Friday, August 27, 2010

Attention writers...Here is a new place to promote your work

Thanks to Josh for letting me know about  If you have anything to promote, this is a great place to do it. Here is the link for more information...

Friday, August 20, 2010

Prayers are needed...

As some people may already know, my mother is in the hospital and she is very sick. If you have a moment, please send a word of prayer out for her recovery. It is very much appreciated at this difficult time.

Thank you to all!


Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Rebel Mine, Chapter 3 Part One

Someone up there likes me.

Rain was pouring down, soaking him to the skin. But he reveled in it, rather than seeing it as a real hindrance. As he ran his hands through his hair he smiled, giving thanks to the heavens for sending the sudden storm…one that would wash away any hint of his trail.

On two points, however, he did have concerns. He couldn’t sleep out in such weather. And he was hungry. After half a day fleeing from his pursuers, he’d worked up quite an appetite, and the fruit he’d sampled from the orchard had been burned off hours ago. What he desired was a hot meal, a warm bed…perhaps even a bit of female company. And he was quite sure he knew just where to find all three.

Moving forward through the dark, his keen sense of direction led him to the top of a familiar hill. The entirety of the Chateau LaCroix was impossible to make out in the rain and blackness, but there were faint shimmers of candlelight that shined like tiny beacons, drawing him forward as a moth to a flame.

One window in particular…and the terrace before it… he knew better than any other. The notion that it was two stories up was no concern. A trellis of ivy was easily scaled, even with the wet of the rain, and with ease he slung himself over the balcony rail, squatting cautiously on the stones just before the half-drawn curtains. Peering in, he saw the occupant of the room sitting upon a stool. A maid stood behind her, stroking the lady’s long blond hair with a brush, and it seemed they were the only occupants of the room. But he could not be certain. So he lay in wait, hoping for the proper moment. And it came sooner than expected. The maid was dismissed with an impatient hand. When he saw the chamber door close, he inched closer to the entry. Pursing his lips, he emitted a soft bird call. The lady turned her head sharply towards the sound, rising from her seat, to move carefully towards the sound. She drew the curtains back, and seeing the person crouched in wait before her, she folded her arms and looked down at him. He grinned up at her, water dripping from his nose and chin.

“Lovely weather tonight, is it not?”

She was silent, glaring at him with fiery green eyes. He folded his hands, giving her his most earnest and needy expression.

“Oh lovely Baroness. Might you spare a meager place on the floor for a drenched, tired, hungry soul such as I?”

Her eyes narrowed. “I would sooner have a foul-smelling, flea-infested stray dog admitted to my presence.”

There was a moment of silence between them. Then he leaned back on his haunches, and positioning his hands and arms just so in front of him, he whined as if he were, indeed, a pitiful hound. She snorted in contempt.

“Ugh! You are certainly the most pathetic of creatures. The lowest of the low.”

He only grinned…and was rewarded when she took a step back, allowing him in. But he did not come far, knowing she would not be pleased if he soiled her Aubusson rug. He remained on the stone floor until she brought him a towel with which to dry himself. Then she stood back with her hands on her slender hips, scowling at him.

“René-Jean Bastien, why do you creep about my terrace?”

Looking her over with a heated gaze, he took in the sight of her supple figure. Her sleeveless nightdress, made of the finest white silk, hardly disguised her feminine attributes, and she didn’t seem concerned about her modesty. As he rubbed the towel over his face, he gave her a tender and appreciative smile.

“I missed you, love. And I knew you could not cast me out on a night such as this.”

Folding her arms defensively, her scowl grew deeper. “If you missed me so, why have you not come to see me in nearly two months?”

His leather shoes were soaked through. As he shifted from one foot to another, removing his footwear, he explained himself. “Forgive me for denying you my company. I was employed and quite short on time.”

Her eyebrow raised in suspicion.

Was? Hearing your words uttered with a past tense, I take it to mean you are no longer earning an honest living? Pray, what mischief caused your termination this time?”

He shook his head. “I assure you, it was but a simple misunderstanding. A navigational error in the home of my employer. Entirely not my fault.”

“Oh no?” she replied, eyes full of skepticism at his words. “Somehow I doubt you were guiltless.”

For a moment he thought to declare his total innocence. But his mouth opened just slightly in such defense before he closed it back. The Baroness had little faith in what men said…and in this case, she was correct. He shrugged his shoulders.

