Read Juliana Garnett Online

Authors: The Baron

Juliana Garnett

BOOK: Juliana Garnett
7.8Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

The Baron
is a work of fiction. Names, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.

A Loveswept eBook Edition

Copyright © 1999 by Juliana Garnett
Excerpt from
The Notorious Lady Anne
by Sharon Cullen copyright © 2013 by Sharon Cullen.
Excerpt from
Along Came Trouble
by Ruthie Knox copyright © 2013 by Ruth Homrighaus.
Excerpt from
Strictly Business
by Linda Cajio copyright © 1988 by Linda Cajio.

All Rights Reserved.

Published in the United States by Loveswept, an imprint of The Random House Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc., New York.

L
OVESWEPT
is a registered trademark of Random House, Inc.

The Baron
was originally published in paperback by Bantam Fanfare, an imprint of The Random House Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc. in 1999.

Cover design: Lynn Andreozzi
Cover illustration: Aleta Rafton

eISBN: 978-0-307-80611-6

www.ReadLoveSwept.com

v3.1

To Stephanie Kip, my wonderful editor. Thank you for your encouragement and support and for making such an important difference. Most of all—thank you for your patience!

Contents
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

This book could not have been researched without the generous hospitality given me by four people: Salvator and Jane Harris Merola and Clive and Pip Harris. Along with Rita Burke (who planned my itinerary and saw to it that we got on the right trains), they enabled me to explore to my heart’s content, braving the M5 and accompanying me as I clambered over ruins and trod forest paths in the rain, and descended into caves with video and digital cameras. To all these marvelous souls, I offer my heartfelt gratitude and a promise not to return for at least six months.

And to Amelia Bomar, who can find absolutely anything when it comes to research books and medieval trivia. The medieval archery book is a treasure. You’re a wonderful friend with a magnificent library.…

I
 
 BRAYETON, YORKSHIRE
DECEMBER 1210

A gust of wind snagged a cloud on the topmost turret of Brayeton Keep; gray shadows crept down the hillside. Bare oak branches clacked together like an old man’s teeth, a desolate sound splintering the silence.

“Are you going to die too, Papa?”

The hesitant whisper filled with misery caught his attention; her breath was a cloud of vapor-frost in icy air. Childish lips trembled slightly as Aimée looked up at her father.

Robert Devaux, third Baron of Brayeton, ignored the dignity of his position and went to one knee. The ground was raw, damp, with a thin coating of hoarfrost over the new grave. Errant flakes of snow powdered his dark hair.

He put comforting hands on the small shoulders clad in a red wool mantle, bunched the material beneath his fingers. Eyes as green as his own lifted in a silent plea for reassurance.

A smile felt stiff on his lips. “Not if I can help it, my treasure.”

“But Maman died. Now Tricket.” A quiver betrayed her grief. “Promise not to die, Papa!”

Awkward, clumsy, his thumb scraped over the track of a tear frozen to silver on her cheek. How could he answer her? How
to explain to a child beset by grief for her pet dog that he could not promise immortality?

Helpless, he looked past her to focus on the high stone walls of Brayeton Keep, cold and forbidding in winter, a sentinel on the horizon. It guarded land held by the Devaux family since the time of the Conqueror. He was only an extension of the power signified by his title, the latest to hold it, another descendant of a Norman tenant in chief who had won glory and land with the might of his sword.

“Aimée, look.” He turned her gently, pointed to the wind-whipped banner atop a turret. “Do you remember what that is?”

She nodded, hood slipping back so that a curl of golden hair escaped. “Yes. It is the Devaux pennant.”

Still on one knee, he pulled her to him, folded his arms and mantle around her to keep her warm. “It has flown over our land since the time of my great-grandfather. He was the first to devise the Devaux crest, the raven against a field of gold—”

“The
sable
and
or
,” Aimée interrupted in a childish treble of Norman French. “Madame Marie told me.”

“You are very smart to remember your lessons.”

“I am nearly six, you know.” Pride erased some of the grief in her voice.

He held her tighter against his chest. “You are a big girl now, Aimée. Do you recall what else Madame Marie told you about the pennant?”

Her head bobbed. “When it flies, the raven is home.” She turned in his embrace, regarded him with a faint frown. “I hope you stay longer this time, Papa.”

