For Week #6 of Medieval Monday, I’m featuring Barbara Bettis’ The Heart of the Phoenix. It’s a real treat because it follows two characters first introduced in Silverhawk!
Some call him a ruthless mercenary; she calls him the knight of her heart. Memories Lady Evelynn’s childhood hero is home—bitter, hard, tempting as sin. And haunted by secrets. A now-grown Evie offers friendship, but Sir Stephen’s cruel rejection crushes her, and she resolves to forget him. Yet when an unexpected war throws them together, she finds love isn’t so easy to dismiss. If only the king hadn’t betrothed her to another.
Can be cruel Sir Stephen lives a double life while he seeks the treacherous outlaws who murdered his friends. Driven by revenge, he thinks his heart is closed to love. His childhood shadow, Lady Evie, unexpectedly challenges that belief. He rebuffs her, but he can’t forget her, although he knows she’s to wed the king’s favorite.
And deadly When his drive for vengeance leads to Evie’s kidnapping, Stephen must choose between retribution and the love he’s denied too long. Surely King John will see reason. Convict the murderers; convince the king. Simple. Until a startling revelation threatens everything.
At first, Evie thought it was the thud of her headache. Then the pounding came again, louder. She groaned and turned over. Opening her eyes told nothing; the blackness in the cabin was impenetrable.
“Marie?” Her voice rasped in a dry throat. Blasted tears.
No one answered. The girl must still be on deck. Evie might as well have left Marie behind, for all the assistance the maid provided. With a groan, she swung her feet over the side of the bunk and felt her way along the wall toward the sound of another insistent knock.
“A moment,” she called. “I’m coming.” Who had the nerve to wake her in what must be the middle of the night? Hah. Need she even wonder? Her toe collided with something, and she yelped as she landed on her knees on the wood plank floor. Just what she needed. A broken foot.
The door burst open, bringing with it a dim light. “What’s wrong?” Stephen’s deep voice filled the room. “Where’s the damned lantern?”
“If I knew, I would have lighted it.” Blasted man. Did he think she enjoyed stumbling around in the dark? He acted as if she did so just to plague him.
Holding a shielded ship’s lantern high, he stepped toward the desk. “Here it is. Where’s that lightskirt who’s supposed to be your companion?”
“Leave Marie alone. I wanted privacy and gave her permission go above.” Never mind that Evie had just complained about the same thing. He had no right to do so.
“What do you want?” she asked. “Is something wrong?”
“A little late to ask that, isn’t it?” He bent to coax the cabin lantern to flame.
“Oh, for the love of heaven. Stop plaguing me. Why are you here?”
“I thought you’d like to know the identity of our fellow passenger.”
“At this hour? Could you not have waited until morning?” Sweet Mary, preserve her patience. He was the most maddening man alive.
Light flared in the cabin’s shuttered lantern, throwing a shadow across his face, reminding Evie of another reason he should not be here. Her body instantly throbbed to life.
She pressed her palms against her stomach and inhaled. Calm. She needed calm. He was not the most beautiful man she’d ever beheld. He did not possess the power to heat her blood to boiling.
He did not care that she thought of him night and day.
That much was true, for certain.
“I have news that will make the rest of your trip joyful.”
His words centered her whirling mind, and Evie eyed him warily. What news could possible make her happy right now?
She ventured a guess. “You are leaving? Your second in command, the delightful Sir Macsen, will accompany me the rest of the way home?”
Evie could tell Stephen was angry now by the way he glowered and roared in that whispery sort of way no one else could hear, but left her with no doubt of his displeasure.
“Your betrothed.” He bent and scooped her off the floor.
“What? What about him?”
“That’s the identity of the illustrious lord who’s sharing passage with us.”
“You’re drunk. And put me down. I’m perfectly capable of getting up on my own.”
“Be quiet. You have blood on your leg.”
“Of course I do. I tripped and fell trying to answer your pounding when you could easily have opened—” His words finally penetrated her throbbing head. “I’m bleeding?”
Oh, blast. The contents of her—empty—stomach churned. She attended the villagers’ hurts, bound the cuts and scrapes of servants and their children. The sight of their blood bothered her not a whit. But her own? Black spots danced at the corners of her vision, becoming larger and larger until she heard Stephen’s voice.
“Evie, Evie. What the hell?”
His voice echoed so far away. If she didn’t know better, she’d vow he sounded alarmed. Perhaps she’d close her eyes for a moment. As the ringing in her ears crescendoed, she recalled his words. Betrothed.
Her betrothed was on board?
Dear Lord, just let me die.
You can purchase The Heart of the Phoenix at: http://www.amazon.com/Heart-Phoenix-Brotherhood-Book-ebook/dp/B00N26QSUA/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=8-1&qid=1421960778