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A Love for All Time

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en Limba Engleză Paperback – September 2001 – vârsta de la 18 ani
In this sweeping historical epic featuring Skye O'Malley's brother, Conn, Bertrice Small-the "reigning queen of romance" (Literary Times)-chronicles the lives of two lovers separated by the royal deceptions of 16th century Europe...
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ISBN-13: 9780451204745
ISBN-10: 0451204743
Pagini: 520
Dimensiuni: 152 x 233 x 28 mm
Greutate: 0.54 kg
Editura: New American Library


"Bertrice Small doesn't just push the limits, she reinvents them." Literary Times

"Bertrice Small creates cover-to-cover passion, a keen sense of history and suspense." Publishers Weekly

Notă biografică

Bertrice Smallhas written thirty novels of historical romance and two erotic novellas. She is a New York Times bestselling author and the recipient of numerous awards. In keeping with her profession, Bertrice Small lives in the oldest English-speaking town in the state of New York, founded in 1640. Her light-filled studio includes the paintings of her favorite cover artist, Elaine Duillo, and a large library—but no computer as she works on an IBM Quietwriter 7. Her longtime assistant, Judy Walker, types the final draft. Because she believes in happy endings, Bertrice Small has been married to the same man, her hero, George, for thirty-eight years. They have a son, Thomas, a daughter-in-law, Megan, and two adorable grandchildren, Chandler David and Cora Alexandra. Longtime readers will be happy to know that Nicki the Cockatiel flourishes along with his fellow housemates, Pookie, the long-haired greige and white, Honeybun, the petite orange lady cat with the cream-colored paws, and Finnegan, the black long-haired baby of the family, who is almost two.


“Incompetents!” shouted the queen, and she threw her workbasket across the room. “I am surrounded by incompetents!” A movement by the corner of her eye caught her attention, and she turned to see her favorite page, the thirteen-year-old Earl of Lynmouth, waiting patiently for the royal storm to subside. “What is it, Robin?” she demanded in harsh tones, but young Robin Southwood knew that she was not angry at him, and so he gave her a dazzling smile. “The newest royal ward has just arrived from the country, madame,” he said.
“God’s foot! Another one? Well, tell me, lad! Is my newest charge male or female? Yet in nappies, or out of them? Give me a name. Some hint or clue as to this latest in my long line of royal responsibilities.” Her lips were now twitching with amusement seeing the laughter in the boy’s lime-green eyes.
“It is a young lady, madame. She is Aidan St. Michael, the heiress and only living child of Payton St. Michael, Baron Bliss. Her home is near Worcester. The baron’s estates border on my mother’s home.”
The queen thought a moment, and then nodded. “Lord Bliss’ family is originally of good London stock,” she said. “The family has always supported the ruling monarch, and stayed free of court entanglements to my knowledge. Well, Robin Southwood, fetch her in to me. I would see this orphaned heiress.”
The boy bowed himself from her presence, and Elizabeth Tudor smiled to herself watching him go. He grew more like his late father every day, although he had greater warmth than Geoffrey had had at that age. That was due to his mother, that Irish vixen, Skye O’Malley, now married to Adam de Marisco, and exiled from court with her husband to the royal estate of Queen’s Malvern.
I miss her, thought the queen. Our whole relationship has been difficult, and yet I miss the excitement that always surrounds dear Skye. Her glance took in the other women in the room, and she snorted softly to herself. With few exceptions they were a bunch of silly cows who giggled and minced their way through her court seeking husbands. Most of them had the barest of educations, and could converse on nothing but men and fashions, and the latest gossip. She knew that behind her back they mocked her, and made fun of her despite her sovereignty over them. They did not dare to do it to her face, for even they understood her power, the power of life and death that she held over them all. Still, she had few real friends among her women. They but served her to advance either themselves or their families.
The door to the queen’s dayroom opened to re-admit young Robin, and two other women, one young, one in her late middle years. The younger woman was attired in a high-necked black velvet gown of dated design, but excellent quality. Upon her head was a white linen cap edged in lace. Immediately the queen’s women ceased their chatter, and looked bright-eyed at the visitors.
