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The Recruit by Monica McCarty - Romance>Historical Other
RITA Finalist for Historical Romance
Reader Rating: 0.0 Not rated (0 Ratings)
Sensuality Rating: Not rated
Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Northumberland, English Marches
Mary handed the merchant the bundle that represented nearly three hundred hours of work and waited patiently as he examined the various purses, ribbons, and coifs with the same painstaking attention to detail he'd given the first time she'd brought him goods to sell nearly three years ago.
When he was finished, the old man crossed his arms and gave her a forbidding frown. "You did all this in four weeks? You had best have a team of faeries helping you at night, milady, because you promised me you were going to slow down this month."
"I shall slow down next month," she assured him. "After the harvest fair."
"And what about Michaelmas?" he said, reminding her of the large fair in September.
She smiled at the scowling man. He was doing his best to look imposing, but with his portly physique and kind, grandfatherly face, he wasn't having much success. "After Michaelmas I shall be so slothful I will have to buy an indulgence from Father Andrew or my soul will be in immortal danger."
He tried to hold his scowl, but a bark of laughter escaped. He shook his head as a doting father might at a naughty child. "I should like to see it."
He handed her the bag of coin they'd agreed upon.
She thanked him and tucked it into the purse she wore tied at her waist, enjoying the weight that dragged it down.
One dark, bushy eyebrow peppered with long strands of gray arched speculatively. "You wouldn't need to work so hard if you agreed to take one of the requests I've had for your work. Fine opus anglicanum embroidery like this is wasted on these peasants."
He said it with such disgust, Mary tried not to laugh. The customers who frequented his booth were not peasants but the burgeoning merchant class—people like him—who were helping to make Newcastle-upon-Tyne an important town.
The markets and fairs such as the one today were some of the best north of London. And John Bureford's booth, full of fine textiles and accessories, was one of the most popular. In an hour, it would be crowded with eager young women seeking the latest fashions from London and the Continent.
He picked up one of the ribbons, a plush ruby velvet on which she'd embroidered a vine-and-leaf motif in gold thread. "Even on these they notice. The ladies of the town are vying to be the first to secure your talents for a surcote or a wall hanging. Even the hem of a shirt might satisfy them. Let me arrange it; you could name your price."
She stilled, a flash of her old fear returning. Her voiced dropped automatically to a whisper. "You did not tell them?"
He looked affronted. "I do not understand your wish for secrecy, milady, but I honor our agreement. No one needs to know it is you. But are you sure you won't consider a few select items?"
Mary shook her head. Preserving her privacy was worth more to her than the extra coin. Three years ago she'd been left on her own, frighteningly ill-prepared to deal with her new circumstances, with no more than a handful of pounds to her name. She could have gone to the king as others in her position were forced to do, but she feared drawing attention to herself. She knew the fastest way to find herself in another political marriage was to put demands on the royal coffers. She might have gone to Sir Adam—indeed, he'd offered to help—but she did not want to be beholden to him for more than she already was.
With the rents from the castle barely earning enough to pay the servants and keep her and her solitary attendant fed, she knew that she had to think of something. What would Janet do?...
The RecruitBy: Monica McCarty