tagNovels and NovellasThe Crusader: Faithful Choices

The Crusader: Faithful Choices


The de Witte estate was dark. Light could not penetrate the hurt and anger and distrust that hung between each family member. It had killed the mistress of the house. Hatred had driven a wedge between Travor de Witte and his children. Lust had become such an uncontrollable fire between brother and sister that the father had sent the daughter away. Cayden had been forbidden to return, but now she sat at his table and no number of candles could lift the darkness that hung in the room. Lord de Witte tried not to look at his children, hoping the meal would pass quickly.

Hayden sat across the table from his sister and his wife, wearing the storm of his anger on his face. His jaw was set and his eyes were dark as he glared across the spread of food at the two women. A vein bulged along his temple as Cayden leaned over to whisper to Deliah. Deliah laughed, throwing her head back and exposing her delicate neck. She was wearing her hair down, something she hadn't done since they were first married. Red curls lay against her cheeks and pointed toward the full bosom barely covered by the bodice of the white lace dress. She listened to Cayden as she demurely watched her husband. She did not break her gaze as she whispered an answer. Both women laughed, fueling Hayden's fire.

Cayden knew her plan was working for her sister-in-law. Hayden was enthralled by the changes in his wife. The female warrior had spent the entire afternoon with Deliah, helping the scorned woman select appropriate attire. She had longed for Amalie's assistance as they had worked on Deliah's hair. By the time they were finished, though, Cayden was having a hard time keeping her hands to herself. She wanted to bury her face in the red curls, slide her hands beneath the lace, and make her sister-in-law scream her name. She didn't understand how her brother could be so callus toward his beautiful, young wife.

The prodigal daughter leaned over to whisper to Deliah again, carefully blowing a thin line of air across her sister-in-law's flesh before speaking. Goosebumps formed on Deliah's skin as she inclined her head to listen. "I bet Hayden's sword is standing straight up for you." A hint of color flooded Deliah's cheeks as she lowered her eyes. Her fair skin made the blush seem even more pronounced. Cayden thought it was a delicious look and a glimpse of her brother assured her that he did, too. "Lick your lips," she ordered in a husky voice. She recognized the tremble of desire in her words.

Cayden turned her attention to Ava, her brother's beautiful blond kitchen whore. Her hair was pinned haphazardly onto her head. Sweat and a trace of flour marred her face. She wore an apron over a plain dress. Cayden's first introduction to sex had been watching Hayden take Ava in the kitchen. This evening, Hayden seemed totally enthralled by his wife, which pleased Cayden. She had every intention of sampling Ava tonight.

Her father finished his food and gulped the last of his wine before slamming his stein on the table. "Why are you here?" he demanded suddenly. Cayden had to pry her eyes from Ava's rear and Hayden turned his attention from his wife. "I told you never to return. Why are you here?"

"I've brought a message from Baron von Streit," she answered, pleased that her voice was focused and carried no hints of her desires.

"Then deliver your message so you can return to the Baron."

Cayden glanced at her brother, longing for the closeness they once shared, before they had surrendered to their desire. She missed him as an ally and a confidant. Hayden met her eyes briefly before lowering his gaze to contemplate the remaining food on his plate. Ava lingered in the room, waiting to hear the message that had brought the prodigal daughter home. Cayden cleared her throat, carefully arranging her plate and cup as she prepared her speech. "The Holy Father was at Clermont recently, speaking of Alexis' trouble with the infidels plaguing Christian pilgrims on the way to Jerusalem. Father Josef, Baron von Streit's priest, was there. The Pope has called for armies to march to Jerusalem and reclaim the Holy Land for the Church. The Baron has agreed to raise an army. Father, you have trained the men in the Barony for many years. Will you send word to your pupils that there is a call for soldiers in a noble cause?"

Travor de Witte leaned back, his arms folded across his chest as he contemplated the Baron's request. Hayden studied his sister, no sign of lust or desire on his face. "Will you be joining him in the fight? You are the quickest with a sword that Father has ever taught."

"He has asked me to remain behind as the Baroness's personal bodyguard."

"A good profession for you, Sister," Hayden responded. "We all know how deadly you can be at times."

A smile touched her lips as she shifted her attention back to her father. "Father, your army? The Baron is depending upon your assistance."

