Home > Kinsey's Defiance(7)

Kinsey's Defiance(7)
Author: Madeline Martin

If Kinsey was nervous, she hid it well beneath the confident tilt of her chin. There was a cockiness to it as if she were daring anyone to challenge her. It gave him pause as he questioned once more if bringing her had been a good idea.

A buxom blonde turned from a table, nearly running into William’s chest. She blinked up at him, fluttering her lashes. “Can I help you with something?”

He indicated the group of them as they sat at an empty table. “Ales if ye please.”

“Ahhh, a Scotsman.” She sucked her teeth. “I like how brawny you Scots are. You know how to please a lady.”

William chuckled in reply. Were it any ordinary night, he’d indulge her flirtation and let it carry them on to see exactly how much she enjoyed the company of a Scotsman. But this was no ordinary night. Not only because he had a woman with him, but because that lass was Kinsey, whose beauty was so fiery and bright, all others dimmed in her presence.

Which, of course, meant she’d attracted her own fair share of attention. Several men were openly staring; one hadn’t even bothered to blink as he gaped at her, open-mouthed. The serving lass returned with another woman at her side, this one brunette, who beamed at William as they set the heavy mugs to the table.

After the two left, William and his party, pretending to be mercenaries seeking a paying job, kept their conversation light to ensure any of them could stop speaking and listen to those around them at any time. Thus far, nothing had been said about Mabrick Castle. But William wasn’t discouraged. With the castle so close, there was bound to be gossip.

What he did notice, however, was how one man, in particular, stared at Kinsey. He was large with dark, neatly trimmed hair, like a soldier, his square jaw set.

Eventually, Duff left the table as planned, in search of whatever else he might find. The brunette wench returned to the table with her sights set on Reid. And while the man never took advantage of affection offered his way, he was never one to turn down the opportunity for information. As he let the woman lead him away, William couldn’t stop his gaze from gliding over to Kinsey. Her expression remained blank with disinterest.

Even when they were all speaking, she had paid him little mind.

If she really were interested in him, wouldn’t she have glared at the woman or tried to turn Reid’s head with suggestive conversation when they were at the table?

“’Tis just the two of us.” William lifted his mug. “Sorry about Reid.”

The corner of her lips quirked upward. “Nay, ye’re not.”

He grinned. “No’ entirely.”

She rolled her eyes, though the action was absent any malice. “Don’t ye have enough women fawning over ye?”

It had been his resolve to set aside any discussion of a relationship with Kinsey after their talk earlier—at least for a bit. But since she’d brought it up…

“There’s someone else I’m keen on.” He lifted his brows slightly.

She didn’t press him, however. Instead, she simply replied with a light hum and drank her ale. A bit of moisture clung to her bottom lip, and she licked it off with a careless flick of her tongue.

His blood went hot.

God’s teeth, but the woman was so damn attractive.

A man strode into the tavern and made his way to the table just behind William. “I’ll need a hearty ale tonight after what we’ve been told,” he said to his companion. “We’re being sent to bloody Scotland.”

“For how long?” Another voice asked.

Kinsey’s eyebrow quirked up, and William knew she’d heard it too. He reached across the table and took her hand in his, as lovers would. She flinched and tried to pull her hand back, but he gave a slight shake of his head and discreetly indicated the men behind him with his eyes.

“Until their imposter of a king is defeated,” the man replied.

William stroked his thumb over the back of Kinsey’s hand. It was an act, but one he played willingly. Her skin was like silk beneath his touch, save for her fingertips, which were callused from her bow. Her eyes were a brilliant, pale blue. Stunning.

A tender smile played over her lips as she gazed back at him.

It was a bit stiff to be truly convincing, but it would do.

“What about the castle?” The man behind him asked.

His companion scoffed. “You know how things are at Mabrick.”

Kinsey stiffened somewhat at the name of the castle. Her lips moved without sound, repeating the same, and her brow furrowed like she was searching her memory.

“’Tis too hot in here,” she said.

Before William could ask what was wrong, she’d already stood up, pulling her hand from his, and walked out the door of the tavern.

 

 

4

 

 

Kinsey’s heart slammed in her chest. Mabrick Castle. She knew that name. It was the castle nearest Werrick Castle, where Drake worked as Captain of the Guard. She pushed through the heavy tavern door into the cool night air. Even absent the thick odors inside, she still found it hard to breathe. She needed a moment with her thoughts.

A middle-aged man with a hairline that had receded halfway over his pate approached her with a swagger. “I saw you when you came in.”

Kinsey put up her hand. “Nay.”

He stopped and frowned.

She had to get away, to think. How could she attack a castle so near Drake? What if he’d been sent to help and she shot him by mistake?

The man turned away, and she went in the opposite direction, slipping into a narrow alley in the hopes of losing herself in the shadows. Piles of refuse littered the sides of the building amid muddy puddles and a fetid sourness hung in the air.

“Kinsey.”

The erratic pounding of her heart stilled. Sir William had followed her out.

A large, warm hand wrapped around her arm. “Kinsey.”

She spun around at the familiar voice. Not William. She stared up at her older brother. “Drake.”

“What are ye doing here?” The heavy shadows cast over his face and made him appear ferocious. “Who is that man ye’re with?”

Suddenly Kinsey felt foolish to admit what she’d done. How she’d left Clara and their Mum to take back land from the English, especially when Drake’s money came from them. The money that afforded them a safe manor and ensured they were well cared for. And now she was fighting against all of that, siding with her passions rather than her family’s best interest.

“I…I…” she stammered.

His brow crinkled. “It must be bad if Kinsey Fletcher is at a loss for words.”

She gave him a disparaging look.

“Did ye run off with him?”

She scoffed. “I’m no fool to lose my head over a man. Especially not one so arrogant.”

“Are ye in trouble then?” Drake asked, his tone serious. He had more of a Scottish burr to his speech than any of them. Whether through being older when they spent time in Scotland when they were younger, or from all his time with Scottish reivers prior to working for Lord Werrick. And it always became thicker still when he was irked.

She shook her head. “I left home.”

“Why?”

To rise against men like the one who employs ye and has kept us all safe.

She bit the inside of her cheek, unable to bring herself to speak the truth.

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