This is short, but I wanted to add it to the end of Chapter 2. Enjoy!
Returning to the great hall, Isabella felt an odd sense of curiosity about Owen. Had she detected a note of displeasure in his voice when she told him she was leaving?
She shook her head, thinking what nonsense it was. They hardly knew one another. What cause had he to be troubled by such a revelation as her departure? On one hand, the notion of it seemed quite absurd. But on the other hand, it was flattering to imagine that her absence might be of note to someone.
If only her absence meant something to the man she desired.
In traveling to Calais, she would be leaving behind any remnant of happiness she possessed. There would be no visits to this lovely home, where there was always such a feeling of warmth. But sadder was the thought that her nights would be long and lonely, for Rene was now gone. He would likely be finding company with someone else, and though it filled her heart with jealousy, she reminded herself that he was not hers to keep. Perhaps it was best that they would be long separated. In time, the wounds of her heart would heal, even if the mark would always remain.
The only light of hope that remained was the prospect of seeing her son. Lord, how she missed him. Sebastian was only eight years old, but like any noble boy of his age, he was away being schooled. It had always been her hope that Gilbert would keep their son near home for his education. But her husband had chosen a place that was far away in the north of France. They visited once a year, and though they stayed for several months, it hardly seemed enough.
As she neared the other guests, who were still enthralled by the voice of the troubadour, Lady Emma approached her. At first she was smiling. But seeing Isabella’s expression, her joy lessened.
“What is it, dearest?” she asked.
Isabella sighed. “The prospect of a tedious journey. It will take many weeks to reach Calais.”
With a nod, Emma gently grasped her friend’s hand. “Yes, that is unfortunate. But think of what awaits you at the end of your journey. A most pleasant reward.”
The thought of it gave Isabella courage, and she managed a smile. “That, it will be. My love for him gives me wings to fly.”
Only her deep and abiding maternal love, that bond between a mother and child, gave her the courage to endure a nearly seven-hundred mile odyssey with Gilbert. To think of Sebastian, who was such a sweet and loving child, was to know that fate had given her something precious that was entirely her own. For him, she would sacrifice her own happiness. Even it meant enduring the company of a complete and utter cur.
Standing in her room, watching the preparations for the coming journey, Isabella was startled by the sudden sound of her husband’s voice.
“Make haste,” he barked. “We depart at dawn.”
As he left, she cursed him under her breath. In the morning, he would be more surly than ever, for when he set his mind to traveling, he felt the need to bully those who tarried even in the slightest way. It was only a sign of the miseries to come, and it vexed her just to think of it.
While she pondered her troubles, Therese approached her. In her hand, she held a tightly rolled parchment.
“Ma Dame, ce message est arrivé pour vous.”
“My lady, this message has arrived for you.”
“Un message ? De qui?”
“A message? From whom?”
She had not expected written word from anyone.
A sudden realization came over her. It could not be, she thought.
“Je ne sais pas, ma Dame,” said Therese. “Je fus chargé de voir qu'il livré à vos mains le moment que vous revient.”
“I do not know, my lady. I was instructed to see it delivered to your hands the moment you returned.”
Isabella felt her heart grow wild, knowing the hand that had written a forbidden note. What words did it contain? She fought the urge to unroll the parchment with great haste and read…to hear his words spoken in her mind, in that powerfully bold and devil-may-care way of his.
But somehow, she kept control of her emotions, even managing to give an air of coolness and poise to her tone as she spoke to her maid. There could not be the slightest hint of anticipation in her words, lest she wished to arouse suspicion about the source of the message.
“Merci, Therese. Je verrai plus tard pour elle. Il y a beaucoup à faire avant le matin.”
“Thank you, Therese. I will see to it later. There is much to be done before morning.”
Clutching the message in her hand, she calmly placed it in her bed-stand drawer. Closing it, she prayed for the patience to wait until a safe moment could be found.
It was late when the moment arrived. And after the house had retired for the night, and Therese had taken to her pallet in the next room, she seized the moment. Yanking the drawer open, she snatched up the message, unfurling it, and her heart soared as she read…
My dearest Isabella,
Word has reached my ear that you are soon to depart for Calais. Though it pains my heart to know that you will be far from me, please know that you will not be far from my thoughts. I will think of you often, and my heart will be warmed by the remembrance of our time together. I pray that you will remember me with fondness. A safe journey, my lady.
Your devoted servant,
It was much too brief. But the happiness it gave her was more than she could have imagined. He had not forgotten her. She clutched the note to her breast, sighing with joy. The trip to Calais would be endured, with the aid of a man who was fast becoming the most important part of her world.