Barnard stood on the balcony outside the bedroom window, looking in and watching her sleep. The night was deep and the stars hid in the sky like diamonds on velvet. A warm breeze had swept up from the south.
He watched as she tossed and turned in her shimmering nightgown. She was dreaming again. The nightmares came to her often and just as often she would cry out his name. Then he would go, and sit beside her, and comfort her until she fell back to sleep.
He understood her anguish. Torn between two men, two lives. She had placed his hand over her beating heart and told him, “It’s being ripped in two.” He had held her and felt her anguish, and now he watched her toss in her sleep, another night of restlessness.
He turned and looked across the hills and valleys northward. He wasn’t exactly sure what he was going to do at that moment, but he had to do something, and so he tucked her in between the furs and kissed her cheek and went down the stairs to the stable.
The ride was quiet through the woods. The lights of Roxeter dimmed and twinkled over the hill. He approached the brothel quietly, keeping to the grass, then tethered the horse to a limb and got down. For the first time since coming to these lands, he entered the building.
Barnard walked quietly through the deserted brothel. Baylee and the others were at the castle celebrating Bryantt’s recovery. The sound of music filtered from the village to the valley below. Everything seemed calm, except his heart.
He hated the brothel. He always had. He had never set foot in the building until now.. The floorboards reeked of sweat and stale beer. A basket of stained sheets waited by the door. Barnard held his hand to his face, inhaling the scent of a bit of lavender he’d plucked from along the road to cover the stench.
She had been here, he realized, his Karissa. Plying the men with drink, seducing them, taking her clothes off for them, letting them touch her in places… He shuddered. All to fill Bryantt’s coffers, to pay for his clothes and trinkets, for his booze and his women. He kept her as a whore while he… Barnard had to stop those thoughts. The anger was too great.
Grabbing a small keg, he turned and hurled it at the dark, cold fireplace, shattering the keg and spilling its contents across the wooden floor. A moment of relief, but only a moment. In the hour that followed he went from room to room, smashing the kegs, the bottles, the barrels, then going upstairs and slicing the sheets and pillows and mattresses with his sword. He raged like a wild bull. He hated this place and what it did to her.
He raged out of control until he couldn’t breathe.
Too exhausted to think, he walked up to the fireplace and calmly took a single match from the tin and struck it, then he turned and walked out the door, tossing the match behind him.
The flames licked hungrily through the spilled alcohol as he walked away and mounted his horse. “Damn you to hell, Bryantt Sands” he muttered as he rode off into the night.
Across the valley, the music from the castle continued to play.