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Authors: Johanna Lindsey

Defy Not the Heart

BOOK: Defy Not the Heart
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Defy Not the Heart
Shefford's Knights [1]
Johanna Lindsey
Avon (1989)

Reina seethes with rage over her fate: taken captive by the knight Ranulf -- a golden giant of a man -- who has pledged to deliver her to the nuptial bed of the despised Lord Rothwell. She will never accept such bondage -- and Reina offers herself to her kidnapped instead, offering to make Ranulf a great lord...if he agrees to wed her.

But the brave knight desires much more than a marriage of convenience from this proud, headstrong lady who treats him with scorn yet makes his blood run hotter than liquid fire. She must come to him of her own free will -- or Ranulf will take her. For the passion that consumes them both cannot long be denied -- even though gravest peril surely awaits them on the heart's trail to a destines and turbulent love.

Review

"She creates fairy tales that come true." --
--
Romantic Times

About the Author

One of the world's most successful authors of historical romance, every one of Johanna Lindsey's previous novels has been a national bestseller, and several of her titles have reached the #1 spot on the New York Times bestseller list. Ms. Lindsey lives in New England with her family.

Johanna Lindsey
Defy Not the Heart

Contents

Chapter One

Bang! Again, again—bang! The sound of the battering ram took…

Chapter Two

The meow woke him, Lady Ella letting him know she…

Chapter Three

Reina caught the wounded man before he fell, but his…

Chapter Four

Ranulf did not remove his helmet until he had entered…

Chapter Five

Aubert nearly ran Reina down on the stairs as she…

Chapter Six

Lord Rothwell did not deserve to be so fortunate. A…

Chapter Seven

Reina rarely used the bathing stool that would be placed…

Chapter Eight

Ranulf came down the tower stairwell to find Walter sitting…

Chapter Nine

“What did you find out, Walter?”

Chapter Ten

It was a piece of work, getting from one end…

Chapter Eleven

“God’s wounds, I have never seen so many disgruntled faces,”…

Chapter Twelve

The march that day seemed longer than usual to Ranulf,…

Chapter Thirteen

Walter was ready to pull hairs. He had been at…

Chapter Fourteen

Ranulf was well aware he had been goaded into marrying…

Chapter Fifteen

Reina found it hard to reconcile being afraid of a…

Chapter Sixteen

Reina moved carefully in taking inventory ere she got up,…

Chapter Seventeen

Ranulf remained silent throughout the numerous effusive welcomes his wife…

Chapter Eighteen

“Theo! What means this?”

Chapter Nineteen

“Come, Ranulf, if you feel like pacing so much, let…

Chapter Twenty

If Ranulf thought he had been served a feast yesterday…

Chapter Twenty-one

The window embrasure was shadowed still, and cool with the…

Chapter Twenty-two

Reina sighed as she looked about the clearing. They had…

Chapter Twenty-three

Ranulf watched his wife trot off in the direction in…

Chapter Twenty-four

Reina’s good spirits had returned somewhat by the time they…

Chapter Twenty-five

Dusk was a dismal bank of clouds threatening rain, but…

Chapter Twenty-six

“He was only six years and ten when he won…

Chapter Twenty-seven

Reina crept quietly into the chamber. A night candle had…

Chapter Twenty-eight

The day was humid after the morning rain, but that…

Chapter Twenty-nine

“But why now, my lady?”

Chapter Thirty

“You will feel better do you talk about it.”

Chapter Thirty-one

It was rather a shock to wake up from a…

Chapter Thirty-two

Reina snipped off the last thread and stood up, shaking…

Chapter Thirty-three

The overcast sky kept the heat at bay, but did…

Chapter Thirty-four

Louise de Burgh stood in the open doorway of her…

Chapter Thirty-five

“He comes, my lady.”

