RELEASING HENRY

CHAPTER 1

A mix of dust, goat, and spices of a hundred evening cook fires infused the air. Cumin, coriander, and cinnamon twined together and made English’s mouth water.  Sunset splashed the sky above Cairo in burnt orange, growing brighter closer to the fiery ball sinking behind the soaring minaret. He tried to remember the name of that mosque, but his head didn’t work like it used to.

After herding a small flock of goats into their pens for the night, he ended his working day with the soft click of the latch.

From the city beyond the walls came the wail of a muezzin calling the faithful to prayer. “Allah is great; Allah is great.”

The inner courtyard emptied as people sought their prayer matts.

“I bear witness that there is no divinity but Allah.”

English bore witness to no divinity, and he did not pray. At one time, in another land and to another god, he might have.

Drawn to the heat the stones gathered during the day, he pressed his aching back to the wall and waited.

Like him, she did not pray. The girl on the wall. He knew her name as Alya, had heard it called often enough, but to him she remained the girl on the wall.

Curtains fluttered at the open doorway on the roof balcony. Here she came. For certain, she remained unaware of him concealed in the deepening shadows and watching. To be caught with his eyes on her now would mean Bahir and his whip. Still he waited, would not move from this spot until he saw her.

There. A slim figure shrouded by her hijab.

The girl on the wall stopped at the parapet and faced the street. She pushed aside the niqab, which concealed all but her eyes. Then, she lifted her hijab and shook her hair free. It spilled down her back as she raised her face in a silent blessing to the day that passed. Dying sunlight rushed to pay tribute to her loveliness. Her hair dark and lustrous as the wood of the wild cherry that grew in a thicket he had once walked, her skin like crushed almonds.

Not that he could see from this distance, but her eyes above her niqab were lighter than he would have expected. A mix of green and brown that he had only glimpsed in passing before she hastily lowered her head. He wouldn’t call her beautiful in the way of other women now hazy in his mind. Her chin held too firm a jut, her nose slightly hawk-like. The strong slash of her cheekbones bore testament to her mixed blood. She had a strong face, fascinating, and in her private moment on the rooftop her elemental fire drew him like a starving man to a feast. Her very essence called to that barely living part of him that remembered life in abundance.

In her evening ritual, she discarded the modesty she showed during the day. She believed the rest of the household to be at prayer and in these forbidden moments before she would be called in, or admonished by the older woman who always accompanied her, English became a man again.

 

* * * *

 

“Come in, Alya.” Nasira beckoned from beyond the curtains. The old woman knew Alya well enough to end her prayers early and drag her back inside before anyone else saw her. Creases on Nasira’s craggy features meant another lecture on the way.

As Alya reached the point on the rooftop garden where her hoarse whisper could be heard Nasira started. “You show your face like a street woman.” Nasira shook her head. “What will people think when they see you like so?”

“Nobody sees me.” Alya pushed the gauzy curtains aside. A stiffening evening breeze sent them dancing around her. “I only do it when nobody else is about.”

“Somebody is always about.” Grabbing a brush Nasira motioned for Alya to sit. “Especially now.”

“Why especially now?” Nasira’s tone gave Alya pause. She tried to turn and look at her.

Nasira rapped her on the head with her brush. “Stay still. Your father has called for you to attend him after prayers.”

“He did?” They always ate the evening meal together.

Huge frown creasing her brows, Nasira nodded. “There has been trouble habibti. In the suq today.”

Trouble in the suq hardly deserved the look of doom Nasira’s face. Trouble blew perpetually through the suq. One merchant squabbled with another, buyers quibbled over prices, and the constant thieves threaded through the place like snakes, always looking for the chance to strike. “What happened?”

“I will let your father tell you, but it is bad. Bad.” Nasira lowered her head in obeisance. “Enna lillah wa enna elaihe Rajioun.”

“Did someone die?” Alya swung about on the stool, wincing as Nasira’s hold on her hair tugged at the roots.

“You ask too many questions.” Nasira grabbed her shoulders and turned her about again. “Your father will tell you all you need to know.”

Her nurse should know better than to think she would leave it there. “But someone did die?”

“Come.” Nasira bustled to her clothing and grabbed a fresh tunic. “I sent the boy for water, you must wash and attend your father.”

A new tunic meant the news her father bore was weighty. She washed and dressed quickly, flinging her veil over her shoulder as she trotted out of her chamber and down the stairs to the small, inner courtyard shaded on one end, where her father and she shared their evening meals. The table lay set for their meal but her father sat beside a small pond, staring into the water.

