A/N: Thanks to all those who are reading! I really appreciate it. Reviews are welcome!
As I said in a previous chapter, I always like to cast actors in my roles as I write—it helps me to visualize things.
Captain Lattimer: Tom Turner (If you don't know who he is, google "Tom Turner Actor"—and then watch Rebellion on Netflix.)
Cate awoke to a persistent tapping at her bedroom door. She cracked one eye open and groaned. Fiona shifted next to her but did not rise.
"Miss Montague?" A muffled voice came from the hallway.
She shot up in bed. Dawn already? She had grown so dependent on alarm clocks.
"Just a moment!" She called as she scrambled out of bed.
Her foot caught in the twisted sheet and she tumbled onto the floor. She winced as a bolt of pain shocked her ankle. She limped to the armoire and dressed hastily.
As she struggled into her dress, Cate marveled over how forward Lattimer had been; how dare he knock on her door? His lack of respect for any sort of decorum was unsettling. She grumbled as she left the bedroom, jealous of Fiona's placid slumber.
The rogue in question was waiting for her at the bottom of the stairs. His cloak was swept across his chest as an indicator of the cold weather of the day. He had a stern, if slightly amused look on his face.
Cate merely nodded, grabbed her basket from the hall bench, and walked through the front door soundlessly. She descended the steps and was met with one solitary horse. Lattimer suppressed a smirk as he saw her face fall.
"I could only spare one," he commented, "Even so, are you equipped to control one on your own?"
She jutted her chin our indignantly but said nothing. He had a point.
A stiff, brutal wind flew in from the river and forced Cate to shiver audibly. Today was going to be a long day.
"Let's stay close, mm?" He quipped as he beckoned her to the horse with open arms.
Cate huffed at this but allowed him to assist her in mounting the horse. His impossibly warm hands coiled around her waist and he easily hoisted her up in a sidesaddle position. Of the scant amount of times Cate had ridden a horse, the number of times she used a sidesaddle had been even fewer (that number being zero). Her initial reaction was that she was going to slide right off and break her neck on the freezing earth. She remembered her last ride with him and the pace he chose.
With Cate securely on the horse, Lattimer mounted behind her and reached his arms around to grab the reins. Cate wrapped her cloak tightly around her shoulders. He nudged his heels back into the horse's flanks while uttering a short click with his tongue, and the animal responded in turn. They cantered down Race Street at a pace that Cate could only call "suicidal."
"Lean back," he instructed firmly, "unless you wish your fate to be that of a certain fairytale egg."
His forearms enclosed tightly around her and he pressed her up against his chest. Cate didn't want to inhale earthy tobacco scent of his cloak, but she had no choice. She frowned.
With only a short break during the ferry across the Schuylkill, their pace had been dizzying. Ten miles into the journey Cate could take no more. She implored him for a break. He acquiesced.
They moved to a small, low clearing by the river and dismounted. Lattimer guided the animal down to the water to let it drink. Cate stretched and took in the land around her. She wondered what this area would look like in her century.
"No equestrian training then?" Lattimer inquired.
Cate huffed out a short laugh, "Unfortunately, no. I do know Latin, however."
"'Equo ne credite'." He uttered as he secured the horse's reins to a nearby elm tree. Do not trust the horse.
Cate allowed herself a genuine smile, "You think me a Trojan horse, then, sir?"
He shook his head gently, "The quote is appropriate due to your lack of trust for the animal."
"Well then," Cate paused, "Omnis vir lupus." Everyone a wolf.
Lattimer's brow furrowed slightly at her response, but he said nothing. Had Cate not turned away to survey the riverside, she definitely would have not liked how long he'd gazed at her.
"I need to brush up on my ancient Greek, however," Cate mused as she watched a flock of ravens take off in a field across the river. "The conjugations—"
Lattimer ran to her and clamped his gloved hand over her mouth. He listened. There were far-off hoofbeats down the road, but they were coming closer. He quickly guided the horse behind a large bush and pulled Cate by the wrist to a nearby thicket.
"You couldn't choose a superior hiding spot?" She hissed as she ducked to avoid the thorns all around her.
His only response was his hand again on her mouth. They waited in silence as the hooves grew louder, passed over them, and disappeared.
"Who was that?" Cate asked as they emerged from the brush.
"I can't be certain," Lattimer replied, "come, we must hurry."
He forcefully grabbed her wrist and led her to the horse. He gripped her waist and was ready to hoist her back onto the horse when she pushed him away.
"I ask you to not handle me like a sack of potatoes, please."
"Then you shouldn't allow yourself to act like one," Lattimer stepped in closely to her, "You must keep quiet in the woods, be aware of your surroundings, and be prepared to react swiftly to whatever happens. If you fail to do so, you do not deserve the privilege of roaming the countryside. As you said: omnis vir lupus. Now, let us continue on our journey."
