The Marriage Bed (The Medieval Knights Series)

Free The Marriage Bed (The Medieval Knights Series) by Claudia Dain

Book: The Marriage Bed (The Medieval Knights Series) by Claudia Dain Read Free Book Online
Authors: Claudia Dain
against a sudden gust.
    With Elsbeth walking behind, Adam draped an arm around Isabel.
    Distantly, Isabel noted the arm wrapped around her waist. Well, it was cold and she had shivered. It was a short walk to the chapel, which was huddled against the walls and separated from the tower by only a small orchard. She had not thought to wear a cloak on such a fine spring day. His arm did warm, though she had not given him leave, by look or word, to take such a bold step with her. They were almost to the chapel. He would remove his arm shortly.
    And then he slid his other hand down her arm. From elbow to wrist he traced his path down the sensitive skin of her inner arm. It was wholly inappropriate. It was too intimate, too bold, and too casual; as if he had all the right in the world to stroke her. In truth, when she looked upon his face, he acted as if he had done nothing. That, more than the stroke, offended her. Did he think that because she was now a wife that her morals had relaxed? Did he think he had the right to pet her?
    As she was forming the words to castigate him, Richard, with Louis and Nicholas behind him, stood in the chapel portal. The hot words she had been considering fell into the hardened mud at her feet. Richard looked furious. Nay, more than furious. Explosive. Intense. Passionate. Yea, he looked fair alive with passion. Not often had she seen such a look, and it intrigued her more than his expressions of solemn dignity or cool disdain, his favored looks for her.
    It was wondrous what such a look did for her mood.
    She understood immediately the power of jealousy. Never before had she attempted to spark feelings of jealousy in Richard; for one, none at Malton would have believed it. And, also, she had spent all her thought and time in capturing Richard's attentions. What time had she to pretend with another? Yet now, Adam had thrown himself in her path. And with what wondrous results.
    Isabel, swallowing her fury over Adam's advances, smiled up into his well-formed face, allowing him to keep his arm around her waist, his fingers upon her. Certain of the intimacy of their pose and the brilliance of her smile, she looked over to Richard, her eyes guileless and bright. What would he do?
    She had slavishly followed behind Richard for years, like a hawk trained to answer one call, trained to one hand. Thanks to God and Saint Stephen, she had netted the husband she had prayed for, but a disdainful and disinterested husband. Mayhap the spark of jealousy would prick his heart, releasing some matrimonial warmth. She was willing to take the chance.
    She had married a monk. She wanted a man.
    * * *
    Richard saw in bursts, his rage flaring with each image: the male hand on her arm, the fingers lying lightly and possessively; the length of her dark hair brushing against the sleeve of Adam's tunic, wisps of black webbed against green of wool; the blatant invitation of her smile and the false innocence as she looked at him. Looked at him, her husband of hours. She displayed no maidenly blushes, no sheltered gaze, no outrage at being so intimately touched by a man not hers to claim. As shameless as Eve she was, as bent on destruction.
    Just as Nicholas had implied but moments ago.
    What had Isabel been about during his year in the abbey?
    She was beautiful; dark and lithe and quick. Her beauty had been much commented upon at Malton. In the dark of the hall, the squires had talked of her, giggling their fascination, practicing their courtesy so as to win a smile from her; Isabel was quick to gift a smile. He had been there; he knew how much she was desired by any who saw her. And her desire had been for him, only him. Had been. Then. All had known she looked to him alone. All understood that Isabel might smile at them, but her eyes were all for him.
    He had wanted her not. Did not want her now. Yet... yet... she was his wife, ordained by God, a covenant made between them until God should end it. Not Adam. Adam had not the right

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