When a de Wolfe mates, he mates for life. And when he falls for a woman, he falls harder than most. But when a scorned woman is involved, anything can happen…
And usually does.
Titus de Wolfe is the youngest of four talented and accomplished sons of the Earl of Berwick. On a visit to London on behalf of his father, Titus meets the woman who will change the course of his future.
Katiana de Edington is that woman.
Daughter of a very rich merchant, she’s not of the nobility. But she’s smart, educated, and vivacious, and undeniably beautiful. Titus is smitten. So smitten, in fact, that he marries Katiana without permission.
That’s when the trouble begins.
A local ally of de Wolfe has been planning on a marriage between his daughter and Titus. When news of Titus’ unexpected marriage is made known, the knives come out. Titus and Katiana should be enjoying their newly married life but all of Berwick is now on the alert against the storm of politics gripping the country and enemies who were once allies. When the House of de Wolfe is sucked into the conflict between Edward II and Thomas of Lancaster, someone close to Katiana decides to use her to his advantage. With his wife in trouble, Titus calls forth the de Wolfe Pack to save her… and seek revenge.
Wolves mate for life and Titus will risk his to seek justice for the woman he loves.
It’s an all-out battle in the north as the de Wolfe Pack prepares for war.
Release date: June 1, 2023
Publisher: Kathryn Le Veque Novels, Inc.
Print pages: 369
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WolfeBorn: A Medieval Romance
Kathryn Le Veque
Year of Our Lord 1292
He’d heard him being nasty to his sister before.
They all had. Roxburgh Castle might have been a large and strategic bastion sitting upon the border between Scotland and England like a lion preparing to pounce, but it was also full of gossip, social standings, and politics. It was part of the de Wolfe empire in the north, but it was also a royal garrison, making it a target for every spoiled lord who wanted his equally spoiled children to foster within its thick stone walls of royal glory.
That’s where the de Edington children came in.
Their father was a royalist at all costs. Loyal to the Crown and the prestige more than to the man who sat upon the throne. He worshipped at the altar of the institution of the monarchy, so the fact that Roxburgh was garrisoned by the de Wolfe family, but owned by the Crown, made it a paradox in Paulus de Edington’s book. He didn’t really view the enormous and powerful House of de Wolfe as part of the equation when it came to Roxburgh. It was all royal, no matter who commanded it.
That meant it was imperative his children foster there.
And so, they came.
Ansel de Edington was the eldest. Arrogant, snot-nosed, mean-spirited, but very bright, he had the same attitude his father had when it came to the House of de Wolfe versus the royal troops that were stationed at Roxburgh. He’d do anything for those royal soldiers, but when a de Wolfe knight gave him a command, it was with misgivings that he would follow it. That had resulted in several beatings, something that never broke his arrogant spirit but at least made him more willing to do as he was told, and more quickly than he would usually do it. Ansel, in the six years he’d been at Roxburgh, had been a boil on the butt of almost everyone there, the garrison commander included.
Blayth de Wolfe was fourth son of one of England’s greatest knights, William de Wolfe, and command of Roxburgh belonged to him. Blayth was part politician but all soldier, and he’d had many dealings with many entitled fathers and sons over the years, so he knew how to deal with them, but Ansel had proven a particular challenge. The young man simply didn’t understand when things went against his wishes or when someone else might have more privilege than he had because they’d earned it. Roxburgh ran very much on a merit system when it came to wards, pages, and squires because Blayth believed that men should work for what they wanted and be rewarded for it. Not simply because they were born into it.
But Ansel didn’t agree with that at all.
That’s where the sister came into play. Her name was Katiana de Edington, and she was the sweetest, prettiest, most angelic non-de Wolfe child in all of England. At least, Blayth’s wife thought so. Lady Asmara de Wolfe was in charge of the female wards, young ladies who came to Roxburgh to be educated. Asmara herself had come from a Welsh warring family, and, truthfully, she was more comfortable with a sword than with a needle and thread, but she had ladies around her that were some of the finest women in England.
One such lady was a former beguine, a widow who had lived in a nunnery after her husband died, but she came to Roxburgh to help train young ladies as a way of earning a living and imparting her knowledge, which was extensive. They called her Ma dame Lesparré, or Madam Lesparré, and she was an excellent tutor. She had taken Katiana under her wing, an eager but very young child, yet even the intimidating Madam Lesparré couldn’t save little Katiana from her brother’s spoiled rages whenever the situation didn’t go his way.
And that’s exactly what was going on now.
Titus de Wolfe was a nephew of Blayth and Asmara, the youngest son of Patrick de Wolfe, Earl of Berwick, who was one of Blayth’s older brothers. He happened to be fostering at Roxburgh, away from his home of Berwick Castle, because his father wanted him to have a perspective from a different border castle. God only knew how many times Berwick had been threatened, but usually it was from the same clans. Roxburgh was also quite volatile, from different clans with different reasons, different tactics. That was something Titus needed to learn.
