Lady Of The Knightñêà÷àòü êíèãó áåñïëàòíî
Table of Contents
About the Author
Rosie pursed her lips. “You want me to strip naked with you standing there a-watching me?”
Andrew appeared to ponder the question. She thought she had said it plain enough.
He crossed his arms over his chest. “Aye, that is the very nut and core of it. I do. Perchance you will recall that I have paid a small fortune for that very privilege, Mistress…what did you say your name was?”
She lifted her head with as much pride as she could muster. “’Tis Rosie, my lord.”
He flourished a deep bow. “I am struck near speechless by your presence, Mistress Rosie. Permit me to introduce myself. I am Sir Andrew Ford, the miracle worker.”
Rosie stared at him with a mixture of bewilderment and apprehension. She was trapped alone with a charming lunatic.
Sir Andrew softened his expression. “I do but jest, Rosie. ‘Tis my fashion. Now, for the love of warm water, will you please undress—or shall I do it for you?”
This month we’re celebrating love “against all odds” with these four powerful romances!
Never before have two seemingly ill-suited people been so right for each other as Andrew and Rosie in Tori Phillips’s triumphant new medieval novel, Lady of the Knight. On the heels of a starred review from Publishers Weekly for Midsummer’s Knight, Ms.
Phillips spins the frolicking tale of a famous knight and courtier who buys a “soiled dove” and wagers that he can pass her off as a noble lady in ten days’ time. With her cooperation, he’ll share the winnings. But things go awry—most notably in their hearts—as the charade progresses. Don’t miss it!
Fate takes over in Winter’s Bride by Catherine Archer, the emotional story of a noblewoman, long thought dead, whose past and present collide when she is reunited with her beloved and overcomes her amnesia. Barbara Leigh’s The Surrogate Wife, set in the Carolinas in the late 1700s, is about the struggle of forbidden love. Here, the heroine is wrongly convicted of murdering the hero’s wife, and is sentenced to life as his indentured servant…
And be sure to look for The Midwife by Carolyn Davidson, the heart-wrenching story of a midwife, fleeing from her past, who must care for the newborn of a woman who dies in labor. The midwife and the child’s stern father marry for convenience, yet later fall in love—despite the odds!
Whatever your tastes in reading, you’ll be sure to find a romantic journey back to the past between the covers of a Harlequin Historicals® novel.
Please address questions and book requests to:
Harlequin Reader Service
U.S.: 3010 Walden Ave., P.O. Box 1325, Buffalo, NY 14269 Canadian: P.O. Box 609, Fort Erie, Ont. L2A 5X3
Lady of the Knight
After receiving her degree in theater arts from the University of San Diego, Tori worked at MGM Studios, acted in numerous summer stock musicals and appeared in Paramount Pictures’ The Great Gatsby. Her plays, published by Dramatic Publishing Co., have been produced in the U.S. and Canada, and her poetry is included in several anthologies. She has directed over forty plays, including twenty-one Shakespeare productions. Currently she is a first-person, Living History actress at the Folger Shakespearean Library in Washington, D.C. She lives with her husband in Burke, VA. She would love to hear from her readers. Please write to her at: P.O. Box 10703, Burke, VA 22009-0703.
To the memory of
Brian Russell Cabe former student, henchman, fellow actor stage combat partner and most excellent friend who loved Renaissance Faires
“Was ever woman in this humor wooed? Was ever woman in this humor won?”
Monday, June 11, 1520
The Field of Cloth of Gold at Val D’Or Between the towns of Guisnes & Ardres, France
Rosie shifted her bare feet on the rough wood of the barrel top, lifted her chin a notch and stared squarely into the face of hell.
Despite the warmth of the evening air, she shivered inside her thin travel-stained shift and torn flax skirt. Apprehension knotted the pit of her empty stomach. Pressing her lips together into a tight line, she tried to ignore the hundreds of upturned faces around her—all male and all staring at her with undisguised lust. They had gathered outside Quince’s tent for the express purpose of debauching a virgin—her.
Rosie swallowed, then shook a hank of her tangled hair out of her eyes. She resolved not to allow anyone to see how terrified she was. In a few hours’ time, she would be ravished by one of these smirking devils, and so begin her new life as a prostitute.
Standing behind her, bawdmaster Peter Quince slapped her backside with his cudgel. “Smile, wench!” he hissed under his breath. “Show them ye have all yer teeth!”
Rosie stretched her lips into a wide grimace. The noise around the harlots’ tent rose in volume. The perspiring customers pressed closer.
“Show us the goods!” roared a drunken voice.
Others cheered and whistled their agreement with the suggestion.
Rosie ignored the sea of faces. Balling her hands into fists, she dug her nails into her callused palms.
Another man raised his voice above the general din. “More light! Let us see if the chit is as innocent as you proclaim.”
