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When Love Awaits(2)

By:Johanna Lindsey

Concealment was jeopardized as her men came running behind her. Leonie quickly turned toward them, hushing them and motioning them back. She made her way to them silently, and they positioned themselves around her, then moved back toward her land. Sir Guibert and the rest of the men were upon them a moment later.

“There is no danger,” she assured Sir Guibert. “But we should leave this place. The lord of Kempston has found a woodcutter’s hut burned to the ground and I think he is none too pleased.”

“You saw him?”

“Yes. He is in a fine rage.”

Sir Guibert grunted and hurried Leonie along. It would not do for her to be found near the burned hut with her men-at-arms. How would she talk her way out of that?

Later, when it was safe, serfs could return to the woods and retrieve Leonie’s plants. For now, Lady Leonie and the armed men had to be removed from the scene.

As Sir Guibert lifted her into her saddle, he asked, “How do you know it was the Black Wolf you saw?”

“He wore the silver wolf on a black field.”

Leonie did not say that she had seen the man once before. She could never tell Sir Guibert that, for she had disguised herself and sneaked out of the keep without his knowing, to go to the tourney at Crewel. Later, she’d wished she hadn’t.

“Most like it was him, though his men also wear his colors,” Sir Guibert agreed, remembering that awful bellow. “You saw what he looks like?”

“No.” She could not quite keep the disappointment from her voice. “He wore his helmet. But he is huge, of that there was no mistaking.”

“Perhaps this time he will come himself and see the trouble ended instead of sending his man over.”

“Or he will bring his army.”

“He has no proof, my lady. It is one serf’s word against another’s. But get you safe inside the keep now. I will follow with the others and see the village guarded.”

Leonie rode for home with four men-at-arms and her two maids. She saw that she had not been firm enough in warning her people against causing more trouble with the Crewel serfs. In truth, her heart had not been in the warning, for it gave her satisfaction to know the new lord of Kempston was being plagued with domestic problems.

She had thought to soften the situation with her people by offering entertainments at Pershwick on the next feastday. But her anxiety over the Black Wolf and what he might do next made her decide against any gathering at her keep. No, she was better off keeping a weather eye on her neighbor’s activities and offering no chance for her people to gather where there was bound to be drink. They might, she knew, decide to plan something that could easily rebound on her. No, if her villagers were going to plot against the Black Wolf, she would be better off if they did so far from her.#p#分页标题#e#

She knew what she had to do. She would have to speak to her people again, and firmly. But when she thought of dear Alain, banished from his home, and poor Sir Edmond who had died so that King Henry could favor one of his mercenaries with a fine estate, then she found it hard to want peace for the Black Wolf, hard indeed.

Chapter 2

LEONIE handed her soap to the maid and leaned forward so Wilda could wash her back. She waved away the bucket for rinsing and instead settled down in the large tub to take advantage of the soothing herb-scented water while it was still good and hot.

A fire burned in the hearth, taking the chill from the room. Outside, it was a mild spring evening, but the bare stone walls of Pershwick Keep created coldness that seemed never to lessen. And the ceiling of her room, open to join the great hall, allowed every draft to enter.

Pershwick was an old keep, designed neither for comfort nor to accommodate guests. The hall was large, but hadn’t been altered since it was built a hundred years ago. Leonie’s chamber was partitioned off the dais end of the hall with wooden boards. She shared the room with her Aunt Beatrix, more boards dividing the room in half to give each lady a little privacy. There were no women’s quarters, and no other chambers off the hall or above it, as there were in some of the new keeps. The servants slept in the hall, and the men-at-arms in the tower, where Sir Guibert also slept.

Rough though it was, Pershwick was home to Leonie, and had been for the last six years. Since coming here she had not returned once to Montwyn, her birthplace. Nor had she seen her father. Yet Montwyn Castle was only five miles away. In that castle lived her father, Sir William, and his new wife, Lady Judith, who had married him the year after Leonie’s mother died.

If Leonie could no longer summon a kind thought for her father, no one blamed her. From having a happy childhood and two loving parents to losing both parents in one stroke was a cruel fate, and wholly undeserved.