Excerpts from The Luck of Two Magpies, copyright 2012, all rights reserved.
No distribution or reproduction without the author’s explicit approval.
Cletus shrank beneath him. “You dare not harm a man of the cloth!”
“My lord.” There was caution in Elisa’s tone. Villency, John Potter and half-a-dozen new servants watched with varying degrees of interest or fear.
Mayhap the lesson should be learned by all. “You steal from your lord? Spy on me and think no harm will come to you?” He showed his teeth, but it was more like the snarls of his levriers at their cornered prey than a grin. The man shuddered between his thighs.
“Nay! You dare not. You must petition Monsignor Lawliss to write charges to my superior—”
“I care naught for your church law, weasel. ‘Tis my House you steal from, mine you injure and impugn. What care I of some petty church rule meant to save your hide? You wound me and by God I shall wound you!” He drew his dagger, and by the time a cry exited the cleric’s lying mouth William had already clipped his throat.
“Your choice is this, holy man. Say me the name of your sponsor and his plans or die bleeding here on my floor, for I have just pierced a major point for blood-letting. See how your blood gushes.” He held up a gory finger.
The cleric blanched. “Prithee! Mercy! I spy for the Archdeacon of Northumbria. Father Beaufort. I know naught more than that I am to report to him any missives by your hand or alliances that compromise you,” he said, panting like a hart who knows his end is come.
And now, his mother hurried forward on her cane, a single question framed in her features.
He grinned. “I have caught a spy, my lady… Beaufort did place him in our midst, a wolf among sheeps, eh?”
Her gray eyes smoldered as she nodded. “Shall I fetch an axe, my lord?”
Dear God, how he loved his mother.
Elisa leaned forward and squeezed William’s fingers, taking him by surprise. “We can worry all we want, Will, but there’s not much we can do about it.”
He subsided into his chair. “Nay. ‘Tis like to a maze, Elisa. We enter and play carefully, using instinct and acumen and what other cleverness we may come by. If we are lucky, we will find a way out, to open air. If we are not,” he said grimly, “we will find ourselves in the King’s trap.”
She shivered, then blustered gaily, “Well, then. It’s settled.”
“Not by a long shot from a longbow.” William’s mother stood in the doorway, arms crossed under her breasts, cane thrust askew as if she were armed with a sword. “Ye will travel nowhere without your physician.”
“Lady! Nay. ‘Twill be difficult enough to achieve my ends with my consort to worry for. It would be thrice harder with one more.”
“I do apologize, my son,” she declared flatly, “but in this I will not be swayed.” She hobbled into the heart of his chamber. “What if my Cara begins to bleed again? Or worse? What if the babe comes early? Nay.” She pursed her lips, chin a hard pillow. “Your Countess has need of me, and I will go with her.”
“There are physicians aplenty in Westminster,” he said as she narrowed her eyes.
“And our maids.”
“Aye. Think on it, William. What noblewoman of any stature would travel without one? And it seems to me that if you wish to appear a worthy adversary to the king—”
A single silver eyebrow rose, sharp as a dagger. “Pardon?”
“You may share one maid.”
“William!” She stamped her foot, wincing as she grabbed for her knee. “And ne’er did I hear such a thing! Two ladies to share one maid?!”
“I am adamant in this. ‘Tis one or none.” He glowered at her, but she gave no ground as her stare met his in challenge, and he had the impression of the glint of frozen steel on a winter battleground.
Her mouth moved as if she would argue further, but she nodded curtly. “Aye, then. One,” she said through her sulk.
“Aye, and so it will be,” he grumbled, relieved to have won his point. “Now, then, ladies, go. Begin your packing. I would leave early on the morrow.”
“On the morrow, indeed,” his mother sniffed, beckoning to Elisa. “Come, Cara. Ye did see too much excitement here.” (see Margarida from Elisa’s pov)