The Yielding (Age of Faith), страница 1
Tamara Leigh Novels
Chapter Twenty One
Chapter Twenty Two
Chapter Twenty Three
Chapter Twenty Four
Chapter Twenty Five
Chapter Twenty Six
Excerpt: The Redeeming: Book Three
About The Author
Book Two in the Age of Faith series
TAMARA LEIGH, USA Today Best-Selling Author
The Unveiling, the first book in the Age of Faith series, introduced readers to the formidable Wulfrith family during Duke Henry’s battle for England’s throne in 1153. Now, four years later, Henry wears the crown, but the Wulfriths are no less defiant—and no more amenable to forging alliances through king-decreed marriage.
SHE HAD KILLED A MAN. OR SO IT WAS SAID…
Convent-bound Lady Beatrix Wulfrith is determined to aid her sister in escaping marriage to their family’s enemy. Unaware of the sacrifice that awaits her, she leads their pursuers astray only to meet with an accident that forever alters her destiny and takes the life of a young knight whose brother vows he will not rest until the lady is brought to justice.
Lord Michael D’Arci is a warrior and a womanizer whose foul mouth and impatience bode ill for all who trespass against him. Falsely accused of ravishment years earlier, he refuses to believe Lady Beatrix’s accusations against his deceased brother. However, when he finds himself at the mercy of that same woman who clings to her convictions and faith even when it threatens to prove her undoing, his quest for justice wavers.
TAMARA LEIGH NOVELS
Age of Faith: A Medieval Romance Series
The Redeeming: Book Three, Spring 2013
The Yielding: Book Two, December 2012
The Unveiling: Book One, August 2012
Southern Discomfort Series
Restless In Carolina, RandomHouse/Multnomah, 2011
Nowhere, Carolina, RandomHouse/Multnomah, 2010
Leaving Carolina, RandomHouse/Multnomah, 2009
Stealing Adda, 2012 (ebook edition)
Faking Grace, RandomHouse/Multnomah, 2008
Splitting Harriet, RandomHouse/Multnomah, 2007
Perfecting Kate, Multnomah, 2007
Stealing Adda, NavPress, 2006 (print edition)
INSPIRATIONAL/GENERAL MARKET NOVELS
Dreamspell: A Medieval Time Travel Romance, March, 2012
GENERAL MARKET NOVELS
Blackheart, Dorchester Leisure, 2001
Unforgotten, HarperCollins, 1997
Misbegotten, HarperCollins, 1996
Saxon Bride, Bantam Books, 1995
Pagan Bride, Bantam Books, 1995
Virgin Bride, Bantam Books, 1994
Warrior Bride, Bantam Books, 1994
*Virgin Bride is the sequel to Warrior Bride
Pagan Pride and Saxon Bride are stand-alone novels
THE YIELDING Copyright © 2012 by Tammy Schmanski, P.O. Box 1298, Goodlettsville, TN 37070, [email protected]
This novel is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, incidents, and dialogues are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental and beyond the intent of the author.
All rights reserved. This book is a copyrighted work and no part of it may be reproduced, stored, or transmitted in any form or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photographic, audio recording, or any information storage and retrieval system) without permission in writing from the author. The scanning, uploading, and distribution of this book via the Internet or any other means without the author’s permission is illegal and punishable by law. Thank you for supporting authors’ rights by purchasing only authorized editions.
Cover Design: Kim Van Meter, KD Designs
To my all-time favorite heroes: David, Skyler, and Maxen.
I am so blessed.
Stern Castle, England, February 1157
By trickery they were had.
Beatrix looked from her mother who gripped the missive with trembling hands to her sister who stared at the king’s man with trembling mouth.
“Surely there is some mistake,” Beatrix’s mother protested.
The king’s man widened his stance, causing the dog sniffing at his boots to sidle away. “No mistake, Lady Isobel. We are to escort one of your daughters to Broehne Castle upon the barony of Abingdale where she will wed Baron Lavonne.”
Past a throat so constricted it hurt, Beatrix dragged a sustaining breath. She knew what this was—King Henry’s attempt to end the feuding between the Wulfriths and the Lavonnes. And she knew why. Though the two families had once been allies, the relationship had become strained following the accident that forced the old baron to pass his title and lands into the hands of his inept eldest son, Geoffrey. When Beatrix’s oldest brother had defiantly wed Lady Annyn Bretanne, whose betrothal the future King Henry had given to Geoffrey, it had gone from bad to worse. And worse yet when Geoffrey’s assault on Annyn resulted in the loss of his own life. Thus, for the past three years, the Wulfrith lands had been plagued with raids and pillagings devised by Geoffrey’s embittered father and younger brother as retribution for what they deemed an unjust death. And this was the solution—that the Wulfriths yield up a sister in place of Annyn. How King Henry must gloat to thus repay Garr Wulfrith for his defiance!
