Authors: Elizabeth Rose
Lucas looked over toward the girls and realized Amber was no longer sitting by the fire talking to Mirabelle. He had thought at first that she’d gone to use a bush, but when it was a while and she didn’t return, he knew something was wrong.
“Hold up,” he told Sir Romney with his hand out, stopping the conversation. “Something is wrong.”
“What could be wrong?” asked the knight.
“I don’t know, but Amber seems to have disappeared.” He rushed o
ver to Mirabelle who was just lying there looking at the stars. “Where’s Amber?” he asked.
Mirabelle sat up and brushed herself off. “I don’t know. We were just sitting here talking and the next thing I know she jumps up and looks like she’s going to cry and takes off into the forest.”
“What did you do to her?” he snapped.
“Nothing,” she said.
“Well you must have said something to upset her,” added Sir Romney.
“I don’t think so.”
“Mirabelle,” said Lucas, gritting his teeth and trying to hold back his anger, “what the hell were you two talking about?”
She sighed deeply and seemed to be thinking. “Let me see. She was asking about men and I was giving her advice.”
“Bid the devil, you’ve got to be kidding,” said Lucas glancing up toward the woods, wondering where she went.
“Nay, I’m not
. She asked what excited a man, so I told her.”
“And that caused her to run away?” asked Sir Romney.
“Well, we were talking about you, Lucas.”
“God’s bones, don
’t tell me you told her we coupled?”
“You did?” Sir Romney asked, seeming as if it bothered him.
“She’s a whore,” Lucas ground out. “Don’t act so surprised.”
“You never told me you coupled with Lucas,” said the knight.
“I thought you knew,” said Mirabelle. “That’s where I got the idea to couple in the stables with you, as Lucas likes to do it in odd places.”
“Please don’t tell me you told that to Amber.” Lucas was doing all he could to keep from hitting the woman.
“Well, I was giving an example to her question so she could learn. Just like when I told her how you growl like a bear and like to be spanked and called a bad boy –”
Lucas didn’t give her the chance to finish. He pulled her up by her shoulders and shook her so hard he swore he could hear her brains rattle. It was all he could do not to hit her, even if she was a woman.
Damn the Code of Conduct, he no longer cared. “You fool. You don’t tell that to a nun!”
“Let her go,” shouted Sir Romney, grabbing him from behind. Without thinking, Lucas’
s survival skills from being attacked kicked in and he turned around and swung his fist, hitting Sir Romney in the jaw. The knight stumbled backwards and righted himself, pulling his sword in the process. “Mayhap this is the time to see just how good those fighting skills of yours are,” he threatened.
“Put away the sword,” said Lucas. “I have no desire to fight you.” He turned his back on
the knight and heard him rushing toward him. In one motion he grabbed his sword from his side and turned to block what could have been a devastating blow.
“Stop fighting,” said Mirabelle
, but neither of them listened.
Lucas could see the anger in the knight’s eyes and did all he could to ward off the man’s blows
without hurting him.
“Don’t hold back, you bastard,” said Sir Romney. “
Or is this all you’re capable of doing since you’re really not a knight?”
I’m not looking for a fight. Now put down your sword.”
“Never,” called the knight, picking up the intensity of his blows. Lucas knew he had to stop this, or someone was going to get hurt. He’
d been holding back, but he would do so no longer.
He fought like a wild man, letting loose with all his pent up anger. Swords clashed as he met with every one of Sir Romney’s blows. Th
en in one swift move, he twisted the tip of his sword around the knight’s weapon and flipped it out of his hand and up into the air. Sir Romney fell backward onto the ground and Lucas lunged forward and held the tip of his sword to the man’s throat. He heard Mirabelle screaming in horror from behind him.
“I may not be a knight, but don’t forget I was a mercenary. I could kill you right now if I wanted to with just a flick of my hand.”
“Then why don’t you?” asked Sir Romney.
“Because I have no quarrel with you, nor do I have time for this.” He placed his sword back into his scabbard and reached out his hand and helped Sir Romney to his feet.
“I misjudged you,” said the knight. “Because with the way you fight and your chivalry to offer me your hand, you truly are a knight after all.”
