A Musketeer's Heart - Chapter Eleven

Aramis had spent the rest of the night in agony. Knowing the truth, knowing she was nearby, knowing how her body looked in the moonlight, how it felt under his arms, clenching around him...Knowing how she tasted, how she smelled, knowing the sounds she made...It was torture.

He wanted one more night with her. He knew it wouldn’t be enough, but he needed one more night with her. Somewhere private, where they wouldn’t be disturbed. Somewhere with a bed. She deserved a bed. He wanted to see her in a bed, her limbs languidly spread on the sheets, candlelight dancing on her skin. He wanted to explore every inch of her body, taste it, feel it, until it was seared in his memory.

He’s never felt such a visceral need for a woman before. All his previous liaisons have been passionate, but he’s never desired another woman as he wanted Alexandra. She’d enchanted him with her eyes, her mouth, her body, the mystery surrounding her. She’d captured him, and he never wanted to get free.

He sighed. He suspected he’d never be free again.

Athos looked sideways at his friend. There was something off. Again. Aramis and Alec had apparently buried the hatchet on whatever had been bothering them before, but something else has surfaced between them last night. He hadn’t known Alec long, but the kid was unusually silent, his head bowed as he rode his horse in what at first sight appeared sullen silence. But when Athos had looked closer, he could see Alec wasn’t sulking. Something was bothering the lad, there was a melancholy in his eyes.

He might not have known Alec long, but he did know Aramis. And Aramis wasn’t Aramis. Not today. His usually annoyingly chatty friend was subdued and quiet, his downcast eyes filled with a strange pain. If he didn’t know better, Athos would’ve sworn his friend was suffering from a broken heart. Which was impossible since Aramis, even in his most ardent dalliances, never brought his heart into the mix. Never risked his heart to be broken.

And since neither was talking, responding to any enquiry with silence or an occasional grunt or mumble, Athos was in the dark. And being in the dark on this specific matter wasn’t bothering only him. He could see Porthos and d’Artagnan were in the same predicament.

Maybe it was just the fact the final battle, so to speak, was approaching. They would reach Roquetaillade by dusk. Athos only hoped Alec and Aramis would be able to put their gloom aside long enough to infiltrate the fortress and liberate the Englishman.

“I take it you’ve done this before.”

Athos grinned at Alec. “We’re professionals at this sort of thing.”

The kid didn’t look convinced. “How did you manage to get this?” He nodded toward the plan of the castle.

“Porthos is an expert in extracting information from pertinent sources.”

“I’m sure,” Alec replied drolly. “But there could be multiple copies, different copies. How can you be sure that the tunnel is there?”

Athos shrugged. “We’ll see when we get there.”

Alec rolled his eyes. “Veritable professionals, you are.”

Athos looked at his three friends. Each wore a matching grin. “Ah, the doubtfulness of youth. Shall we?”

The door was where it was supposed to be according to the blueprint. A heavy, oak door, hidden behind a natural wall of ivy, it was unlocked, but still quite a challenge to open. They all expected the hinges to creak, but only silence greeted them. And a warm, clammy breeze blowing through the tunnel.

“Obviously they never heard of the benefits of ventilation,” Porthos muttered.

“It’s a dungeon,” d’Artagnan hissed.

Porthos shrugged. “A ventilated dungeon is a clean dungeon.” He cleared his throat as his four companions looked at him as if he’d grown wings. “Never mind. I’ll go first. If I scream come and save me.”

“We were thinking more along the lines of scattering,” Aramis whispered, and winced when Alec’s elbow connected with his stomach. “What? Every man for himself.” He grabbed the elusive elbow before receiving another blow. “Stop it.”

“You stop it,” Alec hissed. “He’s your friend.”

“I can make new friends.”


“Come on, you don’t mean that.”

Athos silently observed the exchange. There was no obvious animosity behind the thump to the stomach, or any heat behind the glare Alec bestowed on Aramis. And there certainly wasn’t any animosity in Aramis’ affectionate smile. Athos did a double take. The smile was indeed affectionate, and it, coupled with the tender gaze, transformed his friend’s visage completely. And it made Alec blush and look away.

What was going on?

Athos shook his head. Now wasn’t the time. If they wanted to do something, they should do it now. “Let’s go, children,” he chided, gave Porthos a little push over d’Artagnan’s shoulder, and, when they all entered the tunnel, brought up the rear.

The tunnel suddenly ended at another heavy wooden door. But this one was locked, and Alec arched his brow at Athos. “As I said, veritable professionals. Now what?”

He cleared his throat. “We could try knocking.”

Aramis rolled his eyes. “Let’s do that. Maybe they’ll invite us to supper.”

Porthos huffed pushed Athos away from the door, and knocked. “What?” he asked, when they all looked at him strangely again. “It’s worth a try.”

“Who is it?” came the enquiry from the other side.

They all exchanged bewildered looks. Now what?

“Ehm, it’s me,” Porthos growled. “Open up.”

They could hear a key turning, and in front of their astonished eyes, the door slowly swung open.

The man who opened the eyes, dressed in a monk’s garb, goggled. “Who—”

The question remained unfinished thanks to Athos’ punch. “That was easy,” he murmured, rummaging in the man’s cloak for the key ring. Too easy. It either meant it was a trap, or the prisoner was already dead. But being an eternal optimist, Athos always considered the brightest option to be the most likely. Trap it was. He couldn’t wait. He unsheathed his sword and walked toward the corridor that should lead to the cells, the others following him. He frowned at Aramis’ hissed “Stay behind me” and turned in time to see Alec’s deadly glare. What the hell was the matter with those two?

There was no time to contemplate his companions’ peculiar behaviour, because the sickly stench was getting stronger. Athos closed his eyes briefly. It was the smell of death. No wonder there was no guard. They were too late. He turned toward the other four, seeing by his friends’ darkened expressions that they knew. Aramis put his hand around Alec’s shoulders, and the boy leaned in, breathing through his mouth as if to steady himself.

Teeth gritted, Athos walked further into the dungeon. There were five cells, holes dug into the packed soil, with bar doors. The floors were covered with dirty straw and dried excrement, the first four were empty. The last, looked to have two occupants. Neither moved, and judging by the ripeness of the stench, they wouldn’t move again.

After three attempts, Athos finally located the right key, and at the sound of it scraping in the lock, one of the two immovable figures, the one slumped by the back wall, lifted its head slowly, contempt visible in the eyes glaring from between matted strands of hair. Eyes that should’ve appeared dull, after so much time spent in captivity, but were anything but.

Athos heard a shaky sigh behind him, and then Alec pushed him aside, rushed to the man, dropped on his knees beside him, and cupped his face.


He cursed. It was a woman’s voice. A woman’s shaky voice!

“You found me,” the man whispered.

She brushed her fingers tenderly over the man’s brow. “Of course I did.”

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