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Authors: Amanda Quick

Tags: #Romance, #Historical, #Mystery

Otherwise Engaged

BOOK: Otherwise Engaged
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Otherwise Engaged
Ladies Of Lantern Street [3]
Amanda Quick
Putnam Adult (2013)
Rating:
****
Tags:
Romance, Historical, Mystery

Miss Amity Doncaster, world traveler, is accustomed to adventure and risk. Benedict Stanbridge, a man of science and a spy for the Crown, has faced danger in the darker corners of foreign lands.

But they are about to face a threat that is shockingly close to home...

One does not expect to be kidnapped on a London street in broad daylight. But Amity Doncaster barely escapes with her life after she is trapped in a carriage with a blade-wielding man in a black silk mask who whispers the most vile taunts and threats into her ear. Her quick thinking, and her secret weapon, save her...
for now.

But the monster known in the press as the Bridegroom, who has left a trail of female victims in his wake, has survived the wounds she inflicts and will soon be on his feet again. He is unwholesomely obsessed by her scandalous connection to Benedict Stanbridge - gossip about their hours alone in a ship’s stateroom seems to have crossed the Atlantic faster than any sailing vessel could. Benedict refuses to let this resourceful, daring woman suffer for her romantic link to him -
as tenuous as it may be.

For a man and woman so skilled at disappearing, so at home in the exotic reaches of the globe, escape is always an option. But each intends to end the Bridegroom’s reign of terror in London, and will join forces to do so.
And as they prepare to confront an unbalanced criminal in the heart of the city they love, they must also face feelings that neither of them can run away from....

O
THER
T
ITLES
BY
J
AYNE
A
NN
K
RENTZ

River Road

Dream Eyes

Copper Beach

In Too Deep

Fired Up

Running Hot

Sizzle and Burn

White Lies

All Night Long

Falling Awake

Truth or Dare

Light in Shadow

Summer in Eclipse Bay

Smoke in Mirrors

Dawn in Eclipse Bay

Lost & Found

Eclipse Bay

Soft Focus

Eye of the Beholder

Flash

Sharp Edges

Deep Waters

Absolutely, Positively

Trust Me

Grand Passion

Hidden Talents

Wildest Hearts

Family Man

Perfect Partners

Sweet Fortune

Silver Linings

The Golden Chance

B
Y
J
AYNE
A
NN
K
RENTZ
W
RITING
AS
A
MANDA
Q
UICK

The Mystery Woman

Crystal Gardens

Quicksilver

Burning Lamp

The Perfect Poison

The Third Circle

The River Knows

Second Sight

Lie by Moonlight

Wait Until Midnight

The Paid Companion

Late for the Wedding

Don’t Look Back

Slightly Shady

Wicked Widow

I Thee Wed

Seduction

Affair

Mischief

Mystique

Mistress

Deception

Desire

Dangerous

Reckless

Ravished

Rendezvous

Scandal

Surrender

With This Ring

B
Y
J
AYNE
A
NN
K
RENTZ
W
RITING
AS
J
AYNE
C
ASTLE

The Lost Night

Canyons of Night

Midnight Crystal

Obsidian Prey

Dark Light

Silver Master

Ghost Hunter

After Glow

Harmony

After Dark

Amaryllis

Zinnia

Orchid

G. P. PUTNAM’S SONS

Publishers Since 1838

Published by the Penguin Group

Penguin Group (USA) LLC

375 Hudson Street

New York, New York 10014

USA • Canada • UK • Ireland • Australia • New Zealand • India • South Africa • China

penguin.com

A Penguin Random House Company

Copyright © 2014 by Jayne Ann Krentz

Penguin supports copyright. Copyright fuels creativity, encourages diverse voices, promotes free speech, and creates a vibrant culture. Thank you for buying an authorized edition of this book and for complying with copyright laws by not reproducing, scanning, or distributing any part of it in any form without permission. You are supporting writers and allowing Penguin to continue to publish books for every reader.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Quick, Amanda.

Otherwise engaged / Amanda Quick.

p. cm.

ISBN 978-1-101-62101-1

1. Women travelers—Fiction. 2. Scientists—Fiction. 3. Spies—Fiction. I. Title.

PS3561.R44O85 2014 2013042660

813'.54—dc23

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

Version_1

For Frank, my seriously romantic hero

Contents

Other Titles by Jayne Ann Krentz

Title Page

Copyright

Dedication

 

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty-one

Chapter Twenty-two

Chapter Twenty-three

Chapter Twenty-four

Chapter Twenty-five

Chapter Twenty-six

Chapter Twenty-seven

Chapter Twenty-eight

Chapter Twenty-nine

Chapter Thirty

Chapter Thirty-one

Chapter Thirty-two

Chapter Thirty-three

Chapter Thirty-four

Chapter Thirty-five

Chapter Thirty-six

Chapter Thirty-seven

Chapter Thirty-eight

Chapter Thirty-nine

Chapter Forty

Chapter Forty-one

Chapter Forty-two

Chapter Forty-three

Chapter Forty-four

Chapter Forty-five

Chapter Forty-six

One

A
re you a passenger traveling on the
Northern Star
, by any chance, madam?”