Skin darkened by the sun, a stranger could never tell he had not been born in this land, but had come from somewhere beyond the sea.

“Alya.” Holding his hands out he smiled and drew her forward for a kiss on both cheeks. “Nasira tells me you have been on the roof again.”

“The sunset was particularly beautiful today.” She could always get around him with a bit of teasing. He smelled as he always did of silk and spices, and fruit tobacco from his hookah.

Tonight, he turned from her and went back to his study of the pool. “You need to be careful, Alya.”

“What happened in the suq?” Father dressed, ate, spoke, acted and even prayed as a son of this land, but he had raised her differently. Nasira warned his indulgence of her would come to no good, but Alya had always been encouraged to speak openly with her father.

“A merchant was killed.” Father trailed his fingers through the water. Flashes of light glimmered beneath the surface as fish darted away from him. “A foreign merchant. He was murdered.”

“Why?” Alya sank onto the low stone lip of the pond. Her father acted not as himself this evening. Dread prickled across her skin and sunk deep into her belly. “What are you not telling me?”

“The tension between the local merchants and the foreigners grows worse.” With a sigh, he sat beside her and rubbed the back of his neck. “And the Sultan does nothing to aid the foreigners. What, with the same battle taking place in his palace, his hands are tied.”

“But why?”

“You know why?” Father looked up at her. She had her eyes from him, a mix of green and brown that marked them clearly as not from here.

Alya nodded, she did know why. “The army of unbelievers.”

Even now, years after the Nile had risen and forced the invaders to flee, the distrust lingered.

“You must be more careful than ever.” Father captured her hand and squeezed. “Eyes are everywhere and looking for a way to discredit us.”

When dripped with venom from the wrong tongue, her simple act of freedom on the walls at sunset could take on the worst of connotations. She nodded. “I will be more careful.”

“Let us enjoy our dinner.” Father smiled but the worry lingered. “And then I must see Bahir.”

 

Chapter 2

 

Bahir had it in his head to be a whoreson this evening. At the completion of prayers, he had English fill the water barrels beside the house. Not a duty English minded because it meant a trip outside the walls to the well at the end of the street. After that Bahir had him sweep the courtyard within and then bring his broom and follow him to the master’s private courtyard.

Night had fallen over Cairo. Above him the velvet black sky threw out a glorious mantle of stars. Countless needle pricks in the vast fabric of the night. With night came the sudden cold, but English did not mind the cold. At times, when he lay on his bare pallet in the slave’s quarters the chill on the air took his mind to a white blanket of snow, and blurred faces huddling around great hearths.

“Bahir.” The master greeted the giant Eunuch.

Sahib.” Bahir bowed low. With skin as dark as night, Bahir’s oiled scalp shone in the flickering oil lamps.

“We must speak.” Master gestured to him. “We should send him away.”

Both gazes swung his way and English went about his business of sweeping.

“That one.” Bahir snorted like a giant bull. “The English does not speak our tongue. One too many blows to the head with steel.”

Except English did speak their tongue. He kept his head over his broom. The gentle whisk whisk over the mosaics broke the silence. Bahir used the French tongue with him and, in a small rebellion from which he drew a measure of satisfaction, English guarded his secret understanding of Arabic.

“You heard the news from the suq?” With a groan, Master sank onto the cushions. For a man not accustomed to resting his ass on the floor, the Arabic custom of cushions before low tables played havoc with the knees.

Bahir poured the fragrant jasmine tea into cups so fine they caught the light behind them. “Amadore was not well liked, but his reputation was unblemished.”

“They grow bolder.” The master sighed and broke off a piece of basbousa. Once over Ramadan, English had been given the sweet treat. “But there is more.”

Bahir folded his hands in front of him and waited.

“The news has not yet reached the streets, but they killed Amadore’s family as well.”

Bahir bowed his head. “Enna lillah wa enna elaihe Rajioun.”

“God save us all.” Master chewed his basbousa and stared into the night. “It was brutal they say.”

When amongst those he trusted, Master dropped his piety and reverted to his former religion.

“The Sultan does nothing.” Master drank his tea. “He cannot risk being seen to take sides in this conflict.”

Bahir refilled his tea and stood back again, huge hands folded before him. “Your mind is troubled, Sahib.”

