The Sound of Silver

by Rachelle Rea

The stalwart saint, fighting for faith…and the redeemed rebel, fighting for honor.

After Dirk rescues Gwyneth from the Iconoclastic Fury, she discovers that faith is sometimes fragile–and hope is not as easy as it may seem. Now truly orphaned yet not alone, Gwyneth continues her quest to learn more about the love of God preached by Protestants she once distrusted.

Dirk’s quest is to prevent his sullied name from staining hers. Will his choice to protect her prove the undoing of her first faltering steps toward a Father God? Once separated, will Dirk and Gwyneth’s searching hearts ever sing the same song?

Chapter 1

Dirk

Barrington Manor, Northampton, England

September 1566

The mystery of her survival soared within and around me until I was aware of naught but her. Her and that smile as she asked me about her rosary and spoke about marrying the man that she loved. The candlelight flickered on the wheat-colored strands of her hair.

I stopped at the foot of the stairs that would carry us out of the dark dungeon of her uncle’s castle and up into the keep and tightened my hold on her. Distant voices reached my ears, but his did not—her uncle, the man whose madness had driven him to holding Gwyn captive. I listened only long enough to ascertain Cade and Gerald reassured Ian, Margried, and Agnes that Gwyn lived. When Gwyn’s smile grew, making her eyes glitter a brighter green, I decided not to join the others just yet.

What had she asked again?

Would you be disappointed in me if I did not wear my rosary anymore?

That she had asked me that spoke of just how far she had come. That rosary meant much to her, judging from the way she had clung to it ever since I had taken her from the Dutch convent. That she would be willing to set it aside after wearing it daily…was she now willing to become Protestant?

I opened my mouth and said the first words my mind found, hardly hearing myself. “I would not be disappointed in the least. But I would be upset with you if you did not wear it on your wedding day.”

She tilted her head. “And why would that be?”

I stared down into her eyes. What had I just said? I shook my head to clear my thoughts. “I changed my mind. I care not what you wear. As long as you marry me.”

She pressed a hand to her throat. My mouth dried.

“Are you asking me to be your wife?” Her steady gaze chased away the last cloud of fear that lingered from my confrontation with her uncle, Oliver.

I had been so afraid I would find her dead. And then, when I had found her locked in that dungeon, that she would die in my arms. “Aye, milady, and that was not an answer.”

“How is this for an answer?” She came closer and feathered gentle lips to the scar on my face, the scar that served to remind me of all I had once been, all I could become again if not for the blood of Christ.

Once more, my arms tightened around her back and beneath her knees. I would never allow myself to become that man again. To do so would endanger Gwyn. I refused to entertain even the notion of that.

So I kissed her. I laid my mouth over hers and infused every ounce of tenderness she inspired in me into that kiss, trying to tell her I accepted her answer to my question, trying to tell her this kiss was to be different from her perception of our first. For this time, I in no way wished to keep her quiet. I wished only to quiet both our souls.

When I pulled back, her eyes remained closed. She rested her head on my shoulder, and I tucked my cheek to her temple. She had been through so much. It was time to see to her safety and security above all else. “Gwyn?”

“Aye?” She sounded drowsy. I clenched my jaw, suddenly aware of how solitary was the hall in which we stood, of how close I had gathered her to me, and how very soft her voice had become. Dare I to hope that the lioness had been tamed?

I hoped not.

A weight in my cloak pocket reminded me. “I trust you will never do that again.”

Her eyes popped open, and a flicker crossed her face. “Do what?”

I set her down close to the wall and stayed near enough she could lean on me should the need arise. After all, I had just saved her life. The woman was allowed to be wobbly.

I whisked her glasses from my pocket and held them out to her close enough for her to see. “Do not ever leave your glasses behind.”

Her fingers took them from my palm, leaving soft circlets of heat on the skin she had touched. The eyes that stared up at me from behind thin lenses seemed mournful. I studied the paleness of her face before scooping her into my arms again. “What did you think I meant? Just now?”

Did her chin tremble? “I thought you wanted me to never kiss you again.”

My eyes closed. “Gwyn.”

When her head rested on my shoulder once more, the fear that had vanished at her laughter mere moments ago resurfaced. She should have broken into a Spanish tirade, not taken such a ludicrous command from me seriously. “Why would you ever think that?”

