A Stone Denied – Beckworth meets Stella

Jessup opened the door then stepped back to let Beckworth enter. He waited at the door as Stella jumped from the bed, probably startled from the unexpected visit. She took one look at him and raced to the corner of the room to stand behind a wooden chair. He remained still, not wanting to further scare her.
She wrapped her arms around her stomach, her expression passive though her vivid green eyes widened a fraction before glazing over. Her gaze flicked around the room, never landing on him. Her arm, covered in a filthy sweater, inched down to pick at a piece of string from from a tear in her pants. She must be freezing in the clothes with no hearth for a fire.
He scanned the room stuffed with trunks and bags. At least she had a bed, and though it didn’t look comfortable, it had to be better than the floor. He noticed a long overcoat hanging from a hook. Based on the buttons and styling, it had to be hers. One thin blanket had been bunched on the bed where she’d kicked it off. There were no doubt more than enough clothing in the trunks to give her a wrap. Hadn’t Gemini offered her more appropriate attire?
He stepped into the room. When Jessup followed, he pushed the man back into the hall and gave him a sharp look before shutting the door in his face. He remained at the door, not sure where to start. It was obvious she wasn’t going to be the first to speak. She still wouldn’t look at him.
Beckworth pushed two bags off a stool before dragging it toward her but left six feet separating them. Close enough for a quiet talk, but not too close to spook her. He sat and leaned back, keeping his hands in his lap and showing no signs of aggression. Now that he was closer with more light from the lantern, he noticed the dark color on her left cheek. It hadn’t turned yellow yet, and from what Gemini told him, Stella had only been here a couple of days. Had she put up a fight to earn that bruise, or was Gemini’s loose control over the men a weakness?
“I think introductions first.” He kept his tone low so anyone standing by the door wouldn’t hear. And maybe she’d relax long enough for a conversation.`
Her gaze darted to his, then away. With a long exaggerated sigh, she pushed her thick auburn hair back and gave him her full attention. His first thought was that her curiosity wouldn’t keep her quiet. He had no idea why he thought that, but he couldn’t help but wonder what she’d been thinking when he first entered the room.
“My name is Beckworth. But I think you already knew that.”
She nodded.
Beckworth glanced over his shoulder toward the door, then he leaned forward and whispered, “And you’re not who everyone thinks you are.”
She snorted, but kept her voice low. “Wow. You’re quick? AJ didn’t tell me what a scholar you were.”
He could only stare. A sharp tongue on this one. He didn’t know if he should be offended or intrigued. He shook his head. “Are you going to be as troublesome as it appears?”
This wasn’t going as well as he’d hoped. He scratched his head then tugged at his sleeves. She smirked when she glanced down, and he dropped his hands back to his lap, forcing himself to leave his sleeves alone. “Can you please sit?”
When she didn’t comply, he sighed. “It’s obvious you’re not pleased by my visit, but we have to eventually agree on a plan on what to do until AJ and Finn arrive. My job tonight is to garner some answers from you. We need to decide what those answers should be.”
That got her attention, and she squinted with her cool assessment of his statement. She stepped in front of the chair and sat, her hands resting on her knees. Quite prim and proper. Her gaze was clear, and that look that seemed more curious than anything else had returned.
“Let’s start with an easy one.” Beckworth relaxed on the stool, leaning on the bed. “Gemini wants to know if Murphy will bring the Heart Stone.” Before she could say something, which would probably be uncomplimentary, he continued, “I have no doubt Murphy he’ll bring it, that’s the only way they can time travel. What I can’t figure out is why Gemini wouldn’t know that unless they believe Murphy has one of the smaller stones as well. If anyone was counting, there are two missing. But even if he had another stone, he’d still bring the Heart Stone in case there was no other way of retrieving you. Of the two questions Gemini asked, this one seemed the safest to answer, but I wanted your opinion”
Stella stared at him with wide eyes that quickly narrowed. She didn’t appear to trust him. What had AJ told her about him? He was considering restating the question in case she hadn’t heard him.
“What’s the second question?”
Now it was his turn to raise a brow. He hadn’t expected her to question him. “Why is that important?”
She rolled her eyes, and he almost chuckled. Did she learn that from AJ or the other way around? Come to think of it, a lot of women did that in their timeline.
“You said Gemini wanted answers to two questions. You thought the first one was the best one to answer. But how do I know that if you don’t tell me what the second question is?”
