Friday, July 29, 2011

"My Lady Gisborne" Paperback Giveaway

Hello, readers!

From now until August 19th, I'm giving readers a chance to win 2 copies of my book, "My Lady Gisborne." For those who don't know, this is a sequel to my book "The Tempest." Here is the description from Amazon...

Lady Evelyn Gisborne desires to be a proper young noble-woman, but independence runs strong in her blood. She follows her heart as well as her head, and temptation soon beckons her in the form of a handsome rogue. René Jean-Bastien is clever, bold...and forbidden, for she has been promised to another. Simon Jean Carré, Marquis of Laroque, is a born soldier. His life is commited to the pursuit of battle and the honor of the knight's code. When he journies to the Gisborne estate, his only intention is to meet his promised bride. But he soon finds himself entwined in the life of a most unusual family...and falling in love with the woman he has sworn to keep at a distance. Evelyn is torn between two loves. Will she choose the man to whom she is promised...or the dashing thief who has stolen her heart?

If you're interested in a chance for one of these copies, just email me at or leave your contact info here. I'll announce the winners the day after the contest ends.

Also, Goodreads is doing a similar giveaway on their site. Here's the link to that...

Good luck to everyone!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Draco Malfoy on Conan O'Brien Show. TOO FUNNY!

This is one of the funniest interviews EVER! Listen as Conan and Tom Felton, AKA Draco Malfoy, discusses frightning little children, Harry Potter memorabilia theft, and the joy of HP fans. Things start off innocently enough, but it quickly erupts into a hilarious glimpse into the mind of the Harry Potter fanworld...

Monday, July 25, 2011

Richard, Richard, everywhere I turn...and I'm loving it!

Someone up above must think I deserve blessings, because I've had RA left and right for weeks! To start, there was the big reveal of Thorin...

It wasn't quite what I expected, but I was very happy to see Richard in character, and I thought he looked fantastic. But then, there was the offical picture...

WOW! That was the only word I could say. From head to toe, he looks perfect as the mighty Thorin Oakenshield. Love the boots, love the beautiful blue coat, love the fur on the shoulders. I love it all! And best of all, we can still see a hint of that beautifully expressive face. I am so looking forward to this, I can't even put it into words!

My RA delights didn't end there, of course. Not with Captain America making it's debut!

If there was one bad note in all of this RA goodness, it was the coverage of the LA premiere of Captain America. Most of us have seen it by now, although most of us couldn't HEAR IT! What the heck was with the sound, people? You are from HOLLYWOOD! Shouldn't you know how to prepare for these things? And that was just one thing among many that made my hackles rise like and angry dog. The interview...oh my, I'm getting angry just thinking about it. You all know what I'm talking about. Not only were the questions stupid, but for heaven's sake, learn how to pronounce the man's name! Is is so difficult to say?  But I digress...

"Captain America" was a fantastic film, at least in my humble opinion. I enjoyed it very much. But of course, I went to see it because of RA, and even though he was only in it for about ten minutes or so, he completely stole those ten minutes of the movie. SPOILER ALERT! Do not read further if you haven't seen the movie and don't want to know details...

I love the moment just before he blows up the lab. He looks around, in an almost raptor like way. By that, I mean the way he surveys his domain. I loved his facial expression...very cold and calculating. Can this guy play evil, or WHAT? :)

And then of course, the short ride begins. I love to watch this man in motion. His long legs move him with such speed and agility. He moves through the scene at breakneck speed, as of course, the Captain is on his tail. He knows how to handle a gun, that's for sure. I love the way he dashes from one vehicle to the next. Very weasel-like, that evil spy! Several shootings and a tossed kid later, he's in his sub and ready to make his getaway. Sadly, we know how this turns out. The villain is defeated, and Richard's scenes come to an abrupt end. Heinz Kruger, we hardly knew ye.

I left the theatre very impressed. But my RA fest was hardly over. A few days later, there was a lovely interview with RA in The Scotsman magazine. If you haven't read it, you should do so. RA reveals a few things about himself. As usual, he charming and witty. It's no wonder we adore him. Here's the link...

It's been an amazing few weeks, I must say. I hope the RA goodness continues! It's a long time from now until 2012 and The Hobbit. I need something to keep me going until then. :)

Monday, July 18, 2011

A New Spartacus

Liam Mcintyre as "Spartacus"
As some people may or may not know, I am a huge fan of the Starz series' "Spartacus: Blood and Sand" and "Spartacus: Gods of the Arena." This January, the third installment of the series, entitled "Spartacus: Vengence" will make its debut. I, for one, am really anxious. Mostly because this installment has been delayed for so long...and, because there will be a new actor in the lead role.

There have been many discussions (Some of them quite bitter) about the replacement of Andy Whitfield, who had to drop out of the role due to health reasons. While I loved him as Spartacus, I think it is unfair to rush to judgement about replacing him. Andy himself gave the new actor (Liam Mcintyre) a warm reception and wished him good luck, and who can say that we, as fans, won't like Liam just as much? I'm happy to give him a chance. He certainly meets my standards in the looks department. :)

Roll on, January!

Sunday, July 17, 2011


Link to OneRing.Net:

WOW! Just...WOW! The first pic of Thorin was finally revealed today, and I for one am thrilled. RA has often said he wants to play characters that don't rely on physical attractiveness, and this certainlly qualifies! He is wonderfully fierce and scary looking, and I love it!

Maybe sometime soon, we'll get a full-body picture? One can only hope!!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

"My Lady Gisborne" Kindle Giveaway!

From now until July 15th, I'm doing a promo for "My Lady Gisborne."

In exchange for a review on Amazon, I will gift a Kindle copy of the book. If you're interested, just email me or leave me a message here. I'm hoping to get some reviews going on Amazon.

Happy Reading!

Monday, July 11, 2011

"My Lady Gisborne" is now on Kindle US and UK!

  "My Lady Gisborne" is now on Kindle!
Here is the U.S. Link: and the U.K. Link:

Thanks to everyone who has been following this story. It's been a long ride, and I'm glad you were there with me.

All the best!

Sarah AKA Charlotte H.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

My Lady Gisborne update: A cover, and more...

Hello Everyone! Here is a preview of the cover for "My Lady Gisborne." I hope you like it!

The book will be in print very soon. As soon as I have the set date, I'll definately share it with you.

A big thanks to everyone who has been following this story. Your support means more than you'll ever know. Look for book giveaways, coming soon on Goodreads and other sites.

My best to everyone!

Charlotte H.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

My Lady Gisborne, Epilogue

December, 1216

Evelyn sat at her dressing table while her hair was combed out for the night. It was a cool night, and she relished the warmth of the generous fire that blazed in the hearth. The room was quiet for a moment. Then there came the sound of a joyful squeal and childish laughter. The chamber door opened, and Evelyn smiled as Simon came in, carrying a giggling chestnut-haired bundle over his shoulder.

“Evelyn, I have found a sprite wandering about the halls. Should I banish it, or allow it refuge in our home?”

Beaming at the sight of her husband and daughter so playful together, she laughed, placing her hands on her belly. “I think we should keep it to add to our growing collection.” In only a few months, they would welcome their second child. And she could hardly wait.

The birth of a daughter had come as a surprise, but it was a pleasant one. Having been accustomed to her family’s tradition, which tended towards the bearing of sons, Evelyn was delighted to give birth to a girl. Although she knew that Simon wanted a son, he was a doting father to Sophia, who absolutely worshipped him.

From her upside down position across her father’s shoulder, Sophia giggled again. “Papa, I am dizzy.”

Picking her up, Simon carried her to the bed and gently dropped her, letting her land on the thick mattress with a bounce and a squeal of childish delight. While they played a back and forth game, with Sophia running into his arms and he tossing her back, Evelyn dismissed her maid for the night. She stood back for a moment, watching her little family interacting so lovingly. Sophia was a bundle of energy, but it was her comical behavior that endeared her to everyone. She had an odd love of spinning, sometimes to the point of falling over. And when she fell, she liked to declare out loud, “I am fine.” It amused her mother and father to no end.

For a two-year old child, she was also incredibly bright. She seemed to understand that her mother’s growing belly contained something special. As Evelyn came near the bed, Simon held Sophia back from the rambunctious activity.

