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Authors: Patrice Hannah

Tags: #romance, #love, #historical romance, #medieval romance

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BOOK: Coins and Daggers
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“If you have nothing else to tell me then I
believe we are done here.” Tossing the coins onto the messy table,
Ulric nodded and turned to leave. “Thank you for your time.”


No, thank
you
, Sir.” The bloke
chuckled like a buffoon as he scooped up the coins and shove them
down deep into his pockets. “Uh...milord?”

“Speak.”

“Perhaps you should pay Lorena a visit.
She’s the owner of the brothel across the street. I doubt there’s
any wench around here who hasn’t crossed paths with her a time or
two.”

Ulric sighed, nodded his thanks and then
strode from the building. As he made his way across the street, he
prayed that the bawd had some helpful information to share or else
he’d be forced to make a rather tedious trip to Camden. Whatever
the case, Ulric was determined to get some answers.

Lorena happened to be a voluptuous redhead,
possibly a few years older than Ulric was, but still beautiful and
a rather accomplished flirt. Well, that was expected from a woman
who managed a bawdyhouse. And even though it had been quite a long
time since Ulric had wandered into such establishments, he still
remembered the process of things.

Upon entering, he had requested the Madam’s
presence, tipped one of the girls generously, and even accepted her
arm as she’d escorted him to a private parlor, her feminine curves
deliberately rubbing up against him. It was a grandly decorated
space, expensive furnishings and lots and lots of red silk
draperies. Thank heavens, the wait had not been long and before he
knew it, Lorena had come sweeping inside the room, barely dressed
in a thin red night wrap.

“Well, I can hardly believe it,” she cooed,
moving in seductively practiced strides across the room. “Lord
Chastelle in the flesh. Please do take a seat. Would you like a
drink, Sir?”

“No. Actually, I do not mean to tarry.” But
he did take a seat anyway. “I was told you might be able to assist
me with some information about someone.”

Huffing, the
woman moved up to a small table and poured herself a drink. “Hester
sent you, didn’t he? From the inn across the street?
The blasted fool.
I swear, if he sends another soul
over here, I shall be convinced to close up and try out the
information business instead.” She sipped on her drink and winked.
“But I’m willing to have a chat with you, milord. I have one
question, though.”

“Go ahead.” Ulric watched as the woman
sashayed across the room, undoing the ties of her wrap and offering
him a very generous few of a bountiful pair of supple breasts.
Ulric could even make out the dark areolas of her mounds. Perhaps
if he was interested, he’d be a bit enthused.

“What’s in it for me, Your Lordship?” Lorena
took a seat directly opposite him, tucking her long naked legs
beneath her. “I might teach you a thing or two.”

Ulric met her eyes steadily. “Take no
offense, Madam. But I am not here to purchase favors.”

Lorena chuckled. “Who said I was selling?
I’d be more than willing to dally a little with the Lord of
Chastelle at no cost at all.”

His patience almost snapped but he
maintained his cool. “A dark-haired woman who wears breeches. Have
you seen her?”

Lorena teased the brim of her glass with one
fingertip, her expression cool and coquettish. She then rose from
her seat and walked over to a draped window. “Mayhap.”


Mayhap
?” Ulric
stormed out his seat, his heart pounding just now. “Do you know her
or not?”

“Well, milord,” she continued, her back
still turned to him. “There are not many wenches that I’ve seen
around here who wears breeches.” She chuckled and turned. “I
possible first ran into her months ago but the little wretch has
managed to keep quiet after that. I’d even offered her a place
here...to start something for herself. Her face certainly bore some
potential. My men tend to like the...innocent look, I’ve
realized.”


I’ll pay generously for whatever else you know,” Ulric
breathed through clenched teeth, grabbing the woman by the arms. If
only he could shake the words out of her. It was obvious that she
knew something else and was deliberately being coy. He hadn’t the
patience for
coy
. “Now, tell
me.”


