de Burgh! I’m not your wife yet.”
“Never use that tone of voice with me again, mistress, it pleases me not.” His words were like the crack of a whip, and she knew she had gone far enough.
She lowered her eyes. Perhaps she would take Estelle’s advice and use a sweet tongue to get her own way, for she was determined to go to Cirencester. “Milord,” she breathed, and lifted her lashes to peep at him prettily. “If you should receive messages indicating that John is to become our king, would you then take me to Avisa?”
He was on the point of agreeing to accede to her wishes when she cooed a little too sweetly. “I’d feel so safe with such a strong escort as you, m’sieur.”
He exploded, “I cannot be cajoled by flattery, mistress, it is a witch’s trick. I am a busy man while your father is away. I suggest you occupy yourself learning how to run a household. According to all reports you are useless. You would do well to take lessons from your sisters.” He strode from her chamber satisfied that he had put the little minx in her place. He reckoned without Jasmine. His words were like a slap in the face to her, comparing her so unfavorably with her sisters. Well, she would show him! She wouldn’t stay there another day, no, not another hour. If he wouldn’t escort her to Avisa, she would find another who would.
She waited until de Burgh had ample time to get back to his blacksmith’s forge, then she sought out her grandmother in the stillroom. “Estelle, I have permission to visit Lady Avisa, soon to be Queen Avisa, at Cirencester. My things are all packed. Hurry and make ready. De Burgh is providing one of his men to escort us. Darling, you were right. A few sweet words and he was wax in my hands,” she lied.
She hurried out to the stables and looked over the men as eagerly as they looked at her. She soon found her mark, a young squire of about sixteen, yet long-limbed and well muscled. He was in her father’s service ratherthan de Burgh’s, which suited her better. “Ah, you must be the young man Milord de Burgh described to me,” she said airily.
“Me, my lady?” the lad said, blushing.
“Yes, you. What is your name?”
“David, my lady,” he said, his heart hammering in his chest at her closeness.
“You are to escort my grandmother and me to Cirencester. When you have saddled our horses, you may come to the castle for our baggage. We brought our own packhorses.”
He nodded that he knew which horses and packhorses had come from Winwood Keep, but he could not credit that he was to be entrusted to take the beautiful Lady Jasmine to Cirencester. “Perhaps it was not me Milord de Burgh meant, my lady,” he said doubtfully.
“Of course it was you. He told me you were handsome and well made and I distinctly recall he used the name David. He has made a point of knowing all the men of Salisbury who serve my father. No one escapes his notice, David. He must be most favorably impressed by you to choose you for my escort.”
“Thank you, my lady, it is indeed a great honor, one I’m sure I am most unworthy of,” he said, dazed.
“Pooh,” she said prettily, “don’t stand about being modest. I wish to leave immediately.”
In the courtyard, Estelle was busy giving David orders regarding her precious cargo and how it should be distributed on the packhorses. She never traveled without her magic paraphernalia and her apothecary case containing her potions, herbs, and elixirs.
Jasmine was in a panic to be gone, so finally she simply brought down her riding crop on her white palfrey’s rump and it surged ahead, out of the courtyard, heading toward Salisbury Plain. David had no choice but to follow her leading the packhorses. As for Estelle, it took herquite some time before she was able to catch up with the little cavalcade. At least five miles had been covered before she came abreast of Jasmine. “Your wicked juices overflowed, did they not?” she asked with a shrewd