“Remember,” he said, “You must be careful with your Mama. She is in a delicate condition.”

Simon held Sophia until Evelyn had slipped into bed. When he let her go, she moved slowly, pointing her tiny finger. Kneeling down at Evelyn’s side, she gently placed her hands on her mother’s belly.

“Baby,” she said.

Evelyn smiled. The word “baby” had become a constant in Sophia’s limited vocabulary, and Evelyn found it delightful to hear her saying it repeatedly. Pulling her daughter close, she kissed her cheek. And then, Simon held his arms out. Sophia ran to him instantly, and he scooped her up.

“It is late, my sweetheart. You must go to bed.”

As he carried Sophia away, Evelyn heard her say, in her soft little voice, “Oh, Papa.”

A smile remained on Evelyn’s face as she watched them go. After the door had closed, she reached for the rolled parchment on the bedside table. It had come earlier in the day, but there had been no time to read it. Now, the house was quiet and calm. She unrolled the parchment, and began to read.

Simon returned a few minutes later. He slipped into bed quietly at first, closing his eyes as he leaned his head back against his pillow. But as she continued to read, saying nothing, he opened his eyes. His eyes fell, with interest, on the letter.

“You are quite engrossed, my love. Pray, tell me. What interests you to such an extent?”

“Marie is to have another baby,” Evelyn said.

Simon grumbled. “May God have mercy on the child, to have such a father.”

Evelyn lightly swatted his arm, but smiled. “Rene has proven to be a good father, and a good husband. It will be a joy to see them again.”

Hearing that, Simon pulled himself upright. “Are they coming here again so soon?”

Evelyn was quick to soothe him, knowing that his tolerance for certain visitors was very limited. “No, no,” she replied. “Not until the spring, my darling.”

He became calm again, settling back under the covers. “Good God, woman. You nearly caused my heart to fail.”

She shook her head, both in exasperation and amusement. It had hardly been a shock to learn that Rene and Marie had eloped. They had now been married for some two years, and they lived a quiet life on Rene’s small estate. Despite the passage of time, Simon had never fully warmed to Rene, although he tolerated a yearly visit. But even then, it was with reluctance. Evelyn spoke to him, without taking her eyes from the letter.

“Would you rather I invited my brother and his wife?”

Simon pursed his lips. “No doubt they are too occupied with one another to consider visiting family.”

She laughed in agreement with him. Few in the family could have foreseen that Owen and Isabella would grow to love one another. Isabella’s husband had annulled their marriage and taken another wife. It wasn’t long after the incident that Owen had announced his decision to marry her. They made their home in Toulouse, away from the familiar faces of Marseilles, and by all accounts, they were a very devoted couple. Evelyn smiled at the thought of it.

“If our family tradition is any indication, they will be a most prolific couple.” She rolled up the parchment and put it aside. Snuffing out the candle, she snuggled into Simon’s arms. She sighed, a thoughtful and happy sound. “What a site it will be if we gather everyone together in the spring. Mama and Papa with Philippe. Rene and Marie with their two children. Thea and Lucien, with Gabriel and the twins.”

Thea had given birth to twin girls last year. Following in the tradition of the Gisbornes, Elizabeth and Eleanor were born healthy and strong. It pleased Guy and Cassia to no end to have more grandchildren, and the entire family was eagerly awaiting the arrival of Simon and Evelyn’s second child. Thinking of it, Evelyn rested her hands on her belly.

“Have you given more thought to the naming of this child?”

He sighed. “I have told you, my love. It is hardly up to a father to name a child. That is the duty of a mother.”

She chuckled. “Why then did I hear you speaking to your father, discussing the names of honorable men? Ones you said would be fitting to give to a son?”

For a moment, he was silent. But with gentle prodding, he confessed he had indeed been thinking of it.

“Am I wrong to long for a son?”

She shook her head where it rested against his shoulder.

“You long for your heir, of course. And we have our beautiful Sophia already. It would be lovely to have both a daughter and a son.”

“I hope for the blessing of many sons and daughters,” he said. “And I wish them the same love we have known.”

She sighed, feeling the warmth of his hand on her belly. “As do I, my love,” she said. “As do I.”

My Lady Gisborne Chapter 30

For Evelyn, the roof of the castle was a welcome refuge from the misery of the sick rooms and the general chaos of the war effort. From the battlements, one could see miles of woodlands, hills, and streams. It was a perfect vantage point to watch the sunset, and with Marie at her side, she leaned on the stones and took in the beauty.

In the distance, they saw a wagon approaching, accompanied by three men on horseback. Behind the wagon, a riderless stallion was tied. The horse was white, and Evelyn gasped. She brought her hand to her mouth, and Marie reached out to steady her.

“My lady, what is it?”

Evelyn broke from her grasp, scrambling down the ladder of the roof opening. She knew the man in black who rode a dark horse. And she knew that white stallion. A stallion without it’s rider. Tears blurred her eyes as she flew down the stairs and dashed through the gallery. Servants stared at her as she sped past them, and in the hall, Cassia called out to her.

“Evelyn, what has happened?”

Evelyn hurried on without answering, and Cassia soon followed her, along with Thea, who had been at her mother’s side. William and Isabella, who had come at the sound of running footsteps, hurried after them. In the courtyard, Evelyn froze. She saw her father, and Lucien, and Rene. Owen was sitting up in the cart, his shoulder bound. But she did not see Simon. Without waiting to ask questions, she rushed to the cart, and yanking back the tarp, she cried out at the site of him, lying lifeless.

“Simon!” she screamed. “Oh, God!”

The men dismounted. Thea ran to Lucien’s arms, and Evelyn turned to her father. Guy came to her, taking her in his embrace. She grasped his arms, looking up at him with wild eyes.

“Is he dead?”

Guy shook his head. “He yet clings to life, but by only by the barest of threads. We must get him inside, quickly.”

Cassia, seeing her son-in-law’s lifeless body, demanded a litter. As Simon was carried into the castle, Evelyn hurried along beside it, along with Marie. Cassia turned her attention to Owen. William was helping him from the cart, as Isabella stood nearby. Seeing his shoulder bound with cloth, and the blood that had seeped through, Cassia gasped with concern. She reached up to touch his face, anxiously kissing his cheek.

“Oh my darling! What happened?”

He groaned in pain, but tried not to worry her. “It was an arrow, Mama. But I will be well. Simon is in greater need.”

“But you are wounded,” she insisted. “You must be in great pain.”

William spoke up. “Mama, we will aid him. Evelyn and Simon are in need of you.”

With a grateful smile, Cassia kissed his cheek, and then Isabella’s. And as they helped Owen inside, Cassia turned to Guy, kissing him in welcome. And she looked at him with concerned eyes.

“Tell me the truth, Guy. Will he live?”

Guy shook his head, looking grave. “I do not know. I just do not know.”

Rene came up behind them, intending to walk past without a word. But Guy stopped him.

“Baron,” he said. Rene turned to look at him, and Guy gave him a respectful nod. “Whatever you require, you shall have. You have only to ask for it.”

Rene sighed, a weary sound. “I ask only for a full belly, and a bed in which to lose myself in sleep.” He turned away, walking into the castle. Guy sent a footman after him, to see to all that Rene required. With Thea and Lucien following behind, Guy and Cassia hurried in, moving quickly to see to Evelyn and Simon.


Simon was laid out on the narrow bed that he and Evelyn had shared. Cassia came to his side, examining him. She turned to one of the footmen.

“Fetch a bucket of cool water, and rags. Quickly.”

Evelyn watched as her mother touched Simon’s face and forehead. Her voice trembled. “Mama,” she asked, almost in a whisper, “Will he die?”

Cassia shook her head. “I cannot say. But he is gravely ill. Fever has taken hold.”

“Oh Mama,” Evelyn gasped. She started to cry...and was immediately scolded. Cassia looked at her with harsh glint in her eyes.

“Evelyn, if you dare to erupt into hysterics, I will send you from this room and not allow you back. Is that understood?”

Guy, who had been standing nearby, came forward. He put his arm around Evelyn, offering her his support, while maintaining a sense of stoicism.

