bed. Larkin froze. Had he somehow discovered her?
He stopped by a chest at the foot of the bed, opened it, and took out fresh clothing. He had his hose gartered and was stepping into his braes when a knock sounded at the door.
“Enter.” He fastened the braes and pulled on a tunic.
“Beg pardon, Sir Talon, but one of the stable boys discovered something odd. Ye might wish to take a look.”
“I’ll be down in a moment.” He sat and put on his boots, then stood, lifting his belt and scabbard and securing them about his hips.
In a trice, he was gone.
Larkin let out the breath she’d been holding, but did not move from her hiding place. He might have forgotten something and return or send someone else to retrieve it. She waited. Sure enough, the door opened.
Two men came in and removed the tub. When they’d gone, Larkin stepped out from hiding. She rubbed herself dry, put on her clothing, and, with wet hair dangling down her back, scurried to the kitchen to dry it before the fire while she ate her supper.
• • •
Talon climbed the stairs to the solar with Cleve at his heels. “What is so odd about the earl’s traveling chair being in the stable?”
“The earl does not ride, sir. An injury he got when he was young prevents him.”
Talon started at this news. “And this is the first time you noticed the chair was not gone along with the earl?”
The guardsman blanched. “The earl disappeared on the same day the ghost started haunting the keep. I already told you how I could get none to come near. And since you came, we’ve been right busy putting the keep in order.”
“What of the men who carried the chair?” He halted at the top of the stairs.
“Since the earl prefers the castle from his second wife’s dowry, he does not stay at Hawksedge Keep often, so we have no specific chair bearers. Any man who is able would do so, when the earl ordered it.” Cleve kept his head bent and traced idle patterns on the stone with his foot.
“Surely the earl does not travel here all the way from the south of England in a chair.”
“Na, sir. He takes a carriage and leaves it at Rosewood because he always stops there before coming on to Hawksedge.”
“Would it be Le Hourde’s men who acted as chair bearers?”
Cleve raised his head, but screwed up his face in thought, still not meeting Talon’s gaze. “Well, they woulda brought the earl from Rosewood, but all went back to Rosewood Castle the same day.”
Talon gnashed his teeth. Getting information from the guardsmen was harder than gathering roses from the sea.
“Did you send for Baron Le Hourde as I asked?”
“I thought ye wanted to wait for Father Timoras to return afore sending for the baron.” The man’s eyes went wide; then his gaze slid away from Talon’s questioning stare.
He huffed. “Send for Le Hourde with all possible speed. Let him know I require his presence in the king’s name.”
“Aye, sir.” Cleve started down the stairs. “I’ll send someone right now.”
“I would hope so,” Talon muttered beneath his breath.
“What’s that ye say, sir?” Cleve climbed back to join Talon.
He headed toward the solar. “Nothing important. I suppose none of the Hawksedge men questioned why they had not been ordered to carry the earl’s chair?”
Cleve swallowed. “’Tis good at supposin’, ye are, sir. I doubt any of the men noticed.”
“With all the work to put the keep to rights, I understand how a chair might go unnoticed.” Surely the captain of the Hawksedge guard would recognize sarcasm when he heard it.
“Thankee, sir. I do appreciate that.”
The man was too thickheaded to know when he’d been chastised.
Talon sighed. “Did the earl often walk outside the keep?”
“Not here, sir. O’ course, the earl was not often here, so ’tis hard to tell if he did anything regular-like outside.”
Talon put his hand on the latch to the solar.
“Tomorrow morning, I want you to send search parties in all