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"Catherine Kean has penned a story full of love, lust, intrigue." —The Romance Studio
The kidnapper had not yet come.
Had something unforeseen happened?
Oh, God. Oh, God.
With trembling hands, Lady Faye Rivellaux pulled her hooded mantle closer about her body. Still, the afternoon gale, hissing over the gray, mist-wreathed lake before her, slipped icy fingers inside the garment. Even the skeletal trees at the water's edge shuddered.
Faye hugged her arms to her chest, for the cold seeped beyond flesh and blood into the aching place in her soul. Oh, please. She could not bear this waiting. Any longer, and the strain would shatter her from the inside out.
Her pulse gave a sudden jolt. Did she wait at the wrong lakeshore? Nay. There was only one lake in this county with a string of rocks rising out of its depths like a mythical serpent. She had made no mistake.
Faye forced herself to inhale and then slowly exhale. The cold did not matter, nor did her tattered nerves.
Naught mattered, except Angeline.
The little girl was only eighteen months old. How cruel the circumstances that her life depended upon the outcome of today's meeting. Faye shivered again, for the moment of exchange loomed with all the menace of the gathering storm clouds which smothered any last glimmers of sunlight.
If she failed to sway Angeline's abductor-
Faye's jaw tightened. She must not.
She would not.
Her numb fingers brushed over the lump beneath her mantle. Thank the saints the object had not come untied from her belt during her journey from Caldstowe Keep to the meeting site. Something about the bold, controlled handwriting of the missive, delivered to her two days past, warned she dealt with ruffians who would never yield-or would do Angeline grave harm- unless Faye met their demands.
With a shaky sigh, she walked nearer the inky water. In the buffeting wind she caught the tang of impending rain. Behind her, the wind moaned through jagged boulders, the sound so eerily human, her belly twisted.
And then she saw him.
The rider, garbed in a flowing black cloak, sat astride a huge black destrier. He approached from the brush-fringed trees several yards away. An iron helm, of the older Norman style with a broad nasal guard, covered his head. Not only did it secure his cloak's hood against the buffeting wind, but it hid his hair and a good portion of his face. A deliberate attempt to conceal his features.
He gripped his mount's reins in one hand. His other hand rested upon his sword's pommel, the weapon revealed by swept-back folds of his cloak. The horse's bridle chimed like a handful of coins as the animal clopped toward her.
Faye felt the man's gaze raking over her, from her mantle's voluminous hood to its hem brushing her ankles. Thorough, deliberate, his assessing stare told her he was well aware of the painful emotions tangling up inside her, yet he would run this meeting as he wished.
Despite the gale, the thud of the approaching horse's hooves seemed terribly loud. Her hand flew to her throat. Sleepless nights, along with days of worrying about Angeline and being unable to swallow even one mouthful of food, weighed upon her like a stone blanket. The lake blurred before Faye's eyes. Blinking hard, she fought the urge to swoon.
Never would she reveal her fear to this knave. Fear, she had once been told, was a sign of weakness. Courage would steel her like armor, for she must not fail to secure the child's freedom. She would never forget her tearful vow, pledged to Angeline's dying mother, to protect the little girl.
Forcing her hand down to her side, Faye looked at the approaching rider. "Where is Angeline?"
He did not answer. His head tilted with undisguised arrogance. Then, she sensed his attention shifting from her to the rocks and trees behind her. Her bay mare, she remembered, was tethered there in the shelter of a gnarled willow.
Mayhap he suspected she had not come alone, as the missive ordered. The boulders were large enough for men to crouch behind. The clumps of brush, too, grew thick enough to conceal assailants. As though attuned to her perilous thoughts, his fingers slid down to his sword's grip, preparing to draw the weapon from its scabbard if he sensed a threat.
Panic raced through Faye. She had done as the missive demanded. Aye, after she read it, anguish almost convinced her to ignore the note's warnings. She longed to run to Torr, show him the parchment, and beg for a contingent of men-at-arms to arrest his daughter's kidnapper at the arranged meeting. However, concern for Angeline's well-being had stopped Faye like iron chains clamped around her ankles.