“I know not.” Tears had found lodging in her whisper.

I began to move toward the others. Our few moments alone in the cold stairway, that one kiss, would have to be enough for now. Gwyn may have just agreed to become my bride, but she had also just been rescued from a dungeon, from darkness, from a discarded key that had left her trapped. I needed to tuck my bride-to-be into a warm bed as fast as I could find one.

Before I could allow that thought to wander any further, Cade and Ian came into sight.

“Gwyneth!” Margried, the postulant who had come from the burning convent with us a fortnight ago, rushed over to us first. Her eyes brimmed. “You are well.”

I shot a look at Cade, but he was already joining us. Though I set Gwyn down, I stayed close. She and Margried embraced for a long minute that contained more than a few soft whispers and, if my ears did not deceive me, at least one muffled shriek that seemed to originate from Margried.

I watched from two paces away, on guard lest Gwyn’s strength fail her. Her eyes testified to her weariness with the circles beneath them, even as she closed them in joy at being reunited with her friend. It had not been the proper time to ask for her hand. She was fragile now. But the words had tumbled out, and I would not take them back—as if I would ever wish to.

When the women released each other, Cade wrapped an arm around Margried, inspiring a shy smile on the woman’s face. Agnes came forward with halting steps. Gwyn smiled and hugged the woman. Agnes’s eyes closed for a brief second before she opened them again and stepped away.

I picked up Gwyn again. I was taking no chances of her plunging to the cold stone floor on which we stood. I opened my mouth to stifle her imminent protest, but she merely rested her head on my shoulder. That was odd.

Gerald, the gatekeeper to whom I owed my life, cleared his throat and motioned with his head. I glanced toward the corner and saw the dark forms in the shadows—Gwyn’s uncle, Oliver Barrington, and his henchman, Arthur. Both dead.

Agnes sighed loudly from the center of the room. Ian looked my way and tossed his gaze to the ceiling before sending a pointed glance at the disgruntled older nun. I had neither the energy nor the leisure to laugh. I looked down at Gwyn. “Best we find you a place to rest.”

“I would like that.”

The fear multiplied when again she offered no protest. Bed. Now.

“But wait.” Something in her voice made me look at her. She stared up at me with eyes too trusting. “Where is my uncle?”

I turned my back on the others to afford us privacy. I had thought that she had understood, while she still stood barred within her dungeon cell, that he was dead, that he had made his own death a condition of my saving her. A sigh punctuated my low whisper of her name. “Gwyn.”

She must have read the truth in my eyes, for she swallowed. Her chin wobbled. A quick nod and that glazed look I hated took over her gaze.

“Gwyn, I am sorry. So sorry.”

Her deep breath caused her whole body to shudder. I laid my forehead against hers.

“Where?”

“Gwyn—”

“Where?”

I sighed. “Here.”

Her head turned in Margried’s direction. She looked at Agnes next. I knew the moment she found the shadowed corner where they lay, for her entire face turned ashen and tears glistened behind her glasses.

The breath left my stomach. “Do you want to—?”

Nee.” She used the Dutch her mother had taught her, the Dutch she always fell into when upset.

Leaving the others to follow, I steered my boots toward the stairs. Of a sudden, I could feel the burn in my gut from Oliver’s stab. A graze, I knew, hardly more than skin-deep. And hardly more important than taking care of Gwyn now. I would see to it later.

Footsteps behind me assured me the others came. At the top of the stairs, I turned in the direction of the room to which the maid had taken Agnes and Margried the night before—and to which I had in turn taken Gwyn.

“Dirk?”

I looked down at her, trying to tell from her features what she needed, but the shadows stole that privilege from me.

“I am frightened.”

I flicked my gaze to hers, taking in the look on her face, willing my eyes to deny what my ears had heard. Her tears had fled, but her pallor confirmed her words. How had she grown even paler than before? Or was it merely the shadows?

“You are well, Gwyn. Whole. I am right here, and I will not allow anything”—I kicked open the door to the room that had been my destination—“to harm you.” I stifled a wince as my side protested.

Agnes clucked from somewhere behind me. “You could have waited. I would have lifted the latch for you.”

