I have far too many projects releasing this year, but I can’t help it. These stories demand to be told. So, I’m offering a little teaser of the first chapter of the first book in my medieval trilogy. His Wicked Whispers is Book One and releases on May 10th. It’s being published under my pen name/alter ego Jen Bradlee. Without further ado, allow me to introduce you to Crispin Saville, the Prince of Whispers.
A knock sounded through the chamber. Crispin fumed. How many times must he remind them to leave him alone after the evening meal?
“I will not be disturbed!”
“Your highness.” A strained voice echoed through the solid wooden door. “The king wishes to speak with you straight away.”
His cock wilted at the mention of his father. He glanced at the door, willing the man behind it to burst into flames.
“I am coming!” He tossed the whip down and glanced at the naked wench on his bed. “Cover yourself.” He strode to the door and opened it. “This had better be a matter of life and death. I gave clear instructions I was not to be disturbed.”
“I beg your pardon, your highness.” The servant bowed. “I explained your request to the king, but he insisted you be summoned immediately.”
Crispin inclined his head, agitation clawing at his spine. “Well, I would hate to keep him waiting.” His words dripped with sarcasm.
The king only demanded his presence when he wanted something. He frowned, feeling the crease deepen between his brows. The only time anyone had use for him was when they desired something of value.
The servant led him to the king’s presence chamber and opened the doors. Crispin sauntered into the room bearing an air of boredom and disinterest. The servant closed the doors behind him as he exited. The king sat behind his desk, reading a roll of parchment, oblivious to his presence. He cleared his throat when the king continued to ignore him.
“You required me to attend you, yet you do not speak.” Crispin bit back the other words threatening to spill from his lips. Over the past several weeks, his father had shown him nothing but contempt. He had returned victorious from a quest and was met with utter disregard. He straightened, watching his father take up a quill and write upon the parchment before him. His father’s fair hair bore no sign of his age.
Crispin ran his hand through his own auburn locks. He resembled his mother, while Francis—he let the thoughts of his brother drift away and focused instead on his growing irritation with his father.
“I did.” The king spoke slowly, not lifting his gaze from the parchment before him. “You have put me in an awkward position.” He finally met Crispin’s gaze. “I am forced to make a difficult decision.”
“I am unaware of what you refer, Father.” Crispin grit his teeth.
“You know damned well what you have done!” The king rose from his seat and slammed his fist down on the massive wooden desk. He stalked around it, approaching Crispin. His dark gray eyes shone with exasperation and conviction.
Crispin swallowed hard and straightened, keeping his attention fixed on the far wall. He refused to make eye contact with his father. Why should he care what the peasants thought of him? He was the rightful heir to the throne, chosen by God to lead them. He smirked, allowing his arrogance to bolster his courage.
“She informed me she was unattached. How was I to know she was the visiting duke’s wife dressed in peasant rags?” Crispin dropped carelessly in the chair beside him, swinging his legs over the arm.
“Do not pretend you had no inkling as to her identity. Why must you constantly behave like a self-indulgent child?” The king leaned against his desk, arms crossed, his gaze narrowed on Crispin.
“Because I am—at least according to you.” He had grown tired of the lectures and his father’s constant ridicule.
“Crispin.” The king rubbed his forehead. “This is precisely why I sent Henry away. If you do not learn to control your baser impulses, I will be forced to cut you from your inheritance and give the crown to the next in line, your cousin Fredrick.”
His head snapped up at the mention of Henry and the implication of the king’s words.“Father, you cannot be serious. You would deny me the throne? My cousin, the bumbling fool, has neither the presence of mind nor the fortitude to rule a nation.”
The old man shook his head. “I have done all I can to lead you, to show you how to rule as a true king should, but you simply refuse to acknowledge the basic tenets of leadership.”
“I have done all you have asked of me, Father.” Crispin ground his teeth and shot to his feet, pacing the worn rug. “Surely you must see this is ridiculous.” He ran his hand through his hair tempted to tear it out in frustration.
The king’s gaze followed him. His lips pulled in a thin line and his face remained stoic. “I have tried to be a good king and father, but as of late, all my attention has been dedicated to appeasing nations you have insulted with your careless and selfish behavior. The people have suffered because of this, and I must set things to right. Unfortunately, disinheriting you may be the only course of action to ensure the safety of my people and the realm.”
“You cannot take what is mine!” Crispin’s voice rattled the ceiling timbers. “It is my birthright! I will have what is owed me.” He jabbed his finger at the king, punctuating each word.
