Author: Jenna Jaxon
Series: Time Enough to Love, #2
Release Date: January 31st 2014
After a night of passion with her betrothed, Sir Geoffrey Longford, Lady Alyse de Courcy is eagerly looking forward to her wedding. But when Geoffrey is forced to marry another, a heartbroken and possibly pregnant Alyse finds herself in her own private hell. She must either gamble with her reputation or marry someone she does not love.
A reputed connoisseur of women, Thomas, Lord Braeton, has dallied with many ladies of King Edward’s court, although he has favored none. However, as Geoffrey’s best friend, Thomas has sworn to serve and protect Alyse, an oath now sorely tested when he agrees to marry her—in name only—to guard her reputation. Yet, as they grow closer, and Thomas discovers Alyse’s sweet but spirited nature, he comes to desire a marriage in truth. Can he overcome her memory of Geoffrey or is Thomas doomed to burn with passion for a woman he can never possess?
Alyse’s heart lurched at the sight of Thomas. She rose, trembling, and murmured, “Your Highness,” but looked expectantly at Lord Braeton.
His eyes met hers, distant and cool. Puzzled, she turned her attention to the princess, who was herding her other women toward the door to her bedchamber.
“Lady Maurya, Lady Anne, Margaret,” the princess beckoned them. “Lord Braeton would have a moment with Lady Alyse. Would you attend me, please?” Princess Joanna passed Alyse, caressing her arm as she led the confused women through the door.
At the touch, Alyse sought the princess’s eyes. Fear gripped her heart at the pity she saw there.
“Thomas.” Alyse curtsied quickly then blurted out the fear she had fought almost since Geoffrey had left. “Is my lord well? Have you news for me?” Thanks to Anne and Margaret’s thoughtless comments, she had become convinced Geoffrey had fallen ill with Sir Robert’s ailment and now himself hovered between life and death.
Avoiding her eyes, Thomas answered briefly. “Aye, my lady. When I left him, Geoffrey was well enough.”
While relieved at his words, a shadow still lay on her heart. If Geoffrey was not ill, why had Thomas’s manner changed? What had summoned this aloof stranger? He was withholding something from her.
“And Sir Roland?”
He hesitated, searching her eyes then looking away. He fisted his hands.
“Sir Roland is…has…”
Alyse could stand it no longer. She crossed to stand directly before Thomas, laid a cold hand upon his arm, and gripped it. “Tell me.”
The fact that there was something he could not bring himself to tell her filled her with terror. He said Geoffrey was well enough when he left. What about now?
Before she could question him further, he drew out a folded piece of parchment, sealed with blue wax and stamped with a signet ring bearing Geoffrey’s family crest. She stared at it.
“Geoffrey bade me place this in your hand and no other, my lady.” Thomas thrust the missive toward her.
Alyse compelled herself to hold her hand out .
He sighed. “He also bade me be at your service, lady, had you need of anything.” He gave the parchment into her hand. As he did so, she looked into his eyes and recognized the same pity she had seen in Princess Joanna’s.
Panic made her arms weak and her fingers numb. She forced her shaking hands to break the seal. Alyse unfolded the letter and slowly read the scratched and blurry words.
* * * *
In her bedchamber, Princess Joanna waited with Maurya, Anne, and Margaret. The women’s faces had changed from puzzlement to fear. Joanna looked from one maid to another, trying to hide her despondency. So many prayers had not been answered today.
Anne finally summoned the courage to ask, “Your Highness, what has happened?” She choked back tears. “I meant no harm, earlier. Indeed,” she crossed herself, “I wish Sir Roland and Sir Geoffrey long life.” She turned stricken eyes toward Joanna and whispered, “Is Sir Geoffrey—”
She got no further before a wrenching wail of anguish shattered the hushed room, as though the very walls echoed the sound. The four women stood rooted to the floor at the almost inhuman shriek of grief.
The sound cut off abruptly, and in the eerie silence that followed, they heard the soft thud of a body hitting the floor.
I am giving away two copies of Betrothal to commenters on each blog hosting the reveal.
Jenna Jaxon is a multi-published author of historical and contemporary romance.
She is currently working to release Betrayal at the end of January and finishing revisions to her fifth full length novel, To Woo A Wicked Widow, set in Regency England and the first book in her five part series, The Widow’s Club.
Jenna has been reading and writing historical romance since she was a teenager. A romantic herself, she has always loved a dark side to the genre, a twist, suspense, a surprise. She tries to incorporate all of these elements into her own stories. She lives in Virginia with her family and a small menagerie of pets. When not reading or writing, she indulges her passion for the theatre, working with local theatres as a director. She often feels she is directing her characters on their own private stage.
She has equated her writing to an addiction to chocolate because once she starts she just can’t stop.