Read an Extract
Something large moved in the straw beside her. She edged round to look. Please, not a pig… she felt her jaw drop. It was a man, an unconscious man. A total stranger. Not that she was used to finding men in her bed, stranger or otherwise, but…
Pull yourself together Caroline Sinclair – and get out of here. She eyed her bedmate warily. He had tousled mahogany-brown hair, a lean, tanned face streaked with dirt and sweat and his mouth and chin were masked with reddish stubble. He looked somewhere between twenty five and thirty five and, Heavens be praised, he was either deeply asleep or unconscious.
Which should mean it would be possible to slide off the bed and creep away – so it was illogical, and downright dangerous, to still be sitting staring. There was nothing vulnerable or unguarded in that sleeping face. The cloak that partly covered them both had dragged down to reveal muscular shoulders, paler than his face, and one arm, the bicep wrapped in a stained, clumsy bandage.
He was wounded and yesterday evening she had found herself on the outskirts of a riot. So he could well be a rioter, a Luddite, and, by definition, not likely to be well-disposed towards the sisters of mill owners. Caro sat up, drew back against the rough boards of the manger behind them and readied herself to slide away. The man’s breathing stayed steady and deep as she moved but on his far side something shifted and the head of a great shaggy hound lifted from where it lay along its master’s flank.
Part wolfhound, part nightmare, by the size of it. Caro edged sideways, lifted the edge of the cloak, then froze as the move was met by a low, blood-chilling growl from the creature, its lip curling back over the largest canine teeth she had ever seen.
‘Good… dog,’ she whispered. The result was not encouraging. The growl became a deep rumble and it sat up on its haunches, ears pricked, eyes fixed, it seemed, on her jugular.
‘Quiet, Percy.’ The man spoke without opening his eyes, as though he was used to being woken by a snarling beast. In response the hound put both enormous forepaws on his chest and licked his face with gusto.
‘Down, you detestable animal!’ The man pushed at the hairy body with both hands, then swore viciously as he flexed his bandaged arm.
Caro shifted back abruptly and both dog and master turned as one to stare at her. ‘Hell and damnation, I’d forgotten you were here,’ the man said amiably. His dark eyes rested, with what looked like approval, on the skin exposed above her shift before travelling up to her face.