“I’ve got to find her,” said
Lucas, ignoring the man’s compliment, and turning and running into the forest. “Amber,” he called, but heard no answer. “Amber, where are you?”
He searched for
a good amount of time in the dark, not understanding how she could have gotten so far away so quickly. He had just turned around and was heading back to camp when he saw her in the moonlight bent over as if in prayer on the ground.
“Amber,” he called and rushed toward her, but she continued to pray. Then as he approached, he realized his mistake. She wasn’t praying at all, but was slumped over on the ground with her head lying on a rock. There was a gash above one eyebrow and blood trickling from it.
“Nay!” he shouted and hunkered down and gently turned her body over. “Amber, talk to me. Please, my little dove, please don’t die.” He felt for a pulse at the side of her neck, and breathed a sigh of relief when he found it. Then he gathered her up into his arms and headed quickly back to camp.
Amber stirred and opened her eyes, feeling a throbbing on her forehead. It was night, and the full moon was above her as well as a splatter of stars across the vast, dark velvet sky. It took her a moment to realize where she was, then she remembered. She had fallen and hit her head after running through the woods, being upset at what she’d heard about Lucas.
She felt a heaviness across her chest and when she looked down she saw Lucas’
s arm lying protectively across her. He was sleeping at her side and holding on to her as if he really cared. She touched her head and felt the binding wrapped around it and knew he must have found her in the woods and tended to her wound.
That still didn’t make it right that he’d bedded a whore after refusing her. She gingerly picked up his heavy arm and slipped out from under him. She got up and went to sit at the fire.
That’s when she noticed Sir Romney sleeping far at the other side of the fire and Mirabelle nowhere in site.
He really cares about you,” came a woman’s voice from behind her.
turned so fast she became dizzy and swayed. Mirabelle was there and reached out for her, taking her by the arm.
“Sit down before you fall over.” She guided Amber to a sitting position.
“Please don’t touch me,” said Amber, reaching down and settling herself on the ground.
“Why not? Because I’m a whore?” she asked.
“Nay, I didn’t mean that. I’m sorry. I’m just upset that Lucas bedded you when he didn’t want me.”
“I think we need to have a little talk.” Mirabelle sat next to her. “First off, you need to realize that when a man beds me it has nothing to do with feelings. I am naught to any man but an answer to the bulge that keeps him awake at nights. I know that and I accept it.”
“But Sir Romney cares for you … doesn’t he?”
“I wish I could say yes.” She eyed him from across the camp still sleeping on the ground. “But even if I thought it was true,
it would never go anywhere. A knight and a woman of my profession can never be together.”
“And do you think a nun and a man like Lucas could be together?” she asked.
“Well, you’ve got a point there,” she said with a smile. “I guess we have more in common than we thought.”
That made Amber smile and she started to see a side of Mirabelle that
wasn’t so different than her.
“I’m sorry, I just got jealous when I heard Lucas turned me down and ran to you.”
“What?” asked Mirabelle. “Is that what you think?”
“I saw him paying you.
And you said he’d been with you.”
“That was months ago,” she said with a smile. “He finally got aro
und to paying me, the bastard.” She held a hand over her mouth, “oh sorry about the language.”
“You mean … he didn’t sleep with you last night?”
“No. I offered, but he turned me down. Whether you realize it or not, the man only has eyes for you, Amber.”
Her heart skipped a beat and she really wanted to believe it. But yet it didn’t make sense that he’d turned her away. “I don’t know why he’d turn me away when I so willingly was trying to give myself to him.”
“You are a nun, Amber. Or almost one, anyway. Don’t you think that made a difference in his decision?”
“I don’t know. I guess I never thought of him as having a conscious.”
“Most men don’t,” she said with a giggle. “But sometimes they just surprise you.”
“I’m sorry I judged you before, Mirabelle. I knew I was going to like you
the moment I found out you had the same name as my late mother.”
“I like you, too, Amber. It’s not just anyone who can get me to kneel in the dirt
… not to pray, anyway. It felt nice,” she admitted. “Mayhap I misjudged you as well.”
“Then let’s start over and be friends.” Amber reached out and took the girl’s hand in hers. “I haven’t any real friends since I decided to enter the abbey
, and it would feel nice to have one.”
“Are you going to stay with your plans of becoming a nun?” she asked.
