KIND EYES AND A LION’S HEART
This time when Melvin opened his eyes, he wasn’t in a tent. He was in his chamber in Lord Percival’s castle and a rushlight flickered on the bedside table. It was obviously night, and Viola was sitting on a stool beside the bed with her hands clasped in her lap and smiling down at him.
A quick survey of the chamber revealed that they were also all alone, something not exactly proper.
“What are you doing here?” he blurted.
“I’m making certain you’re not seriously injured,” Viola calmly replied. “You might have hit your head during the fight. I thought it best to keep an eye on you.”
“No, I didn’t,” he admitted. “I simply swoon when there’s blood or other... medical things.”
“Many people are the same,” she noted.
“You’re not, thank God.” He sat up more and spied the dummy bearing his chainmail and helmet now standing in a different place. His cracked shield leaned against the wall beside it, and even in the dim light, he could see that the helmet had a huge dent.
From when he knocked it over, before he threw it at Barengar, who’d had his nose broken and then the physician…
Moaning, his stomach churning, he put his head in his hands.
“Are you going to be sick?” Viola asked with that same calm competence. “I have the basin --”
“No, I don’t think so,” he interrupted. He couldn’t. He wouldn’t. He already felt like a dolt as it was.
Taking a deep breath, he lowered his hands. “How’s my cousin?”
“Other than his nose, he’s not seriously injured, and his nose should heal. It’ll be a bit crooked, perhaps, but that’s all.”
“Barengar won’t like that, not at all.”
“Perhaps it will cure him of his vanity, which I assure you, Sir Melvin, is not an attractive quality, however he physically appears. It was about time somebody took that bully to task and I’m glad it was you. He’s been very mean to you.”
Nobody had come to his defense since his brothers had died, and even they had always done so with an air of condescension. Viola, however, sounded admiring.
If he wasn’t already in love with her, he would have fallen in love with her then.
Yet now he was even more aware of the impropriety of her presence there and the risk she was taking to her honor and reputation.
He got to his feet and was pleased to find that he wasn’t dizzy. “I think you’d better go, my lady. It’s not proper for you to be here.”
“There’s a servant in the corridor, and as you can see, the door is open.”
Once again he felt like a fool. He should have noticed that.
Viola rose and faced him. “I believe I owe you a debt of gratitude, Sir Melvin. My aunt is now quite determined that I not marry Lord Barengar and I suspect I have you to thank for that.”
Melvin ran a finger around the collar of his tunic, which suddenly seemed a bit too tight. “I did tell her a few things about him that might not have put him in the best light. I didn’t…that is, I wouldn’t want you…or any kind and sweet young lady to…he’s not quite what a husband…”
He gave up attempting to explain himself and simply shrugged.
“Just as I thought,” Viola said with conviction. “You did save me from a terrible fate, and I thank you.”
She came a little closer. His heart started to race and he was suddenly as hot as if it was mid-summer.
At the same time he was afraid, too. Afraid that he was too hopeful, that she was just being kind while he felt…he felt…
Now or never!
He pulled her into his arms and kissed her full on the lips, with all the passion and desire and need and yearning he’d been trying to restrain.
Instead of drawing back with dismay or indignation, Viola threw her arms around him as if she’d been waiting all her life for his embrace.
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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.