Authors: Evie North
A KNIGHT OF DECEIT
Copyright © 2013,
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A KNIGHT OF DECEIT
(KNIGHTS OF PASSION SERIES 2)
Scotland 1209 AD
held her breath. Was that someone at the door of her bedchamber? She forced herself to lie still and listen. Had Sir Walter come at last? Nothing. She released her breath—it made a white puff in the chill air. It was very late and still he hadn’t come. The covers felt rough against her naked skin and she suddenly wished she had left her shift on.
This assignation was not
of her choosing. She was simply obeying the orders of her mistress, Princess Margaret, and although this wasn’t the first time Margaret had used her in such a way, it was the first time she had pretended to be the princess. She was a spy—men said far more than they should in the arms of a responsive woman—and although Maven would have preferred to choose her own lovers she was powerless to refuse. Rumour said—and Maven’s mother, the widow of an impoverished laird, swore—that she was Princess Margaret’s bastard half-sister. King William had never acknowledged her but Maven had lived her entire twenty years in the royal residences, and witnessed what her life could have been like if only she’d been born legitimately. Instead she was a lady-in-waiting to the princesses and bound to obey their every whim.
Now their lives were in upheaval. Scottish
King William had made a treaty with English King John. John had brought his army north but the treaty between them meant that the two countries would not fight. William would pay John to go away, and he would also give up his two eldest daughters as hostages. Princess Margaret was trapped between her father’s order for her to go south to England and marry a nobleman there, or to disobey him and stay. If she stayed she would need a strong man to support her. Someone like Sir Walter.
he image of Sir Walter crept into Maven’s mind. Short and stocky, his face pock-marked, his pale eyes watchful. He was not someone she knew well, although she had sat in the room as he spoke to her mistress and watched his calculating smile.
Walter knew what he wanted, but then so did Margaret. In that regard they were well suited. Neither of them cared about love, the sort of love Maven longed for. They wanted power and wealth and were prepared to ride roughshod over others to get it.
Maven sighed. Why could she not be waiting here for the man of
choice? Already she knew that man would be Sir Walter’s squire, Barlow MacRae. Just like Maven, Barlow had been born on the wrong side of the blanket, the son of Sir Walter’s father by a serving wench. Tall and handsome, his gaze often strayed to Maven. She did not acknowledge him—Margaret would never allow that because Maven was not to indulge in liaisons that were not of her mistress’s making. And yet often she felt his dark eyes upon her like a dangerous caress and sometimes, when Margaret wasn’t watching, she smiled at him.
“You are the same height as me, the same size,” Princess Margaret had said
earlier, observing her coldly. “I am younger, but you could pass as me. In the dark.”
Maven had never had to play the part of Margaret before she was anxious. “What if Sir Walter recognises me?”
“You must be clever and make certain that he does
not,” Margaret said sharply. “If I decide I need someone to rescue me from my father’s treaty with the English then that someone will be he.” She smiled to herself, her pretty face growing sly. “He is ambitious. He thinks if he beds me then my father will relent and marry me to him rather than send me south to the English King. You know I can’t take him into my bed—a royal princess must be chaste—but nor do I want to lose his interest, in case I need his help. That is why you must take my place and keep him dangling.”
o she was sacrificing Maven. Using her as a counter in this game of deception. For a time Maven had found her liaison’s exciting and she had almost enjoyed the work, but now . . . it had lost its gloss. And she certainly did not relish the thought of Sir Walter discovering he had been duped. Some of the men she had lain with had been brutes and although Margaret might not care if her counter was smashed, Maven did not want to die in one of her half-sister’s schemes.
Perhaps he would not come after all? The
princesses would travel to England and Maven would accompany them, and her life would go on as it had before. She wasn’t a prisoner, but she may as well be one.
her eyes grew wide in the darkness. The door to the chamber creaked as someone entered, and there was a footstep close by the bed.
said a gruff voice. Sir Walter’s voice. Not Barlow’s voice, which she always thought of as like a velvet glove caressing her skin.
Maven tried not
to squeak. She spoke in the barest whisper, aware of what was at stake for herself and Princess Margaret. “Sir Walter?”
He gave a soft chuckle. “Who else?” he said, and she heard him
taking off his boots and tossing them aside. The bed shifted and she felt him settle down beside her. His hand brushed against her naked shoulder and he gave a satisfied grunt.
A strand of his hair brushed her face as he bent over her
—which was odd, as Sir Walter’s hair was cut so short—and then she felt his smiling lips on hers and passion swept her up once more and her momentary doubt was gone.
Mmm,” he said, “you taste of pomegranates, princess.”
ere pomegranates at supper tonight,” she whispered back.
“I remember,” he replied. “You and your sister Isobel sat like queens at the head of the table. You are brave, princess
, but I do not think you really want to be part of this bargain between Scotland and England. Am I right?”
Maven knew he
was speaking of the treaty. Tomorrow Margaret and Isobel would go to England and there marry noblemen of John’s choosing. Maven was to go with them, far away from home and family, and probably she would never see either again. And what of her dreams of Barlow? If only they had time she was sure they would do more than gaze at each other from a distance.
Happiness was a fleeting thing and Maven knew that.
Nevertheless her heart ached. She did not want to go. She did not want to spend her life as Margaret’s counter. She did not want a life of taking strangers into her bed rather than the man she really desired.
