Today’s final feature of Medieval Monday spotlights Ashley York’s The Gentle Knight. Can a knight who’s sworn off love escort a lovely Irish maiden to a nunnery, where she’s to begin her new life as a nun? Or will this couple choose to rewrite their destiny . . . together?
BLURB: A medieval soldier returns home to find his lover died in childbirth just as his own mother had. Believing he is cursed, Peter of Normandy turns from love. When he must give escort to an Irish princess more noble than many knights, he struggles with his decision to live a solitary life. Can he take the chance that his love won’t be a death sentence and possibly make them stronger?
Padraig MacNaughton’s death bed decree rips his daughter, Brighit, from the shelter of her protective clan in Ireland. Forced to take vows at a Priory in England, she finds herself in the hands of lecherous mercenaries with their own agendas. Dare she trust the Norman knight to see her safely to her new life as a nun? Even when she finds in him the fulfillment of all she’s ever wanted?
Or will honor and duty eclipse their one chance for happiness?
She had dreamed of him! All at once it came to her. He had taken her into his strong arms and held her tight against that hard body. Every muscle pressing into her. Then the touch of his warm lips sliding along her cheek to meet her mouth with a hungry kiss. Brighit had actually felt his lips on hers and that same heat swirled through her now.
She sighed. Yes. It was a very nice dream.
The shock of cold air accompanied with the sound of the curtain being dragged back had her eyes flying open. There in front of her was the man from the lake… the one in her very real dream. In the flash of a second, his eyes changed from wide with shock to a look she’d swear spoke of pleasure.
“And what is this?” He tipped his chin toward her, a knowing smile gracing his pleasing face.
Brighit covered herself. One arm across her breasts and one hand over her private parts. She felt like Eve posing in the Garden of Eden.
The sudden silence stole her breath away. She refused to confirm it but knew all eyes were on her.
“Do you mind?” Ivan’s voice cut through the awkward moment as he stood next to the carriage. He yanked the curtain from the fine-looking man’s hand, dropping it back in place. Brighit was again cocooned in darkness.
“Yours?” The man’s voice was low, resonating through her core. It was as appealing as his body.
She took a steadying breath, trying to calm her nerves enough to cover herself. She couldn’t have done a better job of calling attention to herself if she’d tried.
Just how many men were out there? How many men had seen her without so much as a stitch of clothing? She yanked the chemise down but it refused to cooperate. The sopping material bunched at her hips. She grabbed at her gown, her hands shaking with the rage coursing inside her.
That now familiar sound of fist-against-flesh cut through the silence.
An unfamiliar laugh. His laugh. A slight tremor responded through her insides.
“Mort,” the handsome man called to someone.
The indistinct image of a shorter man with a gaping mouth came to mind. “Yes, my lord?”
“I believe this man was about to take a terrible misstep with his fist. Does it seem to you these men have a certain…lack of knowledge?” he asked.
Ivan’s angry face came to mind. She shivered. The handsome man did not know who he was dealing with.
“I would say that it does.” The shorter man was closer now.
“Mayhap some learning is required?”
“Do you believe it’s possible, my lord? Are they trainable?”
“They have a naked woman in a carriage while they fight out here over who will get her.”
She gasped, a soundless intake of air. Like a standard being dropped, the men talked at once. Tears threatened and a few leaked down her cheek. She wiped them away. She was only trying to clean herself not be fought over. Who was he to say such cruel things about her?
The morning had started out so promising. They’d had a nice time breaking their fast with very little interaction at all. Cole’s offer of extra water had come as a surprise but not one she wanted to miss.
Sudden silence. Brighit held her breath.
“And what would your name be?”
“I am called Ivan.”
“And this…young lady?”
This was just getting worse and worse. His words fairly dripped derision.
“Brighit.” She answered for herself albeit through a clenched jaw from within the carriage.
“Ireland? You’ve taken her from Ireland?”
Brighit was surprised at his ability to name where she’d come from. She wished she were still there… any place but here. This was infuriating. She could not go out there now. They may have imagined her naked and their occasional lustful glances assured her that they did. But to have them actually see her was beyond embarrassment. Embarrassment only increased by the fact that at least two of them weren’t even known to her.
“That I have.” Ivan’s smug voice drifted to her.
“Please clothe yourself forthwith.”
He must be facing her now for he sounded very close. A warmth tingled up her spine. No! His voice may be low and quiet but there was nothing intimate about this situation. She struggled with the ties up the front of her dress.
“It’s what I’ve been trying to do.” Her irritation came through in her tone of voice. Good!
“And I wonder why you have not been successful thus far.” He had the nerve to sound irritated? “Just do it… and be quick about it.”
Arrogance oozed from the man!
“Yes, my lord.” She clipped her words, struggling with her wimple, and hoped her sarcasm carried through the curtain.
“I am hurrying!” Her thick hair refused to cooperate but she was not about to go out there with so much as a single strand visible.
The man cleared his throat. Brighit would like to take a knife to it. He may be pleasant to look at but his manners lacked even the slightest courtesy.