“To what?” he asked innocently.
“Brita had nothing to do with this. If you want to follow that old woman about like her pet dog, that is your choice.” She started to roll away from him to get out of bed, but he held her fast.
“Brita is not old. She is a beautiful, powerful woman, and power like hers appeals to a man, especially a king like me.”
“She is not so beautiful as I!” Jura half yelled, then saw by Rowan’s face that he was laughing at her. Her voice lowered. “Brita is the better off, for I saved her last night from a boring evening.” She gave a yawn. “Perhaps she found herself a lusty Lanconian lover, someone as handsome and virile as Daire.”
“Daire!” Rowan gasped. “Why, I could break that scrawny, ugly, little—” He broke off when he realized she was giving him some of his own back. “I know how to punish you for that,” he said, looking fierce. The next moment he was on her, tickling her until she was squealing with laughter and writhing between his legs.
The writhing made him forget that he was “punishing” her, and in a moment they were kissing as hungrily as if they had not seen one another for a year. The kissing led to a long lovemaking, then both fell into a short but deep sleep.
The rumbling of Rowan’s stomach woke them both.
“I do not want to leave here,” Rowan said, holding her close to him. “Out there rages the world. No doubt Brita has already declared war on the Irials, and it is my fault for not seeing to her.”
His tone was so gloomy that she kissed his nose then her head came up. “Someone comes.”
Instantly, Rowan was out of the bed, pulled a cover over his shoulder to cover his nakedness, and grabbed his sword. “Stay here,” he ordered Jura. “And I mean that.”
He left the tent to await the arrival of the lone horseman, who, when he saw Rowan, increased his pace.
It was Xante and he looked at Rowan—nude but for the wool blanket over one shoulder and trailing behind him, his sword drawn—with amusement. “It is good I am not an enemy,” Xante said. “You took long enough to hear me.”
“What is wrong?” Rowan asked, his voice heavy and sharing none of Xante’s humor. “How am I needed?”
Xante paused a moment before answering, his jaw working. “You are not needed. Your sister has sent you food and clothing for Jura.” He raised an eyebrow at Rowan. “She seemed to think Jura’s clothing would not last the night.” Xante gave a big smile at the reddening of Rowan’s face.
Rowan cursed his fair skin and the Lanconian smugness as he took the baskets from Xante. “Brita is all right? She is not angered because I was not with her last night?”
“Young Geralt entered her tent last night and has not yet come out. We Lanconians seem able to do some things on our own, brother.”
“Brother?” Rowan asked.
Xante’s face turned hard, as if preparing for Rowan’s disapproval. “I married your sister last night,” he said almost defiantly.
Rowan’s grin almost split his face. “It seems we English are not so incompetent. She has you delivering goods and messages the morning after your marriage. Could you not keep her in bed this morning?”
It was Xante’s turn to look sheepish, then he smiled. “There is enough food there for two days and there is no need for you to come back. Everyone is…interested in each other. There will be many children nine months from today. I bid you good morning, for I have my own children to beget.” He waved his hand in farewell and turned his horse away.
Jura came out of the tent wearing Rowan’s tunic, a small eating knife in her hand. “So now you have the captain of the guard on your side,” she said thoughtfully. “I wonder if Geralt knows of this.”
Rowan put two fingers to her lips. “Peace for as long as possible, remember? Do not speak of your brother today, please. Let us eat and make love and swim and sing.”
Jura smiled at this. “Can we actually do what we want today? No uniting of tribes nor any other state business?”
“We shall be lovers and do what lovers do. Shall I play my lute and sing for you?”
“I’d rather you showed me that trick you have of throwing a knife. I have tried it but I cannot move my wrist as you do. It would be very useful in battle to be able to throw a knife and kill a man so cleanly and quickly. I could—” Once again, Rowan put his fingers over her lips.
“An hour’s knife practice, an hour of singing, and the rest of the day making love,” he said.
Jura looked thoughtful. “That seems like an equal division to me,” she said seriously, her eyes twinkling. “Shall we eat first or bathe first?”
“Eat,” he said, reaching for her, but laughing, she eluded him and grabbed the basket of food. When his blanket fell away and she saw that he wanted more than food, she ignored him as she sat on the ground and began to eat. But all through the meal she stretched her legs often and bent so he could see down the front of the loose tunic.
It was a heavenly day to both of them, the first they had shared as people, not as enemies. Rowan reluctantly showed Jura how to throw a knife, but he soon realized that she had a natural aptitude for using a weapon and after an hour’s practice she was nearly as good as he.
“You should teach my men,” he said grudgingly.