Sworn to support King Edward, Sir Alex de Beaumont had to leave his new bride on their wedding night to fight in the Crusades. Captured and left to languise in a lonely prison, the warrior knight is kept alive by the memory of love -- and of Lady Katherine's innocent passion as she cried out his name in ecstasy and made him her own. Upon his escape and return to England, he is shocked to find his beloved is about to marry another man...
Kat refuses to forgive him. But Alex will not be gainsaid. He vows to seduce her all over again and his searching kisses reawaken the sensual fire they once knew--until an enemy determined to destroy them both closes in. Now Alex must risk everything for the one woman whose love he wants forever...
In the year of our Lord, 1267
Montclair Estate, Kent, England
Lady Katherine of Montclair squeezed her thighs tightly around Hunter’s sleek body and rode him hard. Sunlight speared the oak forest canopy, dappling them with heat. Leaning over Hunter, she whispered loving words into his ear and stroked her hand down the taut length of his neck and powerful shoulders. In response, his flanks flexed beneath her, thrusting harder, faster. Her heart pounded sharply and excitement pulsed in her blood.
For her, there was naught more exhilarating than the raw sensation of her steed’s muscled loins pumping between her thighs as she rode at full gallop.
Nose pressed to Hunter’s neck, Lady Katherine, or Kat as she stubbornly insisted, inhaled deeply of the sharp tang of heated horseflesh. A bead of perspiration trickled down between her small breasts. And her short black hair, captured at her nape by a leather band, came free and stuck to her moist skin.
Wearing green hose and a knee-length tunic, with a quiver of arrows across her back and cropped hair, she looked like a lad instead of a girl age ten and four.
Without warning, Hunter slowed his pace, his ears pricked forward. A sharp tickle rose on the back of Kat’s neck, chilling the dampness there. She tugged on the reins and pulled the black to an abrupt stop.
The shady woods were eerily quiet. “Aye, I sense it, too, Hunter. But what?”
Her head cocked, she peered through the leafy screen shielding the glen up ahead and listened for possible signs of danger. The wind sighed. Smells of rich loamy earth and sun-warmed leaves permeated the air.
The sudden clang of steel upon steel rang out. Her heart jolted. Hunter whinnied. “Quiet, boy,” she crooned, patting his silky black neck while the sounds of battle echoed through the trees.
Kat removed her longbow from the saddle, slung a long, slender leg over her horse's rump, and slid softly to the moss-covered ground.
She crept towards the clearing as quiet as a snail. Her blood pumped hard and fast. Her hand caressed her well-oiled yew bow, a ritual that never failed to calm her galloping nerves. Caution ruled until she ascertained the identity of the intruders on Montclair lands. Danger abounded from thieves and rogues intent on mischief.
Stopping next to a stunted oak, Kat peered into the glade and gasped. Upon seeing the carnage in the once peaceful glen, she nearly dropped her bow from nerveless fingers. Near the large pond in the center of the clearing, two men lay dead, one with blood gushing from his neck, his head severed from his body. Two more men fought with swords in a violent dance of death.
Her heart about to burst in terror, Kat could not move. For the shorter of the combatants was Alex de Beaumont, her intended husband. But long training side by side with her father’s men-at arms had taught her to fight through her fear. She took a deep breath, and then exhaled. A sudden calm descended upon her. A silent, fervent prayer upon her lips, she withdrew an arrow from her quiver and nocked the feathered end, then waited for a clear shot.
Alex was at a disadvantage, wearing only his sherte and blood oozing from a shallow slash across his thigh. His shoulder-length black hair was wet and slicked back off his forehead. He must have just emerged from the pond when these brigands attacked him. The man he fought was dressed all in black and wore a gambeson, a padded knee length leather tunic. A great hulking brute, he had a crooked nose and deep-lined forehead.
When the ruffian lunged at Alex, Kat tensed. But Alex, using his smaller, more agile body to his advantage, sidestepped to the right and shoved the larger man as he stumbled past.
