Title: Shadow of the Swan
Author: Judith Sterling
Genre: Historical Romance
Lady Constance de Bret was determined to be a nun, until shadows from the past eclipsed her present. Marriage is the safest option, but she insists on a spiritual union, in which physical intimacy is forbidden. Not so easy with a bridegroom who wields unparalleled charm! But a long-buried secret could taint his affection and cloak her in shadow forever. Back from the Crusades, Sir Robert le Donjon craves a home of his own and children to inherit it. From the moment he meets Constance, he feels a mysterious bond between them. When she's threatened, he vows to protect her and agrees to the spiritual marriage, with the hope of one day persuading her to enjoy a "real" one. She captivates him but opens old wounds and challenges everything he thought he believed. Two souls in need of healing. Two hearts destined to beat as one.
Sitting without repose on one of the solar’s high-backed chairs, Constance shifted positions. An unexpected chill crept in with the evening. The shutters were closed, and a fire danced and hissed on the hearth. The room was aglow with candles whose light harmonized to showcase the exquisite tapestries on the wall. Vibrant yet vulnerable, the flames quivered at the slightest draft.
Her stomach quivered, too, as she stared at her half-eaten pigeon pie. Whatever made me agree to share his bed? The mention of rats? The thought of a prickly straw mat between her back and the cold, hard floor?
From the other high-backed chair, Robert eyed the pie that lay unprotected on the table between them. “Do you plan to eat that?”
A predator drawn to his prey. She shrugged. “I suppose not. Do you want it?”
“I thought you’d never ask.” He attacked the food.
She folded her hands in her lap. “Sir, your appetite is a thing of wonder.”
He swallowed, then grinned at her. “Why, thank you.” His smile disappeared. “Or do you criticize?”
“Not criticize. Marvel.”
His dimples were back. The one on the right was deeper. “I’m a man of many talents, and eating is one of them.” He took another bite.
“Evidently.” She cleared her throat. “I only wondered if…” Her stomach trembled as he licked sauce from his fingers.
Abruptly, he ignored the food and studied her face. “If what?”
She sighed inwardly. Just say it! “If all your appetites run that strong.”