“All the same,” Haselby said, “she did have a rather dramatic opportunity to get out of it.” He paused, cocking his head to the side. “It’s my father, isn’t it?”
Gregory’s chin jerked in a single, grim nod.
“That is not surprising. He is rather eager to have me married. Well, then-” Haselby brought his hands together, twining his fingers and squeezing them down. “What shall we do? Call his bluff, I imagine.”
Gregory shook his head. “We can’t.”
“Oh, come now. It can’t be that bad. What on earth could Lady Lucinda have done?”
“We really should get her,” Hermione said again. And then, when the three men turned to her again, she added, “How would you like your fate to be discussed in your absence?”
Richard stepped in front of Gregory. “Tell me,” he said.
Gregory did not pretend to misunderstand. “It is bad.”
“It is your father,” Gregory said in a quiet voice. And he proceeded to relate what Lucy had told to him.
“She did it for us,” Hermione whispered once Gregory was done. She turned to her husband, clutching his hand. “She did it to save us. Oh, Lucy.”
But Richard just shook his head. “It’s not true,” he said.
Gregory tried to keep the pity out of his eyes as he said, “There is proof.”
“Oh, really? What sort of proof?”
“Lucy says there is written proof.”
“Has she seen it?” Richard demanded. “Would she even know how to tell if something were faked?”
Gregory took a long breath. He could not blame Lucy’s brother for his reaction. He supposed he would be the same, were such a thing to come to light about his own father.
“Lucy doesn’t know,” Richard continued, still shaking his head. “She was too young. Father wouldn’t have done such a thing. It is inconceivable.”
“You were young as well,” Gregory said gently.
“I was old enough to know my own father,” Richard snapped, “and he was not a traitor. Someone has deceived Lucy.”
Gregory turned to Haselby. “Your father?”
“Is not that clever,” Haselby finished. “He would cheerfully commit blackmail, but he would do it with the truth, not a lie. He is intelligent, but he is not creative.”
Richard stepped forward. “But my uncle is.”
Gregory turned to him with urgency. “Do you think he has lied to Lucy?”
“He certainly said the one thing to her that would guarantee that she would not back out of the marriage,” Richard said bitterly.
“But why does he need her to marry Lord Haselby?” Hermione asked.
They all looked to the man in question.
“I have no idea,” he said.
“He must have secrets of his own,” Gregory said.
Richard shook his head. “Not debts.”
“He’s not getting any money in the settlement,” Haselby remarked.
Everyone turned to look at him.
“I may have let my father choose my bride,” he said with a shrug, “but I wasn’t about to marry without reading the contracts.”
“Secrets, then,” Gregory said.
“Perhaps in concert with Lord Davenport,” Hermione added. She turned to Haselby. “So sorry.”
He waved off her apology. “Think nothing of it.”
“What should we do now?” Richard asked.
“Get Lucy,” Hermione immediately answered.
Gregory nodded briskly. “She is right.”
“No,” said Haselby, rising to his feet. “We need my father.”
“Your father?” Richard bit off. “He’s hardly sympathetic to our cause.”
“Perhaps, and I’m the first to say he’s intolerable for more than three minutes at a time, but he will have answers. And for all of his venom, he is mostly harmless.”
“Mostly?” Hermione echoed.
Haselby appeared to consider that. “Mostly.”
“We need to act,” Gregory said. “Now. Haselby, you and Fennsworth will locate your father and interrogate him. Find out the truth. Lady Fennsworth and I will retrieve Lucy and bring her back here, where Lady Fennsworth will remain with her.” He turned to Richard. “I apologize for the arrangements, but I must have your wife with me to safeguard Lucy’s reputation should someone discover us. She’s been gone nearly an hour now. Someone is bound to notice.”
Richard gave him a curt nod, but it was clear he was not happy with the situation. Still, he had no choice. His honor demanded that he be the one to question Lord Davenport.
“Good,” Gregory said. “Then we are agreed. I will meet the two of you back in…”
He paused. Aside from Lucy’s room and the upstairs washroom, he had no knowledge of the layout of the house.
“Meet us in the library,” Richard instructed. “It is on the ground floor, facing east.” He took a step toward the door, then turned back and said to Gregory, “Wait here. I will return in a moment.”
Gregory was eager to be off, but Richard’s grave expression had been enough to convince him to remain in place. Sure enough, when Lucy’s brother returned, barely a minute later, he carried with him two guns.
He held one out to Gregory.
“You may need this,” Richard said.
“Heaven help us if I do,” Gregory said under his breath.
Gregory shook his head.
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