Madelyne didn't answer immediately. She continued to pace her circle, wondering how in God's name she'd ever get Duncan to promise her anything.
"Of course not," Madelyne answered. She stopped when she was directly in front of Adela and smiled down at the girl. "I'd get his promise first. He'll find out the rest soon enough, won't he?"
Adela smiled. "You've a devious mind, Madelyne. I understand your plan now. Once Duncan agrees, he won't go back on his word. But he'll be furious with you for tricking him," she added, her smile fading over that worry.
"He's always furious with me," Madelyne answered with a shrug. "I'm not afraid of your brother, Adela. He blusters like the wind, yet there's a soft core underneath. I'm sure of it," Madelyne said, praying to herself that she was correct. "Now then, promise me you'll not worry about the possibility of carrying a child. You've had an ordeal, and that could well be the reason you've missed your monthly," she advised. "I know all about this, you see, because Frieda, the woodcutter's wife, suffered a terrible upset when her boy fell down the drinking well and couldn't be gotten out for the longest time. The lad was unharmed, and thank God for that, but I heard Frieda tell another servant some two months later that she wasn't having her monthly. The other servant did explain that it was a natural enough condition considering the fright she'd had. I don't remember the wise woman's name now, else I'd share it with you, but she turned out to be right on the subject. Aye, Frieda was back to her usual flux the following month."
Adela nodded. "And if you do carry a babe," Madelyne went on, "we'll see it through, won't we? You'll not hate the child, will you, Adela?" Madelyne couldn't keep the worry out of her voice. "The baby would be as innocent as you are, Adela."
"He'd have a black soul, like his father," Adela said. "They would share the same blood."
"Then if that is the way of it, I'm damned to hell just as Louddon is, aren't I?"
"Nay, you're not like your brother," Adela protested.
"And your child won't be like Morcar either. You'd see to it," Madelyne said.
"By loving the baby and helping him make the right choices when he's old enough to understand."
Madelyne sighed then and shook her head. "You may not be with child anyway, so let's put the matter aside for now. I can see how tired you are. Since your room must still be cleaned before you can sleep there, you're to have my bed this night. I'll find another."
Adela followed Madelyne over to the bed and watched as her new friend pulled the covers back. "When will you ask Duncan for his promise?"
Madelyne waited until Adela got into bed before answering. "I'll speak to him tomorrow. " 'Tis most important to you, I can see that. I won't be forgetting."
"I don't ever want another man to touch me," Adela said.
Her voice was so harsh, Madelyne began to worry she'd get herself upset again.
"Hush, now," Madelyne soothed as she tucked the covers around Adela. "Rest now. Everything is going to be all right."
Adela smiled over the way Madelyne was pampering her. "Madelyne? I'm sorry for the way I've treated you. If I thought it would help, I'd ask Edmond to speak to Duncan about taking you to Scotland."
Madelyne noticed Adela thought to talk to Edmond and not go directly to Duncan. That comment reinforced her belief that Adela was afraid of her eldest brother.
Adela sighed and then said, "I really don't want you to go anywhere just yet. I've been so lonely. Is that selfish of me to admit?"
"Only truthful," Madelyne returned. "A trait I most admire," she added. "Why, I've never told a lie in all my days," she boasted.
Madelyne caught Adela's giggle and smiled over it. "Not that I can recall," she said. "And I promise to stay here just as long as you need me. I've no wish to travel in this harsh weather."
"You've also been dishonored, Madelyne. Everyone will think…"
"'Tis nonsense you speak," Madelyne said. "Neither one of us is responsible for what has happened. We are both honorable enough inside our hearts. That is all that matters to me."
"You've the most unusual attitudes," Adela said. "I would think you should hate all of us Wextons."
"Well, it is a fact that your brothers aren't easy men to like," Madelyne admitted. "But I don't hate them. Do you know I feel safe here? It's remarkable, isn't it? To be a captive and feel so safe at the same time. Now, that's a truth to mull over."
Madelyne frowned, her mind filled with her amazing admission. "Well now," she said to herself. "I'm going to have to think about this a bit longer."
