The Husband Hunt
- Text Font:
- Text Size:
- Line Height:
- Line Break Height:
Robert stared at Smithe blankly. "Findlay?"
"Hmm. Never heard much of the man myself. Know he's a respected Baron and such, or supposed to be. But it turns out he's one dissolute bastard for all that," Smithe said and consulted a small notebook. "Too fond of drink and gambling. Likes prostitutes, but they don't like him so much 'cause he apparently only finds his pleasure by inflicting pain on others. Has a violent temper and wants what he wants." He flipped the notebook closed and glanced to Robert. "Seems he's wanted Miss Madison for a while. Apparently had some plan to get her a couple years ago with the help of her brother-in-law." He paused and raised an eyebrow. "That would be Lord Radnor."
"His brother," Robert assured him grimly. "Not Lord Radnor, but his brother George."
"Hmm." Smithe looked dubious, but let it go and continued, "It seems those plans he had apparently ran amuck and he's been awaiting his chance to get at her again. It was just happenstance that Mrs. Morgan got involved. He was at the brothel the night before the incident that led to her being locked up there. Morgan happened to mention she was expecting the girl to tea the next day. I gather Findlay immediately pounced on that, then paid her scads of money to drug the girl, prepare her for him and present her for his pleasure. Said he was going to marry her . . . after." He shrugged. "Mrs. Morgan swears that's the only reason she agreed to it. The girl would be married all good and proper to a fine, respected lord and no harm done," he finished dryly.
Robert sat back with a curse. He'd suspected one of the men currying favor with Lisa might be the suitor, but he'd suspected Pembroke, not Findlay. It was Pembroke's pastries that had made her ill and forced her to stay home the night she was attacked. And it was at Pembroke's outing where the second attack had occurred. Of course, that had helped to push the suspicion Pembroke's way and he supposed a smart man would want the suspicion elsewhere. It had left Findlay free to court Lisa without interference. It had also knocked out his only strong competition when Robert had suggested Lisa stay away from Pembroke.
"Damn," he muttered.
Smithe nodded and pointed out, "There's little that can be done about Lord Findlay legally without tarnishing Miss Madison's reputation." He allowed a moment to pass and then added, "And even if you were willing to risk that, without Mrs. Morgan here as a witness to his involvement, it would be difficult to prove anything. But you did say to let the woman go if she gave us the name and so that's what we did."
Robert grunted at these words. He'd already realized all of that before he'd even known who the suitor was. He had no intention of going through legal channels to handle the man. He intended on hunting the bastard down and personally beating the hell out of him for putting Lisa through all of this, and for what he would have put her through had she not escaped Mrs. Morgan's that day.
"Of course, there are other, less legal ways to deal with a man like that," Smithe continued as if reading Robert's mind. "I don't usually encourage that sort of thing, but in this case it does seem the only way to keep the young lady safe . . . short of her marrying someone else and being removed as temptation. Is there any chance she will marry soon?"
"A very good chance indeed," Robert assured him grimly. His talk with Richard the night before had cleared his mind on certain issues and he had been trying to tell Lisa that when Smithe arrived. The minute the man was gone he would return to the parlor and tell her of the epiphany he'd had. How he'd realized that what he'd thought was true about his childhood and his mother wasn't true at all. That he'd come to see that his father was a bitter old woman hater who had infected him with his poison, but she was the antidote. He would tell her that he realized now how irrational and stupid his thoughts on marriage and wives had become, and that he did trust her, with all his heart.
Of course, Robert acknowledged that he would have the occasional habitual doubt enter his mind that he would have to fight off and deal with, but he would do his damnedest to ensure he did not take them out on Lisa. He would not drive her away as his father had done with his mother. He would cherish her and keep her close all the days they had together.
"Well, that ensures her safety at least. Findlay can hardly marry a married woman," Smithe said with satisfaction. "As for the other, there is a risk he might still try to get her alone to have his way with her, but I suspect a stern talking to and a fist or two to the man's face would be enough to discourage him from taking that tack."
