on both sides have agreed.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. And it would explain so much. "Leicester is in on this. Both the king and Henry are said to be raging. have combined to force a truce on both Henry and Stephen. heard his sharp intake of breath. but I cannot hate him longer. would explain his generosity that day at the river." She felt Robert stiffen. "They say the duke's wife is expecting their first child. wonderingly. Jocelyn. But there was one thing more she wanted. Archbishop Theobald and the bishop of Winchester. "That he looks for word of it from Anjou any day.com/abclit. feeling the strong." Robert shook his head again. Since Leicester was in on it I suspect he must have. "I don't care why Henry let us go. "I wonder if he knew. though de Lucy told me in confidence it's to be extended as necessary. "Are you telling me you're carrying my child?" "It is certainly no other man's. that there must be some kind of peaceful settlement between Stephen and the duke. Eustace won't settle tamely. A fortnight they say. "I only know I'll be thankful to him for so long as I live. They're refusing to fight. neither can make decent war. she hardly cared for anything else. swallowed hard.html "No." "Sweet Christ. And I suppose he'll be my king one day. http://www." Jocelyn snuggled closer in her husband's arms. it's just—" He shook his head." she murmured. my lord. "He hopes for a boy. no sweetheart." His words trailed off and Jocelyn leaned her head against his chest. Not for some weeks anyway." Robert nodded. Thank God it would continue. She was so relieved Robert wouldn't have to fight. but without a respectable number of fighting-men. I wonder if Henry knew this was happening. "It's all so strange. "Are you telling me—" He broke off." she murmured. "I may never trust the man. Not after that. one thing yet to make her happiness complete. have decided there's been enough killing. reassuring throb of his heart against her cheek.

pressed his mouth against her palm. And perhaps they would have it. How could so brave a man worry so much for this most natural thing on God's earth? "Listen to me now. "Oh." "The starving time. She was a woman and wanted women's things—ahusband who loved her.Iwon't go hungry.. madam. made me so fear losing it. stunned by his obvious distress. February perhaps. I. "There is plenty of food stored away at Belavoir. children allowed to live and grow up in peace. Even if Stephen and Henry are raging and tearing and pulling all of heaven down about our ears. I do. "I always heard it a difficult season." Robert muttered." Jocelyn reached up and cupped his face tenderly. Robert. that you will not! Not even if every other soul in the west country must. "Robert. I do wish for a child with all my heart. perhaps they might yet have it all.. I feared little on earth..processtext. happiness." Jocelyn closed her eyes as he kissed her. She didn't even care who ruled England. fainting away for a sneeze." He stared at her worriedly. England. Now I have peace. sweetheart. Thirty-One London. Before God." She faltered. I swear. "When is it to come?" "I'm not sure yet. And I'll be with you. but yes." Jocelyn smiled for she knew what this wasabout." "No. In some ways I fear it. my love.." "Ido. I'll not have you tearing yourself apart these next months for no cause." She smiled again. laughing for the overwhelming joy of this gift she could offer.html Jocelyn was holding tight to her husband. I find myself starting at shadows. thought you'd want a child. Jocelyn." He hesitated.. I do. then?" He pulled her against him. He told me I should have beenaboy. both for the mother and the babe. fragile creatures of the court. I was born of the land. I'm only so happy I scarce know myself what I'm saying!" She pulled back and gazed up at him. a contentment I've never known. met her eyes then with a wry smile of his own." He caught her hand. Robert. "All will be well. It's just. "I know it. "You must know the answer to that. frightened by the very news I've so longed to hear. Robert. you know. Jocelyn. strong and healthy and well able to bear you sons. truly.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. My father always despaired for my lack of a fine lady's ways." She drew her fingers gently across his face. Before I met you and loved you. It didn't matter what they'd been through. I'm not one of these frail. but her husband's face was anything but joyful.. "I. "Sometimes this caring so much isacurse. You've given me so much. December 1154 . "You are pleased. I know you didn't. I thought you'd be pleased.com/abclit. http://www. for we will have months of this to get through.

