The Baron’s Prize

Chapter 11: The Continuing War

Jared stormed into the lounge to find Chris with Steve, the kitchen help. He stopped and stared for a moment.

“Take it to your room, Chris. I have enough problems right now without Jensen accusing you of corrupting the staff.”

Steve slipped out of the lounge, avoiding the baron’s stare. Chris sat back and looked at his commander. “Not getting any better?”

“He found out what I’m going to do with his sister-in-law.”

“Hell, Jared. I thought that would please him.”

“She’s the daughter of an earl.”

“So?”

“The Duke cannot turn the daughter of an earl over to a penal colony for the nobility.”

“She’s an adulteress?”

“Jensen won’t tell me because I’ll have her convicted.”

“After all she’s done to him?”

“She’s his brother’s widow and the mother of the future duke.”

“It’s time you took charge, Jared. Do what you need to do to make him admit the truth.”

“Yeah.” Jared left the lounge.

“Travis?”

“Yes, my lord.”

“Where is the duke?”

“Outside somewhere, Sir.”

“Ask Jo to attend me upstairs in the widow’s chambers.”

“Yes, my lord,” the footman replied as he headed off to the rear of the house, looking for the handmaid.

+++++

Jared walked up the stairs and turned towards the widow’s chambers. He unlocked the door and stepped inside. Walking over to the woman, he untied her and removed the gag.

“You bastard!”

“Silence!”

The woman stood up and stared at the tall warrior. Jared looked at her and said, “Come.” at the knock at the door.

Jo entered and curtseyed.

“Help your mistress to bathe and dress for dinner. You have the freedom of the house, but do not leave it at this time.”

Jared left the room and leaned over the bannister, “Travis?”

“My lord?”

“Have two baths sent up. One for the widow and one for the duke.”

“Yes, Sir.”

“Travis?”

“Sir?”

“Let cook know to have a meal prepared for dinner. There will be four attending.”

“Yes, Sir.”

Jared walked to the chambers he shared with Jensen. He’d bathed that morning so he changed to dinner clothes and headed back to the first floor.

+++++

Walking outside, he found Jensen speaking with Father Kevin. He headed over to the two men, and Jensen looked at him with a look of disdain and turned back to the priest.

Jared grinned and walked up to the two men. “Good afternoon, Father.”

“Good afternoon, Baron.”

“Jensen, a bath is being prepared for you. We are all having dinner so you need to dress accordingly.”

The duke took it as a dismissal and frowned. “I’m busy at the moment, my lord. I didn’t order a normal dinner for tonight.”

“I did.”

The green eyes glared. “I don’t have the time.”

“You will make time, Jensen. There will be four of us sitting at the table.”

“Four?”

“Well, the only one to make the accusation against the widow was you. Since you don’t want to proceed, under the law of the land with her punishment I’ve released her.”

“You did what?”

“Your bath is waiting for you.”

“Damnation!” Jensen ran towards the house.

The baron turned towards the priest. “I’m sorry you had to overhear that, but sometimes it is necessary to be firm.”

“Sometimes it is also necessary to know the relationships before you act, my lord,” the priest remarked as he turned to leave the keep.

+++++

Jared and Chris were in the lounge waiting on the other two diners. At 6:15, Jensen entered the lounge. He cleaned up nice, the baron thought as he watched him walk over to the couch and sit down.

Jared walked to the door and looked out. He heard a snort.

“She prefers to be fashionably late,” came the sarcastic remark. The anger in the tone of his voice made Chris’ eyes widen.

+++++

At 6:30, Zechariah entered the lounge and said, “Dinner is laid, Your Grace.”

“Thank you, Zechariah,” Jensen spoke softly, rising to his feed. “Gentlemen?”

“The widow’s not down yet,” Chris commented.

“I’m not waiting on her.”

“She is, after all, a lady, Jensen,” Jared replied.

“Sure she is,” the duke answered, sarcasm again dripping from his words as he left the room.

Jared stared for a moment and turned to his second. The captain shrugged, rose to his feet and headed to the door.

The two warriors entered the dining room and joined the man seated at the head of the table. Jared looked at the man and watched him taste the wine Steve poured for him. He smiled and nodded, and the servant poured for the other two.

Halfway through the meal, Jessica arrived. She stood at the entrance and frowned. “You didn’t wait on me?”

Jensen looked up and stared at her. “You were told the time, Jessica. I am not Josh nor am I my father. The meal was served, and we are dining. I do not like cold food unless it is supposed to be cold. Join us. I imagine it’s only lukewarm by now.”

Jared bit his bottom lip and watched the two combatants. The woman was furious but, surprisingly, Ackles appeared to be calm.

“I’ll eat in my room,” the widow finally spoke.

“No. You won’t. You were set free to roam the house. You were told when dinner would be served. Now sit down and join us.”

“I said I would eat in my room,” the woman said firmly.

“SIT!!!!”

