Anthony seemed to be the only one in control now. He strolled over to Duncan, whistling under his breath. Duncan wanted to kill him.

The vassal put his hand on Duncan's shoulder. It was probably meant as a sympathetic gesture. Duncan wasn't sure if Anthony was offering him condolences because he was wed to Madelyne or if the vassal was giving him understanding over the scene he'd just witnessed. Duncan didn't appreciate the action, no matter what the motive.


"There's something I've been meaning to tell you, Duncan."

Anthony's voice was mild but it captured Duncan's attention. He turned to scowl at his first-in-command. "What is it?" he demanded.

"Your wife is determined to ride Silenus," Anthony said.

"When I'm dead and unable to witness it," Duncan roared.

Anthony had the gall to smile. He turned, a blatant attempt to shield his face from Duncan. "Protecting your wife is an unusually demanding challenge. When her mind is set on a plan of action, there's no stopping her."

"She has ruined my faithful horse," Duncan shouted.

"Aye," Anthony answered, unable to keep his amusement out of his voice. "She has."

Duncan shook his head. "God, I thought I'd lost her." His voice had turned into a harsh whisper. When he looked down at his hands, saw how they still shook, he was immediately furious again. "I'm going to kill her. You may witness the deed if you wish."

Duncan was back to shouting. Anthony wasn't intimidated. The vassal leaned back against the wall. He asked only curiously, "Why?"

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"It would improve your day," Duncan announced.

Anthony did laugh then. "I didn't mean to ask you why I'd want to witness Madelyne's death, Baron. I meant to ask you why you'd want to kill her."

Anthony's laughter didn't sit well with his lord. "How would you like the new duty of seeing to the water?" he threatened. "Would you find it amusing to drag bucket after bucket to the kitchens? Would that duty be challenge enough, Anthony?"

It was an insulting suggestion for someone of Anthony's rank. Duncan thought his vassal would immediately show contrition over his lack of respect.

Anthony, however, didn't seem to be the least contrite. " 'Tis a dangerous mission you give me, Baron. You've only to ask Ansel just how dangerous this duty is."

"What are you talking about?"

"Your squire nearly drowned the other day. He had climbed to the top of the steps to the rainwater vat, when a ball hit him square in the shoulders. He lost his balance, of course, and—"

Duncan held up his hand for silence. He didn't want to hear any more of this tale. He closed his eyes, praying for patience. Though he didn't know the full story, he had an instinctive feeling his gentle little wife was behind Ansel's mishap. He'd also noticed her showing a new game to the children yesterday afternoon.

Edmond walked over to join Duncan and Anthony. "What is so amusing to you, Anthony?" Edmond asked. Duncan's brother was still too shaken by Madelyne's brush with death to find anything remotely humorous.

"Our lord is going to kill his wife," Anthony remarked.

Edmond looked exasperated. "For God's sake," he muttered. "Look at our leader now." A slow grin settled on his face before he added, "Why, Duncan couldn't kill a lamb."

Hell, it was humiliating. Edmond had obviously heard Madelyne call his stallion her lamb.. Everyone probably heard, and if they hadn't, Edmond would certainly tell them.

"It would seem, Anthony, our captive has turned captor."

"I'm in no mood for your riddles, Edmond," Duncan muttered.

"You're in no mood for admitting you love Madelyne either. Look at your condition, brother, and the truth will hit you between the eyes."

Edmond shook his head, turned, and slowly walked away.

"Madelyne's an easy woman to love, Baron," Anthony commented when they were again alone.

"Easy? As easy as swallowing a mace."

They were completely ill suited for each other. He was as rigid as a trunk of an old tree. Madelyne was as flighty as the wind.

And he never stood a chance… not since the moment she touched his feet. Duncan knew that now. Lord, he did love her.

"I'll not have chaos in my life." Duncan made the proclamation as a fervent vow.

"Perhaps, in time, all will settle—"

"When Madelyne is too old to get out of bed," Duncan interrupted. "Then I'll have peace again."

"Peace can be boring," Anthony commented with a smile. "Your wife has given new life to your home, Duncan." Anthony sought to appease Duncan with his argument

He concluded, from the way Duncan scowled, that his plan wasn't working. Perhaps his lord had only just realized how much Madelyne meant to him. If that was the situation, Anthony decided his baron wasn't taking the realization well at all.

