The Tudor Secret

The Tudor Secret by C. W. Gortner Read Free Book Online

Book: The Tudor Secret by C. W. Gortner Read Free Book Online
Authors: C. W. Gortner
Tags: thriller, Romance, Historical, Mystery, Adult
couldn’t simply approach and state my desire to speak with her. No guard worth his salt would be amenable to a stranger lacking proof of identity, save for the badge on my sleeve, which could be stolen, and a ring I couldn’t show.
    The opportunity would have to present itself. I tarried under the palace shadow, listening to water shred against stone. When I discerned a distinct, more rhythmic splash, I readied myself.
    A canopied barge glided into view.
    The guards formed rank. From within the garden, a trim figure suddenly materialized. A jolt went through me when I recognized Master Cecil. Another man dressed entirely in black emerged to stand beside him. My nape prickled. How many others lurked in the shadows?
    The barge was secured. I inched closer to the quay, my creeping steps sounding impossibly loud in my ears as I tiptoed through pools of darkness and crouched low behind the ornamental hedge. I was almost at the river’s edge.
    Three cloaked figures emerged from the barge and mounted the steps to the quay. She was at the forefront, leading a thin silver-colored hound by a chain. As her tapered hand cast aside her hood, I glimpsed fiery tresses caught in silver filigree, framing an angular face.
    Cecil and the stranger in black bowed. I edged closer, taking advantage of the hedge’s shadows. They were a pebble’s throw away, and the silence enhanced their voices. I heard Cecil’s first, imbued with urgency.
    “Your Grace, I must beg you to reconsider. The court is not safe for you at this time.”
    “My sentiments precisely,” interposed an officious voice. It came from the shorter of the princess’s two attendants, a stout matron who spoke with impudence. This must be the woman Robert had mentioned—Mistress Ashley. Behind her, the other, slightly taller attendant remained silent, muffled in a cloak of tawny velvet.
    “I told Her Grace the same not an hour ago,” said the matron, “but would she heed me? Of course not. Who am I, after all, except the woman who raised her?”
    The princess spoke, her voice crisp with impatience. “Ash Kat, don’t talk about me as if I weren’t here.” She stared at the matron, who, to my surprise, stared right back. Elizabeth turned her attention to Cecil. “As I have informed Mistress Ashley, you both worry too much. This court was never safe for me, yet I’m still alive to walk its halls, am I not?”
    “Of course,” said Cecil. “No one questions your capacity for survival, my lady. But I do wish you’d consulted me before leaving Hatfield. In coming to London as you have, you risk his lordship the duke’s displeasure.”
    Her reply carried a hint of asperity. “I hardly see why. I’m as entitled as my sister Mary was to see my brother, and he received her well enough.” She yanked at her cloak. “Now, if there’s nothing else, I must get to the hall. Edward will be expecting me.”
    I had to scramble behind the hedge after them, dreading the thought that at any moment my foot might crunch down on a stray twig and betray my presence. Fortunately, my soft leather soles made no discernible sound on the lawn, but I was acutely aware that I’d just eavesdropped on a conversation not meant for my ears, entrusted with a message that more and more seemed like a ruse. Robert might say he’d never play the princess false, but Cecil clearly believed the duke might. What if delivering my master’s missive and ring caused more trouble than I knew?
    “Your Grace, please.” Cecil hustled after her, for despite her delicate appearance, she had an athletic stride. “I must implore you. You must understand the risk you run. Otherwise, you would not have refused his lordship’s offer of rooms in the palace.”
    So, Robert had been right! The duke did know she was coming: He had even offered her rooms in the palace. Why was he misleading his own son?
    She stopped. “Not that I need to explain myself, but I ‘refused,’ as you say, to lodge in the palace

Similar Books

Louise Rennison_Georgia Nicolson 09

Stop in the Name of Pants!

Extreme Medicine

M.D. Kevin Fong

Prima Donna

Keisha Ervin