“Aye,” agreed another. “I have forgotten what a virgin looks like!”
Rosie shuddered. Not even Quince knew that she had already lost her maidenhead this past May Day. For an instant, the handsome face of her seducer flashed in her mind. Because of Simon Gadswell and his lying promises, she now found herself up for auction like a haunch of venison. All too soon, she would be sold to the highest bidder. Then she must be very clever with the little vial of pig’s blood that she had concealed inside a slit in her waistband. If she did not bleed like a true virgin, Quince would beat her even worse than before.
The bawdmaster held a flaming torch closer to her face. Rosie flinched and prayed that its sparks would not ignite her hair.
“Smile, damn yer eyes!” Quince growled. “I want a good price fer ye.”
Rosie bit back the retort that formed on her lips. The bruises from his latest punishment were still fresh on her back. She took a deep breath. A wave of light-headedness washed over her. She had not eaten a crumb since last evening when their boat had finally docked at Calais after a wretched voyage across the Channel. She prayed she would survive this next fortnight and return safely to England.
Rosie tried to distract herself from what she knew was coming. Beyond the ring of torchlight, she saw nothing in the soft blue-black darkness of the summer’s night except thousands of campfires that dotted the cloaked French countryside like an army of fireflies.
A raucous voice shattered her brief respite from her unsavory predicament. “Untie her lacings!”
Fifty more took up the cry. “Open her shift! Show us her paps.”
Rosie gritted her teeth. The bawdmaster’s whores had warned her this would happen and had told her what she was expected to do.
Quince again swatted her backside. “Rosie!” he snarled. “Do it now, or ye will rue this night, I promise ye!”
Rosie’s numb fingers fumbled at the tight leather knot that held her shift together. It took her a few agonizing minutes to loosen it. With a grunt of exasperation, Quince reached up and tugged on the garment. Rosie’s scant protection slid off her shoulders and down her arms. A low bestial roar welcomed the sight of her bared breasts.
Tears of shame pricked behind Rosie’s eyelids. She blinked them back and bit the inside of her cheek to keep from sobbing out loud. In all her nineteen years, she had never felt so alone.
* * *
Observing the scene from the fringe of the crowd, Sir Andrew Ford felt nothing but pity for the poor, halfnaked girl on top of a barrel. She blinked several times in the torchlight. Andrew suspected that she was close to crying. Her pale countenance and wide eyes revealed her terror.
A young giant beside Andrew chuckled. “I vow the wench looks the part,” Brandon Cavendish remarked to his younger brother.
“A virgin in a brothel tent?” snorted Jack Stafford, the third youth in Andrew’s party. “Tis as rare as a unicorn in London.”
“Rare, but not impossible,” Andrew mused. He held a clove-studded orange closer to his nostrils to block out the stench of the rogues and knaves around them.
Guy Cavendish cocked his head. “Even if she is a whore, she’s a pretty little thing.”
Andrew cast a wry glance at his former squire. “How now? Since when have you become a connoisseur of fallen virtue, Guy?”
The golden-haired youth rocked on the balls of his feet. “Life at court has been very…er…instructive, Andrew. And I am a knight now,” he added. “By the hand of the king himself.”
“Ah,” Andrew responded. “For two months only. What has happened since April to your vow to honor womanhood? Did you toss it overboard when we crossed the Channel?”
Before Guy could stammer an answer, Jack interrupted the bantering conversation. “To honor ladies, Andrew.” He pointed to the pitiable object of the evening’s entertainment. “Yon minx is not a lady.”
“But she could be,” Andrew murmured.
Indeed, he could see that the girl was a beauty despite the dirt on her face and the Medusalike appearance of her dull hair. “With a little cleaning and polish, she could be every inch a lady,” he continued.
Brandon chortled. “You are growing soft in the head with your advancing old age, Andrew. That girl is a strumpet, plain as daylight.”
Andrew smoothed his crimson velvet sleeve and fluffed the lace at his wrists. “Looks are deceiving,” he remarked to his three hot-blooded companions. “Tis clothes that make the difference between a prince and a pauper—or can turn a whore into a lady.”
Brandon pointed at the white-faced girl. “You could never turn her into a lady! A strumpet is a strumpet.”
Andrew lifted one eyebrow in mock surprise. “Indeed, Sir Brandon? Perchance you would care to make a wager upon that opinion?”
The elder Cavendish gaped at him. “How now? You can’t be serious!”
Andrew inclined his head. “I fear I am, my young friend. I wager that I can take that delightfully wretched creature and transform her into a duchess who will dine at King Henry’s feast in twelve days’ time.”
Guy whistled through his teeth.
Jack draped his arm around Andrew’s shoulder. “Oh most excellent jest! Pray tell me, what potent wine have you drunk tonight, old man?”
