She had not consummated her marriage.

They still had a chance.

“Lucy.”

She pulled away. “I must return. They will be missing me.”

But he captured her hand. “Don’t go back.”

Her eyes grew huge. “What do you mean?”

“Come with me. Come with me now.” He felt giddy, dangerous, and just a little bit mad. “You are not his wife yet. You can have it annulled.”

“Oh no.” She shook her head, tugging her arm away from him. “No, Gregory.”

“Yes. Yes.” And the more he thought about it, the more it made sense. They hadn’t much time; after this evening it would be impossible for her to say that she was untouched. Gregory’s own actions had made sure of that. If they had any chance of being together, it had to be now.

He couldn’t kidnap her; there was no way he could remove her from the house without raising an alarm. But he could buy them a bit of time. Enough so that he could sort out what to do.

He pulled her closer.

“No,” she said, her voice growing louder. She started really yanking on her arm now, and he could see the panic growing in her eyes.

“Lucy, yes,” he said.

“I will scream,” she said.

“No one will hear you.”

She stared at him in shock, and even he could not believe what he was saying.

“Are you threatening me?” she asked.

He shook his head. “No. I’m saving you.” And then, before he had the opportunity to reconsider his actions, he grabbed her around her middle, threw her over his shoulder, and ran from the room.

Twenty-four

In which Our Hero leaves Our Heroine in an awkward position.

“You are tying me to a water closet?”

“Sorry,” he said, tying two scarves into such expert knots that she almost worried that he had done this before. “I couldn’t very well leave you in your room. That’s the first place anyone would look.” He tightened the knots, then tested them for strength. “It was the first place I looked.”

“But a water closet!”

“On the third floor,” he added helpfully. “It will take hours before anyone finds you here.”

Lucy clenched her jaw, desperately trying to contain the fury that was rising within her.

He had lashed her hands together. Behind her back.

Good Lord, she had not known it was possible to be so angry with another person.

It wasn’t just an emotional reaction-her entire body had erupted with it. She felt hot and prickly, and even though she knew it would do no good, she jerked her arms against the piping of the water closet, grinding her teeth and letting out a frustrated grunt when it did nothing but produce a dull clang.

“Please don’t struggle,” he said, dropping a kiss on the top of her head. “It is only going to leave you tired and sore.” He looked up, examining the structure of the water closet. “Or you’ll break the pipe, and surely that cannot be a hygienic prospect.”

“Gregory, you have to let me go.”

He crouched so that his face was on a level with hers. “I cannot,” he said. “Not while there is still a chance for us to be together.”

“Please,” she pleaded, “this is madness. You must return me. I will be ruined.”

“I will marry you,” he said.

“I’m already married!”

“Not quite,” he said with a wolfish smile.

“I said my vows!”

“But you did not consummate them. You can still get an annulment.”

“That is not the point!” she cried out, struggling fruitlessly as he stood and walked to the door. “You don’t understand the situation, and you are selfishly putting your own needs and happiness above those of others.”

At that, he stopped. His hand was on the doorknob, but he stopped, and when he turned around, the look in his eyes nearly broke her heart.

“You’re happy?” he asked. Softly, and with such love that she wanted to cry.

“No,” she whispered, “but-”

“I’ve never seen a bride who looked so sad.”

She closed her eyes, deflated. It was an echo of what Hermione had said, and she knew it was true. And even then, as she looked up at him, her shoulders aching, she could not escape the beatings of her own heart.

She loved him.

She would always love him.

And she hated him, too, for making her want what she could not have. She hated him for loving her so much that he would risk everything to be together. And most of all, she hated him for turning her into the instrument that would destroy her family.

Until she’d met Gregory, Hermione and Richard were the only two people in the world for whom she truly cared. And now they would be ruined, brought far lower and into greater unhappiness than Lucy could ever imagine with Haselby.

Gregory thought that it would take hours for someone to find her here, but she knew better. No one would locate her for days. She could not remember the last time anyone had wandered up here. She was in the nanny’s washroom-but Fennsworth House had not had a nanny in residence for years.

When her disappearance was noticed, first they would check her room. Then they’d try a few sensible alternatives-the library, the sitting room, a washroom that had not been in disuse for half a decade…

And then, when she was not found, it would be assumed that she’d run off. And after what had happened at the church, no one would think she’d left on her own.

She would be ruined. And so would everyone else.

“It is not a question of my own happiness,” she finally said, her voice quiet, almost broken. “Gregory, I beg of you, please don’t do this. This is not just about me. My family-We will be ruined, all of us.”

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