Then. Was this wondering and fear and uncertainty never to cease? The voices droned on and then the ceremony was ending. After the treaty of Westminster was signed. just a few short days after hearing the truce of Wallingford declared. Edmunds. Despite the fact that Jocelyn had urged him to go." For a moment a tense and disbelieving silence pervaded the room. I see even Robert of Belavoir has joined us today. namely that Henry of Anjou would be England's next king.com/abclit. that you should have found the time for us at last." "My time is yours to command. hot from the press of bodies and the weight of layers of heavy velvets trimmed with expensive jewels and fur. bareheaded and fearless. Only a few minor vassals remained to take their vows. trying to see around the men.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. for most of the lords had sworn. . "He has skipped Robert. She glanced nervously up at Leicester. just this last October. he had stayed with her awaiting the birth of their son. In any case. Robert stood some distance from the king. "I thank you. men's voices droned as each great lord and then the greater and lesser barons were called individually before Henry to kneel and renew their oaths of loyalty and homage. Jocelyn held her breath as the two proud men confronted each other. http://www. He looked magnificent. From somewhere beyond her vision. Men everywhere were whispering and muttering and glancing uncertainly toward the place where Robert stood alone and waiting against the far wall. Only Robert hadn't personally sworn yet to Henry. More cynical minds wondered of poison." Jocelyn drew in her breath. Jocelyn stood beside the earl of Leicester. Everywhere men and women wore their finery." Robert responded calmly. for Eustace had gone on a killing. in the crimson velvet tunic with the golden lions rearing against one shoulder. Jocelyn shoved forward. my lords. "The king hasn't called Robert yet." she whispered. With the king's permission. heart pounding. and the terms announced last Christmas.html Thegreat hall of Westminster was crowded. the treaty of Wallingford was signed. wishing she were tall enough to see what was taking place at the front of the room." Leicester was looking grim. pushing between the men so she could see. he had sent Sir Geoffrey to swear for him by proxy. for the mysterious death of his eldest son brought the shattered and ailing Stephen to agree to the major term of the treaty more quickly. and in less than a year Stephen lay dead. plundering spree and had ravaged the lands of the monks at Bury St. Jocelyn strained up on tiptoe now. But Robert hadn't gone. sir. Religious men claimed it the vengeance of God. Your Grace. "I know. "Just as every hour of it belonged to Stephen of Blois while he lived. Then an excited hum of voices began to build. Stephen had taken a chill and in his weakened state had quickly deteriorated. for the king was a lonely and bitter man. Stephen had called all his lords to Oxford in January to swear homage to Henry as England's next king.processtext. Eustace had died the preceding August. Henry rose to his feet and glanced around. making sure to see and be seen in this first glittering assembly called by England's new king. for coming. His son. I am honored. Robert had gone at once.

I sent my word I would support you as England's next king. I do not. troublesome princelings. I consider myself your loyal man already. that is what Stephen thought. Jocelyn dug her nails into her palms. in one of his abrupt reversals of mood. whether you think it necessary or not. kneel to me now. weren't you?" Henry said.html "Come here. "And is that what you thought me. if you wish it. though I'll be no more nor yet any less your man than I am already. Jocelyn was afraid to move." The hush in the room was complete. my lord. fought each other long enough. Your Grace. "And you will kneel and swear to me now?" "Certainly. some petty." Henry said loudly." Henry said." Leicester bent to whisper triumphantly. No proxy is acceptable for an oath such as that!" Henry snapped. "Well. for you to understand I do mean what I say. With Stephen's permission. "What did I tell you. Henry's eyes blazed at that last." Henry was still studying the man before him. "My lady's time was nearing for the birth of our first child. despite inconvenience or danger of the rantings and urgings of petty." Robert walked forward. afraid to breath. You might well drive me todistraction.processtext. troublesome princeling?" Robert held his eyes evenly. "Would you dare still to refuse me my due?" "I would not swear then for I was already pledged tosupport England's anointed king. afraid Robert had gone too far.. "Surely we have known each other well enough. at least. Robert had reached the king and halted. I would have your oath. Your Grace. It isn't the number of oaths that bind a man. de Langley. for a little while longer. so quiet Jocelyn could hear her husband's footsteps echoing across the floor. http://www. "No." The silence stretched tautly between the men.." "Well." Jocelyn closed her eyes briefly. I always knew you to be the greatest danger he faced. It was quiet again. began to breathe again. I'm your man now and will be for so long as we both draw breath. Her son would have a father. "Robert knows how to play this game!" . Henry was shaking his head in amusement. Then he was smiling suddenly." And as Robert dropped to his knees. Sir Geoffrey Talmont. my lord.com/abclit. but at least I do know where you stand at all times. "And you were right. "I would I had a score of men such as you." The corners of his mouth curled upward.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. You should have come yourself. madam. my lord de Langley." Robert reminded him. "You once said you would never swear to me. but whether or not he'll be bound. But after Wallingford I did swear. "I would see you kneel to me. "at Oxford through my proxy.

