Medieval Monday is back, with a new twist. This time around we post excerpts that fulfill a different requirement each week. This week we must post a scene with an animal. So my excerpt will be from Betrayal, Book 2 of my medieval series Time Enough to Love.
“I would have you ride with me at least part of the way, my lady, if you have a mind to. We may then avail ourselves of the excellent weather and I of your charming company. The carriage will be there if you tire.”
Her spirits rose at his words. “Oh, Thomas, I would very much like to ride with you. ’Twould be such fun.” She all but danced on her toes in eagerness. “I have had little chance to ride these many months and have sorely missed it.” She sent him a heartfelt smile. “Thank you!” Impetuously, she reached up to press a quick kiss to his cheek.
“You are most welcome, my dear.” He returned the smile, though his eyes held a peculiar gleam. “So, will this gown serve for riding?”
“Aye, it will.” She hastily made her ablutions, humming under her breath with excitement. The promise of a ride had brightened her day considerably.
When she was ready, he offered his arm and led her down to the courtyard just as the sun rose. Thomas stopped at a well-proportioned chestnut mare with a white blaze down her nose and two white stockings.
Alyse’s mouth dropped open, and she dashed toward her waiting mount to run a soft hand down the noble nose and pat the sleek, proud neck. “She is beautiful, Thomas!”
“She is yours.” She gasped and clamped her hand to her mouth to contain a squeal of joy. “A wedding present to you from His Majesty, the king.”
“From the king!” She stood stock still, the significance of the gift washing through her, and her elation cooled.
He was trying to make amends for the true husband he had taken from her.
She shook her head. Such unkind thoughts about the king were dangerous. And whatever had gone before, Thomas was now her husband in truth.
Alyse closed her eyes and choked back a sob. She had tried so diligently not to think of Geoffrey these past weeks. The saving grace of the wedding and last night had been the confusion created by the ceremony, the feast, and the bedding. After Thomas had disrobed, the sight of him—and the feel of his body on hers—had banished all other thoughts.
Only when he had suggested she pretend he was Geoffrey did those memories break through. She had cursed him then for bringing back her heartache, though he had not meant to hurt her. He had merely wanted her to be able to play her part in the false consummation. And it had worked, although not as he had perhaps expected. Everything about Thomas—his touch, his scent, the feel of his body on hers—had differed from her experience with Geoffrey. That difference had allowed her to push the memories aside once more and fix her attention on the counterfeit.
And she had to be grateful for his unquestioning acceptance of her decision not to lie with him. It had been a harder decision to make than she had expected; her long hesitation before giving him her answer attested to that. Lady Carlyle’s presence, of course, had been a factor. Jealousy had burned strong in both of them last night. But Thomas was her husband, and even though she was not in love with him, she did not want him to stray. Mayhap she should have said aye to his question. Should have put Geoffrey behind her and started a new life. But she could not make herself say the word. Jealous or not, she needed more time before she could agree to that final betrayal of her love.
“Alyse?” Thomas had finished checking the girths and now stood before her. “What is wrong, sweet?”
The genuine concern in his voice smote her conscience. Without a word, she threw her arms around his waist. He was a good man. The circumstances were not his fault, any more than they were hers or Geoffrey’s.
“Oh, a sudden sadness at the changes afoot, ’tis all.” She released him and dashed the tears from her eyes.
“They are many, ’tis true. And here is another, cheerier one for you to consider.” He hoisted Alyse up onto the horse and settled her comfortably astride. “Will you name your mount? She had some outlandish long name. The stable lad told me, but I have forgotten.” Thomas swung up onto his charger, Falcon.
“I can name her?” She forgot her tears as the new task engaged her. “I must think on it then. I will find the perfect name for the perfect horse.” She smiled at him as she patted the warm brown neck before her.
The morning had regained some of its splendor. A good omen for the beginning of their journey.
Hope you enjoyed this excerpt! See you next week!