Hearts and Crowns
Hearts and Crowns is the story of Gallien, grandson of the hero of the original Montbryce Legacy series. Gallien has sworn never to wed again after a catastrophic marriage to a shrew who betrayed him with another man. You know the old saying, Once bitten…twice shy.
Peridotte de Pontrouge, an Angevin, has long dreamed of marrying Geoffrey of Anjou, the son of her Count, but her hopes are dashed when he is betrothed to the daughter of King Henry of England. This diplomatic revolution forces Gallien and Peri to marry against their will, despite the long standing hatred between Normans and Angevins.
Can love overcome bitterness and hatred?
Ellesmere Castle, Salop, England, 1125 AD
“Surely you did not think me a virgin?”
Struck dumb, Gallien stared in uncomprehending disbelief at the rumpled but unsoiled linens of his marriage bed, shivering as gooseflesh marched over his naked body. His heartbeat thundered in his ears.
He had made his way in the dark to the ewer, intending to lovingly cleanse his new bride after their joining. The light of the candle, lit with a spill from the dying embers of the fire, illuminated the truth of Felicité’s mockery on the pristine sheets. His gut clenched.
It came to him that in the throes of passion he had not felt the resistance men boasted of breaching, but he had never bedded a virgin and truly did not know what to expect.
His mind whirled. Was he trapped in a hideous nightmare? His eyes wandered to his sneering wife’s pouting breasts. She made no effort to cover her body, still sheened with his sweat. She twirled a finger in her hair, lying seductively on her side, head propped on one hand.
Since their betrothal he had itched to put his mouth to those dark nipples. The silky hair at her mons was exactly the color and texture he had dreamed it would be. But she had constantly rebuffed his advances as if he were a naughty child. “You must wait until our wedding night, milord Montbryce.”
An insidious dread wormed its way into his befuddled wits. His gaze fell to her belly. The drumming in his ears grew louder. His lungs refused to fill with air. He was drowning. Had his infatuation rendered him blind? He recalled too late her insistence the candles be snuffed before she disrobed.
“You are with child,” he rasped, though the voice seemed faraway, not his own.
Smoothing a hand over the slight swell of her belly, she said nothing, but the proud glint in her seductive eyes pierced his already shattered heart.
With a trembling hand, he set down the candle. A giant shadow loomed on the wall, disappearing as he bent to search for his wedding finery, scattered earlier with reckless abandon. Desperate to cover his nakedness, he resisted the urge to put his hands over his shaft. She must deem him a fool.
Someone had to answer for this travesty. “Is your father aware of your condition?” he asked, pulling a shirt over his head. He had insisted the tailor not make it too long. Now he wished it fell to his feet.
Felicité grinned, a wicked gleam in her eye. “Of course not. He would have sent me to a nunnery.”
His guts in knots, Gallien cast about for his leggings. “Then why marry me? Why not wed your lover?”
She looked at him as if he had lost his wits. “He is already married, silly.”
He pulled on his leggings, cursing under his breath when he lost his balance. He hopped on one foot, collapsing onto the edge of the bed. Tying the laces, he got to his feet quickly, lest the serpent in his bed bite him.
If he could only put his hand on a dagger he would plunge it into her treacherous heart. But he had not expected to need a weapon in his bridal chamber. He clenched his fists, itching to beat her. No one would censure him for it.
But Felicité had been clever. She knew he was not a man to raise his hand to a woman, no matter the provocation.
Trembling with rage, trapped by his own nobility, Gallien sprawled into his favorite chair by the hearth, chewing his knuckles. He pressed his palm against the knee of one leg that seemed to have fallen victim to the dancing plague. He wanted to howl like a wounded beast and tear the room apart. The glowing embers of the once hearty fire did nothing to warm his chilled heart.
His faithless wife had turned the comfortable chamber he loved into a place of torment. He had to flee, but wedding guests still made merry in the Great Hall. The lavender perfume that had enthralled him hung in the air, making his belly roil.
Married less than a day, he had already been cuckolded.