Authors: Maureen Driscoll
Tags: #Romance, #Historical, #Adult Romance
“And what have you found?” asked Olson.
Strictly speaking, Alex wasn’t legally bound to give
the ledgers to the defense. He wasn’t ready to admit he had them. Not until
he had a few more answers.
“I didn’t say I found any, Olson. Just that I had to
search for it.”
Olson eyed him suspiciously, as he should. He was
incredibly good at his job.
“Then what do you suggest we do, sir?” asked Lady
“I believe you are forgetting that we’re not actually on
the same side, my lady,” he said softly.
She blushed and he felt a fool for having said it. He
continued. “However, it is in your best interest to find out who killed your
husband. And, you cannot rely on Peyton. I am afraid you will have to do the
investigating on your own.”
“Win will never be alone,” said Lord James. “We
failed her before. We will never do so again.”
“You did not fail me,” said Lady Winifred.
But as Alex looked at her brothers, it was clear they
thought they had. He wondered what it would have been like to grow up in a
family such as this. Lady Winifred’s situation was grave, but in some ways she
was very fortunate.
“I should go,” he said.
“I would like to meet with you again,” said Olson.
“Just in case you find anything you’d like to share.”
Alex sighed. But he also knew that if he did uncover
something that pointed to Lady Winifred’s innocence, he could not conceal it
from her or her family. “Yes, Olson, we shall meet again.”
“Excellent. What say we meet again tomorrow morning?
I will walk you to the door and we can arrange the particulars.”
“Very well. Lady Winifred, my lords and ladies.” He
turned to leave, then stopped in front of Lady Rosemary. “My lady, do not
allow Peyton to come without ten yards of you. His intentions are not
Lady Rosemary looked horrified. “What makes you think
I would ever allow that imbecile within a mile of me?”
“What do you mean his intentions are not honorable?”
While Alex could see all of Lady’s Rosemary’s brothers
were alarmed, it was Lord Grayson who had asked the question fist. That was
interesting because Alex hadn’t quite understood what he was doing there. He’d
thought perhaps Grayson and Lady Winifred had been having an affair, which
would have made him a likely suspect or at least an accomplice. But now Alex
could see Grayson’s interest didn’t lie with the eldest sister, but the
younger. However, since he was sitting as far away from her as possible, it
appeared he had not yet stated his intentions.
Though with those protective brothers, Alex could
“I speak of Peyton’s general reputation.” That was a
slight untruth, but he didn’t want Grayson killing the man, though it would be
a boon for the legal profession. “But please keep my warning in mind. Good
As Alex left with Olson, he hoped Lady Winifred was
innocent and that the real killer would be found. He hadn’t wanted to like
her, but he did.
Perhaps too much so.
The Duchess of Lynwood had placed Mr. and Mrs. Stemple
in a spacious suite in the unused nursery, down the hall from Lord Edward’s
servants, Mr. and Mrs. Rigg. Rose hadn’t wanted to summon Mr. Stemple because
she didn’t want her family to know what she was about. They were well meaning,
but tended to treat her as a child. So she went to seek out Mr. Stemple
Rose walked through the nursery floor, which seemed to
have been painted recently. She peeked into the large play room, which was
outfitted with blocks, a small corral of rocking horses, a children’s library
and several chairs near the windows. She wondered if the duchess might be
expecting a blessed event.
Rose looked forward to motherhood, but only if she had
the right husband. One who would be an excellent father. One who would have
to cease sowing his wild oats sooner rather than later and return to
Wiltshire. She hadn’t had a chance to speak to Nate after the meeting. But
she was determined to do so soon and without her brothers in tow.
She continued down the hall, then heard Mr. Stemple’s
deep voice in a room toward the end. The door was open, so she knocked as she
approached – only to interrupt Mr. Stemple kissing his wife.
“Pardon me! I am so sorry for intruding,” said Rose,
as she came upon them in an embrace. It wasn’t unusual to find them thusly
occupied. She’d instructed Letty and Anna to speak loudly when walking through
the servants’ quarters at home as a way of letting the Stemples know they were
Maude and Stemple pulled apart, embarrassed, and Rose
cursed herself for not taking her own excellent advice about making noise. “I
can come back another time.”
“Of course not, my lady,” said Maude. “Please excuse
“Understandable show of affection?” asked Rose with a
“How may we help you, my lady?” asked Stemple,
“I am here to ask a favor.”
“Of course. How may we assist you?”
“I understand Lord Grayson has bachelor quarters here
in London,” said Rose, as casually as possible. “I would like you to please find
out where they are.”