The voice was male, British, well educated and raw with what sounded like pain and shock. It came from the shadowy entrance of a nearby alley. Amity Doncaster stopped cold.

She had been on her way back to the ship, her notes and sketches of the local island scenes tucked into her satchel.

“Yes, I’m traveling on the
Star
,” she said.

She made no attempt to approach the alley. She could not see the speaker concealed in the shadows, but she was quite certain that he was not a fellow passenger. She would have recognized the dark, curiously compelling voice.

“I am in rather urgent need of a favor,” he said.

She was quite certain now that the speaker was in great pain. It was as if it took every ounce of strength and will he possessed just to speak to her.

Then, again, she had met some very fine actors in her travels and not all of them had been professional thespians. Some had been very talented con artists and criminals.

Nevertheless, if the man was injured she could not turn her back on him.

She lowered her parasol and unhooked the elegant, specially made Japanese fan from the chatelaine at her waist. The tessen was designed to look like an ordinary lady’s fan, but with its pointed steel spikes and metal leaves it was, in truth, a weapon.

Gripping the tessen in the folded position, she went cautiously toward the alley entrance. She had seen enough of the world to be wary of strangers calling out from the shadows. The fact that in this case the man spoke with an upper-class British accent was no guarantee that he was not a member of the criminal class. The Caribbean had once been plagued with pirates and privateers. The Royal Navy and, more recently, the U.S. Navy had eliminated much of the threat from that quarter, but there was no permanent solution to the problem of ordinary thieves and footpads. She had found them to be as ubiquitous as rats everywhere in the world.

When she arrived at the mouth of the alley, she saw at once that she had no cause to fear the man sitting with his back braced against the brick wall. He was in desperate straits. He appeared to be in his early thirties. His night-dark hair, damp with sweat, grew from a sharp widow’s peak. He no doubt usually wore it sleeked back behind his ears, but now it hung limply, framing the planes and angles of a hard, intelligent face set in a grim, resolute mask. His light brown eyes were glazed with pain and the beginnings of shock. There was something else in those eyes, as well—a fierce, ironclad will. He was hanging on, quite literally, for dear life.

The front of his hand-tailored, white linen shirt was soaked with fresh blood. He had removed his coat, wadded it up and now clutched it tight against his side. The pressure he was exerting was not enough to stop the slow, steady stream of blood leaking from the wound.

There were bloody fingerprints on the letter he held out to her. His hand shook with the force of the effort required to make even that small gesture.

She reattached the tessen to the chatelaine and rushed toward him.

“Good heavens, sir, what happened? Were you attacked?”

“Shot. The letter. Take it.” He sucked in a sharp breath. “Please.”

She dropped the satchel and the parasol and crouched beside him. Ignoring the letter.

“Let’s have a look,” she said.

She infused her voice with the calm authority that her father had always used with his patients. George Doncaster had claimed that the notion that the doctor knew what he was about gave the patient hope and courage.

But this particular patient was not in the mood to be reassured. He had one objective in mind and he pursued it with every ounce of his fading strength.

“No,” he said through gritted teeth. His eyes burned with determination to make certain she understood what he was saying. “Too late. Name’s Stanbridge. I booked passage on the
Star
. Looks like I’m not going to be making the voyage to New York. Please, a favor, madam. I beg of you. Very important. Take this letter.”

He was not going to let her help him until he had made certain that she would deal with the letter.

“Very well.” She opened the satchel and dropped the letter inside.

“Promise me that you will see to it that the letter gets to my uncle in London. Cornelius Stanbridge. Ashwick Square.”

“I am on my way back to London,” she said. “I will deliver your letter. But now we must deal with your wound, sir. Please let me examine you. I have had some experience with this sort of thing.”

He fixed her with a riveting gaze. For the briefest flash of time she could have sworn that she saw something that might have been amusement in his eyes.

“I have the impression that you have had a great deal of experience in many things, madam,” he said.

“You have no idea, Mr. Stanbridge. I will take excellent care of your letter.”

He looked hard at her for a few seconds longer through half-closed eyes.

“Yes,” he said. “I believe you will do precisely that.”

She unfastened the blood-drenched shirt and eased aside the hand he was using to press the crumpled coat against the wound. A quick look told her what she needed to know. The flesh of his side was ripped and bloody, but she saw no sign of arterial bleeding. She pushed his hand and the coat back into place and got to her feet.

“The bullet passed cleanly through and I don’t believe any vital organs were struck,” she said. Working quickly, she hiked up the skirts of her traveling dress and tore several lengths of fabric off her petticoats. “But we must control the bleeding before we take you to the ship. There is no modern medical care available on the island. I’m afraid that you are stuck with me.”

Stanbridge grunted something unintelligible and closed his eyes.

She fashioned a thick bandage out of one long strip of the petticoat. Once again she eased his clenched hand and the coat away from his side. She pulled the edges of the wound together as best she could,
fit the bandage over the gash and then clamped his hand on top to hold the compress in place.

