Susan King - [Celtic Nights 02]

Susan King - [Celtic Nights 02] by The Swan Maiden

Book: Susan King - [Celtic Nights 02] by The Swan Maiden Read Free Book Online
Authors: The Swan Maiden
coals from a bucket. Juliana stood and edged toward the door. Standing, he spun around and grasped her arm to turn her firmly toward the bed.
    "I am a patient man," he said, "but no more. Sit there. And strip down. You are trembling with cold."
    "Do not think to warm me!" She sat again, glaring at him.
    In answer, he snatched up a blanket from the bed and tossed it over her shoulders. She grabbed at it, rubbing at her own hair. Gawain turned and stripped off his rain-damp tunic, tossing it over the foot of the bed. Standing before her in his braies, he grabbed another blanket, pulling it without apology from beneath her. He tossed it around his own shoulders.
    Her gaze skimmed his bare torso, lowered, raised again. She scooted away on the bed. "I hoped you were a courteous knight who would help me. Instead you mean to hold me against my will."
    "I do not—"
    "I heard the king's orders! He may be a king, but he acted like a lecherous cur! I will not be subdued for your amusement. Chain me, ravish me, if you dare! Wring my swan's neck and have him for your supper—or wring my own. But I will not be tamed!"
    He stood staring at her. Pale and ethereal as a moonbeam, she housed a white flame of righteousness that would make any rebel proud and strong. She directed it at him as if he were a straw target and she a flinted point.
    He held up a hand for peace. "I have no intention of taming you," he said. "Be at ease."
    "At ease? In a bed with you?" She pulled the blanket closer. "The king urged you publicly to take me this night—just to show that England can rape Scotland. We Scots know that already, and I will fight to the death if you try it!"
    "I do not doubt it," he drawled. "My written orders from the king are to take you back to Scotland and keep you for my wife. The rest of his orders I need not obey. He will forget them soon enough, drunk as he was," he muttered.
    She slicked her fingers through her damp hair. "And you, are you drunk as well? Every man there tonight was sodden," she said with disgust.
    "I am in command of myself, if that is what you ask."
    She shot him another glare. He sent one back, then ruffled his hair to coax more wetness from it. "You will stay," he said curtly. "You are my wife now, and my obligation. And a prisoner of the crown. I will not forfeit my life for your escape."
    "I am not your wife!"
    "We were wed by a priest. Or did you miss that moment?"
    She drew breath. "When ice coats the halls of hell, I will be your wife. When the faeries of Scotland serve sweetmeats to the king of England, I will be your wife!" She folded her arms tightly over her chest and lifted her chin.
    "You have a talent with words... for a silent maiden."
    "Those wedding vows meant naught. I did not speak them."
    "But they were legally done, and we are joined in the eyes of God and man. To undo it, we would need a priest willing to request a divorce from Rome. 'Tis easier to remain wed."
    "A divorce will not be necessary," she announced. "An annulment will do, since you will never touch me."
    "Will I not?" He stood staring down at her, anger rising. He was tired and frustrated, and he had been more than kind to her so far, yet she treated him as if he were a boor.
    "My kinsmen will kill you if you do," she said.
    "One of your kinsmen may kill me anyway, if he ever sees me again," he muttered, rubbing the blanket over his shoulders. She looked at him, puzzled, but he was not about to explain the tangle between him and her cousin James Lindsay.
    "My guardian is an abbot. I live in his household."
    "In a religious compound? You do not behave like a nun."
    "If I were a nun, the king's guards would have left me in Scotland. Father Abbot will annul the marriage."
    "We will see." He sat on the bed. She scooted away from him. "Go easy, I will not harm you," he said wearily. "And I do not want to discuss legalities, either. I just want to get some sleep." The need pulled at him like a river current.
    She looked longingly at the

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