Daughters of the Dagger Series
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 pub 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. When he mistakes Sapphire for a whore things go crazy and they end up both sharing a night of passion that they’ll never forget. That is, until he returns to his castle the next day to find her there – and already married.
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Excerpt for Sapphire:
Lady Sapphire pulled the hood of her mantle lower to hide her face as she entered the Bucket of Blood behind her stable boy, Dugald. She knew 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.
She only wished the marriage had not been so rushed, and that her father and sisters would 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. So she’d done the deed, to ensure safety to her father’s lands, and especially her younger twin sisters, Amber and Amethyst back home.
Sapphire didn’t regret for a moment coming to the Bucket of Blood pub, 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, as 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 obviously 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 pub. The Bucket of Blood was a favorite gathering place for sailors and fishermen since it was so close to port. And with Rye being one of the Cinque Ports, she knew 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 and stood at the drink board that served as a counter. The innkeeper handed them ale, wine, brandy, and drinks of many kinds in large tankards made of metal or wood with a large curved handle on the side. Women of the night clung to the men, wearing their low-cut-bodice 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 for each o’ ye. Now pay up.”
Like most pubs, 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. She knew ’twas far from proper to being 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 stable boy to help her sneak away and to bring her to the pub that also served as an inn. He’d even supplied the commoner’s gown she now donned to protect her identity.
Dugald fancied the innkeeper’s daughter, Erin, so when Sapphire offered to pay his entry fee, he’d been more than happy to help her. She’d been here half a dozen times in the past two months, always staying in the shadows and just watching, and letting Dugald talk to the girl who was his own age of six and ten years. While Sapphire was only a few years older than them, she’d always had the nurturing aspect of a mother. And while she wasn’t the eldest of her siblings, she’d still acted the part of mother to each of her three sisters through the years.
She enjoyed getting away from the castle and out amongst people who were more interesting in her opinion. She needed this in her life right now. And so Dugald kept Sapphire’s secret and she kept his.
Sapphire wandered over to the side of the room and slipped into the shadows, trying not to be noticed. She surveyed everyone having a good time, and only wished she could join in on the merrymaking. A minstrel played a lute in the corner with a bard singing out the stories of his travels. Men played cards and gambled coins atop the trestle tables. And they all drank. There was laughing, lots of laughing, as the girls teased the men and the men grabbed them for a kiss or just pinched their bottoms. She watched the lovers disappear one after another up the stairs to the second level, sneaking away to have a tryst. They were coupling, and though the girls did it for coin, at least they seemed to enjoy it, as they always had smiles on their faces. So did the men.
She felt an emptiness gnawing deep inside her heart, wanting to know enjoyment and pleasure from coupling with a man. But Sapphire’s marriage to the baron had proved to be uneventful and unfulfilling in every way. Somewhere along the way in the past few months, she’d started to lose her dream of being happily married to her true love and having a large family, and this bothered her more than anything. She wasn’t one to give up her dreams easily, even when times got rough.
She wondered what it would have been like if her original betrothed, Roe Sexton had not died overseas. Mayhap she could have enjoyed being married and making love then. And mayhap she could have had children, the thing that meant the most to her in all the world.
“There she is.” Dugald’s green eyes lit up as he spied Erin wiping a rag over the counter at the back of the room. Sapphire felt a certain sadness inside her soul, pitying herself, but yet was happy for the young boy. He had been a good friend to her ever since she arrived in Rye. And just in the past few months she’d witnessed his growth spurt, and now he was even taller than her. He had beautiful red hair and his face was covered in freckles. He was a nice boy, and any young girl should be happy to be in his presence.
“Go to her.” Sapphire smiled, knowing Dugald wanted to be with Erin yet felt it his duty to stay and protect the lady of the castle. Never before had he left her out of his sight on these visits, but tonight would be different. The boy deserved some time alone with the girl. Everyone deserved some tiny bit of happiness once in a while. Dugald was more than a boy, as he was a man now. She would give him the opportunity he needed. And hopefully, at least he would have the chance of finding true love, even if she would never know it in this lifetime.
“I’ll be fine, Dugald. Go.” She turned him gently toward the girl. “Just take your time with her, don’t hurry.”
“But m’lady –”
Sapphire hushed him with a finger to her lips. “Please, Dugald, don’t call me that here.” Her eyes scanned the room to make sure no one heard him. “Tonight I’m just another commoner,” she reminded him softly.
“Of course, I forgot, my la-” Dugald stopped himself from using her title and Sapphire smiled.
“I’ll be waiting for you out in the stable. I’ll go check on our horses,” she told him.
Dugald nodded his head and disappeared into the crowd. Sapphire pulled her cloak closer around her as she felt some of the patrons’ eyes upon her. There was no one here for her, she sadly realized. No one that was any different than what she’d left back at the castle. These men were all looking for a whore to satisfy their itch. And satisfied they’d be, and she was happy for each and every one. But she knew not a one of them would ever be able to tell her anything about true love.
“Wench, come give me a kiss.”
She saw one of the dockmen well in his cups looking in her direction, and she knew ’twas time for her to leave. The men hadn’t bothered her before now because she’d always been with Dugald. But tonight was different. She was alone and fair game for any sex-starved man that saw her as a cure to his problem. And though she wanted to feel the ecstasy of making love, it would not be here and with one of these men.
