Authors: Miriam Minger
Tags: #Fiction, #Historical, #Medieval, #General, #Historical Fiction, #Romance, #Historical Romance
is a master
storyteller who illustrates the full gamut of emotions felt by her characters
Emotions so strong
that you are pulled into the pages and into their lives.” – Inside Romance
1991 by Miriam
All rights reserved
With the exception of quotes used in
reviews, this book may not be reproduced or used in whole or in part by any
means existing without written permission from the author.
Originally published by Avon Books, March 1991
Cover Copyright © 2010 by Hot Damn Designs
This is a work of fiction. Any references to
historical events, real people, or real locales are used fictitiously. Other
names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s
imagination, and any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living
or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Other Electronic Books by Miriam
Regency Era Romances:
A Hint of
Table of Contents
To lovers true, what matters dark or fair?
Or if the loved one silk or sackcloth wear,
Or lie on down or dust, or rise to heaven?
Yea, though she
he'll seek her there.
by E. H.
"He comes, my mistress."
elicited a nervous fluttering of excitement in Eve
breast. She ceased her gentle crooning and glanced at the striking
odalisque, a slave woman who had been purchased
from the teeming Damascus slave market on the same day as she, six months ago.
lithe, broad-shouldered frame filled the narrow
archway leading from Eve's private apartments.
"Is all in readiness,
Eve asked quietly, careful lest she wake the baby sleeping so peacefully in her
arms. She watched as
crossed the shaded
courtyard on strong, silent feet and knelt beside the marble couch where she
"Yes, mistress. All is prepared."
He comes, Eve thought.
Al-Aziz. Her master. Her protector. He had spent every third night with her
since she had been brought to this house; long, passionate nights she had once
dreaded. Now she yearned for those nights as she yearned for him, this man who
would become her husband in a week's time.
Eve felt a moment's panic, and raw guilt constricted
Forgive me, William!
"How sweetly she sleeps,"
whispered, oblivious to Eve's distress. The odalisque's large gray eyes were
soft as she gazed upon the baby. She reached out and lovingly caressed a plump
limb. "Her skin is like the finest pearl, O my mistress," she said in
hushed admiration. "White as the full moon and delicate as a dove's satin
Distracted by the husky, soothing quality of
voice, Eve smiled faintly as the odalisque bent
her head and kissed the baby's curled fist. "You will spoil her with such
," she said, gently reproaching her.
a good thing Leila is only seven months
old and does not yet understand your many compliments."
"Ah, she knows,"
insisted softly, sitting back on her haunches and looking solemnly at Eve.
"She hears, she smiles.
She listens to her devoted
." The odalisque raised her hand, shielding the
baby's face from the dappled late afternoon sunlight. "Leila," she
intoned, "dark as night. Your ebony hair vies with the raven's gloss. Your
eyes sparkle like twin amethyst jewels, fit for a sultan. Perhaps one day it
might even be said your beauty rivals that of your fair mother."
"Then I will be the most fortunate of men to have
a wife and a daughter blessed so richly by Allah."
gasped slightly and
bowed low to the floor, her indigo silk caftan splaying in shimmering folds
around her. She touched her forehead to the cool paving stones as
Al-Aziz, at thirty years of age the wealthiest and
most respected physician in
courtyard. "O master, I have a foolish and flapping tongue—"
"Not foolish if one speaks the truth,"
interrupted pleasantly as he strode toward them. "
now, woman, and leave us. I wish to be alone with my
scrambled to her
feet, Eve's face grew warm at the stirring sight of her Arab lord.
He was so darkly handsome, his features finely etched
beneath a short, carefully barbered beard, his body strong and virile beneath
his flowing robes . . . a body she knew as intimately as her own. His last
words were like a forbidden caress upon her skin; they burned into her mind.
, and take
the child," she said, her heart thundering as she felt
gaze drift over her in a manner that never failed to unnerve and excite her.
She lifted her daughter into
arms. "See that my lord and I are not disturbed, yet remain close at hand
in case I have need of you."
"Yes, my mistress." Hugging Leila to her
with her head lowered and eyes downcast, and disappeared through the archway.