But what he’d been educated on, aside from the Scots, was the nature of man. In this case, it was the nature of a young lad who was simply a bad seed. Titus had heard the knights muttering about Ansel, and that was what they called him—a bad seed. Innately given tendencies for bad and immoral behavior. No self-control. Selfish and demanding. All of these things covered Ansel de Edington, who took out his rages on his younger sister when he could get away with it.
But not today.
Titus wasn’t going to let him.
Titus was in the stables to prepare his grandfather’s horse, a man who happened to be visiting Roxburgh this day, when he heard the beating. He had no idea what was happening until he heard the voice of Ansel and the pleas for mercy from his five-year-old sister. Titus had a rope in his hand for the horse, but the sounds drew him. He followed them, his footfalls muffled by the dirt and straw floor, until he came to the last stall in the stable.
There, he saw it.
The sister, Katiana, was on her side, curled up in a ball, as Ansel used something in his right hand to whip her. Titus couldn’t tell what it was because it was moving too quickly as Ansel brought it down on his sister, again and again. Whatever it was seemed to be painful, because she was crying out, begging him to stop. Having two younger sisters of his own, sisters he loved, Titus began to see red. He didn’t like Ansel Edington as it was, but this… this sealed his opinion of the boy.
He had to act.
Thinking fast, he dropped the rope and grabbed Ansel by the hair. Yanking hard, he pulled the boy backward, toward him, and in the same motion grabbed whatever he was using to beat his sister with. It happened to be a branch of some kind, green and soft, which meant it hurt a great deal upon tender skin. With the branch in his hand, he threw Ansel onto the ground and began beating on him, whipping him, and then kicking him when he tried to get up.
“See how you like it,” Titus said as he struck him about the head. “How does it feel, you bastard? Do you like it? Do you?”
Titus stopped mid-strike, looking up to see his Uncle Blayth and his grandfather standing in the mouth of the stable, looking at him in shock. Startled, and realizing he was probably in a good deal of trouble, he stepped away from Ansel.
But the switch was still raised.
“I… I was punishing him,” he said, stammering. “He was… I found him…”
“Save me, my lords!” Ansel screamed, struggling to his feet, his hand over the right side of his head where his ear was bleeding badly from the whipping. “Titus attacked me! He means to kill me!”
Titus looked at Ansel in shock and outrage. “If I could, I would!” he fired back angrily. “Tell them what happened, de Edington. Tell them that I caught you beating your sister again and I came to her defense. Tell them!”
Ansel’s eyes widened as the tables turned on him. “He is lying,” Ansel said. “Look at me! He was beating my sister, and when I tried to stop him, he turned on me! You must save me!”
“It was Ansel, my lord. Do not believe what he tells you.”
Katiana was on her feet, the entire right side of her body bloodied from the beating she’d taken with the soft switch. The four of them turned to her as she stood at the edge of the stall, her left hand over her right arm, which was marred with injury.
A tiny little girl who had clearly been damaged.
That was what William de Wolfe saw. As the father of eight children and, at this point in his life, nearly forty grandchildren, he knew a little something about children in general. He knew about their behaviors, their loves, their dreams. Being a man of solid moral character and a decent nature, what he saw before him hurt his heart. All he could see was a little girl who had been badly treated, and he would stake his life on the fact that Titus hadn’t done it. He knew his grandson—he was a kind, generous lad. A little passionate about things, and, at times, he could be silly and a bit wild, but he didn’t have a bad bone in his body.
William hadn’t, however, heard the same for Ansel de Edington.
Pushing between the boys, he went to the little girl.
“Your name, my lady?” he asked kindly.
The little girl had the hiccups from weeping. Tears and dirt and blood were streaked all over her face. “Ka-Katiana de Edington,” she said, eyeing William with enormous eyes that were the color of bronze. “Ansel is my brother.”
William was a very tall man, and quite big, so he crouched down in front of her to be a little less intimidating. “I see,” he said. “And he did this to you?”
Katiana nodded, now looking at her brother and breaking down into tears again. William, taking pity, put a big hand on her head to comfort her.
“He will not do it again,” he said. “You are safe, I promise. Why do you weep?”
She wiped at her eyes with a shaking hand. “Because… because I am afraid of him,” she whispered.
William’s jaw twitched faintly. “I assume he has done this before?”
She nodded, once, and tried to stop crying. William sighed, disgusted with the entire situation, and patted her gently on the cheek.
“Where does Titus come into this?” he asked. “Did he hurt you, too?”
The little girl shook her head fervently. “Nay, my lord,” she said. “Titus pulled Ansel away and punished him. He stopped him from hurting me.”
That was all William needed to hear. Standing to his full and imposing height, he looked at Ansel.
“How long have you been at Roxburgh, de Edington?” he asked in a decidedly unfriendly tone.
Ansel was terrified. “Six years, my lord.”
“How old are you now?”
“I have seen fifteen years, my lord.”
“And in the six years you have fostered here, you have not been taught that we do not beat women?” William asked. “That we protect them and respect them, and make sure they are safe and happy in all things, but no matter how angry they may make us, we do not lay a hand on them? Have you not learned this?”
Ansel was at a loss. He was cornered and he knew it. Trembling, he moved his gaze to his sister as he struggled to come up with an answer.