“They will come for me.” Standing Master brushed crumbs from his tunic. “Someone will remember me as the Genovese merchant Pietro D’Onofrio. We can no longer pretend it is not so.”

“You cannot be sure of this,” Bahir said. “Cairo has known you as Alif Al-Rasheed for longer than twenty years.”

“People have long memories. Amadore lived here before I even arrived. He showed me how to go on in those first days.” Hands clasped behind his back Master strolled to the pond. “It is not for myself that I worry and I cannot take the chance I may be right.”

“Alya.” Bahir nodded.

Alya. English moved closer, his broom stirring the dust beneath the arbor that provided shade in the midday heat. Moonlight through the vines cast ghostly shadows on the mosaicked floors.

“She is different,” Master said. “We both know this. God forgive me, but I raised her that way.”

“What is it you wish from me, Sahib?” Whispers spoke of the master having purchased Bahir from a harem in Acre and bringing him to Cairo. Stronger than an ox and able to swing his curved blade with deadly precision, his lack of ballocks had not tamed Bahir any.

“Take her away, Bahir.”

English stopped sweeping. Aware Bahir’s gaze had swung his way, he bent as if to pick something up from the ground.

“Sahib?” Bahir strode closer to the master. “Take her where? To Damietta?”

“Further.” Master raised his head and met Bahir’s hard look.

“Acre? Damascus?”

“Further.” Dropping his head, Master slumped. “Take her back to my kind, my old friend. Take her where her strangeness will not stand out so much.”

“Will they welcome her?” Bahir ran his hand over his face. “She has not been raised one of them.”

English worked his broom into the corners so he could stay and hear the rest of their conversation.

“I am aware.” Master shrugged. “But at least I give her this chance at life.”

“But she is your daughter. The moon in your night.”

“She is my everything.” Master cleared his throat and straightened his shoulders. “I will remain here. I have not in me the strength to begin my life a third time.” When Bahir would speak, he held up his hand. “Nay. I am decided in this. I will remain here. At the least it will take them time to realize she is gone.”

Bahir stood, staring at the master.

“You are decided in this?” Bahir said.

“I am.” Master nodded. “I have a ship waiting for you at Alexandria. It will take you wherever you need to go. I have loaded it with everything you will need. Most of my wealth goes with you.”

 

* * * *

 

His girl on the wall was leaving. Bahir was commanded to take his light away. English laughed at his own idiocy. A slave had no place in his life for bright dreams.

“Hssst!”

English stopped. Huge protruding eyes holding his gaze as she chewed her cud, a she-camel stared back at him. The master’s fears must be affecting his mind. Next, he would see haunts in the deep shadows around the beast pens.

Louder this time, more insistent. “Hssst!”

The habits of a lifetime had him reaching for a weapon that had not ridden his hip for three years. He bent and picked up a rock. “Who is there?”

“Henry?”

The beast pens dimmed, and English reached to steady himself on an upright. A name he had not heard spoken in many years and a voice that drove lance-like into the raw center of him.

“God’s balls, Henry, are you just going to stand there?”

His mother tongue came unbidden to his lips. “Newt?”

“Who else would it be?” A figure emerged from the shadows. “What other poor sod would think it a fine idea to hide out with these disgusting beasts.”

“Newt?” Dear God, he might unman himself and faint. English dug his fingers into the wooden upright and tried to right the tilting world about him.

“They spit.” Newt scrubbed globs of partial digested cud from his tunic. Three years had changed much about the lad. Taller, broader, his face grown finely hewn. His hair hung longer, possibly concealing those ears that stuck out from his head like jug handles.

“Newt.” English drank in all the details, small and large about the man standing before him. A man he had once called friend, loved as he loved his blood brothers. A strange urge rose within English. Laughter! It came from his throat rusty and disused and he hung on tighter to his support.

“Henry.” Newt beamed at him. He held out his arms and then thrust them back. “It took me long enough to find you.”

“Newt.” It could not be possible to have Newt standing before him. This was a memory from another time come to taunt him, come to break him. English stepped away.

“Aye, that is my name.” Sharp gaze sweeping English from head to toe, Newt frowned. “Are you addled?

How many times in the past had Newt asked him that? Worn that same expression, a small part quizzical for the most part scornful. “It is you.”

“Aye, Henry, it is me.” Newt glanced about them. “Can we find somewhere less open to speak? That big ebony whoreson has eyes in the back on his head.”

