Widow Lady Eleanor has a secret alter-ego – she’s also a Robin Hood style outlaw known as ‘The Fox’. And she’s been ordered by the King to marry Hugh de Villiers, a Knight on a mission to capture ‘The Fox’….!
It had been a mistake. A colossal mistake to insist on cleaning Hugh’s wound herself.
Eleanor had become aware of her error the minute he sat opposite her on a bench in their solar, watching her with a guarded intensity that had almost robbed her of her breath.
Now the silence stretched, with only the noise of the crackling fire in the hearth breaking through.
She had to stop thinking of Hugh as no one of consequence when the reality was screaming at her. He was her husband, and even though for now it was in name only, he was her husband. A very large, very looming, very real, half-naked husband.
She gulped and bent her head lower, concentrating on the task at hand rather than contemplating Hugh’s sinewy taut, muscle-bound body.
Ever since their wedding night Eleanor had been anxious, knowing that her new husband would finally make the demands of her that she dreaded but expected. Instead they had continued playing chess, which he had taught her with unreserved patience. And during those moments Eleanor would lose sight of who she was with and enjoy the intricacies of the game, pitching her ability against his.
But it was more than that, and if Eleanor was honest with herself she’d say that she actually enjoyed Hugh’s company as well. He treated her like an equal, respecting her views even if at times they disagreed about an issue. Yet she could not help but feel shy and unsure around him when they weren’t playing.
As Lady Eleanor Tallany, and even when she dissembled as The Fox, she had purpose and confidence—but as a wife she did not.
Annoyed with herself, and the direction of her thoughts, Eleanor thrust her fingers into the pewter bowl of warmed honeyed water on the small trestle table and continued to wipe the wound clean with strips of linen.
Hugh coughed, dragging her attention back to him. ‘Eleanor? I think…I believe it is done.’
‘Mmm?’ she muttered. ‘I beg your pardon?’
She continued to wipe the wound. Rubbing it briskly, back and forth.
‘I believe it’s now sufficiently clean, don’t you?’ His eyes crinkled in amusement.
It was that blasted kiss! That astonishing, disturbing and yet melting kiss that Eleanor was so confused about. But she had more important things to think about, for the love of God—like how she could distribute food to the people who needed it and give back the silver stolen by the outlaws from Lord Edmund Balvoire to his poor beleaguered people.
She swallowed. ‘Yes, so it is. I try to complete a task well.’
‘That is a comfort to know. Thank you.’
A smile tugged at the corners of Hugh’s lips, making her think once again of that kiss.
Oh, for goodness’ sake!
Her reaction on their wedding night had been instinctive and visceral, even though she’d known that their kiss would lead them to fall into what might be considered normal and binding for a marriage contract. But Eleanor just hadn’t been able to go through with it, and she was not stupid enough to believe the situation could endure indefinitely. Eventually something would have to break through the impasse.
If she was honest with herself, Eleanor was no longer as wary of Hugh, even though she had barely slept after his surprise offer on their wedding night. He had kept to his word and stayed firmly outside the bed curtain, but she could hardly pretend that curiosity wasn’t getting the better of her. She seemed to be aware of him whenever he was near…or far.