Reign of de Winter – Kathryn Le Veque

THE EVENİNG WAS still and hushed, the hour late. The sounds of the gentle waters of the Thames drifted over the moonlit houses, roofs, and avenues like the caressing soothe of a lullaby. Hardly a soul stirred on the dirty, dangerous streets. Even the Tower of London was bathed in nocturnal peace, a bastion normally wrought with violence and tension. But the tranquility belied the chaotic heart beating within the fortress, with friction pulsing through halls like the veins of a living body. It was a foregone conclusion that a variety of factions resided within the old stone walls of the Tower, and these days were particularly strained. There were those allied with the king, and there were those against. The ancient fortress had seen its share of political strife and the future could only threaten more of the same. Though the evening was peaceful and the mood still, there was an underlying element of pandemonium that threatened to explode. Each man and woman at the Tower lived moment by moment in anticipation of this. It was an exhausting existence. But not all allowed themselves to be sucked into the tension that surrounded them. In the tower wing on the eastern wall, two brothers shared a fire and a carafe of blood-red wine from Sicily. These men were key components to the political strife enveloping the Tower, and one man in particular. He was the one with the heavy yellowed vellum in hand, his jaw ticking with disbelief as his eyes perused the writing.

“I do not believe it,” he growled. “Believe what?” asked the other. The man continued to stare at the missive until finally settling it in his lap. There was a long sigh. “Mother.” “What has she done now?” Davyss de Winter handed his brother the message. Hugh took the vellum, reading the contents hesitantly as if fearful of what it might say. When he came to the end, he closed his eyes in acquiescence. The vellum collapsed in his lap. “God give us strength,” he muttered.

The deep brown eyes opened to look back at his brother. “She has been threatening you with this for months. I did not believe her to be serious.” Davyss gazed steadily at his younger brother, a knowing smile playing on his smooth lips. “You should know her better than that, little brother. The Lady Katharine Isabella Rowyna de Warenne de Winter never threatens. Her oath is more trustworthy than that of any knight I know.” He took back the vellum, eyeing it with something of regret. “I just thought it would be later rather than sooner.” “What are you going to do?” Davyss glanced at the missive one last time before setting it aside.

It had been a harried day and this had been the first chance he’d had to sit in one place and unwind. Yet in his position, relaxation could be deadly. He didn’t think he’d truly relaxed in fifteen years. “I am not entirely sure that I have a choice in the matter. Should I refuse, she will deny me my inheritance. She has told me thus.” “So you will do it?” Davyss fell silent. His thoughts revolved around his overbearing mother, ill with age and bitter with life, and the inheritance that was his due. Nearly everything the de Winter family had come from his mother’s side, including the castle in which she currently resided. As the only sister of the Earl of Surrey, she had been granted Breckland Castle in Norfolk by her brother.

It was a glorious stronghold, well-regarded and well-fortified near the dense Thetford Forest. The de Warenne fortune came with it from his mother’s sire. Davyss had worked too hard in the course of his thirty-four years to watch it all slip away to Hugh because he was too stubborn to do as his mother bade. It wasn’t often that she dictated to him, but when she did, she meant it. He understood her want for her heir to marry and bear offspring to carry on the name. It wasn’t unreasonable. He just wished he had some say in the matter. He heard his brother snort. He glanced at him. “What is it?” Hugh’s handsome face was contorted in a smirk.

“I suppose I find all of this ironic.” “How?” Hugh snorted again, just for effect, and rose from his over-stuffed leather chair. He moved to the hearth and tossed another hunk of peat onto the blaze. Sparks flew up into the dim room. “Because you are Henry’s champion, for Christ’s sake,” he poked at the smoking fire. “The king of the mightiest country on earth turns to you for protection. Men are humbled at your feet and your reputation is second to none. A weak man did not achieve this. You have the will of the nation to command by sheer strength alone, yet your mother issues forth orders and suddenly, the champion is subdued like a submissive child.” The irony wasn’t lost on Davyss.

