Alain’s friendship with Sir Ruaud, his polished manners and speech, fighting skills, and scars—it made less sense than ever that he could be a squire. “Who are you, really?” she whispered.
His back stiffened, and he released her hand to give her a curious look. Finally, he smiled. “A complete fool.”
She arched an eyebrow. “Hardly that, if you possessed the wit to locate me. I mean, you must be a knight. Don’t bother to deny it. There can be no other reasonable explanation.”
He regarded her for a long moment. “Yes. I am a knight.”
“But why the disguise?” She recoiled as an unpleasant thought returned. “Sir Robert didn’t send you to test my virtue, did he?”
“Mon Dieu, no! Never once did that cross his mind.”
She felt her brow wrinkle. “How can you be so certain?”
“I have known Sir Robert my entire life.” His smile turned enigmatic. “He would never resort to such a ploy.”
“But he would send you and Sir Ruaud ahead to look me over, is that it?” Her ire rose on the wings of indignation. “To determine whether I am a worthy match for his lordship?” His smile inverted to dread. “Hah. I am right.”
Denying him a chance to reply, she shot to her feet. Her instinct suggested escaping into the maze, but fear of becoming lost in the mist pushed her toward the tower’s door. The bolt’s heaviness prevented her from locking him out, so she concentrated on making best speed. Pounding footsteps warned her of Alain’s pursuit.
He caught her wrist while she was still on the stairs, but she yanked it free and continued up. On the landing outside the upper chamber, she had to pause for air. He joined her before she could escape.
“Please, my lady,” he said between breaths. “Let me explain.”
“What’s to explain? Sir Robert sent you to scout me out, and you agreed. You Normans are a despicable lot. Every last, stinking one of you! I thought I had met one who wasn’t.” She blinked hard to fight off the welling tears. “I was wrong.”