"How will you treat it?" Grant asked tersely.
"Unfortunately, the symptoms of concussion, including amnesia, must run their course. There's nothing I can do except prescribe rest. I don't think Miss Duvall will have any lasting problems from her experience tonight, although the next few days will be uncomfortable. I've left a few digestive powders to counteract the effects of the salt water she ingested, and a salve for the bruises and abrasions. I can't find evidence of fractured bones or internal injuries, just a mild sprain in one ankle." He went to Vivien's side and patted her hand. "Sleep," he advised kindly. "That's the best advice I can give."
The doctor picked up his bag and crossed the room, stopping near the doorway to confer with Grant. His serious gray eyes met Grant's, and he spoke in a tone too low for Vivien to overhear. "There are finger marks around her throat, and signs of a struggle. I assume you're going to investigate?"
"Obviously Miss Duvall's amnesia will make your job more difficult. I don't have great experience in these matters, but I do know that the mind is a fragile instrument." A warning note laced the doctor's matter-of-fact voice. "I strongly suggest that Miss Duvall remain in a calm environment. When she feels better, perhaps she can visit some familiar places and people in an effort to aid her memory. However, you could possibly injure her by making her remember something she's not ready for."
"I'm not going to harm her." Grant's brows lowered in a scowl.
"Well, your skills at inquisition are well known. I've heard that you can obtain a confession from the most hardened criminals...and in case you were thinking of somehow forcing Miss Duvall's memory to return.--"
"Point taken," Grant muttered, offended. "Christ. One would think I went about kicking dogs and frightening small children."
Linley chuckled in the face of his annoyance. "I only know your reputation, man. Good evening--I'll be sending you a bill soon."
"Do that," Grant said, making no secret of his impatience for the sawbones to leave.
"One more thing...a patient with a concussion is quite vulnerable. A second trauma to the head, perhaps caused by a fall, could prove harmful or even fatal."
"I'll take care of her."
"All right, Morgan." The doctor sent a warm smile toward Vivien. "Au revoir,Miss Duvall. I'll visit again in a few days." Mrs. Buttons popped her head around the door, her gaze fixed on Grant. "Sir? Is there anything you require?"
"Nothing right now," Grant murmured, and watched as the housekeeper accompanied the doctor to the main staircase.
"What is your reputation?" Vivien asked feebly, apparently having caught the last of the doctor's comments.
Grant went to her and sat in the bedside chair. He wove his fingers together and extended his long legs, crossing them at the ankles. "Damned if I know." He shrugged irritably. "I'm a Bow Street Runner. In the course of my work people are always lying, hiding things, evading questions. I just have a way of cutting to the truth, and that makes them uncomfortable."
Despite her weariness, a spark of amusement appeared in Vivien's blue eyes. "You 'have a way," she repeated drowsily. "What does that mean?"
He grinned suddenly, unable to keep from leaning forward and smoothing a straggling tendril away from her face. "It means I do whatever's necessary to find out the truth."
"Oh." She yawned, fighting to stay awake, but her exhaustion was clearly overwhelming. "Grant," she whispered, "what ismy reputation?"
She fell asleep before he could reply.
Grant awoke as the weak morning sunlight began to filter through the windowpanes. Perplexed, he stared at the ice-blue ceiling of the guest room, expecting to see the wine-colored canopy over his own bed. Suddenly he recalled the events of the previous evening. There had been no sound from Vivien's room. He wondered how she had fared the night. After all she had been through, she would likely sleep for most of the day.
Fitting his hands behind his head, Grant lay there for another minute, pondering the knowledge that Vivien was here, in his house, only a few rooms away from him. It had been a long time since a woman had slept beneath his roof. Vivien Duvall, at his mercy...The thought entertained him prodigiously. The fact that she didn't remember what had happened between them only heightened his enjoyment of the situation.
Yawning, Grant sat up and scratched his fingers through the pelt of dark hair on his chest. He rang for his valet, padded to a nearby chair, and dressed in the linens and pale gray trousers that had been laid out for him. His morning routine had been established by years of habit. He was always out of bed at sunrise, had finished his personal ablutions and dressed within twenty minutes, spent the next half hour devouring a huge breakfast and scanning theTimes , and left on foot for Bow Street. Sir Ross Cannon required all Runners who weren't on duty to report by no later than nine.