“Madame, this is Mistress St. Michael,” Robin said.
Aidan curtsied prettily as did her companion. The older woman, however, was obviously stiff in her joints, and needed her mistress’ help to arise. This caused the queen’s ladies to giggle, and Aidan’s cheeks flushed, embarrassed.
The queen shot the women an angry look for she disliked such unkindness. “You are welcome to court, Mistress St. Michael,” she said. “I did not know yer father, but yer family’s good reputation precedes ye.”
“Yer majesty is most gracious,” Aidan replied.
“Now,” said the queen, “the question is what are we do to with ye.”
“If I might serve yer majesty,” Aidan said sincerely, “I should count myself content.”
There was a sharp giggle at Aidan’s words which caused her to flush once more, and eyes narrowing the queen sought out the culprit, a dainty girl with a rosebud mouth and sunshine-yellow hair. “Ye find Mistress St. Michael’s desire to serve me amusing, Mistress Tailleboys?” the queen purred, and the Countess of Lincoln, who was the queen’s close friend, suddenly looked up and across the room at the newcomer.
Now it was Mistress Tailleboys who reddened, and stammering she attempted to excuse her rude behavior. “N-nay, madame, ’twas just that her gown is so old-fashioned.”
“Fashion,” said the queen archly, “is something I will admit to yer knowing. Fashion and loose behavior, Mistress Tailleboys.”
Now the miscreant paled. Did the queen know about her recent assignations with Lord Bolton? How could she know? It was not possible, and yet sometimes it seemed as if the queen knew everything. She bit her lower lip in vexation. What could she say to her mistress?
Seeing the fourteen-year-old maid of honor hesitate, the queen knew she had hit upon something. So the wench is lifting her skirts behind my back, is she? Elizabeth hated it when her women played the wanton, and far too many of them did these days. “Are ye not responsible for my workbasket, Mistress Tailleboys?” she demanded.
“A-aye, yer majesty,” came the nervous reply.
“And yet just minutes ago I sought to find something within that very basket, and it was a jumble with nothing in its proper place. It would appear, Mistress Tailleboys, that yer interests lay in other directions than serving yer queen. Since that is so, ye are dismissed from my service, and ye will return home immediately, this very day.”
With a shriek of dismay Althea Tailleboys flung herself across the queen’s dayroom, and at the queen’s feet. “Oh, please, yer majesty,” she cried, “do not send me home in disgrace! What will my parents say? How can I explain to them?”
“Ye will not need to,” came the terrifying reply. “I will send a letter along with ye explaining my reasons for yer dismissal; expressing my displeasure at yer lack of manners, yer unkind heart, and yer lewd behavior with a member of my court who shall remain nameless.”
Mistress Tailleboys swooned at the queen’s feet with a sound that was somewhere between a cry and a moan.
“Remove that baggage!” snapped Elizabeth to the other maids of honor who had watched wide-eyed as one of their privileged number was lashed by the queen’s sharp tongue. Each of the others was grateful that it was not she who was the queen’s victim, and in unison they hurried to do their mistress’ bidding, lest they incure her further wrath, lifting the dainty Althea Tailleboys between them, and stumbling from the room with her prone form.
“Mistress St. Michael,” said the queen, her voice more kindly now. “Ye will take Mistress Tailleboys’ place amongst my maids of honor, and my workbasket is now in yer charge.”
“They will not like me for it,” Aidan heard herself saying.
The queen chuckled. “No,” she replied, “they will not, but they will tolerate ye because I have favored ye.”
The Countess of Lincoln now moved forward. “Forgive me, madame,” she said, “but I believe I am related to Mistress St. Michael. Are ye not the daughter of Payton St. Michael, and Bevin FitzGerald, my girl?”
“Aye, m’lady, I am,” Aidan replied.
The countess turned her attention to the queen. “Bevin FitzGerald was my cousin, madame. It was I who arranged her marriage to Lord Bliss many years ago.” She looked again at Aidan. “Both yer parents are dead?”
“Aye, m’lady. My mother and twin sisters when I was ten. My father just a month ago.”
