Authors: Alyssa James
Knight of Her
“Knight of Her Heart” is copyright by Alyssa J. Montgomery, 2014
All rights reserved.
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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. The characters are not even distantly inspired by any individual known or unknown to the author. This story is fiction. Historical events mentioned are not intended to be an accurate representation. Any resemblance to actual locales, organizations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Knight of Her Heart
“Knight of Her Heart” is the romantic and passionate journey of Lady Lisette and Lord Rowan—each vulnerable and less than perfect, yet worthy of finding happiness. It is a story of repentance and forgiveness; desperation and hope, and one in which loyalty, courage and love triumph over treachery and betrayal.
Lady Lisette is desperate to thwart her guardian’s plans and determined to do whatever she must to save her life and protect her young sister—even if she must act against her moral integrity. But just when she’s acted to safeguard her future and committed the sin that plagues her conscience, she is stunned to learn that King Henry V has assigned her a protector—Lord Rowan. Lisette is hardly worthy of Henry’s noble warrior. Can she ever gain Rowan’s forgiveness for what she has done and win his heart?
Lord Rowan, King Henry’s hero of Agincourt is driven by his thirst for justice. He swore an oath to seek revenge for the death of his parents and the last thing he wants is a wife. Yet he must marry by command of his liege. Believing that he has at least gained a beautiful and biddable bride, he is challenged on every level by a woman who is spirited and independent. Just when he thinks she may be the one to help heal the bitterness he carries, he discovers her betrayal. But does he have the right to judge her when his own past hides a shameful secret?
About the Author
Alyssa lives on acreage south of Sydney, Australia, with her husband, three children and a menagerie of animals. She has a Master’s degree in Science and is a Speech-Language Pathologist who works in her own private practice. Alyssa has also been a professional pianist and an international flight attendant for Qantas Airways. She still loves to travel with her family, to play tennis and to entertain friends at dinner parties.
“Knight of Her Heart” is Alyssa’s first historical romance. She also pens contemporary romance under the name Alyssa J. Montgomery.
Alyssa would love to hear from you.
With thanks to my critique partners, Enisa, Cassie and Marilyn and to the JAKEM Editorial team for their support in making this story stronger. Thanks also to my family, especially my three wonderful children, who understand the effort that goes into writing a novel and who unfailingly support my endeavours.
To my husband and real-life hero, who is also my best friend, soul-mate and a constant support in everything I undertake. He will forever remain the Knight of my Heart.
Bridlemere Keep, England, 1416
“Your marriage to Lord Collins has been arranged. The notice will be placed on the church door this day.”
Lisette’s spine stiffened at her guardian’s astonishing declaration. “Nay! It cannot be.” Everything in her screamed denial. “You’ve never mentioned this. How can the banns be placed so soon?”
Lord Blake merely shrugged off her protests and continued his writing. “The arrangement was made the last time I met with Lord Collins.”
“I will not marry him!” she declared vehemently.
In the act of writing long fluid strokes on parchment, her guardian stilled. His hand hovered over the unfinished document before he dropped his quill onto the tableau. ’Twas a deliberate action which warned of his displeasure. He raised his head slowly and she was pinned by his cold, narrowed eyes. The pulse in one of the blood vessels at his temple became visible and Lisette realised her shocked protest to his unexpected announcement had been a dreadful mistake. Renowned for his violent temper, her guardian did not tolerate those who did not do his bidding.
But to be forced into marriage—and to Lord Collins...
The thought made her cringe inwardly. This proclamation from her guardian was surely a nightmare from which she must awaken.
’Twas probably fortunate that she stood on the other side of the tableau and out of her guardian’s reach. His controlled reaction to her outburst was more to be feared than if he had thumped his fist down or snapped his quill in half.
An instinct of self-preservation made her break eye contact with the formidable bear of a man and focus on the hem of her plain woollen kirtle. Each breath she took was shallow, forced out through lungs that suddenly seemed to have a steel band tightening around them.
The scrape of her guardian’s chair against the wooden floorboards of his Southern solar was ominous. It signalled that her belated show of timidity had not earned her a reprieve. There would be no escape from the consequences of her objection. Gritting her teeth, she lifted her head. If punishment was to be meted out by her guardian, she would look at him and let him see that she was no coward. Whatever the consequences, he would not break her spirit.
He stood and moved toward her like a predator stalking its prey. She remained motionless as Lord Blake dominated the room that had once belonged to her father. A tug of sorrow caused her breathing to hitch as she thought of the former Lord Blake. In her father’s lifetime this solar had been a place of happiness. Now the atmosphere of the room was oppressive and Lisette dreaded the times she was summoned here.
