HEART OF VENGEANCE by Tracy Cooper-Posey
Jewels of Tomorrow Book 2.0
Ancient Historical Romance Novel
A woman in search of revenge…. An honorable man with a dark past.
It is 1197. King Richard, known as the “Lionhearted,” fights in France while Prince John hatches his own plans back home.
To find her father’s killer, Helena of York must pose as a Norman in the great halls of Richard’s England. Her only desire is to kill the man who destroyed her father and her future. Should she be unmasked, her life will be forfeit.
Stephen, Count of Dinan, once Richard’s friend and trusted knight, is outcast for reasons shrouded in mystery. Known as the “Black Baron,” he is friendless in a glittering world he despises. His only goal is to restore his honor and once again serve his king.
Stephen’s suspicions draw him into Helena’s web of deceit, and the two outsiders find themselves tangled in a conspiracy that threatens the throne of England itself, while their embattled hearts grapple with a far greater challenge.
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I've had this tittle sitting on my ebo0k for years, but it hasn't been up to recently that I actually thought, it's your turn, buddy. I've read Diana by the Moon a couple of years ago and it left me kind of shaken, actual history is cruel, I know, but it never ceases to surprise me. So I postponed reading this one in case human kind cruelty would upset me again 😅
But nothing of the sort. I absolutely loved the heroines arc and how at the end she finds forgiveness in love. I must confess actually wept with emotion at the end. So don't wait like me and go read the book now, and happy weeping! 😉
I really liked this story it had lots of mystery and people in it,and details about the story awesome read .it was so interesting I had to finish the story great read, well written awesome writer.
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EXCERPT FROM HEART OF VENGEANCE
COPYRIGHT © TRACY COOPER-POSEY 2003
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
It was only because Stephen watched her that he noticed her leave. The woman who called herself Isobel had stayed at her place throughout the meal. The guests had eaten well and drunk heartily. Relaxed, their attention had been caught by the performers in the middle of the hall.
Toward the end of the mummers’ performance, she stood and slipped through the door that gave access to the kitchen.
Stephen wondered why she had chosen that direction. He glanced around him. He was being studiously ignored. He was not a comfortable dinner companion, but it would work to his purpose now.
He rose and walked around the edge of the hall so he would not cross anyone’s line of sight and draw attention to himself, then stepped out into the night. As he did, he saw the woman’s veil and the train of her blue dress as she stepped into the kitchen. He slowed his pace, giving her time to begin her mysterious business. At the kitchen door, he paused to eavesdrop.
She was speaking English fluently and, as far as Stephen could tell, flawlessly. He understood a little of what she said. During the endless days kicking his heels in one great hall after the next, he’d picked up odd words and phrases here and there. But he could not speak it—his tongue would not wrap around the strange vowels. He listened now—she spoke of food, villagers, caution. She also gave instructions on the sharing of parcels.
Stephen lifted the flap of the door curtain and peeked in. She stood at the massive worktable, surrounded by two or three kitchen staff, a cook and, judging by their clothing, peasants who had just stepped in off the street. They were country folk. Standing in the middle of them she appeared a butterfly among weeds. She was taller than all of them—a slim, supple figure clothed in a blue gown that, in the fashion of the court these days, clung to every womanly curve. Her breasts were full and the hips beneath the trim waist flared gently. They were framed by a girdle of silver links that dipped to meet at the front, several of them hanging free in the center. Her wimple and veil were of the finest white cloth, matching the delicate perfection of her skin.
Isobel rapidly bundled food into hanks of cloth and tied them off. There were already ten or so bundles on the table and a collection of food to one side—cooked meat, dried fruits, preserved and fresh vegetables and bread.
The cook asked a question in a fearful tone. Stephen followed almost all of Isobel’s response. “They will not miss it. They already have full bellies.” She added a few words he could not follow but judging by the way the villagers laughed, it was anything but complimentary. Reassured, the cook handed the bundles to the villagers.
Stephen finally understood. Isobel was stealing food and giving it to the peasants.
His surprise propelled him up the steps and into the kitchen before he knew he’d decided to confront her. They were so immersed in their activities they failed to notice him. “This is a pretty picture,” he said, coming up behind them.
The villagers and the kitchen staff squawked and scattered like threatened chickens. He expected Isobel to do the same, for he had caught her in a crime that carried heavy penalties.
But she whirled with surprising speed and he was astonished, for she held a knife in her hand and hefted it in a way only an experienced knife-fighter used.
Stephen’s instincts recognized danger long before his mind realized it. In response, his body dropped into the loose, easy-jointed posture from which a man could move quickly in any direction, all before the knowledge that she was about to attack registered in his mind.
Then she surprised him yet again by dropping the knife on the table behind her. Where had it come from? Stephen wondered. She didn’t have it in her hands or on the table when he had approached.
“My lord, you startled me.”