"Undoubtedly," Robert agreed dryly.
"Just let me know if you want a couple of my boys to give him that talk and I'll see to it," Smithe said, standing up.
"I think I would prefer to handle that myself," Robert said silkily, getting to his feet as well.
"I thought you might," Smithe said with a grin as Robert walked him to the office door. "It's what I would do."
Robert didn't comment, but ushered him out into the hall and toward the front door. His fists were itching to plant themselves in Findlay's face.
"I shall send you my bill, my lord," Smithe said, pausing at the front door. Glancing back he raised one eyebrow. "To your proper address and not here, I imagine?"
"Yes. Please," Robert said, opening the door for him. "Very good." Smithe nodded and then turned to step outside. Robert watched him go to his carriage, then closed the door and turned to head up the hall.
The parlor door was still closed, and he paused to take a breath and sort out what he would say before opening it. He had a distinct sense of deja vu when he finally pulled the door open and found himself staring in at an empty parlor.
"Handers!" he bellowed, wheeling toward the kitchens.
Lisa stared at Charles with shock and horror as his words played through her head. "That Langley has bedded you?"
"Forgive me for being so blunt," Charles said gently. "But it is rather obvious that's what has happened."
"How?" she asked with dismay.
Charles hesitated and then sighed. "Well, the way he looks at you has never been anything like filial. At first he watched you with a hunger only another man would recognize. But today, and the last time I saw you . . ." He paused briefly and said, "The day we had our picnic you were studiously ignoring him, but he could not take his eyes off you. His gaze roamed over you with the knowledge of a lover. And then, of course, I suspected something had happened the night you asked me to kiss you punishingly. You said he had kissed you as punishment, but it was more than a kiss, was it not?"
"Yes, but not - it was the next night that he - we - I - " She grimaced, and shook her head. "You may retract your proposal, my lord. I understand completely that you couldn't possibly want me now that you know."
"And yet I do," he said wryly, and smiled at her startled expression. "Lisa, you are a very attractive woman. I had heard of you before I met you, but once I met you . . ." He shrugged. "I have wanted you ever since first seeing you that night at the Landons' ball two seasons ago."
When she shook her head and tried to sit back, he kept hold of her hands and said, "It's true. I simply could not get you out of my head. All other women were faded pastels next to the vibrant crimson of your image in my memory. And I have spent a good portion of these last two years wishing I had snatched you up and run off to Gretna Green with you right there and then."
When her eyes widened incredulously, he shrugged. "I wish it even more now that I know that Langley took advantage of you. At least I could have saved you from that."
Lisa frowned. Robert hadn't taken advantage of her. She'd gone to his room fully intending to seduce and trap him into marriage. Of course, she hadn't had to try very hard, but he hadn't taken advantage of her at all.
"I do want you," Charles said firmly. "But, unlike Langley, my intentions are honorable and I would marry you first." He leaned closer, his expression gentle. "Say yes and I will have the driver head for Gretna Green right now. You can put Langley and everything that has happened firmly behind you and be Lady Findlay. We can live quietly in the country, reading our books, paddling on the water and exploring each other's bodies at night."
Charles brushed a hand down her cheek as he said the last, and Lisa was hard-pressed to keep from flinching. Her reaction was as much at the thought of their exploring each other's bodies as anything else. The idea held no appeal for her at all. She couldn't find it in her to want to explore him. She couldn't even imagine anyone's body but Robert's beside her in bed, Lisa acknowledged, and that is when she realized just how stupid she had been to think she could marry anyone else.
This was not like switching one dress for another. This was a husband. A man who would expect her to do with him all those intimate things she'd done with Robert. Who would have the right to strip her, and touch her in places and ways that were . . . She shuddered at the very thought of marrying this man or anyone who was not Robert and letting him caress or suckle her, or bury his body in hers. If Robert could not see his way clear to believing she could be faithful, she would just rather be an old maid and single for the rest of her life.
