Foxwood Hall, Yorkshire, 14th December 1537
"I was nothing more than a pawn to him," Conor said, eyes burning, "a toy to be played with and then disposed of when the novelty wore off. It was nothing to that bastard, to gamble with a child's life." His expression was malevolent, Isabel's recollections clearly reopening old wounds, which stung as painfully then as they had when freshly inflicted. "I hated them all. Not one of them spoke out against him. Even Isabel's precious William was happy to play the game."
Isabel's eyes burned. The look she shot him made it clear that he had gone too far, that his barbed comment had struck her where she was most vulnerable.
But the demon was past caring; the dam had burst and he was no more able to silence his voice than rewind time. His tone dripped with disgust as he held Thomas' gaze. "Now I see that they're the same - Isabel is happy to turn your world upside down for her own amusement."
Thomas' eyes were too weak to see her rise from the bed, but within a heartbeat her hands were around the stranger's throat. The ruby on her finger burned red in the firelight. Blood dripped down Conor's neck where her long nails bit into his flesh. Menace oozed from every fibre of her being. Her lips curled back in a predatory snarl.
The dark haired man placed a hand on her ivory cheek, gently tracing the curve of her jaw as he spoke. "We both know you can't hurt me, Issy, not more than you already have done."
Isabel's hands fell away from his neck as if she had been scalded. Her laughter was unexpected, the sound high and derisive. "It always comes back to this, doesn't it," she said. "You were the one who walked away, Conor, and you should never have come back."
He took her face in both of his hands then, forcing her to meet his gaze. His lips were against her neck, that favourite place where Thomas liked to feel her pulse racing beneath his touch. "But I never really left you. Apparently I can't."
She leaned in, her lips slowly grazing his neck. A shiver of desire stirred in his eyes. Starting at the hollow where his neck and shoulder joined, she kissed his skin gently, rising until her cheek rested against his, her lips beside his ear. "I would have preferred it if you had never returned," she whispered softly. "You ruined me, and you stole everything from me - you took my life away."
He pulled back, hanging his head, gaze resting on the floor. "Don't say that," he said hoarsely. "I can't be without you. I had to save you, for without you my life is meaningless."