The Magic of You Page 13

They would, she had every confidence, get along famously together--eventually. In the meantime, she was going to have to figure out where to draw the line on provoking him before she reached the point of actually being intimidated, as she had just been. Retreating was a definite setback, in her opinion, because she hadn't wanted him to link her with all the other women who tiptoed around his temper.

Georgina had told her that women were drawn to Warren despite being wary of him. And he had gone along for too long having it that way, which kept that wall firmly encasing his heart. Amy wanted him to see her differently. She had to breach his defenses, and she couldn't do that if he thought he could frighten her off as he did every other woman who tried to get close to him.

They also had to make love. That was now imperative because of the short time she had to work with.

She'd thought just making him want her would do it, but obviously not. His will was much too strong. No, making love was the only way to get close enough to him to effect a difference, close enough to show him that she wasn't another Marianne, that she could be trusted never to hurt him, that she could make him happy. For eight years the man had been miserable, and he'd convinced himself that he liked it that way.

She was determined to show him another way, to put love and laughter back into his life.

A deep rut in the road, or some other obstruction, suddenly bounced the carriage, bringing Amy out of her introspection and to an awareness of what she was looking at outside. She frowned, confused for a moment, then felt a thrill of alarm, not for herself, but for the simple fact that her companion wasn't going to appreciate this one little bit. And unfortunately, it was up to her to deliver the bad news.

But there was no help for it. He needed 155 to be prepared, and also to know that they likely had

nothing of true danger to worry about.

"Ah--Warren? I don't think this carriage is going where you directed it."

He looked out the window, but since he was unfamiliar with London, the scenery outside told him nothing. "Where are we, then?"

"If I'm not mistaken, that isn't one of our splendid parks responsible for all those trees passing us by.

This is the road out of London, which we have no business being on to get to Berkeley Square."

Incredibly, his voice was calm as he asked, "Could the driver have misunderstood me?"

"I doubt it."

His eyes suddenly narrowed suspiciously on her. "This wouldn't be your idea, would it? Some cozy little love nest tucked away outside the city that you hope to make use of tonight?"

She grinned at him. She really couldn't help it. "Sorry, but I didn't get any further than hoping for the bed in your hotel room."

"Then what's this about?"

"One of my better guesses would be that we're

going to be robbed."

"Nonsense. In an area like the one we were in, I understand robberies are a common occurrence. There would have been no reason to take us outside the city."

"True, except robberies of this sort are also fairly common, offering the thieves a means of stealing horses, a coach, and our purses. Of course, hacks for hire aren't usually a target. Their horseflesh isn't the best, nor is the equipage, so they don't bring in much on the turnaround sale. But this one was sitting a bit long in one spot. The driver could have been asked about it and bragged that he'd been promised a hefty sum to wait."

"So you're saying that's not your driver up there?" he asked.

"Highly doubtful. He would have been disposed of, his jacket used by someone near his size to avoid suspicion. And I hate to say it, but it's likely there will be more than one of these thieves to contend with.

This kind usually operates in twos or threes, the others either lying flat on the roof so we wouldn't have noticed, or awaiting us on some deserted country lane that has been prearranged.

I do hope they only knocked the 157 driver out, rather than kill him."

He was really frowning by this time. "I'd worry about yourself right now, if I were you."

"Actually, I doubt we're in any serious danger. I don't know about your American thieves, but ours do their best not to kill off any gentry if they can help it. The hue and cry that follows such a deed is bad for the lot of them. They'd even turn over one of their own for the gibbet just to end it."

"Amy, why do I find all of this hard to believe?"

"Because you hadn't realized how ingenious our thieves are?" she suggested.

His glower said he didn't care for her humor right now. "I prefer to think the driver simply didn't hear the directions clearly, and that can be corrected."

To correct it, he pounded on the roof first to get the driver's attention, then opened the door enough to yell up at the man to stop. Instead, the carriage picked up a burst of speed that threw Warren back in his seat and slammed the door closed again.

"Well, that certainly accomplished wonders," Amy remarked, tongue-in-cheek.

"Dammit, if you weren't here, I'd simply jump out," he replied.

"That's right, blame me because I'm keeping you from breaking your neck."

"You'll take the blame enough for my being here in the first place."

"You'd rather see me here dealing with this on my own?" she asked with raised brow.

"I'd rather you stayed at home; then neither of us would be here."

She wished she had a good argument for that one, but didn't, so redirected his thoughts. "You aren't

carrying a great deal of money, are you?"

"To where I went? I'm not stupid."

"Then don't make such a to-do about it," she suggested reasonably. "It's fairly simple. You hand over the money and they don't hurt you."

"That isn't the way I do things, little girl."

She felt her first stirrings of real dread upon hearing that. "Warren, please, I know you were hoping for a fight tonight, but kindly don't choose these chaps. They're going to be armed--was

"So am I."

She blinked. "You are?" 159

He lifted both pant legs to remove a pistol from one boot and a wicked-looking blade from the other.

Amy's dread escalated to full-blown panic.

"Put those away!"

"The devil I will," he replied.

"Americans!" she said, leaving little doubt that she didn't think very highly of them at the moment. "I do not care to be caught in the crossfire while you play hero, and if you happen to get hurt, then I'm liable to do something stupid, like seek revenge on your behalf, and I don't care to get killed tonight, thank you."

"You're going to stay in the carriage," was all he said to that.

"I won't."

"You will."

"Ipromise you I won't. I'll stay so close to you that any bullet coming your way will have an equal opportunity of finding me. Is that what you want, Warren Anderson?"

