Chapter 47: Green and Such

Annaghdown Castle is drafty, cold and bleak to look upon, and as such was a place I failed to visit often in my youth, but my mother loved it.

It was home for her. She grew up there.

Isabella was lulled to sleep in my saddle while I rode us on.

I am about to collapse with exhaustion, but I must press now.

As I lead Knicklom out of the trees, he whinnies at the sight of the water before us.

I unleash him, and he gallops for a drink.

Grayson will have to wait a good twenty minutes before I am at the gate, have my wife off him and settled on her feet, before I release him.

With my vision blurred from lack of sleep, Emmett comes running out of the castle, yelling at me.

"I knew it! I knew this was where you would come," he says, smiling so wide I think I can count all his teeth.

Rosalie runs out after him a second later, and she is grinning as widely.

"You were right," she says.

They hug each other in celebration of our arrival, and I am confused as to why they are here. Why did they look for us?

"How now? What's this?" I ask.

Emmett races over to my side and reaches for my lady.

I gingerly pass her down.

My arms tingle at the coolness of her absence.

I do not like it much, so I drag my hands down my face to cover my unintentional frown.

My doublet is sweaty from where her body leaned up against me in search of cushioning.

If she is well rested then I am pleased.

I would do it again for her. Anything for her.

"We ran away," Emmett explains as I get down from Grayson.

Rosalie tends to my horse, smiling all the while.

"From what? From whom?" I question.

"We saw you run with your woman, and we decided to do the same. We eloped, and then came here. We join you. I am your first in command. King Henry is angry with you, and he means to rip the country apart to get at you and . . . her," he says, dipping his head and motioning with his chin toward my limp wife in his arms.

"Has he . . . put a price on our heads?" I ask, fearful of the answer.

"Not yet. It is a matter of time." He smiles apologetically.

"Friend, you do well to turn back and beg his mercy and pardon," I say.

"Never. I can't go back. Rosalie is my wife, and she carries my child. We are family, and I will not renounce her or—"

"Okay, peace, my friend. I will tolerate your presence," I tease.

He laughs, and Isabella is jolted awake.

"Who . . . where . . . ?" she asks, disoriented.

"It's okay, little one," he tells her, and sets her down carefully.

She all but collapses into me.

I hold her about the shoulders, and guide her inside.

"Home. For now anyway," I tell her, propelling her forward to enter the walls.

The south entrance is gaping open like frightening jaws since Emmett opened the doors wide.

"It is warm at least," Emmett offers.

I grimace. All my memories attest to the opposite about this place. I was never warm here.

We step inside and Isabella eyes the surroundings.

The candles flicker when we pass them by.

There is not much by way of decorations, and the furniture is basic, maybe even a little crude in nature, but I do remember mother made sure the bed chambers were cozy and the beds comfortable.

There is nowhere else I want my wife right now than tucked up on the mattress at my side while we sleep for an entire week. My thoughts are nothing but chaste toward my wife right now—that is how limp I am with need of rest.

This weariness reminds me of the way I feel when I get back from a battle.

"We got to bed. Thank you, Emmett, Rose," I say, nodding at them.

"Before you depart, Sire," Emmett interjects, "you should know . . . you are not alone. We are not the only ones that tried to follow after you."

Both Isabella and my eyes go wide in surprise.

"What d'you mean?" I ask.

"I mean you have the beginnings of an army at your disposal. Isabella is quite popular, and almost half the men at court pretended to be hunting her down for Henry, but then defected. They are loyal to her, and now to you," he explains.

Isabella gasps besides me, but it sounds more like a pitiful little mewl, she is so weakened.

"Breathe, wife. I think you need the air," I say.

She may faint for the pallor of her face is a sickly green.

I ready myself to carry her away to our chamber.