Authors: Miriam Minger
Tags: #Fiction, #Historical, #Medieval, #General, #Historical Fiction, #Romance, #Historical Romance
Maude was engulfed in flames and staggering around the
cell, screaming . . . screaming . . .
God help him! Leila must be in there, too!
Twisting his damp cloak around his arm, Guy held it in
front of his face like a shield and tried again to enter, but it was
impossible. The flames were too hot, and now the floor of the cell was nothing
but a boiling sea of fire. Choking from the billowing smoke, tears streaming
down his cheeks, he backed away, shaking his head in horrified disbelief. He
could no longer see Maude. Her hideous screams had ceased.
"Leila . . ." he rasped hoarsely, unable to
tear his watery eyes from the blazing inferno. "Why? Why!" He knew he
must escape the dungeon quickly or be overcome by smoke, but he couldn't bring
himself to move. God in heaven, he did not want to live without her!
The sound of weeping somewhere behind him made Guy
wheel around. Surely he hadn't imagined it! Then he saw that another cell door
was partially open and he lurched crazily toward it, stumbling inside.
He couldn't believe his eyes. Huddled in the middle of
the cell, rocking on her knees and sobbing uncontrollably, was Leila. Seeing
Guy, she wept harder, her hands held out rigidly in front of her.
, it burns . . .
it burns!" she babbled through her tears, clearly in shock. "I tried
to stop it . . . The fire caught her skirts. Her hair! Oh, the screaming! I tried
to help her! I tried . . ."
Guy gathered her into his arms, his relief so immense,
so overwhelming that he could not speak. Hugging her close, he reeled through
the smoke-filled dungeon and up the stairs to the ground floor, where he threw
the door and lunged outside.
He did not stop until they were well away from the
keep, then he sank to his knees, gasping for breath and cradling Leila against
his chest. In the torchlight he could see that her hands were reddened, but
thankfully not seriously burned. He kissed her blistered palms and tenderly stroked
, love. The
nightmare is over.
Suddenly Leila went limp in his arms, the horror of
what she had witnessed proving too much for her.
Guy was grateful for her unconscious state. He did not
want her to see the bloody carnage strewn all across the bailey. He did not
want her to think she was still living a nightmare. Not when she was finally
safe in his arms.
The first thing Leila felt when she awoke was a
stinging sensation in her hands. Dazed, she lifted them slowly, only to discover
they were swathed in bandages. Then she felt someone softly stroking her cheek.
She turned her head to find Guy lying beside her on top of the fur coverlet,
propped up on an elbow. He smiled warmly.
"Guy . . ." Astonished, she tried to sit up,
but he pushed her gently back against the pillows.
"Easy, love. Give yourself a moment. You've been
asleep for hours. Take a look around you and get your bearings. You're back at
Castle, in your own bedchamber."
Leila drew a deep breath, her gaze trailing around the
familiar room. It was true. She was home.
"But how?" she asked, her thoughts gradually
growing less muddled.
"It is a long story, my love. Don't trouble
yourself with it now. There will be time enough to hear it when you're feeling
She gazed into his eyes, so very, very blue in the
bright sunshine flooding the room. The love she saw reflected there was enough
to chase away the terrible memories beginning to crowd in on her, but she had
to ask him one question.
Guy seemed uncertain of how to answer,
he sighed, shaking his head. "He is gone, Leila.
He fell from the castle keep to his death."
Leila absorbed this news, saying nothing for a long
moment. With her relief that Roger would plague them no more, she felt a sense
of sadness. She had never wished such misfortune upon either him or Maude. They
had brought it upon themselves, evil begetting evil.
Finally she said, "You fought him, then."
"Yes, we fought."
Suddenly afraid that he might have been wounded, her
eyes swept him frantically, the great
breadth of his bare
shoulders, his powerful arms, his heavily muscled chest. Skipping past his
, she noticed the fresh bandages around his thigh.
"I am whole, Leila," Guy said with a small
laugh, reading her concerned scrutiny.
"Yes, thank God, but I should attend to your leg
"That will not be possible for several days, my
love," Guy told her gently, drawing up her chin to face him. "You
must wait until your hands heal. Philip has been ably caring for both of us by
using some of your prepared ointments. When he returns in an hour or so, I'm
sure you will find him most eager to hear your suggestions for our continued
Leila was incredulous. "Philip said that?"
"Yes. He has undergone a miraculous change of
heart. He has already visited the surrounding villages and farms to admit to my
tenants that he was wrong about your medical skills. I'm sure you will have
patients aplenty when you return to your hospital."
"Surely this must all be a dream," Leila
murmured, stunned by this news.