Cold fingers of fear pinched at her spine as she read the violent intent in her guardian’s every feature. Stubbornly, she tilted her chin, willing herself to feel courage as this beast of a man threatened her. Each moment spent in the presence of her guardian was fraught with tension. She despised everything about him.
“Always the shrew, Lisette. Every day you seek to defy me in some small way,” he spat at her. With a cruel hand, he forced her chin further upwards so it extended at an uncomfortable angle. Fingers bit into her flesh and he shifted his hold so that his nails dug in along her jaw line.
“I defy you only when you are unreasonable. I oppose the increase payments from the villeins who can barely feed their families,” she retorted.
“You have no right to interfere in the business of this keep. No right to give those families food from my kitchen!”
She would do it again instantly even though the last time he’d caught her she’d received a sound thrashing for her efforts.
“Mayhap Lord Collins will have more success taming you. I’ve no doubt he will enjoy trying,” he drawled. “I hear he takes enormous pride in beating his wives into submission if they challenge or disobey him.”
Rebellion sparked as her hatred flared to the surface. “You have much in common then, my lord.”
The force of the savage blow to her cheek came faster than a viper’s strike and sent her stumbling sideways. The venom in her guardian’s eyes was equally as deadly. He glowered at her and she would not have been surprised to see that he had grown fangs. He was a serpent, the devil incarnate. Everything about the present Lord Blake was dark and evil where her father had been good and caring. It defied belief that two cousins, even distant ones, could be so vastly different.
Lisette straightened, her hand reaching up automatically to her tender cheek. ’Twas only his look of satisfaction as he followed her movement that made her lower her hand and stand her ground when he took a step toward her.
“So defiant. Just like your haughty mother,” he said with disgust. “Both you and your young sister are the image of that French bitch who thought she was so superior!”
His tongue snaked out and he licked his lips. A change came over his expression. A different light shone from his eyes—one she couldn’t interpret, but one that made her decidedly uncomfortable.
“Aye. The image of your mother,” he repeated.
Without warning he cupped his crotch and then began stroking up and down as he regarded her. Lisette’s attention was drawn to the movement. She stood in shock as she saw the evidence of his arousal straining against the fabric of his breeches.
Dear Lord. She had never been confronted by such a sight. She had no idea how to handle her guardian in this state. No idea what would follow. His licentious appetites were gossiped about by the servants. The number of whores he’d brought to the keep to service him was a testimony to his insatiability. Their swollen, sometimes bleeding lips and dishevelled appearances after having been bedded by him were proof of his predilection for rough mating.
With her rapid heartbeat reverberating through her, she took a step away from him.
“Lord Collins can have his pleasure with you in the marriage bed, Lisette, and I’ll be certain to be there to witness your deflowering.” His lips curled in pleasure and his breathing became more rapid. “I’ll tell him to do a thorough job—nice and rough like you deserve. It will be a joy to see your spirit broken and listen to your screams as you submit to him.”
“You are a monster!” she accused in whispered disbelief, but knew her fate was sealed. She had no rights. As her legal guardian, he could give her to any man he pleased. He would make good his threat to witness her humiliation as her maidenhead was claimed on the bridal bed. What on earth had her father been thinking when he made this man her guardian?
“Know, Lisette,” he continued with sarcastic loathing, “that while Lord Collins takes his pleasure with you, your sister could be the next to warm his bed.”
“If you should die prematurely before you beget an heir for your lord and master, your darling little sister, Genevieve, shall be the good lord’s next wife.”
The words were more devastating than any physical blow he could deliver. She gasped aloud as the image of Genevieve—so young and sweet—instantly filled her mind. “You wouldn’t—”
“I’ll do whatever I please,” he promised with a coarse smile.
“Not Genevieve. She is just a child.” Her words were heated with denial even though she knew her protests were futile.
“You will learn to hold your tongue, girl, or Collins will cut it out of your pretty little head,” he warned.
Quick as lightning, he reached out and wrenched her arm painfully to draw her body close to his. The stench of his fetid breath made her hold hers until her head began to spin.
“And ’twould be such a shame to lose that tongue.”
Lisette shuddered and swallowed down hard on the knot of anxiety that threatened to choke her as she watched him lick his lips again. Perspiration beaded his brow. His eyes were glazed like that of a madman and as hard as she tried to conceal her fear, she trembled in his grasp.