"Which is worse? Drawn and quartered or shot?" he asked, a wry grin on his face.
"Drawn and quartered."
A soft yet determined female voice behind Damian startled him and then a cold sweat broke out on his skin.
"Hold your hands high, both of you. Stand up, then turn slowly around." Amorica's voice was utterly feminine, but Damian didn't doubt the wealth of determination he heard.
"What did you hear?" he asked. Hands held high, he looked at Ryder who was leaning against the horse's stall, his arms crossed in front of him.
"Enough--too much," she said.
"I don't suppose you'd like to hear an explanation?" Damian asked.
"I believe you said enough to hang yourself. But you will not have to concern yourself with me or my reputation. I will leave of my own accord." Tears streamed down her face.
"I cannot let you do that," Damian said. "You cannot think to overpower two men with one pistol. I cannot let you leave with the knowledge you gained here this night."
He watched the tiny lump in her throat, saw the trembling of her arms as she struggled with the weight of the pistol. Yet she held her ground, arms outstretched, the weapon pointed at his heart.
"I can shoot you." Her voice was frighteningly calm--devoid of emotion.
Ryder stepped forward. "Take your best shot. One of us will be left standing when you're done."
"I don't like the way that sounds," Damian said. He turned his attention back to Amorica. "Easy, put the gun down. We can talk about whatever troubles you." His arms began to lower, his hands outstretched, reaching for the pistol as he spoke.
"Talk won't change how I feel. You are a horrible, treacherous man.
It is your kind that would shoot a helpless woman as easily as you would squash an ant."
Damian moved closer.
Amorica stepped back, her hands shaking. He watched her eyes and heard Ryder's deep snarl.
"Tell me what happened. What woman?" Damian asked, moving closer once again. The wind wailed around the eaves. Rain pounded on the rooftop.
"Do you want help?" Ryder asked.
"No," Damian said, disliking the tone he heard in Ryder's voice. "If I were you, I would watch my own back. It is not just me she wants to shoot."
"Ah, but your advice falls on deaf ears at the moment." An owl flew from one rafter to another, wings flapping loudly.
Amorica did not look away. Damian studied her eyes, her shaking arms and faltering backward steps.
"Put the gun down, Amorica." He tried again.
She shook her head and stepped away from him once more. "Don't come any closer."
"Or you'll shoot?" he queried.
"Don't doubt it."