“Your Mama is correct. You will serve your husband no purpose by losing mastery of your emotions.”

Evelyn took a deep breath, trying her best to keep her composure. It was difficult to do, looking at Simon and seeing him so silent and still. He had always moved with such power and confidence. Even at night, in their bed, she had found him to be a restless sleeper, constantly changing his position. At times, it had tested her patience. But now, she feared she would never again have the chance to tease him for disturbing her sleep.

When the footman returned with a large bucket of water, Cassia sent everyone from the room except for Guy and Evelyn, and they began pulling at Simon’s clothes. His chain-mail and gambeson had already been removed when they had burned his wounds, and then a loose shirt had been put on him for the purpose of dignity. But they removed that now, and then his boots and breeches, exposing him completely.

“Take this,” said Cassia, picking up a rag. She wet it and wrung it out, placing it in Evelyn’s hand. “Put it over his belly. It will help to cool him.”

Evelyn nodded, placing the damp rag over Simon’s abdomen. His flesh was burning hot, and it was terrifying. Cassia handed her another wet rag, instructing her to place it in the pit of his left arm. It was then that Evelyn saw the burned wound on his side. She gasped, covering her mouth.

“Oh Mama, look at this,” she cried.

Cassia came around to Evelyn’s side of the bed. Seeing the wound, black and curdled, a sickened look came to her face.

“Good God, it is putrefied,” she declared. “No doubt it is the cause of his fever. We will have to make a poultice to draw out the ill humors. Evelyn, bathe his face and chest to cool him. I will return shortly.”

She departed, along with Guy. And Evelyn was left alone with her husband.

Taking up a clean rag, she wet it. Carefully and gently, she cleaned Simon’s face. It was dirty and speckled with blood. His skin shined with sweat, and with a determined hand, she wiped it all away. From head to toe she lovingly bathed him, and then she pulled a sheet over him, granting him his dignity. Returning to his side, nearing his head where it rested on the pillow, she ran her fingers over his handsome face. There was a fear of disturbing his rest, but she could not help herself from bending down to kiss him. Without her mother there to witness or correct it, her eyes filled with tears. But those same eyes became filled with stubbornness and determination, and it showed in her voice as she spoke softly to him.

“Simon Jean-Carre, you have married a Gisborne woman. You know us well enough. We are a most stubborn lot. And I will not allow you to leave me so soon.”


In a room just down the hall from Simon and Evelyn, Rene was having his garments removed by a valet. Lord, how he hated the trappings of a soldier. After all that had passed during these weeks, he was ready to consider an act of desertion. There had been too much blood, and too much suffering for his liking. He sighed, feeling the gurgling of his stomach. Another reminder of the horrors of war. They had survived on meager rations of stale bread and whatever meat they could hunt down. He had eaten better being a criminal than being a defender of the crown. It was madness.

As the valet removed his boots, the door opened. Marie appeared, carrying a tray. She ordered the valet to go, and closed the door after him. As she came towards him, he took in the sight of her, relishing the graceful way that she moved. He smiled. After being surrounded by his fellow men for so long, it was a refreshing change to see a woman...especially one he loved.

“I see you have brought me nourishment,” he said. “You do not know how famished I have been.”

She smiled, putting the tray down on a trunk at the foot of the bed.

“Yes, I have brought you nourishment.” Coming close to his side, she placed her hands softly on the sides of his face. She tilted his head slightly back. “And I have brought you my company.” She kissed him, softly and sweetly. When they parted, he looked up at her with a dazed smile.

“I do not know what brought that about, but I like it.”

She went to the tray, pouring two goblets of wine. “Sir Guy told us of your heroic deed. That you saved the life of the Marquis.”

Rene sighed. “Being a hero is a short-lived profession. Before long, such a deed will be forgotten.”

“Such humble words,” she said, “From a most unlikely source.” She handed him the cup. But instead of drinking from it, he put it aside. Taking her hand, he pulled her close. His hands went around her slender waist.

“Life is too short to be wasted on mindless pursuits. I have learned that lesson well.”

Looking into his eyes, she smiled softly. “What is it you speak of?”

He brought his lips close to hers, whispering. “Be my wife, Marie. Make me an honest man.” Her response was a gentle laugh.

“You, honest? That is a most amusing jest you make.”

“I am very serious,” he said. She was trying to distract him by brushing her fingers through the hair at his forehead, and it was nearly his undoing. But he willed himself to focus. “We are a match, Marie. A fated match. Not two people forced together for the sake of money or property.”

Her eyes twinkled with merriment. “How noble you sound. I rather like it.”

“Marry me,” he insisted. “What have you to lose? What have either of us to lose?”

She responded by kissing him, and putting her arms around his neck. Then, she whispered in his ear.

“I shall consider it.”

He growled in frustration. But he smiled, as her soft body and warm embrace proved too strong a distraction to fight.


The dawn broke. Evelyn, curled up in a chair, was asleep. She had tried to stay awake as long as possible, but sometime during the night, exhaustion had overwhelmed her. Both her mother and father had tried to encourage her to find rest in another room, but she had refused to leave Simon. He had taken to trembling during the night, and despite the layering of blankets over him, it only seemed to grow worse.

Lying in the chair, she heard a low mumbling sound coming from the bed. As she came awake, she realized that Simon was muttering something. She rushed to his side, placing her hand against his forehead. It was warm, but not nearly as hot as before. With a hopeful tone, she talked to him.

“Simon, my love. I am here.”

When he said her name, she nearly broke into relieved sobs. But she held herself back, knowing that he needed her to be calm. She could not care for him if she was overly excited.

“Evelyn,” he mumbled. “I am freezing.” She could see that he was starting to shake again. His fever had broken, but it had not passed. She rushed to the foot of the bed, opening a trunk that contained another blanket. As she covered him with it, she kissed his forehead, whispering to him.

“Be strong, my love.”

She longed to hear him speak again, but he fell silent. He continued to tremble in his sleep, and she stayed by his side, praying for his continued recovery.


Simon’s progress was slow. Even after his shaking spells had subsided, he remained asleep for the better part of the day. Evelyn only left him briefly, to change clothes and see to personal needs. She took her meals in the room, and had a bed of blankets made up on the floor.

Word from the battlefront began to be heard around the castle. The army was pushing hard towards the coast, and claiming victory in every conquest. It was not a matter of if they would win the war, but merely when. Evelyn shared the news with Simon, but he seemed too weak to take joy in it. His fever had gradually subsided, but he still could not hold solid food in his stomach. Evelyn gave him nourishment by feeding him broth, and slowly, he began to show signs of improvement.

There were few disturbances in the way of constant visitors, although Cassia came every morning and evening to examine her patient’s gradually healing wounds. One face that remained strangely absent was Rene.

Evelyn longed to see him, to thank him properly for his gift of saving her husband’s life. But her time had been devoted to Simon, and until she felt he was entirely recovered, her offering of thanks would wait.

Late one afternoon, word came from one of Simon’s pages.

Rene was missing.

The page fell to his knees at Simon’s bed-side. “My lord,” he said. “We have searched the castle and the grounds. The baron is not to be found.”

Evelyn and Simon looked at one another. Then, Simon looked at his page again. In a weak but still authoritative voice, he answered.

“I have sent him away. That is all that needs to be said.”

The page nodded. As he left, Evelyn looked at Simon, her eyes full of surprise and curiosity.

“Where do you suppose he may be?”

Simon sighed, a weary sound. “To his brother, perhaps. But I will not pursue him. As he granted me my life, I will reward him with his freedom.”

Rising from her chair, Evelyn bent down to kiss his forehead.

“You are a most generous man, Simon Jean-Carre.”

He did not answer, for he had fallen asleep again. But at last, it was a peaceful slumber. Rather than returning to her makeshift bed on the floor, she went around behind Simon, where his back was turned away from her. Taking care not to disturb him, she slipped under the covers with him, and joined him in sleep.

My Lady Gisborne, Chapter 29

Two months later

At the Palais de la Cite, Evelyn found herself immersed in a strange new world. She had always been familiar with the customs of soldiers, and she had spent considerable time watching them in practice and at tourneys. But to see them, every day, coming and going at a hurried see the wounds they returned with, and to experience the loss of men she had known, it opened her eyes to a whole new experience of life.

