A Loving Scoundrel Page 6

Having said that, she didn’t wait to see if he’d comply. She moved back to the door and lay down in front of it to look under the crack. Sure enough, there were shoes right on the other side of the door. The servant was still standing out there, probably trying to listen through the door himself.

When she didn’t hear any snoring starting up yet, she turned around and glared at Malory. He rolled his eyes toward the ceiling, his lips twisted in disgust, as if her suggestion was quite beneath him. And he didn’t move directly to the bed but went to the window instead, to see how much trouble it would be to leave that way. He must have decided that wasn’t an option because he sighed then and moved to sit on the bed, bounced on it actually, then tested out a few snoring sounds till he got one he was satisfied with and started making a lot of racket with it.

Danny almost grinned. He looked so disgruntled to be doing something so simple as snoring. Too bad. They wouldn’t be locked in an upstairs bedroom if he hadn’t come in the house to begin with. She would have been out of there without a hitch, instead of lying on the floor hoping a suspicious servant would get tired and go back to bed.

It didn’t look as if he would. It was starting to look as if he was going to stand “guard” out there in the hall all night. She could almost hear the prison door slamming shut on her and she was getting a queasy, sick feeling in her belly.

With desperation creeping up on her, she went to look out the window for herself. Malory’s sigh had been accurate. It was not an avenue for easy departure, not without a rope. No tree nearby to jump to, no ledges of any sort to use to climb down with.

They could rip up the sheets to make their own rope, which she wouldn’t even have thought of if the nabobs hadn’t done that earlier in the evening, but a glance about the room showed nothing heavy enough to use as an anchor to support Malory’s weight. Hers maybe, but not his. The bed might work, but it was just a small one for a single guest and had a wooden frame that could break. They’d probably make too much noise trying to move it next to the window anyway.

When it finally dawned on her that the servant might be waiting for the lamp to go out, Danny could have kicked herself. Her drunk “employer” might not worry about the lamp, but why would the sober “driver” want to leave the light on to sleep, unless he wasn’t planning on sleeping? She hoped that was what the servant was thinking, and sure enough, about ten minutes after the light went out, he moved off down the hall and back down the stairs.

All the while, Malory had been trying out a wide assortment of snoring sounds that would have caused Danny to bust a gut laughing if she hadn’t convinced herself they were going to be stuck there all night. The servant definitely distrusted them, or else he wouldn’t have stood outside their room so long. But it could have been worse. He could have gone to wake his employer, they could have checked to see if anything was missing from their house, and there’d be no talking her way out of having her pockets filled with Heddings’s jewels.

She moved over and told the nabob, “He’s finally gone. We’ll give him a few minutes to go back to bed.”

“Then what?”

“Then I pick that lock open and we get the ’ell out o’ ’ere.”

“You know how to do that?”

She snorted. “Course I do, and I carry m’own picker.”

She pulled a thick pin out of her hat and went to work on the door. Piece of cake. Bedroom doors usually were.

Within seconds she was saying, “Come on. And we’ll use the front door. Since they already know we’ve been ’ere, leaving it unlocked won’t matter.”

She didn’t wait to see if he was going to follow her. The moment she was outside she took off at a run and didn’t look back or stop once until she reached the trees. Only then did she pause, but merely to catch her breath and her bearings. It took a moment to spot the coach lamps through the thick foliage. Malory caught up to her then.

He took her arm to lead her the rest of the way to the coach. She tried to jerk it away but that effort just made him put his arm around her shoulder. He obviously didn’t trust her to turn over the jewels now that they were safely out of Heddings’s house.

Without the danger of having a servant holding a gun nearby, she couldn’t handle being this close to Malory. She’d put his arm around her earlier when they’d walked up Heddings’s staircase and had felt nothing but her fear. This was nowhere near the same thing. Now she was feeling the length of him pressed to her side, his muscular thigh, his hip and his hard chest, feeling how perfectly she fit under his arm, feeling the heat coming off him—or was it her heat? She was remembering just how bleeding handsome he was, even though she couldn’t see his face in the dark of the woods. She was remembering those sexy blue eyes moving over her in the coach, as if he could see right through her disguise.

If he stopped right then and there and turned her toward him, she would have been mush for whatever he had in mind. He stopped. Her heart began to pound so loudly it throbbed in her ears. He was going to do it, lower his mouth to hers. Her first kiss, and from the most handsome man she’d ever encountered. It would be sublime. She knew it and held her breath, trembling in anticipation.

He pushed her into the coach. They’d only stopped so he could open the door.

Deflated more than she wanted to admit, Danny sat back on her seat in a huff, then glared at Malory as soon as he took the seat across from her. More than half of that glare was because of what had just happened, or hadn’t happened—all in her own mind, of course. But that didn’t stop her from feeling disgruntled. Malory wouldn’t know that though. He would attribute her look only to the topic she introduced.

“That were the most stupid thing I ever saw,” she told him.

“D’ye realize gettin’ caught in there were yer fault! If ye were going to enter that ’ouse, ye could ’ave stolen the rings yerself. Wot did ye need me for then, eh?”

“What happened?” Percy asked, but was ignored.

“You were gone longer than necessary,” Malory pointed out stiffly. “Or I wouldn’t have gone inside.”

“I weren’t gone even ten minutes!”

“So it was an inordinatelylong ten minutes. All of which is irrelevant now.”

“You could ’ave got us killed! I wouldn’t be callin’ that irrelevant, mate.”

“Whathappened?” Percy asked again.

“Nothing the youngun here wasn’t adept at handling,” Malory conceded. Then to Danny, as if he hadn’t just pumped up her pride with that casual compliment, he added, “Let’s have a look at your findings to see if all that trouble was worth it.”

