Second in Command Series
A man still carrying the torch for a past flame realizes love is in the present instead of the past when he meets a handmaid who steals his heart.
Excerpt from Forbidden: Claude
Port of Sandwich, England 1294
Claude Jean Montague returned to England only to have his heart broken once again.
Love hurt. Claude learned this at the young age of five and ten years when he had his heart broken the first time by Lady Rose of Sandwich. Daughter of Baron Conlin de Braose of the Cinque Ports, Rose had shown kindness to Claude when he and his mother first arrived in Hastings from France, eight years ago. It had been during a trying time in Claude’s life because that was when he first met his father. He had hoped to one day marry the girl, but she had eyes for her father’s squire, Toft, instead.
Had Claude known he was about to walk right back into the hardships of the past and that it would bring all those old feelings rising to the surface again, he never would have agreed to make the trip to England to celebrate his younger sister’s birthday.
Having sailed to Sandwich from France where he’d been living for the past six years, Claude had plenty of time to think about the girl he once loved. But Rose was married to someone else now, he reminded himself. She wouldn’t feel the same way about him that he felt for her. This fact was hard to accept.
“Mon Seigneur, nous approchons les quais de Sandwich,” Claude’s squire so generously pointed out they had approached the docks. Claude didn’t speak his native language much anymore. Even though he’d returned to his homeland of France when he inherited his late grandfather’s castle and demesne, he felt like more of an Englishman than French after finding out that Baron John Montague of Hastings was his father.
“Oui,” Claude answered. “Felix, it would be better if we spoke in English while we are on English soil,” he pointed out. “My father is not fond of the French language.”
“Aye, my lord,” said Felix.
Claude’s eyes fixated on Briarbeck Castle in the distance as the ship sailed into the harbor. Rose would be there with her husband, Toft. His heart sped up. He longed to see her but dreaded it at the same time. Confusion welled within him. The flame of love still burned in his heart for Lady Rose, inhibiting him to take a wife even though he was already three and twenty years of age. Rose didn’t see him in the same light. She considered them naught but friends. Her love was only for her husband, Toft.
The ship docked, and Claude made his way to the boarding plank to disembark.
“The docks are crowded today, my lord,” said his squire, carrying Claude’s travel bag over his shoulder as they headed down the pier. Sandwich was a major port of trade and one of the Cinque Ports along with New Romney, Dover, Hastings, and Hythe. Claude’s father was the Baron of the Cinque Ports of Hastings, but he resided in Winchelsea now that Hastings was too silted up for ships to dock. A storm eight years ago ruined the harbor, and took many lives as well as dumped half of Castle Hastings into the sea. His father had a hard time coming to terms with the fact he had lost his prestigious castle to an act of God.
Heartbreak was no stranger to Claude’s family. Claude’s sad and lonesome childhood and his mother’s stories of watching her mother burn at the stake were things that haunted him yet. He wished he could forget them forever.