You're the Rogue That I Want(3)

By: Samantha Holt

Resisting the urge to draw out her handkerchief and place it to her nose, she took several steps back. It was not that the giant smelled—no it was more the general odor of the place that had her wrinkling her nose. In fact, he had been about the cleanest smelling man she had encountered so far. He folded his arms and frowned at her, forcing her to take a few more steps back, only for her to strike someone else.

This person did notice her and took particular exception to her knocking into his ale. She was none too pleased to have done so either, not when it sloshed over the back of her coat. She twisted her face as a trickle of the cold drink seeped under her collar and slid down her back.

“Clumsy girl,” the owner of the ale muttered.

“I am sorry,” she said, easing away from the glowering man.

She ignored the giant and pushed deeper into the crowded confines of the inn. Hannah tried not to pass judgement on the patrons—after all, she was hardly an ill-traveled woman and had seen worse places—but none of them did anything to dissuade her initial impression of them.

On several small round tables, tucked into the alcove windows, games of cards were taking place with money being lost and won. She ducked under a wooden beam and stepped around a drunken man sprawled half upon the floor, his back propped up against the bar.

Hannah gripped her pelisse about her and pushed her way through to the bar, placing a hand on the worn wood only to draw it straight back as she came into contact with something sticky and indescribable. She tried to catch the eye of a barmaid, but the woman was too busy dashing about, her tray laden with pints of ale.

Tears threatened to burn in her eyes. She sniffed them back and blinked them away. No tears, my girl, her father’s voice intoned.

“No tears,” she muttered, recalling the many, many times her father said farewell as he went off on expeditions. She had held back the tears then; she could certainly hold them back now. Goodness, she could hardly stand in the middle of a busy inn and blub now, could she?

It was merely exhaustion. Yes, that was it. It had been a long trip on the mail coach. She had not been able to catch it from Falmouth until seven in the evening. It had been preferable to a stage coach as it was less busy and quicker. Her father always took the mail coach when given the option and his letter had urged her to make haste. The problem was, it was far past time she should be in bed, and she had eaten no supper. Her stomach grumbled, her bottom hurt from being bounced about inside the coach, and a slight headache was starting up.

She glanced around and saw the serving girl heading her way once more. Drawing up her shoulders, she stepped deliberately in front of the girl. With a pretty face, dark, golden hair and a generous bust, Hannah imagined the girl was good for business. If the looks she was getting were any indication, Hannah’s supposition was correct.

The girl glanced her over, most likely noting how out of place she was.

“E-excuse me,” Hannah started.

“Yes?” Someone behind her bellowed for another ale, and she waved away the customer. “Are you lost, love?”

“N-no, I’m looking for someone.” She leaned in. “His name is Red.” She whispered the last part.

“What do you want with him?”

“I need to speak with him. It’s an urgent matter.”

The woman shrugged. “He is over there.” She motioned to a lone table tucked by the fireplace. Shadows shielded her from seeing the face of the man but sure enough she could see a figure hunched over a drink, the firelight picking out only his shaggy hair and the glass of amber liquid in his hand. “Be careful,” the serving girl warned, “he’s not in the best of moods.”

Hannah smirked to herself. She had dealt with much this past week, travelling alone from Hampshire to Cornwall. A grumpy man could hardly intimidate her.

“Thank you.”

She made her way over to the man who appeared determined to ignore everything and everyone. She noted the bottle of whiskey on his table—a fine brand that her father sometimes enjoyed. At least half of it was missing. Hopefully he was not too inebriated.

“Excuse me,” she started but her voice came out like nothing more than a mouse’s squeak. She coughed and tried again. “Excuse me, are you Red?”