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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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When he reached out to tuck the bed robes
tighter around her chin, her eyes flew open.

Reassuringly, he gave
her shoulder a squeeze. “Be at ease, my lady. My vow is my honor.”
He turned his back to her. “Even if it does kill me.”

E
leanor lay quietly
as she watched Dominick prepare for bed. Seeing him naked for the
second night wasn’t as disturbing as the night before, but she
still could not bring herself to look below the waist. The light
from the hearth’s fire cast a golden glow over his bronzed skin.
The white scars he bore were in stark contrast to his coloring. She
wondered how he had survived the vicious beating. Quickly she
turned away, not daring to let her eyes go any further.

Dominick the Immortal
they called him,
yet evidence of his mortality webbed across his back. She imagined
the pain he had suffered as his back lay open and bleeding. Her
heart opened with sympathy. Mentally, she shook her head for such
foolish thoughts.

Even with the great size of the bed,
Dominick’s body nearly filled it end to end. She felt his stare
even though her eyes were tightly closed. When he pulled the covers
tighter around her, she nearly jumped out of bed. Only when she
heard the steady rhythm of his breathing was she reassured that he
wasn’t going to touch her and breathed a long sigh of relief.

It was their second
night together, and he hadn’t forced himself upon her.
His vow
was his honor
. Her leg bumped the heavy metal between them,
But for how long?

“M
other!” Eleanor
screamed, sitting straight up in bed.

Dominick bolted up to find his wife still
caught in the world of her dream.

“Mother . . . please, don’t leave me.”

The sob was heart wrenching. But before he
could reach for her, she jumped out of bed, covering her ears and
staggering about the room.

“Make it stop!”

He leapt out of bed after her and gently
seized her by the elbows. “Make what stop, Eleanor?”

“She’s falling. Stop her! Stop her!” she
shouted.

He wrapped his big arms around her. “Eleanor,
wake up. It’s a dream.”

Suddenly she became quiet and shoved out of
his embrace. The grief in her tear-streaked face nearly tore him
apart. Never had he seen such loss.

“It was not a dream!” Her voice shook with
violent emotion. “It was not a dream,” she said again more
softly.

He heard the hitch in her throat when she
took a breath. Tears flowed freely down her cheeks.

Her shoulders slumped slightly with the
burden of her grief. “Because of my father’s betrayals, my mother
threw herself off the cliffs and committed her spirit to the
sea.”

Dominick attempted to approach her. “Eleanor,
I’m not your father.”

She stepped back. “No. Stay away. You’re all
cut from the same cloth.” Her words were like a stinging slap
across his face, but he stood motionless and silent while she
continued. “Night after night I witnessed my mother’s torment.” She
pointed her finger back toward her, and Dominick watched her grind
her teeth to hold back a storm of anger. “I saw noblemen make
lascivious gestures toward her. Their hands were all over her when
my father was too drunk to care.”

She collapsed into a chair near the hearth,
her head bent low. Dominick could see she was reliving a nightmare.
“One night, Father was in a particularly foul mood. My mother had
had enough of his pawing, and they had a terrible argument. As her
punishment for defying him, he threw her into another man’s arms
and told him to take her. That man was McPhearson.”

A wave of disgust swept Dominick at Eleanor’s
words.

Her voice sounded hollow, her unblinking eyes
welling with tears that ran down her face. “I could hear her
screaming down the hall. My father sat laughing and drinking,
playing with a servant girl. I tried to save Mother, but the
chamber door was locked. There was no one to help her.”

Dominick’s gut wrenched at Eleanor’s pain.
“You were only a child, there was nothing you could do.”

She didn’t seem to hear him, and outrage on
her behalf constricted his throat. It made his hands shake. But he
pushed it aside. She needed his strength now. Grabbing a fur off
the bed, he covered her shoulders. She sat transfixed staring at
the flames in the hearth. Silent, he waited as the pain and loss
drained out of her. It was still not the time to tell her about her
mother. It would torture her even more.

