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Authors: Victoria Craven

Tags: #romance, #love, #spirits, #paranormal, #warrior, #historical

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BOOK: Immortal Love
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“Let me make this very clear to you.” His
words were deliberate and slow. “Our king has decreed that we
marry. To do otherwise would be an act of treason. Therefore, we
will be married tomorrow, my lady, before noon. There will be no
further discussion on this matter.”

He stood close enough for her to feel his
breath on her face. Fear knotted in the pit of her stomach when she
looked into his. She expected him to strike her, and she braced
herself for the blow, but he turned and walked out of the room.
Relief swept through her. Jumping down from the chair, she quickly
sat down. Heat began to rise in her face. She felt as though she
had just confronted a thunderstorm and had barely gotten away
before lightning struck.

She cradled her head in
her hands. His actions just then solidified her conviction. Men
could not be reasoned with.

D
ominick’s anger
burned steadily. The arrogant wench felt he wasn’t worthy of
Godwin. Only a man of noble birth was qualified to own the castle
and its lands. He found an elderly servant sweeping the rushes of
the great hall.

“I will have my things sent over from my
camp.” Then he barked, “Make sure they are placed in the master’s
chamber.”

She bowed slightly. “Yes, my lord.”

He saw the disappointment in her eyes and
softened his tone. “Tell my men what it is you need for the evening
meal. They will see it done.”

“It will be taken care of, my lord.”

Dominick stormed out of the great hall and
over to where his horse stood waiting. Throwing his mantle over his
shoulders, he mounted in one fluid motion.

With a shout from his master, Aries bolted
out of the stables.

Dominick bent low over Aries’ neck, and rider
and animal moved as one. As they rode along the shoreline, the wind
and surf pelted Dominick’s face. Breathing its purity, peace washed
over him, cleansing his spirit. When his anger was spent, he reined
Aries to a stop and watched the sunlight dance on the water. The
soft wind calmed his heart.

He dismounted and sat on the sun-warmed sand.
The spring breeze still carried some remnants of winter, so
Dominick wrapped his mantle around himself and watched the
tide.

The first thing that had struck him about
Eleanor was her beauty. Her eyes were as green as jade. Her
sun-colored hair shimmered like Egyptian silk. His body’s reaction
to her had been instantaneous.

Then she had opened her mouth.

Expecting her to be happy about their
marriage had never crossed his mind, but for her to be so adamant
about not wanting their union and actually considering that they
should deny the King’s wishes was unthinkable.

His breath had caught in his throat the
moment he saw her, and he hadn’t been able to believe his good
fortune. Until he’d looked into her eyes and seen pure hatred.

He understood her resentment at being forced
to marry, but there was something much deeper. Something more than
resentment. He saw fear. What or who had instilled such emotion?
What prank had fate played on him? Could Godwin ever be a home as
long as its lady harbored animosity toward him?

The screech of a hawk circling above drew his
attention, and it wasn’t long before his friend, Erik, led his
horse down the rocky path to the sandy beach. When he whistled the
bird flew to his arm, and he settled her on the pommel of his
saddle.

“Was she horrible?”

Dominick chuckled. “No, she wasn’t horrible.
Actually she’s quite beautiful.”

“Then what drives you to ride like a
madman?”

“She doesn’t want to marry.”

Erik stared at Dominick a moment, his amber
eyes filled with wisdom that belied his youth. He shook his head
and grabbed a few stones to skip across the water. “Neither did
you, and you knew there was a possibility the lady might not take
kindly to marrying a stranger.” He threw another stone.

“It was more than that, Erik. She said I
wasn’t worthy of the castle because I’m not a nobleman.”

Another stone went into the water. But you
are
a nobleman.”

“I’m the bastard son of a nobleman and a
queen’s lady-in-waiting.” Dominick threw his own stone toward the
surf.

“I’ve never known this to bother you before.
In all circles you’re accepted. You’re a friend to the king.”

“Somehow it mattered this time. I’m a man
with no inheritance. What I’m about to receive with this marriage
in some way makes me feel like a thief or parasite, sucking off the
misery of others.”