Gwyn shivered. “I know. I trust you. It’s just that…”

I stepped within, stopped, and stared down into her emerald eyes, the need to know what caused her distress swamping my insides. Gwyn was a fighter, a lioness, a lord’s daughter as noble as the Queen herself could claim to be. Why, then, this trepidation?

Her gaze roved the ceiling. She drew in a deep breath and spoke in that same small voice. “’Tis dark in here.”

“I will light a candle.” Movement behind me reassured me someone would see to it.

“’Tis cold.”

I tightened my arms around her. Then realized I had been doing that a lot lately. I loosened my hold. “I will fetch you a blanket.”

“Aye, but…”

Passing the bed and, upon it, the crumpled blue gown I had slashed during our swim in the sea, I strode to the window to give us more privacy. Rustling behind me meant blankets were being prepared. Yet, if need be, I would keep her in my arms forever. I was determined to erase that panicked look from her eyes. So help me, if Oliver had done anything to dampen or destroy the fire in her spirit, I would—

“This place…”

“What is it?” I gentled my voice for I did not wish her to think—

Her gaze flicked to mine. “I am being silly. I am sorry. I should not think such things.” Her words sped past her lips. The bodice of her dress heaved with hurried breaths.

She was panicking.

I forced my face to conceal my reaction. I winced at her thinking she had anything to apologize to me for. “Tell me. I want to know what has your skin pale and your eyes wide.”

Her throat worked as she swallowed. “It is just that…”

I placed a kiss on the top of her brow and tucked her head beneath mine. “Tell me, Gwyneth-mine.”

“I have not spent a night here since the night my parents died.”

My eyes closed, and a moment’s pause magnified my lack of response. What to say?

A woman’s hand touched my shoulder. “Lord Godfrey?”

I turned. “Call me Dirk, please, Margried.”

She nodded. “She is weakened. She needs wine. Bread.”

Gwyn’s brows collided. “I am fine.”

I frowned down at her. “Nay, you are not.” Of course. How could I have forgotten? She had just spent hours in a dungeon, locked away with, she believed, no way of escape. Even Oliver had mentioned only an hour before, when we first came bursting in, that she might need refreshment. All because I had not been there, alert to her, when she needed me, and Arthur had abducted her. The pain of the truth cut deep, but there it was.

How I had failed to think of it before, I did not know. But I thought of it now. Of the scene that had surely taken place. Arthur appearing at our camp in the dark of night, snatching her from sleep. While I slumbered mere feet away. How she must have struggled, sought in vain to awaken me.

“I will fetch some then.” Margried’s words forced me back to the present. She turned away with a smile, but it was a sad smile.

I faced the room again and watched Cade follow Margried out the door. What would I have said, if she had not interrupted with her insight?

Gwyn shifted in my arms and nodded at me. Such a noblewoman, tipping her head in thanks for the service of my arms. I set her down with reluctance banging at my ribcage. What could I say to comfort her? This place was synonymous with death for her. As if she did not have enough trouble with sleep already.

I studied our surroundings. The long chamber held one large bedframe, two large windows, and sundry furnishings. Agnes turned down the blankets on the bed—her gaze flicking to Gwyn and me. Her brows pinched together, and her mouth formed a thin line as she looked up at me.

I raised an eyebrow.

She turned her attention to Gwyn. “Milady, you must want to…” Her voice trailed off as she glanced at me again. I narrowed my eyes, not catching her meaning. I watched Gwyn walk toward the bed and grasp the bedpost. She peeked back at me.

Right. Whatever they wished to discuss, they did not want me there to overhear. I gave them each a curt nod and strode from the room. With great restrain, I refrained from touching Gwyn’s shoulder as I passed her. Refused to allow myself to brush her fingers with my own. Though I longed to touch her, to feel her realness once more, to reassure myself she was alive… her wide eyes were so mournful.

And the horror of the thought that I had allowed this to happen made my blood run cold.

I shut the door behind me, closed my eyes, and forced myself not to open the door again, not to go to her. I set out to find Ian and Gerald. They had not followed us into the chamber earlier. Had they even followed us up the stairs? I took one step toward the stairway and stumbled. Wincing, I put a hand to my side. Time to see to that gash gained at Oliver’s hand during the struggle that had ended his life but brought Gwyn back to me.

