Brigitte simmered silently. She waited patiently for her companions to relax their guard, careful always to ride slumped in her saddle and give every impression of submissiveness. But Brigitte was feeling far from submissive. So engrossed in thought was she that she was not aware it had grown dark until the chill of night stung her cheeks. She quickly raised the hood of her mantle and pulled it closer over her head.
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Brigitte simmered silently. She waited patiently for her companions to relax their guard, careful always to ride slumped in her saddle and give every impression of submissiveness.
But Brigitte was feeling far from submissive. So engrossed in thought was she that she was not aware it had grown dark until the chill of night stung her cheeks. She quickly raised the hood of her mantle and pulled it closer over her head. While doing so, she studied her companions furtively and saw that only Druoda was riding close to her. The guards had gone a short way ahead of the women in order to protect them from night raiders.
This was her chance. With night upon them, she could hide in the dark. She would never be as close to Count Arnulf as she was now. This time she was able to put a good distance between herself and the guards before they gave pursuit.
A half mile down the road she slowed and turned off into the woods, the shadows there black as pitch and perfect for concealment. She quickly slid off her mare and began walking her horse slowly through the dark maze. A few moments later she heard the guards race past her on the old track road. She knew the forest, for she had traveled it often with her parents when they visited Count Arnulf. On the other side of the woods there was a wider road, the old road between Orleans and Bourges, and that route would take her to Arnulf.
She had only to get through the forest. However, that was no small feat. She quickened her pace till she was nearly running, and suddenly she burst through the woods into a clearing. Panic seized her. She looked around frantically, expecting to see a fire with men surrounding it. She gasped with relief, for it was not a clearing she stood in but the road—she had made it to the road! She drew back into the shadows and hastily shed her gown and tunic, all but an old woolen tunic next to her skin.
She then wrapped her other gowns around her waist. Thin as they were, they were not too bulky. She mounted again and rode south, exhilarated, feeling free. There would be no wedding to Wilhelm. And there would be no more Druoda, for Arnulf would not take kindly to her once Brigitte told him what she had been doing at Louroux. Brigitte felt almost giddy as her sturdy mare quickly put mile after mile behind them.
Nothing could stop her now. But suddenly something did. Her horse stopped and reared up, and for the second time that day Brigitte found herself on the ground, trying to breathe. She scrambled to her feet as fast as she could, fearing her horse would bolt.
But the mare stood still, and as Brigitte moved closer, she saw why. The knight sat ramrod straight on his destrier, a horse larger than any Brigitte had ever seen.
The knight was himself quite large, probably six feet tall, even taller. He wore full armor and was a most impressive sight. He removed his helmet and revealed a thick shock of blond hair which fell just below his neck, a style too short for a Frenchman. Brigitte could not see his features clearly. His deep voice broke through her surprise. She decided to say nothing further. Remounting her horse as quickly as she could, she tried to pull the leather reins from his grip.
Now you detain me as well? I am sure he will be glad to have his horse back, if not his serf. You have stolen, and I cannot abet a thief.
Do not test me further with lies. Well, all was not lost, Brigitte thought. Wherever he took her, they would surely know her, and then this ignoble knight would find out what mistake he had made. Somehow, she would at least get a message to Count Arnulf. An hour passed and then another before he left the road and took them in the direction of Louroux. Brigitte began to be truly frightened. To be taken right back to Druoda—she could not stand it anymore.
She would never get another chance to escape if she failed this time. Brigitte slid quietly off the horse and dashed frantically into a nearby copse of trees. She tripped and fell, scraping her palms and the side of her face on the rough ground. Her cheek burned, and tears sprang to her eyes. She got up and ran, but he was behind her and reached her before she could enter the forest again. Standing next to her, the knight was an awesome sight, every bit as large as she had first thought.
How she hated this man! I want to know your name, for some day I will make you pay for what you have done to me! When he pushed her back toward her horse, panic seized her. She turned and braced her small hands against his chest. Druoda will have me locked up. You deserve a beating for thievery. The lady is merciful if she only locks you up. He took her reins, and they continued the short distance to Louroux.
It was Hildegard who met them in the torchlit courtyard, and her eyes lit up at the sight of Brigitte and the tall knight.
My lady has been more than fair with you, but this time I fear you will pay for your foolishness. You had best wait for her in your chamber. Do not answer. I will go to the hovel, for I will no doubt end there before the night is through.
Rowland laughed derisively. But I was not so easily fooled. The wench should be punished not only for thievery, but for audacity as well. If she belonged to me, I swear she would not be so haughty. Hildegard held her tongue.
It was clear that the knight thought Lady Brigitte no more than a runaway serf! Sir Knight? The Lady Druoda will be pleased that you have returned her…property.
Hildegard quickly explained to Druoda while the knight sat by himself at a table in the great hall. He was pleased with the wine and food set out for him. Hildegard giggled, her eye cautiously on their guest. He is still upright, but he will not be for long.
If not for the knight, she would have succeeded, and all we have achieved would be lost even now. Ten lashes will make her think before she tries again. Be sure to bind her mouth. I do not want the whole manor to know about it, but I want her to suffer as much pain as possible so that she will be in no condition to escape again.
Do not draw blood. Wilhelm would not want his bride marred. Druoda approached the knight. His eyes were closed, and his head was tilting downward, as if he were fighting to stay awake. His eyes opened, but it took several moments for them to focus. He was a formidable looking young man, with a rough handsomeness that was striking. Yes, he was indeed handsome. Rowland shook his head to clear his vision, but the image before him did not change.
Why had he expected a comely lady, or at least a young one? Rowland stood up, his vision blurred again, and he fell back on the bench, cursing the woman silently for keeping him waiting and for serving such strong wine.
Quintin de Louroux is very much alive. Your brother was found by some fishermen and taken to their village.
So Speaks the Heart
By Johanna Lindsey. Born a wealthy French heiress but betrayed into bondage, Brigitte de Louroux swears she will never be any man's slave. Rugged and powerful Rowland of Montville sees only a beautiful enchantress in peasant's rags -- a wench to serve his every need. Defenseless against his unbridled passions, Brigitte is forced to yield her innocence to desires the warrior lord arouses in her heart.
A master storyteller who spins romantic fiction like no other, Johanna Lindsey weaves together endearing characters, enthralling adventure, and pulsating passion to create stories that touch the hearts of her readers. Born into nobility but betrayed into bondage, Brigitte de Louroux swears she will be no man's slave. But she is defenseless against the unbridled passion of Rowland of Montville -- and unable to silence a treacherous heart that begs her to love him. At first, Rowland can see only a beautiful wench to serve his every need. But it is her surrender that enslaves the rugged and handsome knight. Yielding her innocence to his powerful desires, Brigitte has unknowingly vanquished her breathtaking captor, awakening a love within him as relentless and mighty as his conquering sword. In just a few easy steps below, you can become an online reviewer.