KIND EYES AND A LION’S HEART
Melvin generally enjoyed himself at a feast. That was the main reason he’d agreed to come to this tournament, which was only his second. He well knew he wasn’t going to triumph over any of the other participants in the melee and would likely have to ransom back his horse and accoutrements. Nevertheless he considered the food, wine, entertainment and company ample compensation for the cost of attending. He especially appreciated singers and jugglers and magicians, who always startled him with their feats of conjuring.
He also enjoyed being around other people and for once at someone else’s expense. His estate was on a main road, so he often had unexpected visitors. Most of the time he didn’t mind and was happy to extend his hospitality. Still, it was a drain on his expenses, so to be able to be the guest instead of the host had a great deal of appeal.
And although this had not been uppermost in his mind, he was hoping to find a woman who might consider becoming his wife, a genial sort of young woman who would tolerate his foibles, run his household and provide an heir. If he was very fortunate, he might even find one he could come to love and who could love him in return. He wasn’t as rich or good-looking as many men, but he wasn’t as ugly as some, either, and he meant to treat his wife well and be faithful, too. He hoped that would count for something.
He had no illusions that he could ever win a wife like Lady Viola, who was kind and competent and had those amazingly pretty eyes. He had about as much chance of winning her hand as he had of flying to the moon. She might as well have been on the moon with Barengar sitting at her elbow, a clear sign of her aunt and uncle’s plans for their niece. And Barengar’s, too, judging by the attention he was paying to Lady Viola, who was wearing an expensive gown of rich blue velvet, with a square cut neck, gilded double belt and cuffs embroidered with green, blue and red threads. A necklace of emeralds shimmered around her slender neck.
He could as good as hear the sweet nothings and charming compliments Barengar was saying to her. He’d heard them before when he’d stayed at Barengar’s family’s estate, and from the time they were about fourteen. They always seemed to work, though, regardless of Barengar’s sincerity, or lack of it.
A few times he’d been tempted to offer a warning about his cousin’s lack of sincerity or moral rectitude. A few times he had, when the object of his attentions had been obviously innocent or naïve. Once he’d given a hint of warning to a girl’s brother, and another time to a father. Both had decided to leave soon after. Thankfully Barengar never discovered the reason for their hasty departures. Instead he’d put it down to bad luck, and there had been other, more worldly women all too happy to share his bed to make him less likely to wonder about his few failures.
Melvin took a sip of wine and studied his host and hostess. Lord Percival was a brutish looking fellow, and it didn’t take a seer to suspect he would be dead within a few years. He drank heavily, and his cheeks were an unhealthy, ruddy color. Rumor also claimed the man was an inveterate adulterer.
His slender wife’s face seemed to have no color at all and the poor woman looked both fretful and anxious in spite of her smiles. Who could blame her for having to pretend to be happy with such a husband?
This couldn’t be a pleasant household to live in. How he’d like to take Lady Viola away from –
Lord Percival got unsteadily to his feet.
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Note: This novella is PG13. With the exception of GWYNETH ANDTHE THIEF and THE WASTREL, my books are usually steamier.