By King’s Command
Just For You
By King’s Command by Beth Hale
☆ Adeline ☆
King Richard is dead. Henry Tudor wears England’s crown and is waging war on all those loyal to Richard. And I am the biggest threat of all, although none are aware of it just yet.
I was a lady-in-waiting to Richard’s wife, Queen Anne. I served her loyally until her death, and I swear to you that my behavior was proper. So was Richard’s. But after Anne died, while we were both mourning her, we offered each other comfort. Then we fell in love.
We had to hide that love. A king needed a more noble wife than the bastard daughter of a nobleman. And Richard didn’t need me pleading for marriage while he had a kingdom to run and war brewing. But he must have had some sort of premonition because two nights before the Battle of Bosworth Field, Richard brought me before an elderly priest and wed with me. I have the proof tucked away deep in my trunk for safekeeping. Because although Richard died at Bosworth, I have his child, the rightful heir to the throne, growing inside of me. I’m not very far along, so Richard must have planted his seed the night we were married, but I know. My courses, always regular, have not come.
As I wonder what to do and where to go until I can safely deliver my child, I’m struck another blow. The Tudor king wants to honor one of his kinsmen with a wife. And he’s chosen me. I start to object, but then I realize this is the best possible thing that could happen. I’ll be safe as this Welchman’s wife, and I’m not so far along that he won’t think the child isn’t his even when it comes a bit early. So I consent gracefully to the king’s command.
Kian Pembroke is of the minor nobility, but unfailingly loyal to his cousin Henry. And I have to admit the man is handsome. He’s kind to me, as well, and I’m more at ease than I have been since I learned of Richard’s demise. The wedding is celebrated, and Kian graciously tells me we don’t have to consummate our marriage until we reach his new holding–I have another week to decide how to convince him I’m a virgin.
Only I don’t. The stupid bladder of chicken’s blood didn’t break like it was supposed to. Kian is furious and demands to know why I tricked him. Desperate, I lie and tell him I was forced by an unknown stranger–and I was too ashamed to tell anyone. He believes me, and we begin a tentative relationship–one based on lies. But as the months pass and my belly becomes visible, Kian realizes the timing–and that he is not the baby’s father. He gruffly tells me he will recognize the child as his–it’s not my fault or the babe’s fault that I was raped. Tears streaming down my face, I thank him. And we tenderly make love.
But I’m not crying from gratitude. Or not just gratitude. I’m crying because I’ve come to love the man who is my husband, even if he is related to the Tudor usurper. I’m crying because I realize I’ll hurt him and lose him once I press my child’s claim to the throne. And that, I’m determined to do.
The months pass, and I go into labor. Kian won’t leave me–it’s his first child, he says, and he’ll see it born. He holds my hands, bathes my brow, and helps brace me when it’s time to push. And when I’m holding the babe–a healthy boy, praise God–he kisses my forehead and tells me, “Thank you for my son.”
I smile back at him. I love this man, and I love my child. At this moment, I am happy. But it doesn’t last. Just weeks after the birth, we learn that Henry is on progress and intends to visit here for a few nights. I spring into action, readying all my my previous court clothes for the king’s visit. I will not appear shabby before him. My maidservant, Alish, is helping me. I absently tell her to search my trunk for the rose velvet dress and continue to inspect my other clothing.
But when Henry arrives, my world shatters. Alish found the proof of my marriage to Richard and, loyal to the new regime, gave them to Henry. He is livid, accusing me–and Kian–of treachery. He demands my son. I’m frozen with fear. But Kian is not. He staunchly claims my son as his own, but Henry scoffs at him, telling him the big, healthy child is not one born at seven months. Then Henry tells his own secret: he knew about my affair with Richard, knew I wasn’t to be trusted–and that’s why he commanded Kian to wed with me. But now, Henry says sadly, I have corrupted a good man, caused him to be treasonous. The forfeit will be our lives: mine, Kian’s, and my child’s. He can have no blood of Richard’s trying to take his crown.
I beg for leniency. Not for me, but for my child and the man I’ve come to love. Take me, punish me, I plead, but spare Kian and little Owen. Henry just smiles his cold, wintery smile at me and says one word: No.
That’s when Kian steps forward, once again accepting paternity and reminding Henry of his loyalty to the House of Tudor. But it doesn’t matter, not to Henry. The die has been cast. There are only two possible outcomes: death or escape. As we are locked into our rooms, I know what we must do. I don’t want anyone else to die. I beg Kian to run away. But he refuses. The king will see reason, he tells me. He just needs time. But time is the one thing we don’t have.
