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Authors: Kat Martin

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BOOK: Heart of Courage
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“This is no place for a lady,” Thor said, his expression grim. “You and your aunt should not have come.”

“My brother is here,” Lindsey told him. “We had to come.”

He didn't say more, but she could tell he wasn't pleased.

They reached Rudy's cell, a grim, Spartanly furnished chamber behind a thick oak door. Her brother sat at a rickety table with Jonas Marvin, her father's attorney. Both men rose when the small group appeared in the doorway.

“I will wait for you out here,” Thor said.

Lindsey nodded. “Thank you.” Rudy had enough trouble without worrying about her association with an unacceptable male. Thank God, Aunt Dee had as yet refrained from any comment.

“Hello, sis.” Rudy looked so fragile, so frightened that tears sprang into her eyes.

She managed a smile, went over and hugged him. “Are you all right? They haven't mistreated you?”

“I'm fine. Aunt Dee got hold of Mr. Marvin and he came down straightaway. He paid the ease and made the arrangements for me to have a place on this side of the prison.”

It was a slightly better area where inmates were kept who could afford to pay for the privilege. The cells were larger and each had a bed, a table and two chairs. Still, it was dismal in the extreme, and Lindsey bit down on an urge to cry for her brother.

Instead, she fixed her attention on the bookish-looking man wearing gold-rimmed spectacles who stood next to Rudy.

“Thank you so much for coming, Mr. Marvin,” she said.

“It is good to see you, Jonas,” Aunt Dee added. “I wish the circumstances could have been better.”

“I had hoped it wouldn't come to this,” he said.

“We all did.”

“So what are we to do, Mr. Marvin?” Lindsey asked. “How do we get my brother out of here?” Both her aunt and Jonas Marvin had sent word to her parents, but so far had been unable to reach them. Whatever action was taken would be up to the four of them.

“Three days ago, Rudolph and I agreed to hire a private detective, a man named Harrison Mansfield. I am hoping Mr. Mansfield will be able to find evidence that will prove Rudolph's innocence.”

She thought of the investigator, Dolph Petersen, in whom Krista had such faith, but there had been no word of his return to the city.

“Also, I spoke to Avery French about the possibility of acquiring his services should the need arise—as indeed it has. You may recognize the name, since Mr. French is renowned as one of the foremost barristers in London. As soon as I leave, I shall alert him as to what has occurred so that he can begin immediately to formulate Rudolph's defense.”

Her stomach rolled. This was really happening. If they didn't find the true killer, Rudy could very well hang.

“Why don't you sit down, dear?” Aunt Dee suggested, noting the sudden pallor of her face.

“I'm all right. It is just…it is difficult to believe any of this is real.”

The solicitor nodded gravely. “Unfortunately, I'm afraid it is.”

Lindsey took a steadying breath. Now was not the time to fall apart. She turned to Rudy. “Since last we spoke, you've had some time to think. Have you remembered anything more about the night Phoebe Carter was killed?”

Rudy shook his head. “I know I was with her that night. I remember we left Tom Boggs's party together.”

“Do you recall who was at the party, aside from your usual friends?”

“Just fellas. I remember seeing Winslow and Finch—you remember them, don't you, sis?”

“Of course.”
Edward Winslow and Martin Finch.
More young rakes hardly worth the trouble it took to raise them.

“Who else was there?”

“Mostly they were gents I didn't know.”

“Is there anything more you recall?”

“I don't remember where I took her. God, I wish I did.”

“There was a party at the Blue Moon that night. Is there a chance you took her there?”

He frowned. “Could have, I suppose.” He looked at Aunt Delilah, his face a study in misery. “There is something I didn't tell you. After we left Tom's house, Phoebe took me to a place…I don't remember the name. They smoke opium there, down in the basement.”

Aunt Dee gripped the back of a chair. “Dear God, Rudolph.”

“I just tried it the once, Auntie. I won't ever do it again.”

“Oh, Rudy.” The constable's words rang in Lindsey's ears.
You don't ever really know a person.
Was it possible the drug Rudy took could have affected him enough to do murder?

She would find out more about the substance, see if such a thing could occur.

“I was just having fun,” Rudy said softly. “I never meant for any of this to happen.”

Lindsey forced herself to smile. “You mustn't worry, dearest. We'll figure all of this out. With all of us working together, we'll find the guilty party.”

She looked at Rudy, saw the anguish and fear in his face. Her resolve strengthened. Whatever her brother had gotten himself into these past months, deep down, Rudy was the same earnest young man he had always been.

And that young man wasn't a murderer.

Nine

W
earing the orange satin gown, her hair left in loose curls down her back, Lindsey stood in front of the mirror in her bedroom, trying to work up the courage to leave.

“Good Lord!”

She whirled at the shocked tone of Delilah's voice. “Aunt Dee! I—I thought you were asleep.”

“I heard you moving about. I knew you were worried about your brother so I came to check on you.” Delilah's lips firmed. “Where did you get that dreadful, outlandish dress and why, in the name of God, are you made up the way you are?”

“I'm, ahh…I'm, ahh…”

“I want the truth, young lady, and I want it now.”

