Brice Fitzwilliam is finally paid his due: awarded the title and lands of Thaxted, the warrior waits to claim his promised virgin bride!But Gillian of Thaxted will be no man's prize! She willnotsubmit to the conquering knight's powerful physique, dark, piercing eyes or the bold way his arm drapes protectively over her at night....Brice thought he would pleasure his new wife out of duty--but it's become a nightly pleasure of his own! Now he risks exposing a chink in his armor if he succumbs totally to his new bride....
Thaxted Forest, northeastern England March 1067The ground beneath her feet began to shake and Gillian searched for a cause. It was a fair day, considering that winter still claimed the land, but no clouds marred the sky''s bright blue expanse. Looking up, she could see no sign of a coming storm that would cause the thunderous noise that covered the area.Pushing her hood back, Gillian stepped into the road and glanced both ahead and behind. With only a moment to spare, she realised the reason for such a clamour and jumped back into the tangle of brush and bush at the road''s edge. With a prayer of thanks offered that she''d stolen a dark brown cloak on her escape, she tugged it around her and lay still as the large group of mounted knights and warriors thundered past her hiding place. When they pulled up a short distance from where she lay motionless and silent, she dared not even breathe for the fear of being detected and captured by these unknown marauders.Too far away to hear and too low to understand, their words were a jumble of Norman French and some English, as well. Keeping her face down, Gillian waited for them to move on their way. When she heard the sounds of men dismounting and walking along the road, her body began to tremble. Being caught out alone during these dangerous times was an invitation to death or worse and something Gillian had taken pains to avoid.Her decision to leave her home and flee to the convent was not made in haste or without considering the consequences, but her alternatives were limited and not attractive: the marriage her brother Oremund had arranged to a poxed old man or one the invading duke had made to a vicious Norman warrior on his way to destroy all she held dear. All she could do was stay out of sight and pray this troop of soldiers would move on and her quest to reach the convent would continue.Gillian waited as the men discussed something and held her breath once more, trying not to gain their attention as their voices grew nearer to the place where she hid. She recognised the name of her home and her brother''s, as well. If only they would speak in her tongue or at the least speak slower so that she could try to understand more of their words!After a few seemingly endless minutes, the men began to walk away from her, calling out to the others that they saw nothing. She raised her head with care as slowly as she could and watched their retreat. But one knight remained in the road, not more than several yards from where she lay. Instead of following the others, he reached up and tugged at his helm, pulling it free and tucking it under his arm as he turned.The gasp escaped before she could stop it.He was tall and muscular and the most attractive man she''d ever beheld, even considering her cousin who was accounted to be every woman''s dream. He did not wear his blond hair in the short, shorn Norman-style; instead it hung loosely around his face. She could not tell the colour of his eyes at this distance, but his face was all masculine angles and intriguing in spite of his being a Norman.A Norman! And a Norman in full battle armour.Holy Mother of God, protect her!And he was staring into the trees in her direction. She dared not move, even to seek the cover of the snarls of branches beneath her for he cocked his head, narrowed his eyes and waited. She knew he listened for another sign that someone was hiding and she barely let out her breath as she remained motionless there.Gillian thought he might come into the thicket to search, but instead he turned to the others before placing his helm on and striding with those long legs back to them. He rained down curses as he walked, some so loud and rude that she felt the heat of a blush creeping up her cheeks. He could not be the lord who the Conqueror had given Thaxted to, for no nobleman would act in such a common way, using words as he had and comparing one of his men to a beast of burden, and a feeble, useless one at that.So, who was he and what
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July 01, 2010
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