KIND EYES AND A LION’S HEART
After finding a much-the-worse-for-wine Theodore in a rather squalid taproom, bringing him back to the castle and putting him to bed, Melvin stayed in his chamber until the evening meal. He didn’t want to see anybody who’d been in the courtyard that morning, and he didn’t want to encounter Barengar, especially if Barengar meant what he’d said in his drunken state. He even considered going to the kitchen and trying to get something to eat there rather than joining the company in the hall, but that would be too unusual and likely cause unflattering comments about his odd behavior, so he reluctantly went to the hall for the evening meal.
Tonight, though, he chose an out-of-the-way seat half-hidden by a pillar. Nobody of rank sat near him and he began to hope that morning’s events had been forgotten, until one of the maidservants set down a basket of bread. He thought he saw her smirk as he reached for a small loaf. He quickly withdrew his hand and decided to eat as little as possible, no matter how excellent the meal.
At least the chair beside Lady Viola remained empty. Perhaps, and for once, Barengar had realized he’d made a disgusting spectacle of himself.
Apparently not, however, for a short time later Barengar came strolling down the center of the hall as if he’d done absolutely nothing wrong. He was also smiling at Lady Viola as if she should be thrilled he had deigned to appear.
Melvin looked down at his trencher and stayed in that attitude until after the grace had been said and everyone had taken their seats. Only then did he risk another look at the high table -- to find the steadfast gaze of Lady Viola trained upon him. Even more astonishing, she was smiling.
Blushing like a lad, he quickly looked away. A moment passed before, emboldened, he raised his eyes again. He wished he hadn’t when he saw that Barengar was again seated beside her, regarding her with every appearance of sincere remorse, and this time, she was listening to him.
Was it possible he was apologizing to her? He’d never known Barengar to apologize to anyone before, for anything.
Maybe he really did want to marry Lady Viola. If he did and her family approved, there was little chance for anyone else.
But to think of Lady Viola spending her life with a fellow like Barengar, who would never appreciate what a prize he had…
Melvin pushed away his trencher and left the hall without tasting a morsel or saying a single word. He was too disgruntled and upset to try to sleep, so he headed for the wall walk instead. He could go up there, look at the stars and try to convince himself he would get over his disappointment.
He climbed the steps and leaned against a merlon, looking out through the gap between them at the village and wood beyond.
He started and turned. Lady Viola stood in the shadow of the nearest tower. She moved toward him, her hands clasped, her gaze searching his puzzled face.
Chapter Four begins on June 22.
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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.