Thursday, 28 January 2016

The final Swordsman story is out today! Hartley's Solace

"Hartley's Solace" (MM) by Cara Adams "The Swordsmen" book 3

Blurb: So much has happened this summer. First Randall’s opponent in battle was Hartley, the man he’s fast coming to think is essential to his future happiness. Then they fought the masterless men to claim Lord Denzil’s castle for Bancroft the Bold and all the swordsmen. Now they’re frantically busy trying to ensure there’s enough food for everyone to last through the upcoming winter, and that the castle will be a secure place for those living inside it.

The more time he spends with Randall the more he wants this man and this place to be his future but King Edward has all the power. What if he doesn’t allow them to stay here? Is what he feels for Randall real or just his own wishful thinking?

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It was a fiercely hot summer day and instead of beginning the battle at Prime, like a normal fight, they’d been lined up in battle array for hours while Lord Bolton argued with his noble friends. Meanwhile the serfs and peasants shuffled their feet and moved this way and that instead of remaining in formation, and Lord Howard started screaming and waving his arms like a child deprived of his toy sword. Lord Howard’s friends tried to quiet him down but that only made him even angrier until he was ranting and railing so loudly it was a wonder they couldn’t decipher the words all the way over on the far side of the battlefield.

By the time battle was joined Hartley’s body was slicked with sweat, the weight of his metal great helm made his neck and head ache, and he was very thirsty. But he was a swordsman and ignored all that to engage his opponent in fair combat.

The man was a little taller than him, his war horse very well trained. Hartley wasn’t rich enough to have such a well-trained beast, but his horse knew the rudimentary rules of battle and let him concentrate on the thrust and parry of the engagement.

It didn’t take him more than ten minutes to notice that the loud shouts and crash of metal against metal had already diminished. His opponent stopped attacking and only defended himself. Hartley took a moment to turn his head and saw serfs and peasants fleeing the field.

What the fuck? They weren’t trained fighters, but they owed allegiance and service to their lord. They had no right to leave until the battle was over.

He fought on resolutely, until he realized his opponent was deliberately making him turn and then he saw why. Lord Howard was lying on the ground, dead or dying, and two other men were lying beside him.

Without a word he and his opponent stopped fighting and climbed off their horses.

All around them the other swordsmen were doing the same thing. Already the last of the serfs was fast disappearing over the hill behind them.

He pulled his great helm off and finally could look around freely. Lord Bolton and Lord Howard were both dead. Two other noblemen were injured, and the battle had stopped. There was no sense in continuing to fight when the protagonists were dead.

But what did this mean to him? Who would pay him his silver?

Hartley turned to look at his former opponent. The man, taller than him and stronger looking as he’d guessed, held out his hand. “Randall.”


Since then they’d been friends and companions, working side by side as swordsmen under Bancroft and Winston to claim this castle and make it safe to live in. He enjoyed cooking and so did Randall, so they spent time together in the kitchens until some women arrived to take care of the food preparation.

These were young women who’d been enslaved by the masterless men who’d captured the castle. Several women became pregnant to their captors and their village didn’t want them back, so Bancroft had offered them safe housing here at the castle, provided they worked.

Now that someone else was available to prepare the meals, he and Randall would be helping in the fields, planting winter food crops. He was less familiar with planting, sowing, and weeding, but knew what vegetables looked like in the soil and had picked them many times, so expected he’d adjust to his task. Or maybe he’d remain on guard duty and care for their horses. That was a better fit for the skills he had.

Hartley wanted to be with Randall. His former opponent was the closest thing to a friend he’d ever really had, and he didn’t want to lose that connection.

He rolled over onto his back and stared at Randall. The big man was lying naked beside him on the large comfortable bed. This was the first time ever that Hartley had spent an entire night in a bed. Various lovers had taken him into their bed, but he’d always been expected to leave after the fucking was done. Of course, most of the fucking he’d done hadn’t even happened in a bed, but against a wall in a darkened stable or shed, or on the ground under their cloaks, or perhaps on a blanket under a tree.

Hartley shook his head. Those men weren’t lovers. Randall was his first and only true lover. The bodily contact he’d considered love in the past merely scratched an itch. His feelings for Randall were completely different. He thought it was love. Or maybe that it would continue to deepen and truly become love. Whether his feelings now were love or not, they were already a lot more than scratching an itch, and a lot deeper than anything he’d ever felt in the past. They were truly different.

Randall mattered to him. Not as a meal ticket or as a protector. He’d had them in the past. Now he could support and protect himself as a trained swordsman. No, Randall mattered to him as a person. They were equals, swordsmen working for a mutual gain to make this castle safe so they could all live here. But this meant more than that. He didn’t want Randall to like him for self-preservation. He wanted Randall to return the emotions he felt.

The problem was Hartley didn’t know what love was. No one had ever loved him before. They’d liked his body and enjoyed fucking him. More recently, they’d appreciated his skills with a sword and hired him to fight for them. But love? No, that was new. Completely new and totally unexpected.

Was what he felt for Randall genuine love? Did Randall return his love? Or was it all just his own need making him see things that didn’t really exist?

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