Winter Wonder – a Story for the Dark Days

Mary strained her eyes trying to see in the gloom. Her cloak slipped from her shoulder and she had to release Lennox’s arm in order to catch it. He waited while she knotted the ties at her throat.

“I think Red Will has caught one of the thugs Rintoul uses to guard his door,” Lennox said.

Mary heard the excitement and satisfaction this caused her husband, but she quailed. Memories crowded in now and she knew a man had taken hold of her person and lifted her bodily from the flags. His strength had been too great for her and despite thrashing her feet and screaming, she’d been subdued. She let a hand stray behind her head to where a small lump gave testimony to the vicious nature of the encounter. What if this was one of the men who had knocked her out and carried her to the waste ground where she was found unconscious beneath Duff? She bent and lifted a large stone. Curling her fingers around the makeshift weapon steadied her nerves.

“I have issue I want to take with him, if it is,” she murmured, and felt her husband’s breath hot in her ear.

“No, my love, leave this to Red Will, and to me.”

Mary bridled, but kept behind Lennox as he crept forward. Red Will grunted some words that caused him to pause and study the door of Rintoul’s house. Donal came out of the shadows and trussed the prisoner. They gagged him, too, and settled back among the detritus on the street to wait. Mary supposed that was what the thug had been persuaded to reveal – Rintoul or a visitor was about to leave.

Just as the cold seeping through her boots and up the muscles of her legs caused Mary to think she might never walk again, the door scraped inwards. Illuminated by a wall sconce, Lady Grizel stood trembling in the entrance. Behind her a thin and angular male leant against the entry.

Lennox moved swiftly forward and would have laid hands on his mama to pull her out of his firing line, but she spoke.

“Lennox! Unhand me, sir. I have here the family jewels and a paltry set of rubies and garnets your wife prizes.” Mary heard the imperious tones which were much at odds with the circumstances Lady Grizel must find herself in. “Mister Rintoul has been kind enough to guard them for me. When a dastardly plot became known to me, I turned to him in your absence.”

“Really, mama?” Lennox said. “And when we return to Queen Street, will we find the jewels in this leather pouch – or a set of paste replicas?”

It was impossible to make out Lady Grizel’s expression, but Mary watched the shadows dance macabrely and knew she must be shaking.

“Come, Calder, you would hardly call your own mother a liar, would you?” the man in the doorway spoke with such sneering insolence, Mary knew Lennox was right. The jewels his mama held were fakes.

“Would I not, Rintoul? Then let me send that title to you.”

“It is an insult, sir. My man will call on you in the morning.”

BELLA’S BETROTHAL an entertaining romance with humour and a touch of thematic mystery.

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