A swat of arm cleared the cloth of door from his path as Vincent stormed into his tent.  His squire, who had fought to keep pace not far behind, wisely remained outside.  de Beauvais paused in the middle of his tent, drawing in a deep breath and as he released it, his chin dipped to rest on the heat of armor at his neck.  With that attempt to calm his anger, he laced fingers through the mat of sweat dampened hair at his forehead and strode forward to a table where wine awaited him.  He never cared for that particular spirit.  Unpredictable.  But it did seem to match the mood of the day.

         This was madness and she knew it but still her feet were driven towards Vincent's tent. Many were pushed out of the way as needed without a second thought. Julia was acting on impulse. Pure and simple. By the time she neared the tent, a logical thread of thought managed through the emotion the whole tournament had set in place along with other events. Why would she show up here in none other than Vincent deBeauvais' tent? Of all men NOT to or receive his disdain for being the silly female she surely was being at the moment. The thought paused her step only once as she noted one of the physicians heading towards the tent also. An idea sprang to life and was acted upon. She whisked by grabbing his healing bag of poultices, instruments and bandages. "I'll take that." No time given for an argument as she proceeded to rushed by the guard and into the dimmer light of the tent.

         The bag was clutched to her chest like a shield and even her excuse to use. The guard outside had stopped the real physician not believing him without his bag and so an argument was going on behind them. "Vincent!" Was all she got out as she wanted to see for herself he was all right. It was there in her eyes, unmasked, the concern and even caring.

         His hand hadn't made it to the decanter, his name and the voice which spoke it, slanted his gaze over his shoulder.  "If you come to harp at me for, once more, removing myself from confrontation, you need not, Julia."  His own reply was low, a rumble of warning as he turned back to his previous task.  His fingers closed around the crystal decanter and the dark, red liquid began to fill a glass.

         Lips shifted into an indignant cast as well the look he so easily mustered in most women. "It has never been my intent to harp on you but you have a way of setting one onguard." Boldly it might be said, she stepped closer and off to his side. Fingers loosened their death grip on the bag as it was lowered to the table to set. "I came to see to your wounds." Only a heartbeat in pause. "I am trained as my mother saw fit for she said it was a good gift to have and may come in handy for most men battled." Only then came the slant of turquoise eyes up his way. That concern still there.

         He saw the concern and he preferred not to although, as he lifted his glass that dark gaze remained on her a moment longer than it normally would have.  He heard the confrontation outside his tent with a low groan.  "What I need is to free myself of this armor, soak the sweat from my ba ..." The rant ceased as he marked his words. "Back and see us safely home to Heathfield.  Did you enjoy your first tournament, Julia?"  Vincent had no doubts in his mind he needed more attention than just that which he mentioned.  He felt the bruise beneath the armor, it covered the whole side of his chest but it would not be Julia who tended it.  He sucked down the wine in that glass then turned to pour another.  Since he only had the one glass, the refill was offered to the daring woman who had entered where guard and squire had dared not.

         She stared a moment for she never saw him imbibe other than one tankard of ale. Idle noting and distracted from it as he spoke. She viewed the armor and the fastenings as she stepped closer to start undoing the ones along the side that held the two plates together. "If you mean having my heart in my throat one moment then down to my feet the next, yes." She was still trying to digest all this emotional tumbling she'd just experienced. "You were so magnificent..." Not knowing how else to say how impressed she was even if scared to death at the same time.

         His arm lifted at the elbow, watching as the small woman pressed her luck even more by actually beginning to free him from the weight of his chosen profession.  The glass filled with wine was held high, carefully balanced not to spill down on her while she worked.  The argument outside had ceased and the voices that did seep into the privacy of the tent were far away or indiscernible.   Silence, for the most part, filled the tent as Vincent watched the woman pluck away as if she'd done this before.  He didn't respond to her opinion of his skill though her words prior to their departure still littered his memory.  "...but..."  There had to be more.  No woman could form and speak a sentence that was only four words long and, there was always more to any such comment of praise. 