Sighing, she raised her head and offered an apologetic smile. "I am sorry, my lord. I am touched, but I could not." When he released her hands and sat back in his seat, she bit her lip and tried to soften her rejection by pointing out, "I might be carrying his child, my lord. Surely you wouldn't want to raise his child as your own. You'd resent it, and me." She shook her head. "I like you too much to saddle you with another man's child. Besides, I would probably make you miserable. I really have loved Robert my whole life. I can't imagine that would ever change. I would be married to you and forever pining after him. I - "
"It is unfortunate you are such a romantic, my dear," Charles interrupted coldly. "A little practicality in that addlepated head of yours would have gone a long way toward making this easier."
Lisa gasped at the insult, shocked by the sudden change in his behavior. It seemed that since she was going to refuse him, he was taking off the kid gloves and showing his true thoughts of her. Addlepated? Because she loved another?
"Of course, it is not entirely your fault," Charles said. "Had Mrs. Morgan not allowed you to escape, we would have married the day after you arrived in London and Langley never would have got the chance to deflower you. He would already be nothing more than a faded memory next to the exquisite sensation I made you feel." Lisa blinked at him several times as her mind struggled to make sense of what she'd heard. Mrs. Morgan?
"You are the suitor," she said slowly, wondering that she wasn't more shocked by the realization.
"Yes, I am. And you will marry me," he said calmly. "It has been the plan for years now and I am not losing out on that delicious body of yours because you have some romantic notion that you love Robert Langley, a man who doesn't even want you," he added dryly.
Lisa stared at him silently as very old puzzle pieces began fitting together with new ones in her head.
"You were the second man in cahoots with Dicky, I mean George," she murmured faintly as the past crashed with the present in her head. Two years ago she and Suzette had come to London to chase down their father and find out why he had not returned to the country estate and why he was not replying to any of their letters. They'd arrived to find him in his cups, bemoaning the fact that he'd gambled them to the edge of ruin.
In a panic, they had gone to Christiana, hoping that she could help them with a mad plan to find Suzette a husband who would be willing to pay off their father's debt in exchange for marrying Suzette and gaining the rather exorbitant dower their grandfather had left her. One he'd left to each of the girls.
However, they'd arrived at Christiana's home to find that all was not well with her marriage. The man who had wooed her with such vigor and charm a year earlier had become a cruel, controlling tyrant. That being the case, it had been more than a relief when the man had accommodatingly cocked up his toes and died the day of their arrival. At least it had been until they'd realized that his death would mean going into mourning and losing the chance to find Suzette a husband.
In the end, the three sisters had done the only thing they could do; they'd hidden the death of Christiana's husband and set out to attend balls and such to find Suzette a husband who met their requirements. Imagine their amazement when Christiana's dead husband had come sauntering into the Landons' ball on the first night of the season.
It had turned out that the man Christiana had married wasn't Richard Fairgrave, the Earl of Radnor at all, but his twin brother, George, who had hired men to kill Richard so that he might take his place. However, George's hired assassins had reneged on their end of the deal, leaving Richard alive and well in America. And it was he who showed up at the ball that night, seeking justice and his life back, and scaring the three sisters silly.
They soon found out that fratricide and fraud weren't George's only sins. The man had found out about the large dowers the girls had been left by their maternal grandfather. That was the reason he'd married Christiana. And he'd been in cahoots with two other men to marry all three of the sisters and then see them dead in one grand accident that would have left the men rich widowers. The identity of Suzette's would-be husband and murderer had been discovered during the unraveling of who had killed George. But they had never sorted out who was supposed to marry Lisa. Until now. "Yes, I was the third man in the plot to marry and kill off you and your sisters," Charles admitted, unabashed. "In truth, I wasn't all that interested when George suggested his plot to me. I like to gamble, but not as much as he does, and I have a very healthy estate that furnishes me with all the money I need to fund my play." He shrugged. "However, after seeing you at the Landons' ball . . ." He smiled wryly. "All that pale, perfect, lily-white skin and that golden glory crowning your head."
