Read The Baron's Bounty Online

Authors: Elizabeth Rose

The Baron's Bounty

 

 

 

 

The Baron’s Bounty

 

Book 2

(Barons of the Cinque Ports Series)

 

By

 

 

Elizabeth Rose

 

Copyright © 2015 by Elizabeth Rose Krejcik

 

This is a work of fiction. All characters, names, places and incidents are either a product of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously. Any similarity to actual organizations or persons living or deceased is entirely coincidental. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced or transmitted in any form whatsoever without the author’s written permission.

 

Cover created by Elizabeth Rose Krejcik

 

 

Dedicated to my niece, Katherine,

who wanted a questionable character named after her.

 

Also dedicated to every woman who loves shoes!

 

Books by Elizabeth Rose:

 


(Legacy of the Blade Series)


Prequel
 


Lord of the Blade


Lady Renegade


Lord of Illusion


Lady of the Mist

 


(Daughters of the Dagger Series)


Prequel


Ruby


Sapphire


Amber


Amethyst

 


(Madman MacKeefe Series)


Onyx


Aidan


Ian

 


(Barons of the Cinque Ports)


The Baron’s Quest


The Baron’s Bounty


The Baron’s Destiny (Coming this winter)

 


(Elemental Series)


The Dragon and the Dreamwalker


The Duke and the Dryad


The Sword and the Sylph


The Sheik and the Siren

 

 


(Tarnished Saints Series)


Tarnished Saints’ Christmas (Prequel)


Doubting Thomas


Luring Levi


Judging Judas


Seducing Zeb


Saving Simon


Wrangling James


Praising Pete


Teaching Philip


Loving John (Coming soon)

 


(Greek Myth Fantasy Series)


The Pandora Curse


The Oracle of Delphi


Thief of Olympus


Kyros’ Secret

 


(Short stories)


One Red Rose


My Christmas Soldier

 


(Cowboys of the Old West)


The Outlaw


The Bounty Hunter


The Gambler


The Drifter


The Gunslinger

 

 


(Single Title)


The Caretaker of Showman’s Hill


Curse of the Condor


Familiar

 

(Gnarled Nursery Rhymes)


Mary, Mary


Muffet (coming soon)

 


(Boxed Sets)


Border Lords and Ladies


Dragon Lords and Warriors


Ancient Warriors and Lovers


Cowboys of the Old West

 

And more!

 

Website:
elizabethrosenovels.com

 

Prologue

 

 

 

Scotland, March, 1286

 

Isobel MacEwen’s only weakness was her love of shoes.

“Isobel, I’ll let you wear my new shoes if you’ll just do one small favor for me,” came Catherine MacEwen’s generous offer.

Isobel’s eyes devoured the new silk shoes that her cousin dangled in front of her face, much in the same way that she bribed her horse with carrots. Made in the popular turned-shoe fashion, the dark mahogany silk was fastened to a thin sole, and embroidered with colorful designs of wildflowers and fancy swirled stitches.

“Catherine, ye canna mean it.” Isobel reached out reverently and gently touched the silk with her fingertips. So soft, so sensual. These were some of the finest shoes she’d ever seen – and she’d indeed seen many shoes in her lifetime. She was infatuated with shoes of all kinds. Short shoes, high boots, and even wooden pattens, it didn’t matter. She like them all. Since living with her cousin, her own wardrobe was filled to the brim with shoes of various shapes, sizes, designs, and colors.

“Go ahead. Try them on.” Catherine pushed them into Isobel’s hands.

Eagerly, Isobel sat down on the chair in Catherine’s bedchamber, removing her own shoes and donning these in their place. “I love them,” she whispered in a breathy voice. “They’re so beautiful – so comfortable.”

“Aye, and all yours if you’ll go to the lighthouse tonight and meet with my betrothed.” Catherine tempted her as usual.

“Yer . . . betrothed?” Isobel looked upward. “But Catherine, the English baron has docked his ship on our Scottish shores briefly jest te meet ye. Why would ye want te send me in yer place?”

“All right. Fine,” Catherine said with a sigh. “Forget I ever asked.” She reached out her hand, her long fingers moving towards Isobel’s feet. “Give me back the shoes then.”

Isobel quickly moved her feet to the side, out of Catherine’s reach.

“Nay. Please. Can I jest wear them fer a minute longer?”

“If you want . . . you can wear them all night.” Catherine’s mouth turned up into a lopsided grin and one brow arched. “In fact, I insist you not only wear them, but keep them after you’ve gone to the cliffs to meet with Baron Conlin de Braose from Sandwich.”

“Keep them? Really?” Just the thought had her heart racing. She looked down and admired them, moving her feet back and forth in the candlelight, liking the way the sheen danced in the play of the light and shadows. “But cousin, why dinna ye want te meet with the rich baron yerself? Are ye afeard o’ the Sassenach?”

