Authors: Susannah Bamford
Cold sweat snaked down his sides. Lemuel still looked a bit unfocused. Tavish kept talking. “So you killed another man. Claude.”
“He was stupid. Careless. Letting Darcy get into his private files, using Annie to blackmail Edward. That was foolish. Annie was a girl of integrity, she would never follow through. I tried to tell him that. And Edward was family, no matter what I thought of him, I could not let Claude blackmail family. But that isn't why I killed him. I killed him for what he tried to do to Darcy. He went too far. He thought we were equals, he thought I would not dare question what he did with his wife. But he was wrong. Don't you think he deserved to die?”
Tavish shrugged. “It's not for me to say.” He eyed the gun. It might be worth getting shot to get it away from Lemuel. He'd been shot before. Lemuel didn't look very strong; perhaps Tavish could manage it. “Why all this concern for Darcy?” he asked. “Aren't you going to kill her, too?”
“Of course not. I'm going to take her back to New York, where she belongs. That murder charge won't stick, it's absurd. That maid of hers is mad. I was going to get the engineer in town to flag down the train, but I think I'll let Darcy stay at the hotel now. There's no need to rush her out of town if you're gone.”
“Ah. Am I getting on the train, then?”
“No, Mr. Finn.” His teeth gleamed. “You're getting under it.”
“I see. That's what I thought,” Tavish said. He could hear the noise of the wheels on the track now. Close.
“You shouldn't have bedded her.” Lemuel lowered the gun a bit until it was dead level with Tavish's crotch. He smiled. “This is my favorite part,” he said.
She must have kept along the shadows of the depot building, for they hadn't noticed her. Now she was running toward them, shouting his name, stumbling a bit on the uneven ground, but coming fast, his courageous, glorious woman, with no regard for danger. “Tavish!” she was screaming. Then the train hooted, drowning her out.
Tavish could see the anguish in Lemuel's eyes. So he truly cared for Darcy. He could not harm her. But as Darcy came up, Tavish was already moving, grabbing Lemuel's wrist and forcing it down. Lemuel twisted away with surprising force; Tavish heard a pop, perhaps Lemuel's wrist was broken. The gun dropped. Tavish kicked it. Lemuel went after it and his foot twisted on the uneven ground. The train was on them now, and as he stumbled, arms flailing, he fell against it. He was knocked into the air like a rag doll and landed in the dirt.
Darcy rushed forward and dropped to her knees by Lemuel's side. She touched his bloodied face, and he looked at her.
“Do you forgive me?” he asked.
Darcy looked up at Tavish. He saw the old Darcy in her face, the fine bones that spoke so eloquently of breeding, of the code she'd lived by. But something flashed out of her eyes as well, and he saw a hawk, an eagle, a cougar. The wildness, the courage in her that he'd loved, that he'd seen from the beginning. The woman who gave no quarter.
He knew that months ago she would have eased the dying man's pain by forgiving him for what he'd done and tried to do, for the loyalty she owed him. But that woman didn't exist anymore.
“No, uncle,” she said. “I cannot forgive you. Perhaps God will.”
T WAS A
quiet wedding. Afterward, they all sat around the table in their private dining room in the Palace Hotel in San Francisco and toasted their good fortune.
“Here's to your marriage,” Columbine said. “Now the adventure really begins. And thank you for waiting for me to begin it.”
“We couldn't do it without you,” Darcy said.
“Or you, Ned,” Tavish said. “If it weren't for you, I'd still be in jail in Redemption and Darcy would still be facing charges in New York.”
“I just wish I could have saved you from considerable anxiety that night,” Ned said. He threw a teasing glance at Darcy. “If only I hadn't been a suspect.”
