Why then did he allow the main hall to be so ill attended? That didn't make sense to her, now that she'd seen his own quarters. She decided to question him about it just as soon as she caught him in a good mood. Madelyne did smile then, for she realized she might very well be an old woman before Duncan achieved such a remarkable change in disposition.

Duncan didn't seem to be in any particular hurry to release her. He walked over to the hearth, leaned his shoulders against the edge of the thick mantel, and began to rub back and forth, obviously appeasing a sudden itch. Madelyne held on to him for dear life. Lord, she wished he were wearing a shirt. It wasn't decent, she told herself, because she liked touching his skin too much. Duncan was like a bronze god. His skin felt warm, and with her palms resting on his shoulders, she could feel the rippled muscles play beneath her fingertips.


She wished she could understand her reaction to him. Why, her heart was pacing a wild beat again. Madelyne dared a quick look up and found Duncan was watching her intently. He looked so handsome. She wanted him to be ugly. "Are you going to hold me the rest of the night?" she asked, sounding ridiculously disgruntled.

Duncan shrugged, almost unsettling Madelyne. She grabbed hold of him again, and when he smiled at her, she realized he might have jarred her just to get her to cling to him.

"Answer my question first, then I'll release you," Duncan commanded.

"I'll answer your question," she told him.

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"Did you tell me you thought to kill a man?"

"I did." She stared at his chin when she answered him.

Madelyne waited a long minute for Duncan to comment on her admission. She thought he'd probably lecture her on her weakness for the task of killing anyone.

She was, however, totally unprepared for his laughter. It started as a low rumble in his chest, yet quickly gained in sound, until he was all but choking with true joy.

He'd heard her correctly after all. Madelyne did tell him she was going to kill. That statement was at first so astonishing, he believed she was jesting. Yet the serious look on her face indicated she really meant what she said.

His reaction didn't please her much. God help him, he couldn't quit laughing. He let Madelyne slip out of his grasp but kept his hands settled on her shoulders so she couldn't bolt. "And who is the unfortunate man you plan to kill?" he finally managed to ask. "One of us Wextons perchance?"

Madelyne pulled away from him. "Of course it isn't a Wexton, though to give you the full truth, if I had an evil soul, you'd be the first on my list of those I'd do in, milord."

"Ah," Duncan returned, smiling still. "If it isn't one of us, my sweet, gentle lady, then who do you wish to'do in'?" he asked, using her ridiculous expression for killing.

"Aye,'tis the truth, Duncan. I am a sweet, gentle maiden and it's high time you understood that," Madelyne answered. Her voice didn't sound particularly sweet now.

Madelyne walked over to the bed and sat down on the side. She took a long time smoothing her skirt and then folded her hands in her lap. She was truly appalled that she could speak so easily of taking another's life. But then, the man she had in mind was certainly in need of killing, wasn't he?

"You'll not get his name from me, Duncan. " 'Tis my own affair, not yours."

Duncan wasn't in agreement but decided to wait before he forced the truth.

"And when you kill this man, Madelyne, will you lose your food from your stomach again?"

She didn't answer him. Duncan thought she might be realizing just how foolish her plan was. "And will you cry as well?" he asked her, repeating her reaction after killing the soldier who attacked Gilard.

"I'll remember not to eat anything before I kill him, Duncan, so that I won't become ill, and if I cry after I've done it, then I'll just find a private place so that no one will see me. Is that explanation enough for you?"

Madelyne took a deep breath, trying desperately to keep her expression contained. Lord, she already felt like a sinner. "Death is not to be taken lightly," she said then. "But justice shouldn't be cheated either."

Duncan started laughing again. That infuriated her. "I'd like to sleep now, so please leave."

"Do you think to tell me to leave my own quarters?" Duncan asked.

He wasn't laughing now, and Madelyne didn't have the nerve to look at him.

"I was," she admitted. "If I'm being disrespectful, I'm sorry for it. But you know I don't lie. It's kind of you to give up your bed for this one night. I really do appreciate it. And I'll return to the tower tomorrow, after Adela's room has been scrubbed."

She was out of breath after she finished her explanation.

"Your honesty is refreshing."

