As It Pleases the King
The King's Pleasure Book 1
by Sara Harris
Genre: Medieval Romance
February 1542, London
Catherine Howard, Queen Consort of England, faces the executioner's axe.
King Henry VIII needs a new wife.
Lady Bridget Denny and her cousin, Lady Elizabeth, have fallen into favor with His Majesty's groomsmen. They are taken to Court to be judged for the position of the next queen, but Bridget fears the title of Queen of England is little more than a royal death sentence. The woods surrounding the castle are deep and dark and hold many secrets-perhaps there is room for one more.
Bridget is determined to escape the lusty king. But can she survive his royal executioner?
Tower Green Scaffold
February 13, 1542
I stood beside Elizabeth. The new emerald green shoes I’d
been given by my attending maids crunched in the thin
layer of frost that covered the ground. Earlier in my dressing
suite, one of the servants whispered that the color matched
that of my eyes. I wasn’t sure I believed her.
The newly risen sun did little to brighten the overcast sky that
cloaked the scaffold on the Tower Green.
“Never before have I seen so many people in one place,” Elizabeth
mused. “And here we are, in the front row to the Queen of
The fancy breakfast of quail’s eggs and French toast soured in
my stomach as Elizabeth chattered on, almost giddy. “Surely this
woman is the most hated of all His Majesty’s queens.”
Knots pushed burning bile into my throat. Still, Elizabeth continued.
“It has been widely whispered that even her own uncle,
the Duke of Norfolk, now despises her. He calls her, among many
other things, a common prostitute.”
Thankfully several people pushed between us, bound for the
scaffold, and saved me from having to respond to my cousin.
“Ladies!” The courtier clapped. “Come now,” he chirped, his face
and voice much too bright given the occasion. “Let us prepare
for the noon meal. You all must change in your given chambers,
then appear in the dining hall in one hour’s time.” He waved his
hands as though ushering cattle to slaughter. “Come come, ladies!
Much to be done!”
I felt eyes on me, burning, as I let myself be pushed along with
the retreating crowd. Careful to keep a tight grip on Elizabeth’s
hand, I dared a glance over my shoulder. There on the scaffold
stood the masked executioner, the deadly double-headed axe at his
side. Scarlet liquid coated the edge and dripped from the sharp tip.
Drop after drop fell dramatically into the straw below.
I was powerless to break away from his piercing stare and could
only return it. His haunting image burned into my mind like a
portrait. My stomach turned up in knots as the space between us
widened. What is so captivating about this ruthless, hooded headsman?
From nowhere, a servant appeared and refilled my mug. English
wine rose to the brim, fuller and deeper scarlet than before.
I brushed a cocoa brown tendril of hair over my shoulder.
“Thank you, sir.”
He leaned close to my ear. “Compliments of the King.”
My heart slapped the inside of my chest and my breath came faster.
Perhaps he is sending drinks around to all the girls.
Careful not to call too much attention to myself, I turned slightly.
The redheaded girl from Surrey still mopped at her front and her
large, gray eyes watered just a bit. Sure enough, her mug was dry.
Elizabeth, lost in conversation with one of the twins from Dorset,
picked up her mug. Her familiar voice rang out across the table
like a beacon in my ears. “Do you suppose His Majesty would
think me impolite if I were to ask for a refill?” Obviously already
feeling the effects of the first helping, Elizabeth sniggered. “That
wine is the best to have ever passed my lips!”
King Henry is watching.
My heartbeat, loud before, quickened to a pulsing gallop in my
ears. The world spun around me and melted the dining hall into
a fresco of colors, faces, and gold-beaked peacocks, still wearing
their iridescent feathers. I squeezed shut my eyes and gripped the
side of my chair. Mother Mary, please intercede before I become ill.
Someone clapped sharp and quick and sent a hush of quiet over
my giggling tablemates. The courtier with the plume strode into
the dining hall. His shoes, shiny black, clipped like horse hooves
on a cobblestone street.
“Ladies.” He bowed a deep bow. “Once again, it is so good of
you all to have accepted the King’s invitation and come to Court.”
Sara is a mother of four, animal lover and advocate, and conservationist. Little House on the Prairie, Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman, and Lonesome Dove are among her favorite shows/movies and books. Sara holds her B.A. in History and is the author of the historical romance series, An Everlasting Heart, from 5 Prince Publishing and recently debuted into the children's book realm with Chunky Sugars (5 Prince Kids), written for her own chunky baby.
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