* * *
Following the rutted path that branched off the main road, they passed through a low, rock wall, the horses’ hooves clacking when they hit the stone courtyard. Here, they all reined to a halt. Jace’s gaze traveled up the height of the manor house, its many windows blazing in the red-orange sun.
His attention shifted again as a man exited the manor house and descended the steps to meet them. Dressed in a burgundy and black uniform with gold trimming, he carried himself with confidence and authority, no doubt a ranking member of Ashwood’s security. He had a strong, serious face, though pleasant, and his dark hair was tied back. His brown eyes came to each of them in turn.
Rayad, being the head of the group and expected to handle Anne’s affairs, nudged Aros forward. “Lady Anne, daughter of Sir John Wyland to see Sir Rothas Cantan.”
The guard’s eyes shifted to Anne. Jace glanced at her. She was already playing her part, projecting herself as the opulent daughter of a fellow knight. She said it would make Rothas less likely to suspect her or them of duplicity. Amazing how something as simple as posture could change her entire appearance. Just the way she perched in her saddle, chin at a slight angle, exuded superiority. It was almost amusing.
The guard nodded. “Please, come inside, my lady,” he invited, his deep voice surprisingly soft-spoken.
As they dismounted, he motioned to two young men who had come from the stables to tend the horses. Attention returning to Anne, he led them all into the manor house. Jace found his gaze drawn to the lovely furnishings, comparing it to Baron Grey’s castle in Landale. The castle had been too dark and stifling for him, but Ashwood clearly had a woman’s touch. Lady Rachel had filled it with warm, rich colors that made it seem homey and welcoming in spite of its intimidating size.
Copyright 2015 by Jaye L. Knight