Daughters of the Dagger 04 - Amethyst (3 page)

BOOK: Daughters of the Dagger 04 - Amethyst
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He nodded, pleased by her action.
Mayhap she could be trained after all. This sudden act of respect was to his liking.

“Earl North Dumberland,
” she muttered, her eyes fastened to the ground before her.

“What did you say?” he snapped, not believing what she’d just called him.

She came out of the curtsy and held out her hand to him. “Earl Northumberland, what do you mean?”

“Just
call me Earl Montclair,” he growled, not liking any of this.

“But isn’t that the name of your father?” she asked. “I
f your new home is here now, ’tis proper for me to call you Earl Northumberland.”


Northumberland is a vast area and I am not earl over the whole shire. Besides, I don’t like that title, Master Assistant.”

She kept her hand out, waiting for his kiss as was proper,
but challenging him all the while.

“And neither do I
like to be called Master Assistant,” she said. “Lady Amethyst will do.”

“All right,” he said pulling off his leather gloves
slowly, one at a time, all the while keeping his eyes fastened to her. He handed them over his shoulder to his squire who eagerly took them in two hands and stepped back behind him quickly. Marcus then reached out and took her hand in his, her eyes sweeping slowly upward and interlocking with his gaze once again. “You call me Earl Montclair or Lord Montclair and I shall call you Lady Blackpool.”

He kept his eyes fastened to her face
as he lifted her hand and placed his lips upon the back of it in a slight kiss. Her hand smelled like rose water, even though she’d been traveling, and her skin was so soft and supple. She obviously had never done a bit of manual labor in her life. It excited him, as he hadn’t had an actual lady in a long time now. The women he’d been bedding were peasants, and had work-roughened skin and smelled nothing like rose water, but rather like sweat, the earth and the outdoors.

He co
uldn’t help himself. He needed to taste her. His tongue darted between his lips and touched the skin on the back of her hand briefly. Heaven. And when he felt the stirring in his loins he knew he never should have done it.

She pulled her
hand back so fast it nearly set him off balance. She glared at him with angered eyes and a turned-down mouth. Then, making a big show of her next action, she wiped the back of her hand against her gown. “I will not tolerate inappropriate behavior either, my lord. And I do not want your money. Instead of paying me, give my uncle a better earning, as he deserves twice his wages, as your demands and what you expect of him are inappropriate as well.”

“Amethyst, please, silence your tongue,” warned her uncle in a low voice.

“Nay, she is right,” said Marcus, with a slight chuckle, thinking that no one had ever stood up to him before in this manner, though he knew he was paying them all pittance. Well, he would show her that he wasn’t the tyrant she obviously thought he was. “I will give your uncle more money since I won’t be paying you at all. Master Mason, you will be paid three shillings a day from now on, as I have been happy with your work so far. But I warn you, if your niece cannot pull her weight and prove to me she deserves this chance, than I will request an audience with the archbishop myself and demand she is sent back to her father in Blackpool. I own this castle, and I assure you, I will not have anyone slowing down this project. If I say this castle will be finished by Christmas, than there is no debate. It will be done.”

“Of course, thank you, my lord,” said Clement with a deep bow.

Then, leaving her standing there gaping, Marcus turned on his heel and left with his men right behind him.

 

Amethyst watched the pompous earl strut across the courtyard with his men running behind him to keep up with his quick pace. They were like his hounds, following obediently as his heels.

His
dark hair fell in waves, pushed back from his face and down the back of his neck. He was a handsome man, but very rugged, just like her uncle had told her. Stubble roughened his face, and his skin was kissed by the sun and wind. And his eyes had held a fierceness as well as a sadness in their depths of dark walnut, as he’d stared so deeply into her own eyes that she’d felt her legs quaking beneath her skirts.

But she hadn’t showed fear, nor would she ever. As frightening as the man was, she knew that everyone had a weakness. Somet
hing that made them vulnerable. She planned on finding this man’s weakness and using it to break down that hardened exterior wall he’d built around him, so cold and uncaring that he’d felt no remorse at the mention of the death of her mother, even if he never knew the woman.

He was ruthless
and powerful, and also very rich. And unpredictable, which she hadn’t counted on. When she said to give her uncle better pay, she had no idea he would do just that. This truly surprised her. Amethyst had been testing him, and though she really didn’t want the man’s money, she had thought he’d not accept her services for free. But then again, she was sure he thought she was worthless, and she had every intention of proving him wrong.

