Today's Reading

CHAPTER ONE
London, 1780

The play had been good, but an icy wind bit to the bone as Rhys and Gwyn Tremayne emerged from the Theatre Royal. "Our carriage should be down to the left," Rhys said. "And the sooner we get into it and head for home, the better! Shall we end the evening by sipping brandy in front of a roaring fire?"

"That sounds most appealing," Gwyn said as she took his arm. Then she halted, feeling a powerful intuition. "But not yet. Let's take a bit of a walk first."

"You sense something that needs to be found, Lady Tremayne?" Rhys asked mildly. Since his wife was one of the best finders in Britain, he knew better than to argue. He merely raised an arm and gestured for their coach to follow them.

"Something, or someone." Gwyn drew her cloak more closely around her as she purposefully started threading her way through the mass of waiting carriages and playgoers who were happily discussing the show they'd just seen.

Two turns took them from Covent Garden into a narrow lane. Halfway down, Gwyn paused, then turned left into a dark alley barely lit by capricious moonlight. It dead-ended at a wall, where a pile of rubble had accumulated against the dingy brick. Heedless of her expensive cloak, she knelt on the frozen ground and said softly, "You can come out now, my lad. You're safe."

There was a rustling sound, but no one appeared. "How does warm food and a fire and a bath sound?" she said in her most persuasive voice.

A child's voice snarled, "Don't want no bath!"

"Then we'll start with the food and the fire," she said peaceably. "Will you show yourself? We won't hurt you."

Rhys stood silently behind her, knowing a frightened child would fear a rather large grown man more than a soft-voiced woman. The rubble shifted and a small, filthy face became visible. A boy child, perhaps five or six years old.

Gwyn brushed back a lock of fair hair, then peeled the kid-skin glove from her right hand and offered it to the little boy. He hesitantly took it. As she clasped his freezing fingers with her warm hand, his eyes widened and he sighed with relief.

"You can tell I'm safe, can't you?" Gwyn said.

The boy frowned up at Rhys. "You may be, but not sure about him!"

"I'm safe, too," Rhys said in his most reassuring voice. "I'm very good at protecting others."

Unconvinced, the boy narrowed his eyes warily. As Rhys stood very still, Gwyn said soothingly, "I'm Gwyn Tremayne. What's your name?"

The boy hesitated, as if his name was too precious to share.

After a long moment he said, "Caden."

"Caden. That's a good Cornish or Welsh name. My husband and I come from Cornish families." Knowing there was more to find, she moved her gaze back to the rubble pile. "Your friend can come out, too."

Caden gasped and jerked away from her. For a moment she feared he'd try to bolt, but a thin, childish voice emerged from the rubble. "It's all right, Cade. These are the people we came to find."

An even smaller boy emerged from the rubble, his ragged garments almost indistinguishable from the trash around him. His gaze on Gwyn, he said, "I'm Bran."

"For Branok?" Again Gwyn offered her hand and Bran took it without hesitation. His small fingers felt as if they were carved from ice. In the darkness it was hard to see the boys clearly. Though both were dark-haired, there was little other resemblance. Bran's eyes were light, Caden's were dark, but the color wasn't visible in the shadows. "Are you brothers?"

The boys exchanged a glance. "We are now!" Caden said fiercely, challenging anyone who might deny that.

They both had soft West Country accents, and she wondered what their story was. How had they made their way to London? Bran seemed to have the ability to read people's nature and to decide what must be done. Caden surely was gifted as well, perhaps in other ways.

Learning more about them could wait. What mattered now was getting the boys out of this vicious cold. "Come with us now and we'll take you to our home, where you'll be warm and well fed."
...

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