Adrian stood sipping from his goblet and gazing at the painting above the fireplace in his bedchamber while he thought about the course his future might take now Queen Mary’s tyranny was buried with her. The beautiful face in the portrait was one he had not seen for far too long and the last time he had, those blue eyes were sad, not sparkling as the clever artist portrayed them with his brushes and oils.
Losing her had left him cold and occasionally something would remind him of his own sin against her and he regretted his actions, even the ones he could not have avoided. He could not have refused Queen Mary’s summons to court, could not avoid taking the position offered to him by her chief advisor, a man who almost ended his days on a headsman’s block. Adrian might well have met a similar end had fate not taken him to the palace in time to witness his arrest.
It had been a terrifying five years, more so since Queen Mary had singled him out for attention. That was the beginning, that is when he lost Elizabeth, for her past heartache would never allow her to believe in him.
He could scarcely believe it was over. The reign of religious zeal, the stench of burning flesh hanging in the air over London, all finished and a new Queen upon the throne of England, a Protestant Queen who would rule fairly, God willing.
He went to lie on his bed and stare up at the canopy above him, his hands behind his head, and remember the years since his father died, since he had last laid eyes on his brother. It always happened while he lie awake at night, that he would try desperately to find a way he could be with his wife once more.
His thoughts took him to the young girl he should have married had things gone to plan and if they had, he would never have met Marianne, would never have rescued her from the sordid life to which she had been condemned. Neither would he ever have met and fallen in love with Elizabeth.
As the heir to the title and estate, he had been promised to another maiden when she was but a child. Everything had been arranged in the traditional manner and the girl, little Lady Frances, had been sent to live with Adrian’s family when she was but ten years old, to be raised by them.
Adrian was four years older and although he had little interest in a child so young, the couple got on well enough together and he had been happy with the arrangement. He assumed she was also happy, but he never bothered to enquire. Frances was a pretty maid and sweet natured, with bright blue eyes and light blonde hair. Strange how the loves of his life had all been blonde, with those pretty blue eyes of varying shades.
They had not spent much time alone together as they had little in common and even when they rode over the estate, there were servants following them. There had been no chance for anything intimate to take place; it was the duty and responsibility of his mother to make sure of that and to keep Lady Frances chaste and pure until the marriage. To be honest, Adrian had never thought of such a thing. He still regarded her as a child, as a little sister almost, until shortly before the wedding.
He wondered later if perhaps he should have, if perhaps he should have made opportunities to be alone with Frances, to at least discover how her lips would taste, but the inclination was never there. He assumed it would come, once they were wed. Then intimacy would happen, would be thrust upon them, and he was content to wait. Again, he assumed she felt the same; it seemed he assumed too many things.
The betrothal ceremony had gone well, the date was set for the wedding and both young people seemed content with the arrangement. The young King Edward VI had reigned for six years and had changed England’s religion, had made the final break with the Catholic Church and declared the nation to be Protestant. Adrian’s father agreed but would have gone along with him even had he not; religion was not a prominent concern for him or for his sons although they would prefer to keep the Protestant faith.
So Adrian was all set to marry Frances and he recalled the conversation he had had with his brother about his own future, after the betrothal.
“Once I am wed,” he told him, “we will have to do something about finding a suitable bride for you.”
Mark frowned at him, making him wonder if he already had someone in mind.
“I would prefer to find my own wife, Adrian,” he replied. “I am sure there are many fine maidens I can choose from.”
“You have someone in mind?”
Mark was thoughtful for a few moments as he looked away.
“Perhaps,” he said. “We shall see.”
It was unlike Mark to keep secrets from his brother. They shared everything, all their little conquests and defeats, and Adrian could not help but wonder why he was reticent to reveal his future plans.
“Well, do not leave it too long or all the eligible ones will be taken.”
Mark was silent, gazing thoughtfully at his brother as though he had something to ask, but was unsure if he should. At last he made up his mind.
“How do you feel about Frances?” He asked abruptly.
Adrian frowned, not really sure he understood the question.
