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Diana's Books

Seducing His Lady (ebook)

Seducing His Lady (ebook)

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Passion, hot enough to banish the shadows of grief from the most vengeful knight, contained within.

North Norfolk, England, 1208. All Lady Melisende Gresham wants is to become a nun at Blakesmere Priory. It's the only real home she's ever known and the only place where she can practise medicine and study. But it's been a year and her aunt, the Abbess, still insists Melisende isn't ready to take her vows.

Sir Galien de Forester has spent his life avenging the death of his family. Now, with the blood of his father's killer on his hands, he arrives, wounded, at Blakesmere Priory needing help to recover, and escape the King's retribution.

Melisende and Galien are as different as light is to dark and they both want very difference things from life. Yet, despite that, they are irresistibly drawn to each other. But is that attraction strong enough to allow them to forsake their long-held hopes and dreams?

Seducing his Lady is a 25,000-word novella and was previously published as 'Seducing', book 2 in the Gresham Chronicles.

--Norfolk Knights--
Book 1--Claiming his Lady
Book 2--Seducing his Lady
Book 3--Awakening his Lady
Book 4--Defending his Lady (full-length novel)
Book 5--Honoring his Lady (full-length novel)


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Blakesmere Priory, North Norfolk, England, 1208

Lady Melisende Gresham awoke with a start and sat up straight in the chair, heart pounding and body tense. What had awoken her? She raised the guttering candle but a swift glance around the priory hospital revealed nothing unusual—half a dozen people lay sleeping, including the child she’d been watching over, whose fever had now broken. The only sounds were the snuffles and snores of the patients and the rustling of the trees outside the partly opened shutter.
She must have been dreaming. She released a tightly held breath with a sigh and rose, stretching her body, which was stiff from her overnight vigil. She gave her patients one last sweeping glance before she pulled on her cloak and slipped outside.
She hurried through the hospital garden, anxious to join the nuns at prayer. At least she’d awoken before Lauds had finished. She might be able to slip into place without being noticed this time. She didn’t need the Abbess to find another reason to deny her taking the vows.
Melisende was about to raise the heavy iron latch that led into the cloisters when she heard the sound again—one single, solid thump of fist against wood. She turned to the priory gate from where the sound came and froze. She looked up at the room above the gate but knew that if the gatekeeper had been sober he’d have answered the summons by now.
She glanced at the chapel where the murmur of prayers continued unabated, and made her decision. Even as she turned away from the chapel and walked towards the gatehouse, Melisende knew she was obeying that headstrong and inquisitive part of herself that the Abbess deplored. Still, she reasoned, everyone was busy and someone needed to investigate.
Tentatively, she placed her ear against the gate, straining to hear any sound. But there was only the soft rustle of summer leaves of the beech forest through which the road to the priory ran. Maybe it was a servant boy taking a playful fist to the gate as he passed by on his way to the fields? She began to move away but another thump on the gate made her turn around once more.
She looked for the old gatekeeper but there was still no sign of him. His door was closed fast. He must have found a new source of cheap wine and was sleeping it off. The Abbess would not be pleased. Melisende was about to rouse him anyway when she hesitated and, instead, reached out to the grille and slowly drew back the wooden slide.
She immediately stepped away from the gate, her eyes narrowing as she peered through the iron bars, down the woodland path. But she could see and hear nothing amiss. Perhaps the person had moved on? Mayhap it was a servant after all. But she had to be sure. She moved closer and slowly brought her eye to the grille.
Some distance away, a horse stood under a shadowy tree, trembling and sweating, its reins dangling, its hot breath whiffling in the cool of the morning air. There was no sign of a rider. Suddenly a bloodied hand appeared, and filthy, blood-encrusted fingers gripped the iron bars of the grille and the side of a head appeared, hair loose and bedraggled.
She cried out and leapt away. The stranger turned his gaze—brown and intense—to hers.
“Let me in,” he croaked between dry lips. “I need help.”
She shook her head. “I cannot, sir! I will ring for someone.”
“No!” He closed his eyes and then opened them and she recognized the pain she saw there. She’d seen it often enough in her patients. “Fetch Lady Anne, the Abbess, but no-one else.”
Melisende backed away and watched as the stranger’s eyes fluttered and closed and he fell to the ground once more.
She turned and ran swiftly towards the priory. Lauds had just finished and she found the Abbess just about to enter her chambers.
The Abbess frowned at her reprovingly. “You missed Lauds, Melisende. It’s not the first time. If you truly wish to take the vows you must heed the vow of obedience. ’Tis not enough to—”
“My lady,” Melisende interrupted. “Forgive me, but there’s a man outside. He wants only you. He asked for you by name.”
“A man?” The Abbess’s face whitened perceptibly in the dim light. “What is his name?”
“He would not say, my lady. But he is wounded.”
“Then take me to him.”