“Bahir.” Still not sure his eyes did not deceive him, he led Newt behind the beast pens into his secret place. The same place he used to watch his girl on the wall. Not for much longer.

Newt crowded into the shadows beside him. Now at least as tall as he, their shoulders brushed and fought for space.

The enormity of it hit Henry and he hauled Newt into a rough embrace.

Newt stiffened, it was not his way, but then relaxed into his hold. Fastening an arm around his back, Newt pounded his shoulder blades. “Sweet Jesu, it is good to see you, Harry.”

Henry scrunched his eyes closed. He would not disgrace himself with tears, but they built anyway and he held onto Newt as much to hide his disgrace as to assure himself he had not imagined the man.

After a while Newt disengaged. He stepped back, cleared his throat and straightened his filthy tunic. “I have come to take you home.”

“Home?” He did not even know what home meant. After he heard the news that Frederick’s army had withdrawn, leaving him here, cut off from his home, he had forced that word away. “You have come to take me home?”

“By the rood, Henry. You are addled for certain.” Newt shook his head. “Why else would I be here?”

“I know not.” He might go home. Swift on the heels of the hope came the fear, washing away the hope. He had learned not to hope. Hope brought with it only the pain of being dashed and trampled beneath uncaring feet. “I will never go home.”

Newt gaped at him. “Aye, you will.”

“Nay.”

“Aye.” Newt’s face grew taut. He stepped forward. “You will go home because I am here to fetch you.”

“I cannot.” He could not risk it. This long he had survived on the ruthless annihilation of hope.

“Aye, you will.” Newt shoved him. Hard enough to send him crashing into the wall. “You will go home because I promised Roger I would find you and bring you home.” Another shove sent him back against the wall. “You will go home because Sweet Bea will still be crying for you or I do not know your sister. And you will go home, or I will die getting you there, because we both know I failed you.”

English pressed his bruised back to the wall. He would like to explain but he had not the words. In this land, he had lost himself. In this place of a new god, strange food and customs he had learned at the end of the whip, Henry had become English. He had no more god, no more hope. He was nothing more than a slave. So, he shrugged and said again, “I cannot.”

“By God’s aching blisters, you will go home, Harry.” Newt hawked and spat. “You cower against the wall if you wish, but Newt has a plan. And if Newt must drag your ass all the way across that perishing dessert to do it. You. Will. Go. Home.”

 

Chapter 3

 

Henry followed Bahir into the main hall, the one they kept for formal occasions. He couldn’t say he was overly surprised to see Newt there. Polished up and clean, Newt looked older than his years as he faced the master.

“Is this the man?” The master gestured to Henry.

“Aye, that’s him.” Neither did it surprise him that Newt had learned to speak Arabic, the boy had an uncanny knack for languages.

“Come closer.” The master turned his gaze on Henry.

Bahir shoved him forward. “Move, English.”

Henry. He was a man and his name was Henry. Just once, Henry would like to match the sod with steel and pay Bahir back in kind. Keeping any emotion from his face, he bowed his head before the master.

“This man…er…Newt is here to purchase your freedom.” Master hefted a clinking bag in his palm. “He tells me you are of noble blood.”

So softly only Henry heard it, Bahir snorted.

“I am.” Henry straightened his shoulders. Yester eve Newt had ripped open the wound and now the memories refused to be suppressed. Henry rose up from within English and demanded his rightful place.

“He offers quite a tidy sum for your freedom.”

“Which according to the holy Qur’an, you are obliged to accept.” Newt oozed affability. “For by freeing the slave, you become a companion of the Right.”

The master’s eye flashed. “Do you presume to quote the holy law to me?”

“Nay.” Newt bowed. “Forgive my eagerness, but Sir Henry has a family who long for him. I am under a sacred blood vow to return him to them.”

The master rested his chin on his palm. “Tell me of this family, this Anglesea.”

“Sir Arthur, Sir Henry’s father, is the greatest knight in all the kingdom. Nay.” Newt struck a pose, chin angled up, one leg before the other. “The greatest warrior in the Christian world.”

Spreading it a trifle thick there and Henry threw him a sardonic glance.

As if he drew his words from the sky Newt raised his hand. “He has amassed for his family great wealth. He holds the ear of King Henry.”

