Everyone has secrets.
It was so unfair. Rebecca was sure that after Quintin died, she would be safe. Now, here she was, about to be married again by order of King Henry. There were too many problems, too many secrets that needed to stay hidden. This marriage would threaten those secrets and expose them. She was sure of it. While standing before the priest, she quickly thought of and discarded numerous plans. But one thought always came to the fore. What was her new husband going to do when he discovered her shameful secrets?
This is a prequel to The Legacy. This is Rebecca and Rainier's story.
Excerpt from the book:
A pause. "Well, there is Sir William."
Henry gave a snort. "Justin, William is loyal only as long as it suits him."
The secretary looked at the many parchments before him. "Her holdings are quite large. You have many landless knights who--"
"But I need someone I can trust!"
The secretary carefully placed the parchments back on the table, then gave his full attention to the man pacing in the large room. "Your Majesty--"
"I know, I know." King Henry held up his right hand to hold back the speech he was sure his secretary was going to give him. "Is there any news as to who is responsible?"
"None." Justin quickly searched through a number of parchments until he found the right one. "Last month, when his horse returned without him, Sir Richard was found dead in an adjoining field. It is still believed by some that he was thrown from his horse and died when he fell."
King Henry gave another snort. "Sir Richard is...was, an excellent horseman."
"There appeared to be no evidence of foul play."
King Henry gave a heavy sigh. "I know. But it seems that over the past several years, the Castelle family had met with disaster one right after the other. Sir Richard was the last of his family."
"I agree. It is highly suspicious that all four of Sir Philip's sons have recently died, including himself. Richard's two sons and daughter drowned last year, and the year before his younger brother Wallace and his family were poisoned."
"I should have known something was wrong when Eric's house suddenly collapsed with him and his wife inside." King Henry rubbed his forehead.
Justin began shuffling through more parchments. "The Castelle family does appear to have had its share of accidents."
"Accidents!" King Henry almost shouted. "Eric's oldest brother Jonathan and his wife were run over with a wagon. His father Phillip fell off a tower. Philip's wife was in Scotland, joined the convent after his death. But she was found dead a few months later in a rockslide. Quintin, Eric's uncle, supposedly died in his sleep, and now Richard! A whole family, wiped out!"
King Henry walked to the tower window and absently looked over the courtyard. People were chatting and laughing with one another. They gave the appearance of having not a care in the world.
"Has there been any more talk about Quintin's death?"
Justin shook his head. "Just a few idle rumors. Most believe that he indeed died in his sleep."
"He never did recover from his injury during that last battle," Henry conceded. He took a sudden deep breath. "I still say Sir Richard did not simply fall off his horse," Henry continued. "He was an expert horseman. I would sooner believe Kyle was thrown off his horse."
"Ah yes, Sir Kyle. If I remember correctly, he is the reason we are having this discussion now."
King Henry looked back at his secretary. A short and stout man, Justin had no distinguishing marks. He looked like everyone else here at court. He would blend in and would almost become unnoticed, except for his countenance. Justin walked with his head held high, his eyes bright and knowing, like he was someone important.
Indeed, Justin was important. He was the secretary to Henry, King of England. And as secretary, he was privilege to information that only Henry himself knew.
And Henry trusted him. Over the years, he had proven himself as loyal as Sir Kyle.
"Aye, you are right," Henry agreed.
"If not for that promise..."
Henry gazed back out the window, his hands linked behind his back. "Most anyone else would have asked for gold, or a title, or an estate."
"He also obviously suspected the deaths as being anything but natural."
"Well, in itself, it is a small enough deed. How long has she been a widow?"
"Two and a half years."
"She is at her Uncle's?"
"Last we heard. And since he is no blood relation, he should be in no danger, if our assumptions about Sir Eric's family are correct."
"Believe me. For some reason, the Castelle family is being systematically eliminated."
"Lord Gerald may marry her off himself," Justin spoke out loud.
"But to whom? Would he be as loyal as Kyle? Would he be able to protect her?"
"Since she was only married to Quintin Castelle, she may not be targeted. After all, she is no blood relation to the Castelle family."
King Henry shook his head. "There have been others of Castelle's family who were not blood related, and have met similar fates. I cannot take that chance. When I rewarded Kyle for his continuing loyalty, I told him to ask for anything."
Justin smiled at a thought. "He could have asked for your throne."
King Henry secretly smiled. "He has been in my service since he proved himself at his first battle. Men who value loyalty and honesty are rare these days. Most men prefer to lean toward the winning side. I have only a handful of knights that, without a second thought, I would place my life in their hands."
"Are any of them looking for a wife?"
King Henry stared at his secretary for a moment, then shook his head and chuckled. "Why am I thinking that giving Kyle half my kingdom would have been far easier?"
Henry was watching the crowds below as people continued to talk, the new ones entering the courtyard being greeted by friends and family and being introduced to new people.
A woman's laughter drew his attention to the couple sitting off to the side, secluding themselves from everyone else.
Henry's eyes narrowed.
Yes, he would do. His lands were not so far from hers. Most importantly, he was someone he could trust. His men were strong enough to keep her safe, if what both he and Kyle believed was true--and he was sure of it. She was the last link to her deceased husband's family.
Which meant eventually an attempt would be made on her life.