Authors: Tamara Gill
A Medieval Time
A Medieval Time Travel Romance
Kindle Edition ~
Copyright 2013 by Tamara Gill
published by Tamara Gill 2013
Cover Art by
This book is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the writer’s imagination or have been used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, actual events, locales or organizations is entirely coincidental.
All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a database and retrieval system or transmitted in any form or any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise) without the prior written permission of both the owner of copyright and the above publishers.
This book is dedicated to all the mudlarks of this world, past and present.
England 1078 – Cumberland
Vanessa cuddled her babe close, the little girl’s cry torn away by the raging wind. The air bit into her skin to the point of pain. Still, she waited. Would not leave until her lover’s warming strength enclosed them both and gave them sanctuary.
She struggled to her feet as a door hidden within the stone walls of the gatehouse opened. A door she’d used often. The person she waited for and longed to see stepped forward. Wrapped in a fur cloak, he looked warm and well fed. His attractive visage with the short beard along his jaw heated her blood and inspired the desire to run her hands against his hard flesh.
“Why did you summon me, Vanessa?”
She started at the harshness of his words and looked into unforgiving eyes that were nothing like she remembered. His voice resonated with loathing and distaste, a tone he had never used before with her. Such severity was normally directed toward his wife or serfs. Never her.
“My lord, I have birthed our daughter. Look.” She pulled the shawl away and smiled at the babe as love blossomed within her. “She is yours.”
He cast their child a cursory glance before his eyes, vacant of warmth or interest, met hers again.
“What of it?”
“I had thought—” Vanessa’s words trailed off. Her lover had become a stranger. She willed him to look at her as he once did, like a man in love who cared for her well-being and happiness. After all the months she had spent in his bed, had acquiesced to his every need it was not possible he could now feel…nothing! Panic tore through her breast when she realized the truth.
Vanessa pulled forth all the dignity she could muster, before lifting her chin as scornful eyes scrutinized her dirty gown and unwashed hair.
“What of it?” he asked again.
The cold penetrated Vanessa’s thin shawl, but it was not the elements this night that made her shiver.
His lordship’s voice, emotionless and hard, chilled her blood and all hope dissipated.
“You had said, my lord—”
“What, woman?” he bellowed. “That I would take care of you?” His Lordship sneered. “Why, that babe is probably not even mine.”
“You are a fool if you think I’ll acknowledge your child as my blood. I have a wife, and a legitimate babe on the way to secure my wealth and family line. I’ve no need for a bastard. Off with you, woman! Do not let your shadow darken my lands again.”
Dread crashed over her like a fallen tree. Vanessa’s arms tightened with fear and the baby mewed in protest. She eased her hold and stepped forward.
“But, my lord, where will we go? I have nothing. My family are not even from these parts.” She grabbed at his arm, stumbling when he wrenched it away. “Anthony,” she pleaded, “you must help me!” Tears welled at such harsh treatment. Vanessa shook her head. Her heart refused to acknowledge his callous, cold manner, though her mind reeled. He no longer loved her, nor even cared.
She had been used as a temporary bedmate for a peer of the realm.
His hawk-like features revealed no trace of sympathy as he reached into his pocket, pulling out some coins, and throwing them at her feet. The hem of his fur cloak slapped her leg as he turned and ordered the door bolted. The sound of the lock putting paid to her services.
Vanessa bent down, picked up the minuscule amount of coin and stared, stunned, at the cold stone structure. With the wooden door now firmly shut in her face, there was little choice but to place the meager amount into her pocket. She swallowed threatening tears as the taunting sound of the guard’s laughter echoed behind the oak. Distant flickering lights paved her way toward the village and she wrapped the shawl tighter around them both and walked away.
She needed to get back to London. Could only pray her family would welcome her, with a bastard child in tow.
She turned and looked back toward Aimecourt Castle. Anger coursed through her like a burning flame, evaporating any love she once felt for his lordship.
No man treated Vanessa Boulogne in such a way. The Baron of Aimecourt would be the first and last man, she silently vowed, to treat her like a piece of meat to be tossed to the wolves once his own gut was gorged and his hunger quelled.
No, Anthony Vincent would rue the day he had used her so. Chin high and back steely straight, Vanessa walked into the night shadows and an unknown future, promising revenge.
Aimecourt and its grand baron would pay.
Present Day – London
Maddie St. Clair looked up at the ominous clouds that rolled overhead and shivered into her £9.00 Marks and Spencer jacket, a bargain from last year’s sales, as she continued her weekly scavenger hunt.
Her breath created steam patterns in the freezing temperatures as her gaze lowered to the sandy soil beneath her feet. It had been a slow day so far. A couple of coins—late twentieth century, unless she counted the numerous beer cans she had found. At that moment, her trusty second-hand metal detector beeped. Maddie started at the high-pitched sound, and, kneeling down, started to dig.