Brandon gave Andrew a calculating look. “’Sdeath! You are serious!” He grinned. “Then make haste, Andrew. The bidding for your virgin has already begun. What will you wager to shoe this goose?”
Andrew plucked Jack’s arm from around the collar of his new doublet. He readjusted his starched collar. “One hundred sovereigns.”
Guy choked. Jack roared with laughter.
Brandon held out his hand. “A princely fortune, but I know that you have enough coin to toss away on such tomfoolery. Done, and here’s my hand to it. Jack and Guy, witness this bargain.”
“Tis reckless folly!” his brother mumbled.
Andrew clasped Brandon’s large hand in his and shook it with zest. The young bear’s jibe about Andrew’s advancing years had pricked his tender self-esteem. “I trust you will earn enough at cards and in the lists to cover your wager, my noble lordling.”
Jack chortled. “Ha! If you win, Andrew. But you do not have your bird in hand as yet, and her price is already two angels.”
Andrew turned his attention to the auction. “Angels for an angel,” he murmured. “Tis fitting. Five,” he shouted.
“Seven!” bellowed another.
Andrew frowned. “Ten angels!”
“Twelve!” the other countered.
Andrew craned his neck. “What knave bids against me? I know that voice, yet cannot place the face.” He tapped Guy. “Can you see who it is?”
The blond giant made a rude noise in reply. “A slycrawling cat,” he answered. “Tis Sir Gareth Hogsworthy.”
Jack clicked his tongue against his teeth. “If he wins the girl tonight, she will be mincemeat by morn. Inflicting pain is his chief delight.”
Andrew adjusted his scarlet cap. “Then we shall do an act of mercy by saving the child from him. Twenty angels!” he shouted.
“Thirty!” Gareth answered.
“Thirty-five angels!” Andrew’s heartbeat increased its tempo.
Guy blew out his cheeks. “God’s mercy, Andrew. Tis a good thing frowns are not arrows. Hogsworthy just sent you a poisonous dart.”
Andrew shrugged his shoulders to show his youthful admirers that he did not care. The crowd murmured. Some of the bystanders turned to stare at him. He pretended to ignore them, though his mouth had gone dry. The price for this night of pleasure—even with an avowed virgin—had soared far beyond common sense.
“Thirty-eight!” Gareth bellowed.
Jack elbowed Andrew’s ribs. “That’s the spirit! You are wearing down the opposition.”
Instead of replying, Andrew fingered the money pouch that hung from his belt. He knew he had only thirty angels. “How much coin do you have on you, boys?” he asked in an undertone.
Jack grinned and shook his head. “Five shillings, a few groats and a French ecu. I have a mind to spend them on my own pleasure tonight.”
Brandon shook his head. “None but Angel-face—” He winked at his handsome brother. “Lady Luck smiled upon his jousting this afternoon.”
Andrew grabbed Guy’s arm before the younger Cavendish could punch his brother. “Temper your ire! There is more at stake than your precious vanity, Guy. How much is in your purse?”
The bawdmaster cupped his hands around his fat lips. “The last bid was thirty-eight golden angels. Are there any more bids?”
The poor wench on the barrel looked ready to faint. Guy scowled at his brother.
Andrew snapped his fingers. “Be quick, sluggard! How much?”
“Going once…” the bawdmaster shouted.
“Ten sovereigns,” Guy muttered with some reluctance.
Andrew waved his silken handkerchief. “Thirty angels and three sovereigns for the virgin!”
Brandon gasped. “You could have bought every wench in Calais for that sum!”
The bawdmaster looked as if he had been struck by lightning, then an enormous gapped-tooth smile split his unshaven face. “Thirty and three it is! Any more bids?” He turned hopefully in Gareth’s direction.
Andrew held his breath. Hogsworthy conceded with a hair-curling oath. Andrew relaxed his shoulders inside his padded doublet. He took another whiff of his pomander. “It appears that I have made a purchase,” he mused in a calculated offhand manner. He hid his growing excitement from his young companions and their vulgar humor.
The bawdmaster mopped his greasy face with his soiled sleeve. “Going once, going twice, sold to the gentleman in the feathered hat!”
The auctioned virgin peered into the darkness and chewed her lower lip. Andrew found her vulnerability particularly appealing, even though he suspected that the girl was anything but virtuous.
Guy shook his head as he handed his pouch to Andrew. “Methinks today’s sun has cooked your usual good sense, my friend.”
Andrew grasped the boy’s prize money. “Mayhap, but now my wager can begin in earnest. Make a path, Guy. Lead me to my lady fair.”
Jack whacked Andrew between his shoulder blades. “Truly the moon has addled your wits, old man! Tis the easiest wager Brandon has ever made. Practically money in his pocket!”
“Aye,” Guy agreed over his shoulder as he pushed through the crowd. “But mind you, twas my coin that bought the wench.”
