Dark Angel
the distance, Gazin saw it too and hurled himself forward.
    Adam seized the opening with relief. He had Gazin just where he wanted him. He grasped Gazin's shoulder and delivered a blow to his jaw that knocked him off his feet. Cursing fluently, Gazin fell to the floor, his head hitting one of the stones that ringed the fire, just as Adam had intended.
    Gazin lay still, eyes closed, his breathing slow and shallow. Adam watched him for a moment, then, satisfied that his opponent had lost consciousness, turned to retrieve the pistol. But as he moved, he felt a sudden, searing pain between his ribs. Gazin had lunged upward and jabbed a knife into his side.
    The pain could not be avoided forever but it could be held at bay until the essentials were taken care of. Adam seized hold of Gazin's wrist and jerked the knife free, then twisted sharply, throwing Gazin off balance. With a surprised cry, Gazin fell backward again, but this time he caught himself on one hand and made a lightning-quick dive for the gun.
    Adam had not expected it. His reflexes were slowed and his back was to the gun and Gazin would probably have been able to beat him to the weapon. But when Adam spun around, he saw that Gazin had frozen, one hand stretched out on the dirt where the gun had been lying moments before. Caroline was standing in the shadows on the far side of the fire, the pistol held in both hands.
    The sudden quiet told Adam that Hawkins and Laclos had ceased fighting as well. "Put the knife down, m'sieur," Carline said quietly. "Then get out of my house. You and your friend."
    Gazin gave a contemptuous laugh which ended abruptly as Caroline's finger tightened on the trigger. For the first time Adam saw real fear in the man's eyes. A soldier knew all too well what damage a well-placed bullet could do. Gazin dropped the knife and scrambled to his feet. Then, his eyes fixed on Caroline, he began to back toward the door, the thud of his footsteps the only sound in the room. When he reached the door he looked at Adam. "You're a lucky man, Captain. Pity you can't always have your woman about to save you."
    Adam made no response. Now that the immediate need for action had ceased he felt the familiar nausea which always gripped him in the wake of a fight. Gazin cast a final look at Caroline, a mixture of anger, apprehension, and lust. Then he pulled open the door and backed into the noisy street.
    When the door had closed behind Gazin, Adam looked across the room at Laclos who was standing very still, his shako knocked from his head, his eyes wide with alarm. The quiet in the room was broken by Hawkins, who was covered with dust but otherwise appeared to have come through the skirmish unscathed. He picked up the shako and handed it to Laclos. "You heard the lady. Get out."
    As if released from paralysis, Laclos seized the shako and hurried to the door. "Just a minute," Adam said as Laclos fumbled with the latch.' "How many of you are there?"
    Laclos regarded him with evident alarm. "Fifteen, sir." He hesitated, as if debating whether to plead for clemency, then glanced back at the gun and bolted from the room.
    As the door banged shut, Adam drew a breath. Relieved to find that the pain had receded somewhat, he turned back to Caroline. Her eyes were wary but composed and the hands that held the pistol were steady. There was no sign of the panic or shock that she would once have displayed at such a situation. Adam felt a stab of regret for the loss of the joyous, unthinking girl she had been, and at the same time realized that the changes the past five years had wrought in Caroline were not all for the worse.
    "I may well owe you my life," Adam said. "'Thank you' seems quite inadequate, but there's no time to say more. If I judge Gazin rightly, he'll round up some friends and come back for revenge. Besides, if the rest of the patrol are anything like him, I don't care to think of the villagers being at their mercy. It's time Captain St. Juste had a word

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