Chapter 10, Part 2

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As they stood beneath the archway of the manor entrance, Simon turned to look at Lady Theodora. Of all the Gisbornes, he'd expected that she would be calm and composed about this entire situation. After all, one could not lose their good sense in a crisis if they expected to accomplish anything. And from the first, Lady Theodora had seemed quite formidable...in the way she carried herself, and the bold way she spoke. But now, as they stood together, she surprised him with the softness in her tone.

"God speed, your grace. I pray you will find her quickly." She lowered her gaze. "I have often admonished Evie for her childish ways. And time and again, she has reproached me for my tempestuous nature." When she lifted her head to look at him, her eyes were shining with emotion. "But she is most dear to me, despite our differences. If she should not return to us..."

"Do not fear, my lady." He paused, realizing his interruption was rather abrupt. He tried to soften his words. "Evelyn will soon be returned to you. I give you my word."

 He left her then, preferring not to linger and see the distress that was evident in her mien. There was something about it that made him uncomfortable...something that tugged at a spot just under his left rib. Sentiment was not a feeling he was accustomed to, and he wondered why it would choose this moment to present itself. He muttered to himself in frustration.

 An emotional lot, these Gisbornes are.

 He'd never known anyone like them. They battled and loved with equal passion. Now, it seemed that their melodramatic tendencies were becoming an influence. For a moment, he found himself sharing their concern. Beyond the familiar borders of the estate, all manner of man and beast lurked in wait. What if Evelyn was pursued by wolves? They were known to be about. Or what if a band of miscreants saw her riding alone?

He shook away the thought, determined to concentrate on the journey ahead of him. But thoughts of Evelyn pursued him. She was proving to be a most troublesome wench. For one who was supposed to be obedient, she certainly had rebellious tendencies. Wandering the darkened halls in her nightdress and bare feet...befriending rouges...running away from home. And how could he forget her greatest transgression.

She has known the affections of another.

Was it jealousy that stirred in his breast? He thought it impossible to be envious, when he had known his betrothed only a few days. But then, he recalled his nighttime encounter with her. Much as he wished to forget it, he could not help remembering how warm and soft she'd felt in his arms. And she thought to bestow those charms on another?

Never, he thought. Not so long as I breathe life.

Soon enough, he would reveal the truth of the matter...that the man who had charmed her so was nothing more than a liar and a fraud. It would be hurtful, no doubt. But in the end, she would see the benefit.

As his horse was brought to him, he gently patted the animal's neck. Some men sought the company of their fellow human beings, but there was a certain comfort to be found in the companionship of an animal...particularly one who had carried him into a battle, time and again. Octavian was aggressive in a tourney charge or on the field of war, and Simon sometimes wondered if his horse enjoyed the thrill of the fight as much as his master. Whether he took pleasure in it or not, the beast did his duty without hesitation, requiring little in return besides a warm stall, a good grooming, and a bag of oats...along with the occasional carrot. As Simon adjusted the bridle, he spoke quietly to his companion.

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