"It gets me into mischief." Madelyne sighed. She continued to look down at her hands, wishing Duncan would hurry up and leave. Then she heard a soft thud. That noise did draw her attention, and when she glanced up, she was just in time to watch Duncan remove his second boot and drop it to the floor.

"'Tis indecent to stand before me without your shirt on," Madelyne stated. "And now you're taking off the rest of your garments before you leave? Do you parade around Lady Eleanor like this?"

Madelyne could feel herself blushing. She was determined to ignore Duncan. If he wanted to strut around half naked, then she'd just close her eyes. And he'd get no parting words from her either.

She was a bit slow to catch on to Duncan's intentions. Madelyne continued to watch him out of the corner of her eye. Duncan knelt down in front of the fire, added another fat log. She almost thanked him for that courtesy, until she remembered she was bent on ignoring him. Lord, he did make her lose her train of thought, didn't he?

Duncan stood up and walked over to the door. Before Madelyne knew what he was about to do, he pushed the thick slat of wood through the metal loops.

Her eyes widened in astonishment. She was locked inside the bedroom, but the true problem, as she viewed it, was that Duncan was on the wrong side of the door. And not even a sweet, gentle lady of breeding could misinterpret the meaning of that action.

Madelyne let out a gasp of outrage, bounded off the bed, and ran over to the door. Her intention was single-minded. She was going to get out of this room and away from Duncan.

He watched her struggle with the latch for a moment. When he was satisfied she'd never be able to figure out the unusual lock beneath the bar, he walked over to the bed. He decided to leave his pants on out of deference to Madelyne's feelings. She looked close to the brink of losing her control again.

"Come to bed, Madelyne," Duncan demanded as he stretched out on top of the covers. "I'll not sleep next to you," Madelyne stammered.

"We've slept together…"

"Only once, in that tent, Duncan, and that was for necessity's sake. We shared each other's heat."

"Nay, Madelyne, I've slept beside you every night since," Duncan announced.

Madelyne turned to glare at Duncan. "You have not!"

"Aye, I have."

He was smiling at her. "How can you lie so easily?" Madelyne demanded.

She didn't give him time to answer but turned around again and began to work on the latch.

A sliver of wood under the tender skin on her thumb was her reward for her efforts. She yelped in anger. "And now I've most of this damn wood under my skin, thanks to you," she muttered as she bent her head to look at the damage.

Duncan sighed. Madelyne heard the exaggerated sound all the way across the room, but she didn't hear him move, and when he suddenly grabbed hold of her hand, she jumped back, clipping the top of her head against the bottom of his chin. "You move just like a wolf," she announced as she allowed him to drag her toward the light of the fire. " 'Tis no compliment I'm giving you, Duncan, so you can quit smiling."

Duncan ignored her mutterings. He reached up on the mantel and took hold of a sharp, almost needle-pointed dagger. Madelyne closed her eyes until she felt the first prick. She had to open her eyes then, for if she didn't watch him, he'd probably cut her thumb clean off. Madelyne leaned down until she inadvertently blocked Duncan's view of her thumb.

He pulled her hand upward to get it in a better light. He bent his head to finish his task. Madelyne's forehead touched Duncan's. She didn't move away, and neither did he.

He smelled nice.

She smelled like roses again.

The splinter was removed. Madelyne didn't say a word to him, but she was looking up at him with such a trusting expression on her face. Duncan frowned in frustration. When she looked at him like that, all he could think about was taking her into his arms and kissing her. Hell, he admitted with disgust, all she had to do was look at him and he wanted to bed her.

Duncan threw the dagger back on the mantel and then went back to bed. He hadn't let go of Madelyne's hand and now dragged her behind him. "Can't even get a splinter out and you think to kill a man," he muttered.

"I am not sleeping with you," Madelyne stated most emphatically. She stood beside the bed, determined to win. "You're the most arrogant, the most stubborn man. My patience is running as thin as water. I'll not put up with much more."

Madelyne realized her error was in getting too close to Duncan when she shouted her threat. He reached up and literally lifted her on top of him. She landed with a thud. Duncan shrugged her to his side, his hand still locked on her wrist.

He closed his eyes, obviously trying to dismiss her. Madelyne faced him.