“I’m not sure. Are you going to stay with your plans of being a Goose?”
Mirabelle laughed. “That sounds so funny coming from you. And to answer your question … I don’t know either. Do you think you can g
et me signed up at the abbey to become a nun instead?”
Lucas awoke to the sound of laughing and opened one eye to see Amber and Mirabelle sitting by the fireside like they were old friends. He blinked, trying to clear his site, thinking it was naught but a dream. Then he realized it was real, and groaned and turned over the other way. If Mirabelle was giving Amber pointers on how to seduce a man again he knew it was going to be a long ride to Canterbury in the morning.
The next day was Sunday and Lucas awoke early, anticipating the task he was premeditating of stealing the Regale ruby from the Canterbury Cathedral as soon as they arrived. He paced back and forth and ran a hand through his hair, thinking about the knight’s Code of Conduct. Rule number seven, to be precise. The rule that states a knight does not steal. And rule number eight and nine saying a knight shouldn’t be greedy or deceitful or want worldly goods for himself.
“God’s eyes, this is impossible!” he spoke to himself, then squirmed inwardly. Rule number two, he reminded himself, knowing he’d never be able to drop the habit of cursing.
Habit. Just that word reminded him of Amber and the fact he’d told her he’d burned her habit when in fact he’d had it cleaned. It, along with her undergarments, were neatly folded and sitting in his travel bag right now. He couldn’t burn them, though he’d wanted to. It just didn’t seem right to burn the robes of a nun, even if she was only a novice.
“Good morning,” he hea
rd Amber say, and turned to greet her, but realized she was talking to Mirabelle, not him. She looked so alluring in her velvet gown. She had her hair pulled up and tied back with a piece of twine. She’d removed the binding from her wound, and her gash seemed to be healing nicely.
His hand went to his own wound. His side
was still sore, especially after fighting with Sir Romney, but it was healing as well. He’d taken out his stitches with the tip of his dagger last night, as they were starting to pinch.
Visions of her standing naked before him and the feel of her soft skin against his hand had him aching to hold her once again … and drive himself deep between her legs. Rule number ten, he reminded himself as these thoughts were definitely titillating.
“Well, at least I have number six under control,” he said aloud thinking how he’d had sexual restraint around her though he really didn’t want to.
“You broke the rule last night of
never refusing a challenge from a rival, as well as never turning your back on a foe.” Sir Romney walked up to him, strapping on his sword as he spoke.
“Sorry about the punch
,” said Lucas, seeing the bruise staining the man’s jaw. “I got a little out of control last night, but I was really worried about Amber. Besides, I don’t consider myself equal to you, nor are you my foe, so I didn’t break those rules. And if I must remind you, we did fight after all, even if I initially turned away.”
“You pack one hell of a punch,” said the knight, rubbing his jaw. “I’m surprised I can move my mouth enough to talk this morning.
And you handle your sword with the expertise of a well-trained knight. I’m impressed.”
“When I feel attacked
, I lash out,” explained Lucas. “It’s the only way I survived after I left the Order.”
“Well, I never should have pulled my sword o
n you. A knight doesn’t draw his weapon unless he intends to use it.”
“Well, you could have fooled me
, as you had intent in your eyes.”
“I only intended to scare you,” he admitted. “But when you started fighting like that, I had no choice but to fight back if I didn’t want to get killed.”
“Mayhap so, but I didn’t kill you, nor would I have even considered it. I think of you as a friend.”
And I do as well,” said Sir Romney, holding out his hand. Lucas clasped it and they hit each other on the back in a gesture of making up. “How is Amber, anyway?” he asked with concern.
Lucas looked across the campsite where Mirabelle and Amber were cack
ling like a couple of hens. “I’d say she’s feeling better, wouldn’t you?”
“Sure looks like it. What the hell happened between those two anyway?”
“Not sure, but I’m just happy to see Amber smiling again.”
“And I feel the same way about Mirabelle. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like this. A nun and a whore as best friends.”
Lucas turned and tugged on the strings of the travel bags, finishing packing for their journey. “Never try to understand a woman,” he said, causing them both to laugh. “It’s time to go,” called out Lucas, and both of the women came forward. He reached out and lifted Amber up atop the horse, but when he started to climb up after her, she stopped him.
