Love thy neighbor, ’tis said. A fine idea, except when the neighbor in question is Lord Holden. Lady Helen Tiernay has complained frequently about his treatment of his people. Too frequently perhaps, for the king intends to curb their constant bickering by ordering them to wed. Helen can’t refuse a royal decree, but she’ll do everything possible to drive away her devilishly attractive husband-to-be.
Holden has faced all manner of horrors on the battlefield. But marriage to “the tyrant of Tiernay” is still a worrying prospect—until he glimpses Helen in the flesh. What flesh it is…soft, lush, made for his touch. If she weren’t so intent on thinking up devious ways to prevent consummating their bond, Helen would see how perfect they are together, and that a marriage begun as enemies can turn to absolute pleasure.
|Product dimensions:||4.00(w) x 5.90(h) x 1.10(d)|
About the Author
Place of Birth:Leamington, Ontario
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By Lynsay Sands
Copyright © 2001
All right reserved.
No one was more surprised than Helen when she kicked the ball.
She had only paused on her way across the bailey to watch the
children play for a moment when the ball suddenly rolled
toward her, and she impulsively kicked it. It was a mistake.
Goliath, who'd stayed dutifully by her side as always until
then, took it as a sign that they were going to play. He was
off after the ball in a heartbeat, barking gaily and running
like the wind. Helen tried to call him back, but her voice was
easily drowned out by the squeals of the children who raced
after the huge wolfhound. The dog reached the ball first, of
course. Unfortunately, he didn't understand the rules of the
game and, as a hunting animal, he did not fetch it back
rightaway. Instead, he picked it up in his massive jaws and
shook it viciously side to side. Helen couldn't hear the
material tear, but she knew it had happened when feathers
suddenly filled the air around the beast. Satisfied that he
had killed his prey, Goliath strode cheerfully back through
the dismayed children to drop the ruined ball at his
mistress's feet. He then sank to the ground and rested his
head happily on his front paws in what Helen considered the
very picture of male satisfaction. Shaking her head, she bent
to pick up and examine the damaged toy.
Helen turned her attention from the slightly damp-with-dog-drool
ball and glanced at the two women who appeared
beside her. "Aye?"
"This is Maggie," Ducky said quietly. Ducky was Helen's lady's
maid, but also a friend. If she had brought this other woman
to her, there had to be something the two needed. Surveying
the slightly warty but kindly looking crone, Helen decided she
liked what she saw.
"Hello, Maggie." she greeted the woman, then tipped her head
slightly. "You are not from Tiernay." It wasn't a question.
Helen knew everyone of her people; she made it her business to
know them. This woman wasn't one.
"Nay, my lady. I come from Holden."
Helen's lips tightened at the news. It could only mean trouble
of some sort. Her thoughts were distracted by a murmur of
discontent as the children arrived to cluster around her.
Their accusing little eyes moved unhappily from Goliath to
their now mangled toy.
"I shall repair it at once," she assured them guiltily,
relieved when the promise seemed to appease them.
The order was for Goliath, who immediately got to his feet to
keep pace at Helen's side as she headed for the keep, but the
humans obeyed as well. Ducky and Maggie promptly fell into
step behind her while the children trailed at the back. The
group made a small parade as it crossed the bailey, mounted
the steps and entered Tiernay keep.
"I shall need some fresh feathers, Ducky," Helen announced as
they crossed the great hall.
"Aye, my lady." The woman was off at once, heading for the
kitchens where Cook had been plucking chickens all morning for
that evening's meal.
"You children go wait at the table. I shall have Ducky bring
you drinks and pasties while you wait." So saying, Helen led
Maggie and Goliath over to two chairs by the fire. Seating
herself in her usual spot, she gestured for the older woman to
take the other, then began to search through the small chest
nearby for her sewing needle and thread. Goliath settled on
the floor by her feet.
Helen was aware of the way the woman hesitated, then perched
uncomfortably on the edge of her chair, nervous and stiff as
could be, but she ignored it as she sought what was needed.
She had just gotten a hold of the necessary items when Ducky
appeared at her side with a wooden bowl containing the
"Thank you." Helen accepted the bowl and smiled at the woman
with appreciation. "Perhaps you could have someone fetch the
children some refreshments and sweets while they wait?"
"Aye, my lady."
Helen began to thread her needle, her attention focused on the
task as she asked Maggie, "So, you are from Holden?"
"Aye." The old woman cleared her throat and shifted
uncomfortably on her perch. "I used to be in charge of the
"Used to?" Helen inquired gently. She drew the thread through
the needle's eye, then glanced up in time to note the
bitterness that flashed across the servant's face.
"Aye. I was released last Christmastide," the woman admitted
reluctantly. A moment later she blurted, "The lord wanted only
young and pretty maids to serve in the chambers."