She let out a sigh. “You are beginning to sound like Thor.”

“Thor…yes, well, that is another subject we need to discuss. At the moment I want to know why you are dressed as a…as a…”

“Lady of the evening?” she supplied.

“To put it politely, yes.”

“It's a bit of a tale, Aunt Dee. If you are certain you wish to hear it, you had better close the door.”

The door firmly closed.

With no other choice but to tell her aunt the truth, Lindsey began to explain as simply and briefly as possible, the efforts she had made to clear her brother's name.

“So you went down to Covent Garden,” Delilah confirmed.

“That's right. That was where the murders took place. I wanted to talk to the people there, try to find out if someone might have seen or heard something that might prove useful.”

“Did you discover anything?”

“Not that night, which is why I'm going back.”

“Going back? But it's nearly midnight!”

“The women who were killed were prostitutes, Aunt Dee. The places prostitutes frequent aren't open in the daytime. I already tried that.”

“But—”

“There is no need to worry. I am going with Thor. I promise you I will be perfectly safe.”

“I realize the man is as big as a house, but—”

“He saved my life, Aunt Dee. I probably shouldn't tell you, but it's true.”

Her aunt sank down heavily on the tapestry stool in front of Lindsey's dresser.

“As I said, I was trying to come up with something that would help prove Rudy's innocence. I went to Covent Garden last night and I took Elias with me.”

“Good heavens, is that where he got into a fight?”

She nodded.

“And you have a bruise on your cheek, as well.” She sighed. “You had better tell me the rest.”

Wishing there were some other way, Lindsey told her aunt about disguising herself in Rudy's clothes. She told her about the run-in they'd had with the awful men at the gaming hall.

“Krista knew what I was planning and she told Thor. If he hadn't come along when he did, we both might now be dead.”

“Good Lord.” Her aunt shook her head. “Your brother in prison. You running about dressed first as a man and now as a strumpet. I don't know what I am going to do.”

“Well, if we don't do
something,
Rudy is going to hang.”

Delilah gazed down at her lap. “I know.”

“I have to go, Aunt Dee. With Thor I will be safe.”

“How can you be sure?”

Lindsey grinned. “I have seen him fight.”

Aunt Dee rolled her eyes. “It is my duty as your chaperone to prevent you from putting yourself in danger.”

Lindsey opened her mouth to argue.

“On the other hand—you are a grown woman. And I imagine unless I order the footmen to tie you to the chair, there is no way to keep you here.”

“None whatsoever.”

Aunt Dee's gaze ran over her gaudy, indecent dress. “Perhaps a tucker…?” she suggested, referring to a bit of lace that could be tucked into the low-cut top.

Lindsey laughed. “I'm afraid that might be missing the point.”

She sighed. “Yes, I suppose it would.”

Lindsey leaned over and kissed her aunt's cheek. “I've got to go. Thor will be waiting.”

“Do you have any idea how highly unsuitable that man is for you? He has no title, no wealth of any consequence—why, he isn't even an Englishman. Thor Draugr is the last man with whom you should be keeping company.”

“He is only trying to help. Thor and I are just friends.”

One of Aunt Dee's black eyebrows went up. “It is difficult to remain friends with a man who looks like that.”

Lindsey clamped down on an urge to agree. “Nevertheless…” Grabbing her cloak and reticule, she headed for the door.

Thor would be waiting.

Her stomach lifted at the thought.

 

Thor paced the darkness outside the arched gate at the back of the garden. It was ten minutes after twelve. Mayhap Lindsey was unable to get away.

Mayhap, gods willing, the girl had come to her senses.

The wooden gate creaked open and a cloaked figure slipped through.

“I'm sorry I am late,” Lindsey said. “My aunt came in just as I was ready to leave. She demanded to know why I was wearing this awful dress. I had no choice but to tell her the truth.”

“Your aunt let you leave dressed as a whore?”

She shrugged her slim shoulders. “Rudy might hang. Neither of us has a choice.”

No choice.
He was surrounded by women too bold for their own good. Tonight he escorted a woman who believed she had no choice but to dress up like a doxy and go into one of the roughest sections of the city to protect a brother who seemed unworthy of the risk she was taking.

Inwardly he cursed, but he couldn't suppress a hint of admiration.

Taking Lindsey's arm, he guided her toward the carriage. When she caught a glimpse of the man inside, she halted at the bottom of the narrow iron stairs.

“My brother is coming with us,” Thor explained. Lindsey had told Krista about the attack outside the Blue Moon. Krista had told Leif, who insisted on coming along. “I told him he was not needed, but mayhap it is better that he is here.”

Lindsey smiled. “Well, I will certainly be safe enough with the two of you.” She climbed aboard and settled on the seat across from Leif. Thor's tall, blond brother was even bigger than he was, which left little room inside the carriage.

Thor sat down beside Lindsey, his shoulder touching hers. A spark seemed to leap between them and her gaze shot to his. Thor glanced away, hoping she wouldn't see the lust that simple touch ignited.

