He knew the exact house, a huge Georgian mansion in Brook Street, where the Earl of Fenwick lived.
What he didn’t understand was what had drawn him there tonight.
Adam swore a quiet oath, thinking of Jillian Whitney, fighting the attraction he had felt for her since the first moment he saw her. Forgodsake, the girl was the old man’s mistress! She had bartered herself like a piece of meat for the expensive clothes she wore, for the fancy black coach and flashy matched grays that carried her each morning to the park.
He knew about women like Jillian. Hadn’t he nearly married Carolyn Harding? Would have, if he hadn’t found her in bed with his cousin Robert.
Then there was Maria. The duel he had fought with her husband left a far deeper scar on the inside than the one he carried along his jaw.
And yet when he thought of Jillian, sitting on the bench beside the pond, when he remembered the sound of her laughter as she sat there quietly feeding the ducks, he didn’t feel the anger and hostility he felt when he thought of Caroline or Maria, instead he felt an odd sort of peace he hadn’t known since before the war.
The huge stone house loomed ahead, lamplight gleaming from a dozen different windows on the first and second stories. He wondered which room was Jillian’s, wondered if the old man was brazen enough to install her in the countess’s bedchamber next to his own. He imagined how the servants must feel about the old earl’s mistress being kept right there in the house and almost felt sorry for Jillian Whitney.
He paused in the shadows across the street, leaned back against the trunk of a tree. Had she really been so desperate? Had her father left her with no other choice?
Other speculations rose into his mind, but the echo of a gunshot brought them to a sudden end. There was no mistaking the sound, not after eight long years in the army. And the shot had come from inside the Earl of Fenwick’s house.
Adam moved in that direction, careful to stay in the shadows. A scream came from somewhere inside and a few seconds later the front door burst open.
“We need a watchman! Someone call a watchman! The Earl of Fenwick has been kilt!”
From the corner of his eye, Adam caught a flicker of movement between the mansion and the house next door. A small, cloaked figure ran from the rear of the house toward the alley behind the mews. Moving silently, ignoring the shouts of the servants who streamed out into the street, he rounded the house next door and headed toward the mouth of the alley.
Waiting in the darkness at the entrance, he could hear the pounding of light, frantic footfalls. Beneath the hood of a billowing cloak, he could barely make out the shape of a woman. Adam stepped out of the shadows directly in front of her and she careened hard into his chest.
His arms tightened around her and she started to struggle in a futile effort to break his hold.
“Let me go!” She tried to kick him but the skirt of her gown got in the way. “Dear God–please let me go!”
A grim smile etched itself into the corner of his mouth. “Why, Miss Whitney. I hadn’t expected we would meet again so soon.”
The breath seemed to freeze in her lungs. She tilted her head back to look up at him and the hood of her cloak fell away, exposing her glorious red hair.
She swallowed her eyes locked on his face. “Blackwood…” she whispered. And that was all she said.
Order Fanning The Flame Today!