She thanked God that the men she was closest to always returned safely from their campaigns, although they were gone for weeks at a time. During their absence, she and the other women busied themselves with preparing bandages and salves, and caring for the wounded. It was overwhelming to be among men who were in such sad condition, some of them with wounds so grave they had no chance of survival. But not a single soldier expressed regret about his sacrifice, and when they expressed such valiant words to her, it always moved her to tears.

Her knowledge of war tactics grew. She learned of the Greek fire, and the strategies of a siege. Late one night, Simon quietly explained the quest his men were set to take early the next morning. Sleeping space was at a minimum, and they shared a narrow bed in an upper tower of the castle. Evelyn did not mind the close quarters, as it gave her a perfect reason to be close to Simon. With her eyes closed, she listened to the comforting sound of his voice. He spoke with a hint of excitement as he told her of his coming mission.

“Our men will breach the walls. We will attack from many directions, with foot soldiers and archers. Our miners will undermine the walls. We will suffer losses, of course, but we will take the outer bailey. And then, with our enemy not suspecting it, we will sneak through the garderobe and into the chapel. Before they have learned of our presence, we will have the upper hand. The Château Gaillard will be ours, and it will be a grand victory for our king.”

It sounded like such a miserable existence. Evelyn snuggled closer to him, wishing there was some way she could aid him beyond emotional comfort.

“It must be so very difficult out there, in the fields. Not just in the battle. But at night, sleeping on the cold, hard ground. Having little food, and no manner of even the smallest comfort.”

“That is why I return to you,” he smiled. “I must confess, I am happy to know that you are not so far away.”

It pleased her to know that at last, he had accepted her presence. After her mother’s bold announcement, that night at the supper table, none of the men had been of good mood. They had all fumed and grumbled about the idea of bringing women with them to the castle. They complained bitterly about the dangers of the road, and how it was improper for women to be involved, even in the smallest way, in a military campaign. But eventually, they all accepted the idea, and gradually came to embrace it. Evelyn smiled at the thought of it.

“I would follow you anywhere, Simon. We are destined to be together, always. Much like Orpheus and Eurydice.”

His grin was full of amusement. “You compare us to creatures of mythology?”

She shrugged, smiling sheepishly. “I admit, it sounds fanciful and absurd. But what good is life if it is all seriousness?” She leaned her head against his shoulder, sighing. She wished they were at home, where they could be alone. In the two months they had been here, they had rarely been without company. She understood that everything was for the good of the crown. But still, she longed for the intimacy and sweetness of their marriage. Simon must have sensed what she was thinking. He spoke soothingly, kissing the top of her head.

“Victory is within our grasp, my love. We will return home soon, and together, we will reap the rewards of a glorious triumph.”


Rene sat at a table with several other men, carefully making clay canisters. The little cylinders would soon be filled with pitch and other flammable materials. Tomorrow, they would be used to light fire to the outbuildings of Château Gaillard. He sighed, wondering how on earth he had ever allowed himself to become this involved in a cause. Pausing for a moment, he glanced across the great hall. Seeing Marie, he smiled. She came his way, bearing bread.

“I thought you might be hungry,” she said. Taking a seat across the table from him, she broke the small loaf in two, giving him half. As they ate, he saw the way she looked about, clearly interested in the activity around the table.

“Thank you,” he replied. “I am rather famished. And tired. But, as they say, I will find enough sleep in death.”

Marie’s expression grew solemn at hearing him say that. Over the few months of being here, he had seen that look more and more often. She always gave a denial when he questioned her about it, claiming that some unpleasant thought had crossed her mind, and nothing more. But it was becoming quite obvious to him that her feelings were growing. She cared for him, much more than she wanted to admit. He placed his hand over hers where it rested on the table. Leaning forward, he spoke in a whisper.

“Why can you not admit what you feel for me? I have long ago confessed what is in my own heart.”

He waited, hoping that she would lift her hand and join it with his. But instead, she slowly pulled away from his grasp. She gave him a little smile.

“It is late,” she said. “Good night, Rene.” As she left, passing by his side, she reached out to run her fingers through his hair. It was a physical gesture of affection that he adored, and one she used quite often. He only wished it would be followed by words of equal affection.

He was in love with her. He knew now that there was no better match for him than this woman. In many ways, they lived the life of a wedded couple. They shared a bed, although their actions were limited of late by their surrounding circumstances. When time permitted, they shared intimate conversation and told each other of their concerns. But most telling of all were the things they said in silence. Whenever he saw her across the room, everything else disappeared from view. When their eyes met, he found it impossible to look away, and when she was not in his line of sight, he found himself searching for her. When she was not with Evelyn, she was at his side, and when he was away from her, she was always on his mind. Their affair had started as a casual relationship. But he felt it quickly growing into something deeper. For the first time, he realized he wanted a lasting bond with a woman. He wanted a wife.

If only Marie would accept him.

He knew that if he offered her a proposal of marriage, she would refuse. He had learned, on one night in particular, that to ask for her love was to ask for the impossible of her. That night, only a few days hence, they had ventured into an isolated corner of the castle. In the midst of a deeply passionate encounter, he had lost control of his own emotions. Lost in the moment, he had whispered fevered words of adoration in her ear. But she had never returned his sentiments. Even though her smile and touch seemed to express the very essence of love, she had not once expressed it in words.

They had not spoken of it since. And he wondered if she would ever be able to love him. He had to suppose it was a proper judgment for all the crimes of the heart he had committed. After all the lovers who had come and gone, it seemed a fitting punishment for him to find the one woman who refused to give away her heart.

A smile slowly crept across his face. She was a stubborn one, but when it came to women, he had always enjoyed a challenge. He would win this fight in the end. He was certain of it.


After tearful farewells and loving embraces, the war party set out before the sun had fully risen. Simon glanced around him at the men who were prepared to give all. Mostly, he looked at the members of his family. His father was there, of course. He took great pride in seeing Basil in command, leading a garrison of nearly two-hundred men. To be sure, it was a modest garrison when compared with entirety of the king’s army. But once they met up with the other soldiers in Normandy, they would be more than a two-thousand strong. And they would send the English fleeing for home. Their king was weak, and it was rumored that he had already deserted his troops, leaving them to fend for themselves. It would be a solid victory.

Simon’s eye caught sight of the man to his left. He and Rene only spoke when necessary. What reason was there for them to converse? They were not destined to like one another. And yet, there was less hatred between them than before. Somehow, in the last few months, Rene had managed to become a decent soldier. He was a particularly good horseman, and he was wiry and quick in combat. That alone was reason to despise him less, if he could contribute to the crown’s mission.

But he had more self-serving reasons for easing his hatred of Rene.

The cad had turned his attention to Evelyn’s lady-maid. He was smitten, it seemed. That served everyone well, but Simon was particularly pleased with it. After all this time, he had no fear of impending trouble in his relationship with Evelyn. When this war was at its end, they would begin their lives again. And they would be happy. It would be their just reward. One they had earned, in his opinion, several times over.


The noise of the melee was deafening. As men surged forward they shouted all at once, creating a roar of voices that drowned out every other sound. Simon heard nothing save the blood roaring in his ears as one Knight came at him, and then another. His shield rattled from the force of a blow, and as he dispatched one man with his sword, severing the man’s leg at the knee, the second Knight’s blade came within inches of his head. He felt the opening of his flesh, above his ear, and in retaliation he lodged his sword in his opponent’s throat. Blood spurted and gushed from the fatal wound, but he did not wait to see the body drop.

With the outer bailey taken, the infiltration followed, and when the drawbridge came down, the men charged across it. Arrows assaulted them from every direction, gauging some and narrowly missing others. Men screamed in agony as they were crushed by falling stones or burned by showers of pitch. Simon felt the flesh of his neck singed by a rain of ash, but he forced his way onward, smashing a man’s skull with the handle of his sword and deflecting a shower of arrows that hammered against his shield. As he charged towards the inner bailey, he felt a searing pain ripping through his side.

An enemy’s sword had torn him open.

