The Hidden Heart

The Hidden Heart by Sharon Schulze

Book: The Hidden Heart by Sharon Schulze Read Free Book Online
Authors: Sharon Schulze
Tags: Romance
looking for plants before dinner.”
    Rannulf, adjusting the girth on his saddle, paused. “You know that Talbot doesn’t wish you to be gone from the keep for long.”
    â€œThe plants grow nearby. ’Twill take no time at all to gather them.”
    He finished tightening the strap and stepped toward her, hand outstretched to take her basket. “Despite the fact that it’s been quiet here of late, you still shouldn’t be wandering through the woods,” he cautioned.
    â€œLord Nicholas simply said that I should take my guard with me whenever I leave the keep. Sir Henry is keeping him busy plotting ways to improve our defenses—they’ll have no need of my help.” She set aside the basket and adjusted her skirts so Rannulf could boost her into the saddle. “You’re here.” Pointing to the sword and wickedly long dagger on the belt strapped around his waist, she added, “And well armed, I see.” She waited until he met her gaze. “Do you doubt you can protect me?”
    â€œYou know I can,” he muttered. Shaking his head, he clasped his hands about her waist and lifted her into the saddle, then passed her simples to her before swinging up behind her. “Come along, March,” he said, nudging the stallion with his boot heels.
    â€œWhat did you call him?”
    â€œMarch.”
    Gillian ignored the shiver his voice in her ear sent skittering down her spine and, seeking a distraction, sought to satisfy her curiosity. “’Tis a strange name for a horse.”
    He leaned over her right shoulder to peer at her face. Unfortunately, the action also brought his lips even nearer to her ear. “Not so strange, if you realize I gave him a Welsh name.”
    Eyes fixed on the track in front of them, she laughed. “You’re not serious?” His nod of agreement tapped his chin on her shoulder. “You named him Stallion.”
    â€œAye. It seemed a fine idea at the time.” He shifted a bit, and she’d have sworn he nestled her more snugly into his arms. “Besides, I have an abiding fondness for all—nay, for some, at any rate—things Welsh.”
    His chuckle caused his chest to vibrate against her back.
    What did he mean by that? Or did she imagine a hidden meaning where none was meant? She was Welsh—half Welsh, at least. But he couldn’t have meant anything by it... By the Virgin, he could not. ’Twas the taint of her Welsh blood he’d referred to in that accursed betrothal agreement...
    Or was it?
    â€™Twas nigh impossible to think clearly while cuddled so closely to him. Frantic to dismount and drag her reluctant body away from temptation and confusion, she noted that they’d reached the path into the forest and gave silent thanks. “We cannot ride through the trees, can we?”
    â€œOf course we can,” he replied, and gathered her more firmly into his hold.
    Gillian closed her eyes, not for fear of injury, but so she might concentrate on ignoring the way her entire body betrayed her.
    After all that had gone before, all that had happened between them in the past week, how could she still want him to hold her?
    How could she ache to hear him murmur against the sensitive flesh of her neck, regardless of the words he spoke, simply to feel once more the shiver of delight he—he alone, she feared—sent dancing along her spine?
    March stopped. Opening her eyes, she greeted the sight of the pool in all its splendor with a sigh of relief.
    Worst of all, how could her own mind betray her, swamping her with emotions that carried the power to overcome her intellect?
    Mindful of what their haste had cost her the last time she dismounted, she waited with a patience she did not feel for Rannulf to slip from the saddle and help her down. Once her feet touched the ground, she could have knelt and kissed the mossy soil in gratitude.
    She placed the basket safely away from March’s

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