Group sex for dinner.
They delivered fresh-baked bread and pies, canned preserves, quilts. Far more than Brother Ezekiel and Sister Sarah could ever hope to use.
It really was a pity that the parson got all the looks of the family. He had strong features, a cleft chin, and dark hair that tumbled down on his brow when he was intense about his preaching. His stormy blue eyes, according to Tobias' sister-in-law, made all the ladies' hearts gallop.
What Tobias would have given to make any lady's heart gallop! Or even just to canter. He knew that his face looked like someone had hacked it out of an oak plank, and his one wandering eye was unsettling to the beholder. He had shoulders broad as a beam, and a barrel chest, and those girls he didn't put off with his homeliness were intimidated by the bulk of him. He despaired of ever getting one alone in the hayloft, let alone into the marriage bed.
And there was the parson, wasting the gift of his handsomeness by pledging himself to God. It made no sense to Tobias, no sense at all.
They brought in the witch through the side door. The crowd, only just settled, surged to its feet. Voices rose in competing shouts and invectives. Fists waved angrily in the air. No one threw eggs or rotten vegetables, not yet. That would be saved for the ascent up the gallows stairs.
Judith Greene was much the worse for wear after so many nights in the gaolhouse. Her hair hung around her in strings, her cheekbones were prominent as blades, and her plain brown dress billowed on her body like a sack. The scold's bridle, an affair of straps and bars, was locked securely around her head. A curved metal plate went into her mouth, pressing her treacherous spellcasting tongue down to prevent her speaking.
She was dirty and disheveled, stumbling along in the blindfold as the guards led her to her seat. They pushed her into it so hard that it rocked back and smacked against the wall. Her hands were bound before her belly. Her legs were tethered by a length of rope. Yet, somehow, through it all she retained a vestige of her former beauty.
Zachary Greene's face was a mask of misery. He might have gone to her, but his father's large, work-callused hand held him in his seat. The eyes of the senior Greene were stony. He hadn't approved of his son's choice of a bride, would have sooner seen Zachary wed to the parson's sister. A fair woman, Greene was wont to say over mugs of ale, brings foul news. Better to take a plain and dutiful one to wife.
The magistrate strode to the head of the hall. His powdered wig rested squarely on his head. His black robe flared about him like the wings of some dark carrion bird. He was tall and thin, with sun-darkened skin stretched too taut over angular bones. Steel-grey and piercing were his eyes, and his mouth was a tight drawstring. He took his place upon the high bench and rapped smartly with a gavel.
Tobias saw Judith Greene flinch with every sharp report of the wood on wood. Her shoulders shook. He wondered if they would strip her again to hang her. Would the gaolers do that? What else did they do, when the hour was late and they were alone with their charge in the silent gaolhouse?
Oh, it was absurd, he knew. Neither of the gaolers would lay a finger on an accused witch, no matter how shapely she might be. They were too afraid for that. Tobias wouldn't have been.
He grinned to himself, thinking of what he would do were he gaoler. There were ways to make the dank and drafty cell more comfortable, for a price. Surely a witch who'd already consigned her soul to the Devil would hardly be concerned about the modesty of her body.
It would be dangerous to remove the bridle, of course. That was a shame, for Tobias had long admired Judith Greene's lush mouth. Nor should her hands be freed, lest she make a hex-sign at him. But he could have at her ripe breasts to his heart's content, or bend her over and plough her from the rear ...
The discomfort in his breeches continued to grow.