“As a friend who has fought at your side for
many years, I know you have earned this land, Dominick. Don’t let
this woman make you forget what you’ve accomplished—with very
little help—in a lifetime.” Erik said. “Remember, she could be
worse off. She could be married to McPhearson, and from what I’ve
heard of his deviant behavior she wouldn’t survive a
fortnight.”

Dominick threw another stone, as though
throwing away his doubts. “Thank you. I just needed a different
perspective. If anything, Lady Eleanor needs my protection. I plan
to give her that protection whether she wants it or not.”

“She may not be aware of it now, but will be
grateful when she realizes her other choices are bleak.” Erik
whistled, and his hawk flew to his gloved hand.

A moment of quiet settled between the men as
they stared out at the ocean. Then Dominick reached over to stroke
the downy breast feathers of Erik’s hawk. “No one can hide from you
as long as you have Celeste here. Not even me.”

“It wasn’t Celeste that found you. Aries
called to me when he felt your distress.”

Dominick raised an eyebrow. “So the animals
are able to reach your mind now?”

“Only when I’m open to them. I was open to
Celeste when Aries called. My mind stayed with him until I found
you.”

Dominick looked back out over the water. As
long as he’d known Erik, he'd accepted his friend’s ability to
communicate with animals. Many men shunned Erik, claiming his power
came from dark magic, but Dominick knew him as a good man. He
defended the weak, was compassionate to the poor, and was a loyal
friend.

Erik had never hid the fact that he could
understand animals. Dominick suspected it was a way of keeping
people at a distance. If they feared him, they wouldn’t hurt him.
It was Erik’s own way of protecting himself.

The sun was beginning to set when they headed
back toward Godwin. Inside the great hall tables were being set
with food, yet there was no sign of Eleanor. Dominick expected as
much. He knew she needed time to adjust to the idea of marriage.
Patience was all she needed.

 

Chapter
Three

V
oices and music
drifted to Eleanor’s room from the great hall. It was only a matter
of time before the wine and ale flowed and things turned ugly, like
they had so many times before when her father was alive.

Gathering her eating dagger, she hid it deep
within her pocket. If his lordship should try to force his
husband’s rights on her before the wedding ceremony, she would
prove just how mortal Dominick the Immortal was.

She lay down on her bed, listening to the
revelry below. Memories of her mother came to the surface, and the
pain of those memories washed over her in a wave.

As a child she had watched from the very top
step of the great hall stairs. No one could see her as she peered
down at the festivities below.

Her father had showed her mother very little
kindness except when he was drinking. Then his hands roamed
lasciviously over her body. When her mother resisted his drunken
display, he shouted obscenities at her, calling her a whore.

Often in front of his men and guests, he
declared her frigid and useless. Her mother’s ultimate humiliation
had come when he took serving wenches to their bed.

Eleanor had observed the drama night after
night. Over time, her mother became more and more despondent.
Isolde’s once beautiful figure turned gaunt. Dark shadows circled
her pale green eyes and the rims showed red and swollen from hours
of crying. She walked around the castle like a ghost, haunting its
halls. Then one day, the crying stopped, and her mother was
gone.

Tears streamed down Eleanor’s face. The more
she tried to pull away from the memories, the more they pulled her
back. The pain of losing her mother welled in her chest, until she
thought she could bear no more. Mercifully, sleep defeated her
misery.

Until the nightmares
began . . .

. . .
She ran along the cliffs as the cold
wind swirled around her. The surf rose up over the cliffs,
threatening to engulf her and dash her body among the rocks.
Something was chasing her. Something horrible. Icy fear gripped her
heart.

Like a stone tower, the giant’s shadow loomed
over her. She tried to run away, but her legs would barely move.
Arms snaked around her, capturing her in a vice-like grip. His face
was hidden in the shadows. When he spoke, his fiery breath blasted
a suffocating heat.


There is no escape for you, Eleanor,” he
said in a loud, demonic hiss. “Bend to my will.”


This I will never do!”