The brute roared, turned with surprising speed and charged again. Alex swung his sword up at the last moment to meet the other’s violent downward stroke. Their swords crashed to the hilts, sparks flew. Struggling against one another, their eyes glittered with malice.
Sweat trailed down Kat’s temples. She waited, her arms tense with restraint.
Then in rapid succession, the dark outlaw shoved Alex hard, Alex staggered back, and as he did, his sword came up and slashed the bastard’s cheek open. Blood spurted and the man howled in pain and surprise.
Unfortunately, Alex tripped over the foot of one of the dead men sprawled in the grass and fell down. His head slammed into the ground, his sword hand smashed against a boulder and he lost his grip. The hilt clattered against the rock and out of his reach.
The dark fiend, his face contorted in rage, loomed over Alex and raised his sword high for a killing thrust. Alex cursed; in one smooth motion, Kat drew her bowstring, sighted her target, and released her missile.
Hissing through the air, the arrow thumped into flesh, finding its mark. The outlaw, shock palpable on his face, blood dripping from his cheek wound, looked down at the arrow protruding from his shoulder.
Another arrow nocked and ready to be drawn, Kat ordered in a gruff voice, “Drop your sword and back away from him, or my next arrow will sever your gullet.”
The stranger, his black gaze cold and merciless, spouted inanely, “You’re naught but a lad.”
Kat grunted. “A lad I may be,” she said. Bitterness twisted her lips. Though not a lad, neither was she a lady, meek and mild. Never had she felt comfortable in the role to which the Church and society dictated she conform. She followed her own path the way she thought best for her. Kat continued, “But this lad has the upper hand. Now do as I say.” She dared not look at Alex.
The villain scowled, the wicked slash on his cheek like a big gaping smile. He seemed to gauge his chances, unwilling to accept defeat, before he finally dropped his sword to the ground and stepped back several paces.
In a flash of white, Alex jumped to his feet with his sword in hand, but he stumbled in his haste. His attacker seized the moment of confusion and fled, charging for the trees.
Nay, the knave shall not escape my net so easily, she thought.
Kat turned and sighted her target. But at the last moment, with a wicked smile, she lowered her aim and released her missile. Just before he reached the woods, the man howled in pain and clutched his right buttock. Limping, he ran into the trees, an arrow embedded in his shoulder and another in the vulnerable flesh of his nether cheek.
“Mayhap you shall think twice next time before attacking me and mine!” Kat hollered after him. Her hands shook in belated reaction.
Not wanting to reveal how afeared she had been, Kat turned to greet Alex, a huge grin on her face.
He, on the other hand, glared at her, his hands clenched at his sides. “You little fool, you could’ve been killed.” His gaze skimmed over her, his full lips twisted in contempt. “Any other young lady of breeding would have had the good sense to run for her life and leave the battle to men. How could I have forgotten you don’t have the sense God gave a ewe?”
Kat fumed at the injustice of his diatribe. If she were a man—which she was not, unfortunately—Alex would be thanking her for saving his life, instead of scolding her like an errant child.
She raised her hand up in a swift motion. “Enough. If I were any other lady, you would be dead right now. How is that for sense?” she asked, not hiding her disgust.
Alex’s face reddened in fury, or embarrassment perhaps. In several quick strides he towered over her like some ancient monolith, grabbed her arms in a vice-like grip, and yanked her up against his chest, eye to eye. Defiant, she glared into his startlingly blue gaze, unnerved by the strange sensation of her small breasts cushioned against his hard chest.
His eyes bore into her and an angry tic flared in his cheek. “How arrogant you are, Lady Katherine. I have escaped worse predicaments before and would have done so again. I had no need of your interference. And I certainly don’t need to be rescued by a skinny waif of a girl!”
“Oh,” she cried out, “you ungrateful wretch.” She squirmed against him in an attempt to escape his painful grip, but he held firm. “And I’m not a little girl anymore, Alex, but a woman full-grown.”
The irritating man quirked his black eyebrow in disbelief, sorely pricking her vaunted pride. I shall show him, Kat thought. She arched her back and rubbed her breasts against his hard body. “See you, I have breasts.”
