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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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She bowed her head with the weight of the
conflict in her heart.
And is he truly a man of honor as Martha
says, or a horrible nightmare wrapped in a beautiful dream?
Time will tell.

In the meantime, she would be vigilant in her
search for the truth about her husband.

Suddenly boards cracked overhead, and she
heard a scream for help. Looking up she saw one of her men, Henry
Smith, had fallen through some rotted wood and was hanging on to
the roof’s unstable framework. Helpless anxiety kept her from
drawing a breath.

Work stopped as men on the ground and on the
roof nearby shouted for help from others.

Dominick carefully picked his way to where
Henry clung desperately to a rafter. “Take hold of my wrist”

More boards gave way, but Dominick held firm,
muscles bunched and straining as he slowly pulled the deathly pale
villager up through the hole and set him firmly on solid tiles.

Eleanor expelled the breath she didn’t
realize she was holding. If Henry had fallen through, it would have
certainly been to his death on the stone floor below.

Putting her hand on her chest, she felt her
heart’s wild beating. The villager’s leg was bleeding profusely,
and Dominick bent over him to examine the wound.

“Bring him to the great hall,” she shouted
up.

Dominick shaded his eyes to see where she was
then signaled he’d heard her. With one motion, he slung the injured
worker over his shoulder and carried him down the scaffolding.
Eleanor met them in the great hall. A table was cleared, and
Dominick laid his human burden on it.

Eleanor struggled to remove the fabric
covering the wound and looked to her husband. “Dominick could you
help me tear away the britches? I can’t see the wound.”

He did so, and she found the gash deep and
near the bone. Steeling herself against the ghoulish sight of torn
flesh and blood, she concentrated on what needed to be done.

Martha carried in water, bandages and clean
moss to pack in the wound. As gently as Eleanor could, she cleaned
out the debris, removing embedded splinters and dirt. All the while
Dominick stood close, keeping his hand on Henry’s shoulder while
Eleanor poked and prodded. The villager’s color was ashen and he
shook from the pain, but he never cried out.

“How is your wife, Henry?” Eleanor said as
she threaded her needle. “The baby’s due any day now, isn’t
it?”

She continued to talk casually, hoping to
distract Henry from what had to be done. “Have you picked out
names?”

“Samson, Sam, if it’s a boy and Lau. . . ra!”
he shouted as she pulled on another splinter. He gripped the table
and clenched his teeth.

“Samson, that’s a wonderful name,” Eleanor
cooed. “My grandfather’s name was Samson.”

He squeezed his eyes tight. Eleanor’s heart
went out to him.

She lightly stroked his damp forehead and
whispered close to his ear, “Henry, I’m going to place this moss
into the wound to stop the bleeding and prevent infection. I will
try my best not to cause you too much discomfort.”

Henry looked up at her with pain-filled gray
eyes that cut to her core. “Aye, my lady. I will be fine.”

She glanced at Dominick then placed the moss
in the wound and bandaged the leg. He held Henry’s shoulder tight
with one hand and used the other to immobilize the injured leg
while Eleanor tended the wound.

Martha held the candle close enough for
Eleanor to see clearly. With the first insertion of the moss, Henry
jumped, startling her. Her heart pounded like a hammer in her
chest, but she swallowed and started again. When Dominick placed
more pressure on the knee Henry groaned, but couldn’t escape
Dominick’s grip. Soon the binding was done and the blood stopped
flowing.

“I think a tankard of ale is called for after
your ordeal, Henry,” Eleanor said when she looked up from her
handiwork.

He was regaining color. “If it will ease the
pain, I most heartily accept, my lady.”

“It certainly will help.” She turned to
Dominick. “You need to stay off your leg for a while. The moss will
need time to do its work. Any undue pressure could pull the wound
apart, and it may start bleeding again.”

Henry began to protest, but Dominick stopped
him. “You will rest as the lady has ordered.” Dominick patted his
man on the shoulder. “Take advantage of this opportunity, for you
will not get another. In a few days, I will have you rebuilding a
cookhouse.”

“There is a room just up the stairs and to
your right. He can stay there. Someone will let his wife know that
he is here. Martha and I will check on him from time to time to
make sure the wound doesn’t fester.”