The king’s man cleared his throat. “’Tis for you to determine which of your daughters will join with Christian Lavonne, my lady.” He glanced at Gaenor, dismissed her with a lift of his eyebrows, and settled an appreciative smile on Beatrix.
She curled her hands into fists at his blatant disregard for Gaenor’s feelings.
“My youngest has chosen the Church,” Lady Isobel said, stepping to the edge of the dais.
The man inclined his head. “Aye, but she has yet to make her profession.”
Though Beatrix felt her mother’s disquiet deepen, Lady Isobel’s voice was deceptively level when next she spoke. “It is decided.”
After a long moment, the man sighed and once more looked to the oldest of the sisters. “Then ‘tis Lady Gaenor we shall have the privilege of escorting to Broehne Castle.”
Guilt flushed Beatrix. True, eldest daughters usually wed first, but she ached for Gaenor who had no say in whether or not she was the sacrifice King Henry demanded of the Wulfriths. And what a sacrifice!
Beatrix’s anger deepened at the thought of what Gaenor would endure wed to Geoffrey Lavonne’s brother, a man surely as cruel and vindictive as his infirm father.
“We shall avail ourselves of your hospitality this eve,” the king’s man said, “and depart at first light.”
“Beatrix!” her mother hissed.
Years ago, Beatrix would have heeded her—indeed, would not so much as thought to challenge a man—but that was before Lady Annyn won Garr’s heart. Since, Beatrix had learned by her sister-in-law’s example that women did, indeed, have the right to question wrong.
Imagining what Annyn would do if not that she was laid abed abovestairs, Beatrix halted before the king’s man. Too late realizing she should have remained on the dais that had placed her nearer his height, she strained her neck to look up at him. “Is it not true that King Henry planned this, Sir Knight?”
He narrowed his lids, causing the torchlight reflected in his eyes to dim. “I cannot speak to the king’s intentions, my lady. I but carry out his orders, and this order is that I deliver one of Baron Wulfrith’s sisters to Baron Lavonne for the purpose of marriage.”
Beatrix looked to the man’s entourage. It was comprised of a dozen men, half of whom were said to belong to Christian Lavonne. As with each time she turned her eyes in their direction, her attention was drawn to a young, fair-haired knight whose gaze bore into hers with unsettling intensity. Though he was pleasing of face, something dark dwelt in his pale eyes.
“We shall require food and drink,” the king’s man said, “and pallets upon which to pass the eve in your hall.”
Lady Isobel nodded. “Of course.”
Beatrix swung around. “But, Mother, surely you will not allow—”
“Enough, Daughter! Our guests require hospitality, and we shall accord it as your brother would have us do.”
Beatrix drew a deep breath. “As you say.” She looked to Gaenor who had fixed her gaze on the rushes strewn before the dais. Feeling her sister’s churning and seeing it in the hands she balled in her skirts, Beatrix stepped toward her.
“While I see to our guests’ needs,” Lady Isobel said, “accompany your sister abovestairs and assist with her packing.”
Beatrix would have protested again, but the glimmer in her mother’s eyes told that she had a plan. King Henry would soon learn it was no easy feat to steal a daughter from this woman, even though it was by marriage only that she laid claim to the Wulfrith name.
Beatrix ascended the dais and laid a hand on her sister’s arm. “Come. There is much to do ere morn.”
Gaenor allowed herself to be guided across the hall that, if not for the arrival of the king’s men, would now be settled by the castle folk who made their beds here.
As the sisters neared the stairs, Beatrix peered over her shoulder at where her mother directed the servants to erect the trestle tables that had been put away following the evening meal. Praying Lady Isobel’s plan did not run aground, Beatrix started to look forward. As she did so, her eyes once more met those of the fair-haired knight.
He smiled—if that crooked, leering twist of the lips could be called such.
So affected was Beatrix by what it told of his impure thoughts that she stumbled on the first stair. If not for her grip on her sister’s arm, she would have dropped to her knees. However, Gaenor seemed too deep inside her thoughts to notice the few moments she supported her sister’s weight.
Once out of sight of the hall, Beatrix stepped in front of Gaenor. “Do not fear—”
“Do not?” Gaenor stood taller and thrust her shoulders back. “‘Tis easily said by one who has naught to fear herself. Look at you—you who are of pleasing face and height and form, you who would be better wed to a man than I. And yet, never will you be chained to a man’s whim. Nor his cruelty.”
Beatrix was acquainted with Gaenor’s feelings about her ungainly height, which had caused several suitors to look elsewhere, but never had she shown such resentment. But then, never had she been forced into marriage with a Lavonne.
Beatrix gently squeezed her sister’s arm. “Do not despair. Mother and Annyn will know what to do.”
Though Gaenor tensed further as if she might reject the attempt to console her, a moment later her shoulders eased. “Let us pray so.”
Aye, pray—at which Beatrix had become proficient these past years since the commencement of her training for the Church. When the abbey that her brother raised five leagues from Stern Castle was complete a year hence, she would go there. And perhaps one day she would be named its abbess as was her mother’s desire. If I am worthy.
