Duncan found Madelyne sound asleep. She made an enticing picture, sleeping on her side in front of the fire. Her golden legs were drawn up against her chest, and her glorious hair covered most of her face.
He couldn't help but smile. Lord, she reminded him of a kitten, curled up so snugly. Aye, she was enticing all right, and she was probably going to freeze to death if he didn't do something.
Madelyne didn't even open her eyes when Duncan picked her up and carried her over to the bed. He smiled over the way she instinctively cuddled up against his chest. She sighed, too, as if she were most content, and damn, she was smelling like roses again.
Duncan placed her on the bed and covered her. He tried to keep his manner distant, but he couldn't seem to stop himself from brushing his hand against the smoothness of her cheek.
Madelyne looked so vulnerable when she was sleeping.
Surely that was the reason he didn't want to leave. The urge to protect her was overwhelming. She was so innocent and so trusting. In his heart he knew he'd never let her go back to her brother. She was an angel and he'd not allow her near the demon Louddon, ever again.
The rules had turned upside down on Duncan. With a frustrated groan he walked over to the door. Hell, he thought, he didn't know his own mind anymore.
It was Madelyne's doing, though she certainly couldn't be aware of that fact. She drove him to distraction, and when he was near her, he couldn't think much at all.
Duncan decided he'd have to put distance between himself and Madelyne until he settled the issues bothering him. Yet, as soon as he made up his mind to avoid Madelyne, his mood blackened. Duncan muttered an expletive, turned, and slowly closed the door behind him.
Madelyne was still weak enough that the enforced isolation didn't bother her. Yet after two more days, with only Gerty and Maude making an occasional visit, she was feeling the effects of her prison. She paced the room until she knew every inch of it by heart, and then began to drive the servants to distraction when she insisted on doing what they deemed was common work. Madelyne scrubbed the floor and the walls. The physical exercise didn't help much. She felt as caged as an animal. And she waited, hour upon hour, for Duncan to come to her.
Madelyne kept telling herself that she should be thankful Duncan had all but forgotten her. Lord, wasn't she used to being forgotten?
When another two days had passed, Madelyne was close to throwing herself out the window just to diversify her routine. She was bored enough to scream.
She stood by the window and stared out into the fading sunset, thinking about Duncan.
Madelyne thought she might have conjured him up in her mind, for even as she thought about how much she wanted to see him, he suddenly appeared. The door opened, bouncing against the stone wall announcing his arrival, and there he stood, looking fierce and powerful, and altogether too handsome for her peace of mind. God's truth, she could have stared at him for the rest of the evening.
"Edmond is going to remove the threads now," Duncan told her.
Duncan walked into the room and over to stand in front of the hearth. He folded his arms across his chest, giving Madelyne the idea that he was bored with this mission.
She was hurt by his cold manner, yet determined he'd never know it. She gave him what she hoped was a most tranquil expression.
Lord, she was a sight to behold. Madelyne was dressed in a cream-colored gown and a blue overtunic. A braided rope was wrapped around her slender waist, accentuating her feminine curves.
Her hair wasn't pulled away from her face but rested against the swell of her breasts. Such a thick, curly mass of hair it was, worthy of any queen, the color of sable, Duncan thought, though intertwined with threads of red as well. He remembered the feel of it, so soft and silky.
He scowled, irritated over the way she continued to disturb him. He couldn't quit staring at Madelyne either, admitting that he'd missed having her by his side. A foolish thought, and one he'd never openly acknowledge, but there all the same, prickling him into a new awareness.
It suddenly dawned on him that Madelyne was wearing his colors, and he grinned. He doubted she was aware of that fact, and had she not looked so damn kissable, he might have mentioned it just to see her reaction.
Madelyne couldn't look at Duncan long. She was afraid he'd see how much she'd missed him. And then he'd have a good gloat, she thought to herself.
"I would like to know what you are going to do with me, Duncan," she said. She turned her gaze to the floor, not daring to look up to see how he was taking her question, else completely lose her train of thought.
Aye, her ability to concentrate was always in jeopardy whenever she was around Duncan. She didn't understand her reaction to him, but accepted it all the same. The baron was able to worry her without speaking a word. He disturbed her peace of mind, confused her too. When he was close to her, she wanted him to leave. Yet when he was away from her, she missed him.
