Trousseau Trilogy #2


by Victoria Staat

Distrusting by Victoria Staat

Merrick is a leader and a man of battle. His friend and brother, Cole, is worried about an attack from an old enemy, so he sends Merrick to gather information.

In an attempt to fetch the information, Merrick is terribly injured. A crossbow through the thigh does serious damage. Merrick’s second in command is in a hurry to find safe haven. They came across a farm house where an older woman agrees to care for him. Once there, Merrick finds a young woman, a tough one, determined to get her way to care for him. Her name is Dory. Truth is, he doesn’t trust women. He’s learned many hard lessons about trusting, from women.

Yet, because of the horrible pain he suffered from the crossbow. He has no choice but to let the woman tend to his injury. He’s surprised at how well she takes care of him. She’s awfully attractive too. Merrick even thinks that maybe she could be trusted. However, on the day of Merrick’s departure. He discovers that Dory is betrothed to the very enemy who tried to kill him. His anger explodes. Which causes him to make a decision that will change his life. He takes her home with him.

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Release Date: October 26, 2021
Genre: Historical Romance



April 12th, 1719

In the hills of the English countryside.


Merrick Spencer made his way across the bailey of the castle, Rose Thorn. He had just received word from a servant that Cole Renfew, his lord, friend and adopted brother, wanted to see him. He was faithful to Cole in every way, and that’s why he hurried along.

As he walked, he thought about the last couple of years they shared in battle. They had fought side by side against many of their foe. Recently, they were engaged in a struggle with Lord Lovett and his son Dugan, for the very ground he stood upon. Only the man’s son had lived through the struggle. The thought of Dugan Lovett made Merrick’s skin crawl. He’d missed his chance to plunge his blade through his heart nearly a year ago. Oh, how he wished he could have killed the rotten bugger.

He stepped through the door of the castle keep. It appeared he could hear his booted heals on the stone floor as he wondered what Cole needed of him. He came to a halt at the door to Cole’s library and knocked.

“Come in,” Cole announced loudly.

“You wanted to see me?” Merrick asked as he closed the door behind him.

“Aye, that I did. Have a seat.”

Merrick made himself comfortable in a chair in front of the desk and gave Cole his full attention.

“I’ll get right to the point. It’s been nearly a year since we chased Dugan Lovett from these walls, the sniveling bastard. Now, I’ve caught wind of yet another plot against our family from Lovett. That’s why I sent for my dear friend and brother, you, Merrick. I need to know if these rumors are true. If the hearsay was right, we could be the ones to strike first this time. I could rid us of the fool!”

“How do you know of this plot?” Merrick asked.

“I dare not say where I heard it. I promised confidentiality. However, the word is he has been gathering wagons full of weapons and men.”

“Seems Dugan Lovett is plotting against us once more. So, he’s coming back to Rose Thorn hoping to kill us all this time,” Merrick said as he shook his head.

“It looks that way, that’s why I’m sending you to find his stronghold.”

“What would you have me do once I’ve found his lair?”

Cole grinned. “Let me know what sort of weapons he has.” Then he shrugged. “And of course, if you could do a little damage, it wouldn’t offend me.”

“When would you have me leave?” Merrick asked as he stood from his chair.

“Tomorrow, at first light, and take whatever men you think you may need.”

With a nod, Merrick headed for the door. Until Cole’s voice stopped him. “Be careful, Brother.”

“Aren’t I always?” He flashed Cole a smile and off he went to do his brother’s bidding.

* * *

Lord Merrick Spencer knelt behind a group of boulders. His second in command, Lane, crouched down next to him. Merrick’s attention focused on a stronghold that was only two days’ ride from the castle Rose Thorn.

“I knew it was here, Lane, yes, it’s Dugan Lovett’s lair. Right where Lord Cole thought it would be. He had a feeling that the man’s hide-out wouldn’t be far away, and it looks as though he was right.”

