Sword for His Lady(7)

By: Mary Wine



Which roused his curiosity. Her scent lingered, teasing him with thoughts he’d long banished. Or at least confined to the sort of woman he might make agreement with for her favors.

Ambrose took the helmet from his lord, but there was a dark frown lingering on his lips. “There are others you may wed for a better plot than this cursed marsh keep.”

“What is your quarrel with the match?” Ramon asked. In truth, he needed to be reminded why marriage was something he disliked, for the sight of Isabel had somehow clouded his thinking.

Ambrose looked him straight in the eye as he spoke. There was a confidence in the man Ramon admired, thus why they were friends and not just knights who shared only the bond of the chivalric code.

“Her nurse told me she survived the fever that claimed the lives of her father, brother, and husband. She appears set on running this estate. You may not last longer than her husband did.”

“I am more concerned over her ability to cloud my thinking when it comes to marriage.”

Ambrose stiffened. “Perhaps you are simply trying to serve Richard and his whims, as you ever have done.”

“Perhaps.”

Ambrose drew in a stiff breath. Ramon ground his teeth. “Yet I discover my interest stirring. She stood up to me. With clear purpose and spirit. It is my own failing that allows such traits to undermine my thinking on the matter of wedding.”

Ambrose raised an eyebrow, his lips curving knowingly. “Have you fallen at last to the sweet song of the gentle sex?”

“Spare me your taunting, Ambrose.” Ramon considered the number of bundles in the storeroom. It was nearly full and the harvest was not yet finished. “Richard was correct when he said her people were fat and that this land needs defending. There is much here worth stealing, including the lady herself. When the Welsh hear her garrison is gone, they will come for her, because she is an heiress and they will think to expand their territory while the king is away.”

Ambrose conceded the point with a nod. “Yet the lady herself is far from biddable.” His gaze strayed to the merlin. “She will argue against the place you mean to set her in.”

“Her marriage was very brief; there are rumors it was never consummated.”

Ambrose stiffened. “Then she is guilty of falsehood.”

“Not so, for she has yet to speak upon the matter. It was her father who took possession of her husband’s holdings by using the marriage documents. A daughter must be obedient to her sire.”

Ambrose nodded. “Yet I still believe you are more interested in pleasing Richard. Be careful, Richard will not be the one who must suffer that female in his bed.”

Ramon chuckled. “It is the thought of her in my bed that has changed my thinking. It makes wedding more enticing, I admit.”

Ambrose’s face lit with surprise before he burst out laughing. Ramon growled at him, but his fellow knight only bent over with his mirth.

“’Tis grateful I am for such understanding,” Ramon said.

Ambrose cleared his throat but didn’t quite erase the smirk from his lips. “Age has caught you at last. Before long, you’ll be casting out your wisdom to young squires as you recount your days of glory. That lady will put the bridle on you.”

He choked on the last word, a fresh round of amusement claiming him. Ramon shot him a glare that only made the knight choke a few more times as he tried to rein in his enjoyment.

“I’ve a fine memory, Ambrose,” Ramon warned before stepping back into the storeroom and looking around with a critical eye.

Isabel of Camoys had been passed over by many of Richard’s knights in favor of women who had land that wasn’t so close to the rebellious Welsh, who refused to accept Richard as their rightful king.

“One thing is for certain, we need to set the men to building structures that are large enough to defend this keep.” He scanned the open road in front of the store houses.

Ambrose didn’t look pleased. “Should you not decide upon the matter of wedding the lady before improving her land? The men will expect their pay from you, and your land stands vacant. You need to plant your own fields to provide for them.”

Ramon grinned and reached out to slap the man on the shoulder. His armor clanked as he did so.

“Richard wants this land secure. I cannot leave it in this condition and keep my word to the king.” Ramon drew in a deep breath. “It will not be long before the Welsh hear Richard has departed with all his knights.”

“And the lady?” Ambrose insisted. “What will she do to earn our men’s labor?”

Ramon heard his man grumble, but his squire ran forward and took the helmet away from Ambrose. The distraction gave Ramon the opportunity to consider the lady in question. She was slender, which indicated Isabel did not take more for herself than she gave to others. Her honey blond hair, a color that suited her blue eyes, was braided in a long plait that hung down her back, but several locks had worked their way loose around her face to confirm she had not been sitting idle while her people toiled.

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