Cerise Deland
At Her Service

At Her Service

Swords of Passion, Book 1
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The one man Elise Dumond has always craved is the one man she should not have in her bed—or in her heart.

Elise Dumond has always done her duty to her aging husband. But when the lovely Countess learns her dying spouse has paid a bounty to her childhood friend to father a child with her, Elise trembles at the prospect of being possessed by the famous knight who is now a legendary lover.

Simon de la Poer is determined to claim Elise in all the imaginative ways he has yearned for these past ten years. As he teaches her the joys of exotic pleasure, she revels in their passion. Their rekindled love burns fast and bright, inciting their enemies to try to tear them apart with lies—and murder.

Reader Advisory: This book contains scenes of ménage, and light BDSM.

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Winter, 1207.

Cumbria, The Marches, England.

The smoke from the tapers made her guests’ eyes water, and though she brushed a finger under her lashes to rid herself of one tear, Elise Dumond could still see Simon de la Poer at the back of the great hall. God preserve her, she would see him if her eyes were closed. If she were blind. Indeed, if she were dead, she would see him in hell. And, oh, would it not be sweet succour to die and know she would remain in his company forever and end this torture of being parted from him for all these endless years?

She fiddled with the stem of her goblet and drank back more red wine. Then drank again, unnerved by the sight of the man who had taken her in his arms as a youth and put his firm, hot lips to her own with sweet promises of a lifetime of love.

Who had he delighted like that these past twelve years?

Ha! She took another draught.

Who had he not ravished in his bed? In Londontown, the fabled knight Simon de la Poer was reputed to have bedded any woman of noble birth desirous of spreading her legs for him and paying him her weight in gold to compensate him for his services. Elise caught back a sob of jealousy for all those women he’d touched, for all those he had kissed and to whom he’d whispered pretty words of devotion as once he had to her.

She put forth her cup for the maid to refill. The girl scurried over, understanding her mistress was in the mood to drink. Drink myself to distraction. Drink myself to oblivion.

Unbidden, her eyes drifted towards the back of the hall, past the tiny man and the tall, dark Oriental who were Simon’s odd companions. Her gaze locked on the man she wished she did not see.

Christ in His Glory, this man was unmistakably the warrior they called Knight Divine. Simon de la Poer, who had earned his moniker attacking the Infidel in Jerusalem with his lord King Richard of England, possessed all the imposing aspects of a man with whom any woman would desire a night in heaven. He had matured to a massive build. Tall as the sconces, broad in the chest as two men, muscular in his black velvet tunic, his grey hose hugging his bulging calves, he seemed Herculean.

She wished she could tear herself away from eating him up with her eyes. Wished she could ignore his quicksilver stare that met her own. Wished she could refuse her husband’s order to offer up her immortal soul to keep what was hers here on earth. Yet she had no choice but to obey her husband and strip herself bare then lie down with her noble lord in their marriage bed tonight—and invite Simon de la Poer to join them.

Her future depended on her cooperation. Her ability to continue to live here until she died, in the grand keep with retainers and serfs to do her bidding, required it. Aye, she had ranted and raved against her husband and his plan these past two months. Still, Alphonse, earl of this estate and master at Atherton, brooked none of her objections. He had written to London, summoned Simon here to the wild, frozen north-western climes. And now tonight, she faced climbing into bed with her husband of twelve years, a randy but dying man, then giving herself to the famed knight, who once was her childhood friend fostered in her father’s castle.