She patted Adela on her arm and then turned to walk to the door,
"You won't do anything foolish about Morcar, will you, Madelyne?"
"Now, why would you ask such a thing?" Madelyne asked.
"Because of the look that came over you when I told you his name," Adela answered. "You won't do anything, will you?"
Adela sounded scared again. "You've an overactive imagination," Madelyne told her. "That gives us something else in common," she added, neatly avoiding the issue of Morcar.
Her ploy worked, for Adela was smiling again. "I don't think I'll have nightmares tonight. I'm too tired. You better come to bed soon, Madelyne. You'll need to be rested for your talk with Duncan."
"Do you think he'll drain the strength out of me?" Madelyne asked.
"Not you," Adela answered. "You can get Duncan to promise you anything."
Lord, the sister held such confidence. Madelyne felt her shoulders slump.
"I see the way Duncan watches you. And you did save Gilard's life. I heard him tell Edmond the story. Remind
Duncan of that and he wouldn't be able to deny you anything."
"Go to sleep, Adela."
Madelyne was just about to pull the door closed, when Adela's next words caught her. "Duncan never looks at Lady Eleanor the way he looks at you."
Madelyne couldn't resist. "Who is Lady Eleanor?" she asked, trying not to sound too interested. She turned and looked over at Adela, and from the way the sister was smiling at her, she thought she might not have fooled her.
"The woman Duncan is thinking to marry."
Madelyne showed no visible reaction. She nodded, indicating she'd heard Adela.
"Then I'm good and sorry for her. She'll have her hands full living with your brother. Do not take offense, Adela, but I believe your brother is too arrogant for his own good."
"I said he was thinking about marrying her, Madelyne. But he won't."
Madelyne didn't answer. She closed the door behind her and made it across the landing before she burst into tears.
"He is best who is trained in the severest discipline."
king archidamus ii of sparta
Madelyne didn't want anyone to catch her crying. When she left Adela, she really didn't have any clear destination in mind. She only wanted to find a quiet place where she could sort out her emotions.
The hall was her first choice, but when she approached the entrance, she heard Gilard talking to someone. She continued on, down the next flight of stairs, collected her winter cloak from the peg adjacent to the soldiers' keep, and then struggled to get the heavy doors opened just enough for her to squeeze through.
The air was cold enough to make a bear shiver. Madelyne pulled her cloak around her shoulders and hurried on. The moon gave sufficient light for her walk, and when she'd circled the butcher's hut, she leaned against the stone fortress wall and began to weep like an infant. She was loud, undisciplined, unfortunate too beacuse she didn't feel the least bit better afterward. Her head hurt, her cheeks stung, and she was consumed with hiccuping.
The rage wouldn't go away.
Once Adela had begun her story, she told every bit of it. Madelyne hadn't shown any visible reaction to the horror, but her heart felt close to bursting with pain. Morcar! The bastard was just as guilty as Louddon was, yet no one would ever know of his involvement.
"What are you doing out here?"
Madelyne let out a gasp. Duncan had frightened the breath right out of her, appearing out of nowhere to stand next to her.
She tried to turn her back on him. Duncan wouldn't let her. He took hold of her chin and forced her to look up at him.
He'd have to be blind not to notice she'd been crying. Madelyne thought to give him a curt excuse, but the moment he touched her, she started weeping again.
Duncan pulled her into his arms. He seemed content to hold her until she gained control of herself. He'd obviously just finished his swim, as he was dripping from head to waist. Madelyne wasn't helping him dry either, she was crying and gasping and hiccuping all over the soft mat of hair covering his chest.
"You're going to freeze to death walking around half naked," she told him between sobs. "And I'll not warm your feet this time."
If Duncan answered her, she didn't hear him. Her face was pressed against his shoulder. She was stroking his chest too. Duncan thought she didn't even realize what she was doing, or understand the effect she was having on him.
Madelyne suddenly tried to push away from Duncan. She bumped his chin, muttered an apology, and then made the mistake of looking up at him. His mouth was entirely too close. She couldn't quit staring at it, remembering all too clearly the way he'd felt when she'd blatantly kissed him that night in the tent.
She wanted to kiss him again.
