Grimme was enraged, finding out Brìghde had gone to Hogarth without him. Aye, he should have told her when she confronted him about charging Emelisse with the care of all his sons that he had abruptly changed his mind about spending the day with her. After her pointed lecture punctuating his deficiencies as a father and her chastisement this morning, the last place he wanted to be was on a forty-mile round trip to shop with his wife.
But then Pierce had slipped Emelisse’s charge, run out to the stable after Brìghde, and was despondent that she wasn’t there. A groom had led him back to the keep and he had run to Grimme and cast himself in his arms and wailed, “She didn’t even say fare thee well!”
“Who?” Grimme demanded, completely confused by both Pierce’s behavior and whoever she was.
“Lady Kyneward,” the groom told him. “She left a bit ago for Hogarth. She thought you were comin’, waited a while, but when ye didn’t, she left. We put Phobos back. Do ye need him anyway?”
Grimme thought his heart dropped through his boots. “She went to Hogarth alone?”
“Aye, my lord.”
“Good God,” he whispered. He put Pierce down, then pushed his chair back so fast, it toppled and clattered to the floor. He ran out to the stables, then put his fingers to his lips and let out a long, sharp, high-pitched whistle. The grooms scattered.
“Lady Bridget went to purchase things she needs, that she had to leave behind when I snatched her,” he told Pierce when he ran after Grimme. “She thought you were with Emelisse—”
“I don’t wanna be with Emelisse!” he screamed, his little fists clenched at his side, his little face with an expression of such anger, it took Grimme aback. “I hate Emelisse!” Then he launched himself at Grimme and started to hit him with those little fists. This shocked Grimme so much he didn’t quite know what to do.
“Pierce,” Grimme gritted and tried to capture his slippery little boy, but missed. Pierce kicked him in the shin. Finally Grimme was able to snatch the child by his waist, haul him up and into his chest where he broke down sobbing. Grimme, panicking, could do nothing with Pierce in his arms and he was terrified of what could happen to Brìghde in Hogarth, which looked much different as a lone woman than it did with an armored, mounted escort.
“Come, Pierce,” Father Hercule said calmly, coaxing the boy from Grimme’s arms into his. “Your father needs to fetch Lady Bridget before something bad happens to her. She will come see you when she gets home. Mayhap she will bring you something.”
The boy was hiccuping so hard he couldn’t speak. Grimme stroked his forehead and said, “I promise you Lady Bridget will bring you a gift, and if you’re good, when she returns, she might let you visit her in her chambers.”
“Do—do—you, you, you—think—so, so, Papa?”
He had no idea. “I must find her first.”
Before she gets herself dragged off Troy and separated from him and her innocence forever.
But in the time it took Grimme to get Pierce inside with Father Hercule, his gambeson and mail on, his horse saddled, ten men were awaiting him to set out after her, riding hard.
She had stopped in Waters, the seamstress said, not an hour before.
They could make Hogarth in three quarters of an hour.
His heart had again stopped to see her penned in by unliveried soldiers, fondling her, fondling the horse, squeezing her in.
Then she’d stabbed the horses and Troy had taken off, rapidly picking his way through the mêlée like a seasoned battle horse.
Grimme simply sat and watched her bound away and around the corner after she finished roaring at him.
“Chase her down, my lord?”
He shook his head and pointed to his right. “She’ll be at the fountain to water Troy, and then she’ll want to stay to shop. Go back to Kyneward. We may spend a night or two, possibly three, so do not send out scouts until the fourth day.”
“Aye, my lord.”
Grimme took his time heading to the edge of town and going around it. Soon enough he was upon the very large square with the fountain in the middle of it. And there was Brìghde, in the doorway of the apothecary, with Troy’s reins in her other hand whilst she happily called her farewells and turned to stuff her purchase in the pack. She stopped cold when she saw Grimme blocking the road out of town and glared at him.
“Need help getting on your horse, Wife?” he called blithely.
“Not from you!” she snapped.
The north end of Hogarth, its most expensive part, was a very large, tidy square, with shops surrounding it, save for the entrance to the lane that led to the rest of the town. There were dead-end lanes off the square with many more shops. Unlike the middle part and south end of town, this end was clean, with lords and ladies all milling about, going from one shop to the other, stopping at the windows to admire the clever displays.
Brìghde glared at him as she led Troy across the wide square until she reached the pasty shop. Grimme casually clip-clopped along until they met just past the fountain.
“Shall I take your noble steed to the livery, my lady?” he mocked.
“Aye,” she snapped, threw the reins at him, and stalked the rest of the way into the shop.
He was still furious, but somehow she managed to make him laugh. He left to run his errand, and returned to find her sitting on the wall of the fountain devouring a hand pie. He sat beside her and held his hand out. She glared at him, but slapped one in it, the same way she had fed him from the back of his horse on the road from Fàileach.
They ate in silence. She took a long pull from the bladder she had produced, then handed it to him.
“Do not ever,” he said mildly, then took a bite of his pie, “come here alone again.”
“Do not ever,” she returned just as mildly, “invite yourself along on an outing with me and then simply not bother to inform me of your change of heart or fail to arrive at the appointed place and time.”
She glared at him expectantly.
“I’m sorry,” he muttered. “I was— Breakfast was—”
“Awkward?” she suggested with disdain. “The only person in that hall who should care about how you spent your night doesn’t. You acted as if you wanted me to be angry with you and were disappointed I did not glare and stomp at you. Oh, but wait. You were angry with me last night when you left my chambers. I deduce that you went straight to—” She waved a hand.
“Maebh and Ardith,” he supplied helpfully.
“I can’t remember their names and they all look alike.”
He started to laugh.
“And you left angry because I am right.”
He gestured around. “But when you’re wrong, you are extraordinarily wrong.”
“I don’t do things in half measures.” She started in on another pasty. “Have you talked to your father?” she said through her mouthful.
“No,” he said snidely. “I was too busy rescuing my wife from unsavory knights.”
“I would have stuck those rumps anyway. You just happened to arrive in time to witness my cleverness at getting myself out of scrapes. At least they didn’t abduct me from my wedding and then get angry because they abducted the wrong woman.”
“Sir John is very angry with me,” she muttered, turning away from him.
Then he heard the sniffle, and he leaned over to look in her face. His amusement faded.
She looked at him. Her face was splotchy. “He might as well have thrown the keys to the keep at me and told me the coin chest was mine and … now what am I supposed to do?”
“Be the castellain,” he murmured and rubbed her back. She sighed. “He is not angry at you. He is angry at himself.”
“I’ve been here barely a week,” she muttered, “and already the household is on its head. I thought it would take me at least a fortnight to tear everything apart.”
“Is that a good thing or a bad thing?”
“Well, bad, in fact. My mother would demand to know why it had taken me so long.”
He laughed and wrapped his hand around her arm and hugged her to his side. She laid her head on his shoulder and handed him another pasty. He ate in silence while his wife sulked. He finally finished, took the bladder she offered, washed it all down, then said, “We’d best see to your list if we want to get home by sundown. Otherwise, we will have to take an inn.”
“Why not,” she said flatly. “I will have to be measured and fitted and need a place to put all my purchases and—”
“If you like, we can inquire about carpenters.
“Oh!” she gasped. “And stewards and housekeepers and clerks?”
He nodded. “Whatever you want.”
“Wonderful!” she chirped, suddenly happy again. “Let’s get on with it, then, shall we?”