THE RAVELING: A Medieval Romance (Age of Faith Book 8), страница 1
Age of Faith: Book Eight
From USA Today Best-seller, Tamara Leigh, the eighth book in the AGE OF FAITH series—featuring the troubadour knight of THE LONGING and THE VEXING. The final book? For now…
BY HONOR BOUND TO SEEK THE FOUND
HERE BEGINS A TALE
Sir Elias De Morville is no ordinary man of the sword, possessing both the heart of a warrior and a troubadour. When he sets out to rescue a boy who may be his son, more than ever he must prove worthy of the Wulfrith dagger that ranks him among the greatest of knights. And more difficult it becomes when not only must he protect the enigmatic woman who aids him, but guard against attraction to one forbidden him—she whose deceit could bring his family to its knees.
OF RAVELING AND TRAVELING
BEYOND THE MOONLIT VEIL
Honore of no surname is of the world only insofar as she ventures into it to pluck unwanted children from dark places. When a foundling is stolen from the abbey, her greatest hope of recovering him is a knight to whom she dare not reveal her face nor the identity of the rebel priest whose flight from King Henry they aid. Finding herself cast in the role of Sir Elias’s wife, she struggles against a heart that longs to be his in truth. And prays what seems a necessary deception does not lay ruin to him.
THE RAVELING Copyright © 2018 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: Ravven
Stock Photo: Period Images
Male Model Photographer: Sam Harrison
Male Model: Skyler Schmanski
Also by Tamara Leigh
AGE OF CONQUEST EXCERPT
Also by Tamara Leigh
About the Author
Also by Tamara Leigh
CLEAN READ HISTORICAL ROMANCE
THE FEUD: A Medieval Romance Series
Baron Of Godsmere: Book One
Baron Of Emberly: Book Two
Baron of Blackwood: Book Three
LADY: A Medieval Romance Series
Lady At Arms: Book One
Lady Of Eve: Book Two
BEYOND TIME: A Medieval Time Travel Romance Series
Dreamspell: Book One
Lady Ever After: Book Two
STAND-ALONE Medieval Romance Novels
Lady Of Fire
Lady Of Conquest
INSPIRATIONAL HISTORICAL ROMANCE
AGE OF FAITH: A Medieval Romance Series
The Unveiling: Book One
The Yielding: Book Two
The Redeeming: Book Three
The Kindling: Book Four
The Longing: Book Five
The Vexing: Book Six
The Awakening: Book Seven
The Raveling: Book Eight
AGE OF CONQUEST: A Medieval Romance Series
Merciless: Book One (Winter 2018/2019)
INSPIRATIONAL CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE
HEAD OVER HEELS: Stand-Alone Romance Collection
SOUTHERN DISCOMFORT: A Contemporary Romance Series
Leaving Carolina: Book One
Nowhere, Carolina: Book Two
Restless in Carolina: Book Three
OUT-OF-PRINT GENERAL MARKET REWRITES
Warrior Bride 1994: Bantam Books (Lady At Arms)
*Virgin Bride 1994: Bantam Books (Lady Of Eve)
Pagan Bride 1995: Bantam Books (Lady Of Fire)
Saxon Bride 1995: Bantam Books (Lady Of Conquest)
Misbegotten 1996: HarperCollins (Lady Undaunted)
Unforgotten 1997: HarperCollins (Lady Ever After)
Blackheart 2001: Dorchester Leisure (Lady Betrayed)
*Virgin Bride is the sequel to Warrior Bride; Pagan Pride and Saxon Bride are stand-alone novels
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TO SKYLER HUNT
From front cover to back and all in between, The Raveling is dedicated to our Parisian son. Thank you for coordinating the photo shoot four thousand miles away to honor my wish for you to appear on the eighth book in the Age of Faith series. You, our very own knight and amazing wordsmith, are the perfect Sir Elias De Morville. Je t’aime, mon cher fils.
