Lady Thief - By Rizzo Rosko Page 0,1

sign of work or wear. William imagined they would be soft to the touch. They clenched and unclenched nervously as her footsteps echoed towards him. William remained on his knees and had a vague sense of the lumbering fingers on his shoulders disappearing, but he did not try to rise to greet the lady, or to escape. All he could do was stare.

So this was the mysterious lady kidnapper.

His sense of duty prompted him to bow to her, even while on his knees with his hands miserably tied behind his back, but his pride and anger allowed him to give her nothing more than a nod of acknowledgment. “My lady.”

She gave a curt curtsy in return. “My lord.”

How odd, she managed to make his title sound insulting.

She lowered her hood, and, bereft of the proper headdress, revealed a shimmering tangle of windswept red hair, so bright it commanded his attention and he nearly forgot to look at her face.

He knew he needed a clear description of the woman who planned this crime so that he could hunt her down later. Not many young maidens possessed hair that particular shade of red. Why did he not recognize her?

Her eyes, cool grey windows with flecks of blue hiding in their depths, like the morning sky fighting to emerge after a battle with a storm, flickered with confusion before they raged. “Who tied his hands? Untie him this instant!”

Her face, peppered with freckles, flared to the same color red at her hair, and the buck-toothed man untied him.

Through his gentle movements William knew that while the red-haired woman was in their company, her servents replaced their confident personalities with humble dispositions.

William rubbed the tender crater that snaked into his skin from the biting ropes. He moved to lift himself to his feet but the men pressed him back to his knees, which he was sure were building similar bruising marks.

He glared at her and noted how she said nothing in his defense this time. She looked down at him with curiosity and anxiety glinting in her eyes, hiding herself behind crossed arms.

Seemed she liked him where he was, but was as uncomfortable with the situation as her band of kidnappers. William was tired of these inexplicable clues being thrown at him but grabbed at whatever was tossed his way.

Red-haired maidens were known for their fiery spirit, but he always laughed away the notion. Women were flighty and fickle, not brazen and rash. And now it seemed as if Fate laughed back at him in the form of such a woman for dismissing the idea.

Her cold smile was awkward, as though unused to using her lips in such a manner, and it made him puzzle over her further.

“Does your seat make you uncomfortable, my lord?”

He gritted his teeth. William would ensure he returned this humiliation in full, with added interest.

“Not at all, my lady.” A shudder crept up her cloak. He smiled with pleasure at the small discomfort he was able to inflict.

She was quick to compose herself. “May I inquire as to what age you are?”

The question rocked him on his knees, but he answered her anyway. “Six and thirty, my dear, and since you find no qualm about asking my age, may I ask yours?”

By the look of her he guessed her to be just above twenty, but he could not pinpoint an exact number.

Her face reddened again, her arms tightening in their crossed position, and she looked away from him. “Nay, you may not.”

William clenched his jaw at her audacity but held his tongue in check because of their current differences in position. He held the kneeling position while hers was one of power. For now.

After silently studying him with a finger on her chin, she approached, her shoes loudly clicking in the disintegrating church. Candlelight danced on her skin. She had the air of a victorious warrior.

She stared down at him, and he stared back, unblinking and daring her to make her next move. She shocked him by offering her hand.

He took her smaller hand into his larger one, her skin soft against his rough hands, and he squeezed. She did not flinch but dug her nails into his flesh in a warning response, and he found himself secretly pleased, though he refused to soften his grip and locked his eyes with her. They were challenging and unwilling to move an inch in their silent exchange.

She broke the silence. “Well?”

He cocked his head, his expression a flicker of confusion. “Well