Chapter Thirty-six

Reina saw the giant crossing the hall toward her with…

Chapter Thirty-seven

Reina had to clamp her hand over her mouth to…

Chapter Thirty-eight

Between directing the servants to begin the meal and attending…

Chapter Thirty-nine

The eel in a savory herb sauce was still warm,…

Chapter Forty

Reina went about her duties that afternoon feeling a good…

Chapter Forty-one

Reina thought about it. She really did. And she came…

Chapter Forty-two

Less than a sennight later, Reina slammed into her bedchamber…

Chapter Forty-three

Reina was nearly four months pregnant. For long and long…

Chapter Forty-four

Reina had forgotten about her guests until Gilbert, looking for…

Chapter Forty-five

Ranulf bounded up the stairs to the Great Hall, uncaring…

Chapter Forty-six

Reina woke to the gentle caress of a hand as…

Chapter Forty-seven

Winter closed in around Clydon with a white blanket of…

Clydon Castle, England, 1192

B
ang! Again, again—bang! The sound of the battering ram took precedence over the screaming confusion on the inner battlements, over the death cries below in the outer bailey as arrows struck true, over the thundering headache that pounded inside Reina de Champeney’s head. Bang! Again.

It had happened too quickly, the attack. Reina had been aroused from sleep by the cry “To arms!”, to find the outer bailey already breached by trickery. The supposed pilgrim she had given succor to the night before had opened the gate on the outer curtain wall at dawn, letting in a small army. Thank God she had not let the cur bed down in the inner bailey or in the keep itself, or she would not now be directing a defense from the battlements above the inner gatehouse. But that was all she had to be grateful for.

The attacking army might be no more than a hundred men, but Clydon was presently grossly undermanned for a castle of its size. After her father had depleted the garrison for the army he took with him on Crusade, she had only fifty-five men left, not all of whom were present. Twenty men-at-arms and ten crossbowmen and archers were about. But at least six
of that number were dead or trapped on the outer walls, which the attackers were not even bothering to secure, since there was no archer of any skill there to cause damage to their flanks.

“Put more fuel on that fire!” Reina shouted at one of the menservants, all having been commandeered to help with the defense. “We need that boiling water now, not after the gate gives way!”

She leaned over the parapet in time to see a fat rock drop at least three feet away from the battering ram, then roll harmlessly into the dry ditch below the wall. She turned a murderous glare on Theodric, her most trusted servant. The gangly youth of eight years and ten had insisted on helping even though Reina had tried to send him below after he brought her specially made armor and dressed her right there on the battlements.

“Idiot!” she snapped at him in disgust. “You are supposed to break through the ram’s thick cover, not stir the dust to coat their feet!”

“These rocks are heavy!” Theodric snapped back peevishly, as if that could excuse his wasting their supply of missiles.

“Aye, and you have not the muscle for lifting them, so leave off and do what you
can
do, Theo. We need more water up here for boiling right quickly, and another fire, too. We are running out of time.”

She turned before seeing if he would swallow his prickly pride and do as she ordered, only to nearly knock over little Aylmer, who had come up to stand by her other side. The seven-year-old boy wrapped his skinny arms around her leg to keep from falling, but Reina’s heart jumped into her throat, for the fall could have taken him right over the wall, since with
his crippled foot he had not the balance or the dexterity to save himself.

“What do you here?” Reina shouted, furious at the scare he had given her.

Tears formed immediately in the brown eyes looking up at her and caused a like moisture to gather in her own eyes. She had never yelled at the child before, never had aught but a kind word for him or a soft shoulder onto which he could cry his hurts. She was the closest thing he had to a mother, orphaned as he was and unwanted by any of the villeins because of his crippled foot. He was only a serf, but she had brought him through so many childhood illnesses that she thought of him as her own—at least hers to protect and care for.

“I want to help you, my lady,” was Aylmer’s answer.

Reina knelt down before him to wipe the wetness from his smoke-smudged cheek, hoping the smile she offered now took the bite out of her earlier surliness. “I am glad you have come, Aylmer,” she lied as she moved him to put her mail-clad back between him and any arrows flying over the wall. “I came up here so quickly there was no time to set my ladies to what is needful inside the keep. Do you go and tell Lady Alicia to cut bandages and make ready for the wounded. Stay with her and Dame Hilary and help them as you can. And, Aylmer,” she added with a forced grin, “try to assure the younger ladies there is no reason yet for alarm. You know how silly they can be.”