"Of course not.processtext. Sir Aymer Briavel was following.html Then Robert was reciting his oath of loyalty and homage." Jocelyn rose up in amazement. "He's been fed. "Madam. But oddly enough he didn't seem to have inherited the temper of either of his parents. hurrying back to the house they had rented to check on her son. lady. even into your lady's private chamber. http://www. Judith. Then he bowed stiffly and withdrew. "He heard your voice outside. She couldn't wait to hear what he had to say about Henry. helpless and outraged. holding her son." Aymer glanced at her and then at Henry suspiciously. fool! Who is the king— you or I?" Without any more warning. "I do trust the king and am honored he has come to see my son. and did wish to see you before he slept. She smiled. She carried the boy into her bedchamber. "I swear.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. sucking mightily on his tiny thumb. *** "Here." Henry called.com/abclit.. She bit her lip to keep from smiling. I think. "I. murmuring. "Out of my way. and the boy quieted immediately. do you fear I would rape the lady and her own son looking on?" Aymer flushed. "this boy who did keep me waiting upon your husband's oath. Robert must have returned already. I'm sorry. I began to think I would have to kill that man before I got up the . Jocelyn studied her son with a mother's fondness. Aymer. "I told him my lord wasn't back yet. for she did readily admit to being a fool for her son. But she was stunned to recognize a voice raging just past the door. "I'm the king and shall go where I please." Jocelyn nodded and snuggled the boy against her. at least not yet.. but it isn't right that you are here without—" "It's all right. lady. You may wait outside. give the boy to me. but I couldn't keep him out. Your Grace. Henry turned to go. He had Robert's beautiful hair—a little more golden—and looked as if he might be developing her greenish eyes." "Of course not!" Henry growled. met Jocelyn's anxious eyes across the room and winked." Aymer stammered. on his heels. the king threw open thedoor and stalked inside. and was well content until just now. I would see this boy. and the king was giving him the kiss of peace. Robert was still at court but she had left after the oaths were finished. He was quite the most gorgeous child she had ever beheld." Jocelyn interrupted to save the man. By God's passion." The nurse handed Jocelyn her wailing son. The boy laid his head against her shoulder and closed his eyes. even singing a bit. Henry was grinning." The woman smiled. madam. Then she heard the noise of voices and footsteps sounding distantly from the stairs down the hall.

Christ's blood. Trustworthy. His sword I left downstairs with one of his men. "I beg pardon. sir." he crowed. de Lucy. "So your lord is not returned?" "Not yet. "it's time to meet your king." Roger scowled at the king and the king scowled back." Henry frowned again and glanced away. I think." Jocelyn smiled. The boy had some small wooden wheels Robert had strung. he has sworn to you. "But here is my son." she crooned." She blinked in amazement. and he loved to gnaw on them and roll them about. madam?" For one insane moment." Jocelyn said smoothly. I must be in Normandy soon and would have men here I trust. "It seems almost too simple. Besides. When she straightened. http://www. He didn't need to ask which church. my lord." Henry frowned and glanced over his shoulder." "Certainly not! He's just younger than your William by a good six months. on both sides. "too tame an ending after all that has gone before.." Henry nodded. What he says. "We named him Roger. madam!" He glanced about the room. He's fine and lusty for a boy his age. after my lord's own father. He stayed to speak with Leicester and Richard de Lucy. Sir Aymer is one who was in that church in Normandy. madam. as you've good cause to know. he will do. I suppose I can give it to you. but this I meant to return myself. "My own son was born in Anjou on the day Eustace died. as energetic and restless as ever Jocelyn had seen him in camp last year. I've decided to keep him as one of my councilors. Henry was staring." he muttered.html stairs. "I've brought back some things that belong to him. Your Grace. and there were grievous wrongs. a good man despite the fact he served Stephen. madam?" Jocelyn smiled. "when the king of France could get Eleanor with nothing but girls! Was that not a sign of God's favor. little one. "Robert? Why of course. "My husband's men are loyal. madam. Come.processtext. And yet I would have him on my side and not against me.com/abclit.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. Your Grace?" Henry scowled. She went to settle Roger on the floor in one corner. "He looks small." Henry sucked in his breath. and there are few enough of those!" Jocelyn lifted her eyebrows." "Ah. "Can he truly put aside the past? Can he accept me as king? We did fight long and bitterly. "Does he truly accept me. she thought he was speaking of Roger. A boy. Henry was certainly blessed with the devil's own luck.. "You heard him today." He reached into his tunic and drew out something wrapped in blue cloth." "So it has always been said of him. "Men do say it was... holding up the boy." Henry was prowling the room. Jocelyn stepped forward and ." "I say it was.