Chapter 2

Gwyneth

I watched that good man leave the room and took a deep breath. For, despite what I had long thought about him, he was a good man. And he wanted to marry me. I swallowed and let my eyes rove around the room to take in the space I had visited many times before.

The high windows, the wall coverings, the rushes on the floor, even the counterpane on the bed all looked so familiar. Yet different somehow, because I was different. The events of the last weeks had challenged my soul and taught me about faith. I was both grateful and amazed at how my perspective of even a simple room could change. This place looked lighter, airier now.

Sister Agnes snapped a corner of the blanket she had been fiddling with for far too long, drawing my gaze to her. “What are you not telling me?”

Everything. “Please, not tonight, Sister Agnes.”

I could not yet piece the words together. She must be tired tonight, too. No use in frustrating both of us by marching into a discussion over my “coming to God,” if that was even the right term for it, with this stalwart Catholic nun. She was still in a dither over Margried’s recent conversion. The sudden longing to have Reverend Joseph here to inquire of tore a sigh from my throat—surely he would have answers. He always did.

I took another deep breath and let myself sag against the bedpost to which I clung. On the morrow, I would sort through it. On the morrow, I would think about it. On the morrow, I would tell the others everything. Dirk and Margried needed the details. Sister Agnes needed to know. For now, I planned to sleep the day away, if sleep would have me.

I looked at her again. Her face had changed, softened. Compassion resided in her eyes. She straightened, finished with the blanket. “Are you well?”

I smiled. “I am just fine.”

She cocked her head, and I heard the disbelief echoing in her mind. But she moved on, and for that I was thankful. “Would you like a bath this morn?”

 “Was that what you did not want to ask me in front of Dirk?”

Her fingers again reached for the blanket as she frowned. “He hovers over you.”

I did not want to delve into that subject. “I will fetch Joan and ask if she can draw some water and see to the tub being brought up.”

I released the bedpost and took one step toward the door. Swayed. Returned to the bedpost. Blinked until the room ceased to spin. Sister Agnes came to my side.

 “Mayhap the bath can wait until this afternoon.” I forced a smile.

She stared at me. “If you want a bath, a bath you shall have.”

“’Tis an awkward request for Joan and the other servants to have to tend to, what with all the commotion going on in this house all night.” They surely had other tasks to occupy their time, I realized. Like burying two bodies. My stomach lurched as my mind conjured the metallic smell of blood that had wafted through the hall and followed Dirk and me up the first few stairs earlier. Then, I had focused on blinking away the tears and breathing through my mouth until I could detect the odor no longer. Now I waited for my stomach to settle.

I would not retch.

“Nonsense.” Sister Agnes turned toward the door, a wrinkle between her eyebrows attesting to her worry. “They will be happy to see to your needs. I will return in a moment.”

The door clicked shut behind her. Just like that, I was left alone. But I was not. Alone. God, You are supposed to be a friend. That is what I have been told. That is what I believe now.

So I would just remember to believe it. I opened my eyes and moved away from the bedpost, to the window, willing someone to bring up the tub, pails of water, anything, anyone, and soon. My deep breath shuddered between my ribs.

Being alone had its advantages. I could now allow the events of the night to seep in. Though I was not sure I could fully fathom them yet, I could try to make sense of them. I watched the first tendrils of dawn embrace the sky stretched above Barrington land.

Dirk had come back for me.

Despite my prayers that he would not, despite what he must have thought when he woke and saw me gone, he had returned for me. And he had been wounded for me. He had tried to hide it, but I had seen. Tears filled my eyes. Although I blinked to wash them away, they persisted in blurring my vision.

He loved me. Truly. A single tear slipped down my cheek. My limbs turned to sand, and I sagged against the wall even as I stared out into the beginning day, bright with light. He had defeated my uncle, and my uncle had been killed. Dread filled my stomach for both Dirk and me—for surely this third death in my family would cast further stain on my beloved’s name.

And it had orphaned me.

Orphaned. I had been forced to make peace with that word many months ago, but now it was much worse. The last of my family was gone. Why had Oliver turned so wretched?

A knock on the door caused me to turn. I swiped at my cheeks. “Come in.”

Joan, my maid since I had lost my nursemaid eight years ago, entered.

