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When Love Awaits(9)

By:Johanna Lindsey



Judith did not dwell long on that thought. She knew that, given the chance to go back in time, she would do nothing different.

William had destroyed all her dreams. He had been in a drunken stupor caused by grief over the loss of Elisabeth, and emerged from it to find that Judith had taken advantage of his drunken state and tricked him into marriage. He beat her nearly to death for this, and the small scar she bore on her left cheek had remained. She would never forgive him for it.

Vanity was her sin and her undoing. She had been so sure William would accept her as his wife and be happy about it. After all, six years ago she’d been a beautiful young woman lacking only a dowry. Her high-boned cheeks, jewellike green eyes, and heavy, dark blond hair set her apart from most other women. Many a man had wanted to marry her for her beauty alone, but none were as well landed as William of Montwyn.

But William, it turned out, did not own all Judith believed he did. Three of his keeps belonged to his daughter. Had she known that, Judith would never have tricked William into marriage.

He was in such a rage over the marriage that Judith had had to lie and say she was with child. It was either that or be cast out immediately. Of course, Judith could never have a child. An abortion the year before had ruined her womb, but William did not know that.

To protect herself from the time when William would ask about her supposed pregnancy, she encouraged his inclination to stay drunk. And she had kept him in a state of drunken forgetfulness since then. She didn’t care that she had helped to ruin the man, for she’d hated him from the day he beat her. She hated him still. He was only a drunk now. She could not bear to be near him.

Judith took charge of Montwyn, indulging her every whim, from owning costly gowns and jewels to keeping handsome lovers near her. Everything was in her charge, and she had seen to it right after marrying William that his daughter was not at Montwyn to interfere.

It had been easy at first to tell William that Leonie was visiting relatives. Later, she found she could make him believe that he saw Leonie regularly, so ill with drunkenness and grief was he. He was, within a short time, permanently disoriented. He could be told anything, be made to believe anything.

Relatives and neighbors stopped inquiring after Leonie, thinking she had gone to Pershwick of her own choice rather than stay with a drunken father. Leonie was told that her father wanted nothing to do with her, and she was forbidden to visit Montwyn. One way or another, Judith managed to keep everyone from learning the truth.

In the meantime Leonie’s dowry remained part of Montwyn and Judith spent all the profits. She turned down Leonie’s marriage offers, in William’s name, for she had no intention of giving up the use of Leonie’s land. If killing the girl could have brought that land to Montwyn permanently she might even have killed her, but Elisabeth’s acursed will left the land solely to Leonie. If she died without issue, the land would revert to Shefford.

Now, by the king’s order, she was being forced to give up the land. Who was Rolfe d’Ambert to be so favored by His Majesty? Judith had dealt with both his offers, first for Pershwick, then for the girl herself, so she knew it was Pershwick the suitor really wanted. Why hadn’t he just taken the keep by force if he wanted it so badly? This was infuriating, she told herself for the tenth time as she paced her room. She had managed everything so cleverly, and now this!#p#分页标题#e#

“Judith.”

She started. She hadn’t heard William approach. When she looked at him, she was shocked. He looked horrid, far worse than usual. William was sick every morning until he’d had his first drink, but today he seemed barely able to pick up his goblet. She would have to have her say before he finished even this first drink.

“I have made all the arrangements, William, as you bid me,” Judith began quietly. “We can leave for Pershwick as soon as you are ready.”

“Pershwick?”

“Where Leonie is, William. We will stay the night there, then go on to Crewel for the wedding.”

“Wedding?” He looked at her squarely, the whites of his eyes so heavily veined with red as to be a hideous dark pink. “I do not recall—”

“William, William, you cannot have forgotten your own daughter’s wedding,” Judith said with feigned exasperation. Of course, she hadn’t told him and he hadn’t forgotten.

“Nonsense, woman,” he said, “Leonie is a child. What wedding?”

“Only a father would still see her as a child. She is nearly twenty, William. You would not see her married. You turned down every offer for her. So the king has taken matters into his hands. You read his order. Shall I bring it so you may read it again? King Henry posted the banns himself. Leonie is to wed Sir Rolfe d’Ambert at Crewel.”

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