“You cannot win against me,” he snarled.
“I shal try,” Anne said softly. Because she was not giving up without a fight. And if he managed to destroy her, then as God was her witness, she was taking him down, too.
The Pleinsworth coach sped along the Hampstead Road, the team of six puling the carriage with speeds not often seen on the route. If they looked out of place—a large, opulent coach going breakneck speed with armed outriders—Daniel did not care. They might attract attention, but not from Chervil. He was at least an hour ahead of them; if he was indeed going to an inn in Hampstead, he would be there already, inside and thus unlikely to see them on the street.
Unless the room was facing the street . . .
Daniel let out a shaky breath. He would have to cross that bridge if he came to it. He could either get to Anne quickly or stealthily, and given what she’d told him of Chervil, he was opting for speed.
“We will find her,” Marcus said in a quiet voice.
Daniel looked up. Marcus did not radiate power and swagger, but then again, he never had. Marcus was dependable, and quietly confident, and right then, his eyes held a resoluteness that Daniel found comforting. Daniel gave a nod, then turned back to the window. Beside him his aunt was keeping up a steady stream of nervous chatter as she clutched Frances’s hand. Frances kept saying, “I don’t see it. I don’t see his carriage yet,” even though Daniel had more than once told her that they had not yet reached Hampstead.
“Are you sure you will be able to recognize the carriage?” Lady Pleinsworth asked Frances with a dubious frown. “One looks very much like another to me.
Unless there is a crest . . .”
“It’s got a funny bar on it,” Frances said. “I will know it.”
“What do you mean, a funny bar?” Daniel asked.
“I don’t know,” she said with a shrug. “I don’t think it does anything. It’s just for decoration. But it’s gold, and it swirls.” She made a motion in with her hand, and it brought to mind Anne’s hair the night before, when she had twisted her wet locks into a thick coil.
“Actualy,” Frances said, “it reminded me of a unicorn’s horn.”
Daniel felt himself smile. He turned to his aunt. “She will recognize the carriage.”
They sped past several of London’s outlying hamlets, finaly reaching the quaint vilage of Hampstead. Off in the distance, Daniel could see the wild green of the famed heath. It was a huge expanse of land, putting the London parks to shame.
“How do you want to do this?” Hugh asked. “It might be best to go on foot.”
“No!” Lady Pleinsworth turned on him with visible hostility. “Frances is not getting out of the carriage.”
“We will go up the high street,” Daniel said. “Everyone shal look for inns and public houses—anyplace where Chervil might have hired a room. Frances, you search for the carriage. If we don’t find anything, we shal start on the smaler aleys.” Hampstead seemed to have a remarkable number of inns. They passed the King Wiliam IV on the left, the Thatched House on the right, and then the Holy Bush on the left again, but even though Marcus hopped out to peer around the backs to look for anything resembling the “unicorn” carriage Frances had described, they found nothing. Just to be sure, Marcus and Daniel went inside each of the inns and asked if they had seen anyone matching Anne’s and George Chervil’s descriptions, but no one had.
And given the description Frances had given him of Chervil’s scar, Daniel rather thought Chervil would have been noticed. And remembered.
Daniel hopped back into the coach, which was waiting on the high street, attracting a fair bit of attention from the townspeople. Marcus had already returned, and he and Hugh were talking about something in animated, yet quiet, tones.
“Nothing?” Marcus asked, looking up.
“Nothing,” Daniel confirmed.
“There’s another inn,” Hugh said. “It’s inside the heath, on Spaniards Road. I have been there before.” He paused. “It’s more remote.”
“Let’s go,” Daniel said grimly. It was possible they had missed an inn near the high street, but they could always come back. And Frances had said that Chervil had specificaly mentioned “the heath.”
The carriage sped away, arriving five minutes later at The Spaniards Inn, which sat practicaly within the heath, its white-painted brick and black shutters elegant amidst the wilderness.
Frances pointed her arm and started to shriek.
Anne soon found out why George had chosen this particular inn. It was on a road that went right through Hampstead Heath, and while it wasn’t the only building on the road, it was considerably more isolated than the establishments in the center of the vilage. Which meant that if he timed it right (which he did), he could drag her out of the carriage, through a side door, and up to his room without anyone noticing. He had help, of course, in the form of his driver, who guarded her while George went in to retrieve his key.
“I don’t trust you to keep your mouth shut,” George growled as he shoved a gag in her mouth. It went without saying, Anne thought, that he couldn’t very well ask the innkeeper for his key while accompanied by a woman who had a smely old rag in her mouth. Not to mention hands tied behind her back.
George seemed eager for her to know all of his plans, and so he kept up a boastful monologue as he arranged the room to his liking.
“I’ve had this room for a week,” he said, shoving a chair in front of the door. “I wasn’t supposed to find you on the street last night without my carriage.” Anne stared at him in horrified fascination from her spot on the floor. Was he going to blame her for that?