“Not that Neile,” Jura snapped. “I do not like that man.”
Rowan started to correct her but, instead, he said nothing. Perhaps Neile was offending other Lanconians as well as Jura.
For both of them the day was too short. Although they had been married for some weeks, they knew very little about each other, and so much anger had been between them that they could not easily trust. But each of them had been reared to do nothing except train for war. Rowan had had Lora to teach him some of the gentler ways and he had come to believe that was a woman’s place in life. Jura had no idea what Rowan expected of her.
They spent the day tentatively trying to please the other, neither of them knowing what the other expected in a marriage mate. Jura wanted to have an archery contest—after all it was what had made Daire ask her to marry him. But Rowan did not like that idea. He wanted to show Jura how to play a lute or to sing some English songs. Jura knew she had a musical sense that was made of lead and she did not want to appear to be a fool in front of him. It seemed that neither of them was willing to do what he knew the other one excelled at.
So they ate and made love and they talked. Rowan listened with some wonder at Jura’s story of her childhood. He had been so horrified at the idea of a women’s guard at first that he had dismissed the women, but now he listened more openly because he had seen the way Jura protected his back.
“But when did you dance and play?” he asked. “When did you ride out in the fields to look at the spring flowers?”
“The same time you did,” she answered.
They made love again that night and slept twined in each other’s arms. It wasn’t quite dawn when the sound of a horse, coming at a run, woke them. Jura and Rowan rolled out of bed instantly, both pulling on a tunic while they ran toward the tent door. Rowan ordered Jura to stay behind, but she made no move to obey him. She stood beside him, sword in hand, and waited for the rider.
It was Geralt, his dark face black with rage—and across his saddle, hands and feet tied, mouth gagged, was Brita.
YOU JAPING FOOL,” Rowan bellowed before Geralt spoke. Rowan caught the halter of the horse then pulled Brita into his arms. The Vatell queen’s eyes were on fire with fury.
“What did she do?” Jura asked her brother.
“It does not matter what she did,” Rowan yelled. “You have ruined us with your stupid little-boy temper.”
Geralt grabbed his sword as he dismounted and Jura put herself between her husband and her brother.
“You will not fight over this,” Jura said. “We will talk and see what can be done.”
Rowan hefted Brita in his arms. The rage and anger on the woman’s face spelled the end of all his dreams for a united Lanconia and all because of the childish temper of this half-brother of his. Geralt wanted power only for power’s sake, not because he meant to do some good with the power.
“I heard her planning to attack the Irials,” Geralt said, his voice full of hatred for Rowan. “She slipped from the bed we shared last night—the foolish woman thought I was asleep.” He glared at Brita. “It will take more than what an old woman like you can give me to make me sleep,” he spat at her. “I followed her. She went to one of her guard and ordered him to find your tent and kill both of you. I killed the guard and then, when this viper slept, I took her.”
Jura looked to Rowan. “My brother has saved yo
ur life and mine as well. You should not have doubted him.”
Rowan was aghast. “He has caused a war because he could not keep a woman in bed with him and I should not have doubted him?”
“You—” Geralt shouted, and advanced on Rowan, sword drawn.
Rowan was about to put Brita down and go after Geralt, but again Jura stepped between them.
“We must prevent war!” she yelled. “If the Vatells find their queen gone, they will murder the Irials as they sleep. We must work with what has been done—and it must be done quickly.”
Rowan stood holding Brita, ignoring her squirming in his arms, her noise made through the gag, and glared at his half-brother. He was seeing dreams and hopes crumble all because of this boy’s uncontrollable temper. No doubt Geralt was angry because Brita could leave his bed and felt the woman was insulting his masculinity.
“Rowan!” Jura shouted, trying to get his attention because all he seemed able to do was glare at Geralt with hate in his eyes. “We must make plans.”
Rowan could think of nothing except his anger. Slowly, he turned to look at Jura. “You side with him.”
“There are not sides to take,” she said. “Geralt thought he was saving your life, and it looks like he was.” She turned to her half-brother. “What did you do with the guard’s body?”
“I pushed it off Foran Cliff.”
“Get it,” she ordered, but Geralt didn’t move. “Go get the body and fasten it to sit a horse. We will take this queen back to the village and she will tell them she means to ride with us to Yaine.”
Brita gave a sharp “Ha!” through her gag.