Today's Reading

She was bold, as most crusaders were. Also pretty. Her features were Madonna-perfect, from a chin neither receding nor prominent, to exquisitely arched brows, a wide mouth, high forehead, and intelligent dark eyes. The cameo was marred by a nose a trifle on the confident side, which made her face more interesting.

She wore a voluminous cloak of charcoal gray, bits of straw clinging to the hem.

"As you can see," Quinn replied, "we are a company of gentlemen here, and an unchaperoned lady would not be comfortable in our midst."

The warden snickered. "Wait here or leave the premises, ma'am. Them's your choices, and you don't get a say, Wentworth. I don't care if you was banker to King George himself."

As long as Quinn drew breath he had a say. "I am convicted of taking an innocent life, Miss Winston. Perhaps you might see fit to excuse yourself now?"

He wanted her to leave, because she was an inconvenient reminder of life beyond a death sentence, where women were pretty, regrets were a luxury, and money meant more than pewter tankards and a useless writing desk.

And Quinn wanted her to stay. Jane Winston was pleasing to look at, had the courage of her convictions, and had probably never committed anything approaching a crime. She'd doubtless sinned in her own eyes—coveting a second rum bun, lingering beneath warm covers for an extra quarter hour on the Sabbath. Heinous transgressions in her world.

He also wanted her to stay because frightening the people around him had stopped amusing him before he'd turned twelve. Even Ned didn't turn his back on Quinn for more than an instant, and Davies remained as close to the unlocked door as possible without giving outright offense. The wardens were careful not to be alone with Quinn, and the w hores offered their services with an air of nervous bravado.

Miss Winston's self-possession wafted on the air like expensive perfume. Confident, subtle, unmistakable.

"If a mere boy can break bread with you, then I don't have much to fear," she said, "and my father will expect me to wait for him. Papa is easily vexed. Do you have a name, child?"

Ned remained silent, sending a questioning glance at Quinn.

"He is Edward, of indeterminate surname," Quinn said. "Make your bow, Ned."

Ned had asked Quinn to teach him this nicety and grinned at a chance to show off his manners. "Pleased to meet you, Miss Winston."

"I'll be leaving," the guard said. "You can chat about the weather over tea and crumpets until..." He grinned, showing brown, crooked teeth. "Until next Monday."

"Prison humor." Miss Winston stripped off her gloves. Kid, mended around the right index finger. The stitching was almost invisible, but a banker learned to notice details of dress. "I might be here for a good while. Shall you regale me with a tale about what brought you to this sorry pass, Mr. Wentworth?"

The lady took the seat Ned had vacated, and she looked entirely at ease, her cloak settling around her like an ermine cape.

"You don't read the papers?" Quinn asked.

"Papa would have apoplexies if he caught me reading that drivel. We have souls to save."

"I don't think I'd like your father. Might I have a seat?" Because—for reasons known only to the doomed—Quinn wanted to sit down with her.

"This is your abode. Of course you should have a seat. You need not feed me or offer me drink. I'm sure you can better use your provisions for bribes. I can read to you from the Bible or quote at tiresome length from Fordyce's Sermons if you like."

"I do not like," Quinn said, slicing off a portion of cheese. He was a convicted felon, but he was a convicted felon who'd taken pains to learn the manners of his betters. Then too, somebody had to set an example for the boy. Quinn managed to cut off a slice of bread with the penknife and passed the bread and cheese to Miss Winston.

She regarded his offering with a seriousness the moment did not warrant. "You can spare this? You can honestly spare this?"

"I will be grievously offended if you disdain my hospitality," Quinn said. "Had I known you were coming, I'd have ordered the kitchen to use the good silver."

Ned cast him a nervous glance, but Miss Winston caught the joke. Her smile was utterly unexpected. Instead of a prim, nipfarthing little pinch of the lips, she grinned at Quinn as if he'd inspired her to hilarity in the midst of a bishop's sermon. Her gaze warmed, her shoulders lifted, her lips curved with glee.

"The everyday will do splendidly," she said, accepting her portion of the humble fare. "So whom are you supposed to have killed?"
...

