She closed a fist on the embroidered cuff of Burthred’s surcote sleeve, hefted up the reliquary, and slapped his hand down on the lid.
“Swear,” she said curtly.
“I swear on these hallowed relics that I will act no force on the Lady Margaret … or Christina the Holy … though I hope by my words to persuade the former to be my wife.”
A little niggle of guilt stirred again in her breast as she reflected on the contents of the reliquary. She was very far from holy yet. She would forfeit the humdrum bread for a week, drink only water in penitence, and pray every hour from now until she spoke her vows for deliverance from the tiny—very tiny—self-centered core of her devotion.
The box began to sag beneath the weight of his hand, reminding her that her right fist still clenched on his cuff while her left fingers splayed against the box’s base to brace it in the air. He appeared to feel the shift in the same moment as she, for his free hand swept beneath the wood, inadvertently tangling their little fingers as he steadied the reliquary.
His skin was cold, yet the innocuous touch ignited a bewildering little glow inside her. She jerked the box away, retreating into the chill air around her bed, relieved when a reactive shiver almost quenched the lingering aura.
“Your former betrothed is dead.” She hoped he could hear the virtuous reproach in her voice. “The worldly Margaret has been transformed into the spiritual Christina. I wish only to live out my days serving the Holy Church in study and prayer, so go warm yourself by the Yule fire and find yourself another bride.”