Welcome back to my year long 10th Anniversary celebration!
This week I’m revealing my new cover for Betrayal, the second book of the Time Enough to Love series.
Another gorgeous creation from Danielle Fine!
Don’t forget to comment on this post for a chance to win a copy of Betrayal and a $5.00 Starbucks gift card!
Here’s the blurb for Betrayal and an excerpt:
The worst betrayals come from within.
After a night of passion with her betrothed, Sir Geoffrey Longford, Lady Alyse de Courcy is eagerly looking forward to her wedding. But when Geoffrey is forced to marry another, a heartbroken and possibly pregnant Alyse finds herself in her own private hell. She must either gamble with her reputation or marry someone she does not love.
A reputed connoisseur of women, Thomas, Lord Braeton, has dallied with many ladies of King Edward’s court, although he has favored none. However, as Geoffrey’s best friend, Thomas has sworn to serve and protect Alyse, an oath now sorely tested when he agrees to marry her—in name only—to guard her reputation. Yet, as they grow closer, and Thomas discovers Alyse’s sweet but spirited nature, he comes to desire a marriage in truth. Can he overcome her memory of Geoffrey or is Thomas doomed to burn with passion for a woman he can never possess?
“Alyse, if you consent, I would be honored to have you for my wife.”
Outrage struck like a lightning bolt to the heart. Her body tensed, blood drained from her face, and she started to her feet.
He held onto her hand and went down on his knee. “My lady…”
She stared at the handsome face, furious, wondering just how far into hell she had to go before reaching its icy core.
“Thomas!” She tried to wrest her hand from his, but he would not loose her fingers. Rather than struggle, which she did not have the strength to do, she curled her lip with cold disdain. “I had thought your attentions these many days were out of respect for your friend and the love you bear him. I see now ’twas for your own benefit alone.”
“Nay, my lady.” Thomas rose to his feet but did not relinquish her hand. His voice matched hers, cool and removed. “Not solely for my benefit. Indeed, not for my benefit at all.” Those words jolted her, and she stilled. He took advantage and pressed her down onto the bench again. “Are you with child?”
His question so stunned her that for some minutes she sat completely speechless. How had this not occurred to her in the past weeks? She had not even considered the possibility, but now the thought screamed at her, focusing all her attention on her body. Instinctively, her hand stole over her belly, and her cheeks stung with heat.
She stared at him, her mind in a whirl, and slowly shook her head. “Nay, Thomas. I know not. I have not had…my courses since…since that night, but I am not yet overdue. ’Twill be some time before I can hope to know.”
He sighed and some of the tension left his face. “That is good. Then there is hope yet that nothing untoward has come from that night.”
“Why do you ask this? How does it matter to you?”
He pursed his lips as if impatient with her. “’Tis one reason I asked you to marry me,” he said, his voice emotionless. “If there is a child and we marry now, ’twill be easier thought to be mine.”
“Why would you want that?” Indeed, no man she knew would want to claim another’s child as their own.
He paused, as if unsure how to answer. “When I pledged myself to your service, ’twas in absolute earnest. I mean to protect you in all ways possible, including safeguarding your reputation with the court. If you are with child and unmarried, you will be dismissed from Princess Joanna’s service in disgrace. I would not stand by and see that happen while I have means to prevent it.”
“But, Thomas, I do not wish to…marry.” Alyse closed her eyes and swallowed hard. The thought of being joined to another man—even Thomas—horrified her.
“And yet you must.”
She opened her eyes to find him staring steadily at her.
“If there is no child then perhaps haste is not necessary. You could, if you prefer, marry in Spain. But remember, madam, you are due to sail in a fortnight.” His gaze became stern. “If your courses do not appear, you will have scarce a week to wed, and the haste of your actions will call attention to you. If the marriage can be accomplished now, ’twill look more seemly.”
Alyse stared at the rose she still held, not seeing it as she fought to take in Thomas’s words. She had thought never to marry. How could she when she belonged heart and soul to Geoffrey Longford?
Relentless, Thomas drove his point home. “Whether or not there is a child, your father will betroth you to someone else at his earliest convenience. My guess is he will take it as an affront that the king put aside your betrothal, so he will not be overly solicitous when allying you to another man. You will be given to either the first or highest bidder in as quick a manner as possible. He may be a man you do not know. He may be a foreigner in Spain.” Thomas paused and sought her eyes. “He may be Guy de Valere.”
“What?” That name sent a chill down her spine.
“He has already begged an audience with the king, who still acts in loco parentis. Until your father revokes the guardianship, King Edward can act in his stead. Valere intends to put forth his suit at once.”
Alyse closed her eyes, trying to shut out the thought of Guy as her husband. Knowing him as she did made that possibility less bearable somehow.
“If he succeeds, you will scarcely be better off. He did not strike me as a man who will understand your anguish or take your feelings into consideration. He will simply be a man marrying a woman for two reasons: to receive a rich dowry and to get heirs on her.” He hesitated a moment. “And I doubt he will be pleased that you do not come to his bed an untouched maid.”
Alyse winced. Thomas spoke true. A low moan escaped her. Guy would not be an understanding husband. He would not care about her explanation, only that he was not the first. And the thought of lying in bed beneath anyone not Geoffrey so reviled her that images of death by her own hand danced across her mind. She would not submit to another man, by God.
She turned a shrewd eye on him. “And if I married you, Thomas, would you not demand my obedience in your bed? Do you not also need heirs?”
He smiled broadly, as though scenting victory. “Aye, I do need an heir for my estates. But I can be a patient man.” His voice lowered, sweet and enticing, even as his eyes promised compassion. “I have the advantage, Alyse, of knowing you and knowing your regard for Geoffrey. I understand ’tis not something to be overcome in a few days or even a few weeks. If you marry me, I swear my oath I will not force you to my bed. We are young. There is time.”
“I do not know that I can ever submit to you.” The idea sent a shiver of dread through her.
He reached out to stroke her cheek with one long, sensitive finger. “Time heals many things, my dear. Perhaps enough time will allow an affection to grow between us before the heir must be produced. I am willing give you that time, where others would not.”
She wavered. What he proposed hung temptingly before her, the best outcome of a wretched bargain, but her conscience tugged at her, unrelenting. “I would feel as though I betrayed him.” Her heart ached at the word. “I can never call Geoffrey husband. To call you so would be sacrilege.” Tears oozed down her cheeks once more.
Thomas waited as she attempted to stem the tide, but her grief would not abate. She could not betray Geoffrey. The black claws of such a thought had sunk into her and would give her no respite.
“My lady.” He finally spoke, his tone tender, yet firm. “As much as it pains me to remind you, Geoffrey is married to another.”
She stifled a moan. That wound had yet to begin to heal.
“You cannot betray him by marrying me.”