In the dreary room of The King's Inn in Dover, Sable slept. Her wounds healed nicely, allowing her more freedom of movement and making her more dangerous with each passing day. Etienne watched her, his hawk eyes missing little. She'd not take him unaware again.
He fingered his swollen jaw. The little vixen had a bruising right hook. Who would have thought a girl of sixteen could actually injure a full-grown man?
In the days since they'd fled Paris, the fragile Sable had fought him. Every chance she got. Once, when he'd assumed her to be unconscious, she'd knocked him down, cracking his jaw and pressed her knee into his throat until he'd nearly lost consciousness. A split moment of inattention was all he'd needed to turn the tables on her, subduing her in a flash of violence that went against everything in him. A man didn't hurt a woman. It wasn't necessary when there were far more...interesting...ways to control them.
Not Sable. The woman feared nothing, not even death. In fact, she taunted it, daring it to take her. Etienne had no desire to give her what she wanted. Besides the sad waste her death would be, his superiors wouldn't hesitate to punish him for losing them their prize assassin.
He glared at her. No one would know her age by her appearance. Washed, her raven locks shimmered with blue lights and her soft pale skin begged for a man's touch. Shaped like a woman with full breasts, tiny waist and long legs, any man could be forgiven for lusting after her. Dressed as a boy, she was astonishingly pretty, her thin features lending her an air of delicacy. But she moved like a woman and dressed in the low-waisted gown he'd acquired for her, he knew she'd turn heads wherever they went. Better to be thought an alluring woman than a pretty boy, however. Etienne knew it to be less likely that she'd be considered capable of murder if she looked like the lady she was supposed to be.
He clenched his hand, disgusted at his reaction to her beauty, her sinister, coldly calculating, murderous beauty. He of all people should know better than to desire her. He'd seen Moreau, her latest victim, mutilated until little remained to identify him. The man was a perversion, to be sure, his preference for little boys a well-known fact, but did anyone truly deserve to die in such a fashion?
Midday sun streamed in through the open shutters. Etienne moved to the window, staring out into the streets of Dover, wondering how long his captive would need to heal before he could turn her over to his superiors. He and Sable had been resident at the inn for a fortnight already. The leaves were starting to turn, a few falling to the ground, and soon the weather would be against them for travel. They'd have to move on immediately. He was through playing nursemaid.
Damn his superiors for learning of her existence! They must have followed her activities for years. It was rumored that she'd attacked Robespierre, injuring him as only an inexpert marksman could. Pity he'd survived long enough to be executed for his crimes against France. Had Sable acquired her desired vengeance against the man, perhaps she wouldn't have felt the need to kill any man she deemed unworthy of life. How fortuitous that she'd gotten herself caught.
And all because of a bloody key.
His gaze returned to Sable. He could just barely see the thin chain upon which her precious key hung. It lay against her skin, a pale silver line across the flawless cream of her flesh. His fingers itched to caress her skin, a desire he ruthlessly quashed. It was time to order a carriage to transport them along the next leg of their journey, take them closer to London and the end of his responsibility. The key held little importance now, not for him and certainly not for his superiors.
Except perhaps as a means to ensure her cooperation.
She'd nearly killed more than one guard who attempted to relieve her of it, a clear indication that she held some attachment to it. Etienne would find out its significance eventually but until then, she could keep her little secret.
And he would keep his.