She grasped her small gardening shovel and searched through the soil, her hand protesting the work on such a cold day. No matter how much she hated being out in the freezing elements, she loved this part of her hobby the most. Being a proud member of the Society of Thames Mudlarks, a group of enthusiasts lucky enough to hold a permit to search the banks of the ancient waterway for lost treasures, brought a smile to her face and excitement to her soul.
Today might be slow, but plenty of memorable days kept her coming back for more. Ones with her parents who had dragged their reluctant nine-year-old along with them one day and gave her a spade. Maddie hadn’t missed a weekend since and her heart pinched knowing her father would have loved being out here with her if he could.
“Maddie, hurry up. You’ve been at it for hours.”
Maddie looked up at her sneezing friend, Jackie, who sported the most ridiculous beanie ever made and chuckled.
“I won’t be long now, I promise. Why don’t you go wait in the car? I just want to finish this search. I think there’s something here,” she yelled back over the wind.
“Okay, but not too much longer. I’m frozen.”
Maddie returned her attention to the small hole, and gave thanks to a loyal friend, one who braved the English winter just to spend a Sunday afternoon together. Sort of.
“There you are…” A small rectangular box pulled free from the dark, sludge-like mud. Water rose up within the hole and Maddie, using the little puddle, scraped the mud away as carefully as possible. Excitement thrummed in her blood when the small article revealed itself to be pewter.
She stood and placed the treasured item inside her provisions box. Back at the hole, she ran the metal detector over the surrounding area once again. Then, satisfied she had all there was and being too cold to continue anyway, she made her way to the ladder. She climbed the stairs, soon to be submerged in water, and headed toward her clapped-out Nissan and suffering friend.
“So, what did you find today? Anything worth the frostbite I have on my fingers?”
Maddie laughed but turned her attention to the traffic as she pulled the car out of the parking lot. “I think I did. I found a little case I believe to be pewter. I’ll try to open it when we get home and see if anything’s inside.”
“Do you think it’s worth any money?” Jackie asked.
“To me it’s priceless. It’s old and has some sort of insignia on the lid. When I get home I’ll clean it up and take a closer look,” she said.
“Are you not going to come out with us then?” Jackie turned toward her, disappointment etched on her face.
Maddie watched the road and tried to think of a way to answer that would let her friend down nicely. There was no way she’d attend tonight’s dinner if she could help it. Just the thought of eating food in close proximity with her ex made her stomach turn.
“You promised, Maddie. You can’t keep hiding yourself away.”
Maddie’s attempt at a smile failed. “I’m not hiding. I just don’t want to go. I’m cold and all I want to do is snuggle up at my desk and study what I found today.” She clasped her frustrated friend’s hand and squeezed it. “You’ll have fun. All our friends will be there. You don’t need me. We’ll go out another night.”
“It’s because of Scott, isn’t it? You can’t let his presence always deter you. You know he thrives on your absence, thinks it gives him free rein to dish you.” Jackie paused. “God, I hate that man.”
Maddie nodded knowing full well how nasty Scott could be toward people he no longer liked or cared about. “Well, if he does, I’m sure you’ll stand up for me.”
“It’s been six months. You need to let what happened between you two go. He’s not worth it.”
She drove on in silence toward Greenwich. The memory of walking into her shop after a day at the Thames and finding her fiancée going at it with her friend, Fiona, on her store counter had nearly undone her. She had stood there, still and unseen for what seemed forever, listening to the grunts and groans of the two people she trusted most. Neither had noticed her, not until she’d dumped her bag on the counter next to their naked bottoms.
Scott had moved out the same night and she hadn’t spoken to either of them since. Nor would she. If her friends were true friends, they would take it in turns inviting either she or Scott to different outings. But gradually over the last few months, she most commonly was the one who didn’t receive the invite.
Maddie looked at her loyal friend, her only one, really. “I’ll try to make an effort soon. I promise.” She smiled. “It was bad enough walking in on them, Jackie. I don’t want their relationship thrown in my face. And you know Scott will.”
Jackie sighed. “I know. I understand. Perhaps we could go out later in the week. We could try The Vanbrugh? I’ve heard it’s really lovely.”
“Yeah, that sounds great.”
Maddie pulled up beside her store just as darkness fell.
“Well, I’m going up to get ready. I don’t need to ask where you’re going,” Jackie said as she made her way inside.
Maddie smiled and upon entering her home, flicked on the main lights to her shop and checked all was as it should be. The smell of polishing oils permeated the air; cabinets overflowing with antique linens, cutlery, and silverware twinkled in the dim security lights. Her lips quirked and a quiet satisfaction settled over her like a balm knowing this wonderful store was hers. All amassed by sheer hard work and a determination to make something of herself and her life.
She flicked the shop lights off and walked up the short corridor to her workroom, automatically collecting along the way everything she needed for cleaning up her newest find. Her fingers tingled with excitement, impatient to discover what lay beneath the Thames filth.
She turned on her work lamp and inspected her find. Using a special solution, she cleared away the muddy debris to reveal a small intact box that resembled a medieval ring case.
