By now, Beatrix’s sleeping patterns were thoroughly mucked up. They rode until dawn, through marshes and woods, along country roads bordered by fields and hedges, between idyllic small cottages with herbs growing in the gardens.
It seemed that nothing – not even no sleep and hordes of guardsmen – could dampen Jaques and Rhea’s good humour, and they continued their friendly banter for most of the ride. But when the pale pink fingers of dawn began to stroke the horizon, Jaques turned to the girls and said, apologetically:
‘If you want to come any further, I’m afraid I’ll be forced to blindfold you. We can’t take the risk, I’m afraid.’
How dare he? Didn’t he know who she was?
No, he didn’t. And it probably wouldn’t go down all that well if she started berating him over what an outrage this was, so Beatrix kept her mouth shut. Resisting the urge to scowl, she allowed Rhea to blindfold her and then lead her horse forwards slowly, as if she were just learning to ride again.
Those memories sent a shockwave of pain through her. How had her life gone so wrong in such a short time? Why was she here, being led by two outlaws through a wood to their hideout? It was absurd, ridiculous! Under any other circumstances she would never have come to this. But she had. And the circumstances were dire.
Instead of dwelling upon such things, Beatrix forced herself to concentrate on the noises of the forest - the snapping of twigs underfoot, the birdsong, the rustling of leaves. The muscles of Keira rippled beneath her, sending a shiver up Beatrix’s spine.