Authors: Every Wish Fulfilled
Little by little the haze of twilight seeped between the…
He wished he could say it was good to be…
He was not a man like any other. Nor was…
It was noon, another glorious day. Sunlight streamed down from…
Heather cast a furtive glance beneath her lashes at her…
The night was clear and bright and warm, the sky…
One single, startled breath was all she drew…and then his…
The carriage sped toward Cumberland, climbing rolling hills that took…
God in heaven, he did…and it was all she wanted.
Morning bloomed with buttercup-yellow hues that streamed through the shutters,…
Papa’s birthday fete was a rousing success. The gathering was…
Her voice wooden, she told him how the babe had…
I want it to be you. I want it to…
Time had no meaning in the hours that followed. Sleep…
“I need to see Papa.”
The Earl of Deverell’s London residence was an impressive sight,…
The grasp of her mind faltered. It couldn’t be. Dear…
Heather had gone very still. Her lips parted, but no…
A morning mist hung close to the ground, for the…
He meant it, for Damien Tremayne, Earl of Deverell, was…
The world spun crazily. Heather felt she would surely faint.
He went deadly still. She almost thought he hadn’t heard,…
Her stomach lurched. She didn’t black out, though she thought…
Heather’s throat was frozen. She made no outcry, but she…
The physician returned to the Grayson town house for the…
They were married a scant ten days later in the…
The Outskirts of London, 1815
Little by little the haze of twilight seeped between the shutters. The gloom of darkness floated into the room…along with the twisting specter of death.
A man lay feeble and spent within the inn’s finest bed—Charles Tremayne, Earl of Deverell—his long, noble fingers curled around the silk counterpane. Once Charles Tremayne had been hearty and robust, the stoutest of men. But infection had ravaged his lungs; his illness had stolen his strength, weakened his muscles to mush, leaving but a remnant of all he’d been before. And now what breath remained in his body rattled like that of a sickly old man.
From the corner, a hovering figure surveyed the Earl of Deverell. James Elliot watched with impassive indifference, his legs stretched out before him, arms across a beefy chest. A restless
impatience dwelled deep in his eyes; his mouth thinned.
, he willed venomously of the earl.
Hurry and die, man
. He was sorely tempted to snatch up a pillow, smother the wretch and put him out of his misery, for he was anxious to get home to his supper—not that a surfeit of comfort awaited him in that sliver of a cottage he called home. But at least he was his own man. Master of his house and all he surveyed.
And he gave the orders there.
Across from him, Charles Tremayne raised his head. “James,” came his raspy whisper. “You have been good to me, James.”
Good to him? James Elliot scoffed. He’d done what he’d been told to do—take care of the man during his illness. He’d dribbled gruel into the earl’s mouth and mopped his chin. He’d fetched and emptied smelly chamber pots countless times over the last fortnight. Indeed, James thought blackly, Henry Foster, the innkeeper, would have had his hide—and his job—if he hadn’t done what he was told.
For an instant sheer malice flamed in James Elliot’s eyes. Lord, but he’d like to kick Foster’s fat, waddling arse down the nearest stairway.
But he bore the burden of a wife, and—more’s the pity—a daughter.
His daughter. His mouth flattened as he thought of her. Sniveling little nuisance. ’Twas because of her he’d lost his left thumb—and ’twas a moment forever burned into his memory.
He’d been on his knees chopping kindling in the fall of last year; the brat had come up beside him and pushed at his arm. That was all it had taken…a howl of rage and pain had erupted from his mouth. He’d seized a stump of wood and whirled on her. The little bitch! She had maimed him….
But now she was maimed, too, he thought with satisfaction.
“James. Come closer, James.”
Elliot clamped back a vehement refusal. Instead he arose and did as he was bidden.
“The date, James. What is the date?”
“The eleventh of March, my lord.”
Charles Tremayne rolled his head on the pillow. “I’ve been here nearly a fortnight. I was to have returned home by mid-month.” A wispy sigh escaped lips that were dried and cracked. “The physician was right. I should have sent for my wife, my Sylvia. But I thought this stubborn infection would pass, that I would soon be well and on my way home to my family in Yorkshire. Never did I dream it would worsen so quickly…I was too stubborn, for never again will I see my boys, Giles and Damien. Never again will I hold my sweet wife in my arms.” His eyes filled with tears. “I see it now, now that it is too late….”
