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added, "Seven years. Ridgeway pulled me over from the Botanical
"Isn t that a form of treason within your community?"
He laughed. "No, the Register has full support."
"So is that what makes the difference?" she murmured the question, but
saw him tense.
He seemed to fight with himself, then shrugged, letting her comment go.
She was vaguely disappointed.
"We are trying to form a Botanical Society in London. Trying to convince
George to have it in Regent s Park."
"Perhaps in thirty or forty years when they finally complete the blasted
thing. You re going to be waiting a long time, Chalmers." She touched a
leaf. "Although the park does have promise."
"Regent s Park isn't open to the public."
She shrugged. "Guess you are right."
He shook his head. "No walls keep you out. So, when do you plan to go to
Newgate? How do you plan to gain entrance?"
Audrey tried to keep Travers s reaction to her breaking her sister out of
prison from her mind. "You can get us in."
He nodded. "Yes, but I can t just stroll back out with your sister in tow. "
"No, but my first goal is to locate her and assess the situation. If there is
any way to bribe the guards, that would be the best plan. I have profiles
on most of them. Their vices, bad habits, and a few dirty secrets. I'll use
those if I have to."
Stephen touched a large leaf on one of the plants. "I thought you said
there was going to be nothing illegal?"
"My sister was locked in there on wrongful charges. She isn't even listed
under her real name. Nothing about her imprisonment has been legal."
"Although you both have stolen enough to be in there a hundred times
Audrey pressed her lips together. "But not this time. We left the business
last year."
He surveyed her. "So tomorrow we take a tour of Newgate, locate your
sister, and plan from there."
A hot current of fear ran through her. "Yes, tomorrow would be best.
Early morning. I ll give you money, and if we can t bribe anyone, then
you will keep it as part of your fee."
His eyes narrowed, but he nodded. She had the feeling she had just
insulted him, but that was the least of her worries now. Travers and
Newgate. She had to avoid Travers tonight and somehow live through the
visit to Newgate in the morning.
"We will have to leave early in the morning."
She worried her lip, still thinking about the other problems. She nodded
absently to his statement.
"Might be best if you stayed here."
He walked to the door and called for one of the footmen. A man appeared
at the door, and Stephen told him to have the servants ready a guest
She looked up. Staying here would be the best option. Travers could even
now be prowling through her house. "I need different clothes for
tomorrow. I can t go like this."
He looked at her costume and a smile lifted his lips. "Are you sure? I bet
we could bring your sister out easily using you as a distraction."
He closed the door and walked toward her. Or stalked toward her, it was
hard to tell.
"l suppose we could alter your garment." He trailed a finger through the
shoulder strap and followed the flow of the material down her side, lightly
brushing her breasts. "But it might take all night." He traced the sash with
his fingertips, then ran his fingers up her arm.
Her heart urged him to continue, while her brain screamed to stop.
"I m not sure there is enough material."
"Oh, there is plenty of material to keep us busy." He reached into her hair
and loosened the pins. Tendrils fell down her back as each pin was
removed. The slow pace of the movements made each brush of hair a
wicked sensation. He slowly pulled the ribbon from her hair, the satin
whispering against her skin.
His lips lightly caressed her neck, soft as the satin had been. "You should
never rush a masterpiece."
He didn t stop touching her, just the barest of touches with his lips, his
fingers feathering her skin. She started to touch him, but he stepped away,
looking down at her. His lids lowered, his eyes burning beneath. "Advice
I should follow. "
He touched the strap of her gown once more. "You can borrow one of the
maid's dresses. I m sure Grimmond will find it odd when l ask, but a day
barely goes by when he doesn t find a request from me odd."
She bit her lip and moved away from him, wanting nothing more than to
bury her head against his chest. "l will see you in the morning then. Good
night, Stephen."
"Good night, Audrey." He ran her satin ribbon through his fingers. She
could feel his eyes on her as she left, but nothing more was said. She
walked as slowly as she could manage to her room.
Remember the mission. Remember the rules. Remember the pain, Audrey.
But nothing could help the ache that had started in her heart. She tugged
the edge of her costume; it had started to chafe more than her skin.
Chapter 11
Morning light seeped through the shades as Audrey watched Stephen dip
the nib of a quill into an ornate inkstand. An assortment of steel and gold
pen points was splayed across the table. Flashes of light reflected from the
mother-of-pearl onto the walls as he twirled the pen, his brow creased in
thought. He had said the series of notes would be their secondary plan if
something went wrong.
Feeling uncomfortable from studying him for so long, she wandered
around his library. lf a man s wealth was measured by the quantity of his
books, Stephen was extraordinarily blessed. Two long mahogany-paneled
walls were filled floor to ceiling with shelves of leather-bound volumes.
A fireplace dominated the exterior wall, and huge windows on each side
bathed the room with light. It was grand, yet because of the wide variety
of trailing plants and hanging baskets, unpretentious and relaxing.
She touched a book by Voltaire that she hadn t yet read. She skimmed her
fingers across others on the shelf and sighed. To possess so many books .
. . And he was supposed to be in debt.
It was all unreal. Considering the previous night s escapade, she had
awakened remarkably refreshed. Stephen s housekeeper knocked then
entered, arms laden with durable garments. Audrey changed into the
dowdiest brown serge that was cut in the most unflattering lines. The
dress hung from her slight frame. The serviceable garments made her feel
invisible and comfortable in the morning light. Useful. More real.
She touched another volume and turned to find Stephen watching her. An
imperceptible smile curved his lips. He looked down and picked up the
list, as if not wishing to be caught staring. She found the thought
comforting. She was not alone in her confusion.
"Are we ready to leave?"
He nodded. "Yes. Cook packed several berry scones for us to eat on the
way. Gather your belongings and let s be off."
She tied the unremarkable bonnet in place. One thing to be said for
servants' garb, it was practical. Not quite as comfortable as her custom
outfits, but more serviceable than dressing as a lady. `
Stephen walked to the door, but Audrey found her feet rooted to the floor.
She grimaced and awkwardly pushed forward. If he noticed her struggle,
he was gracious enough not to mention it.
They entered his carriage and headed east. Her stomach started churning,
and her legs felt weak. Perhaps she should eat something. In her current [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]


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