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Middleham Castle
Middleham
1446

She had been widowed two months before and her father had wasted no time in bringing her home. He had forbidden her to be alone. Women supposedly needed more support when their husbands died. More support than men? She scoffed to herself. Her papa would crumble if her mother were to die first.

She shook her head sulkily. She had little appetite for the food in front of her. Beside her sat a young man with whom Richard, the brother only an hour younger than her, had invited to Middleham with their father’s blessing. ‘Jak’, as Richard called him. She knew the man from passing. John Tiptoft, king’s ward following his mother’s death in May and as close to King Henry in personality as possible, she had thought.

“Bottoms up!” Dick half bellowed, making her jump. She glared disapprovingly as he and his friend down the remaining beer in their cups. Each holding them up for a refill.

“Do you not think you have had enough.” Alice Montacute, their mother, spoke to Dick alone. Dick who was beginning to slur as he responded to his mother.

“No, mama. We are fine.”

“Tis not the we part I dispute, Dick. Jak may indeed be as sober as when he arrived. You my boy are wasted.”

She saw John smirk beneath the rim of his cup. Shook her head. He had already proven himself to arrogant. He had informed her father, the Earl of Salisbury, that he could have any woman he wanted, he simply chose not to. She had not stuck around long enough then to hear his response to her father’s and brothers questions as Salisbury asked why he did not want to, when Dick asked how he could prove it.

She saw nothing in THAT man that anyone with their senses would bed. Shook her head again. Stopping the servant who had poured John’s drink with her cup. She saw the girl hesitate before switching jugs. “That one was empty my lady.” She whispered, making Cecily arch an eyebrow. She drank the amber liquid.

Amber liquid which was not beer. She glanced at John. What? The girl was a servant he had brought with him. She was not a Neville servant. She recognised that now. Why was she...? Unless...?

She smirked.

“Bottoms up!” Dick shouted, she watched as John gulped down the contents of his cup. Had the girl switched him on to beer? Accidentally?

She smirked. It was almost an hour before John rose to his feet. “Where you going?” Her brother slurred, almost falling off his chair.

John did not get opportunity to answer before Alice barked. “To bed! Now! Before you vomit in front of everyone. Richard.” She looked to her husband. “Help your son, I doubt he can manage to even stumble away alone. Thomas help your father.” Cecily giggled as Dick feel sideways off his seat.

All they heard was his words as his feet could be seen in the air. “I’m fine!”

“Get up.” Their father growled, lifting him to his feet. “Move.” Thomas grabbed Dick’s other arm.

Cecily watched as they dragged her brother from the room. Thomas muttering. “You’re making an arse of yourself.”

She rose to her feet not a minute later. No one regarded upon her movements, not even as she followed Jak down the corridor. He had not noticed, not even as he turned into the privy. She leant against the wall opposite the door. He jumped several moments later when he emerged. “My lady.” She doffed his cap, about to walk on.

“Most amusing my lord.”

“Hmm?” He turned back as she spoke.

“The apple with honey and sugar.”

“I have no idea what you are talking about.”

“Denying it?” She giggled. “Your serving wench fetched you beer by accident, she gave me the apple. Else I’d never have known.” He blushed. “Oh I won’t tell him.” She giggled. “I find it rather hilarious actually. You’re the first man to drink my brother under the table, like this anyway. He will learn some valuable lessons. Such as that his head cannot cope with too much alcohol.” John shrugged grinned. “Just never let him find out, especially not tomorrow. God help you if he does.”

“You’ll not tell him?”

“Oh please. It’s our secret.” She winked, walking away.