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Authors: Susannah Bamford

Blind Trust (20 page)

BOOK: Blind Trust
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“But how will you get in?” Columbine asked as he swept his coat and hat off the hook and slid his cane from the rack like a sword from its scabbard. “You'll never get past the front door, Tavish. You have to think this through!”

He stood at the door, elegant, trim, for all she knew a gentleman on the way to the theater and to dine at Delmonico's afterward. But then his eyes glinted at her, and she saw the renegade in him that always lay in wait.

“Oh, I'll get in,” Tavish said. “I'll be ushered in like a guest of honor, Columbine.” With a swirl of coat and cane, he was gone.

Solange dressed her in a black velvet mantua robe. The white satin lining was cold against her bare arms, and she felt odd without a corset. The robe was heavy, encrusted with seed pearls, and the long train seemed to pull her backward with every step.

“Monsieur and the doctor are waiting for you in the library, Madame,” Solange said.

“Yes.”

“I will walk down with you.”

“Yes.”

It seemed an interminable journey. Darcy concentrated on her white satin slippers descending the stairs, one after the other. So slowly. “I'm tired,” she whispered.

“Of course, Madame. And when you have finished with the doctor, you will sleep again. And when you wake up, you will be so much better.”

“Better.”

“Yes, Madame. One last step. Good.”

Solange seemed to undulate next to her. Her hand snaked out and grabbed the heavy bronze knob of the library door. The door lunged inward.

“Darcy.” Claude came toward her, his hands outstretched to take hers. His head looked impossibly big, his red mouth a long scar. Darcy stepped backward and bumped into Solange. She curled her hands up so that the folds of the long sleeves of her robe fell over them.

Claude dropped his hands. “Here is Dr. Arbuthnot to see you.”

She turned and fixed her eyes on the doctor. He seemed so far away, a small, expensively dressed dot by the fireplace.

“I'm so happy to see you again, Mrs. Statton.” His warm voice flowed toward her. She wanted to sink into it like a featherbed.

“Hello.”

She felt a hand at her elbow, urging her toward the armchair by the fire. “Come, dearest.” A clipped tone was thrown over the shoulder. “That will be all, Solange. I'll call you afterward.”

“Yes, Monsieur.”

“Sit here, my dear. In the armchair.”

She was steered into the blue satin Sené chair. “
Fauteuil
,” she said.

But Claude was ignoring her, moving toward the doctor. She heard him whisper. “She seems … very sluggish.”

“She is in a perfect state, Mr. Statton. Perfect. She is prepared for the procedure. She will feel no anxiety, no nervousness. She will be led to the room upstairs, she will want to sleep. I am very pleased.”

“All right.”

Darcy forced the word out through lips suddenly thick. “Procedure?”

Dr. Arbuthnot came rapidly to her side. She was surprised his tiny feet could move his bulk so quickly. She stifled a giggle.

“I told you of the procedure before, Mrs. Statton. I told you that your womb is the center of your health and that it has led you to your condition. Remember, Mrs. Statton?”

Dizzy, she looked into his kind blue eyes. She nodded.

“Of course you do. So, it becomes simple, does it not? Remove the offending organ, and your problems will be over. You will be peaceful, happy, cured. Do you agree?”

Peace. How she wanted that. She nodded slowly.

“Of course you do.” He patted her hand.

“I'm thirsty,” she said.

Claude loomed behind him. “Doctor, perhaps you should see to your nurse's arrangements in the room upstairs?”

“Yes. I'll see to Nurse Bellows.” He patted her hand again in a lingering way. “I'll see you upstairs, Mrs. Statton. I'll call for you shortly.”

“Yes,” Darcy said. “I'll be up directly, Dr. Arbuthnot.” She felt pleased when the doctor beamed at her. But then he went away. Claude's shadow fell over her, and she was afraid. She started to rise. “I want to go,” she said.

He pressed down on her with his shadow, with his hands. “No, Darcy. No.”

“I want to go!”

