Authors: Elizabeth Rose
woman had said she went to the church the next morning and found Father Armand with the baby. He’d told her the child was abandoned on the church steps and when she’d asked the baby’s name, he thought for a moment and then replied that the baby’s name was Lucifer. It was the devil’s name and that is why to this day the pilgrim woman had not forgotten it. And she said the baby had the same pale blue, piercing eyes as Lucas.
uch of a coincidence, in his opinion. Could this noblewoman she spoke of possibly be his birth mother? It was too damned similar to have been someone else. Did Father Armand know who his mother was all these years and keep it from him? If so, he would kill the man, he swore. He would find out the truth from that deceptive cur that called himself a priest if it was the last thing he ever did.
Amber reached out
and gently applied the wet rag dipped in a poultice of healing herbal water to his scratched arm. He reveled in the soft touch of her fingers as they accidentally skimmed across his skin. He closed his eyes, trying not to look at her, and trying not to think about his dreams last night.
“Oh, I’m sorry, am I causing you pain?” she asked.
“More than you’ll ever know,” he said, hoping she didn’t notice the tent under the sheet at his waist.
“What happened to you anyway? Were you perhaps in a battle?”
“Attacked by a band of ruffians while on pilgrimage,” he said in a low voice.
“What were they after? Did you have a lot of money or valuables on you perhaps?
I am surprised they didn’t take your weapons, or that you didn’t use them.”
“I used them,” he said. “If not, the bandits wouldn’t be dead right now.”
“Oh!” she said, holding her hand to her mouth. “So you killed them.”
“It was either them or me. And as you can see, I almost joined them.”
“I suppose it was self-defense then,” she said, making it seem as if it didn’t bother her that he’d killed several men, but he could see in her eyes that it did.
“If it’ll make you feel any better
, I also protected and saved the lives of several woman, children and an old man.”
“Well, I suppose it was for a purpose then.”
“Where is my traveling bag anyway?” he asked, hoping to hell he didn’t lose everything after he’d almost died to save its contents.
is on the table next to the bed,” she said with a nod of her head. “And the metal badges you wore from each of the shrines are next to it as well. I had to burn your tunic as it was torn beyond repair. Your sword and dagger are being held by Father Armand as he said you were dangerous and he didn’t want you striking out with them.”
“Aye, I am dangerous,” he agreed, thinking of how he’d wanted to use the weapons on the priest right there in the church. But
even as angry as he was, his upbringing made him hesitate to pull a weapon in a house of worship.
What is in that bag anyway?” she asked, curiously eyeing his possession. “It is full and very heavy for having been on pilgrimage. After all, pilgrims usually only have the clothes on their backs and a travelling staff and naught else.”
“You ask too many questions,” he told her, assuring himself the bag was still there and then closing his eyes with a sigh.
“Don’t worry yourself with things that don’t concern you.”
“Is your name really Lucifer?”
she continued, not letting up for a moment with the questions she fired at him.
yes popped open at that, as his name had always been a sore spot with him throughout his whole life and he hated the fact Father Armand did this to him. After all, why the hell would a priest name an innocent child after the devil in the first place?”
“It is,” he admitted sadly.
Her hand stopped its movement and her eyes were wide as she surveyed him.
“I’ve never known anyone to be name
d after the devil,” she said, sounding shocked.
“I’m not the devil, eve
n if I do have the devil’s name,” he pointed out. “So don’t you worry your pretty little head that I’ll take you to my lair of fire and brimstone. And I prefer to be called Lucas, so please refer to me by that name from now on.”
“I see?” he asked mockingly. “You sound as if you don’t agree with the name I’ve chosen to be called.”
“Your birth name is
obviously of importance to someone if they chose to call you such an oddity in the first place. Why did your mother do that?”
“Is your name really Amber?”
He didn’t want to answer, so he turned the conversation toward her. This wench was much too curious for her own good. He’d never seen anything like it.
Her head snapped up, and he co
uld see the anxiety on her face by his question.
“How do you know that? I’ve never met you before
, nor have I told you my name, but I heard you say my name in the church. Do you have some sort of magical powers to know such a thing?”
Well, the distraction worked
and he almost laughed aloud. This girl was too easy to control.
“If I had magical powers I’d use them to get you to kiss me again.”
Her face reddened and she looked away. “
, not the other way around. And I beg you to never do it again.”
He reached out his hand and grabbed her wrist, not enabling her to leave his side. Her eyes fell upon it
, and slowly she raised her gaze up his arm and to his face. He could feel her body trembling under his touch.
Relax. I’m not the devil nor a sorcerer, just very observant. I know your name because I heard Father Armand say it in the church, even if I was half-dead on the floor at the time. I always know everything going on around me. And I promise you – some day you will be begging me to kiss you again, not turning me away - mark my words.”
“I am a nun,” she
retorted, pulling her arm out of his grip. “And you are surely the devil to be trying to tempt me like that.”
“I did naught to tempt you, but only made the suggestion.
The devil only exists in one’s mind, as he is not real.”
She blessed herself and start
ed praying when he said that, and he was sure she’d never heard anyone deny the existence of the devil before.
And as for being a nun,” he continued, “I see no ring of God on your finger nor the black veil of a woman who has taken her final vows. So to me, you are no different right now than any other woman.”
“Your words are daring
by denying the existence of the devil,” she said. “You must be careful with what you say or God will punish you. Or don’t you believe in Him either?”