You’re rather quick with your hands, milord,” she muttered,
lashes fluttering smoothly. Ulric dropped his arms and folded them,
keeping her cornered. He was not leaving until she spoke every damn
thing she knew, and he was in no mood either to stand there, hat in
hand, to a blasted bawd. “Oh fine, then. What is wrong with some of
you gents, anyway? Can’t you be satisfied with
us
? We’re not all that expensive, you know?”

Perplexed, Ulric stared her down. “Out with
it.”

Lorena breathed out a sigh and stood akimbo.
“Well, you’re not the first gent to come around here asking about
the wench. Audelia, he’d said her name was. Or something like that.
Came in just two weeks ago with some big-haired lady too.”

Eighteen

 

 

A
udelia slowly
arranged the two sets of chess pieces on the board, eyeing the
burly guard carefully. It was long past dawn, and even dinnertime
had been spent some few hours ago. Even Lady Ryia had already
retired to bed, resting up for her departure on the morrow. Ulric
was yet to return and even though he’d assured her that he would
not have spent more than a day away, a worrisome twinge still
pulsed deep inside her gut. Perhaps, it was all in her head.
Perhaps, she was just being silly. But she had developed a great
fondness for him over the days and whether she wished to believe it
or not, the feeling was very real.
He
was very real.
Audelia knew that a reciprocated affection was much to wish for but
she’d rather dream than batter herself with the pains of the
present. Somewhere in her heart, she hoped Ulric cared for her as
much as she had grown to care for him.

“Have you ever played chess before?” she
asked.

Gilgallon frowned and fidgeted in his seat.
“No.”

Scowling, Audelia sat up straight at the
table they were sharing inside the library. A brightly burning
lantern sat next to them. “Then why’d you propose the game?”

“Because I don’t want you wandering off.
It’s blasted nighttime and I haven’t the patience to play
hide-and-go-seek with you. Now tell me how it’s played
already.”

“It’s not a just a simple game. It requires
skill and strategy and--”

“Are you calling me daft, miss?”

Audelia pursed her lips and continued
arranging the final four pieces. “If you insist then.”

“How do you know how to play?” Gilgallon
questioned, watching her fingers as they moved across the black and
white squares. “Only aristocrats are allowed this type of
sport.”

Audelia met
his eyes briefly, swallowed down the gulp in her throat, but
managed her cool composure.
Blasted man
. “I saw
the gents play all the time,” she finally said, even though she’d
played the game a handful of times with...Lord Dextrem. Madame de
Lucci had taught her, had required it of her. “Then I stole a board
almost as grand as this one. I traded it in for a few coins later
on.”

Gilgallon huffed lightly. “You’re a proud
thief, aren’t you?”

Audelia smiled. “We all have to accept
ourselves for what we are, even if it appears disagreeable in the
eyes of others.”

“Tell me the rules.”

Moving her index finger from left to right,
Audelia explained as clearly as she could. “This fellow here is
your rook...knight, bishop, king and then your queen. Then you have
another bishop, another knight and another rook.” She glanced at
him to see if she was truly paying attention. Satisfied that he was
, she continued. “ On this row before them, are your pawns. They
have the lowest value and are like your...soldiers.”

Gilgallon nodded. “What’s next?”

“As you can see, each set of pieces are a
different color. And--”

The door to the library came shoving in and
Gilgallon jumped to his feet, distancing himself from the
table.

“Your Lordship.”

In came Ulric, looking positively exhausted.
His hair, the portion of it that had managed to break free from the
tie at his nape, was spiking out all around his head. Audelia
thought either he had been ambushed or had taken quite a tumble
from his horse.

“Thank you, Gilgallon,” he muttered,
breathing ferociously. “I would like to speak with Miss Rolfen
alone now, please.”

Miss
Rolfen.
Audelia cringed at
his informal words, glancing away nervously as Gilgallon left the
room. As soon as she heard the door slid to a close, she met his
gaze.

“Is something wrong?” she asked, her mind
sending off all sorts of warning signals.

Ulric paced
the room a bit, considering his options. But when he really thought
about it, he
had
no options. “I need to have a word
with you, Audelia. Right now and you’d better be honest with
me.”