Shock glazed his deep blue eyes and he staggered back, releasing her.
Kat cupped her small breasts and lifted them, just in case he needed solid proof. “Here. Look at them.”
Alex looked down at her chest with a penetrating stare. Tingling heat suffused her and an odd sensation fluttered in the pit of her stomach. Her anger soon gave way to confusion and she dropped her hands. She glared up at him in challenge, not that he noticed.
With a dazed stare, his sun-bronzed hand covered her breast and then squeezed. Heat speared through the fabric and into the soft flesh cupped in his palm. Kat inhaled, stunned.
“So, Kit-Kat, underneath all that armor you hide behind, you have breasts,” Alex said, his expression bemused. “Though hardly full-grown, as you say.”
The old endearment that rolled off his tongue warmed Kat briefly—he had not called her thus in eons—but his insult rankled.
Kat lashed out. “I’m not a kitten, so you may stop stroking me like one!”
Alex cursed and dropped his hand as if burned. His face turning red, he blustered, “Get your horse while I dress. ’Tis growing late, we should leave anon. Why your father allows you to roam the woods alone is beyond baffling. Were I him, I would have tanned your arse long ago.” So said, Alex turned his back on her, clearly expecting compliance.
At his condescending words, all the anxiety and fear for her ailing father she had managed to suppress over the past weeks threatened to overwhelm her. It was too much. White-hot fury erupted inside her, consuming her, and she launched herself at Alex.
Pounding her fists against his back, she screamed, “You arrogant sod, how dare you criticize my father. He is the kindest, most honorable man I know and you have no right to judge him. He is worth a hundred of you!”
Alex turned around, grabbed her flailing arms, and pulled her to his chest. “Easy now, Kit-Kat. I meant no offense. Your father is the best man I know. Forgive me.”
His compassionate understanding opened a rift in the solid façade she had built to hide her fear from Montclair’s people, and she began to sob in his arms. He stiffened, and then clutched her tighter. Never once had she let him see her cry, for she only showed the world the side of her that was strong, brave, and confident.
Now, she wrapped her arms around his neck and clung to him, her face buried against the comforting warmth of his chest and steady beating heart.
Alex rubbed his hands up and down her back, murmuring words of comfort. “Easy love, don’t cry. Everything is going to be fine. You’ll see. Your father is strong. Easy, now,” he continued in this vein until her sobs quieted to hiccoughing sighs.
When she calmed at last, she breathed in the pleasurable scent of his sandalwood soap and masculine sweat. His chest rose and fell beneath her ear, the beat of his heart a stirring melody. With each deep inhalation of his breath, his muscled strength brushed her young breasts. That odd feeling in her gut stirred again.
She drew away, awkward and embarrassed, blaming her unusual emotional display for the disturbing sensations. Kat quickly turned her back to him, wiping away her tears with her fists.
A warm touch on her shoulder startled her.
“Come, your father no doubt is wondering where you have disappeared to,” Alex said gently. “I’ll send someone back later to get the two remaining brigands and make arrangements for their burial. But I need to dress first.” He pointed to the rock where his clothes were folded and started towards it.
Strands of her hair hung in her eyes, and with an impatient swipe of her arm, she shoved them off her face and started after him. “Alex. Wait. When did you return home? And what brings you to Montclair? I thought you with Lord Edward,” she said, her voice riddled with anxiety.
Alex turned to her, his expression wary. “Aye, I was. But your father sent word that he wanted to see me.”
Kat shivered with premonition, knowing he was not being completely forthcoming. “And? Papa must have given you a reason for requesting your presence. I would hear it now.”
“Come, I’ll explain on the way.”
“Nay.” Kat drew up before Alex’s six-foot frame. Tall for a woman, the top of her head reached his chin. “I would hear all of it before another moment passes.”
When he looked as though he would refuse, she clutched his arm to her. Her gray eyes beseeched him. “Prithee, Alex. You must tell me. I cannot bear another moment not knowing.”