“My mother became a ghost that night,” she
murmured, more to herself than to him. “She haunted these halls
long before she threw her body over the cliffs. As much as I tried
to bring her back to the living, she couldn’t see or hear me
anymore.”

The storm was spent. Eleanor needed rest now.
Dominick gently touched her shoulders and guided her back toward
the bed.

She stopped briefly beside it. “That sword
shall never be removed by my hand.” She shook her head vehemently.
“For I shall never suffer my mother’s fate.”

“As you will, my lady,” he whispered.

Like an obedient child, she allowed him to
lay her down and tuck the furs tightly around her. Gently he
stroked her forehead. She was so beautiful, so fragile.

“You have my vow, that I will always protect
you.” The last tears slipped down the side of her face. “Your fate
is your own, Eleanor. Your spirit is too strong to allow you to
walk in another’s path.”

Her jade eyes never looked at him, just
focused on the ceiling. He continued to stroke her hair until her
eyes closed with weariness. Watching the rise and fall of her
chest, he knew she’d fallen to sleep. Gently, he whispered in her
ear, “Don’t dream again of your mother this night. Lay her ghost to
rest and dream of Heaven’s angels.”

Softly he placed a kiss on her forehead and
climbed into bed.

So this was Eleanor’s burden. He hadn’t
realized the extent of its weight. No child should have witnessed
such a thing happening to a parent. Her hostility was
understandable. She needed to feel safe in her home. In the
darkness, he swore an oath that as long as his heart beat in his
body, he would protect Eleanor and pull her from her suffering. He
would show her that not all men were the devil her father was.

And what of McPhearson? That monster would
not survive their next encounter. Such evil should not be allowed
to cast its shadow on the earth.

You will die,
McPhearson. I swear it
. The oath was branded in his mind.

E
leanor couldn’t
remember ever sleeping so heavily. It was difficult clearing the
dullness from her brain. Dominick’s side of the bed was empty. The
window shutters had been closed to prevent light in from the day.
She wondered how much of the valuable morning she had slept
away.

Stretching her legs, she felt something heavy
on her foot. A bolt of red fabric balanced at the end of the bed,
and a bolt of bright green silk with gold thread running through it
fell to the floor when she moved. Ten bolts of fabric in various
textures and shades lay beside her. She picked out a bolt of fabric
and stroked its creamy softness that shimmered in the morning
light. Never in her life had she seen such finery.

The crackling fire drew her attention. There,
draped on a chair, was a mantle made of sable too small to be
Dominick’s. Its luxuriousness drew her, and swinging her feet over
the side of the bed, she slowly walked to the rich fur. Her hands
sank deep into the softness, tracks from her fingers leaving a
trail. She’d never imagined anything as beautiful.

Her breath caught in her throat when she saw
the large ruby broach used as a clasp to hold the cloak together.
The blood-red ruby had a fire of its own.

A loud bang at the door made Eleanor
jump.

“Oh good, you’re awake.” Martha entered the
room carrying a tray of food and unloaded it onto the table. “His
lordship asked that you not be disturbed, but I knew you’d be upset
if we were to let you sleep the day away.

Her eyes took in the sight of the mantle.
“Good lord, will you look at that?” She ran her hands over the soft
fur. “My lady, I have never seen anything this exquisite.” She
pulled it off the chair and opened it for Eleanor. “Here, try this
on and see how you look.”

Eleanor’s eyes widened. “Oh no, I can’t. This
couldn’t possibly be for me.”

“Whom could it be for? It certainly isn’t the
master’s. Any fur he wore would wipe out an entire species of
animal.”

Eleanor chuckled despite herself. “True, But
why would he offer such a gift? I have done nothing to deserve it.”
Her hand pointed to the bed. “And look there. I woke to fabric,
textures the likes of which I’ve never seen. Why would a man waste
coin on such frivolity?”

Martha placed the mantle on Eleanor’s
shoulders. She hadn’t noticed the chill in the air until the warmth
of the fur surrounded her. Eleanor couldn’t keep herself from
running her hands over the satiny fur.

“You're the Lady of Godwin. It’s only fitting
that you should be dressed in such finery.”

