The Magic of You Page 25

failure."

Taishi flashed his teeth in another grin. "You big-time funny, missee."

"Out, before I big-time scream!"

He went, still grinning. Amy stopped him before the door closed.

"I'm sorry I tried to crack your head open. Nothing personal, you understand."

"No worry, missee. Man come soon."

She threw the empty rice bowl she was still holding at the door just as it closed. Come soon? When she hadn't said a single thing that could lead them to him? They were all idiots. And even if they had found a way to locate him, Warren wouldn't come to her rescue. He'd be delighted that she'd been kidnapped out of his life.

So now what? Obviously, attacking tricky little men was out. She should have just smashed the lantern

against the bulkhead while the door was open, though, toothsome grins or not, she couldn't trust that Taishi wouldn't have slammed the door shut and left her inside to roast, rather than ignore her and put out the fire.

Well, her first plan had certainly been a resounding failure, no doubt about it. But she wasn't giving up, not by any means. So 309 she hadn't been able to overpower Taishi. He didn't just talk funny, he fought funny. But maybe she could outrun him. She might not get any farther than the deck, but one "big-time" scream could bring help--or not. It would depend on what time of day it was, and what area of the docks this ship was berthed in. Either way, though, it was definitely worth a try when the next meal arrived.

Chapter 29

Warren was supposed to be the only one in the family with a hot temper, but by five o'clock that afternoon, Georgina was running on a short fuse as she pounded on her brother's hotel room door once again. She'd already been there twice today. She'd been to the new office three times. She'd been to the Nereus twice, but his crew hadn't seen him. She'd even gone to Knighton's Hall, though she hadn't stepped inside. James had done the inquiring there.

As it happened, James had been with her all day. There had simply been no way to get him to let her do this on her own. Amy was a member of his family, and he was the one who was going to tear Warren limb from limb--after Georgina was done with him. He hadn't said anything else, was too furious for words. But it certainly hadn't been pleasant riding around with him all day in their search for her brother and Amy. And if this was another dead end ...

The door opened at last. Georgina marched right in, demanding, "Where the devil have you been, Warren--and where is she?"

A glance around the room showed only Warren present. Georgina went straight to the bed to look under it. Warren was a bit amused.

"I assure you they clean under the bed, Georgie," he said dryly. "The windows are spotless as well, if you'd like to have a look."

She was heading for the wardrobe instead. "Don't be obtuse." The wardrobe revealed only clothes. She turned back to glare pointedly at her brother. "Amy? You remember her?"

"She's not here."

"Then where have you put her?"

"I haven't seen her, and I've done everything in my power to keep it that way," Warren replied.

Then he glanced at James with a hint of 311 derision. "What's the matter, Malory? You couldn't trust my word?"

Georgina jumped between them. "You don't want to talk to him just now, Warren. Believe me, you really don't."

Warren could see that. For James to remain silent, something must be very wrong, and if it involved Amy--He began to feel a certain alarm.

"You're saying Amy is missing?"

"Yes, and possibly since last night."

"Why last night? She could have gone out early this morning, couldn't she?"

"That's what I assumed until now," Georgina replied, "even though it didn't make sense, since she always tells me where she's going."

"But if she were going to see me, would she tell you?" Warren asked.

"No, but she'd still tell me something. I should have thought of that sooner, but I was certain she must have gone to find you at the new office and, since you weren't there when we looked, that you'd left with her from there. But if you haven't seen her--was She turned to her husband. "If she did leave last night to find him, she must have gone to the Albany. I hadn't mentioned to her that he'd moved."

Warren's alarm escalated. "She didn't know my room number there, did she?"

"As I recall, Drew mentioned it that night at dinner. Yes, she knew it. Why?"

"Because Zhang Yat-sen is at the Albany."

"Who?"

"The previous owner of the Tang vase," Warren clarified.

Georgina's eyes flared wide. "The one who tried to kill you?"

"Yes, and he wouldn't travel alone. He'd have a small army with him."

"Good Lord, you can't think he has Amy?"

"He knew I was staying there. He would have found out which room and kept a watch on it. It would have been his only hope of locating me in a town this large. And I know he's still in town. That's what I was doing today, finding out what ship he'd arrived on and if it was still here. But if she's been gone since last night, why haven't they shown up yet?"

"Where? Here? I told you, she doesn't know

where you're staying now, and besides--was 313

"She could have sent them to you. She knows you would be able to find me."

"If you had let me finish, I could have told you she wouldn't do that. She loves you, Warren. And speaking of which--was

"Not now, Georgie!"

"Very well, but she's not going to lead anyone to you if she thinks they might do you some harm."

"Even to save her own neck?"

James intervened at that point in a deadly calm voice. "Is her neck in jeopardy?"

"Probably. Yat-sen doesn't fool around when he wants something. He'll use any means to get it. Christ, I should have known I wasn't going to be able to avoid this."

"There's something else you won't be able to avoid if anything's happened to her," James promised.

"You'll have to get in line, Malory. It's me they want. They'll let her go once they have me."

"Then it will be my pleasure to give you to them. Shall we go?"

"We? There's no reason for you to involve yourself

in this."

"Oh, I wouldn't miss it--was

"If you haven't been paying attention, James," Georgina cut in irritably, "it's been established that Warren isn't at fault here. He had no warning that Amy might try to come to him. So you can just rearrange your thinking on this and help him instead of blaming him."

"I'll bloody well reserve judgment on who's ultimately to blame, George."

"You're impossible," she snapped.

"So you frequently tell me," was all he said to that.

