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Welcome to our first story on this site!

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by Nan Hawthorne

SEDUCTION is from the novel Beloved Pilgrim, released March 2011. 

Elisabeth, disguised as her own twin brother Elias, a knight, has traveled to Constantinople to fight in the Crusade of 1101 as a man.


“My lord. Welcome to my humble pleasure garden. I hoped you would be able to share my supper with me. Come and sit here.” Andronikos was in royal blue silk. It was a color that became his graying hair and beard. Elisabeth went to the pile of cushions and sank into them. “Will you take wine?”

“Your Excellency, I am flattered at the invitation. We are not expecting any of the other knights?”

Andronikos smiled. “No, we shall be quite alone.”

He poured wine into a cup.  Elisabeth took the cup and drank. “What is that bottle you are smoking from?”

“It is a hookah. The water takes the bite out of the smoke. The herbs are a mix of mild drugs and fragrant leaves. It is harmless,” he added, seeing her hesitation. He went on, “I shall have the servants bring in the dishes right away, if you please, so we will not be disturbed.”

Elisabeth accepted the pipe’s mouthpiece and sucked while her host clapped his hands to bring in the food. She coughed. “If the water takes out the bite, I hate to taste it without.”

“One gets used to it. Take the smoke into your lungs and hold it for a while. That hastens the effect.  Not unlike inebriation, and like inebriation, its impact depends on the quantity you take.”

The servants came with platters and bowls of a rich variety of delicacies. They put the dishes on a low table. “Have some oysters,” the eunuch suggested.

Elisabeth picked out an oyster that simmered in a rich garlic sauce and popped it into her mouth. Andronikos did the same, looking into her face as he bit his oyster in half; he ate the rest and sensually licked the sauce from his lips.

“I thank you, your Excellency, for your generosity in providing me and my servant such a magnificent lodging.”

“And you are being served well, my lord, by my own servants?”

She nodded vigorously.   Around a mouthful of rice and fruit wrapped in a dark green leaf and cooked, she said “Indeed, most satisfactory.”

“And the girl. She pleases you?”

Elisabeth looked up sharply. Blushing, she said, “Maliha? Well enough, my lord. I have not had much for her to do. She is willing enough.”

Andronikos looked down. “You do not take her to your bed?”

Elisabeth reddened further. Telling herself it might be a proper question for a host in this part of the world, she counseled herself to calm. “M-my lord, no. It is not necessary. I have no need of that . . . her.”

A pleased smile spirited across the eunuch’s lips. “If there is anything at all you require, my lord, do not hesitate to ask. Now let us enjoy this modest fare so we can relax and . . . talk . . . after.”

The meal was pleasing but did not leave one over-full. Andronikos continued to press wine and the hookah on Elisabeth. Though the air in the tent was not hot, it was warm and fragrant. She took her cup and leaned back on the cushions, feeling more than a little somnolent.

“My lord, may I call you Elias? I insist you call me by my given name.” The eunuch said softly.

“But of course, Andronikos,” she replied and toasted him.

Andronikos smiled. The sun was creeping behind a thick tree, muting the light within he tent. “InGermanydid you have a betrothed?”

“I did. I left . . . her behind.”

“Did you have anyone . . . special? Besides her, of course.”

Elisabeth thought about Elias. “There was one . . . fellow, like a brother to me.”

“A brother?”

“Yes, very much like a brother. He is no longer with us.”

“You mean he left the pilgrimage?”

“No.” Her voice trailed off. “He passed on.”

Andronikos leaned closer. “Oh my dear, how sad. I grieve for his loss, for your loss.”

Elisabeth smiled. “I miss him terribly. So does Albrecht . . . so does my squire.”

Andronikos’s eyebrows lifted.

Elisabeth closed her eyes. A languor had stolen over her. She thought she might drift off, but lacked the volition to fight it. She felt the older man shift on the cushions. All at once, he was lying lightly on her, his arms on the cushions on either side of her waist. Her eyes shot open to find the man’s face inches from hers. His eyes so full of longing it took her breath away.

“Andronikos!” she breathed when she could speak again.

“My sweet, do not fear. I know the truth, your secret. It is safe with me.” He lifted his hand and stroked her cheek. “So soft, so smooth.”

“You know? How can you know?”

Andronikos caressed her throat, letting his finger slip under the collar of her tunic. “I sense it. If you know what to look for, it is easy to see.”

She glanced down at her tunic to see if her breasts were defying the cloth that bound


He let his lips just brush hers. “So sweet. I have never seen a man so seductively soft yet fully a man.”

Elisabeth pushed him away.  “No, no, you don’t understand. I am not . . . you are not . . . I can’t!” She had lifted one knee to push herself with her heel and barely missed kneeing the man in his groin. She felt the stiffness there. “I am sorry. You are such a good-looking man. It’s just . . . ”

Andronikos pulled himself to a sitting position. “No, no, my lord, do not apologize. It is for me to do so. I misread the signals, I am sorry. I hope you will not despise me.”

Elisabeth’s head was still fuzzy, but the sudden awareness was bringing her back to her senses. “No, I shall not despise you. I never would. Love is love. Pleasure is pleasure. I don’t care what anyone says. It’s just that you and I are not . . . ”

The man’s chin lifted. He smiled ruefully. “Meant to be?” he suggested.

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Beloved Pilgrim is available in print and on Kindle at Amazon and elsewhere.

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