"No," Guy replied firmly. "It is no
"But I cannot believe you came after me!" she
blurted, staring into his eyes. Then her voice fell to a broken whisper. "I
thought . . . you would hate me for leaving you."
"Never," he said fervently. "I love you,
Leila. You are everything to me. How could I ever hate you? You are my beloved
wife. You carry our child—"
"How did you know . . . ?" she asked, amazed.
"It doesn't matter. Just know that I am pleased
beyond measure about the babe." As he ran one finger lightly down her
cheek and across her lips, his expression grew serious. "In truth, Leila,
when I discovered you had fled, I almost believed that you hated me—"
"Never." Leila felt him tense beside her, his
gaze so full of hope and longing that it took her breath away. If there was
ever a moment to share with him exactly how she felt, it was now. "I love
you, Guy de
. You have forever won my heart. I
will never, never leave you."
His hoarse cry was exultant and she welcomed his impassioned
kiss with open arms. The warmth of his lips was the sweetest affirmation that
this incredible moment was real. The fierce desire flaring within her was just
as real, and she yearned to share it with him. To give herself freely and
fully, as she had just given her undying love.
"My lord, how shall we fill these long hours as we
both convalesce?" she teased softly, delighting in his roguish smile when
he drew away to gaze into her face. She shivered deliciously. It seemed their
thoughts were one and the same.
"I can think of countless ways, my love."
sat alone in her
fragrant courtyard, staring at the water-stained, travel-worn packet she held
in her trembling hands.
She was told it had passed through many other hands to
reach her: messengers, pilgrims, a native Christian who had journeyed all the
way from Acre to deliver it to Friar Thomas, and finally
Her faithful odalisque had just returned from the church in the Christian
quarter with the precious missive,
retired to leave Eve in solitude.
Now it was all Eve could do to tear open the stiff
outer parchment. As she did so, she could not help but wonder if the letter
inside bore good news or bad. Drawing a deep, steadying breath, she pulled it
out and began to read by the soft golden light of a lantern.
It was from Leila, written almost eight months ago, and
to her astonishment, the beautifully flowing script was in English.
Eve's eyes quickly filled with tears, and she sighed brokenly,
reading about Roger's cruel treachery and his death. Yet her sadness was far
outweighed by quiet joy. The rest of the letter expressed Leila's radiant
Leila had married a man of good and brave heart. Lord
had promised Eve that Leila would come
to no harm, and he had kept his word. She could not have hoped or prayed for a
more worthy husband for her beloved daughter. He had even given Leila a
hospital so that she might fulfill her fondest dream.
Eve traced her finger over the last few lines, as if by
touching the ink she could somehow come closer to the delicate hand that had
Leila was the mother of healthy twins, Eve and William,
born last summer. She also had an adopted son, Nicholas, whom she dearly loved.
Her life was rich and full. She and Guy were happy together . . . so very, very
"So God has willed," Eve said softly to
herself, reading the letter one more time before tearing it and the parchment
packet into small pieces. Then she rose from the marble couch and cast the
fragments into the stream which tumbled through her courtyard and emptied into
River flowing just beyond the high,
Plucking a pink damask rose, Eve inhaled its lush scent
as she stood beside the stream. She was so lost in her joyous thoughts she did
not hear footsteps behind her. She realized she was no longer alone when
someone gently touched her shoulder.
"What has captured your mind so, Eve? Did you not
hear me call your name?"
She turned and smiled into
dark eyes. "I was only thinking how happy I am, my husband," she
answered truthfully. Even now, after reading the letter, she felt no guilt that
she harbored one secret from the man she loved so completely.
Leila had taken pity upon Guy de
aided him in his escape from Damascus. At least that was what he had always
maintained. If he had any idea that Eve had had something to do with the
escape, he had kept it to himself. He had never asked her about that night, and
she didn't think he ever would. His silent protection only endeared him more
fiercely to her heart.
"You are my happiness, my beloved Eve. Come. The
night is falling."
As she took his hand, thrilling to the warmth of his
touch and the desire smoldering in his eyes, the rose slipped from her fingers
and fell into the stream. It spun and bobbed in the current, then drifted away
. . .
is the award-winning, critically acclaimed author of ten historical romances
She also writes
inspirational romantic thrillers as
is the co-author of the popular Little Mike and
series of children’s picture books about a lovable pair of dogs and their
Historical Romances by Miriam
A Hint of Rapture
The Pagan’s Prize
Secrets of Midnight
My Runaway Heart (sequel to Secrets of Midnight)
Wild Roses (sequel to Wild Angel)
Inspirational Romantic Thrillers by
Children’s Picture Books by Miriam Aronson:
Little Mike and
First Motorcycle Ride
Little Mike and
Black Hills Adventure
Little Mike and