         She looked like some street urchin by now. Cheeks still held that heightened rosy hue. The plaiting of her hair had come unraveled as most hung loose while parts looped in some places indicated it had been neatly plaited to start. One breastplate latch was undone of three on this side as the second was found to be more stubborn. It was where the lance had put a good kink and jarred it closed. Her bottom lip was tucked between her teeth in a grimace as she worked. Still the determination was there too in the way her eyes were locked upon what her fingers were doing. She didn't want to yank it free nor press into him so it was not easy to balance this jiggling to loosen it. Bottom lip was soon released as the tip of her tongue now peeked between her lips when it gave way with a minimal last tug. Only then she glanced up as the peek of her tongue slipped back where it belonged and the last of the three was started upon. Fingers stilled a moment with his question, that -but-.. as blue eyes met his dark ones. "You scared me to death you'd get hurt." She look quickly back to what she was doing as the last came unfastened, rather than see any disdain in his eyes for the admission.

         A grunt of discomfort escaped as his ribs were relieved of the pressure from the damaged chest plate.  His arm lowered as she accomplished the loosening of that side and he held the glass of wine out to her.  Once she accepted it, his now freed hand slid beneath the protection of iron and the chinks of chain mail to kneed the abused flesh beneath.  There was a bruise there to be sure.  One that would not soon be disappearing.  "Ah yes, considering I usually take a beating on the field, no matter my proficiency."  Vincent took over where she left off, able to move with more ease now that the one side was freed.  The outer layer of black armor was removed but the weaved weight of mail beneath he kept on.  Placing some distance between them, he moved to a chair, there to shed the layer of armor at his legs. "No doubt you were ... concerned."

         The wine glass was curled into her hand as she held it for him. She was tempted to drink it all down after the emotional ride she had taken but she refrained. "Well, yes. In spite of your proficiency which is legendary, there is the King that can best you on the field." She watched him move away as he wine glass was now set near the decanter before she was heading for the basin of water and soap. "I can see to bathing you. I have be..." A near faux pas that was quickly corrected. "I was trained." That should suffice as a sponge was dipped into the cool water.

         This was no secret to him nor did he care for her need to watch her words.  It was just the two of them and any who may or may not be eavesdropping could be damned.   It was his present mood.  Then again, it was his usual temperment.  "I'm well aware, Julia."  To have her clear away the sweat and grime of the field was no more than that.  Still, he shook his head.  "I appreciate your offer, but I will respectfully decline."  The thigh plates were placed to the side and he began unwrapping the padding beneath, canting a look her way.  "Spend some time with the Lady Desaulniers, Julia.  We will be leaving first light come morning."

         Well, she was dismissed but nicely. At least he hadn't berated her nor even argued. She would show him the same respect. Luckily she wasn't questioned on how she was trained. That was a story she'd rather not relate. It was in the past and the worse beating she'd gotten during that decade of imprisonment. Her hand eased from the water as the sponge was wrung out and set to the side. "I will respectfully seek out the Lady Desaulniers. She is very nice." Julia liked her so that request was made easily to accept. She started to leave but on an impulse still to linger she averted her steps once more to approach as he bent to see to the thigh padding. A kiss was touched upon his cheek as it could be reached. "Thank you." Spoken close before lifting as she straightened. A curtsey given in all due respect as a lady to a champion before she was around on a heel to head out leaving him to his privacy.

         The kiss, most certainly, came as a surprise and though he wasn't a man of many words, those few he may have responded to her departure were stolen by the fact she had, once again, toed the line she knew was drawn and then ... crossed it.  The motion of his hands stopped and he watched as she prepared to step from the tent and leave him to his solitude.  The Lady Desaulniers was more than nice.   Even Vincent could appreciate she was a Lady to be admired and respected.  One Julia could enjoy the company of.  The company of Vincent de Beauvais could never measure up to that.  Though his victory deemed it necessary he attend the ball tonight, he actually looked forward to going for once that was over, they would, at last, be on their way back to Heathfield.

         It was as the opening to the tent was reached she paused to glance over her shoulder to where he stood. She smiled. One that was warm and came naturally. She felt better since he was indeed fine even if bruised up. Next moment she was out and on her way directly to catch up with the Lady Desaulniers if they were still on the tournament field. She knew Garath would wait for her.

