The Once Proud Goose
With great curiosity, Calvin Seton stared at the sign creaking above the inn door. He had to hand it to these Americans, the establishment had been christened with an exceptionally creative name. Truly, the most unique he’d encountered since the tavern dubbed The Moldy Eye in Scotland.
Shaking his musing away, Calvin adjusted his hat, grasped his walking stick and limped towards the three wooden steps leading into the inn. He was here for one purpose and one alone. Find the Duke of Danby’s illegitimate granddaughter, Dorothy Paxton, so he could drag her back to England kicking and screaming if necessary.
Just thinking of the job he’d reluctantly accepted had him gritting his teeth in irritation. While the duke paid well, Calvin didn’t think retrieving the man’s long-lost granddaughter constituted much of a position for a gentleman. But Calvin’s father and Danby were friends, and with Calvin’s military career up in flames, the position had been impossible to refuse. The old duke had expertly appealed to Calvin’s ego, arguing that no other man had the necessary skills for the job. As a high-ranking scout officer, Calvin had done reconnaissance on a regular basis for three long years.
Lamplight shone golden and inviting through the window, beckoning Calvin up the steps. The tantalizing scent of roasted meat and ale wafted from the door. Even if his quest for Miss Paxton didn’t end here, he could certainly use a hot meal. He swung the door inward and—
An entire table toppled, sending several pints and plates filled with food rolling across the floor. Calvin jumped back to keep from getting anything splattered on his boots.
A young woman in brown, homespun garb, hurried around one side, squaring off with a man who looked to be in his 50th year. “Mr. Slater, I’ll have to ask you to leave.” The girl held her chin at a defiant angle as she kept the toppled table between herself and the man.
“Come now, missy. I offered to pay ye fer it.”
“The services you’re referring to are not offered at my establishment. Kindly leave.”
Shock washed through Calvin. This place was hers? Impossible! She was too young—mayhap early in her twentieth year. He must have not heard correctly.
The handful of patrons scattered about the room, gawking at the display. They seemed less inclined to help the young serving girl. Biding his time, Calvin took a few careful steps forwards, more than prepared to help the wench if these savage Americans didn’t feel the need.
Slater staggered two steps around the corner of the table with the obvious intent to continue pursuit of his petite young prey.
“I’m warning you, Mr. Slater. Jeremy will be back any moment and Mrs. Currey is right up those stairs. Leave now.” The young woman hurried towards a door leading to the back room.
Slater chuckled. “Missy, yer threats don’t scare me.” He reached out to grab her, but she darted away. “Come now, my dear. I bet ye’ve never ‘ad a man like me in yer bed.”
The man with silver streaks through his dark hair drew closer to the young woman by the second, and if Slater didn’t back away, Calvin would interfere. The poor girl would not be able to fight off Slater by herself.