August 2012 Pocket Books
Sophia Darnly has just broken into a place she really doesn't belong, but consoles herself with the knowledge that it is for an exceptionally good reason.
Of course, he doesn't belong there either. And it's doubtful his reasons are equally good.
...Stripes of dusty light fell on the five coffers that sat in the back of the room. Huge, heavy chests with curved lids, banded in iron with large, ornate iron padlocks. Two hung on each.
Sophia arched her brows at the locks.
Two? Two iron padlocks apiece?
Hardly sufficient, she thought sternly. What sort of moneychanger put only two locks on his coffers?
She slowed her breath, then tugged on the bodice of her gown and knelt in front of the triple-banded coffer and its fearsome padlocks, pin out.
It took no time at all to open the chest. To push aside the pouches of coins and gems that lay inside, to close her fingers around the familiar coin-stained ledger with all its dirty secrets. A moment more to shut and lock the coffer. To rise to her feet and turn to the door.
That’s when she felt it. Some energy, aimed at her like an arrow. Like opening a door to an oven, or lifting the last rock from a dam.
“This was an extremely bad idea,” said the trouble.
The soft, dark words came from a few feet away. There was nothing to do but turn. She did.
Oh, dark was not precisely the word. Dangerous, that was more the thing.
Shadowed, hard to see but for outlines.
Motionless. Sitting beside the table, hands crossed over his belly, boots kicked out, hair banded in a queue, sword hanging loosely from his side.
Powerful, intent, with a lean grace and restraint that did not so much create a sense of safety due to the restraint, as a sense of being hunted by a predator willing to wait.
She backed up a step, her knees wobbling like cold jelly, ledger clutched to her chest, her fingers gripping her pin, a paltry weapon indeed.
“You, sirrah,” she aimed the pin at him, “who are you and what are you doing there, lurking in the shadows?”
“Are you certain that is the best way to begin this interview?”
It was a low, deep voice, somewhat like a wolf might wound, should wolves speak. Not at all the sort of sound she’d hoped for. She took a cautionary step back on her cold jelly legs, which put her buttocks against the wall.
“My apologies. I was startled.”
“I did not expect anyone. I thought . . . I thought I was early.”
“Yes. Of course.” She looked around the shadowy room. “We’re both early.”
“Aye,” he said in that lazy, predator rumble. “But I was here first.”