Mission to Venice (Murder Room)

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She has not written anything for a few years which is unusual. I wonder when her next book will be coming out. Like Like. You are commenting using your WordPress.

You are commenting using your Google account. You are commenting using your Twitter account. You are commenting using your Facebook account. Notify me of new comments via email. She started to when she caught sight of dogs racing across the field toward her, followed by horsemen. She was very tempted to stand there and gape. Fortunately some small part of her brain was acting on instinct; she turned and ran almost before she realized she needed to do so to avoid being trampled. As she fled with her skirts hiked up to her knees, she comforted herself with the knowledge that the mist had been playing tricks on her.

If she just ran fast enough, she would run right into the house and avoid being doggie dinner. Then she would have Lord Henry find out just who was riding over his fields with big, slobbering hounds and reprimand them politely for scaring the sh—. Her captor snarled something at one of his companions and was answered with a raucous laugh.

Jessica would have tried to sort that out, but she was too busy looking down between her dangling feet and watching the ground fly by. What was she thinking, rescue? She had been kidnapped and was being carried who-knew-where to have who-knew-what done to her.

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She looked around wildly only to find filthy, cloak-begarbed men riding with their attentions fixed on whatever the hounds were chasing. She would just have to take care of herself by herself. The men started yelling at each other again and this time Jessica listened more intently. But in none of her groveling visits had she heard French spoken quite like it was being spoken now.

The horse came to an abrupt halt and Jessica almost sighed in relief. Now she could apply herself to the task of getting down and getting away. Her relief was short-lived. Never mind that the men around her were speaking some strange French dialect in the midst of the English countryside. Just who the heck would have swiped something like that?

The thug who held her captive? No time like the present to determine the direness of her straits. He was, and she had to swallow very hard to keep from choking, the most terribly beautiful man she had ever seen. He had a long, wicked scar that traveled from his temple down his cheek to the side of his chin and below his jaw. His face was all planes and angles, harsh even in the deepening gloom. His hair was dark and his eyes were full of cynicism. Before she could wonder about that, she felt herself jerked backward off the horse thanks to a hand in her hair.

Jessica grabbed her hair close to her head and held on, trying to spare herself any more pain. She was set on her feet and then there was the distinct sound of fist against flesh. She looked up in time to see a mounted man jerk back upright with a curse. He had light hair and a very unpleasant face. That face, behind his bloodied nose, of course, was scrunched up in anger and he was shouting something at her rescuer. Jessica decided right then that this was a man she had no desire to get to know any better, especially when he let go of his nose long enough to draw a sword and brandish it.

He swung it around his head, but he did so in a manner that made him look less than sober. Jessica felt her mouth slip open. Either she was dreaming or her blood sugar had just taken a decided dip south. She watched the man on the horse wave his sword around as if he meant to do business with it, then she realized something else. He had a sword. She knew that because the hilt was digging into her side. That her rescuer—and by now she certainly preferred to think of him as such, if the alternative was casting her lot with the nasty-looking sword wielder—was even wearing a sword was enough to make her want to sit down until she could sort things out properly.

She pondered that for a moment or two, then realized that her non-sword-drawing acquaintance was speaking and by nothing more than the tone of his voice he made it clear that being in his sights was a very unhappy place to be. Jessica decided right then that confrontation would be her last resort. Maybe she could make off with his horse while his attention was elsewhere. She eased behind him. No sense in not using him as a shield while she could.

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Jessica looked around his shoulder at the man who still sat astride his horse, his flashing broadsword uplifted. That one seemed to make a decision of some kind. The beast cried out and jumped forward. The rest of the mounted men thundered past. Then she realized something else. The man with the iron grip around her wrist had faced down a man approximately the same size who was sitting on a horse with a drawn sword, yet he had come out the winner apparently using only words as his weapon.

He turned and looked down at her. Smiling in the face of that grim mask was more than she could manage. He shrugged, apparently noting her apology and then dismissing it. He put his hands on her waist and Jessica jerked back in surprise. She gasped in surprise as the man lifted her easily and cast her up onto his saddle. But before she could protest, the man reached for the reins, then spurred his horse forward. Jessica clutched the front of the saddle and prayed she would get back to the house in one piece, assuming they were heading back to the house. The sun had definitely set and the twilight was fading quickly; she did her best to calculate where they were going.

In that at least she found some relief. Sounds reached her before she could make out shapes. She could hear livestock complaining. There were men shouting and laughing. The sounds reminded her of an open market with merchants vocally advertising the excellence of their goods. But these sounds were completely out of place. Besides, the tourists were long gone by now. It was a castle. In fact, she suspected that it looked a great deal like the castle she had been so ignominiously carried from by Archie not a pair of hours before. And there, right there where the garden should have been was a drawbridge.

A working drawbridge, with men and horses traveling over it and torches lighting their way.


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Jessica lifted her eyes up walls that were at least three stories high and jerked back when she saw the men walking atop them. Soldiers with helmets that gleamed silver in the light from the moon. There was, however, no sign of that lovely Victorian mansion she had grown so attached to in such a short time. Jessica tried to jerk out of the saddle but the man squeezed her between his forearms. She grabbed the reins in front of where his hands were and gave them a substantial tug.

The gelding reared and the man swore. Jessica pulled back again, trying to turn the horse around. She dug her heels into his side for good measure. The beast reared again and Jessica released one rein long enough to give her companion a healthy shove. He teetered. Another jerk on the reins and another shove sent him right off the back of the horse. Jessica forced the horse around and slapped her heels against his flanks.

