The bakery wasn’t all that busy. It wasn’t one of the most popular ones in Boston, but it had a steady stream of regular customers from the nearby farms and docks to stay open. You had taken a job at this little mom and pop shop in order to bring in some more funds for your own parents. The inn and tavern they owned on the edge of town was falling into disrepair as fewer and fewer patrons stayed longer than a few hours.
You tucked your hands into the cloak you wore, your gloves doing little to stave off the cold, shivering as you exited the bakery into the cool winter air. The walk home was short, and after working at the bakery for close to two years, you were sure you were able to walk the streets home with your eyes closed.
Small snow flurries fluttered around you as you walked, your gaze straying from the ground as you stepped over cobbles and small puddles to the rooftops and cloudy night sky above you. As you reached the end of the street, something seemed different though, and, as you hugged your cloak tighter around your body, you looked around.
Off to your right, a handful of Regulars were standing near an overturned cart, the owner and merchant of said cart trying desperately to defend himself.
A part of your brain told you to turn and walk away, leave the poor man to his fate. Another part - another larger part - told you to try to help. As you blew your breath into your cupped hands, turning back to the cart, you froze, eyes widening and hands slowly lowering.
A hooded figure stepped from the shadows of the alley, grabbing one of the Regulars and flipping them effortlessly over their shoulder before stabbing a small hidden knife into their chest.
You froze. In the shadows of the alley you stood in, you hoped you were far enough out of sight of the mysterious hooded man and the Regulars. Takign a calming breath as silence resumed on the street, you stepped out of your hiding spot, immediately running to the poor merchant’s side as the hooded man chased off the others.
“Are you alright?” you asked, kneeling on the cold cobbles, placing a tentative hand against the man’s chest.
“I’m fine, miss,” the man nodded, waving off your hand as he pushed to his elbow, sitting up against his fallen cart. “It’s dangerous out here …” he started, looking up to you, “You should leave.”
You smirked, looking over the man for any discernible injuries. “Not until I know you are safe, sir,” you nodded firmly, shifting to stand. As you turned, you were greeted with one of the larger Regulars you had thought had been chased off. Frozen on your knees, your gaze met with his.
“You need to run!” The injured merchant started from behind you, only to have his words cut off as a gunshot rang through the silence on the street.
Cowering under your arms, hands pressed to your ears, slowly, you turned at the sound, heart sinking as you watched the man behind you slumped farther down the broken wheel of his cart, blood blossoming across his chest. Staring at the dead man, your arms slowly dropped, and the next moment, you were running.
Not far, at all, as you were wrenched back into the brute’s arms, his large hands holding your upper arms.
“Let. Me. Go!” you cried, hands balling into fists and legs kicking out in front of you.
The Brute holding you smelled of liquor and dirt, and his smirk was even more disgusting than the smell as he turned you to face him. “Looks like we’ll have fun tonight, lass,” he spat, yellowed teeth showing behind his smirk. A chill ran down your spine at the realization that this man was no Regular - just a man in a blood and shit stained, stolen, uniform.
“Let me go!” you tried again, craning your neck around to look down the street.
“The lass said to let her go,” a calm voice said from somewhere behind you. The accent causing you to shift in the Brute’s arms.
You gasped as the man spun on his heel, looking to the newcomer. His hand stayed firmly on your upper arm, fingers digging into the flesh there and no doubt leaving bruises.
The newcomer was the same one you had seen only minutes ago. His hood was white, the belts and miscellaneous decor on his outfit in shades of blue and white. As he stepped forward, you noted the confident swagger and rolled your eyes. The newcomer had a cutlass in one hand, and a pistol in the other. Even in the dark, you could make out the darker sheen of the sword’s blade as blood.
A shadow fell across the already dark alley, the source disappearing on the rooftops before you had a chance to look up. As you were distracted by the shadow, a yelp fell from your lips as another strong set of arms wrapped around your waist as you were wrenched away from the brute. A clash of metal rang through the alley as the hooded man and not-Regular fought. A blink of the eye later, the cutlass skidded across the cobbles and another shot rang out as you found yourself losing your balance and falling to the ground.
A few dazed moments later, and you realized you were looking up at the cloudy night sky, flat on your back.
“You alright, lass?” a man asked from behind you as his arms tightened around your waist.
