Never Love a Lord

Free Never Love a Lord by Heather Grothaus

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Authors: Heather Grothaus
immersed in conversation with your good priest that I simply became unaware of the passing of time. Certainly, I am looking forward to riding out with you.”
    Sybilla very much wanted to beg off their excursion now. She was nervous, a condition as foreign to her as timidity, but there was no other option.
    “Your horse is saddled and waiting. Although we shan’t see the entirety of the grounds, we will still miss the evening meal. I’ve had Cook prepare a satchel for us.”
    An easy, surprised smile came over Julian Griffin’s face, and it caused Sybilla’s stomach to do a neat turn.
    “A picnic, then? Smashing. I haven’t eaten on the ground in months, and the weather is fair.”
    Sybilla felt her lips purse petulantly at his enthusiasm, and she turned away until Julian had bid Father Perry farewell and quickly took to his borrowed mount. He was still smiling when she looked back at him.
    “I shall follow your lead, my lady,” he said, gesturing with a wide sweep of his arm.
    Sybilla kicked her mount and rode out into the yard ahead of him at a trot, muttering under her breath, “I certainly hope so.”
     
     
    They rode southwest from the gate, away from the woods and the road and toward the wide, fallow fields quilted with hedgerows and timothy grass. Sybilla kept their conversation matter-of-fact as they rode past the agricultural industries of Fallstowe, and she explained the different crops the field master oversaw, the unique schedule of rotation for the fields, the more rare varieties the manor was attempting. To her surprise, he seemed more than politely interested, asking pertinent and intelligent questions and seeming fascinated with the topic of harvest yields in relation to the weather conditions of last season.
    Sybilla looked at him curiously as they headed down a rather steep ravine toward the north of the demesne. “Do you run a farm manor, Lord Griffin? You seem rather intrigued by such dry topics as silage.”
    His glance caught hers, but he did not smile at her attempt at humor, which did not surprise her greatly. Alys was the funny sister.
    “No, I’ve never run a farm. Always wanted to, though. I lived on one for a time in my youth. I would that Lucy know such delight.”
    Sybilla guided Octavian through the shallow, muddy creek at the bottom of the ravine and turned to watch Julian Griffin do the same with his own mount. “Where is your family home, Lord Griffin?”
    He seemed loath to still his horse beside Sybilla’s, and even though Octavian was an enormous beast bred from mighty war steeds and dwarfed Julian’s borrowed mount, the man did not seem diminished at all in the saddle.
    “The city. London,” he clarified brusquely before she could ask. Then he nodded up the hill upon which the sun was spraying its last, red rays from the far, opposite horizon, turning the new grass to rust. “That way, then?”
    She answered him with a nod of her own, and he preceded her up the sharp rise. Her eyes followed him keenly, just as Octavian fell into step in his wake.
    He did not have the air of entitlement that resulted from being royal, nor the aversion to his own family, if his daughter was any indication. He was not an active general in Edward’s army, a professional man of war. But Lucy Griffin had been born at the king’s home only months ago, when Alys and Piers had been in London.
    His dead wife, then. Her name, her name—what was her name . . . ?
    She topped the rise shortly after him and he silently let her lead the way, although Sybilla kept Octavian at a slow walk while she searched the very air around them.
    “Was Lady . . . Ke—” No, no, that wasn’t it! “Lady Catherine fond of the country?” she asked, and held her breath.
    “Cateline,” Julian corrected her.
    Sybilla winced inwardly. “My apologies.”
    “Think naught of it. It is a common enough mistake. She said ofttimes that she answered to anything closely resembling it.” He gave a wry smile and Sybilla

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