Medieval Runaway Wives

Madeleine knew the noble­man would rec­og­nize her. They’d spent too much time togeth­er for him not to know her upon first sight. She groaned. Where Sir Ash­by was, she was pos­i­tive his friend, the brood­ing Lord Mon­tayne, would soon appear. She did not care to see him face-to-face, espe­cial­ly since he had been so angry at her when they’d part­ed.

Mov­ing stealth­ily, she hoped to avoid atten­tion. Just as she thought she’d made her way unseen, she heard shouts head­ed her way.

Stop, thief! Stop!”

A cut­purse ran by her swift­ly, throw­ing a cur­so­ry glance over his shoul­der. She despised peo­ple who preyed upon oth­ers and would see this shab­by scoundrel caught. Madeleine stepped out, ready to give chase when some­thing slammed into her, knock­ing her to the ground. She tried to draw a breath but the wind had been knocked from her.

Instinct caused her to roll into a ball, her arms wrap­ping around her in a pro­tec­tive cocoon. She had spent many a time lying on the floor after one of Henri’s swift punch­es to her bel­ly and knew she must guard her ribs at all costs. Oh, God, it hurt so much when one broke. Please, not again. Not again.

A hand, firm but reas­sur­ing, touched her shoul­der. A voice came through the fog rolling through her brain. It wasn’t Hen­ri! She half-laughed, half-gasped, as she opened her limbs and came to lie on her back. She even reached into her pock­et and stroked Hen­ri-the-Peb­ble, val­i­dat­ing that she was alive and unharmed.

Yet who had attacked her? She peered up into the blind­ing sum­mer sun but could not see who stood above her. Then the shad­ow moved, cov­er­ing her face from the harsh light.

Why, if it isn’t Lady Mon­tayne,” said the dread­ed famil­iar voice. “Where the Hell is my favorite cloak?”

As Ash­by faced Marielle, all the intense long­ings for her rushed through him.

Why hadn’t he tak­en Gar­rett up on his gen­er­ous offer of a manor? May­hap then he might have felt wor­thy enough to pur­sue the beau­ti­ful woman that stood before him.

He placed his hands upon her shoul­ders. “I love you,” he admit­ted soft­ly. “The rea­sons why those words nev­er came seem so piti­ful now.”

Marielle tensed. “It is too late for us, Ash­by.”

Is it?” he asked, cling­ing to hope as Pan­do­ra sure­ly had.

Yes. We were nev­er meant to be.”

That sliv­er of hope pushed him to ask, “Then why are you here?”

Because tonight is all we will ever have.”

She lay her cheek against his chest and wrapped her arms about his waist. He enveloped her, hold­ing her gen­tly against him. Her silent tears soaked his tunic. To com­fort her, he kissed the top of her head, then he lift­ed her chin with a fin­ger and gen­tly touched his mouth to hers.

Pas­sion ignit­ed between them. The kiss stoked the fire that had lain dor­mant with­in them for close to two months. All the desire built up inside of him spilled forth from his mouth into hers.

She tast­ed as before, only sweet­er now. He want­ed her more than he had want­ed any oth­er woman at any oth­er time. Yet she was not his for the tak­ing.

Maybe she nev­er had been.

*Excerpt com­ing Octo­ber 2020