Princess of Fire

Princess of Fire

by Heather Graham

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Overview

“An incredible storyteller.”Los Angeles Daily News

ALARIC
The mighty Norman warrior destined for greatness—forced to take sides in a bloody battle for power and glory…
 
FALLON
The willful Saxon princess born into a land divided by blackest treachery—fighting for her life against the despised Norman invaders…
 
He would rescue her from certain death. And she would flee, determined to resist this seductive enemy who vowed to conquer her with a passion that would turn her heart to fire…
 
“Engrossing. Sexy.” –Publishers Weekly

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781420138160
Publisher: Kensington
Publication date: 01/31/2017
Pages: 512
Sales rank: 425,394
Product dimensions: 4.10(w) x 6.70(h) x 1.50(d)

About the Author

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Heather Graham has written over two hundred novels and novellas and is a founding member of the Florida Romance Writers chapter of RWA. She has been published in approximately thirty languages, and has been honored with awards from Georgia Romance Writers, Affaire de Coeur, RT Book Reviews, and more. She has had books selected for the Doubleday Book Club and the Literary Guild, and has been quoted, interviewed, or featured in such publications as The Nation, Redbook, People, and USA Today, and appeared on many newscasts including local television and Entertainment Tonight.

Read an Excerpt

Princess Of Fire


By Heather Graham

KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.

Copyright © 1989 Heather Graham Pozzessere
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4201-4698-1



CHAPTER 1

Normandy, March 1027

The girl was dancing when he first saw her. Dancing on the dirt road in her bare feet, the skirts of her chemise and bleaunt pulled high above her browned and shapely ankles. She swirled around, and Robert, count of Hiemois, caught sight of her eyes.

He didn't note their color at first; he saw only that they sparkled with incredible life and vitality. She was very young and her skin was soft and pure; she was beautiful. Her hair was a dark cape that whirled around her as she spun in the road with various partners; it was a feast day, he remembered. There was gaiety all around them, musicians and peddlers thronged the streets, and many of the young people danced.

But none of them danced as she did. None was so young, so lovely, so alive. None had breasts that strained against the simple fabric of her dress, none moved with such sinuous grace. Robert had been riding; he pulled in on his reins. Henri of Mortain, his good friend and adviser, pulled up alongside him. They had been discussing Robert's never-ending feud with his brother, Richard, duke of Normandy. Henri did not realize that he had lost the count's attention.

Henri considered it his sacred duty to see to Robert's welfare. As a young man, Henri had gone into the service of the old duke. He had always been companion to the duke's younger son, Robert, and he loved his charge. The elder son, Richard, had inherited the duchy, but Henri was convinced that Robert was the finer man. Robert was still less than twenty years old on this fine spring day, but already he was an inspiring figure, full of passion, with handsome features and a well-muscled body. Still, he did not always put the passion to good use; Robert often disagreed with his brother and brooded over having been born the younger child.

"It is as it should be, Robert," Henri said now. "Richard, as the elder, is duke; you must accept that."

"Yes, yes," Robert said absently, and Henri frowned, aware that his charge was no longer listening.

Henri saw where Robert's eyes were trained, and he smiled.

"Who is she?" Robert breathed.

"I will find out for you, my lord." Henri carefully urged his mount into the crowd and began to make discreet inquiries.

Robert watched the girl dip and bow; she seemed to float above the ground. She laughed, showing fine white teeth. She was perfect, and watching her as she moved, he felt the fires of his body kindle and burn.

He had to have her.

Henri returned to his side. "She is Herleve, the daughter of Fulbert, a tanner here in Falaise."

"She is beautiful," Robert said.

Henri, glad to see the young man interested in something other than usurping his elder brother's position, spoke softly. "You are the count here. You shall have her."

Robert looked at Henri, startled. Then he laughed. "That simple, is it?"

"She would be honored by your interest, I am certain," Henri said.

"Would she be? I wonder," Robert murmured.

He urged his horse forward through the crowd. Men and women fell away, most of them bowing to him. He was their count; he was the law. He was young and strong and powerful in his own right, and he was a son descended from the long line of Rollo the Viking, who had been granted these lands over a century ago in the time of Charles the Simple. Now Robert was theirs; he was handsome and young, and they loved him well.

Forward, forward, he moved, until everyone fell back. Only she remained. She had not seen him, and so she continued to dance. A piper played, and she laughed and she swirled and her hair flew out around her in glorious disarray.