Warren, however, was of the same opinion as James. He did know that Amy might try to come to him.

She'd told him so, and he'd believed her, which was why he had already decided to change hotels even before he ran into the Chinaman. He could have prevented her abduction by stopping by Berkeley Square a few times, which he would have done if she weren't there, and simply ignoring the fact that she was there. But no, he'd been afraid he couldn't ignore her, so he'd stayed away. Blasted lust--but lust had nothing to do with his fear for her now ...

* * * 315

Twenty minutes later, Warren and James walked into the Albany, leaving Georgina outside in the carriage. Another five minutes and a message brought Li Liang down to the lobby. Warren remembered the man from his several visits to Zhang's palace outside Canton. It was rumored the warlord spoke perfect English, but he wouldn't deign to prove it, using interpreters like Li Liang instead.

Li Liang bowed formally when he reached them. "We have been expecting you, Captain. If you will

follow me?"

Warren didn't budge. "First tell me what I want to hear."

Li Liang didn't waste time pleading ignorance, but answered directly. "She has not been harmed--yet.

We trusted her ... disappearance ... was all that was necessary to bring you here, and so we were right."

With a glance at James, he said, "Your friend must wait here."

"I'm not his friend," James replied. "And I'm bloody well not waiting anywhere."

Li Liang was amused. "You thought an enemy would help?" he asked Warren.

"He's the girl's uncle."

"Ah so, the one who is your brother-in-law?"

That question proved that they had Amy, if Li's other answer had left any doubt. "The same. He's here to take her home."

"That will depend on your cooperation, of course," Li told him.

"You mean on Zhang's whim, don't you?" Warren retorted bitterly.

Li Liang merely smiled and moved off. Warren gritted his teeth and followed.

James remarked at his back, "Real informative chap, wasn't he?"

"He's merely Zhang's mouthpiece. And speaking of which, I'd suggest you keep yours shut and let me handle this. I know these Chinese. In many ways, they're still living in the Middle Ages, and one thing they don't appreciate is condescension, which might as well be your middle name."

"Oh, I intend to let you muck your way through this, old boy, as long as you get it right in the end."

Warren said nothing to that, and a few moments later, Li stopped at the door to Warren's old room. He shouldn't have been surprised. Christ, Amy

had walked unsuspectingly right into their 317 lair.

"You had everything covered, didn't you?" Warren said, indicating the room.

Liang shrugged. "It was a logical move. Unfortunately, by the time we gained access, your belongings had already been removed."

"I'm nothing if not quick."

"You will perhaps wish it were otherwise."

"If that's a threat against the girl, her uncle isn't going to like it."

"You will understand if that causes no alarm."

They were nothing if not superior in their numbers, and there was no telling how many guards were in that room. What he wouldn't give to get Liang off alone somewhere when this was over.

"Anyone ever tell you you're a pompous ass, Liang?" Warren asked casually.

"I believe you did once before, Captain."

"Just announce me," Warren ground out, "so we can get this over with."

The Chinaman nodded and slipped inside the room. James stepped forward, bracing one arm against the wall.

"Was that a threat against Amy?" he wanted

to know.

Warren shook his head. "No, these court types just love to make foreigners squirm, and I think that one actually thrives on it. But I hold the ace here, Malory. They aren't going to jeopardize my cooperation until they know whether they have it or not."

The door opened again, ending their conversation. One of the guards bowed them formally into the

room. Warren spotted Zhang instantly, reclining indolently on the bed, his own silk bedding the only enhancement made to the chamber. He looked rather na**d without his opium pipe in his hand, and he couldn't like these less-than-lavish surroundings. Warren's heart bled for him, it really did.

"Where is my vase, Captain?" Li asked immediately on his lord's behalf.

"Where is the girl?"

"You think to bargain with me?"

"Absolutely. So which is it you want, my life or the vase?"

Liang and Yat-sen spent a while conferring in Chinese. Warren had picked up quite a few words in his travels to Canton, but none helped him to grasp that rapid-fire exchange. Of course, the very nature of his question guaranteed they'd 319 keep him waiting a while for the answer. Zhang liked making people squirm even more than his interpreter did, and he held a very big grudge against Warren just now.

"We would like both, Captain," Li finally said.

Warren laughed. "I'm sure you would, but that isn't the deal."

"The vase for the girl, which leaves you nothing more to bargain with."

"Nice try, but you knew I wouldn't accept it. There's only one deal to make here. The girl gets released, then I take you to the vase, at which point I walk away unharmed or I smash that blasted thing to bits."

"You would enjoy seeing the girl returned to her family piece by piece?"

Warren didn't take the bait, but James certainly did. He took an aggressive step forward. Warren's arm shot out to stop him, but he was too late. Zhang's guards reacted immediately to the threat of potential violence in their lord's presence. In seconds, James lay unconscious on the floor, long enough to be bound

hand and foot and rolled out of the way. No weapons had been needed, such was the skill of the ancient martial arts that Zhang's guards possessed.

Warren knew better than to interfere, or he'd end up in a like circumstance, and he had to at least appear to be still holding the cards here. And besides, he hadn't needed James's assistance. Brute force just didn't work against men trained to use their hands and feet to kill.

A glance at his brother-in-law showed he was coming around, so he wasn't seriously hurt. Warren wished to hell he knew how the Orientals did that, to bring a man of James's lethal potential down so easily. Of course, to give the man his due, he'd been taken by surprise. He might have inflicted considerable damage otherwise--before he was brought down.

"Very entertaining," Warren said dryly, turning back to face Zhang and Li. "But can we get back to business now?"

Prev Next