Blood poured from the wound, but he could not stop. He would not stop, and with a mighty swing he saw his attacker’s head parted from his body. But the next attack came from behind, and he had no time to deflect it. A blade broke through his mail, slashing across his shoulder blade. He cried out in agony, and he felt an arm close around his neck. A dagger flashed in the sunlight before it came to his throat. But suddenly it stopped, only a tiny space away from his jugular. His assailant was suspended in time for a moment, as an arrowhead stuck out of his throat. It had come from behind, and with the gurgling of blood, the body collapsed into the dirt. Simon fell to his knees, gasping for air. But he was soon on his feet again. Glancing to his right, he saw that it was Rene’s precise shot that had saved his life. But there was no time for thanks.

The battle raged on, and again and again Simon pushed himself forward, even as his loss of blood began to take its toll. Just before the castle was taken, he fell to the ground, too weak from his wounds to go on.


The shouts of aggression became shouts of triumph as the chateau was taken. When the moment of glory had passed, the victors surveyed the carnage. The losses on both sides were staggering. Bodies were everywhere. Some dead, and some dying. Guy and Lucien, bloody but whole, searched anxiously for Owen. He had disappeared from Guy’s sight during the surge across the courtyard. As they looked for him, Guy felt a terror unlike any he had felt before.

How will I tell Cassia? He thought. Dear God, how will I tell her that our son is lost? He shook his head, refusing to accept such a fate until he witnessed it for himself. And as he turned a corner, he heard an agonized voice calling for him.

“Papa, I am here.”

He fought the urge to weep with relief as he saw Owen on the ground, leaning against a wall. An arrow was lodged clean through his shoulder. Guy and Lucien rushed to him, helping him to his feet. Lucien snapped off the exposed part of the arrow shaft, leaving the rest to be removed later. They needed to get him back to camp, where they could deal with his wounds properly. As they helped him along, they were stopped by the sight of Simon, battered and bloodied, being carried away by two soldiers. Guy’s fear came flooding back to him, as he realized that it would not be his wife who would bear the brunt of tragedy, but his beloved daughter. Evelyn loved her husband so passionately. How could she possibly cope with his loss?

As Simon’s body was loaded into a wagon, Guy prayed to God to spare his son-in-law. So many lives had been lost this day. He considered himself blessed that Owen was not a casualty. But was it too much to ask for a second miracle?


The end of an iron poker glowed red as it was removed from the campfire. Basil, Lucien, Guy, and Rene stood over Simon, watching the procedure that was about to take place. Owen sat nearby, his head turned away. He had just endured the procedure himself. After the arrow had been removed from his shoulder, a hot iron had been put to his wound to seal it. His stomach turned at the thought of it being applied to Simon’s injuries.

Simon was alive, but drifting in and out of consciousness. It was imperative that his wounds be sealed, if there was any hope of saving his life. The four men held him down, and it took all of their strength to keep him down as the hot iron did its cruel work. He screamed in agony as it was applied to his side, and then again to his back. He muttered and wept softly as he was put down on the ground. As he slipped back into unconsciousness, Guy looked pointedly at Basil.

“He must be taken back to the Palais de la Cite.”

“Then you will accompany him,” Basil replied. “The army must push north, and I must follow.”

Guy nodded. Basil’s actions were understandable. He could not leave his men, even for the sake of his own son. But the concern he felt was written in his face. Guy put a hand to his shoulder.

“We will see him cared for. You have my word.”

The two men clasped arms. Then, Basil turned to Rene.

“I owe you a great debt. You have proven your worth, and I will see you rewarded for it.”

Rene nodded. “I have merely done my duty, your grace. For the first time in my life, it seems.”

“I hope it will not be the last.”

They clasped arms. The men helped to lift Simon into the cart, and Owen climbed in to sit beside him. Guy, Lucien, and Rene mounted their horses. Then they turned to the southeast, and journeyed towards Paris.

My Lady Gisborne, Chapter 28 Part Two

“I wonder what it could be,” Evelyn worried out loud.

Marie reached out to touch her hand. “The Duke is most likely offering a scolding. I would not be fearful.”

After all had been settled, Evelyn and Marie had taken up their painting again. But Evelyn found it impossible to concentrate. A troublesome feeling was brewing in her heart. Of late, life had been so joyous. Her married life was turning out to be the greatest happiness she had ever known. She was learning to love Guillemot and its residents, especially Marie.

But she could not shake a sense of foreboding. Life was a series of hills and valleys, and after being up for so long, there was sure to be something coming that would bring everything falling down.

The door opened, and Evelyn feared to look. Somehow, she knew that Simon was there. She could feel his presence in the room. And then his voice fell on her ear, softly. It was a softness that pierced her heart.

“Marie, I would like to speak to my wife alone.”

Evelyn felt a stinging in her eyes as she watched Marie rise, curtsey, and depart. Slowly, Evelyn rose to her feet. She closed her eyes for a moment, praying that she was wrong. Turning to look at Simon, she gave a soft cry of distress when she saw the parchment in his hand.

“Oh Simon, it cannot be...” Her hand came up to cover her mouth.

Without answering, he slowly closed the door. Each movement that he made...turning his eyes to her, moving with slow steps as he came towards her...only confirmed her worst fears. She could find no resolve to hold to as he came to stand in front of her, and she broke into tears. If not for the support of his arms, she would have fallen to the floor. He whispered soothing words, but they only caused her to weep with deeper heartache.

She hardly noticed when he picked her up, carrying her to their bed, where he held her for the longest time. Even after her initial outburst had softened to gentle gasps and sniffles, heartbroken tears continued to spill down her cheeks. She wept against him. They had been married less than a month. How could fate be so terribly cruel?

“How can they take you from me?” she muttered. “We have had so little time.”

He stroked her back and shoulders, soothing her. His voice was gentle and soft.

“It is how it must be, my darling. God knows, if I could somehow alter this, I would in a moment. But you must have courage.”

She pressed her head closer to his heart. Her voice trembled. “I am aware of my duties as your wife. I am meant to accept your sacrifice to the crown.” Rising up, she touched her hands to the sides of his face. “But I cannot pretend to be strong. How can I be, when my soul is torn apart at the thought of losing you?”

Without hesitation she pressed a heated kiss to his mouth. She ran her fingers through his hair, desperate to commit the feeling of him to memory. What if they never had such moments again? What if they were parted forever, never to experience the joys of a long life together? The very thought of it terrified her, and between heated kisses on his lips and face, she whispered frenzied questions.

“How far away will you go?” she cried. “When will you leave me?”

He returned her passions, slowly at first, but then with a growing intensity that soon matched her own. “We must go to Paris,” he whispered, as his kisses traveled from the warmth of her lips to the softness of her cheek, down to her slender neck. “In two days, perhaps three.” As his hands circled her waist, he grasped her firmly and pulled her tight against his body. Holding her close, he fell down to the bed with her.

“Simon, Simon. I love you so.” Tears spilled down the corners of her eyes. She wanted to forget the crushing misery. It would consume her soon enough. All she wanted now was to lose herself in the love of her husband. And for once, he was as impatient as she. He cursed his own hands when they could not move fast enough for his liking, and she found her own fingers troubling, for they were trembling with anxiety. Between the struggle to free themselves from their clothing, they shared deep, hungry kisses, and when at last they were both nude, it was only moments before they were fully joined. With her arms clinging to him and her legs drawn tightly around his waist, she welcomed the surging strength of his body. His movements were swift and powerful, filling her completely. He slipped nearly out of her before thrusting in again, and each time she gripped him firmly with her inner muscles. When the end was upon them, they shared a fierce and possessive kiss, each of them desperate to imprint themselves on the other. As his body shuddered, and he poured himself into her, she wept silently, praying.

Merciful God, bless us with a child.

For several long moments, they held tight together, unmoving. When he slipped out of her body, she felt the loss deeply. She whimpered in protest, but he silenced her with a gentle kiss. Exhaustion overtook them both, and they soon fell asleep, holding each other closely.


