Authors: Margaret Mallory
Tags: #Fiction, #Romance, #General, #Historical
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are
used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is coincidental.
Copyright © 2009 by Peggy L. Brown
Knight of Pleasure
copyright © 2009 by Peggy L. Brown All rights reserved. Except as permitted under the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, no part
of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or
retrieval system, without the prior written permission of the publisher.
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First eBook Edition: July 2009
A Preview of "Knight of Pleasure"
Catherine. Catherine was in his bed.
In three heartbeats, William went from dumbstruck to breathless. She was stunning, with her fair hair spilling over his pillow
like a river of moonbeams.
“You have come to me,” he said, not quite believing it.
She clutched the bedclothes to her chin and nodded.
Now that she was here, he could show her she had nothing to fear in his bed. He undressed quickly, dropping his clothes on
the floor and lifted the bedcovers. Ignoring her sharp intake of breath, he slid in beside her.
“Turn toward me, I want to look into your face.”
He held her eyes as he ran his hand up her side to the tantalizing swell of her breast. Gritting his teeth, he reminded himself
to go slow. He moved his hand back to her waist, then over the curve of her hip and down her thigh.
He was tight as a bowstring. In a daze of desire, he kissed her face, her hair, her neck. Against her ear, he murmured, “I
have dreamed of this.”
“A lavish historical romance, evocative and emotionally rich. KNIGHT OF DESIRE will transport you.”
bestselling author of
Sins of a Wicked Duke
“KNIGHT OF DESIRE is akin to stepping into another century; Mallory has a grasp of history reminiscent of reading the great
—Jackie Ivie, author of
A Knight Well Spent
“Stunning! Margaret Mallory writes with a freshness that dazzles.”
—Gerri Russell, author of
“Medieval romance has a refreshing new voice in Margaret Mallory!”
—Paula Quinn, author of
A Highlander Never Surrenders
“Mallory spins a masterful tale, blending history and passion into a sensuous delight.”
bestselling author of
Seducing a Scottish Bride
“Margaret Mallory writes with intense passion and beautiful, believable emotion.”
—Lucy Monroe, bestselling author of
To Cathy Carter, my sister and librarian extraordinaire, who read my first pages and told me to go for it, and to my husband,
Bob Cedarbaum, who supported me on faith without ever reading a word.
A first book requires a lot of thank-yous. I am tremendously grateful to my agent, Kevan Lyon, for her grace, wisdom, and
unflagging support. Many thanks to the folks at Grand Central for taking a chance on a new author. Alex Logan deserves a prize
for guiding me through the publishing process. Both she and Amy Pierpont provided thoughtful comments that made this a much
better book. Thanks also to Claire Brown for the gorgeous cover. I would not have made it to publication without the guidance
and support of other romance writers. Thank you to the members of the Olympia and the Greater Seattle RWA chapters, volunteer
contest judges, presenters at the Emerald City Conferences, and my critique buddies.
I am grateful to my father, who taught me all about heroes. Some men are honorable because of the example set for them. Others,
like my father and the hero of this book, choose to be honorable in spite of it. Thanks also to my mother, who is probably
the reason all my female characters are strong.
I appreciate all the friends and family who were amazingly supportive when I decided to change careers and take up the uncertain
life of a writer. Special thanks go to Cathy, Sharon, Nancy, Laurie, and Ginny for reading manuscript drafts before I had
a clue what I was doing. Most of all, I thank my husband. When I wanted to quit my job to write just as the first college
tuition payments came due, he told me, “Whatever you want, honey.” They don’t come better than that.
England, near the Welsh border
he creak of the stable door woke him.
William’s hand went to the hilt of his blade as he lifted his head from the straw to listen. Soft footfalls crossed the floor.
Soundlessly, he rose to his feet. No one entering the stable at this hour could have good intent.
A hooded figure carrying a candle moved along the row of horses, causing them to snort and lift their heads. William waited
while the man reached up to light a lantern hanging on a post. No matter what the intruder’s purpose, fire was the greater
danger. The moment the man blew out his candle, William closed the distance between them in three running strides.
As he launched himself, the intruder turned.
William saw the swirl of skirts and a girl’s face, her eyes wide with alarm. Reflexively, he threw his arms around her and
turned in midair to cushion her fall just before they slammed to the ground.
“Please forgive me!” he said, untangling his limbs from hers and scrambling to his feet. “Have I hurt you?”
He would have offered his hand to help her up, but she sprang to her feet as fast as he, her hair falling free of the hood
in a mass of bright waves. She stood with her weight forward on her feet, eyeing him warily.