"Damn it to hell, why can't you be sensible like normal females and try to hide under the seat? I wouldn't even mind if you had hysterics."

"Rubbish," she snorted. "Men hate hysterics, and Malorys don't have them."

Before he could reply to that, the carriage stopped, and so abruptly that Warren nearly lost his seat. He did drop the pistol he was holding. Amy made a mad grab for it on the floor, but his hand was there first.

"And what, may I ask, were you going to do with it?" he said.

"Toss it out the window." His sound of disgust said what he thought of that idea, so she added, "Look, put them away and I'll do anything you ask."

She'd have to figure out later how to get out of that promise, because she could imagine what he would ask for--to never see her again. And he gave it a moment's consideration. There was no time for more.

"Anything?" He wanted it clarified.

She nodded, but said it, too, "Yes."

"Very well." He slipped the knife back in his boot, but the pistol he tucked behind his back, where it would be concealed by his coat, yet readily accessible should he need it. "And draw your damn hood up," he added testily, apparently not very happy with the bargain he'd just struck. "There's no point in advertising your beauty."

The backhanded compliment might have 161 thrilled her at any other time, but now she did as he directed, and not a moment too soon. The door was thrown open and a pistol, one much longer and older than Warren's, was thrust inside.

"Out!" was all the robber, whose face was covered by a scarf, said to them, although his pistol said a lot more, motioning them to hurry up about it.

Warren stepped out first and he did not hurry, the dratted man. If anything, he moved with exaggerated slowness, hoping no doubt for an excuse, any excuse, to shoot it out in his brash American way. But the thieves weren't going to give him that excuse. They didn't prod him to hurry it up, not once, and so he was left with no choice but to lift Amy down. Actually, he had a number of choices, he was just honoring her request for the moment, and for that she was grateful, particularly when she saw there were four robbers.

Two had been waiting here for the carriage. None of them were very big, and Warren's extreme height had probably given them pause, but they were all brandishing weapons, so the pause wasn't long.

"There's no need to tarry, gov'nor. Just 'and

over the blunt and ye and yer lady can be on yer way."

"And if I choose not to?" Warren asked baldly.

Amy groaned inwardly. There was a moment's silence; then the man who had spoken before answered.

"Well, now, we all know the answer to that, don't we?"

A few chuckles followed the remark. Amy didn't like the sound of it at all. She could have been entirely wrong in the assurances she had given Warren. After all, there was always the bad penny thrown in with the common thieves who didn't follow the rules.

She immediately tossed down the purse she had already untied from her wrist. One of them reached down for it, hefted it for weight, and she could almost feel his smile at finding it quite heavy.

"Much obliged, milady," the robber said.

"Don't mention it," Amy replied.

"Hell," Warren mumbled, disgusted by her manners at a time like this.

Amy was even more disgusted by his, and her elbow slamming into his rib cage told him so. After one pointed glare cast her way, Warren dug his

hands into his pockets to toss out what 163 coin he still had on him. Threw it straight at them, was more accurate.

Amy wanted to hit him again, but Warren wasn't done provoking yet. "It would appear I was prepared for gutter rats. You'll get no more out of me."

He'd annoyed them finally, at least the leader. "We'll 'ave the clothes off yer back if we've a mind to, gov'nor," he was warned.

Then another one asked Amy, "What's a fine lady like yerself doing wi' a bleedin' Yank?"

"Contemplating murder," she replied, so sincerely they burst out laughing. "So if you'll excuse us, gentlemen, I'll get on with it."

She didn't wait for permission to leave. She brazened it out, grabbing Warren's arm and jerking him along with her, off in the direction they'd come from.

For a moment she thought that was all she'd have to do, until the leader called out, "Are ye sure ye haven't a trinket or two to add to the pot, milady?"

She stiffened, but it was nothing compared with the violence she could feel emanating from Warren. To have done

nothing was really bothering him. Obviously, it just wasn't in his nature to back down, even when he had four pistols trained on him.

But Amy's nature was much more peaceful, and before he still could do something, she called back,

"No, I don't, and if you don't care to tangle with the Malorys of Haverston for tonight's work, you'll be happy with what you've got."

They might not have heard of the Malorys of Haverston, but the name Malory itself was a well-known one even to the lower denizens of London Town. Anthony Malory had seen to that during his rakehell days of whoring, gambling, and numerous early-morning duels.

She must have assumed correctly, for not another word came from the thieves. That didn't stop her from continuing to pull on Warren. She wouldn't breathe easy until they were well away from the area.

They'd gone possibly a half mile before he finally said something. "You can stop strangling my arm, little girl. I'm not going back."

"Something sensible out of his mouth at last," she mumbled to herself.

"What was that?"

"Nothing."

She let go of him and also kept ahead 165 of him, half running in her eagerness to get back to the city.

By her estimation, they had a couple of miles to go just to reach the outskirts, and by the time she finally got home ... She didn't want to think about it. She hadn't planned to be gone this long. She'd told Artie that she was retiring for the night, hoping she wouldn't be disturbed. But she still had to sneak back into the house, and the later it got, the more silent the house would be, and the easier she might be heard.

"It wouldn't be because there are ample switches all around us that you're finally being quiet, would it?"

They'd walked perhaps another mile when he said that--right behind her. Amy hoped that was a belated sense of humor kicking in, but she doubted it.

"A newly cut switch is inferior," she informed him without looking back for his reaction. "It needs conditioning that only time--was

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