Balian and Eschiva continued side-by-side, unable to speak for all the thoughts in their heads. It was only after they had laid Yvette down in the small, pull out bed in the chamber where Cecilia and Yvonne shared the main bed that Balian broke the silence. Still squatting beside his daughter after tucking the blanket in around her, Balian confessed softly, “Caesarea wrote that our former seneschal, Denis of Paris, is aiding Filangieri. Denis knows all the weaknesses of Beirut town and the citadel itself. That’s how they knew about the postern, where to place their siege engines and where to mine.” He paused, then looked up at Eschiva and added, “Denis of Paris is Yvette’s grandfather; the father of Denise. He is aiding Filangieri to avenge what I did to his daughter.”
“And your father blames you.” Eschiva guessed.
Balian pushed himself to his feet as he nodded. “How well you know us. He said nothing, but the look he gave me said it all: ‘See the evil your sins have sowed?’” Balian drew a deep breath and looked down again at the little girl curled up in the bed at his feet. She slept peacefully, with her face on her hand. “But that sin also produced Yvette, and how can I see her as evil? She can be perplexing and frustrating and annoying, but at her core she is a lovely soul.”
“Of course, she is!” Eschiva hastened to agree. “She is no less God’s creation than any of the rest of us!”
Balian smiled at that, but it was a sad smile. “Before I knew her,” he admitted, “I regretted my liaison with Denise. It embarrassed me. I wished I could have come to you untainted. But, since Yvette has come into my life, I—I don’t know what to think.” He looked helplessly at his wife for an answer.
Eschiva was never good at putting her feelings into words, so she went on tiptoe and offered him a kiss first. Then she tried to say what she thought. “You are ruled by your heart more than your head, Balian. Perhaps that is not always the best thing, but I cannot judge that because I am eternally grateful for that very characteristic. I know your father would not have rescued me in Andria; he would have sheltered me from the sailors only to deliver me to the Emperor’s wrath the next morning. And while he might have married me for my lands, at the first hint of excommunication from the Archbishop of Nicosia, he would have cast me aside like a burning iron because I was endangering his soul.”
Balian pulled her into his arms and whispered “never” in her ear. Yet the embrace turned from giving to taking comfort as he added, “And yet . . .if anything happens to Bella, my father will blame me—and so will I. . . . ”
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