“Aye, my lady. They are only girls.”

And you are only a boy
, she thought tenderly as she watched him hobble to the ladder, his pride at
least intact. Now if only she could think of something to get Theodric out of the way as easily. She saw him about to help another man tilt the large cauldron of boiling water over the wall and opened her mouth to shout him away, only to have an arrow fly past her cheek. In the next second, she found herself tackled to the floor by Aubert Malfed.


Jesú
, my lady, you almost—”

“Get off me, you beef-witted oaf,” she growled into Aubert’s ashen face.

“But, my lady—”

She cut off his protest furiously. “Think you I want to be here? But with Sir William taken sick last eventide, no doubt poisoned somehow by that false pilgrim, there is no one else to lead the defense.”

“I can.”

“You cannot,” she said with less rancor. How she wished he could, but Sir William’s squire was only five years and ten, and she was the one William had dragged up here just this past week for a thorough if quick lesson in defense, not Aubert. “’Tis me they want, and I will hold my own fate in hand, thank you. If I am taken, it will be my own fault, no one else’s.”

“At least stay back from the wall,” he beseeched her as he helped her to her feet.

“Aye, I—Theo!”

Her screech caused both lads to jump, Theodric then turning an indignant glance on her after he had to jump back even more to avoid the sloshing water that nearly boiled his feet. Reina lost her temper completely, seeing that.

“To hell with your pride, Theo. Get you below—now! I love you too much to see you scorched or
ventilated with arrows because you
think
you can do a man’s job with those skinny sticks you call arms.” When he did not move immediately, she yelled, “Now, Theo, or by God, I will have you chained inside the keep! And you, too, Aubert. I need brawn up here, not babes to get in the way. Your sword is useless unless they bring up ladders to scale the walls, or breach the gate. So begone, and not another word, from either of you.”

Aubert flushed at this set-down because he knew she was right. His skills, such as they were, were useless without the enemy right before him. But Theodric grinned as he passed her on the way to the ladder. Without that “I love you too much” he would be smarting sorely, but with it he could retreat gracefully, and thankfully. He might be a year older than she, but he would have fainted at the first sight of blood anyway, and they both knew it.

Reina sighed once they were both gone, and turned her attention to watching as the boiling water was finally tipped over the wall. There were some new screams from below, but after only a few seconds, another loud bang. Curse and rot them! They had probably killed
her
animals for those wet hides that made the improvised “turtle” to shield them as they rammed the gate. The raw hides resisted both fire and water, though the splash of the latter had surely reached some exposed legs underneath the covering. A bridge to span the ditch was a wall ripped off the smithy. She knew they were using one of her wagons they had found in the bailey to support the large tree trunk that was hammering at the gate, a tree they had cut from
her
woods.

“My lady?”

She turned to see her steward, Gilbert Kempe, offering a chunk of bread and cheese, with a flask of wine. His tunic was soaked from helping to water down the gate and buildings in the inner bailey, though the attackers had not fired any flame-pitched arrows yet.

“Thank you, Gilbert,” she said with a grateful smile as she took the food, even though her stomach was too knotted up just now for her to eat anything.

He winced, hearing the ram’s noise from this closer distance. “Know you who they are?”

“Sir Falkes’ men,” she replied at once.

Gilbert had not thought of that, and was alarmed to think of it now. “But they wear no colors,” he pointed out. “Nor are there any knights among them. And they did not come prepared to give siege.”

“Aye, they thought they would have an easy path straight into the keep with their man inside to open the way. And nearly they did. If someone had not seen what the pilgrim was about and given the alarm, there would have been no time to bring in the castlefolk from the outer bailey and secure this gate. But who else, Gilbert, would dare to take me?” Her voice lowered to add, “Who else knows my father is dead?”

