Her shadow, a handsome soldier named Anthony, muttered over the distance. He had suggested they ride, but Madelyne was against the plan, forcing the soldier to walk beside her. She told him the walk would do them good, when in fact she hoped to hide her lack of riding skills.

When Madelyne returned from her chore, Duncan was waiting for her. He didn't look too pleased. "You weren't given permission to go outside the walls," he stated quite emphatically.


Anthony came to her defense. "You did give her permission to feed the animals," he reminded his lord.

"Aye, you did," Madelyne agreed, and with such a sweet smile and soft voice, she was certain he thought her most composed.

Duncan nodded his head.

The look on his face was chilling. Madelyne thought he wished he was rid of her. Yet he didn't even yell at her now. In truth, he rarely raised his voice. He didn't have to. Duncan's size gained immediate attention, and his expression, when he was as displeased as he was now, seemed just as effective as any bellow.

Madelyne wasn't afraid of him anymore. Unfortunately, she had to remind herself of that fact several times a day. And she still didn't have enough courage to ask him what he'd meant by telling her she now belonged to him. She kept putting that confrontation off, in truth fearing what his answer would be.

Besides, she told herself, there'd be time enough after Adela was feeling better to find out her own destiny. For the time being, she'd attack each battle as it presented itself.

"I only walked to the top of the hill," Madelyne finally answered. "Are you worried that I'll just keep on walking until I've reached London?"

"What is the point of this walk?" Duncan asked, ignoring her comment about escape. He thought it too ludicrous to respond to.

"To feed my wolf."

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His reaction was most satisfactory. For once he wasn't able to keep his expression contained. He was looking at her in astonishment. Madelyne smiled.

"You may laugh if you've a mind to, but I saw either a very large dog or a wild wolf, and I did feel it was my duty to feed him, just until the weather improves and he can hunt again. Of course, it will mean an entire winter ahead to see to his food, but come next spring, with the first warm breeze, I'm certain my wolf will be able to fend for himself."

Duncan turned his back on Madelyne and walked away.

Madelyne felt like laughing. He hadn't denied her walks outside his fortress, and that was victory enough to gloat over.

In truth, Madelyne didn't think the wild dog was in the area any longer. She looked out her window every night since first sighting the animal, but he was never there. The dog had left, and sometimes, late at night when she was huddled under the covers, she'd wonder if she'd really seen the animal or if he'd just been a figment of her overactive imagination.

Madelyne would never admit that to Duncan, however, and gained perverse pleasure each time she walked across the drawbridge. The food she had left the day before was always gone, indicating that there were animals feeding during the night. She was happy knowing the food wasn't wasted. And she was even happier vexing Duncan.

Aye, she did it just to irritate him. And from the way Duncan avoided her, she thought she had succeeded.

The days would have been enjoyable if Madelyne hadn't had to worry about the dinner hours. That did put a weight on her shoulders and a strain on her gentle nature.

She stayed outside as much as possible, ignoring the rain and the cold. Gerty had given her cast-off clothing that had belonged to Duncan's older sister, Catherine. The garments were too large, but Madelyne put her needle and thread to them and the result was more than adequate for her needs. She didn't care if she was fashionable. The clothes were faded but clean, and felt soft against her skin. Most important, they kept her warm.

Each afternoon Madelyne walked to the stables with a clump of sugar to give to Duncan's stallion, the white beauty she'd named Silenus. She and the horse had formed a bond of sorts. The stallion would set up a terrible fuss, pretending to try to knock the wooden stall apart whenever he caught sight of Madelyne approaching. Yet as soon as she spoke to him, Silenus would settle down. Madelyne understood the animal's need to show off for her, and she always praised his spirit after giving him his treat.

Silenus, for all his size, was becoming affectionate. He'd nudge her hand until she petted him, and when she'd stop and rest her hand on the railing, a trick to gain a reaction, Silenus would immediately nudge her hand back on his head.

The stablemaster didn't like Madelyne visiting and stated his opinion loud enough for her to hear. He also thought she spoiled Duncan's horse and even threatened to tell the lord what she was up to. He was all bluster though. Aye, the stablemaster was amazed by Madelyne's gifted way with the horse. He was still a wee bit nervous whenever he saddled Duncan's stallion, but this mite of a girl didn't seem the least afraid.