It was obvious Maude caught on to Rose’s intentions before
Stemple, for her eyes widened.
“I am certain Lord Ridgeway knows the location,” said
Stemple helpfully. “Or if not, Lord Layton might know.”
“Yes, well, I was hoping to learn this information on
my own,” said Rose.
Now Stemple was beginning to catch on. “Why is that,
“I would like to pay him a visit. About this whole
business with Win,” she quickly added.
“I am quite certain you can discuss matters with him
on his next visit to Lynwood House,” said Stemple.
“But I would like to talk to him away from here.”
“Then perhaps one of your brothers could arrange for a
“I would like to see him alone,” said Rose.
“That is out of the question, my lady.”
“You sound like one of my brothers.”
“You could give me no higher compliment.”
Rose sighed. “There would be nothing untoward about
“My lady, I am obviously not a member of the
have I worked for a noble family all that long. But even I know it is not proper
for an unmarried lady to call upon a bachelor. It could ruin you. And it is
“I’ve known Grayson for years. He would never hurt
“Forgive me for saying so, but I was there that day in
Wiltshire when we came upon him, well…”
“Riding a horse and deep in his cups?”
“I see you remember the day to which I refer.
However, it is not the inebriation that bothers me – though it hardly
recommends him to me, either – but I saw the way he looked at you.”
Rose’s heart skipped a beat. “How did he look at me?”
“It knocked him off his horse. That was how he looked
at you. The man was able to ride while incapacitated by drink, but one look at
you unseated him.”
Rose could not help her blush. Had she truly affected
Grayson that way?
“I will not get you the information if you intend to
see him,” said Stemple. “I am sorry.”
“Please? Maude, you’re on my side, aren’t you?”
“Lady Rose, you know Victor and I will always look out
for your best interests. But even I have my doubts about this Lord Grayson, though
I do not think he would harm you. However, Victor will get you the
“What?” asked her husband.
“You didn’t let me finish. Victor will get you the
information if, and only if, you do not see Lord Grayson without us. The two
of us will escort you there and I’ll sit in the corner and pretend to knit as
the two of you talk about whatever it is you wish to discuss.”
“We can’t take her there,” said Stemple. “Her
brothers would be against it.”
“Aye, I am certain that is true. And I hate to go
against his lordship’s wishes. But, my love, there are other ways for Lady
Rose to get the information and she is determined to pay Lord Grayson a visit.
Would you rather she went there on her own?”
“I don’t want Lady Rose to go there at all.”
“Yes, well, some things are quite unavoidable. My
lady…” She took Rose’s hand. “Rose, do you promise that if Victor gets the
information you won’t try to see Lord Grayson on your own? That you’ll only go
there with us? ‘Tis for your own good.” Perhaps sensing that Rose might try
to find a way around her promise, she added, “You wouldn’t want Victor to get
in trouble, would you?”
Rose sighed. For she was as loyal to Maude and
Stemple as they were to her. And she wouldn’t want any of her brothers to be
cross with the couple. “Very well. I know you two are only looking out for me
and I do appreciate it very much. But are you certain you cannot allow me to
“I’m afraid not,” said Maude.
“Then, yes, I promise.” She hugged Maude. “Thank
“I still don’t think this is a good idea,” grumbled
Stemple, after Rose had gone.
“But we’re going to do it anyway,” said Maude. “Because
love is worth the risk.”
Win was unsettled for much of the day following her
meeting with Mr. Lewis. It was to be expected, of course, since she’d learned
how intelligent the man was while at the same time discovering her own
barrister had the mental acuity of a rather dull rock.
Her family had been particularly upset. Her brothers
had spent much of the day paying calls on various chambers with Mr. Olson,
hoping to find better legal counsel. They were unsuccessful in their quest.
So, it was no wonder that she was unsettled. But that
didn’t adequately explain the restless feeling she had. No, Mr. Lewis had
affected her in a wholly unexpected way.
It was true that she found herself tensing when she
was in the presence of physically powerful men. That would likely be true for
some time to come. She’d looked at Mr. Lewis with his muscular build and
thought about what a man like that could do when angered. She could tell he
had the physique of a pugilist, but didn’t know how he came to have it. Boxing
salons were popular forms of exercise. But perhaps Mr. Lewis did not limit his
punches to the salon.
He had recognized her fear when he’d entered the
sitting room, but rather than use it against her to get answers to his
questions, he’d carefully kept his distance. And, other than his outburst at Peyton,
he’d kept his voice calm and quiet. Of course, even Pierce could be calm and
quiet between beatings.