“How do I feel?”
“Yes, how do you feel? Do you love her? Do you imagine what it will be like to have her for your wife, do you anticipate the experience with pleasure?”
Mark’s tone was angry, but Adrian could not understand why that should be. Could it possibly be that he was jealous because their parents had taken a lot of trouble to procure a suitable bride for his brother, but not for him? It seemed unlikely. Mark must understand that as the heir, Adrian’s future had to be carefully planned.
“What a very odd question,” Adrian answered. “I am not sure I feel anything. She is a sweet girl and will make me a good wife, I am sure. What else is needed until we are married? I am not at all sure where your questions are leading.”
Mark stared down at his wine goblet, swirled the liquid about and sighed deeply.
“No matter,” he said at last as he got to his feet and left the room.
Adrian shrugged. No doubt the talk of a marriage had unsettled his brother, made him realise they were no longer children, no longer playmates and friendly companions together and there would soon be a third person in their lives.
The wedding arrangements were interrupted when the King died but for a little while, Adrian thought his death would have little effect on him or his family. They might have to postpone the wedding, as a sign of mourning, but apart from that there was little to concern them. The King’s cousin, Jane Grey, was declared Queen and the Earl of Kennington and his two sons went about their normal everyday business without concern.
But Queen Jane sat insecurely on the throne. Her reign was brief, lasting but nine days, and when the King’s sister, Mary Tudor, rode into London to claim her crown, their complacency was shattered. She would need the support of all her Earls and anyone who did not show that support, would be under suspicion of treason.
Adrian’s father was ill, very ill. They had no idea what ailed him, but he was in no fit state to make the journey to London. Adrian would have to go in his place, would have to ride in the coronation procession and feign the support of the whole family for a Catholic monarch who would shatter their lives and turn them inside out.
They were a prominent Protestant family and had given fervent support to both the young King Edward VI and his cousin, as well as the old King’s last wife who was fiercely Protestant. To have to pretend devotion to a Papist Queen would not be easy, but it had to be done if he and his family were not to lose everything, including their lives. Mary had promised religious tolerance, but no one really believed she would keep her promise, least of all Lord Kennington and his sons.
The journey to Whitehall was but half a day’s ride and they had been allotted chambers in the palace. Adrian would share with his brother, while his betrothed and her ladies would sleep in another chamber. They would stay but two nights. Tomorrow would be the procession and banquet then the coronation the following day. They did not want to be away from their father any longer, for fear of what they might find on their return.
It was a restless night, during which Mark mumbled in his sleep a lot, causing Adrian to keep waking. He tried hard to decipher what his brother was saying, something about it not being fair, but each time he had failed and ended by giving him a sharp nudge to shut him up.
Adrian rode for a short time beside the open carriage which carried his brother and his betrothed, then he walked his tall stallion to the front of the procession to represent his father, to give support to this new Queen. His attention was fully engaged for a little while in surreptitiously scrutinising her, in studying her lined features and her wide, staring eyes. She wore a purple gown of elaborate design, and a coronet so heavy she had to keep it in place with her hand.
He thought about the Queen’s age mostly; she was obviously past the age of child bearing which would mean hope for Protestants everywhere. So engrossed was he, he missed the fond smiles exchanged between his brother and his betrothed, neither did he see the intertwining of their little fingers as they sat too close together on the velvet cushions on the carriage seat.
Behind the Queen rode her half-sister, Elizabeth, who shared an open carriage with the Princess Anne of Cleves, King Henry’s fourth queen whom he discarded without hesitation. Most of the ladies rode in carriages but there were a small number on horseback and one of them caught Adrian’s eye. She had very dark hair and eyes and she was conspicuous by her sombre countenance. Where most of the people were laughing or smiling, this lady looked not only unhappy, but afraid. He reined in his horse and waited for her to draw level with him before he bowed his head in greeting and rode beside her.
“Forgive me, My Lady,” he said. “Are you quite well? You seem to be distressed.”
