KIND EYES AND A LION’S HEART
“Is anything wrong?” Lady Viola asked, gliding toward him like an angel.
“No, not at all,” he replied, looking anywhere but at her remarkable eyes. “That is, nothing about your hospitality or accommodations. Excellent, both of them. I just wanted a bit of fresh air before I retire. I like a good night’s sleep before traveling. It’s time I got back to my own estate. Even small ones need to be supervised, you know.”
“I was hoping you’d stay a bit longer.”
She certainly sounded sincere and looked it, too. “Yes, well, thank you. I wish I could. Can’t, really. Too much to do at home.”
“I do hope you’re not leaving because of anything that’s happened while you were here.”
“Oh, no! That is, things happen all the time, don’t they? But I’ve got business back home. Important business. There are decisions to be made. About the mill and...and a tannery. And a new byre. Busy times at my estate these days, my lady, and I can’t be wasting my time --”
He shouldn’t have implied that talking to her was wasting his time! “Can’t be spending my time galavanting around the countryside entertaining myself, however charming and delightful the company.”
“Are you calling me charming and delightful, Sir Melvin?” she asked with a charming and delightful smile.
“Everything here is charming and delightful,” he replied. “The castle, the chambers, the food. Never had such fine pastries. Or wine.”
He frowned. The mention of wine reminded him of Barengar.
It seemed to have the same effect on Viola. “Some young men pay too much attention to wine.”
“Yes, well, youthful spirits and all. Not that I condone such behavior,” he added. “There’s a limit, after all and --”
“Limit to what?” Barengar interrupted, appearing on the wall walk behind Lady Viola. “How much food you can eat at a banquet? I’ve never seen you reach it.”
Melvin regarded his cousin with silent, seething rage as Barengar came to stand beside Viola as if he thought he belonged there.
Viola barely glanced at him. “Your comment is a very poor way to repay Sir Melvin, who has just been coming to your defense.”
“Was he now?” Barengar replied. He bowed toward the despairing Melvin. “Thank you, cousin. I did get a bit carried away last night.”
“I should say you did,” Viola sternly replied. “And if you are wise, you will control yourself for the remainder of your visit here.”
With that, she turned and left them both.
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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.