“Nay, my lady. I was not close enough to hear all that was said, but I doubt not that such an order was given.”
Emma waved a hand in Alberic’s direction, though she spoke to Garrett. “You believe this outrage?”
“I have no reason not to, Lady Emma, especially when it is easily confirmed.”
“As you will do, Garrett, when you take Lady Emma to court.”
Emma rounded on him. “Court? The king’s court? Me?”
“I am sure the king has already informed Queen Matilda to expect a new handmaiden. Once you have confirmed the king’s orders, you may send word to your sisters.” Alberic then focused on Nicole. “Though just where this little one might be must still be decided. If any of you have preference for one abbey over another, pray let me know.”
Nicole’s eyes went as wide as platters. “Nay, not a nunnery,” she whined, then turned to Gwendolyn. “Do not let him send me away, Gwen! I swear I shall never touch another dagger in my lifetime!”
Gwendolyn must have heard her sister’s plea, but ignored it in favor of staring hard at him, having figured out she was to remain at Camelen, as his wife.
“Your plan is flawed, my lord. I cannot marry you because I am already betrothed.”
He hadn’t expected a complication, and a prior betrothal bargain might well complicate matters.
“Betrothed to whom?”
“Madog ap Idwal of Powys.”
A Welshman? True, Gwendolyn was half Welsh, through her mother, a princess of Wales if the king’s tale was to be believed. But Gwendolyn was also half Norman; her father could have done far better for her.
Probably better than a Norman-English bastard.
Except the bastard was now a baron, and so of a rank worthy of her. Better than worthy.
The thought struck him that through the betrothal Hugh de Leon might have gained the support of a group of Welsh in the war against the king. But Alberic had never heard of ap Idwal, so he couldn’t be a high chieftain, and was therefore of little consequence.
“I have been through all of your father’s documents and saw no betrothal agreement.”
She seemed taken aback, but rallied quickly. “Whether a document is drawn up or no, I am certain my father and ap Idwal came to an understanding. The nuptials are to take place at summer’s end.”
Not an official bargain, then, and therefore not a complication.
“When the king gave me Camelen, all agreements your father might have made became void. Only those I care to keep are valid. Understanding or no, you will not be marrying ap Idwal.”
“But all is arranged! You cannot blithely disregard my father’s wishes!”
He most certainly could. Alberic dismissed a pang of ire that Gwendolyn protested so forcefully because she might care for this ap Idwal.
“Your father is dead, Gwendolyn. His wishes no longer matter.” She winced at his harshness, but he knew of no other way to force her to face the reality of her changed circumstances. “I am merely following the king’s orders and will brook no more argument!”
She dared open her mouth as if to do exactly that, then remained silent. But her expression spoke loudly; he hadn’t heard the last of her protest.
The large bell that hung in the bailey called all to the noon meal. He silently thanked the cook for her timely intervention.
He waved a dismissing hand. “Go for your meal. Tell Cook to begin serving. I will be down in a moment.”
Silently, all left except Gwendolyn. She stared at his hand, or rather his ring, for long moments before looking away.
“Gwendolyn, ’tis mine now.”
“So you told me the other night.”
“I wish to have the nuptials performed as soon as they can be arranged.”
She crossed her arms, making no secret of her displeasure. “A wedding ceremony and feast are already arranged for the end of summer. Will that do, my lord?”
He almost smiled at her attempt to delay the ceremony for months.
“I believe a sennight will do.”
Her already wide brown