My Beloved

My Beloved by Karen Ranney Read Free Book Online

Book: My Beloved by Karen Ranney Read Free Book Online
Authors: Karen Ranney
gathered, then the rye and wheat.
    The people of Langlinais would bring his portion to his granaries with great fanfare, the occasion marked with solemnity. And he would send Jerard to meet them and thank them on their lord’s behalf. They would remember when his father entertained them with stories of the Crusades, when there was ale and red wine in abundance, when the occasion of the tithing was a ceremony replete with song and dance and merriment.
    His father had been a fierce man, one who had added to the family’s wealth by winning countless tournaments over the years, ransoming the armor and horses won or simply selling them outright. Yet, he also had a reputation for fairness. He had married well, a woman of Poitou, and had brought to his home a great thirst for a dynasty. But of the eleven children he’d sired, seven of them sons, only two were alive when he’d died, and neither at his bedside.
    They had not been fostered out as was customary. John of Langlinais had told his sons once that he believed himself the only one capable of guiding them correctly. “You were young lions,” he’d said. “Why would I subject one of my friends to your presence?” Their duties under their father’s watchful eye had been heavy, the days long for a dual purpose. First, to teach them all the duties in which they must be proficient, then to give them a taste of humility.
    Sebastian smiled, thinking of his father’s proud grin the day he was knighted. He had been twenty, eager to test his prowess in battle. Even more eager to see the world. He had, and returned to his home with this secret, one his people had not yet discovered.
    His father had died not of a broken heart as much as an aged one. Even though the effigy carved upon his tomb reflected the customary appearance of a man of thirty-three, John of Langlinais had been sixty-eight when he’d died.
    And Sebastian had been in Paris, unaware.
    A furl of movement in the corner of his vision distracted him. He turned his head and saw her. His bride walked toward the east gate, a basket in her hand. She wore neither toque nor wimple, only her hair braided in a coronet. Her stride was long, one that decreed purpose and destination in each step.
    A woman who had charmed the residents of Langlinais, if Jerard was correct. She rarely gave orders, treated everyone with the same degree of kind bemusement, as if surprised at their presence. She involved herself, he’d been told, almost wholly in her work.
    He watched her, grateful for the distance between them. The morning breeze cavorted around her ankles, swirling her skirt playfully, delineating the shape of her legs beneath the fabric. Did she think to leave him? Leave Langlinais? A small smile ridiculed that thought. How, Sebastian? Equipped with a basket and nothing more? His curiosity was piqued, even as she pushed open the gate and entered the forest.
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    The basket had been found in the buttery. It was not exactly what she needed, but a cursory examination had not revealed any spare jars or crocks. She would have to improvise, but then she was used to doing so. The Sisters of Charity were a parsimonious lot. Having taken their vows seriously, they not only begrudged waste, but were often without the rudimentary supplies needed in a scriptorium. But Juliana had found that being poor could be a very valuable experience. She never wasted parchment, and she could brew at least three colors of ink. It was a rather heady feeling to know that, at least in these two instances, she could do for herself.
    The gatekeeper was fast asleep, leaning against the high wooden fence, his neck at an odd angle. Old Simon had given her a small carved wooden cat as a welcoming gift to Langlinais. She smiled and tiptoed past him, closed the gate with a small click, and headed into the woods.
    At the base of a venerable oak she stopped, circled the trunk for several minutes, inspecting the ground. She

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