Enraged, the demon shoved her to the cliff’s
edge. She fell to the ground with a bone-jarring thump, and fear
took away her ability to breathe as the monster emerged from the
shadows.

To reveal her betrothed’s face.

Claw-like hands pulled her off the ground.
“If you will not give in to me, then you will die.”

With one swift motion,
the monster tossed Eleanor over the edge and into the sea . . .

The sensation of falling made her slam her
hands against the mattress as if to still her descent. She bolted
upright, a horrified scream in her throat and terror still
clutching at her heart, squeezing her chest tight.

It took several moments for her to catch her
breath.

Still captured in the fear of her too real
dream, her mind kept recalling Dominick’s menacing face as he’d
appeared at their first meeting.

Her people and she could no longer live in
fear. She had to go to the Queen Mother and have this marriage
order rescinded. Quickly, she threw off the fur robes and jumped
out of bed even as her frantic mind scanned the room for her travel
bag. Dawn was breaking, and she was sure no one would see her
leave.

She piled her few meager gowns, and her
mother’s hairbrush and comb into a bag and silently left the
room.

In the kitchen she
packed bread and cheese for the trip. She wasn’t sure how long she
would be gone, but she didn’t see herself coming back any time
soon. Finally packed, she slipped quietly out of the castle.

T
he cold hand of
death invaded Dominick’s sleep, and he woke to see a wisp of a
woman standing over him, green eyes glowing in the darkness. She
wasn’t part of the living world. Like so many, her soul was trapped
between the living and the dead in a place where souls are
lost.

He hadn’t seen an apparition since he had
been in the prisons of Istanbul. Too much death and too many souls
trapped by their own longing to be part of the living had forced
him to close his mind to them. Yet this spirit had torn through the
dark curtain he had built to keep the spirit world away.

She gave him no time for questions.
Eleanor has run away.

Then the apparition faded.

Dominick was out of bed in an instant and
calling for his squire. “Summon the men.”

The sun was beginning to rise. Quickly he
dressed and ran to the great hall.

In just minutes, Randolf and Erik, donning
their swords and mantles, met him there.

“What’s happened?” Randolf asked.

“Eleanor. She’s run away. McPhearson may have
some of his men still lurking in the forest.

“How would you know this?” Erik asked.

“Trust me, I know.” He turned to one of his
men that hadn’t mounted yet. “Bring the girl’s maid. We may have
need of her.”

No further words were spoken as the three men
strode out into the bailey. The rest of Dominick’s soldiers were
already mounted.

Anger brewed inside him. His first thought
was for Eleanor’s carelessness with her own life. Obviously she did
not think that McPhearson’s men could be lingering in the woods.
Then he thought of her blatant disregard of the king’s order.
Despite how she felt about the circumstances of Dominick’s birth,
there was no excuse for treason.

As he mounted, he watched Erik stroking his
hawk’s feathers, mentally connecting with Celeste. When the bond
was complete, Erik’s eyes dilated. With a whistle, he sent the hawk
into the air and mounted his own horse.

Dominick, Randolf and Erik led the charge out
of the bailey. Before long, Celeste screeched out a call from high
above, and Erik signaled the army to stop.

“She’s crossing the meadow to the west. Five
of McPhearson’s men are hiding in the woods, just on the other
side, waiting for her.”

Cold fury surged within Dominick. Eleanor’s
mistake was in thinking he could be trifled with. His enemy,
McPhearson, seriously misjudged him.

He would send a clear
message to both that they would not soon forget.

E
leanor’s heart raced
from fear and the need to put the castle as far behind her as
possible before anyone discovered she was gone. Any moment she
expected to hear Godwin’s warning bell, letting people know she was
missing.

A hawk flew overhead, screeching loudly as if
it had found a rat or a plump field mouse. Shading her eyes, she
watched it land in a nearby tree then call once again. Strange
behavior for a bird.

“Your imagination is running away with you,
Eleanor,” she told herself. “It’s nothing more than a bird sitting
in a tree.”

She hurried on her way toward the forest.

BOOK: Immortal Love
12.69Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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