Duncan shook his head. "An invasion wouldn't wreck my hunger. I've just used up all my strength trying to satisfy your—"
She nudged him to be quiet, for they were close enough for Adela to overhear. "I needed you to love me," she whispered. "I've forgotten all about the priest's foul touch now. It was the only reason I was a little… bold."
"Bold?" Duncan chuckled. "Madelyne love, you turned into a—"
She nudged him again, more forcefully, then turned to watch Gerald and Adela.
It was Gerald, in fact, who gave Adela explanation about Madelyne's injuries.
"Oh, Madelyne, you look terrible," Adela confessed in a sympathetic voice.
"It's a sin to lie," Madelyne said to Duncan, glaring at him.
Duncan demanded Father Laurance's name not be mentioned during dinner. Everyone complied. Adela went back to ignoring Gerald too. The baron offered Duncan's sister a compliment when everyone stood to leave the table. Adela made a rude comment back to him.
Duncan's patience was gone. "I would speak to both of you," he demanded. His voice had a hard edge to it.
Adela looked frightened, Gerald looked puzzled, and Madelyne looked like she was going to smile.
Everyone followed Duncan over to the hearth. Duncan sat in his chair, but when Gerald started to take a chair for his own, Duncan said, "Nay, Gerald. Stand next to Adela."
He turned to Adela then and demanded, "Do you trust me to know what's best for you?"
Adela slowly nodded. Her eyes were as large as trenchers, Madelyne thought.
"Then let Gerald kiss you. Now."
"What?" Adela sounded appalled.
Duncan frowned over her reaction. "When my wife was attacked by Laurence, she wanted me to wipe the memory away. Adela, you've never been kissed or touched by a man who loves you. I suggest you let Gerald kiss you now and then decide if you are repelled or enlightened."
Madelyne thought it was a wonderful plan.
Adela was turning red with embarrassment. "In front of everyone?" she asked. Her voice sounded like a squeak.
Gerald smiled. He took hold of Adela's hand. "I would kiss you in front of the world if you'd allow it," he told her.
Duncan thought Gerald was going a little overboard, telling Adela she could allow or disallow, yet he kept his thoughts to himself.
Besides, his command was finally being carried out. Before Adela could back away, Gerald leaned down and placed a chaste kiss on her lips.
Duncan's sister looked up at Gerald in confusion. And then he kissed her again. His hands never touched her but his mouth held her captive all the same.
Madelyne felt foolish watching the pair. She walked over and sat on the arm of Duncan's chair and tried to stare at the ceiling instead of the two people kissing each other so thoroughly.
When Gerald took a step back, Madelyne looked at Adela. Duncan's sister looked flushed, embarrassed, and truly astonished.
"He doesn't kiss like Mor—" The color immediately drained from her face over her near blunder, and she looked at Madelyne for help.
"He'll have to know, Adela."
Gerald and Duncan shared a frown. Neither knew what Madelyne was talking about. "I cannot tell him," Adela whispered. "Would you do this one terrible duty for me? Please, Madelyne. I beg of you."
"If you'll let me tell Duncan as well," Madelyne said.
Adela looked at her brother. He could see the worry in her gaze.
Adela finally nodded. She turned back to Gerald then and said, "You'll not ever want to kiss me again when you know the full truth of what happened to me. I'm sorry, Gerald. I should have…"
Adela started to cry. Gerald reached out to take her into his arms but she shook her head, "I think I do love you Gerald. And I am so sorry." With those parting words, Adela rushed out of the room.
Madelyne had little liking for the promise she'd made. She knew she was about to cause her husband and Gerald pain. Both men loved Adela.
"Gerald, please sit down and listen to me," Madelyne asked. Her voice sounded strained. "Duncan, promise you won't be angry with me for keeping this from you. Adela made me promise to share her secret."
"I'll not be angry," Duncan announced.
Madelyne nodded. She couldn't bear to look at Gerald while she told the full truth about Adela, so she stared at the floor through the recitation. She stressed the fact that Adela was so disappointed that Gerald hadn't joined her in court and for that reason was easy prey for Louddon's deceptions. "She was really trying to punish you, I think," Madelyne told Gerald. "Though I doubt she realizes that."
