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Bedded By Her Lord [Secure eReader]
eBook by Denise Lynn

eBook Category: Romance
eBook Description: Medieval.... Her husband ... a stranger.... Captive for seven years, Lord Guy of Hartford has lived for the moment when he would see his adored wife once more. But as he enters his keep, his own men do not recognize him, and Elizabeth's guilt is plain for all to see. Could she have betrayed him? Elizabeth hardly knows her husband in this remote, battle-scarred stranger. Yet the passionate desire between them cannot be denied. Can she find her way back into his arms ... and to the love they once shared?

eBook Publisher: Harlequin/Historical
Fictionwise Release Date: November 2007


12 Reader Ratings:
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Chapter One

March 1171
Hartford Keep, northwest coast of
England

Home.

Like a dying man clings to life, Guy of Hartford had hugged this sight tightly to his heart and mind for as long as he could remember.

After an absence of nearly seven years, he stared across the open expanse of land at Hartford Keep and breathed a sigh of relief.

For over a dozen months, he and his three former dungeon mates had travelled across barren deserts and densely forested mountains to come this far. Even though they'd depended on each other for their very survival, it had not been hard to part company once standing on English soil. They each had their own lives to discover, or rediscover. Hugh of Ryebourne and William of Bronwyn had set off for Queen Eleanor's court to find Hugh's wife. Stefan of Arnyll had gone to seek his fortune and future. While he, the Earl of Hartford, had finally come home.

Many times he'd thought never to see Hartford again. Days he'd feared never again setting foot on this fertile soil. And nights spent in agonised grief, mourning all he'd lost.

His freedom had been stripped away, the companionship of his wife and the warmth of her embrace torn from his reach. The ability to pick and choose his battles, his food, his clothing, or even when he slept, had been taken from his control. He'd nearly lost the will to live.

Enslaved like an animal. Treated as less than a beast of burden. Forced to endure countless months that had turned quickly into years of abuse, hunger and pain. Permitted to live only by spilling the blood of others with his hands and sword.

Guy shuddered at the many horrific sins he'd committed, but allowed the memories to flow through him. Stopping the nightmares come to life, or locking them away inside, would only give them strength.

No more. His future would no longer be controlled by his past. Letting the memories of captivity out into the bright light of day would lessen their hold on him.

He was as certain of that as he was of the welcome awaiting him behind Hartford's thick walls.

Guy had envisioned his homecoming in such detail that he could nearly feel his wife's arms about him. And taste her lips on his. Elizabeth's heart would pound hard against his own as he held her close and lost himself in the lushness of her curves.

Anxious to experience the welcome he'd only dreamed about, and shelter from the cold chilling him near to the bone, he flicked the palfrey's reins, urging the horse to quicken its pace. King Henry had offered him the use of a destrier, but Guy wished not to avail himself of any accoutrements of war—not even a warhorse. The empty scabbard hanging at his side was treasured only because it was a reminder of who he'd been forced to become.

For nigh on eighteen months now—the time it'd taken him to leave the palace of his captivity, meet with the king, then return home—he'd not taken a life. With God's will he'd never be forced to do so again.

The darkness that had become so much of his soul lifted as he crossed the open field. Each step nearer to Hartford pushed the gloom further and further away, permitting the beginnings of joy to lighten his heart.

When he neared the wall, it was all Guy could do not to shout, 'Elizabeth, I have returned!'

Instead, he halted before the lowered portcullis and stared up in bemusement at the men glowering at him from the twin guard towers. Why was the iron-shod gate closed? He'd seen no evidence of battle along the way, nor on the surrounding demesne lands. Did Hartford no longer welcome visitors within its walls?

'State your business.'

Guy studied the man leaning over the wall. Everard. He'd been nothing more than a lanky lad with the hint of promised manhood the last time Guy had seen him. Maturity had filled out his slight frame, as Guy had guessed would eventually happen.

'You ask the Lord of Hartford his business at his own gate?'

Everard's eyebrows rose in apparent disbelief. He turned away from the wall and shouted, 'Sir, he claims to be Lord Hartford.' The guard then looked back down at Guy and again said, 'State your business.'

Since his man seemed not to recognise him, Guy could only assume that he too had changed in appearance with the years. 'Everard, I wish to see my wife.'

'Your wife?' The man squinted, his confusion evident. 'Sir, there are no women in residence except for the Lady of Hartford.'

Leaning back against his saddle, Guy nodded. 'Aye, Elizabeth.' He pulled his fur-lined mantle more tightly around him as the last remnants of winter wind picked up in protestation of spring's arrival. Still unused to the colder climate, Guy hoped his men did not let him freeze to death before realising he was indeed the Lord of Hartford.

An older man came to the wall. 'I know not what game you play, sir. But if you value your life, you will be gone from here.'

'Warin, I play no game.' This guard had not changed a whit. He was still as surly and overbearing as ever. 'Open this gate. I wish to see my wife.'

'You are not familiar to us.' Everard looked to Warin for confirmation. Receiving a nod, he asked, 'How do you know our names?'

'I am the Lord of Hartford, why would I not know your names?'

Warin snorted in disbelief. 'There is no Lord of Hartford, only the lady. And she is…indisposed for the time.'

Copyright © 2007 by Denise L. Koch.


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