Henry stifled a snort. Held the king’s ear, his ass. A king hadn’t set foot in Anglesea Castle since Father had joined the Army of God against King John. Had matters changed? Undoubtedly. When he left, Father had been whoring William out to the highest bidder. William could be married by now, perhaps even with a babe or two. The weight of his longing hit him broadside, and it was all he could do to stay standing. Damn Newt for opening the hidden chest within him, because now all the faces flooded out. William, Roger, Faye, Bea, Mathew even bloody Garrett. His father, and his beautiful mother. Nurse. So close he could almost believe he would see them again they hovered before him.

The master rubbed his mouth. “Yet, all this time he said nothing?”

Bahir poked him in the back. He half turned to punch the piss out the bastard before he collected himself.

Eyes glittering a challenge, Bahir smirked.

“The army had retreated.” Henry found his voice. “I was felled in battle, an old couple found me and nursed me back to health. I hit my head and it took me a while to recollect who I was. They kept me to work off my debt to them, and then sold me when they needed the money. By the time I reached the market in Cairo, my people were gone.”

The master nodded, a look in his eyes that told Henry he understood something of being alone in a land not your own. He straightened and turned to Newt. “Your visit is rather timely, as I have a delicate problem of my own.”

“If it is within my power to help you.” Newt laid a hand over his heart. “Perhaps we can help each other to a mutually agreeable outcome.”

“Indeed.” The master’s lips quirked into a smile. He tossed the bag of gold back at Newt. “What I require of you is not money. I will take my payment in kind.”

Newt snatched the bag out of the air and tucked it away. “Indeed?”

“My daughter needs to travel back to Genoa, to my family.” Behind Henry, Bahir shifted. “I am sending Bahir along with her, but she is a stranger to my native land. She has been raised here.”

“Ah.” Newt nodded. “You fear for her safety.”

The master scowled. “What do you know of this?”

“I have ears.” Newt shrugged. “I keep them low to the ground.”

“I am sure you do.” Snorting, the master shifted in his seat. “Your Sir Henry could be of service to me. To my daughter. He could provide her an introduction to my family and more importantly, teach her much on the voyage to Genoa.”

The question escaped Henry before he it had truly formed in his mind. “Teach her what?”

“How to go about in Genoa. Customs.” The master shrugged. “Manners. All those things you were raised knowing.”

His girl on the wall placed within his grasp by her father. Henry’s pulse quickened.

“When you say voyage?” Newt cocked his head. “Are we to infer that travel arrangements have been made?”

“You are.” The Master rose. “My fastest ship awaits Bahir and my daughter in Alexandria. It would be a simple matter to have them sail you home once they are done.”

“Not to doubt your word.” Newt spread his hands wide. “But how are we to know you will not simply strand us in Genoa.”

Bahir grumbled.

The master’s face reddened. “I hand my daughter into your care. I have nothing more binding to offer as my bond.”

“I will protect her.” Henry stepped forward. The knight he had once been rose hot in his blood. “I vow this to you, or I will die trying.”

 

* * * *

 

Alya pressed her palms into her eyes to stem the flow of tears. It did no good because the more she tried to stop crying, the harder she cried. Her father decreed she would leave Cairo and journey to Genoa. Father assured her his brother would welcome her, love her as he did, but she did not know these people.

Since her mother’s death it had been only her and Father. Unlike other girls who were sheltered and separated from the larger world, Father treated her as a son. He taught her to read and write, he showed her mathematics and made sure she knew it well. He had Bahir teach her the stars and how to navigate by them. More than his daughter, she was his helpmate and his confidant. Now, in one staggering blow, he had made this decision without her. Made a decision about her future without consulting her and none of her cajoling, wheedling and begging made one ounce of difference.

All through her long, sleepless night she had waited for him to come to her, and tell her of his change of heart.

With the first touch of dawn, the camels stood ready in the courtyard. Bahir shouted orders to the hired guards who would travel with them. Her stomach churned as they loaded her litter onto the largest camel.

She was leaving. Leaving Cairo. Leaving her father. Who would make sure the cook made Father’s favorite sweet treats, or prepared his mint tea for him after his meal? When he looked to speak of his life before he came here, who would wonder at his stories of strange customs and foods?

Camels brayed from the courtyard as the sky lightened. A lone cockerel announced dawn to the city. Beyond the walls, a sleepy peddler pushed his barrow of wares down the road.

Her life was here, and when she left, her heart would remain.

“It is time.” His face tired and drawn as if he too had spent a bad night, Father stood in her doorway.