James Elliot rolled his eyes and sneered. How long must he be subjected to the prattling of this dratted man?
The earl coughed, a shivering, wracking sound that seemed to encompass his whole body. Long
moments passed before he was able to speak again.
“You have taken good care of me, James. My Sylvia will reward you for your efforts, I promise. But now I must ask one more favor of you, for I have no one else to turn to, no one but you.” The earl raised a trembling hand toward the bureau. “There alongside the bureau, James. There is a cloth sack. Look inside, and in it you will find a jewel case.”
Elliot swiveled his head to his left. With narrowed eyes he peered through the shadows. There was indeed a small cloth sack tipped against the side of the bureau. He did as the earl bade him, withdrawing a long silver case.
“This is it? This is the jewel case?”
“Yes, that’s it, James.” The earl’s voice thinned. “James, I shall never see the dawn of another day. But I must ask you to take the jewel case to my wife, Sylvia, in Yorkshire. The coin within will pay for your journey, though I regret it will take some days. I beg of you, please do this for me, for hidden within the case is my legacy to my wife, a treasure I pray she will find beyond price…. She will know how to find it, for she alone knows the secret….”
Those were the Earl of Deverell’s last words.
The man in the bed was forgotten. For a never-ending moment James stared at the silver jewel case, his mind buzzing.
With a reverent fingertip he traced the scrolled silver edging upon the lid of the case, yet his expression could only be called greedy. There was a word engraved into a small oval in the
center of the lid; since he had never learned to read, it meant little to him.
His cruel lips pulled into a wolfish smile. He erupted into laughter, a cackling sound that—had another been present—might have raised the very hackles of their spine.
“’Tis so easy,” he said between bursts of mirth. “So bloody
He felt no pity for the man who had just died, nor his widow nor family. No shame for what he was about to do.
For James Elliot was a man without pity. A man without shame.
A man without scruples.
An hour later he burst into a tiny cottage that squatted alongside a rutted, muddy lane. His wife, Justine, glanced up from where she sat before the warmth of a meager fire. She rose, tugging a dirty shawl around her shoulders.
“What kept you?” she snapped. “Your supper is fair burned, and no doubt you’ll blame me. Well, ’tis your own fault if you go hungry this night, James Elliot, for I’ll be damned if I’ll trouble myself further!”
Elliot’s feral smile displayed a row of uneven, yellow teeth. “Supper be damned,” he said baldly. In his hands he held a cloth sack; now he raised it high. “We’ll be feasting by the end of tomorrow, or my name is not James Elliot.”
Justine had squared her hands against her hips and braced herself as if for battle, as if she expected such from her husband. At his words, she looked him up and down, as if her ears had deceived her. Her eyes narrowed.
“What is this?” she asked snidely. “Feasting on the pittance you make? Or have you been out hunting instead of working, James Elliot?”
In answer he pulled out the silver jewel case, holding it up triumphantly.
Justine’s expression changed abruptly as he sat it upon a crooked-legged table. A small, black-haired child had toddled up as well, next to her father’s leg. Curiously she stretched out a tiny finger toward the smooth metal.
Her father whirled on her. “Don’t touch that, brat!” he snarled. With the back of his hand, he dealt her a blow across the cheek that sent her tumbling to the floor. Her lips trembled, but she made not a sound.
Elliot glared at his daughter. Loathsome little bitch! he thought furiously. God, but he wished the brat had never been born!
Justine paid little heed. “Find your bed,” she ordered brusquely, “and don’t come out till morning.”
The child crawled to a straw pallet in the corner. Shivering, she curled into a tight little ball.
Both mother and father had forgotten her. Justine nodded at the box. “That’s a fine piece, indeed, James. How did you come by it?”
“You know the earl I’ve been tending? Let us say that I relieved him of his belongings just a little early.” Elliot grinned his satisfaction at his cleverness. “’Tis a jewel case.”
