Jump in, the water's warm (and so is the knight)

If you enjoy historical romance, you may like my medieval historical romance, A KNIGHT'S VOW, published by Kensington Zebra and given 5 red roses, 4.5 Blue Ribbons and 4 stars.

You can read reviews and buy from from this page at Lindsay's Book Chat.

Here's an EXCERPT, where Guillelm teaches Alyson to swim - with arousing results:

That stopped him in mid-rage, as she hoped it would.

‘Truly?’ He paused in mid-stream, his feet rocking on the river pebbles. ‘For all your clever book learning, there is something I know that you do not?’

‘Will you teach me?’ The words were out before she could drag them back. I must be more shaken than I thought, Alyson reflected, appalled at her own question. Each time she was in Guillelm’s arms she forgot herself: it was a dangerous habit.

‘We should feed the merlin,’ she went on, but the hawk, which had been Guillelm’s great concern all that morning, was no longer a distraction. He merely grinned at her in that way of his that always made her feel as if her heart was suddenly lifted and jammed into her throat and said lightly, ’I will tend the spoiled little brute, while you prepare yourself.’ He raised a thick gold eyebrow. ’If you are certain you want me to teach you. My men will tell you I am a lethal task-master.’

‘Hard work never frightens me.’

She was no longer shivering but languid in his arms, smiling at him with absolute trust. Guillelm had a sudden, disturbing vision of himself as tutor, pulling a squirming Alyson over his lap while he applied a school-masterly discipline to her pert backside. He flushed, ashamed of his thoughts - Heloise was surely right about him - and plucked at the clinging sleeve of her gown. ‘You cannot swim in that,’ he remarked, determinedly averting his eyes from her bodice. The water had sculptured Alyson’s clothes to her closer than a second skin, making him even more acutely conscious of his own aroused state. Fervently he wished the river was cold, blanketed with ice.

‘What is the salve for ear-ache?’ he asked desperately as he attacked the gently shelving slope of the riverbank. Perhaps hearing her voice would bring him to reason, or at least be a comfort. Part of him was still grasping the dreadful marvel of her too-near escape from death.

‘I have heard doctors swear by blood-letting and a tincture of mercury, poured into the ear. But for myself, I have found the gently warmed oil of the olive a good remedy.'

‘And for backache?’

‘A hot bath to start.’ Alyson broke off, frowning at her dripping plait and checking with a swift downward glance that she had not lost her shoes. ’Why all these cures? Are you going to shout at me so much or make me swim this river to the sea?’

‘Worse.’ Guillelm deposited her onto the grass. ’I am going to make you as hungry as the hawk.’

She chuckled, that warm, throaty giggle that made him want to kiss her. ’So ’tis well Sir Tom gave us generous provender. Do we eat first or later?'

‘Later,’ said Guillelm. The day was warm - more than warm, blisteringly hot, with a humidity than put Guillelm in mind of the East. It was airless under the trees by the river, or perhaps that was just him, he thought, as he kept busy, feeding the merlin, checking their horses, while Alyson shrugged off her soaking gown. It was at least a good day for a new swimmer, he told himself, tempted to ask if she needed help while he counted moorhen and coots with their young: bits of dark fluff swimming earnestly along the far riverbank. In these shallows the water would be perfect. He heard her splash into the river and swallowed, his ears buzzing with heat and barely-thwarted desire.

‘I am ready.’ She was sculling the water with her hands. Would she be naked? No, for she was already growing nervous, perhaps even regretting her impulsive suggestion. ’Guillelm, do you think this is right? I mean is it seemly?’

‘Why not?’ He turned to reassure her and almost laughed: Alyson had sat down in the shallows and he could see little of her. ’We are after all betrothed.’

‘I have spread my gown on the hazel to dry.’ She pointed and he could see she was still wearing her under-shift; a modest choice. ’Will you swim as you are?’

‘My stuff dries fast.’ His clothes were little enough of a barrier but they were something, a reminder he needed that Alyson was an innocent. Or is she? muttered Fulk in the baser recesses of his mind, a thought he resolutely thrust away. He strode to the river, willing himself to be a perfect gentle knight while he felt anything but chivalrous.

Be a lady, Alyson thought, both relieved and disappointed when Guillelm stalked into the river fully clothed. He was so swift-moving when he needed to be that she forgot his size, but now he was beside her again he towered over her, an eagle to her merlin. And how that gift of Sir Tom’s had caused trouble! They were a good half mile or more off the recognized track through these woods and both them had endured a wetting. Fulk will wonder what we have been doing, she thought, but then she forgot him in the face of Guillelm’s grim stare. Perhaps he dislikes this, perhaps I have been too forward. The fears scurried through her mind like dandelion clocks blowing in the breeze as she tried not to shrink from him.

‘Peace, girl.’ Kneeling in the water beside her, he had spotted her slight movement. Alyson, knowing him sensitive to the point of wariness over her possible dread of him, was tempted to slap the river back into his scowling face, to prove she was in no way scared. Had she been younger she might have done so, but at one and twenty she knew she ought to have more finesse.

‘Did you swim the rivers in Outremer?’ Not a very original question, but when Guillelm was apt to make her tongue-tied Alyson was proud she had managed so much.

‘There are no such streams as these in the east.’ An evasive answer, made more mysterious by the ready stain of color that bloomed along Guillelm’s jaw line and chin. ‘What is that strange scent? Like a spice or perfume.’

He did not think it was anything to do with her, Alyson noted, disappointed, but she breathed in deeply. ‘It is fennel,’ she answered, nodding towards the bank where a stand of the tall, yellow flowers swayed among the cobwebbed beauty of the white elder blossom. ‘I use it in eye-baths and for the colic. I dare say you have forgotten it, being so long away.’

‘And those birds?’ he asked, but there was a gleam in his eyes that made Alyson click her tongue.

‘Ducks, and you know it, you big oaf.’

‘Oaf, am I?’ He lifted his feet from the river pebbles and stretched, floating full length on his back on the sparkling, tranquil surface. ’Can you do this?’

She set to his challenge at once, only to sink as she tried to follow his example, wallowing in an ignominious stream of bubbles onto the sandy base of the stream.

‘Steady, little swimmer. Up with you.’ Two hands buoyed her to the surface, their strong palms supporting her across her shoulder blades and the small of her back. ‘Relax. Imagine you are a bird and this water is the air beneath your wings. It will carry you easily. See?’

Here's the BLURB:

England, 1138. Set against the dangerous backdrop of the crusades, this sweeping romance captures the story of a beautiful, young woman and the dashing knight who will battle his fiercest enemies to win her undying love...

Ever since she was fourteen, Alyson of Olverton dreamed of marrying a brave, charismatic young knight. His name was Guillelm de la Rochelle and his marriage proposal satisfied her deepest yearnings. But her father forbade their union, prompting Guillelm to set out for the Holy Land, breaking Alyson's innocent heart. Seven years later, the valiant knight has defied rumors of his death and returned home, having no idea that nothing is the same as when he left...

Back from fighting in the crusades, Guillelm is stunned to find Alyson entrenched in his father's ancestral castle even worse she was betrothed to his father before he died. Despite this chilling fact, Guillelm finds himself struggling to resist the temptation to seduce her. Torn between intense jealousy and overwhelming desire, he shocks them both by proposing marriage a second time, justifying that it will be easier to keep her safe if she is his bride. Little do they know, however, that there is an enemy in their very midst one who won't rest until he destroys their chance at everlasting love...

Lindsay Townsend, historical romance. http://www.lindsaytownsend.net

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