A Gentleman and a Rogue

Monday, October 19, 2009

Historical Romance - The King's White Rose.

Here's an excerpt from something I'm working on - you can find the short story in my Writing.com port at:

http://www.writing.com/main/view_item/item_id/1608116

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Spring 1464




She pricked her finger on a thorn. Damn her fickle luck! The pain was brief, but she stained the white rose red with her blood before placing a small handkerchief on her cut.

“Mother! The king!”

Elizabeth spun around. The king’s heralds trotted up the road, holding their flags up high,
proudly displaying the arms of Edward IV.

She raced to her sons, Thomas, nine, and Richard, eight, who stood on the side of the dirt road and steeled her posture. She clutched her handkerchief and pursed her lips, pushing her doubts away. The king had a chivalrous reputation, surely he’d stop for a widow and her sons. A gentle breeze blew several stray strands of her blonde hair across her cheek. She pushed them back, standing tall and proud.

The horses continued their trot. “Make way for the king!”

Elizabeth’s heart accelerated as he came into view. He was stunning. She’d never seen a man quite like him – tall, so very tall, with sandy blonde hair, a winsome smile, and a physique that warmed her to her bones. She couldn’t look away. She didn’t want to. The king was indeed a prize stallion, yearning to be tamed by a fiery mare worthy of him. Her eyes drank in his lips – full, red, and round. She felt her cheeks grow red. Elizabeth hungered to be in his presence, despite the social divide between them.

“Hurrah for the king!” shouted her boys.

The king turned in the direction of her boys and his gaze fell upon her. Their eyes locked. Could he see her response to him play out across her face? She bit her lower lip, hoping he couldn’t tell how he’d affected her. He paused, opened his mouth, then quickly closed it, as if he was as stunned by her as she was of him.

“Halt!”

The carriages spun to a quick stop. The horses mashed their hooves into the dirt. Elizabeth stood firm, holding her head up high. She had caught his attention! Her mother said she would. She had to stay cool and calm. Only the king could fix things for her. She watched him rake his eyes over her, a slow smile curving his lips. He brought his horse in front of her and jumped down in such a quick manner it startled her. She managed a poor, awkward curtsey as her sons bowed; her eyes never left him.

He drank her in. Oh, he was magnificent! He was everything a woman wanted a man to be. Edward embodied the virility one would expect a twenty-two-year-old king to have. His blonde highlights sparkled in the sun. His blue eyes simmered in a hot pool of desire. It was then she realized he couldn’t take his eyes off her. A slow, sly smile grew across his mouth, showing off the dimple in his chin. “Rise. Did you want to meet me?”

Elizabeth paused, warmed by his smile and irresistible dimple. He was a lion of a man, with a lion’s reputation. Muscular and lean, her heart wouldn’t stop its fast, rhythmic beating. “I need your help, Your Grace.”

“Oh?”

“I’m a widow and unable to claim my dowry lands. I have nothing for my sons.”

“A widow? Who was your husband?”

“Sir John Grey. He died at St. Albans.”

“Fighting for Lancaster?”

“He was loyal to the man he believed was king. My sons shouldn’t pay for that.”

The king glanced at her sons and smiled. “Two healthy boys. You have the best part of his fortune.”

She returned his warm smile. “Yes, I do, but they don’t.”

“True. What’s your name?”

“Elizabeth.”

He couldn’t stop smiling at her. “Elizabeth,” he said, softly, as if caressing the finest silk. “I would like to talk some more with you. Do you live close?”

“With my father, Baron Rivers.”

He chuckled. “Ah, Sir Richard Woodville.”

“Yes.”

“Another loyal Lancastrian. How brave you are to petition the house of York for a favor. Brave and courageous. I like that in a woman.”

“Your Grace—”

He gently placed his hand on her elbow, sending a pulse of pleasure through her arm as he stepped into her personal space. “Elizabeth?”

“Our, ah, family is practical, Your Grace,” she rambled. “You’re the king. Our loyalty is with the house of York now.”

“A clever thing to do – since I am king,” he laughed. “I accept your patronage.”

She giggled at his easy manner. He dropped his hand from her elbow. “Come – take me to your home. We’ll talk some more.”

“Your Grace—” began a soldier.

“Stay with me, but have the men ride on. We’ll catch up after a bit.”

Elizabeth paused to admire him. He was so sure of himself, so confident, and yet he talked like a man, a humble man, grateful for the gifts given to him.

