Chapter 8: Captured
Jensen woke early and prepared to leave the convent to travel back to the keep. He heard loud voices in the entrance hall. Entering the hall, he slipped into a corner to listen.
“He is guaranteed sanctuary here, Monsignor.”
“Not while I am here, Reverend Mother. I saw the baron and some of his men searching for Ackles. One of my men has gone to inform him that the man has been found.”
“That is against the laws of the church.”
“I make my own laws,” the priest stated and then went quiet for a moment.
“Ackles? I know you are there. We really do not want bloodshed here, do we?”
Sighing, the duke stepped out into the open. He watched the priest’s face break into an evil smile as the man turned to one of his armed men.
“The nursery is upstairs. Bring the nephew down.”
“No! I was heading out to turn myself in. Leave the boy alone.”
“You have committed political suicide, Your Grace. Your line will be wiped out, and that boy cannot be allowed to live.”
Jensen moved slowly into the main room, staying close to the walls. His eyes searched the room, taking in who stood where and what escapes were available.
“Is that what you think, Monsignor,” came the soft calm voice of the younger man. “You are not as informed as you thought you were.”
“It won’t matter what the new king has decided. This is my judgment. I do not want the stink of your name to be on anyone’s lips. I want to regain what you stole from me. With you gone, I will get my opportunity. No one will dare to interfere in my life again.”
Jensen finally stood nose to nose with the priest. The green eyes of the young lord bore into the gray of the older man. Jensen slowly smiled and moved swiftly, pulling the Monsignor in front of him, a knife at the man’s throat.
The reverend mother brought her hand to her mouth to stifle a scream as the duke nicked the priest’s neck.
“Tell your men to disarm and back away towards the door,” he whispered into the, ear of the older man.
“Throw down your arms and move to the door.”
Jensen kicked the priest in the back of the knee, bringing the man down to the floor and pulling his sword as he raced down the dark hallway towards the rear exit. He’d told the stable-hand to have his horse ready early when he had arrived. He still had a good chance of getting away.
Jared and Chris, along with five men, were riding towards the convent when the Monsignor’s man informed them that the duke and his nephew were there claiming sanctuary.
“What do we do now.” the shorter man asked.
“He told me he would return to discuss terms” the Baron replied. “We’ll just wait in the stable yard.”
The monsignor’s men had taken up their swords and were in the hall running after the young lord.
Jensen saw the door in the distance but felt someone grab at him. He turned, placing his back against the wall, and the battle began. He was leaving a pile of bloody bodies and felt guilt at doing so in a sacred place. One the men managed to pierce his left shoulder. He grimaced and took the man down.
The duke turned and ran towards the door. It took a moment to open it. Jensen stepped outside on the large stoop and took a breath, spotting his horse. Beyond the mount were seven mounted men.
He cursed under his breath and stood, staring at the tall man who watched him.
Jared noticed that the duke was disheveled and his left arm hung limp from at his side.
“There’s blood on the sword,” Chris commented.
Jared slowly urged his mount forward, watching the chagrin on Ackles’ face. Suddenly, a man with a dagger appeared behind the duke. It was a priest.
Jared stood in his saddle and shouted, “Jensen! Drop!”
For one moment the duke froze and then fell to the ground in front of him. An arrow from one Jared’s men went straight into the heart of the murderous priest.
Jensen was winded and stayed still on the ground. He saw the large boots move towards him and winced as the boots stopped. He tried to lift his head up to stare, but it caused him to move his shoulders and pain seared through the left one.
“Damnation,” he whispered.
The man squatted down in front of him and forced his head up. Jared’s hazel eyes showed concern and baffled the duke.
“How much damage did you leave in the convent?”
“I don’t know how many. I lost count.”
Jared looked up at his second, “Bind his wound and manacle his wrists.”
“That’s not necessary. I said I would return this morning, didn’t I?”
“You did, but you almost didn’t.”
The commander rose to his feet and entered the doorway. Looking down the hall, he nearly smiled. The duke was a fighter and a damned good one. Leaning out the door, he told his second to have the men clear the bodies.
The reverend mother sat in her office, head bowed, her nerves shot. A knock at the door interrupted her thoughts.
The man who entered the room caused her eyebrows to raise. She studied him for a moment and noticed that he smiled at her when she did.
“Yes, I am and you must be the warrior who is after Jensen,” the nun stated.