Lord de Witte exhaled slowly. "I am too old to lead men into battle, but I have trained many men to be leaders and warriors. I will send couriers tomorrow to announce the Baron's request, but I will not be joining him. The Pope has spent the Vatican's coffers. He wants to distract people from his shortcomings. A war will serve his cause nicely, I imagine." Travor de Witte rubbed his chin thoughtfully. "Yes, there is no nobler cause than reclaiming Jerusalem. The Baron, and the Pope, should have no problem raising an army."

"With God behind them, they should have no problem conquering the infidels," Hayden mused. "Surely He will lead them into victory. Father, I will command your armies."

All eyes focused on Hayden. Cayden had told Otto that her brother would want to join him, but she had not expected him to respond so quickly. There was a confidence and determination in his voice that she had not heard from his lips in a long time. She could see the resolve in his eyes. It was easy for her to recognize the emotion in eyes so similar to the ones she saw reflected back at her in the mirror.

"When will you be going back to the Baron?" Travor demanded without acknowledging Hayden's vow.

Cayden exchanged a glance with her twin brother. Some part of her felt the connection that she had once shared with him. Their father's disgust and distrust of them was one thing they still had in common. She considered her answer. Her father wanted her gone. She had delivered her message and gained her father's support for Otto's cause, but she had also promised Otto she would give him time with his wife without distraction. The Baroness preferred Cayden in her bedroom to her husband. Sophie needed to be pregnant with a boy before Otto left for Jerusalem. "Otto does not expect me back for a few weeks."

"Deliah, Ava, leave us," Lord de Witte ordered. His tone left no question that he expected to be obeyed.

Ava immediately fled the room without looking up. Deliah hesitated for a moment, her eyes on her husband across the table. Cayden laid her hand on her sister-in-law's thigh and squeezed gently in assurance. The pressure broke the spell. Deliah stood and walked regally out of the room. Cayden and Hayden watched her go, an expression of appreciation on both of their faces. When she was gone and they turned back to their father, their eyes met briefly. They both understood what the other was thinking. Cayden gave her brother a knowing smile before focusing her attention on her father.

Travor de Witte observed the exchange between his two offspring and misinterpreted the meaning. "I will not allow the two of you to continue to bring shame to this family. You must control your filthy lust."

Neither of the siblings answered. They were both entirely focused on the food remaining on their plate. Cayden was confident that she could resist her brother, but she also knew what had happened in the exercise yard that morning. She could fight Hayden, but physically, he was the stronger sibling. If he wanted her badly enough there was little she could do to stop him. She had a project, though. She could force Hayden's attention to Deliah. She could save Ava.

"Reclaiming Jerusalem for Christ," Lord de Witte mused. "That should absolve you of many sins. We will begin discussing strategies tomorrow."

Travor stood and left the room, his back straight and his eyes forward. She was left alone in the room with her brother. They stared at each other across the table, the room quiet except for their soft breathing. Cayden spoke when she could tolerate the silence no more. "Deliah is very beautiful."

"She's a prude," Hayden answered. "She is unresponsive and uncreative."

"That's not the look you had on your face tonight when you were watching her."

"I was watching you," he snapped. Cayden didn't believe him. His eyes had been on his wife. The color in his cheeks told her that he was lying. "No one is you, Sister."

"Father is right," she insisted. "Lust will destroy us. It must be controlled."

"Do you control your lust when Otto drops his trousers?" Hayden spat.

"I told you that Otto is not my lover." She rose and circled the table, leaning close to him as she continued in a soft whisper. "Otto's wife is."

She walked out of the room, leaving those words to fuel his imagination. She walked through the corridors of her father's house feeling confident that she held all of the cards in her relationship with Hayden. She found Deliah waiting in the dim hallway, a nervous look on her pale face. Cayden stopped in front of her sister-in-law, a self-assured smile on her face. Her eyes swept over the young woman, lingering on glistening pink lips and the dipping bodice of her dress. She placed one hand on the wall beside Deliah's head, leaning into the smaller woman. "What did your father want?" Deliah asked. She couldn't hide the slight catch in her voice.

"To tell Hayden and me to be a good boy and a good girl," Cayden answered softly, forcing Deliah to stretch upward to hear. Cayden's lips curled at the way the motion shifted the dress over Deliah's full bosom. She could see the hint of one pale pink areola. Cayden wet her lips at the thought of tasting those pink nipples.

