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Authors: Karolyn Howard

Devil Disguised (23 page)

BOOK: Devil Disguised
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“I will tell him my lady.”

Lily paced the room and wished she could tell Duncan herself.

Duncan was about to say something to Andrew when Simon entered the room and said, “Lady Montgomery wanted me to inform you that she is not your prisoner.”

Rolling his eyes Duncan replied, “Thank you, Simon. I just want her to stay in the room one more night until I sort out the events of the other night.”

Simon bowed and left the room.

Andrew asked, “So is that your current plan? Keep Lily locked up in your room for the rest of her time here?”

“No, of course not. I just want to have one more day to not worry about her and one more day for her attempted killer to surface.”

“I will do what I can to help you today. Eleanor and I can cancel our plans to go to my mother’s if that will help.”

“No.” Duncan shook his head. “I need your help today and thank you for what you have done, but you need to go to your mother’s. There won’t be anything you can do for the few days you will be gone and your mother will come over here and kidnap her only grandchild if she does not see him soon.”

Andrew smiled, then sobered. “I still cannot believe that none of the staff or the guests saw anything. That means someone carried two snakes into Lily’s room and did it undetected.”

Duncan gripped the fireplace mantle tightly. “It is infuriating, but I expected as much. Whoever is doing this is clever and resourceful.”

“I will see if I can find out anything else on our way out of town. Snakes are so uncommon here that maybe someone will recall an unusual delivery or shipment.”

Duncan nodded. “Good idea.”

Andrew said, “I will send word if I do not see you before we depart. And Eleanor and I will be back soon.”

Duncan watched Andrew leave and then went to speak to the servants one more time. After speaking to most of the staff, he received word that Andrew spoke to someone in town. With that information, he went upstairs and knocked on his own door. There was no reply.

He knocked harder and then heard a frustrated, but wholly feminine voice say, “You may enter.”

He opened the door to see Lily standing with her arms folded across her chest. She lowered her arms as she exhaled and said, “Finally!”

She moved forward, but Duncan blocked her way.

“Lily, please wait.”

“Wait? I have been in this room for two days and although it is a lovely room I have memorized every corner of it!”

“I apologize, but it is for your own safety.”

“Did you find the person who put the snakes in my room?”

“No, but Andrew spoke to someone in town today who may have seen an unusual delivery arrive at the post and I plan to speak with them tomorrow.”

Lily nodded and tried to step around Duncan, but he held her elbow.

Looking down at her arm she said, “Duncan, please let me go.”

He released his hold.

Lily remained next to him. “I appreciate all you have done for me, but I need to go outside. I want some time to myself, no protection around me, no one knowing where I am and no confinement.”

He shook his head. “Lily, I can’t let you do that. Someone must be with you. You need to stay in the room at least one more night.”

“Why?” She stepped back. “I felt safe in my own room, until the other night. I am no longer safe anywhere, but I cannot stand this feeling of helplessness. Please, let me take one of your horses just for a ride on the grounds. I will not leave the property and only one of the stable boys and Simon will need to know that I have gone. I need to do this, Duncan. Please.”

Logically, he knew this was risky, but somehow he understood what she needed. He said, “Stay in my room one more night. Then, if you agree, tomorrow I want you to promise me you will not leave the property and that you will not tell anyone what you are doing if you take one of the horses for a ride. I agree, only a stable boy and Simon need to know.”

“I promise.”

He nodded and stepped towards the door. “You should know the Worthington’s will leave early tomorrow for just a day or two to visit with Andrew’s mother. Also, when you are done with your adventure tomorrow, I still would prefer it if you stay in my room. I think it is safer for the time being.”

She nodded and said, “Thank you.”

Lily sat on the saddle of the mare and took the reins. As agreed, there was only a stable boy and Simon present. She was thrilled that she made this deal with Duncan and that he kept his word.

Simon said, “My lady, please be careful. The boundary of the estate is marked by a stone fence, but on the western edge, the creek is also a border. The farthest point to the north is a guest cottage.”

Lily replied, “Thank you, Simon. I appreciate your concern, but I promise I will not leave the property. I have a sack with some food for a bite to eat and I plan to relax and enjoy this lovely day, but I will return for dinner.”

“Very good, my lady.”

