Laird Gillevrey and thirty of his men were locked away in the cellars below the great hall. The other clansmen were being held in the soldiers’ quarters in the lower bailey.
Johanna’s surrender had been swift. She rode down the hill and into the jaws of the enemy. They enveloped and surrounded her.
Although she was just a scant foot or two away from Raulf, she didn’t speak to him. She simply sat atop her mount with her hands folded together and waited to see what he would do.
Raulf was dressed in full knight’s battlewear, but his head was covered with the old-fashioned open conical helmet. He preferred it over the modern fully enclosed gear. He’d told her his vision was improved. She believed vanity was the true reason.
It was difficult for her to look at him. His appearance hadn’t changed much. His eyes were just as green, his complexion was still unscarred, and there were only a few added age lines creasing his narrow cheeks now. Then he took his helmet off, and she realized there had been a dramatic change after all. His hair had been the color of wheat when she’d last seen him. It was white now.
“We will go home now, Johanna, and all this will be put behind us.”
“Yes,” she immediately agreed.
Her answer pleased him. He nudged his mount close to her side and reached over to touch her face.
“You have grown more beautiful,” he remarked. “I’ve missed you, my love.”
Johanna couldn’t look at him now, for she was certain he would see the disgust in her eyes. She bowed her head in what she prayed looked like submission.
Raulf was apparently satisfied. He put his helmet back on, turned his mount, and then gave the order to ride.
They didn’t stop for water or rest and reached the Gillevrey holding late that afternoon.
Johanna immediately pleaded exhaustion. Raulf escorted her inside. The entrance was narrow. Steps leading upstairs were directly in front of her. To the right was the hall. It was a large room, square in dimensions, and the balcony above surrounded it on all sides. Johanna was disheartened by that notice, for she knew if she was kept upstairs, she couldn’t sneak out the door without being spotted by the guards in the hall.
She was given the third chamber. The door was in the center of the balcony. Raulf opened the door for her. She kept her head bowed and tried to hurry past him. He grabbed hold of her arm and tried to kiss her. She wouldn’t let him. She turned her head away.
He roughly pulled her into his arms and hugged her. His hands toyed with her hair.
“Did they make you cut your hair?”
She didn’t answer him. “Of course they did,” he decided. “You never would have willingly cut your hair, for you surely remember how much I liked it.”
“I did remember,” she whispered.
He let out a sigh. “It will grow again.”
Raulf suddenly tightened his hold on her. “Why did you get our marriage annulled?”
The pain he was inflicting upon her made her flinch. “The king wanted me to marry Baron Williams. I demanded an annulment to stall for time. I didn’t believe you were dead.”
Her answer satisfied Raulf. “John didn’t tell me Williams wanted you for wife. The bastard did lust after you, didn’t he? And you never did like him much.”
“I’m very sleepy,” she blurted out. “I don’t feel at all well.”
Raulf finally let go of her. “The excitement has been too much for you. You were always weak, Johanna, and only I know how to take care of you. Go to bed now. I won’t bother you tonight. I put one of your gowns on the bed. You will wear it tomorrow. When you join me downstairs, I will have a surprise for you.”
He finally left her alone. The door had a lock, but the key had been removed. She would have to find something to block the entrance, she decided. She didn’t trust Raulf to leave her alone; and if he did sneak into the chamber during the night, she would be prepared. If he tried to touch her, she would kill him . . . or die trying.
Johanna had been in complete control of her emotions until now; and although she was exhausted from the strain, she was still feeling proud of herself because she hadn’t allowed her anger or her fear to gain the upper hand. It was her sole duty to protect her baby from harm until Gabriel came to fetch her. Yes, that was her only duty.
Messengers had left to chase down Gabriel as soon as the English army had been spotted. Johanna prayed the clansmen wouldn’t have to go all the way to London to catch up with their laird.
The MacBain allies were surely preparing to ride now, too, she decided. Why, by tomorrow night or the night after, she would certainly be rescued.
Johanna set about defending her little chamber from attack. She pushed an empty chest over to the door to block it. She knew it wouldn’t keep anyone from breaking in, but she hoped the sound when the chest was moved would wake her up if she accidentally fell asleep.