“But I haven’t--”

“For god’s sake, do not lie to me!” Ulric
grasped her by the arm and pulled her across the room towards the
sofa chairs. He hadn’t meant to explode like that but Ulric had
been riding none stop since he’d spoken with Madam Lorena. He
needed to know what the truth was from what it wasn’t. He seated
Audelia next to him and ran a hand through his hair. “What is your
connection to Lord Dextrem?”

“I--I..” Oh lord, she was truly cornered.
Audelia swallowed tightly, wringing her hands in her lap. “I knew
him. I mean...I know him.”

“Know him how?”

Audelia eased shakily to her feet but Ulric
grabbed her wrist, prepared to re-seat her.

“Let me go!” she cried, yanking her hand
away. “Don’t you dare manhandle me.”

When she turned to face him, her eyes were
filled with tears, tears that Ulric did not know how to handle.
Sighing, he ran a palm over his face and cleared his throat. “My
apologies. It was not my intention to yell.”

“Save me your pity, Bryce,” she said, wiping
away the tears that had fallen despite her best efforts. She truly
hadn’t meant to cry and not in front of him, for heaven’s sake. But
he’d found her out and what was she truly to say. “You asked me a
question and I shall answer it.”

“Very well, then.”

Audelia sniffled and moved about the room,
her figure a radiant sight within the burning torchlight. Ulric
watched her patiently, willing away the headache that threatened to
reach his temples. With all the things he’d discovered in the last
couple hours, he hadn’t even the good strength to think.


Lord Dextrem is my benefactor. Was.
Is
. I hardly know.”

Ulric walked over to her, turning her slowly
to face him. “Your benefactor? But--”

“I have family, Bryce. I told you this. At
seventeen, I was taken from the orphanage that I’d grown up and
brought to a domicile for young women. Madame de Lucci brought me
there.”

Ulric frowned. The name did not ring any
bells. “Madame de Lucci?”

“Yes. She runs the house there for dozens of
girls like my age. She aimed to pair us with wealthy
benefactors.”

“And that’s how you met him?” Ulric’s heart
thudded in his throat. He knew Lord Dextrem even though the man
must be a decade or so Ulric’s senior. The reputable gent was known
to be great company in circles as theirs. He and his wife, both.
But Ulric had crossed paths with Lord Dextrem enough times to know
that he was nothing but a conniving little snake who frequented too
many bars and whorehouses.

“Yes. Madame de Lucci introduced me to him
and his wife over a year ago. It was planned that I’d be their
ward. I was happy.”

“Happy?”

“Very much so.” She sadly and accepted his
hand at her cheek. “I was to have a family. A home. A chance to
follow my dreams. They accepted me, a poor orphan girl, as if I was
one of their own.”

Ulric could understand that. They’d been her
savior. “What happened then?”


I...” She inhaled a deep calming breath, her lips
quivering. “Lord Dextrem... He started to act strangely. He became
so...attentive. He--” Audelia closed her eyes, afraid to relive the
memory but she had to. “He kissed me. At first I hadn’t thought it
meant much and I was determined to forget that it had happened
but
he
wouldn’t. One night, he came to my
room, Bryce...” She’d whispered the last part, scared at what Ulric
might say.

“What did he do, Audelia?” Ulric squeezed
his eyes shut, his vision clouding with red blinding rage. “Tell me
he did not...”

Shaking her head sorrily, Audelia pulled
from his grasp and tried as much as she could to put distance
between them. She could not take the fury in Ulric’s eyes at all.
And she was ashamed of it.

“I couldn’t stop him. I tried but I
couldn’t. So... I ran away. Before dawn the very next morning I-I
ran away.”

“Bloody bastard!” Ulric’s shout echoed
throughout the room and he tumbled a few chairs in his rage. “I am
going to find the coward and run him through the heart.”

Audelia gasped, swatting at the tears
running down her face. “No! You can’t.”


And why the devil can’t I? He r..” Ulric huffed, hardly
able to utter the despicable word. “He
raped
you.
And you expect me to sit idle and do nothing about it? Lord Dextrem
will see the gallows of hell straight after I remove his goddamn
testicles.”

BOOK: Coins and Daggers
10.95Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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