Word of Honor(2)

By: Alexa Aston

As he took her hand again, it surprised him how right it felt when he entwined his fingers with hers. Merryn belonged to him now. Nothing could ever change that. He was fortunate that his betrothed was kind to everyone she met and enthusiastic in everything she did. Merryn would make an excellent countess.

“Accompany me to the stables,” he said.

“You’re already ordering me about?” Merryn’s sapphire blue eyes twinkled with mischief. “And to think the ink isn’t even dry on our betrothal contract.”

“Since it’s a legally binding contract, we are as good as wed.”

Except for the consummation. But that would be another few years. He still had time to sow his wild oats before making Merryn his in every way.

“I read the contracts, Geoffrey.” He heard the exasperation in her voice.

“Of course, you did. I would expect nothing less from you, Merryn.”

“They said nothing about obeying.”

He hid the smile that threatened to show itself. “I believe that will be a part of our actual vows on the day we wed. I suppose you still have a little bit of time before you become a slave to my every command.”

In truth, he was delighted his wife-to-be could read, thanks to her indulgent father. Merryn’s intelligence and natural curiosity about the world around her had drawn him to her since they were children. Geoffrey knew he was blessed that theirs would be a love match, a rare exception to most noble marriages.

Her mind only played a part in his attraction to this young woman, who already showed signs of becoming a great beauty. As the sunlight fell on her hair, it brought out burnished red highlights and turned the curls a rich shade of chestnut. One day, he would run his fingers through those long, silky locks. Geoffrey looked forward to the many nights they would spend in bed and the children that would result from their love play.

They arrived at the stables. He led her inside, grateful that no stable hand was in sight.

“Did you bring Mystery a treat?” Merryn asked.

“Nay. My horse is already spoiled. I have a treat for you, instead.”

He watched the blush stain her cheeks and realized she thought he’d brought her here to kiss him. Geoffrey hadn’t planned to do so, but the thought made his manhood begin to stir.

“I want to show you a horse.” He led her past several stalls until they reached their destination. Her eyes lit up as she viewed the dark brown horse.

“Oh, what a beauty,” she exclaimed. She stroked the horse’s nose and scratched him between his ears. “But you already have Mystery, Geoffrey. Is this a new horse your father purchased?”

“Destiny is for you, Merryn.” He gave in to temptation and twirled one of her soft curls around his finger. He studied it with interest, dreading to tell her about the long separation they now faced.

“I must finish my service to Sir Lovel before we can wed.”

She grew solemn. “That means you will go to France again.”

He nodded, focusing on the curl he toyed with. “There are still battles to fight. Crecy is but five years past and though we have captured Calais, France has yet to capitulate to King Edward.”

“The third of his name to grace England’s throne,” she pointed out. “I have become fascinated with our country’s history.”

“I’ve fostered with Sir Lovel for half a score, first as a page and then as a squire. I hope to fight as a knight when I step foot again in France.”

Merryn smiled up at him. “You are already as tall as any of Father’s knights, Geoffrey. You are broad of shoulder and think quickly on your feet. Sir Lovel would be a fool if he doesn’t allow you on the battlefield.” A frown crossed her face.

“What ails you?”

She lowered her gaze to the ground. “’Tis nothing.”

Geoffrey tipped her chin till their eyes met. “We have no secrets, Merryn. We never did. Tell me.”

She placed her palm on his chest. His pulse jumped at her touch.

“I fear you may not come home to me,” she whispered.

“You’ve seen me spar. I’m quick with a sword or mace.” He cupped her cheek. “I will return to you, Merryn. Nothing could keep me from your arms.”

Geoffrey slipped his hand to the nape of her neck and held her steady. He touched his lips to hers in a gentle, lingering kiss.

Breaking the kiss, he told her, “We’ll have plenty of time for love play in the future. But for now, I hope that you’ll ride Destiny each day. He is my gift to you beyond what the betrothal contracts call for.”

“Thank you, Geoffrey.” Merryn stroked the horse. “You are generous to me.”

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