Worry again sluiced through her, but she fought the urge to raise pleading hands and swear she had obeyed his demands. This man would think such desperation foolish. Amusing, even.
Through chattering teeth, Faye said, "Where is she?" Despite the hood protecting her face, the wind snatched the words from her lips, but she refused to be deterred. "Why is Angeline not with you? The missive said she would be."
The man halted his destrier barely an arm's length away. The scents of leather and horse wafted to her. The lathered animal snorted a breath of white mist as the rider looked down at her.
This close, she saw dark brown hair had worked free of his hood. The strands were long enough to brush his neck. His lips were wide and full, his chin slightly squared. His taut jaw embellished her impression of angular features, as did the scar slashing across his right cheek. Her gaze traveled upward, to lock with eyes so cold and blue, she gasped. By the meeting's end, would she see compassion in his gaze or the ruthlessness of a murderer?
He seemed to enjoy her scrutiny, for his lips curled up at the corner.
"Answer me," she choked out. "Where is Angeline?"
"First, the silver."
His voice sounded deep and velvety, akin to the softened ripple of thunder. Although he did not raise his voice, each word rang with command. From the roiling clouds overhead came an answering rumble, as if to warn her she must do as he bade.
Faye fought the desperate rage clawing up inside her. Of course such a knave would disregard the rules he had written in black ink. He did not care for the welfare of children, only his payment. Revulsion flooded her mouth with a vile taste as she bit out, "I have no silver."
"Nay?" The hard smile that tilted his mouth vanished. "Why did you come, then?"
"Do not think to sway me with your beauty, woman's charms, or tears. The agreement was clear. You chose not to obey it. No silver," he growled, "no child."
His tone held the frozen chill of a January blizzard. How ruthless he sounded. Images of such heartlessness had slipped into her dreams, transforming her snatched moments of slumber into nightmares. To think of Angeline held captive by such a man ...
Lightning sizzled overhead, followed by thunder. The first drops of rain spattered on the lake's surface as Faye's fingers curled into fists. Equally vile to imprisoning a child, this knave thought she might ply her "woman's charms" on him. Fie! She would rather eat mud.
The bridle chimed as the rider pulled on the horse's reins, turning it to ride away. "Farewell, milady."
"Wait!" Blood pounded hard at her temples. "We have not finished."
He glanced over his shoulder. "Indeed, we have."
"You have, mayhap," she said, proud of her strong voice, "but I have not."
A laugh broke from him. He sounded astonished by her audacity. As her hands slid down to her waist, parting the edges of her mantle to expose her green woolen gown beneath, his laughter darkened with distrust. "I warned you, I will not be swayed by charms or tears-"
"-and I offer none." With stiff fingers, she unfastened the cord tied to her belt, and the stem of the gold cup melded into her palm. Arching an eyebrow, she raised the vessel into the grayed light. "I do not have silver, but gold."
* * *
Brant Meslarches fought to hold back a startled cry. Gold? God's holy blood. Of all the outcomes he had anticipated from the meeting, he never imagined this one.
Fighting the misgiving that knotted his gut, scrambling to decide how to proceed, he swung his mount back to face her.
As he did so, his meeting with Lord Torr Lorvais, two days ago in the snarl of woods by The Spitting Hen Tavern, raced through his mind. Pulling a shriveled leaf from a tree branch, Torr had told him, "Lady Faye Rivellaux is a penniless widow. Her husband died and after the sale of his estate and settling of debts, there was naught left. Since she had nowhere to go, I let her stay at Caldstowe Keep. I know she has no silver to bring."
Brant could not resist a frown. Since his return to England a few months ago, he had deliberately stayed away from Torr's controlling grasp. Using battle skills honed on crusade, which had seen him knighted on the desert sands by King Richard himself, he had competed in county fair archery contests and jousting tournaments to feed himself, his destrier, and his dog. Not rich living, but his life was his own.
