He stared straight ahead, not yet trusting himself to look at her again. He smelled the plum wine on her breath, so now he knew the source of her odd smile and the stumbling. Churlish, he thought about finding every jug of that stuff and pouring it out in the yard. It was never wise to let a woman near something so potent, no matter how his mother protested she was allowed one vice in her life. At her age she ought to know better. Fancy giving this wench, who was plainly trouble enough, plum wine, just to add coal to the fire!
Once through the gate and out in the lane, he stopped abruptly, hand still around her arm. “It was you, wasn’t it ?”
All amusement melted from her countenance. She tried to remove her arm, but he gripped her tightly. He would not let her get away again. She’d left him once before, left him to suffer.
“I don’t know what you mean,” she said, eyes flaring, shooting sparks of reflected sunset. “I’ve never been to
. I…I don’t even know where it is.” Up went her eyebrows and the disdainful little nose. Norwich
“I met a woman there in a bawdy house, two months ago,” he said slowly. “She wore a mask and wouldn’t tell me her name.”
“A house of ill-repute? How dare you suggest I ever visited such a place!”
Releasing her arm, he muttered, “Can’t imagine where I might get the idea. Can you?”
“Certainly not.” She fussed with those loose strands of hair, trying to put them back under her cap. “And frankly, Master John Carver, I wonder what business you had in such a place either!” She stormed off, head high, as if she had somewhere important to go without him. Oh no, the strumpet would not walk away, dismissive and haughty.
His long stride soon caught up with her. “Nathaniel put you up to it, did he, trollop? Was it another of his little jests to send you to seduce me at Mistress Comfort’s?”
Even her freckles paled. “You stinking, wretched, hypocrite! Filthy, rotten…goatypig!”
“Yes. That’s what you are. A goat,” she held up one hand and then the other, “and a pig.” Clapping her hands smartly together, she just missed his nose. “But with none of the good, just the worst aspects of both rolled into one.”
“You’ve been at my mother’s plum wine haven’t you?”
Hands on her waist, she stood her ground. “So what if I have?”
Glowering down at the bedraggled creature with the stubborn lips and prim, upturned nose, John once again suffered an undeniable jolt of need. At least once a day, since he’d brought her here, these feelings came to him and usually at a very inconvenient moment.
She could deny it all she liked.
But he knew her. Intimately. In every way.
Where had she been before then? How many other men had she known since him? Had she thought of him at all in the time between? Anger, jealousy and hurt battled for supremacy. No woman had ever done this to him. No woman would dare treat him this way.
She was leaving him again, her quick step already passing through the gates to the yard. He followed, grabbed a pitchfork from the hay cart and ran around in front of her, holding it like a weapon. She skidded to a halt, eyeing the pitchfork fearfully.
“Tell me the truth, Friday wench.” She stepped back against the cart and he followed. “It was you, wasn’t it? Confess!”
She regarded him sourly, lips pursed, head on one side. He resettled the pitchfork across his thighs, holding it with both hands.
“I’ve never seen you before in my life. Not before you found me waiting on the Captain’s cart in
The little scar under her eye was not familiar to him, but her lips were. So was the dimple and the hair, now its true color began to show. She had the sheer gall to feign ladylike, dainty manners when he knew exactly what she was and what she’d done to him, damn her.
She was the best birthday gift he’d ever had.
copyright Jayne Fresina 2011