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Today's Reading

She was bold, as most crusaders were. Also pretty. Her features were Madonna-perfect, from a chin neither receding nor prominent, to exquisitely arched brows, a wide mouth, high forehead, and intelligent dark eyes. The cameo was marred by a nose a trifle on the confident side, which made her face more interesting.

She wore a voluminous cloak of charcoal gray, bits of straw clinging to the hem.

"As you can see," Quinn replied, "we are a company of gentlemen here, and an unchaperoned lady would not be comfortable in our midst."

The warden snickered. "Wait here or leave the premises, ma'am. Them's your choices, and you don't get a say, Wentworth. I don't care if you was banker to King George himself."

As long as Quinn drew breath he had a say. "I am convicted of taking an innocent life, Miss Winston. Perhaps you might see fit to excuse yourself now?"

He wanted her to leave, because she was an inconvenient reminder of life beyond a death sentence, where women were pretty, regrets were a luxury, and money meant more than pewter tankards and a useless writing desk.

And Quinn wanted her to stay. Jane Winston was pleasing to look at, had the courage of her convictions, and had probably never committed anything approaching a crime. She'd doubtless sinned in her own eyes—coveting a second rum bun, lingering beneath warm covers for an extra quarter hour on the Sabbath. Heinous transgressions in her world.

He also wanted her to stay because frightening the people around him had stopped amusing him before he'd turned twelve. Even Ned didn't turn his back on Quinn for more than an instant, and Davies remained as close to the unlocked door as possible without giving outright offense. The wardens were careful not to be alone with Quinn, and the w hores offered their services with an air of nervous bravado.

Miss Winston's self-possession wafted on the air like expensive perfume. Confident, subtle, unmistakable.

"If a mere boy can break bread with you, then I don't have much to fear," she said, "and my father will expect me to wait for him. Papa is easily vexed. Do you have a name, child?"

Ned remained silent, sending a questioning glance at Quinn.

"He is Edward, of indeterminate surname," Quinn said. "Make your bow, Ned."

Ned had asked Quinn to teach him this nicety and grinned at a chance to show off his manners. "Pleased to meet you, Miss Winston."

"I'll be leaving," the guard said. "You can chat about the weather over tea and crumpets until..." He grinned, showing brown, crooked teeth. "Until next Monday."

"Prison humor." Miss Winston stripped off her gloves. Kid, mended around the right index finger. The stitching was almost invisible, but a banker learned to notice details of dress. "I might be here for a good while. Shall you regale me with a tale about what brought you to this sorry pass, Mr. Wentworth?"

The lady took the seat Ned had vacated, and she looked entirely at ease, her cloak settling around her like an ermine cape.

"You don't read the papers?" Quinn asked.

"Papa would have apoplexies if he caught me reading that drivel. We have souls to save."

"I don't think I'd like your father. Might I have a seat?" Because—for reasons known only to the doomed—Quinn wanted to sit down with her.

"This is your abode. Of course you should have a seat. You need not feed me or offer me drink. I'm sure you can better use your provisions for bribes. I can read to you from the Bible or quote at tiresome length from Fordyce's Sermons if you like."

"I do not like," Quinn said, slicing off a portion of cheese. He was a convicted felon, but he was a convicted felon who'd taken pains to learn the manners of his betters. Then too, somebody had to set an example for the boy. Quinn managed to cut off a slice of bread with the penknife and passed the bread and cheese to Miss Winston.

She regarded his offering with a seriousness the moment did not warrant. "You can spare this? You can honestly spare this?"

"I will be grievously offended if you disdain my hospitality," Quinn said. "Had I known you were coming, I'd have ordered the kitchen to use the good silver."

Ned cast him a nervous glance, but Miss Winston caught the joke. Her smile was utterly unexpected. Instead of a prim, nipfarthing little pinch of the lips, she grinned at Quinn as if he'd inspired her to hilarity in the midst of a bishop's sermon. Her gaze warmed, her shoulders lifted, her lips curved with glee.

"The everyday will do splendidly," she said, accepting her portion of the humble fare. "So whom are you supposed to have killed?"
...

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