“So do I, my treasure.” Unexpected guilt scourged him; he silently cursed his overlord and the king impartially for their demands on his time and coffers. They commanded too much. Welburn wracked him with constant demands, and King John was no better. They would plunder Brayeton if he did not put a halt to it.

Aimée hiccuped; he managed a smile for her, hooked a finger under her chin to lift her face. “Madame Marie was to teach you the family history. Can you recite the names of the barons who have held Brayeton Keep?”

“Oh yes, it is easy.” A dimple flashed briefly in a cheek made pink by wind. “They all have the same name as you—Robert Devaux. You are the third baron, and when you were a little boy, your cousin called you Tré instead of
treie
. Some people still call you Tré. I call you Papa.”

“As you should. Here is what I want you to remember: as long as there is Brayeton Keep, there will be a Devaux. As long as there is a Devaux, none of us will ever die.”

For a moment she digested his assurance with quiet solemnity, then frowned. “Madame Marie said that since the king is ex—excommin-icated and all the priests sent away from England, we will die unshriven of our sins.”

He hid a smile. “The priests are not sent from England, only barred from performing their duties.”

“Madame Marie said worms will eat us all one day.”

“Shall we let the worms eat Madame Marie instead?”

Aimée giggled. He rose and took her hand to lead her back up the hill. She broke away, moved to the grave, and bent to place a holly sprig upon the mound. For a moment she stood still, a forlorn little figure that seemed suddenly older than her scant years. A brisk wind flapped the loose edges of her mantle with a popping sound, knocked heavy branches together in the towering oak. The hill that was so lovely in spring was now stark, bleak, with no remnant of beauty. A fitting place for a grave, guarded by the shadow of Brayeton Keep, overlooking a valley that would come to life again in May, as immortal as England.

Aimée turned, went to him, and tucked her hand into the curve of his palm; fingers curled tightly into his as she looked up at him.

“Tricket is a Devaux, too.”

“Yea, so she is.”

“I shall miss her.”

It was said with resignation and sorrow, but not the grief of earlier, and Tré nodded. Death was a part of life; it was a fact he had learned young as well.

His own mother was a vague memory. There had been a brother and sisters, but none had survived. Only he and his father had been left out of their once numerous family, two
strangers with a common goal: Brayeton’s endurance. It was his alone now, a legacy to pass on to his own heirs.

Aimée’s mother had died of childbed fever, another loss regretted but not mourned. An arranged marriage, a union formed to link lands more than hearts.

It had not been a happy union. His bride had found him too harsh, she said, too sparing of pretty phrases, and ignorant of a woman’s desires. It was true; he knew that of himself. He had little time for wooing, was too impatient to try. An arranged marriage suited him well, for it had been decided when he was still a boy. He had not known or missed love.

Until Aimée.

A squalling infant at first held no charm for him, but he had found himself fascinated by the sweet child with bright curls and happy laughter. She was everything he was not: fair where he was dark, merry where he was somber. A gleeful sprite of a child who brought the miracle of laughter into his life and changed him forever.

Perhaps it was the novelty of such a creature, unspoiled by life, unaware of the darkness in men’s souls, that drew him. Whatever it was, she had captured his heart. Above all else, he would keep her safe.

Evening mist curled in gauzy streamers through trees and brush, whispered over the lowered drawbridge stretched across a moat frozen in winter. Aimée skipped over wood planks, distracted now from her earlier turmoil as they entered the keep.

Sir Guy greeted them by the fire, a towering blaze that lit the great hall; he glanced up, smiled at Aimée, and gestured to the woman who stood to one side.

“Madame Marie awaits your pleasure, duckling.”

“I shall stay here.”

Tré put a hand atop her tousled curls, caressing the bright strands. “Duty calls, Aimée. One who has not learned to obey cannot earn privilege.”

A faint sigh greeted his gentle chiding; she nodded, a brief regret before surrender. “Shall I see you on the morrow before I leave, Papa?”

“Most assuredly, my treasure. You will not be gone long before
you return. York is far more exciting than Brayeton, and you will be well cared for until I come for you.”

BOOK: Juliana Garnett
7.8Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

Shadow of Death by Yolonda Tonette Sanders
Reappraisals by Tony Judt
Rising Tide by Rajan Khanna
The Beautiful Tree by James Tooley
The Inscription by Pam Binder
Crossing the Ice by Jennifer Comeaux