Hugh wasn’t attempting to be condescending but that was the message. “I cannot be selfish in this matter,” he said simply. “I have the de Winter lineage to think of. I do indeed want sons to carry on my name” “So you let dear Mummy arrange a marriage?” Hugh was becoming taunting now. A long look from the quick-tempered Davyss quickly curbed any thoughts of furthering the torment. Under no circumstances would Hugh tangle with his older, and by far larger, brother. “According to Mother, she is a woman of good bloodlines. Her father is Lord Mayor of Thetford and Sheriff of the Shire.” He sounded suspiciously as if he was attempting to talk himself into the agreeable arrangement. “So I will marry her, she will bear my sons, I will stay in London and still collect my inheritance, and everyone will be happy.

I see no issue with this.” Hugh didn’t believe him, but he did not let on. When pushed to the breaking point, Davyss’ temper was unpredictable and, at times, deadly. He had no desire to be cuffed. He sat back in his chair. “So what is my new sister’s name?” Davyss stared into the fire, digging deep into his memory. His mother had told him, once, during the few discussions they had exchanged on the subject. “The Lady Devereux Allington.” “Family?” “Saxon lords. A grand sire, several generations over, was king of the ancient Kingdom of Dremrud.

She comes with some wealth.” “What does she look like?” Davyss lifted a dark eyebrow. “You can tell me that upon your return.” “Return from what?” “My wedding.” CHAPTER TWO Thetford, Norfolk THE ONLY MAN not in attendance at the wedding was the groom. Unwilling to leave London with the current political situation between Henry and the volatile Simon de Montfort, he remained at his post. Moreover, his absence was a statement to his mother that he could not be so easily pushed about. So he sent his knights, all five of them, to attend the marriage for him. Most importantly, he had sent his sword with Hugh. The lady would marry the weapon, by proxy, and become Lady de Winter.

Davyss would therefore have a wife he’d never even met, a very neat arrangement for someone who did not wish to be married at all. If the groom was reluctant, the bride was positively adverse. Hugh had been the first man to lay eyes on her, a petite woman with the body of a ripe goddess and luscious blonde hair that fell in a thick sheet to her buttocks. He had been momentarily dumbfounded by the glory of her face, so lovely that he was sure the angels were jealous. She had enormous gray eyes that were brilliant and bottomless, and a rosebud mouth that was sweet and delectable. But his glimpse of unearthly beauty had been fleeting as she slammed the door in his face. That action set the tone. The de Winter knights had, therefore, broken down the door and set chase to the fighting, scratching animal otherwise known as the Lady Devereux D’arcy Allington. Hugh led the group with enthusiasm. One of the shortest knights, he was built like a bull.

His dark hair, dark eyes and square jaw gave him a youthfully beautiful appearance and he was no stranger to women’s attention. Usually, he could soothe any manner of female fits. Much to his chagrin, however, his brother’s betrothed had not fallen under his spell. As she fought him like a banshee, his enthusiasm waned and he backed off to let the rest of the group have a go at her. He was embarrassed she had not swooned at his feet but would not admit to it, not even to himself. Sir Nikolas de Nogaret was the next in line to deal with the hysterical lady. A tall man with blue eyes and wide shoulders, he ended up with a black eye when the lady swung a broken chair leg at him. Sir Philip de Rou took over when Nik acquired the hit to his face; a slender, blonde man with a decidedly suave manner, Philip was as over-confident in his persuasive abilities as Hugh had been. The lady opened a door into his nose when he had chased her into a wardrobe and, in that gesture, damaged his fragile ego as well as his face. With two knights down, the final pair took over.

