“Are you certain? There won’t be a priest. Or a church. We will be out of doors.”
Her smile was bewitching. She rested her hand on his forearm and lowered her eyelids seductively. “As you said before, it is our only alternative.”
Elias swallowed at the dry knot in his throat. “Then we should be going. They are expecting us.”
He took her hand and led her down the path to the edge of town. The flickering light from the campfires betrayed the location of the camp, and they made their way swiftly across the field to the outer boundary of the woods where the gypsy sentries waited to guide them in.
Elias could feel their dark gazes assessing Jaime. He stepped between the two men and his bride and tightened his grip on her arm possessively. A low murmur from the taller of the two gypsies brought a peal of laughter from the shorter man. Jaime tensed beneath Elias’s grasp.
“Kako Nicu, the Moroccan and his… woman.” The last word came out with an ironic cast. The old bandolier looked up from his place near the fire. It was too dark to make out his expression, and the flicker of the flames played tricks on Elias’s eyes.
“What is this?” he asked in his low gravelly voice. One of the sentinels escorting them answered in a stream of Hungarian, something Elias understood but had no intention of repeating for Jaime’s ears.
“You didn’t tell me your woman was French.”
“Why does it matter?”
“From the look of her a noblewoman. We don’t want trouble here.”
Elias pulled her closer, hesitating only a moment before lapsing into the Hungarian language to explain. “This is the daughter of Seigneur Pepiot. He promised her to another, a man older than himself, a drunkard and a pig. The lady escaped his tyranny without his knowledge and has elected to marry instead, a servant of the sultan’s brother. It is dangerous for all of us. But for none so much as me. And I vow to keep your family’s part in this affair a secret.”
Nicu, the old bandolier, held his peace a moment, considering Elias’s petition and assurances. Then a solemn nod. “We will hear your vows, Moroccan,” he answered in French and gestured for them to join him by the fire.