“WHY DO YOU LOVE ME?” Ciaran asked, gazing up at the bed’s draped canopy. It was an idle question; he was only superficially interested in the answer.
Evaine snuggled up to him, resting her head on his shoulder. “Why do I love you?” She pondered this for a moment, then declared: “I can’t give you a reason. The heart has its own reasons.” Running a finger along the line of his jaw, she went on. “Perhaps I love you because you’re guileless enough to ask such a question.” She let her hand come to rest at the cleft in his chin. “It’s the thousand secret ways you reveal yourself only to me, the way you give your entire being over to love with unflinching openness. You never hesitate to confront a challenge. In fact, your fearlessness inspires me to find my own courage.” She laid a hand over his heart. “And I’m in awe of the way you move, full of purpose and ambition with never a moment to lose.”
“I admit I can be impatient,” Ciaran conveyed with a hint of regret.
Evaine kissed his cheek. “Passionate,” she corrected. “You’re a marvelous lover, by the way. But I don’t have to tell you that. You’re also a natural poet. You lapse into verse without knowing you’re doing it.”
Ciaran laughed softly. “The Gryffin once called me a cloven-footed bard – but only when I’m drunk.”
“I wouldn’t know about that. I do know you can be quite charming when you want to be.” She sighed dreamily and cuddled closer to him, idly stroking his chest. “Did you know your voice crackles sometimes when you first wake up? I find that especially endearing. Shall I go on?”
Suddenly wistful, he pressed further. “But do you think I’m good?”
“Good?” She propped herself up on an elbow, the better to look at him. “What an ambiguous question! If you mean honorable, sincere, worthy – why yes, of course. You’re the most earnest person I know. In fact, I think that’s what I love best about you – your unguarded truthfulness.”
“You make it easy to tell the truth,” he replied . “You accept me as I am.”
“Even when you forget what that means.”
Ciaran smiled and pulled her into an affectionate embrace. “You’re such a blessing to me,” he whispered. “I will cherish you always.”
The doors flew open; Lionel stormed into the room flanked by two mailed guardsmen and a flock of priests in flowing vestments. The guards swooped down upon Ciaran, seized him under the arms and dragged him from the bed.
“Release me!” he raged, straining against them in spite of his inflamed ribs.
Evaine scrambled from the bed, frantically looking to Lionel for some justification for this maltreatment. He delivered a ferocious growl and immediately exited the chamber, his entourage pursuing in haste, corralling their struggling captive.
“Where are you taking him?” Evaine cried, hurriedly flinging her cape over her shoulders. She flew down the narrow spiral staircase after them, heart pounding, tears stinging her eyes.
Halfway down the corridor below, an enormous forearm encircled her waist and snatched her into a hidden alcove. “Let me go!” she puffed, winded from her flight. From the corner of her eye she caught a glimpse of her captor “Bruce! Dear man! Where on earth did you come from?”
“Escaped from the infirmary, milady,” he wheezed, freeing her from his clutches and gently setting her down on the stone floor.
“They’ve detained Ciaran,” she said. “I don’t know where they’re taking him.”
“I saw them the nou,” he said. “I ken they were gang doun the chantry.”
“Some sort of tribunal-like?”
“Saints! What about Robyn? And Dafydd?”
“South tower,” reported the Bruce. “I was off tae liberate ’em when ye’ coom by.”