“My Lord, thank you for your attention, but I am quite well. I am but a little out of place in this company and my husband is riding beside the Queen’s carriage.”
He turned to look at the front of the procession, at the tall, black stallion and his dark haired rider.
“You are Lady Summerville?” He asked.
“I am. You know my husband?”
“Not personally, My Lady, but he is well known by all.”
He bowed again and kicked on his horse, wishing this day would hurry and be finished. Remembering Lady Summerville’s sombre expression, it seemed he was not the only one who found it difficult to celebrate, to be happy about this occasion.
The colours were glorious, the sumptuous gowns and jewels of the ladies dazzling, and the Queen was cheered all along the procession route to Westminster hall. By the time they reached their destination, Adrian was brushing flowers from his shoulders and his horse, flowers which had been thrown to the Queen despite those blooms being rather expensive at this time of year.
It seemed not everyone was sorry to see the little Papist woman on the throne of England, but Adrian and his family most certainly were.
The banquet was sumptuous but the hall at Westminster was too crowded for conversation and they all returned exhausted to their chambers where they slept well in the palace, despite the noise from the many guests and residents. Once the coronation was over, both Adrian and his brother were relieved to be going home.
“Did you enjoy the festivities, My Lady?” Adrian asked Frances as they rode home in the Kennington carriage.
“I did, My Lord. It was exciting, not something I have ever witnessed before. I am surprised so many people cheered her.”
Adrian raised an eyebrow, not expecting an opinion from this young girl who was to be his wife.
“She is the rightful heir,” he replied. “That is often the most important thing. We shall see what the future holds, but our best plan is to hope nobody remembers us.”
“What do you mean by that?” Frances asked.
Again Adrian raised an eyebrow, but it was left to Mark to give her an answer.
“He means, My Lady, that we had hoped never to see another Papist monarch and rumour has it Mary is more zealous than any other.”
“Do you think she will marry?” Frances asked.
“She might, but hopefully she is past the age of childbearing.” Adrian paused and gave her an indulgent smile. “Now that is over, we must make firm arrangements for our own nuptials. I do not want to wait any longer.”
Frances’ blue eyes widened and she glanced at Mark before turning her gaze to his brother.
“You are impatient to marry me, My Lord?” She asked.
He noticed the quiver in her voice and smiled, assuming it to be the normal way of things. She would naturally be nervous.
“Of course. It is something I have been preparing for these four years past. But I was thinking about my father. I would like us to wed while he can still see it.”
“Of course,” she murmured, her gaze dropping to her hands where they were clasped in her lap. Mark kept his own gaze firmly fixed on the passing scenery while Adrian let his own gaze fall on each of them in turn. He sensed something happening here, something which escaped him. He watched Frances for a few minutes then shrugged and concentrated on the view from the other side of the carriage.
That night, when Adrian had retired to bed exhausted from the tensions of the past two days, Mark crept into Frances’ bedchamber and sat on the bed beside her. She was not asleep; she had too much on her mind to sleep, her thoughts kept racing round in circles and Adrian’s words of that afternoon told her she could no longer pretend her future was not sealed, that she could still choose her own destiny.
“What are we going to do?” She asked Mark now and there were tears brimming in her eyes. “I cannot bear the thought of marrying your brother; I love you.”
“And I you.”
“We should never have allowed it to happen. We should never have given ourselves opportunities to be alone, never have discovered how much we could mean to each other.”
He leaned forward and briefly kissed her lips, took her hand and held it fast.
“You are right, but it is too late now. The betrothal is binding; the wedding is arranged and Mother settled the date with Father Peter whilst we were in London. She told Adrian this evening; it will take place next week.”
Frances gasped and her mouth turned down. Those tears spilled over and made their way down her face and into the folds of her neck.
“No, Mark,” she whispered. “Not so soon. I need more time.”
“I am sorry.”
“I will not do it!” She cried, her voice rising. “Why can we not run away together? If you loved me, you would never allow this.”
He pulled her to him and held her close, his heart racing, his mind a whirl of ideas. How could he make Frances happy without hurting his brother? There was no way, it was as simple as that.
