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Authors: Flora Speer

A Passionate Magic

BOOK: A Passionate Magic
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A Passionate Magic
By Flora Speer




Smashwords Edition

Published by Flora Speer At Smashwords

Copyright 2001 © by Flora Speer


Cover Design Copyright 2012

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For Mary, our family “magician,” who gave
me the idea for Emma’s mysterious, magical presents




Lincolnshire, England A.D. 1129


“Please, Father,” Emma begged, “say you will
let me be the one to do this.”

Three people were gathered in the lord’s
chamber of Wroxley Castle. Gavin, the baron of Wroxley, sat in his
big, comfortably cushioned wooden chair. Mirielle, his second wife,
stood behind him, one hand on his shoulder. Gavin’s level gaze
rested on Emma’s face as he noted with some amusement the way in
which she was employing her innocent feminine wiles.

Emma had placed herself squarely within the
beam of sunlight that shone through the open casement window. A
soft mid-May breeze blew into the room, bringing with it the sweet
fragrances of flowers and fresh grasses from the meadows outside
the castle walls. The sun on the smooth braid of Emma’s hair turned
it into shimmering black. Her dark brown eyes did not waver when
Gavin frowned at her. He was not surprised by Emma’s lack of
reaction, for he had never given her any reason to fear him. In the
seven years since their first meeting, when Emma was eleven years
old and Gavin was newly returned after more than a decade in the
Holy Land, their relationship had been entirely affectionate. He
loved the girl as if she really were his daughter.

“From what Mirielle told me after you
returned from the royal court yesterday,” Emma said, “King Henry
has decreed that you must send one of your daughters to Cornwall to
wed Dain of Penruan, and with that marriage bring a peaceful end to
the feud between you. But there was no mention of which daughter
you are to send.”

“The feud should have been resolved by the
deaths of the original participants,” Gavin said, not hiding his
anger. “Dain has revived the quarrel by publicly blaming my father
for crimes supposedly committed against his grandfather and his
father decades ago. Emma, I have seen Dain in battle. The man is a
fierce opponent, relentless and determined. Despite the assurances
he offered to both King Henry and me, I do question how well he
will treat his Wroxley bride. After hearing his bitter speech to
the king, I am sure Dain does not want any bride of my blood. He is
a man who would far rather have revenge, but his oath of fealty to
Henry has forced him into a reluctant acceptance of the king’s
decision on the matter of his dispute with me.”

“All the more reason for me to go instead of
Alys,” Emma said, pressing her petition. “Alys is only seven and
you know how sick she was this past winter. She still has not fully
recovered. The last thing Alys needs is to be sent far from home,
to be married off to some fierce, unfriendly stranger.

“Father.” Stepping away from the window, Emma
went to her knees, clasping her hands together and resting them on
Gavin’s knee. “You have heard more than once the story of how
unhappy I was when my mother sent me away for fostering when I was
just seven. Were it not for my dear brother’s presence at the same
castle, I think I would have died of my misery.”

“So was I miserable when I was sent for
fostering,” Gavin said. “Most children are, at least at first. Dain
has promised that his mother will train Alys as her fosterling and
teach her what her future duties as lady of Penruan will be after
she is old enough for the marriage to be consummated.”

“I know such an arrangement is not at all
unusual,” Emma continued her argument, “but it is my opinion that
Alys is far more fragile than I was at her age. She ought to remain
here at home for another year or two, and then be sent to people
whom you and she know, people who live near enough to Wroxley for
you and Mirielle to visit them occasionally and thus see Alys. That
way, my little sister will be happier during the next few years,
and healthier when the time comes for her to marry. And then you
ought to choose a kind and gentle man for her.”

“Mirielle?” Gavin turned in his chair to look
at his wife. “What are your thoughts on this issue?”

“It saddens me to see any of our children
leaving us, but we both do know it will be inevitable as time
passes and they grow up,” Mirielle responded. “Emma has rightly
judged Alys’ state of mind, and her physical health.”

“Whereas I am remarkably sturdy and
strong-minded,” Emma noted with a low chuckle. “Unlike Alys, who
still clings to her mother, I believe the time is right for me to
leave Wroxley and begin my own life. After all, I am eighteen now,
which you well know is several years beyond the usual age for a
girl to marry.”

She did not add that she was unlikely to find
a husband anywhere near Wroxley. Most noblemen did not want wives
as well educated as Emma, and Gavin knew there were rumors of her
unusual abilities. Emma must know, as he did, that if she was to
marry at all, it would have to be to a man who lived far from
Wroxley, who had not heard the gossip about Emma, or about the
wicked activities of her late mother. Perhaps the girl was right
that she ought to be sent to Cornwall.

On the other hand, Gavin knew of an objection
to Emma’s going that was well-nigh insurmountable, an objection he
could not voice to the eager girl who knelt before him. If Dain,
that cold-blooded warrior, ever learned he had been tricked, there
was no telling what he would do to Emma.

“Well, Father?” Emma prodded gently.

“I will consider every argument you have
advanced,” Gavin promised her.

“You do not have long in which to decide.
According to what Mirielle has told me, the priest that Dain is
sending as his representative to escort the bride to Cornwall will
arrive here within a few days, in company with the king’s clerics,
who will bring the marriage contract and the written peace
agreement,” Emma said. She rose, smiling a little, as if she was
certain she was going to have her way. “I am sure you and Mirielle
will want to talk in private, and I have work to do in the

When she was gone and the door was shut
behind her, Gavin expelled a long breath and Mirielle came from
behind his chair to face him. Gavin shook his head, a rueful smile
curving his mouth.