Madelyne dared a look over at Gerald, caught his nod, and then looked at Duncan. She told the rest then, leaving nothing out, and when she told of Morcar's treachery, she fully expected one or both men to shout in anger.
Neither baron said a word.
When the telling was finished, Gerald got up and slowly walked out of the hall.
"What will he do?" Madelyne asked Duncan. She realized she was crying, brushed the tears away from her face, wincing when she knocked her bruises.
"I don't know," Duncan answered. His voice was soft, angry too.
"Are you upset with me for not telling you sooner?"
Duncan shook his head. A sudden thought occurred to him then. "Morcar is the man you wanted to kill, isn't he?"
Madelyne frowned. "You told me you were going to kill a man. Remember? It was Morcar you meant, wasn't it?"
She nodded. "I couldn't let him get away with his treachery, yet I was honor bound to keep Adela's secret," she whispered. "Duncan, I didn't know what to do. It is God's duty to see to sinners. I know that well enough. And I shouldn't want to kill him. I do, though, God help me, I do."
Duncan pulled her into his lap. He held her tenderly. He understood his gentle wife's torment.
Each lapsed into silence for several minutes. Madelyne was worrying about Gerald. Would he leave now or would he continue to pursue Adela?
Duncan used the time to gain control of his emotions. He didn't blame Adela for her infatuation with Louddon. His sister was such an innocent, she couldn't be faulted. But Louddon had deliberately preyed on that innocence.
"I'll take care of Morcar," Duncan said to Madelyne.
"You will not."
It was Gerald who bellowed the denial. Both Madelyne and Duncan watched Gerald rush over to stand in front of them. His anger was most evident. He was shaking with it. "Ill kill him, and you as well, Duncan, if you dare deny me this right."
Madelyne gasped. She looked up at Duncan. His expression didn't tell her if he was insulted or angry.
Duncan stared at Gerald a long moment. Then he slowly nodded. "Aye, Gerald, it is your right. I'll stand behind you when you challenge him."
"As I'll stand behind you when you challenge Louddon," Gerald answered.
The fight went out of Gerald then. He sat down in the chair facing Duncan.
"Madelyne? Would you please tell Adela I'd like to speak to her?"
Madelyne nodded. She hurried to comply but had worried herself sick before she reached Adela's bedroom. She still didn't know what Gerald was going to do.
Adela had already made up her mind Gerald was going to leave her. "It's all for the best," she told Madelyne between sobs. "Kissing is one thing, but that is all I could ever allow. I could never let him come to my bed."
"You don't know if you could or couldn't," Madelyne returned. "Adela, it won't be easy but Gerald is a patient man."
"It doesn't matter," Adela said. "He's going to leave me."
Adela was wrong. Gerald was waiting for her at the bottom of the steps. Without saying a word, he took hold of her arm and led her down the next staircase.
Duncan walked over to Madelyne and lifted her up into his arms. "You look exhausted, wife. 'Tis time for bed."
"I'd better wait until Adela comes back. She might need me," Madelyne protested when Duncan started up the steps.
"I need you now, Madelyne. Gerald will take care of Adela."
She nodded. "Madelyne, I have to leave you tomorrow. It will be for a short time only," he added before she could interrupt.
"Where are you going?" she asked. "Do you have important matters to attend to?" she asked then, trying her best to sound interested and not disappointed. She couldn't expect him to spend every minute with her. Duncan was an important man, after ail.
"I do have a matter that calls for attention," Duncan answered, deliberately keeping his explanation to a minimum. Madelyne had been through enough torment today. Duncan didn't want to add another worry, and he knew if he told her about the king's petition tonight, she wouldn't get any rest
Maude was just coming down the steps when Duncan turned the corner. She said she'd see to the baroness's bath right away, but Duncan shook his head. He told Maude he'd take care of the task.
Maude made a curtsy. "Maude, your son has done a courageous thing today."
The woman beamed. She'd already heard all about her son's brave act. The lad had made his parents proud. Why, he saved the baroness's life.
"I'll have to think of a suitable reward for such bravery," Duncan said.
Maude looked too overwhelmed to speak. She made another curtsy, then stammered out her gratitude. "I do thank you, milord. My Willie took a fancy to the baroness. He's a bit of a nuisance, running after her all the time, but she don't seem to mind it and always has a kind word for my boy."
