First Kiss Friday – Arucard by Barbara Devlin

Today’s First Kiss Friday featured guest is Barbara Devlin, author of historical romance Arucard.  Welcome Barbara!  Arucard is one of the novels featured in the new boxed set Tall Dark and Medieval!

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Arucard-KindleA bit about Arucard

WANTED: DEAD OR ALIVE.

It is the year of Our Lord 1307, and by papal decree, Templar Knight Arucard de Villiers is a hunted man. One of a handful of mariners to escape the Inquisition and Philip the Fair’s treachery, Arucard sets sail for England, where good King Edward II has outlawed torture. While the Crown is more than happy to offer exile and create a new Order to accommodate the famed warriors of the Crusades, such assistance comes with a price. But is the cost one Arucard is willing to pay?

The world in which Isolde de Tyreswelle exists defines her as chattel. Nothing more than a means to an end, she is a puppet in her unscrupulous father’s dastardly play and is thrown into the courtly arena. To further her family’s political aspirations, she is betrothed to a man she has never met and, with her husband, must fight to survive the intrigues and betrayals of her new life. With good reason, she fears men. Can Isolde learn to trust Arucard before they are destroyed by their enemies?

First Kiss in Arucard

As she scanned the witnesses, she wondered when her groom would arrive.  Hoping for an aged, dull, and feeble noble in search of an heir, a chatelaine, and naught more, and possessed of a deep-seated abhorrence for belts, she assessed the spectators, but none met her low but reasonable expectations.  Perchance her intended had no penchant for punctuality.

“Now then, as both parties art present, let us begin the ceremony.”  Archbishop Winchelsea held up a leather bound tome and cleared his throat.  “Prithee, join hands.”

When the tallest, most colossal giant stepped to the fore, a harsh realization dawned, and Isolde emitted a whimper.  Uttering a silent entreaty for mercy, as she would never survive one of his lashings, she retreated in panic, but Father shoved her forward, into the enormous arms of her future husband.

“My lady Isolde, art thou unwell?”  With tenderness of which she had not thought him capable, her soon-to-be-spouse held her upright.  “Dost thou require a moment of rest, as thither is a small bench around the corner, whither thou might take thy ease?”

“What my daughter needs is strict authority to reinforce obedience.”  Sneering, Father adjusted his cloak.  “Heed my advice, Sir Arucard.  Spare not the strap, as she is a willful sort.”

With that she teetered, but the knight extended unshakeable support.

“How very kind of thee to offer sage counsel, Lord Rochester.  But whither I come from, we shield our women.”  So her new master was called Arucard, and she favored his judgment and his name, as well as his rich baritone.  “We do not batter them.”

“That may be, but thou art in England, now.”  A telltale red hue spread across Father’s face, as he stuttered and stammered, and she was grateful she no longer shared his house, but she worried about the servants who often bore the brunt of his ire in Isolde’s stead.  “And thou must honor our traditions.”

“Allow me to assure thee, I am aware of my locale, Lord Rochester.”  Twining his fingers in hers, Sir Arucard peered at her and smiled.  “But I would argue thither is little honor in such barbarity.”

“Thank thee for thy concern, my lord Arucard.”  In that instant, she decided, were she given a choice between the two, she rather preferred her knight, despite his immensity, as his proclamation did much to soothe her frazzled nerves.  And in light of her father’s reliable temper, she opted to hope for a new and better future.  “We may commence the service.”

Without further ado, the archbishop flipped through the parchment, until he found his mark.  “Dearly beloved friends…”

And in the next hour, Isolde became a wife to a creature she knew not.

In true English tradition, the actual nuptials took place outside the Chapter House.  Listening with determination, she made her vows, repeating the archbishop’s pronouncements with care and nary a misstep.  With the King in attendance, her husband lifted her veil.  For a few minutes, he simply scrutinized her.  Then he bent and pressed his lips to hers.

Theirs was not the most romantic kiss, as they were, for all intents and purposes, utter strangers.  But she viewed the simple formality as the beginning, of sorts, to a long journey; the destination of which she pledged would end in friendship.  Again, she kept her presumptions modest, as never would he love her, and she was not so naïve to set such lofty aspirations that would only result in desolation and disappointment.  If they could form an abiding connubial bond based on mutual respect, she would be content.

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