“I am Baron Jared Padalecki of Mystrar, the king’s commander.”
“Sit down, commander,” the sister responded.
“I am having my men clear the bodies. The floor and the walls will need to be cleaned. I will have Father Kevin come and do last rights.”
“It was self-defense, my lord.”
“Oh, I know. He’s quite a swordsman. You wouldn’t think it to look at him, but he’s a strong man.”
The nun smiled, “I’ve known him his entire life. He’s a good man; he doesn’t deserve to be sold into prostitution and his lands confiscated.”
“Prostitution,” Jared asked in surprise.
“Forced into a marriage with one of the king’s men so the land could be taken.”
“It’s not quite like that, Sister.”
“Isn’t it, Baron?”
“No, it’s not. The man he will marry will help him run the land, but Jensen will still remain the duke. The decisions will be mutual.”
“Are you sure?”
“I know the man. He has come to respect Ackles, and he didn’t want to feel that way towards him.”
The sister looked at Jared, and the baron stiffened and stared back.
“It’s you,” she asked.
“I don’t want this any more than he does. I am willing to work with him as a team.”
“When are you going to tell him?”
“Not for a while. He’s too hostile at this time. He needs to have time to get to know me,” Jared told her.
“Baron, I doubt the king is going to give you that time.”
“I am going to send a messenger to Morgan and let him know I have the keep. I am going to allow Jensen the time for his arm to heal and to rest. We shall leave for Caerdon on the first of the month.”
“I see. Jensen has planned for the boy to be taken in by family.”
“Don’t send the letter yet. Give me time. I would love the duke to have his heir here.”
“I gave him a promise.”
“Just until we return from Caerdon. He can still find some peace and happiness in his life, reverend mother.”
“I’ll pray over it, my lord. That is the best I can offer.”
Jared rose to his feet and thanked the sister.
The nun took something out of her desk and handed it to the man. It was a key. Jared looked down at it and started laughing.
Jensen remained still as his arm was tended to. The only movement Christian noticed was when he put the manacles on the duke’s wrists. A shiver ran through the man.
Jared stepped out of the rear door and saw Jensen standing by his horse, but the man had not mounted. He looked at his second and Chris shrugged.
The baron walked towards Ackles and watched him stiffen. They were soon face to face, and the duke did not look up at him. Jared reached towards the face and grabbed his chin, pulling his head up until they were staring at each other. He thought he saw a glimpse of fear in the green eyes, but Jensen had quickly schooled his countenance and the eyes turned steely.
“You’re not mounted, Your Grace. If you prefer to walk to the keep, I’ll have the other manacles place on your ankles so you can’t run.”
Ackles’ complexion turned a brilliant red and then whiter than his normal coloring.
“Why don’t we make this simple and fight free. Mount the horse, Jensen.”
The green eyes widened at the use of his name. He slowly turned and was soon astride his horse. Jared stayed a horse length in front of him and Christian was partially even, about a half a length from the head of the duke’s stallion.
As they rode through the village, the people stepped out into the streets and bowed or curtsied to the lord of Avenleigh. Jensen kept his face straight ahead, afraid if he stared at his people he might break down.
As they neared the keep, a slight strangled sound slipped past Jensen’s tight lips. The baron heard it and stopped, waiting for the other stallion to come abreast with his.
“Once I know you won’t try to leave the keep, I’ll remove the manacles, but not before.”
Jensen remained quiet; his thoughts were running rampant at the moment. There were ways to escape. He knew the land and the people would help him. BUT…there always had to be that. They might take vengeance on the people. With no one to protect the estate, it would become a ruin. He sighed softly.
“There’s no worry, Baron. I’m not going anywhere unless you force me to.”
The warrior remained quiet, guessing what had gone through the duke’s mind. His admiration for the man continued to grow, and he was uneasy over the idea.
Jensen entered the house behind the taller man. His people were surprised to see him with the manacles, and he slightly shook his head at them.
Jared looked at the butler, “Prepare a meal for us and have it brought to the duke’s chambers. Prepare a bath for him.” Looking at Christian, he softly said, “Bring our healer. He will know more about sword wounds then the estate one will.”
Turning to the duke, he noticed the man had stiffened. Padalecki smirked and held out his hand, “Come, Jensen.”
The pale face turned blood red, but the young lord moved towards him. Jared place his hand on the small of the duke’s back and led him up the stairs.
