Medieval 02 - Forbidden

Medieval 02 - Forbidden by authors_sort Read Free Book Online

Book: Medieval 02 - Forbidden by authors_sort Read Free Book Online
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scaring them into flight for the hawks that rode on the arms of knights. The peregrine on Erik’s saddle keened restlessly, recognizing the call to a hunt that had left her behind.
    Overhead, a merlin’s cry announced yet another hawk on the wing. Erik looked up, searching the brilliant sky with eyes that were the equal of any hunting bird’s.
    A small, fierce falcon shot down like a dark bolt from the blue, trailing silver jesses that flashed in the sunlight. Though the falcon’s stoop ended behind a rocky rise, Erik had no doubt about the outcome.
    “Cassandra will have partridge before I have mallard,” he said. “Maid Marian flies with her customary lethal grace.”
    Amber closed her eyes and let out a soundless sigh of relief that Erik was no longer pursuing the uncomfortable subject of the stranger whom she had named Duncan.
    “Cassandra will come to you at supper,” Erik said. “And so will I. Be here. See that the man you call Duncan is here as well.”
    Amber found herself looking into the cold, topaz glance of the wolf that lived within her childhood friend. Her chin came up. She watched him through narrowed yellow eyes that were as cold as his own.
    “Aye, lord.”
    Erik’s smile flashed beneath his dark gold beard. “Do you still have smoked venison?”
    She nodded.
    “Good,” he said. “I’ll be hungry.”
    “You’re always hungry.”
    Laughing, Erik urged the peregrine onto his wrist, set his spurs lightly to his mount, and galloped off into the forest. Sun struck golden fire from his hair and stormy gray from his mount.
    Amber watched until there was nothing to see but the rocky rise. Just as she turned to go back tothe cottage, the merlin rose keening on the wind, seeking other prey. Amber cocked her head, listening, but heard no sound of hoofbeats approaching. Unlike Erik, Cassandra would wait until the hunt was over to talk with Amber.
    Relieved, Amber went into the cottage and shut the door quietly behind. Just as quietly, she lowered a stout piece of wood across the frame. Until she lifted that board, no one could enter short of chopping through the door.
    “Duncan?” Amber asked softly.
    There was no answer.
    Fear sank cold talons into her. She ran to the bed and yanked aside the curtain.
    Duncan lay on his side, his body relaxed, his eyes closed. Amber put her hand out and touched his forehead. Her breath came out in a rushing sigh of relief. His sleep was deep, but normal.
    The contrast between the powerful line of Duncan’s shoulders and the pale lace on the linen bedding made Amber smile. Gently she brushed his hair back from his forehead, savoring the warmth and smoothness of his skin.
    Duncan stirred, but not to turn away. Instead, he moved toward her touch. Blindly his hand found hers, circled it, and held on. When she would have withdrawn, his grip tightened. She sensed him awakening.
    “Nay,” she whispered, stroking Duncan’s cheek with her free hand. “Sleep, Duncan. Heal.”
    He slid back toward sleep, but he didn’t release Amber’s hand. She kicked off her shoes and sat on the edge of the bed, fighting against the exhaustion that she had held at bay through the long days and nights since Duncan had been dropped naked on her doorstep.
    She couldn’t sleep yet. She needed to think, to plan, to find the single thread in the tangled tapestry of Duncan’s and her own fate that would leadto enriched life rather than untimely death.
    So much depends on his memory. Or lack of it .
    So much depends on the prophecy .
    Aye. The prophecy. I must be certain that no more of its words come true. I fear my heart has been given, but not my body, not my soul .
    It must stay that way. I must not touch him .
    Yet even as the thought came, protest welled up from deep within Amber. Touching Duncan was the greatest pleasure she, the Untouched, had ever known.
    He is forbidden to me .
    Nay. Only the special touching of lovers is forbidden between us. Then my body will remain my own

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