Alex tensed, his biceps straining beneath her touch. “Very well,” he said, his lips turning down in a grimace. Then he looked away, pausing, before he continued in a rush, “Lord Montclair asked me to return with all due haste, on account of his ailing health. He wishes to formalize our betrothal.” He turned, his eyes dark as midnight, his jaw clenched tight. “It shall be done this day, with our marriage to take place three years hence.”
His chill voice did not bode well for their future. Stricken, though she proudly did not reveal a quiver of distress, Kat went to retrieve Hunter.
In the year of our Lord, 1276
Fourth year in the reign of King Edward I
Today was her wedding day. Kat stumbled on the flagstone floor. She clutched her cousin Sir Rand Montague’s arm tighter, quickly recovering her step. Afraid she would lose her composure should she look upon the capricious faces of the courtiers gathered in the chapel, her gaze sought her groom. Sir Luc de Joinville stood near the priest before the gilded rood screen. His smile eager and blonde hair burnished bronze beneath the candlelit coronas hanging from the vaulted ceiling, Luc was handsome beyond belief.
He wore a dark green surcoate or over-tunic embroidered with gold leaves around the neck and calf-length hem. It was cinched in at the waist with a jeweled belt that emphasized his narrow hips and broad shoulders.
Hot and intimate, his gaze slid down her body and back up, meeting her eyes once more. Awe, pride and masculine appreciation gleamed in his golden eyes, the green flecks brilliant in the light. Then he flashed a smile at her, his teeth straight and white.
Kat raised her chin a notch higher and continued walking down the nave of the smaller, more intimate palace chapel of St. John. Breaking protocol, Luc strode forward, taking the few remaining steps between them, and commandeered her gloved hand. Without causing a tug of war, Rand could do naught but release her. Sir Luc led her back before the scowling priest, his strong clasp warm through her calfskin glove.
Shocked gasps and smothered giggles of the court were drowned out by King Edward’s booming laughter. “Father, I believe the groom is most anxious to see the ceremony completed so he might enjoy his lovely new bride. Let us proceed with alacrity, not unseemly but succinct. Shall we?”
Posed as a question, it was a command nevertheless. The disgruntled priest nodded, cleared his throat and began the rite with the blessings of the ring.
At Edward’s ribald comment, a flush crept up Kat’s neck. She was unsure what the night would bring. Although Sir Luc’s kisses had been pleasant, they lacked the fire and excitement her body craved. But it was unfair to condemn Luc for her inadequacies. He loved her and that was more important than any temporary sexual gratification she might achieve. Lust was fleeting, as her first husband, Alex, had so readily proved.
“If anything is contrary to the law of God why this couple may not marry, let him now speak, or else hereafter forever hold his peace.”
Kat held her breath in the pause and even Sir Luc tensed beside her.
With her marriage to Sir Luc, she was one step closer to achieving her dream of having a child. Ever since her mother died giving birth to a precious male heir when Kat was five years old, she had longed to be loved for who she was. She believed having a child of her own to love and cherish would replace the emptiness she felt inside and give her life meaning. But, deep down, she feared someone or something might shatter the peace and happiness she sensed was so near.
When no one voiced dissent, Kat willed her racing heartbeat to slow. The priest continued with the ceremony.
The churchman turned to Sir Luc and asked him, “Sir Luc de Joinville, do you want this woman?”
Sir Luc, his gaze boldly holding hers, replied in a deep, clear voice, “Aye.”
“Do you wish to serve her in faith of God as your own, in health and infirmity, as a Christian man should serve his wife?”
The priest turned to Kat. The heat and musky smell of incense was overpowering as perspiration trickled down her cleavage. “Lady Katherine de Beaumont, do you want this man?”
Kat did not hesitate. “Aye,” she replied to both questions. She had no qualms about her decision to marry Sir Luc. Indeed, Luc’s devotion to her and no other, along with his desire to have children, would assure their lasting happiness. He would never abandon her, as had every other person she had ever cared about.