“Are ye impoverished?” came the next question as the Countess of Lincoln wondered whether the queen would make the Clintons financially responsible for the girl. She was relieved when Aidan said,
“Nay, m’lady. I am not impoverished.”
Interesting, thought the queen. She does not wish to discuss her financial status with her relative. “All but Mistress St. Michael, and Robin are to leave me now,” she said, and the Countess of Lincoln, and the two other ladies in the room curtsied themselves out of her presence. “Bring us some wine and biscuits, Robin,” the queen commanded. “Ye may be seated, Mistress St. Michael. Take that high-backed stool there. I want to know about ye.
“Now,” said Elizabeth Tudor, “who is this lady who guards ye?”
“She is Mag, my tiring woman. She came from Ireland with my mother, and served her until she died.”
“And why were ye so reluctant to tell Lady Clinton of yer finances?” Aidan looked to Robin, but the queen said, “He has heard far more sensitive information than ye will divulge to me, my dear, and has always been most discreet. He will say nothing of what passes between us.”
“Lady Clinton knows little about my family other than the fact she arranged my parents’ marriage, madame. She did it in gratitude for a loan my father made to her husband many years ago. A loan arranged at no interest to Lord Clinton. My father had been widowed after many years of marriage, and no surviving children. When Lady Clinton offered him a favor in return for his favor he asked her if she knew of a woman he might wed. My mother was the daughter of Lady Clinton’s cousin, and had no dowry to offer either a husband or a convent. Lady Clinton knew my father would be pleased to be related to her family despite my mother’s dowryless condition, and so the match was made. Afterwards, however, we never saw them.
“I am, yer majesty, a very rich woman, but I do not want the knowledge of my wealth bruited about yer court. My father has asked that ye find me a husband, and indeed I hope that eventually ye will; but I have never been away from my home, and although I admit to having resisted my father’s will in this matter, he was indeed correct when he promised me I should enjoy traveling, and the many new experiences I should find with ye. Still, I have never been courted by a man before. I have no experience in matters of the heart, and I am fearful of being taken advantage of by the sophisticated gentlemen of yer court.
“If my wealth were known, I should undoubtedly be overwhelmed by suitors seeking my gold rather than my heart. My lack of knowledge would make me prey to the guileful. If, however, my wealth is not known, then any who seek my company will do so out of a genuine caring for my person, and not my purse. For now, however, I am more than satisfied to serve my queen as best I can.”
Elizabeth Tudor nodded slowly. The girl has a brain! She was not to be burdened with some flibbertigibbet of a wench this time. Was it possible she might even be educated as well? It was too much to hope for, but the queen asked anyway. “Have ye studied at all, Mistress St. Michael?”
“Aye, yer majesty. I speak Greek, and Latin, as well as French; and a bit of German, Spanish, and Italian. I can also read and write in these languages as well as our own.”
“Simple, as well as accounts,” was the answer.
“Ye’ve studied history?”
“All that the old master from Oxford that my father employed could teach me. I can also compose poetry, dance, sing, and play upon two instruments.”
“They are?”
“The lute, and the virginals, madame.”
“Praise God!” the queen said. “Yer an educated female which means ye’ll have something to talk about other than clothing and men.”
“I’m not very knowledgeable about fashions, madame.”
“Yer father has asked that I find ye a husband?” The queen smiled at Aidan.
“Aye, madame.”
“And ye wish it so?”
“I would be like yer majesty, my own mistress, but I know that cannot be. I must eventually wed. I only ask that ye give me a little bit of time, madame. Besides, as my father was the final male of his line, he requested in his last testament that my husband take our family name, that his baronetcy not die out as did his life.”
“Such a request is not unusual,” said the queen, “and in deference to yer family’s loyalty to my family I will honor that request. Now, Robin Southwood will show ye where ye are to stay here at Greenwich. Return with him as soon as ye have settled yerself. My workbasket is a shambles, Mistress Aidan St. Michael, and ’tis now yer duty to see it neat.”
Aidan stood up, and curtsying to the queen departed the room with Mag. Outside the queen’s dayroom they found the Countess of Lincoln awaiting them. The young earl made the lady an elegant leg.