You rolled to your knees, looking to the man that had caught you and broken your fall onto the cobblestones. His hood had fallen back, revealing a mop of auburn hair and a roguish grin on his face.
“I’m fine,” you said simply and a bit harshly, as you sat back on your bottom, pulling your legs under you.
“I didn’t hurt ye, did I?” the man asked, raising to a knee and holding out a hand.
“Shay, come on!” The voice behind them startled you, causing you to look back to the hooded figure who had fought the Brute off.
Looking between the two men, the one named Shay looking hopefully at you with dark eyes and the other still donning his hood and rifling through the pockets of the dead men, you felt your mouth dry up. “P-please. I – I just want to get home,” you pleaded, turning your gaze back to Shay.
Shay’s smirk widened as you took his offered hand to stand. “It ain’t safe out here for you,” he started.
“Shay, come on!” his friend hissed from farther down the alley.
You fumbled with your cloak, pulling it tighter against you as you looked anywhere but at the man in front of you in fear that he would leave you dead in puddle like the men and the poor merchant. The two men spoke a few short sentences, the words lost to you as your mind raced.
“Woah, there, lass,” Shay smirked, noting you had taken a few steps backward, his hand falling to your elbow and turning you in the direction of the main part of town. “I’ll walk ye.”
The other man had left, you realized. Your gaze once more flicked to the rooftops, to the alley, the dead men on the corner, and finally settled on Shay. “T-thank you,” you nodded.
“My pleasure,” he started, turning towards the road. “Lead the way, miss …”
Whether it was a feeling of trust for the young man at your side or just the common courtesy ingrained in you since childhood, you gave Shay your first name with a small smile and a “Pleased to meet you”.
Chapter 2: Chapter 2
Shay seemed to slow as the two of you neared the run down building. The sign hanging from the post just outside the door labeled the building as an Inn, but the crumbling exterior and warped wood made the place anything but inviting.
“This is where you’re staying?” The words left Shay’s mouth in little more than a mumble, but you caught them and bowed your head in slight embarrassment.
“What’s wrong with it?” you asked as you turned to the man. He hadn’t known you nearly long enough to complain about - or assume about - your living situation. Working at the bakery left you some spare coin in your purse, but the little Inn your family owned was home, no matter how badly it needed a carpenter. “It’s got a roof and a fairly decent bed to lay my head.”
He laughed. It was a lighthearted sound that left a smirk present on his lips as he looked around. “Do you work?” He asked after a moment.
You gaped at him, one foot on the first step to head inside unsure as to how much you should tell this man. “The bakery. Near where you found me,” you answered after a moment, turning to face him.
His face seemed to brighten at that. “I know the one. The Murdock’s place?”
“That’s the one,” you nodded slowly. “You know it?”
“If we had a cook like the one they’ve got the boys would never go hungry,” Shay laughed, turning slightly in his spot. A thought seemed to stop him mid stride, and he turned back to you. “You’re the cook?”
“And the bookkeeper, and the one in charge of all the deliveries. If I left Mister Murdock would have nothing. He doesn’t know how to write his own name. His wife was the one that ran the business.”
“You cook?” He repeated.
“Yes, of course!” You sighed. “Do you think otherwise?”
“It’s not that lass,” he started, chuckling, “How much does Murdock let you take home to … here?” He asked, motioning to the building behind you.
“Enough to sock away for rent. Some of the patrons give me more, for my parents. Murdock wastes most of whatever comes in,” you shrugged, and as your words trailed off you scoffed at yourself. Why were you telling this stranger, whom you still didn’t know the name of, everything about you? “Is there something wrong, Mister …?”
Shay caught the prod for his name and smiled. “Shay Patrick Cormac,” he introduced. “It’s a pleasure.”
“Mister Cormac,” you sighed, squaring your shoulders. “It is late, and it has been a long day.”
“I could give you a job that gave you a finely decorated room, shared unfortunately, that paid more. The boys would love a cook that actually knew what she was doing. And, judging by the pastries from Murdock’s, I’m sure they would agree you would be better suited to feed them.”
“You’ve eaten my …” you mumbled, smiling on the inside that someone other than your family had complimented your personal pastry recipe. “Wait, are you offering me work?”
“You won’t have to pay for rent, and the money you do get can be given to your parents. They could finally fix this place up,” he smirked.
