That Knight by the Sea – Catherine Kean

“Keep your eyes closed.” Lady Adaline Mortimer giggled. “I am.” Cool sand shifted under her shoes, and the watery ripple of waves sounded close by as she hurried along the seashore, her hand entwined with Garrett Thurlow’s. Excitement rippled through her, spurred by the secret he intended to show her. How she wished she could open her eyes or steal a peek, but she’d promised him she’d keep her eyes shut. Oh, mercy, but never in all her thirteen years had she experienced a day like today— and she loved the sense of rebellion and freedom. She’d known Garrett, who was fourteen and an earl’s son, for only a few weeks, for he’d only recently been taken on as a squire at Ferringstow, her father’s castle. The dark-haired young lord with the charming smile had quickly become a friend to her, though, and then, something more. She’d loved the little treasures he’d given her: a bouquet of wildflowers; a beautiful patterned stone; a knot of wood that resembled a bird. They meant more to her than the costly jewelry she’d received from suitors, some of them thrice her age. Earlier in the town of St. Agnes, when Garrett had whispered the suggestion that they elude her guards so they could be alone, she’d agreed without hesitation. They’d run off when the men-atarms had been preoccupied by a disagreement with the tavern owner, and had fled down to the cold, sunlit ocean bordered by sand and rock cliffs. They’d thrown off their cloaks and had splashed one another until their garments and hair were soaked and, when they’d fallen to their knees in the shallows, laughing and breathless, had shared the most wondrous kisses.

She’d never kissed a man on the lips before she’d met Garrett. Now, she couldn’t imagine living without him, for his kisses brought her such joy. Still, she felt the tender press of his mouth upon hers, the sinful tingling that had rushed through her body and roused delicious sensations she yearned to explore. Garrett squeezed her fingers as she stumbled. “Not far now.” “We must hurry.” Addy shivered in the breeze gusting in from the sea and wished she’d put her cloak back on. “The guards will be searching for us.” Suddenly, she no longer felt the midday sun on her back; she’d entered shadows. Dampness enveloped her, and the air smelled of wet stone.

Garrett must have brought her into one of the many caves along the shore. His fingers slid free of hers. “All right, you can look now.” They were indeed inside a cave, carved by the sea into rock of varying shades of gray and brown. As she glanced to the back, her gaze found a reddish stain on the wall. A chill rippled down her spine, for the crimson-colored mark resembled blood. Garrett moved in behind her and put his arms around her waist then nuzzled the back of her neck. Sparks of awareness skittered over her damp skin, and she leaned back against him, savoring the closeness they didn’t dare show in public at Ferringstow. If her father or mother found out they’d kissed, they would both be punished, for she’d been raised to remain pure in all ways for the man she’d marry. The possibility of punishment was very real, though, since they’d run away from her guards.

She couldn’t bear for Garrett to get into trouble because of her. They really should return to the town…but then his lips brushed her nape. Mother Mary. She could barely think with Garrett kissing her so. “Do you know what cave this is?” “Nay,” she managed to say, while his mouth continued its sweet torture. “’Tis the cave of Kael and Aelwen.” She sucked in a breath, for she well knew the story of the ill-fated lovers. Long ago in Cornwall, a daughter was born to a king and queen—a princess named Aelwen. An oracle claimed Aelwen would grow up to be so beautiful, she’d provoke wars. The king feared such circumstances and entrusted his baby daughter to a young page named Kael, who was to take her far away and raise her.

They lived in the cave of St. Agnes and, as she grew to womanhood, he fell in love with her. When the king came for his daughter, to marry her to the son of a rival, Kael refused to let her go, and the king killed him. Heartbroken, Aelwen escaped her father’s men and took her own life so she could be with Kael forever in death. The red stain was said to be the lovers’ mingled blood. Addy and her best friend, Gwen, had often swooned over the tragic but incredibly romantic tale. Addy slid from Garrett’s embrace to face him. How handsome he was, his shoulder-length, dark-brown hair tangled about his face and a flush defining his strong cheekbones. And his brown eyes…. She could lose herself in the smoldering heat of his gaze.

