Title: Knight of Her Life
To the world, Jacqueline was dead, but when her father kills her twin in a joust, she claims her brother’s identity to seek revenge. Worried at being discovered, and taking tentative steps out into the world again, it never occurs to her that she might meet the one man who can make her wish she had never started her ruse.
Sir Terric Aubrey worked the tournament circuit, hoping to make enough money to buy land. He had not thought much beyond his next win. He certainly had not expected to find the woman he wanted for his wife posing as a man.
Though fate tries to keep them apart, Jacqueline will do whatever it takes to keep her knight at her side, even if it means she must stand against her powerful father at the risk of all.
The tournament chosen to be Jacqueline’s final test before facing the earl was being held at Portchester Castle on the mainland. The castle was situated near Portsmouth’s harbor, one of the more used landing spots when leaving the isle. It was a royal castle, but neither King Richard nor his queen would be in attendance. The constable would be presiding over the tournament.
Now with the day of the event there, Jacqueline was second guessing herself. Was she capable of really doing this? It had not helped her nerves any when her mother had refused to see them off, a blatant show of her disapproval. Getting Beth to cut her hair close to how William wore his had been the last straw for her mother. She now chose to ignore Jacqueline, as if she were not even in the same room.
Jacqueline reached up and pulled at her hair, which now just brushed the tops of her shoulders. Only to herself would she admit she did in some small way regret having to cut it, but it would grow back, after she completed what she set out to do.
The ferry transporting them across the water to Portsmouth bumped against the landing. Waiting for the rest of her company to disembark, Jacqueline took a deep breath to steady herself, then followed.
She was not alone. Including the two men-at-arms as protection, Beth and Sir Guy traveled with her. Having Sir Guy accompany her had been an unexpected surprise. She just hoped her mother would not make it hard for him upon their return. He did not seem worried about what Lady Elizabeth’s reaction would be, though. He had simply stated he would not allow Jacqueline to compete in her first tournament without him at her side. William had had no squire. So Sir Guy decided to fulfill some of the duties one would be expected to perform, not trusting the men-at-arms to do a proper job of it.
Upon reaching Portchester Castle, their small party slowly converged on the area that had been set up where the tournament was to be held. After picking an empty space amongst the already pitched pavilions, the men-at-arms unloaded the baggage cart. After theirs was taken from the cart, Sir Guy directed the two men as to where it should be erected, and where to picket her steed.
With not having much to do but wait, Jacqueline scanned the other pavilions. Each one had a standard with the knight’s coat of arms standing before it, showing who presided within. She did not recognize any who were close by, which was understandable. She had only been to a couple of tournaments in the past.
Beth quietly came to stand beside her. “I am here for you. If a knight William was acquainted with confronts you, I will make sure to be by your side. At present, it should be no real concern. William did not know any who are camped near us.”
“If you had not agreed to come, I am sure I would have made a complete fool of myself.”
Jacqueline jumped as Beth looped her arm through hers. Beth gave her a pat. “Remember, you are William, and I am your wife. You cannot jump at a mere touch from me.”
Jacqueline smiled. “You caught me off guard. I have not yet thought that far ahead.”
“Well, start acting the part of William—now. You are about to go through your first test.”
Beth was correct. A squire from the pavilion across from where they stood headed in their direction. He smiled and seemed not able to take his gaze from Beth.
“Good day to you.” The squire bowed. “Can I have your name, sir? My master might wish to engage you in the list.”
Jacqueline cleared her throat and tried to make her voice as deep as possible. “I am Sir William Montacute. May I inquire who your master is?”
“Sir Terric Aubrey, and I am Edwin.” He grabbed Beth’s hand and placed a kiss on the back of it. She quickly yanked it away.
Settling into her role, Jacqueline warned the squire away. “I would appreciate it if you would keep your hands off my lady wife.”
To give him credit, Edwin blushed while he backed away, only to be brought up short as he stepped into the knight standing behind him. The knight grabbed the boy’s shoulders to steady him and gently moved Edwin aside.
“I see my squire has introduced himself. I hope Edwin was not bothering you too much.” Sir Terric sent his squire a meaningful look.
Jacqueline’s jaw dropped. She could not tear her gaze from Sir Terric. The man was too handsome for his own good. She found his blond hair and unusual colored eyes, a beautiful shade of violet, appealing. It was his height that drew her the most. Being taller than most men, finding one she actually had to look up at was a novelty. Even though she was supposed to be acting a part, she could not help but rake Sir Terric with her gaze. The man was all muscle. She had to stop herself before she reached out to see if his body was as hard as it looked.
Realizing Terric watched her, waiting for some kind of response, Jacqueline mentally gave herself a shake. “No harm done, Sir Terric.”
He flashed a smile, which caused her to take complete leave of her senses, and said, “Good. I could not help but overhear your name. I am glad to see you have recovered from your wound. I was at Windsor when your father unseated you.”