Lady Philippa is the matchmaker of the castle who likes to throw many festive gatherings and dances. But will Lord Etienne de Beynac, a monk in training, be the most unexpected match of all?
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Excerpt of Matchmade Hearts:
The Boar’s Tusk Tavern, 14th Century, France
Downing his twelfth dram of whiskey, Lord Étienne de Beynac slammed the drinking vessel down on the wooden table so hard that the coins that were stacked up between him and the tavern’s new drinking champion toppled over. “I did it!” he announced, licking his lips, looking the brute right in the eyes. “Now, give me my money.”
“Not yet,” growled the large man, motioning with a nod for the tavern maid to refill his cup once again. His big, bald head seemed to swell out in both directions. Or, mayhap, it was only the fact that Étienne could no longer see straight after the amount of alcohol he’d consumed in the past ten minutes. “We’ll go another round.” A group of drunken men that made up the tavern’s usual customers as well as a handful of prostitutes crowded around the table, making it hard for Étienne to breathe.
“Not before we add to the pot,” said Étienne, pulling out another coin from his pouch, sliding it onto the worn table that reeked from old alcohol and spilled leftover pottage. He had the man right where he wanted him. No peasant would be able to match his bet. The man would have to back down.
“That’s a gold crown!” gasped one of the strumpets, leaning over to see it. In doing so, she gave Étienne a full view down her bodice whether she meant to do it or not. Étienne instantly felt randy and decided he’d have a romp with her before he headed back to the castle. He’d often paid for the company of whores during one of his frequent visits to the neighboring taverns.
“Let me see it,” said a young boy, pushing his way through the crowd, leaning his hands on the table. His dirt-streaked face lifted up and his blue eyes opened wide. The poor thing was dressed in naught but rags and he stunk like a street rat. Étienne recognized him as an orphan who often came to beg at the gates of his father’s castle, Chateau de Beynac.
“I don’t have any more money and you know it,” growled the man sitting opposite to him.
“I see.” Étienne held back a belch, tasting the whiskey for a second time as it rose up as bile to burn like fire at the back of his throat. “Then, I suppose there is naught else to do but to collect my winnings and leave.” He reached out to scoop up the coins from the table, but the brute’s hand swiftly moved to his waist belt. He was going for his dagger!
In one quick motion, Étienne drew his sword from under his long cloak and jumped to his feet, knocking over the table in the process. One of the women screamed and the crowd backed away from the impending fight. The coins from the table hit the floor with a loud clinking noise and started to roll in all directions. The patrons bent over to steal as many of them as they could, stuffing them into the pockets of their ragged clothing.