“Perhaps I pocketed a few baubles.”

Her reply was a little huff of satisfaction. “So I thought.”

At her rather pleased tone, his own took on a slight edge of defensiveness. “Had my master’s daughter not encountered me, I might have escaped undetected.”

Curiosity was in her question. “She revealed your crime to her father?”

He shook his head. “Not quite so.”

There was a slight pause as she waited for him to reply, and she asked, “What then?”

A smirk formed at the corner of his mouth. “She did not see what I had stolen. Her interests were of a more…carnal nature.”

The Baroness returned her hands to her hips. She took a small step forward, her expression growing dark. He knew an accusation was coming, and she did not hide her displeasure.

“Have you have come to me straight from the bed of another woman?”

He sighed. “Sheathe your claws, ma belle. She was but fifteen. I delight in all women, but I am not an absolute letch. I declined her invitation. But she did not take kindly to my rejection. She told her father a tale of impropriety, and he promptly set a band of mercenaries upon me.”

As he gave his head a last rub with the towel, he glanced at her, wishing to judge her expression and body language. Physically, she seemed to relax, as her shoulders sank a little and her arms didn’t seem as tightly crossed. He’d been quite certain from the start that he could count on her feminine instinct…the need to nurture and care. She only confirmed it when she stepped forward, taking the towel from his hand. Her facial features had softened, the suspicion easing away…though her voice remained haughty.

“Remove yourself from those wet things before you catch your death.”

He smirked, relishing the opportunity to tease her. She was so very appealing when she was worked up. With graceful movement, he pulled his wet shirt over his head, reaching out to drop it to the floor. He fixed his gaze on her, noting the way her eyes were scanning him up and down. Clearly, she took pleasure in what she was seeing.

“You wish to admire me, do you?”

Her eyes flashed with an indignant light. She wasn’t quite ready to let down her guard, and as if to emphasize it, she threw a coverlet at him, purposely aiming at his head.

“Cheeky bastard. Cover yourself. And then go into my dressing room. I will have a meal brought up, but I will not have the servants knowing of your presence.”

He shrugged. “It is not as though they are unfamiliar with me.”

“Which is precisely why they will not know you are here,” she replied. “The last time you visited, I caught two of my maids whispering about you. I had to convince my husband that the pair were plotting against me, telling malicious lies. Fortunately the dolt believed it and had the pair sacked.”

Glancing around the room, he felt a brief moment of concern. “By and by, where is the Baron? At tables, or with his mistress?”

She snorted in disgust. “I know not. Perhaps he ventures between the two. I am only aware that he is not home, and I hardly anticipate his return in the near future.”

René’s expression warmed, knowing the element of danger was removed. “So we are quite alone then?”

A moment of silence passed, one in which he hoped she might smile or soften further. But still she was still quite serious in her demeanor. She gestured with her head.

“Into the dressing room, René.”

As she turned and walked away, his amusement only deepened. Her manner seemed cold, but he knew her well enough. If she was truly spiteful, she would not have let him in. The line he had to walk would have to be a fine one, but if he treaded it carefully, Marie-Isabella Lacroix would soon be eating from the palm of his hand.


A little more than a half-hour had passed. While his clothes hung from a peg, slowly drying, he sat before a blazing fire, partaking of bread and wine. Wrapped in a black silk robe, courtesy of the absent Baron, he chuckled at the voluminous amount of material.

“You might possibly fit three of me in here. Your husband’s girth is astounding.”

She made a dismissive sound. “I would rather not speak of him. It is enough that I endure his presence in the brief periods of time that he is here. When he is not about, I have no wish to be reminded of him.”

René shrugged. “Whatever your prefer, love. I am content to speak of other things. Or not to speak at all.”

Leaning in, intent on kissing her, he was not so surprised when she turned her head away. She had always been highly self-respecting and stubborn. Obviously, her pride was still sore. It would take a bit more persuading to win back her favor…and it was her pride that he aimed directly for.

“You are a beautiful and intelligent woman, Izzie. You deserve far better than him.”

At the uttering of her pet name, she finally looked at him, though it was only for a moment. He knew she was trying to avoid his gaze. She was doing her utmost not to soften, but he knew her better than she knew herself. Like any woman, she would eventually succumb to the need to open herself, be it emotionally or otherwise. She would speak, and he would listen. It was something he had long-ago learned about the female species. They had a deep desire to be heard. And unlike most men, he was aware that patience…just letting them say what was on their mind…was the key to winning their affections. Her head lowered, as her tone became sad.

