Yearning Heart, The
Playing peacemaker between King Henry and Queen Eleanor, accepting an unwanted wife for a debt, and collecting taxes keep Sir Stephen Lambert irritated and busy.
Length: Full Novel
Word Count: 91,090
Genre: Historical Romance
Available formats: PDF, RTF, Epub, HTML, Mobipocket (.prc)
© Cover Art by Alex DeShanks, December 2008
New Concepts Publishing
Lake Park, GA 31636
This is a work of fiction. All characters, events, and places are of the author's imagination and not to be confused with fact. Any resemblance to living persons or events is merely coincidence.
Sir Stephen Lambert was tired. In fact, he was exhausted. His trips into London became more complicated with each passing fortnight, and on this late summer day of the year 1166, he decided that, as King Henry’s favorite manorial officer, he was destined to starve to death or become ill from lack of sleep.
The king and queen argued like two spoiled children, each demanding Stephen’s ear, complaining of insults real or imagined one from the other.
Queen Eleanor. Such a lovely woman. A headstrong, determined, lovely woman. Stephen sighed, struggled with the laces on his waistcoat, and bent to remove his boots.
And the king. Never the twain shall meet, he muttered to himself. As wife of the king of France, Eleanor must have presented an irresistible challenge to King Henry, someone he must win and claim for his own.
“Now that you have her, what do you propose to do with her?” Stephen’s dark mutterings filled the room.
King Henry was energetic and too intelligent for his own good in Stephen’s estimation. The king’s efforts to establish a workable judicial system for his country, no matter how good the idea, was going to cause him no end of worry. The church courts had already condemned him for his recently issued Constitutions of Clarendon limiting the jurisdiction of the church. It was going to get worse.
King Henry and the Archbishop of Canterbury had been close friends until the Constitution was signed. Now, Sir Thomas Becket was putting a crimp into that friendship by withdrawing his support.
Still, the king is right, Stephen thought as he stretched out across the bed in the room prepared for him. The church clerks cannot be exempted from capital punishment. If guilty of murder, they’re guilty, church clerks or no. Everyone must abide by the laws if they are to work. Everyone.
He was between sleep and waking when the knock sounded on his door.
“Who is it?”
“Sir Oliver. A game is commencing in the great hall. Join us?”
Stephen cared little for gambling, but he needed something to distract him from his royal worries.
“I will join you within the half hour,” he said.
In spite of only a short rest, he felt his energy returning. If he could find something to eat, he’d feel better. It seemed all the day he had been too late for a meal or too early.
He did get a portion of fresh bread and roast meat from a sympathetic servant down the hall, and then settled in to enjoy the game of chance with Sir Oliver Grinwold and three other gentlemen he’d met in the past.
At the end of several hours, Sir Oliver was into Stephen for a goodly sum of money.
Stephen was about to suggest an end to the games when Sir Oliver laughed loudly.
“Well, Stephen, I have you now. I call you and raise one thousand pounds.”
An indrawn breath came from around the table as the others placed their cards face down and pushed back in a gesture of defeat.
Stephen looked at the rotund man across from him, his double-chinned face alight with expectancy. From experience, he knew the man was an accomplished gambler but was prone to foolish betting. Stephen’s eyebrows drew downward in deep thought as he tried to decide whether to call the man’s bluff or withdraw, thereby saving Sir Oliver from embarrassment.
“I will see you, Sir Oliver,” Stephen said.
When the cards were shown, Sir Oliver lost the bet. Stephen watched the color drain from the man’s face in disbelief.
Sir Oliver chewed on his full red lips. He made an offer.
“One more hand. All the money against my lands.”
“Sir Oliver,” Stephen said. “Mayhap ...”
“You know my land holdings, Sir Stephen,” Oliver said, his voice deep with rage.
“Yes, but you ...”
“They are worth more than the money.”
“I know and, for that reason, you should think about this. I will hold your note until you can pay.”
“No. This is the better way.”
The bet was made. Sir Oliver lost.