“Don’t worry yourself to death about it. My soul is so blackened that even if I did believe in Hell, I’d probably not even be wanted
“I’m not sure what you’ve done in your past, but God is forgiving. With penance and prayer, even someone like you could possibly enter the Kingdom of God.”
“How long have you been a novice?” he asked. “You already sound like a full-fledged nun. Are you close to finishing your year of training yet?” He decided to fire questions at her the way she’d done to him. “Have you made it to Matins to pray at two in the morning every day or have you been a bad girl and overslept and had to be disciplined? After all, I can see you obey the vow of poverty by the simple way you dress, and there’s no doubt you obey the vow of chastity by the way you kiss, but what about your vow of obedience? With the way you’ve been firing questions at me, I’m willing to bet they gave you a job at the monastery that keeps you out of everyone’s hair.”
I asked you not to mention the kiss again,” she said, looking over her shoulder, obviously hoping no one else entered and heard their conversation. “You seem to know much of an initiate of the church. That surprises me that a man like you knows anything that goes on inside the walls of God.”
“You’d be very surprised if you knew how much about the church I really know.
So tell me which it is? Do they have you reading from the Book of Hours aloud at the meals since you can’t seem to refrain from speaking, or are they hiding you away doing some weaving in order to give their ears a rest? You do realize there are some branches of the Order that don’t even speak at all.”
“If you are trying to be amusing, I’d like to point out that I am not laughing. And for your information, I work in the Scriptorium.”
“Really? Impressive. So you obviously know how to read and write. Considering it is all in Latin, I’d say you are from a wealthy family to have learned that. Perhaps the daughter of a baron or an earl.”
“I am an illuminator in the Scriptorium, and yes I know how to read and write in several languages. I am Lady Amber, daughter of the earl of Blackpool.”
“Ah, so I figured. And I’ll bet you have several older sisters and that’s why your father put you in a nunnery, rather than having to dish out a hefty dowry to marry you off.”
hose to come here!” she retorted. “And although I have two older sisters named Ruby and Sapphire who are already married, it makes no difference. I also have a twin sister back in Blackpool, and my father would give a dowry for each of us. Matter of fact, he did give a wealthy dowry to the church when I arrived, so you are wrong in your assumption.”
All named after gems,” he said. “Interesting. And you say you have a twin? Another one like you?” he stroked his chin in thought. If this one wasn’t available, perhaps he’d look into meeting her sister. “Does she have big green eyes and voluptuous lips like you? And please tell me she isn’t a nun too?”
sister, Amethyst is my twin but our looks are not identical,” she retorted. “And you can calm down, because I can tell you right now she wouldn’t like a man like you.”
“A man like me?” he asked. “How can you say that when y
ou don’t know anything about me at all?”
“I know you are a ruffian with a blacke
ned soul who likes to tempt women sexually and you’re named after the devil. What more is there to know?”
He laughed and scratched his chin. This girl was
not only beautiful and chatty, but she was also very entertaining. He laughed again, and this time he felt the sting of the pull of his stitches and stopped suddenly, and held his side.
“You see what happens if
you laugh at others?” she said. “God is punishing you.”
“You have no idea of my life, so don’t pretend you do.”
“Then why don’t you tell me?” she said, crossing her arms in front of her in challenge. But before Lucas had the time to say anything, the door to the infirmary burst open and in walked both Father Armand as well as the abbess, Sister Dulcina.
The priest was tall, with short
, grey hair and dark eyes, and a very fair complexion. He was in his early fifties. The abbess, on the other hand, was short and stout, and about forty years of age. She wore a large cross on a chain around her neck, marking her as the abbess. None of the other nuns were allowed to wear jewelry or crosses of any kind. And on her face was that stern look he’d grown up seeing that always made him want to run and hide.
had been raised inside the holy walls after his mother had abandoned him three and twenty years ago. He’d been reared by the unforgiving hand of Father Armand and also disciplined by the strict Sister Dulcina who was obviously under the priest’s control though she had earned the title and position of running the double monastery herself. And if Lucas hadn’t stopped his training by rebelling and leaving the monastery, he would have been a damned monk by now. Ever since he’d returned, the priest had been doing all he could to make Lucas’s life miserable.
“How is he?” asked the abbess,
walking forward with a threatening stare to peruse Lucas.
Sister Dulcina, I have done my best,” Amber told her. “His stitches have remained clean, and the rest of his wounds are healing nicely, including the bump on his head.”
put a hand to his head when she said that, remembering now why he felt as if his scull were splitting open. Because the man who’d raised him had also tried to kill him.
“Has he taken to a fever?” Sister Dulcina slappe
d her beefy hand on Lucas’s forehead, then roughly tore off the sheet, inspecting his chest. She was reaching for his wounded side when he stopped her.
fine, no need to check.” He held up one hand and covered his wound with the other. “Sister Amber has seen to all my ministrations with a gentle hand and the finest of care. I have no fever.” He looked over to Amber whose eyebrow raised and so did the corner of her mouth as she almost smiled, leading Lucas to believe she approved of his compliments. He felt his body reacting to her beauty as he remembered the kiss. He yanked at the sheet to cover his lower half, thankful he was still clad in his braies. “No fever, that is, that can be remedied by herbs or ointments, anyway,” he added, thinking how hot and bothered he was right now. Damn, what was this girl doing to him with just a look?