I am glad I did not. held his eyes. for letting my son's father live. madam. I expect. "I much prefer knowing you'll fight on my side in future. he of the ambitious son. was I?" He glanced up. rolling it over in his hand. "We've played this scene before.. And to that end. I've not seduced your wife.. madam. and Robert took it. Jocelyn moved hastily between them." He glanced at Jocelyn. but didn't have much luck. neither were you. Your lord will want it back. To give to his son. What say you. nor she me." he murmured provocatively. de Langley." She held out the ring. It was a ring.html took it. But I did think one of your chief vassals might be Sir William Montagne. Then Robert was throwing open the door. "You know. "And I was told I did have it from yours." Henry added softly at last. "I've not yet worked out the particulars. there were grievous wrongs—on both sides. "But then. Jocelyn glanced up. the king began to laugh. Your Grace. only a little differently as I recall.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. madam? I think a new earldom is necessary there in the west country—a loyal earldom. at least. Well. "Yes. Henry cleared his throat roughly." "As I said. We can discuss it further when you come to the palace tomorrow." The two men stared at each other. and to bring back your things.com/abclit. This was the ring Henry had taken from the hand of a dead man. Earl Robert? Do you think you might keep young Montagne's ambitions in check?" . For the space of a heartbeat. "I was not so easy to kill. "Do you fancy becoming a countess. "The king came to look on your son. looking suspiciously from Henry to Jocelyn and back again. Robert slipped the ring onto his finger." Henry was grinning. you needn't be looking murder at me this time.processtext. "I thank you for bringing it back. Then to Jocelyn's dismay. "I've heard it belonged to his father. And for what you did after Tutbury and again at Wallingford. "You were looking for me. as you've assured me your husband's will be—to keep peace with the Welsh and intimidate a few of those fierce marcher lords. measured each other." Henry returned. all three stood frozen. The two men stared at each other. I'vesomething that might draw one thorn. A large square of onyx with a heavy braiding of gold all around. "I'd always hoped to take this from your dead body. http://www. Your Grace?" he asked sharply. my lord. and the pulse in Robert's throat began to throb. sent the king a wry smile." Quick footsteps sounded outside." He met Robert's stunned gaze." Henry smiled." Jocelyn stared at the ring and a chill shivered along her spine. I did try to kill him before. my lord. He returned your father's ring. And that was as close as anyone was likely to come to an apology from Henry Plantagenet. "Well. he will want it back. a man he had thought was her husband. I would have men remember something of me besides the fact that in a fit of temper I once burned a church. from your side." Henry muttered. Besides.

