Thursday, May 26, 2011

Love's Savage Whiplash Chapter Three: The Dread Highwayman...Colin?

Wherein a Highwayman loses his ferret and discovers ladies, Avon, and venison.


***

Even highwaymen needed vacations, decided the exhausted Dread Highwayman Westley. Especially when the days ran so close upon the feet of a loved one's death. He threw a rock into the stream, as he'd done on his first eve with Roberts. The highwayman had taught him everything he now knew—robbing carriages, saving damsels, even giving to the poor when the occasion warranted—and though the Dread Highwayman was loathe to admit such emotion, he missed the old chap.

“It's just you and me now, Brigid,” he said to his ferret. She chortled from upon his shoulder as he recalled happier times, of the long nights spent with a wench of the same name up on the coast of Ireland. He let his head sink down on his shoulder, sure none of the passing fishmongers or townspeople would notice a man in black keeping to himself by the riverside. Roberts had told him, “There's no crying in highway robbery,” but he felt tears prick his eyes nonetheless.

Brigid nuzzled his ear and then jumped into her basket, looking up at him with wet doe eyes. “Ah, Brigid, you're the only woman for me.” He scratched her delicate chin and almost laughed away his sorrows when she nibbled his little finger.

They had been traveling by horse night and day since Robert's funeral three days past. Something had drawn him to stay in this small town of...well, he wasn't sure where, Shropshire? Leeds? though he could not reckon why. But it was long past time for him to be off. Before he could gather up Brigid’s basket and mount, three men surrounded him, cutting off all avenues of escape.

Calm and collected, for he'd been in more dire circumstances before, Westley drew his sword.
“I don't think that will be necessary,” an oily voice said from behind the largest man, the one standing between him and his horse. And that was exactly where Westley pointed his sword.
A small, bald man appeared from behind the blackguard, holding Brigid's basket. And a knife to his dear ferret's throat. Fear choked him, but a highwayman never let it show. He put up his sword. “How may I be of assistance, good sir?”

A crooked smile curled the bald man's lips, evoking images of a gassy babe. “Now that we understand each other, I'd like to offer you employment.”

Westley straightened. “Do you oft do business at sword point?” His highwayman morals were offended at the thought.

“Why yes, I've found it quite efficient for having my way.” The man snapped his fingers and his brutes backed off. But his hand did not budge from poor Brigid, who was as still as could be. Westley knew she understood the gravity of the situation. “I am Willoughby Wickham the fourteenth and for your services, I can promise you riches beyond a,” he looked at Westley's patched getup with disdain, “a bandit's best dreams.”

Westley nodded for him to continue, too intrigued to be offended. He'd bet his best bandit's eye mask—the one that smelled of lavender, even—that if he followed this man's nefarious plot, there might be a damsel to save, and treasures to loot. “I shall assent, so long as no harm comes to my ferret.”

Mr. Wickham looked down at the basket with a sneer and removed the dagger. “For now. But she stays with my henchman until you can no longer make trouble. Come, into my carriage and I will tell you all about it on the way to Netherloin.”

***

For a man under duress, Westley enjoyed Wickham's proposition. Play the part of his dead nephew, marry a beautiful and wealthy woman, and live as the Duke of Earl. And all he had to do was split the wench's dowry 60-40. He'd gladly take 40% for Brigid, a woman, and a title. Imagine, a Bandit-Duke. Something from his murky past surfaced, its eyes poking up like the crocodiles of which Robert had told him, before sinking down into the depths.

He let the man talk of his intended's beauties, her dark hair, luscious bosoms, overflowing chests of gold, but Westley tuned him out, instead marveling at the simplicity of the countryside. He'd spent little time away from the cities in his tenure as apprentice to Robert, so the quaint charm truly was a novelty.

At last they reached the manor of Netherloin, into which he was hustled before getting a good look at it. Mr. Wickham brought him to a dank, dim room with one window high upon the wall. Brigid was taken elsewhere. One of the henchmen returned with haste, bearing a gilt-framed portrait of a young man. Wickham held it next to Westley's face, looking back and forth between the two.

“Well, he's not quite as handsome as the Duke, and he will need a haircut, but he'll pass,” Wickham said to the man standing guard at the door. He turned to Westley and continued, “You shall have free run of the property once we get you cleaned up. Your rat will stay with me until your obedience is assured.”

Westley jerked at the rat comment, but held his tongue. Anything to keep Brigid safe.
Wickham continued without a care. “You will have dinner tonight with your betrothed. Clothes will be brought to you, and though you are nothing more than a highwayman, I expect you to be on your best behaviour.” With a flourish, Wickham and his man left, leaving the portrait by the now-locked door.