Helen's mouth thinned. Such news didn't surprise her. Very
little could surprise her regarding the Hammer of Holden's
behavior. Hard work and service were not often repaid kindly
by the man. Cruel bastard, she thought with irritation, then
forced herself to start mending the large jagged tear in the
children's ball. After several stitches she felt calm enough
to ask, "And what have you been doing for these last six
The woman cleared her throat again. "Farmer White had been
courting me up until then. He was a widow," she explained,
blushing like a lass fresh out of a schoolroom. "When I was
released, we married. I tended his home and helped on the
farm." Her smile and blush faded, leaving her pale and weary
looking. "He died these two weeks past."
"I am sorry," Helen said gently. Glimpsing the tears that
sprang to the woman's eyes before Maggie lowered her head, she
turned her attention back to her task. Deciding she had left
just enough unsewn, she turned the ball back inside out and
began to stuff it with feathers. She was nearly done with the
chore when Maggie recovered enough to continue.
"I knew there would be trouble. I couldn't manage the farm on
my own, of course...."
"He evicted you and gave the farm to another couple," Helen
guessed quietly. Such wasn't unheard of, but to her mind it
was cruel to treat someone so shabbily when they had worked so
hard and faithfully for so long.
Maggie nodded. "He sent poor young Stephen down as usual to do
his dirty work."
Helen nodded. Stephen was Lord Holden's second, the man left
in charge of Holden while the Hammer was away. Which appeared
to be quite often. Lord Holden seemed forever off doing battle
somewhere. But while Stephen was Holden Castle's chatelain,
none of the decisions were his. Surely the Hammer kept up a
steady discourse with the man, ordering him to do this or that
- none of it very pleasant or kind - and from all accounts,
young Stephen suffered horribly from being forced to carry out
such wicked deeds.
"He had Stephen claim everything in the cottage for heriot,"
Maggie continued, drawing Helen's attention back to her. "Then
he was ordered to burn it all before me and send me on my
Helen's eyes widened incredulously. Heriot was the equivalent
of a death tax, a legal part of the feudal system. But
claiming every last possession, then burning it all ... well,
that was just cruel. And deliberately so. "Did Stephen do it?"
Maggie grimaced. "Aye. He is a faithful servant. He apologized
the whole while, but he did it."
Helen nodded solemnly as she stuffed the last of the feathers
firmly into the ball and prepared to sew it closed. Of course
young Stephen had done it. He would follow his lord's orders.
"His mother would have wept to see him forced to act so."
Helen glanced up questioningly at the woman's words and Maggie
explained. "We were friends when she lived in the village.
This would have broken her heart."
"She is dead?" she asked politely, knowing the old servant
needed the change of topic to help her maintain composure. If
talking about Stephen's mother would help her distance herself
from her recent losses, Helen saw no reason not to indulge
"Oh, nay. She is not dead. But when Stephen became chatelain
and was forced to dole out such harsh punishments ... Well, she
could not bear to stand by and watch. She left the village.
Most people think she is dead, but I think she is living on
the border of Tiernay and Holden. Stephen often rides out this
way for the afternoon. I think he is visiting her." She fell
silent for a moment, then added, "He rode out here after seeing
to burning my things. Probably went to visit her then as
Helen took in the lost expression on the old woman's face and
the way she was slumping in her seat and said gently, "And so
you came to Tiernay."
"Aye." Maggie sat a little straighter. "My daughter married
the tavern keeper in the village ten years back."
Helen nodded. She knew the tavern owner and his wife, of
"And they have offered to take me in ... but they must have your
Helen was silent for several moments. She was responsible for
her land and everyone on it, and therefore, as the woman said,
her permission was imperative before any new tenants were
allowed to move in. Her first instinct was simply to nod and
say certainly Maggie was welcome at Tiernay. But Helen had
noted the woman's odd tone as she had spoken of her daughter's
offer. There was no doubt that Maggie had worked her whole
life. Losing her position in Holden Castle must have been
extremely demoralizing. Her marriage and position as a
farmer's wife had saved her pride somewhat, but now she was
reduced to accepting charity from her own child. Helen
suspected it rankled the old woman greatly, and now,
considering the matter solemnly, she shook her head. "Nay."
"Nay?" Maggie looked fit to burst into tears, and Helen
mentally kicked herself for speaking her thoughts aloud.
"There will be no charity for you, Maggie. You are still
strong and healthy. You can work. As it happens, I am in need
of someone with your skills."
Maggie lost her tragic look, hope slowly filling her withered
face. "You do?"
"Aye. Edwith used to be in charge of my chambermaidshere. She
died a month ago and I have yet to replace her. Ducky has had
to fill that job as well as tend to her own duties. You would
be doing both of us a service should you take Edwith's place.
It would relieve a great burden on Ducky."
"Oh!" Much to Helen's consternation, the woman burst into
tears. For a moment, she feared she had erred and Maggie
wished to stay with her daughter. Then the woman positively
beamed at her through her tears, and Helen relaxed.
"Oh, my lady. Thank you," the new mistress of chambermaids
breathed, positively glowing at the idea of being useful
Excerpted from Bliss
by Lynsay Sands
Copyright © 2001 by Lynsay Sands .
Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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