England, 1453

If Only He Would Choose Me! Oh, the pain of love unrequited! I hope you have never known the like.

A few years back, I thought I could beguile the man I love, Sir Christian Gray, into marrying me. Surely he’d admire my many charms. Yes, I confess that I’ve already had not one, not two, but three husbands (and no, the marriages’ demises weren’t my fault. Despite rumors to the contrary, my third husband did NOT set me aside. Though that tale is what I agreed to put forth. A story for another day.). Unfortunately, I’ve not been blessed with children. Some men might look askance at such a past, but for all that I’m still young.

I’d set my cap for Sir Christian at first sight. Such a fetching, honorable, manly man. Oh, to see him astride a horse! I hoped he’d see what a handsome and excellent couple we could be, but he was quite clear about his intentions. Or lack thereof. For he eschewed marriage altogether!

PainHe did agree to a dalliance, which, being lonely and in love, I allowed. Just having him on my arm brightened my day! He was so chivalrous and kind, a gallant knight as espoused in romances such as the one written by our Queen Margaret’s father. And, as to the unmentionables, well, let’s just say those were divine.

Then Lady Amice Winfield entered the picture. The king ordered Christian to protect her from unwanted suitors until he could find her an appropriate groom. Meaning one who would contribute to his coffers and/or yield a political alliance.

I pined when Christian left court, and was crushed when he returned with her in tow! Worse, it was instantly clear who he preferred. The gazes he gave her could melt butter. What he desired from a short, curly-haired brunette who chose to run her own castle and wanted to be a writer when he could have had my tall, lithe and ladylike blondness, I couldn’t understand. At first.

Yet I found myself in her orbit, for I worked for the king’s rival to the throne, Richard, Duke of York. And, while trying to prove my worth to one of the most powerful and wealthy men in all of England, I rashly promised him recruits. For when the duke succeeded to the throne, I wanted a higher place at his court.

Keep your enemies close, Ladies? I enlisted Amice, who crafted some of the truly scandalous poems so popular in our times. She insisted upon remaining anonymous. So I took the credit. Which proved not to be the wisest choice…and, in the end, cost any trust Christian had in me. I had to accept I’d lost him forever.

Now I am more alone than ever. And, a bit, shall we say, disgraced. With each passing day, I pray the pain caused by my own actions will fade. I shall not rest until I redeem myself. I hope the journey that lies ahead isn’t too long or arduous…. Will I ever find true love?

Thank you for listening,

Lady Belinda Carlisle

Lady Belinda Carlisle is a secondary character in Ruth Kaufman’s award-winning medieval At His Command.

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Seated with the king and a small group of advisors, Nicholas frowned as he watched Belinda and Amice talking on the other side of the Painted Chamber, a hall replete with biblical paintings covering the walls and ceiling. A group of men blocked his view, making him shift in his chair.

Being alone with Amice last night still haunted him. He’d remained in the hall, eyes closed, breathing slowly to still the pounding of his heart. To calm surging desire. If she hadn’t had the strength to leave, what would they have done? There, in the hall, where anyone could enter? Again having her in his arms made him forget his duties, his honor. He remained weak where she was concerned, despite many prayers for strength and more on her behalf every morning and every evening.

The king had pledged her to another. Thank goodness temptation would soon be removed.

He tried to convince himself he meant it.

She and Belinda slowly walked out of the room, heads bent close. He barely resisted the urge to jump to his feet.

What was Belinda up to? What if Amice confided in her? He signaled for Robert, seated on a fat velvet pillow, plucking ineffectively at a lute. Nicholas thought of sending for vellum to write a note, then thought better of it.

“Never mind, Robert, I’ll go. Come for me if the king needs me.”

He knew Robert returned to what he called his instrument of torture with great reluctance. Nicholas had assured him a true knight was well-versed in many areas, including music. So play he would.

Nicholas found the two women—one who wanted him, one he wanted—seated on a stone bench beneath a vine-encrusted trellis. Belinda wore blue brocade, while Amice wore a deep green gown that accentuated her eyes. He vowed to commit each moment with her to memory, in case it would be his last. The row of pearls trimming her neckline reflected late afternoon sun. A cream undergown peeked above the neckline. A mesh headdress with a short transparent veil that floated in the gentle breeze hid her hair.

He shook his head to make himself ignore the effect her beauty had on him, to clear fond memories of their days at Castle Rising and concentrate on what they were saying. And gleaned that he’d arrived in time.

“Lady Winfield, if I may interrupt, I’ve just come from the king and must speak with you.”

About the Author

Ruth Kaufman is the Amazon bestselling author of the Wars of the Roses Brides trilogy (At His Command, Follow Your Heart, and The Bride Tournament) and My Once and Future Love. Accolades include 2016 Booksellers Best Award Best Historical and Best First Book winner and Romance Writers of America® Golden Heart® award winner.

An actor, speaker and storyteller with an M.S. and J.D, Ruth has had roles in independent feature films, web series, pilots, national TV commercials and hundreds of voiceover projects. She enjoys living in Chicago and singing in a symphony chorus. Learn more at www.ruthkaufman.com and www.ruthtalks.com.