“Get this coach moving first,” she said, mollified somewhat that he’d just admitted she’d saved his arse. “We ain’t safe till we’re nowhere near ’ere.”

“Good point,” Percy agreed, and tapped on the roof of the coach, which signaled the driver to head back to town. “Now, please, keep me on tenterhooks no longer.”

As long as Lord Malory wasn’t doing the insisting, Danny saw no reason to deny his friend. She started emptying her pockets on the seat next to her, including the wad of money, then scooped up the whole pile and dumped it on the seat between the two nabobs. She even turned her pockets inside out to show them she wasn’t keeping anything back.

Percy immediately pounced on one old-looking ring with the exclamation “Good God, yes!” He brought the antique to his lips to kiss it, then with unseemly haste, stuck it back on his finger where it apparently belonged. “Can’t thank you enough, dear boy! You have my—” His appreciation was cut short when his eye was caught by the jewelry again. “Oh my, there’s the other!” he exclaimed, and spread the jewelry wider to snatch the second ring out of the pile.

“You have our thanks, lad,” Lord Malory finished Percy’s thought.

“Eternal thanks,” Percy added, beaming at Danny.

“I wouldn’t gothat far,” Malory rejoined.

“Speak for yourself, old chap. You weren’t the one hiding from your own mother.”

“I don’t have a mother.”

“From George then.”

“Point taken,” Malory conceded with a grin.

“George?” Danny asked.

“My stepmother.”

“Is namedGeorge? ” she gasped.

When the young lord laughed, his cobalt eyes fairly sparkled.

“It’s Georgina actually, but m’father cut that short just to be contrary. Habit of his, don’t you know.”

She didn’t know and didn’t want to. She’d done what they’d asked—insisted—she do. And successfully, so there was no question about doing it again. She just wanted to get home now and face Dagger—and find out if she still had a home.

Reminded of that, her expression turned gloomy. They didn’t notice. They were still glancing down at the pile of glitter.

Percy tapped a large oval-shaped pendant surrounded by emeralds and diamonds. “Looks familiar, don’t it?” he said to his friend.

“Indeed. I admired Lady Katherine’s bosom more’n once when it graced her chest.”

“Didn’t take her for a gambler, least not the sort to part with something like that.”

“She isn’t. Heard it was stolen several months ago while she was vacationing in Scotland.”

“You pulling my leg, old man?”

Malory was frowning by then. “No, and this bracelet looks rather familiar as well. I’d swear my cousin Diana was wearing it just last Christmas. Don’t recall her mentioning it was stolen, but I knowshe doesn’t gamble a’tall.”

“Oh, I say, are you suggesting Lord Heddings is a thief?”

“Looks that way, don’t it?”

“But that’s splendid news. Can’t tell you how much guilt I was trying to ignore over this distasteful business.”

Malory caught Danny rolling her eyes over that remark. She could tell he had to work really hard not to grin at her. Percy wasn’t finished, however, and his next question sobered the young lord.

“But what are we going to do about it?”

“There’s nothing wecan do about it, without implicating ourselves and our young friend here.”

“Well, that’s too bad. Hate to see a thief go about his merry way without paying a price for…it…” Percy intercepted Danny’s pointed stare and coughed. “Present company excluded, naturally.”

“Let’s not forget yerselves,” Danny sneered. “Stealing that glitter weren’tmy idea.”

“Quite right,” Percy said with a blush.

But Lord Malory noted with displeasure, “No,your idea was to emptyour pockets, so there’s no need to be pointing fingers here.”

The heat from the multiple blushes she felt just then could have lit the coach brazier. Danny hated having the tables turned on her, she really did. But under the circumstances, she was fresh out of rejoinders.

He was quick, that one, and suspicious, or he wouldn’t have followed her into the house to make sure she did the job. Astute, too, and clever. She didn’t doubt coming here had been his idea.

It was too bad he wasn’t a half-wit like his friend. She might have called him that in her mind earlier, but she knew it wasn’t so. She could probably have talked her way out of her involvement if he was. She still probably could have—if he weren’t so bleedin’ handsome. But she had trouble putting two thoughts together when he turned those cobalt eyes on her. Her cunning and wits had gone right out the door, leaving behind a brainless ninny, hopelessly out of her element.

Chapter 6

IT SEEMEDto take much longer getting back to the city than it had taken getting to Heddings’s house. Danny didn’t have a watch, but she wouldn’t have been surprised if the sun had soon made an appearance. She was tired, exhausted really, from so many emotions she wasn’t used to experiencing. She was starting to get hungry, too. And she still had a lot to deal with when she finally got home.

Actually, she hoped Dagger would be asleep so she could get some sleep herself. It would be much easier to offer explanations, or lies for that matter, with a clear mind that wasn’t muddled with exhaustion.

Percy was napping again, smart man. Danny wished she could do the same, but with Lord Malory still wide-awake, she didn’t dare. Not that she thought he’d do anything to her while she slept. She just needed to be alert to watch for an opportunity to escape in an area she recognized.

She didn’t doubt they were going to let her go, now that she’d done what they wanted, but she doubted they’d take her back where they’d found her. Why would they go out of their way, late as it was? And dropping her off intheir end of town would mean she’d be hopelessly lost and wasting hours more trying to find her way home. She might have grown up in London, but it was a big town and she was only familiar with her small section of it.

She knew to the second when his eyes were back on her. Glancing at him confirmed it. He had something on his mind. The look he was giving her was much too thoughtful.

“By the by, where’d you leave your shoes?”

The question surprised her. It certainly wasn’t what she’d expected to hear, considering his pensive frown. And actually, she was surprised he hadn’t mentioned it sooner, since he’d had her march through the woods in her stockings. And he’d tied up her ankles earlier. He would have had to be blind not to notice she wasn’t wearing normal footwear.

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