“Why has love forsaken me, René? Why can I not have what certain others are granted?”

From the inflection in her voice, he sensed that there might be a specific others in her meaning. “Do you speak of someone in particular?” he asked.

She sighed. “A neighboring family. One I have known for many years.” Picking up her wine goblet, she took a deep drink before continuing. “Are you aware of the Gisbornes?”

He was silent for a moment, recalling the pretty young Gisborne he’d seen earlier that day. But he kept the brief recollection to himself, giving the Countess his full attention, except to make a small remark.

“I have heard the Gisborne name, but I’ve not been formally introduced. What of them?”

She sighed. “They’ve been given quite a bounty of happiness and good fortune. There are many who envy them and their little paradise. It is whispered that Sir Guy and his Lady are quite mad for one another, even after being wed for nearly twenty years. And their offspring are all of robust health. They live well and happy, which is more than some of us can say.”

He shrugged. “I would say that such a life is something to hope for, indeed. But I do not think they are deserving of scorn simply because they are more fortunate.”

For a moment, her tone became sharp. “I did not say I scorned them.” Then her voice softened again. “I have known them for some time, and I must confess it is difficult not to like them. The Countess is most generous and kind. Sir Guy is aloof at times, and a bit of a puzzlement, but judging from his total devotion to his wife and family, it is clear he is a good man. Their children are intelligent, upstanding citizens, except perhaps for their eldest daughter. She is quite the firebrand.”

He raised an eyebrow. “And?”

“So, one cannot help but wonder what magic they are in possession of. They live such a charmed life.”

He gave a slight smile. “I lead a charmed life as well. Do you think ill of me?”

She did not reply, and he could see that his attempt at humor did not have the desired effect. He had intended to ease her feelings with lightheartedness, but he knew there was a deeper trouble in her heart. Marie-Isabella was a haughty creature, but she was not vindictive and cruel, and her bitterness was a thin disguise for her true feelings. As with all women, her marriage had not been her choosing, and sadly, her husband did not seek her bed for pleasure. He’d occupied it long enough to produce his heir, and then his attention had waned. It seemed such a shame for a beautiful woman…and a young one, at only four and twenty…to be so neglected.

“Your son is what age now?” René asked, careful to use a gentle tone. It was not his intention to inflict pain, but to open her heart. Her voice replied low and soft, laced with sorrow.

“Sebastian is nine years of age.”

With a light touch of his fingertip he brushed her arm, tracing the skin up to her shoulder. He could feel her trembling slightly as the last of her defenses melted away. He spoke softly.

“Your son is away from you, being schooled in his noble duties. Your husband is a fool who shuns your company. It is wrong, Izzie. So very wrong.”

She gave no reply, but he could hear and feel the escalation of her breath. She turned to him, letting him see the soft look in her eyes. Her words beseeched him.

“Stay with me tonight. I do not want to be alone.”

He had no plans for the immediate future…at least, not for tonight. Who knew what tomorrow would bring? He wasn’t one to live beyond the moment, at any rate. And at the moment, a beautiful woman was melting against him. She was saying, without words, that she wanted him desperately. And what kind of fool would he be to turn down such blatant admiration?

Friday, August 13, 2010

Rebel Mine, Chapter 2 Part Two

As Evelyn came upon the rear courtyard, she could hear it ringing with the noise of swords and shields. While the soldiers clashed, Owen and the other squires were rushing to and fro, prepared at a moment’s notice to retrieve a dropped shield or sword, or to hand over a new weapon. These battles might have been practice bouts, but they were certainly not games of enjoyment. It was all serious business, meant to prepare them for the art of war. Evelyn shuddered at the prospect of Owen in combat. She’d heard talk…a kind that wasn’t meant for her delicate ears…of the butchery that occurred on a battlefield. Crushed skulls, decapitations, severed limbs. It was enough to turn her stomach, and she hurried past them, trying to turn her thoughts in a happier direction as she made her way into the house.

Emile, her father’s Steward, had a small counting room just off the great hall, and Guy could often be found there looking over household business. She peeked in to look for him, but found the room quiet and empty. She smiled, not the least bit surprised to find it so deserted, and turned to the stairs, quite certain of knowing where her father would be found. Of late, he had taken to conducting business in the solar next door to his bedchamber. He’d had a desk placed there so he could look over accounts and remain close to his wife at the same time. Sometimes, if he finished early, he would sit and read to her.