“My father is too ill to withstand the shock of a scandal such as this,” he murmured at last.
Frances clung to him, her tears soaking his shirt. It was not fair! Why should she have to do what everyone else wanted? Why should she have to marry a man who still treated her like the child she was when she came here?
Were it not for Mark, she would be content. Adrian was a good man, but she did not love him and he had never shown the slightest interest in her. The wedding day was so close and all she could feel was dread, all she wanted to do was run away and hide.
She stared at Mark now as he wiped her wet face with a bedsheet.
“And what of you, Mark?” She demanded. “Will you be happy on my wedding night, to know I am lying naked in your brother’s bed? Will you be content that I must let him touch me, I must give myself to him whenever the mood takes him? At least you will know we did the right thing and kept scandal away from the noble name of Kennington.”
Her voice rose, but it was fear and misery which caused it, not anger. She wanted Mark, wanted to feel his body lying close to hers, not his brother’s. How would she endure Adrian’s touch on her secret places, how would she tolerate his kisses when she so desperately wanted those of his brother?
“I will tell him,” Mark said decisively. “I will ask him to release you.”
Frances’ quickly wiped at her face with her fingers and her heart leapt.
“Do you think he will?” She asked hopefully.
“I am not sure. He might, although I do not think he would release you to anyone else. But for me, for my happiness, he might be persuaded.”
“Oh, Mark, if he did…”
She took his hands and held on tight as though they were a lifeline and perhaps they were. She felt she was drowning and he was the only one who could save her.
“If he does, we will have to go away, as we talked about, to the new world. We will not be able to stay in England and it will be a hard life.”
She pushed herself forward and put her arms around his neck to kiss him.
“I will not care how hard it is, as long as I have you. I care nothing for finery and servants, for balls and pleasure. It will be so exciting! We can build a whole new life together.”
“I will ask him tomorrow. But if he refuses, I will not press him. I will not do this without his consent; you do understand?”
“No,” she replied, shaking her head. “Who is more important, Mark, him or me? I know he is your brother, but if you really love me you will want me to be happy. I will never be happy with Adrian, you know that.” She paused and kissed him again, a long, seductive kiss designed to tempt him. “Will you be happy, Mark? Will you be happy watching us together every day?”
“Frances,” he answered, “if he refuses his consent, I will go away. I could not bear to be under the same roof with you and know you belong to him.”
He held her close to him, his heart beating rapidly, and wondered how he would ever be able to give her up.
“We can run away together,” she said against his chest. “We can take ship to the Americas before anyone even knows we are gone. If you do not ask him, he cannot refuse.”
It was just a week before the date set for the wedding when Adrian’s brother came to him with flushed face and bowed head. His conversation of the night before with Frances kept repeating in his mind; he could not bear to see her so unhappy. He made her a promise and now he had to carry out that promise, he had to ask even if Adrian’s answer shattered his world.
He rode for hours that morning in an attempt to delay the inevitable and to give further thought to Frances’ suggestion that they tell no one, just run away together and leave England before anyone misses them. It would be easy enough to do; Mother was hardly seen outside his father’s bedchamber since the old man became so ill and Adrian was often absent from meal times, preferring to carry on working while he ate.
Bringing himself up to date with estate business while father was still able to help him was taking all Adrian’s time. His sense of urgency was well founded, as the old man grew frailer with each passing day.
But would Mark ever be able to live with himself if he did as Frances asked, if they simply left without a word to anyone? Could he steal away his brother’s betrothed and make her his wife without that brother’s knowledge or consent? It would be too dishonourable. But what would he do if Adrian refused? It was the possibility that he might which was delaying him, which was holding him back and making him nervous of putting the question.
He came in from riding to find Adrian lounging in a chair beside the window. He had been thinking about his future as the Earl, had been gazing out across the estate and wondering if he really knew enough to become its Lord when his father died, which was likely to be soon. The Earl was ill, very ill and had lost a lot of weight in recent weeks. He was so skeletal it was astonishing how he stayed on his feet and walked. It was a frightening prospect and a huge responsibility.
