Coulter, Catherine. Rosehaven / Catherine Coulter.

Coulter, Catherine. Rosehaven / Catherine Coulter.

Coulter, Catherine. Rosehaven / Catherine Coulter.


o my husband,

He’s a hell of a guy


Early Summer, 1 277, East Anglia, England

OxDorough Castle, Home of Fawke of Trent,

Earl of Oxborough

Her father didn’t like her, but he would never do this to her, never. Even as she swore over and over to herself that it couldn’t be true, she couldn’t stop staring at the man. The air seemed to stir in seamless folds about him as he stood utterly still and silent. She knew somehow that he wouldn’t move, not until he had judged all the occupants of the great hall of Oxborough Castle. Only then would he act.

His face was dark, his expression calm and untroubled. Sharp sunlight poured in through the open doors of the great hall, framing him there as he stood motionless. She stared at him from the shadows of the winding stone stairs. She didn’t want to look at him, didn’t want to accept that he was here at Oxborough. But he was here, and he didn’t look like he had any intention at all of leaving.

His eyes were as blue as the sea beneath the bright morning sun, yet they seemed somehow old and filled with knowledge and experience a man his age shouldn’t possess, and distant, as if part of himself was locked away. She could feel the strength of him from where she stood, feel the determination in him, the utter control, the deliberate arrogance. He looked to her like the Devil’s dearest friend.

His finely made gray cloak moved and swelled about him even though there was no wind. The black whip coiled about his wrist seemed to

whisper in that thick, contained air. But he made no movement. He was still and calm, waiting, watching.

He wasn’t wearing armor, the whip around his wrist and the huge sword that was sheathed to his wide leather belt were his only weapons. He was dressed entirely in gray, even his boots were a soft, supple gray leather. His tunic was pewter gray, a rich wool, his undertunic a lighter gray, fitting him closely. His cross garters were gray leather strips, binding his leggings close.

No, her father couldn’t mean this. Surely this wasn’t the man her father had brought to Oxborough to marry her. Hastings wasn’t afraid. She was terrified. Marry this man? He would be her husband, her lord? No, surely this couldn’t be the man, more like he was an emissary from Hades or a messenger from the mystical shades of Avalon.

Her father wanted to make this man of his line? Leave him all his possessions and land? Bestow upon him his titles since all her father had produced was her, a single female, of little account in the long scheme of things. Except for this marriage. Except to bind her to a man who scared her to her very toes.

This was the man her father’s longtime friend Graelam de Moreton wanted her to marry? Lord Graelam was her friend, too. She remembered him throwing her squealing into the air when she was naught but seven years old. Graelam was as good as family, and he wanted this unearthly creature to be her husband, too? Indeed it had been Graelam, now striding into the castle’s great hall, who said this man was a warrior to be trusted, to be held in respect and awe, and who held honor more dear than his own soul. Hastings didn’t know what it meant. Of course she shouldn’t have heard his views, but she’d been eavesdropping two months before, bent low in the shadows behind her father’s chair. Now her father no longer sat in his chair. He no longer ate his dinner in the great hall, in his finely carved chair, served by his page and squire, both vying to give him the tastiest cut of beef. Now he sipped broth in his bed, praying it would stay calm in his belly.

The man’s cloak seemed to move again and she thought she’d scream.

All the Oxborough people in the great hall were huddled together, staring at the man, wondering what would happen if he became their master. Was he violent and cruel? Would he raise his hand when it amused him to do so? Would he brandish that whip as her father had done when he had found that her mother had bedded the falconer? Hastings hated

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