Title: Lady Knight
Saxon Lady Ariel of Elmstead disguises herself as a boy and leads her father’s men to fight the Norman invaders. Her goal is to find the knight who left her with child the year before. Knowing nothing about him, not even his name, she hopes to meet him on the battlefield, which is all that is left to her.
During the battle of Hastings, Broc St. Ceneri takes a young Saxon boy as his hostage, and offers to train him as a knight. Granted Elmstead as his own, he intends to search for the woman he had met there and was not able to forget.
With Broc unable to see through her disguise, Ariel must decide whether to risk all by revealing her secret, or say nothing and lose the man who owns her heart.
The sun shone brightly as Ariel walked through the meadow. The heat of the day made her regret wearing her wool homespun gown. When she worked in the fields with the villagers, she could not bring herself to wear ones of better quality.
As thane of Elmstead, her father had taken great pride in administering to the villagers and serfs under him. All that had changed. Since her mother’s death two years before, Swein had withdrawn from much in his life.
At ten and eight, Ariel tried to take her father’s place. He still held the moots when disputes could not be settled among the villagers, but all else, he let her handle.
Ariel did not mind, for she had found herself more than capable of performing the job. The only thing she regretted—her father had pushed her out of his life and had practically built a wall around himself.
She pushed the thoughts of her father out of her mind. Today was too beautiful to spoil with such depressing thoughts. There was not a cloud in the sky. The blueness of it almost took her breath away. She looked across the meadow at the myriad of brightly-colored flowers that were just as spectacular as the breathtaking sight above.
A flash of light caught her attention. A Norman knight slowly walked his horse out of the forest that bordered the meadow. She knew him to be a Norman by the distinctive nasal piece attached to his helmet. She had only seen one other, just before her mother had died, who had been passing through. Her parents had offered him their hospitality for the night.
Ariel had been fascinated by his broadsword and shield, so different from that of her father’s. He fought with a battle axe and a round shield that carried no emblem.
This Norman appeared to be very much like the other. He wore the same type of helmet and chain mail. His broadsword hung from a belt strapped around his waist. His shield was over his saddle within easy reach. It bore an emblem, but his was different. It had a completely white background with a gold unicorn on its hind legs in the center. It almost seemed to paw the air as its ruby-colored eye glared back at Ariel.
She looked at the knight’s face as he raised his arm and removed his helmet. Ariel’s jaw dropped. His apparel might be the same, but his looks did not compare.
His dark blond hair was long and caught back by a leather thong so it fell to his shoulders in a tail. The other Norman had shaved the back of his head. His eyes were what intrigued her most. At first glance, they appeared to be a pale green, but at closer inspection, she realized they were actually gold. The corners of them crinkled when he smiled.
“I hope you found what you are looking for.”
Ariel felt heat rise to her face. She normally could talk to any person she encountered, but this knight left her speechless.
“You probably only speak English, do you not?”
Ariel continued to look at him. He thought she was one of the villagers. The rough homespun gown did nothing to make him think otherwise. Far be it for her to change his opinion. She did not want to reveal herself. If she did, courtesy would dictate she offer him her hospitality. She did not want anyone outside the village to see what her father had become.
“Come. I would enjoy your company, even if you do not understand me. I am sure we will get our ideas across somehow.”
He reached for her. She should not take it, but for once she wanted to do something just for her. Knowing what he offered, and thinking she could reveal herself if needs be, she placed her hand in his so he could pull her up to sit in front of him.
He held her around her waist with one arm as he turned his horse and walked back into the forest. They did not go far, for just passed the tree line a small pond sat in the center of a clearing. Surrounded by thick trees, it made a perfectly secluded spot.
Ariel looked closer at the knight’s face and fought the urge to swallow. His perfectly sculptured square jaw had a slight cleft in the center. With his sharp cheekbones, they made him the picture of pure male essence. There was slightly darker stubble on his chin and cheeks. On some men it would have made them look shabby, but it only enhanced the male beauty of the knight. There was something about him that called to her, to the lonely part of her. She felt alone, even though her father was still there physically.
He chuckled at her close scrutiny and lowered Ariel to the ground. As she took a step back, he dismounted and then tied the reins around the nearest tree. Without turning, he unbuckled his chain mail, slipped it over his head, and hung it with his sword belt over his saddle.
Ariel briefly wondered how far she should let this go. He reached for her and slowly pulled her toward him. The first sensation that hit her was the all-engulfing warmth that radiated from him. She had had no idea men could be so warm. She had not been this close to her father since she was a very little girl.