alive and whole. Maybe that was why he played poker for a living. Fie could risk everything on the turn of a card.

Except it had all begun to pale. The cards, the exclusive clubs, the women-none of those things meant as much as they should. Something was missing, but he had no idea what it was.

Kit jerked awake to the sound of an unfamiliar male voice. Clean straw pressed against her cheek, and for an instant she felt as if she were home again in the barn at Risen Glory. Then she remembered it had been burned.

'Why don't you turn in, Magnus? You've had a long day.' The voice was coming from the other side of the stable wall. It was deep and crisp, with none of the elongated vowels and whispered consonants of her homeland.

She blinked, trying to see through the darkness. Memory washed over her. Sweet Jesus! She had fallen asleep in Baron Cain's stable.

She inched up on one elbow, wishing she could see better. The directions the woman on the ferry had given her had been wrong, and it had been dark before she'd found the house. She'd huddled in some trees across the way for a while, but nothing had happened, so she'd come around to the back and climbed the wall that surrounded the house in order to see better. When she'd spotted the open stable window, she'd decided to slip inside to investigate. Unfortunately, the familiar scents of horses and fresh straw had proved too much for her, and she'd fallen asleep in the back of an empty stall.

'You plannin' to take Saratoga out tomorrow?' This was a different voice, the familiar, liquid tones reminiscent of the speech of former plantation slaves.

'I might. Why?'

'Don't like the way that fetlock's healin'. Better give her a few more days.'

'Fine. I'll take a look at her tomorrow. Good night, Magnus.'

'Night, Major.'

Major? Kit's heart pounded. The man with the deep voice was Baron Cain! She crept to the stable window and peered over the sill just in time to see him disappear inside the lighted house. Too late. She'd missed her chance to get a glimpse of his face. A whole day wasted.

For a moment she felt a traitorous tightening in her throat. She couldn't have made a bigger mess of things if she'd tried. It was long after midnight, she was in a strange Yankee city, and she'd nearly got herself found out the first day. She swallowed hard and tried to restore her spirits by forcing her battered hat more firmly down on her head. It was no good crying over milk that was already spilled. For now, she had to get out of here and find a place to spend the rest of the night. Tomorrow she'd take up her surveillance from a safer distance.

She fetched her bundle, crept to the doors, and listened. Cain had gone into the house, but where was the man called Magnus? Cautiously she pushed the door open and peered outside.

Light from the curtained windows filtered over the open ground between the stable and the carriage house. She slipped out and listened, but the yard was silent and deserted. She knew the iron gate in the high brick wall was locked, so she'd have to get out the same way she'd come in, over the top.

The open stretch of yard she'd have to run across made her uneasy. Once more she glanced toward the house. Then she took a deep breath and ran.

The moment she was free of the stable, she knew something was wrong. The night air, no longer masked by the smell of horses, carried the faint, unmistakable scent of cigar smoke.

Her blood raced. She dug in her heels and threw herself at the wall, but the vine she grabbed to help her over came away in her hand. She clawed frantically for another one, dropped her bundle, and pulled herself up the wall. Just as she reached the top, something jerked hard on the seat of her trousers. She flailed at the empty air and then slammed, belly-first, to the ground. A boot settled into the small of her back.

'Well, well, what do we have here?' the boot's owner drawled overhead.

The fall had knocked the wind out of her, but she still recognized that deep voice. The man who was holding her down was her sworn enemy, Major Baron Nathaniel Cain.

Her rage shimmered in a red haze. She dug her hands into the dirt and struggled to get up, but he didn't budge.

'Git your damn foot off me, you dirty son of a bitch!'

'I don't think I'm quite ready to do that,' he said with a calmness that enraged her.

'Let me up! You let me up right now!'

'You're awfully feisty for a thief.'

'Thief!' Outraged, she slammed her fists into the dirt. 'I never stole anything in my life. You show me a man who says I have, and I'll show you a damn liar.'

'Then what were you doing in my stable?'

That stopped her. She searched her brain for an excuse he might believe. 'I-I came here lookin'… lookin'… for a job workin' in your stable. Nobody was around, so I went inside to wait for somebody to show up. Musta fallen asleep.'

His foot didn't budge.

'W-when I woke up, it was dark. Then I heard voices, and I got scared somebody would see me and think I was tryin' to hurt the horses.'

'It seems to me that somebody looking for work should have had enough sense to knock on the back door.'

It seemed that way to Kit, too.

'I'm shy,' she said.

He chuckled and slowly the weight lifted from her back. 'I'm going to let you up now. You'll regret it if you try to run, boy.'

'I'm not a-' She caught herself just in time. 'I'm not about to run,' she amended, scrambling to her feet. 'Haven't done anything wrong.'

'I guess that remains to be seen, doesn't it?'

Just then the moon came out from behind a cloud, and he was no longer a looming, menacing shadow but a flesh-and-blood man. She sucked in her breath.

He was tall, broad-shouldered, and lean-hipped. Although she didn't usually pay attention to such things, he was also the handsomest man she'd ever seen. The ends of his necktie dangled from the open collar of his white dress shirt, which was held together with small onyx studs. He wore black trousers and stood easily, a hand lightly balanced on his hip, his cigar still clenched between his teeth.

'What do you have in there?' He jerked his head toward the base of the wall where her bundle lay.

'Nothin' of yours!'

'Show me.'

Kit wanted to defy him, but he didn't look like he'd take well to that, so she pulled the bundle from the weeds and opened it. 'A change of clothes, a copy of Mr. Emerson's Essays, and my daddy's six-shot Pettingill's revolver.' She didn't mention the train ticket back to Charleston tucked inside the book. 'Nothin' of yours in here.'

'What's a boy like you doing with Emerson's Essays?'

'I'm a disciple.'

There was a slight twitching at the corner of his lips. 'You have any money?'

She bent over to rewrap her bundle. ' 'Course I've got money. You think I'd be so puerile as to come to a strange city without it?'

'How much?'

'Ten dollars,' she said defiantly.

'You can't live for long in New York City on that.'

He'd be even more critical if he knew she really had only three dollars and twenty-eight cents. 'I told you I was lookin' for a job.'

'So you did.'

If only he weren't quite so big. She hated herself for taking a step backward. 'I'd better be goin' now.'

'You know trespassing is against the law. Maybe I'll turn you over to the police.'

Kit didn't like being backed into a corner, and she stuck up her chin. 'Hit don't make no nevermind to me what

Вы читаете Just Imagine aka Risen Glory
Добавить отзыв


Вы можете отметить интересные вам фрагменты текста, которые будут доступны по уникальной ссылке в адресной строке браузера.

Отметить Добавить цитату