"And can you?" Deliah asked, a breathless tone in her voice. "Can you and Hayden be good?"

"With each other, absolutely," Cayden assured. They heard footsteps moving their direction, but did not separate. "Remember; do not allow him to come to you tonight. I'll take care of his other distractions. He'll be desperate for you. No matter how much he begs and pleads, do not let him in your bed tonight." She leaned in closer, her breath warm on Deliah's face.

Hayden rounded the corner and stopped short, his eyes focused on his sister leaning into his wife. Cayden smiled at her brother, knowing her last words were playing through his head. Cayden pushed away from Deliah and left the husband and wife alone. She glanced back once and saw Hayden moving toward his wife. She hid her smile, pleased with her efforts at manipulating her brother's desires. Her leather boots made little noise as she anxiously made her way downstairs. If Hayden had not appeared in the hall, she may have found herself asking to replace him in Deliah's bed. Her sister-in-law's innocence only increased her seductive powers. Hayden would be desperate when his wife resisted him. Cayden knew she needed to act quickly.

In the deserted kitchen, Cayden grabbed a lantern and headed into the manor courtyard. She had already taken care of one of her brother's distractions. She had given each of the stable boys a gold coin to take to the local tavern. The diminutive warrior suspected that the two boys were quite inebriated and sprawled in the bed of a village prostitute. The prostitute had probably made whatever was left of the two gold coins without having to do any work.

Now it was time to prevent her brother's other distraction from becoming a factor tonight. Cayden wanted him to go to bed alone, yearning for Deliah. As she made her way to the servants' cottages on the edge of the courtyard, a thread of anticipation shot through her. Ava, the comely kitchen wench that had been Hayden's lover since he had discovered the dangling rod between his legs, would be a nice distraction for Cayden as well.

By the time she reached the door of Ava's cabin, she had developed a confident swagger. Light flickered in the window of the cottage. Cayden paused as she watched Ava's buxom silhouette pass by. The warrior licked her lips and started to raise her hand to knock. She hesitated and then reached for the handle. The door swung open, revealing a small, dimly lit room. Cayden leaned against the doorframe, her eyes resting on the servant.

Ava had not yet changed from her serving clothes, but she had released her hair. The long blond tresses hung down her back and framed her face softly. In the corner of the room was a small mattress where the little boy slept. Ava turned from him, her eyes sweeping over her visitor. Her expression did not change. "I wondered which of you would arrive first tonight."

Cayden closed the door and latched it so that her brother would not be able to get in when Deliah rejected him. Without speaking, she crossed to the tall woman, moistening her lips as she looked into the round face. She placed her hands on either side of Ava's hips, stepping close enough that only a few inches of space separated them. "Do you want me to go?"

Ava's blue eyes were focused on Cayden's face. Cayden's lips lifted in a smile as she recognized desire in the other woman. She knew that Ava would not send her away tonight. Perhaps before she returned to Breathwood she would have the opportunity to bend Ava over the kitchen table and replace that memory with reality.

The warrior placed one hand on Ava's cheek, pushing the long hair back. Her thumb traced the fine bones of the woman's face as she stretched upward to plant a soft kiss on Ava's lips. When Ava did not resist, Cayden increased the pressure until Ava began returning the kiss. Cayden slid the tip of her tongue along her partner's lips, pushing them open until she could feel smooth teeth. Cayden swirled her tongue in Ava's mouth, rubbing her tongue against Ava's. Ava welcomed the intruder, twirling with it. When she pushed her tongue into Cayden's mouth, Cayden increased the intensity of the kiss, stepping even closer as her hand slid down the column of Ava's slim neck. She trailed her fingertips over the rise of the woman's breast, cupping it firmly in her hand as she pushed her tongue deeper. Ava's nipple puckered and pushed into Cayden's palm through the rough material of her kitchen dress.

A low moan escaped Ava's throat as she pushed into the warm palm. Cayden broke the kiss and nibbled along Ava's jaw line, then licked her way down the slender throat. Ava tilted her head back, pushing air from her lungs. "I want you naked," Cayden whispered, her voice thick with hungry lust. "I want to kiss every inch of you. I have since I was eighteen years old."

"Why didn't you?" Ava answered, her voice trembling.

"I didn't know it was what I wanted, and you belonged to my brother."