She hurried over to the window, pulled the fur covering back, and looked down. Then she muttered an expletive. There wouldn’t be any escape possible through the opening. It was a straight drop two stories down, and the rock wall was too smooth to find handholds to climb down.
The room was cold and damp. She was suddenly so weary she needed to sit down. She removed her belt and wrapped herself in her plaid. Then she went over to the bed.
She spotted the gown spread out upon the covers. Recognition was swift. Her weariness vanished, and fury such as she’d never known before flooded her. She was consumed by it, and all she wanted to do was scream as loud as a warrior would when he rode into battle.
It was her wedding gown. The shoes she’d worn were there too, she noticed, and the ribbons, dear God, the ribbons she’d entwined in her hair were spread out on the covers as well.
“He’s demented,” she whispered.
And determined, she silently added. He’d told her he had a surprise for her in the morning, and now she fully understood what he planned. The fool actually believed he was going to marry her again.
Johanna was literally shaking with rage when she reached for the gown. She hurled it across the chamber. The ribbons and shoes went flying next.
Her anger quickly drained the rest of her strength. Johanna stretched out on the bed, pulled her plaid up over her head, took her dagger out of the sheath she’d tied with string around her thigh, and held the weapon in both hands.
She fell asleep minutes later.
The scraping noise the chest made when it was moved across the stone floor woke her up. Sunlight streamed into the chamber from the sides of the fur covering the window. Johanna had dropped her dagger sometime during the night. She found it in a fold of the plaid and was ready to strike when she sat up.
“May I enter, m’lady?”
The whispered request came from an elderly woman. She held a tray in her hands but hesitated in the doorway until she was given permission.
“You may,” Johanna called out.
The woman hurried inside. She used the back of her foot to push the door closed.
“Baron Raulf ordered me to serve you,” she said as she walked closer.
“You’re a Gillevrey,” Johanna guessed when she spotted the colorful plaid.
“I am,” the woman replied. “And you’re Laird MacBain’s wife, aren’t you?”
“Yes,” Johanna answered. Her voice was sharp, for she was in a hurry now to gain some answers the Gillevrey woman might be able to give her.
“Are there guards posted outside this door?”
“There is one,” the servant answered.
“How many in the hall below?”
“Too many to count,” the woman answered. She put the tray on the foot of the bed. “My laird’s locked in the cellar, m’lady. They’re treating him like a common thief. He sends you an important message. I was allowed to carry food to him early this morning, and he whispered the words he wanted me to repeat to you.”
“What is his message?”
“The MacBain will avenge this atrocity.”
Johanna smiled. The servant looked expectant. “Does your laird require an answer?”
“Then tell him, yes, the MacBain will certainly avenge this atrocity.”
The woman gave a brisk nod. “And so it will be done,” she whispered.
She sounded as though she was in prayer. “What is your name?” Johanna asked.
“Lucy,” the woman answered.
Johanna scooted off the bed. She held onto her plaid with one hand and offered her other hand to the woman.
“You are a good and courageous woman, Lucy,” she whispered. “And now I have a favor to ask of you.”
“I will do anything I can to help, m’lady. I’m old and surely feeble, but I will diligently try to serve you.”
“I must find a way to stay inside this chamber for as long as possible. Are you good at lying?”
“When it’s called for,” Lucy answered.
“Then report to the baron that I am still sleeping soundly. Tell him you put the tray down but didn’t disturb me.”
“I’ll do it,” Lucy promised. “The baron doesn’t seem to be in a hurry to get you downstairs, m’lady. He’s pacing with impatience, but only because the man he sent for has still not arrived.”
“I didn’t catch the name,” Lucy said. “But I heard what he was. He’s a bishop, and he’s living somewhere near the Lowlands.”
“M’lady, please lower your voice. The guard will hear you. I didn’t catch the bishop’s name.”
Johanna’s heartbeat quickened. “Of course it’s Hallwick,” she muttered.
“Will the bishop help you, m’lady?”
