Authors: Maureen Driscoll
Tags: #Romance, #Historical, #Adult Romance
Win’s brother James was eight and twenty and had run
away to America to make his fortune when he’d been twenty. He and Colin had
been beaten frequently by their father and James in particular had been the
subject of their father’s wrath. Colin had been able to laugh it off, but
James had been too sensitive, which led to his departure. He’d vowed never to
return to British soil until he was a rich man. Win had been devastated to see
him go and had missed him terribly through the years.
He was now back in town, though without the fortune
he’d been determined to make. Instead, he had an even more valuable prize: a
daughter. Her mother had been Algonquin, but had passed away some six months
earlier. James and his daughter had come to visit Win, but been denied
entrance by the butler on Clarence’s orders. Win had been lucky enough to
sneak a peek at James and his beautiful daughter, who looked to be about five
years old. Win had held that memory to her heart, knowing it might have to
last for years to come.
Her sister Rose was now eighteen, but, given the
family’s finances, she wouldn’t have a debut in Society. However, considering
how terrible Win’s marriage had been, she wondered if that wasn’t a secret
Leticia was eight, and the only Emerson without black
hair and dark brown eyes. Letty’s red hair and blue eyes were the result of an
affair their mother had had with the sole purpose of humiliating her husband. Win
had seen little of Letty in the six years since her marriage, but she longed to
get to know the little girl.
Now maybe she would finally be reunited with her
If she wasn’t hanged for a murder she didn’t commit.
Inspector Dunlop had said James was there and her
heart had leapt with joy. She wanted to see him. And, now that Pierce was
dead, she could see him. She could see her entire family. Except Dunlop
wouldn’t allow it.
But, thankfully, James knew she was there. She’d
begun to fear that Clarence’s family could have her arrested and held, and, for
all she knew, convicted, without her family being the wiser. Thank God James
had found her.
They would send him away. But he’d be back. She knew
he’d be back. Unless…what if he thought she didn’t want to see him? She
couldn’t think about that. It was making her head hurt too much.
The sergeant who’d been sitting in the corner of the
room had seemed like a fair man, but Dunlop had told him to stay out of it. She’d
wanted to appeal to him, but hadn’t been able to find the words. Maybe she
would be able to do so after she’d slept.
But for now, she would be on her own. She was
frightened of what might lie ahead, both tonight and in the days to come. But
it wasn’t the first time she’d been frightened and at the mercy of others. She
would do as she’d always done: persevere in hopes of seeing her family again.
She would think of the love she had for them. Undying. Unfaltering. And she
would get through whatever came her way.
She loved her family. And that would keep her alive.
James Emerson was terrified. During his eight years
in the American wilderness he’d faced any number of life-threatening
situations. Freezing cold that could kill a man. Bears, snakes, disease.
He’d been attacked by men intent on killing him, but had escaped unharmed.
None of that compared to the fright he’d endured just a few weeks earlier when
his dear six-year-old daughter Anna had been so ill he’d thought he might lose
her. Fortunately, she’d survived and was recovering back at the family estate
But here was another situation he couldn’t control,
with the highest stakes imaginable. His dear sister Winifred was being held
somewhere in Newgate. But they wouldn’t let him see her. The clerks wouldn’t
give him any information other than she was a suspect in the murder of her
husband. They wouldn’t tell him when she would be released. Or even if it
He couldn’t think of Win in that hellhole. He
couldn’t think of what might happen.
James and his betrothed, Irene Wallace, had learned of
Win’s arrest upon arriving at the Earl of Layton’s London town house an hour
earlier. Layton’s cousin Simon Chilcott had told them. James wasn’t sure how
Simon had learned of the situation, nor why he was at the house when Layton was
in the country. But as soon as James had heard the news, he’d rushed to the
infamous prison. Only to be stopped by a clerk.
“Sergeant,” said Irene from his side. “We will not go
away. Ever. We want to see Mrs. Pierce. We demand it.”
James hadn’t wanted to bring Irene to Newgate, but
she’d insisted on accompanying him. And it was a good thing she was there.
Given the stonewalling they were facing, he long ago would have resorted to
violence had it not been for her reassuring presence by his side.
The sergeant at the desk – the sixth they’d spoken to
– did not take kindly to being ordered about by a woman. “You can demand all
you like, but it won’t do no good. I’m told she’s not to see anyone.
Especially her family.”
“Who issued that order?” asked Irene. “And what about
her right to legal counsel?”