His betrothed was but fourteen years old, not nearly old enough to take on the burden of running the household. It was true she would have his mother’s help, but two mistresses of one house could cause problems as well and he freely admitted his mother could be a dominating figure. It would be hard to take his wife’s part against her, but take it he must. Frances would be his wife and as such she was owed his respect.
He had much to think about and had given little thought to the prospect of being married. Life would be different, he supposed, with a woman to think about as well as himself. She might want his company, so his pursuits would have to be curbed a little. He owed her that. Thinking of how his own father gave much of his time to his mother, he knew they had been happy together and he wanted that for himself. His life was about to change for good; he would be the Earl, he would have the responsibility of the estate and all the people who lived and worked on it, as well as the responsibility for someone else’s happiness. That last was a daunting prospect, but he would do his duty by her as he would by his father when the time came.
Now he gave his attention to his brother. It had crossed his mind that Mark could be of help to him when it came to managing the estate; he would have to discuss the matter with him, after the wedding, perhaps assign him duties of his own. That would be better than trying to order him, to oversee what he did. He was not an employee and needed to be treated with the regard his position warranted.
“Mark,” he greeted him with a heavy sigh. “Have you seen Father today? I do not think it will be long.”
“I believe you are right and what I have to say will make the situation far worse, may even hasten the end, but I have to tell you, Adrian,” Mark said. “I can keep it a secret no longer. It would not be fair on either of us.”
Adrian grinned. This shamefaced expression was unlike Mark.
“Keep what a secret?” He replied. “Have you got one of the servants with child? Father is not well enough to hear that.”
“If only it were that simple,” Mark sighed.
“What then? You sound as though you are making a confession.”
Mark’s eyes met those of his brother and he frowned. Adrian had never seen him look quite so grave and now he knew a dart of fear as he wondered what on earth he was about to hear. Had he killed someone? He could not have looked more sombre if he had. A fight, perhaps? An argument over some wench in the town?
At last he spoke, leaving Adrian unsure whether to be relieved or angry.
“It is a confession,” he said, “and there is no easy way to make it. I have fallen in love.”
Adrian smiled but Mark’s expression did not change. There was more to come, much more. At last he realised that whatever his brother had to tell him was not going to be welcome news, not something he could brush aside or buy his way out of. Had he fallen for a married woman, perhaps? Or a peasant? One of the servants? He could stand it no longer.
“Well,” he demanded, sitting up straight at last. “Speak up, man! I take it you have fallen for an unsuitable woman.”
“Well, who for Heaven’s sake?”
Mark swallowed and gave a deep sigh before he answered.
“I am sorry, Adrian,” he said. “I am in love with your betrothed.”
Adrian could only stare at him in shock; this could not be happening! The betrothal was binding, the marriage was already arranged, guests invited. What did Mark hope to gain by telling him this now?
“Frances?” He said and the disbelief was apparent in his tone. “You are in love with Frances?”
“I am and I know she feels the same.”
“Why tell me this? What do you want from me?”
Mark swallowed to give himself courage.
“I am hoping you will release her from her promise to you so we can be married.”
Adrian sank down into the chair, startled out of his complacency, and tried to think of the best way to tell his brother he could not give him what he wanted.
“Mark,” he began. “Her father will never allow it. She is a lady in her own right, betrothed to me because I will one day be the Earl. You know how hopeless this is. The only way he will agree is if I drop dead and leave you as the heir.”
“Please, Adrian, do not tempt fate.”
“Why not? I have been waiting these four years for her to reach an age when I can think of her as a woman, not a little girl.” Adrian’s voice had risen as he spoke and now he scowled in fury as he went on. “How long has this being going on? How long have you known about this?”
“A year or so,” Mark mumbled unhappily.
“All these arrangements, the expense. Everyone knows she is to be mine and now you come and tell me I must be married to a woman, while knowing she is in love with my brother? I will have to subject her to intimacy with me while she recoils from my touch and longs for yours? God’s teeth, Mark! I will feel like a rapist! Would I not have been better knowing nothing?”