She smiled at Simon and left the stable. She took the horse into a gallop and soon the main house was a small silhouette behind her. The estate was massive. She found the stone fence and followed the edge of it for what seemed like a great distance, and then she trotted the horse over to a small stream. She gave the mare an apple as a treat and let the horse roam freely to drink from the stream as she pulled out some bread and cheese to eat. The day was sunny, bright and unusually warm.

She spread out a blanket and enjoyed her meal. She refused to think of anything negative as the sun warmed her whole body. Undoing her shawl, she lied down on the blanket and felt wonderful under the sunlight. She closed her eyes for just a moment.

She heard a rustling and saw Duncan approaching. The wind blew his shirt open and she could see the tempting angles of his chest. He knelt down next to her and without a word, his lips met hers. His kisses moved down her neck and to the tops of her breasts. He undid her bodice and began placing soft kisses over her breasts, everywhere. She laughed as it began to tickle. His kisses were coming so quickly and then he started kissing her face, but it was sharper now and his lips were getting cooler. She turned her head away from the odd sensation and woke up.

Gasping, she sat up and looked down to see large rain drops covering her dress. Dark clouds had gathered and the sun was setting. She must have slept all day. Scrambling to her feet, she was almost knocked down by a strong gust of wind as it came across the field. She
looked around for her horse, but the mare was nowhere to be seen.

Whistling for the horse’s attention, panic began to set in. She had ridden far and with darkness on the horizon, she could not distinguish shapes in the distance. She needed to find the stone fence or the main gravel road. Going back in the direction she thought she had come she moved quickly before she would be in complete darkness.

HE WIND BLEW
fiercely and rain started to fall just as Duncan reached the front of his home and handed the reins to a waiting groom. He bolted up the front stairs and Simon opened the door for him instantly. Fear gripped him as he saw a few of his servants looking anxious while they stood next to his butler.

Before he even uttered a word, Simon said, “My lord, Lady Montgomery has not returned.”

“What?”

“The mare she had taken today returned to the stables, without its rider. The stable boys panicked and we have been looking for her ever since.”

As if on cue, Peter entered from outside. After a quick bow he said, “My lord, we have not been able to find Lady Montgomery. Hard rain has started to fall so everyone has returned here.”

Duncan clenched his fists. “Bring my horse back out front. Tell me exactly where you went, Peter.”

Peter replied, “I followed the border fence and rode out to the guest cottage. She was not there, but I lit a fire in the hearth so she may be able to see it if she is close to the cottage.”

Duncan put on his gloves and said, “Good.” He turned to the group. “All of you stay here and light every room. I want Lady Montgomery to be able to see this house like a beacon of light.”

He moved towards the door as Peter matched his movement.

Duncan addressed the group again. “I will go out alone now. The storm is worsening and I do not want anyone else out in it.”

“But, my lord --,” Simon started.

Duncan continued, “No. Every one of you listen very carefully. This is my fault. I should have never let Lady Montgomery out on her own today. Her safety and wellbeing is my responsibility. I will not risk anyone else out in this storm. I will go out alone and search until I find her and if I tire, I will stay at the guest cottage. The only way I will come back to the house is with Lady Montgomery. I expect you all to stay here until morning. If I find out any of you have left before morning’s light, I will consider it cause for immediate dismissal. Am I understood?”

The group murmured their affirmative responses as Simon stepped forward with a cape and hat and followed Duncan outside. Lightening split the sky as Duncan donned his outer layers of clothes.

Simon asked, “How will you find her in the dark, my lord?”

“I have no idea, Simon. Keep the candles lit in all the rooms tonight.”

Duncan took the horse’s reins as Peter handed him a lit gas lantern. He knew the lamp he held was of little use to him in the torrential rain, but if it could stay, lit for a little while, then maybe Lily would see it and head in his direction. Flicking the horse’s reins, he headed towards the far end of the property and stopped every so often to shout out Lily’s name, but he heard no response. Cursing, he was barely able to see in front of him and the lamp was now useless as rain had soaked the wick.

Fear gripped him as he tightened his hold on the reins. Lily was out here somewhere and it was his fault. Despite her pleas, he should have kept watch over her. Screaming out her name again, his stomach tightened as he pushed away the thought of his worst fear that Lily had fallen off the horse and was now dead or seriously injured. Lightening split the sky and he looked down the empty road before him and continued on hoping his worst fear had not come to pass.

BOOK: Devil Disguised
12.93Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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