Evelyn recalled how only yesterday, she’d stood in the hall and listened to him as he read Homer’s Iliad. Cassia had complimented the sound of his voice, saying how very much it pleased her. There had been a pause, and then the sound of him saying something soft in response. Evelyn hadn’t quite heard what he’d said, but it had made her mother laugh, and that was a sound she dearly loved to listen to, however it came about.

Giving a small knock, she heard her father bid her to enter…and she saw him there with Emile, both of them bent over books and papers. Guy glanced up for a moment, and seeing her, he gave her a little smile.

“There you are, my girl. Back from your explorations, are you? Your mama and I were questioning your whereabouts.”

She went to him, giving him a kiss on the forehead.

“Where is Mama?” she asked.

Instantly she saw his expression dim, the way it always did when he had just lost an argument to his wife. He gestured toward the open doors of the terrace.

“She is there with your sister, taking a bit of sunshine. She insisted on it, even though I fought for her to remain abed. But you know her stubborn nature.”

She nodded. “As we all do.”

And in thought she added, Your nature I knowest better. It is doubtful you fought long with her.

Everyone knew that Guy of Gisborne was easily swayed by the women in his life…his wife above all…even though he pretended to put up a valiant fight. But out of respect for him as a man, no one gave voice to their knowledge. They all knew who truly ruled the family…and quietly, Evelyn stepped out in search of her.

Cassia and Thea were both there, each of them resting on specially crafted chairs. Long ago, during Cassia’s first pregnancy, he’d had a cushioned lounge chair made for her to keep her from suffering the discomfort of typical furnishings. When Thea became pregnant, he had a matching chair made for her as well. Now they sat opposite each other, sharing the work of embroidering a blanket. As Evelyn approached, Cassia looked up. She smiled, her dark eyes bright.

“Hello, darling daughter. Where have you been? It is nearing suppertime. Had you tarried much longer, you might have been late.”

Thea, not looking up from her needlework, chimed in with one of her usual disparaging remarks.

“Likely she was busy chasing fairies or some other childish nonsense, and she forgot the time.”

Evelyn was not put off by her sister’s comment, for she was quite accustomed to her snarky way of saying things. Even at her worst, Thea’s words always had an underlying sense of sisterly affection. For that reason, Evelyn’s reply was calm and cool.

“I was hardly chasing fairies, sister. I was out gathering a gift for Mama.”

Giving over the basket of flowers, Evelyn was pleased to see her mother smile as she held a blossom to her nose.

“Thank you, my love. They are beautiful.”

It was just the reaction she had hoped for…and she suddenly recalled what else she had seen, other than the lavender.

“Oh Mama, I saw the most curious thing just a while ago.”

Thea lifted her head. “You see, Mama? I knew she could not have a quiet, simple walk. Always some flight of fancy takes hold of her mind, and she must share it with us all.”

Cassia smiled. And yet, her tone was motherly and firm.

“Theodora, do not be unkind. Besides, the span of life if far too short for constant seriousness. I can always do for an imaginative tale.” She smiled up at Evelyn, who pulled a stool close and sat down.

“It was no imagining, Mama. A pursuit flew by me in the fields. ‘Twas a young man chased by hounds and horsemen. He seemed to be quite desperate in his escape. Do you thinkest they captured him?”

Cassia shrugged. “Most likely so. Sadly, one lone man is hardly a match for eager hounds and horsemen.”

Thea huffed. “Probably he has been caught and is now jailed. Should he be a criminal, I say good riddance to him.”

Evelyn thought about the young man, wondering who he was and what had become of him. In all likelihood, it had not been a kind end. She knew not why, but the idea of it troubled her in some way…and though she knew Thea would probably tease her for it, she chose to give him her own choice of fate, even if it was only imaginary. She sighed, sitting straight and dignified in her seat, her tone taking on an air of stubbornness.

“I believe I shall make up a grand ending for him then. A prettier scenario than to end up in chains, or worse, torn to pieces. Perhaps he leaps over a high stone wall, too tall for dogs or horses to scale. He flees into the sunset, leaving his pursuers frustrated and bitter while he lives to be free for another day.”

Thea slowly rose to her feet, struggling with the weight of her belly. As her maid came to assist her, Thea sighed and shook her head, speaking to her sister.