The gesture was sweet, and the smile he wore even more so charming. “And why would I agree to work for a man I just watched kill five men in a dark alley?” You asked, voice shaking as you remembered what had just happened minutes before.
“I did save yer life,” he smirked.
You smiled back. “I’m actually fairly certain it was your friend that saved me. You made me fall. Twice.”
“I caught ye!” He argued, cocking his head. He wasn’t angry at the accusation, and you weren’t actually upset at him either. For some strange reason this man made you feel safe, even while he wore a sword on his belt still red from the blood he had spilt tonight.
You smiled a genuine smile, turning on the top step to reach the door. Shay matched your smile, eyes widening just slightly at the sight. “I’ll think on it,” you nodded. “If you are in fact offering me a job, perhaps we’ll meet again.”
“Agreed,” Shay nodded. “At the bakery?”
You stopped, hand on the doorknob. You slowly nodded. “Good night, Mister Cormac. Pleasure meeting you.”
Shay nodded back. “Pleasure was mine.”
Mister Murdock was sitting, half drunk, and completely passed out, in the little back office of the bakery the next morning. You had spent most of the morning in the kitchen, rolling the dough Mister Murdock was supposed to have done before opening for the day. As noontime came around, you found yourself elbow deep in a pile of dough for some more loaves when the small bell on the front door tinkled the arrival of a customer.
Sighing and brushing some stray strands of hair from your forehead with the back of your arm, you started into the front room, rubbing at your flour coated hands on your apron. “Good day, sir,” you smiled upon seeing the figure standing near the window display, back towards you.
Shay turned and strode through the short aisle of crispy loaves of bread and biscuits. He smirked as he caught your gaze, the breath going straight from your lungs.
“Murdock will lose a lot of business if he loses you,” he smirked, tapping a nail on the crust of the loaf sitting on the counter before you. “But, I talked to my boss … He agreed to let me offer you work.”
You stared wide eyed at Shay. He was dressed in the same outfit he had been in last night, but in the daylight you could actually see him. His dark hair was shaggy but brushed from his face, the color matching his eyes. The outfit he wore was layered coats and vests in thick wools. Now you could see the belts around his waist, one containing a buckle in a strange triangle shaped symbol you had never seen before. You could just barely see the neatly folded hood at the back of his collar.
“I … I was thinking last night … I can’t, not after everything, just leave Mister Murdock. I knew his wife; my mother was friends with her. I can’t just let her dream fall into disrepair.”
Shay sighed, nodding in understanding. “Were I you,” he started, leaning against the counter. “I’d think about where Murdock spends his nights and his money before feeling bad. He’s indebted to half of Boston, and I’ve heard rumors of some in New York waiting on payment from him as well. Christine Murdock made the best bread in the Colonies, there’s no doubt, but her husband is a —“ he trailed off, mouth clapping shut as a loud snore erupted from the back office.
You rolled your eyes as you heard the inevitable crash of the whiskey bottle hit the floor as it fell from Murdock’s hand. You knew he hadn’t woken.
“You’d be better off leaving the man to wallow in pity,” Shay concluded.
You scoffed angrily as you pulled the basket of muffins Shay was reaching into out of his grasp. “How dare you speak of a mourning widower like that!”
The other man from last night walked into the doorway, and strode directly for Shay, reaching for a muffin and sliding a coin across the counter to you without a word. “Don’t tell me your charm’s not workin’ on this one, Shay,” he laughed.
As you looked him over your brows furrowed in confusion. The newcomer was dressed in a blue overcoat, his hair clipped so close to his head he looked bald at first glance. As you stood staring, he turned to you and gestured to his friend.
“Forgive my friend, Shay, here,” he started. “He’s daft. Always has been.”
“Sirs,” you started, placing your hands flat on the counter to center yourself. “I … I know Mister Murdock is a bad man. But I cared for his wife. I won’t let him lose everything.”
“That’s commendable,” Liam nodded, taking a bite out of the muffin.
Shay turned to you, smiling widely. You rolled your eyes as you turned back to speak to Liam, who seemed the more level-headed one of the duo. “Everything in my being is telling me not to trust you, but I can’t. I have no idea what I witnessed last night, nor do I want to know the truth of it. But, as much as I adore working here, I do not adore Mister Murdock. If you will have me as a cook, I would be honored.”