Tournament Ball

         The ball was yet another splendor put on by Desaulniers.  Food.  Music.  Guests dressed in their finest.  The atmosphere of the room surged with enthusiastic energy.  Following a feast befitting a King, there was music suitable for a Queen.  Vincent claimed the first dance with the Lady Traugott, and from there, every dance with her was requested by the other men for the remainder of the evening.  Vincent had sought out the hands of the castle's healer, yet he refrained from dancing as much as his position would allow without offending Desaulniers.  For the most part, he listened as the nobles rattle on to him about their lives ... all the same ... nothing new.  He watched the dancing as Julia enjoyed the music and the attentions of the men eager to take a turn with her around the floor.  A nod to the group gathered near him, a lift of his glass. Dark eyes on the couples dancing.

         At least her emotions had found their lull after the day's events so that she could enjoy the one dance with Vincent, even if required by him to fulfill proper etiquette obligations. She knew this would be the last for after this night they would be riding back to Heathfield and once more it would be different between them. Not that there was anything between them, it was still more than the usual and she decided to relish this small amount of time allotted. 

She made sure all her steps were correct and smoothly taken, leaving him to lead as she followed. She was surprised to be asked by others and sometimes handed off from one to another. Each time she would turn to take her leave only to find another man cordially asking for a dance. She figured it must be some requirement. Finally she felt she had a chance to escape back to her group when another crossed her path as she turned to step away at the start of another dance being tuned up.

         "Lady Traugott."  The arm extended to her was clothed in deep maroon, a creamy frond of lace sprouting from the cuff of the sleeve.  "It seems as if fate has delivered you, at last, to my side.  You have danced with the victor, would you honor the vanquished as well with a turn?"  Alexandre dared not to press the lady here, in public.  His show was one of courtly manners and etiquette.  If she denied him, she'd be the one to step from the box of propriety.  The music swirled around them, inviting.  The mood of the room encouraged the dance.  Alexandre Wickline knew how to outmaneuver the prey.  She would either dance with him, and he'd have his victory.  Or she'd deny him, appear less than noble, this woman who accompanied de Beauvais...and he'd have his victory.  He had not arrived at this tournament to leave ... without victory.

         Of all the people, deviant, bloke, scoundrel, rat, she would normally have given him a murderous look but she was so caught by surprise. He had not been seen all night and it was rumored he'd not show his face for what happened. She found she was only staring at him in disbelief and barely hearing his words. One step back was taken defensively, naturally. Her last partner was still standing there watching. A cordial and polite man as she heard his voice come low by her ear. "It would not do not to dance with the man no matter the discourse, Lady Julia." She could feel the light press of his hand encouraging her forward. Perhaps he knew she was not so worldly in these games of intrigue.

         A glance given up from over a bared shoulder for his words only to find his eye contact with Alexandre's rather than hers. There was some kind of challenge going on in the look between the two before the man gave a dip of his head to her before finally moving off into the crowd. She whipped a glance from him back to Alexandre then one over to where the Desaulniers were. Lady Desaulniers gave a discreet nod of her head too as Julia then steeled herself. She could not look towards Vincent or Garath and have it returned as they seemed to be in conversation at the moment. All right, it was only one dance. She could do this. If her hand trembled she hid it well with its graceful lift to barely touch upon the arm offered. "Yes, of course Lord Wickline." She refused to use his given name nor would she use the word pleasure in accepting the dance. She could deal with one dance.

         Whether his ear was turned to the conversation or not, Vincent had noticed Wickline's arrival and his course straight to Julia.  That Judith had craned her neck away from the spin of her current dance partner to watch wasn't noticed by Vincent.  He reached to the side to place his glass on a nearby table and started to take a step forward to intervene.

         Garath, who had first noticed Vincent's frown deepen, then followed that dark gaze to the source, shifted his position during the discussion underway to block the path of the king's man.  "Vincent, I hear that ..."  He was successful in receiving the scowl that had originally been for Alexandre, and with that, thwarted the initial instinct for action.  Garath, however, wasn't prepared for the fact that the music changed, mid-tune, to the melody all the dancers usually waited with great anticipation to hear.  Lyon's didn't finish his statement as all eyes now moved to the dance floor for this particular dance.  He was able to fully attempt to keep Vincent on the sidelines. "She can handle this, Vincent."

         Vincent growled what could only be a curse beneath his breath and stormed away to refill the glass instead of watching what was soon to be taking place.

         "I am honored."  Wickline took the place of her former partner, moving her to the center of the floor.  No sooner had they arrived, his hand coming to rest at her waist, then the music slowed, changed, prepared for the Lady Desaulnier's creation.  His head dipped as it should, close to her ear.  "And I thought I could not be more blessed than to have a dance with you ... and now this."

