Read Twelve Kisses Online

Authors: Lindsay Townsend

Tags: #knights war of the roses henry tudor historical romance historical fiction farrier snow christmas kisses

Twelve Kisses

 

 

 

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Historical Romance by Lindsay Townsend

 

She has twelve days to win his heart.

He has twelve nights and twelve kisses to prove his
love.

The battle for the crown of England has ended, and Henry Tudor
is king. For David, a supporter of the king, that is excellent
news. For Alis, who has been in love with him since a girl, life is
less certain. David has married her, but can he love her when her
family supported the house of York?

Compelled to be alone with her new husband over a snowy
Christmas-time, will Alis win her heart's desire? Will David truly
love her?

 

 

 

Twelve Kisses

by Lindsay Townsend

 

Published by MuseItUp Publishing at Smashwords

ISBN:
978-1-77127-222-3

Copyright 2012
Lindsay
Townsend

 

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To Alan

 

 

 

Acknowledgements

 

To Nicole, Penny, Delilah, and Lea
with thanks.

Chapter
One

 

She had loved him since she was a girl of fourteen years old,
and he was an apprentice farrier of seventeen. Once there had been
talk of marriage between her and David, a wedding that would have
made her blissful with joy.

But times had changed and alliances, too. David's family
supported the house of Lancaster and her kindred the royal house of
York. Henry Tudor had wrested the crown from King Richard on a
distant battlefield, and she was now eighteen and David's wife.
David had insisted on the match, and her parents dared not refuse
him, as he was a man now and rumored to have the ear of the new
king. He had lost a brother to the battle between King Richard and
Henry Tudor, as she had, and Alis feared he had chosen her for
reasons of revenge.

Alis prayed she was mistaken in her dread, but her husband of
a few days was so very forbidding and stern. Riding on a small gray
palfrey behind his glossy chestnut horse, she remembered the
blond-haired, laughing lad she had loved and compared that David to
the powerful, laconic, shorn-haired stranger ahead. Only a month
earlier, they had met after a gap of four years, a single meeting,
and then he had demanded her hand.

Why did I not refuse him? Because my family would have
suffered. Henry Tudor hates all Yorkists, even simple
saddlers.


Hold.” David held up a gloved hand, and the small,
tightly-ordered column of horses and men stopped. He twisted round
in the saddle, and as always, the sight of his squarely-handsome
face made Alis's heart quicken. He was fair-skinned but tanned,
even now in mid-winter, and all supple, strong lines, with a firm
chin, long nose and large mouth that should have been made for
smiling. His clear blue eyes, however, were as cold as the winter
sky above them, and his mouth was a slash, like a rent in
cloth.


You know your orders?” he demanded his men.


Aye, s-sir,” stammered his second, or apprentice, Alis was not
sure which.


Go to it.”

The men cantered off, leaving Alis alone with her new husband.
They were on a sunken road in England, in a county she had never
visited before. Fear churned within her as David spurred his mount
closer.

He can do anything he likes with me. He has the
right.


You are warm, madam?”

Alis touched her new, lush furs, a gift from this unsmiling
husband of hers, and answered roundly, “Perfectly, thank
you.”

Had his full mouth tweaked then? She was unsure but heard his
reply, “We shall be at the place soon,” clearly enough.

She bowed her head, so he could not see her face, her limbs
suddenly clammy within the soft furs. Soon she would be alone with
him in a strange house. There were no servants with them, and he
had bluntly commanded her to bring no maid. What “place” was this
that they were headed to?

Not a home, not for me at least.

David had no living kindred, and at this moment, even a sour
mother-in-law might have been preferable. She cleared her throat,
which felt full of feathers, and asked, “Are we to be alone,
sir?”


Quite alone, for the rest of these twelve days. Even farriers
stop then, for no man works at Christmas-time.” He tossed her a
keen, cold glance. “Your mother assured me you know how to manage a
full household...”

You know this already, David! You saw me learning at
fourteen!


We shall be in the old forge and cottage.”

Alis scraped her memory, but no recollection of any old forge
came to her. It must be an ancient place, she reflected glumly, as
David leaned down from his horse and took the reins of her
palfrey.


I shall lead from here,” he said.

Gripping her horse's reins, he turned their horses off the
sunken road, and they passed through a small wood. The bare trees
seemed to close in around them, muffling the horses' hooves, and
Alis became more uneasy. Memories of a younger David, when he had
chased her round the apple orchard for kisses, only served to
sharpen her disquiet. Her brother, Jerome, had been alive then,
urging both of them on. Now he was dead, and David had returned
from many wars quieter and harder and very much a man.

Alis stared at his broad shoulders and narrow flanks, at his
lean legs effortlessly controlling the big chestnut stallion and
felt a mingled alarm and desire. Tonight, they would be utterly
alone together and for the first time.

So? You are eighteen. You played your part at the wedding and
through the marriage feast. Do not let him cow you now!