Until the rainy morning, weeks ago, when he had raised his drunken head from a tavern table to receive Elayne's letter. It had taken the messenger a week to find him.
Instantly sober, he rode to Caldstowe, only to learn she had died. Whatever Torr's wife had wanted to tell Brant remained a secret.
Regret, splintered by forbidden fragments of longing, still pained him, but he had forced the emotions aside. "Why send the missive to Lady Rivellaux?" he had asked.
Torr laughed as if Brant had told a ridiculous jest. "You are to frighten her. Scare her. Bring her to screaming tears, if need be. Then you will ride away."
Torr had spoken of deceiving the lady as though he discussed the lack of clouds in the wintry sky. With effort, Brant suppressed a surge of temper. "Who is this Angeline who has been kidnapped?" Torr had a young daughter of that name, borne to him and Elayne. Yet, despite Torr's eccentricities, no father would abduct his own child.
Torr had waved a lazy hand. "Angeline is someone Faye knows."
A vague, deceptive answer. "A relative? Friend?"
An irritated scowl twisted Torr's brow. "It does not matter. You know what to do." His mouth eased into a thin, smug smile. "You will not refuse."
All warmth had suddenly vanished from the unseasonably mild day. Threaded through Torr's words was the blatant reminder of what had transpired on crusade.
The vow Brant had choked out while, wracked with horror and guilt, he stood by his brother Royce's body, the bloody knife still in his hand. The lie which had long ago strangled the life from his soul and bound him for the remainder of his hellish existence into Torr's service.
A shudder, cold as death, now rippled down Brant's spine. Hardening his jaw, he halted his destrier beside the lady, so close to her his scuffed boot almost touched her raised hands.
He stared down at her holding up the gold vessel like it offered salvation. Triumph gleamed in her green eyes the color of spring leaves. The wind had tugged her hood back a fraction, revealing her pale brow swept with coppery red hair. High cheekbones, more pronounced than he liked in his women, framed her slim face. His gaze slid down to her mouth. A captivating innocence defined the curve of her lips, although Torr had named her a widow.
Widow or not, she was a beauty. With the right smile, she could enchant any man.
Raindrops pelted Brant. A blunt reminder that here, now, he must do Torr's bidding.
Perspiration beaded on Brant's forehead, chilling where his skin pressed against the metal helm. Yet, he ignored the urge to yank off the helm and wipe away the discomfort, for to do so would fully reveal his face. In this disgraceful mission, he wanted a measure of anonymity. "Where did you come upon this gold, milady?"
Her victorious smile wavered. "A friend ... found it."
"You mean, stole it. From whom?"
As she wiped rainwater from her cheek, her lips flattened. " 'Tis not stolen. 'Twas a gift
... from the earth."
He snorted. "A likely tale."
"I speak true." Her determined gaze did not waver. Not a trace of pricking conscience clouded her eyes, even when he folded his arms across his chest.
The droplets clinging to her damp hood shimmered like pearls. How luminous her skin looked against the drab gray wool better suited for a matron than a young woman. She must have interpreted his silence as disbelief, for she said, "I do not lie." She turned the vessel in her slender fingers. "See? There is the dent where it lay crushed against a rock."
A hot-cold tingle of anticipation ran through him. "You found it near here?"
She gnawed her bottom lip, then nodded.
Brant's hand shook as he curled it into a fist. His older brother had believed a vast treasure lay hidden in the earth, riches of an ancient king named Arthur whose feats were immortalized in legend. The quest to find the hoard had consumed Royce's every waking moment, forged into a passion which outshone his duties as the first born son who would one day become lord of his father's lands. He had skipped mornings in the tiltyard to talk to villagers with tales of long ago, sprawled in the long grass and daydreamed of the find, while keeping detailed notes in a leather-bound journal.
If she had found the riches Royce sought ...
If Royce's dream, lost with his last dying breath, could still come true ...
"What else did you find?" Brant demanded.
"Naught." As though sensing she had trapped him with her golden lure, she gave a sly smile. "That does not mean there is no more."
Reaching out his hand, he said, "Give me the cup."