William stared at her. How could he have mistaken this lovely and fragile-looking girl for a man? Judging by the fine silk
gown showing at the gap in her cloak, this was a highborn lady he had assaulted. Her features were delicate, her full lips
He squinted, trying to tell what color her eyes were in the dim light. Without thinking, he reached to pull a piece of straw
from her hair. He drew back when he caught the gleam of the blade in her hand. He could take it from her easily enough, but
it unsettled him to know he frightened her.
“Who are you, and what are you doing here?” she demanded. She was breathing hard and pointing the blade at his heart. “Answer
me at once, or I will scream and bring the guard.”
“I am a knight in the service of the Earl of Northumberland,” he said in a calming voice. “I arrived late, and the hall was
filled with guests, so I decided to bed here.”
He was not about to tell her he was hiding in the stable. When he had delivered Northumberland’s message in the hall tonight,
he had glimpsed a certain widow he knew from court. Preferring to sleep alone, he had made a quick escape.
“Now that you know my purpose in being here, may I ask the same of you?” he said, cocking his head. “I believe it is you who
should not be found out alone at this hour.”
She did not answer him, but even in this poor light, he could see her cheeks flush.
“Surely you know it is dangerous for a young lady to be wandering about alone at this time of night—especially with the castle
crowded with men and the wine flowing freely.”
“I could not sleep,” she said, her voice sharp with defiance. “So I decided to go for a ride.”
“You cannot go out riding by yourself in the middle of the night!” Lowering his voice, he added, “Really, you cannot be that
Her eyes flashed as she pressed her lips together—and a disturbing explanation occurred to him.
“If it is a man you are meeting, he does not value you as he should to ask you to come out alone like this.” He judged her
to be about sixteen, half a dozen years younger than he was. Young enough, he supposed, to be that naive.
“Running to a man?” she said, rolling her eyes heavenward. “Now, that would be foolish.”
She slid her knife into the sheath at her belt, apparently deciding he was not a threat after all. Before he could feel much
relief at that, she turned and reached for the bridle hanging on the post next to her.
“I am going now,” she announced, bridle in hand.
“I cannot let you,” he said, wondering how he would stop her. It would cause considerable trouble for them both if he carried
her to her rooms, kicking and screaming, at this time of night.
“Surely this can wait for the morning,” he argued.
She stared at him with a grim intensity that made him wonder what trick she would try to get past him.
“If I tell you the reason I cannot wait,” she said finally, “will you agree to let me go?”
He nodded, though he still had every intention of stopping her.
“Tomorrow I am to be married.”
The surge of disappointment in his chest caught him by surprise. Although he was told the castle was crowded because of a
wedding, it had not occurred to him that this achingly lovely girl could be the bride.
When he did not speak, she evidently concluded more explanation was required to convince him to let her go. “I do not expect
this will be a happy marriage for me,” she said, lifting her chin. “My betrothed is a man I can neither like nor admire.”
“Then you must tell your father; perhaps he will change his mind.” Even as he said it, William knew that with the wedding
set for tomorrow, it was far too late for this.
“I am the only heir to an important castle,” she said impatiently. “I could not expect my father or the king to take my wishes
into account in deciding what man will have it.”
“What is your objection to the man?” William had no right to ask, but he wanted to know. He wondered if this young innocent
was being married off to some lecher old enough to be her grandfather. It was common enough.
“He has meanness in him, I have seen it.” Her eyes were solemn and unblinking. “He is not a man to be trusted.”
Her response surprised him once again. Yet, he did not doubt she gave him the truth as she saw it.
“Tomorrow I will do what my father and my king require of me and wed this man. From that time forward, I will have to do as
my husband bids and submit to him in all things.”
William, of course, thought of the man taking her to bed and wondered if she truly understood all that her words implied.
“Tonight you must let me have this last hour of freedom,” she said, her voice determined. “It is not so much to ask.”
William could have told her she should trust the judgment of her father and her king, that surely they would not give her
to a man so undeserving. But he did not believe it himself.
“I will ride with you,” he said, “or you shall not go.”
She narrowed her eyes, scrutinizing him for a long moment. With the lamp at his back, the girl could not see him nearly as
well as he could see her. A double advantage, since he did not want to frighten her. He was well aware that, despite his youth,
there was something about his strong features and serious countenance that intimidated even experienced warriors.
“You must let me do that for you,” he said, holding out his hand for the bridle. He almost sighed aloud in relief when she
finally nodded and dropped it in his hand.