Authors: Jenny Dare
An erotic retelling
By Jenny Dare
Thanks for the history. Here’s to the future.
Copyright © 2012
All rights reserved.
Cover Design: The Killion Group
This novel is a work of fiction.
Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the
author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.
A Note About History and This Book
Curious about the historical events that occur in this book and the people who actually lived them?
Coventry, England 1025
Lady Godiva’s feet stamped out a feverish drumbeat as she sprinted down the spiraling staircase, struggling to wriggle her arm into the sleeve hole of her surcoat so that she wouldn’t be clad in only her chemise. She wished for her shoes—these slippers weren’t suitable for going outdoors—but there was no time for that now. Her focus could be only on escape.
“Godiva!” she heard the roar of her husband’s voice, echoing throughout the upstairs hallway, just as she rounded the bottom stair and raced toward the door. The hounds came running to meet her; this was just a game to them, exciting and fast-paced. But no game was afoot; no hunt was beginning. Only a retreat, and the retreat was her own.
As she raced outside and toward the rear of the manor, the dogs baying and running beside her, she saw the stables just in the distance and she darted toward them. She heard her husband’s voice bellowing commands from the house behind her. Throwing open the door of the stable, she dashed toward her horse, unbolted her gate and mounted her in a swift motion. Fisting the reins in her hand, the dogs barking and howling around her, the horse bucked its head and trotted out of the stable, the Lady Godiva squeezing tightly with her thighs to hold on to the bare back of the animal as it made its way toward the stable doors.
As they emerged into the early morning sun, her husband, Edwin, and some of his men had spread out across the grounds, two of them on horseback.
“You dare run from me, wife!” the voice of her husband rang out over the land, and the anxiety rose within her. She reined her horse around and they started to run in the opposite direction. Immediately, the two riders of her husband’s group were upon her, forcing her horse to turn back around and in the direction of the manor.
“No, no, no…” Godiva pleaded desperately, tried everything to keep her horse from being herded back toward her husband, but these riders were expert, and before she knew it, she was upon him.
“Get off that horse and back inside at once!” He grabbed for her leg as soon as she was within reach, but she maneuvered away enough to slip his grasp.
“I will not!” Oh, if she had the control of a saddle, she could get away, but on bareback she just didn’t have the balance, the stability.
“In the house, woman. I’ll not be spoken to in this manner!” Edwin motioned to William, his valet. “Get her off of that horse!”
“I speak as I see things, and as I feel. And I speak the truth.” The lady struggled against the grasp of the man who pulled at her legs, and suddenly another one came from behind and reached to her surcoat, tugging at it firmly, and she lost her balance. “You cannot control my thoughts, Edwin. And you cannot control me anymore! I’ve had enough of this life, this miserable existence!” With a shriek, the two men overcame her, pulled her off the horse as she flailed her arms and legs. The horse neighed, danced around, agitated, about to rear up. “I’ll not live with someone who sees only his own greed and has no care for anyone but himself!”
“This again! All this noise over townspeople you don’t even know, have never even met?”
“All this noise over a man who will not open his eyes to what surrounds him!” She poked her husband hard in his sturdy chest then shoved him but his bulk didn’t move against her much smaller frame. “I will not be a part of this ravenous desire to collect from those who have nothing to give, when we have more than we could ever need!”
“And what of this house, this land?” Edwin gestured, then grabbed the lapel of her surcoat. “These clothes? Do you think they come for free, that the kind people of Coventry simply hand them over by their own generosity?”
“I had land of my own before you even knew me so I don’t need your land! And these clothes, you can take them! I would sooner go naked then suffer another day of watching your greed bring ruin and poverty upon this town!”
“As you wish, willful wife! If you think yourself so wise that the good townspeople of Coventry would appreciate your plight so very much, go naked, ride through the town on your horse, I dare it! I dare that you do this deed, and I shall rescind all the taxes levied henceforth this year!”
“It’s the fifth day of the month, you’ve already collected your greedy tariffs, so your dare is null! I would do it otherwise! On the condition that I would also be released of your grasp and your name! I’ll take my land and my horse and I’d leave you behind!”
“So be it wise woman! Next month then, I shall be sure to save the date! Parade your unclothed self around the town, make your statement! Or perhaps you’d like to start now, baring yourself to the morning sky?”
In a swift motion, Edwin swatted the rear of the restless horse, and she let out a shrill whinny and took off at a gallop.
“Niklada, no!” Godiva spun around to run after the horse, but Edwin already had her by the hem of her surcoat, and he chortled wickedly as she lost her balance and fell against him. Struggling to get free of his grip as he tried to wrap his arms around her, she wriggled one arm out of her coat, kicking and swinging her fists, landing a punch on the nose of one of the men who tried to help contain her. As he stumbled backwards to the ground, it gave everyone just a second of pause, and she tore away from her husband’s grasp and ran in the direction of her fleeing horse. The lady called to her in the German commands she had been trained with.
“Niklada, halt!” The horse slowed suddenly to a stop, reared up slightly then tossed her head up and down.