“Dearest Evie, you might truly be the silliest girl in all of creation.” She went to her mother, bending down to kiss the top of her head. She gave a weary sigh. “Apologies, Mama, but I am quite tired. I think I shall rest before supper.”

She left them then, and as she did, Evelyn took up the seat her sister had abandoned. Bringing her feet up, she hugged her knees to her chest and rested her chin on her kneecap. She sighed, sinking deep into thought.

“What a pity that the world has no desire for women writers and poets. Methinks I would be a great success.”

Cassia smiled, nodding in agreement.

“Indeed. But do not be forlorn, dearest. You shall always find an audience with me.”

Moving close to her mother, Evelyn gave her a warm hug. Her mother’s arms were so soft, the scent of her so familiar and comforting. She was aware of no longer being a child, but she was certain she would never tire of seeking her mother’s embrace. It was a part of her life she could not imagine relinquishing, even for the proprieties of adulthood.

“I love you, Mama.” She felt her mother’s hands stroking her hair. Cassia’s voice was calm and loving, as it always was.

“My dear girl. I love you too.” A few moments passed in comfortable silence. Then Cassia spoke eagerly.

“Will you play for me after supper? I have not heard your music for some time, and it would please me greatly to hear you perform.”

Evelyn sat up, her eyes wide with the prospect of pleasing her beloved mother.

“Of course I shall play for you. I will go now and bring my lyre.”

“That would be divine,” Cassia said with a smile. “But first, I wonder if you would do something else for me.”

Evelyn nodded. “Of course I will.”

“Run along and speak to Marie…inquire if there are any apples to be found in the larder. The babe and I are longing for a bit of fruit, and we are not inclined to wait for supper.”

Evelyn smiled. And hurrying out, she went to see to her mother’s favor.


The kitchens were considered unfit for a young noblewoman. Crowded, noisy…dirty and always awash with various smells, such rooms were the domain of servants, and one would not expect to find a woman of rank wandering there. Evelyn knew her father frowned upon it. There were rules and expectations for all members of the household, and for the most part, she was obedient. But on occasion, for one reason or another, she slipped down to the lower levels of the manor…as she did now.

The supper preparation was in full force. Cooks, maids and pages rushed to and fro. Steam hissed. Fires burned high in the hearth. Despite the recent building of new chimneys, there was still a slight haze of smoke that hung over the entire space…and Evelyn waved her hand before her face as she searched for Marie, the housekeeper. It was she who saw Evelyn first, and after giving a respectful curtsey, her expression grew concerned.

“Lady Evelyn, you must not be about with the servants. The Master will not be pleased to know of you here.”

Evelyn interjected quickly, not troubled by the thought of punishment. “Mother desires fruit. Have we a supply of apples?”

Marie shook her head. “No, milady. The last were used in the supper. But I will send a boy straight away to the orchard.”

Evelyn gave a wag of her head. “No, no. Do not concern yourself. You all have much to do here. I will go and fetch some.”

Before Marie could protest, Evelyn hurried past her…rushing out the kitchen door that led to the wheat fields and the orchard beyond. She saw nothing wrong with seeing to some tasks for herself. Her mother encouraged it, often reminding her that one should never lose themselves in complacency. When all was said and done, rank meant very little…

Whether rich or poor, we are all born of dust, just as the scriptures say. And unto dust shall we all return.

Such an earthy outlook on life suited Evelyn just fine. It pleased her to be kind to others, be they wealthy or poor. And her spirit was more fulfilled by those things that came of the earth than of those created by human hands. The garden and the orchards were of particular delight to her. Years ago, on a journey to Rome, her mother and father had learned of several species of plants and trees, some of which they had brought back with them. Now the grounds had olive and apricot trees, along with the native pears and apples, and the grape vines that provided wine for the manor. It was a bounty of nature that felt like paradise to her, and it was her hope that someday, when she had her own home, she could replicate such splendor for her own children.

As she looked about, spotting the apples that had fallen…deciding which were good and which were not…she felt a sudden sense of being watched. She glanced about, suspecting it was Owen playing a trick on her. He’d been known to do that on occasion. But she could see no one. There was no sound. And yet, her senses were aware of a presence. Something caused her to slowly look up…and there, sitting high in the crook of a tree, was a young man. Evelyn dropped her apples, taking several fast and fearful steps backwards. The young man did not seem troubled. He smiled down at her, carelessly biting into the fruit in his hand.

