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by Gayle Callen
Book 1 of the "Knight" trilogy
(The books do not have to be read in order.)
Trained as a knight, yet sworn to the monastery,
Reynold Welles had always lived by a strict code of honor. The night he
rescues beautiful Lady Katherine Berkeley from a treasonous kidnapper,
he is captivated by her innocent sensuality. Yet a secret
sin already torments his soul, and his desire for Katherine only increases his anguish.
Reynold is duty bound to bring the lady to the
king, whose life may depend on the secret she holds. Yet when the dark
knight discovers that Katherine is to be married, he is torn between doing his duty...or claiming Katherine as his own.
"Ms. Callen gives us a
splendid rendering of Medieval times and protagonists
who will fulfill your dreams of romance."
(The following is the property of the author and Avon Books, and cannot
copied or reprinted without permission.)
He stood with his back against the
crumbling brick wall,
fists clenched, his cowl falling against his perspiring cheeks. Once
he heard the sound, a woman's low moan, quickly muffled. He took a deep
and slowly leaned towards the corner of the wall, allowing himself to
once and then pull back. In that moment, he saw the scene quite clearly
the eerie light of a full moon. A man, not one of the brethren, gripped
For a moment, Brother Reynold Welles
hesitated in disbelief.
When he looked again, a second man had joined them, wearing the black
of the Benedictine brotherhood and carrying a flickering candle. This
gestured, and they moved off towards the cloister court, the heart of
What brother would need to have a woman
brought to him?
In the past, Reynold had known a monk or two who'd left one night, and
back with more satisfaction than they felt the peace of the Church
give them. Though Reynold well understood the lure of women, he could
so easily break his vows. But bringing an unwilling woman to St.
Priory was sheer folly--or desperation.
The promises he had sworn to God and
his family warred
within him until his head ached. His sins still burned him, playing out
and over in endless nightmares. He should only care about his own
not a stranger's. But he could picture the woman, bound and alone,
here against her will. How would he live with himself if she died,
another death to his conscience?
Lady Katherine Berkeley yanked free her
good arm and
tugged at the filthy gag covering her mouth. For her trouble she
a quick blow to the head, a tap truly, but one that set her ears
and almost knocked the blindfold askew.
A hot mouth pressed itself against her
ear. "I don't
want ta hurt ye, liedy. They tol' me not to, but I will if ye make me."
The offending mouth remained a moment
too long, and Katherine
cringed with fear. He had not hurt her so far, this brutal man who'd
her as she rode near her father's hunting lodge just two days before.
two days seemed like a lifetime of humiliation and terror. She had
blind-folded on a horse with more bones than flesh, perched on the
of a man twice her size. Gagged into silence, she had to repeatedly
the man's arm for a moment's privacy behind a bush. And even then, she
not know if he watched.
She shivered in revulsion at the
memory, as her silent
captor dragged her forward. She was beyond exhaustion, beyond caring
she was. She only knew it was earth beneath her, not a galloping horse.
suddenly stopped, and her head bounced forward until her chin hit her
She heard a door open in front of her. A damp, sour smell assaulted her
and her eyes stung inside the wet blindfold.
"Here," an unfamiliar voice whispered.
"Ye're sure 'tis safe?"
"This place is falling into ruins. No
one uses the undercroft
for storage anymore. She'll keep safe enough long as she's gagged."
As Katherine was prodded forward, she
felt the ground
squish beneath her leather slippers. A whimper escaped the gag. The
seemed to stifle all noise except the skittering of tiny feet. When she
released, Katherine panicked, not caring that this was the same man who
so brutally abducted her. She sobbed in a hoarse, muffled voice,
at his sleeves.
"Bind her!" the new voice said.
Katherine frantically shook her head,
falling to her
knees to silently plead with them. Everything was dark and cold and
except the man who had tried not to harm her. Yet now they yanked her
behind her back, and though she feebly struggled for a moment, her will
spent. It was all too much for her. She wished she didn't know their
She would have been safe at home, awaiting her betrothed. She had been
naive. Would they now kill her for her knowledge?
Katherine realized she was alone when
the door latched
shut. Lurching to her feet, she waited a moment, listening. The air was
and oppressive with silence. She shuffled forward, then stopped,
the echoes far above her head. Where was she?
