“Jura!” The voice was closer.
Jura grabbed a rock and brought it down on the man’s head. She didn’t mean to hit him so hard, only to get his attention, but he collapsed senseless on her body.
She could hear the guardswomen coming closer now. With urgency and a great deal of regret, she pushed the man off of her. For a moment she looked down at his magnificent body. Never had she seen a more perfect man, muscular yet lean, thick but not heavy, with a face like one of God’s angels.
She ran her hand over his body, down his thick thighs and back up to his face. She kissed his lips.
“Jura! Where are you?”
She cursed the stupid trainees who had interrupted her, then stood so they could see her. The tall grasses hid the man at her feet. “I am here,” she called. “No, don’t come any closer, the mud is deep here. Wait for me at the path.”
“It’s growing dark, Jura,” one who was little more than a girl said.
“Yes, I can see that,” Jura snapped. “Go on. I won’t be but a moment.” Impatiently, she watched the women go out of sight then knelt to the unconscious man.
Perhaps she should feel guilty about what she had almost done with this stranger, but she didn’t. She touched his chest again. Who was he? He wasn’t Zerna, nor was he Vatell like Daire. Perhaps he was of the Fearens, the horsepeople who lived in the mountains and kept to themselves. But he was too large to be a Fearen.
He was beginning to stir and Jura knew she had to get away from him before he looked at her again with those hooded eyes that threatened her sanity.
She ran toward the bank, grabbed her clothing, and dressed as she ran toward the trainees. She could still feel his hands and lips on her body.
“Jura, you look flushed,” one of the girls said.
“Probably because Daire is returning soon,” another one said slyly.
“Daire?” Jura said as if she’d never heard the word before. “Oh, yes, Daire,” she said quickly. Daire had never made her heart leap to her throat or made the muscles in her legs turn to fluid. “Yes, Daire,” she said firmly.
The girls looked at one another knowingly. Jura was getting old and losing her mind.
“Rowan! Where have you been?” Lora questioned sharply.
“I…I went swimming.” He was dazed, befuddled. His head swam with images of the woman. He could feel her skin against his palms and he was sure his chest was still red where she had sat on him. He had been able to dress and saddle his horse only because he had done it so often before.
“Rowan,” Lora said softly. “Are you all right?”
“Never better,” he murmured. So this was lust, he thought. So this was the feeling that drove men to do things they wouldn’t ordinarily do. If this woman had asked him to kill for her, to desert his country, to betray his men, he doubted if he would have hesitated.
Rowan became aware that people were looking at him. He was leaning on the high, wide pommel of his saddle, his body relaxed, a half smile on his lips, and below him Lanconian and English alike were gaping at him.
He straightened, cleared his throat, then dismounted. “The ride refreshed me,” he said in a dreamy-sounding voice. “Here, Montgomery, take my horse and give it extra feed.” The dear animal led me to her, he thought as he caressed the horse’s neck.
Montgomery moved close to his master. “They thought you couldn’t take care of yourself for even a few hours,” he whispered bitterly.
Rowan patted Montgomery’s shoulder. “I could take care of the world tonight, my boy.” He turned away toward his tent and stopped near Daire. Daire was a tall, silent man whose face did not show what he was thinking as Xante’s did. Somehow, Rowan did not feel as much contempt coming from Daire as from the others.
“Have you heard of a woman named Jura?”
esitated before answering. “She is Thal’s daughter.”
Rowan’s horror showed in his face. “My sister?” he choked out.
“Not by blood. The king adopted her as a child.”
Rowan nearly wept with relief. “But we are not blood related?”
Daire was watching him. “Geralt is your brother by blood. Jura and he share a mother while you and Geralt share a father.”