I will tend the horses and empty the panniers. You make up the
bed. There is straw ready and blankets inside.”

His curt order returned her to herself. They had stopped
outside a small, low building with two lean-tos on each end—stable
and forge, she guessed. She had scant time to see more before David
whisked her off the back of her horse and set her down on the
frosted grass. Stiff from riding, she tottered a few steps toward
the doorway.


Stay.”

She kept on walking, but he snatched her back. “Did you not
hear?”

Saying nothing, she stared at his hand gripping her shoulder
until he released her. She was determined not to be spoken to as if
she was a hunting hound.

He was unabashed. Instead of apologizing or stepping aside, he
tossed her over one shoulder, seemingly oblivious to her gasp of
protest. Bearing her as if she weighed no more than a Christmas
favor, he nudged the door open with his knee. Ducking with her
slung over his back, he stalked through the door and set her down
easily inside. “Bad luck for a bride to stumble on the threshold.”
He left her, saying, “I like a good, full mattress.”

Had she been younger, she might have cried, or thrust out her
tongue at his tall, retreating figure. Instead, she shrugged out of
her new furs and set to work with the strength of anger.

* * *
*

David tramped through a light scattering of snow to the
stable. The horses snorted and shook their manes and tails,
probably reacting to his tension. As he fed and groomed them, he
thought of Alis and wished things were different. All his plans
were melting down.

He loved her that was the devil of it. He had wanted her as
soon as he saw her again, even after a four-year absence, but she
hated him as the enemy, as one of Henry Tudor's creatures. Perhaps
he should not have demanded her hand in marriage, but why not? She
would be safe with him.

Words would not come to him easily now. War had beaten
softness and openness out of him, but he knew he had to be open
with Alis. He wanted to be—not soft, exactly, but gentle. He longed
for her to smile at him as she did as a girl. Her face these days
was a sheet of ice.

So warm her, man!

That was the other danger, he knew. She made him
parched-throated and aroused him with no more than a glance.
You tossed her over your shoulder like a war
captive rather than a wife.
She made him
white-hot, red-blooded. He wanted at one and the same time to
master her and to make her pretty trinkets, adorn her with silver
and gold.

So do so. Use and give what you have already. Do not let your
courage fail now. She is a woman, treat her so. Be her
husband.

He grinned at the thought, his breathing hanging with the
horses' in the byre, and patted her gray palfrey. “Easier to shoe
you than to woo her, I think, but we'll manage, “ he told the mare.
“I have twelve days.”

And better yet, twelve nights....

He braced his shoulders and turned to go back.

Inside the small cottage—which he had chosen because it was
homely and comfortable, and his parents had lived here in their
happy early years of marriage—Alis had set a spark to the kindling.
A fire warmed the hearth, and its light played around the wattle
walls. She had swept the beaten earth floor with an ancient twig
broom, stuffed odd cracks in the walls with straw and moss and even
brought the cobwebs down from the lower rafters. The sheets and
blankets had been laid out, and Alis had packed the rough sacking
mattress with enough straw to stuff it like a Christmas goose. The
small window under the bed platform was shuttered, the table and
two stools drawn alongside the fire.


Good.”

Should he say more? Unsure, as he never was when dealing with
his men, he placed the panniers on the table and went outside again
for the saddles and bridles. Dropping the tackle by the door, he
barred it.


Cups and ale and victuals in there.” He nodded to the larger
pannier.

Checking the fire, he thought he heard her mutter, “It would
be quicker if you helped,” but when he raised his head, she was
unpacking the stuff on the table. Amused by her flash of temper, he
sat on a stool, warmed his hands by the blaze, and watched her.
Alis had always been a pleasure in action.

His new wife was dark where he was blond, svelte and small,
with eyes the color of ripe acorns and a white and rose complexion.
She had long black hair that he remembered would curl over his
fingers and a pretty, expressive face with black eyebrows and
lashes, bright eyes, and blood-red lips.

No! Not blood red, nothing of war
. Red
as holly berries, he thought frantically, following her again to
forget and close the door on his last four years of skirmishes and
deceits. Alis was always as honest as good water and as clear in
her meanings. It was one of the things he had always loved in
her.

For the rest, small and slender and trim, she was as she had
been at fourteen. To be sure, she was by no means as strong as a
farrier's usual help-mate, but always nimble and quick. Her clothes
were different, richer and brighter somehow, though he did not
understand women’s fashions, not even her country fashions. But he
missed her loosened hair. Today her long hair was somehow lashed
into submission under a white linen coif—the sign of her new status
as wife.

My wife
, he thought, though that was
not true in the full sense. They had wed just before Christmas—he
had insisted on the security and certainty of marriage—but had not
slept together.

He nodded thanks when she poured him a cup of ale from the
flagon, but she was chewing on her lower lip, another trick of hers
that secretly delighted him. “What is it, wife?”

She tossed a glance at him like a dagger. “Shall I set snares
tonight, sir? And have I your leave to forage about
tomorrow?”

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