“From your soft blow?” she asked, lying, for her head was pounding. “What do you plan to do now? Rid yourself of me permanently? Perhaps your beloved Brita has decided I am too much of a risk.”
“Yes she has,” Rowan said solemnly. “She saw us together yesterday and she sent one of her guard to follow you. He had an arrow aimed at you when I sank a knife into the back of his neck.”
Jura blinked at him in the darkness.
“I could not come to you last night,” he continued, “for she had me watched.”
“So you stayed and fed her and kissed her and—”
Rowan kissed her mouth to keep her from talking, as his hand moved down to her breast. “I have a plan,” he murmured, his mouth against her neck. “I am going to take Brita to Brocain. I think they might like each other.”
He had untied her belt and was easing her tunic over her head. “Brita’s army fought Brocain’s once and Brita won,” Jura said, but her mind wasn’t on her words. “Do not do this to me,” she whispered.
“Jura,” he whispered, “don’t you realize that I love you?”
“Love?” she asked, startled. “If this pain is love, give me hate.”
Rowan pulled her tunic over her head and began to kiss her breasts. He knew he could be missed at any moment, that Brita might wake and see that the cot she had had placed near hers in the tent was empty, and she would send her guard searching for him. But right now his need to give to Jura overcame his fear.
Jura cried out in pain as he first entered her. She was a virgin and tight with anger, as well as being hindered by her trousers pinning her legs together. She pushed at him but he seemed oblivious to her pain.
There were tears in her eyes when he collapsed on her body.
“Get off of me,” she said, shoving at his shoulders.
He drew back, rolling off of her as he adjusted his clothes and Jura angrily pulled hers on.
“Jura,” he said, “it will be better.”
“It could not be worse,” she snapped, her voice strained. The lower half of her body ached with pain. “Had I known what this was like, I would have given you to Brita at sword point.”
“Damn you!” he said fiercely as he stood. “I have risked both our lives by coming to you tonight and now you are no longer a maiden. I will not marry Brita.” He bent and grabbed her chin in his hand. “I swear that I will make you love me, Jura. If I have to chain you to me, you will love me and you will enjoy what we did tonight.”
“Never,” she said, looking up at him with fury in her eyes.
They didn’t speak as Jura adjusted her clothes and went back to the camp, Rowan not far behind her. She didn’t sleep much that night, and the next morning she was so sore, it hurt to sit her horse. She watched Rowan with Brita with much less concern than she had the day before.
It was late in the day when they reached the river that was the border to the Irial land. Jura waited, surrounded by Vatells, while Rowan came toward her.
“We will cross the river alone while the Vatells wait here,” he said without softness.
Jura answered him in kind with a cool nod and urged her horse ahead to follow him. They rode alone together without speaking as they forded the river. Just on the south side, they were met by a group of angry Irials who surrounded these trespassers wearing the Vatell clothes. But as soon as they saw Rowan’s golden hair, they lifted their swords in salute and rode with them toward the Irial village.
It was night when they reached the village and, tiredly, Jura slipped from the saddle.
“Come with me,” Rowan said, grabbing her arm.
“I am hungry and—”
“You can eat later, now I must meet with my men.”
“Your Englishmen are probably sleeping by now.”
“My Lanconian men,” Rowan emphasized, pulling her with him.
Daire was just coming out of a stone house, his broad, muscular chest bare, and Jura would have run to him if Rowan hadn’t kept such a fierce grip on her arm.
“Follow me,” Rowan commanded Daire, and then kept walking as if he expected to be obeyed. When he saw Cilean, he ordered her to follow him also. He led the three of them into Jura’s aunt’s house.