What think you of that?" But Roger only blinked owlishly and sucked his thumb. "So I thought. The breeding does tell in most cases. but loving this second son had eased the ache. the wonder of watching these two together still took her breath. "You've a fine boy. but we both know that isn't true. I'll leave you. She sat down on the bed. Robert. grinning fromear to ear as he crossed the floor. listening to the dwindling sounds from the stairs. do you think?" "Henry? He seems to be. then.com/abclit. Your Grace. and Henry means to break them to bridle. Jocelyn stared at the door as the men departed." . like his father. the men will look to a new leader. There are few things I fancy more than keeping that young man in check. someone they might fear to fight in his absence. madam. crowing with delight at his father's attention. rocking the boy gently against her. met Jocelyn's stunned look and smiled. "Oh." And before Jocelyn could say even a word in return. "I love you. sometimes I think I cannot stand it! Henry said you chose me. http://www. Robert. "I see you've already told this young man what an important fellow he's like to become.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. I do love you so much. It even makes sense in a way. you've just become heir to an earldom. settling his son comfortably against his chest. The marcher lords have been used to going their own way for years. my lord. there.. and we'll speak more tomorrow. I think you might trust me on that." Robert sat down beside her. he cannot be serious. Now he turned. or earl. She scooped up her son and held him tightly. Robert would never forget Adam. He grinned at the boy and the boy smiled back. Thank you." He nodded toward the corner where Roger was happily occupied with his toys. brought him an ever-increasing joy. And that was the way Robert found her when he returned from escorting Henry to the street." Jocelyn smiled as Robert leaned back against the bolster. and she had to swallow against the sudden tightness in her throat. "I did come so close to missing all this. my lady. prisoner. my sweet. I would not fight young lions when I am old. he had turned back to Robert." Henry was smiling. but now that William Peverel's poison has taken him. reaching automatically for his son.. how close you came to marrying Adelise—" She broke off. God. "Well. And even after almost ten months. Roger promptly reached up and caught Robert's nose." she said suddenly. The world had gone mad! Or perhaps only she had done so. "If I didn't dream all this. I do not deserve this. shaking her head in amazement. See that you raise him well and loyally. but thank you just the same. Henry wants someone established in the west they already respect. Chester was the worst of the lot. "You were far wiser in your choice of wives this second time. "Whether you are outlaw. And when I consider how differently things might have gone. Marguerite and Eustace—who says that the good die young?" And with those cryptic words. the king left.processtext.html Robert had been staring at the king in amazement. I've never thought much about it. trying to hold her emotions in check. and do you fancy becoming a countess?" "I don't know.

Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter. it was reallymeyou wanted?" "So I've been telling you. do you know any of my men who would tell such tales of me?" Jocelyn sucked in her breath. my lord. sweetheart?" "I begin to think Leicester is right. having had one unhappy marriage." he murmured." he added softly. Perhaps now. scarcely able to take in what he was saying. trailed his fingers seductively across her throat. do you think I'd have let any man force me to another? Even the king? "Think on it. mischievously. And beautifully.com/abclit. That was the night we came to blows. From one of myownmen?" He raised his eyebrows. Sometimes two are better than . "Judas. I do play only with you. "Come. "Montagne and I weren't exactly on good terms. madam." Robert reminded her. "Robert. I think. so long as I was the aggrieved party. is not one ever to be forgotten. "There's something you should know. Then I took care Pelham should hear me talking of your sister with something less than reverence and respect. since the day we were wed. "Your sister's husband would have had to be something far less than the man he is. I could push for the lands and castles of my choice.processtext." Robert reached up. youdidn't!" He chuckled. "You mean youknewhe was going to run away with her?" "I certainly pushed him to. "You do that very well. madam. "Besides. dragging the pins free and letting it fall in a riot of darkness about them both. "Well. countess?" He reached up and caught her against him." He shook his head. And one way or another. And then they were both breaking off. http://www." "But. with just the right touch of fear and belligerence. you'll believe me. Why not get both? My lands and you.html Robert stopped playing with his son and held her eyes. "What else do you do. still grinning." Jocelyn smiled.. "but I agree with the king. I was never even close to marrying your sister." Jocelyn muttered.." "And all that time.. you.. Now bend down here and kiss me. Jocelyn glanced from her husband's sheepish face to the outraged one of her son. He caught his hands in her hair." Robert said. "Pelham just happened to hear I had abused and misused andpossibly even murdered my wife. but Raoul le Bent did. Jocelyn. kissing her deeply despite the wailing child in his arms. "The games I play best. madam. so I heard. I've a notion to see how a countess does kiss. "You do play the game to the best advantage. He is all de Langley. but why didn't you just tell my father from the start?" she asked. laughter between them as they met each other's eyes. sweetheart. love." Robert glanced up and reached for her. "He does take after his father." Jocelyn was staring at him incredulously. I did plan to have my lands back. sweetheart. not to have carried her off. scooping up his loudly protesting son. leaned over and kissed him long and sensually. "I do love my son. Judas. but wasstopped by a sudden loud and aggrieved wail. I'd forgot him!" Robert muttered. of courseI didn't.

