“But it’s a brothel,” Renton exclaimed.
Ambrose sighed. “You need to broaden your horizons. This place is reputable and clean. They even pay their taxes.”
Renton looked at his friend out of the corner of his eye.
“You aren’t serious?”
“Trust me. This is how things work in Red Maple. You’ll get used to it.”
Ambrose led his friend to a building near the town plaza. A sprawling structure, the sign beside the door was decorated with graceful characters proclaiming it as The Honeyed Rose.
“Subtle,” Renton murmured as they passed the sign. The front doors were promptly opened by two well-dressed men who bowed as they entered. The foyer was tastefully decorated with red damask curtains with an array of furniture in the same hue. Men and women alike were lounging in the room in convivial conversation, but one rose when the pair entered, approaching them with a smile.
She was tall, dressed in a modest outfit, her skirt trailing behind her. Her face, framed in black curls, was inviting. Next to him, Ambrose sighed in approval. However, in spite of her seemingly friendly affect, there was something odd about her to Renton.
“Gentlemen, welcome to my home.” Her voice was an attractive purr, but it seemed out of place to her comely features. While she spoke to Ambrose, Renton was busily looking around the room. Shortly he locked eyes with a young woman with a wealth of chestnut hair. She winked at him, and slipped out of her seat.
“Greetings,” he said, “my name is Renton. Who might you be?”
The young woman gave him an appraising look. “I’m Nora. Are you looking for a companion?”
“So it would seem. Are you interested?”
“I think we could entertain one another,” she said with a sly smile.
Renton realized that Ambrose and the madame were laughing softly.
“Nona, why don’t you take him to your chambers,” the dark-haired woman asked.
“Why don’t I,” she said, taking Renton’s hand and leading him out of the room. He was led up to the second floor and through a twisting hallway. He tried to ignore the faint sounds emerging from the rooms they passed. Eventually they reached a door that Nona unlocked, pulling Renton into the dimly lit room.
“It took you long enough,” she said accusingly.
“I needed a plausible reason to be introduced to the house to alleviate suspicion,” Renton said.
“Well, I guess it doesn’t matter. Here is the book.” She handed a slim, tattered leather tome to him. Renton’s hands clawed the air in anticipation. A deep sigh erupted from his mouth when he received the book. Nora stepped back from this reaction.
“It would be nice if I got the same reaction,” Nora muttered, removing her dress.
Renton looked bewildered.
“Why are you doing that,” he asked, taken aback.
Sighing, the buxom woman said: “This is a brothel. We might as well pretend that something is happening.” She stretched out on the bed and began making soft moaning sounds. Slowly she began slightly rocking the bed. Renton stood gaping at first before remembering the precious book he had sought for years was in his hand. He sat and began flipping through it swiftly.
Nona, maintaining her charade, watched him curiously.
“Can you not wait to read it properly?”
Renton’s lips moved slightly as he flipped page after page.
“What,” he whispered after a moment.
“All you’re doing is flipping through it. Why not just wait and read it properly.”
“Did you read it,” he croaked, his flesh turning pale.
“No, I can’t read.”
He calmed down after a moment.
“I can’t either, but I can remember everything that passes before my eyes. When I leave, I won’t need the book.”
“If you can’t read, why are you so excited?”
Thinking for a moment, he gave up trying to explain how an illiterate man can understand everything he reads.
“It’s hard to explain. I need to get more light.”
Nona stared at him in annoyance, but started when he rubbed two fingertips down his eyelids, causing his eyes to glow.
“No witchcraft,” she hissed, “or you’ll get us both hung!”
“Hanged. I’m not a witch. Just don’t tell anyone.” Renton continued to flip through the book, nearly finished.
Nona continued to maintain her act, but was seething inside. This deal was more dangerous to her than she expected. She watched him close the book and blinked the light out of his eyes. He stood up and disrobed.
“Well, let’s make this more believable,” slipping into the bed.