About an hour ago he’d struck the northern edge of a line of trees. He cut south beneath their shelter and relaxed with his first satisfaction when the ragged line widened about him into a small sheltering forest. Soon he’d stop for the day and rest in the comfort of the trees’ cover. He’d walked all night, and driven all the previous night, and he’d earned a rest. But maybe he could manage another mile first.
And then he stumbled from cover and fell down a little slope into a pool of dawnlight that splashed across his hands as if he was the pebble tossed into the pond, and when he raised his head to look about, he found himself staring across a kitchen garden into the eyes of the most beautiful girl in the world.
He couldn’t move. He crouched on hands and knees, gasping for breath, and measured the depth of surprise in those incredible eyes. Everything around him faded into insignificance, even the pain pounding its insistent rumba rhythm. Confused thoughts stumbled through his brain, each just showing itself for a moment as if afraid to break cover, and he wondered who she could possibly be. Had Sir Thomas Wyatt seen such a look in Anne Boleyn’s fine dark eyes? Whoso list to hunt, I know where is an hind, But as for me, alas —
“Alcock?” she called. Her voice was English, of course, cultured and measured like a poetry reading. “Alcock, is that you?”
Faust shook his head. Nope, not Alcock. And with a beck ye shall me call —
She grabbed a shotgun and rose from the farmhouse stoop. “Who are you?”
Whatever answer Wyatt had received no longer mattered. Poetry vanished like a season past. Cripes, was he still drunk? Mooning away while she shot his prat off? Faust scrambled up and spun back to the little rampart.
But the farmyard, and his head, spun tighter. His feet tried to follow, then the horizon and the rest of the world joined the dance. He hit the ground full-length and cried out as pain ricocheted through his body. For a moment he could only lie still while the echoes faded like ghosts into the depths of his brain. If he could escape back into the forest while she went for help —
He scrabbled up, grabbed for a handhold on the little rampart, glanced over his shoulder. And froze.
A pair of dark brogues were planted among the rows of staked tomatoes, beyond his reach. A pair of shapely, naked legs rose above them and disappeared into the depths of a tweed skirt. Above the skirt rose a body — the most beautiful body in the world — but then he saw the bore of the shotgun aimed at him, a finger curled about the trigger, and his fingers dug into the dirt of the bank. He raised his gaze to meet hers.
Not Anne Boleyn; Campaspe. Cupid and my Campaspe played at cards for kisses; Cupid paid —
— and he’d pay if he moved. The bore of the shotgun never wavered from his center of mass. He couldn’t bring himself to look down, though, because it would mean looking away from her face, a heart-shape framed by a dark auburn bob, the short ends whipped across her mouth and jutting chin. Her fiery hazel eyes, her coral lips, the roses in her flushed face, were mesmerizing. At this range, she couldn’t miss if she was blind --
— and the pellets would rip his guts out.
Maybe he wasn’t drunk. Maybe he was crazy.
You know, enemy territory, enemy inhabitants. Including the beautiful woman with the shotgun, the one she's pointing at you. Sober up, Faust.
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