The Baron’s Prize

Chapter 9: Understanding Jensen

Chapter Text

Jared left the duke’s chambers and walked downstairs. He stood in the hallway and turned to stare at the footman.

“Who in this household really knows the Ackles family,” he asked the man.

Travis stared at him for a moment and answered, “Miss Ellen, Mister Zechariah, and Mr. Manns, I would guess.”

“Thank you. Are they all here today?”

“Mr. Manns is in the office, Miss Ellen would be in the kitchen, and Mr. Zechariah is most likely in the butler’s pantry.”

“Thank you, again.”

Jared figured he’d start with the help before he talked to the secretary. Walking towards the kitchen, he tried to figure out why he was taking such an interest in the duke. Something drew him to the man. He made up his mind that he was going to find out Jensen’s past and why he was the way he was.

He heard voices in the kitchen and entered the servants’ domain. The talking stopped the minute he walked through the door. The baron looked around at the spotless kitchen and saw the cook and butler having a cup of tea at the kitchen table.

“May I help you, my lord,” Zechariah asked.

“I thought I might have a conversation with both of you. Is there any more of that tea?”

Ellen went to the cabinet and brought out a plate and a cup. She poured some tea into it and set the plate on the table with the cup.

“The cakes are very good. They are Master Jensen’s favorite.”

“Where is Master Jensen,” the butler asked.

“He had a very bad confrontation with the widow after his bath. She found us near his bed, and he was clad only in a towel. It wasn’t a very pretty sight.”

“I wish that woman was gone,” Ellen muttered.

“She will be.”

“Is he all right,” Zechariah asked.

“My healer tended his wound. I made sure he ate most of his meal, and gave him a sleeping draught. He’s resting. I doubt he slept much last night.”

“Where’s the boy,” the cook inquired.

“At the convent,” Jared answered. He sipped his tea, quiet for a moment. “I want to help Jensen. The king plans to marry him off to one of his men.”

The shock on both of the servants’ faces was enough to let the warrior know that the two loved the young lord.

“How can we help,” Ellen asked.

“I want to know who and what has hurt him. He is intelligent and knows how to care for this land and his people, but he’s also incredibly sensitive and builds a solid wall around himself. Why?”

“His mother was never well after giving birth to him. When she died, the duke blamed the boy. Jensen’s brother was well tutored but he didn’t do well with schooling,” the butler spoke softly.

“Was Jensen tutored?”

“He wasn’t supposed to be, but the teacher taught him anyway. He told me over breakfast that the young master almost drank the knowledge. The duke never let him get higher learning. Master Joshua joined the regiment. His father bought him a captaincy.”

“Why does his family call him a sodomite?”

At that moment, Jason Manns entered the kitchen. “I can answer that. Jensen was nineteen. As far as I know, there had been no dalliances in his life.”

“He was a virgin?”

“He still is,” Ellen interrupted.

Jared was quiet, knowing what he had learned at the palace about Ackles’ last meeting with King Sebastian. He wondered how badly the duke was torn inside. It takes time for those wounds to heal.

He looked up, “What happened at nineteen?”

“He met someone while he was out on the estate. One of the duke’s men saw them kissing. Nothing else happened.”

“So his father knew this had happened?”

Ellen shivered, and Zechariah raised a hand to cover his eyes. Jared stared at the three people. “What did the duke do?”

Jason’s hand shook as he picked up his cup of tea and took a drink. He looked at the large man who was asking all the questions about the new duke. His voice held a tremor as he replied, “The duke had both of them dragged to the main barn, and he made Jensen watch as they stripped the man he’d kissed and tied him to the main pole in the barn. He had him beaten to death.”

“He killed him?”

“Yes, my lord,” Ellen stated.

“And Jensen?”

“Have you seen his back?”

“No, Mr. Manns, I haven’t.”

“He was beaten also. It was touch and go for a while. We weren’t sure he’d survive, but he did.”

Jared’s eyes closed as he winced. Anger welled up inside him. His voice was harsh as he asked, “Is it a crime in this country or just on this estate?”

“It was frowned upon,” Jason answered.

“I see. Well, Morgan doesn’t see it that way.”

“Why all these questions, my lord,” Jason asked.

“I’m the one who is going to marry him. I’ll be living here except when my king needs me.”

The room grew quiet.

“Are you going to hurt him, also,” Ellen asked, her voice quavering.

“Not if I can help it. I want to help him as I said.”

“He was forced into a loveless marriage to Sarah Sheppard. Her father was knighted by King Sebastian. The marriage was annulled by the church. The girl said he was useless in the bedroom; it made him a laughingstock.”

“He’s had a rough time of it then,” Jared whispered softly. “Thank you.”

“You’re welcome,” Jason responded for the three of them.

“My lord,” Ellen queried.

Jared had risen to his feet, and had turned towards the door. He stopped and faced the woman, “Yes?”

“Is this marriage the king is arranging a farce?”

The baron was quiet and thought over everything he had heard, remembering back to the first time he’d met Ackles. His mind went forward to all he had learned about the man in Caerdon. Jensen’s actions when his keep was attacked, and his valiant attempt to protect his nephew and heir had earned respect. Jared looked at the woman and spoke vehemently, “Not if I can help it.” He turned and left the room.

+++++

Jared and Christian rode over the estate and the second could sense the anger simmering right below the surface.

“It must have been beautiful before the fires,” Chris murmured.

“When we go Caerdon, I am going to kill Pellagrino.”

“Don’t be a fool, Jared. He’ll have his men there and, unless all of us are with you, it won’t be a fair fight.”

