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When Love Awaits(8)

By:Johanna Lindsey

“My coming has less to do with Kempston as a whole than with Crewel particularly, your majesty. I have a neighbor there who has set her people against mine. I am not a man to deal with domestics.”

“What fighter is?” Henry chuckled. “But you say ‘her people’? Your neighbor is a woman? I can think of no widow in that area.”

“She is no widow, nor wife to an absent lord. She is daughter to Sir William of Montwyn and residing on her dower property which lies next to Crewel.”

“Sir William.” Henry considered, thoughtful. “Ah, now I have him. A baron who wed one of my earl’s daughters, the lady Elisabeth I believe, yes, daughter of Shefford. But he closed himself up in his estates some six years ago when Elisabeth died. A tragic affair. They were a love match, and he suffered terribly at her death.”#p#分页标题#e#

“He has closed his daughter up in Pershwick and forgotten her, I am told.”

“What do you mean?”

“It seems the man does not wish to be reminded he has a daughter.”

Henry shook his head. “I remember her. Not a comely child, but spirited. She had a nervous disorder, I believe her mother said. The poor woman was forever having to run after the child with medicine. You say Sir William is neglecting her? There is no excuse for that. Why, the girl would be around twenty years old. She should have been wed long ago. Even if finding her a husband proved difficult, there is always some man who can be bought, isn’t there? If she is not for the church, then she must have a husband.”

“I agree, my lord.” Rolfe leaped at the ideal opening. “And I would be that husband.”

There was a shocked silence, and then Henry began to laugh. “You jest, Rolfe. That face of yours sends my loveliest ladies swooning, yet you would settle for a plain girl?”

Rolfe flinched. He supposed it was too much to hope that the ugly duckling had grown into a swan.

“Few marriages are made for preference,” Rolfe replied stoically.

“But…you are your own man. No one is telling you you must marry this girl, so why would you wish to?”

“Not counting the domestic peace she will bring me, she and I are neighbors. She has lived there for a long time, and can help me in dealings with my other neighbors. Then, too, she has retainers. I have nine knights who follow me, but some are not suited to command and I need men to hold the other seven keeps.”

“I can see your reasoning, Rolfe, but I can find you a wife who can accomplish at least half your purpose and is pleasing to look at.”

Rolfe shrugged. “There are always women like Amelia.”

Henry understood that very well. He was living openly as man and wife with Princess Alice of France. As long as a man had his mistress, what matter his wife’s looks? It was true.

“Very well,” Henry concurred. “Is it only my permission you require?”

“More than that, Your Majesty. I have offered for the girl and was refused. Without explanation.”

“To deny his only daughter a husband?” Henry growled. “By God, you will have her three weeks hence. I will have the banns posted immediately and my messenger will reach Sir William on the morrow.” Then, in a less aggrieved tone, he asked, “But you are certain this is what you want, Rolfe? You have no hesitation about this marriage?”

He certainly did, but that need not be mentioned. “I am certain,” he declared, and Henry grinned. “Then you will be pleased to know the lady is sole heir to Sir William, and Montwyn is worth five knights’ fees, as I recall. She was also her mother’s sole heir, and her mother left her a dower of three keeps.” Henry chuckled here. “The vassal at Rethel has six sons you might find useful. Lady Leonie is also niece to the earl of Shefford, and there are other uncles and aunts, most of them well placed. It does not hurt a man to be well connected, eh?”

Rolfe was shocked. She was an heiress with a much richer dowry than he’d known about, and highborn relatives as well. He supposed all this ought to please him, but in truth he had believed her a solitary woman, and now he began to wonder if his anger had made him take on more than he wanted to.

Chapter 5

LADY Judith did not know why Rolfe d’Ambert wanted to marry Leonie. If she had known she would have been furious. As it was, Judith was in a state of near hysteria.

She had put off telling William of the king’s order in hope that something would come about to stop the wedding. But it was the day before the wedding and she was in a panic.#p#分页标题#e#

She sat at the table on the raised dais waiting for William to join her, having sent a servant to rouse him from sleep. It was morning, and much earlier than William usually woke. She prayed his soggy mind would clear long enough for him to understand, but only long enough for that. To have him sober for any great length of time would jeopardize everything she had accomplished over the years. If William ever realized what she had done, he would kill her.