“Godspeed, then.” Richard nodded at Haselby, and the two of them departed, moving swiftly down the hall.
Gregory beckoned to Hermione. “Let us go,” he said, leading her in the opposite direction. “And do try not to judge me when you see where I am leading you.”
He heard her chuckle as they ascended the stairs. “Why,” she said, “do I suspect that, if anything, I shall judge you very clever indeed?”
“I did not trust her to remain in place,” Gregory confessed, taking the steps two at a time. When they reached the top, he turned to face her. “It was heavy-handed, but there was nothing else I could do. All I needed was a bit of time.”
Hermione nodded. “Where are we going?”
“To the nanny’s washroom,” he confessed. “I tied her to the water closet.”
“You tied her to the-Oh my, I cannot wait to see this.”
But when they opened the door to the small washroom, Lucy was gone.
And every indication was that she had not left willingly.
In which we learn what happened, a mere ten minutes earlier.
Had it been an hour? Surely it had been an hour.
Lucy took a deep breath and tried to calm her racing nerves. Why hadn’t anyone thought to install a clock in the washroom? Shouldn’t someone have realized that eventually someone would find herself tied to the water closet and might wish to know the hour?
Really, it was just a matter of time.
Lucy drummed the fingers of her right hand against the floor. Quickly, quickly, index to pinky, index to pinky. Her left hand was tied so that the pads of her fingers faced up, so she flexed, then bent, then flexed, then bent, then-
Lucy groaned with frustration.
It should have been a word.
Surely it had been an hour. It must have been an hour.
Lucy jerked to attention, glaring at the door. She was furious. And hopeful. And terrified. And nervous. And-
Good God, she wasn’t meant to possess this many simultaneous emotions. One at a time was all she could manage. Maybe two.
The knob turned and the door jerked backward, and-
Jerked? Lucy had about one second to sense the wrongness of this. Gregory wouldn’t jerk the door open. He would have-
“You,” he said, his voice low and furious.
“You little whore,” he bit off.
Lucy flinched. She knew he held no great affection for her, but still, it hurt.
“You don’t understand,” she blurted out, because she had no idea what she should say, and she refused-she absolutely refused to say, “I’m sorry.”
She was done with apologizing. Done.
“Oh, really?” he spat out, crouching down to her level. “Just what don’t I understand? The part about your fleeing your wedding?”
“I didn’t flee,” she shot back. “I was abducted! Or didn’t you notice that I am tied to the water closet?”
His eyes narrowed menacingly. And Lucy began to feel scared.
She shrank back, her breath growing shallow. She had long feared her uncle-the ice of his temper, the cold, flat stare of his disdain.
But she had never felt frightened.
“Where is he?” her uncle demanded.
Lucy did not pretend to misunderstand. “I don’t know.”
“I don’t know!” she protested. “Do you think he would have tied me up if he trusted me?”
Her uncle stood and cursed. “It doesn’t make sense.”
“What do you mean?” Lucy asked carefully. She wasn’t sure what was going on, and she wasn’t sure just whose wife she would be, at the end of the proverbial day, but she was fairly certain that she ought to stall for time.
And reveal nothing. Nothing of import.
“This! You!” her uncle spat out. “Why would he abduct you and leave you here, in Fennsworth House?”
“Well,” Lucy said slowly. “I don’t think he could have got me out without someone seeing.”
“He couldn’t have got into the party without someone seeing, either.”
“I’m not sure what you mean.”
“How,” her uncle demanded, leaning down and putting his face far too close to hers, “did he grab you without your consent?”
Lucy let out a short puff of a breath. The truth was easy. And innocuous. “I went to my room to lie down,” she said. “He was waiting for me there.”
“He knew which room was yours?”
She swallowed. “Apparently.”
Her uncle stared at her for an uncomfortably long moment. “People have begun to notice your absence,” he muttered.
Lucy said nothing.
“It can’t be helped, though.”
She blinked. What was he talking about?
He shook his head. “It’s the only way.”
“I-I beg your pardon?” And then she realized-he wasn’t talking to her. He was talking to himself.
“Uncle Robert?” she whispered.
But he was already slicing through her bindings.
Slicing? Slicing? Why did he have a knife?
“Let’s go,” he grunted.
“Back to the party?”
He let out a grim chuckle. “You’d like that, wouldn’t you?”
Panic began to rise in her chest. “Where are you taking me?”
He yanked her to her feet, one of his arms wrapped viselike around her. “To your husband.”
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