Shadow of the Swan
Lady Constance de Bret was determined to be a nun, until shadows from the past eclipsed her present. Marriage is the safest option, but she insists on a spiritual union, in which physical intimacy is forbidden. Not so easy with a bridegroom who wields unparalleled charm! But a long-buried secret could taint his affection and cloak her in shadow forever.
Back from the Crusades, Sir Robert le Donjon craves a home of his own and children to inherit it. From the moment he meets Constance, he feels a mysterious bond between them. When she’s threatened, he vows to protect her and agrees to the spiritual marriage, with the hope of one day persuading her to enjoy a “real” one. She captivates him but opens old wounds and challenges everything he thought he believed.
Two souls in need of healing. Two hearts destined to beat as one.
He turned to her but said nothing.
After a moment, she met his gaze. “Why do you stare at me?”
He grinned. “On the morrow, I want to show you something.”
Her eyes narrowed. “Why won’t you tell me?”
“’Tis a surprise.”
“I don’t like surprises.”
“Neither do I, on the whole. But you’ll like this one.” He reached toward his belt.
She stepped back. “What are you doing?”
“Undressing.” He set his belt on the table.
Her stomach dropped. “Why?”
“Aren’t you the suspicious one?” He pulled off his boots. “’Tis customary to doff one’s clothes at bedtime.”
She whirled around, turning her back on him. “I slept fully clothed at the nunnery.” She stared hard at the stone wall.
“I hate to state the obvious, but this isn’t a nunnery.”
“Well, how do you sleep?”
“Naked, of course.”
Heat flooded her cheeks and forehead. “Is that necessary?”
“I could wear my breeches.”
She sighed. Whew!
“On one condition.” His tone was loaded with meaning beyond her grasp.
What condition? What does he want from me?
She turned to face him. Apart from his calf-length breeches, he was nude. Her gaze locked onto his chest.
Sculpted by combat. Scarred by war. Covered with black hair.
“Any objection?” His voice was soft, deep.
She forced her gaze to his eyes. They looked darker now. Was it a trick of the light?
He’s waiting for an answer. Say something! “No.”
“How did you undress so fast?”
“The battlefield teaches one to do everything fast.” His eyes sparkled. “Well, not everything.”
Did her heart still beat? She couldn’t tell. His tone was so suggestive.
“You blush, my lady.”
Her hands flew to her cheeks. “And whose fault is that?”
He gave her a rueful smile. “Mine. But if we’re to be friends, I have to speak honestly.”
“About sexual matters?”
“About all matters. Can you live with that?”
She hesitated, then gave him a nod. “I can. And in that vein, what is the condition you proposed?”
“Right. If I’m to smother myself with added linen—”
“Breeches, Sir Robert. They’re just breeches.”
He cocked an eyebrow. “So say you. But if I do that, you must sleep in your chemise only.”
Her jaw dropped. Then she frowned. “Why?”
“For the sake of comfort.”
“I’m comfortable clad.”
He looked down, and his fingers seized the tie to his breeches. “Fine. If you’d rather I drop my—”
“Stop!” She grumbled. “Very well. I’ll sleep in my chemise.”
He smiled. “I’ll go lie in bed and shut my eyes, if you’d like.”
“I would like.”
“Do you prefer one side of the bed to the other?”
She shrugged. “It matters not.”
“Then I lay claim to the left.”
As soon as the bed creaked beneath his weight, she removed her headdress. Then she disrobed as quickly as she could and scurried to the bed.
“Why such haste?” he asked as she slid beneath the covers.
“My feet are cold.”
“Mine are warm. You’re welcome to—”
“No, Sir Robert. I’ll warm up soon enough.”