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Subject: Honor on the Field, 13

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Date Posted: Tuesday, November 15, 10:45:41am
In reply to: Nell 's message, "Honor on the Field" on Tuesday, November 01, 08:53:54pm

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*Chapter 13*~*~*~*~*~*~

Lying awake in her bed that night, Nikita puzzled over the mysteries that Rouen presented.

While common wisdom among the knights and their ladies had it that he had buried his sorrows in the tournament; that it was agonizing grief that had produced the triple crown, he did not seem to her to be a man riven by sadness. Certainly, he was leaner, but she wasnít prepared to say if that was from mourning or from excessive training for the tourney. She had also duly noted that his thinness accentuated the strong planes of his face, emphasizing his high cheekbones and roman nose, making his amazing eyes seem all the larger and more striking in contrast. His hair, always longer than most knights, was bleached from a summer in the sun, and glowed almost copper in the candlelight. The fresh scar on his check seemed only to add to his aura of rakish danger. That he was now wearing all black also served to mark him with distinction, though again, she wasnít certain how much was for mourning, and how much was a conscious working of his reputation as the ultimate knight on the circuit, and, rumor had it and his behavior this visit confirmed it, one of the Black Princeís closest companions.

The ladies currently making up Joanís court, however, were deeply impressed by these things, and many were all too anxious, in Nikitaís opinion, to offer their tender bosoms - and a good deal else - as a place for him to rest his weary, grieving head. They were also not above making bitter comments about his apparent preference for seeking out women among the traveling tournament support crews for his own needs, rather than turning to females of higher rank. Nikita was a bit bemused by their reaction to Rouen, and her own. She did not know whether she was relieved or embarrassed that she was not the only female, not by a long shot, to find the Duke of Rouen a disturbingly compelling, darkly sensual figure.

She did know she would have been more convinced of the picture of the bereaved husband he presented if he hadnít begged her to leave her fatherís house to be his lover and his mistress just a year ago, and only a few months before the Duchessís death. Not only was this hardly the action of a man deeply in love with his wife, it had appeared to her at the time to be the action of a man without much sensibility at all.
But he had asked, and for one blazing instant she had considered going with him, willing to believe that his obtuseness resulted from too much love, rather than too little. She could not regret her choice. But she could wish that he had stayed away this year.

Even now that she was sure she loved Gray Wellman, and Rouen was supposedly drowning in grief, she could feel the attraction between them, like a river current pulling hard downstream under a deceptively placid surface. Muted yes, and well within the banks, but still very much alive. When they were in a room together she could feel him following her with his eyes. He was much more careful about it than last year and she never caught him at it, but she was certain he was doing it nonetheless. Then tonight, there had been something, in his expression, in his voice, something that told her to keep the distance between them as wide as she could.

Irritated to be losing sleep over the issue, she scolded her wayward brain that it didnít matter in the slightest to her whether or not his grief was real or a pose, it had nothing to do with her or her future, which was rosy and bright, and completely Rouen-free.

Her future lay with Gray Wellman, Master Builder. Wellman had been hired by the town fathers of Marlborough to build a new meeting hall and market this past spring, and they had been introduced at church not long after his arrival. He was a fair, handsome man with an engaging smile and kind eyes. He was widowed, with a young daughter, and as soon as they had met Nikita had felt as though a warm, soft blanket had just been draped across her shoulders. Their courtship had proceeded quietly, and carefully, in the public eye. They met at the market, when she did her shopping, at church, at the fairs, at the midsummerís festival, and, much to Nikitaís pleasure, several times at her fatherís house, when Sir Phillip had invited the Master Builder to share a meal. Three weeks ago Wellman had asked her if she thought he could approach her father and ask for her hand and she had said yes, but asked him to wait until the house party was over, which, flatteringly unwilling, he had agreed to do. She had also warned him, with baited breath, that Phillip would not dower her - but this had troubled him not at all, and when Nikita had thrown herself into his embrace she had learned that Rouen was not the only man whose kisses stirred her blood.

So Rouen and his grief should have held no interest for her. She told herself this so many times, so severely, that she was eventually able to go to sleep even though she had not reached a satisfactory conclusion about the depth, or lack thereof, of his emotions.


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Subject Author Date
Enjoying this!!!! (NT)SisTuesday, November 15, 02:08:43pm
Thanks for another great chapter!!! (NT)TNTuesday, November 15, 08:31:59pm
I am loving it!!LauraWednesday, November 16, 12:03:56am

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