         Julia was sorely tempted to stiffen and make sure every step landed on his foot. Miss step, stumble, all kinds of faux pas whirled but she knew if she did after having seen her dance before it would not go unnoticed and still break etiquette. She remembered her mother's words when she had asked.. 'What if a most despicable man asks me to dance?' The response was that it would breach etiquette not to accept in such an event as this. It would be the same as taking a glove to slap across the one's face. Julia could picture doing that to Alexandre, however. Although, her mother had added that she need only accept one dance to sate propriety and after that not required.

         So lost in how to get away she had not realized what dance was about to take place. She could feel the color drain from her cheeks as he drew her close. Why couldn't it have been some waltz you kept exchanging partners? One dance. Repeated. Then an idea to pretend he was someone else but who? Wouldn't do to be someone she actually cared for so he became Morris, the stoic guard that always gave her a cordial greeting in passing. Alexandre was now Morris the Guard. Mind games like this she was use to playing to keep her sanity long ago. "How grand.." Taking that opportunity to look towards the other dancers and giving him her profile instead. At least she didn't get to see the repulsion in her eyes in contradiction to the word used making it sarcasm. She would not give him privy to that for that is what he wanted.

         Alexandre guided her around, her back to his front, and as his head returned to dip at her neck, his gaze drifted over to the area where de Beauvais had been noted.  When he was not found there, Alexandre smiled, his hand smoothing along the length of the lady's arm to lift it and the music continued.  "How is it that you find yourself in the company of de Beauvais and Lyons?"  His words were low, not to interfere with the seductive flow of the rhythm.  Each move taken slowly, intentionally, fully following the required steps of the dance yet ... perhaps enjoying them more than he should.

         Arm would lift gracefully with his guide but automatically with having danced the dance before. However, it was far different this time. She had hoped he would not go into small talk but there it was. Was he trying to dig out information? She didn't know how to lie outright so she would have to be curt and vague. "They know my brother." That was safe, let it seem they were only baby sitting her and no real connection to use her as some means against them. She knew it would also make her seem more a child and this was not appealing to a man, or so she hoped. The mental ruse of Morris or not, she found she didn't like the warmth of his breath along her bared shoulder or neck. It gave her a sickening feeling which also made her realize something else... a breath was a breath? ...not so. Alexandre was no where near the quality of men Garath and Vincent were. That was what made the difference. If he was trying to be seductive he would find her clinical, each motion precise in the flow of the music but without that other quality.

         Her answer would suffice for now as he drew in the scent of her, his palm soaking in the feel of her.  She knew the dance well as did he.  He also knew she held herself from the full enjoyment of the seductive moves ... though he would not.  Each stroke, each turn, each time his gaze caught a glimpse of the woman she was, his pleasure mounted.  The music ended all too soon.

         Each stroke, each turn only added to the growing sickening feel that was fed deep in the coiling of her stomach. All too quick she stepped back as the last note barely finished. "Thank you Lord Wickline for the dance. I must excuse myself to refresh." That was the term used she hoped to finding the privy. She would go there even if she need not really go, she needed to get as far from him as possible for she noted too Garath nor Vincent could presently be seen. The curtsey came low as was expected but it was quick for she knew of the view it gave in the low cut gown. She was up in one graceful flow that had her turning on a slippered foot before she wove her way through the crowd and the first corridor she spotted others had taken. She gave him no recourse to stop her.

         But he attempted to, reaching out a hand and when he failed to capture her flight, Wickline then started through the crowd.  This too he found he would not accomplish since the bodies of guests seemed to create a solid shield against his chase.

       ....And then there was Garath Lyons.  "Lord Wickline, it is interesting to find the night finds you well."

       Even though Wickline shifted from left to right to see around Lyons, the wolf had lost the scent of the fleeing hare.

         Her heart leaped into her throat as she felt the man actually following her with a quick glance over her shoulder. The corridor she originally was going to take ended up being some other one as she wove through the crowd in a way there was no set pattern to where she was headed. Even she had not realized she'd taken another but after winding her way down the hall with the many turns and adjacent ones, she realized she was lost. She could only hope to come upon someone to guide her in the right direction.

