Lionheart by Sharon Kay Penman

By Sharon Kay Penman

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He was saying that they were needed to help man the oars, saying there were Christian pilgrims still on the ship and it was his duty to rescue them, that it would shame him to stay on shore whilst the sailors braved the sea again. Alicia didn’t understand, didn’t even hear his words. Sobbing, she clung to him with all her feeble strength, begging him not to go, and he finally had to tear himself away, kissing her upon the forehead before he shoved her back onto the sand. “God will protect me,” he insisted, with a grimace that he meant as a smile, and then scrambled into the longboat as they launched it out onto the churning waves.

The galley had not gone down as quickly as all feared, and once the storm passed, the local people rowed out in small boats and ferried the stranded survivors to shore, charging exorbitant fees for that service. Only then did the San Niccolò break up and sink quietly beneath the waves. “Our costs have been minimal, my lord, for only three of the women passengers were injured. One broke her arm when she was flung against the tiller, and the second sprained her ankle when she jumped out of the longboat.

Sicily had its own customs, its own traditions, and his harim had nothing to do with her or their marriage, which he was sure she’d understand once she was older. Even at age twelve, Joanna had known she was being patronized. She’d consoled herself that surely he’d put these women aside after she was old enough to share his bed. But he hadn’t. They’d consummated their marriage once she turned fourteen, yet nothing changed. By then Joanna fancied herself in love with him, and that had been a painful time for her.

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