SIR Guibert Fitzalan leaned back against the thick tree trunk, watching two maidservants pack away the remains of the picnic lunch. Wilda, the younger of the two servants, caught his eye just then. Her bold look made him look quickly away, heat burning his face. Spring was in full flower and Wilda was not the only woman to turn her eye on Sir Guibert appreciatively. Nor was he the only man who received one of her hot gazes. Wilda was decidedly comely, with a sleek little nose and rosy cheeks.
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When was her punishment to begin? He continued to play with her, to tempt her, but there was no room in her emotions for anything except fear. She was certain there would be awful retribution for stabbing him, but what did he have in mind? So it was a complete surprise when Leonie found herself mounted and penetrated before she realized what was happening. She cried out as he entered her, but that pain was short and soon became only a dull throb. She lay there dazed, amazed that she was being bedded instead of beaten.
Rolfe was amazed as well. She was a virgin after all. That meant his conclusions were wholly untrue. She had stabbed him on purpose, had meant to stab him. That realization made him finish with her quickly. Having done so, he promptly fell asleep. He did not snore this time, but Leonie knew her husband was asleep. Well, she was no longer a maiden. Because she lacked desire for him, his taking her had been painful.
But it was a pain she could bear if she had to—though she would not have to if she were sent away. Holding that hope close to her, willing it to be so, she fell asleep. She had barely awakened before the bedcurtains were thrown aside and she was whisked out of bed.
The sheets were removed and taken out of the room to be displayed, as was the custom. Leonie turned her back and hid her face in her hands, giving the unfortunate appearance that she was crying. Questions rose loudly. The women wanted to know what was wrong with her, but Leonie would neither speak nor turn around.
It was Amelia who took charge, ushering the ladies out. She put the robe on, and then her veil was thrust at her. Leonie looked up to nod curtly at Judith before she donned the veil. Only her stepmother and Lady Amelia were left in the room with her. Of her husband, there was no sign. They are the wives and daughters of knights who serve your husband. I understand they were even allowed to follow the army when Sir Rolfe was but a mercenary. Most unusual circumstance.
It could not have been easy to find quarters for them in each town. Is that not so, Lady Amelia? She had been thoroughly put out to see the virgin blood on the sheets, positive as she was that Rolfe would not touch his wife. Your father is still sound asleep. And since your husband has gone about his business without a word to his guests, I must assume the wedding celebration is over. There is no point in our staying. Leonie shook her head. You wish to say farewell to him?
Dismissed, Judith left. I would have a bath and tray of food brought here, as I do not mean to leave this room today.
Leonie had only just finished her bath when Lady Amelia returned to inform her that her escort was ready to return her to Pershwick. This was so unexpected that Leonie was compelled to question it. So soon? No doubt he will supply you with what money you need, and perhaps he will appoint his own steward, but you should not be troubled by him there as long as you do not bring yourself to his attention. I assume that is as you would have it?
Oh, indeed, yes! Guibert was alarmed when told what his first duty for the newly married Leonie would be. But seeing how eager she was to be gone from Crewel, he kept his doubts to himself.
At Pershwick, she could be with people she knew. Guibert had also learned what Rolfe was about—a monumental feat, the taking of seven hostile keeps with only a small army. He wished him luck, but knew the job would not be finished quickly.
He doubted his lady would see much of her husband the rest of this year. It was with some self-disgust that Rolfe found himself riding through the gate of Crewel at sunset, spurred on by a foolish eagerness to be with Leonie again.
All of last night was not clear to him. No doubt the tension had had much to do with it, but it would do no harm to find out, would it? Disgust with his own boyish eagerness had much to do with his reaction when he found his wife was not there waiting for him.
He simply turned around and returned to the siege of Wrothe Keep. Relief was partly why he did so. He did not chastise Amelia for overstepping her bounds.
