Slumber Page 15

I laughed as he described her outrageous tactics to get Donal.

“She succeeded though?” I asked laughing, not nearly as uncomfortable as I had been.

Lieutenant Chaeron snorted. “Kirsta had him wed in under two months. They’ve been married three years now, and have two children; more to come I suspect.”

His was a warm sounding family, what I’d always imagined my own would have been like, had we been given the chance to grow with one another. I swallowed my numbed grief and encouraged him to tell me more about his own wife and children.

As night fell we crossed first the River Silvera, and a while later, the River Sabith, and as we passed through small woods we saw lights twinkling in the distance between the trees. Coming out of the woods, I swatted at another insect that had decided my skin was a tasty treat. Not even twenty four hours in and already I was feeling the irritation of travelling.

“Sabith Town.” Wolfe stopped his horse, turning to us as he pointed at the large town in the distance. “We’ll rest here for the night.”

I swear I almost swooned in relief. And I was not a swooner. I grinned at the Lieutenant, and with renewed energy the Guard loped into a canter, the men and the cart still trailing behind us in the woods. I was assured they would catch up, however.

Seeming to know the town, Wolfe took us straight to a large inn on the outskirts of it. I was thankful that we wouldn’t be trotting our way through the quiet streets at this time, waking everyone from their beds.

The inn keeper, a tall, stout woman with arms like rolling pins, came swaggering out to us, and I raised my brow at her manners. Then I smiled. Her robust confidence reminded me of Cook.

“Well, what a fine sight!” She called heartily, as Wolfe dismounted. They shook hands and it became clear to me that she and Wolfe were already acquainted.

“You bring me much business, Captain Wolfe.” She nodded to us all, her eyes landing on me. She dipped me a graceful curtsey at complete odds with her ambling gait. “My Lady!” She called up to me. I was beginning to realise that this woman never spoke. She barked. “Well.” She turned to Wolfe. “You’ll be needing a room for that fine lass. As for you and your men, well, I have five rooms free that I’m sure a good few can share. The rest will need to bunk down in the stables, I’m afraid.”

“That’s fine,” Wolfe assured her. He spun around to address Lieutenant Chaeron who dismounted. “Lieutenant, I’ll ask you to take a room in the inn. See how big the rooms are, see how many of our men can share. I’ll bunk in the stables with the rest.”

Taken aback by Wolfe’s order, having thought he would’ve been too spoiled to ‘rough’ it with the rest of the men, I forgot myself and began to dismount. I was almost to the ground when I felt a hand on my lower back and was eased to the ground. I knew his scent before I even turned. “I can manage,” I bit out.

“I know,” Wolfe replied coldly. “But appearances, my Lady, appearances.”

I made a face and he rolled his eyes at me.

“Child,” he muttered and then took my arm like a gentleman. I tried to tug it away but he held me fast. “Can you behave for one night, Lady Rogan?” he hissed. “I have to show you to your room.”

“You’re such a fusspot,” I exhaled and allowed him to walk me into the huge inn. I gaped in wonder at the openness of it. To our left was an arched doorway that led into a large eating area and bar. A fire crackled at one end and I shuddered at the thought of its delicious heat. To our right was a narrow hallway I guessed led to rooms and before us a massive open stairway that led to the rooms upstairs.

“Room 11, Captain.” The inn keeper approached us grinning broadly. She thrust the key towards us and Wolfe took it before I could.

“Thank you, Mags, you’re the best.”

She blushed at his smile and I groaned inwardly. Dear haven, if a woman like Mags fell for Wolfe’s charm, no woman alive (except me!) was safe.

“You know I’m sure I can find the room all by myself. I’m a big girl you know.”

He grunted at that and led me upstairs.

The room was surprisingly nice. And large. A four poster with clean cotton sheets and woven quilts sat at one end, and lo and behold a lovely fire already lit, flickered brilliantly at the other. Very nice. Not that I gave positive commentary in front of Wolfe.

“I’ll have Mags bring you up a meal.” Wolfe strode around the room, peering here and there. What in haven was he looking for? “Everything seems in order.” He marched stiffly back to the doorway.

“What? No rookery thieves behind the changing screen?” I asked sarcastically.

I was rewarded with a disdainful look. “Just lock the door behind me.”

I shrugged in answer just to annoy him and as the door was closing in his wake he said, “And stop flirting with my men, my Lady. Some of them are married.”

My cheeks flamed in outrage, and without him to bear it, the door took the brunt of my thrown travelling bag.

Chapter Seven

Although Wolfe had promised to take it a little easier on us after having hurried us through the first day, he still kept up what I considered a gruelling pace. He was only giving us a fifteen minute break, and although I understood (more than anyone) the importance of getting the plant in good time, I didn’t think we’d get there any faster if we all died from exhaustion. Plus the men were a little befuddled by how quickly we were moving, considering this was supposed to be a casual diplomatic trip.

I managed to antagonise Wolfe into giving us a half hour break.

By the third day of our journey we were close to reaching the northern border of Sabithia. The night before we had been given shelter by one of the wealthiest farmers I had ever met. Chaeron told me no one knew how they bred their sheep, or worked the wool, but the Farmer Soel and his family made plenty of money around Phaedra, providing the rich with the finest wool. And as Farmer Soel had welcomed me into his home, I had found his face familiar. Clearly, I had seen him at the marketplace in Silvera. I had been led inside with Lieutenant Chaeron. The rest of the men were either camping outside or in the stables. Wolfe had insisted I be chaperoned, but at the glare I drew him he had immediately suggested Lieutenant Chaeron accompany me while he kept an eye on the men.

After a wonderful sleep it had been jarring to get back on the horse, but as the hours wore on I realised my aching muscles were growing used to the saddle. Thank haven for small mercies. The light was fading as we cantered into what Chaeron called Lumberland. Most of the northern Sabithia was covered in forestation, and the province purchased most of its wood for housing, furniture etcetera from these companies. Wolfe carefully followed signs that had been posted to allow travellers to pass through safely, careful not to put us in the path of falling trees and such. By the time we drew clear of the forest and into a clearing where a small village stood, a lumber factory on the outskirts marring its quaint beauty, the day had grown dark as it gave into night.

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