Dominick helped Henry off the table and
wrapped his large arm around his waist, leading him toward the
stairs.

After they were out of sight Eleanor turned
to Martha. “Henry lost a lot of blood and needs to be refortified.
Give him broth as well as the ale.” Martha nodded in agreement, and
Eleanor added, “I will check on him later this afternoon to make
sure there is no fever. He was bleeding so badly that I may have
missed a splinter or two.”

“You did your very best. It is now in God’s
hands. You have quite the skill for healing.”

“We will see soon enough if that’s so.”

“The master will not hold you responsible, my
lady. He is a reasonable man.” Martha collected the leftover
bandages and mending materials and walked out of the great
hall.

Eleanor was about to leave when Dominick
called out to her from the stairs. Nervously, she made a pretense
of wiping imaginary dust from the table as he approached her. A
shock ran through her when he took her hand and gently
squeezed.

Looking up into his eyes, she saw something
she hadn’t expected to see—gratitude.

“Thank you for helping Henry,” he said
softly.

“What did you expect me to do?”

“Nothing.”

“What do you mean nothing?”

His thumb stroking across her palm was making
her edgy. “Most noblewomen would have run to their chambers at the
first sight of blood, but you didn’t. You took the initiative and
mended Henry’s wound.”

Pulling her hand away allowed her to think
more clearly. He was too close, and her body was reacting
strangely. She hid her emotions behind a façade of indignation and
insult. “You forget, my lord, that we were at war with McPhearson.
Many were wounded, and I treated my share of them. These men are my
responsibility. A responsibility I don’t take lightly.”

Dominick stepped closer, sending the
unexplainable current through her nerves. “You told me Martha
usually cared for injured men, but responsibility or not, I’m
grateful.”

“Gratitude is not necessary,” she said
fighting the urge to run away.

 

Chapter
Seven

D
ominick dragged
himself to the evening meal. His body was used to the long hours of
hard work, but his mind was in turmoil with the circumstances of
his marriage.

That afternoon, Eleanor had shown compassion
he rarely saw in noblewomen. Yet when he only wished to thank her,
she practically spat in his face. The contradiction was
confusing.

Dominick understood Eleanor’s anger about the
marriage and her hatred for men. But did
she hate all men or
just noblemen?
He suspected noblemen, because her compassion
for Henry was evident. In just the short time he had known Eleanor
he had discovered she was a very independent woman. With him coming
to Godwin her choices had been taken away. He understood her anger,
but would he spend the rest of his life paying for the actions of
others?

Her vow in the meadow made it clear—he would
never have her heart. The fluid waters of helplessness left him
unsteady. He couldn’t slay the monster that instilled her fear and
hatred, for he was already dead. Hopefully, suffering the fires of
the underworld.

McPhearson came to mind. Eleanor had nearly
waited too long to ask for the king’s help. A few more days and
Godwin would have been in McPhearson’s hands, and she would have
been forced into a hellish existence.

But just putting down the siege was not
enough. King William knew Godwin needed a permanent solution or
McPhearson would attack again.

Eleanor couldn’t see the reason behind the
marriage. She only saw the King’s general, another warrior, forcing
her and her people into submission. Despite her stubbornness, she
struck a protective cord in him. Her small stature and thin frame
pulled at his heart. Her jade eyes captivated him. Her courage
inspired him, yet her obstinacy drove him to near madness.

“What is troubling you, Brother?” Randolf
joined Dominick at the head table in the great hall.

“Eleanor was not what I expected.”

Randolf’s brows furrowed. “What did you
expect?”

“I have seen many marriages of convenience.”
He took a sip of ale, then continued, “For the most part they have
worked out amicably. But Eleanor meets our marriage with a great
deal of resistance. I thought she would be grateful for the match
and the protection I bring to her people, yet the woman wants no
part of me.”

“Maybe time is what you need. She resisted
McPhearson’s tyranny, only to be handed into another man’s grasp.
And after your demonstration yesterday, she has naught but to
believe you’re like him.”

“There is more to this than just what she
sees. When I look in her eyes there is not only fear, but a deep
seated hate.”