Beatrix leaned forward and touched her forehead to her sister’s, possible only because Gaenor stood a step down. “We ought to visit the chapel.”
Gaenor’s lids narrowed and mouth tightened, evidencing how ill at ease with Church and God she was, but she nodded. “Mother would approve.”
Most highly. In fact, if they lingered long enough, Lady Isobel would surely join them there. Yearning to place Gaenor’s troubles at the Lord’s feet, Beatrix entwined her fingers with her sister’s and drew her up the stairs. They entered the candle-lit chapel, traversed the aisle, and knelt side by side before the altar.
Dear Lord, Beatrix beseeched behind steepled hands, deliver Gaenor from King Henry’s plotting and Baron Lavonne’s hatred. She glanced at her sister who stared sightlessly at the altar. Use me as You will.
“Sir Durand and Sir Ewen await you in the wood at the barren rock,” Lady Isobel said as she drew the mantle’s hood over Gaenor’s head. “Stay low as you cross the meadow lest the king’s men have set a watch.”
Gaenor nodded and Isobel looked to her younger daughter who had already pulled her hood over her head to ward off the chill of night that painted their breath upon the air. Though Isobel had argued against Beatrix accompanying her sister to Wulfen Castle where Isobel’s second son would shelter her until Garr received word of the king’s plans, Beatrix had insisted and Gaenor had pleaded. In the end, Garr’s wife, Annyn, had convinced Isobel it was best that Beatrix also flee lest the king’s man attempt to deliver her to Christian Lavonne instead. As for Isobel, she would remain at Stern Castle with Annyn who had recently delivered her second child and was slow to recover from birthing so large a son. God willing, the king’s men would not dare lay hands on either of them.
“We should go,” Beatrix urged, her teeth beginning to chatter.
Lady Isobel stretched to her toes and kissed her oldest daughter’s cheek. “Godspeed, my dove,” she whispered and turned to Beatrix. However, her youngest child had already stepped through the hidden doorway set in the castle’s outer wall.
As Isobel watched her daughters merge with the dark night, all she could think was that she should have called Beatrix back, that she should have pressed her lips to the impetuous one’s cheek, that she should have wished her “Godspeed.”
“We have paused long enough.” Sir Durand rose from the log he had rolled to the stream’s bank and offered a hand to his charge.
Shielding her eyes against the brilliance of the newly risen sun, Beatrix tilted her head back. As with each time she looked near upon the knight, she regretted the admiration with which he regarded her. Convent-bound though she was, she was not so unlearned in the ways of men and women to be ignorant of his feelings for her, but she knew it was best not to acknowledge them. After all, the only bridal garments she would ever wear were those reserved for a bride of Christ. Which was just as she wished it.
She placed her gloved fingers in Sir Durand’s and let him draw her to her feet. When he was slow to release her, she pulled free and eased back a step.
Sir Ewen snorted.
Beatrix looked to the mounted knight who grinned as if he enjoyed Sir Durand’s fascination with their lord’s sister. Mounted beside him was Gaenor, the soft smile hanging about her own mouth transforming her features. Though tall for a woman and somewhat plain of face, she had but to turn up her lips and call her dimples into being to become what she declared she co
“Mount up,” Sir Ewen called.
Pulling her mantle close to ease the chill that seemed to have settled into her bones throughout the night-long ride, Beatrix stepped to where Sir Durand had taken the reins of her brown palfrey. Once more, he touched her hand to assist her into the saddle, and once more Sir Ewen snorted.
Beatrix scowled. “Have you something lodged in your nose, Sir Ewen?”
“Nay, but I believe my friend has something lodged in his eye.”
His heart? She looked to Sir Durand and gained a glimpse of the high color that swept his face before he pivoted, strode to his mount, and swung into the saddle.
Feeling for him, Beatrix narrowed her gaze on Sir Ewen. “Do you wish to lead, or shall I?”
He jerked his chin toward the other knight. “Methinks Sir Durand has already determined to do so himself.”
True enough, the humiliated knight had set off ahead of Gaenor.
With Sir Durand in the lead, Sir Ewen bringing up the rear, and Gaenor and Beatrix in between, they began the second half of the journey that would see them at Wulfen Castle before nightfall.
To counter the chill buffeting her face and wending the weave of her clothing, Beatrix bent low over her horse, huffed warm breath up her face and down her chest, and silently urged the sun to more quickly temper winter’s grip—a difficult task considering the grueling pace with which their mounts parted the air and the spray of frost their hooves loosed from the brittle grass.
After what seemed hours, the sun climbed high enough to return feeling to Beatrix’s fingers and toes. Savoring the warmth in the small of her back, she sighed, winced as her cramped muscles resisted their unfolding, and eased herself upright. Ahead, Gaenor and Sir Durand had also straightened in their saddles.