Seigneur de Montgomery made a bow over her hand as he took his leave, the only time he’d touched her bare flesh. The strength and warmth of his hand on hers moved up her arm, melting further the icy core that had filled her for two years.
It didn’t stop there, but became a tingling surge between her legs that caused an ache in her nipples. Was that sexual excitement? She liked it.
She raised her eyes, wide with shock at the new sensation, to meet his. This time she held him. His fingers tightened over hers. He can’t look away. Satisfied, she released him from her gaze and allowed him to leave.
As the last of the men rode through the gate and over the bridge across the small river, Mabel looked around the bailey again, this time with greater appreciation. It wasn’t a great fortress in the style of Domfront or of Alençon. Nor was it as much of a fortification as Falaise, only seven leagues to the west. The motte that the donjon stood on wasn’t even as tall as the smaller wooden castle of Saint-Germain-de-Montgomery, less than a mile down the road.
Yet Mabel thought it was magnificent.
With high walls and seven large towers, the stone castle was the seat of the family. Along the southeast wall stood the large rounded donjon with the family’s living quarters. The other buildings around the perimeter were half-timbered, orderly and neat. Though asymmetrical, the whole was still pleasingly balanced. It was just one of Roger de Montgomery’s many holdings that all added up to a considerable amount of land and wealth.
“Well done, dearest.” Talvas moved closer to her side as the gate was closed. “You’ll be Lady de Montgomery before the year is out.”
Mabel glowed with her father’s praise, and she would never feign modesty with him. “I could tell from the first time he looked at me that he was mine.”
“He’ll need permission from the duke,” her father said with mild disdain.
“Father…it is distasteful for me to have to mention it…will you be able to write to Arnoul?”
He snarled, “Why?”
The wildness in his eyes didn’t frighten her. She merely smiled and took his arm to lead him to the garden.
He quickly regained control and patted the hand on his arm. “I know. You will require a dowry to make you marriageable. Right or wrong, the fiend controls that now. I won’t write him, though. He’ll do it, but the little piss might give trouble if I contact him. Sieur Roger will take care of it all, don’t you fret. Meanwhile, we are special and honored guests for as long as it suits us.” He looked around the bailey as well, counting the number of men still garrisoned. “Though he’s left more of his men than he’d wanted.” Her father laughed. “Even hobbled and alone I strike fear in their hearts. It’s a good way to start with a son-in-law.”
“He’s wise to recognize the potential threat of a fellow warrior, and judicious to arm against it.” Mabel sat with her father on the bench beneath the tree. “Do you really think Arnoul will dower me? I said some awful things to him.”
“And all of it true. But yes, the weasel will do it. Will he do it right, though? He imagines himself a great lord, but having friends and being popular doesn’t make it so. He’ll probably be bullied into giving away half of Bellême. I should kill him and arrange things myself. And I would, if l thought it would make any difference. They’d probably just give it all to a cousin.”
Her father’s vehemence was not so strident this time. He must be tired and need comforting. “You were right in all you’ve done. I don’t understand people, father. I don’t agree with their judgments. They’re shallow and stupid.”
“But they have all the power, my dear. They have the arms and the men and the god of this world on their side. My time has passed, Mabel. My influence is over, but yours is just beginning. If only you could inherit Bellême and rule. You’re more of a man than that shit who was my son. You are smart and ruthless, as a lord must be. And you’re beautiful and beguiling.” Her father was talking himself back into good humor. “You may not rule Bellême, but you will rule Sieur Roger. He, in turn, will influence the duke.”
Mabel smiled brilliantly for him. “If you’d had my face when you were young you would have conquered the world.”
Talvas laughed heartily. “Only you could call me an ugly old man and make me laugh.”
1. Mabel, 2. Alençon, this chapter has multiple pages, you have to scroll down 3. Travel and Shelter, 4. Chaos of 1047, 5. Knight Takes Bishop, 6. Ragnor’s Tale, 7. The Hunted, 8. Faith, 9. The Orchard of Eden.
Michael and Julie write separately, but when they write together they are...M.J. Ortmeier!