Master of the Shadows

Page 16

“None of you can drive?” Reese watched the other women shaking their heads. “Well, it’s been a while since I’ve driven a lorry, but I’ll give it a go.”

“What is a lorry?” Lettice asked.

“What they call a truck in England.” Reese forced a smile. “One of my tresoran mentors was English. I guess I picked up some of his slang.”

Once they had cleared off the camouflaging branches, Reese unlocked the back of the truck and helped the women inside. Rebecca, however, refused to climb in.

“I shall ride up front with you.” When Reese began to protest, she said, “I am the only one who knows the way to the sanctuary house in Marietta.”

Reese hadn’t considered that the women would want to go anywhere else but Atlanta. “I think we should drive to the city instead. Lord Locksley is there, and we’ll be safe with him.”

“We cannot,” Rebecca said. “Our lord’s city home may also have been seized by the Italians. If we are ever forced to leave the estate, our instructions are to go to the sanctuary house and wait there for our men.”

She couldn’t argue with that. “I understand.” She’d have to stop at a pay phone along the way and call her father from there. “Let’s get rolling.”

Reese took a moment to familiarize herself with the truck’s instruments before she started the engine and slowly eased the vehicle out across the lot and onto the road. She drove slowly at first—the truck had not been used in some time, and the engine had a tendency to sputter—but soon she increased her speed to just under the road’s limit.

“I imagine this is the last thing you thought you would be doing when you came to Rosethorn tonight,” Rebecca said as she took a pouch from the glove compartment and tucked it into the pocket of her skirt.

Reese nodded. “This definitely tops the list.” She saw the lines of strain around the other woman’s mouth. “Are you doing okay?”

“I have not left the estate since we came to America,” she said slowly.

“How long ago was that?”

“Two hundred years and better.” The chatelaine sighed. “I thought about it from time to time, but when Sherman came and burned the city during that very uncivil mortal war, I decided living at Rosethorn was adventure enough for me.” She glanced at Reese. “You must think me a simpleton.”

“There is nothing wrong with being happy at home,” Reese corrected. “I envy you in some ways.”

Rebecca stared out the side window. “You never should.”

She must have reminded the woman of something unhappy. Reese knew she was missing her husband—anyone who saw them together could see that they were soul mates—but she wondered how a lovely woman like the chatelaine had fallen in love with a big, dark brute like Sylas. “How did you meet your husband?”

“Whenever he was in England, Sylas came to the convent where I lived to visit his youngest sister,” Rebecca said. “She was one of my charges.”

Reese’s brows arched. “That would make you a nun.”

“I was, and Sylas a soldier of fortune.” She smiled. “I have shocked you.”

“Oh, I don’t know. I’ve met Buddhist advertising executives, vegetarian meatpackers, and one time I sat next to a girl on a plane who swore she was the secret love child of Princess Di and the lead singer of Duran Duran.” Reese shifted on the hard vinyl seat. “Getting caught in the siege of a castle during the twenty-first century, that pretty much tops everything, even a nun married to a mercenary.”

“We never actually married,” Rebecca admitted. “When the sickness began to spread through the county around the convent, Sylas came to take his sister away. Unfortunately, by the time he arrived, she was already sick and too ill to be moved. Everyone fled but me and a few of the older sisters. And Sylas. He would not leave his sister’s side.”

More bad memories. “I shouldn’t have asked—”

“No, my dear, I do not mind speaking of it. We worked together to care for the sick.” She closed her eyes. “I came to know him during those long hours in the infirmary. The night his sister died, Sylas and I both began coughing. I knew that it was likely that I would go before him, so I asked my friend, Sister Marian, to bury us together. She honored my last request, bless her soul. Three days later I woke up in the ground. In his arms.”

“That’s very romantic.” Reese frowned. “I can’t believe I just said that.”

“I was so frightened, but Sylas…he took care of me. He was such a formidable man to look upon, you understand, but I had witnessed myself how gentle he could be. I trusted him.” She looked down at her hands, which she held tightly folded in her lap. “Even in the grave we shared.”

Reese grimaced. “I hope he got you out of there in a hurry.”

