Journey to Honor (Knights of Honor Book 4)By: Alexa Aston
When twin boys are born, a servant with a grudge switches their birth order . . .
1366 A.D. – Kenric Fairfax is raised as the second son of the Earl of Shadowfaire. The day of his Knighting Ceremony, a tragedy takes place—and Kenric flees the north of England, putting his past behind him as he swears he will never marry. He becomes a trusted knight in service to Lord Michael Devereux, who asks Kenric to lead an escort party from London in order to bring his wife’s sister home to Sandbourne.
Avelyn Le Cler has spent a year as a lady-in-waiting to Queen Philippa and finds the treachery at the royal court not to her liking. She looks forward to a summer visit with her sister Elysande, who will soon give birth to her first child. While journeying from London, Avelyn discovers a secret about Sir Kenric Fairfax that could change his life—if he believes her.
But Avelyn is plagued with doubts since she has no proof to present Kenric. As the couple falls in love, Avelyn knows she must reveal to Kenric the truth she has learned about his birth—even if it costs her everything.
Join Kenric and Avelyn as the truth rips them apart—but their enduring love brings them together again.
Shadowfaire Castle—May, 1342
Gussalen looked down at the woman in the bed, her hair damp with sweat from the many hours of labor she had endured. At least, this time, a child would be the end result. Poor Juliana had lost three babes in the four years of her marriage to The Brute.
“Guss?” Juliana’s voice was barely a whisper now, hoarse from the piercing screams that had gone on since early morn.
“I am here, my lady,” the nurse said. “I will not leave you. I will never leave you.”
She took the noblewoman’s hand and squeezed it encouragingly. Juliana let out a long sigh and closed her eyes, resting them until the next birthing pain struck.
The young woman would deliver soon. Gussalen had grown up accompanying her own mother to hundreds of births until she herself had wed and become a midwife. Her new husband died in an accident less than a month before she gave birth to their child. One look at the weak, mewling babe told Gussalen that the infant would soon follow her husband to the grave. Two days later, the priest buried the child next to her father. Gussalen had wanted to crawl into the hole with them—until word came from the castle.
The baroness’ water had broken.
Gussalen answered the summons and delivered a beautiful, healthy daughter, but she could not save the mother. The master kept her on as wet nurse—and Gussalen never left. She raised Juliana from birth and attended the girl every day. The old lord, who had refused to marry after the death of his beloved wife, had not even let his daughter leave to foster, reluctant to part from his only child. Gussalen had gone from that household to Shadowfaire Castle seventeen years later upon Juliana’s marriage to the Earl of Shadowfaire.
And then the nightmare began.
Within the first week, an array of bruises covered her sweet girl’s body. The earl—tall, broad, and loud—enjoyed dominating women. Juliana had always been a timid flower. Quiet. Thoughtful. Fragile. She endured whatever punishment her new husband doled out in silence.
But the tears came when Gussalen brought a small meal to her mistress’ bedchamber each morning. She couldn’t imagine the horrors the earl subjected his wife to and Juliana never described them. The two women pretended nothing was wrong. She tended to her lady’s body as best she could—all the while cursing The Brute under her breath.
She had seen him pinch the bottom of a passing servant. Watched him push unwilling women into darkened corners while everyone in the great hall ignored what happened. Gussalen had come across the nobleman fondling the breasts of a frightened girl that was no more than half a score.
That was when she put her foot down—and paid the price.
The girl had escaped. The earl had not been pleased. He backhanded Gussalen with such force that she found herself lifted off her feet. Her cheek burned in agony, sliced open by the man’s signet ring. She bore the scar and reminded herself of her hatred toward him every day when she briefly touched her fingers to her face and traced the memory.
Injuring her hadn’t been enough to please The Brute. He had dragged her by her braid to the larder and slammed the door. Tossed her face down across a table and drew her skirts up past her waist. Forced himself upon her. She thought he might rend her in two, but she never whimpered, refusing to give him any satisfaction.
He’d ignored her after that. Gussalen made sure to give him a wide berth.
In her heart, though, she plotted revenge. For herself—and for Juliana. Gussalen thought of poisoning The Brute and smiled when she imagined his twitching body jerk, foam coming from his mouth as everyone in the great hall looked on in horror. Or she would slip into his bedchamber and stab him in the heart, twisting the baselard until the hilt reached his chest. She imagined sneaking down to the stables and loosening his saddle’s straps. Just enough so that it would come apart as he galloped across the field as he led the hunt. In her mind, she pictured him falling from his steed and being trampled by all those behind him, his body broken beyond repair.