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Diana Fraser

Defending His Lady: A Medieval Romance (PAPERBACK)

Defending His Lady: A Medieval Romance (PAPERBACK)

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A warrior without a heart, a lady without a name, forced into a marriage which will ruin them all.

England, 1204...With his heart turned to stone after years of fighting, Rufus de Vere has returned from the Crusades to protect his family by marrying the daughter of their enemy. But, instead, the King forces Rufus to marry a Romani nobody knowing it will ruin his family. Everyone agrees the marriage has to be annulled and that the Romani, Kezia, must desert Rufus to secure the de Vere family’s future.

What begins as a simple plan becomes more complicated when Rufus and Kezia find they cannot resist each other and Kezia discovers a home in the flat Norfolk lands that she’s always wanted. Kezia might not have a name but her forest ways soon make her invaluable as Rufus prepares to fight for his family’s lands.

But when tragedy strikes at the heart of the de Vere family, Kezia has to decide whether she loves Rufus enough to leave him…

  • Paperback: 258 pages
  • Item Weight: 85 ounces
  • Size: 6 x 9 inches

--Norfolk Knights--
Book 1--Claiming his Lady
Book 2--Seducing his Lady
Book 3--Awakening his Lady
Book 4--Defending his Lady

Book 5--Honoring his Lady

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Excerpt:
The fetid heat and noise hit her like a wall as she carried the ale carefully through the door. A quick look around revealed no sign of Sir Gilbert. But still, it didn't pay to linger so she passed the jugs to the King's attendants and slipped back into the corridor again, breathing a heavy sigh of relief as she walked quickly back to the kitchen along the shadowy cold passage.
Suddenly a hand shot out from the shadows and clamped down on her arm. Before she could scream a hand came over her mouth.
"I will not harm you girl, I simply don't wish you to draw attention to us."
That was no reassurance to Kezia and she tried to bite his hand. He pulled away so she could see him better. "I have saved you once from rape, girl. If I'd wanted you I'd have taken you already. I merely wish to talk."
It was the stranger from the day before. The man the King wished dead. He wanted only to talk? Then this was a very different kind of noble, indeed.
"Just to talk," he gentled as if settling a flighty animal. "If I release you, will you promise not to call out?"
She nodded and he took his hand from her mouth, but continued to hold onto her arm to prevent her escape. She twisted around to face him. She had to look up as he was much taller than she was. The darting light of the distant rushlight glanced off the planes of his face, leaving his eyes and the bracketed lines around his mouth in shadows. For some reason her eyes lingered on his mouth and she wondered how lips so sensuous could be so stern. For one brief moment she imagined those lips touching hers. She was no stranger to the ways of lovers--the gypsies among whom she’d been raised celebrated love and gave it freely. And she knew the magic such lips as his could bring to a woman. An unexpected shiver tracked down her skin and settled deep inside her. Then his eyes narrowed and his lips hardened and she remembered where she was--a place where men took what wasn't theirs, and destroyed it at a whim. A place of danger.
"What do you want?" she whispered.
"Information. You told me to leave this place, last night. I want to know why."
"I told you... the King. I overheard Sir Gilbert's squire boasting about how the de Montmorency family fortunes were on the rise." She looked at him. "Because yours are on the decline. The King wants you dead. It's to do with the port. Some place that sounded strange. I can't remember its name." She screwed up her face to try to remember. "Something to do with a mouth?"
"Yarmouth?"
"Yes, that it. He wants control. And he wants your family ousted. And you are to be the first to go."
His gripped on her arm tightened. "And how do they propose this should happen?" She tried to tug her arm away from his grip, but it was impossible. Panic gripped her even more firmly. Why on earth had she told him in the first place? How could she have been so stupid? "Tell me, girl."
She drew a deep breath to try to calm herself. Panicking would only make it worse, it would only make this stranger feel more in control. "Hunting accident. Or so I heard. That way no one can be blamed."
He grunted and released her arm, and she leaned against the pillar, weak with relief. He walked to the open window and looked out over the white land. "Then God has granted me a few days respite."
She nodded. There would be no hunting in this weather. Taking advantage of his averted gaze, she backed quietly away, but he didn't turn around. There was something in the way he held himself that was different to the others. Tall, broad-shouldered and with the obvious strength of a warrior, yet there was something different in his eyes. While they held the same colour and resistance as stone, yet there was an air of sadness about him which she couldn't fathom. It was then that she made a mistake. She hesitated. He must have been more alert to her footfall than she'd thought and he swung around, his flinty eyes meeting hers with a direct and unerring gaze which made her gasp.
"Why do you wait, girl? Go, now, before you are caught talking to a doomed man."
She nodded, and half-turned. Then paused and looked back at him. "I am sorry that the only man who has shown me kindness here is also doomed."
Did she imagine it, or did those hard eyes suddenly brighten with humor? "No more sorry than me. Go now, wench. Go, with my thanks."
With that he turned and walked away. She watched him walk along the stone passage and disappear up the narrow stairwell at its far end. The man set her heart pounding, and yet it was not through fear. His eyes seemed to bore into her, to know her like she'd never been known before, to see beyond her drab clothes and see her, the woman beneath. She shook her head. He'd actually thanked her. Ridiculous, she thought as she walked quickly back to the kitchen. She'd be gone as soon as the snows had melted and, so would he be if he knew what was good for him.

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