“Amethyst, I am sorry about that,” said her uncle, bringing her from her thoughts.

“Sorry for what, Uncle? You should be happy that the earl is going to be paying you three shillings a day now instead of two.”

“I am,” he admitted, “and thank you for saying something. But I cannot allow you to work for free.”

“It won’t be for free,” she said, looking at the back of her hand and feeling a surge of heat go through her body, remembering the way the earl had licked her skin. “Everyone has a weakness, and once that is exposed, they will be easy to control.” She knew now that the man’s weakness was a woman. And not just any woman. He may not respect the female species, but he also liked when he was challenged by one. She could tell, by the way he’d refused to break the stare between them, and also by the way he’d tasted her hand.

That told her he was intere
sted in her. And since she was rugged and dirty from travel, it wasn’t just her looks that had attracted him. He liked the fact she’d stood up to him, and that surprised her. She knew he would never admit it, but the man obviously lived for a challenge. After all, that was probably the reason he’d taken one of the most dangerous positions of being a border lord. He longed for excitement, and by the rood, she was going to give it to him. And in the process, she would get everything she wanted while she was there.

She was schooled in book knowledge
, and through her time spent with her uncle, she was skilled in hands-on experience as well. But after she was finished with the earl of Northumberland, he would never disrespect a woman again. She liked a challenge just as much as he did, and now she was looking forward to her time spent here more than ever.

“Don’t worry about me, Uncle, as I think I’m going to enjoy working for Earl Montclair after all. And when I’m done with him, he’ll wonder just what hit him. Now come, and show me the castle and your progress so far,
because I need to know everything I can before I go to the meeting in the earl’s solar.”

Chapter 3

 

Amethyst stood in front of the castle, just taking in the site. Her uncle had showed her around all morning, and now she could tell he was anxious to get back to work, as he kept glancing over his shoulder looking for the earl, who thankfully was nowhere in site.

“Amethyst, I’m not really sure what you can do
to help, but I really need to get back to work before the earl gets angry.” He walked up to a table set up just outside the inner ward, and unrolled a parchment with the plans of the building drawn upon it. “The earl insists I come up with a new plan to make the castle a better fortress in case it’s attacked by the Scots. But I just don’t know what else I can do. The main building is already up, and the only major construction that’s yet to be done are the gate houses and the barbican.”

“Hmmm,” she said, putting her hand to her mouth, surveying the castle. “It seems to already be a strong fortress. And if the only construction you have left
to finish are the gatehouses and the barbican, then just make those even stronger, and the Scots will never get in.”

“What do you mean?” He stood and looked at her, and she could see the sincere interest in his eyes as well as hear it in his voice. It was nice to be re
spected.

“Well, Uncl
e Clement. What if you did this?” She leaned over the parchment and traced an outline with her finger on the castle plans. “Instead of having a straight entrance between the two gatehouses, why don’t you offset it?”

“Offset it? You mean, the Scots would not only have to make it through the
barbican, the outer gatehouse and the passageway, but also around a blind bend before ever arriving at the main gate. Of course, why didn’t I think of it?”

“This way, we can add
extra arrow loops in the walls, and plenty of murder holes overhead. As the attackers pass through and try to make the turn, it’ll slow them down, and our men can hopefully keep them from ever making it to the entrance gate in the first place.”

“A wonderful idea!” Clement grabbed a quill and inked it, right away changing the plans for the
two gatehouses. “This should please the earl immensely at our meeting.”

Not if he knew the idea came from her, she thought. Still, she smiled inwardly. This would be the first of her challenges, as it would take a lot from the earl to acknowledge the idea came from a woman, yet alone thank her. She could barely wait for the meeting to begin.

“Let me help the workers,” said Amethyst, trying to roll up the cumbersome sleeves of her gown.

“Amethyst, you know as well as I that you are never going to be able to work in that gown.” He had his head down, drawing up the new plans as he spoke. The master carpenter
, as well as several other masons came over to talk to him just then, taking his attention.

“Well, can I put my things in your solar for now?” asked Amethyst. “I’m not sure where I’ll be staying, but I need a place to change my clothes.”

Her uncle was busy talking, and not really paying attention. He was showing the men the new plans with a rekindled excitement in his voice.

