Author's Note: Hello everyone. Sorry it took a while to update, I've been on a writing plateau lately. Anyways, I hope you continue to stick with this story. I'll try to get back into writing. I did proofread this a couple times but something may have possibly skipped my notice; if so please bring to my attention. Thanks and happy reading.

Nathaniel had taken Ruby to the inn, where he was staying. Throughout their ride to the inn in the runabout, their conversation was kept short. Ruby wasn't in a conversational mood and Nathaniel had far too much on his mind. That did not keep his eyes from wandering to Ruby's petite form, her luscious red hair and full pink lips.

Nathaniel opened the door to his staying room gently, easing it open far enough for Ruby to enter; to which she did. He quickly lit a kerosene lamp and turned it on bright, illuminating the entire room.

The room was huge. It consisted of a massive bed, with a white and blue spread covering the top and two small oak lamp tables on either side of it. On the far side of the room, there was a small window that gave view of the shopping district, a small desk and a chest. On the wall right across from the bed was the wardrobe, which stood tall and bulky and the doors etched in fancy carvings.

Ruby inspected the room. This staying room had to be perhaps one of the best at the Meryton inn. Ruby had come to this particular inn many times with several of her "clients" yet she was never in one this fancy; which more or less engrained in her mind how rich the man beside her really was.

"What do you think?" he asked her, after giving her a moment to examine the room.

"It is very nice," she stated.

Nathaniel smiled. "I always stay in this room when I come to visit. I don't stay in anything less than this particular room."

Ruby looked at him curiously. "How do they know to keep the room empty for you?"

Nathaniel's smile broadened. "Because I own this inn and therefore I can dictate to them to keep this room empty at all times, so they comply."

That would explain why she's never seen this room before.

"That makes sense," she said suddenly.

Nathaniel closed and locked the door behind them and Ruby anxiously looked about. Her insides turned in a sort of twisted anticipation and it radiated off of her and onto Nathaniel.

He cleared his throat suddenly and said, "Please, Ruby, make yourself comfortable."

She moved to sit on the edge of the bed and Nathaniel began taking off his coat. Ruby watched, mystified with his graceful movements as he hung the coat in the wardrobe.

"How old are you, Ruby?" he asked as he sat on the chair that was placed next to the small desk.

Nathaniel started peeling off his boots when Ruby answered, "I am twenty-three."

Ruby had a young, angelic face. Nathaniel wasn't sure how old she was but he knew she had to be young. Her age certainly wasn't a shock.

"I thought you might be in your early twenties. How long have you been living here in Ridgeview?"

Ruby tensed. She certainly did not like talking about her life. It always managed to dredge up small details of her past; a past she would rather forget. Nathaniel and she had made a deal, that if she stayed with him as his mistress, he'd keep her safe from the monster hiding in her past. Though, Ruby surmised, it didn't quite mean she had to tell him what she was running from.

"Not too long," she stated simply.

He set his boots to the side and looked at her, watching her squirm under her scrutiny. What was in this lady's past that she couldn't speak more than two words about herself? There definitely was an air of mystery about her. Perhaps she was a runaway. Or, perhaps, she was a criminal seeking refuge while she spends the rest of her life in retirement. However, she was only twenty-three; wasn't she too young for retirement?

"I know why you want me here. It is only because you wish to bed me, isn't that right?" she asked suddenly.

Poor thing, she looked tired and worn out. When was the last time she got a good night's rest?

"I'd be lying if I said it didn't cross my mind. You are very beautiful Ruby, as I'm sure you know. However, that deal I made you earlier was for a much different reason. You look so lost and so hopeless. I felt pity for you." She looked up at him then and her eyes flashed with anger. "But," he continued, "I also can see you're trying very hard not to be found by someone. And I happen to be a lonely man. I figured this deal would do us some good. I get companionship and you get security."

"Listen Mr. Crowe, I don't need your sympathy and I sure as hell don't need to tell you anything about me. Don't assume -."

Nathaniel quickly stood and cut her off then. "I didn't assume anything about you Miss, but my point is that there is something oddly mysterious about you. I do not wish to intrude on your private thoughts or past, but you must understand. This community that I own, I view all of its inhabitants like family and I wouldn't want to bring someone in their midst who could mean them harm."

Ruby's mouth opened in horror. "Do I look like someone who could do someone harm?" she asked angrily.

Nathaniel crossed his arms. "Well, I don't know Ruby. I don't know anything about you at all. How can I say whether or not you are a criminal?"

Ruby stood and matched his furious gaze. "I am not a criminal Mr. Crowe!"

"Isn't that what a criminal would say?"

She glared angrily at him. "I don't know what in the world possessed me to accept your deal but I think it's time to break it."

"A deal is a deal Ruby, and I am a man of my word. But…of course, if you'd like to go back out onto the street where you could someday be found from whoever you're hiding from then…I suppose we could end it."

She stared at him silently. A slow grin spread upon his lips; she had been defeated. He may not know about the mysterious Ruby, but he knew she was terrified of running into whomever or whatever she was running from.

Ruby sat back down on the bed and cleared her throat. "It is late, we should get some rest," she said quietly.

Nathaniel nodded in agreement and slowly began to undress. As lovely as he thought she was, he'd give her time to adjust to his company before trying to lay with her. When she wasn't looking, he made sure to hide his valuables; one never knew what their partner might do when one is asleep.

He turned down the blankets and he noticed her staring blankly at him. "Is there something wrong Ruby? Do you not find the room suitable? Is the bed not to your liking? I can guarantee you it is most comfortable."

She softly shook her head. "It's not the bed Mr. Crowe; I am just not sure I want to sleep in the same bed as you."

Nathaniel inwardly sighed. "This was the agreement, was it not? A deal, which I might add, you agreed to."

"Yes, yes I know but I don't know you very well."

She wasn't about to admit that she was nervous about sleeping in a bed with such a handsome man; perhaps the most handsome man she had ever met. It seemed however that she didn't have to. Her eyes must be telling him the truth because he slowly smiled and walked to her.

When he reached her, he pulled her close and pulled the sleeves of her bodice down her arms. "I promise that I will not do anything that would make you uncomfortable, Ruby, so please just get in the bed."

Nathaniel tenderly kissed her shoulder which burned into her skin, leaving little soft goose-bumps on her skin. She swallowed hard, speechless in the moment. She looked away from his smoldering gaze and slowly got into the bed. Every part of her womanhood wanted to cling onto this powerful and strong man.

The butterflies she was feeling in her stomach intensified when he got into bed beside her. She moved as close to the edge as possible but each time she did, he moved closer.

He's doing this on purpose, she thought.

Suddenly, when there was no more room for her to go, he reached over and put his arm around her.

"Goodnight Ruby," he said.

Ruby stared up at the ceiling. A part of her was very tired but the other part of her was too aware of the heat radiating from his body to hers. She didn't know how long this deal that they had made would last but she knew one thing for sure.

Nathaniel Crowe was devilishly handsome and much too tempting for comfort.