Duncan was taken aback by her comments. He shrugged before answering. "It is clean, Madelyne. That is all that should matter to you. Besides, it is the only other clothing I carried with me from London." He started toward her, his intent obvious in his dark gaze. "I'm going to kiss you senseless enough not to notice my attire."

Madelyne ran to the other side of the table. "You cannot kiss me until we are wed," she said, trying not to laugh. "And why didn't you shave?"


Duncan continued to stalk his quest. "After."

Now, what did he mean by that? Madelyne paused to frown. "After?"

"Aye, Madelyne, after," Duncan answered. His hot stare confused her almost as much as his odd remark.

She deliberately hesitated long enough to be captured. Duncan pulled her into his arms. He was about to take her mouth, when the door opened. A loud cough gained his attention.

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"We're waiting to begin," Father Berton announced. "There is one worry, however."

"What is that?" Madelyne asked once she'd wiggled out of Duncan's arms and righted her appearance.

"I would like to walk by your side, but I can't be in two places at the same time. And who be the witnesses to this act?" he added, frowning.

"Can you not walk with Madelyne to the altar and then proceed with the mass?" Duncan asked.

"And when, as priest I ask who gives this woman in holy matrimony, I should then run to Madelyne's side to answer my own question?"

Duncan grinned, picturing the scene.

"It will be an oddity, but I could manage," Father Berton announced.

"My soldiers will all bear witness," Duncan said. "Anthony will stand behind Madelyne. Is that good enough for you, Father?"

"So be it," Father Berton decreed. "Go now, Baron, wait by the makeshift altar I have fashioned outside. You'll be wed under the stars and the moon. 'Tis God's true palace to my way of judging."

"All right then, let's get this over and done with."

Madelyne took exception to his choice of words. She chased after Duncan, claiming his hand to get his attention. "Over and done with?" she asked, frowning.

When he looked down at her, Madelyne decided he'd been teasing her. And then he spoke, and her frown disappeared altogether. "We have been bound to each other since the moment we met, Madelyne. God knew it, I knew it, and if you'll only reflect upon the truth, you'll admit it too. We've pledged ourselves to each other, and though Laurance was not a priest and couldn't give us his true blessing, we are still wed."

"From the moment I warmed your feet," Madelyne whispered, repeating his past explanation.

"Aye, from that moment."

She looked as if she were going to weep. What an emotional woman his gentle wife had turned out to be. While her reaction pleased him, he knew she wouldn't wish to appear so undisciplined in front of his men. He. immediately sought to repair her control. "You should be thankful, you know."

"Thankful for what, Duncan?" Madelyne asked, dabbing at the corners of her eyes.

"That it wasn't summer when we met."

She didn't understand at first. And then she laughed, a full, lusty sound that wanned his heart. "So it's the weather that gave you to me, is that your way of thinking?"

"You wouldn't have had to warm my feet if it had been summer," he said. He gave Madelyne a quick wink.

She thought he looked most arrogant. "You would have found another reason," she said.

Duncan would have responded to that comment if Father Berton hadn't started pushing him toward the door. "The men are waiting on you, Baron."

As soon as Duncan left, Father Berton turned to Madelyne. He spent several minutes advising her on her duties as wife. When that task was done, he spoke from his heart, telling her how very proud he was to claim her for his family.

And then he offered his arm to the woman he'd baptized, seen raised, and loved as a daughter.

It was a beautiful ceremony, and when it was finished, Duncan presented his wife to his vassals. The men knelt before Madelyne and gave her their vow of loyalty.

Duncan was exhausted and impatient. He left his wife to pay an official call on the Earl of Grinsteade, and returned to Father Berton's cottage less than twenty minutes later.

The priest had already gone to sleep. His pallet was across the room. Madelyne's bed was on the opposite wall, with only a curtain to protect her privacy.

Duncan found his wife sitting on the edge of the narrow bed. She was wearing the gown she'd been married in.

After he'd removed his clothing, he stretched out on top of the covers, drawing Madelyne down upon his chest. He kissed her soundly and then suggested she get ready for bed.