“Obviously. Your activities speak of secrecy, if being startled prompts a reaction such as yours.”
She glanced over his shoulder at the villagers and spoke a few words.
“What did you say?” he demanded. Damn but she made him feel like an ignorant fool!
“I told them to go about their business. This is none of their concern.”
They filed through the storage room to the outer doorway on the other side. She had taken them safely out of his way. Out of the way…and with the food.
Helena watched him calmly. Her eyes really were an exotic shade. The dark blue of the sky late of a summer eve and they had a black circle around them. Quite the most unusual eyes.
“What do you intend to do with me, my lord?” she asked. She had only to lift her chin a little to look him squarely in the eye.
A tightness grew in Stephen’s belly, the old pleasurable ache. This woman! She was like a fresh sea breeze, refreshing and restoring his soul, stirring his senses awake. “You speak French as a Breton does,” he said.
“I am from Brittany.”
“So I have been told.”
His tone must have puzzled her, for her eyes narrowed. “My lord?”
She was cautious, this one, and brave. She must know he had caught her fairly but she did not shrink from him or throw herself at his mercy.
“Who are you?” Stephen demanded and cursed himself. He didn’t want the truth just yet. It was more interesting to wonder and let the infinite possibilities entertain him.
“I am Isobel, daughter of William, Baron de Buerres—”
“Of Brittany,” he finished for her.
“Why do you not fear me?”
“I have caught you stealing food.”
A shadow crossed her face too fast for him to determine what it was but he was left with a feeling of irritation. “My lord, the food goes to mouths far hungrier than ever the barons in the hall have experienced. I have taken very little. In truth, it will not be missed.”
“Why do you do this?”
“They are starving, my lord.”
“They are always starving. It is a protest that never fails when one deals with them.”
“It is a protest that never fails because it is a complaint that is never remedied.” Now the emotion in those wondrous eyes was clear. Anger. It vibrated through her.
“Why do you care for these people so?” he asked, puzzled.
Abruptly, her anger disappeared. It did not fall away, or ease. No, it was more like she had withdrawn it. In one short breath she had pummeled it into submission.
Again, the question whispered in his mind. Who is this woman who speaks fluent English? Who cares for peasants and steals food for them? Who stares at me as if I was a normal man and not a god-forsaken freak? Who is this woman who challenges me with anger when she is the guilty one?
She drew another breath. “You have yet to tell me what you intend to do with me, my lord.”
“You have yet to tell me why you do not fear me.”
“I fail to understand why I should.”
Her indifference galled him. He stepped closer. There was barely a hand’s span between them. Stephen wanted to see something in her eyes that would tell him he had made an impression on her. This close, however, he smelled her scent—a light, feminine scent that brought to mind a memory-sense of the softness of a woman’s flesh, the taste of kisses, of lips against his.
Stephen’s heart thudded and his body thrummed with tension. His thoughts shifted, scattered. He should step away from her but to do so would signal his weakness. “Everyone fears me,” he said, forcing himself to string the words together. They emerged harsh and dry. “Why do you not?”
“Do you intend me harm?” She did not sway from him and she could not step back, for the table was at her back. Instead she tilted her chin so she could look him in the eye.
“I could rip your heart from your body.”
Her expression did not change but did he merely imagine the rapid rise of her chest beneath her bodice?
“A boast most crusaders can fulfill,” she agreed, her voice low. Controlled. “And you have the mark of the crusader about you. Yet you have forgotten I am armed. Could you take my heart when I am ready to defend myself?”
Stephen felt the prick of a blade at his side, at the exact place where she had only to push and the knife would slide between bones to the death point. Anger spurted but it was smothered by a fresh well of excitement. Long dormant feelings stirred in the dark reservoir of his soul, rolling over as if prodded from sleep. Their movement gave off a wave of energy.
Stephen snatched at her wrist and caught it in his hand. “You would do well to fear me, my lady. Even if I choose not to take your heart, I could take all meaning from your life. All I have to do is call for the guards. They will arrest you. You will be put on trial and your punishment carried out.”
“Call them.” Yes, her breath grew short. The full lips, shaded a delicate pink, parted a little.
“They do not cut off your hand for stealing here. They hang you. Before you are quite dead they cut you down and stretch you between four galloping horses. And when you are sure you will die if you are given more pain, they slice you open and then spread your insides out for all to see.”
Her face was a blank shield but she took another long breath. Drawing courage? “You do not frighten me, my lord. I have been threatened with worse and lived to tell the tale.”
Of all the astonishing things she had said and done, this was the most surprising. She was a young woman, undoubtedly a maiden. What could she possibly know of the harsh life at which she hinted? Yet she was experienced with the knife. He would wager she had drawn blood with it at least once.
Her skin was like alabaster and just as hard and cold. Everything he said had struck against that impenetrable shield and slid away, leaving no impression. Stephen yearned to crack that façade, to see her respond to him as a real person.