He decided to leave Duncan to his own thoughts, excused himself with a bow, and walked away.

Duncan was glad for the solitude. He kept picturing his stallion racing toward his gentle little wife, knowing he'd never forget the horror for as long as he lived.

She'd captured his horse just as she'd captured him. Duncan found his first smile when he realized what a feat Madelyne had accomplished. Edmond was right. Madelyne was captor now, for she owned his heart.

There was surprising strength with the truth. Duncan suddenly felt as though he'd just ended a forty-day fast. He wasn't going to have to ignore Madelyne any longer. Aye, he could feast on her. Besides, he admitted, it was past time he took a firm hand.

He started after his wife, thinking he would lecture her awhile, then kiss her. He was still angry. It was her fault, of course. She was the one who'd made his heart start pounding. She'd scared the hell out of him. He didn't like that feeling, not at all. He wasn't used to loving either. The first would take time to get over, the second would take time to adjust to.

Another shout stopped him. Fergus, soldier in charge of the south watch, called out a warning that a visitor was approaching the fortress. From the colors displayed on the banner waving in the breeze, the watchman knew that Baron Gerald and his assembly wished entrance.

It was all Duncan needed to turn his day completely black. Damn, he had sent a messenger to Gerald with the full explanation of Adela's condition. He assumed Gerald would have sent a messenger back with agreement to nullify the contract. Obviously, because Gerald had troubled to journey such a distance, there was still a problem to be solved before the betrothal could be set aside.

Hell, he was going to have to be diplomatic. And Adela would probably revert to her crazed condition when she learned her intended was here for a visit. Duncan realized he might be jumping to conclusions.

Gerald was an old friend. There could be a number of reasons for the baron to visit. Lord, Madelyne was affecting him more than he'd realized. He was beginning to take on her flaws.

She was gifted with affecting his concentration too. Why, only two days ago he'd been in the middle of issuing an important command to his men, when his wife had strolled into his line of vision. Duncan suddenly found himself watching the gentle sway of her h*ps as she walked by, forgetting all about the order he was giving.

Duncan smiled over that memory. The soldiers had been staring at him so expectantly, and there he stood, without a glimmer of an idea what he was telling them, probably looking quite stupid, until Gilard stepped forward and reminded him of their topic.

Fergus shouted to Duncan again, interrupting his concentration. Duncan immediately gave the order to let Baron Gerald inside.

Madelyne was just coming out of the stables when Duncan intercepted her. Without giving her any sort of proper greeting, he abruptly stated his order.

"Adela's inside, Madelyne. Go and tell her Baron Gerald is here. She'll greet him at dinner."

Madelyne's eyes widened over Duncan's startling news. "Why is he here, Duncan? Did you send for him?"

"I did not," Duncan answered, irritated she didn't immediately pick up her skirts and run to do his bidding. He was standing close enough to kiss her, and that thought fully consumed him. "Now, do as I've instructed, wife."

"I always do what you instruct," Madelyne answered with a smile. She turned, started to walk toward the castle. "And good day to you too, Duncan," she called back over her shoulder.

It was a disrespectful comment meant to remind him of his lack of manners, Duncan supposed. He told himself it was too bad there wasn't time to throttle her senseless.


She stopped as soon as he called out to her, yet didn't turn around until he commanded it. "Come here."

Madelyne complied, frowning now, for her husband's voice had sounded very tender. "Yes, Duncan?" she asked.

Duncan cleared his throat, frowned, and then said, "Good afternoon."

He hadn't even meant to say that, had he? Duncan frowned all the more when Madelyne smiled. Duncan suddenly pulled her into his arms and kissed her.

She was too stunned to respond at first. Duncan had never touched her during the day. Why, he always ignored her. He wasn't ignoring her now, however. Nay, he was kissing her quite forcefully, and in clear view of anyone who might be passing by.

The kiss wasn't gentle either, but passionately arousing. Just when she was getting the way of it, Duncan pulled away.

He smiled at her. "Don't ever call my horse your lamb again. Do you understand me?"

Madelyne stared up at Duncan, looking confused and flushed.