Then Mr. Lewis had warned Rose to be on guard around
Mr. Peyton. That had been quite gentleman-like, as had his kind words to Anna
after Peyton had been unforgivably cruel.
It was no wonder she was so unsettled. Pierce had
appeared to be a gentleman, but had been a cruel beast in private. Mr. Lewis
had the build of a fighter, but seemed to be a gentleman at heart.
But, Win reminded herself, you could never really tell
who a person was until you’d seen them at their worst.
There was another reason Win was oddly out of sorts.
It was something she’d realized as she’d recounted the events of the night
Pierce had been killed. She’d heard a noise as she approached the study. She’d
been too groggy that night to realize what it was. But in talking about it
today with a clear head, she thought she recognized it as the closing of a door
from somewhere inside the study.
The French doors had all been latched from the inside,
as had the windows. And no one had passed Win as she’d entered the room. There
must be a secret passageway in the study and that was how the killer escaped.
She didn’t know what to do with her theory. Bow
Street couldn’t be trusted. Perhaps that kind Sergeant Fisk could investigate,
but there was no guarantee his superiors wouldn’t cover up anything he
She couldn’t ask her brothers to get involved. Pierce’s
family would deny them entrance to the house and they’d be ruined if they were
arrested for trespassing.
She was the only one who could search for a
passageway. She would have to do so at night and if she was discovered, she’d
be sent back to Newgate. But she had no choice. If she left her defense up to
Peyton, she might as well help build the gallows.
No, she would go back to investigate and she would
leave that very night.
Alex was lost in thought as he made his way through
the cold, dark hallways on his way to his chambers. With each passing hour, he
had more doubts about Lady Winifred’s guilt, but was completely unsure of how
to prove her innocence. It was the exact opposite of what his professional
goal should be and he could actually be removed from chambers and even
disbarred if he was found to have contravened the Crown’s prosecution.
But he couldn’t let an innocent woman hang. That would
be a mockery of justice.
Not to mention, Lady Winifred had had an unsettling
effect on him that afternoon.
It wasn’t the first time he’d prosecuted a beautiful
woman. And there had been cautionary tales during his training regarding
defendants using feminine wiles to influence prosecutors. He was fairly
certain Mrs. Pierce wasn’t doing that. She didn’t need to. He was inexorably
drawn to her without any effort on her part.
It wasn’t just her beauty that attracted him. She had
an underlying strength which had allowed her to survive years of brutality with
hope intact. There was just something about her that drew him to her.
Unfortunately, he was no closer to learning who’d
killed her brute of a husband, though the longer he searched, the more suspects
there seemed to be.
He finally reached his suite, but as soon as he
entered his instincts told him something was amiss. There was a light in his
personal quarters, beyond his office. He never would have left one burning,
nor would any porter. He picked up a fireplace poker, then silently walked to
the other room, carefully opening the door which was slightly ajar. He was
prepared to attack, only to find Lord Grayson smoking a cigar.
“I was wondering when you’d be home,” said Grayson,
lounging in the wingback chair by the fire.
It was a brazen act, even for a lord. Alex leaned
against the doorway. “You’re in love with Lady Rosemary.”
That got the man’s attention. “Why do you say that?”
Alex enumerated the reasons on his fingers. “You sat
as far away from her as possible. You never spoke to her and you only looked in
her direction when you were certain her attention was elsewhere.”
Grayson tried to resume his casual attitude, but Alex
knew it was a charade. He was glad he’d rattled the man. “Why did you break
into my quarters?”
“I didn’t break in. I simply arrived unannounced.”
“My door was locked and this is far past office
hours. What are you doing here, Lord Grayson?”
“I’ve come with a suggestion on how to go about
finding Pierce’s real killer. Why don’t you have a seat and put down that
“Are you inviting me to have a seat in my own chambers?”
“I am. And I’m about to invite us both to have a
Alex warily put down the poker and crossed to the
decanter. He didn’t know what the devil Grayson was doing there, but he was
curious enough to hear him out. “What’s your suggestion?”
“First, I have to confide in you and I need your word
as a gentleman that you’ll not betray my confidence.”
“I thought it was already clearly established that I
am not a gentleman.”
“You might not have been born a gentleman in the most
superficial sense of the word, but, unless my sources failed me – and they
rarely do – you most definitely are one. There are things I need to tell you
that could get me in a great deal of trouble. I would like your word that you
will not betray me.”