You're the Rogue That I Want(2)

By: Samantha Holt

He shuddered, aware of water still sloshing about in his boots. As much as the cursed wind made life difficult, Nate had been right. The rain would have made their job twenty times harder and their last lot of cargo had been a bother to bring in when they’d been struck by a downpour.

Christ, he longed for the days when they could bring in their goods with as much ease as a merchant man.

Once they reached barn, he paused to drag on his greatcoat.

“Cold?” Nate asked.

“Damned right I am.”

“It’s that noble blood of yours,” he said with a smirk.

“Yours is the same,” Red muttered.

“I’m plenty warm,” Knight remarked.

They both glanced at him. Red shook his head. Knight could not fail to be warm with the bulk of him. He suspected the man could stand out in the snow for two weeks and be perfectly content. He’d never met a man so hardy, and in their business, it was quite the asset.

They opened the back of the cart, and Red unlocked the barn door. “Put the wine near the door,” he ordered. “It will not be there long.”

Knight nodded and began unloading with a swift ease that made Red feel like a crippled old man, in spite of Knight being potentially older than him. At least they thought so. No one really knew, not even Knight.

Red stilled. He motioned to the men to do the same. Breath held, he listened.

“Horses,” Nate whispered.

He nodded. “Open both the doors, we’ll put the cart inside.”

Knight and Nate pulled them open and he urged the horses into the dark confines of the barn. Thankfully they had little left of their last haul or else it would never have fit in along with the horses. He clambered off quickly and locked the barn door behind him.

All three of them were well-rehearsed in dodging the excise men or any potentially nosey strangers. The rugged Cornish countryside provided plenty of hiding spots, and they tucked themselves behind a crumbling stone wall.

The sound of horse hooves neared. Collectively they held their breaths. Should the revenue men come upon them, they would be nothing more than three drunken men, lost on their way home from the inn. But it would be enough to arouse suspicion and potentially search the barn. None of them wanted that.

Red twisted his head enough to view the horses and their riders as they belted past. Three of them, well-dressed. Excise men to be sure. He cursed inwardly. They were becoming more determined.

They waited until the patrol was long gone before moving from their spot. A curse from Nate drew his attention.

“What is—” Red laughed as he spotted a sheep determinedly butting into Nate’s leg. He must have come from a nearby field and had apparently taking a liking to his brother. “Looks like you’ve made a friend.”

“Or any enemy,” Nate grumbled when the animal retreated and came at him again. Nate held up his hands to try to stop the animal from coming near but the white, grubby-looking sheep was determined to butt into his leg. In spite of clapping his hands and stomping his feet, the animal continued forward before coming to a stop and giving him a gentler nudge.

“She likes you,” Knight said.

“Come, let us finish our work here and leave Nate’s friend in peace. Then I can have a damned whiskey.”

“It is not my friend,” Nate protested as they opened the barn to continue unloading.

The damned sheep followed them into the barn.

Red shook his head. Nothing about tonight had gone smoothly.

Chapter Two

“Oh.” Hannah tried to tug the hem of her pelisse out from under the boot—the extremely muddy boot—of a short but heavy man. “P-pardon me.”

The short man ignored her, too deep into his cups and the conversation he was having with his friends in the entrance to the inn. She gave another tug and heard a frightful rip sound. She stumbled forward and her palms struck something warm and solid. Hannah jerked back and lifted her gaze to the mammoth of a man. A scar upon his lip, shoulders worthy of a fairytale giant and dark, dark eyes. A tremble racked her.

“F-forgive me.”

He merely peered at her as though she was some strange creature from the deep. She might as well be, she concluded. She did not belong in this crowded inn, late at night, amongst drunks and gamblers.