Nadia, my heroine, has been released from the convent but only because her father has given her away in marriage to the king’s favourite, Baron Arnaud. It’s not a love match and Nadia has no idea what the Baron has planned for their wedding night.
Before she left the solar, Arnaud spoke to her in private. He had dressed in his finest surcoat and his dark hair was combed back from his tanned face. She curtsied as he approached and hooked the master chair for his use.
“Nadia. You look wonderful. I wanted to speak to you before the wedding. It is important that you are honest with me about any anxieties you may harbour. Naturally, the first night of a marriage can be demanding on a maid and I would not want you to worry. I have certain plans in place that require your obedience and trust. Trust is essential in marriage. Do you not agree?”
“Yes, my lord.” Throughout his speech, Nadia’s knees knocked together. She had kept her secrets so well, she doubted she could ever tell anyone.
“You look…unhappy,” he noted, furrowing his eyebrows.
Nadia squeezed a smile out of her face. “Oh, no. As you say, a little nervous about tonight. What to expect,” she stuttered as she spoke.
Arnaud reached up and took her hand. “It is for you to know that I will endeavour to make this a pleasant experience for you. My first wife performed her duties with admirable skill and I admit, my desires have now shifted into new practises. You see, I have particular needs. I’m not expecting you to be so able, not at first. You will learn. How I will teach you my preferences is something that you must accept. I won’t tolerate complaints or disobedience.”
“I think I understand.” Did she? Would he remember what a virgin felt like, how one reacted? Nadia prayed he would not care for such details. Best he used her fast and planted his seed. Then she would bathe swiftly and be appreciative of his tenderness.
“Good, because this is your chance to express any fears. Any information you wish to impart to me. If I find out you’ve kept your concerns hidden from me, I shall be displeased, Nadia. I would rather hear the truth than lies.”
Nadia swallowed hard. She barely knew the man. What if he did hear the truth? It would cause him such anger and distrust in her that he would spurn her. Or worst, tell her father, thereby irretrievably damaging her relationship. No, she would enact a role for him, remain demure while he went about his business. Then she’d feint delight at the outcome. “No, my lord. I have nothing to impart.”
Arnaud nodded. “I have a gift to share later. I hope you like it. It is an unusual one, but since you’re an innocent, you will have to trust me.”
He left her to pray, his suggestion not hers, and she knelt on the floor and clasped her hands together. She’d lied again. However, the prioress wasn’t around to punish her, so for now, she’d pray for forgiveness.