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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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“Pleasant morn, is it not?”

Edwin Montagu, his right hand man and most
loyal friend, stepped inside the room without even the slightest of
acknowledgments.

“What do you want, Edwin?”

The man marched across the floor, helping
himself to a tankard of his own. “Simply to know what to do with
the loose-tongued female you have locked up below stairs.”

“Let the witch rot in her cell and leave me
be.”

“Even you, Ulric, can admit that this is
complete outrage. The chit looks half-dead already. But appears
she’ll live.”

“She should thank Jesu for that. I wanted to
murder the little fool myself.”

Edwin shook his head, a few locks of his
deep golden hair spilling over his forehead. “Your notorious gaol
is hardly the place for a girl. Men have suffered down there.”

“She’s a criminal who made the grave mistake
of drawing a blade in my presence.”


A chit of that stature
could never best you,
milord
.”

Looking up sharply, Ulric
narrowed his eyes on his friend. “No chit of
any
stature could ever
best me. I would like to think that you do not vex me on
purpose.”

“Of course not. You are the Lord of
Chastelle. No one would even dare.”

Although the words came with conviction,
Ulric didn’t miss the twinkle in his best friend’s eyes.

“What do you suggest?”

Edwin paused and frowned, scratching his
forehead. “Uh... I don’t-I don’t know.”

“Well, based on how you rushed in here
declaring your humanitarian rights, I would like to think that your
brain had managed to somehow cultivate a better alternative.”

“Well, that was long before I thought you’d
even take my advice. Since when do you listen to me?”

Ulric wove a dismissive hand and brought the
tankard back to his lips. “Then we shall agree to disagree and move
on with our lives. The chit stays right where she belongs. Besides,
I have more pressing matters to address. For instance, how everyone
failed to inform me of my dear sister’s impending visit.”

This time Edwin made no
attempt whatsoever at stifling his amusement. “I hear Lady Ryia
misses her only brother terribly. And why wouldn’t she?
Lord Ulric
is known to have an extremely fetching
personality.”

Scowling, Ulric decided
to ignore his friend’s taunt and rose from his desk to look through
the window behind him. From this floor, on the main house of the
estate, he had a tremendous view across the eastern forests of
Bascain. Heavy green pastures spread outwards for miles, the
icy-capped peaks standing high beyond them. He could see now, the
orange and reddish hues of sunrise stretching across the sky. Ulric
wasn’t particularly an avid admirer of nature but somehow he found
himself yearning for a little
dawn
of something relevant in his
life for a change.

He shook his head and turned. “I have not
seen Ryia in nigh eight years since she had been wed off to that
blasted baron she’d foolishly fallen in love with. What brings her
here now?”

Edwin scoffed and swallowed the remainder of
his beverage. “She’s your last living relative. The least you can
do is see her.”

“As if I have a choice. The missive I
received indicates she’s only a day away.”

“Wonderful. Now how about we pay your
captive a visit, eh? I still do believe you should have just handed
her over to the public gaoler. Especially with your delicate sister
freely roaming the castle beginning next morn.”

Scratching his chin,
Ulric grumbled and strode pass his friend. The only thing
he
believed was that his audacious captive deserved a sound
thrashing.

 

**

 

A
udelia Rolfen paced in the dark
cell, suddenly all too aware that she had been captured and left to
die in a stink-hole far from any chance of escape. If that
pigheaded beast of a man thought she’d sit still and waste away
like some hopeless fool then he had sadly mistaken. She’d come too
far now to give up. Swearing, she cringed as the chill from the
cold concrete seeped its way through the naked soles of her
feet.
Damnable
barbarians
. The least they could have
done was hand over her boots and perhaps a blanket. Now the only
thing she had to her back was the sweaty long-sleeved cotton shirt
she’d been wearing for days and the linen breeches she’d taken from
Mart.

Nibbling on her already crooked nails,
Audelia slid down against the wall, the rough floor doing terrible
harm to her backside. She wondered where the little idiot was now.
Perhaps if he hadn’t gotten himself caught lingering beneath the
guv’s window at the inn, she would have afforded a greater chance
at escaping. Audelia was almost sure she would have managed to
break away from the man’s hold back in the chamber but when the
other came rushing in with Mart by his collar, she’d lost all hope
then. How had she to really stave off two full-sized males with
just one dagger?

Heaving footsteps echoed from somewhere
beyond the dark walls and Audelia found herself rising quickly
despite the ache in her limbs. The harsh sounds of boots grinding
against cobbles and stones came louder now, followed by a beaming
light which gave her the very first if not repulsive glimpse of her
gaol’s interior. Swallowing deeply, she braced herself against the
wall and waited. The approaching whoever-they-were stopped beyond
the thick wooden door that held the only exit to her cage. In one
heart-wrenching moment, said door was flung open and in marched the
beast himself.

Audelia’s lips curved into a nasty snarl as
she beheld her jailer. She couldn’t understand how he managed to
look even taller but just gazing at him made her want to shrink
away into the nearest hole if she could find one. He was dressed in
black garb and the shin-high leather boots she’d craved so much to
make a fortune from. For some reason her gaze lingered on his face
far longer than she had liked but a countenance like that certainly
deserved more than a single glance. In admission, her jailer was a
good-looking man, an unconventional rugged type of handsome that
must have left countless lassies thinking of days on a ship and
naughty nights in it’s main cabin. Her glare dipped lower though
despite her best efforts, sliding over his neatly pinned back
shoulder-length hair, it’s blackness glistening in the
torchlight.

Mentally shaking the apparent cobwebs from
her mind, she straightened to her full five-foot-six-inches height
and screwed up her face.

“Come to pay your lucky prisoner a visit,
have you?”

