Authors: In The Kings Service
Another murmur arose, of pleased English voices and not-so-pleased French ones.
“That may be,” Henry replied, “but I will lose a champion of tournaments and one of the rare men in whom I have absolute trust.”
More whispers wafted through the hall, as men wondered if they were among this chosen few, or not.
“Therefore, Sir Blaidd,” Henry continued sternly, “I find no need for such an extreme sacrifice.” His grim expression turned into a smile. “I accept your choice of bride. May you both be as happy and blessed as Eleanor and I.”
Becca wanted to shout with joy and cry with happiness. She might have done both if Blaidd hadn’t taken her in his arms and kissed her heartily, right there in the king’s court. Trevelyan Fitzroy burst into wild applause, and others followed, while a wave of laughter rolled over them. It seemed the king’s decision had pleased more than Becca and Blaidd, who stopped kissing when the king wryly noted, in an audible whisper to his queen, “I’ve no doubt earned Sir Blaidd’s loyalty for life.”
“You have indeed, Your Majesty,” he confirmed.
Henry rose and came forward. He took Becca’s shoulders in his hands and kissed her cheeks. “You must be quite a woman.”
Becca smiled into the king’s face and saw not a lordly ruler, but a young man with many cares trying to do his best. “He is quite a knight, and will serve you well, Your Majesty.”
“I know it, or I wouldn’t have agreed to your marriage,” Henry said before returning to his throne. When he had sat down, he declared, “We permit this marriage as a reward for Sir Blaidd’s activity on our behalf, and as a further reward, we endow him with
Throckton Castle, the lands surrounding it and all the income it provides.”
This time, Becca couldn’t restrain herself. She let out a whoop of delight and threw herself into Blaidd’s arms, hugging him tightly. Blaidd looked a little nonplussed by her enthusiasm, until Henry started to laugh. “Kiss her, man!” he ordered. “I can tell you want to.”
“As my king commands, I obey,” Blaidd said with a joyous smile. He pulled Becca into his arms and, regardless of the people watching, kissed her with passionate fervor until she was breathless.
The king cleared his throat. “Sir Blaidd, I fear the other ladies of the court are on the verge of swooning because of that demonstration. If you wish to continue expressing your love and happiness, I suggest you take your lady elsewhere. We’ll discuss the recent events and the conditions at Throckton in more detail some other time.”
“Yes, Your Majesty,” Blaidd said humbly, bowing. “Thank you, Your Majesty.”
Holding hands, Blaidd and Becca departed from the hall, amid many curious glances, a few envious ones from young ladies, directed at Becca, and much excited whispering.
Once the heavy doors had closed behind them, they hurried past the stone-faced guards and ducked into a window alcove, where they kissed again. And again. And then once more.
“I can’t believe he gave you Throckton,” Becca said when they stopped to draw breath.
“I never expected that, either,” Blaidd said, grinning merrily.
“Nor did I,” said a deep voice very like Blaidd’s, with a heavier Welsh accent. “I thought you’d lost your mind in there, boy.”
Blaidd and Becca broke apart as Blaidd’s parents, with Kynan, Trev and Gervais Fitzroy behind them, approached.
Still smiling, Blaidd faced them squarely. “Father, Mother, this is Rebecca. Becca, this is my father, Sir Hu Morgan, and my mother, Lady Liliana. That’s Gervais Fitzroy with Trev.”
Feeling more nervous than she’d been while talking to the king, Becca bowed with all the grace she could muster. “Sir Hu, my lady, Sir Gervais.”
“I assure you, Father, I’m very much in my right mind,” Blaidd said when the introductions had concluded.
“Or as much as a man desperately in love can be, I suppose,” his father replied, breaking into a familiar grin. “Look you, taking years off my life, you were, when you said you’d forswear your knighthood, and after all the trouble Urien had training you. And your mother was nearly swooning with the shock.”