She was headed for the door when one of the drunken patrons grabbed her by the sleeve and spun her around.
“Where are ye goin’ so fast?” the man asked.
Her eyes frantically scanned the room for Dugald. She saw him disappearing out the back with Erin on his arm. It was too late for her to call out to him to help her. Besides, he would never hear her in this madness.
“Let go of me, you swine.”
She tried to shake the man’s grip from her sleeve when one of his friends came up and grabbed her from behind. His hands snaked around her hips as he pulled her closer.
“Stop it!” she screamed, jumping away from him, but the men only laughed.
“Tryin’ ta play hard to get, whore? Well, how bout three on one? I think the French have a name for this game.”
Just then another filthy man with blackened teeth and rotten breath stepped in front of her and started to undo the tie on his hose. Her heart beat furiously and her eyes opened wide, and once again the other two men decided to grab her by the wrists, not enabling her to move. She knew now she was wrong in allowing Dugald to leave her side in a place like this. If only she had her sapphire dagger that her mother had given her as a child. If so, she could protect herself the way her sister Ruby had done, by killing a man in self-defense. She hadn’t even her regular dagger or eating knife at her waist, as she’d changed in such a hurry, she’d forgotten them back in the stable at Rye.
The door swung open at that moment and a group of boisterous, noisy knights entered, cheering and shouting and sounding very drunk.
“Go on in, Sirs,” said the bouncer. “No charge fer the nobility, as always.”
“We beat those damned French at Poitiers,” one called out, handing the bouncer a handful of coins anyway. The man greedily shoved them into a pouch at his side without bothering to bounce them on his board.
“Ground them into the dust, we did,” shouted another knight to the crowd. “You should have seen it, as we were drastically outnumbered, and still managed to come out victorious in the end.”
“Let’s hear it for the longbow,” shouted an archer who’d entered with them, his hand raised in the air with a longbow held high for all to see. The crowd cheered and shouted their praises.
“Hold on,” said another, raising his hand to silence the crowd and regain their attention. “The best part is that the Black Prince captured their king and his son and is holding them for ransom. King John the Good is not faring so good any more, I should say.”
That sent everyone in the room into a joyous frenzy, and they whistled and shouted. Much back-slapping and playful shoving followed as the knights congratulated each other. Several of them tossed coins atop a table and emptied their pouches to display jewelry – some of the great bounty they’d plundered when they’d defeated their enemy across the channel.
A tall, dark, handsome knight wearing a torn and dirtied tunic beyond recognition over a covering of chain mail, stopped just inside the doorway. He was one of the victorious warriors who’d just helped win the battle at Poitiers for King Edward III. He looked weary, yet still held an air of importance about him. He had a mustache and beard and long black hair that lifted with the autumn breeze as his blue eyes swept the room and settled upon her. He was a very handsome man indeed.
She pulled once more against the hold of the men detaining her, trying to free herself and make it to the stable. “Let me go,” she shouted.
“Release her,” ordered the dark knight standing in the doorway. It was only two words, but words that had her captors obeying. The men took their filthy hands off of her and went back to their prospective whores who awaited them in every corner.
She looked up to her mysterious savior, their eyes interlocking, and she smiled and nodded slightly to show her thanks.
“Welcome back, milord.” The innkeeper rushed to the door with a tankard of ale in his hand. He handed it to the knight and half bowed before him. “We thought ye been killed campaigning in France. Ye’ve been gone a long time and we all thought –”
“Well I’m back now, so stop with the idle chatter. I want a room and a whore for the night. Do you have what I need?”
“Aye, milord. The room at the top of the stairs is free,” said the innkeeper with a nod of his head toward the stairway. “And ye know yer always apt ta pick any of m’girls that ye take a fancy to.”
His eyes scanned the room and Sapphire just stood and stared, mesmerized by his domineering presence. He was rugged and handsome. Exciting in a raw sort of way. Yet he held a regal air of nobility. He was a warrior and a protector of her country. He was a brave man who risked his life for others and was well respected. And he also just protected her from her attackers. Why couldn’t she be married to someone like this instead of what she’d gotten?
He walked over to her, several whores rushing up to try to gain his attention in the process. He ignored them, his eyes still fastened upon her. Sapphire felt a flush of heat surge through her body when she realized he was staring at her. She lowered her gaze and looked to the ground.
He stopped right in front of her, and she had no chance to even think of what to do, as he reached up, and with a flip of his hand he pulled the hood from her head, causing her long brown hair to spill forth in the process. She gasped and her hand flew to her hood to try to once again mask her identity, but he grabbed her wrist and looked her in the eye.
“I’ll take her,” he said in a low voice, still holding on to her. The whores grumbled their disappointment and hurried over to the other men who’d just returned from war. The knight started for the stairs, pulling her along with him before she could even react.
“I’m not available, my lord,” she told him, using her free hand to pick up the end of her cloak so she wouldn’t trip, moving so quickly through the crowd.
“I pay twice as much as anyone here,” he said without even looking back at her. He made his way up the stairs with her in tow, his tankard of ale gripped tightly in his other hand.