Authors: My Cherished Enemy
MY CHERISHED ENEMY
Sandra Kleinschmit at Smashwords
Copyright 2012 by Sandra Kleinschmit
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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. Any resemblance
to actual events, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Seeking protection from her vicious scheming uncle, spirited Kathryn of Ashbury is forced to turn to her despised enemy, Guy de Marche, the dashing Earl of Sedgewick, for aid. But the handsome arrogant knight demands more than she is willing to give—arousing within her a passion she has vowed to resist.
MASTER OF HER HEART
Guy returned from the Crusades to find all he loved destroyed. Craving vengeance against the blackhearted responsible, he claims his foe's beautiful niece as boots in his personal war of retribution. And though the fiery, headstrong Kathryn has sworn no man will conquer her, she is no match for the virile, battle-hardened knight. But Guy will not rest until he has won what is rightfully his—including the enchantress who has enslaved his heart and soul.
It is with very great joy that I present to you, in e-book format, one of
My Cherished Enemy.
It has a beautiful new cover, and
I'm tremendously excited to share this story with you.
I had a great time rediscovering my lead characters, Guy and Kathryn, with their indomitable spirit and pride. Guy and Kathryn have such fiery chemistry, and their love scenes are hot-hot-hot!
As a writer, my goal is to entertain you. To make you laugh and cry and feel every emotion that comes with the magic of falling in love.
hey came alive in my heart... as I hope they will in yours.
All my best,
TABLE OF CONTENTS
“I cannot do this, my lady! I—I fear they will find us and we will both be killed, the babe and I!"
The high thin voice belonged to a young girl of no more than sixteen summers. Her body was stout and tall for her age; she came from hearty peasant stock. She knelt in the rushes before the Lady Elaine, the woman she had served as long as she could remember.
"Gerda, you must!" Elaine spoke sharply, a tone Gerda had heard but rarely. "If my son is to be saved, it is you who must save him. You must flee this keep and take Peter back to Sedgewick." Her eyes briefly sought the sunken gaze of the woman who lay abed, Lady Claire Chandler, but it was Gerda to whom she spoke.
"We are marked, all of us here. You have seen with your own eyes the bloodlust of our attackers. They spare no one—not the farmer in the field, nor women or children. I prayed it would not come to this, but they know not yet of you or Peter."
Outside in the bailey, the skirmish raged anew. The ramparts were filled with the sounds of battle. Harsh guttural sounds tore from men's throats. Sword met sword, the clang of steel against steel ringing through the air. A terrified scream reached a shattering crescendo, then fell eerily silent.
The raiders were sly and cunning. Led by Richard of Ashbury, they had entered the keep as friends, not foes, seeking an alliance with Claire's husband Thomas, castellan of Ramsay Keep. They had barely passed through the gates than the unwarranted siege had begun.
For three days, Ramsay Keep's defenders had fought a valiant but losing battle. Claire's husband Thomas was left with only one choice. Yet Thomas’s offer of surrender had been met with treachery. He was struck down from behind and still the raiders stormed the walls; still they maimed and killed.
Elaine's tone grew beseeching. "Please, Gerda! I plead for the life of my son. These raiders take no prisoners. Their horses trample the dead and the dying. I would have Peter spared—and you as well!"
Gerda began to tremble. She had been with the her lady forever, it seemed to her young heart. Her mistress had laughed with her, scolded her, protected her from her father who was wont to wield the stick whenever he was in his cups. Indeed, it was her father's wrath which had caused the injury to her knee when she was but a babe. Others ridiculed her clumsy gait, her awkward progress whenever she tried to hurry. But her lady guided gently and praised her care of the little lord Peter. Who would guide her when her lady was gone?
Gerda was immediately ashamed of her selfishness. With eyes like the summer sky and hair as gold and glistening as a radiant halo, her lady was a vision from above, Gerda thought. And she was good and kind and sweet.
She began to weep. " 'Tis so unfair, my lady! If your lord were here, these wretched robber barons would not have dared attack Sir Thomas or any of his vassals!"
So be it, Elaine agreed silently. Her heart twisted. Gerda's words rang pure and true indeed. Sir Thomas held this keep for her husband, Guy de Marche, Earl of Sedgewick, who was a man of the times. Like all men of his rank, Guy had trained as a warrior throughout his life. His prowess as a knight was known from the mist-shrouded land of Scotland to the rugged coastline of nearby Cornwall. He was a fierce and lethal force in combat, deadly and precise and fearless. But Guy de Marche was also a man of great honor and he ruled his fiefs with a just and noble hand.
But Guy was half a world away. Both he and Sir Hugh Bainbridge, Claire's brother, were on crusade. They had been gone nearly a twelvemonth.
"Please, milady, will you not come?" Gerda begged her mistress. "You say this keep and all who dwell within are doomed. Come with me, I beg of you!"
At this, Claire stirred slightly. She groped for Elaine's hand. "The girl is right, Elaine." What might have passed for a smile crossed lips that were once rosy and full with the sweetness of youth. Russet-brown hair lay matted and drab against the pillow. Her skin was white and colorless, her breathing shallow and raspy. Elaine despised herself for the thought, but she prayed that this ague which had sapped the life breath from her friend these past weeks would soon send her to God's kingdom. Better that than death at the hands of the treacherous butchers who ravaged the village and even now pillaged the keep.
"Nay," Elaine said softly. "I cannot leave you, Claire. Your brother Sir Hugh has served my husband too long and too well for me to forsake those he holds dear. And you, his sister, are my dearest friend in all the land. As there is honor among the living, there is honor among the dead. I ask only that you save the life of my son." She touched the dry parchment-thin cheek of her friend. "I fear there is not much time. The fighting grows close. Quickly now, I bid you tell Gerda the way to the monastery. The monks there will see that they are sent to Sedgewick."
Claire closed her eyes in silent assent. In a voice grown weak from strain and sickness, she told the girl of the secret staircase behind the bedstead. The staircase twisted down to a tunnel that led outside the keep to a hut near the woods. It was but a short distance to the monastery. From there the girl could seek refuge and escort back to Sedgewick.
At last Claire slumped back against the pillows. Elaine lifted her sleeping child from the wooden cradle and gazed down at him. Tears glistened in her eyes.
She touched his cheek gently, marveling that God had given her such a wondrous gift. She buried her face against his unruly dark curls. Peter was the image of Guy, every bit his father's son. He had been conceived on her last night with Guy. This Elaine knew with all her heart. Her one regret was that her beloved husband had yet to see the fruit of their love.
God, how she loved them both! With tears blurring her vision, she drew back to trace the babe's features one by one: winged brows as black as night, tiny nubbin nose, the beautifully shaped mouth that even now held a touch of his father’s strength.
The tears spilled over. She would never see Peter grow sturdy and tall as the oak trees which grew near Sedgewick... as tall and proud as his warrior father. But even as she dried her tears, Elaine refused to think of death. She thought only of life... her son's life.