“EPIC… Medieval Romance!” ~ Claire Delacroix, NY Times and USA Today Bestselling author
1192 A.D. – David de Lohr, the younger brother of the great Christopher de Lohr (RISE OF THE DEFENDER), is a man who has lived his entire life in his prestigious older brother’s shadow. While his brother was nicknamed “The Lion’s Claw” as the right hand of Richard the Lionheart, David was nicknamed “The Lion Cub” because of his youth.
But David is a force to be reckoned with. Lightning-fast with a sword, he is a knight of the highest order and worthy of his own great legacy. And so, the story of David de Lohr, the knight with the heart of steel, begins.
Newly returned from the Holy Land where he fought with the Christian armies, David returns to find that England is perhaps more dangerous that the sands of The Levant. At a grand tournament given by Richard’s brother, John, David finds himself entrenched in the danger of the politics of England. Mercenaries hired by the prince are posing as legitimate knights, trying to kill those loyal to Richard.
News of Richard’s disappearance on his way home from the Holy Land only feeds John’s lust for the throne. As he brings a mercenary army to England’s shores, David and his brother must combat this tide of evil. Politics and mayhem follow David wherever he goes.
But what David didn’t count on was the introduction of a lovely young woman, the daughter of the Earl of Canterbury. Casually acquainted at first, David must save Emilie Hampton from the prince’s clutches not once but several times, throwing Emilie and David together again and again. Emilie makes her feelings for David known but David, the confirmed bachelor, is terrified of his feelings for her. As the fight for Richard’s throne gains in intensity, David finds himself increasingly distracted by the lovely lady who has stolen his heart.
It’s politics, mystery, passion, and chaos for David and Emilie as they try to find their way in a world that would see the two lovers torn apart.
Emilie had lived in castles her entire life, with military capabilities, but she’d never been this close to a knight who was dressing. It was very interesting to watch and very intimate. Somehow, she felt closer to David than even when she’d given him her favor. She was seeing the man on an entirely different level now, in his natural state, preparing for war. In this case, even though it was a competition, she knew that it would be a battle.
This day had shown her that there was a fine line between an enemy and an ally, and even men under the guise of pleasantries were not to be trusted. She’d learned that all too quickly. All was not as it seemed in the upper hierarchy of the royal court. As David and his squires worked, a soldier came into the tent to bring her hot wine, which she accepted gratefully.
“I am sorry I do not have much more to offer by way of comfort,” David said when he noticed the soldier hand her the hot wine. “I had to have my men hold that cup over the fire to warm the wine so it is likely to be quite hot.”
Emilie grinned as she held the pewter cup with the blanket. “I have quickly learned that,” she said. “I am very grateful for your hospitality, my lord.”
David gave her a half-smile, his gaze lingering on her blonde head as she sipped at the liquid. He hadn’t spoken to her much since he’d brought her back, mostly because he assumed she was too distraught to speak, but her state of mind seemed improved as she gingerly slurped the wine. He thought it might be a good time to find out what, exactly, had happened.
“It is my pleasure,” he said. He hesitated a moment before continuing. “Do you feel strong enough to tell me what happened with the sheriff? I should probably know since I am risking my life to protect you from him. Tell me of the wonderfully terrible thing you did to him that made him chase you into hiding.”
He was smiling as he said it and Emilie laughed softly; it wasn’t as if there was really much to laugh about but David’s attempt at humor made her feel better about it, as if it were not as serious and horrible as she thought it was. She knew the man would protect her until the death and that thought alone made her feel braver.
It also made her like him even that much more, a feeling that had, long ago, passed from something simple into something that was far more of a deep infatuation. Coming to her aid as he had and carrying her off to safety had somewhat marked the man for life as a hero in her eyes.
A hero she was coming to very much long for.
“It all happened rather fast,” she said, thinking back. “Nathalie and I went to the food vendors to find something to eat.”
“I see. Continue, please.”
She did. “As we were standing in front of a vendor who sold some kind of meat pie, a soldier addressed me,” she said. “When I turned around, there were several soldiers standing behind me and a man who introduced himself as the Sheriff of Nottingham. He told me that the prince wanted to meet with me privately and when I declined, he grabbed me and tried to force me to go with him. I panicked, hit him, and ran away. And that is really all there is to it.”
David’s features were grim by the time she was finished. He sighed heavily. “You are not the first young woman he has done that to,” he said. “But I would wager to say you are one of the very few that had the sense to fight back. I applaud you, my lady. You showed remarkable bravery.”
Emilie lifted her eyebrows. “I am not sure I see it that way,” she said. “All I know was that I was frightened and I remembered what you said about him. I could not let him take me, my lord. I could not make it that easy for him.”
David was looking at her until the big squire had him bend over so he could put the hauberk on his head and shoulders. David’s voice was muffled as the mail went over his face. “You did exactly what you were supposed to do,” he said. “Fitz Walter does not like to be denied. His only issue with you is a damaged ego and nothing more. But from this point on, you must remain with me or your father or another trusted man who can bear arms and protect you. I fear that the sheriff might see the capture of you as a game now, one he intends to win. The hunter does not usually let his prey go so easily.”
Emilie’s pale face tightened in alarm. “He views me as prey now?”
David stood up as the big squire straightened out his mail hood. “More than likely,” he said. “But have no fear; I will change his mind.”
She smiled at him, something of a besotted gesture. “Thank you, my lord,” she said. “Since you and I have met, you have gone out of your way to protect me. You will never know how grateful I am.”
Something warm was in the air, something that made David’s heart race. Emilie seemed to have that capability with him and he was both annoyed by it and thrilled by it. He didn’t like it that a woman should make him feel as giddy as Emilie had made him feel, but the more time he spent with her, the more he was coming to not particularly mind that special power she had over him. If he was honest with himself, he really didn’t mind it at all. All he knew was that something about the woman affected him and it was difficult to fight it. He wasn’t sure he should try.
He wasn’t sure he wanted to try.