Andrew inhaled another deep breath of the pomander’s spicy aroma. The overwhelming stench of the dense crowd was enough to make a pig gag. “Consider your contribution to my endeavor as an investment, my boy. You may deduct your fee—with interest—from my winnings.”
“You are very free with the money you have not yet won,” Brandon observed as he elbowed a burly varlet out of the way. “Methinks since Guy paid for part of the wench, he should take his own pleasure with—”
Andrew halted and grabbed a thick handful of Brandon’s corduroy jerkin. Even though the twenty-year-old was five inches taller and a good deal stronger than Andrew, the older man knew that his former pupil would never lift a finger against him. “You will keep a civil tongue in your mouth when you speak of yon lady. Do you mark me, jolthead?”
Brandon held up his hands in a show of defeat. “Peace, good Andrew. Put down your hackles. I only jested.” He winked at his brother and Jack.
Andrew released him. “Good! If I am to conjure a transformation with that girl, then all of us must begin right now to treat her as a lady. Is that understood by you wooden heads?”
Jack chortled. “Aye! I look forward to turning this dainty sow’s ear into a silken purse! I offer myself as her instructor in bed sport.”
Andrew looked down his nose at the prattling churl, despite the fact that Stafford towered over him. “Go hug a swine, Jackanapes.”
Jack merely laughed again. “In my own good time, old man.”
“Sir Gareth has preceded us. He speaks to the bawdmaster and looks as angry as a wet tomcat,” Guy remarked in an undertone.
“Then why do we tarry here?” Dropping all show of dignity, Andrew hurried ahead of the trio.
The bawdmaster stank of fried onions, stale sweat and unwashed clothing. Hogsworthy overperfumed himself like a courtesan. Andrew shot both men a withering look of disgust. Holding his brown suede money pouch, he jingled the coins together for dramatic effect.
“Good evening, Master of Damsels, and to you, my Lord Hogsworthy. Is it not a fine night for the procuring of pleasure?”
Sir Gareth’s face paled with anger. His thick eyebrows bristled like a badger’s. “The slut is mine, you popinjay! I saw her first. I doubt that you possess the fortune you bid.”
“Pray do not bleat like a motherless lamb, my lord.” Andrew tossed his orange pomander to Brandon. “Hold that, Sir Brandon, whilst I conclude this bit of business.”
With a flourish, he emptied his bag on the barrelhead, literally at the bare feet of the girl he had just purchased. He noticed her skin was incredibly filthy. Her toes curled when some of the coins touched her. Andrew looked up to give her a smile of encouragement and he nearly gasped aloud. Upon closer inspection, her breasts proved to be more perfect than he had first thought. Twin peaks of cream rose and fell with a mesmerizing rhythm. His dormant loins sent a flash of heat surging through him. His awakened reaction to her charms tied his tongue for a moment.
“Count it!” Gareth practically frothed at the mouth.
In silence, Andrew stacked the angels into neat piles. He had the most uncontrollable urge to stroke the lass’s bare ankle to see if her skin was as soft as it appeared. As if she could read his mind, she inched a step backward, as far as the diameter of the rough barrelhead allowed.
Gareth’s eyes glowed like burning coals when Andrew’s money ran out at thirty. “My bid was thirty-eight! She is mine!” He reached for her.
Andrew restrained himself from grabbing the man around his scrawny neck. “You are too hasty, my lord.” He produced Guy’s pouch. With a self-satisfied smile, he untied the leather strings and drew out three coins. “Tis wise never to keep all of one’s fortune in a single place. Three sovereigns.”
Gareth fumed with unsavory growls. Andrew noticed that the ragged hem of the girl’s skirt trembled, though not a whisper of wind stirred through the enormous English camp. Compassion softened his lust. He congratulated himself for saving the waif from Gareth’s brutal clutches.
He slapped the final coin on the golden pile. “Are we square now, Purveyor of Wenches?”
The bawdmaster slobbered his assent. “Take her, my lord. Pleasure yerself as long as ye like.”
Andrew cocked an eyebrow at his three companions. “Mark his very words, my young friends. The master says I may have the lady as long as I like. Trust me, knave, I intend to take my time.”
“Take all the time ye need,” the bawdmaster gibbered. His red-rimmed eyes nearly bulged out of their sockets at the sight of the gold.
Gareth ground his teeth. A thick blue vein throbbed at his temple. “Enjoy the strumpet while you can, Ford, but I will have her yet. You have made me look a fool, and I will be avenged. I swear it on my sword!”
Andrew regarded the enraged man through half-closed eyelids. “You grow tedious, my Lord Hogsworthy. I fear we must discontinue your company. Adieu! Creep back to your kennel.” Then he turned his back on the seething man and held out his hand to his prize. He flashed her a warm smile of encouragement.
“Come, fair lady. Tis time we quit these rude surroundings.”
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