He had told her only that he would send his wife away, not instructed her to see to it for him. He certainly did not want the woman to know he desired her. He was not forgetting how spiteful she was. It was a natural conclusion that if she had been beaten, it was her father who had done it. It said nothing about his character.
She knew only that Sir Rolfe had a hot temper, and she concluded that he had beaten his new wife. In her opinion, Lady Leonie had been married to a cruel man. Unfortunately, Sir Warren did not clear up the misunderstanding. His wife told the story the next day to Lady Bertha, who was staying in Axeford Town, and from there the story spread quickly.
It did not take long for a firm debate to ensue, and many husbands and wives, as well as the serfs of Axeford, Kenil, Blythe, and Crewel argued the issue in the following weeks. The men knew their lord, and sided with him. The women did not know him, and they felt that men will always defend each other blindly and against all evidence, so they held to their opinions and sorely pitied the lady in question.
The serfs, who loved gossip, simply divided sides, man for man and woman for woman. And unbeknownst to anyone, the issue went a long way toward winning the loyalty of the people of Kempston for their new lord and lady.
Lady Amelia was furious when she heard the gossip, not because her lover was being maligned, but because the woman being pitied was Lady Leonie, and this would not help Rolfe to forget about her. He might even bring her back to Crewel just to still the wagging tongues. Rolfe was in fact unaware of what was being said about him in the weeks after the wedding. The gossip was not something his men wanted him made aware of. Even Thorpe took pains to keep it from him, knowing his temper very well.
Briefly Rolfe wondered why his men acted strangely, hushing conversations when he drew near, shouting abuse at their womenfolk in his presence. And, damn him, he had never seen so many disgruntled females.
Every woman he encountered was in a pique. But Rolfe had too many other things on his mind to ponder the peculiarities of women and serfs. He kept to the camp outside Wrothe Keep for several weeks, conducting the terms of surrender. Yes, he had much to occupy his mind. Yet drifting into his thoughts with alarming frequency were images of a petite form with soft curves and whispering sighs.
Lady Leonie, his recent bride, was not forgotten whether or not he wished her to be. Her husband was forgotten. Her life was her own again.
No steward had been sent to Pershwick to tell her that a man ruled her life now. She had taken great pains to prepare for a steward, abandoning all her hiding places so that the steward could never accuse her of trying to keep anything from her lord. Everything was in order. But no one arrived and she stopped expecting anyone. She had freedom, independence, and peace.
But good things do not last forever. One afternoon, working in her garden, she heard the call to halt from the gate, but gave it little thought. Sir Guibert was away, leaving her master-at-arms in charge of defending the keep. The man took his responsibilities very seriously, ordering the gatekeeper to question anyone who wished to enter the keep, familiar face or not. Leonie continued to fill her basket with parts from her elderberry tree.
The gatherings would make dyes for the weaving room, black from the bark and root, green from the leaves.
When Love Awaits
At the top of those stairs she found, not one large room, but a narrow hall. Wilda came when Leonie called her name softly. Wilda understood and shook her head. Sir Edmond liked to impress his guests. Servants gossiped.
When Love Awaits by Johanna Lindsey - PDF free download eBook
When was her punishment to begin? He continued to play with her, to tempt her, but there was no room in her emotions for anything except fear. She was certain there would be awful retribution for stabbing him, but what did he have in mind? So it was a complete surprise when Leonie found herself mounted and penetrated before she realized what was happening. She cried out as he entered her, but that pain was short and soon became only a dull throb. She lay there dazed, amazed that she was being bedded instead of beaten. Rolfe was amazed as well.
Chapter 1 England, SIR Guibert Fitzalan leaned back against the thick tree trunk, watching two maidservants pack away the remains of the picnic lunch. Wilda, the younger of the two servants, caught his eye just then. Her bold look made him look quickly away, heat burning his face. Spring was in full flower and Wilda was not the only woman to turn her eye on Sir Guibert appreciatively. Nor was he the only man who received one of her hot gazes.
When Love Awaits