The sky outside the window was dark when Evelyn awoke. She quickly realized that the bed was empty, and for a moment she was fearful. But then she saw a shadowy movement in the room. Looking towards the foot of the bed, she saw that Simon was sitting on the floor in front of the hearth. Without hesitation, she slipped into her wrapper and went to him, sitting beside him on the soft animal-pelt rug. He put his arm around her, and she leaned her head firmly against his chest. She sighed, a deeply sad and painful sound.

“If only I could go with you.”

He brushed his nose through her hair, nuzzling her. His reply was fast and firm. “War is a hell you cannot imagine, Evelyn. Your eyes must never see bear witness to such horrors.”

She felt the weight of sorrow pressing on her heart. Now she understood the great pain her mother must have known each time she had to say farewell to her husband. No lessons could have prepared her for the intensity of the heartbreak she was now feeling.

“Simon, will you grant me a request?”

He gave a soft sigh. “Anything within my power, I will give to you.”

“Before you leave me, I want you to take me home to my family. Papa and Owen will depart for battle, and Lucien. I want to see them one more time.”

It was maddening to think that her beloved father and brothers might be lost as well, along with her husband. It was too much to imagine. If she remained here, even with the friendship of Marie, she was certain she would not be able to endure the emotional burden of being separated from Simon. And what if she turned out to be with child while he was away? She needed to be with her family. There was no other way.

“We will leave at first light,” Simon promised. He gathered her in his arms, gently laying her down on the rug. This time, they loved one another with great tenderness, creating memories of love that would endure far into the future. Memories that they could both cling to, should their time together be fated to soon come to its end.


At dawn, Basil departed with Rene and the other soldiers, bound for Paris. Simon and Evelyn, along with Marie, set out for the Gisborne estate. It was to be a long journey, fraught with many tears. Marie tried her best to offer comfort, but Evelyn could find little to ease her heartbreak. It was not until they neared Marseilles that she was able to find a measure of consolation.

Seeing the site of her childhood home, perched on the hill in all its stateliness, she pressed her hands to her mouth. She had almost forgotten, until now, how much she loved looking at it. It was difficult to sit still as they approached the house. Simon, riding alongside the carriage, looked at her through the window opening. Seeing her expression, he was pleased by the change in her demeanor.

“How wonderful to see your smile,” he said. “I have missed it.”

She had found little to smile about over the last few days. But now that she was near her family again, there was at last a reason to rejoice. As the carriage came to a stop, she looked at Simon. He seemed to sense her urgency, and he smiled.

“Go to them. Let decorum be forgotten, if only for one day.”

From the window, she could see all of the familiar faces she had grown up knowing. But her family stood out from all the others. Without pausing to make the proper gestures of etiquette, she rushed into the first pair of arms that she could reach, and her eyes filled with tears as her father held her close.

“Oh Papa,” she cried. “I have missed you so.”

Guy held her tightly for a moment, and then he urged her towards her mother. Cassia kissed her cheek, hugging her in a loving embrace. Evelyn shared similar affections with the rest of her family, including William. It was a delightful surprise to find him there, along with Lady Isabella. She was hardly recognizable in her simple woolen garments.

“I am in your brother’s service,” she explained. “My life now belongs to his parish, and I will accompany him in his aide to the crown.”

Evelyn was too happy to question such daring. She kissed Isabella’s cheek, happy to see another familiar face. Seeing Owen, who was standing nearby, she wondered if he was pleased by something more than the return of his sister. But it did not matter. She was with her family once again, and when Simon joined them, they were both swept into the house in a gesture of great love and welcome.


The women were gathered in the master chamber. While Evelyn held her baby brother, Cassia and Thea were seated on the floor with little Gabriel. Celeste was near them, while Marie and Violette sat nearby, conversing quietly. Evelyn had hardly had time to know her youngest brother, and she took joy in holding him now. She held him upright, letting him stretch his little legs. He was not content to lie on his back or on his belly, nor was he happy to sit on his bottom. As small as he was, and even though he was barely two months old, he seemed determined to raise himself up. He pushed his feet against the tops of Evelyn’s legs, and she smiled at his constant effort.

“Mama, look at how he makes such a valiant attempt to stand. I feel it will not be long before he is taking his first steps.”

Cassia sighed. “He is growing much too quickly already.” Sitting on the floor with Thea, they watched as Gabriel tried to keep his balance while sitting up. Now and then he teetered slightly, but his mother and grandmother were quick to catch him. Evelyn smiled at the sight of them.

“The children will bring us much joy while the men are gone.”

“I am going with your father,” said Cassia.

Evelyn’s eyes grew wide with shock. She and Thea stared at one another. Handing Philippe over to Celeste, Evelyn went to stand by her mother’s side. “You will go with him, Mama? How is that possible?”

Cassia’s words were calm and direct. “The army is making its headquarters at Palais de la Cite. I will go there.”

Thea, looking equally stunned, inquired with an intense but curious look. “Mama, can you do that?”

Cassia reached for Gabriel, picking him up and holding him close. “I will not remain isolated here,” she replied. “I will not be hundreds of miles away from my husband. Celeste and the others will care for the children. But I must be with your Papa. Our remaining years are dwindling, and I will not lose a moment of that time.”

At that moment, Evelyn worshipped her mother more than ever before. As Gabriel’s nurse took him away for a changing, Evelyn knelt down beside her mother, hugging her tightly. If her mother was so determined, she saw no reason why she could not be too.

“Oh Mama,” she cried. “I must accompany you. I must. Please do not deny me.”

Thea grew excited, coming close to join them. “I will go as well. I will not leave Lucien.”

Cassia kissed Thea’s cheek. She took a hand of each daughter, holding them firmly. As she rose to her feet, Evelyn and Thea stood with her. Cassia’s expression grew quite serious.

“I will not deny you, my darlings. Either of you. I understand your desire to be with your husbands. But you must know this. This is not a journey of leisure. Even in the relative safety of a castle, you will see things that will shock and sicken you.”

Thea nodded. “Yes, Mama. We are aware of what awaits.”

“You will perhaps be witness to the happenings of death,” said Cassia. “Perhaps, even the death of those you love.”

Evelyn looked down, speaking quietly and softly. “I know, Mama. But if God chooses to take those that I love, I would want to know that I spent every last moment with them. I could not bear to learn of their loss after weeks, perhaps even months, of remaining here with my worries.”

“Quite right,” Thea replied. “I must be with Lucien, even should the worst come to pass.”

Cassia smiled, softly cupping each of their faces. “My brave darlings.” She embraced them both, kissing them on their foreheads. She rose to her feet, eyeing her daughters with a look of great purpose. “We have much work to be done,” she said. “And firstly, we must inform our men that they will not journey to Paris on their own.”

“Papa does not yet know?”

From down below, the trumpet sounded for supper. Cassia squeezed Evelyn’s hand. “He will know it now. Come.”

Evelyn and Thea looked at one another, and they both felt a twinge of fear at the thought of what her father would say. Evelyn wondered what Simon would think of this. But there was little time to ponder it, as Cassia ushered them both from the room.


“This is nonsense,” said Guy, walking along the length of the dining table. His response was as expected. He was angry, of course. But Evelyn knew that her mother’s response would be just as strong.

“It is how matters will be,” Cassia replied. “My mind is set.”

Evelyn stood beside her mother, along with her sister and with Isabella. The four of them, together, were a formidable presence in the room, and as he had done so many times before, Guy left without saying a word. Evelyn saw the way the other men looked at them, especially at Cassia. Would they dare to challenge the lady of the house?

It became quite clear that they would not. Their silence said so. Evelyn felt a strange sense of triumph as her mother declared...

“Come, ladies. We must prepare for the journey.”

Evelyn, Thea, and Isabella followed behind her, leaving the men behind in stunned silence.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

My Lady GIsborne Chapter 28, Part One

Evelyn held Simon’s arm as they stood in the front courtyard, waiting for Basil’s caravan to arrive. She knew, without looking at him, that he was holding on to every ounce of discipline he possessed, fighting the urge to storm away in defiance.

They had been married for a week, and the days had been spent in such happiness. Now, they were set to face the first great challenge of their union. As the carriage slowly approached, Evelyn held tighter to her husband. Whatever happened, she was certain they would endure and grow stronger. She refused to think otherwise.