And at last Robert stopped. He reined in his mount just feet from the girl, and when she swirled toward him at last, she saw him there, a majestic man upon a majestic horse. He was clad in silk and ermine, and she stared at him in stunned silence.

It was as if a beautiful god had come down from the heavens. She could neither move nor speak; she could only stare at him in awe.

Robert nudged his horse forward until he stood alongside her. He reached down and grasped her hand, smiling at her, feeling the pulse in her wrist, watching the rapid rise and fall of her breasts as she returned his stare. She was so very young and perfect. A rush of wind seemed to sweep through his mind and his heart and then fan the fire that burned in his loins.

"Will you come with me?" he asked.

He did not tell her where he would take her, nor did it seem to matter to her. She set her eyes upon his and nodded slowly. She was frightened, he knew, and yet excited, too. He could see that she knew his intention well from his very touch, and she would not deny him.

Nay, she would not deny him. She wanted him …

With a soft cry, he swept her up before him. People looked on, but he gave them no heed. He dug his heels into his horse, and the great animal began to race, taking them from the town.

And for Herleve, it was like a sweet dream. She had just begun to know herself, to know the honeyed sensations that could fill her with longing. She was a tanner's daughter, a practical girl, but she had already been given to wonder what it would be like to be with a man, and she had wondered who it would be — Michel, the blacksmith's son? Ralph, the innkeeper's boy? Or perhaps even Guy de Monet, the old soldier's handsome whelp.

Never in any of her imaginings had she thought that Robert, comte d'Hiemois, might sweep her away. Never, ever, in her fondest dreams.

Robert rode with her high into the surrounding forest. They came upon a hunter's cottage, and Robert called out. An old man appeared, and Robert tossed coins to him and spoke to him quickly. The old man nodded and smiled, and he called to his wife, and that old crone came forward, too, to greet the count.

They went into the cottage again, and then they reappeared and left the place. Robert dismounted and reached out his arms to Herleve, then carried her into the little cottage.

Inside, in the muted light of day, he stared down into her face and stroked her cheek. "You know why we've come?"

She nodded, and he bent his head to kiss her. She wondered what was sin and what was ecstasy and what was heaven. He would never marry her, she knew. And so it was sin, but for this sin, she would gladly pay. His scent filled her, and she felt a trembling begin within her. She could feel his muscles, like hot steel; his lips were so commanding she seemed to lose all thought and reason and grow dizzy as the honey swept through her.

He raised his lips from hers and looked into her eyes. She touched his cheek, and she marveled again at his striking beauty. "Be tender, my lord," she whispered softly.

"I will be ever gentle."

It was a promise he meant to keep, yet the fire was consuming him. His fingers shook as he ripped off her clothing and cast his own about in disarray. He bore her down heavily to a poor pallet made of furs and straw, yet cloth of gold might have cloaked her, for she was stunning. Her breasts were full and large; they spilled from his hands like ripe fruit, and they filled his mouth as sweetly. Her body was quickly warm and wet, and though his promise of tenderness was laid waste by the fever of his passion, she never cried out; she never protested the heat of his kisses or the urgency of his hands.

Or even the burning thrust of his body into hers.

Herleve quickly forgot her pain as his excitement swept into her and became a part of her. She had sensed these things in herself, and now she gloried in the lusty, magical wonder he brought home to her.

In the end, she did cry out, clinging to him, damp and shaken and amazed. And he laughed, well pleased with her. Darkness was falling, and he had no urge to go home, no urge to be anywhere but with her. They lay naked on the pallet and he played with her fingers, and she told him about her father, and Robert was certain that Henri would go to him and compensate him for his daughter's loss of innocence. She was a bright girl with a quick smile, and though she was not the lady a man of his position might marry, he was heartily glad of her. As they talked and laughed he thought of the ways in which he could repay her and her father, Fulbert.

As night fell, he made love to her again, and then again, and he reveled in the bounty of her body and in the lustiness of her sweet young soul. When they slept, it was with contentment.

Exhausted, Herleve had thought that she would sleep soundly, like a babe. She did not, though. She could not forget the excitement, and so she stared at the roof of the poor cottage for hours and hours. She wanted to hug to herself her knowledge of him, she wanted to see with her mind each glorious moment again and again. When she finally slept, she thought that she would dream of him still, this fine lover of hers.

Instead she entered into a strange nightmare realm. A great black form fell over her, and when it was gone, she was naked and alone and trembling. Nor could she move. And deep inside her, where her lover had spilled his seed, she felt growth. She began to realize that from her a tree grew. It was a great, massive tree with branches that quickly became dense and thick, reaching out, stretching as far as the eye could see.