“Good day, mademoiselle. What, pray tell, is a young woman like yourself doing out here all alone?”

Fearful, and yet wanting him not to see it, she took another step back as she answered with as much courage as she could.

“This is my father’s estate. He is the Earl of Gisborne. He has soldiers at hand and I need only to scream to bring them to my aid.”

He raised a curious eyebrow, his mouth curling in a slight grin. “You think I mean you harm?”

“Do you?”

His grin became full, and he shook his head. “Not in any way. I find absolute delight in the delicate creature that is a woman. ‘Twould be most shameful to sully one of God’s most glorious creations…particularly one so lovely as yourself.”

She had never heard a man speak as he did. His words were pretty…even bold in their way. Men had called her beautiful at times, but always with a careful air of politeness. This compliment was nothing of that sort. It was, to be quite honest, rather audacious. And it left her unsure of how to respond…until it dawned on her just who she was now looking at.

“It was you I saw running, was it not? Through the brook, just a short time ago?”

He cocked his head. “You were witness to the beasts on my heels, determined to make a meal of me?”

She gave a small nod. And then she asked, almost without thinking…

“What manner of criminal are you, sir?”

He took a last bite of his apple, tossing the core aside. Then he jumped down from his perch, his actions athletic and graceful. He looked harmless enough. To be truthful, he was quite nice looking. He was not overly tall or muscular…not at all intimidating in his stature. His face was soft and boyish, with kind eyes and a winning smile. Still, one could never be certain of strangers, and Evelyn took a further step back, fearing he might make an approach. But instead of drawing closer to her, he leaned a shoulder against the tree, looking at her with an air of great self-assurance.

“Milady, I am the finest kind of criminal. Wiley and quick as a fox. I have been pursued countless times since I was a lad of thirteen. Six years have gone since, and they have not got hold of me yet.”

Her eyes grew a bit wider…nervous, yet full of curiosity. “Are you a thief?”

He sighed. “Aye, I must confess you’ve hit upon it. I am a notorious rascal, so it has been said. All that I need, I take. Food, money…and many a heart. Is yours spoken for?”

Her cheeks turned pink at his bold question. But he only chuckled.

“You are shy, milady. Your face flushes with a lovely color that becomes you.”

Unable to look at him any longer, she cast her eyes on the ground…but then she raised it when she heard the distant sound of dogs. He turned his head, hearing the sound as well. Then he turned to her again, smiling.

“Pardonne-moi, mademoiselle. But methinks I hear the sound of a warning in the air. Time for us to part company.”

Before she could reply, or truly even think, her hand was raised by his. His lips softly pressed her knuckles. A bold gleam shone in his eyes…his soft, deep brown eyes.

“Bonne journée, une jolie.”

And then he fled, vanishing among the trees. She watched him go, unsure of the feeling coming over her…the feeling of being utterly bewitched.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Rebel Mine, Chapter 2 Part One

Guy gave a contented groan as he settled back into Cassia’s arms, which were wrapped around his shoulders as they lounged together in a bath. Immersed in the huge tub filled with hot rose-water, being held by his wife’s loving embrace, it was difficult to recall being so angry just a short while ago.

The luxury of a hot bath was something they both indulged in, and quite often. Cassia was not a wife who begged for gold and jewels, though he’d gladly bestowed them on her. Her desires were rather austere and prudent…like the rose garden he’d built for her, and the fountain in the center of it. It flowed with fresh spring water, providing both beauty and health. And, knowing her enjoyment of bathing, he’d had a deep marble tub constructed especially for her. It had quickly proved a delight for them both, for they often shared it, as they did now.

He closed his eyes for a moment, feeling a warming of his senses when her lips pressed against his shoulder and neck. He savored such times as these, when all the world seemed to be closed out and it was only the two of them. Joyful as he was in being a father and a man of means, he was never more content than he was as a husband. And he adored his wife more than ever when she was simply being that…his wife. His lover, his companion. When they were together this way, they were both removed from conventionality and duty. They often conversed intimately, both of their tones soft and free of care, whether the subject was serious or inconsequential. She leaned closer into him, pressing her cheek to his.

“So, my lover. What shall we do about our wayward child?”

He grinned, his deep feeling of contentment making him gregarious, allowing him to exercise his rarely expressed sense of humor.

“The abbey is always in need of novices.”

