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free to choose. But how?
Her conscience having at last mastered pure self-interest,
Emily was determined to settle on the best course of action
before she finally retired. Her resolve not to involve Sebas-
tian remained firm. Living without him playing any part in
her life was a risk she was prepared to take; she was not
prepared to place his life in jeopardy by revealing what she
knew. Fortunately there was one other in whom she could
confide. But would Sir Giles Osborne act on what might
easily be perceived as mere coincidence? He was an astute,
very careful man, and perhaps would require more proof
before he could arrange for Sir Courtney Farrington to be
taken into custody. After all, a wife could not give evidence
against her husband in a court of law, and without Caroline s
testimony there was precious little to link Farrington with the
crimes.
Therefore more proof was needed, Emily decided, at last
climbing into her comfortable bed. Her stay in the capital was
swiftly drawing to a close, and time was not on her side, but
somehow she must find a way of attaining the proof needed
to enable Sir Giles Osborne to act.
Chapter Fifteen
Although Emily woke the following morning with no very
clear idea of how to set about exposing Sir Courtney Farring-
ton and bringing about his downfall, her resolve to do so had
not diminished. Nor had her determination not to involve Se-
bastian unless totally unavoidable lessened either. It wasn t
merely a matter of not wishing Sebastian to place his life in
jeopardy, but also a desire to protect him from scurrilous,
wagging tongues.
Her experience of the polite world might not have been
vast, but she knew enough to be sure that the tattle-mongers
would have a field-day, wondering if there were more behind
his determination to see Sir Courtney brought to book, most
especially if he betrayed an amorous interest in the Baronet s
widow soon after justice had been served.
As she completed her toilette, and then made her way
downstairs to the breakfast parlour, Emily chose not to dwell
on the possibility that Sebastian s undeniably tender regard
for her might prove wanting should he be offered the oppor-
tunity to marry his first love.
Although blissfully unaware of the fact himself, Sebastian
could not have done more to try to dispel that niggling un-
certainty lurking in the corner of her mind, when he rose to
Anne Ashley 213
his feet the moment she joined him in the parlour to brush his
lips lightly across her cheek. Emily could not fail to note the
look of tenderness which accompanied the chaste salute. All
the same she knew herself well enough to be sure that mis-
givings would return to plague her if she denied him the op-
portunity to form an alliance with his cousin. Unwittingly she
had deprived him of that chance years ago. For her own peace
of mind she must right that wrong, no matter how heartbreak-
ing the outcome might turn out to be for her.
 You re very quiet, sweetheart, his lordship remarked,
after resuming his seat and helping her to coffee.  I noticed
you appeared a little subdued from time to time yesterday
evening. Nothing troubling you, is there?
Emily managed to effect a careless shrug, but the mild
query was a timely reminder. No one knew her better than the
man seated beside her. It was uncanny the way he could
almost read her mind on occasions. She would need to be so
very careful from now on, for just one careless word, one un-
guarded look might alert that large brain of his to the fact that
she was plotting something.
Her lack of response only served to stoke the fires of sus-
picion.  I hope you are not peeved because I chose to dance
twice with my cousin last night.
Emily almost choked, but recovered in an instant, and
found herself immediately on the defensive.  Is there reason
for me to be?
 No, certainly not. He could not have sounded more
sincere.  And might I remind you that it was you who sug-
gested that I should pay Caroline more attention.
That, Emily was forced silently to acknowledge, might yet
prove to be a grave error of judgement on her part.  I don t
object to your dancing with your cousin, Hawk. In fact it was
a pleasure to see her looking so happy. Five minutes in your
company and the old sparkle was back in her eyes.
 I cannot accept the credit for that, he countered, his lips
214 Lord Hawkridge s Secret
curling into a secretive half-smile, before he changed the
subject by revealing that he would be unable to accompany
her out for a ride that day.  I ve received an urgent summons
from Sir Giles Osborne. He wishes to see me without delay.
Sebastian observed slender fingers tremble slightly, as
Emily reached for her coffee-cup and raised it to her lips.  Are
you sure nothing is troubling you, my darling? You do seem
a little on edge this morning.
She forced a smile.  I m fine. I was just wondering what
Sir Giles can have to tell you that s so urgent.
 I ve no idea. Finishing off the dregs in his own cup, Se-
bastian rose to his feet, and then paused by her chair to capture
her chin and raise her head.  But whatever it is doesn t
concern you. I ve already told you I don t want you involv-
ing yourself further in the business. The delicate lids lowered,
but not before he had glimpsed a wary look in those strikingly
lovely blue eyes.  And I shall be most displeased if you do.
Torn between guilt and resentment at the high-handed tone
he was adopting, Emily risked a fleeting look up at him again.
 Must I attain your permission before I do anything? I shall
be heartily glad when your guardianship comes to an end and
I can do as I please.
 Don t raise your hopes too high, he warned, releasing her
chin to flick one cheek gently with a careless finger.  I shall
make a far stricter husband. He went over to the door, thereby
missing the wistful expression flitting over her delicate
features.  How, by the way, do you intend occupying yourself
until my esteemed aunt decides to leave her bedchamber? he
turned back to add.
She managed with a reasonable amount of success to affect
an air of innocence.  Oh, I thought I might just pay your
cousin a visit.
 Do so by all means. I ve absolutely no objection, he
assured her with infuriating superiority.
 Good. Because I have every intention of doing so, with
Anne Ashley 215
or without your permission, Emily muttered, the instant he
had closed the door behind him.
Remaining only for the time it took to consume a buttered
roll, and swill it down with a second cup of coffee, Emily
returned to her room to collect her bonnet and, after securing
Skinner s services as chaperon for the proposed visit, returned
downstairs in time to see Clegg admit Mr Tobias Trevenen
into the house. [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]




 

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