The Roselynde Chronicles, Book Four
Fate made them enemies...
Temptation made them passionate lovers.
An exquisite beauty trapped in a deadly game of political intrigue, Gilliane is an innocent pawn of the ruthless, power-hungry barons swarming around her. Forced to marry a man she abhors, she soon becomes the helpless prisoner--and dazzling prize--of her husband's most dangerous foe, Adam Lemagne--only to surrender her heart to her handsome captor. In a breathtaking tale of forbidden desire and smoldering temptation, the star-crossed lovers must survive pain and peril in their stormy quest for love.
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November 13, 2009
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Excerpt from Gilliane by Roberta Gellis
Fear! Gilliane could scarcely remember a time when there was no fear. There was a vague memory of a man with a deep, warm voice who had tossed her in the air until she shrieked with laughter and had then folded her in his arms, who had called her his dark rosebud. But that had been long ago. All of Gilliane's more recent memories were of shrinking into corners, of hiding when possible if a man came into view.
Someone had said--that was long ago, too, soon after the warm, strong presence had gone out of Gilliane's life--that patience and resignation brought an end to fear. It was true and yet false. Perhaps if the fear had stayed the same, it would be possible to become accustomed, to bec6me resigned. But it did not stay the same. It changed and changed, and with each change it pricked anew, so that again Gilliane was forced to try to avoid the pain. And there lay another source of her inability to become resigned. By and large, Gilliane had been successful in discovering ways to escape the fear--not completely, though, never completely.
Always the fear lay like a shadow over her heart and mind so that she could never be happy, really happy. Resignation might have been better than cleverness, Gilliane thought. The early fears, now that she thought back upon them, had been like pinpricks, although they had seemed huge terrors to a little girl. It was a black horror to have changed, in one day, from being the center of loving attention whose every action and word called forth delighted laughter and warm embraces, to being the focus of blows and curses. Cleverness had taught Gilliane to avoid drawing notice to herself and, more important, to read every nuance in the faces and voices around her. She had learned to efface herself when possible, and when forced momentarily into notice, to match her words and manner to the mood of others. The blows became less frequent, the curses changed to indifference. The agony of terror diminished to a dull misery.
Too soon the agony had been reawakened. Gilliane found she was no longer a child, that the dark rosebud was blossoming into a beautiful flower. She noted a new expression in the eyes of the men of the family and in the eyes of men who came to visit the keep. At first Gilliane had been pleased, thinking she had at last won approval. Her brief hope had been quickly dispelled.
It was the shock of disappointment, as much as the physical pain and shame, that had brought black terror into Gilliane's days and filled her nights with nightmares. Desperate for affection, she had responded quickly and openly to the sly, whispered praises of a young visitor to the keep. When he had begged her to meet him in the little wood a half-mile from the keep, she had agreed happily, thinking that there they would have freedom to talk, to gather spring flowers.
It was not that she was ignorant of the facts of life. Beasts coupled freely in the keep and on the demesne farms, and the servants coupled almost as freely and publicly. Merely, at twelve, Gilliane did not associate the act with herself. She was unaware of the invitation implicit in the small breasts that pushed out the front of her cotte, or the waist that had narrowed to emphasize the soft curve of her hips.
Thus, Gilliane was totally unprepared when she was seized and kissed hungrily. Surprise and a tentative gladness at what seemed for the moment a display of affection kept her quiescent at first. It was not until the tie at her neck was undone and a hand was thrust into her bosom that Gilliane understood the young man's intentions. Then she began to struggle. The delayed reaction communicated the wrong message. Because Gilliane had responded so eagerly to his words and to the suggestion that they meet, the young man bought at first that she was being playful. When it became clear that her struggles to free herself were in ernest, fury inflamed lust. This young man knew the right treatment for teases. He tripped her with a leg behind her knees, knowing that he would fall atop her, that she would be half stunned and bruised, while his fall would be cushioned by her body. In the few moments that Gilliane gasped helplessly for breath, paralyzed by shock and pain, he had her gown up, his chausses down to his thighs. Despite his success this far, however, the young man was not an experienced rapist. Before he could make good his threat and truly thrust home, Gilliane had recovered her strength and breath.
Until that moment she had fought in silence, more afraid of the punishment she would receive for having sneaked out of the keep and exposed herself to this situation than of the situation itself. The violence and pain tilted the balance of her fear in the other direction, however, and she began to scream for help. The sudden shrill cries and renewed frantic struggle disconcerted the would-be rapist enough so that Gilliane was able to twist out from under him, roll away, and leap to her feet.