       "Really, Monty, you are a wicked drunk."  The woman's words belied the seduction in her tone as she backed from one of the curtained
alcoves out into the hall.  The blonde curls which were once pinned properly in place now dangled in disarray created by fumbling fingers.  She slid the neckline of her gown up, desire filled laughter tinkling from lips swollen and smeared with passion's kiss.  "Do you think you can find my rooms as expertly as you found my ... " Her teasing words, tempting the man on, ended abruptly as she spun to dash away and came face to face with a woman wandering the halls.  A woman she had only just moments before saw in the arms of Alexandre Wickline.

       It seemed just moments before, but Judith knew how long the dance was.  She had lost track of time.  She opened her mouth to speak, but Stanford Montevale stumbled from the small hidden compartment, shifting the cloth at his crotch to ease the pressure there and coming up behind her to wrap an arm around.  He didn't seem to care about the other woman there.  Why should he?  "I'll find more than that, Judy, Judy, Judy."  His statement was slurred, and stained with a mixture of lust and lush.  The sharp elbow that found his well-padded ribs created a grunt of pain, but he didn't release her, only tightened his hold.  "That way is it?"  "My Lord...please."  Judith wriggled from his
grip, turning to face him as she came up alongside Julia, a faint shake of her head to hopefully deter him from his quest ... at least for now.

         Of all the luck in finding someone it would be two in a tryst in the hall no less. Words spoken coupled with actions would usually have her blushing but she was too distraught being lost and at least it wasn't Wickline. Some man named Monty. Usually such women as this one appeared to be would not mind the question but show off their gain of the night and wave the one off with the knowledge needed. Julia had not missed the words nor the woman covering up her exposed breasts even if only caught towards the end. Next she was near colliding with the woman as she started to ask where the ladies room was located but barely got two words out. "Can you..."

         Surprise once more as blue eyes went wide for it was none other than Judith. She certainly recognized the viper and here she was with another man. No question on that as the one emerged from the alcove to have his arm around her. She didn't stay to ask as she was skirting around their little rendezvous on quickened feet. She would rather wander lost than speak with that woman after what she had done. The question never came fully as she headed down the corridor beyond them to get as far away as possible. Luck would have her this time as she turned a corner to see the ball room once more down its other end.

         The tick of hurried steps soon followed Julia.  Judith had sent Monty off in search of her rooms while she promised to find him shortly with champagne and melted chocolate.  Such a sinful waste, the delicious chocolate of the monks on a body such as Stanford's, but he was willing, and eager, and Judith did not wish to spend the evening with the disgrace that was now Wickline's to bear.  She caught up with Julia not far down that corridor, passing her to stand before her.  She didn't even bother to straighten her hair, pass the tip of a finger along the smear of lipcream which was smudged at the corner of her lips.  "Where are you going?"  Did the woman mean to seek out her husband and inform him of the intrigue underway?

         Judith could move fast, Julia gave her credit there but Judith was on a mission of which Julia would not understand the intricate workings of. A brow was up as steps came to an abrupt halt with the woman now blocking her way. A glance beyond her shoulder showed there were ones still in the banquet room. There and back as there was no veiling her dislike of this woman in viewing her as exactly what she was. A two bit adulteress. "I don't see where any of my comings and goings are of any concern of yours." She bit back any other retorts that would bite about the man waiting to drool on her shouldn't be kept waiting. Julia didn't care what this woman did as long as she left the ones she cared about alone. For her small size, Julia was strong as she shoved her right out of her way while moving onward again towards the banquet hall. This time she was aware of that click and kept a faster pace ahead.

         Judith pitched to the side, her hand finding the support of the wall in order not to fall.  "Yours may not be of mine ... but mine ... may be of yours!"  She called after the retreating woman.  "Vincent will be thinking of me, whether in fantasy or in hate, but he will be thinking of me ... when he's holding you!"  Julia wasn't that far away that Judith had to shout, the music in the ballroom would mask her words to any but the one intended.  The bustle of the servants as they cleared the banquet hall was of little concern to Judith.  It was this woman ... this woman who spent time with Vincent, who had her digging her nails into the palms of her hands as she formed fists of control.

