1210, The Western Marches, England
Men did not mesmerise her. Ever.
Yet, William Dunwick, the Earl of Greystone, was so much more man than Blanche Bergeron had been told to expect that she had to snap her mouth shut at his appearance. Indeed, he was so huge, so much more handsome than the rumours of his glory that she found herself agog at his appearance here in her great hall. To collect her dignity, she had to sit taller, smile like a gracious hostess and bid him approach her. Amazement--she scolded herself as she settled back into in her dais chair--was not the emotion she wished to convey to this emissary from their ruthless King John. True, she'd heard it said that their regent's loyal adviser was tall and broad. Blond and ruddy. Impaired by the loss of his left eye. Yet suave as a troubadour with men, and seductive as an oriental sultan with women. Blanche had steeled her mind against him. After all, he was sent by that tyrant John to carry her off to marry a man she was too wise to want and too old to need.
But to gaze upon John's emissary--this legendary Crusader and adviser--was to admit to herself that, in some things, her assumptions could be wrong. And her tactics to save herself from Greystone's charms, she knew now, must change from obstruction to some other course that might escape this wise man's piercing sight and perception.
"Good day, my lady." Greystone walked forward with the magnetic self-possession that truly powerful men exuded. Clad in his black tabard emblazoned with his own stag crest and Crusader cross on one shoulder, he wore on his chest the Anjevin leopards rampant to denote the sovereign he served. He filled her vision with the breadth of his shoulders, the symmetry of his jaw, the black leather patch over his left eye and a dancing light in his remaining sea blue one. "You do us honour." He bent a knee to her.
"My lord, you are welcome," she lied as she extended her hand.
He took her fingertips with his warm ones and led them to his mouth.
At his familiarity, she held her breath as he reverently brushed his soft lips upon her nails. She shivered in the warmth of September. Such frivolities are for younger women, Blanche. Women who sigh at a comely man's regard and know not how boring they will be in bed.
He smiled up at her, his one blue eye assessing her as if she were a sweetmeat. "I am most grateful for your kind reception of me and my men," he told her in a voice so low she felt her breasts bead in silly long--dead desires.
She tore her gaze from him towards the four men arrayed behind him. Like their lord, they were of enormous size. Meaty hands and arms, they had impossibly huge chests in black tabards bearing only Greystone's chest and, underneath, chain mail. With tree trunks for thighs, they flanked their master, standing astride like giant Norsemen. Surely, she could not allow the five of them to carry her off to London for she would never escape their strength. Or their determination.
"I am happy to welcome you, Lord Greystone. We are simple people here in the marches but we do try to match the etiquette of London."