Bridget Littleton is thrown back in time to the court of Henry VIII:
a fascinating tale of love and betrayal.
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Torches nested in brackets along the wall and did a surprisingly good job of lighting the hallway. Bridge followed meekly, terror half closing her throat. She noticed the way Jane walked and corrected her own, fighting the desire to mimic her guide in an exaggerated manner. Fear often brought out the clown in Bridge, but she suppressed the impulse and mirrored Jane’s demeanor as precisely as she could. Shoulders back, head high, hands folded in front, she walked slowly and with as much dignity as she could muster under the terrifying circumstances.
Jane Seymour – destined to be the king’s third wife, came to court to attend Catherine of Aragon and was now one of Anne’s ladies. Talk about a front row seat! Bridge concluded. This could turn into such a mess if I’m not careful! Knowing what she knew, Bridge would have to walk on proverbial eggshells. One misstep and she could be in serious trouble and possibly face the stake, or the chopping block. She tried to clear her mind and focus on what was happening at that exact moment.
Bridge decided to concentrate on the sounds of the swish of silk fabric against brocade, the report of their wooden heels against the floor, the play of light on the jewels of Jane’s cap. Eventually, she heard music, very lively and accompanied by laughter. The hallway brightened, and she was there. Jane promptly deserted her.
She couldn’t believe her eyes! Here she was, little Bridget Littleton, standing in the great hall of Hampton Court, and there before her eyes was none other than Henry VIII. He was magnificent! Resplendent in cloth of gold and ermine, jewels flashing as he moved his hands to eat, drink or in conversation, the first thing she noticed was how extremely handsome he was. He reminded her of someone, but in her present state of agitation, she couldn’t bring to mind who it was. His portraits did not do him justice. Perhaps the painter’s goal was to accentuate his stance, robes and jewels. Or maybe his mouth was made to look smaller because he was supposed to look stern, and his painted eyes, bereft of eyelashes and brows pencil thin, made his face look rather plain and porcine-like. From where she stood, she could see a well-formed mouth, the lips pink with health; she wondered what they would feel like upon hers.
Shaking herself inwardly, appalled that such a thought should speed through her mind like a bolt of electricity, she failed to see that the king was looking at her.
Leaning forward and signaling to a tall courtier with dark hair, he spoke to him abruptly. The young man turned, pinpointed Bridge, and strode over.
Watching him approach, Bridge felt a moment of panic. Her heart bouncing against her rib cage like a captured bird trying to escape, made her feel giddy. Her breathing became labored, encased as it was in stiffened cloth and whale bone, as the frantic organ’s beats hit her esophagus, causing her to gasp and choke. Her blood, akin to a river of ice water, ran through her veins as frantic fear settled upon her, and she was suddenly very cold.
A dream-like quality settled over her, like a mantle of thick cloth, muffling the music and laughter. The young gentleman stepped before her. Offering his hand, he simply said,“M’Lady, the king awaits.”