In fewer than five minutes, his valet, Kellow, appeared with a ewer of hot shaving water and all the necessary implements. At the same time, a housemaid quickly laid the fire and tidied the grate.
Grant poured steaming water into a washbowl and sluiced handfuls of it onto his face, trying to soften what had to be the most obstinate beard in London. When his shaving was concluded, Grant put on a white shirt, a patterned gray waistcoat, and a black silk cravat. The official uniform of the Bow Street Runners included a red waistcoat, blue coat and navy trousers, and tall black boots polished to an immaculate shine. Grant detested the garb. On an average-sized man the brightly colored clothes--which had inspired the public to nickname the Runners "Robin Redbreasts"--were somewhat foppish. On a man of his height, the effect was startling.
Grant's personal taste favored dark, well-tailored clothes in shades of gray, beige, and black, with no personal adornment save his pocket watch. He kept his hair conveniently short and was sometimes compelled to shave twice a day when a formal occasion called for him to remove another layer of his encroaching beard. He bathed every evening, as he was unable to sleep well otherwise. The physical exertion of his job, not to mention the foul characters he often associated with, often made him feel unclean within and without.
Although many valets were called upon to assist their masters with their clothes, Grant preferred to dress himself. He found the notion of standing still while some other fellow dressed him as more than a little ridiculous. He was an able-bodied man, not some tot who needed help with his skeleton suit. When he'd expressed this view to one of his socially elevated friends, the friend had told him with amusement that this was one of the essential differences between the lower classes and the aristocracy.
"You mean only the lower classes know how to fasten their buttons?" Grant had asked wryly.
"No," the friend had replied with a laugh, "it's just that they have no choice in the matter. The aristocracy, on the other hand, can get someone else to do it for them."
After tying his black silk cravat in a simple knot, Grant jerked the tips of his collar to neat standing points. He dragged a comb through his ruffled dark hair and gave a cursory glance in the looking glass. Just as he reached for his charcoal-gray coat, he heard a muffled sound from a few rooms away.
"Vivien," he murmured, dropping the coat at once. He reached the master bedroom in a few strides, entering without bothering to knock. The housemaid had already visited and had stoked a small fire in the grate.
Vivien was attempting to get out of bed by herself, the linen shirt twisted around the middle of her thighs. Her long hair fell in wild straggles down her back. She was standing on one foot, maintaining a precarious balance. Her sprained ankle was bound and swollen, and the pain it caused was obvious as she took one limping step away from the bed.
"What do you need?" Grant asked, and she started at the sound of his voice. She didn't look much better than she had the previous night, her face ghastly pale, her eyes still swollen, her throat bruised. "Do you want the privy?"
The blunt question clearly caused Vivien no end of mortification. A scarlet flush cascaded over her skin. The sight of a redhead blushing was not something to miss, Grant thought with a sudden flicker of amusement.
"Yes, thank you," she murmured, her voice hoarse and strained. She took another cautious hobbling step. "If you could just tell me where--"
"I'll help you." "Oh, no, really--" She gasped as he scooped her into his arms, her body small and light against his chest. Grant carried her the short distance to the privy, two doors down the hall, while Vivien tried in agonized modesty to pull the thin linen shirt farther over her thighs. The gesture struck him as odd for a courtesan. Vivien was known for her lack of sexual inhibition, not to mention her elegantly provocative style of dressing. Modesty had not been in her repertoire. Why did she seem so distressed now?
"You'll be stronger soon," he said. "In the meantime, stay in bed and keep off that ankle. If you want anything at all, ring for one of the maids."
"Yes. Thank you." Her small hands crept around his neck. "I'm sorry to trouble you, Mr...." She hesitated, and he knew that she had forgotten his last name.
"Call me Grant," he replied, setting her gently on the floor. "It's no trouble."
Vivien emerged from the privy a few minutes later, clearly surprised to find him still there. She seemed no bigger than a child, dressed in his shirt with the sleeves rolled back several times and the tail reaching below her knees. Her gaze lifted to his, and she returned his friendly smile with an abashed one of her own.
"Better?" he asked.
"Yes, thank you."
He extended a hand to her. "Let me help you back to bed."
