“I did a bloody good job when I won you,” Jura shot at him.
“Mind your language,” he snapped, then looked back at Cilean. “I will take my own men. I know them and they will obey me. You will draw us a map. Daire may come also if I do not have to watch my back for his blade.”
“Are you accusing Daire of—” Jura began, but Cilean halted her.
“I will draw no map. What I have I carry in my head. Meeting Brita in secret is your only chance of getting her to listen to you and only I can take you to her. Daire will go because she is his mother.”
“But my wife stays here,” Rowan said with finality.
“No,” Cilean said. “Jura goes with me. Just as you work well with your men, Jura and I work well together.”
Jura leaned back on her stool, her back against a wall. She knew who was going to win. Cilean had something Rowan wanted and Cilean wasn’t going to give it away for free.
JURA SLEPT ALONE in the small bedchamber that night and she tossed and turned, listening for the door to open and Rowan to enter, but he did not. An hour before dawn she left the empty bed and tiptoed from the house. She was already angry. The Englishman may not sleep with her for whatever strange foreign reasons he had, but she would kill him if he humiliated her by touching another woman.
There were people sleeping everywhere, but look where she would, she could not find Rowan. She woke Cilean and together the two of them began searching for Rowan.
The sun was high in the sky when the women met again. Cilean shook her head. Jura frowned and went in search of Rowan’s squire Montgomery. The tall, dark boy was braiding the mane of Rowan’s big war horse.
“Where is he?” Jura asked.
Montgomery looked surprised. “The king isn’t with you?”
Jura was beginning to grow suspicious. “When did you last see him?”
“Just before I went to bed. He yawned and said he had some hard riding to do and I thought—” The boy broke off, embarrassed.
“Where is his riding horse? That big roan of his?”
“It’s—” Montgomery stopped and stared. “I thought it was down there.” He looked at Jura. “If someone has taken my master, I am ready to fight.”
Jura let out a sigh. “The fool has gone alone into Vatell land. I know that is what he has done.”
Montgomery glared at her. “My master is not a fool.”
Jura paid little attention to him. “He has yet to prove to me otherwise. This must be kept secret. If the people hear he has ridden alone into enemy territory they will ride after him. We must say he…he went hunting. Yes, and you must go with him. He would not go without his squire.”
“I cannot lie,” Montgomery said stiffly.
Jura groaned. “Not that knightly honor again! You can lie when it means preventing a war, damn you! Give me four days. If I do not bring him back in four days, there will be no need to send anyone after us. Can you do this, boy? Are you man enough?”
“Man enough to lie?” Montgomery asked.
“Man enough to take on responsibility. You will have to fight those high-nosed knights of his and I don’t know if you can do it.”
“I can do whatever is needed.”
“Good,” Jura said. “This must be kept as quiet as possible. Saddle my horse and I will get a bag of food. Wait! Tell people I have gone with Rowan to be alone with him. Tell them I was jealous of all the women yesterday and he has taken me away to soothe me. With such an excuse you can stay here and fend off the people for as long as I need.” She was on eye level with the boy, and although she felt much older, she was actually only two years older than he and he had the dark good looks she liked so much. She put two fingers under his chin. “And this will be less of a lie for you. Your master and I have indeed gone off together and you will not know where.”
Montgomery did not feel that Jura was especially older than he was, and to her surprise, he took her fingers and kissed the tips. “My master is a fortunate man.”
Jura, feeling a little confused, snatched her fingers away. “You will behave yourself with my Irials,” she said. “I do not want half-English brats nine months from now. Now, saddle my horse so I can ride.”
Montgomery smiled at her as Jura left the stables. “Insolent English pup,” she muttered.
Jura’s first task was an argument with Cilean. Cilean wanted to go with Jura, but Jura wasted valuable moments saying that Cilean’s absence could not be explained.