“Where are ye taking my young cousin, my lord?” demanded Elizabeth Clinton.
“I do not know yet, m’lady. I must find the master of the household, and see where we may squeeze Mistress St. Michael in. The palace, as ye well know, is full to bursting.”
“There is an extra room in the attics assigned to us that we rarely use,” said the countess. “Do ye know the one of which I speak?”
Robin, whose duty it was to know such things, nodded. “I do,” he said.
“Where is yer luggage, cousin?” asked the countess.
“In the courtyard with my coach,” Aidan replied. “My livery is blue and green, and my family’s crest has a ship, a tree, and a red saltaire upon it.”
Robin gave her a quick smile. “I will find it, mistress, and see it gets safely to ye,” and with another smile and a brief bow he was off.
“Come along,” said the Countess of Lincoln to her kinswoman, “and I will show ye the place ye’ll be calling home. It will seem strange at first, my dear, but I came to court when I was just nine, the Orphan of Kildare I was called, and frightened though I was, I managed to survive as ye will too.”
“I have not had time yet to be frightened,” said Aidan honestly. “It is all so very exciting, and so very different from Pearroc Royal.”
“Pearroc Royal?”
“My home just west of Worcester.”
“Well,” said Elizabeth Clinton, “this will be no Pearroc Royal, my dear Aidan. I may call ye Aidan, mayn’t I? And ye will call me Beth?” Without waiting for an answer she continued on. “The court is always overcrowded with those who belong here, those visiting, those trying to belong, and all their servants. Ned, my husband, as the Lord Admiral, has apartments wherever the queen goes, but usually the maids of honor must live their lives entirely in the Maidens’ Chamber unless they have family or friends who can offer them space. The lack of privacy is terrible. I am very happy to be able to offer ye this little room, and it is little, Aidan. Nonetheless I am sure that ye and yer servant will manage. Are ye betrothed?”
“No, Beth. I preferred staying with my father. He was old, and he needed me. His dying request of the queen was that she find me a suitable husband. For now, however, I am satisfied to do what I can to serve the queen.”
“Yer very wise, my dear,” hummed the countess with approval. “Still, we mustn’t allow our lady to forget her promise to yer father, and she might easily do that. The queen doesn’t like her ladies leaving her for marriage. I suppose it is because she isn’t married herself. Whether her attitude stems from jealousy, or merely thoughtlessness, I do not know. How old are ye?”
“Twenty-three this past August nineteenth, Beth.”
“Lord bless me, cousin! Yer a bit long in the tooth, ain’t ye? We had best not tarry too long in finding ye a husband. I will speak to my husband, and we will see what eligible gentlemen are available. Ye’ll probably have to wed with a widower, but then both my first husband, and Ned were widowers when I wed them.”
As she had chattered on, the Countess of Lincoln had led Aidan and Mag up one flight of stairs, and then another, and another, and through a maze of corridors so winding that Aidan despaired of ever finding her way through them again. Finally they stood before a small plain oak door.
“Well, here we are, my dear. Go in, and make yerself comfortable. Young Robin will be along shortly with yer baggage, and he will lead ye back to her majesty,” said Elizabeth Clinton. She gave Aidan a peck on each cheek, and was gone around the corner before the girl might say a word.
The more practical Mag threw open the door to the offered chamber, and gasped in shock. “God bless me, Mistress Aidan! ’Tis so small ye couldn’t swing a cat in here.”
Aidan peered in dismay, and her heart sank. Mag had not exaggerated one whit. There was but one little window, a tiny corner fireplace, and a bedstead which took up most of the floor space. She shook her head. “If my kinswoman says that it is all that is available, I must believe her, Mag, and be grateful that we have it. The bed will sleep two, never fear. We’ll need each other’s warmth in the night for I fear Greenwich is a damp palace.”
They entered the room, and as they stood awaiting the baggage Mag looked about her with sharp eyes, and sniffed. “This place is filthy. I doubt it’s been cleaned in months, and that mattress has got to go, Mistress Aidan. I’ve not a doubt it’s filled with bedbugs and fleas, nasty diseased creatures!”
