Lady Midnight

Lady Midnight by Amanda Mccabe

Book: Lady Midnight by Amanda Mccabe Read Free Book Online
Authors: Amanda Mccabe
into the house. She tried her hardest not to run, even though her feet told her to do so. Only when she was in the corridor leading to her chamber did she give them free flight.
    Please, she thought, repeating her earlier plea. Please let me stay here.
    * * *
    She was hiding something.
    Michael watched Kate Brown as she hurried along the terrace until her slim figure slipped through the doors and disappeared from view. Only the faintest hint of her rose perfume still hung in the crisp air, proving that she had been there at all.
    Her words, her demeanor, were all that was proper. Her poise was admirable, something he was sure his mother hoped could be passed to Christina. But Mrs. Brown obviously did not care to answer questions about herself, her own life, her past.
    It could just be modesty, of course. Yet in Michael's London life, where he had wide acquaintance with the fairer sex, he seldom met a female who did not care to speak of herself at great length.
    Michael enjoyed mysteries, puzzles, especially when they were connected with a beautiful lady. But his old life, where he could indulge such intrigues, was long gone. He had his family's well-being to think of now.
    He would just have to keep a close watch on Mrs. Brown, he thought as he slowly climbed the terrace steps to find the house and his rest. And that was a task he could look forward to with a great deal of anticipation.
    He grinned at that thought. Life at Thorn Hill had not held such intrigue in a very long time indeed.

Chapter 6

    "Sancta Maria Mater Dei, or a pro nobis..."
    He heard the soft voice, floating from somewhere above him, softly, as if in yet another fever dream. The click of rosary beads, the gentle rustle of cloth. He sucked in a breath, and the scent of lavender overlaying some medicinal tang seared his lungs. It hurt just to breathe, to move at all.
    How long had he been like this? An eternity? Was this the afterlife, then?
    It was nothing like he had expected. He had not often contemplated Providence in his earthly life, but he did have some vague thoughts that the Vikings had the right of it. A mead hall, with endless streams of alcohol and beautiful Rhine maidens to fulfill his every wish.
    Beautiful, raven-haired maidens, with skin like Devonshire cream and swanlike necks. With soft laughter, and a voice like a Renaissance princess. That would be paradise. Not this aura of medicine, this feel of cold bed linens under his hands.
    He could see the woman in his mind, see her so very clearly. She was very young, but her dark eyes held such depths of wisdom, such pools of knowingness and delicate humor. She leaned toward him with her willowy grace, and said...
    "Et in hora mortis nostrae. Amen."
    No! Not that. She would never say that to him. His princess was all poetry and beauty, not chill prayers.
    Katerina, he thought frantically. Yes, that was her name. Katerina. Like the Renaissance princess he knew her to be, full of mystery and culture and serenity as she glided along the corridors of her palazzo, velvet skirts trailing. She would speak of art and music and the riches of ancient kings, not cold prayers.
    He had to see her, to restore her to her place as his princess, his Beatrice, his Laura. His alone.
    "Katerina," he gasped aloud. His eyes flew open, and he glanced around frantically. If this was indeed heaven, it was a poor excuse for a paradise. Only bare, whitewashed walls and a sloping ceiling, a floor of pale ocher tiles. An elaborate crucifix hung on the wall just opposite. There were white screens set up on either side of the narrow bed he lay on, and a table next to him held a pottery pitcher and cup, a cluster of glass bottles.
    On his other side sat a woman, but not his black-haired princess. This was a nun, her round, plump face framed by a starched black-and-white veil. Her short figure was swathed in black wool, and a rosary of glistening amber and topaz beads threaded through her fingers.
    She stared at him with wide

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