The Maiden (Montgomery/Taggert 12) - Page 32

As she moved along the dim stone-walled corridors toward the main hall, she thought of what a fool the man was. As if he could march into the main city of each tribe and ask them to please stop hating each other. She was right, someone would kill the fool within days.

And as for his not bedding her, that was truly puzzling.

Was it that he did not desire her? That seemed a ridiculous thought or maybe all Englishmen were as passionate about women as this one was about her. Or perhaps he could not consummate their marriage. She shrugged. Who could understand the thoughts of a foreign idiot?

“You are Jura,” said a small, breathless voice. “You won.”

Jura looked down to see the little son of the Englishwoman. She suspected he was younger than his height indicated, and, to her, his pale skin and hair looked like bread that had not been baked long enough. The wall torch made the boy look as if his face were carved out of a pearl.

“What do you want?” she asked, looking down at the child. He was a young enemy now but he was indeed her enemy.

“I saw you,” the boy said, his eyes as round as blue meadow flowers. “I saw you win. I saw you beat everybody. Would you teach me to run like you do? And wrestle? And shoot a bow?”

Jura couldn’t keep from smiling. “Perhaps.”

The boy smiled up at her.

“There you are,” said a voice at the end of the corridor. It was the young man called Montgomery and Jura’s hand instinctively went to her knife, but the young man was merely gazing at her in a way that Jura knew was complimentary. Her hand relaxed.

“This is Jura,” the boy said proudly.

“Yes, I know,” Montgomery said, and smiled. Jura saw that he was going to be a splendid-looking man and she smiled back at him.

“What is this?” Rowan shouted from behind the trio. “Montgomery, have you nothing to do but drool over my wife? No armor to clean? No weapons to sharpen? No lessons to study?”

“Yes, my lord,” the boy said, but he gave Jura another smile before he left.

Young Phillip, at the sound of his uncle’s shout, had moved between Jura and the wall, his arms going around her thigh and holding on to her. Jura looked down at the boy in surprise.

“Phillip!” Rowan said sharply. “What do you think you are doing?”

“This is Jura,” he said as if this were an answer.

“I know full well who she is, now come away from her.”

Jura smiled at Rowan. “If you cannot control a child, how do you expect to control Brita and Yaine, who rule the other tribes? And greasy old Marek?”

Rowan grabbed for Phillip’s arm but the boy slid behind Jura and she put her body between Rowan and the boy.

Suddenly Rowan straightened. “You have power over me,” he said softly. “You make me act younger than my squire. I’ll not fight you for the boy; no doubt you have bewitched him also. But remember, he is not my heir. There would be no benefit to you to harm him.”

“Harm a child?” Jura asked in horror. “Even an English child? You go too far. I have no need to harm any Englishman as you will do yourselves the most harm. We Lanconians will tire of your self-satisfied superiority and someone besides me will remove a few heads.” Her eyes narrowed. “And that Neile of yours will go first.”

“Neile?” Rowan asked. “Has he tried for your favors?”

“Get your mind out of your breeches. The man hates us and he lets it be known. Now, I am hungry and I smell food. Am I allowed to eat or have you vowed that I may not?”

Rowan’s nostrils flared in anger but he said nothing. “Come. Eat. Who am I to have a say in your life?” He turned and started down the hall.

Jura meant to follow him but Phillip tried to take her hand. “Lanconian warriors do not hold hands,” she said, “and straighten your shoulders. How can you be a Lanconian if you slump?”

“Yes sir,” Phillip answered, and Jura did not correct him as the boy stood straight.

She smiled down at him. “Perhaps we can find you some proper clothes more befitting an Irial warrior.”

“And a knife?” he asked, eyes gleaming.

“By all means a knife.”

Tags: Jude Deveraux Montgomery/Taggert Historical
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