Jessica blinked in surprise and walked to the table to take the seat on Jensen’s left. Chris grinned, and Jared lowered his head to hide a smile.

+++++

When the meal was over, Jensen looked at the others. “Shall we return to the lounge?”

Jared rose and watched the widow who was still eating. The duke looked at her, knowing he’d given her plenty of time to finish. It was intentional.

“Gentlemen?”

“You have no manners at all, Jensen. Sit back down, and let me finish.”

“You are not the mistress of this house, Jessica. It is customary for the ladies to leave the table before the men. You’ve had time to eat. We are going to the lounge for a brandy. Since you have not learned any manners by your incarceration, you may return to your room after you finish.” Jensen returned his gaze to the two men. “Gentlemen?”

Jessica watched the duke walk out of the room, followed by the two warriors.

+++++

Zechariah entered the lounge with a tray and glasses. Jensen had taken a seat on one of the sofas and lifted a booted foot to the table placed in front of it.

Jared sat in one of the comfortable chairs, and his second on the other sofa. He watched the foot be placed on the table in surprise. His only thought was the duke had to be more relaxed than he previously was.

The butler served the three men a glass of the brandy and turned to leave with the tray.

“Leave it, Zechariah,” Jensen said softly.

“As you wish, Your Grace,” the man replied and left the room.

The duke interrupted the silence by bringing up some needs of the estate and what had to be done soon. It was the first time he broached the topic with the baron. Jared was pleasantly surprised.

The conversation continued with the baron’s promise to meet with the secretary on the morrow. Jensen rose and refilled his glass. Turning with the decanter, he poured more for the others.

After the second glass, Jensen pulled his foot off the table and rose, “If you two would excuse me, I am going to retire.”

“I’ll join you in a moment, Jensen,” the baron murmured, watching a slight red flush spread across the man’s face.

Jensen left the room and headed towards the stairwell.

+++++

It was quiet upstairs. Ackles walked toward his chambers and entered his room. He sat down on a chair and began to remove is boots, grateful that his shoulder had healed enough to allow his doing so without pain. He stripped off his clothes and hung them in the wardrobe, placing his boots beneath them. Walking towards the dresser, he found a clean night shirt and was about to don it when his door opened.

The green eyes widened in shock as his brother’s widow entered the room clad only in a robe which hung open.

After shaking his head to snap out of the surprise, he told the woman to cover herself and return to her room.

Jessica walked towards him and stopped when her body was close enough to touch his if she leaned in.

Jensen backed up and told her to leave. As the woman moved closer, he grabbed her arms and stopped her.

The woman leaned her head down and licked a stripe across his hand, causing the man to release her quickly.

She put her arms around his neck and tried to kiss him, rubbing her breasts against his chest, flesh on flesh.

“Stop it, Jessica. I don’t want to have to hurt you,” the duke’s voice trembled slightly.

As the widow leaned in and touched her lips to his, the man yelled, “No,” and shoved her backwards. She hit the floor and began to scream at him.

At this moment, Jared entered the room. He stood, holding the door open, his eyes on both of the occupants.

“Sard! He tried to seduce me!”

“What,” her brother-in-law exclaimed.

Jared closed the door and walked towards the two. He saw the shock on the other man’s face. Looking down at the woman on the floor, he grinned.

“Are you going to marry her, Your Grace,” he asked.

The green eyes looked straight at him and then at the naked body on the floor. He reached down and dragged the woman to her feet and down the hall to her chambers with Jared slowly following.

Jensen shoved her into her room and turned towards the other man. “Who has the blasted key?”

“Jo does. Come to bed, Jensen. I don’t think she’ll cause any more problems tonight.”

The duke stared at the taller man, and the baron could almost see his mind working.

Sighing softly, Jensen walked down the hall to their chambers. Entering the room, he picked up his night shirt from the floor where he’d dropped it and began to put it on.

Jared grabbed his arm and stopped him. “If you need to continue to cover your nakedness around me, then just keep your undergarment on. I would sleep better if I had your bare chest against mine.”

The smaller man froze. When he spoke, he voice shook. “Only if you quit sleeping in the raw.”

“I have slept that way all of my life, Jensen, and I’m not about to change it now.”

“Well, I sleep in a night shirt and have all my life.”

The baron took the night shirt and ripped it at its seams. He moved closer and picked the baron up and tossed him on the bed. The entire occurrence shocked the man.

Jensen watched Jared remove his clothes and tried to fight the urge to let his eyes roam down the man’s naked body. The duke’s entire body turned bright red.

The warrior grinned and walked towards the bed and pulled back the quilts. He rested his head against the pillow and tugged the other man towards him.

Jensen stiffened when he felt the other man’s naked flesh against him. A hand suddenly began rubbing circles against his lower back, and he found himself relaxing. It felt comforting, and the feeling of being protected almost frightened him. He’d never allowed such feelings before.

The baron quietly hummed a tune and soon the duke fell asleep, his head on the man’s shoulder.

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