Next, the priest inquired, “Who giveth this woman in Holy Matrimony to this man?”
Rand stepped forward and took her right hand—her palm was damp inside her glove. “I do, Sir Rand Montague.” Giving her hand an encouraging squeeze, he placed it in the priest’s hands.
The doors at the back of the chapel crashed open, shattering the reverent silence. Kat cried out and spun around, even as the whole court turned to gape at the madman who charged inside.
Wearing a dirty, tattered hooded cloak, the intruder paused just beyond the threshold. Though the voluminous hood concealed the man’s face except for the untamed black beard he sported, Kat sensed his penetrating stare upon her. A curl of fear rose up her spine. Feeling trapped, hunted, she did not move or even breathe. Then the man surged forward.
"Guards, seize him,” Edward roared.
The frozen guards posted at the door belatedly charged forward and grabbed the cloaked intruder by the arms.
He struggled in their grip, hauling the men forward with the strength of his fury. Men and women tripped over each other as they scrambled to get away from the resulting scuffle. Beside Kat, Luc wrapped a strong arm around her and drew her close. Rand charged down the nave to aid the guards.
"Release me,” roared a deep, vibrating voice. “ I demand to see King Edward."
A shiver of awareness raised the hairs on her arms; the voice was strangely familiar. Before she could place to whom it belonged, Rand approached the stranger, who immediately stopped struggling. The air laden with a hushed expectancy, a brief exchange of words ensued between Rand and the intruder. Then suddenly, the two men embraced, slapping each other on the back and laughing as the confused and muttering crowd watched on.
Kat, meanwhile, felt a murmur of unease—an instinctual response she had learned to heed after the debacle of her first marriage.
The king, his face livid, brushed past her and Sir Luc and strode down the nave towards Rand. "What is the meaning of this? Who dares to invade the sanctity of the Lord's house and disrupt these proceedings? I could have you brought up on charges of treason,” he thundered.
Kat wanted to know the answer to that question, too. But Queen Eleanor and her ladies-in-waiting—Kat’s sister-in-law, Rose, among them—crowded past and blocked her view of the king. Luc’s arm tightened around her shoulders and she looked up. His smile gone, unease dimmed his eyes to tarnished gold.
He quickly composed his features. With a brief, reassuring smile, he held his arm out to her. “Shall we join the king and see who this knave is who interrupted our wedding? He has caused quite an uproar and I would see our marriage concluded forthwith.”
A growing sense of dread rippled through Kat. To Luc, she nodded and threaded her arm through his. “We are in agreement. Knave, indeed.”
He laughed, his gaze once more bright with anticipation, and led her towards those gathered around King Edward. When they drew near, several courtiers looked back at them. Their expressions were very disturbing—stunned and maliciously gleeful at the same time. Then the crowd parted before them like a herd of titillated sheep. Kat faltered, full-blown trepidation dogging her steps.
Standing beside King Edward, the cloaked stranger turned as Kat approached on Luc’s arm. Almost as tall as the king, the man removed the hood of his dirt-begrimed cloak. The first thing she noticed was his long, shaggy black hair and beard. He should have looked completely out of place among the richly garbed court. But his bearing was as proud, arrogant and unapologetic as the noblest noble. Then his penetrating gaze locked on hers.
Kat froze in disbelief, while her blood slowed and thickened as though time reversed. Her gaze was snared by the blue, blue eyes of a dead man. But a fierce inner light glowing within them belied this state. Blazing heat speared her core.
“Alex,” she breathed. She would recognize his distinctive eyes anywhere, no matter how different he looked, for she had dreamed of those eyes for six long years. Suddenly, her heart jolted with joy—Alex was alive! He had not died in the attack four years ago while on Crusade.
Vaguely, she realized Luc went rigid beside her. Alex shifted his gaze to Luc, glowering at his arm around her shoulders. Alex took a threatening step forward, his voice chill. “Unhand my wife, Sir Luc. Now.”
