Of Vice and Virtue (Time Walkers) Online - E.B. Brown

Chapter 1

Elizabeth City, Virginia Colony

1626

Benjamin

Benjamin emptied the last of his ale and set his tankard down, his eyes scanning the inn for a glimpse of the brown-haired serving girl. She was a feisty lass. He had watched earlier in the evening as she waylaid the clumsy attentions of several Englishmen, swatting their groping paws as she busied about her duties. With more than a bit of annoyance he wondered where she had gone off to, and why she was not refilling his drink.

“Enough yet?” Makedewa asked. Benjamin looked up at his Indian companion, shaking his head despite the glare of contempt the lean warrior bestowed upon him.

“No. I’ll have one more,” he answered. He lifted his hand to beckon the serving girl near the stairwell, pleased when she nodded an acknowledgement in his direction.

“Ah, kemata tepahta!” Makedewa cursed. Instead of pulling up the bench beside him, Makedewa muttered a few coarse words in Paspahegh and then left, swinging his fur-lined cloak around as he stalked away. Benjamin watched him shoulder through a few teetering Englishmen as he made his way to the door.

“Fine then,” Benjamin sighed. They both needed a break after traveling together so long. Benjamin adjusted the long handled axe harnessed on his back with a sigh as he sat back in the rickety chair. Although it had been less than a year since they left the Norse village it seemed like much longer, yet not long enough to chase her memory away in a permanent manner. Even as he sat there, allowing his mind to wander to that forbidden place, he knew it was better to leave those things buried. The feel of her soft pale skin beneath his fingers, the honey-kissed scent of her auburn hair close to his lips… those were things he needed to forget. It was the reason he left the only true home he had ever known, and it was his mission to bear.

Forget Maggie, the wife of his brother. A simple thing, yet one he was not ready to do. At least not until he had another drink.

“More, sir?” the girl asked, pausing with a jug of fresh ale perched over his tankard.

“Fill it. Took ye long enough,” he muttered. The utterance seemed to come from some dark place he did not recognize, the voice of a fallen man he did not wish to know. Apparently, she did not care for his tone either, and she slammed his mug back down on the table with a thud, spilling most of it in his lap.

“Bloody sod!” she snapped. He had enough good sense left to be somewhat ashamed of his behavior, so when she turned to leave he grabbed her hand. Her mantle of brown hair fell across her face when she swung on him in a fury.

“My apology, mistress,” he said as she yanked. He was about to let her go when suddenly her hand went limp and her tawny eyes softened. He regretted his clumsy attempt at chivalry as she stared down at him with a curious look on her face.

“No, sir, no need. I’ve been busy, and I dinna see ye needed more,” she said, her voice barely a whisper. He tried to drop her hand but then her second hand tightened around his as well.

“Well, no harm, then. Carry on with ye,” he replied, a bit unsettled but willing to brush off the uncomfortable episode.

“Sir, might I ask a favor of ye?” she said. Her eyes darted briefly toward the tavern bar, where the innkeeper stood watching them. Benjamin saw the pulse throbbing in her throat and she suddenly appeared afraid.

“A favor?”

“I’ve not made enough tonight for my employer. Might I take ye upstairs to earn a bit of coin? I’m quite good at my job, sir,” she murmured.

Benjamin stared hard at her. So that was her game? Only a whore, picking her customers? Well, he might be tied down by memories of what he had lost, but he was not that far gone to buy the affection of a woman. He leaned forward and looked her in the eye.

“No thank ye, mistress. I’ll be on my way now,” he snapped.

“Please. He will beat me if I don’t take ye upstairs. He’s a fearsome man, I’m barely healed from the last time!” she pleaded.

He paused in his attempt to flee, looking down at her hand on his arm. A memory of the beating Maggie had endured at the hands of an Englishman entered his thoughts, the remembrance of her