A tense silence ensued, mocked by splashing fountains
and sweet birdsong.
presence, Eve bowed her head and stared at the small, man-made stream gurgling
through the square courtyard. Lifeblood to the fruit trees and flowers blooming
in colorful profusion around her, the stream was fed by the
the Cool River, which flowed just beyond these thick, ivy-covered walls and
supplied the water for the entire city.
Damascus. The original Garden of Eden, or so the
Damascenes called their ancient home. A land of trees and rivers, fruits and
birds, rising up like a verdant miracle from the desert.
A prison. Eve's prison . . . and Leila's. An opulent
prison filled with every luxury, every comfort—even love if she would only
accept it from the man who had found such favor in his Christian concubine that
he had made her his favorite, and soon his third wife.
A small, plaintive sigh escaped Eve's lips. Once she
was married she would be a free woman, but not so free that she could ever
leave the confines of the city walls unescorted. She would still be a prisoner,
trapped by tragic circumstances and a fierce, burgeoning love that was
threatening to envelop her completely.
Six months ago she had wanted desperately to escape, to
return with her infant daughter to the nine-year-old son she and William had
left behind in England last summer when they began their pilgrimage to the Holy
Land. Now she wasn't so sure she wanted to escape. She was certain of only one
thing; of the terrible guilt festering within her like a living, breathing
Eve closed her eyes tightly against the sudden tears
Oh, William, my dearest husband, why did you have to
die? Why did you abandon me to the vile slave trader who murdered you and then
brought me here to Damascus, selling me to this man who has the power to make
me feel again . . . make me love again? I would rather be suffering a thousand
torments than betray you in my heart. But I am helpless against it. Please
She started as
her gently by the shoulders and raised her up beside him. She opened her large,
violet eyes and regarded him through spiky lashes, tears tumbling down her
cheeks. With infinite tenderness he cradled her face in his hands, his thumbs
caressing away the warm wetness.
"You weep for William, yes?"
She stared into the smoldering, mahogany depths that
seemed to know her soul, and nodded.
"I weep for William . . . for what is lost,"
she said truthfully, for strangely with
had never thought to lie. "And I weep at the remorse which is like a
dagger twisting in my heart—"
silenced her with a
finger to her lips, his gaze burning intently into hers. "Say no more, my
beloved. I understand," he said quietly, enfolding her in his arms. "But
know this. Kismet has brought you to me, and there is nothing that will alter
what has gone before. Nothing. You must accept your kismet, Eve. Your fate."
Eve said nothing as she buried her damp face against
his shoulder. His familiar masculine scent, tinged with musk and sandalwood,
was a compelling comfort. Her arms crept around him, and she returned his
"I am a patient man, but I am also a jealous man,"
continued, his arms tightening possessively. "You
lost your William ten months ago. I know you have yet to mourn, but I will not
live forever with his spirit between us, Eve. In time, I hope you will leave
him to his eternal rest and return my love."
Eve silently cried out her anguish as
bent his head and kissed her, the demanding warmth
of his lips driving William's image from her mind. She clung to him as a
drowning creature would cling to a rock, unconsciously making her choice, the
living over the dead.
She knew that in time, just as
had said, her guilt would
and she would be able
to voice her love. And she knew, deep in her heart, that William would wish her
happiness in the new life fate had brought her.
"Come with me, my beloved,"
said softly, his breath stirring her gossamer veil
and the lustrous black hair curled at the base of her throat. He took her arm,
and together they walked from the jasmine- and rose-scented courtyard, passing
through the archway into Eve's luxurious apartments, which were set apart from
the rest of the harem as befitted a favored concubine.
Now Eve led the way, taking his hand as she drew him
into the salon across velvet carpets embroidered in gold and crimson.
The room was dark and cool, a welcome relief from the
dry summer heat. Two window grilles looking out onto the courtyard provided
diffused light through elegantly carved lattices.
Beautiful gilded hangings with intricate mosaic designs graced the four walls,
while on three sides of the room the floor was raised several feet, forming a
divan furnished with inviting brocade cushions.