Aidan nodded, silently agreeing with her servant. “When the men come with the baggage, Mag, we’ll have them remove the old mattress, and bring water for cleaning. I don’t want my possessions set about until the chamber is clean.”
They stood staring about them for what seemed a very long time, and then suddenly Robin Southwood was standing in the doorway, a smile upon his handsome young face. “Here we are, Mistress St. Michael, yer baggage.”
Mag bustled forward. “Tell yer men to hold off, m’lord,” she said. “I’ll not have my mistress sleeping on yon moldy mattress. I want it removed, and water for the scrubbing down of this room. I’ve no doubt the place is alive with vermin!”
Robin grinned at her. She reminded him very much of his mother’s tiring woman, Daisy, but she was certainly right. His mother had a passion for cleanliness that he had inherited although many of their contemporaries were less than fastidious about their persons and surroundings. Turning he ordered the footmen who had accompanied him to put the baggage down. Then he set them to work removing the old mattress, and dismantling the carved bedstead, and bringing water so that Mag might clean the chamber. “Leave yer cloak with yer woman,” he said to Aidan. “I’ll take ye to the Maidens’ Chamber where ye can wash the dust of yer travels off, and then return ye to the queen. Yer woman will be safe, and I’ll see that a serving wench is sent up to help her.” He turned to a sturdy serving man. “You! Fetch a goodly supply of firewood for Mistress St. Michael’s room, and remain to help her woman.”
“Yes, m’lord,” said the man, and he hurried off to do the young earl’s bidding.
“Ye give orders well,” Aidan observed.
“I am Southwood of Lynmouth,” he said proudly as if that explained everything, and Aidan realized how very much she had to learn. “I have been at court since I was six.”
“I must go back now with the earl,” Aidan said to Mag, who barely nodded, and waved her along. Meekly Aidan followed the boy back through the confusing corridors and down the several flights of stairs.
“It must seem very strange compared to yer home,” remarked Robin, “but never fear, Mistress St. Michael, ye’ll soon find yer way about Greenwich as if ye’d been doing it all yer life.”
“I’m not certain of all the turns yet,” Aidan said, “but at least I know to go up three flights of stairs.”
“I’ll help ye for I well remember my first days here. If one of the other pages hadn’t been kind, I would have been lost.”
He ushered her into a room he identified as the Maidens’ Chamber, and signaling to a serving woman told her to bring warm water that Mistress St. Michael might bathe. To Aidan’s embarrassment Althea Tailleboys and another girl were also in the room, but strangely the deposed girl seemed not to hold any grudge against Aidan.
“Well,” she said, “ye’ll soon envy me safe at home, Mistress St. Michael. Serving the royal bitch isn’t as easy as I expect you imagine.”
“Althea!” chided the other girl. “Do not speak so of the queen.”
Mistress Tailleboys shrugged. “Ye’ll not repeat my words, any of ye,” she said, “and what more can she do to me? I’m ruined! Coming to court was my chance to make a good match. Now my father is sure to marry me off to old Lord Charlton. The dirty lecher has had his eye on me for the last five years.” She shuddered. “Always putting his hands up my skirts when he thought no one was looking. Well, at least I’ve cheated the lustful, old satyr of my virginity. That belongs to Henry Bolton!” she finished on a triumphant note.
Mistress Tailleboys laughed harshly. “Oh, don’t look so shocked, Linnet Talbot! Ye’ve all lifted yer skirts at one time or another.”
“Well, I certainly haven’t!” said Mistress Talbot, but Althea Tailleboys snorted at her friend’s denial.
“I’m sorry ye lost yer place,” Aidan said quietly. “It was not, however, my doing.”
“I know that,” came the reply. “If you’ll take my advice, Mistress St. Michael, ye’ll stay on the good side of the old dragon. She’s as vain as can be, and has a cruel streak, but then ye’ll find that out soon enough.”