She left the tears trickling down her cheeks. Maybe if he saw how he broke her heart, Father would relent. He never could bear her tears. “Please.”

“Alya. My heart.” Father held his arms out. “I would not do this if I did not think there was no other way. You cannot stay here. I cannot keep you safe.”

“But who will keep you safe?”

Sad eyes gouging her heart Father dropped his arms. “I will be careful.”

“Why can I not stay and also be careful?” She refused the traveling robe Nasira held out to her.

Nasira sniffed and wiped her eyes. She had been crying most of the night with Alya.

Father dropped his head. He took a deep breath and looked up again, straightening his shoulders. “It is decided,” he said. “Bahir will travel with you. When you arrive in Genoa you can decide to send him home or keep him with you.” He cleared his throat. “I hope you will keep him with you. You will find no greater champion than Bahir.”

As Nasira tugged the traveling robe about her Alya stood rigid. She refused to participate in this.

“I am also sending the English with you.”

The news shook her out of her black mood for a moment. “Why?”

“His people have come to buy his freedom. It seems he is an important lord in his country. He will teach you how to go on amongst our kind.”

“They are not my kind.”

“They are.” Father strode toward her. “You must work hard to become who you are. Listen to the English, mind what he tells you, and you will make it easier for yourself.”

“Imagine.” Nasira gave a choked titter. “An English lord sweeping our courtyard, minding our goats.” Nasira attempted to lighten the air, but Alya refused to be cajoled like a sulky child. Like a discarded fruit rind her father tossed her away.

Father took her by the shoulder. “Come. I would have you out of the city before the sun rises.”

This was happening. He was sending her away. Alya’s tears welled again. “Do not do this, Father. Please, I am begging you.”

“I must.” He turned and stalked for the door. “If you are not down in a few moments, I will send Bahir to fetch you. He will tie you to your camel if he must, but you will go to Genoa.”

 

* * * *

 

Henry ducked his head and hid his smile. The look on Newt’s face was beyond price.

Newt grimaced. “I am not riding that.”

“Then you walk.” Bahir checked the straps on the litter one by one.

Even if he did want to run the bastard through Henry admired his thoroughness. It galled him they would share this journey. Even more so knowing they shared a mutual goal. They had both pledged their lives to protect his girl on the wall.

Alya. He whispered her name, trying it out on his tongue. It meant heaven, divinity and so she had become to him. The lofty deity he scrabbled beneath. Dear God, Roger would kick his ass for that one. His breath hitched. His oldest brother, Roger, whom he had thought never to see again.

“Why can I not ride a horse?” Newt followed Bahir around the camel. “You have horses here. Not terrible stock either.”

Drawing himself up, Bahir glowered at Newt. “We have the finest horses of anywhere. Bred light of foot, soft of mouth and faster than the wind.”

Snorting, Newt crossed his arms. “Aye, but how good are they at stamping a foot soldier into the ground. Or biting a sword arm off?”

“You English.” Bahir shuddered. “Savages.”

“Savages who don’t ride camels.” Newt smirked.

“Then you are destined to be a footsore thirsty savage.” Bahir smirked back.

Dear God, they would still be arguing when the sun set. “They are not that bad to ride,” Henry said. “They sway a bit, and smell but they don’t need to stop for water nearly as often as we do.”

“Aye, but I—”

“Get on the bedamned camel, Newt.”

Hidden by her hijab Alya stood in the doorway. Shoulders slumped she dragged her feet to the litter.

Her nurse kept an arm about her shoulders. “All will be well, habibti. You will see. Your new family will love you just as we do.”

The master entered the courtyard, his expression an open wound as he stared at his daughter. They might never meet again. Henry understood some of his pain.

“Will you not say goodbye to your father, habibti.” They stood less than two feet away from him. Closer than Henry had ever been to the girl on the wall. Subtle notes of night-flowering jasmine twined around his senses.

“He sends me away.” Her niqab muffled her sniffles. “I have nothing to say to him.”

The slave wanted to bow to her pain, let her feel his silent support. However, Henry understood only too well what she risked by not making her parting sweet.

He slipped around the camel to stand beside her.

Bahir stiffened. “Get away from her.”

“Wish your father God be with him,” Henry said.

Her gaze flew to his face. Eyes like the dappled shade of the woodland, part green, parts golden stared at him.

He shook off Bahir’s grip on his shoulder. “You cannot know what the future holds, or if you might get this chance again. Tell him now that you love him. Carry that memory with you.”