The carriage door opened. A footman brought a stool, and a moment later, Basil emerged. The assembled members of the household bowed, including Evelyn and Simon. Then they turned their eyes to the carriage door.

Evelyn felt a strange discomfort come over her as Rene stepped out, and she felt Simon grow tense. As he came forward, there was only silence for what seemed like a long span of time. The two men started at one another, until Simon broke the silence. His words were cold.

“Do not be so foolish to think that you are welcome here.”

Rene said nothing. He stood in silence, returning Simon’s vicious stare. Simon turned his eyes to the young woman who came from the carriage. He looked her over, his glance full of suspicion.

“Who are you?”

It was Basil who answered. “I have brought her to you as a servant.”

Simon snorted. “We have an adequate number of servants. We have no need for another.”

In response to Simon’s petulant behavior, Basil became stern. He looked him in the eye, challenging him. “Your lady is in need of a maid. I have found her one. Will you argue the matter with me?”

Simon slowly shook his head, acquiescing. “No, father.”

“Very well, then. Let us prepare for supper.”

As Basil went in, Rene and Simon exchanged sharp looks. For a moment, Evelyn feared they would come to blows, as meanly as they were looking at one another. But Simon turned away, leaving the scene entirely before any punches were thrown. She met Rene’s eyes, and they shared a long, lingering stare. But she refused to be taken in by him, as she had before. She turned to a page who stood close by.

“See him to the barracks,” she said.

As they went, Evelyn looked at the young lady. She was a pretty young woman, and strangely, it seemed she was not troubled by the angry commotion. Seeing no reason to treat her unkindly, Evelyn gave her a polite smile. She would speak to her soon, but at that moment, she needed to be with Simon. She turned to the housekeeper.

“Marguerite, please show the lady what she needs to know. I will be up shortly.”

As she turned into the house, she had a sudden sense of what her mother must have felt, being pulled in several directions. But she told herself that if her mother could do it, then so should she. And she went in search of her husband.


Simon was nowhere to be found. After making inquiries, she discovered that he had ridden out on his horse. She sighed, recalling how her father had often done the same thing. Now forced to alter her plans, she went in search of her new maid. To be truthful, she was glad that Basil had brought someone for the position. She deeply missed Violette, who had been on her very best friends, and her confidante. And this new young lady looked to be about her own age. It was her hope that they would grow close, and perhaps fill the void that had been left in her life. Simon was her great love, of course. But she longed for a friend. Perhaps she had now found one.

In the master chamber, she found them. Margurite was showing her around, and Evelyn quietly approached them. When they saw her, they curtseyed politely.

“Marguerite,” she said, “Please leave us.”

The housekeeper nodded. “Yes, my lady.”

As she left, Evelyn turned to the young woman, who stood with her hands clasped in front of her. Her gaze was direct. There was no fear in her stance, and Evelyn found that she liked that. It was not her desire to intimidate anyone, and it pleased her to know that they would begin on a comfortable footing. She smiled, speaking in a friendly manner.

“My name is Evelyn,” she said. “What is yours?”

The lady’s voice was soft, but self-assured. “I am Marie.”

“Have you any belongings?”

Marie shook her head. “All that I possess is what I wear, my lady.”

Evelyn looked her over, seeing the simple brown dress she wore. To be sure, the quality of a person’s clothing was a superficial thing. It did not determine their true worth, as her mother had always reminded her. But for the sake of propriety, her new maid would have to be distinguished from the rest of the servants.

“I shall have a seamstress brought in,” she said. “She will create several garments for you.”

Marie replied with a pleasant little smile. “You are most kind, my lady. Rene said you were a generous soul.”

The smile faded from Evelyn’s face. It suddenly dawned on her that her new maid might be a victim of Rene’s treachery, or perhaps she was under his spell. Was that the reason for her coming here?

“Marie, what is the nature of your relationship with the baron?”

Marie hesitated, but only for a moment. “Marquess, am I permitted to speak frankly?”

Evelyn felt a tremor of fear pass through her body, wondering what horrible thing she would hear. But she nodded.

“Please, do speak.”

“The baron and I are acquaintances,” Marie replied. “We have spent time together. But you have my word that our relationship will not interfere with my duties.”

Evelyn was pleased that Marie sought to be a loyal servant. But her memories of Rene, and the trouble he had brought to so many, remained fresh in her mind. She feared now for the heart of another young woman.

“Marie, I am aware that we are strangers. And I know not what Rene has revealed to you of his past. But I feel that I must warn you of his nature...”

Before she could go on, Marie spoke in a quiet, firm tone. There was no hint of shyness in her words.

“I am quite familiar with him, my lady. But please, do not be concerned. I am capable of guarding my heart. I am not swayed by him, nor will I be.”

Evelyn smiled, pleased by Marie’s spirit. She was fond of her already.

“I am relieved to hear it,” she said. Taking her by the arm, she led her to a table in the solar. “Tell me something of your history,” she said, and as they sat, she offered her new companion a goblet of wine. “I wish to know the lady who will be in my service. And if you will share your story with me, I will share mine with you.”

Marie smiled sweetly. “I would be pleased, my lady...”


During supper, and even during evening prayer, Simon hardly spoke a word. She understood his displeasure, being forced to reside in the same house as his enemy. And she knew that it must have been very difficult for him to be pressed under his father’s thumb, although Basil was by no means a tyrant. Simon had his reasons for being unhappy, but she wished he would speak to her. It was not until much later, when they were preparing for bed, that she at last gave voice to her concerns.

“Do you intend to be cross from this day on?” she asked, as Marie helped her remove her garments. Simon sat in a chair before the fire, looking morose. He grumbled his reply.

“With him under my roof, I might very well be.”

She sighed. “Only think of him when you must. Once you have left the training field, put him out of your mind.”

“That is easier said than done,” he answered.

She let him brood while she finished undressing. After she had slipped into her nightdress, she sent Marie away with instructions to have a bath prepared for Simon. At first he made a fuss, declaring that he was not in the mood for it. But she would not take no for an answer. Coming up behind his chair, she placed her hands on his shoulders.

“It will ease your body and mind,” she insisted. “As your wife, I must insist.”

He looked back at her, wearing a hint of a smile. “You would give me orders?”

Running her fingers through his thick hair, she smiled back at him.

“When it comes to what is best for my husband, then yes. I will give orders.” She leaned down, kissing him sweetly on the lips. And he responded softly.

“Then I will obey...”


As he sat in the tub, she massaged his back and shoulders. She could tell by his occasional sighs that he was pleased. But she could not resist teasing him.

“Is your mood improved?”

He replied warmly. “Very much so. Did you know that I once imagined you doing this?”

She dunked the washcloth in the water, and taking it in hand, she wrung the water over his shoulders. She smiled. “Is that so?”

“Yes, it is so,” he replied. “But I never thought I would find this much pleasure in it.”
“Time changes all things, so it is said. What we once might have turned away from, we learn to embrace.”

“That is indeed true.” He took her hand, kissing her palm. “I have just thought of something. Something I never imagined I would do.”

He was up to something. She could tell by the sound of his voice, and it made her smile. “Pray, tell me.”

He answered, “This.” And he yanked her down into the tub. She gave a shriek as she landed on her bottom, and then she laughed.

“Fiend!” she cried, splashing water at him. “You have ruined my night dress!”

With a wicked chuckle, he gathered her against himself. “I will buy you another. Although I must say...” He looked down at her thin garment, which now clung to her in damp fashion. He wagged his eyebrows at her.

“I prefer you in nothing at all.”

He kissed her, long and deep. And she whispered against his warm mouth. “You are shameful.”

“You have made me what I am,” he replied, his hands and lips softly exploring her. “The blame is yours. Entirely yours.”


A week passed. They were days that, at first, were filled with tension. Evelyn waited for the inevitable confrontation between Simon and Rene. She was grateful that Basil was keeping Rene occupied in the field, putting him through a rigorous training regimen. Evelyn was surprised to hear only good reports from Basil, although Simon refused to believe it. He was determined to believe that it was only a matter of time before Rene revealed his true colors. Simon and his father often exchanged harsh words about it while they were at table, but he honored her request by not speaking of Rene when they went to bed at night. When they were alone, they concentrated only on one another. Once the door of their chamber closed, the troubles of the day were quickly forgotten, swept away by more pleasant thoughts and occupations.

