The Maiden (Montgomery/Taggert 12) - Page 19

“Yes,” she murmured, her eyes closed, her head back. “Together. Now.”

He pulled away from her to look at her face. “You tempt me very much, more than I would have thought possible. Jura, my love, I didn’t know I could feel this way. Tell me that you love me. Let me hear the words.”

She had no thought of words; she only felt. She felt his body next to hers, felt his big, hard thighs pressed against hers. She wanted to put her skin next to his, to entangle her toes with his, to feel her breasts against the hair on his chest. She wanted to run her hands, her fingertips, her nails over his skin.

“Jura!” he gasped, and plunged his mouth against hers so hard that she lost balance and fell backward, her back slamming against the stone wall of the stable. He didn’t release her but kept kissing her, his body crushing into hers until Jura thought she might die from the weight of him, yet, instead of struggling for release, she pulled him closer.

Suddenly, he released her and moved away from her into the deep shadows of the corner of the stall.

“Go,” he said raggedly. “Go or you are a maiden no more. Leave me, Jura.”

She held herself upright by clutching at the stones behind her, the roughness cutting into her palms. Her heart was pounding in her throat and her body seemed to be pulsating in undulating waves.

“Get out of here before someone sees you,” he said.

Jura’s mind was beginning to function again. Yes, no one must see her. She struggled to stand upright on her weak knees and she fumbled a few steps forward, clutching at the stall wall for support.

“Jura,” he called.

She did not turn around. Her muscles were too weak, too fluid to make any unnecessary movements.

“Remember that you are mine,” he said. “Do not let Brita’s son touch you.”

She nodded, too dazed to understand what he was saying, and made her way out of the stables. She was glad her feet remembered the way to the women’s barracks because her mind was full of nothing but him. She kept rubbing her fingertips, remembering the feel of him.

“Jura,” someone called, but she didn’t respond.

“Jura!” Cilean said sharply. “What is wrong with you? Where is your knife? Why is your hair loose? What are those marks on your neck? Have you been attacked?”

Jura gave her friend a crooked smile. “I am fine,” she whispered.

Frowning, Cilean took Jura’s arm and forcibly led her to her chamber. It was a Spartan room with only the necessities of a bed, a table, a chair, a washstand, and a large chest for clothing. Weapons hung on the walls, and over the bed was a carved wooden Christian cross.

“Sit down,” Cilean ordered Jura, pushing her toward the bed. Cilean dampened a cloth and pressed it to Jura’s forehead. “Now tell me what has happened to you.”

Jura was beginning to recover herself. “I…I am all right. Nothing has happened to me.” She pulled the cloth away. Her hands were still shaky but she was recovering. She must stay away from that man. He was like a disease that only she could catch—a disease that was going to kill her.

“Tell me your news,” Jura said. “You have met this English pretender?” Perhaps her hatred of the Englishman could make her forget her passion. “Is he as stupid as we thought?”

Cilean was still puzzled by her friend’s looks. “He is not stupid at all. In fact he seems extraordinarily brave. He rode against Brocain alone.”

Jura snorted. “That is stupider than I thought. His ignorance no doubt protected him this time, but it won’t again. You should go to Thal while he still lives and beg him to release you from marriage to this repulsive man.”

Cilean smiled knowingly. “He is not repulsive. He kissed me and it was very, very pleasant.”

Jura gave Cilean a hard look. “He presumes too much. Does he think we Lanconian women are lax in our morals? How dare he kiss a guardswoman as if she were a peasant?” Even as she said this, Jura could feel her face growing hot. A man had more than dared to kiss her, and instead of thinking of morals she had nearly mated with him on the stable floor amid the straw and horse manure.

“He has my permission to presume whenever he wants,” Cilean said, then turned away. “But it is not to be. Thal has called an Honorium to fight for the new king.”

“An Honorium?” Jura said in disbelief, at last giving her full attention to her friend. “But there has not been such a thing in my lifetime, nor, I doubt, in Thal’s.” She jumped to her feet. “How dare this upstart declare such a thing? It is an insult to you. It’s as if he were saying the woman chosen for him weren’t good enough. He is a bastard! He is a cowardly, sniveling—”

“Jura!” Cilean said, turning. “You are wrong about him and it’s Thal who has called the Honorium. He says his son is to be king of all Lanconians and therefore his wife should be chosen from all tribes. It is a noble thing Rowan has done when he agreed to this. What if a Zerna woman wins? Or an Ulten?” she said, this last question delivered with horror in her voice. “Not many men would be so noble as to allow such a contest. An Honorium has not been held since King Lorcan won Queen Metta. I hear she was a brute of a woman with half her nose gone from battles and she was older than the king by ten years. There were no children from the match. Yet Prince Rowan has agreed to marry the winner of the Honorium.”

Jura turned away and offered a silent prayer for help. Why did everyone endow this foreigner with noble characteristics? “He is no doubt ignorant of the possible outcome. He has seen you and thinks all Lanconian warriors are like you. Or else he is such an obedient dog he does what he is told without question.” Cilean’s laugh made Jura turn back.

“Prince Rowan is anything but obedient. Jura, you must meet him. There is feasting tonight. Come and I will introduce you and you will see for yourself what he is like.”

Jura let her anger show. “I will not betray my brother. Geralt should be king and, so far, what I have heard of this Englishman makes me more sure of that. You go to the feast and sit with him, I will not. Someone should stay here and see to the camp, and I have weapons to sharpen.”

Tags: Jude Deveraux Montgomery/Taggert Historical
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