“The fifth day of next month!” she heard her husband call to her from behind and didn’t look back to see if he was pursuing her. “Niklada will need to learn some new commands by then! Better start practicing today my wife, just leave your clothes where you stand!” Her heart pounded in her chest, legs burned as she ran with all her strength.
The horse stood still, as commanded. When Godiva reached her she grabbed a handful of mane, scrambled onto the horse’s back, hiking up her chemise and her flapping surcoat, and grasped tightly the neck of her mare.
“Lauf!” The horse broke into a run, and the lady kicked at her sides, repeating again, “Go, Niklada! Geh! Run!”
The horse galloped away from the chiding laughter, and Lady Godiva clutched tightly to her mane and held fast with her thighs, trying her best to sit forward, to keep center on the mare’s back. The countryside passed by in a blur, neatly trimmed hedges and gardens, streaks of green, the road a beige smudge beneath her. Godiva’s breath caught in her throat and she realized she’d been choking back a sob, not sure where she would go or what she would do. A memory of Leofric, Edwin’s brother, came into her mind and the hot tears flooded over. If only it had been him that she’d married, her life might be so different. Kind and gentle, Leofric had been the man she fell in love with, but he wouldn’t dishonor his older brother by stealing away his fiancée. There had been but one time that he’d held her trembling body against his, just one month before her wedding to his brother. But they’d both slipped away from the encounter so guilt-ridden and shamed for the purity of their love and the passion that they’d shared, that they knew it could never be repeated. Edwin was head of the family, had all the power, and he would never have let his betrothed prize go, certainly not to his younger, less forceful brother, who had never even served in battle due to a bad knee, who would be more content spending his time poring over the books that the monks spent hours illuminating and having philosophical discussions with their Lector.
The houses were long in the distance now, and the sob that wracked Godiva’s body shook her balance. Where would she go? She had given up her social life three years ago at the time of her marriage, didn’t have any friends to run to. She’d ridden far enough that she wasn’t even sure where she was, or how she’d get back to the manor even if she wanted to. No, she would never go back. This was her chance to start her life over. But the world suddenly seemed very big.
She loosened her grip and relaxed and the horse slowed to a trot. The Lady Godiva looked around, surrounded by fields on one side and green hills on the other. Fences in the distance marked properties, but she had no idea who owned them. Niklada had a sheen of sweat covering her coat and she was winded. She was a fit horse, but didn’t usually get vigorous exercise like this. The Lady patted the side of her neck. At least she wasn’t completely alone.
Suddenly, she heard something behind her, in the distance. She jerked around, and over a hill she saw someone riding toward her. Was it one of Edwin’s men? He was too far away to tell, but she couldn’t let him catch up to her. Once again she grabbed onto Niklada’s mane and tightened her legs. She turned off the road toward a field and the horse broke into a canter once again.
If it were Edwin’s men, they would grab her off her mount. Force her back to the manor, back into Edwin’s service, into a life filled with his chiding, condescending remarks about everything she did and everything she was from her hatred of his greedy taxes to her childhood fear of thunder. She would have to see the pain in Leofric’s eyes every time his brother pinched her bottom at a gathering, made excuses for them to leave so he could ravage her. No, she had to leave it all behind. The further she got right now, the better. In the direction they were heading, she saw a small orchard, what appeared to be fruit trees with low hanging branches. Absently, she wondered if she should pause to gather some food.
The wall came up out of nowhere, its meandering, low-slung profile blending into the terrain so harmoniously that she didn’t see it until it was too late. Suddenly, they were upon it, and Niklada had soared into the air, clearing the stone and landing on the other side with a solid thud of her hooves. The jolt unseated Godiva and she lost her balance, felt herself slipping off the side of the horse and she shrieked, clutching with all her might, grabbing mane, reaching with one arm to hook around the mare’s neck, but it was no use. In her panicked jostling, her surcoat flew off her shoulder, flapped madly behind her, and flew off, caught on a tree branch. She screamed again, because it felt like someone had jerked it off from behind her.
The jarring canter of the horse slowed to a trot but it was too late. The Lady Godiva lost her grip and her balance, and for a timeless moment, the world slowed down around her as she flew to the ground. All at once, the forceful earth knocked the wind from her lungs. Her head hit hard against something, and the last thing she remembered was the tattoo of Niklada’s hooves on the earth as they slowed to a stop somewhere nearby.
As she opened her heavy eyes, the face of a young man came slowly into focus, hazy at first, then clearer as her vision adjusted to the afternoon sun. When she stirred, she felt the grass beneath her legs, and was at once aware of the bareness of them, and immediately she clutched at her chest, relieved to feel at least the thin, simple fabric of her linen chemise. Blinking, gasping, her eyes opened wide, fully taking in the face of the man who knelt beside her in the grass.
She didn’t know him. Young and handsome, his straw blonde hair fell over his forehead and kind blue eyes watched with concern, not wickedness. Still, she didn’t recognize him, but her head throbbed, and she heard the gentle whicker of a horse behind her. The horse was familiar. The horse, she knew.