My shoulders sagged. “’Tis you. How are you, Joan?”

She blinked. “The more pressing question is how are you, milady?”

I waved away her politeness as I watched her enter with a bucket on each arm. “I think we can do away with the pleasantries for one morn, at least. Are you well? Did—” I choked on his name, “the lord hurt you?”

 “Nay, milady. And it is sorry we are that we could not free you sooner. Good thing Lord Godfrey arrived when he did.” Joan’s eyes held kindness. A touch of uneasiness darkened her expression, but it faded just as quickly as it had come.

“Indeed, it is.” I watched her set down the buckets of water and head for the door. “Who is ‘we’?”

“All of the servants, milady.” Joan smiled. Then, instead of disappearing through the door, she opened the portal wide. Two young men lumbered inside, the tub between them. They set it down and bowed. I inclined my head but did not miss the blush that climbed both their cheeks. Two more maids then took their place and filled the bath with the water from the buckets on their arms. Joan moved to do the same with the buckets she had brought.

“Thank you all.” Each of them looked up in surprise at my words. I did not blame them. I had not often appreciated all that the servants did for me during my lifetime of living at Barrington Manor.

The truth struck me, then. I stood staring as the agitated water calmed and the steam rose from the tub.

My uncle, the lord of the manor, was dead. And he had left no heir. This house, this entire estate, would become the Queen’s.

She could have it. Too many painful memories resided in this place for me to mourn it, though the thought that I was now homeless wrenched a knife in my back.

The last of the maids departed, clicking the door shut behind her. Sister Agnes then opened the door and entered the room before I could even begin to fret about having been alone. She paused, looked at the tub, then stared at me. “Are you feeling up to a bath?”

I took a deep breath. The warm air encased my lungs. “I—I am, aye, thank you.”

She raised her eyebrows. “Then why are you so pale?”

“Will you help me from this gown? Joan must have forgotten…” But she had not forgotten. The echo of her asking if I needed help undressing resurfaced in my mind. I had never answered, had not even registered her words.

I was glad when Sister Agnes stepped behind me and began attacking the buttons at my back. Minutes later, I stepped into the tub, steaming and scented with lavender that promised to chase away the metallic smell. My skin pebbled beneath the warm water; I relaxed.

“Milady…” Sister Agnes’s voice trailed, leaving worry threaded through the air.

“Please. Not now.” I shook my head, closed my eyes, and breathed deeply of the warm air, not opening them again until I heard the door close once more. Forced the events of the day—and all that they entailed—from my mind took little effort. I just wanted to forget for a moment all that had happened—and all that it meant.

When the water cooled, I stepped out and donned my shift and the dressing gown Joan had left on the bed. Then I flung myself back onto the soft coverlet and lay there. God, I…

How to pray?

I am an orphan. I suppose You knew that before I did. But I do not want to be. Did You know that?

I put a hand to my pounding forehead. This was not how it was supposed to be. If my parents had lived, we would all have still been living here, Moeder just as timid as ever, but at peace, Papafilling the halls with laughter. My other hand rose to my face. Nee, this was not how it was supposed to be. My parents were gone forever.

I swallowed. I would not allow myself to venture down that road. The tears could fall, but my heart would not break nor give in to the temptation to hate. Faces flashed through my mind. Margried. Sister Agnes. Ian. Cade. Joan.

Dirk.

I might not have any family left, but I had friends. A future with them. With him.

I struggled to fathom the fact that he had come back for me. Although I supposed I shouldn’t have been surprised at that. He always came back for me. That was one of the reasons I loved him. And now I was to be his bride. There. Something else I struggled to fathom.

The door creaked open. A small white hand snuck through and clung to the frame. I propped myself up on my elbows and smiled a half-smile. “Come in.”

Margried ducked through the portal, face solemn. “I hope I did not wake you. I did not realize the door could be so loud.”

I waved her words away and sank back onto the bed, suddenly lacking the strength to support my own body. “I was not sleeping.”

“Trying to sleep, then?” Margried’s voice held a wince.

“Trying not to think.”

“Ah, I see.” She lay down next to me. For some odd reason, her nearness made me smile. We lay there, not touching, not talking, for moment after moment. At the same second, we turned our heads toward each other. Was this what it might have been like if I had grown up with a sister?

