Terms Of His Honor
Chapter 14 - Part 1
Albion stared at the spent
love charm in his hand. The shiral crystal centering the talisman now
resembled a charred ember from the cold brazier. Its black, roughened
surface reflected the emotions of his heart perfectly.
The mattress rustled as Sophia moved to the edge of the bed. "Albion?"
"Do not speak to me just now!" He closed his hand around the charm, letting its sharp facets bite into his palm. The pinpoint pain helped him control his anger to some degree. Reason told him the princess he had wed did not deserve to die, even though his most powerful urge was to throttle her.
"I realize you are angry."
"Angry?" He whirled on her, his shields flaring around him. "Angry? No, my lady. I am not angry. Furious, offended, insulted? Yes to all of these. But not anything so mild as angry."
He hurled the love charm into her lap. "At least give me the slight courtesy of an explanation, if you must speak to me at all."
Sophia's aura flared as she rose. "You dare ask me why? How long did you think I would stand by your side and watch as you longed for another woman? Did you believe I would never even think to assert my own place in your life?"
"So you used enchantment to seduce me to your bed?" Albion allowed himself an acid chuckle. "Most women rely upon perfume, exotic nightrails, sweet words and wine."
"Most women do not need to use such methods upon a husband bound to them by both law and Church."
They stared at each other for some moments. At length Albion felt understanding replace his anger. Sophia was proud, he had always known that. Only the day before he had been regretting the sterile, empty marriage they seemed trapped in.
He knew why she resorted to the love charm. Unfortunately he could never forgive her for it.
He turned his back on her, walked to the wash basin and spent his frustration sending heat to their washwater. When he poured the now steaming water from the silver pitcher into the matching basin the metal sent sharp popping sounds into the still air.
He used the time spent washing and drying himself to chose his words carefully. Clearly Sophia could not be trusted. He came up with the perfect excuse for his absence the next few days and framed his speech carefully as he refolded the towel.
"My lady, I must leave you for a few days' time. If anything is asked, I have some personal business to see to. Something unexpected has come up."
The mattress rustled again. She sat back on the bed. "It is over between us now, isn't it." From her voice she might have been asking if someone she barely knew had died.
He nodded slowly and turned to face her. When he looked into her eyes he saw all emotion hidden behind shields too strong to breach even should he have the inclination. "I was always fond of you, you know. We had that at least."
"Fondness? You are fond of your horse, your lute, your favorite pair of boots and spiced wine." Sophia curled her feet under the sleeping furs. "So what happens now?"
"I don't know. Give me a few days to think it through." Albion crossed the room to stand by the bed. Pity from some source he could not name welled up inside him for this woman he had so badly injured. "I think the time apart will do us both good."
"Agreed." She lay back on the pillows and pulled the furs to her chin. "Will you tell my maid I wish to sleep late today, please?"
"I will." Albion grabbed his plainest cloak and sword as he left their chamber.