Hey, guys! Sorry for the very, very, very late update! I have exams, and my internet barely works. :P

Chapter 3

Dimitri Belikov might have spent the last decade fighting in the Holy Land for the possession of Jerusalem, but that didn't mean he was holy. In fact, he considered himself far from it. Just last night he had bedded a woman out of frustration, and refused to pay her husband recompense when he 'happened' to walk in on them.
Yes, Dimitri felt guilty, he always did, but it never stopped him when he wanted it.
After all, he was brought up in that exact way.

He had fled to the Crusades only because it was that, or joining a monastery.
Religious that he was, Dimitri was absolutely repulsed at the idea of giving up his wealth and pleasure just to seek oneness with the Lord.
But of course, that was when he was naive, and young, and thought that the whole world revolved around him.

The women of Acre hadn't helped either. They had lured young Dimitri into their clutches with their 'barely-there' clothes, and seductive voices, egging him to stay on, and he had.
His foolishness had only resulted in his capture by the Muslim army, and by the time he was released, Dimitri was sick of crusading, and cringed at the mere mention of the Holy Land, or the women of Acre.

Fortunately, by then he had learned of the death of his elder brother Adrian, followed by the strange death of his father, and Dimitri decided it was time for him to go back, and take hold of his duties as Earl of Stephensgate.

Which brought him to the present time.
He stared at the green pastures around him as they passed through yet another clearing.
'They' being Dimitri, and Ethan, his young squire from London. And their horses, of course.
Though it would have been easier to take the main roads, Dimitri knew all about the cunning women who waited on those roads, holding the attention of unsuspecting travelers, and eventually robbing them of their riches.
Oh, no. Dimitri did not want to encounter another one of those women ever again. He had had enough for a lifetime, and was waiting to be back home, resting, going into retirement at his old, old age of twenty-four.

Dimitri called out to Ethan, scowling when he noticed that the boy had fallen asleep on the back of his horse.
"Ethan, boy, get up!" No response. "Gods teeth, boy, GET UP!" he bellowed, smirking in satisfaction as Ethan almost fell off his horse, and struggled to maintain balance.
"Yes! I'm awake Dimitri!" he yelled. "Sir!" he added, seeing Dimitri's scowl.
"Very well. We shall be stopping at Leesbury, Ethan."
"Whatever for, Sir?"
"Do you not want to take some rest, boy? Or shall we eat some of those delicious flowers again?"
Ethan grimaced, remembering the vile smelling flowers. "No, Sir."
Dimitri grinned, leaning forward, resting his arms on Buria's (his Stallion) neck, and his head on his arms.
"Wake me up when we get there."

A frustrated mutter was the only reply he got.

An hour later, Dimitri was woken by Ethan's muttering.

"Makes me do all the work. Ungrateful, menacing...if I wasn't a Squire...looks like a mountain, but probably can't fight an ant..."
Dimitri sat up, scowling fiercely.
"What did you just say, boy?"
Ethan's head whipped towards him.
"Wh...what, Sir? I didn't...didn't say anything, Sir. Just...uh...talking to my horse."
Dimitri just snorted.
"Are we there yet, boy?"
"Just a bit farther, My Lord. Just a bit farther."

Dimitri looked at the inn quietly. It had been long since he had visited one of these local taverns, and he suddenly felt a bit homesick. Shaking his head to get rid of the feeling, he nodded at Ethan.
"Come on."
The Fox and Hare was one of the most popular inns here in Leesbury, famous for it's ale, or so he had heard. Dimitri bent uncomfortably as he walked through the door. At a freakish height of Six-foot-Seven, he could barely walk through any door without stooping. Grimacing, he looked up, only to find quite a few eyes on him, especially the innkeeper's.
Of course, they all must have figured it out by now. With his long brown beard, and tanned skin, Dimitri didn't look like he belonged to these parts. He looked exactly like a soldier returning from the Holy Land. And for the innkeeper, that meant money. Dimitri counted mentally. One...Two...Thr-

Almost on cue, the innkeeper ran up to him.
"Come in, welcome! Have a seat, Sir! What can I get you?" He looked behind Dimitri. "You two?" He added, seeing Ethan's much shorter form.
"Some of your ale, I've heard much about it."
"Of course! My sister in law Mia, brews it! It's the best ale in these parts!"
And with that he scurried off.
Dimitri sighed at the man's enthusiasm. The innkeeper obviously knew he would be payed well.

Ethan dug into his loaf of bread and bowl of stew heartily.
Ah, this is what it felt like to be the Squire of an Earl!
The past few days had been terrible, what with all the ill-treatment, but now, he would get what he deserved! He relaxed in his seat, drinking some delicious ale, and continued to stuff his face.

Dimitri snorted at Ethan's manners. Squire, indeed! But Dimitri, having been battling for many years, knew the enemy's strategy. Lull the foes into a state of relaxation, and then attack. Dimitri straightened himself, on high alert, and sipped his beer, eyeing all the customers and the front door warily.

Which is how he noticed the small figure dart in a few minutes later.

It looked like a young man. Surely, no woman would dress like that! But a closer inspection shocked him.
It was a young woman, with the face of an avenging angel, and beautiful dark hair that was tied in a long braid that swung past an amazingly slim waist, down to her back. She was wearing the most improper clothes, a translucent white lawn shirt, the top two buttons open, and Dear Lord, tight fitting leather pants.
And on her back, hung a bow and a quiver.
Dimitri's eyebrow rose. Interesting...