His gaze moved over her slowly, taking in every inch of the skin he spoke of so lovingly, and then up to caress her golden hair. "Well, I was sold on the plan then. I could not wait to get my hands on you and see how much more lovely your skin would look when mottled with a rainbow of bruises and welts. Or how that beautiful singsong voice of yours would sound when you moaned with pleasured pain."
Charles paused and leaned forward to push Lisa's chin up, closing her gaping mouth. She shrank back in her seat the moment he touched her, however, a shudder running down her back at the image he'd painted.
"Sadly," he continued, seeming unconcerned by her reaction, "Fate intervened and made attaining you rather difficult in the end.
First George's plan went awry when he foolishly got himself murdered. Which was probably for the best. I'm sure we would have had a falling-out when I refused to let him kill you. However, then you and your father left town, making it virtually impossible to even try to woo or seduce you into marrying me." He scowled at her with displeasure. "And you stayed away for two damned years, languishing in the country, where I had no excuse to see you to woo you."
Findlay shook his head with disgust. "I had pretty much given up on having you when Mrs. Morgan happened to mention that you were in town and coming to tea." He shook his head with a laugh. "Well, it seemed too perfect to be true. I could have you, drag you off to Gretna Green and marry you, and then enjoy you at my leisure, forever. Imagine it, Lisa, years and years of exquisite play, exploring how much pain the body can take, and how much pleasure we can get from it," he said it as if she should be pleased that he planned to torture her for the next forty years or so, and then his mouth twisted with displeasure.
"Unfortunately, that old cow allowed you to escape, and I was forced to change my plans. I returned to the original plan of wooing and seducing you, but took the opportunities where I found them to try to claim you more quickly as well. However, it soon became obvious that you were interested in Robert, and no man had a chance at wooing you." His mouth twisted with displeasure, and then he added, "Even so, I stayed close in the hopes of keeping tabs on you and where you would be so that should the opportunity arise again, I could claim you and carry you off."
And she'd given him the perfect opportunity by hopping happily into his carriage today, Lisa realized grimly, but said, "You were behind the attack in my room the night I wasn't feeling well?" He nodded.
Lisa frowned. "But how did you know I would be home? I didn't even know until I got sick from eating Pembroke's sweets. I planned to attend the ball that night."
"I knew because it wasn't Pembroke's sweets that made you sick," he said with mild amusement.
Lisa sat back slightly, her eyes narrowing. "It wasn't?"
Charles shook his head. "I slipped an emetic into your tea while Tibald was telling you all about the runner he'd hired. You were so busy chattering away, you didn't drink the tea until everyone got up to leave." He smiled wryly. "From the way you grimaced as you downed it, I thought for sure you would jump up and say there was something in your tea, but you didn't."
"It was cold and nasty but I thought it was just because I'd let it sit so long," she said quietly, recalling the sickly sweet taste. "Ahh." Charles nodded, and then commented, "The emetic was supposed to be fast acting. I imagine you probably barely got upstairs before the vomiting started."
"I made it all the way to my room first," she informed him coldly. "Hmm." He shrugged. "Not as fast acting as claimed then. Ah well, it's for the best, I suppose. Seeing other people get ill tends to turn my own stomach so it wouldn't have done for you to vomit on me."
Lisa was starting to think it was a shame she hadn't. She also thought she would definitely keep that tidbit handy for future reference. If she didn't escape, she would vomit on the man at every opportunity.
"And the attack during Pembroke's outing?" she asked, pushing away the possibility of not escaping.
Findlay shrugged with amusement. "He refrained from inviting me to it. Or Tibald for that matter. Cutting out the competition. Most unsporting of him, really," he said with a tsk, and then shrugged. "It didn't matter though, I knew what he'd arranged and bribed the boat captain to tell me where the planned stop for the picnic was so that I could send my man ahead to lay in wait."
He considered her for a moment and then admitted, "In truth, I didn't expect there to be much hope of grabbing you there. I expected you to stick close to the others, or for Langley to be keeping such a close eye that there would be no chance to snatch you. But you decided to walk along the beach, and while Robert followed, he then turned to leave you there."
