(Barons of the Cinque Ports Series)
Baron John Montague is haunted by a nightmare. His life changes when after 14 years he finds his ex-wife, Celestine de Bar, who has been accused of being a witch.
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Excerpt from The Baron’s Destiny:
Hanging off the side of a cliff by one arm, watching as the horse that had thrown him ran off through the forest, John Montague was sure this would be the way he died.
If he had any doubt in his mind, the crash of thunder reverberating in his ears, the flashes of lightning across the nighttime sky, and the torrential downpour only reinforced the fact that this was the last nail in his coffin.
“God’s eyes, why a storm?” he growled, trying to grab with both hands for the vine that held him, but couldn’t. His horse had become spooked at the nearby strike of lightning and thrown him just as he’d seen a man on the road in front of him.
His head had hit against the rocks and was bleeding and he could barely move his arm because of the pain from the arrow sticking out of his flesh. Blood trickled down his forehead getting into his eyes, and lodging its coppery taste upon his lips. He should have stayed with the others at King Edward’s side in Paris for another hour, or at least waited for his squire to accompany him instead of venturing out on his own. But when he’d seen the storm coming he’d panicked, and felt the need to get back to his ship without delay.
His fleet of ships was scheduled to leave France tonight since the men had served their required fourteen days service to their king. King Edward had spent the summer in Paris, and had not stepped foot on English soil in so long now that it was starting to become a problem back home. John had brought the king’s reinforcements to France, as well as the supplies his sovereign had requested from England. The trading had taken place once they’d docked on the French coast, and they’d be leaving the coveted high quality English wool behind, taking back with them fine French wine in its place.
“Arrrrgh,” he shouted, his fingers slipping on the wet vine as he wondered whom the person was who’d dared to jump out on the road threatening him with a bow and arrow and causing this inconvenience in the first place. The knave had the nerve to threaten an armed baron on horseback, and John still couldn’t believe he’d actually taken an arrow to the shoulder. If his horse hadn’t reared up and thrown him, he would have struck the man down with his sword. If he ever got his hands on the hooded man, there would be hell to pay.
He dared to look down to his feet dangling like a rag doll beneath him and wished he hadn’t. The stormy sea swirled and waves swelled up far below, threatening to drown him. The sharp rocks on the way down would most likely crack his skull open before he even hit the water. Being a baron of the coast in Hastings, he should be used to any kind of weather, but his nightmares made him seem like a coward every time a storm hit even though he was really a very brave man.
Visions of his recurring nightmare swarmed in his head. It was the fear of that awful dream he’d been having for the last fourteen years that had more than once made him think he’d gone mad. No twenty-eight-year-old baron of the Cinque Ports should be crying out in his sleep like a scared child. Tongues were already wagging about him back home, and his own friends – the other barons of the Cinque Ports, ridiculed him constantly about his frightening nightmare.
He closed his eyes and tried not to think of the horrific dream, but he couldn’t get it out of his head. It all started on his wedding day fourteen years ago to a girl he hadn’t known was a witch. He’d found a deck of her devil cards and when he’d picked them up, a card had fallen to the ground, landing face up at his feet.
It was a card that depicted a castle tower breaking apart as the ground caved in beneath it. Stormy skies all around it, two people plunged from the tower over the side and to their deaths. This card was the seed of his nightmares because somehow he knew it was his own castle falling into the sea.
“This is just a dream. It’s just a dream,” he spoke aloud to himself. “I’ll wake up and I’ll be in my bed, and none of this will be real.”
He wished he could believe it, but this time his muscles were trembling from holding up the weight of his own body, and blood gushed from his wounds. This wasn’t a dream. His tunic had turned red from the blood that had blended with the rain soaking his body. With his fingers slipping, he finally managed to bring his hurt arm around and grab onto the vine as well.
Aye, he should have waited for his squire, Miles, to travel the road with him and could only hope now that he followed and would come to his assistance. After a few minutes he realized no one was coming to his aid. What a stupid way to die! When he left this world he wanted it to be a warrior’s death protecting his king or saving another noble, not from being shot by a ruffian, thrown from a horse, and falling over the edge of a cliff.
Cursed be the bandit who had done this to him. He wanted to kill that man right now, but knew his attacker was also the only one who could save him.
“Is anyone there?” he called out, hoping the man would have a change of heart and come to his rescue. “I know you’re there,” he called out. “I need . . . help. Can you hear me?”