         She reached the opening as those words also reached having her spin around to face that woman from a good distance. She knew the words were intended to hurt but how could they hurt one when not the truth? Vincent didn't hold her in his arms as a lover even if this woman didn't know that. It was preposterous. Julia liked Vincent this she admitted to herself and herself only, but to think anything more was a fool's game and a way to hurt what they had as friends. Vincent was not drawn to her but it was amusing this woman thought so. She almost envisioned what the other woman saw. Vincent holding her in a lover's embrace....no, she would not let such thoughts plague. The whole idea this woman did had the response of Julia laughing. Rich lilting laughter that filled the hall and even spill out into the banquet room. Judith on the other hand would take it as her laughing at her. It worked in Julia's benefit as she turned back and stepped out into the ballroom to find Garath and Vincent or at least one of them.

       That laugh ate away at her like a plague in her blood and, when the woman didn't respond, didn't dispute or agree to the information, but simply turned and rejoined the celebration, Judith rushed forward, her hand gripping the wood of the doorframe to look within and find her ... and to where she went.  This Traugott woman probably didn't know de Beauvais as Judith knew him.  She didn't know that Vincent had once killed a man ... for her!  Had he shared that with her?  Did she know his secrets as Judith did?  Were the words whispered in confidence as he shared his body, the heat of his lips, the fire which coursed through the blood with the stroke of his hand?  "Fie on you." She hissed, cursing the Lady Traugott, or Vincent de Beauvais or ... herself?  A soft whimper followed and she spun to return to her rooms, and the man she would attempt to pretend could measure up to one such as the tournament's champion.

         No. Julia didn't even know a man's kiss. Any man. She didn't know how her laughter would plague the woman either. She never even looked back as that hiss was devoured by the sounds of laughter and conversation. Clueless and innocent. Although Julia knew no matter what even if she had known, Vincent was a good man. She understood men had to do what they had to do in certain circumstances that left a choice between two evils. Niklas had to, Aleric had to it and would not surprise her in the least if Vincent had to also. She saw the two still here, she knew they would not leave without seeing her safely to their room. Had they noticed she was missing? She would probably find out when she crossed that distance weaving her way back to where they stood.

         Garath had kept Alexandre in conversation until Julia could make her escape, but Vincent had marked her retreat.  With Wickline here, the threat was subdued.  Vincent waited for Julia to return.  When she did, his gaze went from the hurried entrance to the doorway, where he found Judith not far behind.  From one woman to the other that dark regard passed before he was, once again, setting his glass aside and now crossed to her.  "I would rather you remember this trip pleasantly, My Lady."  Judith was gone, but that didn't keep Vincent from looking toward the empty doorway a final time.

         "I would rather also." It didn't pass over her head as she knew where he was looking and who had been there. Maybe Judith's words were correct and the man pined after her as she did him. Pity that would be for the woman was undeserving and he more deserving. Still, it was none of her business, right? Right. She debated to tell him then decided not. The woman would probably hoped she would and score another point. She had the information of what transpired if needed for the right reasons. No. If Vincent was going to pine after Judith she would not feed it by making him more jealous she was all over another man and he upon her. Still, there was an emotion that coiled as she turned to Garath. He was her safety zone here it was becoming apparent in her thoughts, ones not spoken on. "It has been a long day and we rise early to leave do we not?" Was she keeping them for getting lost? Probably. That at least could be remedied.

         The hand that lifted to rest on her arm to steady her, ground her, lowered away before making contact as Garath joined them and Julia claimed the evening at an end.  Vincent couldn't decipher her words as well as she could his.  The dark gaze narrowed with her dismissal, he nodded, then he snapped his attention from Julia to look over to Garath.  "I'll go speak with the men, Lyons.  We shall leave as soon as the Lady is ready in the morning."  A flicker of notice touched once more on Julia and he dipped his head toward her.  He left them, knowing Garath would be her safety zone all the way to her room, and offered his words of respectful departure with the Lord and Lady of the House.

         Even before Vincent spoke the words, Garath stepped closer to Julia, an arm offered.  "Do not mind him, M'Lady."  Not that she did, but this was Garath's way. "Tomorrow will give him plenty of time in your lovely company and he can cease his growling for having to share you tonight.  Come.  We'll speak our farewells to Desaulniers and his wife since we will be departing before the morning repast."