She edged sideways, trying to feel the
door with her
arm instead of her face. She banged her elbow and barely noticed the
as she turned her back to run her bound hands over the door. Solid old
set firmly into a stone wall. She kicked once with her foot but made
sound. She did it again, harder. Did they intend to leave her here
indefinitely--bound and gagged until she died?
Katherine tugged hard at the ropes
biting into her wrists,
hating her weak arm. Sobbing, she pulled and pulled until the pain
unbearable and the blood trickled down her fingers. She staggered and
crying, until the world retreated for awhile and she drifted into an
Katherine came awake with a jerk, then winced at
pain in her shoulders. Her hands seemed numb and unresponsive.
she sat up and began to wiggle her fingers, then sighed as sharp little
tormented her skin from inside.
With her head bowed, Katherine forced
herself to think
through the last few weeks. She tried to tell herself she would have
something differently, but it wasn't true. Her life meant nothing when
Richard's life was at stake. She had learned of a plot against the king
a woman too terrified to publicly come forward. If Katherine did not
soon, it would be too late. The king's enemies, whom he thought of as
friends, would turn on him. If only her chambermaid hadn't overheard
plans and told the kidnapper, betraying Katherine for a few coins.
But she couldn't give up as they all
expected her to
do. For the first time in her life she faced a real challenge, with no
to help her. Whoever was behind the plot to kidnap her obviously wanted
kept alive. Why? Was it because he had something more sinister in mind
her--or maybe because he didn't want her seriously hurt. She couldn't
know the person--could she? Dread quivered through her stomach. She had
As quickly as her bound hands allowed,
her prison, tripping over toppled barrels and ripped sacks of grain. By
time she returned to the first and only door, she knew she was in some
of storage room, unused and containing no windows. She had tried to cut
ropes on a broken crate, and instead set her wrists to bleeding again.
the hours began to stretch out behind her, she felt the seedlings of
panic. Had her captor been decent enough on the journey, only to allow
to die forgotten? When the door finally opened, she allowed herself a
of relief that they remembered her.
When hands touched her she began to
kick wildly. She
prayed that the door was still open and she could escape. Arms gripped
lifting her easily into an unfamiliar embrace as she struggled. This
a different man than her captor, harder, taller. In sheer terror
fought him, until she felt fingers at her head, loosening her
She stilled immediately and waited to see what he had planned. A candle
her for a moment, then the man turned her to face him. She gasped in
A monk held her in a painful grip, a
monk garbed in black
with a cowl hiding his face. She shrank away in terror as he lifted one
but he only motioned for quiet and reached for her gag. He peeled it
and her cracked lips stung unmercifully.
"My hands," she croaked.
He turned her around by the shoulders
and she staggered
at his strength. Katherine suffered his rough touch until her hands
free, then whirled away from him. She rubbed her raw wrists and watched
suspiciously, waiting for his next move. After all, men who chose this
usually had some dark, hidden reason. But this one merely watched her,
head cocked to one side, a black hole for a face. Why didn't he remove
Katherine lifted her chin with what she
hoped was a show
of strength. "Are you releasing me?"
As he nodded, the cowl dropped forward
She shivered with deep-rooted unease.
"Then move aside
and I will leave."
He pointed to himself, and then the
Katherine walked along the wall, never
turning her back
on the monk. "Nay, I will go alone. Is he gone yet?"
As his head dropped to one side, she
almost leaned over
to see his face, then thought better of it.
"The man who brought me here," she said.
He shrugged broad shoulders in answer.
"Do you not speak? Is your tongue
He shook his head, then pointed to the
door with more
urgency, taking a step towards her.
