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There would be a time later in Lord Pierce DeForte's life, when he would remember his first encounter with Mistress Rose Woodbine, the untitled but extremely wealthy daughter of the colonial merchant Ashcroft Woodbine, and realize that sometime on that day, they had all been there.
All of them. He and Anne, and all those who were to betray him.
It all began with Rose ...
He had been aware, through the intelligence of numerous friends, that Ashcroft considered him to be the most worthy suitor for, his daughter. But then, at the moment, almost every matron and proud father in London considered him to be one of the finest catches of the decade. He didn't dwell on that fact or let it inflate his ego. Rather it caused him a good deal of wry amusement, for it had not been all that long ago when the ancient Norman name of DeForte might as well have been mud -- not just in London, but in all of England.
Indeed, it had not been that long ago that the current king's father had with an amazing nobility, not to be forgotten walked to the scaffold, and there lost his head. In the midst of it all, no matter how dangerous the times had been, the DeFortes had remained completely, almost blindly, loyal to the House of Stuart. At the age of fifteen Pierce had first learned to test his sword in battle, fighting side by side with his good friend, the young Prince Charles. Even when Pierce's Own father had given his fife in his steadfast loyalty to those he had served, Pierce had determined never to waver. Consequently he had followed his young friend to Scotland defending him all the way. He had seen him crowned there on the Stone of Scone andthen fled with him, going into exile with the landless monarch while Oliver Cromwell held his iron hand over England.
He had risked everything, not just lands and titles, but life and limb as well. Perhaps he had done so because he had been young, brash, and foolish. Perhaps he had done so simply because Charles had his friend. Perhaps it had even been the adventures they had shared, the good times and bad, the struggle to maintain pride and position abroad. Whatever the reason, he had set his course, and now he was reaping the rewards. Charles had been asked back to England, and he was not a man to forget those who had defended him. He was the king, he ruled a somewhat -- no, a very promiscuous court, but he did so with a certain wisdom and shrewdness, with a wry and bitter humor gained from years in exile. He loved theater, music, art and beautiful women. And beautiful women loved the king. They flocked to the court. Fluttering mamas and stern papas worried about their daughters, but after the puritanical rule of Cromwell, people were willing to doff the cloaks of respectability and join the handsome young king in enjoying life. Still, Charles was ever careful. The years of deprivation had aged him, given him a, reserve that few men ever truly got beyond . Whatever vindictive thoughts he had, he most often kept to himself. He showed bitterness to almost no one and toleration to almost everyone. He was, from almost the first moment he set foot upon English soil once again, a beloved monarch.
Naturally, as one of the king's best and most loyal friends, Pierce found himself the recipient of some of the adoration that fell the king's way. He was tall, well enough muscled, he supposed, and a swordsman of some repute..
Not only that, he was younger than the king, and very rich, since Charles had not only restored his own lands to him, but granted him new properties as well.
And, he thought, grinning, he had all of his teeth, and a full head of hair. He had managed to retain his limbs through the years of fighting. All in all, he determined, he must be a fairly decent bargain.
And Ashcroft Woodbine was a social climber. That fact in itself didn't bother Pierce. He admired the man, and knew a little something about him. Across the Atlantic, Woodbine had done his best to support the wandering young man who had not yet been accepted as King Charles II within his own country. Gifts had often arrived when needed guns, halfarmor, fine swords, and once, even a ship. An orphan, Woodbine had escaped a workhouse to stow away aboard a vessel bound for America. And there he'd worked first for other planters and begun to buy land. His. crops had flourished. He had bought more land. He had traded intelligently. He had come from nothing to become a king himself -- of cotton and tobacco. He had married the daughter of Lord Justin Renault, and though that old Royalist had gone to the scaffold, Ashcroft Woodbine had man aged to make his daughter acceptable to the gentry of England. Of course, reaching for a lord of Pierce's status was quite a stretch, but ...
Well, he wryly admired the old man for the reach! And he would have been intrigued at the very least curious about Mistress Rose, except that he had finally decided, after all his years of wandering, upon a bride.
She was the Lady Anne Winter, and they were very well suited, he thought. Anne was beautiful, wealthy, vibrant, and worldly indeed they had been enjoying an intimate relationship for quite some time now. He probably should have asked her to marry him by now. He wasn't quite sure why he'd delayed.Maybe all the years of wandering had caused it. He didn't know. But over the last several weeks, he had spent a great deal of time thinking, and he always came back to Anne. He cared for her deeply. Loved her, surely. And. they were so very... Bride of the Wind. Copyright © by Shannon Drake. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.