She hesitated before hobbling forward. Carefully Grant reached around her slender body, hooking one arm behind her back and the other beneath her knees. Although he lifted her with extreme gentleness, mindful of her injuries, Vivien gasped as he brought her against his chest. Of all the women he had held in his arms, none had ever possessed such lush, exquisite delicacy. Her bones were slender, but her flesh was pliant, voluptuous, utterly desirable.
Returning to the bedroom, Grant eased Vivien onto the mattress, fumbling to arrange a stack of pillows behind her. She tugged the blankets upward, bringing them high over her chest. In spite of her bedraggled condition, or perhaps because of it, he was struck again with the disconcerting urge to cuddle and caress her. He, who was known for possessing a heart of granite, or some similarly impermeable substance. "Are you hungry?" he asked gruffly.
"When the housekeeper brings a tray, I want you to eat something."
For some reason his tone of command made her smile. "I'll try."
Grant stood frozen in place by her smile...lucent and warm, a flash of magic that illuminated her delicate face. It was so unlike the self-absorbed woman he had met at Wentworth's ball that he wondered briefly if she was the same person at all. Yet she was, unmistakably, Vivien.
"Grant," she said hesitantly. "Please, would you bring a looking glass?" She pressed her hands to her cheeks in a self-conscious gesture. "I don't know what I look like."
Somehow managing to tear his gaze away from her, Grant went to the gentleman's cabinet in the corner of the room. He rummaged through the narrow drawers and located a woodennecessaire covered in leather. The case was designed to hold scissors, files, and grooming items, the lid fitted with a rectangular looking glass inside. Returning to the bedside, Grant opened thenecessaire and gave it to her.
Vivien tried to hold the case near her face, but her hands still trembled violently from her experience of the previous evening. Grant reached over and steadied thenecessaire as she viewed her reflection. Her hands were very cold beneath his, the fingers stiff and bloodless. Her eyes widened, and she barely seemed to breathe.
"How strange," she said, "not to recognize one's own face."
"You have no cause for complaint," Grant said huskily. Even bruised and pale and ravaged, her face was incomparable.
"Do you think so?" She stared into the looking glass without a trace of the self-satisfaction she had displayed at the ball.That Vivien had had no doubt of her many attractions. This woman was far less confident.
"Everyone thinks so. You're known as one of the great beauties of London."
"I don't see why." Catching his skeptical expression, she added, "Truly, I'm not fishing for compliments, it just...seems a very ordinary face." She produced a comical, clownish expression, like a child experimenting with her reflection. A shaken laugh escaped her. "It doesn't seem to belong to me." Her eyes glittered like sapphires, and he realized with a flare of alarm that she was going to cry.
"Don't," he muttered. "I told you last night how I feel about crying."
"Yes...you can't stand a woman's tears." She wiped her wet eyes with her fingers. A wobbly smile touched her lips. "I didn't think a Bow Street Runner would be so sensitive."
"Sensitive," Grant repeated indignantly. "I'm as hard-shelled as they come." He gathered a handful of the linen sheet and swabbed hastily at her face.
"Are you?" She gave a last sniffle and peered at him over the edge of the sheet, and he saw a hint of laughter appearing behind the last glimmering tears. "You seem rather soft-shelled to me."
Grant opened his mouth to argue, but realized suddenly that she was teasing him. With great difficulty, he tamped down an unexpected surge of warmth in his chest. "I'm about as sensitive as a millstone," he informed her.
"I'll reserve opinion on that." She closed thenecessaire and shook her head ruefully. "I shouldn't have asked for a looking glass. I look rather the worse for wear."
Grant contemplated her dry, cracked lips with a frown. Reaching for a little glass jar of salve on the night table, he handed it to her. "Try some of this. Linley left a special mixture for bruises, dryness, scrapes, chafing..."
"I could use a barrel of it," she said, fumbling with the hinged porcelain lid.
Retrieving the jar, Grant opened it for her. Instead of handing it back, he held it in his palm and let his gaze wander over her. "The shaking is better this morning," he observed quietly. Vivien colored and nodded, seeming embarrassed by the involuntary tremors. "Yes, but I still can't seem to get warm." She rubbed her palms over the fair, chapped skin of her arms. "I was wondering...if it wouldn't be too great an imposition--"
***P/S: Copyright -->Novel12__Com