Katherine shrank away from his menacing
height and breadth,
then crept around him, hoping he would leave her alone to escape. But
felt his breath on the back of her neck and shuddered as a chill swept
The open door revealed a shadowy world
of sagging stone
walls, and covered walkways, all lit by a cloudy moon. Across the
stood an ancient church. The sound of deep voices chanting their
drifted on the breeze. A monastery. Who would think of looking for a
Katherine took a step forward and
almost fell when a
strong hand yanked her back behind the building. She fought the monk,
by the thought of what those big hands might do to her. He merely shook
once like a child, then put a finger to his lips. He did have lips; she
see the faintest shadow of them. He pointed to himself, then her, then
him, opposite the way she had meant to go. As Katherine began to walk,
silently debated her childhood fears. She would follow this monk as
as he proved himself trustworthy. But only until she was free of the
From what Katherine could see by
around her was in a state of neglect. Walkways were pitted with holes
cobblestones used to be. Off to her right, dead branches hung from
in the orchard.
She was so intent on not tripping, she
only vaguely noticed
that the chanting had stopped. But the monk in front of her went rigid,
put out a hand behind him to stop her. When his fingers almost grazed
chest, Katherine swallowed back the sour taste of nausea. Surely it had
an accident. He hadn't even looked back at her. But her hands started
She held her weak arm with the other one, a habit she wished she could
With her attention diverted from the ground, she began to stumble,
farther behind him. The dark cowl swung back towards her and she almost
in blind fear.
Katherine gasped when the monk veered
towards the orchard
at a sudden run. The practical side of her wanted to warn him that she
run well. She tended to twist ankles and bruise knees--not always her
When he motioned towards her
frantically, she took off
at a fast run, hoping nothing lay in her path. Her skirts had a life of
own as they threatened to trip her or snag on overgrown plants. She
through the last weeds on the far side of the orchard, only to skitter
a sudden halt on the banks of a creek. She naturally lost her balance
swayed forward, flapping her arms to stay upright. The monk caught her
him, his arm beneath her breasts, his head bent well above hers. Before
could collect her fragmented thoughts, he pushed her forward along the
She walked as fast as she could, if only to escape the warmth of his
from behind. She tried not to think of her parched throat. The cool
continued to lure her gaze but she would not get down on her knees
him to drink.
One of her slippers was captured by the
bent over to reach it, and the monk bumped into her backside. She
shrieked, but instead gasped in outrage and straightened so suddenly
the top of her head slammed into his cowled face. He grunted.
"Be quiet--they'll hear you!" she
hissed. "I lost my
The monk raised his wool-covered head
to the sky for
a moment, then bent to search the mud. She grimaced when he handed the
shoe to her and motioned to her feet. Hopping on one foot, she put her
slipper back on and continued alongside the creek. A wall loomed up out
the darkness. Her rescuer waded knee-deep into the water, and reached
"Is there a gate on the other side?"
He gestured for her hand once more.
"I can cross unassisted," she said, setting one
foot into the
water. She slid down a moss-covered rock and landed hard against the
side, her face striking his shoulder. Before she arched her head away,
smelled the clean scent of the wool and for a wild moment wondered what
of monk he was. She came to her senses and pushed at the muscled wall
his chest, his obvious strength bringing back her fright. He turned her
like a doll until her backside was pressed into his hip and his arm
her chest. As her breasts were flattened in his embrace, and the water
at her skirts, Katherine began to feel faint. Her tongue was swollen
dry, and the water dripped its sweet temptation.
The monk's other arm snaked out before her,
She peered ahead, squinting.
"Does not the water go below ground?" she
She felt the slither of wool across her tangled
hair as he
shook his head. With his large hands at her waist he urged her forward,
her up against the lure of slippery rocks and deep mud, until the
wall loomed above them in the shadows. Katherine braced both palms
the gritty stone.
"I can go no farther," she said softly.
"Where is the
The monk dropped to his knees at her
side, and pointed
to where the water rushed beneath the lip of the wall.
Katherine swayed with disbelief but the
monk held her
up. "Under there?" she squeaked, watching in a daze as the water
caught his black robe at the waist.
He pulled and the flaccid muscles of
her arm gave way
beneath his strength until she fell to her knees on the bed of the
As the cold water chilled her, she gave in to temptation and scooped
into her mouth. He watched in silence, a darkly robed man in the
moonlight of an ancient monastery. She ceased drinking and gaped at the
hole that was his face, repelled yet fascinated by what must lie
He suddenly sank beneath the surface. Katherine stared at the circular
made by his departure until she felt a tug on her skirts.
"Oh no." She gasped a lungful of air
and was pulled below.
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