A Dishonorable Knight
Author:Morrison, Michelle

Chapter 30

Elena had spoken not a word to her escorts and she had no intention of doing so until they reached her father's manor. Though she strove to deny it to herself, her silence was not a result of the men being beneath her. She was too preoccupied with cursing Gareth and wondering just what she was going to say to her parents when she returned home.

The latter was easy enough. She could simply tell them that she had grown weary of court life. That was true enough. She could even go so far as to say she had lost favor with the king by refusing to marry an old codger of Richard's choosing. That was very nearly the complete truth. Either way, she was confident her parents would not question her return. In fact, she suspected her father would actually be relieved that she was no longer a lady-in-waiting. He had been hesitant when her cousin Sarah had offered to help her gain the court position. He had, in fact, tried to bribe her with several new gowns and a new palfrey if she would but stay at home to "keep him company in his old age." At the time, of course, she had longed to escape the gentle pace of manor living and the marriage hopes of a neighboring swain. Now she would revel in the peace of not having to constantly worry that she had been slighted for this favor or that, that her newest gown would be out of fashion before her allowance arrived, and any number of trivial subjects that had occupied her mind for the past two years.

That problem solved, the remaining hours on horseback were devoted to cursing the day she laid eyes on Gareth. Anger, she had discovered, was far preferable to the nagging fear of knowing he rode toward danger, the ache in turning to look at his handsome face, his crooked grin and seeing only three blank-faced men-at-arms. Of all the gall! she thought. She saved his life not once, but twice and still he did not trust her. He abandoned her to what fate may await her. Not only did he abandon her, he scorned her love! Her newly developed sense of fairness started to protest that he did not scorn her love, but she refused to have any of it. She offered to leave all luxury and perhaps live her life in danger and poverty (which, in Elena's mind hazily constituted no servants and only a few new gowns a year). What did he say in return? "I'm off to join the Tudor army. I lied to you about my original intentions and now that you've freed me, I'm going to leave you to Richard's men and run off to play hero."

Very well, she admitted, growing more disgusted with herself, perhaps that wasn't exactly what he had said. That annoying sense of fairness gained a foothold and reminded her what Gareth had said: "I love you, Elena, and I would take you to the farthest ends of the known world if circumstances were different."

"Well it doesn't matter what he said, does it?" she muttered. "I'm still here and he'll no doubt end up dead by year's end."

"My lady?" the kinder of the three guardsmen said.

"Nothing," Elena replied abruptly, and then, since he had been polite to her while the other two men had been barely respectful, "I'm just talking to myself. How much longer must we travel tonight?"

"We shall reach a small inn before midnight and rest there until morning. With this full moon, we could travel all night, but the horses will need food and rest as, I'm sure, will you, my lady."

Elena said nothing but thought that she would not be able to sleep no matter how far they rode tonight. Her nerves were still taut from helping Gareth escape and worrying that her role in his escape would be discovered. She didn't think there could be a way of connecting her to him other than the guard, but he had become so drunk, surely he could not remember what she looked like. She did hope, however, that he remembered what name she had given him. She grinned in the darkness as she thought of Catherine being suspected of aiding a traitor. It would be no less than she deserved. Amazing, was it not, what court life could do to some people? Elena shook her head with disappointment. Poor Catherine had become the epitome of the manipulative, calculating and single-minded courtier. And in such a short time, too.

Blissfully ignoring the fact that until a month past, she could have put Catherine's actions to shame, Elena returned to her litany of curses against Gareth.