Aaron stumbled from the tavern and gasped as the first blast of cold air slapped his face. He
paused in the doorway and took a deep breath, letting it wash some of the toxins from his lungs .
. . and maybe a few from his bloodstream as well. Geoffrey jostled him from behind, and Aaron
gave him a good-natured shoulder that sent his friend staggering back.
“Move it, you big ox,” John said, kneeing Aaron in the rear.
“Just push me out of the way.” Aaron shot a grin over his shoulder. “Or maybe you should
squeeze past instead. You’re skinny enough.”
Aaron stepped onto the cobblestone street and stopped for another gulp of fresh air. Not
exactly fresh, he thought with a grimace. The narrow street stunk of shit—horse shit, dog shit,
human shit—that’s what came of living so close you couldn’t take a crap without piling it on
someone else's. Give him farm life any day. There was plenty of shit there too, but at least there
was room to spread it around.
He squinted up and down the street, his ale-soaked brain struggling to remember which way
they’d come. That was another problem with towns. You couldn’t see a damn thing. The
buildings not only crowded your view, they crowded out the moonlight. The few lanterns
dotting the street added more smoke than light.
“Inn’s this way,” Geoffrey said, smacking Aaron’s arm. “Come on before the mistress locks
Aaron grunted. She’d locked them out the last time, and it had been a long, cold night on
the street. Aaron and Geoffrey came to the city for a weekend every other month, bringing
goods to market. They’d finished their work this morning, but their families didn’t expect them
back until Sunday night, knowing that any young man willing to stay home and help his parents
on the farm deserved time now and then to sample the cosmopolitan treats he was missing.
One of those “treats” peered out from an alley as they passed. She met Aaron’s gaze and
batted her lashes in what he supposed was meant to be a come-hither look, but seemed more li