Forever Ashley

Forever Ashley by Lori Copeland Read Free Book Online

Book: Forever Ashley by Lori Copeland Read Free Book Online
Authors: Lori Copeland
his eyes was unmistakable. Ashley would do as
he said, or she would be cast to the wolves. Her choice was obvious. Dream or
no dream, she would cooperate.
    Because she knew history, she knew there was a certain
desperation in these men. A quiet desperation that led men like Aaron Kenneman
to perform extraordinary acts.
    Drawing herself up straighter, Ashley met Dr. Aaron
Kenneman’s autocratic gaze. “I’ll do as you say.”
    Aaron nodded.
    Well. The British were coming. What choice did she have? The
smell of cooking fat and scorched meat mixed with pipe tobacco and the odor of
unwashed bodies made Ashley’s stomach roll as Aaron steered her through the
small tavern.

    The air was filled with the babble and boisterous laughter
of men sitting at small tables swilling rum from tall mugs.
    Two buxom serving girls carried pots of hot mulled ale to a
group of men settled in front of the large fireplace. Smoke whirled and circled
as it drifted from the long-stemmed clay pipes that Ashley remembered were
called, ironically, church wardens.
    As they made their way across the room, a few men raised
their hands to Aaron, calling his name in amiable greeting.
    A man well into his cups lurched toward Ashley. Aaron pulled
her in front of himself as he continued to guide her through the crowd.
    “Who’s the wench, Kenneman?” shouted a well-dressed man in
frock coat and breeches .
    “She refuses to say!” Aaron called back good naturedly.
Ashley stiffened as Aaron’s grip tightened around her arm.
    A slovenly looking chap at a nearby table removed a chewed
stick of snuff from his pocket and used it to massage his gums as he joined in the
ribald laughter.
    “What a terrible thing to say,” Ashley accused. He was
making it sound as if she were a prostitute!
    “You are to remain quiet, wench.”
    “Stop calling me wench.”
    He ignored her, hurrying her through the crowded room.
    “I refuse to be treated this way,” she protested as she
struggled to keep pace with his long-legged stride.
    “Hold your tongue,” he warned softly. “And keep moving. The
gentleman to your right seems to have developed an eye for you.”
    Ashley darted between two tables to avoid contact with the
burly seaman who was clearly ogling her.
    A stooped, white-haired man with a stained apron encasing
his slim hips straightened from a table where he had been talking with two
others. “Aye, Doctor! A trophy from th’ game?” he called out
    “Aye, and a fine one,” Aaron called back. “Oh, Loyal? I’d do
something about that hole in your roof. It looks like falling weather.”
    The innkeeper frowned, scratching his head. “Hole in me
    “Yes, and a rather large one,” Aaron said. “Should be
repaired immediately.”
    “A hole in me roof?” Loyal was still scratching his head as
the good doctor pulled Ashley out the front door.
    A large, ornately dressed man was just about to enter the
tavern as Ashley and Aaron emerged. The man paused, tipping his hat to Ashley
as she sidled around him and down the steps. Drawing a deep breath of fresh
air, she tried to rid her nostrils of the tavern’s stench.
    Moving her along briskly to a dark bay tied at the hitching
rail, Aaron said, “Not a word as we ride through town. Understand?”
    “Perfectly.” Did he think she was daft—well, yes, he did,
but she wasn’t. “Where are we going?”
    “That needn’t concern you.”
    Ashley viewed the horse anxiously. She’d never ridden a
horse before and wasn’t especially eager to start. “I don’t ride.”
    “You do now.” After swinging easily into the saddle, he
extended his hand to her. Ashley placed her foot into the stirrup and groaned
as he pulled her up awkwardly behind him.
    Grasping his waist, she gasped as the horse lurched forward.
“Slow down! I’ve never even been on a horse!”
    “This is not a pleasure ride. Try to bear that in mind.”
    The horse galloped off, and all Ashley could do was hang

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