The girl spoke jovially with the innkeeper, who offered her a stool, and a tankard of ale. Dimitri looked around, noticing that none of the men gave the comely, no, beautiful girl, any attention other than a few How'd you do's. It seemed like she was not a stranger in these parts.
"Holy Lord," Dimitri's head whipped towards Ethan's. "That's a maiden!"
"Keep quite, boy." Dimitri hissed, not liking the looks Ethan was giving the girl. "You're catching people's attention."
Ethan nodded, but continued looking at the girl over his tankard.

"Who is that?" Dimitri asked the innkeeper, trying to sound uninterested.
"That? That's Rose! My brother who owns an inn down the road is married to her sister. Everybody knows Rose Hathaway!"
"Rose." Dimitri tested the name out on his tongue. Roza...
As if she heard her name, the girl's head turned towards them, and her intense stare made Dimitri blush. No woman had ever looked him in the eyes like that before, and honestly, it made him a bit uncomfortable. Mentally, he thanked the Gods for giving him a beard to hide the blush.
His eyes darted to the girl's again, but they had moved on from him, and were now eyeing Ethan.
"Anything else I can get you, Sir?" The innkeeper smiled, waiting for more money.
Dimitri shook his head and slipped a coin into the innkeepers hand. "No, thank you."

The innkeeper looked at the coin in his hand. Pure Gold.
Dazed, he stumbled towards a nearby table, reveling in the weight of the coin in his hand, and bumped straight into two customers.
They scowled at him. "What're ye doing?"
The innkeeper only held up the coin in response, not noticing the glint in the two mens' eyes at seeing it.

Dimitri stood up, catching the girl, Rose's attention again.
Ethan, noticing her head turn towards them, pulled at Dimitri's cloak. "Look at that! She looked this way, again! I think she likes me!"
"Shut up, boy. And lets leave."

Dimitri turned, heading for the door, but stopped and turned back around when he heard a slight scuffle, and Ethan saying "Sir!"
The two men, whom he had noticed eyeing the gold coin the innkeeper had, had caught hold of Ethan, and were holding a blade to his neck. Dimitri scowled, and muttered to himself. "Bloody thieves." He looked at the two men boldly. "Let him go."
"Aye, of course, Sir. Once you give us your purse, with all those gold coins!"
"I said," Dimitri boomed, catching the attention of people nearby, "Let him go!"

One of the men grinned, flashing rotted teeth.
"We'll let 'im go, if you give us the money. Ain't that right, Ben?"
"Aye, Lee." The other man agreed.
"Ben, Lee, I don't want you fighting in my inn. Let the boy go." The innkeeper said distractedly, counting the coins Dimitri had left him.
"We gonna let 'im go, Xanther, when he gives us the money." Ben snarled, pressing the blade into Ethan's throat.

Dimitri sighed. He didn't want to fight. He had fought for so many years, and he was tired of bloodshed. Now he couldn't kill a moth without feeling guilty.

But that didn't mean he wouldn't slit somebody's throat if they forced him to.

"Bring it on."

Lee threw himself on Dimitri, holding him there.
Damn that Xanther. He had crouched on the floor to pick up a coin, and Dimitri had tripped over him, giving Lee the advantage of capturing him.

"Give me the coins now." The man smiled crookedly.
Dimitri gave up. He was far too tired to fight, even though he had a dagger in his boot, and could kill Lee in an instant. "Take it."
Lee grinned, reaching for Dimitri's satchel, when an arrow flew through the air, burying itself in Lee's coat, pinning his arm to the floor, centimeters from Dimitri's you-know-what.
Dimitri looked up, shocked, relieved, and a bit amazed.

It was the girl, Rose. Her hand held her bow, perfectly poised. Her face broke out into a grin, showing pearly white teeth.
"Now are you going to let him go? Or should I sever your spine?"
"Don't shoot, lass." Ben pleaded, letting Ethan go. "We're leaving."
And saying so, Lee shrugged off his coat, and the both of them fled from the inn.

Rose came towards Dimitri, face completely calm, and pulled the arrow out from the floor, inspecting its tip.

From so close, Dimitri couldn't help but stare at her skin, the colour of the inside of an almond, her big dark eyes, surrounded by equally dark, thick lashes, and her plump pink lips. She was beautiful.
"Ah," She muttered to herself. "Thought this one was lost for good."

And then she got up, and quietly slipped out the door of the inn.

Dimitri got up, a bit dazed, and immediately walked out the door, looking for the girl. She was nowhere in sight.
Ethan suddenly scampered up to him.
"Did you see that, my Lord? That girl...she handled the bow like I've never seen anyone do before!"
Dimitri growled menacingly, still scanning the street for Rose.
"Saved our lives, yes she did, my Lord. We should find her and reward her, once we get back to the Manor!"
Dimitri looked around again, hoping to see a glint of that deep brown hair.
"Get the horses, we're leaving."

Ethan stopped his sentence midway, frowning. He hadn't thought he would encounter such a feisty, interesting maiden, and this one even liked him! And here was his master, acting all grumpy, and not letting him talk about her!
"Aye, my Lord." he muttered grumpily, walking towards the stable.

A few minutes later, Dimitri hoisted himself up on Buria's back, his mind filled with images of Rose and her beautiful hair. He looked around one last time, and disappointed, urged his steed forward. Those deep, dark eyes would haunt him for the rest of his journey.

If only he had turned back one last time, he would see those very eyes burning a veritable hole in his back, as Rose Hathaway made some calculations of her own.

Finally! Another chapter done! I'm gonna try to write the next chapter faster, though no promises, ya'll know the condition of my internet. :P
R&R, please!