“It’s none of your concern who issued the order. It’s
just enough that it’s been done. As for legal counsel, I know you’re no
James tried hard not to throttle the man behind the
desk. “Sergeant, my eldest brother is the Earl of Ridgeway. My other brother
is the Earl of Layton.”
“And how is that possible, to have two different
brothers be two different earls?”
“That isn’t important. What is important…”
“What is important is that I don’t have to listen to
no earls. Especially no brother of earls. Especially when their sister’s a
murderess. Toffs don’t matter here. We run this prison and you better think
twice about having some mere woman order me about.”
James was tensing for a fight when he was interrupted
by the deep, crisp tones of a born aristocrat.
“Excuse me,” said Liam Kellington as he strode purposefully
to the desk, “but there is still a presumption of innocence until proven guilty
in England, is there not? While you claim that you don’t have to listen to
earls – and I’d like to see that put to the test – you not only have to listen
to me, you have to answer to me, as well.
“I am the Duke of Lynwood. I control funding for
Newgate prison and make recommendations to the Board of Governors about hiring
staff, as well as dismissing them. My brother-in-law, the Marquess of Riverton,
is also quite influential in these matters. And your complete disregard of
Lord James Emerson’s concerns, as well as those of the Earl of Ridgeway and the
Earl of Layton, will not sit well with any member of the House of Lords. Not
to mention the unprecedented detention of Lady Winifred.
“You see, peers do not like it when one of their own
is treated with disrespect. And you just insulted two earls, as well as their
brother – not to mention what you’ve done to their beloved sister. Do not
compound your mistake by disobeying me. You will present Lady Winifred Pierce within
ten minutes. Or I’ll see you arrested and detained in this prison you only think
The sergeant had lost most of the color from his face,
but was trying to maintain his bluster for the sake of his nearby gawking colleagues.
“You’ll have me detained on what charges?”
“Did I not mention that my brother and his wife are
senior officials in the Home Office? Or that my good friend Joseph Stapleton
also works for them when he isn’t assisting in senior level matters at Bow
Street? I am certain they could come up with something to not just have you
arrested, but to get you transported, as well. You have eight minutes.
Produce Mrs. Pierce. And while you’re at it, I want to see this Inspector
There was a moment of silence, then the sergeant, along
with most of his colleagues, quickly dispersed, presumably to do Lynwood’s
“Lynwood,” said James with immense relief. “I cannot
thank you enough. But how did you know?”
“I wouldn’t like it spread about here,” said Lynwood
quietly. “But there’s a Bow Street sergeant – a very good man. He didn’t like
what was happening and felt something should be done. We are acquainted and he
came to get me. I’m just glad I could help.” Lynwood studied his longtime
James knew he looked very different from how he’d been
at school. He was no longer the cocky young son of an earl. His hair was
long, his body was muscled from hard work on the frontier. His clothes were more
similar to those of a laborer than a nobleman. He wondered what Lynwood’s
reaction would be.
His friend smiled. “It’s good to see you again,
James, even under such trying circumstances. My niece Violet can’t stop
talking about meeting your daughter. She has planned at least three years of
activities for them and now wants to meet your sister Letty, as well. Miss
Wallace, it is a pleasure to see you again. Vi also enjoyed her visit with
“Your niece is enchanting,” said James. “She made
Anna feel at home when we met at Gunter’s a few weeks ago. And now that we’re
not returning to America, I hope the girls can see each other again. I know
Letty would like to meet Violet, as well.”
Irene’s gasp made James turn, but he wasn’t prepared
for what he saw. There was Win, unshackled, but with guards on either side of
her. She was badly beaten, her eyes blackened. Bruises were blooming across
her face and she was stooped forward as if walking was difficult.
For a moment, James stood rooted to the spot. Then he
strode to her. “Win!” He hugged her, then pulled back in alarm when she cried
out in pain. It was only then that he realized how badly bruised she must be.
He turned to the guards and growled. “Did you do this to her, you bastards?”
“No, James,” said Win. “It wasn’t them. Please.”
She put her hand on his arm. “Is it really you?” She placed a shaking hand on
his cheek. Her eyes filled with tears.
James wanted to cry. It was Win. His beloved Win.
For a moment, all he could think about was that he was finally seeing her
again. He carefully folded her into his arms.
“It wasn’t us who beat her,” said a man who was
walking toward them.
Reluctantly, James pulled away from his sister, but carefully
wrapped his arm around her waist.
“She claims her husband did it to her,” said the man
who was wearing a suit. “Which could be why she killed him.”
“I didn’t kill him,” said Win. Her voice was weak,
but she spoke firmly. James could feel her trying to stand taller. She began
to falter, so he held her closer.