“Emma is still young enough to glory in the
thought of self-sacrifice,’ he said. “For my sake, for yours, and
for love of her younger brothers and sisters, she will gladly do

“She adores you,” Mirielle said, “and I know
she loves me as a mother. But I do not think sacrifice is all
that’s in Emma’s mind. Like any other girl, she wants a husband and
children of her own. I also suspect that deep in her heart there
lurks a longing for adventure and a desire to see something of the
world beyond Wroxley. She may not recognize it in herself, but I
think it’s there, all the same.”

“I freely confess I have no liking for the
notion of sending Alys to Cornwall,” Gavin said, “but neither do I
want to send Emma into that bloody man’s household—or to his bed!
Good Lord of Heaven, Mirielle, how can a man demand vengeance or
insist on retribution for something that happened decades ago, an
old quarrel long forgotten by most of those who heard his angry
speech before the king? I wasn’t even in England in those days, and
the feud originated between my father and Dain’s grandfather. The
men involved are dead now. At this late date I can neither prove
nor disprove Dain’s accusations.”

“At least he did agree to accept Henry’s
judgment in the case,” Mirielle said. “And so did you agree, both
of you, before dozens of witnesses. Thus, we are honor bound to
send one of your daughters to marry Dain and never to take up arms
against him, nor he against us, so long as he is wed to a daughter
of Wroxley.”

“Alys is the older of my two daughters,”
Gavin reminded her. “It’s why I decided that she should be the one
to go to Cornwall.”

“Only you and I know Emma is not your child,”
Mirielle said.

“We two, and your cousin Brice,” Gavin
corrected her. “Though Brice did agree to leave it to me to decide
whether, or when, to tell Emma that he is her father. But he has
been gone from England for so long that I wonder if he is

“I cannot think so,” Mirielle said. “If it
were so, I do believe I would know it in my heart, or see it in my
crystal ball. Still, Brice is another good reason, beyond the
sensible ones Emma has offered, why we ought to send her away from

“How is that?” Gavin asked after a moment of
silence, during which he allowed himself to be distracted by
memories of his faithless first wife. Alda had kept the secret of
Emma’s true parentage for years, until she could use the
information as a weapon against Gavin. After Alda died while
misusing her magical abilities, Gavin, Mirielle, and Brice had
agreed to protect Emma from knowledge of the true wickedness of her
mother. The girl had grown up believing Gavin was her father.

“Brice left Wroxley in hope of redeeming
himself after his affair with Alda,” Mirielle said. “If he returns
to England, he will surely want to see Emma again, and it is always
possible that he will want to claim her as his own. Thus, he will
likely come to Wroxley first, believing she is here, or that we
will know where he can find her. With Emma safe in distant
Cornwall, you and I can dissuade Brice from a course of action that
would bring grief and pain to our dear girl.”

“You want me to send Emma to be Dain’s wife
in order to protect her from the homecoming of a father who may
never return?” Gavin exclaimed in disbelief.

“That is exactly what I want,” Mirielle told
him, and met his questioning gaze with only a faint shadow in her

”What do you know that I do not?” Gavin
asked. “I recognize that look. Have you seen something of the
future in your marvelous crystal ball?”

“Say, rather, I have a feeling I cannot
explain,” Mirielle said. “When I think about Emma’s future, it
seems to me her destiny lies in Cornwall, and she is right to want
to go there.”

“Dain of Penruan is widely acknowledged to be
rapacious, cruel, and utterly without sympathy for his enemies,”
Gavin said. “When he makes war, what he cannot seize and carry away
he destroys by burning. I do not want either Alys or Emma sent to
him.” Gavin’s lips closed firmly on the words, and his expression
was hard with the protective instinct that compelled him to keep
his womenfolk safe.

“King Henry has left you no choice,” Mirielle
said. “Gavin, my dear love, do not forget that while you and I were
at court, I met Dain. I did not find him as evil, or as heartless,
as you think him to be.”

“Did you not?” Gavin’s brows went up in
surprise at his wife’s claim and he regarded her for a long,
thoughtful moment.

“Emma is strong enough to withstand him,”
Mirielle said. “Unlike Alys, Emma possesses magical ability
inherited from her mother.”

“An inheritance properly schooled by you,”
Gavin said slowly, “which she can hide until Dain is ready to
accept her true nature.” He nodded, acknowledging Mirielle’s point
of view. He had always trusted his wife’s insights and her skill at
judging character.

“Exactly,” Mirielle said. “Emma’s magic is
under her complete control. Her dearest wish is to negotiate a true
peace between our family and Dain’s, a peace that goes beyond mere
grudging adherence to the king’s command.”

“To do so, she will need to be invincible,”
Gavin said. “If it’s adventure she secretly wants, I expect she
will find more than enough to satisfy her. Emma will require all
the courage of a lioness and the magic of a great sorceress if she
is to be the bride of Dain of Penruan.”

Chapter 1



“You are not the bride I was expecting,” Dain
said, punctuating his words with a deep scowl.

“I know I am not,” Emma responded. She tried
to smile, but in the face of the unconcealed displeasure of the
baron of Penruan she found she could not force her lips to curve

She told herself the knot in her chest was
caused by physical discomfort, not by fear. Even in mid-July, the
great hall of Penruan Castle was cold, and Emma was thoroughly
chilled, wet to the skin from riding through a rainstorm, and very
hungry. She longed for a warm fire, hot water for washing, and dry
clothes. Instead, she was faced with a man who did not trouble
himself to hide his irritation at her presence.

BOOK: A Passionate Magic
10.99Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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