Ezra motioned for one of his assistants to deliver drinks to some patrons. Turning back to his guests, he nodded at a table, then followed them to it. They all sat.
Almost immediately, a barmaid approached. A slight woman, with delicate features and skin of bronze, her dark chestnut hair hung down and straight. Her clothing consisted of a simple but closely fit dress that covered her from chin to toes, yet she seemed to exude a sensuality that positively screamed. No one, male or female, could ignore her presence.
“Oh, Celestine,” the innkeeper acknowledged the woman, “drinks are on the way already.”
Both Marshall and Jerrett eyed the barmaid, momentarily lost in thought.
Ezra, noticing their distraction, followed their gaze and then laughed. “Yes, she does have that effect,” he said as she walked away.
Marshall averted his eyes.
Jerrett also looked back at his host. “Yes, I remember her from my last visit.” He shook his head. “How do you work around that?” he asked, grinning.
“You think my wife beautiful, huh?”
Marshall’s eyes darted from Jerrett to Ezra, concerned there might be trouble between the men.
“Your wife!” Jerrett exclaimed. “Oh, I am sorry! I didn’t know.”
“No. No, don’t be sorry,” Ezra said, waving his hand. “Celestine is most beautiful. Of course, now that you know that she’s not available, I expect that you—and your eyes—will respect that fact.”
The visitors both caught a quick last glance at Celestine who now assisted guests at a nearby table.
“Of course,” Jerrett said, turning his attention back to Ezra. He paused for a moment and then grinned impishly. “I, too, have a stunning wife.”
“Yes, I know. I met her. Remember?”
Frowning, Jerrett’s brow dropped. Then, realizing Ezra merely repaid the compliment, he grinned. “Yes, well, if we weren’t living at the compound, I imagine life would be more difficult.”
Ezra laughed. “Yes, difficult . . . and interesting.”
Marshall chuckled. “You two have no idea how hard you have it.”
“Ha ha ha!” Jerrett laughed. “This from the compound’s resident bachelor,” he said, clapping his friend on the back.
Once again, the innkeeper laughed. “Well, stick around, Marshall. Plenty of beautiful women find their way here. Who knows?”
Marshall shook his head. “No,” he said, his hand held out as though physically holding the man back. “Thanks, but no. I’ve had enough of beautiful women in my time.”
“Of course. Lilith was your charge. I imagine she could spoil a man’s idea of beauty.”
“No, I just find that I don’t trust it as readily as others might—that maybe living without beauty surrounding me is easier than living with it.”
The innkeeper chuckled. “Fair enough.”
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