“I’m just going to ask a few of the pages to help me move my things to your chamber,” she said. Still, no response. “Uncle, is that all right?”

“Hmmm?” He looked up for a brief moment. “Oh yes, Amethyst, whatever you want.” He held up the plans and started showing them to the workers.

Amethyst knew where her uncle’s chamber was, as he’d showed her earlier. The only room she hadn’t seen was the earl’s, as he had been in it and they didn’t want to
disturb him. She flagged down the stableboy who had taken care of her horse earlier. “Can you find me a few pages to bring my things to Master Clement’s solar, anon?” she asked.

“Of course, my lady,” he said with a bow.

“Thank you.” Amethyst picked up one of her travel bags and headed inside the castle walls. She smiled to herself, thinking how happy she was to be here.

 

*

 

Marcus made his way through great hall, no longer able to stand the infernal banging of the hammers as the carpenters worked above him. At least after today, he’d have a complete roof over his head in the great hall and not have the worry of rain falling on him anymore while he ate. That had happened too many times to count lately, and he tired of it quickly. Of course, the inhabitants of his castle would be the happiest. Now when his servants slept in the great hall they wouldn’t wake up with water dripping down atop them.

He knew he shouldn’t have
brought his servants or his knights to live here before it was actually completed. Still, he longed to have his own castle and not live under the rule of his domineering father anymore. While he respected the man and admired him for making him a prosperous border lord as well as favored in the eyes of the king, he still didn’t want to be under the perusal of his father. Why the hell was he coming here now? Why couldn’t he just wait until spring and mayhap by then the castle would be functional? The last time he visited was a year ago, and while he was in residence, everyone was on edge.

Now he was going to have to give up his warm solar
again for the duration of his father’s stay, as he knew if he didn’t offer, his father would just claim it anyway. ’Twas a shame since it was the only personal chamber with its own fireplace and actual panes of glass in the windows. He’d made sure his living area was by far the best, but even so, he’d still spared no expense when it came to the rest of the castle as well.

The chapel had stained glass behind the altar all t
he way up to the top of the two-storey ceiling The archbishop’s money had bought that. And instead of just ropes to guide one as they made their way up the winding staircases of the towers, he’d had his master carpenter carve individual posts with intricate designs as part of a railing out of the finest of oak. He’d had the bedposts in his private chamber elaborately carved as well. And he’d had bed drapes constructed out of the finest velvet, as well as a mattress that was overstuffed with the finest sheered wool, instead of the usual straw. His pillows were down-filled, and his sheets made of silk. And on his private mantle sat several golden chalices and platters - just one of the many presents given to him by King Edward III himself.

Marcus had a taste for th
e fine things in life. However, he had no idea that all these impressive improvements he’d made had added up so quickly. That, as well as the basic construction of the castle and the cost of all the labor, as well as the food to feed all these workers, had used up much of his allotted funds.

H
is steward had informed him just today that his funds were running low. He was already behind on paying the workers, but he’d been saving coin to ensure they’d have enough money for food to feed them all through the winter. The only saving grace would be that most the workers would go back to their homes come winter and return again in spring.
If
they returned. Marcus had been away from the castle a lot lately, guarding the borders, and had no idea that the workers were so upset. Gossip had it that they were about ready to leave since they weren’t getting paid. He didn’t think any of them would really do that, since they feared him, knowing he wouldn’t think twice about going after them and hunting them down. Still, it worried him just the same.

“Peter,” he called out to his squire from across the hall. “Get my things
from my solar and bring them to the master mason’s chamber instead. I’ll be staying there during my father’s visit, so we may as well start preparing now, as I expect him to arrive possibly as early as tomorrow.”

“Aye, my lord.” The squire hurried off, and
Marcus took the stairs two at a time, making his way to the second floor, toward the master mason’s chamber. ’Twas one of the nicer chambers, and Marcus had given it for the man’s use, trying to please him since he knew he’d not been paying him as much as he deserved. The man had worked hard and been very loyal to Marcus for nearly four years now, and because of that he was pleased. But one thing that didn’t please him was the fact that the man now told him the girl was his new assistant. He’d see an end to that soon, as he’d never acknowledge a woman in a position of authority. It was highly unheard of.