“No.” There was sweat beading on his forehead. She saw fear in his eyes. Why would Claude be afraid? Claude was never afraid.

“Claude,” she said, trying to keep her words clear and precise. “What are you doing to me?”

“I'm watching out for you,” he said. He tried to pat her hand as Dr. Arbuthnot had done.

“Don't touch me,” Darcy said wearily. She closed her eyes. “Just don't touch me.”

“All right, dearest.”

“I'm thirsty,” she whispered.

She heard a knock, footsteps. She struggled to open her eyes again. The footman was bringing in the silver tray with a card on it. That was odd; even in this state, Darcy thought, smiling at her cleverness, she knew it was too early for after-dinner calls. She couldn't be completely insane, knowing that.

“I'm not at home,” Claude snapped. “To anyone.”

The footman bowed and began to retreat.

“Wait.” Claude strode across the room and snatched the card from the tray. He blanched, his face losing color rapidly while the tips of his ears seemed to be burning red. He stood stock-still in the middle of the room, holding the small, stiff card.

“It must be one of my relatives,” Darcy said dreamily.

“Show Mr. Dargent into the salon,” Claude said. “I'll meet him there. But first, take Mrs. Statton upstairs right now. To the east bedroom. The doctor is up there. Now!” he barked, as the footman hesitated. It was not his job to escort the mistress of the house upstairs. But he obeyed. Darcy rose under the pressure of his fingers. The name Dargent buzzed in her head. Where had she heard it before? Whoever the man was, he'd had a devastating effect on Claude.

She smiled at the young servant, whose eyes were strangely uneasy. “I'm very thirsty,” she confided.

Tavish kept his face calm, but relief rushed through him like a hot spring when he was ushered into the house. He was deposited in a small salon that held a small, exquisite Vermeer, a large Delacroix, and an abundance of Louis XVI furniture. Tavish was wary of the spindly appearance of the small gilt chairs. Even the satin sofa looked questionable. He wasn't staying, anyway.

He waited until the footsteps of the servant died away, then he opened the door and peered down both ends of the hall. No one was in sight. Claude would make him wait, he knew. But his curiosity would be too strong to make him wait long.

Thank God he was near the stairway. As Tavish strode to it and began to climb, he wondered how many servants Claude employed. Rich men such as Claude Statton often had as many as fifty or more minions running about making the master and mistress's life easy. Not counting kitchen help and stable help, there could be as many as ten or fifteen servants roaming about the house at this time. Less than those would be upstairs. Perhaps a personal secretary or two. A few maids. He had to worry most about Darcy's personal maid, who seemed a dragon in his few glimpses of her at Greenbriars. And, God help him, the doctor. Tavish just might tear the man apart if he was here.

Swiftly he climbed the wide staircase. When he reached the upstairs hall, he was almost past caring if he ran into anyone. He knew Darcy was near; he could feel it. His boots sounded too loud, though the floor was carpeted. A maid came out of a room ahead, closing the door softly, and without looking in his direction headed down the hall in the opposite direction. He wondered what to say when he overtook her, for he was steps away from her scurrying back. But to his surprise, as he came closer, she suddenly turned and faced the wall. Tavish walked by, wondering what kind of bizarre house he'd forced his way into.

He blundered on, pretending he knew where he was going. He could feel her behind him; with his senses so sharp, he could even feel her hesitancy.

“Excuse me, sir.”

Damn
. He turned. He tried to look haughty. “Yes?”

“You would be the doctor, sir?”

He nodded.

“You'd be looking for the east bedroom, then. The red one. It's around that corner and two doors to the left.”

“Thank you.” Tavish marveled at his luck. With her a few paces behind, he reached the door she indicated and, while she nodded shyly at him, pushed it open. There was nothing like getting unexpected assistance when it came to a kidnapping.

At first he saw nothing. The room was so dark. There were lamps everywhere, perching on tables and shelves, especially near the bed, but they were unlit. He saw a form on the bed, and then a small, rotund man came toward him out of the gloom of a far corner, where he'd been conferring with a white-swathed figure.

