Excerpt from The Shattered Rose
Lord Galeran of Heywood has gone on crusade to petition God for a child. Now, two years later he returns, hardened by warfare but joyful over the coming reunion with his wife, and the first meeting with the infant son she bore while he was away. But when his castle comes into sight it is under siege—by his father's forces.
"I'm sorry," said his father. "It's not good. Your wife has installed Raymond of Lowick as master of Heywood. Since she refused to send him away, we've come to insist on it."
Just then the tent flap was swept back and another big man entered—Galeran's oldest brother, Will. His whole bloody family was here.
"Little brother! You're a sight for my eyes, though this is a hell of a situation to come home to."
Since he couldn't avoid the fierce hug Galeran endured it. It gave him time to think, to have things settle about him.
Jehanne and Raymond of Lowick.
No. He couldn't believe it.
When he was free of Will's hug, he turned to his father. "I thought Lowick married in Nottinghamshire."
"His wife died childless and he ended up with little of her property. Around that time, your seneschal took a fever and died. Next I knew, your wife had taken him on here."
The air was like gall, but Galeran had to keep breathing. "That is her right. I left her with control of Heywood. Lowick was always a sound knight."
Lord William's jaw worked side to side as it always did when he didn't want to say something. The silence stretched until blunt Will revealed the truth, "Just over a month ago, your wife bore him a child."
Lord William picked up the goblet and pressed it into Galeran's hands. "Drink."
Galeran drained the cup in a haze of disbelief. Had he fallen from his horse and lost his wits? Was he, God forbid, still lying raving by the walls of Jerusalem?
"We heard you were dead." Lord William's voice seemed far away. "Near a year ago word came that you'd fallen in the taking of Jerusalem. It wasn't much to go on, and none of us took it as a settled thing, but it did set off a fine debate about Jehanne's future. Who would hold Heywood. Who would have guardianship of the babe...."
Another silence fell and Galeran stared at the solid tent pole. One thing at a time. Don't think about Jehanne with another man. Don't think about her squandering her hard-won fertility to produce a bastard.
"By what right does she refuse you admittance?"
"By no right," growled his father. "She just knows—they both know—that it will go hard with them when I'm in there."
One thing at a time.
Galeran placed the goblet back on the table. "It will go with them as I say."
He turned and walked out of the tent, aware of his father and brothers following, of the eyes of all the camp on him. He didn't even try to look at Raoul.
All his rapturous praise of Jehanne was ashes, and yet....
She'd thought him dead. There was a grain of comfort in that.
He took his reins from the groom and mounted his weary horse. His father grabbed the bridle close by the bit. "What are you doing? If you want to lead an assault, we'll do it tomorrow."
Galeran didn't try to force the horse forward. "Let us first see if they'll open to their rightful lord."
"By Peter's toe, lad, they'll shoot you on sight! It would suit them fine to kill you."
"If my wife wants me dead, I would be better off so." He met his father's angry eyes and after a moment, Lord William released the horse.