Snipping the stems of a sweetly-scented pale lavender Apothecary’s rose, she started when a shadow fell over the flower in her hand. She looked up to find Thomas standing before her, smiling at her basketful of blooms.
“You wish to take a part of Knowlton’s Keep with us when we leave, my lady?”
Her answering smile masked the strange thumping that became the beat of her heart. “I hope you approve, my lord. I would dry the petals and use them to remind us of home while we journey so far from it.”
“Of course, my sweet. Whate’er your heart desires is yours.” He took a dark pink blossom from her and held it to his nose. “Sweet.” The warm brown eyes held her blue ones. “Thank you.”
Alyse stared at him, uncertain what he meant. “I beg pardon, my lord?”
He placed the rose in her basket. “’Tis what the dark pink color means. In the language of flowers. Thank you. At least,” he grinned at her, “according to my mother that is what it means. I am not sure how she came by this knowledge.”
Curious idea. “What do the others mean?”
He drew her arm through his and led her to a bush with snowy-white double blooms. “This is the Cheshire rose. The white blooms stand for purity.”
Alyse bent to smell the delicate scent. “I suppose that would be expected.”
Thomas took her shears and snipped the bloom, adding it to her basket. “Purity, for a pure heart.”
Beside the Cheshire grew a large bush of clear pink blooms. “And this?” She could not contain her eagerness. The names and meanings of the roses had stirred up the banked embers in her soul. Or perhaps the nearness of Thomas’s masculine body excited other, more passionate yearnings. Suddenly, the feel of his arm in hers filled her senses.
What was happening? Why this sudden lift in spirits?
She had been more melancholy of late, ever since Thomas had abandoned her bed. But it made no sense.
Did she not still love Geoffrey, heart and soul?
The thought sobered her. The sharp pang of sorrow that always stabbed her heart at the thought of him had dulled. Was she coming to regard Thomas as her husband and long for him as such?
“This is my favorite.” He clipped another pink bloom and held it under her nose. “What do you smell?”
Puzzled, she sniffed the showy pink blossom, but he moved the stem and leaves for her to smell instead. A wonderful scent assailed her, but one she did not associate with roses.
A smile lit his face as he placed an entire stem of the flowers, leaves and all, into her basket.
“But what is it called?”
“Eglantine or Sweet Briar Rose.” He looked down at his thumb where a fat drop of blood welled. “The latter is probably the more apt name.” He smiled ruefully.
Seeing his glance, she took his hand and, without thinking, raised the injured thumb to her lips. She gently kissed the drop away, and he gasped. Their gazes met, his frankly searching hers for an answer.
BLURB FOR TIME ENOUGH TO LOVE
When Lady Alyse de Courcy is betrothed to Sir Geoffrey Longford, she has no choice but to make the best of a bad bargain. The hulking knight is far from her ideal man, and although he does possess some wit and charm, he is no match for the sinfully sensual man she secretly admires, Thomas, Earl of Braeton, her betrothed’s best friend.
From the first, Sir Geoffrey finds himself smitten by Lady Alyse, and, despite her infatuation with his friend, vows to win her love. When Geoffrey puts his mind to wooing Alyse, he is delighted to find her succumbing to his seduction. But when cruel circumstances separate them, Geoffrey must watch helplessly as Thomas steps in to protect Alyse—and falls in love with her himself.
As the three courtiers accompany Princess Joanna to her wedding in Spain, they run headlong into the Black Plague. With her world plunged into chaos, Alyse struggles with her feelings for both the men she loves. But which love will survive?