Just as Ferand reached where two hallways intersected, a figure rounded the corner at blazing speed and crashed into him. Instinctively, Ferand grabbed on to someone’s elbows and looked down.
His gaze met the deep, green eyes of Elia de Wolfe.
“Come back!” a voice called from a distance.
Lady Elia cursed under her breath. She removed a scroll hidden inside her kirtle and slammed it against his chest.
“Take it!” she hissed.
Ferand released one of her elbows and accepted the small scroll. The seal remained affixed. On it was a head of a wolf. He assumed it was a missive to her from a family member, most likely her father.
“Hide it,” she commanded as the footsteps grew louder.
She pulled on him, leading him around the corner. “Promise me you will not read it.”
He saw the panic welling in her face and how she fought against it.
“I won’t.” Ferand slid it inside his tunic.
“Lady Elia!” The voice came closer.
“God’s Bones,” she murmured. Looking around, she pulled Ferand toward a nearby alcove and pushed him partially in it.
“Kiss me,” she ordered. “And make it look like the kiss of your life.”
Ferand needed no further invitation.
Geoffrey said, “I have something for you this Christmas Day.”
Surprise filled Merryn’s face. “Me? That wasn’t necessary.”
“It was to me.”
He stood and went into their bedchamber, fetching the pair of earrings he’d had the village jeweler craft. He wrapped his fingers around his palm so they couldn’t be seen and returned to the solar, wrapping his arms around his wife’s waist and pulling her close.
“Do you remember what I gave you on our wedding night?” he asked.
“You gave me a brooch from France. I wear it every day.” She fingered the piece resting on her breast.
“I told you the sapphire stones reminded me of your eyes.”
Merryn smiled. “I remember. I remember everything about that night.”
He brought one arm between them and opened his hand, palm up. “These also are the deep blue of your eyes.”
“Oh, Geoffrey!” She stared at the earrings. “They’re lovely.”
“Put them on,” he urged.
His wife took one and fastened it to her earlobe and then did the same with the other.
“They match your eyes,” he told her. “I’ve never seen eyes as blue as yours.” Geoffrey cupped her cheek. “This Christmas is the first of many we will spend together, Merryn.”
He brushed the back of his fingers against her belly. “Next Christmas, our family will grow by one. I hope more children are to come.”
“I love you so much, Geoffrey.”
“I will always love you, Merryn. Forever and ever.”
Standing before him was a woman of incandescent beauty.
Her hair drew Godwin’s eyes. It spilled about her shoulders and down past her waist. It was as if it had been lit afire and burned with all of the shades found in flames. He itched to run his fingers through the silken waves. Vibrant, green eyes dominated her oval face, though pink, full lips tempted him to kiss her before he spoke to her.
Pushing that notion aside, he asked, “What’s your name, pet?”
Her eyes narrowed in displeasure. “What is yours?” she countered, raising her chin a notch.
Beautiful and brave. A lethal combination.
Godwin couldn’t help but chuckle at her daring, a mere slip of a woman standing up to a pirate. “I am Captain Godwin Trenoweth of Poseidon’s Legion. Some even call me God of the Seas.”
Her nose crinkled in disgust. “Oh. A pirate. I’ve heard of them. They take what isn’t theirs.”
He closed the distance between them. “They do,” he confirmed. “Your name, my lady? I’ve told you mine.”
She hesitated a moment and then said, “Melisent Winchester.”
Godwin knew the king had been known as Henry of Winchester before he took his Plantagenet throne. Clever of her to use that surname. She also wore something shapeless of undyed wool, a gray, colorless thing that was no better than a sack covering her, instead of the finery that a princess would wear.
Idly, he wondered what lay beneath the sack.