“Help me?” Andrew scoffed, swaying before him. “What a fine show of brotherly concern…I could almost believe you.”
“Put down the damned pistol and talk to me,” Logan said curtly.
“God, I despise you.” Andrew's hand shook as he trained the gun at Logan's midriff. “I never realized before how much like my father you are. Superior bastards with your filthy secrets, manipulating everyone around you—”
“I never treated you that way.”
Andrew shook his head in torment. “Jimmy…how could we not have known? All those years…”
“Andrew, wait,” Logan said, the blood draining from his face as his half brother cocked the pistol. “Andrew—”
There was a startling crack as the nearby flat collapsed, the hinged pieces snapping downward as if pushed by an unseen hand. Without any anchoring braces, the reinforced timber frame fell on Andrew before he had time to react. The gun went off with an ear-splitting explosion, a wayward bullet instantly burying itself in the side of the proscenium.
Madeline stood in the space where the flat had been, staring at the results of her efforts.
Logan gazed at her, frozen for a few seconds, registering that she was all right. He bent to shove the collapsed flat aside and crouched on the floor to grab his dazed half brother by the collar. Andrew reeked of wine, gin, and countless other distillations. His dazed eyes opened to stare into Logan's downturned face. As Logan had expected, the flat hadn't been heavy enough to hurt him. “What happened—” Andrew began.
Logan clipped him on the jaw, knocking him out cold. Subsiding peacefully onto the stage boards, Andrew began to snore.
Madeline hurried over to them. “Is he all right?”
Logan stood slowly. He resorted to the tactic of counting to ten, but it did nothing to stem the flood of panicked rage. He was afraid to touch her, afraid he might throttle her.
“What the hell was going through your mind?” he heard himself ask raggedly. “Did you give a thought to the safety of our child?”
“No, I…” Her bewildered gaze met his. “All I could think about was you.”
“I can damn well look after myself,” he roared, unable to keep from snatching her shoulders and shaking her. “By God, madam, you've finally managed to make me insane! I'm going to relive the past minute every day from now on until I'm a raving lunatic.”
“I could hardly stand by and watch him shoot you. There's no need to be angry. No one was hurt, and everything's all right now.” Her gaze traveled to Andrew's slumbering form. “For the most part.”
“Everything is not all right,” Logan said savagely, letting go of her. His heart still thundered in his chest. Half of him wanted to continue shaking her until her teeth rattled, while the other half wanted to crush her against him and cover every inch of her with violent kisses. The thought that she could have been hurt, even killed, filled him with sheer panic. He fought to shut away the tide of emotion, gritting his teeth and clenching his fists in the effort.
Madeline stared at him in obvious bewilderment. “I don't understand.”
“Then let me explain,” he replied, his voice turning ugly. “Your only value to me is the child you're carrying. All I've asked of you is to take care of him—and you're too damned impulsive and reckless to do even that.”
Madeline's face drained of blood. She looked blank except for a stricken expression in her eyes. “I…” She was strangely out of breath. “I'm sorry if you find me so lacking.”
They were interrupted by the company members who came rushing to the scene, having heard the gunshot as they worked in other parts of the theater.
“Who is that, and why—”
“Some bastard tried to shoot Mr. Scott!”
Logan crouched by Andrew once more. “It was an accident. No harm was done. Gather up Lord Drake and have him sent to my home, in my carriage. And be careful with him. He's ill.”
“stinking bloody soused is what he is,” some-one muttered as they obeyed his directives.
Logan threw a hard glance at Madeline. “He'll stay in our guest quarters. Do you have any objections?”
She shook her head briefly, her face suddenly infused with scarlet. “Why bother to ask? You've made it clear that my opinion means nothing to you.”
She sounded and looked different than he had ever seen her. Without thinking, he placed a hand on her back to guide her from the stage, and she jerked away from him. It was the first time she had ever rejected his touch.
“I don't need your help,” Madeline said stiffly. “All I need from you is the one thing you're determined never to give.” She walked away before he could reply, her spine rigid with an anger that disconcerted him. Had he ever seen her angry before? Damn her for making him feel somehow that he was in the wrong, when she was the one who had put herself in danger!