The branches stretched over land and then reached across the water, and they seemed to cover the earth.

She began to scream.

Robert awoke, and he held her and stilled her trembling. Then he listened to her dream with tender amusement. "I've left you no trees," he promised her with laughter, and he rubbed her belly intimately. "A wee babe, a son or a daughter, but something of flesh and blood, the spill of a man's seed, and nothing so unlikely as a tree."

He made her laugh, too. And he made her grow breathless again, and once more, in their hunter's cottage, they made love.

It was true, Herleve quickly discovered, that his seed grew within her. She often thought of her dream, and sometimes she was afraid, and she would tell her mother. Her mother was impatient with her fears, for already the family was feeling the boon of Count Robert's good graces. Herleve's brothers had been given minor positions in Robert's court; her father's business flourished. Robert himself was eager for the birth of the child. When Robert was near, he was eager. But he and his brother were constantly in a state of near civil war.

On August 6, 1027, Duke Richard of Normandy suddenly died. Herleve saw very little of her lover then, but the country was quick to accuse him of fratricide. Although the dead duke had left behind a legitimate son, that child had been promised to the church. Robert became the duke of Normandy.

In the late fall, Herleve bore her child, a son. She groaned and sweated her way through labor, and she told her mother about her dream, for she did, indeed, feel as if a large tree were tearing her apart.

Her mother comforted her, and in time, her boy was born. They called him William the Bastard.


* * *

"Look, Mark. It is William the Bastard."

The Bastard. Now seven years old, William had been called the Bastard for as long as he could remember. He was at his mother's house, listlessly tending his stepfather's sheep, when he looked up to see Hugh of Cresny and his constant companion, ten-year-old Mark, coming near to tease him again. Bastard. His father might be the duke of Normandy, but William was a bastard, and boys like Hugh and Mark teased him at their whim.

He threw out more feed, keeping a cautious eye on the two of them. Mark stepped forward. "She was a whore, you know."

"Eh, Mark, he's too little to understand," Hugh called. "He don't know what a whore is!"

Yes, he did. William dropped the bowl of feed and went speeding across the dirt. He lowered his head and butted it furiously against Hugh's belly. The ten-year-old set up a howl and grasped at William's hair, pulling clumps of it from his head. William didn't let out a sound. He put up his fists and began systematically to pummel his opponent's jaw. Hugh screamed and Mark came running. William struck out solidly to give Mark a fine black eye. But by then the two older boys were fighting together. Hugh tripped William, and Mark sat down hard on him. William gritted his teeth against the pain while Hugh kicked his ribs. He wouldn't cry. No matter what, he wouldn't cry. For as long as he could remember, they had called him "bastard," and for as long as he could remember, he had fought.

"William! William! What is going on here?" Herluin, the boy's stepfather, had come out, and he was pulling the older boys away. They were both silent in Herluin's presence. Receiving no answers, Herluin sent the older boys on their way. William lowered his head and waited for a sound thrashing himself — Herluin did not approve of fighting — but no chastisement was forthcoming, and at last he raised his head to find Herluin watching him peculiarly. "Clean up, William," he said. "Your father is awaiting you at court."

William would never forget that day as long as he lived. His mother did not come with him; she cried and kissed him good-bye, standing with his half brothers Odo and Robert in the courtyard while Herluin helped him to mount his horse. When William and Herluin arrived at court, they were challenged by the guards. Herluin gave his name, and William's, and they were ushered into a small hall, where they were told to wait.

His father's reign had been a bloody one, William knew. The civil war he had waged against his brother years before had caused dissent from the moment Robert became duke. He still battled to hold together the threads of his duchy.

"William! Come!" One of his father's guards, in colorful livery, appeared. He looked questioningly to Herluin, and Herluin nodded. William followed the man into a great hall.

His father was there. William wanted to cry out and rush to his father's arms. But Robert of Normandy shook his head almost imperceptibly, and William looked around to notice the other men in the room. They were the powerful men of Normandy — counts and archbishops, knights and warriors. Looking up at them, William felt very small.

His great-uncle, the archbishop of Rouen, stepped forward. He stretched out one hand and placed it on William's head. "My lords, your vows, please!" Robert of Normandy demanded.

And then, to William's surprise, all the great men went down on their knees before him. They swore to honor him as Robert's heir.

Later, alone with his father, sitting on his lap, William was able to ask Robert what it meant.

"I am leaving Normandy, William," Robert told him. "I am going on a great pilgrimage to Jerusalem."

