The Marriage Bed (The Medieval Knights Series)

BOOK: The Marriage Bed (The Medieval Knights Series)
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The Marriage Bed

Book Two

Medieval Knight Series

 

by

 

Claudia Dain

 

 

© 2001, 2011 by Claudia Welch

 

 

Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the prior permission of the copyright owner.

 

Please Note

 

This is a work of fiction.
 
Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events or locales is entirely coincidental.

 

The scanning, uploading, and distributing of this book via the Internet or via any other means without the permission of the copyright owner is illegal and punishable by law.
 
Please purchase only authorized electronic editions, and do not participate in or encourage electronic piracy of copyrighted materials.
 
Your support of the author’s rights is appreciated.

 

Thank You
.

 

 

In loving memory of my father, Richard,

who spoke little and loved much.

 

 

 

Prologue

 

It was dark; the full and black dark of night between Nocturn and Matins when a man's sleep was heavy and his soul most vulnerable. It was then that she came. It was then that she always came.

He watched her come to him, her movements graceful and light, her hair a dark veil that moved with her. As before, he could do nothing to stop her. It was the heart of his shame.

He could not resist her. She lay upon him, tucking her chill feet against his calves as her mouth opened damp upon his exposed throat. He had strong arms, warrior's arms, fit and long, yet he could not hold her off or keep her back. She lay atop him, a light and stirring weight of femininity, and defeated his resolve.

Her mouth moved slowly up the column of his throat toward his jaw; she traced the shape of it with the tip of one finger before pulling his mouth down to hers, giving him her wild and reckless heat. Dark hair spilled over her back to lay tangled on his arms and chest, cool and heavy like the night itself. They were not alone, but it did not matter. She had come for him, and he could not refuse her seduction.

All was done silently—the raising of her shift, the feel of her heat against his nakedness, the weight of her bosom pressing against him, pressing him down until his shaft rose in angry and eager rebellion. Nay, not angry, only eager. Such was the depth of his sin.

Stone walls flickering golden in the light of a single candle witnessed all. He kissed her, holding her down to him, ravaging her mouth like a wolf tearing into a hare and with as much repentance. Her legs spread over him, encasing him in soft heat, urging his seed to spill forth, to join his body to hers. Yet even now, his spirit cried out in silent torment that he had lost again. Yet again.

He was damned.

The knowledge followed him into release, his seed spurting out in unlawful spasms to lie in a wet and defeated mass upon his thigh.

The holy brother who stood in charge of all the novices in the Abbey of Saint Stephen and Saint Paul watched him in horror as the bells rang for Matins.

* * *

"Yet again, she has come to you," Father Abbot said kindly.

Yea, Father," the novice Benedictine answered, his head lowered and his hands clenched into fists well hidden in his long sleeves.

Father Abbot looked upon the novice with concern. Almost nightly the succubus came to him, the demon sent from the Evil One to test the resolve of a man's vow of abstinence. Never had Father Abbot seen such struggles in all his years at the abbey; the resolve of the man who stood before him must be great indeed to so compel the demons of darkness to attack. And he was attacked.

Richard was a man driven.

He had appeared at their gates a little more than a year ago, just past Whitsunday, his face solemn and his manner urgent. He would give himself to God in holy service, binding himself to the Benedictine Rule for the remainder of his life, his life now strictly ordered spheres of work and prayer and sleep. He had come willingly—nay, urgently. He had pledged himself to God with the eagerness of a man being pulled from the fire, as were all who sought divine grace in a world of sin and corruption.

His fervency had not diminished once inside their walls.

He held himself to a higher and harder standard than even the Rule dictated. He battled an inner demon, one which he had brought with him into abbey life and had not done him the courtesy of remaining in the outside world. In his battle, work was his ally, sleep his enemy. He carried dressed stone for the new infirmary on his bare back. He was the ox for their plowing, the hand that did their hoeing, the arm that scrubbed the chapel floor. He had the skill of reading, but it was a skill he undertook only when forced.

Such labor would make any man dream of sleep, yet Richard did not sleep. His succubus lay in wait for him when e'er he did sleep; Father Abbot could understand why he avoided slumber when such battles awaited him in his rest.

The same?" he asked.

"Yea, Father," Richard admitted. Yea, she was the same. Dark of hair and pale of skin, her eyes clear windows to his own destruction; always the same, always the same result. She defeated him with her softness and her smoothness, her blatant femininity her most potent weapon. He could not drive her from him, not with prayer, not with labor, not with seclusion. No matter the obstacle he built against her, she slipped into his dreams with a smile of victory. She knew her power. She knew his weakness. In a match of strength, he was out-manned. Yet he did fight and would continue. He had no choice but to resist her.

He knew not how to do anything else.

"You work too strenuously," Father Abbot said. "She preys upon your exhaustion."

"I but buffet my body, as Saint Paul did, to master it," Richard argued.

BOOK: The Marriage Bed (The Medieval Knights Series)
3.69Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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