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Chapter One

"Your mother was a willful little jade," the queen said, thumping her first on the magnificently carved desk. "Some maggot in her brain made her throw away her position of maid of honor by making that disastrous marriage with a common spy, rather than accept the union I had arranged for her with the Earl of Devon. Even the flamboyant name she chose for you flouted convention."

Burgundy Bedford stood silently before Elizabeth, thinking the queen looked like a corpse that had been resurrected. How she hated this bitch of a woman! Well, if Bess thought her mother had been willful, she would soon learn that Burgundy Bedford was even more headstrong and unbiddable!

Elizabeth's red wig screamed its falseness to the world, making Burgundy wonder if her own abundant wine-colored tresses had triggered this tirade against her mother. The queen was overdressed in silver gauze, slashed with red taffeta. Pearls and rubies studded the lining of the high-collared gown. In contrast, Burgundy wore one of the queen's castoffs in dark green velvet.

"Before you follow in your mother's footsteps, I have made arrangements for you to marry into that same noble family." The queen's expression altered for the worse as she smiled. "The husband I have chosen for you is Lord Nicholas Mountjoy. So you see, I hold no grudge against your mother, who was, after all, my dear friend at one time."

So the rumor Burgundy had heard was true! Elizabeth was marrying off her profligate favorite before he scattered any more bastards about her realm. Well, she'd be damned if she'd have the queen's leavings! Burgundy lowered her lashes so that the shrewd Elizabeth would not see the rebellion in her eyes. She curtsied. "Thank you, Your Majesty," she said sweetly, trying not to recoil as Elizabeth presented her beringed, bony fingers for Burgundy's kiss of homage and gratitude.

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