Blessed beast, he responded immediately. Jessica gave him his head and let the sharp wind in her face still her panic. She would get out of this just as soon as she could find a road and follow it to a pub. All she had to do was find a phone. Lord Henry would straighten this out. She heard the shrill whistle and groaned even before she felt the gelding skid to a halt. She went sailing over his head, completely out of control. She knew there was nothing she could do but enjoy the ride. So she did, for the space of a breath or two. She landed flat on her back and the wind was knocked completely from her.

At all. She tried valiantly to suck in air, truly she did. She kept her eyes open and trained on the stars above her, willing her body to respond. Then her view of the sky was blocked out by a man who planted himself over her with a foot on either side of her body and glared down at her, his chest heaving. Not even his frown or the way his frown emphasized his harsh scar fazed her. What did bother her, though, was his damned horse, who seemed determined to make up for throwing her by snuffling her hair and drooling on her forehead.

The man slapped the horse away and grumbled in apparent disgust. Jessica smiled wryly. Yes, and there was also that saying that generally went along with wishing: Be careful what you wish for; you just might get it. Her world began to spin before she could give any more contemplation to the irony of those words.

Richard of Burwyck-on-the-Sea had passed better days than the current one over the course of his score-and-ten years. Yet at the moment he was beginning to wonder if these sorts of miserable days were to be his lot in life from now on. He looked down at the woman senseless on the ground between his feet and added her to the events that had imposed themselves upon him since the sun had risen four days earlier.

The first sign of trouble had been a request from his younger brother, Hugh, asking for aid in the resolving of a fierce dispute. Perhaps a wiser man would have left matters be. His other sister and her husband had both died of consumption whilst he was traveling and he had not wanted to make the effort to return home for their burying. That left him with but two brothers, Hugh and Warren. It was only because Hugh was family that Richard had even considered his request.

He scowled. Damned family loyalty. He had succumbed to the desire for familial accord as if to a fever, cast aside his better judgment, packed up his gear to travel to Merceham—all for the noble purpose of fostering what family affection he could. Richard had done the fool a favor by rolling the wench off him. With Hugh as steward of the soil, one never knew. He looked down at the woman and scowled.

Let her ride off with his mount? At least his guard had ridden on ahead and spared themselves the sight of their lord landing ungracefully upon his backside. He stared down at the horse thief. She was fair enough, he supposed. Indeed, if one were given to judging such things, one might decide that she was bordering on handsome. Her features were well formed and her skin free of any blemish. He was momentarily tempted to check her teeth, then he reminded himself that she was a woman and not a horse.

He turned his attentions to the mystery of her identity. What was he to divine from that? As if he had time to do anything but finish his business at Merceham and be on his way. And now a helpless woman to care for. He should have let her be trampled. Now he had no choice but to see her to safety. They never served him save to poke and prod him until he relented and dragged out his rusty chivalry for use upon some soul who likely would have been better off without his aid.

Well, at least the wench had suffered no injury he could find. He slipped one arm under her shoulders, the other under her knees, and lifted her with a grunt. Not that a tall woman troubled him. He was tired of women he had to fold himself in half just to kiss, never mind kissing them while he was bedding them. Taking a tall woman to his bed would likely cure him of the kink in his neck that plagued him. Not that he was thinking about doing anything akin to that with this wench. He had no idea who she was. He sighed. Perhaps he would just take her back to the keep, pack his gear, and be on his way.

Besides, what was she to him? Richard stopped and looked over his shoulder. Richard cursed his mount fluently for each jar; the last thing he wanted to do was think about the dead weight in his arms. Damnation, the last thing he wanted to do was think at all! France was lush, Spain was sunny, and Italy was far enough away from England that Richard had almost forgotten his inheritance. He never should have come home. He wanted none of this gloomy England and the ghosts of memories that haunted his hall. He sidestepped a steaming pile of manure on the drawbridge and held his breath as he carried the woman inside the bailey.

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Returning to his own keep seemed more appealing by the moment. The sea breezes continually washed away the stench of daily living, unlike this hellhole Hugh called home. Richard kicked open the door of the great hall and strode inside. The rushes were a slimy, noisome marsh and he struggled to keep his footing. He carried his burden past the huge fire in the center of the room and blinked at the smokiness of the chamber.

The new Burwyck was being built more sensibly, with flues that would carry the smoke outside. His eyes would never burn again. Richard slowed to a stop, then slowly turned his head and looked at his younger brother. A young man jumped up from the chair next to Hugh and bolted for the stairs.

Richard watched his youngest brother, Warren, disappear to the upper floor. At least someone in the family had some sense left to him. Hugh looked at the woman and Richard felt a chill go down his spine in spite of himself. Nay, he would not be leaving this poor woman here, damn her anyway.

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As if he had time to indulge in any rescues at the moment! Hugh crossed himself, made a handful of signs Richard had no desire to determine the purpose of, then spit a glob of mucus over his left shoulder. Hugh looked as horrified as if he expected the wench to wake and eat him whole. Damn, he should have remained silent. The very last thing he needed was to start his brother on one of his paths of madness. But the desire to repay Hugh for the journey to Merceham had been stronger than his common sense.

Hugh, Richard decided with finality, was much more tolerable when he was drunk. Fortunately for his people, that was his usual condition. Hugh spat several times until apparently the effort was too much. Then he sat back and looked at the woman. When my liege Henry deigns to grace my hall with his presence, I bow and scrape before him, kiss his hands, offer him the finest of my larder, and see that he is served well at all times by pleasing wenches. And I do this, repeat this with me, Hugh, because he is my liege-lord and I am his vassal.

Remember, brother, that all you have, from your randiest mistress to your most insignificant cooking pot, comes from me. And I can take it away in less than a heartbeat. You're getting a free audiobook. Click to Try Audible Free. Cancel anytime. Best Sellers. Add to Cart failed.

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