Hannah was taken to a small room up on the third or fourth floor of the central building and there she was left alone. Sakura was ordered to follow one of the guards.
‘I’ll be fine,’ Hannah told her, doing her best to give the girl a reassuring smile. She wasn’t sure she succeeded because Sakura threw her a look of pity and stretched out her hands towards Hannah.
‘Oh, mistress, I wish I could stay with you.’
‘Come now, I have my orders.’ The guard pulled Sakura roughly away down the corridor and the door was slammed shut before Hannah could reassure the maid further.
Hannah paced the room for some considerable time, too nervous to relax. After what seemed like an eternity her legs gave way and she sank down onto the polished wooden floor. She was worn out, both physically and mentally, and she wanted to scream with frustration. Her captors had continued their refusal to reveal anything about her destination or why she had been abducted, and she’d spent endless hours fretting about her possible fate. Now she was finally here and yet again she was being left in ignorance. It was torture.
The shadows in the room lengthened. She had almost started to believe she’d been forgotten, when suddenly she found herself looking up at a man who had come into the room on silent feet. From her sitting position she couldn’t immediately see his face, but he looked big and powerful, his stance menacing. She shot to her feet and stared at him, struck dumb at first. Her eyes widened as she looked into a face she knew.
‘Lord Kuma!’ The shock of seeing him, of all people, reverberated through her and almost made her legs give way again. She closed her eyes, but when she opened them once more, he was still there. He wasn’t an illusion.
He inclined his head in greeting, but didn’t reply. Instead he stared at her as if he was reacquainting himself with her features. His very calmness and nonchalance infuriated her and her pent-up fear and frustration suddenly boiled over.
‘How dare you? Why have you brought me here?’ she demanded without preamble. ‘We’ve been travelling for ages and no one would tell me why. You can’t just abduct people at will like that. I’m under the protection of the Englishman you called Anjin-san, and he is high in favour with the Shogun, as you well know. You’ll regret this.’
She ran out of breath and glared at him, but he was still busy studying her. He moved slowly towards her, then circled her, looking her up and down. She wondered what game he was playing. Was he trying to intimidate her? Well, he’d catch cold at that.
‘Possibly,’ he conceded at last, presumably referring to her threat that Will Adams would avenge her somehow, but the prospect didn’t appear to worry him unduly.
Hannah willed herself not to swivel her head around to see what he was doing. Above all she mustn’t show fear. She gritted her teeth. I’ll show him that English women are not to be so easily cowed.
When he had completed his inspection he gave her a measuring stare. ‘Haven’t you been told that here no one speaks to me unless I have spoken to them first?’ he asked calmly.
She frowned, but relieved that he was talking to her and not just staring, she replied with spirit. ‘No, I don’t think so and I don’t even know where here is. Perhaps you would care to tell me? Or is it a secret?’
He smiled, showing the dimples on either side of his mouth which had so attracted her the first time she’d seen them. His face, so harsh a moment ago, seemed instantly more gentle. Hannah drew in a shuddering breath, hoping this signified some sort of turning point. Perhaps now they could clear up what was obviously a misunderstanding. Surely he hadn’t meant to abduct her?
‘Very well, I will forgive you this once since you are a gai-jin and not used to our ways,’ he said. ‘In Hirado I tolerated your ignorance since you had only just arrived, but this place is my home, Shiroi Castle, and here it’s a different matter. I am Kumashiro Taro, daimyo of this province,’ he announced in a grand tone, ‘And in this house my word is law, don’t ever forget that,’ he added sternly.
Buy links: The Scarlet Kimono was published by Choc Lit on 1st March, (ISBN 978-1-906931-29-2). It is available from www.amazon.co.uk For further details on where to purchase this book please see http://www.choc-lit.com/html/the_scarlet_kimono.html
Author Bio: I’m Christina Courtenay and I write historical romance. My debut novel Trade Winds (ISBN 978-1-906931-23-0) was published by Choc Lit in September 2010. It was shortlisted for the RNA’s Pure Passion Awards in the Historical Novel category. The Scarlet Kimono is my second novel (came out in March 2011) and I also write Regency novellas for D C Thomson’s My Weekly Pocket Novel series, published in Large Print by Dales Romance. I’m is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and on their committee, currently I’m their Vice Chairman, organiser of the RoNA Rose Award and libraries liaison. For more details see my website www.christinacourtenay.com or www.choc-lit.co.uk