“I um” she stuttered, unlike her typical smooth sentences, “I am fine.” She stared blankly at her left hand as she twisted her gold and diamond wedding ring on her slender finger. Fortunato had eavesdropped and interrupted rudely.
"Hmm," she replied. She eventually sorted out the laces and worked the nightgown off Merlin. She handed him clean underthings, which Merlin looked at with trepidation. To his relief, they weren't much different from male undergarments and he managed to get them on all right. Gwen slid the dress on over his shoulders, helping him get his arms in the right places. She did up the laces then helped him sit so she could slide the stockings and slippers
Perceval slid back into bed, but Joan stirred. With her eyes half open, she stared down at the tented bedsheet, obviously taking in Perceval’s erection. He cleared his throat and dropped his hands into his lap.
Perceval completed his morning patrol and changed from his knight’s garb. He knew he should wait until that evening to see Joan, but he couldn’t help himself. He needed to kiss her cheek and tell her he loved her. It would only take a moment, and then Joan could return to her tavern work.
Perceval spoke reassurances to the maid, but Joan didn’t hear the words. The old doubt began to creep in, those worries about losing Perceval. She thought she was past that, but her inner voice repeated the fears she’d tried to repress: “Get out now before your heart is complexly lost to him and he turns up dead.”
The sound of her pulse interrupted him. She had no choice now, as the heavy beating would only increase in speed and soon enough her breathing would shorten. The physical symptoms were always the hardest to explain, and she especially didn’t want to have to do it in front of those she barely knew. She stood quickly and stumbled past a group, barely getting out an “Excuse me,” as she passed.
“You were both in front of his room. Yes?” I said, firmly. “But! Tell me!” I added, in a lower voice, adorning it with a soft veil of mystery. “Who was there first? You or your Mistress?”
“Joan, I know you have everything under control. I’m not worried.” Carina sat back and stretched. “Instead, let’s talk about more pressing matter, such as how I should handle the marriage bed tonight.”
She pushed open the heavy wooden door and entered. Today, Perceval wore his tunic and he sat at the dining table reading a book. Joan was thrilled to see him more up-and-about, but a part of her had hoped to catch another