Margried’s black hair swirled around her face. Her cheeks held a blush, her eyes a sparkle. I raised one eyebrow. “Cade?”

Her blush deepened. “Aye.”

I chuckled. “I am happy for you, Margried.” After living a life of such sorrow, Margried deserved such happiness as this. Her mother had died years ago. Her father had attempted to betroth her to my uncle. She had run away from the loveless match, taking refuge at the same convent where I arrived broken after my parents’ deaths. She had suffered at the hands of the Dutch rioters who had burst in the same night Dirk did, and now she was in love with Dirk’s best friend.

Her smile widened. “And I am happy for you.”

Once again, we lay there, content to be silent and think of the men who had captured our hearts. This was new, this feeling of being in love, of being in love together. “What is it about a man that can infuriate and enthrall at the same time, Margried?”

She laughed softly. “I imagine they might be asking the same thing about women.”

“Mayhap. You were right, you know.”

“About what?”

“About it being what the man does not do, just as much as what he does.” That dark night in the monastery, when Margried had acknowledged that her first impression of Cade had been as tainted as mine had been of Dirk, she had confessed that her opinion had eventually been swayed as much by when he refused to act as when he acted. How right she had been. Dirk had never given me cause to think him a murderer. ’Twas simply a case of my assuming the most logical explanation and denying the need to probe deeper.

But then I had seen a side of him I had never imagined existed. A caring, compassionate side. A side I believed portrayed his heart. “Dirk’s first words to me were ‘Fear not.’”

Margried tipped onto her side to face me. “I did not know that.”

“’Twas before we took you and Sister Agnes from your chamber.”

“Cade’s first words to me were ‘I have you.’”

My brow furrowed. “How—?”

She smiled. “You were unconscious at the time. Dirk carried you through the doorway of the convent, and Sister Agnes waved a kitchen knife at him.”

“She what?”

Margried chuckled. “A kitchen knife! I could scarcely believe it, either. Then, when she was satisfied he meant you no harm, she moved to return it to her pocket, but I lost my balance. Cade caught me. I have you, he said.”

I smiled. “That is kind.”

“Cade is kind.”

I laughed. “I am not sure he would agree should he hear you say that.”

An image of the confident Cade, so witty yet grave, failed to coincide with the word kind. However, I was not his Margried. No doubt with the shy and tender girl, he had indeed proven himself considerate, gentle.

Much to my surprise, she failed to laugh with me. “I was not sure how he would feel when I told him.”

My laughter died, as well, for I knew exactly to what she referred. Her previous betrothal. How had he taken the news? Tread gently, Gwyneth. “You told him?”

She nodded. “I explained it all while we rode to Barrington Manor last night, the first time.”

“Then he knew…”

One corner of Margried’s mouth lifted. “He knew when we arrived. He knew when he saw your uncle. He knew when I saw your uncle. While I shook with fear, he shook with anger. Every moment I wondered who would burst first, me into tears or him into fisticuffs.”

I sat up to face her and shook my head. “I sat there wondering the same thing about Oliver and Dirk, waiting for either or both of them to give in to their anger.”

“Both of our men seem to have great self-restraint.”

Silence settled over us once more, and I contemplated that amazing trait in Dirk. While I all too often allowed myself and my emotions to spill onto whomever was near, he weighed the situation, the options, the consequences of his actions. ’Twas a far wiser way than mine.

I glanced around the room, taking in the tub and the lavender scent still permeating from the bath. Somehow the space seemed smaller without him in it.

“He did not blow up that night at the convent,” I whispered. “I tested him time and again, refused to go with him. He did not leave me. He could have.”

“Cade did not like sitting across from the man who wanted me for what my father would pledge in dowry, but he did not take a swing at your uncle. He could have.”

I snorted, remembering how tense the group of us had been the night before, amused by the image in which my mind indulged of Cade breaking Oliver’s nose. I fought the stab of pain that reminded me my uncle was gone. The truth was he had been gone long before last night…he had changed and for a long time had not been the uncle I knew as a child. I pulled in a breath, praying that in death he could do no more damage. That Dirk would not bear the blame for his demise as he did for my parents’.