Before she could form an answer, Duncan walked away from her. Madelyne picked up her skirts and chased after him. She grabbed hold of his hand, stopping him with her touch, and when he turned to look at her, he was still smiling.

"Are you ill, Duncan?" Madelyne asked. Fear sounded in her voice.


"Then why are you smiling so?" she demanded.

Duncan shook his head. "Madelyne, please go and tell Adela about Gerald's arrival," he said.

"Please?" Madelyne asked. She looked appalled. "You've told me to please—"

"Madelyne, do as I've ordered," Duncan said.

She nodded but didn't move. Madelyne just stood there, watching Duncan walk away from her. She was too stunned to go after him again. Duncan had always been so predictable. Now he was trying to change on her. She wrung her hands together while she worried about that. Had it been a hot summer day, she would have believed the sun had baked his head. Since it was January, however, and as cold as purgatory, Madelyne couldn't find any acceptable excuse for his sudden turnabout in attitude.

She needed time to think. Madelyne sighed and tried to dismiss her husband's unusual behavior from her thoughts. She hurried in search of Adela then.

Trying to dismiss Duncan was easier said than done. Why, it would have been less difficult to walk across a bed of nails barefoot.

Adela did help take Madelyne's mind off her husband. Duncan's little sister was in her bedroom. She was sitting on the side of the bed, braiding her hair.

"We have company, Adela," Madelyne announced cheerfully.

Adela was happy to see Madelyne until she heard who company was. "I'm staying in this room until he leaves," Adela shouted. "Duncan gave me his word. How could he ask Gerald to come here?"

Madelyne could see how frightened Adela was. Her hands fell to her lap and her shoulders sagged.

"Duncan didn't invite Gerald. Don't get upset, Adela. You know your brother won't break his promise. In your heart you know I speak the truth, don't you?"

Adela nodded. "Maybe, if I act like I did when you first came here, then Gerald will be so disgusted he'll leave immediately."

"'Tis foolish talk," Madelyne announced, squelching the spark of eagerness in Adela's eyes. "Gerald will only think you're quite pitful. He just might think you haven't gotten over your incident," Madelyne said. "If you look as pretty as you can and greet him respectfully, well, then I do believe he'll know your mind is set and you simply don't want to marry him. Besides, Duncan is the one who'll have to answer to Gerald, not you, Adela."

"But Madelyne, I can't face Gerald, I just can't," Adela cried out. "He knows what happened to me. I'll die of shame."

"For heaven's sake," Madelyne answered, trying to sound exasperated. Inside, she ached for Adela. "What happened wasn't your fault. Gerald knows that."

Adela didn't look relieved by Madelyne's argument, so she decided to turn the topic a little. "Tell me what you remember about Baron Gerald. What does he look like?"

"He has black hair and hazel-colored eyes, I think," Adela answered, shrugging.

"Do you think he might be handsome then?" Madelyne asked.

"I don't know."

"Is he kind?"

"Barons aren't kind," Adela returned.

"Why not?" Madelyne asked. She walked over and started to rebraid Adela's hair.

"They don't have to be kind," Adela answered. "What does it matter if he's pleasing to look at or not, Madelyne?" She tried to turn around to look up at Madelyne.

"Be still, else your braid will be lopsided," Madelyne interjected. "I was just curious about the baron, that is all."

"I can't go downstairs," Adela said.

She started to cry. Madelyne wasn't sure what to do. "You don't have to do anything you don't want to do, Adela. Duncan did give you his word, however, and it would seem to me that the least you could do to show your appreciation is to stand beside your brother and treat Gerald as an honored guest."

Madelyne had to keep up her argument for quite a while. In the end she was able to sway Adela. "Will you go downstairs with me? Will you stay by my side?" Adela asked.

"Of course I will," Madelyne promised. "Remember, Adela. Together we can face any challenge."

Adela nodded. Madelyne sought to lighten her mood. "I'm afraid your braid is hanging over your ear," she said. "You'll have to redo it, then change your gown. I must see to dinner arrangements and change my own clothes."

Madelyne patted Adela on her shoulder. Her hands were shaking. She knew it was because Adela was so upset and had this new ordeal to go through.

She kept smiling until she shut the door behind her. Then she let her worry show. Madelyne began to pray for what she believed would take a miracle. She prayed for courage.

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