“Oh, Daniel,” Frances cried, leaving Sarah’s side and throwing her arms around him. “You must find her. You must!”
“What happened?” he asked Sarah, who was still staring at him slackjawed. “Tell me everything. Did she leave a note?” She nodded. “Mother has it. It did not say much, though. Just that she was sorry but she had to leave.”
“She said she sent me a hug,” Frances said, her words muffling into his coat.
Daniel patted her on her back even as he kept his eyes firmly on Sarah. “Did she give any indication that she might not have left of her own volition?” Sarah gaped at him. “You don’t think someone kidnapped her?”
“I don’t know what to think,” he admitted.
“Nothing was out of place in her room,” Sarah told him. “All of her belongings were gone, but nothing else was amiss. Her bed was neatly made.”
“She always makes her bed,” Frances sniffled.
“Does anyone know when she left?” Daniel asked.
Sarah shook her head. “She did not take breakfast. So it must have been before that.”
Daniel swore under his breath, then carefuly disentangled himself from Frances’s grasp. He had no idea how to search for Anne; he didn’t even know where to start. She had left so few clues as to her background. It would have been laughable if he weren’t so terrified. He knew . . . what? The color of her parents’ eyes?
Wel, now, there was something that was going to help him find her.
He had nothing. Absolutely nothing.
He looked up. It was Granby, the long-standing Pleinsworth butler, and he looked uncharacteristicaly distraught.
“Might I have a word with you, sir?” Granby asked.
“Of course.” Daniel stepped away from Sarah, who was watching the two men with curiosity and confusion, and motioned to Granby to folow him into the sitting room.
“I heard you speaking with Lady Sarah,” Granby said uncomfortably. “I did not intend to eavesdrop.”
“Of course,” Daniel said briskly. “Go on.”
“You . . . care for Miss Wynter?”
Daniel regarded the butler carefuly, then nodded.
“A man came yesterday,” Granby said. “I should have said something to Lady Pleinsworth, but I wasn’t sure, and I did not want to tell tales about Miss Wynter if it turned out to be nothing. But now that it seems to be certain that she is gone . . .”
“What happened?” Daniel asked instantly.
The butler swalowed nervously. “A man came asking for a Miss Annelise Shawcross. I sent him away instantly; there is no one here by that name. But he was insistent, and he said Miss Shawcross might be using a different name. I did not like him, my lord, I can tell you that. He was . . .” Granby shook his head a little, almost as if trying to dislodge a bad memory. “I did not like him,” he said again.
“What did he say?”
“He described her. This Miss Shawcross. He said she had dark hair, and blue eyes, and that she was quite beautiful.”
“Miss Wynter,” Daniel said quietly. Or rather— Annelise Shawcross. Was that her real name? Why had she changed it?
Granby nodded. “It is exactly how I might have described her.”
“What did you tell him?” Daniel asked, trying to keep the urgency out of his voice. Granby was feeling guilty enough for not having come forward sooner, he could see that.
“I told him that we had no one in residence who matched that description. As I said, I did not like his aspect, and I would not jeopardize Miss Wynter’s welfare.” He paused. “I like our Miss Wynter.”
“I do, too,” Daniel said softly.
“That is why I am teling you this,” Granby said, his voice finaly finding some of the vigor with which it was usualy imbued. “You must find her.” Daniel took a long, unsteady breath and looked down at his hands. They were shaking. This had happened before, several times back in Italy, when Ramsgate’s men had come particularly close. Something had rushed through his body, some kind of terror in the blood, and it had taken him hours to feel normal again. But this was worse. His stomach churned, and his lungs felt tight, and more than anything, he wanted to throw up.
He knew fear. This went beyond fear.
He looked at Granby. “Do you think this man has taken her?”
“I do not know. But after he left, I saw her.” Granby turned and looked off to the right, and Daniel wondered if he was re-creating the scene in his mind. “She had been in the sitting room,” he said, “right over there by the door. She heard everything.”
“Are you sure?” Daniel asked.
“It was right there in her eyes,” Granby said quietly. “She is the woman he seeks. And she knew I knew.”
“What did you say to her?”
“I believe I remarked upon the weather. Or something of equal unimportance. And then I told her to carry on.” Granby cleared his throat. “I believe she understood that I did not intend to turn her in.”
“I’m sure she did,” Daniel said grimly. “But she may have felt that she must leave, nonetheless.” He didn’t know how much Granby knew about the curricle accident at Whipple Hil. Like everyone else, he probably thought that it had been Ramsgate’s work. But Anne obviously suspected otherwise, and it was clear that whoever had tried to hurt her did not care if anyone else was injured, too. Anne would never alow herself to put one of the Pleinsworth girls at risk. Or . . .