“No,” Johanna answered. “He’s an evil man, Lucy. He would aid Lucifer if there was gold involved. Tell me this, please. How did you know Baron Raulf sent for anyone?”
“No one pays me any attention because I’m old. I can act dotty when I set my mind to it. I was standing near the corner of the hall when the soldiers came inside to take over our laird’s home. The baron didn’t waste a minute giving his instructions. He sent six men to ride to the Lowlands. They were to escort the bishop back.”
Johanna rubbed her arms to ward off the chill she felt. Raulf had been quite methodical in his plans. She wondered what other surprises were in store for her.
“I’d best get downstairs before the baron notices I’ve been in here so long, and you’d best get back under the covers so the guard will see you’re sleeping when I open the door.”
Johanna thanked the servant and then hurried to do as she suggested. She stayed in bed a long while, waiting for the summons to come.
Raulf left her alone. The blessed reprieve lasted until the following afternoon. Johanna spent a good deal of her time staring out the window. The hills below were covered with English soldiers. She thought they probably surrounded the keep on all sides.
How was Gabriel going to get to her?
She straightened her shoulders. That was his problem to worry about, not hers, she decided. But Lord, how she wished he would hurry up.
Lucy came back into the chamber late that afternoon. She carried another tray of food.
“They’ve been coming and going all day long, m’lady. Now men are fetching pails of hot water and bringing up a wooden tub. The baron has ordered a bath for you. Why in heavens he’d think about your comforts now is beyond me.”
“He thinks I’m going to marry him,” Johanna explained. “The bishop’s here, isn’t he?”
“He is,” Lucy answered. “There’s another baron down below as well. I heard his name. He’s called Williams. He’s an ugly one all right with his frizzled dirt-colored hair and black eyes. He and Baron Raulf have been arguing most of the afternoon. It’s a heated fight all right, and wouldn’t it be a blessing if they killed each other and saved your husband the bother?”
Johanna smiled. “It would be a blessing. Lucy, please stay and lean against the door while I bathe.”
“Then you’re going to accommodate the foul man?”
“I want to look as pretty as possible for my husband,” Johanna explained. “He will be here any time now.”
“Will you put on the English gown?” Lucy asked. She pointed to the corner where Johanna had thrown the garment.
“I will wear my plaid.”
Lucy nodded. “I’m going to fetch you clean underclothes when I go get the soap and drying cloths,” she said.
Johanna carried through with her determination to wear her plaid. She knew Raulf would be furious, but she was also certain he wouldn’t strike her in front of witnesses. She would have to make certain she was never left alone with him. She wasn’t at all certain how she would achieve that miracle, and damn it all, where was Gabriel?
She absolutely refused to consider the possibility her husband might not be able to get to her in time, and whenever a worrisome thought popped into her mind, she pushed it away.
She took her time bathing. She even washed her hair. Then she sat on the side of the bed to dry it with the cloths Lucy gave her. The servant insisted upon brushing her hair for her, and when she was finished and the curls fell just so about her shoulders, Lucy declared she looked as beautiful as a princess.
The summons came an hour later. Lucy was wringing her hands when she repeated the order. Johanna was extremely calm. She knew she couldn’t put off the confrontation any longer.
She put in yet another request to her Maker to help Gabriel get to her in time, tucked her dagger in her belt and covered it with a fold from her plaid, and then went downstairs.
They made her wait at the entrance for almost ten minutes before bidding her to come into the hall. Raulf and Williams were standing at a round table on the opposite side of the room, arguing about a paper Williams waved in his hand.
The two barons were opposite in appearance yet quite similar in temperament. They snapped at each other like mad dogs, one with his shock of white hair and the other with his brown-colored locks and black soul. They were both hideous to her.
Bishop Hallwick was also in the hall. He sat in a tall-backed chair in the center of the room. He held a scroll in his hands and appeared to be reading the thing over and over again. Every other minute or so he would shake his head as though in confusion.
The bishop had aged considerably in the past few years. He looked sickly, too, for his complexion had a yellow cast to it now. Lucifer must be dancing with anticipation, Johanna thought to herself. Hallwick was old and worn out, and it wouldn’t be long before he was welcomed home by the devil himself.