“Nay!” Catherine made a face and swiped her hand through the air. “’Tis just that I’ll be with him soon enough. And tonight, I’m not feeling well enough to make the ride in the dark.” She put her hand on her stomach and moaned. Catherine was ill often, and spent a lot of time closed away in her chamber sleeping. She was also very stubborn and used to getting exactly what she wanted.

Though her father was Scottish, her late mother had been English, so she refused to dress or talk like a Scot. She was the same age as Isobel at twenty years old, but had blond hair while Isobel’s hair was chestnut brown.

There was a knock at the chamber door, and Laird Chisholm – Isobel’s uncle who was also Catherine’s father - entered.

“Catherine, ye must go now te meet with the baron or ye’ll be late. He is an impatient man and doesna like te be put behind schedule. He willna wait if ye are no’ there at the designated time.”

“I don’t feel well, Father. Isobel is going in my place,” announced Catherine.

“What?” His brows snapped together in surprise. “Nay, the baron willna like thet.”

“Catherine, I canna meet with yer betrothed,” Isobel told her, with a shake of her head.

Catherine’s chin raised and she looked down her long nose at Isobel. “Then give me back the shoes.” Catherine’s brown eyes were very dark when she got angry. And her moods often changed faster than Scotland’s unpredictable weather.

“Nay, please dinna take them.” Isobel held onto the shoes as Catherine tried to rip them right off her feet. The girl didn’t always act like a noble. With her mood swings, Isobel could see why most people referred to her as the Shrew of the Scots behind her back.

“Catherine, leave her be, if she doesna want te do it.” The laird tried to pull his daughter away, but she struggled against his grip.

“Then she needs to give me back the shoes.” Catherine broke out of her father’s hold and lunged for the shoes. Isobel jumped to her feet and hurried to the other side of the room.

“All right, all right, I’ll do it.” Isobel finally agreed, only because she couldn’t stand to be without the shoes, now that she’d felt them upon her feet. “Jest please, let me keep the shoes. Dinna take them away.”

Catherine stood up straight, brushed off her gown and smiled. Then she proceeded to talk in a sweet voice, totally opposite of her mood a second ago. “Why thank you so much, my cousin. Please – take my horse as well. And do give the baron my fondest regards, will you?”

Isobel’s eyes were fastened to her new shoes as she left the room. It would be a simple task, she told herself. And it would be over quickly. Aye, this would be the easiest pair of shoes she’d ever earned from her cousin in the entire time she’d lived at Kirkcaldy Castle.

 

* * *

 

Not an hour later Isobel’s new shoes were already ruined, and no man was worth it - especially not an English baron.

With the reins of her horse in one hand, she looked down at the mud puddle she’d landed in when she’d dismounted. Lightning split the sky and thunder boomed overhead, making the horse skittish. It pulled at the reins, trying to run. The cold spring rain drenched her traveling cloak, and her hair had come unbound during her ride along the cliffs of the coast. Water rivulets ran down her face, and long strands of her hair clung tightly to her neck and chest like barnacles on the hull of a ship.

She realized now it wasn’t only the mud and water that had ruined her new shoes made of silk, but also the steaming mare’s nest she’d stepped in. The night was dark, and with the moon behind the clouds she hadn’t been able to see where she was going.

She’d been separated from Lady Catherine’s guards in the sudden unexpected storm, and was now disoriented and unescorted.

“God’s eyes, nay!” she cried, feeling the squishy horse manure and mud seeping in through the seams of the soft slipper-like shoes. She could no longer see any of the embroidered flowers on the toes. She now regretted her decision to wear these instead of her short leather traveling boots tonight. But she’d been so excited about the shoes, she hadn’t stopped to consider the consequences.

The horse whickered and showed its teeth in the moonlight as if it were laughing at her. She just scowled in return.

“Is this yer mare’s nest ye dunderheid?” She never liked having to ride Lady Catherine’s horse in the first place. The mare was just as ornery and uppity as its owner and she now regretted agreeing to this deal at all.

Lady Catherine knew how much Isobel liked shoes, and used it to her advantage. Shoes were Isobel’s weakness – and always her excuse to do Catherine’s bidding.

Isobel had been the only child of Laird Fergus MacEwen, and had been treated like a princess by her late father. But at the age of nine and after the death of her mother, she’d been sent to Kirkcaldy Castle be fostered by her uncle. Then after the death of her father five years ago, her uncle inherited her father’s castle and lands in Galloway. But he’d refused to let Isobel live back home. Instead, he’d kept her at Kirkcaldy in Fife near the coast, and she was raised with her cousin, Catherine.

Isobel was considered Chisholm’s daughter from that day on. Still, she’d never been favored like Catherine, who wasn’t even a full-fledged Scot! For years, Isobel had done whatever it took to get what she wanted, but lately Catherine’s bidding had become a nightmare.

Her mission tonight was absurd. Since the betrothal of Catherine to the Baron of Sandwich just a sennight ago, the woman had been hell to live with. Isobel couldn’t blame her for being irritable, as a Scot marrying a Sassenach was no lassie’s dream. But since Catherine was half Sassenach herself, being the product of her uncle’s first marriage, she didn’t think her cousin should really mind being betrothed to an Englishman.

