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To live the life of independence she craves, Jane de Weston disguises herself as a young man. She doesn't foresee her attraction to Duncan, who stirs unknown but delightful sensations in her highly receptive, very feminine body.***
When Duncan accidentally discovers her true identity he knows he should send her away--but he agrees to keep her secret! For Jane brings light into the dark corners of his heart, and Duncan fully intends to teach his willing pupil the exquisite pleasures of being a woman!
About the excerpt: Cambridge, 1388. Duncan, master in Solar Hostel, met "John" on the road and has agreed to take on the young scholar, whose Latin still needs work...
Jane woke, snug on a warm, dry, pallet, and sighed with delight.
Normally, the hostel would have been full of men, every room shared, but the term's start was still days away. She had a chance at privacy she would not see again to rewrap her breasts and relieve herself without fear.
What she really wanted was a bath, but that would be quick, cold, and risky.
She said her prayers for Solay and her mother and started downstairs. She would spend the day reading, she decided. The hostel had a few volumes that would afford her good Latin practice.
But at the bottom of the stairs, Duncan handed her a pile of tunics and hose. "Wash these."
She crossed her arms, not touching the garments in his hands. "Laundry's no work for a man." Nor for the child of a king.
"For a poor orphan, you've elevated expectations." Duncan dropped the clothes on the floor at her feet. "I told you you'd have to work for your lessons. Now do as I say."
"I want to talk to the principal," she said, lifting her chin. A man in power wouldn't make her do such menial tasks. "Who's responsible for this hostel?"
Duncan raised his eyebrows and looked at her aslant. "I am."
She swallowed, grateful that her blunder had made him chuckle instead of roar. From the first, this man had been nothing that she'd expected.
She tried not to think about how many ways she had insulted him already. "And you don't have laundry women?"
"We don't waste money sending out the wash. And it's the gaol for any women found within these walls, laundress or lady."
Gaol. She stooped to gather the pile, shuddering. She was at this man's mercy in a world beyond woman. She'd have no one to turn to, no one to confide in, and no protection if she were discovered.
"And wash your own clothes, while you're about it," he said, leaving her to grapple with the laundry. "You smell of the stables."
As she grudgingly heated the water to fill the washtub, she savored his words and allowed herself a secret smile. No women allowed, yet here she was. She had cracked their kingdom and they didn't even know.
And yet she was still doing women's work.
The thought lingered as she set up the tub in a sunny corner of the yard. She started to throw the garments into the water, but the coarse linen lingered in her hand, warm and alive with the smell of his body and his days on the road. She buried her nose in the fabric and breathed his scent until she sat behind him on the horse again, felt him nestled between her spread legs.
The memory made something within her run soft and wet.
She dropped the shirts in the hot water as quickly as she dropped the thought. What would Duncan think if he saw "John" with his nose buried in another man's shirt?
She plunged her arms into the wash water, the damp heat taking her back to the birthing room. What had happened to Solay? The babe must have been born days ago. Something weighed heavy in her chest, reminding her of what she had lost. She would never see her family again, never even know if they were safe.
She sent up a prayer for them as she swirled, scrubbed and pounded the clothes, then wrung out the rough linen, and stretched his shirts and braies on the grass beside hers.
The water, still warm, beckoned. Her skin ached to be clean. She had dipped her hands in the Cam River once or twice, but after she saw a dead sheep float by, she did not touch the water again.
She looked over her shoulder. She was in a secluded corner, shielded by the wall around the property and the vines which had grown up during the summer. She might not have such an opportunity again.
She skinned off her chausses and stepped into the tub, closing her eyes to savor the feel of the leftover water swirling into her hidden crevices, washing away the dust of the road and the stables.
Her tunic floated atop the water, hiding everything below. She snuggled lower with a satisfied sigh. Just a moment. She would take just a moment's ease.
Are ya still breathing?
A harsh question Duncan had asked. And a harsh man, when his eyes carried anger's thunder.
He had offered his help, so she expected that as soon as she asked, he would take "John" as a student. If she had known she'd be working as a servant and relegated to studying Latin again, she might never have risked being so near him and his all too perceptive gray eyes.
She told him how hard she had tried. She explained how unfair and difficult it all was. But all he could say was Are ya still breathing?
He was no more understanding than the rest of the masters he had met. Well, when she was a clerk to the King, he'd be sorry he was so rude. In fact, since the King was coming to Cambridge, she would introduce herself. The King might even--
"Little John! What are ya doing in that tub?"
Excerpt from IN The MASTER'S BED Copyright © 2009 by Wendy Blythe Gifford. Permission to reproduce text granted by Harlequin Books S.A. Cover art used by arrangement with Harlequin Enterprises Limited. All rights reserved. ® and T are trademarks of Harlequin Enterprises Limited and/or its affiliated companies, used under license.