“All of you will be there, Chris. I owe this to my brother but, mostly, I owe this to Jensen.”

“You didn’t have anything to do with destroying this land,” the second responded.

“If I had stepped in, Morgan would have given it all to me. There would have been no contest.”

“You thought Ackles killed your brother.”

“He didn’t kill him. Pellagrino was fighting Ackles. Let’s just say Ackles was winning, and the bastard pulled my brother in front of him to take the blade. There was no time to stop.”

“Damn!”

“While I give Jensen time to adapt to me, I want to encourage him to start repairs. This is his land and people. I heard that Pellagrino would not let the neighboring lairds near the estate to help the man. I want to have a meeting with them. Invite the men to lunch tomorrow.”

“I’ll send some men out.”

“Good.”

+++++

Jared and Christian entered the house to hear screaming upstairs. The baron stopped and looked at Travis.

“Has she been at this for very long?”

“Not long, your lordship.”

The warrior nodded and walked to the office, opening the door. He saw the secretary at the desk entering some information into a record book.

“Is the bitch an adultress?”

Jason stopped his work and stared at the taller man. “Lord Jensen says she is,” he answered solemnly.

“Was she caught in the act,” Jared asked.

“You’d have to ask the duke. It’s his idea.”

“Thank you.” Jason watched the man clench his fists and then leave the room.

+++++

Jared took the stairs two at a time. Christian left the lounge and stared up at him, asking, “Do you need me?”

“Not right now,” came the reply.

Entering the duke’s chambers, the baron tried to remain quiet but the shrieks and screams were loud.

He softly walked across the room towards the bed and looked down at man resting there.

“You don’t need to be so quiet, Baron. She could awaken the dead,” the sleepy voice commented. The green eyes opened and stared at the tall man looking down at him.

“I could gag her, but it would require tying her to a chair or her bed.”

A slight smile flickered across the younger man’s face. Jared felt his heart leap. “I like that idea,” came a soft reply. The warrior nodded and walked to the door. Stepping into hallway, the baron walked to the head of the stairs, “Travis, would you ask Christian to bring some rope and a make a ball gag from some of it.”

“Yes, Sir,” the footman responded.

+++++

Jensen used his right arm to push himself to a sitting position. He turned to where his feet were hanging off the bed. He felt slightly light headed and closed his eyes in an attempt to calm the feeling. He rose to his feet and held onto the bed for a moment. Walking over to the wardrobe, the duke pulled a blouse and some work trousers off the hooks. He went to his chest of drawers and found undergarments and hose.

He could hear shouts and screams coming from Jessica’s room. His eyebrows rose, and he sat on the bed and listened. Suddenly, all was quiet. Jensen sighed and started to dress slowly. He was perspiring by the time he managed to place his left arm through the sleeve of the blouse and put his boots on.

He heard his door open and the man who had him so confused stuck his head in. He had a large smile on his face and Jensen stared at him in surprise. ‘My God, he has dimples,’ went through his thoughts.

“I didn’t expect you to be dressed,” Jared said as he walked into the room. “Work clothes?”

Jensen stiffened, and the baron realized the duke had placed him back where he had him before.

“I have to get as much done to salvage the estate before you haul me to Caerdon and marry me off to some ass who won’t care one bit about the land. He’ll be like my father and brother and want what he can get out of it.”

Jared’s temper flared, “If you’d give me one damn chance to prove myself to you, I will make sure you do not marry a man like that.”

Ackles blushed. He rose to his feet and walked towards the door. As he passed the taller man, he was stopped as the warrior grabbed his arm and brought him to a standstill.

“What do you want from me?”

The fiery look of the hazel eyes, silenced Jensen. He had enough sense to know he was unarmed in a bedroom with this angry man.

“What do I want,” Jared’s voice was raspy with the anger that flowed through it. “This, damn you!”

Jensen was pulled into the larger man’s arms, and his lips were crushed in a brutal kiss.

Jared felt overwhelmed by the softness of the duke’s lips and deepened the kiss, forcing the man’s mouth open so his tongue could explore.

Ackles stood frozen, unable to move. When he felt the baron’s tongue enter his mouth, he fought to hold back a moan. He didn’t want this. Did he? He felt the warrior’s hand moving over his body, touching, caressing. He panicked.

Jared felt the smaller man stiffen suddenly and start to fight him. It was not in anger but fear. He sensed it in him. As suddenly, as he had grabbed Jensen, he let him go and the man stumbled and fell to the floor.

The baron looked down in surprise and saw the man curl into a ball, his body shaking violently. Cursing himself for a fool, he knelt down.

“I’m sorry, Jensen. I wasn’t thinking about what you’ve been through. I wanted to just taste you. I’m so sorry.”

“J..j…just go.”

“I can’t do that,” came a soft whisper from the larger man.

“Why are you doing this? Hasn’t Morgan done enough?”

‘I’m not going to violate you, Jensen, but I do want to get closer to you.”

The duke finally tried to sit up, his anger and despair forcing him to finally face the truth. His face was red and splotchy. Jared stood up and grabbed a clean towel and moistened it in the water basin. He leaned back down and wiped the weeping man’s face.

Jensen caught his breath and whispered, “Please don’t do this to me.”

“Do what?”

“Don’t make me need this and then give me to someone else.”

Jared’s hand stilled and he looked into the pleading eyes. “Need?”

Ackles lowered his head in shame, “Damn it, Jared. Just don’t.”

The baron was shocked by the use of his first name. He reached down and put his hand under the duke’s chin and raised his head.

“I’m not giving you to anyone, Jensen Ackles, Duke of Avenleigh. You are going to be mine, and no one can take you from me.”

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