Word of Honor

By: Alexa Aston

Knights Of Honor Book One



Prologue





England—April, 1351

Merryn Mantel spotted Geoffrey de Montfort as she and her father rode through the bailey of Kinwick Castle. Her heart began beating fiercely. She hadn’t seen Geoffrey since the Christmas season. He’d grown even taller and more handsome. At ten and six, he already possessed a warrior’s strong build.

And this man was to be hers.

Following her father, she guided her horse toward Geoffrey and his parents, who waited to greet them. Merryn had spent many hours at Kinwick throughout her childhood. The de Montforts were their closest neighbors and her father and Geoffrey’s had been friends since childhood. The two men’s wish to unite their families would occur today when the betrothal contracts were signed.

Geoffrey smiled at her as she approached, his white teeth gleaming against his olive skin. They had been friends all of their lives, but during the last year Merryn had become aware of him in a different way. Every time she was in his presence, a dizzy feeling overtook her. Her pulse pounded rapidly. She wanted to dance with joy. Merryn knew she had fallen in love with Geoffrey.

She believed he felt the same about her.

Geoffrey helped her dismount. The feel of his strong fingers encircling her waist sent butterflies swarming in her belly.

“It’s good to see you, Merryn.”

“I’m happy to see you, Geoffrey. How is your training with Sir Lovel going?”

“He tells me that I’m the best squire he’s ever had. Of course, I’m the only squire he’s ever had.” Geoffrey laughed.

Merryn turned to greet his parents. “Good day to you, Lord Ferand, Lady Elia.” She curtseyed and kissed Elia’s cheek.

“Are the contracts drawn up?” her father asked.

“Everything has been prepared,” answered Lord Ferand. “Please, come inside the keep.”

Geoffrey took Merryn’s hand for the first time. His warmth enveloped her, calming her nerves. She gave him a smile and he squeezed her hand in return.

They followed their parents into the great hall. Her father had explained to her that the negotiations between their families had already been completed. Signing the contracts would signify the exchange of property between the two families and set the bride price. As the daughter of a baron, Merryn would improve her station since Geoffrey would become Earl of Kinwick one day. She would be his countess.

Her father and Lord Ferand seated themselves. The contracts had been laid out on the table before them. She watched as Geoffrey’s father dipped a quill into ink and scrawled his name across the bottom of the page. Her father followed suit.

The Kinwick priest, Father Dannet, awaited them. They would now exchange verba de future vows. Their promise to wed would be legally binding, as much as when they spoke their marriage vows to one another in the future.

The priest turned to Geoffrey. “You may speak, my son.”

Geoffrey’s fingers tightened on hers. He gazed down at her and said, “I pledge to all present my desire to marry this woman and I will maintain my promise according to God’s laws.”

“Have you provided the bride price to her family and has it been accepted?” the priest asked.

“Aye.”

Father Dannet turned to the men seated. “And have you agreed upon compensation to be paid in the event the bride or groom dies before they are wed in holy matrimony?”

“We have,” their fathers replied.

The priest looked back to Merryn and Geoffrey. “Then you may take your vows.”

They faced one another. Geoffrey took her free hand. She felt the strength and love that flowed from him into her.

“I, Geoffrey de Montfort of Kinwick, will take you, Merryn Mantel, to wed. This is my solemn vow.”

“And I, Merryn Mantel of Wellbury, will take you, Geoffrey de Montfort, to wed. This is my solemn vow.”

Geoffrey bent and brushed his lips softly against hers in their first kiss. He pulled away and Merryn wished the kiss could have gone on longer.

Her father rose and came toward them. He offered Geoffrey his hand and they shook to seal the bargain.

“I look forward to the day when I will marry you,” the priest told them. He excused himself, leaving only the immediate family in the room.

“Let us toast the happy couple,” Lord Ferand proclaimed.

Wine had already been poured. Lady Elia distributed a cup to each of them.

“We have joined our families,” her father said. “May Geoffrey and Merryn spend many happy years together and fill the halls of Kinwick with children.”

As Merryn drank her wine, she looked forward to the day she would become Geoffrey’s wife.

*

Geoffrey led Merryn from the great hall. Their parents had gone to the solar to visit, but he wanted to spend time alone with his betrothed. He would be leaving this afternoon and cherished the remaining time they would have together.