“At first I thought perhaps they had buried us alive,” Rebecca said. “It happened all too frequently in our time. But Sylas said that no, we had died, for he had held me until my last breath. He thought that somehow God had been persuaded to give us another chance.”

The chatelaine told her how her husband had broken through the lid of the coffin they had shared, and pushed away the soil above it.

“We were both so weak by the time we were free, and yet he carried me into the forest and kept me safe with him. Over the next days we discovered the bizarre changes made to us—we could heal from any wound, but we could no longer eat food or drink anything—and tried to make sense of it.” Rebecca shook her head. “I do not know what would have happened to us had not the dark Kyn found us and taken us away with them. They told us what we were, and how we could live.”

Reese’s eyes felt heavy. “Then you fell in love with him.”

“Oh, no. I did that when I was a mortal.” Rebecca turned her head and sat up suddenly. “Reese, open the window.”

“Why?” The air was sweet and warm, and made her feel as if she were breathing in pure honey.

“I am shedding too much scent.” Rebecca reached across her to wind down the window, and then did the same on her own side of the cab. “’Twill be all right. The effect wears off quickly.”

“Thank you.” Reese’s head cleared. “How could that have happened? L’attrait has no…it usually has no effect on me.”

“Mine is somewhat more potent than that of other Kyn.” She looked away. “Forgive me. I will try to better guard myself until we reach Marietta.”

What an odd way to put it, Reese thought. She glanced down at the chatelaine’s side and saw through a tear in her gown an open wound. “Rebecca, that gash should have healed by now.” She looked ahead for an exit. “I’ll find a place to stop.”

“No, it is not necessary.”

“You need blood—”

“I never feed on mortals.”

Reese cringed. “You can’t be using the blood of animals; it would have made you a changeling. What other…” She gave Rebecca a startled look. “Sylas feeds you. After he hunts.”

“Keep your voice down.” Rebecca glanced back at the small window between the cab and the back of the truck. “I cannot hunt, not with my talent, so Sylas looks after my needs.”

“The only ones who feed from other Kyn are…” Suddenly Reese understood a great deal about the chatelaine. “That’s why you never leave Rosethorn. Why Sylas doesn’t want anyone touching you. It’s too dangerous.”

“Yes.” Pale eyes closed. “That is why.”

Cold dread filled Reese. “Just how powerful is your talent, Rebecca?”

“I have it under control; that is all that matters.” She glanced back at the window. “None of my ladies know of this, Reese. Please do not tell them. It will only frighten them.”

As she came up on the exit to Marietta, Reese slowed. “There’s a truck stop at the end of this ramp. I need to use the phone and contact the suzerain. Will you be okay if I stop for a few minutes?”

“Yes, of course.” Rebecca wrapped her arms around her waist and fell silent.

Reese parked the truck between two tractor trailers, and walked across the lot to a pay phone. It wasn’t until she lifted the receiver that she realized she had no coins with her, and dialed the number collect.

Her father accepted the charges, his voice frantic as he said, “You are not at Rosethorn. Do you have the book?”

“No, Father.” Shame gnawed at her. “The stronghold was attacked by another group of Kyn. Lord Locksley did not return to the estate before they neutralized the guards and took over the house.”

“Locksley has gone to Rome after Guisbourne,” he said, his voice dull. “He must have taken the book with him, then.”

“I do not think he would risk taking it out of the country,” Reese said. “He would have left it behind with Will for safekeeping.”

“Find Scarlet,” her father ordered. “At once.”

Now she had to admit to the rest of her failure. “There are some women who escaped the estate with me,” she said. “They are sitting in the back of a lorry, waiting for me to deliver them to safety.”

“Are they mortals?” When she didn’t answer, her father said, “I thought not. Leave them there.”

“Not one of them can drive,” she argued. “It will be dawn soon. Father, please. I need only an hour to take them to their sanctuary house.”

“Save them, my child, and you condemn the world.”

Reese pressed her forehead against the edge of the pay phone’s stand. “Do not ask this of me.”

His voice became a whip. “I am not asking.”

“Very well.” She hung up the phone and stood for a moment, looking at the vehicles around her. She would have to leave the truck with them, but she saw no cars parked anywhere. She was about to walk to the diner to beg a ride from one of the men inside when Rebecca caught her arm.

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