Excerpt from Chapter Five:
Geoffrey ignored the rant. As soon as the gate was open, he spurred Feu into a run, keen to gain distance from the manor. He wanted nothing more but to outrun his memories with the help of the stallion’s powerful strides. But the barely visible path ahead forced him to slow down. The moon was half-hidden behind clouds and the cold air of the open countryside hit him like the slap he had nearly received from Alleyne’s hand. As he followed the path, he marvelled at her – and himself. No woman had succeeded where she had. And there had been plenty in his life, but he had no time for the courting game. It was too dangerous. His work came first. But this girl had somehow inveigled herself into his heart. He shook his head, knew he had to leave her behind and throw himself into his work. In due course, he would forget her. She did not want him anyway, that much was certain.
He rode on under a dark cloud, accompanied only by the sounds of the night. The cold seeped through the layers of his clothes. The chill did nothing to lift his temper. Instead, it fuelled his anger.
A wall of trees loomed tall in front of him. The edge of the woods. He brought Feu to a halt as his eyes followed the path delving into the thick of the forest. The faint light of the moon barely reached beyond the first few feet. It was not safe to venture any further. Even though any potential robbers would have been scared away by the presence of armed men scouring the countryside in the preceding days, he was wary of forests. And the temperature plummeted further. Best return to the manor.
As he turned Feu around, a flock of birds rose up to the sky from farther inside the forest, their wings fluttering in frantic haste. Their screeching cut through the stillness. Something must have stirred the flock into flight. Geoffrey stopped still and listened, damning his curiosity.
A faint sound from the depth of the woods confirmed his suspicions. Slowly, Geoffrey nudged Feu back towards the trees.
“Surely that was a shout,” he murmured, reasoning with himself against better judgment. He strained to see, as he guided Feu deeper into the forest at a slow walk. The muddy ground, strewn with dead leaves, muffled the sound of the stallion’s hooves. Darkness swallowed him up almost completely. After several hundred yards at snail’s pace, the echoes of voices reached him. He was closing in on a camp. Trees surrounded him in the re- emerging moonlight, their gnarled branches raised skyward, playing tricks on his mind. Not too far ahead, he made out the flicker of a camp fire. He stopped Feu. The chatter of voices grew louder. Whoever they were, they did not appear worried about being overheard here, sheltered by trees and nightfall.
“Nearly there,” he whispered and nudged Feu forward again. The horse took a step and the loud crack of a dry branch disturbed the night. The voices hushed.
(c) Cathie Dunn 2012. All rights reserved.