“Can I help you?”

“I'm Mr. Statton's secretary,” Tavish said. He bowed slightly. “He sent me to bring Mrs. Statton downstairs.”

“Downstairs? But we're almost ready to begin the procedure.”

“Those are Mr. Statton's orders, sir.” Tavish spoke quickly. The form on the bed moved. He looked over, and his heart broke. She looked so pale. And there was no spark in her eyes. They were filmed over, dull. And then her vision cleared, she seemed to recognize him, and she smiled. Briefly, secretly, and then the mask rolled down again. He took courage from the smile. Perhaps she was not as drugged as she appeared. Tavish moved toward the bed.

“I must protest,” the doctor sputtered.

“Protest to Mr. Statton,” Tavish said.

“I will. Yes, I will. Stay here. Don't move her. This is absurd. Nurse Bellows, watch the patient.” The doctor scurried from the room.

Tavish bent over Darcy. “Can you put your arms around my neck?”

She nodded. Her arms slipped around his neck, then fell back.

“Sir, I must protest. The doctor asked you to wait—”

“Get away!” He spoke so fiercely she scuttled backward with fear in her eyes. “I do not take orders from the doctor.”

He bent over Darcy, murmuring to her so soft the nurse couldn't hear. “My love, my own, I'm taking you out of here. My poor, poor love, my acushla, heart of my heart. My wild rose.” He poured out his endearments, words from the land he came from, desperate and tender, wanting his love to fill her with strength. He slid his arms underneath her slight body and lifted her. Her hands came up and locked around his neck.

“I'm sorry,” she whispered into his neck. “I tried to—expel some of it, but I'm so weak. “Don't let me go. Don't let them—”

“I won't, my love.” He went toward the door. The nurse moved forward, stolid and determined. Tavish ignored her. Moving fast now, he left the room and started down the hall.

“Back stairs,” she whispered.

“Where, love?”

“Turn right, there,” she whispered. “I'll show you.”

His stride lengthened. He had her now, and he would die before he let her go. That was something. But he knew that Claude would be fully within his rights to kill him—or have someone else do it. So he tightened his grip and he stepped briskly and listened to her weak voice directing him. He alternately swore under his breath and prayed.

He heard footsteps heading up the main stairs as he hurried down the hall. He heard Claude's voice sharply questioning the doctor. He heard how rapid the footsteps were. But a moment later the back stairs were there, looming before him. Darcy tightened her grip, and he was clattering down them, fast.

He hit the bottom. “Kitchen,” Darcy whispered. “Straight ahead.”

He burst into the kitchen, not caring for deception now. A maid backed into a corner, fear in her face. A male servant, probably a footman, looked up, startled, from his dish of tea. A scullion gaped at him over a steaming sink of dishes, her rosy arms dripping suds. The French chef looked up, irritated, from straining a sauce.

Tavish ignored them. He gazed around quickly. There were three doors leading out of the kitchen. He could be trapped in a pantry or a passageway to the back of the house if he chose the wrong one. The footman looked large and capable. He pushed back his chair as the knowledge sank in that this was not the regular thing, a crazy Irishman carrying out the mistress through the kitchens.

“Darcy, love,” he murmured. “Would you mind telling me the way?”

“I don't know,” she said.

Then a petite maid he hadn't noticed before stepped forward. Her pretty face suddenly blazed with determination. “That one,” she said, pointing.

“Bless you,” Tavish said simply, and moved. As he passed the footman, he shoved out one foot with such force that the chair toppled over backward. The man hit the floor with a thump and a cry. He probably had riled the man's temper, but at least he'd gained a moment or two.

He reached the street with a feeling of vast relief. The stars overhead twinkled benignly at him, and he almost smiled. But the carriage he'd paid a fortune to hire was around the corner on Fifth Avenue. He still had half a block to cover.

BOOK: Blind Trust
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