St. Cyre Town House
March 25th GRAYSON ALBEMARLE ST.
Cyre, Baron Cliffe, read the single page one more time,
then slowly crumpled it in his hand. Some letter, he
thought, as he threw the ball of paper into the fireplace.
Not many words on the page, but most of the few there
were vicious and malevolent. He watched the paper slowly
crinkle around the edges, then burst into bright flame.
He walked out of the drawing room and down the long
corridor toward the back of his home. He opened the door
to the library—his room—all somber and warm and filled
with books and little else. The heavy, dark gold velvet draperies
were drawn tightly against the night, the fire low and
sluggish because none of the servants had known he would
be coming into this room at this time.
They all thought he’d left five minutes before to visit his
He thought of the damned letter and cursed, but not as
fluently as his father had when he was so drunk he could
scarcely walk. He sat down at his desk and took a piece of
foolscap from the top drawer, dipped the quill into the ink
pot, and wrote: If I receive another threat from you, I will
treat you as you deserve. I will beat you senseless and leave
you in a ditch to die.
He signed his initials, GSC, slowly folded the paper, and
slid it into an envelope. He walked to the elegant Spanish
table that sat against the wall in the entrance hall and placed
the envelope onto the ancient silver salver that his butler,
Quincy, cleaned every other day, at one o’clock in the afternoon,
He wondered as he walked in the cold, clear, early spring
night to the apartment of his sweet Jenny what would happen
Probably nothing. Men of Clyde Barrister’s stamp were
There was nothing more to say, damn her. He was panting
with rage at her, the ungrateful little bitch. He couldn’t help
himself. He raised his hand to strike her, then got hold of
himself. ‘‘If I hit you, Carlton will know it and perhaps not
She whimpered, her head down, her hair straggling long
and tangled and sweaty down the sides of her face.
‘‘Silent at last, are you? I never thought I’d see you mute
as a tree. It’s refreshing for once not having to listen to
your complaints and see those looks of yours. Silence and
submissiveness are very charming in women, in you especially,
though I’m just now seeing them for the first time.
Well, perhaps it’s over, eh? Yes, you’ve finally given up.
You won’t go against me anymore.’’
She said not a word. When he grabbed her chin in his
hand and forced her head up, there were tears in her eyes.
But still he frowned. He stared down at her hard, still
breathing hoarsely from his pacing and yelling. But his face
was no longer as flushed as it had been a minute before,
and his voice no longer trembled with rage when he spoke.
‘‘You will marry Sir Carlton Avery. He will return tomorrow
morning. You will smile shyly at him and tell him that
it is your honor to become his wife. I have given him my
blessing. The marriage settlements are agreed upon. Everything
is done. You will not disobey me, or when I next see
you, I will make you very sorry.’’
He grabbed her chin again, saw the tear streaking down
her cheeks, and smiled. ‘‘Good,’’ he said. ‘‘Tonight you
will bathe and wash your hair. You look like a slut from
Drury Lane.’’ He swiftly left her bedchamber, humming
with his victory. Still, because he didn’t want her to forget
that he was serious, he slammed the door behind him. She
heard his key grate in the lock. She heard his heavy-booted
footsteps receding down the long corridor. She drew in a
deep breath, looked upward, and said, ‘‘Thank you, God.
Thank you, God.’’
He’d forgotten to retie her hands.
She lifted her hands, looked at the ugly, raw bruises on
her wrists, and began to rub feeling back into them. She
bent over to untie her ankles, then rose slowly from the
chair where she’d been trussed up like a criminal for three
days. She relieved herself and quickly downed two glasses
of water from the carafe that sat on her bedside table. Her
breathing calmed. She was very hungry. He hadn’t allowed
her any food since the previous evening.
But he’d forgotten and left her hands untied. Perhaps he
hadn’t forgotten. Perhaps he believed he’d finally broken
her and tying her hands didn’t matter. Well, she’d tried to
make him believe that. To hold her tongue had cost her
dearly. To squeeze tears out of her eyes hadn’t proved so
Would he come back? That got her into action more
quickly than having Farmer Mason’s bull Prixil racing toward
her across the south field would have. She had to
leave in the next three minutes, perhaps sooner.
She’d thought of this so often during the long hours of
the past three days, had meticulously planned it, modified
her plans, pictured everything she would be able to carry
in the small, light valise.
The next two minutes she spent tying the ends of her
two sheets together, slinging them out of the second-floor
window, and praying that she would fit through the tall,
narrow opening. No doubt she was thinner now than she
had been three days ago. She’d stared at that window off
and on during the past three days, knowing it was her only
way out. She would have to squeeze through it. She had
no choice at all.
She managed, barely. When she was dangling six feet
above the ground, she looked briefly back up at her bedchamber
window, then smiled. She let go and rolled when
she landed on the soft, sloping ground. When she stopped,
shook herself, and found that she’d gained only a few
bruises from her jump, she looked back at her home once
more, its lines soft and mellow beneath the brilliant light
of the half-moon. A lovely property, Carlisle Manor, one
that had belonged to her father, Thomas Levering Bascombe,
not this bastard, not this man who’d married her
mother after her father had died. And now Carlisle Manor
was his, all his, and there was nothing anyone could do
With luck she wouldn’t be missed until the morning. Unless
he remembered and came back to tie her hands. Then
things would be a bit more difficult.
At least Georgie was far away from here, all the way up
at York, and thus would be safe from their stepfather’s rage
when he discovered that his pigeon had escaped the cage.
His pigeon also knew where to go.