The Wild Hunt

Free The Wild Hunt by Elizabeth Chadwick

Book: The Wild Hunt by Elizabeth Chadwick Read Free Book Online
Authors: Elizabeth Chadwick
Tags: Fiction, General
it. They had offered her all manner of advice, both well meaning and malicious and had asked her some very intimate questions that made her realise how innocent she really was. All she could do was blush, her embarrassment scarcely feigned. The women's curiosity was bottomless and avid and at least one of them with connections at court knew things about the groom that were better left unsaid. It did not prevent her from relating the information with grisly relish. Alicia parried frostily. Judith retreated behind downcast lids and wished the gaggle of them out of the keep.
    Steps scuffed the stairs outside the chamber and the curtain was thrust aside. The women rose, flustered and twittering at the sight of the bridegroom whose reputation they had just been so salaciously maligning. Guyon regarded them without favour. 'Ladies,' he acknowledged, and looked beyond them to Judith. She hastened to his side. There were thorns and burrs in his cloak and a narrow graze down one cheek. There was also, she noticed, a tear in his chausses.
    'My lord?'
    He reached his right hand to take hers, an odd move since his left was the nearer. 'I need you to look at a scratch for me.'
    'Your leg?' Her eyes dropped to his chausses.
    'My arm. I fear you may need your mouldy bread.' He spoke softly, his words not carrying beyond the air that breathed them. All the women saw was his hand possessively on hers, the movement of his lips close to her ear and the sudden dismayed widening of her eyes.
    'Go to the bedchamber,' said Judith. 'I will bring whatever is necessary. I take it that you do not want them to know.'
    Her lips twitched. 'You are begetting a foul reputation, my lord.'
    'Not half as foul as their minds.' He cast a jaundiced glance at the women.
    'Is there a difficulty, my lord?' Alicia enquired, coming forward, prepared to do battle. She was furious. It was bad enough that he should have used Judith roughly last night as attested by the bridal sheet and her daughter's trembling fight with tears, but that he should stride in here, dishevelled from the hunt and demand her body again, using her like a whore to ease his blood lust, was disgusting.
    'I should be grateful for a word if you can free yourself from your duties.'
    Alicia stared at him. 'Now, my lord?'
    'Come above with Judith, I will explain.'
    Her eyes flickered with bewilderment as the ground of expectation was swept from beneath her feet. Guyon bowed formally to her, saluted the others with mockery and left the room, drawing Judith after him. Alicia collected her reeling wits, made her excuses and left them to think what they would.
    Judith snipped away the blood-soaked sleeve from his left arm. Guyon clenched his fist on his thigh and winced.
    'Boar?' Judith peered at the jagged tear. It was not deep to the bone, but neither was it superficial enough to just bandage and leave. 'It will have to be stitched.'
    He gave a resigned shrug. 'At least I am testing your abilities to the full .' He managed a weak grin as she soaked a linen pad in a strong-smelling liquid decocted from pine needles.
    'Just pray that they do not fail. It's a nasty wound. What happened?'
    Guyon almost hit the rafters as she pressed the pad to his arm and began to clean away the dirt slashed into the wound by the boar's tush.
    Alicia walked into the room to hear her daughter breathlessly apologising, a quiver in her voice.
    'Get on with it!' Guyon gasped through clenched teeth. 'If you stop every time I flinch, we'll be here all day, and that really will set the fat into the fire!'
    Judith bit her lip. Alicia looked down at the raw, still seeping wound. 'You will need the mouldy bread,' she said neutrally.
    'I have it, mama.'
    Alicia eyed Guyon thoughtfully. 'I have just heard from one of the beaters. He says the boar spear snapped and that you were lucky to escape with your life, let alone a few small scratches.'
    'This is more than a small scratch, Mama!'
    Judith protested, staring round.

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