Chapter 21

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Their time at court had come to its end. Nearly a month, spent partly in hours of useless mingling...and the rest of the time spent around the royal table, listening to the shouts and curses of men as they clamored for a reason to start a war.

Royal spies had learned of a plan to draw Phillip away from his court, to lure him southward and keep him occupied there, while England’s army attacked from the north. But the English Barons were reluctant to act, delaying any attempt at action. Phillip had made the decision to wait...but for how long, he had not made clear. He was confident that the enemy would move, probably sooner rather than later. The men were told to return home, to see to the matters of their families and estates. War would come. They had only to wait for the call to arms.

Upon hearing the news, Guy had wasted no time in ordering the preparation for his return home. In the hall outside his guest chambers, he paced back and forth as his belongings were prepared.

Standing outside his own door, just down the hall, Simon watched Guy closely. There was an energy surrounding the Earl this morning. These weeks at court, he had been bleak in every way possible, always scowling and muttering to himself. He prowled the palace halls and grounds in a way that had others keeping their distance. But now, he seemed filled with eagerness and anticipation. As Simon observed Guy, Basil came from within their shared chamber.

“Home will be a strange sight to see,” he said. “But it will be a welcome one, of course.”

Hardly listening, Simon nodded. “Yes, father.”

He could feel his father’s gaze. Of late, he had often felt those eyes searching his face. A concerned question generally followed, along with words of wisdom. But in this instance, Basil gave no inquiry, perhaps thinking it best not to pry. His only gesture was to give Simon a light slap on the back.

“I will see how the servants progress,” he said.

Simon watched him go. Then, he turned his eyes back to Guy...and his mind to other matters.

Their plan was to return to Guillemot. They had been away for nearly two months, and there would be much to do when they returned. Not only would they need to catch up on matters regarding their estate, but there would be preparations made for the inevitable.

But Simon had no intention of remaining at Guillemot.

For many days, he had struggled with his personal desires. He wanted Evelyn for his own, but circumstances had conspired against him. The arrangements of his marriage had been set in place for many long years. He was to marry Evelyn the day after she turned sixteen, and to alter the arrangement might mean offending Sir Guy and his family. That, he did not want.

But now, war was on the horizon. It would certainly come, perhaps tomorrow...perhaps months from now. He had no way of knowing how much time he would be granted. He only knew he did not want to waste a moment of it. There was a chance that Sir Guy would refuse his request. But it was a chance that Simon was willing to take.

He approached in a cautious way, careful to conceal the tension he felt. He reminded himself that this was not a matter of asking for a lady’s hand and hoping for words of acceptance. They had brokered that deal long ago. Evelyn would be his wife. Of that there was no question. But to go to a man...a father...and ask that he give his beloved daughter in a hurried fashion? What father would look favorably upon that? He kept a calm, quiet demeanor as he came near.

“My lord,” he asked, “May I have a word with you?”

Guy was intensely focused on hurrying the activity around him. He gave Simon only a momentary glance, and a terse reply. “What about?” he asked.

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