To her surprise her jailer grinned, all
teeth and throaty amusement that she wished she had a rock to slam
into his arrogant face. “Actually, I’d every intention of showing
you my favorite noose but my dear friend, Edwin, somehow has
developed a strange liking for outlandish females.”

Audelia narrowed her
eyes. “Tell your friend,
Edwin
, that I am specially
skilled at cramping a man in even the most private of places. Come
near me and I shall de-man both of you.”

Her jailer came closer, legs moving fast as
he towered over her, face stricken. “That’s hardly the right thing
to say in the presence of the man who holds your life in his palm,
wench.” He looked her over quickly. “What is your name?”

“My name is no more important than my wish
to exchange words with you at the moment. Do you honestly think
that I--”

Audelia gasped as one big hand pawned her
throat and squeezed. Not to kill her but certainly to hurt the hell
out of her. Pawing at his thick arm, she wheezed and strained for
the air she hadn’t known she’d want so much.


Listen carefully,” he
was saying. She could see his eyes more clearly now. They were a
deep green, much like the color of the forests she’d dreamed daily
of escaping into...and certainly the last thing she should have
been noticing at the moment. “I am
not
in a gaming mood. So if you
seek to be amusing, I am sure the devil and his compatriots
wouldn’t mind bidding you a fierce welcome.”

He shoved her firmly
against the wall and pressed even closer, his big hard frame
leaning into her much
much
slender one. Those intense
green eyes burned into her soul like a piercing dagger and she
trembled, watching in terror as his gaze roamed her face swiftly
and then dipped below to the loose neckline of her
shirt.


How old
are
you?”
His voice came out rough and demanding.

She wheezed. “N-Nineteen.”

Ulric tore his gaze from the exceptional
bosom that peeked its way through the flimsy material of the chit’s
shirt. What the hell was he thinking? He hadn’t intended on choking
the life out of her and by far more, had no reason to be liking the
delicious swell of her small breasts either. But just the sight of
them had driven him to a heady state that he had tried hard to
avoid as of late. He certainly hadn’t noticed how delicate a face
she sported or how light and slender she was...until now. God’s
blood, she wasn’t even pretty. He could hardly call her that but
she had a defiance about her that got under his skin like a raging
itch. And for some reason, he was beginning to find that
realization oddly fascinating, which was why he dropped his grip
from her throat and stepped a few steps back before he fully lost
his mind.

Taking a sharp breath in, Ulric watched with
pained guilt as the girl sucked in rapidly needed breaths and
massaged her more-than-likely burning neck. He hadn’t felt so
remorseful since the day his sister had married that stupid baron
just to escape his so-called ‘controlling ways’. Perhaps, he was
not well in the presence of women at all.

“Why were you in my room at the inn?”

The girl glared at him and although he did
not blame her, he was more desperate for her to speak up quickly.
He had other concerns that needed his attention.


What do you
think? Do not get your thoughts muddled,
milord
.” She
mocked him and he knew it. “I, unlike most women, have never craved
common attention from strange men.” She straightened and swallowed
visibly. “Why, you looked to have mighty deep pockets,
sir.”

Ulric’s brows
almost shot off his face. Surely, she must be jesting.
“You’re...a
thief
?”

“An excellent one too.” She smiled widely as
if with pride, one corner of her mouth turning up in a sly
grin.

“You mean to tell me that your intention was
to take my coin?”

He definitely
could not believe what he was hearing and just having the girl so
near made him very...
very
uncomfortable.
She was only nineteen years old; two years more than his sister
Ryia’s age when she herself had been wed. From all he’s ever known,
nineteen year old females could not be thieves. They were innocent
and annoying and married off to firm gentlemen who could keep them
in line.


Not
just
take
your coin, sir.” She fidgeted with her trousers a
while, pulling at the crotch. “I meant to rob you blind. Coin like
yours could save the life of someone like me.”

Ulric knew he should not feel an ounce of
empathy for this criminal who would have stuck a knife inside his
chest at first opportunity but somehow he found himself staring
into those pale brown eyes which spoke volumes of a scared young
woman. Whatever could have driven her to become a thief? It surely
ought not to be a celebrated profession. “Where is your
family?”

Audelia frowned as she regarded the man
before her. She hated being the subject of any form of talk and she
certainly was no story-teller either. “Are you going to hang me
tonight or in the morn?”

“I have not decided yet.”


Well since
I
am
meant to be
hanged for my crimes,
kind sir
, my last and
only wish is that I’m afforded just a wee bit of privacy while I
await my looming death.”

Giving the girl one last glance, his glower
sweeping from the crown of her disheveled hair to the toes of her
dirty bare feet, Ulric turned on his heel and left the cell. As he
walked, he wondered what the hell he was going to do with his new
prisoner.

Four

 

 

B
aroness Ryia St.
Rosso Hyslop flew through the front doors of Chastelle Manor, swept
the large and very familiar foyer and bound up the endless
staircase to her brother’s study. As far as she remembered, it was
his favorite place on the entire estate. She supposed, as the
reputed hermit her brother had transformed into, he probably was
swimming in tankards of brandy and sulking the day away. But oh,
she had a piece of her mind to tell Bryce Ulric St. Rosso and he
was going to hear it. Slamming the side of her fist against the
thick wooden door, Ryia grumbled when no answer came.

“I know you are in there! Open the door, you
hear me!”

After moments of pounding and no response,
Ryia groaned her frustration and shove the door open, surprised to
find that it had been unlocked all this time. Inside, her brother
was seated at his desk as he read something from a roll of
parchment. Bristling, she scuffled over and wagged her finger
angrily in his face.


You
would
think
that after seven and a half years, my
own brother would welcome me in the courtyard.”

BOOK: Coins and Daggers
10.69Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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