"Ned Granger!" He'd never heard his wife raise her voice before, and her roar startled both him and his mount. "Get off my land and take your miserable bunch of cravens with you."
"I gave you fair warning," Ned roared back. "Now you pay." He stepped forward and grabbed a flaming torch from one of his followers.
"You heard my wife, Granger." Julian reined in beside Deb, his voice more deadly for its lack of volume. "You touch one straw of this land and you will live to regret it."
Ned Granger fell back a step, the blood draining from his face. Julian watched the man's skin blotch and pale. Then Ned's eyes filled with evil glee.
"Do you take me for a fool?" Ned Granger stepped up to Julian's horse and pushed the flaming torch into the animal's face. "Married! She's not married to any man; she's a frigid bitch who couldn't whelp for her own husband. This land belongs to us. No woman's fit to run an estate, and since she's got no brats to leave it to, it should come to us."
Before the command reached his brain, Julian's whip hand slashed down at the man's head and sent him reeling backwards. "Do not speak of my wife in those terms. Now get off our land and don't come back." He watched the cluster of men standing to one side and wondered whether they intended to fight for their master or turn tail and run. "And that goes for you, too." He set his agitated horse in their direction.
They turned and ran.
"This is not the end of it," Ned screeched. He lobbed the torch into the air and laughed when it landed on top of the Blacks' roof, flames greedily ripping over the thatched surface. "You won't stop me. And you can't be everywhere." He loped off as a scream came from within the house. Julian turned towards the sound in time to see his wife run into the burning building.