Madelyne turned her back on Duncan and looked out the window again. "Do you think to keep me locked in this room for the rest of my life?"
Duncan smiled over the worry he'd heard in her voice. "Madelyne, the door wasn't barred," he said.
"Are you jesting?" Madelyne asked. She turned around and gave him the most incredulous look. "Do you mean to tell me I haven't been locked in this tower all week?" Lord, she felt like yelling. "I could have escaped?"
"Nay, you couldn't have escaped, but you could have left the room," Duncan answered.
"I don't believe you," Madelyne announced. She folded her arms in front of her, mocking his stance. "You would lie just to make me feel foolish. You have an unfair advantage, Duncan, for I never, ever lie. Therefore," she concluded, "it is an uneven match."
Edmond appeared in the open doorway. The middle brother was wearing his usual frown. Yet he looked wary, too, and stared at Madelyne a good while before he walked inside.
"You'll hold her down this time," he told Duncan.
Madelyne gave Duncan a worried glance and saw him smile. "Madelyne doesn't have a fever now, Edmond, and is as docile as a kitten," he remarked. He turned to Madelyne then and instructed her to go to the bed so that Edmond could remove the bandage.
Madelyne nodded. She knew what needed to be done, but shyness overcame common sense. "If you would both leave, I would have a moment's privacy to prepare."
"Prepare what?" Duncan asked.
"I am a gentle lady," Madelyne stammered. "I'll not let either of you see anything but my injury. That is what I would prepare."
She was blushing enough to make Duncan realize she'd meant every word. Edmond started to cough but Duncan's sigh was louder. " 'Tis not the time for modesty, Madelyne. Besides, I've seen… your legs already."
Madelyne straightened her shoulders, gave him a good glare, and then hurried over to the bed. She grabbed one of the animal skins that had fallen to the floor, and when she was situated on top of the bed, she draped the skin over her and then wiggled her garments up to the top of her thighs.
Edging the exposed bandage to the side, she began the slow task of unwinding the material.
Edmond knelt down beside her when the bandage was removed. Madelyne noticed a dark shadow beneath his left eye then. She wondered how he'd come by the bruise, and then jumped to the conclusion that one of his brothers was probably responsible. What hateful people, she told herself, even when she noticed Edmond was being very gentle as he removed the sticky threads from her skin.
"Why, it doesn't feel any worse than a pinch, Edmond," Madelyne said with relief.
Duncan had walked over to stand next to the bed. He looked ready to pounce if she moved.
And it was awkward, having both men staring at her thigh. She soon became embarrassed again. Thinking to turn Duncan's attention, she said the first thing that came into her mind. "Why are there locks on each side of the door?"
"What?" He did look perplexed.
"The slat of wood that slides into the loops to lock the door," Madelyne rushed on. "You've built loops on both sides. Why is that, do you suppose?" she asked, feigning great interest in such a ridiculous topic.
Her strategy worked, however. Duncan turned, stared at the door, and then looked back at her. He was staring at her face now, ignoring, for the moment, her exposed thigh.
"Well?" she challenged. "Were you so confused when you built the door you couldn't decide on which side to put the bars?"
"Madelyne,'tis the same reason the staircase is built on the left," Duncan bantered. There was a definite sparkle in his eye. Madelyne was pleased by the change it made in his appearance. He wasn't nearly as worrisome when he smiled.
"And what is that reason?" Madelyne asked, smiling in spite of herself.
"Because I prefer it."
"A paltry reason, that," Madelyne announced.
She kept smiling until she realized she had hold of his hand. Madelyne quickly pulled free and turned to stare at Edmond.
The middle brother was looking at Duncan. He stood up then and said, "It has healed."
Madelyne looked down at the ugly jagged line that marked her thigh. She grimaced over the horrible scar. Yet she quickly gained control, ashamed by her shallow reaction. Why, she wasn't a vain woman. "Thank you, Edmond," she said as she pulled the cover over her leg.
Duncan hadn't seen the results of Edmond's work. He leaned forward to pull the animal skin away. Madelyne pushed his hand away and then pressed the edge of the cover against the bed. "He said it has healed, Duncan."
