Chapter 20: Margaret and the Baron
Jared walked through the gardens, his heart aching. Jensen would need so much help to overcome his issues. It almost frightened the man because he knew he was the cause of some his husband’s problems. Seeing the dowager countess in the distance, he took a deep breath and went to face her judgment.
The older woman stared up at the man and motioned to a chair. “Sit down, Jared.” The man standing in front of her took a seat and stared at her…waiting.
“Jared, I want to know everything.”
“If it pertains to Jensen, yes. What has occurred between the two of you from the beginning. Jared?”
“Leave nothing out. I don’t care if is embarrassing to either of you. I seriously don’t care if you think it will make me angry; I’m already disturbed.”
“I was in Mystrar handling family matters. My brother was serving Morgan when he was told that Jensen had attacked a woman that my brother and Pellegrino were both paying attention to. He called the duke out, but Jensen did not deny the allegations. The duel was set for the following morning. All I knew…all I was told was my brother lost his sword, and Jensen ran him through. “
“That doesn’t sound like him. Why didn’t he defend himself? Speak out?”
“I didn’t know his background then, but I’ve come to learn a great deal about him since then. Jensen just buries everything and says nothing. He has never had anyone believe him for anything he has said to defend himself.”
“Go on,” the countess said softly, pouring them both a cup of hot tea.
“I arrived before Morgan’s planned attack on Saven and found Ackles in the war room.”
“You didn’t call him out?”
“I wanted to talk to the witnesses first. I intended to hear his side of it even if I had to beat it out of him.”
“I see. What happened?”
“We traded words and left the war room. I went to bed and did not know until morning that he had left.”
“We invaded Saven and found some resistance in the north. Morgan wanted it tended to and wanted me to get Jensen. He offered to give him to me as a husband and the ownership of his land. I..uh..I said no.”
“I was angry as I thought he was a traitor.”
“That is understandable, Jared. There is no way that you could have known that he was an honorable man.”
“Pelligrino won the toss and the right to go after him. I wondered why he wanted him so badly. To be honest, I didn’t really get a good look at Jensen.
“While the problems were occurring up north, I went to tend to them. We only met a little resistance, but I found out later that Jensen’s brother was injured in one of the battles. He died on the way home, and the shock of the news killed the duke. Jensen came home to be named duke and then face their deaths..”
“I was not informed of the deaths until much later when Avenleigh was surrounded. I actually went and talked to Morgan. He guaranteed Jensen’s safety and the protection of the land. I went back when news of the burning of the land came to me,” the dowager interrupted.
“That’s when he sent me to handle it because he was furious. I have no understanding why Morgan is still letting Pellegrino serve him. Morgan told me the man was the cause of my brother’s death, but he needed to know why Jensen betrayed him.”
“I can answer part of that question, Jared. The man’s father is a high ranking official to the king of the country Morgan comes from. There has to be a very good reason for his death. Nothing else will do. Letting him die for the wrong reason will only bring war upon Saven from a more powerful army.”
“My brother’s death is his word against that of others. I have to find a reason that will be acceptable then? This is not good.”
“No, it isn’t. It would seem he has a fixation on Jensen. Don’t let him near the boy.
“When I arrived, I took control of the situation. I had many conversations with him at his gate. I actually enjoyed angering him; causing him to become flustered was actually fun. He has quite a temper but controls it well. This went on until the day the widow came to bargain with me.”
“Jessica,” she asked.
“He has more patience than I would have. That night he attempted to leave with his nephew. I thought he was deserting the estate, but he was actually attempting to make a way to have the boy taken to family across the border. The next day, I was informed that he was at the Convent and that the Monsignor had him prisoner. We rode into the stable yard just as the duke exited the rear. He was bleeding from his left shoulder but held a sword in his right hand. A priest appeared out of the door and raised a blade. I yelled for Jensen to drop, and one of my men put an arrow in the man.”
“How badly was he injured?”
“Bad enough. I left men to clean up the bodies he left behind and found there were quite a few. He’s a marvelous swordsman.”
The older woman smiled and nodded. “I gave him that sword when he stayed with me. He took lessons here and practiced at home, I’m told, when his father wasn’t around.”
“I’m told he practiced with a master while in Morgan’s service. He knows tricks I’ve never seen before. I would like for him to teach me.”
“You should ask him while you’re here.”
The baron smiled and went on with his story, leaving nothing out. The countess looked irate at some of it but when he got to their interaction in the garden, the woman swore at him.
“How could you do that to him after all the things you promised him? If I could move well enough I would attempt to beat the shite out of you. I don’t understand why he came back and faced you and Morgan again!”
Jared’s shoulders slumped, he held his hands between his legs and bowed his head, weeping. He told the duke’s aunt his reasons. They were quiet for a while as the remainder of the story went through her thoughts.
“Were you able to prevent being viewed?”
“Yes, no one touched him except for me. As for my making love to him, he might want to deny it but he can’t. He was caught up into it. His face had the look of ecstasy.”
“At least that part is good. What happened?”
“He escaped the next morning, and I went after him.”
“You would have never caught him, Jared. He knows the land like no other. There are trails in areas that are not widely known or traveled. He took one of those, I’m sure.”
“Chris, my second in command, was furious with me and stayed to protect Jensen. I went home to Caerdon and began to drink. I was in a bad situation for those three months. Morgan commanded all the nobles to attend a celebration as Queen Mary is with child.”
“Yes, my son told me that Jensen was there,” she commented.
“Morgan demanded that we stay at the palace together. Jensen took out our guard with a very nice trick with his sword. We escaped and went to the Bishop’s Palace. The Bishop refused the annulment and demanded that we settle our differences to save our marriage.”
“Is that why you winced earlier?”
“The Bishop and his men sat around a table, and Jensen froze. I comforted him and let him know I was not going to leave him alone.”
“I can see where that would be upsetting. Who is going to bring Sebastian to justice?”
“I have no idea, but I think we should start with the guards who are still working in the palace.”
“I agree. Go tend to your husband. He was very upset when he left me.”
“Jared, you were a fool, but you meant well. I forgive you. Earn his.”
“Thank you,” Jared whispered and rose, taking the woman’s hand to kiss it.
“My nephew kissed my cheek when he left. As you are now my nephew through marriage, I would like one from you also.”
Jared grinned and leaned in to the kiss the dowager.
“Damn it, boy. Those dimples! If nothing else breaks him down, those should.”
“I’ll remember that.”
Jared entered the house and headed upstairs to the suite he shared with his husband. The rooms were dim. He took off his boots, shirt, and trousers. Walking into the bedroom, he could tell by the man’s breathing that he was awake.
The baron climbed into the bed and slid under the quilt, whispering softly, “I thought you might need me to hold you while you sleep. It seemed to help last night.”
He heard a soft sigh as the younger man turned over and moved softly against him. Jared pulled him closer and held him. Soon the duke’s breathing slowed, and the man was asleep.