Chapter 16: Three Months Later
Jensen walked the rampart late in the evening. He’d been doing so since the day after Jared had appeared. Christian had received a missive from the king demanding his presence and had left the week before.
It had been three months since he’d come home. He realized he didn’t want to sleep alone. His body ached for something, and he refused to put a name to it. The duke just knew that he burned inside.
He yawned, knowing soon he would be tired enough to drop off and not dream….he hoped.
Christian had spent the past week keeping his friend out of pubs and from possible incarceration.
The baron woke with another massive hangover. The captain made him the hangover cure he knew.
Christian sat on the foot of the bed. “Damn it, Jared, you are close to losing everything!”
“I already did,” the larger man murmured.
“No, you haven’t. Not yet. Jensen has received nothing from Morgan about the land. The Bishop is most likely going to turn him down because you two had such a good time together on the wedding night.”
“Jensen should be receiving his summons by tomorrow. If want this marriage, you need to plead your side in it. For once, be damned honest in front of Jensen.”
“He doesn’t want me, Chris.”
“He’s faring no better than you are.”
“Really,” the baron asked.
“Yeah. Morgan told me to sober you up because he’s holding a major celebration in honor of Mary’s pregnancy. Mary requested that you be there so you have to be sober.”
The taller of the two rose to his feet and walked to the door, “I need a bath, please.”
The captain bade his friend farewell and rode towards Avenleigh.
Jensen woke from another nightmare. This time he was hanging off the edge of a cliff and Jared, damn him, had him by one hand. He groaned because he had begged the wretched man to save him.
Murmuring, the duke whispered, “I don’t want him.”
He turned over, trying to go back to sleep but he ended up tossing and turning, trying to calm himself down. After an hour of restless sleep, he dreamed again. This time there was no doubt what his brain and body were trying to tell him. He dreamt it was spring, and the apple trees were flowering. He and Jared were laying on a blanket in one of the eastern orchards. Both of them were naked and Jared was….”No.” he exclaimed hoarsely. “I won’t go there.”
Finally, he dressed, shaved, and left his room for the office. He had managed to get larger trees and wanted to check on the instructions one more time.
Jared appeared before Morgan and made no excuse to the man.
“I sarded it, Jeff. I’ve lost him for good.”
“That’s not necessarily true, Jared. What do you really want?”
“Jensen. He can keep the wretched land. I love the man who is so damned attached to it.”
“You need to tell him that. From what Christian told me, he’s suffering just as badly as you are,” the king informed him.
“Jensen doesn’t drink much. What could possibly be bothering him?”
“Dreams..nightmares…he’s barely getting any sleep. I’ve had the captain keeping an eye on him. It’s why he stayed.”
“You knew he was raped in this palace, and you still forced him to consummate the marriage with me here of all places. He was going to balk and I lied and told him…the things I said…Damn you, Jeff! He thinks! What does it matter now? He’ll never trust me after that.”
“I probably have most of that coming, and I apologize. I wanted to guarantee you wouldn’t pretend the marriage was consummated just to protect him. I honestly wanted him to have a beautiful experience. You can’t tell me you didn’t give him one. Neither of you will be able to look me in the eye and tell me he didn’t.”
“You’re right. He forgot everything and lived in the moment.”
“Fine. I want you to move into the palace for the time being. It’s an order.”
Jared stared at the other man and turned to go pack his things at his home.
Travis knocked on the library door. “Come,” the duke responded.
“There’s an emissary from the king and another from the Church, your Grace.”
The young lord sighed tiredly and rose to his feet. “Seat them in the lounge. See if they have eaten. If they haven’t, offer a meal. If they don’t want that, have Miss Ellen prepare a tea. I’ll join them then.”
The two men stared at each other across the room. Jensen entered, and both stood. He shook his head and motioned both of them to sit back down.
Sitting on the other couch, he stared at the two. “Let me see to your needs first. I gather we are having tea so you’ve both eaten?”
Both men replied in an affirmative.
“Have you made sleeping arrangements? The inn here is stark with plain fare for the morning so you are welcome to stay the night here. My servants will see to your needs.”
He was thanked by the two men and looked up as Zechariah brought in a tea tray with his favorite cake on it. He smiled as the butler served everyone before him due to his motioning him towards the two messengers.
He read the Bishop’s letter first. He was commanded to appear before a tribunal. Frowning, he asked, “When?”
“I am to take you back with me, Your Grace.”
“Not without the protection of my Captain.”
He looked down at the king’s letter and was informed there was a royal celebration for the pregnancy of the queen. He was informed there would be a presentation of the lords to the queen. Sighing, he knew that not all the lords would think of it in the same way but he was raised to follow strict etiquette. He was glad his finery had been cleaned and jewels polished.
“When am I expected for this?”
“The king asks that you come with me?”
“So both of you are requiring me to travel tomorrow under two orders?”
Jensen rose to feet and walked over to Travis, telling him to have Zechariah see to their needs for the night. He would be indisposed until the morrow. He left the house.
Jensen and the two men had been on the road for a day when they spotted Christian and his men.
The captain rode up to the duke’s stallion and grabbed the reins, reminding the man of the commander he learned it from.
“What are you doing riding out here with no fighting men?”
“I’ve always ridden these lands without warriors.”
“Jared would have my hide if he saw this!”
Jensen looked at the shorter man and choked on his reply, “You’re not Jared.”
Christian watched the nobleman ride on, realizing that his words had almost made the man cry. He turned his band around and followed his lord.
Jared and Morgan were rolling dice in the lounge when Jensen was announced. The baron moved near to the door so he would not be noticed when the duke passed when he entered.
Jensen and Chris entered the room. The duke bowed.
“You made good time, Your Grace,” the king remarked in answer to the bow. He looked at the young man and there was little doubt he was exhausted and had lost some weight. The duke looked anywhere but at his former general. “It is customary to look at me when you respond, so I expect a proper reply.”
“Why are you making me stay here?”
“He’s making both of us stay here,” came a hoarse whisper.
The green eyes turned as the younger man stared at the warrior. Jared saw a haunted look in the man’s eyes.
“What is going on?”
“I have no idea. Our beloved friend and general has given us a suite with two attached bed chambers. I’ve been told that until the party, we are being forced to remain there.”
“I have to see the Bishop.”
“I know. He wants to see both of us.”
“What is happening here?”
“I think we’ve been kidnapped.”
Jensen groaned and turned back to the king, who was grinning.
“Aren’t you glad I’m your friend? Take our two guests to their suite and keep a permanent guard.”
The duke stiffened, bowed, and turned towards the door.