There was silence between them on the way home. Once there, Andrew slept soundly as the servants assisted Logan in assuring that he was clean and comfortable in the guest quarters. After sharing a hasty supper with Madeline, Logan prepared to return to the Capital for the scheduled performance that evening.
“Will you be all right?” he asked her tersely. “I can send for one of your family or friends to keep you company while I'm gone—”
“I'll be fine,” she replied, not meeting his eyes. “The servants will be here if I require anything, and I don't expect Lord Drake will awaken before tomorrow.”
“If he does, don't go near him.”
“Very well. When will you notify Lord Rochester that his son is still alive?”
“I'll let Andrew make that decision when he's able.” He stared at her assessingly. “Go to bed early. You've had a shock today. You need to rest.”
“You needn't be concerned,” Madeline said coolly, determined to match his brusqueness with her own. “The baby is fine.”
Scowling, he left without another word.
Madeline tried to summon her usual patience, remembering the wrong she had done him, her vow to earn his love slowly over time…but instead she experienced a new burst of anger. It seemed that her love and patience had gotten her nowhere. If this was how Logan wanted things between them, so be it! She was tired of being a martyr, tired of waiting and hoping. Clenching her fists, she went upstairs for a lengthy bath, hoping to soak away her tension in the hot, scented water.
Before retiring, Madeline went to her bedroom window and pushed the velvet curtain aside to glance out at the formal garden and the guest quarters in the other wing of the house. There was a light in the window of Lord Drake's room, and a flicker of movement within.
Lord Drake was awake, she surmised with a frown. No doubt he was guilt-ridden, drunk, and in pain. Madeline thought of ignoring the light in the window and letting him suffer alone. After what he had done that day, threatening her husband's life, he didn't deserve compassion. Moreover, Logan's edict to stay away from him still rang in her ears.
On the other hand, she wasn't a child or a servant to be ordered about. She was an adult, with the right to follow the promptings of her own conscience. Troubled, she rang for her maid and went to her armoire.
The maid appeared in a minute or two. “Yes, Mrs. Scott?” she asked, seeming perplexed by the sight of Madeline pulling a day gown from the armoire.
“Please help me change.” Madeline said. “I believe Lord Drake is awake. If so, I would like to speak with him.”
“But Mrs. Scott, the master told everyone—”
“Yes, he made his wishes clear. But there's no need to worry. I will be perfectly safe, as I intend to have someone accompany me to his quarters.
“Yes, Mrs. Scott,” the maid said doubtfully. “Though I don't think the master will be happy once he hears of this.”
As it was, Madeline was escorted to the guest quarters by a footman, Mrs. Beecham, and the butler, all of whom made their disapproval quite clear. “There's no need for such a crowd,” Madeline protested, but they were determined to protect her from a man they considered dangerous.
Lord Drake was rummaging through the cabinets of a mahogany sideboard in the guest parlor when they arrived. Swaying unsteadily, blinking like a child who had been awakened too soon, he stared at the four of them, his bloodshot gaze fastening on Madeline's small face.
She was amazed by the contrast between his usual appearance and the way he looked now. The mocking, carefree degenerate had been replaced by a stranger with matted hair and a sickly gray complexion. He had dressed himself in the fresh clothes that had been set out for him: a pair of trousers, a shirt, and a vest that had been tailored for Logan's leaner frame. Buttons and fabric strained to contain his bloated waistline.
“If it's alcohol you're looking for,” Madeline said softly, “Logan made certain that it was removed from the guest rooms. Would you like me to send for coffee?”
He gave her a look of horrified shame and seemed to slink to the corner of the room. “Please go,” he muttered. “I can't bear to face you. What I did today—”
“You weren't yourself,” she replied, her earlier condemnation changing to pity.
“Oh, I was,” he assured her. “That was definitely me, cowardly raving bastard that I am.” He shook his head as Madeline instructed the footman to bring coffee and sandwiches. “Don't send for anything. I'll be gone within the hour.”
“You must stay, Lord Drake. For my husband's sake.”
There was a humorous twitch at the corner of his mouth. “I'm sure you don't want him to be deprived of the pleasure of beating me to a pulp.”