“You are quiet,”
Sir Walter said, his lips once more brushing against hers. “Perhaps you do not wish for a Scottish husband after all. Perhaps you would prefer an English nobleman.”
Maven shook her head.
chose an English nobleman, but while she was making up her mind she wanted to keep Sir Walter on a leash, just in case.
found his hand and squeezed it. “I fear being sent far away from my friends and family. If-if you can help me then I will be forever grateful.”
Margaret would never say
anything so craven but Sir Walter wouldn’t know that. He only knew the Margaret she showed to him—a young sixteen year old girl, a little unsure and flattered by his attentions. That she had allowed him into her bedchamber must make him believe her very foolish indeed. Ripe for the plucking.
His hand slid south and curved about her breast. His fingertips brushed her nipple and Maven felt it peak. Her breath sighed out.
How strange. His caress was gentle and eager, not the rough pawing she’d expected. This promised to be far more pleasurable than she’d imagined.
His mouth closed on hers with passion. She felt his tongue against the crease of her lips. Her ow
n mouth opened on a moan. She reached to grasp him, feeling his hair beneath her fingers and the shape of his head. Again his hair was long and silky soft.
For a brief moment confusion
stilled her, and then his touch brought her back to the moment. He ran his hand down over her ribs to the soft curve of her belly and then into the feathery curls on her mound. She was wet already—she couldn’t seem to help it—and whereas that may have given her away perhaps he wasn’t thinking straight either. He groaned and stroked her more strongly, easing his fingers inside her.
Maven arched against him. It had been long since she’d felt desire like this for a man.
Usually these subterfuges were simply unpleasant fumblings to be got over with as quickly as possible.
“You are passionate, princess,” he said and s
atisfaction filled his voice.
Maven was passionate but Margaret was not, and
it did not pay to be too careful. If he was suspicious then her best form of defence was attack.
n’t you like passionate women?” Maven asked him in her half sister’s imperious tone.
“I did not say that.”
His fingers continued to stroke
and she felt her pearl swelling, her body aching with her need. She could sense his eyes on her in the darkness, and lifted her hand to touch his cheek, the skin freshly shaven. She could not feel the pock marks, but the fact that he had shaved for her when so many would not have bothered made her heart contract with emotion. And then she reminded herself that it was all a game. The sort of game an ambitious man might play to win his princess.
His mouth was on hers again, hot and
ardent, while his busy fingers continued to do their work. One more stroke and Maven felt the rush of her climax. She arched up, crying out softly against his lips, losing all thought of subterfuge in the pleasure washing over her.
“Passionate indeed,” he murmured.
Maven tried to regain her breath. She knew she must not allow him further liberties—Margaret had made that clear. When he tried to touch her again, she caught his hand in hers and said, “Please, sir, you must wait. I am a virgin. I cannot risk my chastity on a mere promise.”
But a promise of so much,” he retorted swiftly, his voice ragged with unfulfilled desire. “We can travel to my lands and marry and take shelter there until your father the king allows us to return to court.”
It sounded agreeable to Maven, but she was not Margaret.
“I must consider these matters,” she prevaricated.
“Of course you must,” he mocked
, and then said, his fingers squeezing hers, “We will meet again tomorrow. I am travelling south to the border in your train.”
“Tomorrow night?” Maven whispered hopefully
, knowing the darkness was her friend.
“Night is too risky. You will be guarded well
by your father, and the English king has sent his watchdog, Sir Leonard. We will meet during the procession south. I will send you word. We will meet in the light of day and I will look into your eyes and see if you are telling me the truth.”
“He said what?” Margaret hissed.
“He wants to look into your eyes and see the truth, my lady.”
As Maven expected, Margaret was not happy. It was all very well to send Maven to do her dirty work but she did not want her own hands soiled.
“I cannot meet him,” Margaret said, and suddenly she was more like a frightened girl
than an imperious princess. “What if he expects more of me? You must do it, Maven.”
“There is Master Keevil.”
’s blue eyes grew very wide. Master Keevil was a magician and she had heard frightening things whispered about him. Margaret had been closeted with him before but never while Maven was present.
“Send for him
now and admit him as soon as he arrives. We must not delay.”
Keevil was swift in his response. An hour later he stood in Margaret’s chamber awaiting her instructions. When she explained what they wanted of him he nodded sombrely and fingered his long beard. “It shall be done, my lady. I will send you a ring which your maid must wear when she meets Sir Walter. The ring will cast a spell and he will see you in her place. As soon as the ring is removed then she will be your maid once more.”
standing trembling behind her mistress, found the magician’s eyes upon her. They glimmered, as if he was laughing at some joke she did not understand, but a moment later he was sober again, bowing his way out of Margaret’s presence.
Morning came and the ring arrived, a heavy gold band with strange symbols etched upon it. Maven slipped it into her pocket. She did not quite believe it possible to deceive Sir Walter with this trinket but she knew she had no choice but to obey.
, she was almost looking forward to another encounter. Her body still tingled from his sure fingers and warm lips, and she knew she would enjoy a similar experience. It helped that when he had touched her she had been thinking of Barlow. Perhaps she could do that again, imagine the man she preferred in the place of the older, gruffer knight?
The day began early, with the princesses and their train
slowly setting off for the border. Margaret fussed over her litter, saying it was not sufficiently grand, and there was a delay while more furs and cushions were fetched. Isobel wept silently and refused to speak. Maven sat frozen and tried not to think at all.