BY HONOR BOUND
He had lost a son he had not known he had—providing the child was his. After all, there was a reason he had not married the mother. More, a reason she had not wished to wed him. And it appeared the reason had not changed.
“Dead,” she repeated, then lowered her voice. “’Twas the d-devil took him.”
Elias had reached for his purse to put coins in her palm, money he prayed would not be spent on drink, but he stilled over those last words sent past teeth no longer pretty.
He considered her gaunt face lit by a torch outside the alehouse from which she had stumbled minutes earlier, then once more eschewing French for the language of the English people conquered a hundred years past, rasped, “The devil, you say?”
Fear leapt from jittering eyes.
“Why the devil, Lettice?”
She moistened colorless lips, glanced around as though to e
One question answered only to breed more. “How marked, and for what had you no choice?”
She opened her mouth, left it ajar as if reconsidering her next words. Then she raised trembling fingers to the corner of her left eye and swept them down cheek and jaw. “All red and purple he was, as if kissed by…ye know. Him.”
Elias dug his short nails into calloused palms. A mark of birth, possessed by many—though rarely so large or visible—did not a devil’s child make. But as ever, superstition ran rampant.
“That would alarm, indeed,” he said with control lest he frighten her away. “What did you do?”
“I couldna keep him, Elias.” She shuddered. “Though lovely one side of him, that other side…that mark…”
Lord, he prayed, no matter my son or another’s, let her not have been so cruel to set the babe out in the wood.
“What would have been said of me?” she bemoaned.
Would it have been much worse than what was said of her when she took coin for the use of her body? he wondered with resentment he should no longer feel for a woman he had mostly ceased loving years ago.
He unclenched his jaw. “How did the babe die?”
She flinched, drew a shoulder up to her ear. “I did not wish to know. It was taken care of.”
Pain. Anger. Disgust. All set their brand upon Elias. It seemed naught remained of the woman he had loved. In looks, speech, spirit, and heart, she was unrecognizable. And just as he had been unable to save her then, he could not save her now. Worse, he could not save the babe who might have been his.
Though he longed to walk away, remembrance of what he had once felt for her bade him open his purse. “Promise me,” he said as her gaze shot to the leather pouch, “you will take what I give to better your circumstances, not—”
“How much?” she gasped.
He hesitated, then cinched the strings, and as she whimpered like a child shown a sweet and denied it, removed the purse from his belt. “Much,” he said. “If you spend wisely, ’twill last through this season into the next.”
He handed it to her, and she snatched it to her chest and ran.
He was tempted to follow, but for what? Just as her life was hers to live, the coin was hers to spend.
“Lord,” he groaned, “let it not become a stone upon which to stumble. Let it bless her.”
Once darkness stole her from sight, he lowered his head and felt the sting of tears of which he would not be ashamed even had the one who knighted him told he ought to be. But Sir Everard Wulfrith of that family known England to France as the mightiest trainers of knights said only those unworthy of defending king and country were bereft of tears for the hurts and sorrows of their fellow man.
“Lettice,” he breathed.
He jerked, cursed himself. Tears were naught to be ashamed of, but succumbing to them in this place at this time of night—leaving himself open to thievery and gutting—was unworthy. An instant later, the one who had stolen upon him knew better than to quietly approach a warrior.
Back against the alehouse’s wall, a Wulfrith dagger at his throat, the man who had gone as still as the dead gaped.
Elias assessed him. He was attractive and fairly well groomed, near his own age, shorter by a hand, more bone than muscle, and of the common class as evidenced by a tunic fashioned of homespun cloth—albeit of good quality and showing little wear.
“What do you want?” Elias growled in the man’s language.
“But to earn a few coins.” He splayed arms and opened fingers to show empty hands. “No harm intended, milord.”
Elias thrust his face near and smelled drink, though not of the sour sort. “I have given the last of my coin.”
A loud clearing of the throat. “Surely a lord as fine as you can get more.”