“Possibly, but I have to think first of what is better for her. If there is even a small chance you might release her, I have to try.”
Adrian got to his feet and poured himself wine in silence, then took it back to his chair and sank into it. He had no words and his mind was reeling with all the arrangements that had already been made for the wedding, of all the people who would have to be told there would be no wedding. His mother would never recover from the disgrace and Frances’ father would likely never speak to any of them again. He will want to know how Lord and Lady Kennington could so neglect their duty to his daughter as to let this happen and Adrian would not blame them. She was their responsibility; why were they not paying more attention? Why was he not paying more attention?
“Really, Mark,” he said at last. “I have no idea what to say. I wish you had told me this earlier.”
“I am sorry, Adrian. It was not intentional; we thought of all the same things you have, the disgrace, the strain on father’s health, everything. We could have kept our counsel, let you go through with the wedding and we still will if you wish it. We did not intend any of this; we simply grew close to each other and now I am not sure I can live without her. You do not love her.”
“I am fond of her.”
Mark gave a little smile.
“That is as may be, but fond is not enough. I believe you think of her as a sister. Have you even once thought of kissing her? Have you ever wondered what that would be like? Have you ever stirred for her?”
Adrian shook his head, his expression thoughtful.
“No, but I always assumed that would come.”
“She loves me, she will never be happy with you.”
“She is too young to know what she feels,” Adrian snapped at him. “Anyway it is of little use to discuss it. It cannot happen. This news will finish father off, you know it will. The scandal alone will kill him.” He sighed heavily. “Your marriage will never be recognised, you will be outcast. The betrothal is binding.”
“We will go away,” Mark persisted. “We will go to the New World; I hear there is land going spare there and we can build a life together without the constraints of convention. And we will never have to pay homage to this Papist Queen and her idols and superstitions.”
“I would not be too sure about that,” Adrian replied. “There are few English people there, mostly Spaniards and they are as devoted to Rome as the Queen.”
“That may be so,” Mark said. “Yet perhaps being so far away from Rome, they will not have the power to force their superstitions down our throats. Either way, we have little choice. Either we go to the Americas and take our chances, see what sort of life we can build together, or we stay here and the woman I love marries you. The choice is yours.”
Adrian’s eyes met those of his brother and his heart melted. He loved this man and he wanted his happiness above all else; the pleading in his eyes and the sorrow in his tone made Adrian want to hug him. It was within his power to grant his wish, to make him happy, even if he would look a complete fool for allowing it to happen. But what would his own life be like, married to a woman who would resent him for refusing her the man she loved?
“Very well,” he said at last and was pleased to see Mark’s smile of relief. “But you do not have to go halfway across the world. You and Frances will never survive that sort of harsh life.”
“What do you suggest?”
“We can find you a house, up north somewhere…something.”
“No, Adrian. We do not want to spend our lives in hiding, hoping nobody recognises us. And what of our children, should we be so blessed? They will be bastards in the eyes of the church and of society. We have talked about this; it is what we want. Just think! A new country, a land with no constraints, no meaningless conventions, a place where nobody cares who anybody’s family and background is.”
“A land of great danger, so I have heard.” Adrian paused, smiled at his brother. “The decision is yours. I want only your happiness, yours and hers. I will help you all I can, whatever you decide.”
Mark knelt beside his brother’s chair and took his hand.
“But the scandal might touch you too,” he said. “It might make it difficult for you to secure a new match with a woman of quality.”
“I will find someone, Mark,” Adrian replied. “When father dies, which will be sooner than anticipated when he learns of this, I will be one of the most important noblemen in the land, so long as I follow the crown, whoever wears it. But you? You will be outcast, so will she. You will not be able to have a proper wedding here; you will have to elope, run away together while I pretend to be the heartbroken brother who did not see it coming.”
“I told Frances we will not do it without your consent, brother. I love you too much for that and I have no wish to betray your trust.”