“It was not your birthright; it was your brother’s!” His father’s restraint finally snapped like a dead branch beneath a boot.
“He is dead!”
His mother’s voice boomed behind him making him turn. She stood inside the door, her hands clasped before her. The dark blue gown emphasized the color in her cheeks and the dark auburn braid wrapped intricately around her head. The stern set of her lips and the concern in her eyes enhanced her regal bearing. Crispin cursed himself for not realizing she had entered the room, but then she made it a point to tread lightly until the opportune moment. He dropped his hand and met her gaze.
“Mother.” He greeted her with a slight bow. Fury still raged inside of him, boiling and roiling in his mind full of dark thoughts. He would definitely need a good, mindless fuck to release all this repressed anger. Maybe he would start a fight; sometimes that worked just as well. He allowed himself a small, wicked, satisfied grin.
“I know the gleam in your eyes, my son. It betrays the mischief in your mind.” She cocked her head and stepped closer to him, cupping his face with her palms.
Crispin leaned into her warm touch. Her unwavering belief in him touched his calloused heart, but it never swayed him. He stiffened and reached up to slowly draw her hands from his face.
“I appreciate your concern, Mother.” He took a measured step out of her reach. “But I am a man grown, I believe I know my own mind.”
She nodded with tears glinting in the corners of her blue eyes. “’Tis what concerns me, darling.”
The king held his hand out to her, and she joined him, leaning into her husband’s warm embrace. They formed a united front. Crispin crossed his arms, irritation flooding him.
“We are sending you on one last mission to see if you truly are ready to take your responsibilities seriously.” The king spoke with confidence and conviction. “This is your last warning. Failure will result in your banishment.”
Crispin arched his brow, silently challenging his father. “Is this the worst you can do? Banish me from my home and abrogate my God-given rights.”
“I will strip you of your title, your station, and your wealth, and cast you out of my kingdom. Then you may live as you choose. As you are right now, you are unfit to wear a crown.”
His father’s words stuck like an arrow piercing his heart. How did they expect him to change overnight? Could he even change at all? Crispin refused to let emotion creep into his expression. He affected a cold mask of indifference.
“What is this mission?” His voice remained level and calm while the storm raged in his breast.
“A taste of what you can expect if you fail.”
“I beg your pardon?” Crispin glanced between his mother and father. “What will this accomplish?”
His mother spoke this time. “You will travel within our borders, unescorted and penniless, with only the clothes on your back and the people you meet for companionship.”
“And you expect me to survive when they discover who I am?”
“You are not permitted to reveal your true identity. You are to survive using only what you bring with you as a man alone against the world.” The king’s limiting instructions seemed ludicrous.
“Father, surely you jest?” Panic crept into his chest, constricting his heart with its iron grip.
“You know I am not one for games and tricks, Crispin.” He narrowed his gaze. “Those are traits you favor. I doubt they will serve you well on your mission.”
“When may I return?”
“When you have learned what it is to lead and serve in tandem. When you realize a king has duties which lie beyond these walls and his own selfish indulgences.” The king’s voice grew more passionate with each statement. “When you fulfill your destiny and become the man I know you can be.”
Crispin’s hands clenched into fists as he listened to his father’s words. He would do what he must. Deep in the corner of his mind, he realized the futility in arguing. He was not a good man at heart and refused to conform to the mold in which his father expected him to fit. He nodded even though he burned to argue the uselessness of such a challenge.
“Yes, Sire.” His jaw clenched. If he unleashed his anger now, his father would surely banish him without a second thought. It was for the best he follow their request. “Is there anything else you require of me before I take my leave?”
“Know that we do this out of love,” his mother said softly. “Be the leader we know you were born to be.”
With a stiff nod, Crispin turned his back on his parents and strode from the room without a backward glance. If they were so eager to be rid of him, who was he to defy their orders? He swiftly returned to his chamber and found himself alone.
The wench had gone. He cursed. Part of him had hoped to find her still wet and willing in his bed. He ran a hand over his face. The night had quickly turned sour.
He changed into sturdy traveling clothes and packed a small satchel with some essentials. He hoarded some coin, so he tucked what he could into his pocket for safekeeping. Strapping the belt around his waist, he buckled it and slid his sword into the scabbard. He tucked the daggers away, one into the sheath at his hip and the other in his boot. One could never be too prepared. Crispin headed for the door, snatching his heavy woolen cloak from the hook and draping it across his shoulders. He took one last, long glance at his warm bed and his opulent room then disappeared into the night.