He shook his head. “Anyone could know by now. It has been nigh a year, though we only learned of Lord Roger’s death four months ago ourselves. Think you no one else with King Richard writes home as your father did to us? And the earl informed his castellan at Shefford of the loss of his vassal just as he did us. There is no knowing who Shefford’s castellan could have told in these past months, and told also that you are not yet wed. Did he not write again just last week for the date of your wedding?”

All of that was true, though it annoyed Reina to admit it. She still found it hard to speak of her father’s death at all, or the dilemma it left her in. She had been so undone by grief that nigh a month had passed ere she got around to writing the letters that would secure her future. That month had cost her dear, witness Clydon under attack now. But she still had no doubt that these were Falkes de Rochefort’s men trying to get at her, and she reminded Gilbert why she thought so.

“Be that as it may, you forget the visit de Rochefort paid us a fortnight ago. Did he not ask me to wed him then? And when I refused, did he not sneak into my chamber that night to rape me to see the deed done in that foul manner? If Theo had not heard my scream—”

“My lady, please, you need not mention that unfortunate night. This could indeed be Sir Falkes’ doing, and with revenge in mind, too, after you had him thrown out of Clydon right into the moat. I only point out that he is not the only lord who would risk much to have you.”

“I am not a great heiress, Gilbert,” Reina said in exasperation.

He frowned at her. “To tempt an earl, mayhap not. But with so many knights’ fees yours, there is more than enough to tempt the countless petty barons in the realm, as well as the greater ones. Clydon alone is enough to tempt them.”

He said naught that she was not aware of, but again, it was annoying to admit it. She could have been married two months ago if she had not taken so long to write her letters. She knew how vulnerable she was with her overlord, the Earl of Shefford, on Crusade,
and half her vassals with him, three now dead with her father. And this attack had come so quickly, to surround her so thoroughly, she had not been able to send for aid from Simon Fitz Osbern, her nearest vassal.

“These could even be those accursed outlaws living in our woods,” Gilbert was continuing.

Reina had to force down a laugh to keep from offending Gilbert, but the levity relieved her fear for a moment. “Those pesky wood rats would not dare.”

“There are no knights below, my lady, nor even a single man in mail,” he reminded her.

“Aye, de Rochefort is too cheap to invest his men properly. Nay, enough, Gilbert. It matters not
who
is knocking on our door, as long as we keep them out.”

He said no more, for he would not dream of actually arguing with her. When he went away, Reina’s fear returned. And she truly was afraid. If Clydon were merely besieged, she could hold out for months, but that would not even be necessary. Simon would come before then, and Lord John de Lascelles was due sometime next week, finally in answer to her letters to him. But these curs below had to know she was so undermanned. Why else would they have immediately attacked after she refused to give herself over to them? They were determined to get at her with all speed, to win victory before help
did
come, for their numbers were not that large, though far larger than her own.

She had done all she could, considering the battle was half lost. Her greatest defense, the outer curtain wall with the deep, wide moat that would have taken men days to construct a bridge for the crossing, was already breached. True, she did not have enough men
to man such a long wall, for Clydon was no small castle. But the enemy would have lost a good deal of their number in trying to take that outer wall, and mayhap would even have given up. The inner wall was not nearly so long, enclosing only a quarter of the entire area where the keep sat in a corner, and was easier to defend, with four sturdy towers, including the second gatehouse, facing the outer bailey, on which the enemy was concentrating their efforts.

She had had time to prepare after she heard the demands from the wall and had replied to them in the negative. While the ram was being cut down, her buildings torn apart for protection against arrows and a new bridge to cross the dry ditch, her animals slaughtered for the hides to shield the enemy’s covers, she had put to use all Sir William had prodded her to learn, having weapons checked and readied, water and sand heated for pouring from the walls, poles found for pushing ladders back, all near flammables wetted down. And with such a shortage of men, every male servant was enlisted, which did double her numbers. The menservants knew naught of fighting but could throw stones, push away ladders, wind crossbows for those with the skill to use them. But they would be of little help once the battering ram did its job, and then all Reina could do was retreat into the keep, the last defense—if there was time.

BOOK: Defy Not the Heart
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