On the third afternoon, the stablemaster spoke to Madelyne, and by week's end, they were fast friends.

His name was James, Madelyne learned, and he was married to Maude. Their son, William, was still attached to his mama's skirts, but James was patiently awaiting the time when the boy would be old enough to become apprentice under him. The child would follow tradition, James explained with an air of importance.

"Silenus would let you ride him bareback," James announced after he'd given Madelyne a tour of his domain.

Madelyne smiled. James had accepted her name for Duncan's mount. "I've never ridden bareback," she said. " 'Tis the truth, James, that I've not ridden much at all."

"Perhaps," James suggested with a kind smile, "when the rain eases a bit, you could learn the proper way."

Madelyne nodded.

"Now, if you've never learned, how'd you get from one place to the next, I'm wondering," James admitted.

"I walked," Madelyne told him. She laughed over his look of surprise. " 'Tis not a sin I'm confessing."

"I've a gentle mare you could start your practicing with," he suggested.

"Nay, I think not," Madelyne answered. "Silenus wouldn't like that much. I think his feelings might be injured, and we can't allow that, now, can we?"

"We can't?" James looked confused.

"I'll do well enough with Silenus."

"'Tis the lord's stallion you're wanting to ride, milady?" James stammered. He sounded as if he were strangling.

"I know whom he belongs to," Madelyne returned. "Don't concern yourself over the animal's size," she said, trying to ease the incredulous look off his face. "I've ridden Silenus before."

"But do you have the lord's permission?"

"I shall gain it, James."

Madelyne smiled again, and all the logical arguments went right out of the stablemaster's mind. Aye, he told himself, from the look in her pretty blue eyes and the way she smiled up at him so trustingly, James suddenly found himself in complete agreement.

When Madelyne left the stable, the guard walked beside her. He was a constant reminder to her and to everyone else that she was not an invited guest. Anthony's attitude toward her had softened considerably though. He wasn't nearly as irritated by his duty.

From the way Anthony was greeted by the other soldiers, Madelyne surmised he was well thought of. He had an attractive smile, a boyish grin it was, which was at great odds with his size and age. She couldn't understand why he'd been ordered to watch her, thinking that someone of lesser stature, such as Ansel, the squire, would have been better suited for the placid duty.

Her curiosity increased, until she finally decided to question him. "Have you done something to displease your lord?"

Anthony didn't seem to understand her question.

"When the soldiers return from their work, I can see the envious way you watch them, Anthony. You'd like to be training with them instead of walking with me in circles."

"'Tis no trouble," Anthony protested.

"Still, I don't understand why you've been given this duty unless you've displeased Duncan some way."

"I've an injury needing to heal a bit more." Anthony explained. His voice was hesitant, and Madelyne noticed the blush that slowly crept up from his neck.

She thought it most odd that he would be embarrassed. Seeking only to put him at ease, she said, "I've also suffered an injury, and not too mild, I can tell you that." It did sound like a boast, but her goal was to make Anthony realize he had nothing to be ashamed of. "Almost did me in, Anthony, but Edmond took care of me. I've a horrid scar now, down the length of my thigh."

Anthony continued to look uncomfortable with their topic. "Don't soldiers think it noble when they're injured in battle?" Madelyne asked.

"They do," Anthony answered. He clasped his hands behind his back and increased his pace.

It suddenly dawned on Madelyne that Anthony might be embarrassed about just where he'd sustained his wound. His arms and legs looked fit enough, and that left only his chest and his…

"We'll not speak of this again," Madelyne blurted out. She felt her face warm. When Anthony immediately slowed his pace, Madelyne knew she was right. The injury was in an inappropriate place.

Though she never questioned Anthony about it, Madelyne thought it curious that the soldiers trained such long hours every day. She supposed that defending their lord was difficult work, considering the fact that their leader had so many enemies. She didn't think she was jumping to conclusions either. Duncan wasn't an easy man to like; he certainly wasn't given to being tactful or diplomatic. Why, he'd probably collected more enemies than friends in William II's court.