He moved to help her, but this time his touch was tempered with tenderness. Cate bit her lip to keep from pouting and accepted his help. He urged the horse to canter with such force that Cate fell back into his chest. She thought she heard a smirk.
A light rain had begun to fall just as they reached the tavern where the flour was sold. It consequently was the same tavern where Cate had received her first espionage assignment. Perhaps Puck was there again, waiting for her.
They entered the small ramshackle building. Inside Cate joined the long line for flour. Lattimer wandered over to the bar for a drink. Cate observed him order a whiskey. She turned back to the line and saw a familiar face: Puck was next to the miller who was selling today's supply of flour. Cate was only a few people away from him when she caught his eye. His face brightened when he saw her, and he disappeared quickly into the back room. He emerged with a small leather envelope. Puck took his place again next to the miller and raised an eyebrow.
Any news? He seemed to say.
Cate shook her head once.
Puck jerked his chin in Lattimer's direction. He with you?
She nodded once.
Puck moved his jaw back and forth as he regarded Lattimer, then focused again on Cate. She moved up in the line and glanced back at the bar. The Captain was nursing his drink contentedly and gave her no indication he was paying any attention to her.
She moved up in line again and ordered exactly one sack of flour, a half-pound of dried beef, and six apples. Something that also made its way into her basket was the leather envelope. Cate pushed it to the bottom so it laid flat under the fruit.
Puck gripped her elbow as he whispered, "Follow the directions. Get whatever you are able."
He swiftly removed his hand from her and straightened. Cate turned to see what had caught Puck's attention and was greeted by a calm, if not relaxed, Captain Lattimer.
"To Philadelphia, then?" He asked. She jumped at his voice, as befitting of her title of 'worst spy ever.'
Cate nodded. Lattimer walked out and she trailed behind him. She threw one last look over her shoulder, and Puck gave a show of incredulity at the nature of her escort. While she rolled her eyes in response, he raised a forefinger to his.
Keep an eye out. Cate brightened, feeling excited about the prospect of spying on the spy. She had so much to figure out—especially if Lattimer was working as a double agent. As he helped her mount, she ferociously daydreamed about the possibility of joining Washington's spy ring. If she made it to Valley Forge, she'd have to put in a request. The worst spy of the Culper Ring.
They were a mile from the tavern when Lattimer chose to speak.
"And who was that rusticator," he inquired blithely, "with whom you were wordlessly speaking?"
"You—you mean the proprietor?" Cate managed, "he knows how to secure the best dry goods. His fruit choice is superior; we've journeyed out here before to buy from his vendors. Very helpful, he is."
She could feel Lattimer's dissatisfaction with her response boring into her back, but he said nothing.
The rain began to fall at a steady pace as the afternoon grew darker. Cate shivered; her cloak felt heavy and damp, therefore providing her with very little warmth.
"Lean back, if you please," Lattimer reminded her as he urged the horse to a gallop, "and hold onto your precious parcels."
Soon they were racing alongside the river back toward the ferry. Cate recoiled against the contiguity of Lattimer's embrace but stayed silent as he worked to get them home and out of the rain.
While they could race against the darkness, they were no match for the rain. It took three more water-laden, frigid hours to get back home. By the time they returned to Philadelphia, the rain had turned into a torrential downpour. As Cate dismounted the weight of her cloak, the food, and her smarting ankle made her trip on the brick walkway. Fortunately, Lattimer had brought the horse around back so he was not witness to the gaff. She was delivering the goods to Esther in the kitchen (and stuffing the leather envelope in her pocket) when Lattimer came through the back door.
"Oh dear me!" Esther cried as she inspected both of them, "out of those wet clothes! You will catch your deaths."
Captain Lattimer and Cate obediently removed their cloaks and hung them by the kitchen fire to dry. Then they moved to the living room where Fiona and Peter sat reading.
"It seems," Lattimer murmured in Cate's ear as they surveyed their reading options on the bookshelf, "that you, Miss Montague, are often in various states of saturation whenever I see you."
Rude. So very rude. Cate had been about to thank him for the escort that day, but after that comment, she withheld her gratitude.
"It seems you were successful in your journey?" Peter asked flatly, "enough flour to last the month, then?"
"Yes—Yes, Father," Cate stammered and grabbed a random book from the shelf, "the supply was good and we are fortunate."
"It worked out well, then," he smiled. "Captain Lattimer, I should like for you to be Catherine's traveling companion from now on!"
Cate gritted her teeth and managed a smile. Fiona giggled behind her book.
Peter. Always playing the part.
"Nothing would please me more."
Cate wrenched herself from her frozen position by the bookshelf and dejectedly sat next to Fiona with a wince. She ached from the day's ride. Fiona smiled sympathetically and produced a small envelope from her stomacher.
"Take a look at this." She said, beaming.
Cate immediately discarded the book and looked at the slip of paper inside the envelope.
Mr. Montague and Family
Friday, the 1st of November.
"Well, well," Cate breathed, "we are invited to a ball."