“Aye, only two days’ ride from our home. It also looks like he’s gathering men for an army. Look at them all. Did you see all the wagons they have? Lovett could easily wage a war against Rose Thorn and win with all he has.”

“Yes, Lane, that’s exactly what Lord Cole figured he’d do.” Concern filled Merrick ’s eyes as he spoke of Lovett building an army large enough to go up against Rose Thorn once more. “He wanted to stop that from happening.”

“What would you have us do now?” Lane said, as his gaze never left the front gates of Lovett’s stronghold.

Merrick smiled devilishly. “We’ll make a plan. I think you, me, and our men, can cause Lovett some trouble before we leave this place today.” 

Merrick watched a wide smile grow on Lane’s face. He knew then that his second in command would lend a hand without question. He also understood by his expression that Lane was ready to ride into hell with him, just to get back at Lovett for all the havoc he caused at Rose Thorn, the year before.

It took Merrick most of the morning to make their plans. Once he’d finished, he had two of his men sneak quietly into Lovett’s bailey. They gathered old clothes from the drying lines behind the homes. As soon as the sun was high in the spring sky. His men were wearing peasant clothes, all that is but Merrick and Lane. They wore old, tattered cloaks with hoods up. Lovett would surely recognize them at first glance.

Merrick motioned to his men. Knowing the plan, they all headed slowly and separately through the gates. The man in front motioned the next man in safely. He hoped his men would blend in with the peasants that were going in and out of the castle gates. He wanted them to look as though they were just enjoying the marketplace.

Merrick's expression showed his pleasure at the way their disguises worked perfectly. They looked just like everyone else. It wasn’t long before his strategically placed men fit into the marketplace without a problem, and no one was the wiser.

Merrick and Lane were the last ones through the gates, wanting to size up the compound without being noticed. It was vital that they remember all the bits and pieces of Lovett’s weapon information. They also needed a rough head count and placing of their weapons of defense. This accounting would help with Rose Thorn’s defenses of attack. A nod of Merrick’s head and his men went to their assigned places. Moving slowly so as not to cause attention. It was important to Merrick that they wait patiently for their plan to take hold.

Once Merrick had all his men strategically placed, he began instituting the plan. First off, he placed two of his men at the gate. They would take the place of the real guards at the gate for their escape. With a nod of Merrick’s head to his men, Lovett’s gate-men lay knocked unconscious. They now had control of the gates.

It wasn’t long before Merrick noticed several wooden barrels, wagons full, in fact. He’d seen barrels like that before. But what, or where, was it? Then it occurred to him. It was black powder. He knew how costly the powder was. Although, its uses were many in battle in their part of the world. He worried about the ramifications of such a huge number of barrels, especially if Lovett used that black powder against Rose Thorn. That’s why he chose the barrels for their first target.

At that moment, Merrick nodded to his men near the gates, and they began checking every corner of the bailey. It was also their task to remember what sort of weapons Lovett had and where. Suddenly, two guards approached a group of his men. He watched them banter back and forth. There was no doubt this was the beginning of trouble. Once he saw one man draw a sword, the battle began.

While most of his men were fighting around him, Merrick did what he did best, made do with what he had. He ran up the stairs of the castle wall, and with a whistle to his men, he used his flint and lit the feathered end of an arrow. He notched the arrow into his bow and let it fly. It landed into the middle of the stacked barrels, and a few moments later, the gun powder blew. His men all ran for the gate at Merrick’s roar. Seconds later, barrel after barrel ignited, until half of the compound was a blaze.

In the middle of the chaos, no man left behind was on Merrick’s mind. He feared imprisonment or death would be their fate. Truth was, he wanted to make sure that each man made it through the gates to safety. He felt a responsibility for every man under him.

It was then that he heard it, an eerie sound. It was an arrow. The sound was familiar to him. A crossbow was his choice of weapon, and he could hear the tightly wound string at the arrow’s release. He panicked at the whistling sound. Quickly he scanned the area. He needed to see where it was coming from, and then he felt it rip through his thigh. The force was so strong it flung him to the ground, pinning him and the arrow to the firmly packed dirt. At that moment, pain tore through his entire leg. That’s when he saw Lovett’s soldiers running across the bailey toward him.