She shook her head. "I am no fool. You will ride away with it."
"I wish only to see it." He could not keep the excitement from his voice.
Pressing the vessel against her rain-soaked mantle, she said, "Come down from your horse. Then you may inspect it."
An admiring chuckle welled in his throat. She was cunning, this Lady Rivellaux. Dismounting put him at her eye level, at a disadvantage to his current position. Yet, he had already determined she had come alone, and a willowy young woman posed him no threat.
"Very well." Swinging his leg over, he dropped to the ground.
Standing a hand's span away from her, he caught her faint, floral scent. A combination of lavender, rose and ... woman. Memories of Elayne, curled in his arms in a flower-strewn meadow, her golden hair shimmering in the sunlight, teased their way into his thoughts.
He hardened his heart to the echo of Elayne's coy laughter and reached for the vessel.
With a hint of reluctance, Lady Rivellaux slipped it into his hands. The gold was warm where her fingers had touched. He traced the dent in the smooth metal with his thumb. Raising the cup to his mouth, he pressed it to his teeth.
In his hand lay proof of Royce's dream.
Ah, God. This cup was salvation indeed.
"I will trade you this vessel," the lady said, "for Angeline."
His head jerked up. This close, her heavily-lashed eyes looked even greener, her mouth more enticing. Yet, there were dark smudges under her eyes, suggesting she had not slept in days. There was a strained harshness to her delicate features.
Worry, no doubt, for her friend, Angeline.
Guilt ate at his conscience, even as he squared his shoulders. The rain was falling in a steady stream now, and he raised his voice to be heard. "This gold pleases me. However, the decision to release her is not mine."
She stiffened. "What?"
The shock in her eyes struck him like a slap. Yet, he would not admit he was unprepared for this situation. Neither would he confess that she, a mere woman, had bested him.
Her surprised gaze sharpened with fury. Rain beat on her cloak, plastering her sodden hood to her head, but she made no move to brush away the water running down her face.
Brant held her furious stare. He had surveyed the meeting site before she arrived, and after he watched her ride down to the lakeshore. While he had not seen anyone else, 'twas possible Torr had sent one of his men-at-arms to ensure Brant followed through with his part of the arrangement. If this lackey had seen her with the gold, her life could be in grave danger.
No way in blazing hellfire would he have another death on his conscience.
Forcing the words through his teeth, Brant said, "I will take the gold, and you will be informed of the decision." He turned to drop the vessel into his saddlebag.
Her white-knuckled hand clamped on his arm. "Nay!"
"'Tis the only way."
"Thief! You will ride off with the cup. I will never see it-or you-again!"
What a wretchedly tempting thought. However, he could not break his vow to Torr. To do so would obliterate the last tattered threads of knightly honor by which he lived his life.
With a gentle but firm shove, Brant broke free of her hold. The leather ties of his saddlebag were soaked, the knot tight beneath his rain-wet fingers. Drops splashed on the gold, making it slippery in his grasp.
"The agreement demanded silver. I brought gold!" she shrieked over a wailing gust of wind. "I did as you asked."
Excerpted from My Lady's Treasure by Catherine Kean Copyright © 2007 by Catherine Kean. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Posted December 9, 2008
In 1192 England, Lady Faye Rivellaux meets with Brant Meslarches, who demands silver in exchange for the safe return of her ward eighteen moths old Angeline. She instead offers him ¿God¿s Holy Blood¿, gold cup. Brant is stunned as his employer Lord Torr Lorvais insisted the widow had nothing of value to buy back the brat. Faye clings to her goal--to rescue the kidnapped child she vowed to protect. However, he takes the cup, but before he can leave she falls and hurts herself. Having no choice he takes Faye and the cup that proves of Celtic King Arthur exists, as his murdered brother insisted.-------------- Brant feels caught between a rock and a hard place as he would prefer to return the infant to Lady Faye, but cannot. On the other hand, he believes she is his hope for redemption although he loathes hurting the Lady who is beginning to mean more to him than his reputation. Still he must be careful because his liege has plans for her.---------------------- MY LADY¿S TREASURES is an enthralling medieval romance due to the heroic efforts of Lady Faye to keep little Angeline safe. Brant is the more fascinating lead character as he struggles between honor and loyalty to a liege who he distrusts as being dangerously and dismissively dishonest vs. his admiration for the courage of Faye all that aside from his love for her. Though Torr comes across as having no redeeming qualities going so far to use a baby as an expendable pawn to get his selfish way, sub-genre fans will enjoy this fine character driven twelfth century love story.-------------- Harriet Klausner
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Posted February 18, 2013
Very Good - but $2.99 for 198 pages, alittle to costly. It had a good story line, some twists and enjoyable character's.
