An Honorable Rogue

An Honorable Rogue by Carol Townend

Book: An Honorable Rogue by Carol Townend Read Free Book Online
Authors: Carol Townend
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    Rozenn shot Ben an odd look and attempted to extricate her arm from his.
    'Nay, cherie.' Ben held her gently but firmly in place. 'I have my reputation to think of.'
    Melting brown eyes looked up at him, a dimple winked out. 'You have a reputation? What about mine? I'm a respectable widow here in Quimperle, while you, you...'
    Unabashed, Ben grinned, well aware she had been about to name him a womaniser, or worse. 'But, Rose, you have been a widow such a short time, while I... I have been a wandering minstrel, doomed to wander the country for ever. It's hard...but I must insist. I have to maintain my reputation--I need to be notorious.'
    'Oh?'
    He lifted a brow. 'Certainly, notoriety guarantees a crowd for every performance. People come to hear me because they think me a devil."
    'I see, very well.' Her tone was light, but at the back of her huge brown eyes, he could see shadows.
    Rozenn let Ben keep one arm while she gathered up her skirts with the other. They picked their way to the end of the jetty, past stacks of crates and heaps of fishing nets to where Ketill's ship was docked at the last mooring.
    At this, the southerly end of the port, the smell of gutted fish was strong and the planking slippery. Noses wrinkling, they trod warily.
    On the deck of the ship, the protective canvasses had been rolled back and Osgood. Ketill's youngest son, was using the deck hoist to rearrange the cargo. He had tied his fair hair back at the nape of his neck like a Saxon, and was rolling a barrel into the cradle, brawny biceps bulging.
    Rozenn waited while Osgood finished with the barrel before attracting his attention. Her heart was leaden in her breast, which was not what she had expected to feel on this, the day she had longed for--the day she was repaying the last of Per's debts.
    While the barrel was being manoeuvred into place, Rozenn looked up at the cliffs towering above them, to the highest point where the White Bird stood just out of sight. Wondering what Mikaela would be serving for supper, she ran her gaze down the slope, down along the line of little houses that stopped at the port. Hauteville. Rose's throat tightened. She would shortly be leaving-- was that why she felt as though her heart was breaking? No, a little voice said, be honest, it is not entirely that. You are sad because the night Ben came back, you made a point of telling him of your plan to leave Brittany, and he did not so much as blink. You expected a reaction from him, but you did not get one. You think he no longer cares, as he did when you were children. And maybe you are right.
    The barrel safely stowed. Osgood hauled back the empty cradle.
    'Osgood? Osgood!'
    The fair head turned, Osgood flashed a practised grin in her direction and vaulted lightly over the ship's rail to take her hand.
    At her side, Ben went very still. He looked startled and for some reason this irritated her.
    'Mistress Kerber!' Osgood ran his thumb lightly up and down the back of her hand. 'I am right glad to see you. You look very well, the prettiest widow in all of Brittany.'
    'Yes, yes, Osgood.' Ignoring Ben, Rozenn smiled into the trader's blue eyes. Osgood loved to flirt, but this was harmless flirting. The world knew that Osgood was blissfully happy married to a woman named Anki , who lived with their daughter in a place called Scarborough on the north coast of England. Osgood only ever flirted with women who knew this. The flirting had begun when Rozenn had been married to Per and it continued now because Osgood knew there was no chance of Rozenn reciprocating. If the trader thought for one moment that Rozenn really had her eye on him, he would untie that mooring rope and be off faster than you could blink.
    Rozenn indicated the purse at her waist. 'I think your father will be pleased to see me too, for I have come to set the tallies straight."
    She unhooked her half of Per's tally stick from her belt, while Osgood called his father over. The tally stick was a record of

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