Jo was on the landing, carrying some towels for the bath. Her eyes widened when she saw her lord. The young woman gave a quick curtsey. Jared reached into his pocket and took out the key and handed it to her. Looking at Jensen, he asked, “Is she allowed out now?”
The green eyes widened at the question, “If she behaves, yes. Remind Travis she is not to go outside without notifying me…er, us.”
Jo took the towels into Jensen’s chambers and left. The two men entered the rooms. Looking around, the duke saw several of Jared’s things and closed his eyes, gritting his teeth. His only thought was he would not give in without a fight.
Padalecki could only imagine what the man beside him was thinking. He reached over and touched the man’s shoulder and felt him jump.
“Morgan has made it clear you are not to be violated, Jensen. I am only going to help you due to your injury. Since you have no intention of escaping, I’ll also remove the manacles.”
A knock on the door preempted any reply. Steve entered with several other men, all carrying pans of hot water. After they left, Jared unbound the wound and helped Jensen undress when it was needed. He turned his back and waited until the man was completely naked and in the tub in the adjoining chamber.
“Would you like your back scrubbed,” he asked, a wicked smile on his face.
A strangled ‘no’ was the only reply. The smile on the baron’s face grew larger.
Jensen did not take long to bathe. The wound was seeping blood, and it hurt abominably. He just wanted to make sure that he was clean and the wound wouldn’t get infected; the duke was grateful it wasn’t his sword arm.
He stepped out of the tub and reached for a large towel. Drying off, he found himself trembling slightly. He was reacting too much to the nearness of the baron. It bothered him, and he had no understanding of what was happening. He did not want to like the man. He refused to, but the warrior was getting under his skin.
He entered his room, a towel wrapped around his lower body, when the raucous occurred. There was screaming and the sound of dishes breaking. Before either man could react the door was swung open and Jessica stormed in.
She stopped, seeing the warrior standing at the foot of the bed and then looked at her brother-in-law. “Your father was right then. You are a bloody sodomite and a whore.”
Jared strode across the floor and slapped the woman, knocking her to the floor. He reached down and grabbed an arm, dragging her out of the room. They reached her room and found Jo attempting to clean up the broken dishes and food on the floor.
“Leave it, Jo. She’s hungry and that’s her meal.” Jared turned to the vicious woman sitting on the floor. “I am going to marry Jensen, and he will continue to be the duke of Avenleigh. You will be removed. I will not tolerate any verbal attacks or slander against him. I have the king’s ear. Do you understand?”
Jessica stared at him but refused to reply. The baron released the woman’s hand and walked over to Jo, “Give me the key. She will be attended when I say so. She will eat when I say so. Leave us.”
Jared turned to Jessica, “I have a plan for you that you will not like, but I will enjoy it immensely.”
He left the room and locked the door. Walking back to the duke’s chambers, he tried to calm his anger. Entering the room, he found Jensen huddled on the floor. Kneeling down, he pulled the man into his arms and held him.
Jensen froze, not sure what to do, but a hand began to slowly rub his back and lips touched his hair. He inhaled and held his breath.
“It will be all right, Jensen. I am getting rid of her for good.”
A slight sob was heard, and the duke struggled to break away from the baron’s arms.
A knock was heard. Steve entered with food and placed it on the table, and Jared’s healer was behind him. Neither man made a comment about the two on the floor.
Jared helped Jensen sit on the bed, and the healer tended the sword wound. The warrior watched the young man’s face and knew the pain he had to be feeling. After the healer left, Jared walked to the wardrobe and opened it.
“What do you wish to wear?”
“I don’t know.”
The warrior shut the wardrobe and walked over to the large chest of drawers and found a night shirt. “Stand up, Jensen.”
The pale face looked up at him, the green eyes moist. The duke looked at the night shirt a question in his eyes.
“You are going to rest today. The food is getting cold. Stand up, Jensen.”
Ackles sighed, slowly rising from the bed. Jared told him to lift his arms and placed the shirt over his head and arms. As he pulled it down, the towel fell to the floor.
“Let’s eat,” the taller man stated and made sure the duke got to the table without any mishap. They ate in silence for a while. Jared watched the man across from him. The woman had opened a wound that had not healed and was festering.
The baron gave the young lord a sleeping draught and tucked him into bed. He headed out of the room with the plan to dig into Jensen’s past. No one should suffer like the young duke was suffering.