Sir Andrew Catesby and his younger brother, Sir Edmund Catesby, were ten years apart in age. Andrew and Davyss had fostered together and were the closest of friends. Cool, calm, and exceedingly collected, Andrew stepped over Philip’s prostrate form on his way to corral the lady and was met by a flying taper. Her aim had been true and almost put his eye out. Edmund, young and newly knighted, tucked in behind his older brother and used him as a shield. When the brothers finally cornered her in her father’s chamber, it had been Edmund who had taken the glory of finally subduing her. Victory was attained for the moment but there was more bedlam to come. Carting her, bound and gagged, to Breckland Priory had been no easy feat. Though small, she was oddly strong. The men didn’t want to injure her but the woman struggled like a wildcat.

They were frankly astonished at the resistance they met and tried not to look like vicious brutes as they carried her through the town. She screamed and fought as if they were taking her to be hanged. The entire berg turned out to watch and their procession transformed into a bizarre parade, with knights on foot carrying a reluctant captive. Fortunately, they made it to the priory without anyone losing fingers. The lady’s father, a short man with silver hair and gray eyes, followed them from the cottage and lingered near the door of the chapel as they lugged his daughter inside. He had readily agreed to the union between his only child and Davyss de Winter due to the prestigious connections with the House of de Winter, but now he wasn’t so sure his decision had been a wise one. The knights were enormous men, built and bred for battle, and his stubborn daughter was caught in the middle of the storm. She was, in fact, the tempest. He said a prayer for her health as she was half-dragged, half-carried, to the altar. The interior of the old priory was spartanly furnished and dimly lit, with long thin tapers trailing ribbons of smoke into the musty air.

Massive columns supported the ceiling, flanking the central area for the congregation. A few priests lingered in the shadows, hiding behind the supporting pillars and watching the drama unfold. But their fears were for naught, for not one of them would be forced to execute the wedding Mass. Davyss’ personal priest, a man named Lollardly, stood waiting to perform the ceremony. Lollardly had seen battles, and participated in them, for nearly twenty years and had earned a reputation for himself as a fighting friar. But the brawl happening before him was something not even he had ever witnessed and he was, truthfully, astonished. “Here, here, do not injure the lady,” he commanded the knights. “Untie her, you animals. Have you no respect?” Andrew and Edmund had Devereux between them. Ever the gentleman, and with a healthy respect for the clergy, Andrew gently righted her on her feet.

Once balanced, she tried to run. Andrew grabbed her before she could get away and wrapped his big arms around her torso, holding her fast. Devereux cursed him through the gag. Lollardly lifted a disapproving eyebrow, took a step forward, and pulled the sodden wad from her mouth. “My lady,” he said sternly. “I would suggest you calm yourself and fulfill your duty. Your behavior is harming none but yourself and you are creating an embarrassing spectacle.” Devereux licked her chapped lips, a gesture not missed by Hugh and Philip in particular. They were rather intrigued by the pink rosebud mouth, especially when it wasn’t gnashing at them. “You should be protecting me,” she hissed at the friar.

“How dare you ally yourself with these devils.” “Devils or no, they represent your husband and you will obey.” “He is not my husband yet.” Lollardly had little patience for the inane. Beautiful or no, the lady was ridiculous as far as he was concerned and he would waste no more time. He glanced at Andrew behind her. “Let us kneel.” The knights dropped to a knee and Hugh produced the blade of his forefathers; Lespada, the sword of high warriors. It was a magnificent weapon that had seen many generations of de Winter men, now carried by Davyss. Andrew tried to force Devereux down but she stiffened like a board.

Not wanting to create more of a scene, and slightly perturbed that he was not in complete control, Andrew tried a few methods to force her to kneel. The last resort was to throw his knee into the back of her right knee. The joint buckled enough to allow him to shove her down to the cold stone floor. He knew she must have cut her skin with the force of her fall but she did not utter a word of pain. “Curse you,” she hissed. “Curse all of you. I hope you burn in hell for this. I hope you rot. I hope you…!” Andrew slapped a hand over her mouth, smiling thinly at the friar. “Proceed.