         She was more than tired and this game of intrigue she was thrown into wore on her nerves. Ones already frayed. She wanted to cry for some reason and couldn't. Wouldn't. She would not be able to give a reason why if caught. "Thank you Vincent." No stuffy title or just his surname. It was Garath she would turn to and trust as eyes watered after Vincent made his departure and out of earshot. "Garath, there is something maybe you should know. I do not know what to make of it and you are far wiser than I." Her hand placed on his arm as she spoke for maybe he could help her unravel the craziness she felt tangled up in.

         Rather than continue on to pay their respects to the lord and lady, Garath eased Julia from the room by way of the door she had entered from and into the quieter corridor without.  The back of his knuckles passed in a soothing caress along the shape of her face.  He hadn't missed the swell of unshed tears in her eyes.  "Speak to me, My Lady." His concern was sincere.

         In the quiet of the corridor she told him best she could have the confusion of this night. "In my effort to thwart Wickline from following me, I took the wrong corridor and got lost in a web of them." So easy to do in an unknown castle. "I had hoped to come upon someone to ask directions but it turned out Judith has thrown off Wickline for some bloke named Monty." Here her steps paused and even if a blush touched upon her cheeks she continued as blue eyes lifted to his. "She was pulling up the bodice of her dress, he was all hands and.. and.. words of seduction of this night planned. I continued on leaving it thus but she waylaid me in the corridor before I could reach the hall. It was her words spoken there that bothered me." Well, maybe a few reasons.

         "She thinks Vincent and I are lovers, or at least fears we might be. Her words were to hurt but cannot for it is not so. She implied that when he held me, it was she he would be thinking of. There was also the hint of a threat. I told her it was none of her business where I was going when she asked. She said that mine may not be of hers but hers may be of mine." She took in a breath. "Please say to me it is all nonsense and nothing to worry on? Vincent doesn't still pine after her?" So it was all out even if not making much sense even to her.

         Garath listened, and only once while she spoke did his eyes wander from her and that was toward the door to their right.  "Walk with me, Julia?"  Her given name used as he gently patted her hand, starting them on their way away from the ballroom even before she could agree.  "Judith Janney tacks her actions on all ladies.  Do not fret, My Lady.  None others here believe such a dishonorable thing.  Vincent is well respected here.  Judith's words are the words of a desperate woman.  I cannot claim to know what is in the head of a man such as Vincent, but I would wager my soul on the fact that what goes on in the man's head had nothing to do with Judith Janney.  This is all nonsense and nothing to worry on.  I can assure you that Vincent does not still pine after a wanton such as she."

         Their stroll carried them through the halls, up the stairs, and then along the corridor which lead to Julia's room.  "I regret you had to witness the woman's petty need for attention, and that she attempted to draw you into it.  You, though, seemed to have handled it well."

         She let him guide her where he could answer all her questions privately. Relief flooded. So this Judith was a classic example of a woman bent on manipulation and never ending up with what she really wanted. Instead she would fall into a vicious cycle of it. "When she implied me being in Vincent's arms as his lover I had to laugh for the irony of it. I've never even been kissed in that way let alone by Sir deBeauvais. I think the laugh bothered her." Steps stilled in front of her door. "It is not your fault or the kind people here. Women like Judith are all over the place, every place. I felt I should not speak on it with Vincent for it would only be doing what the woman hoped. Thank you for assuring me Vincent would not be pining for a woman such as she." She leaned up to touch a kiss to his cheek as even a smile came in place of those threatened tears earlier.

         "You do not give yourself ample credit, My Lady."  She was wise...very wise.  He leaned slightly toward her to accept that kiss and he gave the hand that had been resting on his arm a squeeze.  "You possess wisdom beyond your years."  To have faced what she had to face these last few days with the grace and elegance she had displayed, Garath was extremely proud of her and to be her escort.  He would pass on the honor he experienced of being with her to her mother.  "Now, without a need for you to worry over Vincent de Beuavais, I'll leave you to your pleasant dreams."  He bowed a bit deeper to her.  "My Lady."  The title was used as her goodnight.

         Now that she was here she felt the weight of the day and evening closed in. "Sleep I will find more peacefully for our talk. Thank you Lord Lyons." Very respectfully said. The latch of the door slid open with a guide of a hand and she to slip in before easing it closed and latching it over as she was warned to do by Vincent. She would fall into a dreamless sleep for the comforting words and exhaustion combined. Daylight would come all too soon after such a grand ball as this one had been.

         Dawn would find them twice ... and they would once more be watching the sun rise over Heathfield's horizon.