She laughed softly, but gave him a light swat on the head. “You are a devil.”

He smirked, replying with another jest.

“Perhaps the convent is not such a wise solution. They would probably tire of her very quickly and return her to us.”

Her giggle was a delightful sound, even as she pushed at his shoulders in mock displeasure, scolding him. “You are a terrible fiend!”

With a grin, he stretched his legs and gave a contented sigh. He was at a loss about what to do with their daughter…but at that moment, he was in too blissful a mood to try and come up with an answer. His reply was careless in its tone. Clutching Cassia’s hand, he lovingly kissed her fingertips, more content to express affection than to trouble his mind. He sighed.

“Truly, what is there to be done?”

There was a long space of quiet between them. For a moment, he was certain that in both of their opinions, the matter had reached an impasse. He closed his eyes once again, relishing in the warmth and calm…until she made an expression of noise he knew very well.


He turned his head slightly so he might examine her face. His eyes shined with curiosity as he studied her, for he could see her mind working on some unknown subject. The corner of his mouth rose.

“What thought is in your mind, wife? I am too familiar with that sound you make. It means you are creating a scheme of some sort. Come, tell me what it is.”

How he adored the contemplative expression she wore…one she always had when she was deep in thought. What fools were other men who did not value an intelligent wife. They knew not what a gift it was. Curious to hear her speak, he pressed her again for answers, and she at last revealed her thoughts.

“Rather than slaughtering the horse, perhaps you should give it to Stuart as a wedding gift. It will make a grand offering. It will save a fine animal from a needless end, while serving as a constant reminder to our daughter. To think of a thing she desired so much, to be seen in the possession of another. It might serve as a proper punishment.”

He considered the idea, thinking there was much wisdom in it. Their nephew was a skilled Knight and had an admiration for horses. No doubt he would welcome such a gift. Guy smiled, thinking that his wife’s idea was very clever. But then again, her ideas were always thus. Her mind was admittedly so much sharper than his…her solutions to problems so much wiser. And in some ways, much more devious. He chuckled with delight.

“And you would call me wicked,” he replied.

She made a gleeful little sound, as if she were quite satisfied with herself. “Oh, but I am not yet done.” She sat up slightly, as if asserting herself. “We will not permit her to attend the wedding celebration. She will suffer far greater pangs of misery by being denied such a social occasion. It will sting far worse than the lashings of a whip.”

Thea had been anticipating the wedding of her cousin for many months. It was sure to be a spectacular event of feasting and festivities. Being forced to miss it would indeed be cruel. And it would cast the proper light of shame on her. He sighed with mirth, thinking what a taskmaster his wife could be, and all without lifting a hand in force. He chuckled in delight of her.

“Cruel, cruel madwoman! Your mind is truly devious…and brilliant.”

She moved around to face him, and the change in her position stirred feelings of a different kind…sensations that had little to do with the strength of her mind. She placed herself above him, rubbing his chest with her hands. “And from my intelligence, you shall benefit.”

His hands roamed beneath the surface of the water, clasping her backside as their lower bodies pressed together.

“How glorious it is to have my very own muse.”

What a magnificent creature she was. Clever and witty. Generous in every way. And so incredibly beautiful, even after all their years together. Time had hardly altered her features. Her skin was just as soft, her figure still slender. There were only a few strands of gray in her hair, hardly noticeable to his eyes. Her shining chestnut tresses fell forward, wet from the bath and smelling delightful, lightly tickling his skin and wildly rousing his senses. He leaned further back, allowing her a position of dominance…wanting to look up at her when they came together. His words were heavy with lust.

“I shall have to think of something to reward your great counsel. Is there anything you desire?”

Her only reply was a wicked, seductive smile.


In the bedchamber down the hall, a single candle burned in it’s holder on Evelyn’s night stand. She sat resting against her pillows, concentrating on a difficult bit of needlework she’d been working on for several hours. On the other side of the room, Thea was lying beneath her coverlet, seemingly still. One might have assumed she was asleep…except for the occasional sighs and groans that came from under the blankets. Evelyn’s brow became crinkled in frustration.

“St. Peter’s nightgown,” she muttered. “Please cease your worrisome noises and go to sleep.”

Thea made a disgruntled noise in reply. “I cannot sleep, and that is that. Papa is punishing me endlessly for a small crime, and I shall find no peace until all is right.”

