KIND EYES AND A LION’S HEART
A short time later, Viola sat in a window seat in the hall. She was working on some embroidery and Lady Sylvia had joined her. Sylvia also had sewing on her lap, although that was where it stayed.
“Of course you can be calm and sew,” Sylvia said, keeping her voice low so the servants spreading rosemary and fleabane on the newly laid rushes wouldn’t hear. “You’ll be betrothed to Lord Barengar soon.”
“I’m sure you’ll be married soon enough,” Viola replied. “That squire of Sir Melvin’s likes you.”
“Him? He’s only a steward’s son.”
“He may make something of himself. Didn’t I hear that the Welshman who nearly won the tournament was a common foot soldier once?”
“So they say, but how often does a man rise in rank as he has?”
They both looked down the hall to see Lady Anne striding toward them, her expression as fierce as if she was about to declare war. “What is it, Aunt?” Viola said after quickly putting away her sewing and getting to her feet. “Is something wrong?”
“I want to talk to you. Alone,” she emphasized, glaring at Sylvia as if she’d done her some kind of personal injury. The young woman dropped her needlework and didn’t even pause to pick it up before she hurried away.
“Leave that for later,” her aunt ordered the maidservants with the herbs. They hurried away, too, so the hall was empty.
“What is it?” Viola repeated, fearing her aunt had somehow guessed…something.
“I want you to keep away from Lord Barengar!”
Viola couldn’t have been more astonished if her aunt had announced her betrothal to the king. “I-I beg your pardon?”
“Stay away from that young scoundrel!”
“Because I don’t want him encouraged to stay,” her aunt retorted. “His family is too important to insult, or I’d send the rogue packing right this minute. Since I can’t, you’ll stay in your chamber tonight. We’ll say you’re ill.”
“I thought you wanted a betrothal.”
“Not after what that ninny of a cousin of his said to me in the rose garden today. He was trying to make Lord Barengar sound like a paragon, but that Melvin is so stupid, he revealed something quite different, things that makes it clear no relative of mine should be married to that man, or allied with that family.
“Now gather up your sewing and get to your room. The sooner I start telling people you’re ill, the better!”
“Yes, Aunt,” Viola humbly replied.
Whatever her aunt believed about Melvin, Viola was sure he wasn’t stupid. It was far more likely that Melvin had purposefully saved her from an unhappy marriage.
She must and would find a way to thank him.
Chapter Five starts on June 29.
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Note: This novella is PG13. With the exception of GWYNETH AND THE THIEF and THE WASTREL, my books are usually steamier.