Madelyne took her time with the task. She kept pausing to peek around the curtain to see if her uncle was sleeping. Then she finally leaned down to tell Duncan that she really thought they should find a private place outside to sleep together. After all, it was their wedding night, and it had been a long time since they'd touched each other. Surely he could see the way of it, couldn't he, for once she started kissing him, she knew she'd be frightfully wild about it. God's truth, she knew she'd be loud. Why, she was ready to scream now.

Duncan didn't even try to hush her. She realized then that she really needn't have bothered with her explanation. Her husband was sound asleep.

The frustrated bride snuggled up against her husband, gritted her teeth together, and tried to fall asleep.

The sounds of Father Berton moving around the room awakened Duncan. He was instantly alert, feeling something was amiss and not immediately understanding what it was.

He started to stand up, his mind clearing now, only to realize he almost stepped on Madelyne. Duncan smiled over the absurdity of it. His wife was sleeping on the floor, a thick blanket her only covering. Lord, he'd fallen asleep on their wedding night. Duncan sat on the side of the bed, staring down at his lovely wife, until he heard the door open and then close behind the priest. He glanced out the window on the other side of the bed in time to see Father Berton walk toward the castle doors. The priest was wearing his church vestments and carrying a small silver chalice.

Duncan turned back to Madelyne. He knelt beside her and lifted her into his arms. Then he placed her on the bed. Madelyne immediately rolled onto her back, kicking the cover aside.

She wasn't wearing her sleeping gown. Dawn's light, streaming through the window, dappled her skin a golden hue. Madelyne's glorious hair was transformed by the rising sun into the color of fire.

Duncan's desire intensified until he was aching with need. He sat down on the side of the bed and began to make love to his wife.

Madelyne awakened with a sigh. She felt wonderfully lethargic. Duncan's hands were caressing her breasts. Her ni**les strained for more. Madelyne moaned and moved her h*ps restlessly in sleepy invitation to her husband.

She opened her eyes and looked up at Duncan. His hot gaze made her shiver with desire. She reached up to him, trying to draw him down upon her, but Duncan shook his head, denying her.

"I'll give you what you want," he whispered to her. "And much, much more," he promised.

Before Madelyne could answer him, Duncan leaned down and took one breast into his mouth. He sucked the nipple while his hands stroked the flat of her stomach.

Madelyne's moans became wilder, louder. The sounds she made in the back of her throat pleased him, though not nearly as much as the taste of her.

His hand moved between her legs. He found the treasure he sought, thrust his finger inside, and was nearly driven beyond reason by her hot, wild response.

He wanted it all.

Duncan abruptly rolled to his side. Madelyne turned to her husband. The side of her face rested on Duncan's warm thigh.

His mouth was driving her wild. She couldn't seem to draw a breath, her stomach indrawn as her husband placed wet kisses around her navel. His fingers continued his sweet torture. Madelyne whimpered when Duncan gently nudged her thighs apart. She knew what he wanted to do and opened herself to him, begging him to kiss her there.

Duncan moved lower, until he was tasting the heat of her. His tongue teased, tormented. And his beard drove her mad. His whiskers were excitingly abrasive against the sensitive skin of her inner thighs.

She wanted to taste him. All of him.

There was no warning of her intent, no tender kisses leading up to her quest. Madelyne arched her h*ps against Duncan as she captured him and took him into her mouth.

She was given her moans then. Her hands and mouth were just as pleasing, just as erotic as Duncan's. Aye, he told of his pleasure by moving forcefully against her.

And then he was suddenly pulling away from her. He turned, settled himself between her thighs, and penetrated her. His seed immediately spilled forth, his cl**ax seemingly unending. The force of his surrender gave Madelyne her own release to the same splendor.

She was too weak to move, couldn't even summon the strength to let go of her husband's shoulders.

He was content. He thought to kiss his wife, to tell her how very satisfied he was, but he couldn't seem to make the effort. Aye, he was too content to move.

They stayed as one for long, pleasing minutes.

Madelyne recovered her wits before her husband did. She suddenly remembered where they were. When she tensed against Duncan, he guessed her thoughts. "Father Berton has gone to say mass," he whispered.

Madelyne relaxed against him. "Of course, you were loud enough for my army to hear," he added.

"You were just as loud," Madelyne whispered back.

