Excerpt Three - Chapter Eight - Hugo
Cold muscles jerked. “Hugo.”
Like studying the details of an experiment, she recognized the effect of his glassy voice on her body. Rapid breaths. Trembling fingers. Busy eddies of blood beating a heavy measure at her temples. The earlier bravado she mustered, knowing dozens of expectant eyes scrutinized their verbal advances and deflections, dwindled to dangerously low stores.
Weariness remained, along with a snaking fear of her own weak resolve. She had once loved Hugo, the thief of Tunneley Wood, desiring him beyond reason. The prospect of drowning beneath those sordid sensations frightened her like the river’s rush. She could imagine nothing more humiliating than being his fool again.
She stood with deliberate slowness, refusing to remain seated when he loomed over her, looking down on her. “What do you want?”
“To offer you a warning,” he said. “You knew no one would turn you away, mad witch that you are. But try your tricks on me again and you’ll have to sleep with your eyes—no, your ears open.” Moving closer, his quiet breathing filled the scant distance between them. “Unless
you’d rather take shelter in my bed.”
He laughed, cold and pitiless. “Where’s your sister?”
“She’s gone missing,” she said, her features feeling numb. “But likely you knew that.”
“I suppose I did. Surprised you haven’t accused me of some offense.”
“You’re guilty of much, but nothing to do with her disappearance.”
“Warms my heart, Meg, your faith.” He stroked her from shoulder to elbow, tugging her near. She entered enemy territory. “Come now, warm the rest of me.”
She tensed and shivered. “Let me go.”
Lean arms wrapped her into a compromising hold, banding her upper back. He smelled of wood fire and ale. His lips brushed hers, tempting her to taste. Memories of passion mingled with an acid streak of shame. She should hit him. Kick him. Hate him.
But, for the moment, someone held her in the dark. And she hated only her isolation. Her body molded to his, heat against heat.
“Without Ada to consider, I thought you’d welcome me.”
An old and bubbling pain threatened to burst. Regret and a distant betrayal pressed the backs of her eyes and scraped her throat raw.
“Welcome you to crawl into me again? I am not you, nor am I Ada. Do you believe me so disloyal?”
“No,” he whispered, claiming another nipping kiss. “I believe you so reckless.”
“Perhaps Scarlet sees to you now. Are you grateful I broke you in?”
“I’m only grateful that our encounters never resulted in a child.”
“Meg, Meg, Meg.” A sure hand slid down her spine and grasped her backside. He pulled her pelvis flush to his. “You write history anew if you deny how you enjoyed me.”
Her limbs, brain, and pride finally cooperated. She smacked at his arms, hitting him until he released her—until she was alone in the blackness. “Get away from me.”
“No more for tonight, then?”
“Kiss him again, Meg.” Scarlet’s sharp command punctured the night air with the precision of an arrow. “But only if you have more lye.”