"You should not be going!" William protested "Father, I know that you have enemies —"

"You know too much for a child, son. And I've already been told that I should not leave but I have to go."

"But why, Father?"

Robert set William down and went to look out the window. "I am going to atone for my sins, which are many. I will not be gone so long. But I had to have from those men their oath, just in case something should happen to me. I had to make them swear that they would honor you as my heir."

"I am a bastard," William said.

"You are my son, and that is enough," Robert declared. Then he picked William up again and held him close. "Maybe the oath will not be enough, son, but I have made them swear their loyalty anyway. Maybe your bastardy can make you strong. You are such a little boy now. One day you may understand."

"I do understand," William said solemnly.

Robert smiled and ruffled his son's hair. "You will travel to the king, to Henry, in France. You will pay homage to him as my heir, and then he will be honor-bound to assist you, if need be, for you will be his liegeman. I do all of these things only as safeguards. I will come home."


* * *

But Robert of Normandy did not come home. He was stricken with a mortal sickness while coming through Asia Minor. Early in the year 1035, he died.

Seven-year-old William was once again startled when rich and powerful men came to him and fell down on their knees and hailed him. He was still "the bastard," but he was now the bastard duke of Normandy.


* * *

The honor that fell to him that day often meant little in the stark years that followed Robert's death. As long as William's great-uncle, the archbishop of Rouen, lived, the duchy and his household were held together. When Robert, archbishop of Rouen, died in 1037, however, the duchy was split by dissension again. Count Alan of Brittany, William's chief tutor, was murdered. Osbern, his steward, was also murdered after a scuffle in William's own bedchamber. Walter, William's uncle on his mother's side, took to sleeping with him so as to guard him, and on more than one dark night they escaped together to some peasant's lodgings to save the young ruler from assassination. Some members of William's family died while others vied for power. Revenge and bloodshed ran rampant. It was nearly impossible for justice to be meted out by the ducal administration, and private wars raged so horribly that, in time, the church attempted to restore public order by instituting the Truce of God, an ecumenical dictum that outlawed warfare on certain days.

William had paid homage to King Henry of France, and Henry had made William a knight. As the anarchy continued in the duchy, Henry stepped in to serve as William's protector. He made no attempt to supplant his young vassal, but he strengthened a number of his own holdings.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Princess Of Fire by Heather Graham. Copyright © 1989 Heather Graham Pozzessere. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
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.

Table of Contents

Contents

CRITICAL PRAISE FOR HEATHER GRAHAM,
Also by,
Title Page,
Copyright Page,
Prologue,
Part One - The Bastards,
Part Two - The Warriors,
Part Three - The Conquerors,

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Princess of Fire 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Could not put it down! The history behind the story is amazing. The characters are strong, passionate and believable! LORRAINE
Anonymous 9 months ago
I+enjoyed+this+story.+++Great+characters+and+well+written.+++Much+history+involved+in+the+story.+++Well+done.+
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Plausible story of the Norman Conquest.
BuckeyeAngel More than 1 year ago
Duke Williams is a Norman and dead. The lft division of the Norman Knights had broken the division. A chaotic and horrible retreat had begun. The Saxon line remained unbroken. But William was was not actually dead and proved it. William’s forces were fewer but his battle plan was superior and his weapons were more advanced and deadly. The Saxons fought with crude slingshots and desperation. The fought for their homeland and KIng. Then it was true Harold the KIng was dead. Alaric felt no joy he had liked and admired Harold- he felt pain. William did not okay rape and murder but he did promise riches for the men who rode with him and that meant plundering. Then one who would not give up ad Alaik finally conquered the person and then found out it was actually a woman. It was Fallon and Alaric told her to give up she was beaten but she still refused. She was Harold’s daughter by his “ Danish marriage”. She had been a thorn in Alaric’s side since the day he had met her. But standing there he knew she had to be subdued if William was ever to rule England. Alaric told Fallon she was done and his prisoner and her father was dead. Fallon had adored her father and didn’t want to believe Harold was dead. Alaric’s feelings for Fallon were all twisted up. Alaric had met Fallon when she was a child. Alaric and Fallon ended up sleeping together as he tried to comfort her over her father’s death. But all Fallon wants to do is escape. I liked this story. It had a lot of twists and turns and kept my attention. But in some spots there was just too much historical detail but I will say I did like learning more about the time period. I do believe this book could have been shorter. There was some confusion with the jumping around. This story was well written. But the story did drag at times so I had mixed feelings on this story.