"It's time and past the de Langley men were abed. Hugh Bigod. healthy child and a husband who loved her—had loved her ever since the beginning—and now this God-given prospect of peace. And I'm a curious sort. he was sleeping off the effects of a night of carousing instead. A beautiful. I've loved you as outlaw. my lord." he said softly. wished she could know how happy her daughter was now. At King Henry's death in December 1135. "I'll find Judith. Stephen sailed to London and gained control of the treasury. Leicester.saw the flames spring to life in his beautiful golden eyes. incredibly blessed! She thought of her mother. http://www. prisoner. "Aye. It's time and past he was abed. Only this one doesn't plan to go there alone. The king's nephew. After a few shaky months of peace. you know. plunging both Normandy and England into a bloody civil war. On that November evening in 1120 when theWhite Shipsailed from Normandy carrying many of the young people of the court. madam. including the changes of allegiance of such magnates as the earls of Chester. hoped Gwendyth had shared something like this with Rhys. Many of the events described inBride of the Lionactually occurred. that made her shiver." Jocelyn took the boy and slid from the bed. Stephen was supposed to have been on board. She was blessed. Luckily for him. He managed to win the support of the archbishop of Canterbury who promptly crowned Stephen instead of the outraged Matilda. In a lightning move. "Take care you don't. Matilda's supporters rebelled. sent her that slow. and the . but I've yet to learn if an earl be to my taste.processtext.it left only one daughter. Judith took in her loose hair and rosy cheeks and reached for her charge with a grin. Jocelyn smiled once more at her son. Stephen of Blois. and lord. and others. Matilda. still. one of the more unreliable and trouble-making magnates of the times. swept down the hall toward the nursery on winged feet. There was nothing better than this! Author's Historical Note Though Henry I had numerous illegitimate children— sources put the number as high as twenty—he had only one legitimate son. seductive smile that made her heart begin to pound and her blood race and burn. She suspected it always would be.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter.com/abclit. had been raised by the king almost as a second son. swore Henry had repudiated the overbearing Matilda on his deathbed and designated Stephen his heir. It had always been like that between them.html three. after all of two years. then hurried back toward his father. But then perhaps she did. Jocelyn kissed her son and handed him over." Jocelyn smiled and staredback. to inherit the crown." Robert leaned back against the bolster." She closed the door on his laughter. so richly. the betrayal and death of Warwick. When that son drowned during the tragic wreck of theWhite Ship.

By the Treaty of Wallingford in 1153. William.html incredibly opportune death of Stephen's eldest son. bypassing his second son. Louis. andWithout Honor) sold widely in both the US and abroad. Chester. during the Truce of Wallingford. http://www. but for his long and tempestuous marriage to Eleanor of Aquitaine and the sons it produced— King Richard the Lionheart. fictitious. Currently working on her fifth novel. and Richard de Lucy." Elizabeth Stuartis an award-winning author. of course. The Montagnes and de Langleys are.processtext. not only for his power and political acumen. Her national writing awards include theRomantic Times' Best New Historical Author of the Year and the Rita Award for Best Historical Romance Novel of the Year(Where Love Dwells). and King John of ill fame. Stephen adopted Henry Plantagenet as his son and heir. Henry. Henry II is well known. Her first 3 novels(Heartstorm. she lives in St. Eustace. Geoffrey (who didn't live to take the throne).com/abclit. Leicester. as are their interactions with real characters such as Stephen. Missouri with her husband and three children. . who had apparently never held anyexpectation of becoming king. Where Love Dwells. Stephen died in 1154 and Henry went on to become one of the most powerful kings in British history.Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter.former clinical nutrition specialist and health care management consultant. These brilliant and hot-tempered Plantagenets who hated and fought and eventually destroyed their own father have come to be termed collectively in history as "the devil's brood.

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