No bigger than her palm, rectangular with a flat lid that sat, when closed, within the main body of the box. A design, Maddie assumed to be a coat of arms or family emblem, was etched on its surface. A single dragon sat proudly on what appeared to be a hill, with a flower she could not make out, beneath its paw. With a fingernail, she tried the clasp and stared in amazement when the lid popped open with ease.
How could a box, perhaps hundreds of years old, buried in water and sludge, open without a hint of trouble? Nerves fluttered in her stomach. It should not.
“What on earth…” she said as the item within was revealed.
Maddie screamed and snapped the lid shut, only just managing not to drop the case. “What are you doing, Jackie? You scared the…you scared me.”
Jackie laughed and peered over her shoulder. “Can I borrow your black cocktail dress tonight? I can’t find mine.”
Maddie shook her head and turned her attention back to the case.
“Well, if you washed your clothes once in a while you wouldn’t have to ask to borrow mine. But yes, you may.”
“So, what did you find?”
“The case has something inside.” Maddie opened the lid for the second time and felt her jaw drop.
“It’s a wedding band,” Jackie stated, awe
tinging her tone.
“Yeah,” Maddie said. “And looking as new as the day it was made.” It lay on a bed of crimson velvet, not at all marked by the passing of time. Her fingers itched to examine the small pewter ring, and after some deliberation, she clasped the cold metal and wondered about the person who’d last held it as she did now.
“Didn’t you say the ring was old? Why does it look so new?”
Maddie studied the smooth, polished metal. “I have no idea.” They both paused, peering at the ring more closely.
“Look Jackie, it has diamonds embedded in the band.” Maddie sat back. “Oh, how beautiful.”
Jackie clasped her shoulder. “It is beautiful. I’m glad you found it and not some other treasure hunter.” Her friend swung away and headed for the door. “I’m off to change or I’ll be late. Don’t spend all night at your desk. And don’t forget to eat.”
Maddie waved goodbye over her head and continued to study the ring. The craftsmanship was superb for such an old jewel. Twisting the ring between her fingers, she noticed the Old English inscription on the inner band. Maddie sent up a silent thank you to her father, an English teacher who’d tutored her on ancient scripts, both reading and speaking them aloud.
illelm ○ Madaline. A sigh escaped at the sweet gesture while her finger traced the circle between the two names. They must have loved one another a great deal. But how strangely coincidental that the name inscribed was the same as her own. She shook her head, dismissing the bizarre chance.
Maddie rubbed her throbbing temples, her eyes heavy and stinging after staring at the computer screen all night. She checked the setting on the humidity chamber and placed the ring and case inside. The jewel was old, far older than she first thought if the inscription was anything to go by. Buried as it had been for years, she didn’t want it to start deteriorating in the open air. Especially as she was required to forward it on to the Museum of London after her own research was complete. It wouldn’t do at all for her to ruin the ring due to a lapse in concentration or care.
Some hours later, she was downstairs again, in front of the glass cabinet, warm milk in hand, and staring at the blasted ring.
Maddie shook her head. Why was she so tempted to hold it? It wasn’t like the ring was the most extravagant ring she’d ever found, or the most valuable. But, like Frodo in Lord of the Rings, it pulled at her.
Maddie sighed and finished her drink, then collected the scattered dishes from the previous day littering her wooden counter space. She loaded them into her second-hand dishwasher and headed back to bed.
Sleep didn’t happen. Instead, she watched the tree outside cast moving shadows across her bedroom walls.
“This is impossible.” She couldn’t remember the last time she had been so obsessed with anything. Maybe the excitement of the day was getting to her. The knowledge that, come tomorrow she would be able to search out her treasure’s origins and perhaps put a year to its creation. She shut her eyes and willed herself to sleep.
“Damn it!” She thumped her bed and threw back her quilts. Her inability to leave the ring alone was ridiculous.
Moments later she stood staring into the glass humidifying cabinet in her workroom. Maddie flicked the latch and with trembling fingers picked up the small jewel.
What was it about this ring that drew her so? As a historian, she believed items of historical value were for all to look upon and wonder about. Jewels like this ring should never be worn, but admired from afar. Keepsakes of the past, they deserved protection and love from a distance, preferably behind museum glass.
So, what was wrong with her? Why was she about to defy all of her strict rules?
“This is sacrilege,” she muttered, placing the band at the tip of her finger. It slid on, a perfect fit. Her heart sped up as if recognizing an absent friend, long forgotten and thought lost.
“Yah…Yah…” Maddie jumped, hearing a yell, a distinct male voice that seemed to come from nowhere. She froze as the room started to disintegrate and melt around her. An image started to form, one her mind couldn’t seem to comprehend because it didn’t resemble her workroom at all. She swallowed and tried to calm the panic taking flight inside her mind.
“This isn’t good,” she said, before she landed with a thump, on coarse wooden planks.