“Press hard,” she ordered.

He did not open his eyes but his strong hand clenched tightly around the makeshift bandage.

Swiftly she wound two long strips of petticoat fabric around his waist and tied them securely to hold the bandage in place.

“Where did you learn to do that?” Stanbridge growled. He did not open his eyes.

“My father was a doctor, sir. I was raised in a household where medicine was the chief topic of conversation at every meal. I often assisted him in his work. In addition, I traveled the world with him for a few years while he studied medical practices in various foreign lands.”

Stanbridge managed to open his eyes partway. “This is, indeed, my lucky day.”

She glanced at the bloody shirt and coat. “I wouldn’t go so far as to call it your lucky day, but I do believe that you will survive it. Under the circumstances that is no small thing. Now we must see about getting you aboard the
Star
.”

Her father had died a year earlier, but she still carried his medical kit with her on her own journeys abroad. The kit, however, was back in her stateroom on board the ship. Now that she had staunched the worst of the bleeding she had to figure out a way to get Stanbridge to the
Star
.

She rose, went to the entrance of the alley and stopped the first two people she saw, both locals on their way to the market. It was only a matter of a few minutes to get things organized. One glance at Stanbridge in the alley and the men understood what was needed.

With the assistance of two of their friends, both fishermen, they conveyed the barely conscious Stanbridge back to the ship in a makeshift litter fashioned from a fishing net. Amity tipped them quite extravagantly, but they seemed more pleased with her heartfelt gratitude than with the money.

Members of the
Star
’s crew got the patient into his stateroom and onto the narrow bunk. Amity requested that her medical kit be brought from her own stateroom. When it arrived she set to work cleaning the wound and closing it with several stitches. Stanbridge groaned from time to time, but for the most part he drifted in and out of consciousness.

Amity knew that she was on her own with the patient. There was no longer a doctor on board the
Star
. The ship’s physician, a ruddy-faced, overweight man who had been given to smoking and heavy drinking, had succumbed to a heart attack shortly after the ship departed from its last port of call. Amity had stepped into the breach as best she could, treating the various shipboard injuries and occasional bouts of fever that occurred among the crew.

There were only a handful of other passengers on the
Star
—British and American for the most part. The
Star
would take on a few more when it stopped at other islands along the way, but it was unlikely that Captain Harris would be able to find another doctor until they arrived in New York.

The fever set in sometime around midnight. Stanbridge’s skin was alarmingly hot to the touch. Amity soaked a cloth in the basin of cool water that the cabin attendant had brought to her and draped it
across the patient’s forehead. His eyes flickered open. He looked at her with a bewildered expression.

“Am I dead?” he asked.

“Far from it,” she assured him. “You are safely on board the
Northern Star
. We are on our way to New York.”

“You’re sure I’m not dead.”

“Positive.”

“You would not lie to me about a thing like that, would you?”

“No,” she said. “I would never lie to you about something that important.”

“The letter?”

“Safe in my satchel.”

He watched her intently for a long moment. Then he seemed to come to a conclusion.

“You would not lie about that, either,” he said.

“No. You and your letter will both arrive in New York, Mr. Stanbridge. You have my word.”

“Until then, promise me that you will not tell anyone about the letter.”

“Of course I won’t tell anyone about it. The letter is your personal business, sir.”

“For some reason I think that I can trust you. In any event, it doesn’t look as if I’ve got much choice.”

“I will keep your letter safe, Mr. Stanbridge. In return you must promise me that you will recover from your injury.”

She couldn’t be certain, but she could have sworn that he almost smiled.

“I will do my best,” he said.

He closed his eyes again.

She removed the cloth, dampened it and then used it to cool the portions of his overheated chest and shoulders that were not covered by the bandage.

A knock sounded on the stateroom door.

“Come in,” she called quietly.

Yates, one of the two stewards, put his head around the door.

“Is there anything else I can do to help, Miss Doncaster? The captain told me you are to have everything you need.”

“That will be all for now, Mr. Yates.” She smiled. “You have been very helpful. I have cleaned the wound as thoroughly as possible. The stitches have slowed the bleeding. From now on it is up to nature. Fortunately, Mr. Stanbridge appears to be endowed with a strong constitution.”

“The captain says that Stanbridge would have died back there on St. Clare if you hadn’t found him in that alley, got him to the
Star
and closed up that hole in his side.”

“Yes, well, he didn’t die so there is no point dwelling on what might have happened.”

“No, ma’am. But he’s not the only one on board who has cause to be grateful to you. The crew knows that you’re the reason Red Ned didn’t die of that fever he came down with last week and Mr. Hopkins didn’t lose his arm after his injury got infected. The captain is telling everyone he wishes he could keep you here on the
Star
. The crew would be pleased if you stayed and that’s a fact.”

“Thank you, Mr. Yates. I’m glad I could be of some assistance, but I must return to London.”

“Yes, ma’am.” Yates bobbed his head. “Ring if you need me.”

“I will.”

The door closed behind the cabin attendant. Amity reached for another wet cloth.

BOOK: Otherwise Engaged
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