She managed to twist just far enough to look at his face. “My-Lord Haselby?”

“Have you another husband?”

“But isn’t he at the party?”

“Stop asking so many questions.”

She looked frantically about. “But where are you taking me?”

“You are not going to ruin this for me,” he hissed. “Do you understand?”

“No,” she pleaded. Because she didn’t. She no longer understood anything.

He yanked her hard against him. “I want you to listen to me, because I will say this only once.”

She nodded. She wasn’t facing him, but she knew he could feel her head move against his chest.

“This marriage will go forward,” he said, his voice deadly and low. “And I will personally see to it that it is consummated tonight.”

“What?”

“Don’t argue with me.”

“But-” She dug her heels in as he started to drag her to the door.

“For God’s sake, don’t fight me,” he muttered. “It’s nothing that you wouldn’t have had to do, anyway. The only difference is that you will have an audience.”

“An audience?”

“Indelicate, but I will have my proof.”

She began to struggle in earnest, managing to free one arm long enough to swing wildly through the air. He quickly restrained her, but his momentary shift in posture allowed her to kick him hard in the shins.

“God damn it,” he muttered, wrenching her close. “Cease!”

She kicked out again, knocking over an empty chamber pot.

“Stop it!” He jammed something against her ribs. “Now!”

Lucy stilled instantly. “Is that a knife?” she whispered.

“Remember this,” he said, his words hot and ugly against her ear. “I cannot kill you, but I can cause you great pain.”

She swallowed a sob. “I am your niece.”

“I don’t care.”

She swallowed and asked, her voice quiet, “Did you ever?”

He nudged her toward the door. “Care?”

She nodded.

For a moment there was silence, and Lucy was left with no means to interpret it. She could not see her uncle’s face, could sense no change in his stance. She could do nothing but stare at the door, at his hand as he reached for the knob.

And then he said, “No.”

She had her answer, then.

“You were a duty,” he clarified. “One I fulfilled, and one I am pleased to discharge. Now come with me, and don’t say a word.”

Lucy nodded. His knife was pressing ever harder against her ribs and already she had heard a soft crunching sound as it poked through the stiff fabric of her bodice.

She let him move her along the corridor and down the stairs. Gregory was here, she kept telling herself. He was here, and he would find her. Fennsworth House was large, but it was not massive. There were only so many places her uncle could stash her.

And there were hundreds of guests on the ground floor.

And Lord Haselby-surely he would not consent to such a scheme.

There were at least a dozen reasons her uncle would not succeed in this.

A dozen. Twelve. Maybe more. And she needed only one-just one to foil his plot.

But this was of little comfort when he stopped and yanked a blindfold over her eyes.

And even less when he threw her into a room and tied her up.

“I will be back,” he bit off, leaving her on her bottom in a corner, bound hand and foot.

She heard his footsteps move across the room, and then it burst from her lips-a single word, the only word that mattered-

“Why?”

His footsteps stopped.

“Why, Uncle Robert?”

This couldn’t be just about the family honor. Hadn’t she already proved herself on that score? Shouldn’t he trust her for that?

“Why?” she asked again, praying he had a conscience. Surely he couldn’t have looked after her and Richard for so many years without some sense of right and wrong.

“You know why,” he finally said, but she knew that he was lying. He had waited far too long before answering.

“Go, then,” she said bitterly. There was no point in stalling him. It would be far better if Gregory found her alone.

But he didn’t move. And even through her blindfold she could feel his suspicion.

“What are you waiting for?” she cried out.

“I’m not sure,” he said slowly. And then she heard him turn.

His footsteps drew closer.

Slowly.

Slowly…

And then-

“Where is she?” Hermione gasped.

Gregory strode into the small room, his eyes taking in everything-the cut bindings, the overturned chamber pot. “Someone took her,” he said grimly.

“Her uncle?”

“Or Davenport. They are the only two with reason to-” He shook his head. “No, they cannot do her harm. They need the marriage to be legal and binding. And long-standing. Davenport wants an heir off Lucy.”

Hermione nodded.

Gregory turned to her. “You know the house. Where could she be?”

Hermione was shaking her head. “I don’t know. I don’t know. If it’s her uncle-”

“Assume it’s her uncle,” Gregory ordered. He wasn’t sure that Davenport was agile enough to abduct Lucy, and besides that, if what Haselby had said about his father was true, then Robert Abernathy was the man with secrets.

He was the man with something to lose.

“His study,” Hermione whispered. “He is always in his study.”

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