Sapphire goes to Rye to await her betrothed, Roe Sexton, a man she’s never met. When she arrives, she’s told he’s dead and she’s married off to the evil baron instead. To escape her abusive marriage and looking for true love, she goes in disguise to a tavern called The Bucket of Blood.
Roe Sexton returns from war after being gone for over a year. He stops at the Bucket of Blood looking for a drink and whore for the night.
A mistaken identity turns into a night of passion that both Roe and Sapphire will never forget.
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Excerpt for Sapphire:
Late September, 1356
Lady Sapphire pulled the hood of her mantle lower to hide her face as she entered the Bucket of Blood Tavern behind her stableboy, Dugald. She shouldn’t be in town this late at night and amongst commoners, but she was trying to escape her husband, Lord Wretched. That is, the baron. People had no idea what a horrible man he really was. And if he found out she’d ever been here, he’d take his fist to her, she was sure.
Sapphire only wished the marriage had not been so rushed, and that her father and sisters could have been present. Perhaps her father would have stopped the marriage, since the baron was not an original part of the negotiations he’d made with Roe Sexton’s late father, Robert, who died just before her arrival. But she’d been convinced by her dead betrothed’s uncle who was also Robert’s brother, Lord Henry Sexton, that this was the proper thing to do and not to jeopardize the alliance between Blackpool and Rye. Therefore, Sapphire did the deed, to ensure safety to her father’s lands, and especially for the safety of her younger twin sisters, Amber and Amethyst, back home.
She didn’t regret for a moment coming to the Bucket of Blood Tavern, searching for answers. After all, there was nowhere else to go since her own bed was occupied with one of her husband’s latest women. Since he found her body not planted with his seed, his impatience won out and he went on to sample any woman in the castle he could get his hands on. Still, none of them had been impregnated by him.
She was grateful he hadn’t touched her now in over two months, because she wanted nothing to do with the vile man ever again. No woman would ever bear him an heir no matter how many he sampled. God was punishing him for not only bedding every woman in the castle – be she a noble or merely a servant – but also for beating the women when they did not conceive. She’d had her share of bruises from his punishing hand, and knew this is not what she should encounter in a marriage or coupling.
She stopped in the doorway, glancing at the patrons in the dimly lit room. The Bucket of Blood Tavern was a favorite gathering place for sailors and fishermen since it was so close to port. With Rye being one of the Cinque Ports, she realized she’d find many honorable men here who had vowed to protect the channel for their king. Men of the sea filled the tables and wooden benches, also standing at the drink board that served as a counter. The innkeeper handed them ale, wine, brandy, and drinks of many kinds, in tankards made of metal or wood. Each cup had a large curved handle on the side. Women of the night clung to the men, wearing their low-cut gowns, working the room, and trying to earn a living.
The large burly man guarding the door, the bouncer, held out his hand and growled in a low voice.
“Ye know the charge. A hay-p’ny from each o’ ye. Now pay up.”
Like most taverns and inns, there was a petty charge at the door to cover any damages of broken bottles or benches should a patron get rough. And in a place like this, chaos was always evident.
Sapphire slipped two halfpennies to the boy, and Dugald handed them over to the bouncer. The man held out his board of wet wood and, one at a time, bounced the coins atop it to make sure they were real and not made of lead. Satisfied, he nodded and grunted.
“Go ahead,” he said, stepping to the side, enabling them to enter.
She followed Dugald forward into the room, stepping carefully atop the dirty rushes spewed across the floor that looked and smelled as if they hadn’t been changed in years. She wondered what rancid scraps of food or how much spittle lay hidden beneath them.
Sapphire felt nervous, yet excited at the same time. ’Twas far from proper to be sneaking out of the castle and coming here in disguise, but she just had to feel alive outside the clutches of her doomed fate. She’d convinced the stableboy to help her sneak away and to bring her to the tavern that also served as an inn. He’d even supplied the commoner’s gown she now donned to protect her identity.