Her betrothal was merely for the sake of alliances with the lord of Sandwich, and Catherine was the sacrificial pawn. But at the same time, Catherine was also the winner for what she’d gain in the exchange. The baron ranked high among the English king’s men. He was powerful and also very rich. Some sacrifices were worth making.

Still, this whole arrangement wasn’t right. Catherine should be here tonight, but instead, Isobel filled those shoes. Literally.

She looked to her feet again, feeling a knot twisting in her gut. Tonight Catherine and the baron were to meet for the first time atop the cliff at the lighthouse. Lord Conlin de Braose was a Baron of the Cinque Ports and his ship would be in port for only a few short hours before he continued on to England. He’d been trading up north and was stopping here in transit, but only briefly. She regretted that this meeting couldn’t have waited until morning, but the baron was said to be a busy and impatient man. And as with any English bastard, there was no compromising.

His mind was made up that he would meet his future bride, and Isobel didn’t fancy telling him that she was only a replacement for the woman who was his true betrothed. Catherine had sent Isobel in her place, and now Isobel realized it was more than just an upset stomach that detained her cousin. Catherine feared storms, and must have known one was brewing tonight. Either way, she’d managed once more to have Isobel do her bidding.

Isobel’s uncle warned her that the baron had little tolerance for tardiness and that he would not wait if she didn’t get to the lighthouse at their designated meeting time. One hour before sunset was when she was supposed to meet him. But with the sun disappearing early because of the storm, she no longer had any idea if she was on time or not.

The shoes that clinched the deal were the same shoes that Isobel had been eying up in the window of the cordwainer’s shop for the last three months, and Catherine knew it. Isobel never should have agreed to this mission, and now with the shoes ruined, she regretted it completely.

“I’m the dunderheid,” she said to herself, scraping the bottom of her foot against a rock. Her unusual attraction to shoes had made her a servant to no one but her own wants and wishes. But she couldn’t help it. Having often hidden under the stairway trying to escape Catherine the fist few years Isobel came to live at Kirkcaldy, she’d noticed the feet of everyone from the servants to the nobles walking up and down the stairs. She’d learned to identify people and their status by the types of shoes they wore, the gait of their steps, or by the way they shuffled their feet across the floor.

“By the rood, I hate this!” She glanced back over her shoulder toward the woods, but didn’t see her escorts anywhere. Then she turned and looked up toward the cliff in the distance that jutted out above the ships docked in the harbor. Moonbeams broke through the clouds, and she could see the torches burning brightly from inside the windows of the lighthouse. The tall stone tower had open windows at the top, and brightly burning torches were placed inside that could be seen by the ships at sea, guiding them into port.

There was another torch at ground level being held by someone, and she realized it was most likely the man she was to meet. Catherine’s betrothed.

She could only make out his silhouette, but when the wind blew his cape open, the moonbeams illuminated his tunic, and there was no mistaking his identity now. He wore the crest of the barons of the Cinque Ports. Bright blue and red covered by three rampant yellow lions, which she knew had the hind quarters of ships, though she couldn’t see clearly in the dark.

The man paced back and forth in the moonlight, his long sword fastened to his side. She’d heard from her uncle that this baron was favored by the English king, Edward I. He’d been granted a castle and lands in return for directing a fleet of ships that serviced the king. He also oversaw all imported or exported goods used in trade that took place on his docks.

She couldn’t see his features, but by his silhouette she could tell he was tall and sturdy. Then the moon became covered by clouds again, and she lost sight of the man completely.

She was about to get back on her horse and make her way towards the lighthouse, when she heard the thundering of hoofbeats from behind her. One more gust of wind and the moon broke through the clouds once again. She turned expecting to see her escorts, but to her surprise it was not the castle guards but her country’s king, Alexander III, who traveled down the road instead. His red hair blew wildly in the wind as he rode. She saw the royal crest of a rampant lion and treasure on his chest, as well as displayed on the trappings of his steed.

He approached at neck-breaking speed, not even noticing she was there. She attempted a curtsey as he passed, but her mare became skittish again and nudged her hard, throwing her down into the mud. From her position on the ground, all she could see were the king’s long-toed leather riding boots as he rode by.

“Losh me, it canna get any worse than this.” Or so she thought. Two of the king’s guards came barreling down the road next, and she had to roll out of the way in order not to be trampled to death. Her horse became spooked and took off at a run through the woods, leaving her stranded.

Other books

Going For It by Liz Matis
Wedding Rows by Kingsbury, Kate
Hood's Obsession by Marie Hall
Daddy Lenin and Other Stories by Guy Vanderhaeghe
Making the Play by T. J. Kline
3: Fera - Pack City by Weldon, Carys
Lover Beware by Christine Feehan, Eileen Wilks
Lucy: A Novel by Kincaid, Jamaica