Lord Rolfe finds an enthusiastic damsel to rescue and ravage, but she knows not her name or from whence she came, or whether she is lady or serf.
The lover Rolfe calls Jasmine enchants and seduces him into abandoning his search for an heiress who will bring him wealth and title -- but will his having taken her cost him his life when she turns out to be a marriage prize beyond his wildest dreams?
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Ellora's Cave Publishing, Incorporated
November 13, 2009
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Excerpt from He Calls Her Jasmine by Ann Jacobs
When she extended her arms, she could touch all four walls of the cloister cell meant to become her prison for life. Damn, but there was more room in the oubliettes where her sire tortured his prisoners. Joan of Summerfield stared at damp, dank stones that formed the impenetrable walls from which soon there would be no escape.
Joan wanted to be a bride, but of a lusty warrior, not Christ. Six months ago, the fierce warlord to whom she had been betrothed had died in battle. Her brother Will's mettle had been found wanting by the same fearsome knight who had slain her betrothed husband. Later, while Will lay near death in the great hall of Summerfield, their sire had promised her to the Church if God would but spare the life of his heir. 'Twas though she'd been naught to him but a gaming piece, expendable in the cause of saving her brother's life.
A fortnight later Will had still breathed. As though Joan meant no more to him than the pigs and sheep he sent each Michelmas as tribute to the holy sisters, her sire had packed her off to this dismal nunnery.
She wept for the loss of her fine garments and cursed the chafing from this robe of meanest unbleached woolen. Roughly-made rope sandals had rubbed blisters on feet accustomed to slippers of softest silk. While Joan languished on a rough-hewn stone shelf in this windowless cell with naught but a scratchy blanket to ward off the cold, she fantasized about her old bed and its down-filled mattress heaped with furs. Her stained-glass window with its jewel tones of red, purple, and blue. The fine tapestries that had brightened the solar's massive stone walls.
She dreamed of a handsome, powerful dark knight who'd come and spirit her away to his castle in the clouds where he'd worship her body and teach her all the carnal pleasures denied her in this dismal place. Of lying with him and exploring his massive chest, his hard-muscled belly and rock hard thighs...his swollen cock and the sac beneath it that held his seed.
Her mouth watered and her cunt dripped hot juices down her thigh at the thought of her fantasy lover fucking her there, feeding his mighty cock to her mouth and even her puckered rear passage, as she'd seen her sire and his knights do to the serving girls in dark corners of the castle. She was made to love a man, not some deity she could neither see nor touch nor taste.
A real man, not a fantasy dreamed up in her mind.
Christ's blood. They'd not make her promise poverty, chastity, or obedience. She would never kneel before the altar and meekly let them hack away her hair 'til naught was left but bloody stubble. Joan would not live out her life in this prison of piety, prayer and contemplation.
For Joan believed in prayer no more. Spending hours on her knees had done naught to deter her lord father from consigning her to this house of pious horrors.
She snatched off her veil and unwrapped the wimple to let her hip-length raven tresses flow free. They'd not cut off her crowning glory. Not while she breathed.
Defiant, she stood and lifted off the robe that was her only garment. The chilly air made her shiver and caused skin abraded by the rough wool to sting.
As she had seen her sire's men do to the serf girls at Summerfield, she pinched her nipples until they tingled and hardened. Longing began deep in her belly and settled between her thighs. She moved her hand to her hot, wet channel and with one finger she found the tiny kernel where those tantalizing sensations were strongest. Light strokes of her finger on the sensitive flesh hardened it and heated her blood, caused a throbbing in her cunt--the empty sheath she'd been given to accommodate a man.
'Twas made to fit a cock, hard, thick, and pulsing, like those she'd seen when she bathed her sire's highborn guests. Since the convent boasted no man save the elderly priest, Joan pictured the knight of her fantasies and pleasured herself as she planned her escape.
The pressure built in her cunt, sending waves of tingling sensation to her quivering thighs, her breasts, even to her fingers and toes when it finally burst. Her climax spread through her body, bringing blessed release and hardening Joan's resolve.
Somehow, some way, she would escape this pious hell. Death would be preferable to an existence devoid of all earthly pleasures.
"I can scarce believe you turned down an estate that rivals Harrow, brother." Giles deVere, Earl of Harrow, shook his head as though he thought Rolfe crazy.
Rolfe deVere pushed back his mail coif and wiped the sweat from his forehead. As he drank his fill from a leather wineskin, he glanced across verdant fields toward a mighty stone castle that sat high atop a hill. His elder brother had gained Harrow in thanks for valorous feats in battle for their king, along with an earldom and estates worth fifty knights' fees--and a bride of whose beauty and passion the bards all sang.
