Bedded By The Warrior. Denise Lynn

Bedded By The Warrior - Denise Lynn

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In those years, no one had once raised a hand in anger towards her.

      She didn’t know the man standing next to her. She’d met him less than a few hours past. And now, in a matter of mere moments, he would be her husband. He would own her as surely as he owned the clothing upon his back.

      Her throat tightened, as another tremor of fear shook her. Bronwyn squeezed her hand. Had he sensed, or felt, her traitorous shivers? Sarah forced the building terror aside.

      The ceremony passed in a blur. She paused when the clergy asked if she willingly took this man as husband. Only the memory of the Queen’s thinly veiled threat of a cell, or worse, prompted her to answer, ‘Aye.’

      Finally, it was over and she stared up at the man beside her. The man who had just become her husband. Light from the torches ensconced into the wall flickered across his face. Flecks of gold glittered menacingly against his brown eyes.

      His hand engulfed hers and she willed herself to remain still. It was one thing for him to know she hadn’t wed him willingly. But letting him sense her fear would give him too much power. She knew well the danger that lay in appearing weak.

      The women gathered in the Queen’s private chapel to witness the Church’s blessing twittered. Their hushed voices, and half-giggles, seemed to echo in the well of silence that had fallen over the holy room at the conclusion of the blessing.

      Sarah flinched under the spitefulness of their tongues. This was one thing she would not miss. These women knew her not, yet they’d formed an opinion of her based on things they had heard, and thought they had seen. Apart from Adrienna, not one had taken the time to seek out the truth.

      Most of them had come to Eleanor’s court for the same reason as she—to find a husband. The only difference was the land and gold they would bring into a marriage.

      The father cleared his throat, discreetly reminding them that the blessing was over. They had but to kiss, and then depart from the chapel.

      ‘I am sorry,’ William apologised, leaving Sarah to wonder if it’d been directed towards her, or the churchman.

      All she knew for certain was that he was suddenly leaning closer, looming over her before he brushed his lips against hers.

      The chapel again buzzed with whispers and smothered laughter. Sarah knew the women made fun of her, and the man who now owned her. But she refused to cower under their snickers. She wanted to prove their assumptions wrong.

      In deference to the Church, she tempered her response, but she still placed her hand against William’s chest, rose up on her toes and returned his kiss.

      His lips were warm, and surprisingly gentle. Unlike other kisses she’d encountered, he did not seek to devour her mouth. William barely moved his mouth against hers, and a flash of liquid heat trailed down her spine.

      What had been offered as nothing more than a chaste touch of their lips to seal their vows turned to an unspoken promise of shared desire to come.

      The snide whispers faded away as she realised that the notion of shared desire did not overly frighten her. Nor did it repulse her.

      Confused, Sarah pulled away slowly. To hide her uncertainty, she graced him with a dazzling smile before turning towards the women. One by one they looked away, giving her an odd sense of satisfaction. For the first time, she’d not been the one to avert her face in shame.

      Chapter Two

      ‘Sarah.’ William’s deep voice floated across her ear. ‘It is time to leave.’

      As she turned with him toward the double doors, he grasped her hand, asking, ‘Is there any you wish to bid farewell?’

      A curt response at the tip of her tongue, she stared up at him. But the twitch at the corner of his lips, and an amused glint in his eyes, stopped her from speaking. He was teasing her. Had he heard the women’s whispers and laughter? Had he somehow understood how much the venom behind their spiteful mocking hurt her?

      She leaned forwards, intentionally craning her neck to look around him at the women, and answered, ‘No. I think not.’

      William paused to slip his arm across her tense shoulders and pull her closer before turning his focus towards the surprised women. ‘I fault you not for having sense enough to recognise those unworthy of your time or attention.’

      He’d raised his voice enough to be heard, and darkened his tone enough to be understood. Sarah couldn’t be certain of what astonished, or befuddled, her more—his open defence of her, or the looks of shock and shame written on the women’s faces.

      After once again starting towards the doors, William looked down at her, and she had the sudden sensation of drowning in his golden-flecked soft brown eyes. Her breath caught in her throat, making it difficult to swallow.

      Worse was the way her heart raced, and her chest swelled with an emotion she feared to name.

      She didn’t know this man, didn’t trust him. She didn’t want to be his wife. She couldn’t possibly feel anything for him. Nothing at all.

      When they left the chapel, Sarah eased out from beneath his arm. She needed to keep her distance from him. And needed to remind herself that he was nothing more than a way to complete this last task for the Queen.

      William couldn’t help but notice his wife’s sudden withdrawal once they were away from the women’s sight. He’d wondered why she had responded so ardently to his kiss, and now he knew it had been for the women’s benefit—not his.

      Why did that knowledge cause a twinge of regret? It wasn’t as if the act of exchanging vows had changed anything between them. Except that one taste of her lips served to make him want more.

      ‘Sarah, wait.’ He laced his fingers through hers. William knew better than to let her get away from him, since he had the feeling she would once again bolt at the first opportunity.

      After Queen Eleanor agreed to his demand, Sarah had run away from him. He couldn’t be certain, but he suspected she’d run after Eleanor to convince the Queen to change her mind. Obviously her attempt had been unsuccessful.

      Sarah tried to free her hand, but before she could say anything, a woman William recognised as another of the Queen’s ladies approached.

      ‘Lady Sarah, this is from the Queen.’ The woman gave Sarah a small pouch.

      His wife opened the jewel-adorned bag to glance inside. Her eyes widened before she reached into the pouch to retrieve what appeared to be enough gold to see them well on their way.

      When Sarah tried to hand the pouch back, the woman shook her head and refused to take bag. ‘No, it is yours. Queen Eleanor wishes you a safe journey.’ She glanced shyly from William to Sarah. ‘As do I and I wish you well.’

      His wife’s expressive eyes widened for less than a heartbeat, but she smiled and said, ‘Thank you.’ Sarah paused, as if uncertain, and then added, ‘I wish you well also, Lady Elise. May your stay here be enjoyable and brief.’

      Elise laughed. As she turned to leave, she advised, ‘Daylight will arrive within the hour. You need to be on your way quickly.’

      William nodded his acknowledgement of the warning and started for the chamber he shared with the Earl. But Sarah tugged his arm in the other direction. ‘This way is quicker.’

      She knew the castle far better, and since her freedom was also at stake, he would trust her judgement in this. ‘Lead on.’

      Sarah took them quickly down a semi-lit corridor, which ended at a landing that ran the length of the Great Hall.

      William glanced over the railing into the nearly deserted hall below. His breath caught in his throat.

      Richard of Langsford and Stefan of Arnyll were deep in conversation as they approached the stairs leading up to the landing.

      Without thought, William grabbed Sarah. He ignored

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