So, the title is a stretch and a play on words. But...I hope everyone loves this one as much as I do. In the timeline, I would say this is a about a year and a half after Sword's Call, and several months after the sequel, which is called Love's Call.
I love ALL these guys and I hope you do, too. Enjoy!
Laith threw the empty stein at his brother, who of course, ducked. Everyone laughed. “I don’t know what he thinks is so funny, he’s getting married, too.”Leargan, his captain, slapped him on the back. “There’s no shame in admitting you love the lass you’re going to marry. None at all.”A few of his fellow knights made either amused or disparaging noises, and Laith looked into the crackling fire. He had no qualms about marrying Meara. He loved her. More than he loved his own life.He glanced around their scattered circle. They’d done this countless times. These men were all his brothers, despite the fact he only shared blood with one of them. Merrick, several turns older than his twenty, and not his favorite person at the moment, sat not far from him on a logged seat drinking from his stein.As if he knew he was on Laith’s mind, his brother grinned and lifted his mug in his direction. Laith scowled.“Oh, I was jesting, little brother.” Merrick laughed, as did a few of the other men.“He’s regretting his choice of weapon, is all,” Dallon said with a grin, bending to retrieve Laith’s discarded stein. The other knight brushed it off with a linen cloth and tossed it to Alasdair to refill.The oldest knight of the twelve, Alas grinned and handed Laith back his almost overfull mug. “Drink up, little one.” Laith cringed at the unwanted nickname. “You might need to be into your cups when you say ‘I do.’ Unless you’ve come to your senses?” A dark brow lifted. Merrick threw his head back and laughed. Alasdair shot him a look. “I don’t know what you’re laughing about, my friend. You’ve lost your mind and crossed over, as well.”“Crossed over?” Leargan asked, laughter in his tone. “You act as if marriage is a fate worse than death, Alas.”“Indeed. I love the lasses too much to choose just one.” The captain shook his head.“And I thought you’d referred to my bride as ‘lovely’ on more than one occasion.”“Aye, because she is yours, and not mine.” The men laughed and Laith shook his head. Alasdair went through woman like water.“I for one am glad that Mistress Ansley put our captain out of his misery,” Roduch, the biggest knight of the personal guard put in.“Thank the Blessed Spirit for that,” Leargan muttered.There was a round of hearty “Here heres” from the men and the captain’s face looked as if it would split with his grin.Niall, the second in command of the personal guard took a step forward and threw his arm around Alasdair’s shoulders. “That’s just because Alas hasn’t met the right lass.”“She doesn’t exist, I tell you,” Alasdair retorted, shaking his head. “I have a theory as to why.”“Oh, I can’t wait to hear this,” Bowen said, crossing his arms over his broad chest.“Yes, let’s,” Kale added, grinning.“Seeeeee…” Alas started, drawing out the word. He stood and commanded everyone’s attention. “There are too many lovelies in fair Greenwald to choose from. I adore Aurelia’s eyes. Maeve’s body was made to please a man. Betha has skills that rival them all and no one has breasts better than Nan. Their attributes are…diverse. I cannot possibly choose between them.”Someone muttered, “Oh, please.”“And that’s just one of the taverns he frequents,” someone else answered. Alasdair grinned.“He’s almost a bard,” Merrick said with a chuckle.“Don’t tell him that,” Padraig put in. “It will go straight to his…head.” That got several more laughs and Laith had the urge to roll his eyes.“I’m with Alasdair,” Teagan announced. “I’m not a one lass man.”“Barely a man at all,” Padraig answered.Laith sighed. He and Teagan were the youngest of the personal guard, and the jest was not uncommon. The other knight ignored the jibe, though.“Have you even had a lass?” Artan asked. Teagan’s face reddened but he held his ground with a growl. Alasdair threw his arm around Teagan’s shoulders.“Of course he has.”“Tons, I’m sure,” Padraig said, his tone dry.“Oh, Paddy. Quality is better than quantity,” Artan said, a smile on his scarred face.“Says the foolish married man,” Alasdair said with a curt nod.“Marrying Lyde was the smartest thing I’ve ever done,” Niall said, taking a drink of ale and coming closer to the fire. The other married knights, Leargan, Padraig, Artan, and Roduch nodded almost collectively.“You always were a bit daft,” Kale teased as he took a long draw from his stein.“Well, it matters not what you all think,” Merrick announced, coming over to Laith. “This night is about my little brother and me. Is it not?”“Because starting tomorrow, no night will be about you,” Alasdair quipped, starting another round of laughter.Conversation became the swapping of reprobate stories, with Alasdair, of course, leading the charge. Laith sat back and listened. No way would he add anything, least of all regarding Meara. What they shared meant more to him than any other woman he’d had. Trysts he now regretted. She’d give him her innocence, a gift he hadn’t deserved.He watched his brother laugh and joke with his fellow knights, but Merrick felt the same way about his Daicy. His older brother wasn’t adding much detail to the conversation, either.Laith could deal with the ribbing from the men he saw as brothers, but if any of them was serious, he would take care of it. Not that any one of the men, Alas included, would honestly insult him or Meara. The personal guard meant too much to each other.Since they’d come to Greenwald, life had changed, settled. Merrick, always a bit immature for being the older of the two had grown, and it didn’t only have to do with finding Daicy. Being a member of the Aldern personal guard meant everything to his brother—and to him. These men were family, and all of them, teasing aside, were overjoyed that it was once again expanding by two.Children would come, his captain’s being the first, and they would grow up together in Greenwald. Laith wasn’t in a hurry to be a father, but he wanted that with Meara eventually.His gaze once again swept over the courtyard and the fire, and his brothers. He couldn’t wait until tomorrow. This very spot, Meara at his side would begin another new adventure for him.The first, when he’d become a knight, his older brother the one at his side. The second, when Leargan had asked him to be a part of his command, and the third—most important—when he would pledge his heart and soul to Meara in front of the Duke of Greenwald and the Blessed Spirit.Laith smiled. He’d finally come home.
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