Love Beyond Compare
Book 5 of Morna's Legacy Series
I turned my head to find Adwen staring enviously at Orick's bowl of stew, and I smiled apologetically at him.
"Sorry, that's all that's left."
"Ach no, ye speak in jest, aye? The smell of it has made me hungry once again."
I shrugged, moving backward to lean against the wooden bar area that separated the dining room from the kitchen. "Nope. No jokes, here. It's really all gone."
Adwen's face dropped like that of a small child's, and he stood from his seat sulkily before replacing his frown with that same friendly smile he'd had on his face every time I'd swatted his hand away earlier. Moving with the authority of a king, he neared me, trapping me against the bar so that I couldn't slide either direction without bumping into one of his arms. I leaned far back over the table to avoid him.
"Just what do you think you're doing?"
He laughed and reached behind me, presenting the rag I'd dried my wax-scorched hands on.
"Ye have some flour on yer brow, lass—no doubt from when ye were baking the poisonous loaves of bread."
I closed my eyes, permitting him to brush the flour away. "They weren't poisonous—just disgusting."
"The smell of Orick's food has made me verra hungry, Jane. If ye have no food to feed me, perhaps ye can help me find satisfaction in some other way?"
Orick burst into laughter first, and it was only a second before I joined him. I doubled over with giggles, placing one palm on Adwen's chest to push him away. I tried to speak in between bouts of unstoppable laughter.
"Did you...Adwen, you can't be serious? Was that like a move or something? Were you hitting on me—asking me to sleep with you?"
He looked as if I'd slapped him, and I couldn't hide the satisfaction I felt at his irritation. Still, I had to admire how forthcoming he was with his answer.
"Aye, lass. I doona understand why it humors ye so, but 'twas precisely what I meant to ask ye. I think ye are beautiful, Jane."
I held up a hand to silence him. "Stop. Please, don't say anything else. Does that usually work for you?"
Orick's deep laughter seemed to echo off the walls. I feared he was close to the point of having stew come out of his nose. Adwen seemed to be unable to hear it.
"Aye, always. There has never been a time when it has no worked for me. Can I ask ye something, lass?"
In truth, I felt rather sorry for him. The look of shock and hurt on his face at my laughter and rejection was so genuine that I couldn't help but pity him. I'd not intended to hurt his feelings, but I'd sincerely thought him to be joking.
I pulled myself together and resumed my stance of leaning against the wooden bar. "Of course. Ask away."
"Have ye been in recent contact with a man named Griffith? He's a young lad, no more than seventeen. Did he agree to pay ye to deny me?"
I closed my eyes, pinching my lids together as I shook my head in astonishment. "What? No. Of course, not."
"Ye swear to me, lass?"
"Yes. I swear it. I have never met this man Griffith, and I am denying your offer of sex wholly without the incentive of payment."
Orick stood, finally gaining control over his own laughter as he walked to stand near us. He clasped his hand on Adwen's shoulder, seemingly as pleased as he could be.
"What did I tell ye, Adwen? She is too smart for ye. She willna fall for yer sweet, meaningless lies. She is no so desperate to fall into bed with a fellow like yerself."
"Fine." Adwen brushed Orick's hand from his shoulder, stepping back a pace to regard me at a safer distance. "Perhaps she's not like most lassies I've come across. I shall have to try honesty with her then."
"Honesty?" I looked back and forth between the two men, waiting for further explanation. "About what?"
"Lass, ye must allow me to bed ye."
I tried to keep my face as straight as possible. "Oh? And why exactly is that? Not that it matters, because my final answer is a resounding, no."
"Ye must, lass. If ye willna do so, ye sentence me to a lifetime as laird. I doona wish to be laird, Jane. I can assure ye that 'twill be a pleasing experience for ye, and I can see by the look in yer eyes that ye want to bed me as well. Ye show modesty for Orick's sake, so as no to embarrass the lad. Let me assure ye that there is no need."
I wasn't following anything that he said, so I chose to direct my attention to Orick. "What the hell is he talking about?"
"Well, I doona ken what he meant by the last part. Yer eyes look fair disgusted with him by my sight, but 'tis only that yer rejection has placed him in such shock, delusions have found him. What he means by the other part is that his brother made him a wager that he couldna sleep with a lass in every territory that we visit. If he is able to, his brother will return in five years time to serve as laird in Adwen's stead."
"You're joking? That's the stupidest and most disgusting bet I've ever heard."
"Aye, 'tis, but he's a damned fool, lass."
Adwen stepped in between Orick and myself to silence him.
"Shut yer mouth, Orick. Do ye no see that I'm standing right next to ye? I can reason with the lass myself. Jane, there's no need to be shy with me. If ye wish to bed me, there's no harm in that. I'll treat ye well and willna tell a soul."
I shook my head, thinking back on the past many months since I'd been in the seventeenth century. I'd not had sex in, by my count, more than eighteen months. My dreams had been so inundated with bare chested men and chiseled abs, I knew I was very much in need of a good roll in the hay. Before this strange, twisted evening, I would have sworn I'd jump at the chance to sleep with a man as handsome as Adwen, especially if he was so adamant about sleeping with me. But, as I stood before him, all I could think was, 'what a crazy, stupid, fool.'
"I am not being shy, Adwen. I don't wish to sleep with you at all."
He surprised me by suddenly reaching forward and grabbing onto my apron, pulling it toward him. I reached up and slapped him hard in the face before backing away to point a stern finger in his face.
"You get your hands off me right this instant or, I swear to you, I will shove your balls so far up your ass that you will never be able to 'bed' another 'lassie' for the rest of your life, do you understand me?"
He backed away guiltily, fear in his eyes as he held both hands up in surrender. "I was no going to touch ye, lass. I only meant to cut a piece of yer apron off."
"Why would you want a piece of my apron?"
"To take back to my brother, so that I can lie to him and tell him I bedded ye."
I reached down and covered the edges of my apron. "Nope. I'm not going to let you win that shameful, lowly bet that way. And word to the wise—maybe ask a girl before you yank her toward you like that, especially if it's just after you've asked her to sleep with you a half a dozen times."
"Ohhh...I like ye, lass. He's needed someone like ye to cross him for a verra long time." Orick stood to the side of us, grinning like a child on Christmas morning.
"Thank you, Orick. I'm finding myself to be very fond of you as well." As I smiled in his direction, fatigue seemed to suddenly catch up with me. I was done—physically, mentally, emotionally. I'd not had a day this stimulating in years.
"Now, I think we're done here, fellows. We've established that I like Orick, and Orick likes me and that you," I nodded in Adwen's direction, "Mr. Crazy-Horny-Douchebag, aren't getting any sex from me, so I think it's time we all call it a night. Come this way, and I'll show you both to your rooms."
© Bethany Claire