As the carriage rolled beneath passing street lamps, he caught glimpses of the orange satin dress beneath the opening at the front of her cloak. She had reddened her lips and cheeks and left her honey hair in long soft curls down her back. She should have looked like one of Madame Fortier's paid-for women but she did not.

With her delicate cheekbones and fine features, she was beautiful. He looked at her and when she smiled, when those ruby lips curved as if in invitation, hunger hit him like a fist. His shaft filled and heat pooled thick and heavy in his groin.

By the gods, he never should have kissed her. He still didn't understand what demon had momentarily stolen his wits. Only moments before, he had vowed not to let her know how much he wanted her. One burning kiss made the fact more than clear.

It was a cruel joke that he had never tasted sweeter lips, never felt such a violent stab of desire for a woman. It angered him that the woman should be Lindsey, a willful female, exactly the sort he disdained.

And it worried him. This wild need for her was something he had expected to feel for the life-mate the gods had chosen for him. But Lindsey could never be his mate. They were completely ill-suited. And yet he ached with desire for her, couldn't get this need of her out of his head. They shared no common destiny and yet he wanted her. More than any woman he had known.

Thor silently cursed.

 

The first stop was the Golden Pheasant, one of Covent Garden's finer establishments—which wasn't saying much. As they walked inside, Thor took Lindsey's cloak and handed it to a servant who stood next to the door.

“We won't be long,” Thor said.

Lindsey glanced around. She had been there with Elias, dressed as a man, but the manager hadn't been in and no one else seemed able to help them. The place was a cut above the Blue Moon, the clientele well-dressed and the establishment clean. Thor started walking, urging her forward with a hand at her waist. She could feel the heat of his touch through the slippery satin, and a little flutter rose in her stomach.

His sideways glance caught her by surprise. She could feel the heat of it moving over her breasts, making her nipples tighten. Her breasts were not large, but the dress fit so snugly they pushed up into the V at the front, exposing the soft white swells and all but her suddenly aching nipples.

Thor glanced from her to Leif, but his brother seemed not to notice.

“Is something the matter?” she asked innocently, knowing full well he was worried about how much of her the dress exposed. Reaching inside his coat, he pulled a crisp white handkerchief from his pocket and stuffed it down the front of her dress.

“Now we can go.”

She bit back a grin. Before she could tell him that covering up her bosom was not something a woman who sold her body would do, Leif reached over and plucked out the square of white linen.

“She is playing a role,” he said. “Leave her be.”

Thor stiffened. “You would not say that if she were Krista.”

“Krista is my wife.” An odd look came over Leif's face. “So that is the way it is. I should have seen it sooner.”

“There is nothing for you to see.” He urged Lindsey forward. “Come. It is time we got the answers we came for.”

They made their way to the back of the gaming hall, Lindsey walking between the two giant men, one dark, one fair, both with beautiful, crystalline blue eyes. If she had doubted the story Thor told her about the Viking life they had lived on his island, seeing them together this way, she no longer did.

That the men were warriors was clear. It was there in the way they moved, in the confidence that said there wasn't a man in the room who could best either one of them. Any lingering fear from her previous evening dissolved as the people in the room parted to let them pass as if a knife blade cut the crowd in two.

“We wish to speak to Mr. Adams,” Leif said to a young man seated at a desk behind the door leading into the office.

Adams was the manager. “Do you know him?” Lindsey asked.

“I used to gamble here. I haven't been back in some time.”

Great heavens, how could she have forgot? Before he married Krista, Leif Draugr made a fortune at the gaming tables, enough to win her father's approval and start his shipping business. It was said there was never a card player who was better.

“I'm Mr. Adams. You wished to see me?” The manager smoothed a light-brown mustache. He smiled as he recognized Leif. “Mr. Draugr. It's been a while. It's good to see you. What can I do for you?”

“We'd like to ask you about the night Phoebe Carter was murdered.”

Adams shook his head, moving strands of hair he had parted in the middle and carefully combed back on each side. “Nasty bit of business. According to the papers, it happened just a few blocks away. I was working that night.”

“Do you know a young man named Rudolph Graham?” Lindsey asked. Her brother's arrest was not yet common knowledge. Tomorrow the story would be in every newspaper in the city.

“I'm sorry, it's our policy to keep our clients' names private.”

“He woke up in one of your rooms the morning after the murder,” Thor said.

“I see.”

“He was here,” Thor pressed. “Do you know if the Carter woman was with him?”

“She wasn't here that night. If she had been, after her murder, it would have been the talk of the place. She wasn't here.”

“But Rudy was,” Lindsey pressed. “Do you know if there is someone who might have seen him?”

She thought Adams wasn't going to answer, but the warning in Thor's blue eyes changed his mind.

“We furnish a room with cots for anyone who drinks too much and needs to sleep it off. Someone on the night cleaning staff might have seen him. They start work at three. If you will follow me, you can speak to Mr. Stubbs.”

They followed the manager across the room and out through a door at the back of the club. They found Stubbs hunched over a broom, sweeping the floor, an old man with iron-gray hair and years of hardship etched into his face. The manager left them in the old man's company.

“There was a murder here a couple of weeks ago,” Leif began. “Have you heard about it?”

BOOK: Heart of Courage
11.02Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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