She was, unfortunately, given plenty of time to think about Duncan. She wasn't at all accustomed to having so much unstructured time on her hands. When she wasn't outside walking with Anthony, she drove Gerty and Maude to distraction with suggestions for making Duncan's home more pleasing.

Maude wasn't as guarded as Gerty. She was always eager to set her chores aside and visit with Madelyne. Little Willie, Maude's four-year-old son, proved to be as talkative as his mother once Madelyne was able to coach his thumb out of his mouth.

When the day's sunlight began to fade, however, Madelyne's stomach would tighten up and her head would start pounding. It was little wonder, she told herself, when one considered that the evenings spent with the Wexton family were trials of endurance Odysseus would have turned his back on.

Madelyne wasn't allowed to turn her back though. She had all but gotten down on her knees and begged to take her meals in her room, too, but Duncan wouldn't allow it. Nay, he demanded her attendance at the family meal and then had the gall to remove himself from the disgusting ordeal he forced on her. The baron always ate alone, and made a brief appearance only once the table had been cleared of the clutter the men hadn't already thrown to the floor.

Adela provided the stimulating conversation. While the men hurled bones over their shoulders, Duncan's sister hurled one obscenity after another at Madelyne.

Madelyne didn't think she could stand the torment much longer. Her smile felt as brittle as dry parchment.

On the seventh evening Madelyne's composure did crack, and with such violent force that those who witnessed it were too astonished to intervene.

Duncan had just given her permission to leave the hall. Madelyne stood up, excused herself, and began to walk toward the entrance.

Her head was pounding, and she thought only to give Adela a wide path. Madelyne wasn't up to another round of screaming. Duncan's little sister was walking toward her.

Madelyne warily glanced over at Adela and saw little Willie peeking out from the doorway to the kitchens. The little boy smiled at Madelyne and she immediately stopped to speak to him.

The child responded to Madelyne's smile. He darted out in front of Adela just as the sister swept her hand out in one of the grand gestures she always made when she was about to start in abusing Madelyne again. The back of Adela's hand struck Willie's cheek. The little one toppled to the ground.

Willie started to wail, Gilard shouted, and Madelyne let out an ear-piercing scream. The sound of rage she made stunned everyone in the hall, even Adela who actually backed up a step, the first real retreat she'd ever made from Madelyne.

Gilard started to stand. Duncan grabbed hold of his arm. The youngest brother was about to argue over the restraint, but the look in Duncan's eyes stopped him.

Madelyne rushed over to the little boy, soothed him with a soft word and a tender kiss on the top of his head, and then bade him to go to his mother. Maude, upon hearing her son's wails, had appeared in the doorway, with Gerty at her side.

Madelyne turned to confront Adela then. She might have been able to control her anger if Duncan's sister had shown any sign of remorse. Adela, however, didn't look the least bit sorry for her conduct. And when she muttered that the boy was a nuisance, Madelyne let go of her control.

Adela called Willie a brat a scant second before Madelyne lashed out and slapped her right where she thought Adela most deserved it, across her mouth. Adela was so stunned by the attack, she lost her balance and stumbled to her knees. Without realizing it, she gave Madelyne added advantage.

Before Adela could stand up, Madelyne grabbed hold of her hair and twisted the mass behind her head, making the sister vulnerable and unable to strike back. She forced Adela's head back. "You've spoken your last word of filth, Adela. Do you understand me?"

Everyone stared at the two women. Edmond was the first to come out of his stupor. "Unhand her, Madelyne," he shouted.

Without taking her attention away from Adela, Madelyne shouted back to Edmond. "Keep out of this, Edmond. You hold me responsible for what happened to your sister, and I've decided'tis high time I took a hand to right this mess. Starting now."

Duncan never said a word. "I do not hold you responsible," Edmond yelled. "Let go of her. Her mind is—"

"Her mind needs but a good cleaning, Edmond."

Madelyne saw that Maude and Gerty were both watching from the doorway. She kept a firm hold on Adela when she turned to speak to them. "I think we'll have need for two tubs to rid the filth covering this pitiful creature. See to it, Gerty. Maude find clean clothes for your mistress."

"You're going to have a bath now, milady?" Gerty asked.

"Adela is going to get a bath," Madelyne announced. She turned back to glare at Adela and said, "And soap in your mouth every time you say an unladylike word to me."

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