Westley sat and stared at the likeness for hours on end, shocked to see his childhood face looking back at him. When his gaoler unlocked the door and gave him a change of clothes, he was too intrigued to try an escape. He now needed to see this through to the finish. Maybe it would lead to more information about his own youth, which he could not remember. Robert blamed it on his almost drowning, or having hit his head on a river rock. Either way, Westley, for the first time in two decades, felt the stirring need for answers.

***

Had he known that morning the true details of his betrothed, Westley may have run the other way. Lady Chastity Feelsgood would not stop touching him with her unctuous hands, not stop sniffing him and saying, “My Duke, you smell so rich.” She even once paused, soup spoon halfway to her mouth, to inquire whether she'd just seen his skin sparkle.

Mystified by her flighty words and hands, Westley—correction, now Colin—let his mind wander elsewhere. Though they were on the fourth course, it seemed as if dinner would never end. Especially when his Uncle Wickham was slurping his soup so and glaring at him between spoonfuls.

Chastity laid a hand upon his arm, and he looked to her once more. She had odd smudges around her eyes. “My lady,” he asked, trying for utmost delicacy, “whatever have you done to your eyes?” He reached a tentative hand out to touch the sooty skin.

She cooed and said, “Oh, do you like it? A Lady from Avon—we must live in Avon, I suppose, for she had not traveled far—brought these magical new beautifiers to sell.” She batted her eyes. “I wore them especially for you, my Duke.”

He smeared the grey powder between his fingers and delicately leaned back. “Well, I believe I'm ready for the next course.” He signaled the man standing in the corner, as he imagined a Duke would do. To his satisfaction, the man ducked through the kitchen door. Moments later, a serving woman appeared bearing a tray piled high with meaty delicacies.

Before he could enjoy his next course, a woman ran into the room. It was like the sun rising from behind clouds of venison. Westley—now Colin—could not help but notice how delicate and slim her feet were. How fine her figure. How beautiful her face! Combined with the heady smell of roasted meat, it was enough to make a man, Duke or robber, swoon.

She was the most beautiful woman he'd ever beheld. Golden hair cascaded down her back and sea green eyes boldly met his gaze. She had a smear of soot on her nose and he wondered if she bought the same product as Lady Chastity.

Regardless, he knew in that moment that nothing would satisfy his appetite except to have her as his wife.

“Miss Fitzgerald, why are you not with Ward?” his uncle snapped.

The lady curtsied and apologized. “I simply had a question about—”

“Do not bother me with that boy right now! Off you go. Shoo!” One hand full of knife and the other full of forked meat, his uncle waved the goddess out of the room.

He looked to the platter. For now, he would settle for venison. But not for long.

***

A Word to you, Our Dear and Gentle Readers: If you enjoyed this small offering, please do us the honor of returning to grace our humble blog with your presence one week hence, when we shall be delighted to bring to you the next installment of our little saga, which is to be entitled, Chapter Four: The Ninja, The Pirate, her Katana, and His...Urges?

And please partake of our Love’s Savage Contest. Leave a comment here or go to our Facebook page (link in the column on the right) and quote your favorite line from this week’s episode to be entered in a monthly drawing for a giftcard at the bookstore of your choice and a grand finale drawing for a signed e-reader cover.
Cordially,

7 comments:

Sherry said...

Another great chapter it was pretty hard to pick just one line but here's the one I really liked.
Roberts had told him, “There's no crying in highway robbery,” but he felt tears prick his eyes nonetheless.
Thanks for another great chapter.

elaing8 said...

Great Chapter.
the part I liked was
“My Duke, you smell so rich.” She even once paused, soup spoon halfway to her mouth, to inquire whether she'd just seen his skin sparkle.

-sparkle..lol.I always think of Twilight when I read that word now.

Skylar Kade said...

Sherry and Elaine, glad you liked it! Those are two of my fave lines, too :)

Jean P said...

Another great chapter, so many great lines to pick from. For some reason this one popped out at me "It was like the sun rising from behind clouds of venison".

Jen B. said...

“My Duke, you smell so rich.” She even once paused, soup spoon halfway to her mouth, to inquire whether she'd just seen his skin sparkle.

Oh yes you went there! BooYah! Another great installment.

Robin said...

I'll go with this one:
He scratched her delicate chin and almost laughed away his sorrows when she nibbled his little finger.

Ivelisse said...

you guys are hilarious:
"A Lady from Avon.." lmao, can't wait to read whats next.