Come and meet the Reynards.
Lord William Reynard had struggled all his life to prove his worth. Now through luck and his own heroism he has been given the things he has always lacked – land, coin and a wife. He intends to protect what is his and create a dynasty that will last more than a thousand years.
To save her sister, Lady Blissot de Woodville exchanges places and marries a handsome stranger. But lies born from love have the power to destroy...
Lord William Reynard stood upon the small parapet at the top of Foxwoods Hall and scanned the countryside that now belonged to him. A sense of satisfaction and pride flowed through his body as he looked down at the soft green and fertile land.
This was the beginning, the one thing that he had been striving for his entire life. No longer would he be a landless knight with no place to call his own; forced to drift or stay in the household of his overlord. Now he had Foxwoods Hall and it was on this land that he would begin to build his life, his future. No one would ever take it from him – none but the King or God. He would fight to his last breath to keep it and all who dwelled there safe.
Walking to the back of the parapet, he leant on the nearest stone merlon. Below he could see the overgrown garden and orchard beyond. Farther still ran the cool stream that rushed by the old mill on its banks. In the distance rose the tangled forest that was known as Foxwoods. The estate was in disrepair but he vowed that he would bring it back to life. The garden needed redesigning and planting, the trees in the orchard pruning, the mill needed a new roof – in fact there was not an inch of the Hall that didn’t need some attention. It would be hard work yet he could barely contain his enthusiasm.
The cool morning air blew gently onto his face and ruffled through his dark hair. He closed his green eyes briefly and took a deep breath; breathing in the scent of a new day, a new beginning.
By this afternoon, Ivetta, the most beautiful of Lord de Woodville’s nieces would arrive. His intended bride was the key; she was the instrument that would enable him to create not just a future but a legacy. Aye, the coin that she brought to the nuptials would allow him to restore Foxwoods to its former glory. But what Ivetta brought to the marriage was much more precious than coin; she brought the possibility of children. Together they would build a family, a line that would be stronger than the very foundations of Foxwoods Hall.
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Lord Savaric Reynard has vowed to protect and ensure Foxwoods Hall survival. He needs to marry and produce an heir to secure the line. The young widow from the neighbouring estate seems more than adequate. He doesn’t believe in love any more than he believes in the family legend that the betrothal ring will produce his true bride. Marriage is a business agreement and nothing more. Savaric rules his life with his head and not his heart.
So why does a chance meeting with Rosamund, a travelling artist, have him imagining a very different sort of future?
Rosamund finds Lord Savaric abrupt and arrogant. They are from two different worlds but the more time she spends with him... the less she wants to leave.
Savaric stared at the bedraggled girl who stood shivering in front of his fire. Rosamund’s dark eyes stared out from her pale face, and her hair fell like wet, twisted skeins of black silk. Her dark green dress was soaked, and its skirts dripped onto the stone hearth. The thin, worn material hugged the girl’s slender form. Too thin...she was too thin. A frail spiral of guilt rose inside of him. Why hadn’t he noticed that before, and how could he have left her to the mercy of the storm? But there was something else mixed with the guilt...a feeling, a reaction that had no place within him. His mind was set and his future mapped out; for the sake of Foxwoods, he was to wed Marsilia. So why did his eyes linger on Rosamund’s loveliness? His body reacted to her dark and dangerous beauty, hardening, clenching, and straining to touch. He was reminded of the tales his father had told him when he was a boy. Ancient tales, all about the sprites and faeries of the tangled woods...beings from the hidden world who tricked and lured men to their doom. Was Rosamund woman or sprite? Was she there to lure him from his path?
“Be gracious, Savaric. Rosamund has travelled through the storm to return our family’s ring. A task she did not have to do.” Amice handed her nephew the pouch. “I trust from now on you will guard it better?”
Savaric heard his aunt’s soft rebuke as his fingers closed over the leather. “You have my word, Aunt Amice. I will not be parted from it again.” Looking back at Rosamund, he gave her a brief nod. “You have my thanks, Lady. ’Twas a good deed, and one I will compensate you for.” The faster she was gone from under his roof, the faster he would find peace.
The girl straightened, and her eyes narrowed when she addressed him. “Sir, I do not want your coin.”
“Then what do you want? Come, you came to Foxwoods with a purpose.”
“I want nothing from you, Lord Reynard. I was honour-bound to return the ring, and I need no money for that.” Rosamund’s voice was even, but he saw a spark of indignation in her eyes.
“And what do you know of honour?” The words slipped out of Savaric’s mouth before he could stop them.
“Savaric!” Amice gasped.
“More than you, I wager,” Rosamund said as her hands fisted by her sides. “I have returned your possession, and yet you choose to insult me. You may be a fine lord, but I found better manners and more kindness from a woodcutter I passed on the road.”
Rosamund stepped away from the hearth and dropped into curtsy before Amice. “May God grant you blessings, Lady. I thank you for your sweet words, but I should leave. ’Tis better that way.”
“Nay, I will not have it. I will not allow you to go back into the tempest. I insist that you accept our hospitality. You will have dry clothes, a warm bed, and food. We are in your debt, child, and once Savaric recovers his manners, he will be in agreement.” Amice stood up and took the girl’s hand. “Now, I shall not hear another word about it.”
Savaric saw the hurt in Rosamund’s eyes, and another wisp of guilt fanned over him. She made him react, and it confused him beyond reason. “Forgive my words. My aunt is correct, Rosamund. You are welcome and safe at Foxwoods.” He turned on his heels and strode to the door. He would avoid the girl as best he could. In the morning she would leave, and everything would fall back into place.
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