Bursting through the inn’s doors, I scanned the room in the hopes of finding Julay ensconced within its very corners. Sadly, she’s nowhere to be found. Several men from my contingent stopped me along the way as I skirted the wooden tables in search of her. Ignoring their drunken queries, I shoved the door leading to the kitchen open and came across a very irate Rajah. The look he gave me said it all.
“What brin’s ye here?” he spat out, slamming a dirtied pot across the counter’s surface.
“I’m looking for Julay.”
He dumped a bowlful of crusty utensils into the pot, glaring at me as he bent down to pick up a pitcher of water. “She ain’t here, ye miserable excuse of a soldier. How could ye?”
My chin rose with determination. I would not cower before him.
“How could I what?” I replied tautly. “Ya know nothin’ of what’s gone on between Julay and I, so ya have no say in our matters.”
He slammed the battered butcher knife he was now holding against the table. His rancid breath assailed my nostrils as he leaned toward me. “I don’t, eh? My mistress works ‘erself to the bone in order to makes ends meet. She refuses to bend to the will of men, keepin’ a level head when it comes to matters of business. ‘Er highlight each day is the fact ‘at she gets to see ya. Then ye fuck it up by sleepin’ with someone else. How ye can turn to anotha woman is beyond me.”
I felt my face flush with color and looked away. “It wasn’t what it looked like.”
Rajah crossed his arms about his chest, his brow furrowed completely as he waited for me to explain. “Do tell.”
I glanced about the room, doing my best to avoid his eyes. My gaze settled on the table sitting in the upper left corner of the chamber, a rickety wooden chair leaning against the wall. Making my way to it, I pulled it about and sat down.
Perhaps he’s right, I thought. I have messed up so badly.
“I kissed someone else. I admit that, but I didn’t sleep with her.”
“Ye might’ve,” Rajah replied. “Julay ain’t a liar. She knows what she saw.”
“I never meant for things to happen. They just did.”
Rajah snorted and rolled his eyes. “‘At’s of no consequence. Ye done wrong. An’ all for a piece of ass.”
“What would ya know?” I barked irritably.
“I know enough.”
“Where is she?”
Rajah shrugged, his gray eyes cold and calculating. “Gone.”
“She’s gone and she ain’t comin’ back. At least, not any time soon.”
I pinched the bridge of my nose between my thumb and forefinger. “Can’t ya at least point me in the right direction?”
“Nay, but I think ye can figure ‘at out. ‘Ere’s only so many places where she could be.”
A light bulb went off inside my head. “She wouldn’t go back there, would she?”
“Perhaps. Perhaps not.”
I glared at Rajah as I pushed myself to my feet. “Yer insufferable sometimes, ya know that?”
His mouth tilted in a knowing smirk. “‘Tis part of my job description. Ye best hurry if ye mean to catch her.”
“Thanks,” I replied as I hurried out of the kitchen and made my way toward the nearest stable.
Julay was good at concealing herself whenever something went awry, but I had an inkling as to where she could be. I prayed that I’d be able to find her in time before she disappeared for good.