September 2001
Dorchester
ISBN 0843949090

Something had to be done. It had gone on too long, and if King Henry received one more letter from either of the feuding nobles, he'd go mad. What Lady Tiernay needed was... well, she was a beauty, but whoever married the nag would truly get a mixed blessing. And Lord Holden, could all the rumours regarding his cold heart be lies? The man certainly had sobered since the death of his first wife.

If he was smart, Henry would force the two to wed, make them fatigue each other with their schemes and complaints. Yes, it was only fitting for them to share the bed they'd made - 'til death did them part! Who could tell, perhaps they would eventually find each other suitable, perhaps Lord Holden would find his bride the sweet breath of new life. Heaven alone knew what would happen when the two foes were the last things between themselves and the passion they'd never known they'd wanted.


I was feeling kind of cranky here and looking for an excuse to do mean and abusive things to a hero, LOL. I found it, and oh what fun I had. It was very good therapy. Really! Then, of course -- to be fair -- I had to let him get his own back a time or two. But, oh well, I do like to be fair. Such is life.


Prologue

England 1173

"Damn!" King Henry crumpled the scroll he had been reading into a ball and threw it to the floor with disgust. He spent a moment muttering about the soft hearts and interfering ways of women, then sighed with resignation and held his hand out to Templetun. "You may as well give me Lord Holden's message, too

The older man's eyebrows flew up in amazement at the request, a touch of fear mingling with suspicion in his eyes. "How did you know-?"

"It is not conjuring or anything, Templetun. It is simply experience. I never receive a complaint from Lady Tiernay, that I do not receive one from Lord Holden as well. Besides, I saw his man ride in earlier and knew he would have a message from his Lord Holden. Hethe has been taking care of some uprisings in Normandy . They were minor skirmishes, really. He has probably taken care of them by now and written to tell me so.”

"Ah." Relaxing, the older fellow handed over the document in question.

Henry opened the scroll a bit irritably, displeased at having to explain himself. Templetun had only worked in the capacity of his chaplain for the past couple of days- his usual chaplain was ill- but already Henry was wishing for the latter’s speedy recovery. His replacement was entirely too nervous, superstitious, and seemed far too eager to lend credence to Henry’s reputation of being the “Spawn of the Devil”. Shaking his head, Henry focused his attention on the parchment he now held. A moment later, it was a crumpled mass on the floor not far from the first, and Henry had leapt up to pace before his throne.

As he had expected, Lord Holden had cleaned up the little revolts in Normandy and was on his way home. But he had also added a complaint or two about his neighbour. It seemed his chatelain was harassed mightily by the Tyrant of Tiernay and was beleaguering Hethe with letters regarding the woman and, in his turn, the Hammer of Holden had respectfully requested that his King do something about the woman...or he would.

It had sounded very much like a threat. Henry wasn’t pleased to be threatened by one of his vassels. In fact, if Hethe weren’t such a valued warrior and had not aided him so often these last ten years, he would have seen him punished for it. But, unlike his father before him, Hethe had been helpful.

Henry grimaced at the thought of Hethe’s father. Born the second son, Gerhard Holden had expected to be allowed to join a monastery and live out his life amongst the musty old papal teachings he loved. He had not been terribly happy when his elder brother had died, forcing him to abandon those plans in favor of marriage and producing an heir. He had taken out that displeasure on his son. The man had been a touch mad in Henry’s opinion. Fortunately, his son did not show the same predilection. Unfortunately - for Hethe at least - he had not shown the same love of learning either and his father had hated him for it. That hatred had driven the boy from his home and straight into Henry’s service as soon as he had earned his spurs.

Ah well, Gerhard’s loss had been his gain, Henry decided and turned his mind back to his present problem. "What the Devil am I to do with those two?"

"I am not sure, my liege. What appears to be the problem exactly?" Templetun asked tentatively. "I do realize they are both complaining -and from your reaction, I would say quite frequently- but about what, exactly?"

Henry turned to scowl down at him, opening his mouth to explain rather acerbically that his question had been rhetorical, when he changed his mind. Instead, he said, "Each other. Lady Tiernay writes to 'warn me' of her neighbor's cruel and abusive behavior to his serfs and villeins because she ‘knows I would not wish to see any of my subjects so sorely mistreated’."

"Ah." Templetun said again, biting back a smile at his king’s sarcastic imitation of a woman's high-pitched voice. "And Lord Holden?"

Henry gave a short laugh. "He writes to say that Lady Tiernay is a nosy, harping busybody who makes his life hell."

"Hmmm." The new chaplain was silent for a moment, then murmured, "Did not Lord Holden's wife die several years back?"

"Aye. Ten years ago. In child birth. Hether has been my best warrior since then. Always ready to fight, always away on campaign for me."

"And did Lady Tiernay's husband not die four or five years ago as well?"

"What?" Henry scowled briefly, then his expression cleared. "Oh, nay. That was her father. Lady Tiernay is not married and has not been. Her father neglected to see to that ere his passing."

"She is of marriageable age, then?"

"Oh, aye. She is beyond old enough to marry, I should think. Why she must be- " Henry paused, doing the math in his head. "I think she may be twenty or thereabouts." Groaning, he walked over and wearily rested his hand on his throne. "And there is another problem. I shall have to marry her off soon. How the Devil am I expected to find a husband for a harping wench like her?" Again, he began to pace.

"Perhaps you already have one, my liege," Templetun offered with some trepidation. When the King turned on him sharply, he shrugged. "Mayhap the solution would be to have Lord Holden marry her. It would solve both problems at once. She will be married, and they will be forced to work out their difficulties between themselves."

"They will kill each other within the week!" Henry predicted with disgust..

"Mayhap.” Templetun paused innocently. “But still- both problems would then be solved, would they not?"

Henry considered him with frank admiration. "Damn, Templetun," he finally breathed. "You have an evil mind." He rushed back to his throne and threw himself excitedly upon it. "You shall write two messages in my name...and take them forth yourself!" Then he turned to the chaplain with a dangerous look in his eye. “And Templetun,” he added. “Do not fail me.”

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