Margried sat up on one elbow and reached to lay a hand on my shoulder. “I am sorry, Gwyneth.”

“I am sorry, too. We both suffered at his hands.”

“But I did not know him. You…” Her features twisted as she searched for the right words.

“I trusted him.”

Her blue eyes pierced mine. “This mustn’t make you doubt the trust you invest in others.”

I sat up too quickly, waited for the room to stop spinning, and stared at her. “What do you mean?”

She studied her hands. “When my father informed me he had arranged a match for me, I was only hopeful. When he told me your uncle’s name, I was devastated. I fled. I wonder now what would have happened had I stayed.”

Margried’s story had shocked me once. Her story of pursuing freedom in the Low Countries hardly fit small, quiet Margried. Yet it did fit her somehow. Her courage was of the quiet sort. Just because the flame burned without fanfare did not diminish the brightness or the warmth.

“What advice are you giving me, Margried?” My tired mind slogged through her story, searching for the gem she sought to give.

She grasped my hand. “I nearly missed the gift God has given me in Cade because I did not wish to trust him. I did not wish to risk being hurt again by a man who thought he knew better than I what I wanted, what I needed.”

My eyes widened. “You think because of what my uncle has done…”

“I do not want you to miss the gift God has given you, Gwyneth. In Dirk.”

One corner of my mouth tipped up. “I do not fear such a thing. If anything, my trust in Dirk has only grown this day. He saved me from my uncle for the second time.”

Relief entered Margried’s blue eyes. The smile I had not allowed myself bloomed on her face. “I am glad. So glad.”

I lay back on the bed, examining my heart to see if what I suspected was indeed true. “I am glad, as well. I feel sorrow. And uncertainty. But I am glad, too.”

Margried nodded and settled beside me once more. “It is nice being glad, together. Even with the sorrow mixed in.”

I sat straight up again, an alarming thought tugging the gladness away before I had the chance to fully exult in it.

“What is it?” Margried mimicked my movement and peered into my face.

“Do you think…he…doubts me?”

Her brow furrowed. “What?”

“Dirk. He knows Arthur took me? He knows I did not run off on my own last night? I did not return to my uncle of my own free will? Because I told him I would go with him. I would never have fled. Not now. Not after what I know of him.” My thoughts and words jumbled together, tripping over each other in the air between us.

Margried shook her head, causing her black curls to sway. “Nay, nay, Gwyneth. He knows. The men deduced what happened right away. I have never seen Dirk look so haunted as when he knew Arthur had taken you.”

My lips tightened at the thought of that look. I had seen it before, when he had stood before the window of this very chamber mere hours ago, with me in his arms. The light of daybreak had illuminated the concern on his face as I rambled on, unable to squelch the fear that had strangled me. It had been foolish to allow my emotions to gallop ahead as I had. “It warms my heart that he loves me so, but pains me that I cause him pain.”

Margried patted my shoulder. “You cause him joy, as well.”

 “Do I? What have I done to make him smile, to make him laugh, to make him happy?” Though she opened her mouth, I did not want to hear the stutter in her voice, so I continued. “I told him I would become his wife, but beyond that I have been naught but a burden.”

Margried’s face turned serious. Her voice lowered until she sounded motherly. “You must not entertain such thoughts—”

“It is true.” I balled my fists. “I want to do something for him. Something to make his eyes light with a smile.”

The motherly voice disappeared, and in its place a timid whisper came. “Well, I do not see the harm in—”

“But what could I do?” I stared out the window. Morning had taken full reign of the land visible on this, the west side of the castle. My hands ached because I had been clenching them so tightly, so I released them. I reached for my hair and fluffed it with my fingers to aid its drying.

When I caught the idea and gasped, Margried startled. I had been silent so long she must have become lost in her own thoughts.

The sorrow of the night still pulled at my soul, but the fear and despair I had experienced failed to dampen my eagerness. A corner of my heart tucked away the idea that had just come to me, deep inside, where I could revel in the possibilities. I would bring a smile to Dirk’s face by giving him what he wanted most: his good name. Godfrey would once again be a name that rang with honor. Surely I could see it done. I would need help, of course, to make it happen, but I knew just the man for the task.

Visit Us On TwitterVisit Us On FacebookVisit Us On InstagramVisit Us On Pinterest