"Now I'll shave," Duncan told her.

Madelyne started to laugh. "I understand what you meant by telling me you'd shave after, Duncan. You knew your beard would drive me mad."

Duncan braced himself on his elbows and looked down into Madelyne's eyes. "Do you know how much you please me, wife?"

"I do," she whispered. "I love you, Duncan, now and forever."

"Did you love me when you realized Laurance wasn't a true priest and I lied to you?"

"Aye, though I did want to throttle you for not telling me. Lord, I was angry."

"Good," Duncan remarked, smiling over the startle that comment caused. "I worried you would have thought I'd lied to you about other things," he admitted.

"I've never doubted your love, Duncan," Madelyne said.

"But you doubted your worth," he reminded her.

"No longer," she whispered. She drew him down to kiss him and then demanded that he make love to her once again.

It was a much more leisurely union the second time, but just as satisfying.

Father Berton returned to his home to find both Madelyne and Duncan dressed. The baron sat at the table, his gaze never leaving his wife's figure as she went about the task of preparing their breakfast.

"I've need for a priest, Father," Duncan said. "Would you like the duty of looking after my soul? I could request your attendance immediately."

Madelyne was so pleased with Duncan's suggestion, she clapped her hands together.

Father Berton smiled, then denied the request with a shake of his head. "The earl has taken me in all these years, Duncan. I cannot abandon him now. He depends upon my council. Nay, I can't leave him."

Madelyne knew her uncle was doing the honorable thing. She nodded. "I would suggest that you come to us after the earl is put to rest, but God's truth, I do think he's going to outlive us all."

"Madelyne! Do not speak so unkindly of the earl," Father Berton admonished.

Madelyne immediately looked contrite. "I didn't mean to be unkind, Uncle. And I am ashamed, for I understand your duty to the earl."

Duncan nodded. "Then we will come to visit you, and when you are finished with this duty, you will come to live with us."

He was much more diplomatic than she was. Madelyne saw how her uncle smiled and nodded his agreement. "How long will we be staying here?" she asked her husband then.

"We must leave today," Duncan announced.

"We could stay here until the summer's end," she suggested before she could stop herself.

"We leave today."

Madelyne sighed. Duncan was trying to stare her down, she realized. "Then today it is," she said.

Father left the cottage then, pretending an errand to fetch bread from the cook. As soon as the door closed behind him, Madelyne walked over to her husband. "You must allow me to have an opinion, husband. I'll not always bow to your dictates."

Duncan grinned. "I know that well enough, Madelyne. You are my wife and will rule by my side. But your argument to stay here is most—"

"Unreasonable," Madelyne interjected with a sigh. She sat down on Duncan's lap and put her arms around his neck. "I'm putting off the inevitable. You might as well know the full truth about your wife, Duncan. I am a bit of a coward on occasion."

Duncan thought his wife's confession was quite amusing. He laughed, uncaring that Madelyne wasn't looking too pleased with his conduct. When he gained control, he said to her, "You have more courage inside you than all my men put together. Who dared death to release her brother's enemy?"

"Well, I did, but—"

"Who stood behind Gilard's back and saved him?"

"I did, Duncan, but I was so frightened and I—"

"Who took on the task of caring for my sister? Who conquered Silenus for her lamb? Who—"

"You know it was me," Madelyne said. She put her hands on Duncan's cheeks and then said, "But you've still to understand. Each time I did any of those tasks you believe are honorable, I was so afraid inside. Why, I was terrified just standing up to you."

Duncan pushed Madelyne's hands away and drew her down for a long kiss. "Fear doesn't mean you're a coward, love. Nay, in my mind it means you are mortal. Only a fool puts caution aside."

When he finished his speech, he had to kiss her again.

"You'll have to tell me what to do when we return to court, Duncan," Madelyne said next. "I don't want to displease you or say the wrong thing in answer to the king's questions. He'll question me, won't he, Duncan?"

He caught the fear in her voice, shook his head over it. "Madelyne, nothing you do will ever displease me. And you've only to tell the truth to the king's questions. That is all I would ever ask of you."

"'Tis what Louddon said to me," Madelyne muttered. "He thinks my truths will trap you."

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