Home > Guarding Danger (Sinclair and Raven #7)

Guarding Danger (Sinclair and Raven #7)
Author: Wendy Vella

Prologue

 

 

It is said that when lowly Baron Sinclair saved the powerful Duke of Raven from certain death in 1335 by single-handedly killing the three men who attacked his carriage, King Edward III was grateful. Raven was a wise and sage counsel he had no wish to lose, therefore, he rewarded Sinclair with the land that sat at the base of Raven Mountain. Having shown himself capable of the duty, Baron Sinclair was now, in the eye of the King, to be the official protector of the Ravens.

Over the years the tale has changed and grown as many do. There were rumors of strange occurrences when a Sinclair saved a Raven in the years that followed. Unexplained occurrences that caused many to wonder what it was that the Sinclairs were hiding, but one thing that never changed was their unwavering duty in the task King Edward III had bestowed upon them.

To honor and protect the Raven family was the Sinclair family creed.

 

 

Chapter 1

 

 

Harry Sinclair watched the woman walk along the deck of his ship. In her arms she held a little girl. Soon she would disappear into the London streets and he’d never see her again, and that should not be a problem. Strangely, it was.

The first time he’d seen her was in Calais. Harry had been watching his cargo being loaded, letting his eyes wander occasionally to see if he knew anyone below, when suddenly unease had gripped him. With eyes that saw more than any other human he’d met, he’d searched and found her seated on a crate, the child in her arms. Her shoulders were back, her posture rigid. But it had been the expression on her face that caught and held his attention. Fierce. Daring anyone to approach. She’d protected the child with a hand on the small head, the other around her body.

She wore a faded gray dress but no bonnet, and her hair hung in a braid over the swell of a breast. She was beautiful, but not in the soft, cosseted way Harry usually admired. Slender, whether by nature or circumstance he couldn’t be sure, and her brows arched over golden eyes that were framed with dark lashes. When she looked his way, he’d seen the desperation she fought to hide.

Desperation that had sliced through Harry, forcing him back from the railing. He’d then found Barney, his bosun, and asked him to approach the woman to see if she needed assistance.

He’d watched the encounter, wondering what he’d been thinking to do such a thing. Harry never got involved in the lives of people he did not know or trust. He was certainly never spontaneous.

The child had woken, weeping as Barney approached, and the pain in Harry’s chest had grown into an inferno.

Barney returned to the ship minutes later, telling Harry the woman was seeking passage to England. He’d provided it, much to his bosun’s shock. Harry was not known as an accommodating man, and he was definitely not known for random acts of kindness.

She’d seated herself in the corner of the deck and never moved in the hours it took to cross the channel. He’d sent her food via Barney. The woman had been suspicious, but took the offerings for her child, who played around her with the resilience of youth, happy now her belly was full—but she had not left her mother’s side. With only a shawl to ward off the cold, the woman’s expression never changed, but as the distance between them and France grew, the other emotion he’d seen, fear, eased from her eyes.

The only time he’d seen her face change was when the child patted her cheek, and she’d smiled with so much love it had literally rooted him to the spot.

Her beauty moved into exquisite in that moment.

“The men will begin unloading then, sir?”

“Yes, thank you, Deacon,” he said to the ship’s captain, who jolted him back to the present.

London lay before Harry. A place he loathed and yet visited for business purposes. France was his home and where he belonged. London was a place from his past that held nothing but bitterness.

His eyes swung back to the woman. She was walking carefully down the gangway, the child clinging to her, a large bag in one hand. He’d acknowledged her once, when their eyes caught, and then she’d looked away after responding to his nod with a small smile.

Reaching the bottom, she skirted ropes and men, then lowered her bag to the ground. The hand she rested at her side clenched into a fist. He felt it again, that pain, but this time it was followed by another deep sense of unease. Looking skyward, he saw the day was still clear and blue; she was not in imminent danger of a drenching, so why was he still worried about her?

Harry wasn’t a man to worry about things outside his control. He’d raised an empire that way, ruthless and determined. There were not many who would cross Harry Sinclair.

Looking left, then right, Harry searched for something… anything to explain what he was feeling. The panic that was suddenly slithering down his spine.

“Christ!” He started running. The woman and child were standing at the base of a small incline, and the barrels that had rolled off the back of a cart were now heading their way.

“Move!” he bellowed as he sprinted down the gangway at speed. “Move!” he roared again.

She didn’t hear him, couldn’t with the cacophony of noise around them. Heart pounding, Harry leaped off the bottom.

People were now fleeing as the barrels picked up speed, but she still hadn’t seen them. Her eyes were focused on the child in her arms.

“Run, woman!” She turned at his words but still did not move. He was too late, she’d be hit. Harry took two huge steps then dived at the woman and child. Lifting them into his arms, he carried them with him and onto a pile of rope, landing on his back, his arms holding them close.

No one moved for several seconds, and then everyone seemed to at once. Harry struggled to draw air into his abused lungs, the woman fired off a volley of French, and the child screamed.

“Sir! Wh-what are you doing?” She pushed at his arms with her free hand. Harry released her. She scrambled off him.

Harry felt the blessed relief of air filling his lungs and was able to regain his feet.

“How dare you touch us that way!”

“If you’ll look about you, madam, you’ll realize that in fact I just saved the lives of both you and your child.”

She turned, her eyes taking in the barrels. One bobbed in the water, the other had crashed into a crate and splintered into pieces. The pungent aroma of alcohol now filled the air.

“You were directly in the path of those barrels,” Harry said.

The top of her head came up to his nose. Her eyes were tawny, not gold, and he had never in his lifetime seen a pair like them. The beauty was there in the line of her cheek and soft curve of her jaw. Her mouth, however, now that was made for sin, and as sin was a specialty of Harry’s, he was drawn to it.

“I-I don’t know what to say.” She searched his face as he did hers. “Sssh now, darling.” She tried to quiet the child, but clearly she was still terrified over what just happened.

Harry cupped the child’s head, touched her soft brown curls.

“Don’t touch her!” The fear was that of a mother protecting her young.

“Quiet, please, madam. I will not hurt her.” He continued to stroke the small head that almost fit into his palm. The child’s cries eased to sniffles. “There now, lovely, no need to cry.” He ran a finger down a damp cheek, and she grabbed it, gripping it tight.

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