"You were there?" Lisa asked with surprise.
"Good Lord, no. I was at my club, establishing my alibi so no one would come looking when I disappeared for a couple days to drag you to Gretna Green."
"Oh," she muttered.
"No, I sent my man. Sadly, from what he's told me, he tried to grab you too soon. He should have waited for Robert to return to the others. He said afterward that he was worried Langley would merely move away a bit and then turn to watch you from a distance, so he took the chance." Findlay shook his head at what he obviously thought had been a foolhardy decision. "The idiot earned himself a nasty knot on the head for his trouble too. But I gather he got in a good jab with his knife on Langley before that? At least he claimed he did."
"Not such a good jab. Robert managed to deflower me the next night despite the trifling wound," she said spitefully. Charles's mouth tightened. "That is most disappointing."
"Good," Lisa said grimly. "I hope you choke on that knowledge."
Now he smiled. "So the kitten does have claws. Delightful. I like fight with my fun."
"I don't know about fun, but you'll certainly get a lot of fight from me, my lord," she assured him, and reached for the handle to the carriage door. But, as if he'd been waiting for just that, Charles caught her wrist at once and twisted viciously as he dragged it away from the door.
Lisa cried out and fell back on the bench seat as he released her. Cupping the injured arm with her good hand, she stared at him as a pleased little smile claimed his lips.
"Does it hurt very much?" Charles asked solicitously.
Sensing that he would enjoy knowing he'd hurt her, Lisa removed her good hand from the wounded wrist and shrugged.
"Not very, my lord."
As she'd expected, his mouth twisted slightly with disappointment at her words.
Suspecting he would try to hurt her again as punishment, Lisa quickly said, "I gather we are not on the way back to Radnor house?"
Charles blinked and then seemed to relax again and smile. "You are right, of course. We are on the way to my townhouse. I will continue my routine here in town for the next week or so to ensure suspicion is not cast my way, then retreat to the country, heartbroken at what I think is your defection after accepting my proposal."
"That's why you acted as if we were engaged with Robert," she said with realization. "I thought you were just trying to protect my reputation after getting caught kissing me."
He grinned. "Your reputation was already shot, my dear.
Langley had bedded you, remember? I did suspect as much even then," he assured her and then added, "No, I claimed we were engaged so that I could play the wounded and bewildered swain when you come up missing. I can go to Radnor and demand to know what is being done to find you. As your fiance, they will keep me apprised of everything and in a week or so . . ." He shrugged. "You retreat to the country with your broken heart," Lisa repeated his words dryly.
"Exactly. At least that is what they will think. Instead I will be headed to Gretna Green with you."
"You cannot really think I will marry you?" she asked with amazement. "You cannot force me to say the words in front of the blacksmith."
"My dear Lisa," he said with cocky amusement. "After a week with me you will do whatever I wish you to."
The words sent a chill down the back of Lisa's neck.
"Ah, we're here," Charles announced, peering out the window as the carriage slowed.
Lisa stiffened. If she was going to escape, this was the time to do it. She had no idea where Charles lived, but it would be in an elite area with people everywhere. All she had to do was scream and make a break for it the minute she was out of the carriage and someone would help, Lisa thought, and then glanced to Findlay sharply when he suddenly snickered.
"It always amuses me when this point comes. You women all think alike, you know. Every one of you starts scheming, hope rising in your breast like a wave. You will get away now. This is your chance. Scream and run, or just run, or some such thing, you all think." He shook his head at her folly and said derisively, "As if I have not been taking unwilling women into my home for years and learned how best to do it with the minimum of risk and fuss."
The words were like a splash of cold water in Lisa's face. He had been taking unwilling women into his home for years? What for? And what had happened to those women? Certainly, he hadn't married them as he claimed he intended to do with her, she thought, and then glanced nervously from Charles to the door as the carriage stopped. Her body was tightening, preparing to flee despite his words, the blood pumping through her body in a rush.
