The Earl: A Second Chance Medieval Romance {Sneak Peek}

With just two days left until the release of the final Order of the Broken Blade installment, “The Earl: A Second Chance Medieval Romance,” here's a sneak peek at the first chapter. Enjoy!

The Earl: A Second Chance Medieval Romance

Licheford Castle, England, 1215

“Nude becomes you, Lady Threston.”

Conrad, as always, told only the truth. She was quite handsomely formed for a woman of two and thirty or, more accurately, for a woman of any age.

“Jeanette,” the blonde widow corrected, not for the first time that evening. Or since they’d met the month before. It peeved her when he used her courtesy title. “Come back.” She bent one leg up slowly, giving him a view sure to entice most men.

But not him. Not now.

“I cannot.”

Conrad could have told her his steward awaited him. Or that he was so anxious for word from his friends and co-conspirators at Dromsley Castle that he felt the need to keep a near-constant lookout. He’d not heard from any of them in more than a fortnight. But taking her into his confidence in such a way would deepen their relationship, something he had no intention of doing. So instead he said nothing and continued to dress.

“I spoke with your guest, Lady Sabine, today.” Jeanette lowered her leg, though she did not attempt to cover herself, another attribute he quite liked. Her lack of modesty became her. “She speaks to me as she would any other widow of my station.”

“I’m glad for it.” Conrad finished wrapping the laces of his boots and stood.

Unfortunately, he seemed to have missed her point. Jeanette’s perfectly arched eyebrows turned downward, but she did not comment.

Conrad relented, if only slightly. “Jeanette?”

He stood by the bed, waiting.

“I am not simply any widow at Licheford.”

Ahhh. She wanted him to openly acknowledge her. That was something he could never do, not for her or any woman. He had been clear about his limitations that first night, but Conrad had suspected for some time now that Jeanette wanted more from him. They would obviously need to have a talk. On another day.

“You are a most entertaining bed partner.” Conrad leaned down, kissed her, and stood to leave. “But one who must do without her earl for the evening. We will talk more on the morrow.”

Surprisingly, she held her tongue, although she was clearly unhappy with his dismissal.

He should not have come to her.

But the waiting . . .

Making his way from Marchette Tower toward the keep, Conrad looked for Wyot. Thankfully, his steward’s red hair should be easy to spot, even in the crowd dispersing from the evening meal he had missed.

“I’d not have expected you back so soon.”

It was Guy’s voice. If anyone was more impatient for news than Conrad, it was Guy. As a mercenary who had also been raised by a mercenary, he was accustomed to moving from place to place. The months he’d stayed at Licheford, waiting for word—from their friends, from the king, from anyone—would likely have driven him mad if not for Sabine. Although his friend had once spurned marriage, he had found the one woman who suited him.

He turned toward his friend, fully expecting a joke about his failure to make an appearance at the meal.

“Oh?” he asked. Then, because he couldn’t help himself, he added, “Any word?” He’d asked Guy that very same question just before his short visit to Jeanette.

Guy rolled his eyes. “Aye, in the very few moments you’ve been gone—a fact that does not recommend your manhood, my friend—we have indeed received word. A missive from Dromsley.”

His mocking tone said otherwise, but Conrad decided to play along.

“And what, pray tell, did the missive say?”

The sound of childish laughter drew his gaze to a couple of young children playing with a pup in the corner of the courtyard. Conrad would fight to preserve their innocence, their smiles and laughter. The king’s unjust policies and cruel taxes and reprisals, all to fund a war no one wanted, had taken a toll on the country he loved. They had not touched Licheford yet, but if King John went unchecked, they would. He and the other members of the order had set out to stop that. They, along with the twenty or so barons who’d joined their cause, had taken the unprecedented step of presenting the king with a list of demands. He had indicated he would treat with them, but they’d heard nothing else. All winter they’d waited for a response.

It was enough to drive a man mad.

“It was quite surprising, really,” Guy continued. “It said your continued vigil for a missive is likely to drive away your friends, your steward, that lusty widow, and all those who come into contact with you.”

Conrad crossed his arms. “I do not fare well with all this waiting,” he admitted.

“I had not noticed.”

“My lord?”

Wyot pulled on his bushy red beard as he approached them, a sure sign he had something important to impart. The steward bowed to them, his back slightly hunched with age, a habit he persisted in despite the fact that Conrad had long ago entreated him to stop.

“A party approaches,” Wyot said.

Conrad waited for more information, his heart beating out of his chest, but the steward didn’t seem to be inclined to offer it. “Who?” he finally asked, running his hands through his hair.

“We do not know yet.”

Conrad had waited all winter, preparing the men. Preparing to defend Licheford against siege or an attack.

Preparing for war.

Perhaps he was foolish, but he would wait no longer.

“I will meet them,” he said, striding toward the door that would lead to the first floor and outside the keep. He could feel Guy’s presence behind him, but Conrad did not slow his pace.

Finally, the waiting had come to an end.

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