“How did you know I wanted to visit this cave?” she asked. Grinning, he shrugged. Yet, the resolve in his expression made her heart hammer faster, for if he knew of the cave, he must also know of the lore surrounding the crimson mark. “Do you know the legend of the stain?” he murmured. She nodded, every word committed to memory. “‘If two lovers touch that stain, together, then they will fall madly in love for eternity. However, they must touch of their own free will.’” Her excitement soared. Had he brought her here because he loved her? Was he going to ask her to promise herself to him? She did love him. Oh, she did.

If he asked her to touch the stain, she’d say aye. He must have read her thoughts, for his arms went around her again, drawing her in close for another kiss. With a blissful sigh, she melted against him, and their kisses deepened. Kael and Aelwen surely had loved each other in such a manner: as if they’d shared their very souls…. Suddenly Garrett tensed, and he lifted his lips from hers. Shouts carried in over the keening of gulls outside. She recognized the voice of Ferringstow’s captain-of-the-guard, and her eyes flew wide. “Garrett,” she whispered. He glanced about, no doubt searching for somewhere for them to hide. Her stomach knotted with resentment, for she didn’t want to be found, to be forced back into the stifling role of a wellbehaved, maidenly lady.

If only she could run far, far away with Garrett— He turned, shielding her with his body, as the captain-of-the-guard strode into the cave. As she peeked over Garrett’s shoulder, the man scowled. “Milady.” He glowered at Garrett. “ You are responsible for luring her away? I should have known.” *** Garrett pushed his shoulders back, his hands clenching and unclenching with the effort to control his temper. From the moment he’d arrived at Ferringstow Keep, the captain-of-the-guard had disliked him. Aye, Garrett was headstrong and rebellious; sometimes ’twas damned hard to keep in check the anguish, rage, and restlessness churning inside him that only abated when he was with Addy. Whatever the reason for the man’s hostility, however, it didn’t matter now. Garrett knew he’d not be welcome any longer at the castle, and that meant parting ways with Addy.

God above, but he ached at the thought of never seeing or kissing her again. Her wet gown rustled as she stepped out from behind him. “Leave us,” she said, as if she were a king’s daughter. “I cannot, milady. Your sire ordered me to stay with you at all times.” The captain-of-the-guard’s gaze, full of accusation, returned to Garrett. Garrett refused to look away. He might have been reckless this day, but he wasn’t a coward. Nor had he put Addy in danger. He’d never have allowed her to be harmed.

“What happened is my fault. I asked Garrett to bring me to this cave,” Addy said. His eyes burned, for he didn’t ever want to let her go; he also couldn’t let her take all the blame. “With respect, Addy—” “Milady to you, squire,” the captain-of-the-guard snapped. “Lady Mortimer, you can explain all to your father.” The man motioned for her to leave the cave and join the other waiting men-atarms, one of whom carried her cloak. She reached back for Garrett’s hand. “He stays.” “Nay, Garrett is coming—” “I will speak with him first.” If the conversation went as Garrett expected, he’d never be allowed near Addy again.

He caught her hand, pressed it, and committed the softness of her skin to memory before letting her go. Worry in her eyes, she turned and left the cavern. The captain-of-the guard waited several long moments after she’d been escorted from view. “You bloody, selfish fool,” he said. “How dare you try to ruin her maidenly reputation?” “’Twas never my intention—” “I vow ’twas exactly your intention. Marry a wealthy, respected lord’s daughter, and the scandal concerning your parents might finally go away.” Pain lanced through Garrett’s chest. His lady mother abandoning him and his sire had been the worst kind of hell—one perpetuated by the merciless gossip that had swiftly spread through the noble courts. Yet, he hadn’t once been dishonorable in his relationship with Addy. “I swear to God, I did not—” “I care not.

” The man glowered. “You will go straight to the keep, pack your belongings, and leave.” Where was he going to go? Garrett couldn’t return home, not after the bitter argument he’d had with his sire. He had very few coins left. Panic clawed up inside him. “I would like to speak with his lordship.” The captain-of-the guard shook his head. Garrett swallowed hard. “You cannot—” “I can. I will.

Now, go.”


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