Ava lifted her mass of hair as she turned her back to Cayden. The warrior's deft fingers began working open each tie, her lips following her progress. "I still belong to your brother," she servant insisted.

"After tonight, you'll belong to me." The dress whispered down Ava's body, revealing her full breasts and tiny waist and a forest of blond curls. Cayden's eyes devoured her. She faltered, leaning against the small table in the center of the room. "You are more beautiful than I ever imagined."

Ava blushed, the color touching her cheeks and her breasts. Cayden recovered, stepping close again. Her hands roved over Ava's body, touching her neck and breasts and hips and buttocks. She combed her fingers through the tiny curls, feeling heat and moisture pouring from that secret part of her body. Cayden's mouth followed, lingering on the full breasts, teasing the nipples with her tongue until they were hard, tight pebbles. Ava was panting, her breasts rising and falling. She laid her hands on Cayden's head, holding her eager lover close.

The noblewoman's teeth and lips tugged on the firm nipple, her hand sliding between the other woman's legs to tease and then part the slick lips. Skillful fingers found the hard bud buried inside and began stroking it, rolling it in a steady rhythm that soon had Ava moaning incessantly.

Cayden teased Ava's opening with her fingers as her mouth worked downward. Her tongue swirled around Ava's navel before replacing her fingers. Her tongue rocked against Ava's sensitive nub before sliding deep into her canal. Cayden lifted Ava's thigh to her shoulder, opening the woman to allow for deeper access. Ava's fingers knotted in Cayden's hair as her lover patiently pushed her higher.

Ava rocked forward in time with Cayden's dancing lips and tongue, trying to urge the young woman to move faster. Each time she got close to falling over the edge of the abyss, Cayden changed positions or rhythm, causing the next crest to be even higher. Ava was pleading for release, begging Cayden to allow the wave to crash.

Cayden wanted to be a woman of her word. She wanted Ava to belong to her and not to Hayden. Her brother's lust had taken her father's love and her home from her. She wanted to take from him. The next time Hayden bent Ava over, the kitchen wench would be thinking of his sister, not of him.

As if her thoughts conjured him, a pounding on the door interrupted their session. Ava gasped, a panicked expression on her face. Cayden did not relent. The interruption only caused her to increase her pace. "Open this door right now, whore," Hayden growled through the door as he beat against it with his fist.

"Hayden," Ava managed to gasp. "No. Not tonight. Oh, God."

"I own you, bitch. Open this damn door."

"You'll, you'll wake the boy," Ava insisted. Her words died on a moan as Cayden worked harder to push her to the top.

"My frigid wife and that bitch of a sister of mine have frozen me out. I need you right now."

"Oh, yes, yes, Cayden!" she screamed, unable to control herself any longer.

"Cayden?" he echoed. "You cunt!"

All strength left Ava's body. She melted into Cayden's arms, who easily caught her. Cayden carried the woman to the other mattress in the tiny room and looked toward the door, wondering if her brother still stood outside, seething with anger that every outlet for his lust had been thwarted by his sister.

Cayden smiled at the lithe naked body dozing on the quilts. Ava was lying on her stomach. Cayden trailed her fingertips over pale flesh that glistened with drying sweat. The noblewoman then shifted, straddling her new lover's thighs before bending to kiss the shoulder blades. Her hands caressed arms strong from cooking and washing and caring for the boy in the corner.

Ava sighed, her eyes peeling open slowly. A contented smile touched her lips. "That's nice."

"You taste so good," Cayden sighed between kisses. Her tongue bathed the small of her lover's back, and then slipped along the crevasse of her buttocks. Ava shuddered and moaned low. Cayden stretched out, sliding her arms beneath Ava's legs. She lifted her lover's hips and glided her tongue along Ava's sensitive lips. Ava gasped in surprise as Cayden's tongue dipped into her from the unusual angle. Cayden continued to tease, her tongue dancing at Ava's opening, and then shifting to the tender button before going back to the channel.

She continued repeating the pattern until she was certain that Ava was about to explode again. She pulled out suddenly, kissing her way down the back of Ava's thigh. Ava's body was trembling, her muscles tense, as Cayden licked the back of Ava's knees. Her tongue circled Ava's ankle before making her way up the other leg. She pushed her tongue inside Ava again, resuming the maddening pattern.

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