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When Love Awaits(10)

By:Johanna Lindsey



William shook his head wearily. This was all too much to grasp. Leonie nearly twenty? What offers had he refused? Henry ordering his child’s marriage? By Christ’s holy blood, he could not picture his daughter grown up. He saw her still as a child, with those large gray eyes so like her mother’s. Married?

“I do not remember signing a wedding contract, Judith. Were Elisabeth’s stipulations met?”

Judith frowned. “What stipulations?”

“Leonie’s dowry is to remain hers to do with as she will. It was her mother’s wish that she be protected in this way. Elisabeth was protected in our marriage, and she was determined that Leonie have the same advantage.”

Judith gasped. Would it make a difference to d’Ambert if he knew? Probably not, for he would realize that once he had Leonie, he could force her to do whatever he wanted. He could even force her to sell the land if that was his wish.

“You need not worry about the stipulations.” Judith spoke truthfully for once. “The contracts will be signed on the morrow before the vows are spoken, so you can make them known then. You can even have the contract drawn up now if you wish, before we leave.”

“Yes, that would be best. Who is Rolfe d’Ambert?” He was embarrassed to be asking, for he must surely know.

“The new lord of Kempston.”

“But Sir Edmond—”

“Dead these many months, William. His son fled before he could be banished. Surely you remember. You never liked him. You suspected his knavery long before others complained of it to the king.”

William sighed. What good to say again and again that he could not remember? He felt as if he had been asleep for years. He set his wine goblet aside, but his hand began to shake uncontrollably. A little would steady him, and he reached for the wine again. Only a little. He must see to the marriage contract. And if he was to see Leonie, he wanted her not to see him in this terrible condition.





Chapter 6




LEONIE was told that the large group of travelers nearing Pershwick were from Montwyn. The size of the group gave her pause, but she imagined Lady Judith was paying her another visit and was, this time, traveling with more servants than usual.#p#分页标题#e#

She took her usual precautions, sending all her able-bodied men inside to keep to the tower quarters to pose as part of her garrison. She could not argue overmuch if Pershwick servants were recruited for Montwyn, but she protested most vehemently when it came to depleting her men-at-arms.

She sent a servant to the village to warn those who felt the need to take to the woods until it was safe. And she sent Wilda and two other young maids to her chamber, where they would remain safely out of sight. Wilda was brazen enough to protest. She did not wish to miss the excitement of having guests. Leonie snapped, “You wish to be raped in the garden like Ethelinda? Did you see how she looked after Richer was finished with her?”

Wilda was subdued by Leonie’s anger and disgust. Richer Calveley treated Lady Judith with the greatest care and deference when he escorted her to Pershwick, making Leonie wonder about their true relationship. When he came to Pershwick without Lady Judith, he showed a different character, as foul as any Leonie had ever known. By Ethelinda’s account, he took pleasure in hurting her, and although Leonie had sent a complaint to Montwyn, nothing had come of it.

Aunt Beatrix and Leonie joined Sir Guibert in the hall to greet their visitors. Leonie steeled herself for another unpleasant encounter with Judith, but nothing prepared her for the terrible sight she beheld as an old man approached with Judith. She barely recognized him. Her father—here? She went dizzy with a sudden swirl of fierce emotions: bitterness, hate, sorrow for his pathetic condition and the dissipation in his haggard face. His face proclaimed clearly that he had become a drunkard. But there was love in that face, too, love for Leonie.

“Leonie?”

There was surprise in William’s voice, as if he were not sure she was his daughter. It brought Leonie’s bitterness surging upward, blocking out all the rest. Indeed, why should he know her? She was a woman now, not a child. He hadn’t seen her in six years. Six years!

“You do us honor, my lord,” Leonie said coldly. “Seat yourselves by the fire and I will see to refreshment.”

William was confused by her icy manner. “What is amiss, dear heart? You are not pleased with your husband?”

The endearment sent a stab through Leonie’s heart, but shock followed that. “Husband?”

“You play, Leonie,” Judith interjected. “You know your father means the man you will marry on the morrow.”

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