She went to the window seat and watched as
masons replaced old stones with new ones. “Where does his wealth
come from? His lineage is a mystery.”

Carrying a cup of tea for Eleanor, Martha
joined her at the window seat.

“Zenon has been talking with his lordship’s
men. Apparently he made his riches from the Crusades and
tournaments. According to the soldiers, he and his brother are
almost as rich as the King himself.” Martha patted Eleanor’s hand.
“It’s only fitting that the lord share his wealth with his
lady.”

“So he thinks to buy my loyalty?”

Martha’s expression saddened. “Lord Dominick
cannot win with you. If he wishes to keep you in a style as the
lady of this house, you suspect he is trying to persuade your
affections. If he did not, then others would think him indifferent
and without honor to treat you as a pauper.

“Accept this, my lady. It will give your
people comfort knowing you are well taken care of. They have seen
too much bitterness in the past.”

Martha was right. Her people could only
benefit from Dominick’s generosity. She looked toward the
gatehouse. Wagons and herds of animals began filling the village
and surrounding land. The sound of blacksmiths hammering out metal
filled the air.

In just three short days, Godwin was
breathing new life. The hopelessness of her people during
McPhearson’s siege still haunted her.

Looking down at her hands, she sighed with
resignation. “How do I learn to trust, Martha? How will I know that
this is not just another deception?”

“Your heart will know, my love.”

The night before he tried to console her. She
could not deny he’d shown kindness.

“I hope you’re right. Until then I will
reserve judgment.” Turning back to the fabric on the bed, she
smiled. “I wonder if among all those wagons there is a good
seamstress.”

 

Chapter
Eight

U
nable to sleep,
Dominick walked the battlements, letting the cool air soothe his
body until it prickled his skin and cooled the flames of his
desire.

He and Eleanor had been married for nearly a
fortnight, and he remained true to his vow. Though they had passed
the last few days in a truce, she had yet to remove the sword from
their bed.

Every night when she crossed the firelight in
her nightgown, the silhouette of her naked body sent him into
flights of erotic fantasy. He ground his teeth and did not turn
away. The proximity of her lying only inches away made him as hard
as granite. He tossed and turned in the night, trying to purge the
demons of passion with little effect, forcing him out of their
bed.

As he walked the battlements, he thought of
their evening meal. She had looked exquisitely radiant dressed in a
new gown of red Egyptian silk. It was the first time he had seen
her in a new gown. He’d given up hope that she’d accepted his
gifts, until that night when she had graced him with that
honor.

Her eyes sparkled like emeralds. A simple
gold circlet was the only ornamentation on her flaxen hair.

While they ate, he kept the conversation
light, talking of the castle, the village, and the restoration. He
talked about the progress of the planting and how much the fields
would yield by harvest.

Since Eleanor’s nightmare he hadn’t mentioned
her mother. His wife’s wounds were still too deep. He knew she
thought that her mother had abandoned her. Dominick understood a
great deal about abandonment, but shared his hurt with no one, not
even his brother.

That night he felt comfortable introducing
his hounds to her at the end of the meal. She was quite wary of
them whenever she crossed their path, and he wanted to put her at
ease.

With mutton bone in hand, he led her to the
two giant wolfhounds lying near the hearth. They stood at their
master’s approach. The tops of the animals’ heads reached as high
Eleanor’s chest. Taking a piece of meat from the bone, Dominick
held out his hand to the first one. Yet even with its great size,
it gently licked the morsel from his hand. When Dominick scratched
behind its ears, the dog waged its tail furiously.

Pointing to the smaller gray one, he said,
“This is Jocelyn and that’s Mya. Mya requires more attention, but
both are just big puppies really.”

“Big puppies that could tear an arm off,” she
said cautiously.

“Not when they are raised properly.”

“I have seen too many hounds such as these
rip each other apart for a mutton chop."

“Not these girls.”

As Dominick continued to scratch each dog’s
ears, they bent their heads into his hands begging for more. He
took Eleanor’s hand. “Here, hold out your palm like this and let
them catch your scent.”

BOOK: Immortal Love
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ads

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