Authors: Catherine Kean
Tags: #Fiction, #Romance, #Historical, #General
For Megan, whose beautiful smile always warms my heart.
And for Mike, my Knight in Shining Armor.
I cherish each day with you.
Published 2005 by Medallion Press, Inc.
Palm Beach, FL 33480
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Copyright © 2005 by Catherine Kean Cover Illustration by Adam Mock
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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Kean, Catherine. Dance of desire / Catherine Kean.
p. cm. ISBN 0-932815-35-X
1. Great Britain-History-Richard I, 1189-1199—Fiction. I. Title.
CLS 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
I could not have succeeded in my writing journey
without my dear friends and fabulous critique partners —
Thompson, Teresa Elliot Brown, and
Elizabeth Grainger. You are amazing writers, and I truly
cannot thank you enough.
My heartfelt thanks also to Alicia Clarke and
, who have read every word I've written
and are always enthusiastic; to Amanda Lord, the best sister
in the whole wide world; and to David and Shirley Lord,
rare and beautiful people who taught me to strive for my
dreams. You never failed to encourage me, and I am very
proud to be your daughter.Chapter One
Keep, England, 1192
"i do not like this wretched scheme, milady."
Lady Rexana Villeaux shivered in the icy night wind that whipped into Tangston Keep's forebuilding. "I know, Henry, but 'tis the only way to get the list of traitors."
She drew against the stone wall, into the shadows at the bottom of the stairs. Bawdy laughter and the music of lute and drum carried down into the passage from the great hall. As she smoothed the veil covering her nose and mouth and the silk over her head, tiny bells tinkled at her wrists. The jewelry's weight pressed upon her skin, a foreign sensation.
She inhaled a shaky breath. Would her deception succeed?
In the dim light, Henry glanced at her, his gaze worried. Rexana's belly clenched into a knot. She must not succumb to fear. She must focus on her task. Her brother's life depended on her. Dear, impetuous Rudd, the only family she had left.
Wiping her sweaty palms on her embroidered skirt, she started up the stairs.
Henry strode beside her. Torchlight flickered on his silvery hair and shadowed the grim set of his mouth. "I hope your hot-headed fool of a brother appreciates the risk you are taking to save his
Rexana shot Henry a sharp glance. "Mind your tongue. He is not your pupil in the tiltyards any longer, but master of Ickleton Keep. Your lord."
"With respect, he is fifteen and very much a boy." Henry wagged a finger, callused from years of wielding a sword. "I still remember the day your mother and father presented him to me, all pink, squished, and noisy as a pig's fart."
Her heart squeezed. "Henry!"
"You are right. 'Tis no time to speak of such matters. May your parents forever rest in peace." Henry's eyes darkened. With a scarred hand, he caught her elbow, halting her just outside the light spilling in from the hall. "Milady, look at you. An earl's daughter, dressed like an infidel whore. What madness convinced me to let you go through with this?"
She swallowed a sting of irritation. Heaven above, she did not need his permission. When would Henry cease treating her like the child he had bounced on his knee and hand-fed expensive sweetmeats? "Not madness, Henry. Fate. The girl who plays the Saracen's lover in the local mummer's troupe would have entertained the sheriff —"
"Except she fell ill." Henry nodded. "I helped her through Ickleton's gates, then summoned the healer."
"A boon, that her costume fit me well enough."
He snorted in clear disapproval. "Nay, a curse."
Rexana looked down at her stiff fingers, darkened like her body with thin layers of flour and mud. "The girl knew of no one to take her place, and it provided us a way to get through Tangston's gates. Henry, we
find the missive that lists the names of sworn traitors. The one the sheriff intends to send to the crown."
"Because somehow Rudd's signature is on the document." Henry sighed. "Could the maidservant who fled Tangston be mistaken about what she overheard? She was half mad, ranting about the sheriff's barbaric ways —"
"Her dead sire swore fealty to my father. Moreover, she is a friend of Rudd's. She had no reason to speak false." Cheers and laughter erupted in the hall and, with a shudder, Rexana looked toward the noise. "Rudd is not involved in the rebellion stirring against the crown. I will not see him ruined by accusations of treachery."