He could. His squire awaited him at the inn which lay opposite the direction Lettice had fled, in Theo’s possession several purses fatter than the one with which Elias had parted. “Why would I wish to do that?”
“The harlot’s babe. I can tell more about him than she.”
What else was there to know? Elias wondered, then asked it.
The man moistened his lips. “There is much that none but straight-fingered Arblette can reveal, milord.”
Straight-fingered, Elias silently scorned. Could a self-proclaimed honest man truly be that?
“Buy me a tankard of ale, milord?”
Elias released him. “One, and if you think to make a fool of me, every drop I shall spill from your belly.”
TO SEEK THE FOUND
How know you of the babe? And what?”
Straight-fingered Arblette raised one of those fingers, and Elias thought it ironic it had a bend to it, then the man looked to the pretty girl who approached the table chosen for its relative privacy at the back of the inn Elias had insisted on over the dilapidated alehouse.
“There ye be!” She lowered two of four tankards—so hard ale slopped and dripped between the planks onto Elias’s boots. “I be back for me coin.”
As she turned toward a table occupied by a half dozen men, several of whom seemed overly interested in Elias and his companion, Arblette slapped her rear.
She gasped, teasingly protested, “Naughty!” and swayed away.
Lifting his tankard, Arblette returned his regard to Elias. “Not as naughty as she wishes me to be.” His grin would have been all teeth were he not missing several. “But I aim to marry better, so unless she defies her brute of a father, she must needs be content with pats and pinches.”
Then given the chance, he would ruin the lass without ruffling his conscience. Disliking him more, Elias searched out the owner of the inn in which he and his squire had taken a room for the night. The man was of good size, his fat bettered by a greater amount of muscle that bunched as he stared at the one overly familiar with his daughter.
Arblette was not the only patron to trespass, a man at a nearby table hooking an arm around the young woman’s waist as she delivered his tankard.
Again she protested, though without teasing, then swatted free. And yet it was at Arblette her father continued to stare.
“You have your ale,” Elias said. “Now tell how you know of Lettice’s babe.”
He took a long draught, belched. “I know ’cause my grandsire disposed of that devil-licked thing.”
Though rarely moved to violence outside of defending himself and others, Elias curled his fingers into a fist atop the table. “Disposed?”
“Ah, now!” Arblette splayed a hand as if to ward off an attack. “Not that way, milord, though ’twas as my grandsire was paid to do.”
Then the child was not dead? Or had he been snuffed out in a supposedly more humane manner than exposure to the elements and beasts of the wood?
“The way of a good Christian.” He took another drink, wiggled his eyebrows. “Albeit one in need of funds.”
As Elias tensed further in preparation to lunge across the table, the serving girl reappeared. “Give over, milord.”
He drew breath between his teeth, opened the purse his squire had delivered him upon his return to the inn, and dropped a coin in her palm that more than covered the ale. “Go.”
She gave a squeak of delight and trotted away.
“That there coin buys me three more fills!” Arblette called.
Laughing, she flicked a hand as if to rid herself of a fly.
He dropped his smile. “Tell milord, how much would you pay for a look inside my head?”
Elias shifted his cramped jaw, dug two more coins from his purse, and pushed them across the table.
Arblette grunted. “Since we seem to be talkin’ about yer son, surely more is warranted.”
Elias raised his eyebrows. “If what you know is useful.”
The man blew breath up hi
“As told, if what you know bears fruit.”
Arblette leaned across the table. “Seven, mayhap eight years gone, the mother of your harlot—er, Lettice,” he corrected as Elias’s face warmed, “sent for my grandsire. It was to him all ’round these parts turned when they could not stomach ridding themselves of undesirables.”
Senses warning he and Arblette had become of greater interest, Elias glanced around. Though the voices of those unconcerned with what transpired at this table ensured privacy, he further lowered his own. “Undesirables?”
“Unwanted babes, whether of the lesser sex when ’tis a son a man needs, sickly, deformed, misbegotten, or devil-marked like your boy.”