Roark prowled his cell. Ten irate paces to the wall. Ten fuming paces back. The lone candle flickered but valiantly continued to burn despite being scarcely more than a nub.
His last one.
The weak flame cast meandering shadows across the rustic walls. On a stone above the table, he’d discovered one hundred and seventeen etched marks. Some pitiable sot had spent almost four months locked in this cell.
What time was it? Miss Ferguson promised to return after dinner. Where was she? He shot a glance to the candle before returning his gaze to the sooty darkness beyond his cell. At most, it would burn another hour.
He tried to conserve the tapers. His fear of the dark, particularly the inkiness caused by being a good twenty feet beneath the keep, had him burning a light constantly. Roark wrinkled his nose. They stunk too, worse than he did. Likely they were made of mutton fat. He sniffed. The whole place reeked of mildew and dank, musty dampness.
When he did nod off, the squeaks and squeals of rats and mice fighting over the remnants of his meal woke him. He’d taken to resting with his food tucked near him, throwing crumbs or leftovers outside the cell. Still, the more daring of the rodents ventured within.
He shuddered. He’d dozed off a bit ago and woke with a grayish-brown rat the size of his three-legged cat, Achilles, perched on his chest, grooming itself.
Roark had remained stock-still. He’d no desire to be bitten by the brazen rat or the fleas it no doubt hosted. In the medical books he’d studied, he’d read of numerous incidences of humans contracting typhus, cholera, and the plague due to exposure or bites by infected vermin.
Another black mark against Miss Ferguson.
No doubt she hadn’t considered the dangers of close association with rats. Likely, the addlepate was unaware of the hazards, not that she’d care. She was obsessed. No matter how many times he told her his name, she adamantly insisted he was Edgar and,
therefore, posed a risk to Yvette.
Instead of scampering off, the rodent had reared onto its haunches and wiped at his nose and ears with his front paws. Grizzled whiskers twitching, the bugger stared at Roark with his black-button eyes.
Then casually, as if it were an everyday occurrence to bathe on a human, the scraggy rat had ambled across Roark’s abdomen and down the length of his leg. After giving him a cursory look, the little beast hopped onto the pallet, and sauntered from the cell.
Roark cocked his head. Were those muffled footsteps in the distance? She was coming—at last. And none too soon. The candle would last scant minutes more.
The glow announcing her progress grew in size and intensity as Miss Ferguson neared. She was moving rapidly. Where was the familiar click of her boot heels?
Then, she was there.
Roark gaped awestruck at the vision before him. Her coffee-colored hair piled into an intricate Grecian knot atop her head displayed her slender ivory neck exquisitely. The deep scarlet gown clung to her slim figure. Jewels in her hair, earlobes, and around her neck sparkled in the lantern’s light.
He glimpsed the creamy swell of her bosom as she struggled to slide on a slipper. Her subtle perfume filled the air. Desire speared him.
Blister and damn.
His groin tightened involuntary. Roark cursed inwardly at his body’s betrayal. Adaira Ferguson was the last woman on earth he wanted to be attracted to.
Collette Cameron Bio:
Award winning, Amazon best-selling, and multi-published historical romance author, Collette Cameron, has a BS in Liberal Studies and a Master's in Teaching. A Pacific Northwest Native, Collette’s been married for thirty years, has three amazing adult children, and five dachshunds. Collette loves a good joke, inspirational quotes, flowers, the beach, trivia, birds, shabby chic, and Cadbury Chocolate. You'll always find dogs, birds, quirky—sometimes naughty—humor, and a dash of inspiration in her novels. Her motto for life? You can’t have too much chocolate, too many hugs, or too many flowers. She’s thinking about adding shoes to that list.
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