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Posted March 28, 2007
Catherine Kean burst upon the historical romance scene with her first medieval romance Dance of Desire and captivated fans further with A Knight's Vengeance. In this newest release, My Lady's Treasure, she can easily be declared the upcoming Queen of Medieval Romance! The beautiful and enchanting widow Lady Faye Rivellaux has promised her dying friend Lady Elayne Lorvais that she will care for her daughter Angeline. Living at Caldstowe Keep with Elayne¿s husband Torr as guardian, soon becomes a nightmare for Faye when Angeline is kidnapped. In a strange twist, the kidnappers send the ransom note to Faye instead of Lord Lorvais, demanding she secretly bring a ransom of silver, otherwise Angeline will be killed. Faye in her impoverished state has no silver to give. She then remembers the Celtic Treasure that she and Elayne discovered at the lake on the grounds of Caldstowe Keep a solid gold chalice that is thought to be part of the legendary King Arthur Treasure. It is at this lake where Elayne, Faye and Angeline enjoyed picnics and played during happier times where she is to make the exchange. Sir Brant Meslarches is the knight that arrives to collect the ransom. This mysterious, dark, and handsome man lives not only with a scar to his beautiful face, but deeper, emotional scars and a deep secret. Upon seeing the gold chalice he realizes this may be part of the legendary treasure his brother Royce spoke of, wrote about, and searched for his entire life before his death in the Crusades and where the journal regarding the legend and location of the treasure disappeared. When Faye realizes she will give up the chalice and not immediately receive Angeline in the exchange, she becomes enraged and strikes out at Brant. In the struggle she falls and is knocked unconscious. In a raging storm Brant takes Faye to his room at the local inn so that he can treat her wounds. There Brant and Faye struggle emotionally with their personal secrets and growing desire for each other. Faye realizes she must protect the whereabouts of the Arthurian treasure while at the same time see to the safe return of Angeline. When Faye escapes the following morning, stealing back her treasure, Brant follows her to Caldstowe Keep. It is there that the real mystery begins with questions and suspicions arising regarding the circumstances of Angeline¿s disappearance, Torr¿s evil plots and secrets, and Elayne¿s death. Added to the mystery and intrigue are the possible connection of these events to Brant¿s deepest struggle, the murder of his brother Royce and the disappearance of Royce¿s journal. Brant desires to find the treasure that his brother searched for his entire life, as a form of personal retribution, while Faye wants Angeline safely returned. They decide to work together to unravel the mysteries. These searches bring Brant and Faye closer together and while their attraction grows, Brant struggles with his desire for Faye, feeling dishonorable, while Faye struggles with her desire for Brant, knowing he is somehow involved in Angeline¿s kidnapping. Their desire continues to build to an intense moment of passion while the many secrets and mysteries at Caldstowe Keep unravel. Soon they find themselves in an intense struggle to save their lives. In the exciting conclusion mysteries are solved and longtime secrets are revealed. My Lady¿s Treasure blends the beauty and pageantry of the medieval period together with Arthurian legend and mystery to form an intense and sensual romance. It is masterfully written and researched with characters of depth. Another beautiful book outside as well as in, as Catherine Kean¿s books are noted for their beautiful medieval Celtic covers. Another 5 Star medieval romance to add to your collection!
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Posted November 19, 2010
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Posted May 27, 2010
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