No one blends humor and sensuality like New York Times bestselling author Lynsay Sands in this captivating story of feuding nobles forced to marry…and destined to fall in love
Love thy neighbor, ’tis said. A fine idea, except when the neighbor in question is Lord Holden. Lady Helen Tiernay has complained frequently about his treatment of his people. Too frequently perhaps, for the king intends to curb their constant bickering by ordering them to wed. Helen can’t refuse a royal decree, but she’ll do everything possible to drive away her devilishly attractive husband-to-be.
Holden has faced all manner of horrors on the battlefield. But marriage to “the tyrant of Tiernay” is still a worrying prospect—until he glimpses Helen in the flesh. What flesh it is…soft, lush, made for his touch. If she weren’t so intent on thinking up devious ways to prevent consummating their bond, Helen would see how perfect they are together, and that a marriage begun as enemies can turn to absolute pleasure.
"Damn!" King Henry crumpled the scroll he had been reading into a
ball and threw it to the floor with disgust. He spent a moment muttering about
the soft hearts and interfering ways of women, then sighed with resignation and
held his hand out to Templetun. "You may as well give me Lord Holden's message,
The older man's eyebrows flew up in amazement at the request, a touch of fear
mingling with suspicion in his eyes. "How did you know-?"
"It is not conjuring or anything, Templetun. It is simply experience.
I never receive a complaint from Lady Tiernay, that I do not receive one from
Lord Holden as well. Besides, I saw his man ride in earlier and knew he would
have a message from his Lord Holden. Hethe has been taking care of some uprisings
in Normandy . They were minor skirmishes, really. He has probably taken care of
them by now and written to tell me so.”
"Ah." Relaxing, the older fellow handed over the document in question.
Henry opened the scroll a bit irritably, displeased at having to explain himself.
Templetun had only worked in the capacity of his chaplain for the past couple
of days- his usual chaplain was ill- but already Henry was wishing for the latter’s
speedy recovery. His replacement was entirely too nervous, superstitious, and
seemed far too eager to lend credence to Henry’s reputation of being the
“Spawn of the Devil”. Shaking his head, Henry focused his attention
on the parchment he now held. A moment later, it was a crumpled mass on the floor
not far from the first, and Henry had leapt up to pace before his throne.
As he had expected, Lord Holden had cleaned up the little revolts in Normandy
and was on his way home. But he had also added a complaint or two about his neighbour.
It seemed his chatelain was harassed mightily by the Tyrant of Tiernay and was
beleaguering Hethe with letters regarding the woman and, in his turn, the Hammer
of Holden had respectfully requested that his King do something about the woman...or
It had sounded very much like a threat. Henry wasn’t pleased to be threatened
by one of his vassels. In fact, if Hethe weren’t such a valued warrior and
had not aided him so often these last ten years, he would have seen him punished
for it. But, unlike his father before him, Hethe had been helpful.
Henry grimaced at the thought of Hethe’s father. Born the second son,
Gerhard Holden had expected to be allowed to join a monastery and live out his
life amongst the musty old papal teachings he loved. He had not been terribly
happy when his elder brother had died, forcing him to abandon those plans in favor
of marriage and producing an heir. He had taken out that displeasure on his son.
The man had been a touch mad in Henry’s opinion. Fortunately, his son did
not show the same predilection. Unfortunately - for Hethe at least - he had not
shown the same love of learning either and his father had hated him for it. That
hatred had driven the boy from his home and straight into Henry’s service
as soon as he had earned his spurs.
Ah well, Gerhard’s loss had been his gain, Henry decided and turned his
mind back to his present problem. "What the Devil am I to do with those two?"
"I am not sure, my liege. What appears to be the problem exactly?"
Templetun asked tentatively. "I do realize they are both complaining -and
from your reaction, I would say quite frequently- but about what, exactly?"
Henry turned to scowl down at him, opening his mouth to explain rather acerbically
that his question had been rhetorical, when he changed his mind. Instead, he said,
"Each other. Lady Tiernay writes to 'warn me' of her neighbor's cruel and
abusive behavior to his serfs and villeins because she ‘knows I would not
wish to see any of my subjects so sorely mistreated’."
"Ah." Templetun said again, biting back a smile at his king’s
sarcastic imitation of a woman's high-pitched voice. "And Lord Holden?"
Henry gave a short laugh. "He writes to say that Lady Tiernay is a nosy,
harping busybody who makes his life hell."
"Hmmm." The new chaplain was silent for a moment, then murmured,
"Did not Lord Holden's wife die several years back?"
"Aye. Ten years ago. In child birth. Hether has been my best warrior since
then. Always ready to fight, always away on campaign for me."
"And did Lady Tiernay's husband not die four or five years ago as well?"
"What?" Henry scowled briefly, then his expression cleared. "Oh,
nay. That was her father. Lady Tiernay is not married and has not been. Her father
neglected to see to that ere his passing."
"She is of marriageable age, then?"
"Oh, aye. She is beyond old enough to marry, I should think. Why she must
be- " Henry paused, doing the math in his head. "I think she may be
twenty or thereabouts." Groaning, he walked over and wearily rested his hand
on his throne. "And there is another problem. I shall have to marry her off
soon. How the Devil am I expected to find a husband for a harping wench like her?"
Again, he began to pace.
"Perhaps you already have one, my liege," Templetun offered with
some trepidation. When the King turned on him sharply, he shrugged. "Mayhap
the solution would be to have Lord Holden marry her. It would solve both problems
at once. She will be married, and they will be forced to work out their difficulties
"They will kill each other within the week!" Henry predicted with
"Mayhap.” Templetun paused innocently. “But still- both problems
would then be solved, would they not?"
Henry considered him with frank admiration. "Damn, Templetun," he
finally breathed. "You have an evil mind." He rushed back to his throne
and threw himself excitedly upon it. "You shall write two messages in my
name...and take them forth yourself!" Then he turned to the chaplain with
a dangerous look in his eye. “And Templetun,” he added. “Do
not fail me.”
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