Orders were given. A page came up to fetch his horse and he fell in step beside her. Her height complimented his inches. Her sons walked on one side, Edward on the other. An escort followed at a careful distance behind them.

The king pointed to the house that came into view. “Is that your home?”

“It’s my parents’ house.”

He stopped and looked directly at her. “Edward. Call me Edward, please, Elizabeth.”

“Edward? It’s so informal, Your Grace.”

He playfully pinched the bridge of his nose. “Yes, I would like you to call me Edward. That’s my name.”

She raised an eyebrow. “Me? But you’re the king.”

“I am a man in the presence of a beautiful woman.”

She felt her cheeks prick red. At twenty-seven, she was five years older than him, and yet age didn’t matter to him. He already held her heart ransom.

“Ah, look, are those white roses next to the road?” he asked.

“Yes. My mother planted them.”

“I’ve heard rumors about Sir Richard’s wife. She has Melusina’s blood in her.”

“Your – Edward—”

“Be honest.”

“Melusina was a mermaid who could work magic, Edward. If I admitted such a thing, I might be branded a witch myself.”

“Never a witch – an enchantress.” He leaned close to her. “You are as beautiful as Melusina.”

Before she could react to the comment, the door to the cottage opened and Elizabeth saw her father step out. He bowed in front of the king. “Your Grace.”

“Ah, Rivers, your daughter was just showing me your roses.”

“White for York, Your Grace.”

“And what did you do with the red ones?” Edward asked. Elizabeth giggled.

Her father looked confused. “Red ones?”

“Your Grace, we never had red roses. My mother planted these after Albans,” said Elizabeth.

He chuckled and then looked at her father. “A wise wife you have, Rivers. Do you have a pint of ale to offer before I have to move on?”

“Yes, of course, Your Grace. Come inside.”

Edward let Elizabeth and her sons walk into the house before he went in. Elizabeth led him to their dining room and her father went to the kitchen. Her mother and father approached with a pint of ale for all of them. Edward smiled when he saw her mother. “Ah, Lady Rivers, it’s a pleasure to meet you.”

She lowered her eyes as she curtsied. “The same, Your Grace.”


“Now, Lady Grey, why can’t you claim your dowry lands?”

“My husband’s family won’t give them up, despite the fact he had two legitimate sons by me.”

Edward gave her a look that would ignite a fire. “”Tis a shame. Any man can see your sons are fine young boys. His family should be glad with the gifts you’ve given them.”

“Your Grace, the land belongs to Thomas and Richard—” began Elizabeth’s father.

Edward sipped his drink. “Oh, I know the laws, Rivers. Clearly Lord Grey’s family is preventing his legitimate issue from their birthright. Write down the nature of the complaint. I want names, dates, and when you and your husband owned the property.”

“Yes, Ed – ah, Your Grace.”

They shared a look, a knowing, teasing look. “Well, I should be going.”

“So soon?” asked Elizabeth.

“Unfortunately,” he paused, drawing in a deep breath. “Henry has only a few castles in the north, but I can’t even allow that if there’s to be peace – and I want peace. The fighting between cousins must stop.”

“What will you do if you catch him?” asked Elizabeth’s father.

“I have no desire to hurt him. He’s mad, he is. It’s Margaret, his queen, who is the real danger. Thank you for the ale.” Edward stood up. “Elizabeth, walk me to the door.”

“Yes, Your Grace.” She fell in step beside him.

“I plan to return when this is done,” he said, quietly so only she could hear. “I can’t tell you how long that will be. Will you be here?”

“Yes.”

He paused at the door and cupped her cheek in his hand. “You are beautiful, Elizabeth Grey. An enchantress.”

She lowered her eyes, feeling the blush of her cheeks. Slowly, he raised her chin with his thumb and bent down, brushing his soft, pouty lips against hers. She moaned from the shock of his sensual mouth. He pulled back. “I won’t forget your kiss, Elizabeth.”

“Nor I.”

“Before I go into battle, may I have a favor?”

“I have nothing.”

“Nothing for your king?”

She felt inside her dress pockets and withdrew her stained handkerchief. “All I have is this.”

He smiled as he took it, bringing it up to his nose. “As sweet as a rose. Until our next meeting.”

“Edward,” she whispered.

He bowed quickly and left, leaving her without any time to curtsey. Instead, she ran to the window and watched him mount his horse before racing off down the road.

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