Birk led Carys to his desk, halting a few steps away. A piece of parchment lay upon the surface, held in place by an ink pot on one corner and a thick, leather-bound book at the other. The priest eyed him across the expanse, arms folded, hands hidden within the sleeves of his long brown robe and resting atop his round belly. The steward and his wife stood on either side of the priest, witnesses for the ceremony.
The priest turned his attention to Carys. “If the bride will give me her name, I will complete the contract.”
Lifting her chin a fraction, Carys avoided Birk’s gaze.
“Dinnae fash. He’s been well-compensated for overlooking the irregularities of the wedding.”
She blinked. “You bribed a priest?”
“Nae. Compensation comes after he performs the ceremony. Bribery would indicate payment before he does as I ask. I am not that foolish.”
Carys squared her shoulders and addressed the priest.
“Carys Wen, filia Pedr.”
Nodding, the rotund priest carefully inserted her name in the proper place on the document, with a bit of help in spelling from the bride.
Birk dropped Carys’s arm and stepped boldly to the desk. He plucked the quill from the stand and, dipping the tip in the ink, scrawled his name at the bottom of the parchment. With an instant of uncertainty, he handed the quill to Carys.
To his surprise, she waved it aside and approached the desk. Splaying her fingertips upon the wooden surface next to the parchment, she studied the contract.
She can read? Birk’s breath left him in a small whoosh. Shite!
Her shoulders stiffened and she ran one blunt fingernail over the parchment as if clarifying what she saw. Whirling, she pinned him with an enraged look.
“You lied to me?” She blinked furiously and drew a deep breath, stuttering once before she found the words she sought. “You lied to me! You aren’t the steward, or the captain of the guard, or even the head gaoler. You bastard! You’re the chief of Clan MacLean!”
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