“You will obey me or you will regret it,” he said.
“What will you do? Order me kept prisoner? And who will obey your commands? Do you think my Lanconians will? You will never be allowed to leave the gates of Escalon alive if you harm me. And that will be the end of your childish plans to unite the tribes.”
Rowan clenched his fists at his side. Never had anyone been able to get to him the way she did. He had dealt with his uncle William’s stupid sons without once losing his temper. And never had a woman made him angry. Women were sweet, kind things who gave comfort to a man and listened to what he had to say with wide, adoring eyes. If a man went hunting, he was to return to tell his wife of the dangers of the hunt and she was to sigh and exclaim at his bravery. But Jura might bring down a stag bigger than his.
“Have you no women’s clothes?” he asked. “Must you wear such a garment as that?” He indicated her loose trousers with her high, cross-gartered boots.
“You are no older than the child,” she snapped. “What does it matter what I wear? It helps me perform my duties and—” She stopped because Rowan had pulled her into his arms.
“Your duties are to me,” he said huskily. “You do not press your body against other men.”
“Do you mean when I stopped the fight?” Her voice was slower and lower. She couldn’t think clearly when he touched her.
“Jura, you have done something to me. I do not recognize myself
“Then I will tell you who you are: you are an Englishman in a country where you do not belong. You should return to England and give the kingship to my brother.”
He thrust her from him. “Leave me. Go and fill your belly and do not interfere between me and my men again.”
“They are Lanconians, they are not your men,” she said as she left the room quickly and hurried back to the main hall. She would be lucky to get any food. The tables were being cleared but she managed to grab a venison pie that was only half gone from a servant’s tray and began to eat it as she left the castle walls to go outside where she could breathe.
She was walking toward the men’s barracks when Geralt came toward her. “You were not at dinner,” she said.
“Sit with my enemy?” he asked sneeringly. “I hear you are to live with him now.”
“And to travel with him. The fool thinks to unite the tribes,” she said, taking the last bite of the pie.
Geralt gave a derisive laugh. “He will be killed by the first tribe’s territory he enters.”
She could feel her brother watching her. “I have told him so but he does not listen. He will be killed soon and maybe it is better to get it over with. Some of the men like him. Xante stays too close to him.”
Geralt moved closer to her and his voice lowered. “You are in a position to hasten his death.”
She spat out a piece of gristle between his feet. “I am no murderer. He will kill himself soon enough.”
“So it is true that you have gone to his side. Cilean said that you wanted him for yourself and that is why you knocked her down in the Honorium. Tell me, does your blood boil hotter for this pale foreigner than it does for your own people?”
Her nostrils flared at him. “Do you think that your sly insults will goad me into murdering him? Then you do not know me. I tell you that he is a fool, and he will do himself in with no one’s help. You will be made king and you won’t have the blood of your English brother on your hands.”
“Unless he breeds a child with you,” Geralt said.
“There is no chance of that,” Jura answered.
“He is not a man?” Geralt asked in wonder.
“I do not know. He says he has made a vow to God that—” She broke off. “There will be no children during the short life of the man. Wait and be patient, you will be king.” She turned away from him and walked through the inner gates into the city. It was quiet now, with both man and animals settling down to sleep.
Unite the tribes, she thought. Impossible idea, of course. The tribes hated each other too much to ever get along, and that stupid Englishman would never be able to understand that. One had to be Lanconian to understand the Lanconian mind.
Oh well, she thought, shrugging, it didn’t really matter anyway since the fool was going to get himself killed before long. She paused for a moment. It would be a shame for him to die before she spent some time in bed with him. After all, they were married.
With a yawn, she turned back toward Thal’s old castle. Tonight she would be secreted in a room with him and perhaps tomorrow she would no longer be a maiden. She smiled and hastened her step.
JURA CORRECTLY ASSUMED that her husband was using Thal’s old room as his own, but when she pushed open the door, he looked up from a table with a startled expression.