"He's an intelligent lad," Duncan said in praise.
His flattery, an unusual event to be sure, added to the fact that he was actually speaking to her, made Maude feel giddy. She thanked her lord again, picked up her skirts, and went flying down the steps. Gerty would be wanting to hear this tale to be sure. Maude was bent on being the first to tell
Madelyne brushed her hand against her husband's cheek. "You're a good man, Duncan," she whispered to him. " 'Tis yet another reason I love you so much."
Duncan shrugged, forcing Madelyne to grab hold of his shoulders to keep her balance. "I do only my duty," he commented. Madelyne smiled. She thought her husband was as awkward with praise as Maude appeared to be.
"I've been denied my bath," she said, teasing him. "Perhaps I'll swim in your lake. What say you to that?" she added.
"I say it's a good plan, wife. I will swim with you."
"I was only teasing you," Madelyne rushed out. "I don't want to swim in your lake."
She shivered. "When I was little, I jumped into the pond. It wasn't deep, and I did know how to swim, you understand. But my toes squished in the mud and my gown weighed ten stone, at least, before I could drag myself out. Why, I needed another bath then and there. Mud was even caked in my hair."
Duncan laughed. "First of all, my lake has a rock bottom in most places," he said. "And you aren't supposed to swim with your clothes on, Madelyne. I'm surprised you didn't drown."
She didn't look too convinced of the merits of his lake. "The water is clear. You can almost see to the bottom," Duncan told her.
They reached their bedroom. Madelyne was undressed and waiting for Duncan in their bed before her husband had removed his tunic.
"You don't want to swim with me?" he asked her with a grin.
"No," Madelyne said. "There are soldiers outside. Good Lord, Gerald and Adela are outside too. It wouldn't be decent to parade in front of them without my clothes on. Whatever could you be thinking of, Duncan, to suggest such—"
"Madelyne, no one goes to the lake at night. Besides, the moon isn't bright enough to—"
She interrupted him with a startled gasp. "Duncan, what are you doing?"
It was obvious even to her, Duncan was standing next to the bed, holding her cloak up. "Wrap yourself in this. I'll carry you to the lake," he suggested.
Madelyne nibbled on her lip in indecision. She really did want to swim. It was hot and sticky tonight. Yet the thought of being seen by anyone was a worry to be considered.
Duncan patiently waited for Madelyne to make her choice. He thought she looked terribly appealing right now. Only a thin blanket covered her, and the tips of her br**sts were nicely revealed.
"You said I looked exhausted," Madelyne stalled. "Perhaps…"
"'Tis a sin to lie to me," Madelyne commented. She pulled the blanket up, holding it like a shield against him. "My soap is in your chest," she told him.
Madelyne thought to send him on an errand so she could wrap the cloak around her in privacy. She still wasn't used to parading around him naked.
Duncan grinned. He walked over to the chest to get the soap. Madelyne tried to grab her cloak before he turned, but she wasn't quick enough.
Her husband returned to the side of the bed. Her cloak was draped over his arm. The packet of soap was in one hand and a small circular mirror in the other.
He handed the mirror to Madelyne. "You've a black eye to match the one you gave Edmond," he remarked.
"I never gave Edmond a black eye," Madelyne protested. "You're teasing me."
She turned the mirror over and looked at her face.
"I do look like a Cyclops," she shouted. She dropped the mirror and began to pull her hair forward over the injured side of her face. "How can you stand to kiss me?" she asked. "I've a black circle around my eye and…"
She sounded like she was wailing. Duncan's smile faded when he leaned forward. With the palm of his hand he forced her chin up to make her look at him. His expression was most serious now. "Because I love you, Madelyne. You're everything I've ever wanted, and much, much more. Do you think a bruise or two could sway my heart? Do you believe my love could be so shallow?"
Madelyne shook her head. She slowly edged the blanket away and then stood up next to her husband.
She wasn't shy with him anymore. Duncan loved her. That was all that mattered.
"I would like to go to your lake now, Duncan. But we better hurry, before I begin to beg you to make love to me."
Duncan cupped her chin with his hands and kissed her. "Oh, I am going to love you, Madelyne."
She was warmed by the promise and the dark look in his eyes. She heard herself sigh, felt a warm knot in her stomach begin to spread inside of her.