This novella will be releasing in mid-July and will be available on Kindle and Kindle Unlimited
Bianca knew that if they stopped this time they would die. Rachel was too weak to keep going. She was barely conscious now and Bianca was bearing most of her weight.
The light ahead had to be their destination. It just had to. If it wasn’t then it was all over.
She kept pushing forward up the path to the door that was lit in the darkness by two torches.
It might be what the woman had described to her but it might not. It would be easier to tell in the day but they couldn’t risk being out in the day and being wrong. Not until they arrived. Once they were in Venetia, and honestly, she wasn’t sure if they were, they would be safe.
The law said that Mark and Luke couldn’t touch them once they made it to Venetia. There would be people and laws to protect them; a luxury they hadn’t enjoyed in Catseye Valley.
She lifted up a trembling hand and knocked on the door. She thought for a moment that no one would answer but then the door opened and a young woman stood before her.
“Is this Madame Valentine’s Inn?” Bianca asked.
“Yes,” the woman said reaching out a hand to her.
“We need your help,” Bianca said. Then, she felt her legs buckle underneath her and the room went dark.
James opened his eyes groggily when he heard the pounding on his door. He sat up and rubbed his eyelids with the back of his hand. He fumbled along the nightstand until he found his spectacles. The moonlight was streaming through the window and he wondered exactly what God forsaken hour it was. Whatever the hour, the call must be urgent. He pulled on a shirt and fumbled with his suspenders before making his way downstairs and opening the front door.
“Sam?” He asked blinking against the light of the lantern that was held by the young man.
“Madame Valentine needs you to come. Two girls came in. They are looking badly. She sent me to come fetch you at once.”
James grabbed his bag, which was always stashed by the door for such emergencies and followed Sam along the unlit streets until they came to the Inn. He hurried up the back staircase to the large room where dozens of beds were set up dormitory style. In the corner, two makeshift cots held women he hadn’t seen before. Other women who he knew by sight if not by name were buzzing around them. They were cleaning the girl’s skin and offering them broth.
He knelt down before the first woman. She didn’t look very old. She might be in her mid twenties but it was hard to tell as she was so thin and there were yellow and green bruises over much of her face and arms. She looked like she had taken a beating days ago. He took her wrist to check her pulse. It was strong which was a blessing at least. He palpitated her abdomen to make sure she didn’t have any internal bleeding. There was no bleeding but it felt as if she had been pregnant recently though there was no child in the room.
“Does anywhere hurt?” he asked her gently. He could see her mistrust and he didn’t blame her. Whoever had beaten her so badly had almost assuredly been a man, most likely her husband.
“No,” she whispered. She didn’t have any injuries that needed his attention tonight. Rest and proper food would probably do her more good than any treatment he could give her.
He stood up and went to the other girl. He took her wrist in his hand to check her pulse. She had scrapes and scratches but no bruises he could see which was good. As petite as she was a good beating would likely have broken her bones.
“Are you in pain,” he asked.
“No. But,” she hesitated and then said quietly “I need some pennyroyal.”
Pennyroyal? Had she really just told him she needed pennyroyal? His first thought was how she would know that pennyroyal was an abortifacient. It wasn’t something many people knew or used. It had been used before better methods had emerged and might still be used in a few places where modern medicine hadn’t touched but it certainly wasn’t something he had ever been asked for before.
His second thought was why she would assume he would give her any such thing.
“I never use Pennyroyal. We have better ways of dealing with such a … female problem. But, you are weak right now. You need time to regain your strength.”
“No, please,” she begged. “Please, give it to me.”
“In your current condition nature may take its course and you may not need anything. But, in case it doesn’t, you can come to my office in a week. With rest and food you should be strong enough then for the needed treatment.”
“I’ve used Pennyroyal before. I’m strong enough….”
“In a week.”
He dug in his bag, pulled out a powder mix, and handed it to Dawn, one of the women who had been at Madame Valentine’s Inn for a long time. He knew her fairly well.
“Mix this with hot water and honey and give it to them every six hours. Make sure they have broth and nothing more until after I see them again. They need rest and the medicine will make them drowsy. Come get me if there is any change,” James said.
Dawn nodded as she took the packets. There was nothing for him to do tonight for the women. Everyone would be better off with a few more hours of sleep.
Bianca felt a panic rush through her even as the warm liquid made her drowsy. She hadn’t been thinking clearly. Why would she ask a complete stranger for pennyroyal? She did need it. She had missed her cycle the day after they had run away and it hadn’t appeared. Whenever she had missed a cycle in the past there had been pennyroyal in her herb garden. She had always played the role of poor woman who couldn’t get pregnant for unknown reasons. She had had to play that role. It meant safety. What would Mark have done to her if he had known she had ended the pregnancies he had given her? Weren’t there laws against ending a pregnancy without medical reasons? If Mark had ever taken her to the doctors in Catseye Valley, they might have found out her secret. Luckily, Mark hadn’t believed in medicine. Even when sick, he wouldn’t see the doctors. He would sometimes allow Bianca to make him teas with her herbs but that was the extent of his use for medicines.
“You are going to be fine,” Dawn said. Bianca had caught her name along with a few others but there were so many women here. Were they all runaways like she and Rachel?