Together they hurried back to the gate. One look through the grille and the Abbess nodded to Melisende. With shaking hands and pounding heart, Melisende slid the heavy bar across the gate, raised the latch and pushed the door open.
They both peered cautiously in the dim light. Across the clearing, the horse tore hungrily at the lush grass, stamping the ground with his hoof. But it was a low moan close to their feet that made Melisende and the Abbess start. A man lay, as he’d fallen, shrouded in a dark cloak, groaning in pain. Without a moment’s hesitation the Abbess knelt down and examined the stranger’s face intently. The man whispered a few words to her and the Abbess lay a hand on his shoulder and nodded. She rose and turned to Melisende.
“Melisende, you must look after this man. He’s known to me. We need to get him inside the priory, but he is too heavy for us to carry. See if you can aid him while I go and find someone to help us.”
Alone with the stranger, Melisende went and knelt beside him, instinctively reaching out to check the source of the spreading dark red on his tunic. He winced and tilted his head back, grimacing in pain. More gently this time, she opened the torn tunic and spread her fingers beneath it, over the rough hairs of his chest. She sucked in a sharp breath as she inhaled the smell of blood, sweat and something uniquely male, something she could not identify, but which made her heart beat faster.
She swallowed, willing her body under control, and slid her hand over the hard contours of his chest. She’d seen and examined labourers’ bodies, people who worked in the fields from morning to night, blacksmiths who wielded heavy hammers at their forge, but none had the strength and power of this man, despite his obvious injury. She moved her hand lower, until her tentative touch found the moist, open wound. His eyes opened and locked onto hers. Distracted by his gaze she looked away, as she tried focus on assessing the extent of the injury.
“A knife wound,” she murmured.
He groaned in what she took to be agreement and pain.
“Can you stand?”
“Aye. With help.” A faint wisp of a smile travelled across his features.
“Put your arm around my shoulders.”
“A slip of a thing like you?” The smile came again and settled this time.
“Come, we are wasting time.”
He lifted his arm and she moved under it. He grimaced slightly as he stretched around her and clamped his large hand firmly on her shoulder. She braced herself but she needn’t have worried. He rose to his feet, lessening any pressure he would put on her.
She gasped as her face pressed against his bare chest, closing her eyes as she tried to focus on supporting him as best she could. But then he slid his hand around her shoulder and squeezed her arm gently. Whether it was for reassurance or support she could not tell, but the effect was anything but reassuring. Shivers snaked through her skin, awakening and stimulating parts of her body in a way she’d never known before.
“Lean on me,” she whispered in a husky tone she didn’t recognize.
“Aye, and then we’d both be on our knees,” the stranger replied dryly. He whistled to his horse who pricked up his ears and trotted over. The stranger slung one arm over the horse while keeping the other firmly around Melisende’s shoulders and slowly they stumbled through the gate and into the yard, just as the Abbess turned the corner.
“The gatekeeper is nowhere to be seen. Come”—she pulled the horse out of the way and took the man’s other shoulder—“we’ll take him to the monks’ dorter. ’Tis empty now the last few have fled to France.”
“Should I send for the doctor, my lady?”
The Abbess’s eyes were firmly on the stranger who was quieter under the increased pain that walking induced. “No.” She turned to Melisende and repeated the word, stronger now. “No. You must tend him yourself. No-one outside the priory must know. I’ll have the maidservant bring you what you need.”
Together they stumbled through to the monks’ dorter and entered a small room containing only a narrow bed, table and chair. The stranger peeled himself from their support and collapsed onto the bed. He lay unmoving for a moment before he opened pained eyes and looked up to the Abbess.
“I’m sorry, my lady. I couldn’t make it to the port.”
The Abbess nodded grimly. “Aye. Well, we’ll make the best of it.” She glanced at Melisende. “Speak to no-one of this. Nurse him well as he must be fit enough to leave as soon as he can.” She turned back to the man. “Did anyone follow you?”
The stranger winced and nodded, closing his eyes. “I laid a false trail but they’ll work out it. Weeks or days, I know not.”
“Then we must make you well in the few days we have.” The Abbess turned to Melisende, who’d watched the exchange in bewilderment. Fear gripped her gut. All she knew was that this man had brought danger into their secluded world. “No-one else is to know about this. No-one. Do what you must yourself. Make him well. Now”—the Abbess looked from one to the other—“I must leave you. I have business to attend. I’ll return later.”
“My lady!” Melisende reached out for the Abbess’s arm.
The Abbess frowned in puzzlement and stopped. “You are surely not frightened, my fearless Melisende?” The frown broke into a reassuring smile. “Just use your skill, child, to make this man well.”
Melisende nodded in agreement and slowly loosened her grip on the Abbess’s arm. She was right. She was rarely frightened because she could cope with many things—danger, blood, the unexpected. But this man was something else. This man loosed something within her of which she had no experience, something which she understood at a base level, that would further threaten her dream of taking the veil.
Frightened? Yes, but not for the reasons the Abbess imagined.

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