Surprise brought back his head. For a moment his face lifted to the sun. Tan skin and a dark brown cloth patch strapped to his face where his left eye should have been, it was a countenance one would remember. I knew almost every man in my brother’s service. This scarred man was a stranger.
“You know your husband-to-be then?”
“Then why prevent me from speech when I speak truth born of knowledge?”
“It is not fitting to speak thus of others.” I peered at him from my perch. “You are not of my brother’s men.”
“Nay, I arrived with the forward guard to prepare the way for Silvaticus.”
My back tingled, suspicion bringing my pride to bear. “You are here to evaluate the goods, me,” I accused.
“Why else would you be permitted to speak with me?”
“I was not permitted.”
“Then why are you here?” My head ached with all this verbal play. Normally pleasant, today it made me dizzy.
“At the moment? To offer aid. I spotted you at the door and witnessed your stagger. I feared you would tumble down the stairs.”
“Silvaticus would be sorry to lose such choice coastline,” I observed.
“Nay, I didn’t wish to see you break your fair neck.”
Contrary to my expectation, he didn’t look at me as he delivered the sweetened line. Despite the fact I believed he meant them not, the words still warmed my cheeks and burned my ears. What business did a servant have speaking such to a maid? The answer was none, yet I felt pleased.
I brushed aside the notion without much thought. It was simply the delusions of a woman barren of the hope of love. Attention starved, I swooned at the smallest turn of a pleasant phrase.
I intended to give Bryn Wolfe a rebuke only to find him gone. No sign of him remained. As Nurse Ealdine’s voice called to me from within, I resolved to not mention the stranger.
I rubbed my throbbing temples. I didn’t believe I had dreamed him, but wisdom urged caution.
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