Unexpected Pleasures

Unexpected Pleasures by Mary Wine

Book: Unexpected Pleasures by Mary Wine Read Free Book Online
Authors: Mary Wine
covered her and that was enough for the early hour.
    She ducked out of the door, taking care to close it gently and leave the house sleeping. Outside, the landscape was glittering with fresh snow, all of it lying pristine and perfect without any tracks. The horizon was only beginning to turn pink, slim fingers of light cutting through the darkness. It was a time of day that she saw too often, but peace settled over her with the solace in knowing that she had made her escape once again.
    A smile lifted the corners of her mouth, a sense of victory filling her because she had taken her pleasure where she wished, and for once, at the command of no one.
    Well, except for Synclair. The knight had enjoyed telling her what his will was. She crossed the yard toward the stable. Her leather shoes were little protection against the snow that broke beneath her weight, allowing her to sink ankle-deep with each pace.
    She was thankful that the hunting house was built for easy access to the horses. Inside, her feet didn’t need to suffer the snow, and it was slightly warm from the coals lying beneath the ash in the fireplaces. Two stable boys rolled over when the horses stirred, their ears twitching when she entered. One boy lifted his eyelids and looked at her from where he slept near the fire. Justina lifted a hand and placed a finger against her lips. The boy pulled his blanket closer and closed his eyes once more.
    Obviously, a tousled-looking woman leaving at dawn was not an uncommon sight to them. Her cheeks flushed when she considered just how the two boys had become so familiar with seeing women leaving the house with their hair unpinned and clothing unfashioned. Henry Tudor had often kept his mistresses at the lodge, and his nobles followed in the King’s footsteps, spending the night hours in bed sport before making appearances at service. None of them were faithful to their wives, many more seeking divorces exactly as the King did. It made being a woman difficult and it also allowed men such as Biddeford to use their female dependents like prostitutes.
    Synclair had not made her feel like that ...
    The thought renewed her lament over leaving and she stiffened, because she had to return to the palace before day broke completely. For all the sordid things that happened by night, the court was a vastly different place during the light of day. She would treasure the memory but return to her place without further delay.
    She reached for a mare, one of several that were kept in the stable. Saddles were lined up along the railings of one stall. There was a sense of security in knowing how to saddle a mare with her own hands. She soon had the horse ready for its early morning ride and led it toward the stable door. She stopped and peeked outside before opening the door. The yard was empty and still, only her tracks marring the smooth surface of the snow.
    She swung up on top of the horse, gripping the saddle with her thighs while no one was about to critique her. Besides, what did it matter if someone declared that she was sterile because she rode astride? She had no husband to worry by such news.
    The mare cut through the snow with little crunching sounds. Justina saw her own breath turning white in front of her while she leaned down low over the neck of the animal. The crisp air flowed through her hair, making her as giddy as a child who had stolen away from her schoolroom tasks.
    But all too soon Whitehall came into view. The guards were diligent at the gates but they allowed her through without question since the saddle was marked with the arms of the King. She turned a corner and rode down to the stables where the King’s horses were kept, before slipping from the back of the mare and handing the reins over to a boy wearing the colors of the Tudor household.
    â€œFeed her well and warm her feet.”
    â€œYes, ma’am.”
    Justina dug into a tiny pocket on the side of her gown and pulled a small silver coin from

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