Adrian shot him a suspicious look.
“You have not have you? Betrayed my trust? She is still intact?”
“Of course! What do you take me for? I love her. I would never defile her.”
Adrian remained thoughtfully silent for a few more moments then he stood up while Mark also got to his feet. It was true he did not love Frances; that was apparent by his reaction to Mark’s confession. He felt not a spark of jealousy or even disappointment; all he felt was concern for his brother’s happiness.
“Are you certain?” He asked him now. “It might sound like an adventure to live in a strange country and work the land, but the reality will be very much harsher than you expect, for both of you. Has she thought how she will manage, without servants or even cooks? Have you?”
“We have discussed it,” he replied. “We have little alternative. You have never been in love, Adrian; I would rather suffer any sort of hardship than live without her. And to know she is spending her nights in your bed? I will learn to hate you; I shall not be able to help it.”
Adrian patted his shoulder. He understood completely, or thought he did, but he wished he had told him sooner.
“What about the savages I have heard of?”
Marked smiled fondly at him.
“Others have managed; we can too. I love her, Adrian; all I need to complete my happiness is your blessing.”
Adrian pulled his brother into his arms and hugged him tightly, knowing that once he had gone, he was unlikely to ever see him again.
“Very well,” he said. “You must go tonight, and go quickly.”
He turned when he heard a short gasp from behind him. Frances stood in the doorway, her hand held up to her mouth and tears brimming in her eyes. Adrian held out a hand to her, his other hand firmly clasping that of his brother, and he pulled her toward him and hugged her for the first and last time.
“You have my blessing,” he said. “I wish you every happiness. Just be sure you realise you can never return. You will be shunned if you do.”
Frances hugged him tightly, tears of joy soaking his shirt.
“Thank you, My Lord,” she said. “We can never repay your kindness.”
“You can. You can repay me by being happy. Now go, gather your things together and be sure you arouse no suspicion.”
He gave his brother money and helped the couple plan their elopement and he felt good about that. He wanted Mark to be happy and he had grown fond of Frances in a sisterly sort of way; he could see she adored his brother.
“I would like to ride part of the way with you, perhaps stand with you at your marriage ceremony. But I fear I will be missed before you are. I will stay and try to ward off any suspicion.”
Once they had gone, his father took to his bed from the shame of it. He never emerged from that bed or that shame, and Adrian knew his mother would never forgive her younger son.
He would have to begin the search for a new bride, but that would take time, time Adrian used to rescue Marianne.
Betrayal - Book Four of the Holy Poison Series
The Kenningtons are a prominent Protestant family and in 1553 their world seems secure. Adrian, the heir, is soon to marry his betrothed of four years, Lady Frances, the young Protestant King Edward VI sits on the throne of England, and although Earl Kennington is seriously ill, Adrian is hoping he will live long enough for him to be confident in taking over.
Then the King dies and his half sister, Mary, takes the throne. Her aim is to turn England back to the Catholic Church of Rome and she is determined to do so no matter what the cost in human life. Adrian and his family will pretend allegiance to this new Queen and hope to wait out her reign in peace, but it seems things are not to work out as they hoped.
When Adrian’s brother confesses his love for Frances, causing a scandal throughout court circles, Adrian must find a new bride, but in the meantime he meets Marianne, the daughter of a tavern keeper who is about to sell her virginity to the highest bidder.
He rescues her and falls in love with her, but she can never be his countess, and he must forsake her when he is presented with a new bride, Lady Elizabeth Paxton.
Elizabeth was formerly betrothed to a man who betrayed his entire family as heretics and now she is afraid to trust. But she learns to trust Adrian who falls in love with her. They are happy together until the Queen demands that he take a position at court, flushing out heretics and bringing them to trial. Although he uses his position to help the Protestants, Elizabeth is terrified and the strain drives a wedge between them and sends Adrian back into the arms of Marianne.
Will Adrian and Elizabeth survive the Catholic reign? Will they be able to revive the love they have for each other, or will the Queen’s death come too late to save their marriage?