“I'm not used to this adventure business,” Darcy defended herself. “I didn't know who to trust.” She took a sip of champagne. She felt wondrously lightheaded. “Now, of course, I am a professional adventuress. I have no idea what lies ahead of me. Here I am in San Francisco with my rogue of a husband, not a penny in our pockets. This is our last splurge, I'll warrantâ”
Columbine looked baffled. “But surelyâ”
“Oh, Columbine,” Darcy broke in, “how can I keep any of my inheritanceâfrom Claude, Lemuel, or even Edward? No. I'm signing all of it away to my cousin Adelle. Tavish told me that they have a custom in Irelandâwhen they catch an informer, they throw his body off a cliff and all the money he took as well, no matter how poor they are. There is such a thing as tainted money,” she said softly, “a lesson my father and my uncle never learned.”
“But I didn't mean that,” Columbine said, still puzzled. Her eyes questioned Tavish. “Didn't youâ”
Tavish put down his glass. “I have something to tell you, my bride,” he said. “I'm afraid I'm a bit rich.”
“A bit rich? What does that mean?”
“About seven years ago, when I was kicking around Montana, I played poker with a gentleman who'd bought a large share in a played-out silver mine. He put up some of his share, and I won it. Shortly afterward, before I had a chance to lose it myself, they discovered that indeed the mine was played out in silver, but they found quite a bit of copper. The name of the mine was the Anaconda.”
Darcy fell back against the cushions. “You have a share in the Anaconda?”
“A little one. But it's, well, quite profitable. It allowed me to retire to Solace, and now we can do whatever we want, I'm afraid.”
“I don't know what to say.”
“We could toast your good fortune again,” Columbine said helpfully.
Ned gave a shout of laughter. “I would say so! Here's to Mr. and Mrs. Finn! And,” he said with a meaningful glance at Columbine, “may you be toasting us someday.”
Columbine's smile felt a bit stiff. She had confided to Darcy that now that Cora was suing Ned for divorce, she was nervously awaiting his proposal of marriageâand her response. She had no idea what she would say. She imagined it would be no. Marriage and her work were not compatible. If only he would let things stay as lovely as they were. If only he wouldn't ask her. But he would.
She toasted, not wanting to spoil the moment. Darcy smiled at her; she knew what Columbine was thinking, no doubt, and despite her happiness with Tavish, she sympathized. What a treasure, to have such a sister now. Columbine's face clouded and she put down her glass. “I do wish you would change your minds about living here. I will miss you.”
Darcy touched her hand. “I don't think I could return to New York,” she said. “I want to live my life in the open air. At least for a while.”
“You'll just have to make long visits, Columbine,” Tavish said. “There's plenty of reforming that needs to be done here, too. Artemis Hinkle and I are talking about buying a newspaper together. Perhaps I'll give the Big Four a piece of my mind. Time to make a stand, you know.”
Columbine laughed. “It's about time.”
Darcy watched the two of them over her glass. Tavish didn't know it, but she had brought up the idea to Artemis Hinkle. Little did she know then that Tavish would have money to invest. But what Tavish didn't know was that she had every intention of working on the paper herself.
For an instant, tears swam in her eyes from pure happiness. This was her new family, she thought. Her new life. Columbine, struggling with love and work. And Tavishâcould such a man settle down? He had a fortune, but she wouldn't be surprised if he lost it and made another. Life would not be what it had been for Mrs. Claude Statton, a serene, sunlit surface that dazzled the eye with false brilliance while it concealed a tainted, churning sea beneath. For Darcy Finn, life would flow clear and sweet. There would be no murky undercurrents, no parallel life running underneath, half-glimpsed and turned away from, hidden, depraved. Life would be what it seemed to beâregrets and sorrows, pain, laughter, happiness. That was the real adventure.
Tavish directed a private smile at her, and she smiled back.
“Here's to the future,” he said, reading her mind.
A future that had no roads to follow, no signposts, no fences, no maps. She and Tavish would make their own.
She raised her glass. “To the future,” she said. “Lord only knows what it will bring with you, Tavish Finn.”
“Oh, indeed,” he replied. “But I have plans, Mrs. Finn.”
She drained her glass and licked the tiny cold drops of champagne from her lips. It tasted marvelous.
“As do I, Mr. Finn,” she said.