Lisa was so tightly strung that when the carriage door opened, she actually gave a little start. She was hoping to see what lay beyond, but a large man filled the opening. Big beefy arms reached in, and before she quite knew what was happening, one sweaty hand was mashing her lips against her teeth and the other was yanking her out the door. She instinctively began to kick and thrash, but it was like doing battle with a wall. Her arms were pinned uselessly to her sides and her feet slammed into what could have been tree trunks, having as much impact as a child's weak blows.
Lisa was carted no more than four feet from the carriage to an open door. It was just long enough to see that they hadn't stopped in front of a house on a busy street, but in a high-walled courtyard at what was obviously the back of the house. No wonder Charles had been amused at her hopes of escape. She hadn't had a chance, she realized.
"Take her to the room, Max," Charles's voice ordered as they entered a large, hot kitchen. "I shall be along shortly."
Lisa glanced wildly around, peering over the large hand covering her mouth and lower face. The hand wasn't just covering her mouth, but her nose as well and she couldn't get any air. She began to struggle more desperately, afraid she was going to be smothered to death, but it had little effect and her vision was dimming by the time she was carted through a kitchen, down a narrow set of steps, and across an open area to a door with a small barred window in it.
Her captor kicked at the base of the door, sending it swinging open. He then walked in and dropped her.
Lisa grunted in pain as she landed on something hard, and then simply lay still for a moment, desperately gasping air into her starved lungs. After a moment, however, she began to feel better and found the energy to raise herself up to a sitting position and peer about.
The only light was that coming from the barred window. It was just enough to see that she was in a tiny room with nothing but the narrow bed she had been dumped on. The mattress was hard and appeared to be stuffed with matted straw. The floor of the room was nothing more than hard-packed dirt. A basement then.
Pushing herself up from the bed, Lisa stumbled to the door and searched for a doorknob, but there was none, at least not on the inside, so she grabbed and pulled then pushed on the bars but that did nothing. The door didn't budge at all. Teeth grinding together, she peered through the bars into the room beyond and stared in horror at the scene. It looked like an ancient torture chamber with shackles everywhere: hanging from the ceiling, affixed to the walls at intervals, and even fitted on each corner of a table in the center of the open area. But it was the various whips and straps also hanging from the walls that made her blood run cold. She swore the ends of some of the items were painted with dried blood.
Swallowing, Lisa backed away and returned to sit shakily on the bed. Mrs. Morgan had understated things when she'd said that the suitor liked it a bit rough. Charles Findlay was obviously one of those twisted individuals who enjoyed inflicting pain, and in many and varied ways. Well, she wasn't going to sit about awaiting the fate he had planned for her. She would escape, Lisa decided, standing up. She just had to figure out how.
"Findlay?" Richard repeated the name with a frown.
"Yes," Robert said grimly, pacing to the parlor window and peering out at the street for the umpteenth time since finding Lisa missing.
"Bastard," Daniel muttered. "I've heard some gossip about him abusing prostitutes, but I didn't think he'd go after a woman of the gentry."
"Hmm," Robert muttered, staring at the empty street in front of the house and willing the hack Lisa had left in to roll up and for her to step lightly out, healthy, happy and well. It didn't happen of course, but then it hadn't happened any of the other times he'd willed it either.
"And Lisa has been gone all afternoon?" Daniel asked.
"Yes," Robert growled. "She had Harry hire a hack to take her out to hire a runner."
"What?" Richard asked with surprise. "Why is she hiring a runner?"
Robert ground his teeth together and then reluctantly admitted, "Bet says she wanted to hire a runner to guard her so that I didn't have to."
There was silence for a minute and then Daniel asked, "And she went by herself? She didn't even take Bet?"
"Apparently she was supposed to take Bet and a footman, but she ran off without either of them."
"Are we sure she went willingly and wasn't taken?" Richard asked grimly.
Robert sighed and rubbed his forehead. "Handers saw her leave. He said she ran out of the parlor and charged out the front door straight into the hack. He said she seemed upset."
"Why would she be upset?" Richard asked solemnly.
Robert shrugged. "We were talking just before that, but were interrupted. I said we would finish the talk when I was done."