The only other option, Kian tells me, is challenging Henry to a swordfight. The winner gets to determine the outcome of this. Henry can’t back away from a challenge. I know it can be a deadly chance, but it may be the only way. And Kian is right–Henry accepts, but with one caveat: since I’m the one who began this treason, I am the one he’ll do combat with.
I know what that means. Henry means to kill me during the battle. Kian objects, but I soothe him. I know something the men don’t: I’m well trained with a sword. And it just may be that I’m better than Henry Tudor.
Will this be a fight to the death? Can I defeat the Tudor usurper and raise my own child to the throne? Or will I be the one who is defeated, and lose everything I hold dear?
☆ Kian ☆
I’d been taught loyalty is everything, and my family gave its loyalty to Henry Tudor. The son of a minor lordling, a distant cousin of Henry, I decided to follow the tradition and vowed to always be his man. I followed him into exile and into battle.
After he won England’s crown, he decided he would reward my loyalty with giving me a wife and a castle near the Welsh border. When he commanded I wed Adeline Stanley, the bastard daughter of one of England’s premier lords, I agreed. After all, the woman is pretty, intelligent, and young enough to give me sons. The marriage is celebrated and, taking pity on her because we honestly don’t know each other that well, I tell her we won’t consummate our vows until we reach what will be our new home–a week’s travel away. Henry provides us with a couple of personal servants from his own household, John, a valet, for me and Alish, a lady’s maid for Adeline. He’s generous when he wants to be.
When we get to our new castle and I claim my rights, I find out Adeline is not a virgin. When she cries and tells me she was raped, I tell her it’s not her fault. And it’s not–no man should force a woman. We begin to live as a married couple, and soon she tells me she is with child. But as time passes, I do the math and realize the truth–the babe isn’t mine. Thinking the rape left her pregant, I tell her I will recognize the child as mine. How can I not? The babe is innocent–and I’ve come to love Adeline.
She goes into labor, and I refuse to leave her side. When she gives birth to a son, my heart is immediately lost to him. The child is mine, as is his mother. I vow to keep my family safe. I send news to King Henry, as any good liegeman should, and a few weeks later we receive notice that Henry is on progress and wishes to break his journey with us for a few days.
The castle is in a frenzied state. A visit from the king is an important event. Even Adeline, who served Queen Anne, is rushing around, making sure our clothing is appropriate enough for a royal visit. And then, on the very night Henry arrives, my world comes crashing down. Henry smugly shows me proof of Adeline’s marriage to Richard, tells me he knows the child isn’t mine, and demands that I hand over the boy. If I don’t, he tells me, I’ll be accused of treason along with my wife. He will have no threats to his rule.
Stunned by both his revelations about Adeline and his sudden coldness toward me, I remind him of my absolute loyalty to the Tudors, and that the child is mine. I’ve claimed him, I will raise him to be loyal to England’s king. It’s not good enough, Henry tells me. As long as Owen lives, he will be a threat to his rule. We’re given the night to think about what we will do–give over the child and live our lives as prisoners in a gilded cage or fight for the child and end up dying–and locked in our rooms. Adeline urges me to flee, to run away with her and Owen. She tearfully confesses all–a little late, in my opinion–and I admit to being angry with her. She could have told me the truth at the beginning. But then, I reason, I am Henry’s man–and she was carrying a dead king’s child. I can see her quandary. And I’m angry that she loved another before me. But I do love her, and I know her love for me is real. So I tell her of a Tudor family custom whenever there is a disagreement. Dueling. I will challenge Henry to a swordfight and the winner will get the child. And I know I’ll win because I’ve always been better with a sword than Henry.
Henry agrees to the challenge, but tells me he will fight Adeline since it is her who is the cause of this. I must agree, but Adeline assures me it will be fine. She’s an excellent swordswoman.
I know Henry means to kill her. Maybe I can stop him before he does. All I can do is once again remind him of my loyalty and claim Owen as my true son. But once again, Henry brushes me aside. He will not be deterred. I pull Adeline aside and beg her to reconsider. Is her life, our family, worth championing Owen’s claim to the throne? Does revenge on the man who killed Richard mean more to her than our love? She turns from me, tears in her eyes, and prepares for her coming battle.
All I can do is watch and wonder if everything I love is about to be taken from me by the very man who I swore loyalty to. Who will win? And does it even matter anymore if I lose my wife and son in the process?
**think old school bodice ripper on this one. Lots of slow burn romance and court intrigue.**