“You know him better than that,” she said quietly, sitting in an armchair while Mrs. Beecham and the butler lit the lamps and stirred the fire. “Do sit and talk to me, Lord Drake.”
He complied reluctantly, half-sitting, half-collapsing in a chair near the fire and resting his disheveled head in his hands. Eventually coffee was brought, and Lord Drake downed three cups of the bitter brew, seeming to gain a measure of lucidity. When it seemed that there was no apparent danger from him, the servants acceded to Madeline's murmured request and withdrew to the next room.
Lord Drake spoke before Madeline was able. “I'd been drinking for three days straight before the water-party,” he mumbled. “I was half-crazed with fear, knowing that some bastards I owed a fortune to had put a price on my head. I had devised some idiotic scheme to make it look as if I had drowned, hoping that would throw them off the trail for a while. After my ruse succeeded, I disguised myself in order to play at a gambling-hell on the east side. It was there that I heard the gossip about Logan. Everyone was talking about it, that he was Rochester's bastard son. I went insane. I've never felt such hatred as I did in that moment.”
“Toward Logan?” Madeline asked, bewildered.
The dark, disheveled head moved in a weary nod. “Yes…although most of it was directed at my father. Between the two of them, they've made me into a fraud. Logan was the first son, and I took his place. I was given the life he should have had…and it was always bloody obvious that he was the better man. Look at what he's made of himself. I've always compared myself to him and come off lacking, but at least I could comfort myself with the knowledge that I had the Drake blood flowing through my veins. Now it seems he has that too.”
“You are Lord Rochester's only legitimate heir,” Madeline said. “Nothing will change that.”
Lord Drake wrapped his fingers around the delicate china cup and clasped it until Madeline feared the porcelain might crack. “But it should be Logan, don't you see? Instead he got nothing. Worse than nothing. My God, you couldn't know how he lived, the punishment he took at Jennings's hands, the countless days he went cold and hungry. While I lived in the mansion nearby—”
“You couldn't have done anything to change that,” Madeline interrupted softly.
“My father could have—and knowing that is pure hell. I can't stand being his son. And I can't stand having Logan as my brother, when all I've done is take from him since the day I was born.” He stood up from his chair and set the china cup aside with hands that shook. “The only thing I can do for Logan in return is to make certain he never sets eyes on me again.”
“You're wrong.” Madeline remained in her chair, staring at him with a clear gaze that seemed to pin him in place. Her voice trembled with conviction. “At least have the courage to face Logan tomorrow. I think in his heart he believes that everyone he cares about will leave him eventually. If you have any brotherly feeling for Logan, you'll stay and find a way to help him come to terms with the past. He'll never be at peace unless you do. You're the only link that Logan has to Lord Rochester. I don't believe he'll ever come to love or even like Lord Rochester, but he must learn to accept that he is his father.”
“And you think I can do that for him?” Lord Drake inquired with a sardonic laugh that sounded startlingly like Logan's. “Good God, I can't even do it for myself.”
“Then you'll have to help each other,” Madeline replied stubbornly.
Lord Drake sat down again, chuckling unsteadily. “There's more to you than meets the eye, isn't there? You're a persistent little wench—but I suppose you would have to be, married to my brother.”
They shared a gaze of silent amusement until they became aware of a large, shadowy form in the doorway. Logan…his face contorted, his voice hoarse as he spoke to Madeline. “Get out of here.”
Madeline blinked in confusion. “I was merely talking to Lord Drake—”
“I told you to stay away from him. Is it too much to ask you to obey the simplest instructions?”
“Look here,” Lord Drake said, sounding weary and bitterly amused, “nothing illicit has occurred, Jimmy. Don't blame your wife for something that happened long before you met her.”
Logan ignored him and stared coldly at Madeline. “In the future, madam, you will not interfere in matters that are none of your business.”
Something inside her seemed to wither. For months she had deliberately left herself vulnerable to him, tried to earn his affection by giving him the best of herself…and it hadn't been enough. She was tired of trying and failing, repeatedly losing and gaining the same ground. She stood and replied without emotion. “Very well. I won't be a burden to you any longer. From now on you're welcome to your privacy—as much of it as you want.” She left the room without a glance.
***P/S: Copyright -->Novel12__Com