There was nothing more to be said, Aidan realized, and so she quickly washed her hands and face in the basin of perfumed water that the serving woman had brought her, and then looking into the mirror the woman held up Aidan sighed. Her hair was a disgrace! Doing the best that she could she tucked the wisps and strands carefully beneath her cap, and looking at herself again shook her head. From the few people she had already seen here at court it was painfully obvious that Mistress Tailleboys’ observation had been correct. Her gown was, if not old-fashioned, dull. The black velvet of the fabric did nothing for her skin, and the high neckline was positively prim compared to what the other women were wearing.
“We must hurry,” Robin said to her gently. “Don’t worry about how ye look. I’ll give ye the name of my mother’s dressmaker.”
She flashed him a quick grin, and Robin thought surprised that Mistress St. Michael wasn’t quite the plain Jane he first thought her to be. With the proper clothing, the right hairdo, and jewels, she would be more than passable. He brought her back to the queen.
“Ahh, my country mouse is back.” Elizabeth, who was now in a good humor, smiled. “Are ye settled?”
“Yes, madame, thank ye. My kinswoman, Lady Clinton, has most kindly given me a tiny room belonging to her husband for my servant and me.”
“Very good,” came the queen’s reply, and then she handed Aidan her elegant workbasket.
Opening it Aidan frowned. “ ’Tis a disgrace, madame. Yer box has not been neatened in weeks. ’Twill take me several days to sort it all out.”
“I will want to work on my embroidery after supper,” the queen said testily.
“Show me the piece, madame, and I shall gather the threads ye’ll need,” Aidan answered calmly.
Across the room Elizabeth Clinton smiled softly to herself. Mistress St. Michael was obviously going to be a credit to the family, and she could not have been more pleased. She must speak to her husband about the possibility of making a good match for the girl. One that would aid their family, and make it more powerful. She cudgeled her brain to remember what she could about the St. Michaels. There had to be money for it was rich merchant stock. There were certainly lands, and as she remembered both the late Lord Bliss and his father had had a mania for adding to the original grant. She couldn’t be certain—after all it had been twenty-four years since they had had any contact with Lord Bliss and his family—but it was very possible that Aidan was an heiress of considerable wealth. She hadn’t been quick to volunteer any information about herself, but thought the Countess of Lincoln, there was plenty of time to learn what she needed to know. In the meantime she must speak to Ned.
When it was time for the evening meal to be served Robin signaled discreetly to Aidan, and took her into the dining hall, showing her where to sit with the other maids. “Ye stay with the queen until she dismisses ye,” he said. “I’ll be there to lead ye back to yer room later.”
“Thank ye, Robin. I may call ye Robin? Yer most kind.”
“Of course ye must call me Robin. All my friends do, and I know already that I can count ye among my friends, Aidan St. Michael.”
Suddenly at the end of the hall there was a disturbance of sorts. Two young men were quarreling noisily, and one of them made to draw his sword. “Not in the queen’s presence!” hissed the other loudly. “I will apologize before I will allow you to ruin yerself that way, man!”
Looking at the man who spoke Aidan found herself unable to turn away. He was without a doubt the handsomest, most beautiful man she had ever seen in her whole life. Dark, dark hair. A tall, perfect form. The face with its high cheekbones, and dimpled chin. What color were his eyes? She was desperate to know, but stood too far from him to be able to see. “Who is that man?” she demanded of Robin.
“Who?” he said not particularly interested in a silly quarrel.
“Over there!” Aidan tried not to be too obvious as she pointed. “The taller of the two. The one who would apologize rather than fight in the queen’s presence.”
Robin glanced to where she indicated, and then he laughed. “ ’Tis my uncle Conn O’Malley.”
“Yer uncle?! He doesn’t look a thing like you!” she protested.
“He’s my mother’s youngest half-brother, and I look exactly like my late father, Geoffrey Southwood,” came the answer.
“I never saw such an attractive man in my entire life,” Aidan almost whispered.
“He’s called the Handsomest Man at Court,” Robin said dryly. “All the ladies make fools of themselves over him. The queen calls him Adonis.”
“It suits him,” Aidan said softly.
—Reprinted from A Love For All Time by Bertrice Small by permission of New American Library, a member of Penguin Putnam Inc. Copyright © 1986, Bertrice Small. All rights reserved. This excerpt, or any parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission.