Desired by Virginia Henley

Book: Desired by Virginia Henley Read Free Book Online
Authors: Virginia Henley
one acre of Warrick land, he’d best watch his back!

T here were two efficient networks to relay information at Windsor. One was male-dominated, the other female. The men’s grapevine began at the top with the king, and worked its way down through the nobles, squires, servants, and finally to the pages at the bottom of the pecking order. The women’s grapevine grew vice versa, from the page boys to the maids, on to the married women, up to the ladies-in-waiting, then finally to the noble ladies themselves. The result of this was that the women received their information long after the men, and the results were highly embroidered distortions of the facts.
    The maids’ tongues were busy with news of the new arrival,complete with all the juicy details. He was an Arabian Knight on a secret mission. He was a mercenary, a spy, or an assassin. Perhaps all three. Arabs were notorious whore-masters, allowed four wives and a harem filled with concubines. This particular Arab was so darkly handsome, he had more than his allotted share of women. He had left a trail of brokenhearted females across three continents. At this point in the telling, the servant girls’ voices dropped to a shocked whisper. The bathhouse maids had seen him naked. The weapon between his legs was a black, lethal obscenity! Most were repelled, a few were attracted; all were wildly curious.
    In all fairness, Christian had the advantage when he came face-to-face with his half brother. He knew Warrick had another son; whereas Robert could not have known until today. Under the circumstances, the fair-headed young giant acknowledged him with considerable grace.
    A granite-faced Warrick simply apprised him of the hard facts. “This is my son, Christian, conceived in Arabia before I married your mother.”
    Robert held out his arm with a welcoming smile. Christian knew it was to test his strength. Robert was warm, good-natured, and easygoing.
    On the surface.
    Beneath were hidden depths with undercurrents. When the two clasped arms, Robert was shocked to learn the Arabian’s strength was greater than his own. The smile faded, but the mask stayed in place.
    Christian knew his brother would be difficult to read, though not impossible. Robert de Beauchamp was opaque rather than transparent. Christian knew immediately Robert had already learned of him before this meeting, because all his thoughts, good or bad, were carefully concealed. Christian noted the badge on Robert’s sleeve. “You are the Duke of Clarence’s man. I’ve not met Prince Lionel yet.”
    “He’ll be in the hall tonight. Lionel and I have much in common, our. size and a father with a warrior’s reputation that can be daunting. Now it seems we both have older brothers who outshine us.” He grinned to show he felt no bitterness.
    “That remains to be seen,” Christian said, returning the grin.
    “I suppose the brotherly thing to do is offer you one of my rooms.”
    “I thank you, but that is not necessary. I have accommodation.” He nodded to both men. “I’ll see you in the hall.”
    Robert’s eyes narrowed as he watched Christian depart. Now that he had come face-to-face with the usurper, seen the respect in his father’s eyes, learned the bastard’s strength was greater than his own, the seeds of hatred took root.
    “Perhaps we’ll see him in the hall tonight,” Joan said to Brianna. “I wonder who he is? The name Hawksblood doesn’t sound familiar.”
    “It sounds dangerous,” Brianna warned her friend, knowing that friend’s propensity for mischief.
    “Oh Lord, yes.” Joan shivered.
    Brianna shuddered. She had chosen to wear a turquoise tunic over a jade sarcenet with diaphanous sleeves. Again she wore the emerald-studded girdle. “You don’t think Robert will think these colors too bold?”
    “You look stunning. I never dreamed those two colors would look so striking together. Has he kissed you yet?” Joan asked eagerly.
    “Of course not!” Brianna said in a

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