He almost guffawed at that. The little minx paid attention. He couldn’t hold back an engaging grin and noticed the sudden blush in her cheeks. He was considering a witty comeback to add a touch more pink, but this wasn’t the time to tease.
“I’m supposed to ask about Maire’s location.”
Stella’s expression went blank. She knew something after all.
“That won’t do.” When Stella glared at him, he shrugged. “It’s your expression. It’s obvious you know where she is. If Gemini brings up Maire, you need to look surprised, like you thought everyone knew where she might be. The way you’ve positioned your body, you’re almost daring me to pull off a fingernail or two to find out what you’re hiding.” He grunted. “And to think I had high hopes on your intelligence.”
“You’re not big on winning friends, are you?”
“I have many friends. I must be doing something right.”
She snickered but gave him an answer. “Finn will most definitely bring the Heart Stone.” Then she leaned over, her voice barely above a whisper. “Do you know they’re married?”
“Or course.” He paused. “Ah. I see. I’m not sure if that would be a good thing to have known or not. I have no idea if Gemini is aware of their wedded bliss. The problem is, I don’t think Gemini is working alone. There has to be someone with more money and influence. For now, I wouldn’t bring up the marriage unless asked. And even then, you should be reluctant to divulge anything. Everyone knows how smitten Murphy is with AJ. Or they should if they’d given any thought toward strategy. They must know he loves her enough to bring the Heart Stone or they wouldn’t have taken the risk.”
She nodded. “The first question was probably a test. Whether for me or you, maybe both. They must know you’ve worked with them in the past.”
He knew Stella had to be smart. When he’d been in her time period, he’d seen her face on dozens of signs all over Baywood. He was aware she was an Estate Agent. A successful one if what AJ had shared was true.
“Maire is with AJ.”
The statement startled him. And the fact she told him without being asked gave him hope she might trust him a little. “I thought so.”
“Wouldn’t it be better if everyone thought Maire was in this time period?”
“Yes. Quite right. It would give Murphy an advantage if Gemini doesn’t suspect Maire and Hughes would be with him. And when AJ reveals herself.” He shook his head.
He gave her a halfhearted shrug. “The four of them are deadly together, but they’ll be outnumbered.” When he sensed her watching him, probably judging his value, he continued, “They have me, of course, but I’m not sure what I can do before the meeting. No one will tell me the location. At least they haven’t yet.”
“As long as whatever we tell them doesn’t lead them to the monastery.”
“Oh, I think that’s already a known fact. Gemini was close to Dugan and knows everything he did about the duke, and by extension, the monastery as well. If we have to divulge a location, I think we should point them toward the Earl of Hereford. Hughes used to be the Sargent at Arms for the earl and is still quite close to the man. If Gemini sent someone to check, there wouldn’t be enough time to return before the meeting. Oh, and that reminds me.”
He stood, picked up the stool, and smashed it against one of the dressers. Splinters flew and pounding started on the door. Stella jumped and rushed behind the chair, arms crossed tightly in front of her as the door swung open.
Beckworth turned to find Jessup staring at the remaining bits of stool scattered across the floor. “Get out!” He yelled and took a step toward the man.
Jessup held up his hands. “Gemini doesn’t want her hurt.”
Beckworth sneered and nodded toward Stella. “Well thanks for letting her know that. Besides, there are ways to not leave bruises. Now get out. I won’t ask again.”
The door slammed shut, and he tugged at his sleeves. “Well, I couldn’t have asked for a better showing.”
“Was that supposed to impress me? Make me think you’re on my side?”
She wasn’t going to give an inch, and he had no doubt she’d end up being more difficult than AJ ever was. There wasn’t anything he could say that would make her trust him. In fact, him not saying anything was the best answer. Keeping her true identity secret would have to be enough.
“I’ll confirm that Murphy will come with the Heart Stone. I’ll make it sound as if you were close to giving me Maire’s location before Jessup broke in. That will give us another opportunity to talk without prying eyes.”
Without waiting for her to respond, he left before he said something he’d regret.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. cheri sargeny

    I like it…has me drawn back in again. I know you still have grammatical cleaning up to do, but Sargent at Arms is spelled wrong. And “I have no doubt Murphy he’ll bring it…Murphy, he’ll I assume is “will” bring it.
    Can’t wait for it’s release!! Thank you for sharing!

    1. Kim Allred

      Glad you enjoyed it Cheri! And thank you for the proofreading! I have noted the updates.

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