“My… my father gave me permission to discipline my sister,” he said, sounding both weak and arrogant. “I will tell my father that…”
“Tell your father what?” William said, his eye narrowing. He was particularly frightening to children with his one patched eye and growling voice. “Tell him that his son is a foolish and pathetic child who beats on his tiny little sister to make him feel more like a man? By all means, tell him. You will have the opportunity, too, because I am sending you home. You can face him personally. You are not worthy of fostering at Roxburgh Castle, nor any of the de Wolfe properties, and I shall make sure that your father knows that. Go back to your chamber and stay there. Do not leave for any reason or you shall feel my wrath.”
Petrified with fear, Ansel took off running. William and Blayth watched him go before looking at each other, eyebrows lifted at the behavior of such a child. Blayth, an enormous man with a scarred head beneath graying blond hair, finally shook his head in disgust.
“It needed to be done,” he said in the quiet, deliberate speech that was his normal pattern because of a head injury years ago. “Young Ansel has been a troublemaker the entire time he has been here. That was bound to happen at some point.”
William was still angry at the nasty young man. “Why did you not send him home before now?”
Blayth cocked an eyebrow. “Because he was under the close watch of my knights, and we were trying to give the lad a chance to grow up,” he said. “But truthfully, we cannot help him. He does not want to be helped. Like his father, he is full of ambition and doesn’t care whom he slanders or hurts along the way, so the fact that you have dismissed him personally will have far more weight than if I did it. Let’s face it, Papa—you’re a bigger man than I.”
He was grinning by the time he finished, and William, though still angry, cracked a smile. “I am older, in any case,” he said. But his smile faded as he looked at Titus, who was still standing there with the switch in his hand. “And you—you are not one driven to violence that I am aware of, so clearly, Ansel’s actions pushed you beyond your endurance. Though I do not condone fighting like that between men who should be allies, I understand why you did it. It was noble of you.”
Titus thought he was going to be in real trouble until that moment. With a sigh of relief, he dropped the switch.
“He’s done it before,” he said. “I’ve seen him. We all have. If he becomes angry, he knows he cannot beat any of us, so he beats his sister instead.”
William shook his head, thinking of a young man who would target his own sister in his rage. He looked at Blayth.
“And you knew about this?” he asked.
“I did,” Blayth replied. “We have been keeping him far from his sister, so he must have gone out of his way to find her this night.”
“What was he upset about?”
“I was informed earlier that he received a tongue lashing from one of the knights for neglecting his studies,” Blayth said, his gaze drifting to the girl. “I should have known he’d go to great lengths to get to her.”
William looked at the young girl also. “How did your brother find you, my lady?”
She looked up at him. “I was helping in the kitchens tonight,” she said, still sniffling. “When I came out to collect some eggs, he was in the kitchen yard.”
“And he captured you?”
“How did he know you were in the kitchens?”
Katiana shrugged. “I do not know, my lord,” she said. “But all of the girls have duties, and mine have been in the kitchens for a short while.”
William could only guess how Ansel knew. He was probably stalking her and knew that if she had kitchen duties, it would only be a matter of time before she showed herself in the kitchen yard. He put his hand on her blonde head gently.
“He is going home,” he said. “You will remain here, and from this day forward, Titus shall be your champion. If you need help or if you are afraid, I want you to go to Titus right away. He will protect you and find you the help you need. Do you understand?”
Katiana nodded, her big eyes turning on Titus, who was both proud and fearful of such a responsibility at his age. He was the same age as Ansel, on the cusp of manhood. But he was ready for it.
“Titus?” William said. “Lady Katiana will be your responsibility from now on. She is very young and fragile. You will make sure she is protected.”
Titus squared his shoulders and went over to Katiana, holding out a hand to her. “Come with me,” he said. “I will make sure your wounds are tended. Are you hungry?”
Hesitantly, Katiana reached out to take his hand, and, with surprising gentleness, Titus led her from the stable, asking her what kind of food she wanted to eat and promising her that she could have anything she wanted. It was a surprising show of compassion for such a young man. William followed the pair at a distance until they were out of the stables, heading toward the kitchens.
“Titus will take care of her,” he said, turning to Blayth. “But you know that sending Ansel home will not be met with quiet resignation by his father.”
Blayth nodded slowly. “Paulus is a big man with a big mouth,” he said. “He has raised his son in the same fashion.”
“He has,” William agreed. “I will send him home with a Questing knight so he understands that this was my decision. Hopefully that will keep Roxburgh away from his rage.”
Blayth made his way over to him, pondering the situation. “May I suggest that you summon de Edington to Questing to retrieve his son?” he said. “Bring the man to you. He’ll be less in control if you deal with him at Questing rather than sending someone to Callerton Castle. Edington created this mess—he should see the results of his labor as Questing demands he fetch his son home.”
A gleam came to William’s eye. “He will be quite humiliated.”
Blayth had no sympathy. “For any man who would tell his own son that he had permission to lay hands on his sister, he deserves no less.”
William nodded. “Agreed,” he said, his gaze moving to the vast upper bailey of Roxburgh, bustling with people going about their business. “But something tells me that it will not be the end of it. ...
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