A sudden rush
of unease made her pause. She would never admit her fear of these
Normans and their dark, unsmiling leader. Something about him closed
her throat like a stoppered barrel whenever she looked into his eyes.
She was afraid of him, not as a conquered Saxon, but as a woman. Never
before had she been so aware of a man. How strangely alive she felt
inside her skin when he looked at her.
But she would fight him, nonetheless.
She realized suddenly how often she mentioned pigs and Normans in
the same breath. Well, so they were pigs. Greedy for lands, which
to them were merely the spoils of war. A hot knife sliced into her
midsection. To the Normans, Belven keep and the village and the fields
and woods and meadows surrounding it represented nothing but a prize
to be plundered. To the Saxons, Belven was their livelihood.
"How long has your father been ailing, lady?" said a low voice at
her shoulder. The tall Norman had descended the staircase so silently
she jumped at his question.
"Long enough to be left in peace," she said shortly.
"For that, I am sorry."
She turned slowly to find his once stony grey eyes had turned to velvet.
Her heart thudded inside her chest. Despite her sudden unease, she
blurted a question. "What were you doing upstairs?"
"That is not your business, demoiselle."
"But it is my business. This is my- " She caught herself just in time.
Belven was her home no longer.
"To answer your question, lady, I was inspecting the upper floors."
She propped her hands on her hips. "Inspecting? Inspecting for what?"
His dark eye brows lowered, and her pulse skittered. "Inspecting the
chambers above. For myself I chose the largest, with shuttered windows
and a large fireplace."
Edra stopped breathing. "Not my father's chamber! Choose another."
His silver eyes hardened into a long, considering look. "Have you
Edra dropped her arms. "No! Leave my father be. He is . . . "
"Old," the knight finished. "And weak. I would not displace him."
"I am grateful for that," she said through gritted teeth. "Though
I wish God would rot your Norman heart!"
His lips curved into a smile and again her breath stopped. But his
eyes turned cold and hard. "Do not push me, lady. I do not bargain
for what I own already."
God save her, he was right. She kept forgetting-willfully, in truth-that
Belven now belonged to him. From now on she had no rights in this
Jesu, what would happen to her now? As a woman, she was vulnerable.
He could force a marriage, or slavery, or even worse upon her. He
could even take her against her will. He could . . . do whatever he