Kat stiffened at Alex’s command, the full implications of his return registering at last. Alex was alive. She was no longer a widow, apparently had never been one, and she could not marry Sir Luc. Her euphoria plummeted as quickly as it came upon her.
Nay, I am dreaming, this cannot be true. Her vision blurred. Everything was happening too fast, her thoughts were a jumble. She could not think or move or feel.
Then the king motioned to her, breaking the expectant silence. “Come, Cousin, your husband has returned to you after six years, four of which he spent in captivity when we all believed him dead. Will you not greet him like a good, dutiful wife?”
Someone nudged Kat from behind. Rose, she thought, Alex’s sister, and she stumbled forward. Frantic, Kat turned back to Luc. Her heart thundering, her eyes beseeched him. Luc reached out to her, as though he intended to pull her back, his face twisted with anguish and disbelief.
From behind her, a rough hand clutched hers and drew her around, not ungentle. Kat was surprised at the uncertainty flickering in Alex’s eyes, though his voice was sure and steady when he spoke. "Greetings, wife." Alex pulled her to him and bussed her cheek, his beard scratching her tender skin, before he whispered into her ear so none but her could hear, "I have missed you, Kit-Kat."
Kat flinched away. Finally, his combined touch and careless words woke her from her stupor. A flash of pure rage struck her like a bolt of lightning. She slapped him with all her strength, his head pivoting to the side from the impact.
His shoulders tensed. Then slowly, Alex turned his face back to her. The vulnerability she glimpsed earlier in his eyes was gone. Cold menace crystallized his blue depths, promising retribution. She shivered, but ire overrode caution.
"I give you good greeting, husband," she said with biting mockery. "The likes of which you so richly deserve."
New Reviews for Vow of Seduction
Receives Top Pick at
Night Owl Reviews
“I would immediately recommend this book to all lovers of historical romance. ” --Dreamweaver, Night Owl Reviews
4 Stars at Single Title Reviews
“Angela Johnson brilliantly takes the reader back in time with feisty Katherine and mysterious Alex.”—Emily at Single Title Reviews.
Received 4 and a half Books from Long and Short Reviews.
“Angela Johnson’s attention to the historical facts of the time and her subtle clues of who may be enemies of Alex and Kat, as she weaves a volatile, steamy love story makes Vow of Seduction exciting, sensual, and SO satisfying.”—Camillia, Long and Short Reviews
7 (Very Good) Raiting from The Season Blog
"Vow of Seduction by Angela Johnson is a tale of fear, regret, hatred and love. It had me in its grip from the first chapter. I was intrigued from the beginning on where the story was going and how this couple’s story would conclude."--- Lisa at The Season Blog
VOW OF SEDUCTION
receives 4 cups at
Coffee Time Romance Reviews.
“Vow of Seduction is a lovely story… I really enjoyed the emotion in these scenes. If you, too, enjoy a little spice with your medieval romance, then I highly recommend Vow of Seduction.” --Regina at CTR
Click on image to read the full review.
4 stars from The Romance Dish
“This is a wonderful story, full of betrayal, intrigue, and the up and down journey of two individuals learning to trust and open their hearts to a love full of companionship and passion.”
~ Buffie, The Romance Dish Read Full Review
“Debut author Angela Johnson's VOW OF SEDUCTION weaves a powerful tale of lost love, betrayal, seduction and determination. Readers will be ensnared by this endearing tale of love.”
~Mandy Burns, Freshfiction.com Read Full Review
”This is a fabulous medieval romance starring two likable lead characters with well drawn flaws as each fear love for different reasons . . . fans will enjoy the gender war between the kick butt heroine and her born again wannabe champion.”
~ Harriet Klausner, Genre Go Round reviews Read Full Review
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2nd place—Historical Category
2010 Laurel Wreath Award Contest
Volusia County RWA
1ST place - Historical Category
2007-2008 Enchanted Words Contest | Ohio Valley Romance Writers of America
2nd place -
2007 GOTCHA Contest
Silicon Valley RWA
3rd place - Historical Category 2008 Golden Gateway Contest
From The Heart Romance Writers