Aside from her husband and the presence of Rene, Evelyn was occupied with learning how to be the Marquess of Guillemot. It was a daunting task. Just memorizing names was a difficult undertaking, along with learning the exact layout of the house.

She was glad to have Marie at her side.

They had formed an instant friendship, and Evelyn was delighted with Marie’s spirit and bawdy sense of humor. At first, Marie had refrained from saying too much, as she voiced concern about her proper place as a lady’s maid. But Evelyn, hungry for the sisterly affection she had always known, encouraged her to speak freely. And once she was permitted, she sometimes made remarks that were rather shocking. But Evelyn welcomed such lightheartedness and humor. It helped to ease the burden of her new life, and she was grateful for it.

As it turned out, there was an added benefit to her budding friendship with Marie, who was not secretive about her relationship with Rene. Try as she might, Evelyn found it impossible not to wonder about him. After all, he had been a part of her life, for better or worse. There were so many questions she wanted to ask of him. Why had he suddenly decided to be a soldier? What were his intentions with Marie? And most of all, why was he being so obedient?

“It is not in his nature to be docile,” she told Marie. They sat in the garden, painting with watercolors. She sighed as she wet the tip of her paintbrush. “I am curious to know why he has yet to dare a meeting with me, or why he has chosen to stay here. I find it rather odd.”

Marie smiled, applying her own paintbrush to her canvas. “A rogue he may be, but he is a wise one. There is security in remaining here, where he is free from pursuit and trouble.”

“Tell me truly, Marie. Do you have feelings for him?”

Marie was silent for a moment, her expression showing a look of consideration. She shrugged. “To be truthful, I find him quite endearing. He is a man, but he has the spirit of a boy. I do not believe him capable of absolute maturity.”

“And that attracts you to him?”

“I have little faith in the loyalty of men. I have no foolish hopes of him becoming more than he is. Therefore, I am free to enjoy the pleasure of his company without the trappings of commitment. There is a certain freedom in such a way of living.”

A smile came to Evelyn’s lips. “Some time ago, Rene told me something very similar. It seems your philosophies match.”

Marie made a soft sound of amusement. Evelyn, looking at her work, noticed that after a few moments, her companion had not said anything. She looked up, seeing that Marie’s eyes were focused on something. Or someone, as it turned out to be. She turned to look, and they saw Rene, slowly making his way in their direction. Evelyn’s smile turned to a look of concern.

“What does he mean, coming to us in such a fashion?”

Marie shook her head. “I do not know. But I am here, if you should require assistance in being rid of him.”

Evelyn gave her friend a grateful smile. But as Rene approached, she put on a stoic face, concentrating on her artwork. When he came to stand near her, she kept her eyes on her canvas, even as he spoke with a quiet request.

“Evelyn, may I speak to you?”

Her answer was immediate and firm, knowing that Simon would have wanted her to be nothing less.

“No, you may not speak. And you have no right to address me so informally. I am the Marquess of Guillemot.”

She was not the least bit surprised when he disobeyed her. It was so very typical of him. His voice held a familiar note of sincerity.

“Forgive me, my lady. I beg you. Allow me a few moments.”

Against her better judgment, she looked up at him. He was a rather poor sight, dirty and disheveled from his practice bouts. In spite of herself, she felt a twinge of tenderness for him. She knew, from first-hand observance, how hard Simon and Basil pushed their men. Sighing, she turned to Marie.

“Marie, please leave us. If you would, take everything to the solar. We will continue working there. I will follow shortly.”

She curtseyed. “Yes, my lady.” As Marie gathered the materials, departing with a pointed look at Rene, Evelyn turned to him.

“Speak,” she ordered him. “I have important matters to attend to.” She started walking away, knowing he would follow. It was better to have him do that than to sit in a secluded place with him.

“I wish to make peace,” he said.

She sighed, but said nothing. He sounded so honest, so sincere. But how could she know if he spoke the truth? She knew his history too well.

“Hate me, if you will,” he said. “But you must know that it was never my intention to hurt you. I know now that it was wrong to pursue you as I did, and I pray that one day, you find it in your heart to forgive me for any harm I may have caused.”

It was the last thing she wanted to do, but she stopped. They looked at one another, and in his eyes, she saw a look that she had not seen before, at least not in him. He meant what he said. And as she read his expression, full of hope and earnestness, she felt her hostility fade away. He was not the devil incarnate. What use was it to continue treating him as thus? She sighed, a sound of resignation.

“Let us leave the past behind us, Rene. It is best that we no longer speak of it.”

He nodded. “Yes, my lady.” There was a look of such relief on his face, it tempted her to smile at him. But such gestures of affection were meant for Simon. She turned away from Rene, intending to go into the house. But he called to her one more time.


She knew she should not, but she turned to look at him.

“Does he make you happy?” he asked.

Her answer came swiftly, and with great pride. “Yes, he does. He is my husband. And he is my life, just as I am his.”

He smiled at her. It was a lovely, unselfish gesture. And his reply equaled it.

“I am glad.”

She held back her smile, despite its attempt to break free. But she allowed herself to give him a pleasant look. They had made their peace, and she was content. Only after she was in the house, and out of sight from him, did she allow herself to smile.

As she neared the stairs, she heard Simon’s voice from outside. And it was raised in anger.

“You dare to speak to my wife?”

In an instant, she was hurrying back outside. Simon had come up on his horse. He was now dismounted and heading straight for Rene. Rene did not appear to be concerned, but she stepped between them all the same, trying to calm Simon down.

“Simon, it was nothing,” she said, placing a hand on his arm. But he took her by the shoulders, carefully but firmly pushing her aside.

“Stay out of it, Evelyn!”

Rene rushed forward, coming to Evelyn’s defense. He was prepared to fight. She could see it in the angry way he moved.

“Do not raise your voice to her, you swine!”

Simon barked at him. “I will take no orders from a spineless whoremonger!”

Rene shouted back. “Self-centered bastard!”

Evelyn gasped when Simon planted a swift fist to Rene’s mouth. There was a moment that felt suspended in time, as all things seemed to stand still. Then, to Evelyn’s shock and horror, Rene flew at Simon like a wild beast, enraged. She cried out as the two men crashed to the dirt, grappling and swinging in animalistic combat. Despite Rene’s smaller size, he was not easily conquered, landing an especially hard strike to Simon’s nose. They kicked, jabbed, and slammed each other against the ground, while a crowd gathered around them. It was Basil and a fellow knight who finally broke them apart, succeeding only by the greatest efforts of strength. Basil gave Simon a hard shove.

“Take yourself off and find your senses,” he demanded. He turned to Rene, giving him a disgusted snort. “You, return to the barracks at once.”

Slowly, the injured parties moved away. Simon cursed, spitting out the blood that had drained from his nose. He turned and stormed into the house, and Evelyn quickly followed. He would be in a black mood now, no doubt about that. But she was his wife, and she would see to his healing, whether he wanted it or not.


She found him in their chamber, being tended to by his valet, whom she quickly dismissed. With a cloth in hand, and a washbowl in reach, she began tending his wounds...despite his instance that she leave him be. Perhaps knowing that he was in a poor condition, he relented quickly. But still fresh from his battle, he was not kind in his manner, even for her.

“Do not lecture me,” he snapped. “I have no patience for it.”

She took the wet cloth and wiped the blood from his mouth and chin. “I have said nothing.”

He eyed her suspiciously. “But you think to scold me. Do you not?”

Her reply was a slight shake of the head. “I have said nothing, and I will say nothing. Not if it leads us into a quarrel.”

She wanted to say many things to him, some of them in the form of reprimands, but now was not the time. Later, when they were both calm, they would have a discussion about this. At that moment, he needed only to have his wounds mended.

When there was a knock on the door, he cursed out loud, but shouted for the person to enter. It was his valet, who stood just inside the doorway.

“My lord, your father wishes to speak to you immediately.”

Simon grumbled. “I will be there shortly.”

He moved from under her hands, pausing at the doorway to give her a sharp look. She sighed as she watched him go, wondering if she would ever comprehend the foolishness of men.