Unfortunately, escape did not end the nightmare for Gilliane. Had it done so, the memory might have been more amusing than terrifying. She had been bruised, of course, but she was accustomed to being bruised, and fear had never destroyed her sense of the ridiculous. When the shock- was past, she would have remembered the outraged cries, the limping pursuit that ended in a fall. A last glimpse over her shoulder as she fled showed Gilliane her attacker's hasty struggle to stuff himself back into his chausses and tie them. That, together with the satisfaction of having accomplished her escape, would have overlaid Gilliane's fear and made her cautious rather than bitter.
The real anguish began when she fled into the keep. Her distraught manner, the stained and disheveled clothes, the dirt, leaves, and twigs in her hair, told too plain a story. Still too shocked to think of an adequate excuse, Gilliane confessed the truth. She endured the beating she received stoically--being beaten was nothing new. What sealed horror into her mind was what followed. The questions were not so bad. Gilliane could answer those with truth; nothing had really happened, she had won free. However, her word was not accepted. She was stripped, spread-eagled, and questing fingers were thrust into her.
Revulsion had overwhelmed fear. Revulsion, too, would not allow the horror to pass from her mind. It returned again and again until, desperate to fix her thoughts anywhere else and unable to remove them from the central shame, Gilliane began to wonder why it should matter whether or not she was a maiden.
Little by little, from a remembered sentence, from a snide remark made by the daughters of the house, from misty memories, Gilliane pieced together her condition. She was an heiress! Not a great heiress, probably--she had no way of estimating what by law was hers--but enough of an heiress to make her a valuable pawn. Her father--that was the deep, warm voice, the tender, loving hands. Tears came to her eyes, although by twelve she thought she had been wept dry. She had almost completely forgotten him, suppressing the memory because it gave her such pain to compare her present condition with what it had been. Never mind pain--her father had been Guillaume de Chaunay and he had been pledged to...to King John, who was both Duke of Poitou and King of England.
In the beginning, those were the only facts Gilliane had, but clever, seemingly pointless questions and assiduous attention to what she had ignored previously gave her the story over the months and years. When Richard, who had also been Duke of Poitou and King of England, had died in 1199--the year after her birth and her mother's death--John had inherited the lands. But John was not able, as Richard had been, to keep the barons from fighting among themselves. Little wars had broken out all over Poitou, and in one of them Gilliane's father had died. She, the sole surviving child, had inherited the property.
For his services to the Comte de la Marche, Saer de Cercy had been given Gilliane as a ward. That meant that Gilliane's estate was managed by Saer, and that the revenues from that estate came completely into his hands, except for the amounts paid to the Comte de la Marche. That fact told Gilliane two things. First, her estate was not very large or she would have been taken into the comte's own household; and second, her life, as long as she had no children, was perfectly safe. She could be beaten and left hungry and cold, but she could not be killed or starved or frozen to death. As long as she was alive, Saer had the lands; if she died, they would revert to the Duke of Poitou.
The key word, however, was children. That was why she had been so eagerly examined. If she had been secretly acting the whore--as the incident might have led people to think--she might be with child, and that child would be her heir. A brief, vicious notion flicked in Gilliane's mind, but she knew it was hopeless. Saer would never allow any child of hers, except from a husband of his choice, to live. There was another key word--husband. By the time Gilliane had worked out her situation, she was well ripe for marriage--fifteen.
Fear--sharper, deeper fear than ever before stabbed her. Soon--soon Saer would choose a husband for her. Gilliane thought of the life his wife led and had to press her hands to her mouth to muffle her whimpers of terror.
For months after that revelation, Gilliane crept around the keep, trying harder than ever to be invisible. She also did her best to conceal the fact that she was now completely a woman. Previously, she had made her clothes to fit her neatly. Now she let out all the seams until the garments hung loosely upon her. No one seemed to notice. Marie de Cercy was too dull, too numb from years of ill-treatment and humiliation, to care what Gilliane did--unless, like the escapade in the wood, it brought her husband's wrath down upon her.
However, more months passed and no husband was brought forward. As her fear receded, Gilliane realized that Saer had no intention of marrying her to anyone, for as soon as he did, her revenues would go to her husband. Worse, the husband could ask for an accounting if the estate had been damaged or diminished. Gilliane guessed that Saer did not look forward to that. She was safe from the threat of marriage.