A Damsel's Plight... Orphaned and desperate, Imogen of Carrisford flees when a brutal lord invades and takes possession of her castle. There is only one man she can turn to for help. A KNIGHT'S RESCUE... He is FitzRoger of Cleeve, rumored to be a ruthless champion in battle and a tyrannical master. Imogen is stunned at the very sight of his powerful body, yet it is his cool green eyes that penetrate her very soul, making her tremble with both fear and desire. Sheltered all her life, she needs such a man to defend and protect her...yet she dares not trust him to put her desires before his own. But even as she vows independence, boldly standing beside him against treacherous enemies, her defenses crumble...falling helplessly to the gentle fury of her warrior's love.
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January 07, 2003
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Excerpt from Dark Champion by Jo Beverley
Imogen of Carrisford stood in the dark cold, shivering at the muted sounds of horror. Even here in her castle's secret ways, she could not escape the distant clash of arms, the howls of battle rage, the frantic bellowed orders and screams of terror.
Screams of death.
The clamor told of horrors beyond her imagining, but her small spy hole revealed only the beautiful great hall of Carrisford Castle, empty, untouched, and gilded by torchlight and candlelight. The only violence there was in the precious wall hangings, where silken warriors fought with gilded swords.
The trestles had been broken down after the evening meal, but the mighty oaken high table sat in its place with the two solid great chairs behind it. Her father's chair and her own.
Her father was dead.
A flagon of wine and some goblets told of the meeting so rudely disturbed. She and her father's officers had been making sad but orderly plans for the future. One silver goblet lay on its side, red wine soaking into the wood and dripping slowly down onto the rush mats.
The only sign of disarray.
The peaceful, familiar chamber tempted her to leave her dank hiding place, but she stayed. Sir Gilbert de Valens, her father's marshal, had thrust her into the secret space between the walls and bade her remain there at all costs. The invaders-whoever they were-had surely come for one thing only. The Treasure of Carrisford.
Herself. The heiress to all her father's vast wealth and properties.
The secret way was narrow, only wide enough for most men to pass sideways. Though Imogen was not as large as most men, her body sometimes brushed the outer wall, and the dampness which seeped through the massive stones crept chillingly into her gown.
Or perhaps the chill came from terror.
Or perhaps it came just from the agony of waiting.
Imogen would much rather have been out among the noise than cowering here. As mistress of Carrisford, surely she should be with her people.
They were invaded, but how?
Carrisford was a mighty, impregnable fortress. Her father said it could hold against the whole of England.
She stifled a whimper. Her father was dead.
The bereavement, the raw and recent loss, swelled up to drown out even the sounds of horror. How could Bernard of Carrisford, mighty lord of west England, die so quickly of a minor hunting wound?
Father Wulfgan said it was the hand of God. Her chaplain had instructed her to mark well how such a fate could strike down the mighty as easily as the low. He was right, she supposed. The simple gash had festered, and before they knew it her father had the wound fever and neither hot iron nor poultice, woundwort nor holy water, had stopped the spread.
In his death agony Bernard had dictated a plea to the king for protection; then he had commanded that the castle be sealed tight, that no one other than the king's envoy be admitted, high or low. All to safeguard his only child, now vulnerable at sixteen to the first greedy man to hear the news. Now trembling in this cold dark hole.