"You hate me too much to sleep next to me. You lied, didn't you, Duncan? We haven't been sleeping together. I'd remember it."

"You can sleep through a battle," Duncan remarked. His eyes were still closed but he was smiling. "And I don't hate you, Madelyne."

"You most certainly do hate me," Madelyne retorted. "Don't you dare change your mind now."

She waited a long while for Duncan to answer her. When he didn't say a word, she started in again. "It was a sorry deed that brought us together. I saved your life. And how am I repaid? Why, you drag me to this godforsaken place, constantly abusing my good nature, I might add. I imagine you've conveniently forgotten all about my saving Gilard's life too."

Lord, she wished he'd open his eyes so she could see his reaction. "Now I've taken on caring for Adela. I'm wondering, though, if you hadn't planned that all along."

Madelyne frowned over that thought and then continued. "You should admit by now that I'm the innocent in this scheme of yours. I'm the one who is being wronged. Why, when I think of all I've been through—"

Duncan's snore stopped her cold. Madelyne was suddenly so furious, she wished she had the courage to scream right into his ear.

"I'm the one who should hate you," she muttered to herself. She adjusted her gown and settled herself on her back. "If I didn't have satisfactory plans of my own, I'd be angry over what you've done to ruin my good name, Duncan. I can't ever make a suitable marriage now. That's a certainty, but I'll admit Louddon will be the loser, not me. He was going to sell me to the highest bidder. At least that's what he told me he was going to do. Now he'll only kill me if he gets near enough," she muttered. "And all because of you," she added with gusto.

She was exhausted when she finished her complaints. "How am I ever going to get you to promise me anything? And I've already given my word to poor Adela," she added with a weary yawn.

Duncan moved then. Madelyne was caught unprepared. She only had time to open her eyes before Duncan was leaning over her. His face was close to hers, his breath warm and sweet against her cheeks. One of his heavy thighs trapped her.

Good God, she was flat on her back.

"I'll find a way to tell your Lady Eleanor if you take advantage of me," Madelyne blurted out.

Duncan rolled his eyes heavenward. "Madelyne, your mind is consumed with my taking…"

She slapped her hand over his mouth and held it there. "Don't dare say it," she returned. "And why else would you be draped over me like a blanket if you didn't want to…"

Madelyne matched his sigh with one of her own. "You try to make me daft," she accused him.

"You already are," Duncan announced.

"Get off me. You weigh more than the doors to your home."

Duncan shifted his weight until his bulk was cushioned by his elbows. His pelvis rested against Madelyne's. He could feel the heat in her.

"What promise do you want from me?"

Madelyne looked confused by the question. "Adela," Duncan reminded her.

"Oh," Madelyne said, sounding breathless. "I had thought to wait until tomorrow to speak to you about Adela. I didn't realize you'd make me sleep with you though. And I'd hoped to catch you in a better mood…"

"Madelyne." The last of her name was drawn out in a long, controlled groan and she knew from the way he clenched his jaw that his patience was gone.

"I wish you to give me your word Adela may live here with you for as long as she wants, and that you'll not force a marriage on her, no matter what the circumstances. There, is that specific enough for you?"

Duncan frowned. "I'll speak to Adela tomorrow," he stated.

"Your sister is too frightened to speak freely to you, but if I may tell her you've given your word, then I believe you'll see a remarkable change in her. She's so worried, Duncan, and if we can ease her burden, she'll feel much better."

He felt like smiling. Madelyne had taken on the role of mother to Adela, just as he suspected she would. He was enormously pleased his plan had worked. "Very well. Tell Adela I've given my word. I'll have to speak to Gerald," he added, almost as an afterthought.

"Gerald will just have to find someone else to marry. Adela believes the contract isn't binding now, anyway. Besides, Gerald will want an unblemished woman, and that makes me dislike him immensely."

"You never even met the man," Duncan said with exasperation. "How can you judge him so easily?"

Madelyne frowned. Duncan was right though it was almost painful to give him that admission. "Does Gerald know all of what happened to Adela?"

"By now all of England knows. Louddon would have made certain."

"My brother is an evil man."

"Does your uncle Berton feel the same way about Louddon?" Duncan asked.

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