Liam laughed, slapping his hand against Shay’s shoulder. “Don’t know how Achilles let you get away with this, but she’s gonna fit right at home.”
Shay smiled, his gaze not leaving you even as you turned to Liam. “Yeah, the lass will be fine.”
Leaving Mister Murdock to his own devices left a sour taste in your mouth for the first few weeks until you had settled into your new duties. Your mother had hated the idea of you leaving and going to live with some random strangers who promised you a job, but you had reassured her numerous times that this was the right thing to do – you couldn’t help your parents keep their inn without more of an income. Achilles Davenport himself, had even stopped by the Inn in Boston and met with you, and your mother to assure you were being offered a steady job.
Mister Murdock’s shop didn’t last. By the end of two months he was so far in debt that he had to sell the shop, and you heard from Shay that Murdock himself was living pretty much in a tavern near the docks now.
Your duties at the Davenport Homestead were simple, cook breakfast and supper. You had the freedom to bake whenever you felt like it or when supplies allowed, and you were given a decent room that overlooked the bay and the boats docked there.
The group of individuals living at the homestead were still rather strange, however. Although, a budding relationship was starting to grow between you and Shay.
You found you actually liked the man’s presence while you talked in the kitchen over a batter bowl or pot of rabbit stew. He made you smile and laugh. You picked up on his flirtatious undertones about the second day you had met him, and as the weeks wore on, became more confident in your abilities to challenge his flirts with your own.
And it had worked. Too well, in fact.
You and he had shared a rather intimate night after everyone had been celebrating. You had been given the day off, as some of the hunters had brought down a large elk to be cooked over a large fire in celebration of something. Shay had asked to dance at one point, and his hands had wandered as the two of you swayed to the fiddle. You had your first kiss behind the stables, the sounds of revelry carrying on without you. You had tumbled in the hay loft, his kisses sweet, and his hands strong.
For close to two weeks now, however, you had been avoiding Shay, the memories of that rather heated moment in the stables still ever present in your mind. Each time you thought about it, a hot blush crept onto your features. Remembering how he had held you, and how his lips had tasted against your s, how he had rested above you and spoke softly, his accent thicker with drink and arousal …
Shay laughed as he leaned against the brick oven, watching as you cleared away the rest of the dishes from supper. Folding his hands in front of him, he smiled down to you as you turned to remove the muffins from the oven. “Those smell lovely, lass.”
“Thank you,” you nodded, folding the linen towel into the waistband of your apron. “You can only have one if you do me a favor, though,” you started, turning to Shay.
Shouldering away from the wall and taking a step towards you, Shay held your gaze as he came forward, only to step around you and lean into your back as he wrapped his hands around your waist. “And what would that be?” he asked, nose nuzzling into the crook of your neck.
Fighting the urge to fall into Shay’s arms, you steadied your breathing. “I … I need some eggs!” you started, stepping away from Shay and brushing a strand of hair behind your ear in hopes of ridding the tingling sensation from your skin. “Jacqueline never returned with them …”
Shay’s gaze flicked to the window, where the stars shone bright behind the few clouds in the night sky. “Eggs,” he nodded.
“Please,” you repeated, smiling as Shay stepped closer to you. “A dozen of them, I think, should do.” Your gaze met Shay’s and your smile grew. “They’re for breakfast, in the morning.”
“Unless,” you interjected, continuing your rambling, “There’s salmon coming in from the rivers tomorrow mornin’ … We could have fish for breakfast.”
Smiling, Shay relaxed against the counter as you carried on cleaning your work area, mind running too fast for your words to actually make sense. He smiled as he noticed how flustered you were becoming, blushing and keeping your head down.
“We had fish yesterday,” Liam started as he rounded the corner into the kitchen from the back hall. “This kid’s not botherin’ ye is he?” he smirked, slapping Shay’s shoulder.
Jumping slightly as Liam spoke behind him, Shay moved away from the counter, crossing his arms over his chest. As Liam stepped to his side, Shay nudged his shoulder into his side in response to the slap. “Just tryin’ to get a fresh muffin.”
You plastered a large smile on your face as you turned back to the men, picking up one of the fresh muffins on the counter and holding it out to Liam. “Would you like one, Liam? Late night snack?”