Lady Liliana gave her husband a wry look and went to Becca. Taking the younger woman’s hands in hers, she smiled pleasantly. “I’ve long ago ceased to be shocked by anything these men do, my dear,” she said kindly. “I’ve despaired for years that Blaidd would ever find a woman to wed. Now it seems he has, and quite on his own, too. If my son loves you
enough to give up his knighthood, then you’re an exceptional woman, and one I will be proud to call my daughter.”
Overcome with happiness and not a little relief, Becca hugged Lady Liliana as enthusiastically as she had Blaidd in the king’s hall. Blaidd’s loud throat-clearing made her draw back quickly, and she feared she’d acted improperly.
“My mother doesn’t need such, um, demonstrations,” he quietly explained.
Liliana frowned at him. “I don’t mind them, either,” she retorted. “They are
men, these Morgans, aren’t they, Becca?” She gave her a saucy wink. “Which is one reason we love them, I suppose.”
Any fear Becca had of her future in-laws dissipated, while Blaidd slipped his arm around her and held her close. “If I’ve fallen in love with a bold, brave woman who speaks her mind and seems to have no respect for my rank and battle prowess, whose fault is that?”
Lady Liliana laughed and slid her hand into her husband’s. “Will you be joining us for some wine, my son, or do you have things to discuss, such as a day for the wedding?”
“Aye, Mother, we do. We’ll meet you later.”
As Sir Hu and his wife strolled away, into the breach stepped Kynan, Gervais and Trev.
“I tried to tell Gervais what was in the wind, but he wouldn’t believe me,” Kynan said. “Maybe now he’ll listen to somebody else for a change.”
The middle son of Sir Urien Fitzroy scowled, but his eyes danced with laughter. “I don’t think I can be faulted for being skeptical about all this. I mean, Blaidd goes off on a journey and comes home with a wife—who’d have thought it?” Then he stopped attempting to look disgruntled. “Not that I mind being wrong. I’m glad you’re getting to keep your knighthood, though.
you’ve got an estate, too. That’s excellent.”
Blaidd looked at Trev. “What about you, Trev? Do you approve of my choice of bride, and are you willing to move north with me and stay my squire?”
The boy looked as if he’d just been given a present. “I’d like that, Blaidd. Dobbin’s got a few tricks with a lance he promised to show me. Wouldn’t it be something if I could show my father a thing or two with a lance?”
The men exchanged knowing looks and chuckled.
“Sir Urien gets particularly fierce when it comes to training with lances,” Blaidd explained to Becca.
“That’s one way to put it,” Gervais muttered.
“We can talk about Sir Urien some other time, I think,” Blaidd said. “Now, if you fellows don’t mind, I’d like to spend some time with my future wife. As Mother pointed out, we’ve got a lot to talk about.”
Kynan grinned. “Talking, yes, of course. We’ll leave you to it.”
He nudged Trev to head down the corridor, the way Sir Hu and Lady Liliana had gone.
“Plans for the wedding can wait a bit, can’t they?
I want to hear more about what happened at Throckton,” Gervais protested.
“Later, Gervais,” Kynan insisted as he grabbed him by the arm and started to pull him away. “Can’t you see they want to be
Gervais’s baffled expression changed to one of embarrassed realization. “Oh, yes, I—I see,” he stammered. “Later, then, Blaidd. Delighted to meet you, Lady Rebecca!”
The moment the young men were out of sight, Blaidd drew Becca into his arms again. “Alone at last.”
She glanced over her shoulder at the sentries standing by the door to the hall. “Not quite.”
“Enough that it’s not going to stop me from kissing you,” Blaidd murmured, bending toward her.
“Nor me from kissing you, either, sir knight. I’m going to kiss you every day for the rest of my life, too,” she replied as she raised herself on her toes and met him halfway.
And let it be recorded that she did.
IN THE KING’S SERVICE
Copyright © 2003 by Margaret Wilkins
All rights reserved. Except for use in any review, the reproduction or utilization of this work in whole or in part in any form by any electronic, mechanical or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including xerography, photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, is forbidden without the written permission of the publisher, Harlequin Enterprises Limited, 225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, Ontario, Canada M3B 3K9.
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