“Who are you?” James asked the man.
“Inspector Dennis Dunlop of Bow Street. Are you the
duke who demanded to see me?” From the way he looked at James’s rough clothes,
it was clear he doubted it.
“No. I am Lord James Emerson. I’m going to take my
sister home, then you’ll hear from our solicitor tomorrow.”
“You’re not taking her anywhere,” said Dunlop. “We
can’t release a murder suspect to her brother. Think of the public outcry when
you take her away to the continent.”
“You release suspects all the time,” said Lynwood. “And
you will release Lady Winifred.”
It was a statement, in no way a request.
“And who the devil are you?”
“The duke who demanded to see you. The one who could
end your career.”
“Oh, I see how it is. Once again, the toffs think
they can rule this place. Well, I have news for you. There’ll come a day when
your lot can’t get away with things just because of who your daddy was.”
“That may be true. However, today is not that day.
And heed my warning, Inspector. My father was a great man. Do not make the
mistake of disparaging him. Lady Winifred is leaving this place immediately.”
“She’s not going home with her brother.”
“Then you’ll release her to me.”
That surprised Dunlop. “What’s she to you?
Unless…maybe she’s a bit of fluff on the side that the duchess don’t know
In an instant, Lynwood’s demeanor changed from a
proper, powerful duke to something much more dangerous. James had known the
man since they were boys, but even he was surprised by the temper just barely
kept in check.
Lynwood took one step toward Dunlop. A step that made
the seasoned inspector step back.
“You have insulted Lady Winifred, you have impugned my
honor and you have cast aspersions on my duchess’s good sense. You will
“To whom?” asked Dunlop, losing some – but not all – of
“You’ll start with Lady Winifred, move on to me, then
admit your mistake about her grace’s willingness to put up with such treatment,
when I assure you she most certainly would not.”
“I won’t be ordered about like a servant.”
“Yet you will apologize.” Lynwood took another step
Dunlop stepped back again. Perhaps realizing just how
serious Lynwood was, he quickly said, “My apologies, Mrs. Pierce, your grace. And
I’ll take your word for it about her grace’s intolerance for dalliance. But
you still haven’t answered my question. Why would you get involved in this
“For many reasons, one of which is a simple dislike of
a gross miscarriage of justice. You are being cavalier with Lady Winifred’s
safety, which is especially abhorrent since I am confident you’ll find her
innocent of the charges you seem so anxious to affix to her. I have known her
family for decades. I am willing to vouch for her and will personally
guarantee that if you release her into my custody, your goals of finding her
husband’s real killer will not be thwarted. If anything, they might be
furthered since I’ll see that she receives proper medical care. She might then
be in a better position to answer questions about the night Mr. Pierce was
“How do I know you won’t just hand her over to her
brother and let her leave the country?”
“Are you impugning my honor again, Dunlop?”
It was obvious to everyone he was, yet the inspector
must have had enough sense to know when to back down. “I’ll release her into
your custody,” he said grudgingly. “But she’s not to leave your house, not
even to visit her brother. If she does, she’ll be back here quicker than you
can imagine. And nothing you say or do will get her out of here again.”
“Very well. Lady Winifred, let us be off. Dunlop,
make sure the paperwork is all that it should be. You wouldn’t want to
disappoint me in this.”
With that, Lynwood turned his back on the inspector
and with a smile and nod for Lady Winfred, who was on her brother’s arm, the
four of them left the accursed prison.
None of them said anything until they were underway in
the spacious Lynwood carriage. But then Winifred spoke.
“Thank you, your grace. I cannot imagine what it
would have been like to remain at Newgate. But I regret the imposition of my
stay with you.”
“Please call me Lynwood. You as well, Miss Wallace.
And think nothing of it, Lady Winifred. I am terribly sorry this has
occurred. All of it,” he added softly as he looked at her bruises. “My
sister-in-law is a surgeon. She, Ned and their daughter Violet are currently
staying at Lynwood House. I believe she should look at your injuries when we
“Thank you,” said Win.
“About your injuries…” began James.
“I cannot speak of it now. Please. There will be
enough time for that later.”
James could not remember ever being this angry. If
Pierce weren’t already dead, James surely would have killed him. He wondered
how long this had been going on. He wondered why this was happening to his
dear, sweet sister. And he wondered how he was ever going to save her.
Then he felt a gentle kick from Irene sitting opposite
him. “James, this might be as good a time as any to introduce me to your
James was thankful for the interruption from his
increasingly dark thoughts. His betrothed knew him well. “Win, I would like you
to meet Miss Irene Wallace, your future sister-in-law.”