“It has only been a day. It will take more
time than that to convince the maid that you are an honorable man.”
Randolf gave him a wicked smile. “Well, for the most part an
honorable man.”

“Your humor fails me,” Dominick said, ready
to tip over Randolf’s chair. “I saw it in her eyes before she ran
away. There is something more, something I cannot put a name
to.”

“Perhaps her feelings remain from the siege.
When we rode into Godwin it reminded me of the refugee camps we saw
in the Crusades. The people were near starvation. Maybe in her mind
soldiers are soldiers, and it’s difficult to define the difference.
We have taken her castle,” Randolf said.

Dominick took a long draw on his ale. Randolf
may be right. In Eleanor’s eyes he was just another invader.

“Can you help Eleanor’s mother’s spirit? Why
do you think she’s here?”

Dominick knew Randolf had deliberately
changed the subject. “I believe her bond to her daughter is so
great that she can’t let go.”

Randolf sat back in his chair, clearly
digesting all of Dominick’s problems. “Let’s pray this apparition
has not torn the fabric of your resistance to all other
spirits.”

“I have seen nothing since. Hopefully I will
see nothing more.”

A crooked smile crossed Randolf’s face and he
leaned forward. “I hope you’re right. I couldn’t have my brother
walking around like a madman talking to the dead.”

Dominick shifted in his seat and smiled back.
“Believe me, I don’t wish to talk to them again. I saw enough
spirits in Istanbul, dead men who couldn’t find their way out of
that prison. I had no help for them either. They’re still in one of
the worst levels of hell. I don’t want to see their agony any more.
That’s why I cut them off.” Dominick took another draw of the
bitter ale. “Isolde is strong enough to get through my defenses,
and wants me to protect Eleanor. She led me to the meadow
yesterday.”

“Are you going to tell Eleanor? I don’t think
it would endear you to your bride.”

Dominick shook his head. “Right now I don’t
think anything would endear me to my wife.”

“In time, Dominick. In
time.”

E
leanor sat quietly
in her chamber near the hearth, absently pulling her wedding ring
back and forth on its chain. The broadsword was still in place on
the bed. Dominick must mean to keep his word, even if only for one
more night. The man’s honor puzzled her. His rights as her husband
allowed him to take her on their wedding night

or any time for that matter,

yet he hadn’t. How could a legendary warrior be
trusted with something as precious as nobility?

So few men had honor. Certainly her father
hadn’t. His so-called friends never displayed such a thing, yet
this warrior, this King’s general did. Over and over these thoughts
turned in her head.

The hypnotic flames took her back to that
morning when Henry had fallen through the roof. He was no small man
and, had he lost his hold on the beam, could easily have pulled
Dominick to his death. Yet Dominick had risked his life to save
Henry’s. His strength was almost unearthly.

She wondered if the stories were true then
chided her for letting her mind drift to such a ridiculous thought.
His compassion conflicted with any alliance with the devil, or was
it just a ruse?

Was it a way to lead her in, only to
disillusion her once she’d entered her husband’s emotional lair?
Could this have been what it was like for her mother? Surely she
must have found something good in her father to have fallen in love
with him. That must be how it happened. Isolde had been lured into
thinking Eleanor’s father was a man of honor, when in fact later
his true demeanor eventually showed, and her love was betrayed.

Eleanor threw another log on the fire and
watched the flames lick at it until the wood was totally consumed,
much like her anger and bitterness. She looked back at the
broadsword.

“It can stay there until it rusts for all I
care,” she said aloud. “I will never concede to this
union—never.”

Her resolve was firmly set, and she readied
for bed and climbed underneath the furs. Watching the fire, she
drifted between sleep and wakefulness.

Until Dominick walked
in to the room.

E
leanor was
pretending to be asleep. Her body was too rigid for her to be in
the throes of the dream world. He smiled. While her eyes remained
tightly closed, he studied her face, marveling at her delicate
beauty. He fought hard against the urge to touch her, knowing it
would send her into a panic. What sorceress’ spell was cast on him
that pulled so hard on his desire when the lady wanted nothing to
do with him? Never had he been so tortured.

BOOK: Immortal Love
11.8Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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