Duncan must have read her intentions, for he slowly lowered his mouth to hers.
He meant only to give her a gentle kiss. Aye, he meant to comfort her, but Madelyne's arms went around his neck and her mouth immediately opened to him. His tongue took advantage, mating with hers.
God, she was good. She could make him so hot so quickly. She wouldn't let him be gentle either. The sound she made, way in the back of her throat, pushed all thoughts of comfort aside.
He felt her shiver and only then remembered where they were. Reluctantly he pulled away from Madelyne, though he fully expected an argument from her. He'd have to kiss her again, he decided, and then went ahead and did just that before his soft, sensual woman even had the chance to ask.
Duncan was making her burn. She didn't think she had the strength to stop, until his hand brushed the side of her breast. It felt wonderful, and when she realized how much more she wanted, she pulled away from him.
"You'd best get inside before you turn to a block of ice," Madelyne said. Her voice sounded ragged.
Duncan sighed. Madelyne was at it again, trying to order him around. He picked her up into his arms, ignoring her protests, and started to walk toward the castle. "Did Adela speak to you about what happened to her?" Duncan asked when his mind could focus again.
"She did," Madelyne answered. "But I'll not retell a single word, no matter how insistent you become. You can torture me if you've a wish to, yet I'll—"
"Madelyne." His long-drawn-out sigh stopped her.
"I promised Adela I wouldn't say anything to anyone, especially you. Your sister is afraid of you, Duncan. 'Tis a sorry state of affairs, that," she added.
She thought her announcement would anger Duncan and was surprised when he nodded. "It's the way it should be," Duncan said, shrugging. "I'm lord as well as brother and the first must take preference over the second."
"It isn't the way it should be," Madelyne argued. "A family should be close. They should eat all their meals together and never fight with each other. They should—"
"How the hell would you know what a family should or shouldn't do? You've lived with your uncle," Duncan said, shaking his head in exasperation.
"Well, I still know how families should act," Madelyne argued. Madelyne, don't question my methods," Duncan said in a low growl. "Why were you weeping?" he asked, swiftly changing the subject.
"Because of what my brother did to Adela," Madelyne whispered. She rested her face on Duncan's shoulder. "My brother will burn in hell for eternity."
"Aye," Duncan answered.
"He's a man in need of killing. I don't condemn you for wanting to kill him, Duncan."
Duncan shook his head. "Does it make you feel better not to condemn me?" he asked.
She thought she heard amusement in his voice. "I have changed my views on killing. I was weeping because of that loss," she whispered. "And for what I must do."
Duncan waited for Madelyne to explain. They reached the doors. Duncan pulled one open without unsettling her. The strength in him amazed her yet again. It had taken all her determination, both hands, too, to work one of those doors open enough to slip through without catching her backside, yet Duncan hadn't shown the least bit of strain. "What must you do?" Duncan asked, unable to contain his curiosity. "I must kill a man."
The door slammed shut just as Madelyne whispered her confession. Duncan wasn't sure he'd heard her correctly. He decided he had enough patience to wait until they had reached his bedroom before questioning her further.
He carried Madelyne up the steps, ignoring her protests that she was able to walk, didn't pause when they reached the hall level, but continued on, up to the next. Madelyne believed he was taking her back to the tower room. When they reached the mouth of the circular structure, Duncan turned in the opposite direction and continued on down a dark corridor. It was too dark to see where it led.
She was highly curious, for she hadn't even noticed the narrow hallway. They reached the end of the corridor, and Duncan opened a door and carried Madelyne inside. It was obviously his sleeping quarters, Madelyne realized, even as she considered it most kind of him to give up his bedroom to her for this night.
It was warm and cozy inside the bedroom. A full fire blazed in the hearth, giving heat and a soft glow to the otherwise Stark room. A single window was centered in the opposite wall, covered with an animal skin in lieu of shutters. A wide bed took up most of the stone wall adjacent to the hearth, with a chest beside it.
The bed and chest were the only pieces of furniture in the room. It was clean, though, almost spotless. That fact made Madelyne smile. She didn't know why it pleased her but was glad that Duncan didn't like clutter any more than she did.