(Midwinter Manor)Poacher's Fall

Free (Midwinter Manor)Poacher's Fall by JL Merrow

Book: (Midwinter Manor)Poacher's Fall by JL Merrow Read Free Book Online
Authors: JL Merrow
Tags: Fiction, General, Romance, Historical, Gay
Poacher’s Fall
     
     
    D ANNY C OSTESSEY slung the last furry little body into his bag and grinned, satisfied with the night’s work. Three rabbits, all of them good sized. Not so fancy as what they’d be eating up at the manor, but it’d still make a grand Christmas dinner for his mam and the kids. Now, though, it was time to be heading off home before that bastard of a gamekeeper caught him.
    Snow had started to drift from the heavy clouds, a few flakes finding their way between the leafless trees to fall on Danny as he made his way home. At least they had plenty of firewood this year. Life was a bit easier now that Toby was big enough to help out, and he’d done a cracking job of collecting wood for their mam. Funny to think of Toby growing up. He’d been so tiny when he was born a couple of years before the Great War. And now he was ten years old already. He’d taken his little sisters out to gather holly to cheer up the cottage in honor of the season, although there had been a few tears over pricked thumbs that day, Danny recalled. But his mam had smiled to see it, and that was the main thing.
    No mistletoe, though, Danny mused. His mam did love a nice bit of mistletoe, said it reminded her of her youth. Not that she was old now, mind, but five kids and no husband were enough to wear any woman down.
    It was still dead dark in the forest, hardly a scrap of moonlight to find your way by, but Danny knew his way through these woods better than he knew his own face, and he recalled a big old oak tree set in a clearing that had a grand patch of mistletoe growing on it. It hung down from the branches like—well, Danny wasn’t much good with poetic descriptions and the like, but what it reminded him of most was the time he and Billy Wainwright had broken into the abandoned cottage next to the orchard for a lark. They’d crept into the pantry and found a wasp’s nest that was bigger around than both of them put together. They’d stared at it open-mouthed for a moment as the wasps started to swarm angrily on being disturbed. And then they’d both yelled out loud and run like buggery.
    Danny grinned at the memory, though regret twisted in his gut just a little. Billy wasn’t around anymore. He’d gone off to Pontefract, nigh on thirty miles away, to train as a stonemason, and he’d met a local lass there and married her. Two kids already, though he wasn’t but a couple of years older than Danny himself. Of course, the first one had been the reason they’d wed so quick. Danny had been hurt, at first, when he’d heard the news, but it wasn’t like Billy could’ve married him , was it now?
    Billy had tried to tell him, when he’d come back to visit his family bearing his new son like a trophy, that one day Danny’d find a lass he liked well enough to wed. But Danny reckoned there were men as could do that, and men as couldn’t, and he was one of the last lot. It wasn’t so bad; he had his family, and Tom the blacksmith was always up for a bit of messing around when his wife was out. And sometimes when she wasn’t. Danny laughed under his breath. They’d had a couple of close calls that way. Perhaps he ought to feel bad about sneaking behind her back, but the whole village knew she’d tricked Tom into marrying her, claiming she was in the family way, and here they were, six years married and not a bairn to show for it.
    Danny had reached the oak now and stood considering it for a moment. Not as many low branches as he’d like, but he reckoned he could shin up the trunk far enough to grab one. And he’d best get a move on. Snow was falling thicker now, and his fingers were starting to numb.
    Taking his knife from his boot and shoving it between his teeth for ease of access, Danny began to climb. It took him a couple of goes before he grasped the lowest branch, but once he’d done that, he was able to swing himself up onto it. Blinking snowflakes out of his eyes, Danny reached for the next branch, and the

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