“I think I’d like to ride with Mirabelle the rest of the way to Canterbury,” she said.
“Mirabelle rides with me,” said Sir Romney, reaching out for the girl.
“Nay,” said Mirabelle, stepping away and hoisting herself up onto the horse in back of Amber. “Today I’ll ride with my new friend.”
“You can’t,” protested Lucas. “Where the hell am I going to ride?”
“How about with Sir Romney?” asked Amber, looking back to Mirabelle and they both smiled.
“Aye,” agreed Mirabelle, “I think you two will look lovely together.”
Amber reached down and took the reins from Lucas and then spoke to Mirabelle over her shoulder. “Hold on,” she said. “I haven’t felt the wind in my hair in a long time and I intend to feel it today.” She reached up and released the twine holding up her hair and let it fall to her shoulders. Then with a kick to the horse she sped away leaving both the men just standing there staring after them.
“I can’t believe she just did that,” said Sir Romney.
“Neither can I,” said Lucas in admiration. “I didn’t even know she could really ride. Or not in that saddle and with a rider on back at least.”
“I also can’t believe you will be riding with me now.”
“I’m not, so get that idea out of your head right now.”
Sir Romney mounted his horse and turned a half circle looking down to Lucas as he spoke. “Then I guess you’ll be walking and it’ll take a hell of a lot longer to get there. And I don’t plan on waiting for you, so you’re on your own.”
Lucas didn’t want Amber out of his site that long and he also knew he had to make it to Canterbury in time for mass so he could scope out the best way to steal the ruby.
“I ride in front,” he growled, putting out his hands to pull himself up into the saddle.
“Like hell you do,” said Sir Romney not budging, causing Lucas to settle in behind him. “And if you don’t want to fall off you’d better hold on.”
“Have it your way.” Sir Romney took off at a good clip, making Lucas almost fall off the horse since only one person really fit in the saddle and he was sitting directly on the horse
’s back. His arms shot out and he grabbed onto Sir Romney to keep from falling.
teeth, man, don’t do that again,” warned Lucas.
“Rule number two,” Sir Romney reminded him as they sped away, making Lucas start to hate the Codes of Conduct almost as much as he hated his training to be a monk. Either way, they were one and the same as far as he was concerned.
down as they passed the pub that also served as an inn just up the road from where they’d camped last night.
“Look at that,” said Amber. “There was an inn right here and yet the men m
ade us sleep on the ground. Do you think they knew about it?” she asked Mirabelle who was clinging to her on the back of the horse.
“Sir Romney’s sister lives in Canterbury. He’s traveled these roads
many times and knows, I am sure,” said Mirabelle. “My guess is that Lucas just didn’t want to sleep in the same bed with you last night.”
That’s exactly what she was thinking and she was bothered by this thought.
“Well, I don’t care,” she lied, knowing she’d have to confess it later. “Do you see them behind us yet?”
“Let me check.”
Mirabelle turned and looked over her shoulder. “Aye, here they come like a bat out of hell and I have to say they don’t look happy.”
Amber waited until they rode
up next to her, holding back her laughter. They looked so silly riding together. Lucas took his arms from around Sir Romney’s waist when they approached, and she could see him nonchalantly lay his hands atop his legs.
“Amber, stop already and let’s ride the
way we did yesterday,” he said.
“I don’t know,” she answered, looking straight ahead when she spoke. “It may not be as satisfying for you as you’d like by riding with me. Mayhap riding with Sir Romney will be to your liking more, so enjoy it.”
With that, she took off quickly and darted away. Looking over her shoulder, she saw Lucas lurch backward and curse as Sir Romney took off after them. He reached out and clasped his arms around the man’s waist in order not to fall off.
“This is the most fun I’ve had in a long time,” said Amber.
“Me too,” agreed Mirabelle. “That is, except for the time I made love atop a horse.”
“You’re jesting, aren’t you?” Amber said over her shoulder.
“Not at all. You should try it sometime. It’s dangerous but very exciting.”
Thoughts ran rampant through Amber’s head of her and Lucas naked atop a horse doing just what Mirabelle suggested. She picked up the speed, trying to blow that idea right out of her mind, wondering if she’d ever be able to don the robes of a nun again.