He knew he couldn’t run, not with the arrow sticking out of his thigh. He roared, “Lovett’s guards are coming, everyone out, and now!”

At that moment, one more barrel of black powder across the bailey blew, causing havoc all over again. Without warning, Lane and another one of Merrick’s men grabbed him under the arms, pulling his leg and the arrow out of the ground that had pinned him. A few seconds later, they’d dragged him through the gates. Just as two of Merrick’s men barred the gates from the outside, keeping Lovett’s men on the inside of the compound.

Merrick was reeling from the pain of the arrow in his thigh when his men helped him into hiding, deep in the rocky hills.

From where they stood, there was an excellent view of Lovett’s stronghold, and Merrick could see the damage they had caused. People were hurrying about, trying to put out the fires, while others were tending to the injured. It was a bloody mess, to be sure.

Even though Merrick and his men had limped away from the battle, they had won. Now, with Lovett's black powder nearly depleted, he’d weakened the man considerably. It would take him weeks, maybe even months, to deal with the damages, along with his lack of black powder.

It was almost dark when Merrick realized Lane had brought their small band of men to a stop. Lane had spotted something. “Milord, do you see it? A small, secluded farmhouse in the distance. Over yonder, do you see it? Lord Merrick, no one would look for us there, it’s just a shack, and we can tend to your wound. You know, you only broke the end of the arrow off. The rest of the embedded shaft is in your leg.”

“I’ll be all right, Lane.”

“Beggin’ your pardon, but you know as well as I do, if that arrow stays in there, infection will surely set in.”

Merrick took a deep breath. He knew Lane was right because the pain he was encountering was nearly unbearable. With a frown, he gave Lane a reluctant nod. “I believe you’re right. I won’t make it back to Rose Thorn, not with a two-day ride ahead of us. We must tend the wound.”

“Then I will go see what I can do.” With a nod from Merrick, Lane rode off to do just that.

* * *

A short while later, Lane pounded on the door of the rickety, bare wood farmhouse. An old woman answered the door.

Merrick’s second in command bowed his head, respectively. “Madam, I am called Lane, and milord, he’s gravely wounded, and we need a place where we can tend to him. May we at least use your barn?”

“Nonsense, you bring him right inside.” With another bow to the old woman, Lane hurried over to his horse and off he went to fetch his lord.

* * *

Nearly an hour later, Lane and two other men helped Lord Merrick into the farmhouse. However, once inside, Merrick met a woman he wasn’t expecting. Although this one looked to be a lovely young lady, at least that’s what Merrick thought. She stood by the lit stone fireplace; her hands clasped together in front of her. Merrick thought by the looks of her clothes, she was not poor like the old woman Lane spoke of. The material of her dress alone would have been quite dear.

Merrick could see that Lane was about to open his mouth and question the woman, so he cut in. “Who, may I ask, are you? We thought there was only an old couple living here.”

Now Merrick never said, but the pain in his thigh was growing stronger by the moment. Because of that, his lack of courtesy showed clearly. Yet the young woman didn’t seem offended by his tone. She then bowed respectfully. “I am Dory, daughter of Lord Winters. Our compound is just over the hills. These lovely old people are serfs to my family. It is my task to oversee their crops. They are indebted to us, and it shows favorably on me if their crops are worthy and plentiful, which they are every year.”

Through Merrick’s pain, he looked at her strangely. “I did not ask for your life’s story. I am sorry, but I am not in the mood, or do I have the inclination to listen to a woman’s gibberish!”

“Well, you asked!”

He then held his hand up for her silence. “As I have said, I am in no mood!”

Without another word, Dory motioned him to a large chair near the hearth. Then she said to Lane, “Help him sit here, I have already started some water to boil.”

“There is no need for you to tend me. My men are quite capable,” Merrick said in a condescending tone.

