Twin Passions(5)

By: Miriam Minger

Lady Bronwen sighed as she smoothed an unruly curl from Gwendolyn's forehead, remembering the many times she had tried to convince her daughter to grow her hair long. Yet all her pleas had been for naught. Strong-minded like her father, Gwendolyn had insisted since childhood that long hair was a nuisance. Besides, she had not wanted to be an exact replica of her twin sister, Anora. A bright smile at her father had always ended the argument, and Gwendolyn once again managed to have her way. Lady Bronwen shook her head. She truly feared that perhaps Godric had spoiled this daughter overmuch. Her wild escapade tonight was proof of that!

'Tis hard to believe so many years have passed . . . and so quickly, she thought, reflecting on her eighteen years of marriage to Earl Godric. Their union     had produced twin daughters, just turned seventeen, and one son who had died at childbirth. A flicker of sorrow passed across Lady Bronwen's lovely face. Her heart still ached at the thought of the lost child, a pain she had carried since his death.

Yet it was her husband, deprived of his only son, who had thrilled at the early interest displayed by Gwendolyn in such masculine pursuits as riding, hunting, and archery. He had encouraged her, and before long she had become proficient at all of them. Her skill and accuracy with all manner of small weapons, especially the knife, were well known. She had even accompanied her father on his twice-yearly hunts for wild boar, and had taken great delight in the dangerous sport. Never once had she shown the least bit of fear.

Ever the doting parent, Earl Godric had even allowed Gwendolyn to wear a boy's clothing, specially made to fit her slender form. She had taken to them happily, relishing the ease of movement the woolen shirts and breeches afforded her. From then on, Lady Bronwen had always been hard pressed to get Gwendolyn to wear a proper lady's tunic and mantle.

"'Tis no wonder Gwendolyn has such a rebellious nature," Lady Bronwen murmured resignedly. Finding a husband for her tempestuous daughter would indeed be a task. He would have to be a strong man to tame her, yet wise enough not to break her courageous spirit. She wondered if there was such a man . . .

A soft knock at the door broke into her thoughts. Glancing over her shoulder, she saw Anora waiting expectantly. "Come in, love," she whispered, beckoning to her.

Anora walked quietly across the room, her eyes wide with apprehension. "Is she well?" she asked fearfully.

"Aye," Lady Bronwen answered, noting the anxious concern radiating from her daughter's emerald eyes.

Anora's delicate shoulders slumped with relief. "Could I stay with her awhile, Mother?"

"Nay, Anora, I think 'tis best that Leah stay with her this night," Lady Bronwen replied gently. "I have already sent for her." Seeing the disappointment on her daughter's face, she continued gently. "Tomorrow will be a long day for you, Anora, and you must rest well tonight. I am sure you would want to look your best for Wulfgar's arrival."

Lady Bronwen smiled at the sudden blush in Anora's cheeks. She had no doubt that her daughter would be the fairest woman at the betrothal feast —well, save for one, she amended quickly, gazing at Anora's mirror image sleeping peacefully in her bed. Together her twin daughters made a radiant pair, neither surpassing the other in beauty, but equal in loveliness of face and form.

"Aye, Mother, you are right," Anora murmured. "Good night, then." She bent and kissed Lady Bronwen's cheek, then turned just as Leah walked into the candlelit room. "Good night, Leah," she said softly. With one last look at her sister, Anora left as quietly as she had come.

"'Tis time you also rested, my lady," Leah admonished gently, having overheard their conversation. She clucked her tongue disapprovingly as she walked to the bed. What kind of trouble had the lass gotten herself into this time?

Lady Bronwen seemed to read her thoughts. "Now, Leah, let us not judge too harshly," she murmured, trying, unsuccessfully, to suppress a smile. The faithful maid had been with the family for many years, and had no qualms about speaking her mind, especially when it came to Gwendolyn. "Would you sit with her this night? I would remain myself, but there is still so much to be done before the betrothal feast tomorrow."

"Go on with ye, my lady. I will see to the lass," Leah reassured her. Aye, she had seen both Anora and Gwendolyn through many a fever, but from what she could tell so far, there was no illness this night. "And mind you, get some rest yourself, my lady," she repeated, noting with concern the faint circles under her mistress's eyes.

Lady Bronwen nodded, then rose from her chair. She leaned over and lightly kissed Gwendolyn's cool forehead. "She seems to be fine now, but if she should call out for me, or grow feverish—"

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