Merryn Mantel and Geoffrey de Montfort have loved each other since childhood. Once betrothed, Geoffrey leaves for the wars in France for five long years. Upon his return, the two marry and spend one blissful night consummating their love and making plans for their future.
But her new husband vanishes the next day without a trace. Merryn grieves for almost seven years—and then Geoffrey returns to her—changed from the boy and man she knew and worshipped. This stranger refuses to reveal where he has been and why he stayed away for so long.
Will her husband’s silence create a rift too large to heal, or can Merryn and Geoffrey recapture the love they once shared?
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“So you think you can tell me what to do now? Order me about?” Merryn Mantel’s sapphire blue eyes twinkled with mischief as she leaned against the sturdy oak outside the gates of Kinwick Castle.
Geoffrey de Montfort gave his newly-betrothed a smile. The sunlight fell upon her hair, which spilled in waves to her waist. Usually dark in color, the light brought out burnished red highlights, making it a rich shade of chestnut.
“I assume you understand that our betrothal is a legally binding contract. That we’re as good as married.”
Except for the consummation.
But that would be another few years. At ten and six, he knew he had time to sow his wild oats before making Merryn his.
“I read the contracts, Geoffrey.” He heard the exasperation in her voice.
“Of course, you did. I would expect nothing less from you, Merryn.”
“They said nothing about obeying.”
He hide the smile that threatened to show itself. “I believe that will be a part of our actual vows. I suppose you still have a little bit of time before you become a slave to my every command.”
He came and stood next to her. Lifting a curl, he twirled it about his finger. He studied it with interest, dreading to tell her of the long separation ahead.
“I must return and finish my service to Sir Lovel first,” he explained.
“Will you go to France again before we marry?”
He nodded, reveling in the silky feel of the single curl he toyed with. Longing for the day they would be married and he could bury his hands in her hair. “There are still battles to fight. Crecy is but five years past, and though we have captured Calais, France has yet to capitulate to King Edward.”
A frown crossed her face.
“What ails you?”
She lowered her eyes to the ground. “’Tis nothing.”
Geoffrey’s fingers lifted her chin till their eyes met. “We have no secrets from one another, Merryn. We never have. ‘Tis nothing but trust that flows between us. I’d know your mind if you’ll but allow me.”
She placed a hand against his chest. His pulse jumped at her touch.
“I fear you may not come home to me,” she whispered.
“You have seen me spar. I’m quick with a sword or mace.” He brought a hand to cup her cheek. “And I know you wait for me. I will return to you, Merryn. Nothing could keep me from your arms.”
He slipped his hand to the nape of her neck and held her steady. He bent and brushed his mouth against hers in their first kiss.
Then Geoffrey took her hand and pressed his lips against her knuckles before lacing his fingers through hers.
“I promise I shall come home to be your husband, Merryn.” He gave her a wicked grin. “Who knows? Mayhap I shall serve as your slave instead.”