Dory took hold of the arms of the chair and looked him square in the eye as she announced firmly. “Yes, maybe they can, but I have everything here to tend your injury. Your men could only field dress you like a deer!”

* * *

Merrick’s pain was now clear to the young woman because of the deep growl of his voice. “I am sure this lovely old woman can do it, or as I have said, my men are capable.” 

He’d made it clear to her he didn’t want her tending him, still her determination won out. 

“You’d rather an old woman with shaky hands tend you than a woman who heals the sick often?”  

Merrick now spoke in her face, “What you say may be true, but a woman you’re not! All you are is a girl, and a young one at that.”

“I’ll have you know I am a woman,” Dory said, hands on her hips as she stood over him. “I am nearly twenty, I’m just short, and you, milord, could do no better for a healer! So, stop fussing,” and without another word to him, she went about her task.

She pointed to Lane. “You will help me and choose another to lend a hand. This will be painful for your lord.”

She could see by the expression on the lord’s face that he wanted to fight her over this. Yet he had no more fight left in him. The wound was severe. She understood the pain had to be even worse than she could imagine. He sat slowly in the chair and he dropped his head onto the back of the chair. There was no doubt in Dory’s mind that exhaustion had taken him.

Merrick seemed to be close to passing out when Dory and Lane pulled the arrow out from deep within his thigh. He roared like a lion at the excruciating pain, and Dory expected no less.

She was stitching his leg as Lane spoke.

“How long do you think until he’s able to ride?”

“That will take a little time, for he must not move too quickly. I’m also concerned about infection. To say nothing about the possibility of him splitting these stitches open.”

“Milady, we must move him, our lord awaits us.”

“I am sorry, my good man.”

“My name is Lane.”

“All right then, Lane, I will make this very clear to you. I have already given your lord laudanum. It will take away the pain, but it will also put him into a deep sleep. That, Lane, is what he will need to heal, rest and plenty of it. You and your men may sleep in the barn. However, you must help me get him into bed in the back room first. There he will sleep and heal.”

“Milady, when will we know he is well enough to travel?”

“I will come here each day and tend him, and I will let you know when the time is good.”

With an incline of his head to the lady, Lane and the two other men helped Merrick to bed. She was right behind them, ready to bandage his thigh. It wasn’t long before she looked down on her handy work. She then noticed he was asleep. That brought a smile to her face. She knew it meant that the laudanum was doing its duty. The men had taken his clothes off, and he lay in only his braziers. His chest was bare, he was deep in sleep.

Dory pulled a handmade quilt up to his shoulders. She thought he was a handsome man, large also, his thighs were thick too. She shook her head at the thought. Dory always tried not to look at the bodies of the men she healed. It didn’t seem right somehow to stare at them because they were unaware. Except for this man, there was just something about him. She couldn’t help herself. As she admired how tall he was, a realization hit her. He was a warrior of royal blood. The way his clothes fit and looked, even his attitude, there was certainly no doubt of his station. She couldn’t help wondering where the battle had taken place, and who he fought.

Dory left the room, thinking of the warrior lord. Although it wasn’t long before she put the thoughts of him behind her. She just went for her cloak and put it over her shoulders when Lane asked, “You will be back tomorrow?”

“Yes, I will keep my word.”

“Milady, I would ask you not to speak of this or milord to anyone.”

“And why is that?”

“You see, madam, milord has enemies about, and it wouldn’t be fair if he had to fight any of them off in his state. That’s why, I would appreciate your candor, at least until he is well again.”

Dory stared at him for a long moment. “All right Lane, I will keep this to myself, at least until he is well enough to be on his way.”

Lane dipped his head low to the Lady. “I’m in your debt, Miss.”

Dory inclined her head to Lane slightly. As he walked away, she felt he was a loyal man, a fair man. She knew he would protect his Lord with all he had. What did his Lord do to gain that type of loyalty? It surely didn’t come easily for him. Dory knew that was rare. Out the door and into the darkness, she stepped.



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