“Get inside, Emilia.”
Her father’s firm tone made her shudder with fear. Emilia couldn’t take her eyes away from their unwanted guests galloping horses toward them through the field, carrying flags with King Henry’s crest. They came for Father. No, this can’t be happening.
Father grabbed her shoulders. “Inside now, daughter.”
With an obedient nod, Emilia stepped back and ran across their golden wheat field as fast as her legs let her. Behind her, she heard the heavy hooves coming closer. Under her feet the ground vibrated and shook. Hot tears streamed down her cheek, her heart drummed, and she stopped long enough to take a deep breath. Behind her men put thick metal shackles around her father’s wrists. A cry stuck in her dry throat.
“No,” she whispered into the cool spring breeze.
No longer able to stand, Emilia fell to trembling knees. With a bent head, she murmured to herself, “Why must you take him too?”
An unfamiliar masculine voice spoke near her. The tall man who had come to arrest her father sat his horse beside her, his hazel eyes sparkling in the early morning sunlight.
A mixture of anger and fear made her heart race anew. “My lord.” The words stumbled out of her lips.
She bent her head after quickly taking in the sight of the man’s expensive garments, fur collar, and long golden chain hanging from his neck. On his belt, a fine quality sword bore an emerald incrusted hilt. The dark green stone caught her eye. She had never seen a beautiful jewel before today. The fine quality of his leather boots as he stepped on the ground, she had seen only once in all her life. Father could never afford those kind of luxuries for himself or his family, but she had never complained. She and her brother had all they needed.
Emilia’s heart gave a start when the man’s warm thumb and forefinger closed on her chin. He lifted her face. Their eyes met and locked. He didn’t speak while staring at her with intent eyes. What did he want with her?
Again, she saw the sparkle in his hazel eyes. If anything happened to her father, she wanted to remember forever the face of the man who had taken him away. She concentrated on his full masculine lips, the small scar along his left cheek, and his square chin, committing them to her memory.
“You must be the traitor’s daughter.”
She straightened her back and stared with defiance into his eyes. “Where are you taking my father?” she managed to ask through the thickness in her throat.
The man released his light grip from her chin. “The London Tower to await trial.”
“Trial? Why?” Emilia cleared her throat and remembered her manners. She didn’t want this man to arrest her as well. “Please tell me, sir, what my father has done.”
He studied her from head to toe. “Stuart Crawford has participated with others at the Pilgrimage of Grace.” Looking over his shoulder, he added, “Such an offense toward the king is punishable by law.”
Emilia’s heart sank in her chest. “My father has not hurt anyone.”
“That might be so, Mistress Crawford, but it is my duty to deliver him to London. I cannot change the royal orders.”
Did she detect a note of sincere regret in his low baritone?
She closed her eyes for a moment, pushed back the tears threatening to leave her eyes and the anger rising a bit more within her gut. Her whole world collapsed under her feet. She opened her eyes and asked with her calmest tone, “Please, sir, release my father. He is an old man, and he needs me.”
After a moment of hesitation, the king’s man shook his head. “I’m sorry.” His eyes locked again with hers. “If you need anything else, you may ask me. In the meantime, I’ll see your father is well treated.”
“What is your name, sir?”
“Sir Jamie Kingsley,” he replied, offering his hand for her to stand.
In his intense gaze, she saw honesty and a hint of kindness. She joined her hand to his long, warm fingers. A jolt of heat raced up her arm and infused her body with heat. Before losing herself in his hazel orbs, she pulled her shaky hand from his.
“I will send you a missive letting you know about your father. I bid you farewell.”
She gave a quick nod and watched Jamie Kingsley mount his dark brown horse and rode toward the other men. Why did Sir Kingsley show me kindness? She almost believed him. She shook her head and concentrated her thoughts on getting her father freed from the king’s hands.