Justine came alive. “A jewel case!” She scrambled to open it, only to see that the compartments in the top layer were empty, and those
beneath as well. She spun around in furious dismay. “Why, you lout, ’tis empty!”
Elliot clamped his jaw together. “Watch your tongue,” he warned tightly.
Justine looked as if she longed to argue. She must have decided against it, for she said grudgingly, “Well, no matter. It’ll fetch a good price, I suppose.”
“Oh, we’ll not be selling it.” Elliot’s tone was smug. “Not just yet anyway.”
Justine’s sunken eyes blazed. “And why not? ’Tis not terribly fancy—I’d have expected a jewel-encrusted box of an earl—but ’tis no doubt worth half a year’s earnings at least!”
Elliot’s smile vanished. “If you’d stop your whining, I’d tell you why. Here is what the earl said before he died. ‘Hidden within is my legacy,’” he quoted, “‘a treasure beyond price.’”
Justine stared first at him, then at the case. “What?” she said blankly. “You mean there is a treasure hidden inside?”
“I mean exactly that!”
“What do you think it is? Gold? Jewels?” She could scarcely contain her excitement.
Elliot’s eyes shone. “What does it matter? ’Tis a treasure beyond price! Oh, what plans I have for that treasure!” He gloated. “We’ll be rich, Justine. Just think of it. We’ll be rich!”
Her eyes flew wide. “Oh,” she breathed. “Oh, my.”
“Oh, my, indeed.” Elliot gave a guttural laugh. When his wife stretched out covetous arms toward the jewel case, her intention obvious, he grabbed her hands. “No. Time enough to find it
later,” he growled. He yanked her body against his. “For now I’ve something else in mind.”
Justine obliged him, tugging his head down to hers. “Ah,” she murmured. “You’ve not had your supper yet, have you?”
Elliot ground the bulge in his breeches against her hips. “To the devil with supper,” he muttered. “I’ve a hunger of a different sort.”
But all at once Justine stepped away. “Wait,” she commanded. From a cupboard across the room, she reached far inside and retrieved a dark, dusty bottle. When it was opened, she splashed the ruby liquid into a dingy mug. Smiling, she returned to her husband and held it out.
Elliot curled his fingers around the mug, his left thumb but a stub against the dull metal. His humor was well restored. “So you’ve been hidin’ it from me, eh? A pity, wife, for now I’ll have it all for myself.” He pressed wet lips against the rim of the mug and drank gustily.
Justine surveyed him lazily as he downed most of the bottle. But just before he would have drained the last dregs from the mug, she reached for it.
Two of her fingers slipped into the mug, dipping into the liquid. Parting the front of her gown, she bared naked, jutting breasts. Her eyes never leaving his burning gaze, she swirled the tips of her fingers around and around huge brown nipples, leaving them dark and wet with wine.
A seductive smile curved her lips. “Your supper, James,” she purred.
Elliot bared his teeth. A coarse oath escaped.
His hand fumbled with his breeches. He released his manhood into his hand even as he reached for his wife.
In seconds she lay flattened beneath him on their lumpy mattress. His mouth ravaged hers fiercely. With a grunt he plunged savagely into her body.
The air was filled with noisy snores when Justine eased herself from beneath his weight. Naked, she walked toward the silver jewel case. She spared nary a glance toward her child sleeping in the corner, her thin cheeks streaked with tears.
She rubbed a hand across the smooth metal. So James had plans for his newfound treasure, did he?
A sly smile crept across her lips. Ah, but so did she.
By morning she was gone, the jewel case—and the little girl—along with her.
James Elliot fell into a rage that lasted days. In his cups one night, he destroyed the inside of a tavern and killed two men who tried to stop him.
Little wonder he was sentenced to twenty years in Newgate.
As for Justine, poor soul, she did not live beyond a fortnight. So it was that the poor little mite who was their daughter was left with neither father nor mother.
Many would have said ’twas a blessing indeed.
But alas, in time…in time destiny would twine their fates together anew….
Father and daughter had not seen the last of each other.