"I'm certain better opportunities will arise ere I'm too old to seize them." Rolfe paused, met Giles's amused gaze. "'Twould have taken more than the generous dowry Lord Eudo offered to entice me into his foul-tempered daughter's bed. I could have stomached her lack of comeliness, but her tongue--"
Giles laughed. "I wager she could find other uses for a sharp tongue than nagging, should you teach her properly."
"I'd fear for my manhood." Given the chance, the odious woman would probably have bitten off his cock.
"You have a point." Giles's expression turned sober. "I would give you Hedgewick, were it not entailed."
Rolfe nodded, for he believed Giles. But he wanted far more than the modest estate worth just three knights' fees, a finer keep than the moldering castle he held as his brother's vassal. "Speaking of Hedgewick, I should make haste to return there. The steward has not the wit to maintain order among the serfs when I absent myself too long."
Rolfe's absence, occasioned by forty days of service they'd given King Henry followed by a week-long sojourn at Lord Eudo's stronghold, had lasted quite long enough to result in chaos at Hedgewick. Rolfe imagined the hall was filthier than when he'd left it, and that its ill-trained servants had swilled his ale and befouled the hall while the lazy steward had turned a blind eye.
"Give Lady Brianna my greetings," he said, picturing Giles's comely wife. She'd have kept Giles's servants firmly in hand at Hedgewick. Arnaud, the giant eunuch who was Brianna's constant protector, would have put the fear of God into any who'd think to defy her orders.
"I will. If Brianna's time were not so near, I would accompany you to Hedgewick. I will send you word when my heir is born. My lady wishes you to stand godfather to him."
"Or her." Though Rolfe enjoyed tweaking Giles's temper, he reckoned the chance for the child to be female was close to none. After all, they were but the third and fourth of five sons their father had sired, and they had not a single sister.
'Twas why he and Giles had sought their fortunes as mercenaries when faced with the alternative: joining the monks at a cloister their great grandsire had founded for his own brothers on the deVere lands in Normandy. 'Twas also why Rolfe needed to find an heiress to gain the lands and title he coveted.
After Giles and his escort veered off the road and across the fields, Rolfe continued down the track, his own much smaller entourage at his heels. Anxious for what few comforts might await him at Hedgewick, he spurred his destrier. His helm and coif removed now that they rode on friendly ground, he enjoyed the warm summer wind that blew through his hair, its touch as beguiling as a lover's.
Rolfe gave his young warhorse his head, and soon he'd outpaced his escort. A pity Lord Eudo's daughter had pleased him not, for her dowry had been impressive.
What he sought now was a bath to rid him of the grime of travel, fine wine to wash down the swill from Hedgewick's kitchens, and a willing wench. Such would raise his spirits ere he began again to impose his will once more upon Hedgewick's recalcitrant serfs.
When he noticed the forbidding walls of St. Benedict's Convent rising beyond a dense cloak of forest, he calculated it would take another hour's hard riding ere he reached home.
Courtesy demanded he pay the prioress a visit as he passed by, but courtesy be damned. The cloistered nunnery chilled him to the bone, even though he had only gone as far inside as a dank cubicle built into the outer wall where an old nun had accepted the alms he'd brought from Hedgewick last Michaelmas.
He shuddered at the thought of passing his life within such a place, locked away from the world and all its pleasures. A place eerily similar to the gray stone monastery where he had been ensconced ere Giles had rescued him and taken him on Crusade as his squire.
Glancing to his back, Rolfe saw his men at arms still followed a short distance behind. The convent chapel's bell sounded, its tone mournful as though pleading for the lonely souls inside.
* * * * *
Bells rang from somewhere far away, their dolorous tones muted through the blanket of trees along the road.
Familiar sounds, yet foreign. They reverberated in her throbbing head like a hammer and anvil, nearly drowning out the clatter of horsemen coming closer with each clatter of hooves against the track's hard-packed clay.
She sensed danger. Though each step on her blistered feet dug the rope straps of her rough hemp sandals more deeply into her tortured flesh, she stumbled along. Exhausted, bruised, damp from the hovering mist and chilled to the bone, she veered into a clearing in the forest and collapsed beneath a mighty rowan tree.
Mayhap the mist would obscure her from the band of brigands she had sighted. And the horsemen she'd heard approaching from the rear. It mattered not. She could go no farther...