He obviously wanted to see for himself. Madelyne let out a startled yelp when Duncan ripped the cover away. She tried to push her gown down, but Duncan grabbed hold of her hands and slowly, deliberately, pushed the chainse up until all of her thigh was exposed.
"There isn't any infection," Edmond remarked to Duncan, watching the scene from the other side of the bed.
"Aye, it has healed," Duncan announced with a nod.
When he let go of Madelyne's hands, she smoothed her gown and asked, "You didn't believe your own brother?" She sounded appalled.
Duncan and Edmond exchanged a look Madelyne couldn't interpret. "Of course you don't," she muttered. "Probably gave him the black eye as well," she added, letting her disgust show. " 'Tis what I would expect from the Wexton brothers."
Duncan showed his exasperation by turning and walking toward the door. His loud sigh followed him. Edmond stood there, frowning at Madelyne for another minute or so, and then followed his brother.
Madelyne repeated her gratitude. "I know you were ordered to care for my injury, Edmond, but I thank you all the same."
Madelyne was certain the sour man would abuse her compliment, and readied herself for his insults. No matter what vile thing he said to her, she'd humbly turn the other cheek.
Edmond didn't bother to say anything. Madelyne was disappointed. How could she show the Wextons that she was a gentle maiden if they didn't give her the chance?
"Dinner will be in one hour's time, Madelyne. You may join us in the hall when Gilard comes for you."
Duncan walked out the doorway after making his announcement. Edmond, however, paused and then slowly turned around to look at Madelyne again. He seemed to be pondering some decision.
"Who is Polyphemus?"
Madelyne's eyes widened. What a strange question. "Why, he was a giant, the leader of the Cyclops in Homer's ancient tale," she answered. "Polyphemus was a horribly deformed giant with one huge eye right in the center of his forehead. He ate Odysseus's soldiers for his supper," she added with a dainty shrug of her shoulders.
Edmond didn't like her answer. "For God's sake," he muttered.
"You shouldn't be taking God's name in vain," Madelyne called out. "And why would you be asking me who Polyphemus was?"
Madelyne surmised, by the sound of fading footsteps, that Edmond wasn't going to answer her.
Yet even the rudeness of the middle brother didn't diminish Madelyne's pleasure. She bounded off the bed and let out a laugh. Lord, she was finally going to get out of this room. She did not believe for one second that the door had been unlocked all week. Duncan had told her that only to get her upset. Yes, he'd have me believe I'm dimwitted if I allowed it.
Madelyne dug through her satchel. She wished she had a pretty gown to wear and then realized the foolishness of the wish. She was their captive, for heaven's sake, not their invited guest.
It took her all of five minutes to prepare. She paced the room a long while and then walked over to the door to see how securely it was barred. With the first pull, the door opened wide, nearly knocking Madelyne down.
Duncan had obviously left the door open just to trick her. She wanted to believe that story—until she remembered that he'd left before Edmond.
Sounds floated up through the open stairway, drawing Madelyne to the landing. She leaned over the railing.
strained to hear the conversation, but the distance proved too great to catch a clear word. Madelyne finally gave up and turned back to go into her room. She spotted the long wooden slat propped against the stone wall and on impulse took hold of it and dragged it inside her bedroom. She hid the slat beneath her bed, smiling to herself over her bold action. "I just might be inclined to lock you out, Duncan, instead of letting you lock me in."
As if she could allow much of anything, she thought. Lord, she'd been confined in this room for too long a period and surely that was the pitiful reason she found such amusement in her thoughts.
Gilard did take forever to come for her. Madelyne had already jumped to the conclusion that Duncan had lied to her. He was just being cruel.
When Madelyne heard the sound of footsteps, she smiled with relief and ran over to stand next to the window. Smoothing her gown and her hair into place, she forced a tranquil expression.
Gilard wasn't frowning. That was a surprise. He looked fit this evening, attired in the color of the forest in spring. The warm green made him look handsome.
There was tenderness in his voice when he spoke. "Lady Madelyne, I would have a word with you before we go downstairs," he announced in lieu of a greeting.
Gilard gave her a worried glance, clasped his hands behind his back, and proceeded to pace a path directly in front of her.
"Adela will probably join the family; She knows you're here and she—"
"Aye, though more than just unhappy. She hasn't said anything, but the look in her eyes makes me uneasy."