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Immortal locks fell forward from the lord's deathless
head, and he made great Olympus to tremble.
Homer's Iliad, embroidered by
Juliet Laverick on a pillowcase
Lady Juliet Laverick tried to ignore the pounding of her heart. Tried to blot out the thunder of horse's hooves on frozen earth, carrying her closer and closer to a confrontation with her past. Tried to pretend her hands were icy from traveling in winter, and not from her raw nerves.
But she couldn't. After more than two years, she was finally going to set her past to rest and see justice done. So how could she possibly remain calm, with Charnwood estate only a few miles away?
"That Llanbrooke inn was dreadful," came her sister's voice from across the carriage. Rosalind sat beside her husband Griff Knighton with a tambour in her lap that she was pointedly ignoring.
Juliet leaped at any excuse to keep her mind off the appointment at hand. "I've never seen cobwebs on top of a mantel before. Underneath it, perhaps, but on top? And that tankard sitting on the table -- did you see the scum in it? That innkeeper ought to be drawn and quartered for keeping such a filthy common room.
"I wouldn't give him quite so harsh a punishment, dearest ," Rosalind retorted, "but then I'm not attuned to domestic matters the way you are."
"I assure you," Juliet said, "attuned to domestic matters or not, you'll be ordering the same punishment after a night spent among the bugs under soiledlinens. I dearly hope we can avoid returning there."
"It will depend on what the baron reveals this afternoon, " Griff stared out the window, scanning the quiet Shropshire forest with the wary eye of a man used to trouble. "If Lord Templemore proves uncooperative, we mayfind ourselves back at the Peacock's Eye until we finish questioning the townspeople."
Juliet grimaced at the thought.
"Surely his lordship won't continue to shield his ward once he hears what Pryce did to Juliet," Rosalind protested.
They both glanced to her, faces full of their usual sympathy and concern. It made her want to scream. She hated being treated as if she might break under the least strain.
But that came of being the youngest of three sisters, the only one not yet married. And the only one foolish enough to run off with a scoundrel like Morgan Pryce at eighteen, endangering herself and her family after he turned out to be kidnapping her, not eloping with her.
Pasting a blithe smile to her lips, she said to Griff, "Didn't the innkeeper say that Morgan doesn't reside with the baron?"
"Yes. But that was as much as I could discover. No one will identify the man in Helena's sketch as his lordship's ward."
Helena was Juliet's oldest sister and gifted with a paintbrush. She, too, had cause to see Morgan brought to justice, but with her first baby's arrival imminent, neither she nor her husband, Daniel, had dared journey to Shropshire.
Griff went on, "Templemore's father might have tarnished the family name and run the estate into the ground, but Templemore himself has an unassailable reputation as a worthy gentleman. So no one in town would speak of him or Pryce to a stranger."
"But you're sure that Morgan and Lord Templemore's ward are one and the same," Juliet said.
"I'm sure. The Bow Street runner's evidence proved it incontrovertibly."
"Still, it's odd that a man with such lofty connections would stoop to kidnapping."
"It's Pryce's lofty connections that make me suspect we've hit on the truth," Griff said. "Everyone described your kidnapper as a man of refinement and education, who acted and talked like a gentleman."
He didn't kiss like a gentleman. Juliet roundly chastised herself for the aberrant thought. Why was Morgan's most annoying characteristic also the one that stuck in her brain? The impudent wretch! After all his wicked behavior, he'd had no business pressing a dark, shattering kiss on her before riding off into the mist like some careless knight of the road, leaving her behind.
Not that she'd wanted to go with him, after the way he'd deceived her. No, indeed! A man like that, untrustworthy and treacherous...
So what if he'd turned noble in the end, refusing to hand her over to the smugglers he'd kidnapped her for in the first place? So what if he'd fought his way out of the lion's den with her, then left her to her family? He was still a devil for kidnapping her. Even if he had asked her to go with him after all that -- and he hadn't -- doing so would have been disaster. Who knew what he really was, beneath his gentlemanly veneer?
She'd seen how well he wielded a pistol. She had no illusions about him now, despite his handsome appearance and deft kissing.
Drat it all, she must stop dwelling on that infernal kiss. "Do you think the baron will tell you where Morgan's hiding?" Juliet asked.
"He'd better," Griff said, "or I'll see that he answers for it. And once he does, I intend to hunt Pryce down and punish him to the fullest extent."
Juliet tensed. "Now see here, you will hold to your promise, won't you?"
When Griff kept silent, Rosalind asked, "What promise?"
Griff looked a jot uncomfortable, not a good sign at all. Juliet glared at him. "Griff swore not to duel with Morgan or drag him back to London for a trial."
"He won't do either of those," Rosalind said easily. "Both would create a scandal that would ruin you, dearest, and Griff would never risk that."
"Griff?" she prodded.
"Damnation, Juliet, you know I won't do anything to shame you or your sisters" he grumbled. "But I will see that scoundrel pay"
"As long as you don't challenge him," Juliet said, "I don't care what you do."
Her brother-in-law forced a smile. "Challenging him would be the height of foolishness, anyway. I don't suppose either of you have ever heard of the Templemore cartridge?"
The women looked at him blankly.
"It's a device for pistols that combines gunpowder, ball, and priming in one unit. The baron invented it. When he demonstrated its use in London six months ago for the Royal Society, he hit every target dead center. Since Pryce probably learned from his benefactor how to shoot, I'm not such a fool as to challenge him."
"I'm sure Griff will handle the matter with discretion and gentlemanly calm," Rosalind remarked, patting her husband's hand.
Juliet caught Griff narrowing his eyes, and groaned. She wanted justice, but she'd already put her family through hell once. And though they'd covered up her mortifying elopement/kidnapping without a word of scandal two years ago, as long as Morgan remained free her reputation, and thus all her hope for future happiness, would never be safe.
That had become painfully clear a month ago, when out of the blue whispers had begun circulating among the wags in London. Hints that she'd once been "illicitly involved" with a man. "I don't understand why Morgan had to start spreading tales and dredging up the past after all this time."
"No one has actually attributed the rumors to him", Rosalind said.
"But who else, other than us, knows the truth?" This latest betrayal wounded her even more than his initial one, rubbing salt in a wound already well salted. How could she have been so very wrong about him? "No, it's Morgan, all right. And when I get my hands on him, I'll make him tell me why. I shall make him stop!"
Griff laughed harshly. "How do you propose to do that? Beat him with a duster? Poke him in the eye with an embroidery needle?"
Her brother-in-law's condescension made Juliet grit her teeth. She cast him her loftiest look. "I realize that you think I'll take one look at Morgan and melt into a puddle the way I did before --"After the Abduction. Copyright © by Sabrina Jeffries. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.