Evelyn shook her head in dismay, her tone almost motherly as she scolded her sister. “You bring folly on yourself with your thoughtless behavior. I would never give Papa and Mama such difficulty.”

Another reply of noise came from Thea, only now it was one of antipathy and scorn. “Well, dearest Evelyn, not a one of us presumes to be as saintly as you are. I hope we can all aspire to such perfection.”

Evelyn felt a slight sting at the words. But she said nothing in reply. It wasn’t her intention to be perfect. There was certainly not such a thing. But it was her intention to be as little trouble as possible.

Poor Papa and Mama, she thought. William was away studying for the priesthood and they missed him terribly. Correspondence from him was very rare, it being so difficult and costly to send, and they longed for the day when he would finally return home to reside as the village priest. Thea and Owen were a constant battle for them. And of course they had long the difficulty of their everyday troubles. Why should they shoulder yet another burden?

She put her needlework aside for the night. Leaning over to blow out the candle, she made a declaration to herself as she settled under the covers for the night.

I shall never be such a bother, she thought. Not to anyone.


Late June, 1213

Lavender. So sweet, so calming. Evelyn knew it was her mother’s favorite flower, and the fields were teeming with them. Walking among the waves of soft purple, she gathered up several handfuls of the blooms, filling her basket with them. She smiled as she thought of the happy light that would come to her mother’s face when she saw them. They would certainly bring her great comfort while she was ailing. It was still a wonder to think there would soon be another Gisborne child born into the world. No one had expected it, least of all Guy and Cassia, who had thought their child-rearing days long gone.

The past nine months had gone by in a rush of excitement. Thea and Lucien had been married in October and it was hardly a month gone before they discovered they were to have a child. Lucien had taken his bride home to his family estate, which was just to the north of the Gisborne property. But Thea, being fretful about her first pregnancy, sought her mother’s company quite often and spent many days back home. Now that Cassia was with child as well, they spent many a day bonding over their shared conditions.

Just as Cassia had predicted, a peace had been made between Guy and Sir Lucien. They were not quite the best of friends, but Guy had eased his attitude considerably, even allowing Lucien to command the troops in their drills. And though Evelyn could not be certain of it, she secretly wondered if her father had accepted Lucien as a full-fledged member of the family. He certainly could not ask for a better man to call his son-in-law. Lucien doted on Thea just as Guy did with Cassia, and they both were in a constant state of worry about their wives’ delicate conditions. It made Evelyn smile to think of their loving devotion, and it was her hope that one day, she could look forward to such husbandly attention.

She glanced up at the shining sun, which was starting its decent into the west. Judging from its position, the day was growing late. She’d been walking for hours, and it was best to return home before she was badly missed.

As she crested a hill, the distant noise of baying hounds fell on her ears. At first the sound was faint. But it soon grew louder, more distinct, and she realized it was progressing from left to right, just down the valley. She looked on with only a slight awareness, thinking she might see a hunting party passing by. But her interest grew keen when she saw a lone figure running fast. It was a young man…tow-headed, lean-bodied and long of limbs…tearing across the fields as if he were fleeing for his life. She soon realized it was quite possible, for the hounds that she’d heard bawling soon came into view, giving chase with a small group of horsemen behind them. Of what nature this pursuit was, she knew not. But she stood watching, captivated, as the wild party flew by in front of her. And the young man became an immediate source of fascination, for he was swift of foot and limb. A brook marked the boundary between the Gisborne estate and the neighboring property, and the young man splashed into it without pause. The band of hunters were not far behind him as he dashed under a bridge, and as he came out the other side he encountered a fallen tree…which he scaled over with the agility of a fox. The dogs and horses were not so capable. They were stopped by the tree’s gnarled branches, forcing the party to go around it…and giving their quarry sufficient time to be well on his way ahead.

It was a moment of excitement that captured Evelyn’s imagination. She looked on as the horsemen and dogs scrambled about, while the young man vanished around the bend of the brook. As she turned towards home she took several looks back, wondering about the young man who had fled so fast.

Was he a criminal of some kind? Perhaps he was some ousted member of a nearby household, banished and being chased from the property. She could not know for certain what his circumstances were, but such a man might be inspiration for a good adventure story. She made a mental note to remember the incident, to weave it into a story of some kind to be told to her mother, who would no doubt enjoy a good tale. Perhaps even her father would like to hear it. To see him free of his worries, if only for a little while, would be a fine thing indeed.