Rowan’s eyelids lowered a bit. “Brita’s son.”
“Yes, Brita’s son, Daire.”
“Daire?” Rowan asked. “But Daire is—”
“Your friend? You thought he was your friend. Have you been telling him of your love for Jura? Has he said nothing of the fact that they have been betrothed for years?”
Rowan frowned and Lora hoped he was at last listening to her.
“Jura is your enemy,” she said. “She wants you out of Lanconia. She meant for Cilean to marry you, but I think she said yes to the priest because she realized she could get close to you if she were your wife. Oh, Rowan, I beg you to listen to me. I fear for your life. A wife is so close to a man. She could poison you, or stab you and blame someone else. And you are so blinded by her that she could make you do things you ordinarily would not. Look at how you have already called the Honorium in order to get her. Poor, sweet, dear Cilean now lies broken because of your wanting of this woman. Who else will shed blood because of your passion for her? She doesn’t like Phillip or me. What will you do if she orders us to leave you?”
“Cease!” Rowan ordered. He stood and began to pace the floor. There was so much truth in what Lora was saying. He knew Jura had power over him, but he had not considered how she might use that power.
“I cannot believe she wants my death,” he said softly. “She feels for me as I do for her.” Doubt, he thought, doubt seemed to plague his life. But about Jura he had no doubts. Jura’s love for him and his for her was the only sure thing he’d encountered since he rode across Lanconia’s border.
Lora grimaced. “Rowan, I am a woman and I know how easy men are to trick. Each man believes himself to be the best at all things, believes himself to be the only one a woman loves. But this Jura loves Daire and her brother, and she married you for them. She will remove you from their path, and once you are dead she will marry her beloved Daire and Geralt will rule.”
“I don’t believe you,” Rowan said fiercely. “The woman…cares for me.”
“Then where is she?” Lora shouted. “Why is she not here with you? She is with her lover, I tell you, making plans for what to do with you.”
Rowan stared at his sister for a moment, and some of the fog began to clear from his brain. If what Lora said were true…“Where is she?” he asked softly.
“I don’t know,” Lora answered. ?
??I sent Montgomery out to look for her, but he didn’t see her. Daire rode out of the city walls after Jura was carried inside. Perhaps she went after him.”
Rowan remembered the cool, quiet glade where he had first seen Jura. Perhaps she had gone there. He turned toward the door.
“Where do you go?” Lora asked, anxious.
Rowan’s eyes were cool when they looked at her. “I am going to find my wife.”
“And if she is with Daire?” Lora whispered.
“She will not be,” he said coolly, and left the room.
Lora stood where she was for a moment, then she thought of what could happen if Rowan found the woman he loved in the arms of another man. She ran from the room to search for Xante. Xante would know what to do.
“Meddling fool,” Xante said when Lora told him some of what she had said to Rowan. He was saddling his horse. “Jura is no murderer and she is a maiden. She does not lie with Daire. You should not have told Rowan these things and made him doubt.”
“He is my brother and I must protect him.”
“As Geralt is Jura’s brother, but she would no more poison Rowan than you would poison Geralt.”
“You don’t know women as I do,” Lora said stiffly.
“No, but I know Jura.” He stopped and looked at Lora, standing there biting her lip with worry. He adjusted his saddle. “Did you love the man you married as much as you love Rowan?”
She was startled. “Yes,” she answered.
Xante didn’t reply as he mounted his horse. “I have an idea where Jura went. The women hunt there sometimes.” He looked down at her. “Go inside. I will protect your brother from himself.”
Rowan’s head swam with the images Lora had planted there. Since that first meeting with Jura he had known he loved her. No other woman had affected him as she had, so of course it was love. But had she felt the same way? He had assumed she had, but had she said so? As he tried to recall their three quick, tempestuous meetings, he couldn’t remember her saying much of anything—at least not in words.
He dismounted some distance from the place where he first met Jura and walked silently through the darkness. Already he could hear voices raised in anger. He walked closer until he could hear them.
“You lied to me, Jura,” Daire was saying. “How many times did you meet with him in secret? He told me of how you ran to him.”