That was no inexperienced milksop, thought the guard as he watched them walk away down the corridor. That was a man of the world. He had looked at the Princess with an appreciative intent. That man would know she had already been taken.
The Princess returned very late that night, her maids helping her to undress. When he looked into her room later, she was sleeping soundly, her maid in waiting snoring quietly in the bed in the corner.
The Prince or Duke, or whoever he was, was back the very next morning dressed in riding gear. The guard watched him approach with gritted teeth. He looked disgustingly healthy considering the rich food and drink of the night before. He walked with a jaunty step, a happy man who had scored a beautiful young prize. The guard wanted to beat him. He wanted to step forward and trip him so he fell to the floor, and then he wanted to pummel his entitled self satisfied face until it was bloody.
He stopped when he reached the guard and stared at him steadily. There was something in his cold grey eyes that made the guard uneasy.
'The Princess is coming riding with me. She will need a chaperone,' he said. 'Do you ride?'
'Yes,' the guard replied. 'But my shift is over.'
'Now it isn't' he said.
And with that he swept into the room and kissed the Princess extravagantly on her hand. Clearly, relations had moved on since yesterday.
The Prince was speaking to her too quietly for him to hear. She was dressed in her riding habit and the guard sucked in his breath. Her waist was impossibly tiny in the close fitting jacket and he was hit with a sudden memory of encircling that waist with his big hands. He dared to look at her and she was looking directly at him with such sad longing that all jealousy evaporated.
He had to protect her while he was still able.