Out of the corner of your eye you could just make out the feigned shock expression Shay wore. Liam, however happily reached for a blueberry muffin, raising it in thanks. “Don’t mind if I do,” he smirked. “Keep at it, lass. These are the best muffins I’ve tasted.”
You smiled, turning back to your work. Shay took the opportunity as Liam left to reach for a muffin himself. You slapped his wrist and pulled the basket away from him. “Eggs, please.”
It had been almost month since the romp in the hay loft with Shay. The love marks he had left on your skin had faded, though his flirtations had not. He had not given up his quest to make you blush, and would offer to help you at any chance he got. But, you began to watch Shay during his daily routines in the yards, as he threw those same smiles, winks, and flirtatious comments to Miss Jenkins, who seemed to throw them back harder with a large smile.
Shay and Liam were usually seen sparring in the early morning, before breakfast, and in the afternoons, they were usually joined by a Native man and sometimes even a Miss Jenkins herself, dressed in a beautiful, although shorter than respectable, dress with trousers.
“Who are these people?” You caught yourself musing aloud one afternoon as you sat, peeling potatoes with your roommate and newest friend, Jacqueline, at your side.
Jacqueline couldn’t have been more than eighteen years old, and worked as a maid in the main house. You shared a room with her, and found her sunny outlook on everything refreshing after living in the city for so long. She had told you she had been born in Louisiana, but had traveled up here with her merchant father. When he had died, Achilles had taken her in. Apparently, she said, he had known her father well, even called each other friends.
That still did little to quiet your thoughts.These people were strangers. You had watched Shay and Liam kill a group of men the first night you met, neither of them seeming fazed by their actions. Achilles seemed distant, yet respected and confident as he trained the men and women on the homestead.
You sighed, getting back to work. “Come on, then, we’re having more for supper than usual.”
Supper, usually, was a raucous time. Little to no decorum was had on those nights when it was just Achilles, Shay, Liam, and a few other … rowdier folks. When Miss Hope was visiting, however, it was a large affair. The boys seemed to quiet in their jokes, and the large mugs of ale were replaced with glasses of wine from the cellar.
You almost chuckled as you watched Shay trip as he walked into the dining room where you were setting the table. You had grown to expect almost childish behavior from Shay and Liam, and had grown fond of watching the two men act as if they were brothers.
“Don’t tell me you’re already drunk,” you sighed, eyeing the Irishman from out the corner of your eye. .
“Not near close enough,” he said simply.
“Does Miss Hope scare you?” You chuckled, turning to face him. “You, the man I saw kill five men the night we met?”
He glared at you, but there was an underlying smirk. “She doesn’t scare me, lass.”
A bark of laughter from behind you had both you and Shay turning. Liam stepped in from the kitchen, clutching his stomach in an exaggerated laugh. “Hope could send you flying with a pretty smirk. He ain’t scared of, her, he’s far from scared!” Liam laughed.
“All this talk,” Hope’s voice came from behind Liam, her hand curling around his shoulder as she walked past with an ever calm demeanor. “Perhaps we should be a tad harder on Cormac. What say you, Liam?” She smirked. “It would do me great pleasure to see you eat dirt twice during my visit,” she smiled, winking over to Shay as she sauntered towards a chair near the head of the table.
After dinner, you were finishing up the cleaning in the kitchen, replacing dishes and flatware in their rightful homes. You had spent most of the meal listening in on the conversation being had. Hope and Achilles had been talking animatedly about a Benjamin Franklin, while Liam and Shay listened more than spoke. As the meal wore on, was when the pang of jealousy had seated itself in your heart. Hope, Liam, and Shay were undoubtedly close friends. And Hope and Shay you guessed, had been close … like you thought you were with Shay.
Elbow deep in soapy water, you smirked as you felt Shay’s hands wrap around your waist. “Delicious supper as always, lass,” he hummed.
“There are leftover muffins in the basket,” you hummed. “If you want.”
“And what if I don’t? What if what I want is sweeter … warmer …” he hummed, kissing your neck.
You laughed, relaxing back into his embrace. “I have to finish these chores before turning in, Shay,” you hummed, looking up at him as he moved away from you.
Shay leaned forward, hand on your cheek and pressed his lips to yours with no preamble. “Meet me when you’re done.”