He hurriedly made his way to the mason’s room, wanting to get away from the hustle and bustle, the dirt and dust
, and all the noise. He pushed open the door, quickly closing it behind him, reveling in the solitude of actually being alone at last.

He heard a gasp
from within the room, and looked up, being surprised that anyone was even here at this time of day. That’s when he saw the rebellious niece of his master mason, named Amethyst. Naked. Leaning over the bed, reaching for her clothing.

“What the hell,” he muttered under his breath, then swallowed deeply as his eyes fastened onto her bare back end. Sh
e crawled over the bed to grab her shift, and he got a full view of her perky breasts with rosy tips. His mind immediately pictured her just like this … under him … as he slid his length inside her. He grew beneath his braies and crossed his hands in front of his groin, trying to conceal his arousal.

“Don’t you knock?” she snapped, picking up the undergarment and pulling it over her head quickly, blocking out his glorious view.
She then grabbed a pair of braies and pulled them up her legs and tied them around her waist.

“I didn’t think I had to knock, as I own this castle, or are you forgetting?”

“How can I forget when you can’t seem to stop reminding me?”

“Why are you even in here?”

She grabbed a simple, plain, brown gown and pulled that over her head next. Poking her head out of top, she took her hands and flipped her hair up out of the garment. Her hair wasn’t as long as most ladies, as it only came just to her shoulders. Still, she should be wearing it up, not loose and wild like one of the castle’s tarts.

“I
was soiled from my travels and wanted to wash up with the basin water and refresh my clothes,” she told him. “I am borrowing my uncle’s room until you assign me one of my own.”

“And why would I do that?” he asked.

“Because I’m working for you now, that’s why.” Her hands were on her hips again, and he wanted nothing more than to walk over and pull them off, and push her down on the bed and taste her again. But oh, much more thoroughly this time.

“I cannot reward you before I see how you perform.” He walked over to her slowly, delighting in watching her squirm
. He stalked her like a wildcat stalking his prey, and this was very exciting to him indeed. The blood pushed through his veins and he felt the thumping of his own heart against the ribs of his chest. He wanted her, and he would have her – now.

“By the choice of your words, I’d say they have a double meaning. Or am I misinterpreting you, Lord Northumberland?”

She backed up toward the bed as he strolled closer, but her chin was raised and he saw the challenge in her eyes.

“I only say what I mean,” he said in a low voice. “How you interpret it is up to you.”

“You don’t scare me, if that’s what you’re trying to do. I do not fancy young does that dart when the hungry wolf stalks them.”

“Now who’s using double meanings?” he asked, reaching over her shoulder to hold on to the be
dpost, trapping her, with nowhere to run.

“Why don’t you just come out and say what you want instead of playing silly games, my lord?”
Her brave stare was gone, and she lowered that damned defiant chin, as his face came closer to hers. He liked the way his actions had her drawing back instead of striking out.

“I admit I do fancy
games when it comes to the bedchamber, but I assure you, my lady, they are far from silly.” He reached out and put a finger under her chin and raised it upward. “What’s the matter? As I noticed you can no longer look me in the eye like you’ve been doing since the moment you got here.”

“You don’t scare
me, you big, bad, border lord. I –”

He didn’t give her a chance to finish. He
dipped down and placed his lips over hers. He was gentle at first, waiting to see her reaction. And when he pulled away, her eyes were closed and her face still turned upward. Just the reaction he was looking for, and so used to getting from any woman he decided to bed. She wasn’t going to put up a fight after all, like he’d originally thought. Mayhap he misjudged her. Part of him was a little disappointed.

“I’ll show you j
ust how big and bad I really am,” he promised her. He covered her mouth with his again, but this time, forceful, greedily, savoring the flavor of her lips that excited him more than any woman ever had. He pulled back, holding onto her bottom lip in the process, then released it quickly. Next, he fastened his mouth over hers and deepened the kiss.

H
is tongue probed into her mouth, and she so willing opened for him. All too easy, he thought. But then again, he did have a way with women when it came to the bedchamber, that had them melting in his arms and begging him for more.

He put one hand on her shoulder and the other on her waist and lowered her to the bed
quickly. Leaning over her, he kissed her hungrily, feeling himself spiraling out of control. His head dizzied and her essence filled his senses with lust as the heat from their bodies melded together. If he didn’t take her soon, he was sure he was going to burst from want.

BOOK: Daughters of the Dagger 04 - Amethyst
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