"And she ran off to avoid that," Daniel guessed dryly, and walked over to slap him on the back. "You do seem to have a way with Lisa."
"Your sarcasm is not appreciated," Robert growled. "I was trying to tell her that I had come to the realization that my fears about her being unfaithful were ungrounded, a result of my father's woman-hating paranoia."
"I knew you'd come around eventually," Richard said quietly.
"What did it?"
"Our talk last night," Robert admitted without glancing around. "You were right, Richard. My father was a bitter, woman-hating idiot." He sighed and shook his head. "Once I recognized that, it made me look at everything a little more objectively."
"Hmmm," Daniel grunted. "You say you were trying to tell Lisa that. Was she not listening?"
"She didn't get much of a chance to listen. I didn't get far before Handers announced that Smithe was here and I had to leave."
"And then she left," Daniel murmured and stepped up beside Robert to peer out the window. "She has been gone more than two hours then."
"I know. I didn't worry at first, travel can be slow this time of day, and the appointment may have taken as much as an hour. Still, just before you two returned, I sent Harry to check and be sure the hack driver isn't back without her or something. He's to come tell me what he learns when he returns." Robert had barely finished speaking the words when an uproar in the hall made him turn to peer at the door curiously. Richard was just moving toward the door to check on it when it burst open and Harry appeared, dragging a coachman by a hard grip on his upper arm.
"Sorry to burst in, my lord," the stable master muttered with a nod to his master. "But I'm thinking you'll want to hear what this "gentleman" has to say about what he did to Miss Lisa."
"I didn't do nothing," the man protested, jerking wildly at his arm in an effort to try to get free of Harry's iron hold. "Didn't do a thing. Never hurt anyone in my life and didn't hurt her none either."
"Tell him what you told me," Harry barked, giving him a shake, and then before he could speak, turned to Robert. "He let Miss Lisa out in the worst part of the city and then scarpered off, leaving her without protection or nothing," Harry announced with disgust.
"Tried to tell me that she insisted he go and leave her, but Miss Lisa wouldn't do that, so I got a little persuasive-like with my crop. He finally admitted that just before Miss Lisa came out of the house, a feller what looked like a lord approached him, offering him a bag of coins if he left her wherever she was having him take her." Harry scowled at the wincing driver and growled, "And he took it, he did. Abandoned her there like some poor, homeless waif."
"Where?" Robert growled, crossing the room to glare down at the man. It was all he had to do, the driver babbled the address at once and Robert's head snapped back with shock. It was possibly the worst part of the city. No woman would be safe there, let alone a beautiful, unprotected woman like Lisa.
He started for the door without even thinking about it, but stopped abruptly when Richard caught his arm. "She won't be there anymore, Robert. He left her there more than two hours ago."
Robert stopped abruptly at those words and turned back with a frown.
"If Findlay had him leave her there, it was for a reason," Richard pointed out quietly. "No doubt he showed up to save the day when she was stranded."
"Yes," Daniel said dryly. "And she would have been so relieved to see a friendly face in that neighborhood that she would have climbed right into his carriage like a lamb to the slaughter."
Robert winced at the description, and said, "Then I shall go to Findlay's."
"He could already be dragging her off to Gretna Green," Daniel pointed out. "Mrs. Morgan said he planned to marry her."
"After he ravished her," Richard reminded him quietly.
Robert whirled toward the door again, but Richard caught him back once more. "Think, man. You can't just go rushing off to Findlay's place. He could be taking her away right now. Plans change."
"You're right," Robert said with a frown, recognizing the wisdom in his words. "We need to plan and cover all possibilities. And we could use some help. Smithe and his men would be useful." "Now you're thinking," Richard said, sounding relieved. He then suggested, "Send a message to Smithe to come here. We will sort out the various possibilities and decide who should check what. With enough men we can cover all of them and hopefully rescue Lisa before he has a chance to harm her or force her to marry him."
"If he forces her to marry him, she will be a widow by nightfall," Robert promised grimly.