” Lollardly lifted an eyebrow and began the liturgy. It really was a pity, he thought. Lady Devereux was a stunning example of the glory of womanhood. She also had the manners of a wild boar. Davyss would not be pleased. The friar droned on in Latin. The lady’s bright gray eyes blazed with fury, Andrew’s hand still over her mouth. Somewhere in her glare, Lollardly could see the tears of fright, of sadness. Strangely, he saw no outright defiance, only self-protection. At least, he hoped that was what he saw.

Given the opportunity, they could ease her fears to soothe her manner. But they could not curb blatant insubordination. “Quod Jesus refero said unto lemma, liberi illae universitas matrimonium, quod es donatus in matrimonium,” Lollardly intoned the liturgy, reading from the dog-eared mass book he had copied himself many years ago. Gently closing the book, he formed the sign of the cross over the lady’s head. “Bona exsisto vobis.” It was the union blessing. Devereux understood Latin and her loudly-thumping heart beat faster still. Andrew removed his big hand and Hugh placed the hilt of the sword in front of her lips. “I will not kiss it,” she said through clenched teeth. Hugh tried to put the metal against her mouth in an effort to force her, but she would have no part in it.

She bit her lips and lowered her head. Andrew, though it was not a gentlemanly gesture, grabbed the back of her blonde head and pulled her skull back. With a violent twist, she threw them both off balance and they tumbled to the ground. “No!” she screeched. The lady ended up on her back, with Hugh on top of her. The sword was in his hand. His weight, coupled with Andrew against her legs, rendered her immobile and Hugh found himself gazing into bright gray eyes. The lady knew she was cornered. The knights had her and there was nothing more she could do, nowhere for her to go. She could feel herself breaking down, the fight in her veins leaving her.

Still, she could not let go so easily. “Please,” she whispered in a strained tone. “Please do not force me to do this.” They were the first civilized words she had spoken. Her voice was like liquid sugar, soft and sweet and low. She was such a lovely creature that Hugh found himself listening to her. But he chased away his misgivings before they could control him. “This is not my doing, my lady,” he said neutrally. “Kiss the sword and we shall be done with it. Then I am to take you to London to meet your husband.

” The lady shook her head. “But… but you do not understand. I will not. I cannot.” “Why?” She wouldn’t answer him and he was suddenly seized with anger. The fingers of his left hand bit into her upper arm. “Are you compromised?” She gasped in shock at the suggestion. “No, my lord, I swear it,” she insisted. “But… I will not marry de Winter.” Hugh gazed at her, baffled by her words, thinking it was surely another ploy.

She was trying all avenues to resist this marriage. Before he could reply, however, a voice filled the stale air of the priory. “Hugh!” Lady Katharine de Winter strolled into the hall, leaning heavily on her cane. Behind her came a procession of properly submissive ladies-in-waiting with their severe wimples and pale faces. “Get off of that woman, you beast,” she told her son. “What are you doing to her?” Hugh pushed himself off of Devereux, making sure that Andrew had a grip on her. His dark brown eyes warmed to his mother as he approached her. “Darling,” he kissed her on both cheeks. “How good to see you. You are as lovely as ever.

” She let her youngest flatter her. “I can see that you waited for me.” She cast a long glance in the direction of the lady, picking herself off the floor with Andrew’s assistance. “What is she doing on the ground?” Hugh took his mother’s elbow and they began to walk towards the altar. “Nothing to worry over, Mother.” “Hmmm,” Lady Katharine carefully inspected the disheveled woman from a short distance. “That is not what I think. I think someone has worked this young woman over.” She paused before the knights, her sharp brown eyes scrutinizing every one of them. “Can anyone tell me what has truly happened here?” Andrew had known Lady Katharine since childhood.

His soft blue eyes twinkled at her. “The lady is reluctant to marry, my lady,” he said. “We are simply helping her fulfill the pledge.”


PDF | Download

Thank you!

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments © 2018 | Descargar Libros Gratis | Kitap İndir |
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x