The Brazen Bride(171)

By: Stephanie Laurens

“So putting everything we can behind capturing our remaining villain—the Black Cobra’s ultimate head—is our preferred option, our best way forward.” Devil arched his brows at Royce.

As Royce nodded decisively, Logan asked, “Which port is Rafe heading for?”

Royce met his eyes. “Felixstowe.”

Logan was asleep, his arm around Linnet, when an unexpected sound dragged him from slumber.

The sound was distant, yet … he lifted his head the better to hear.

Linnet stirred, then stilled—listening, too.

The sound resolved into thudding hoofbeats. As the seconds passed, it became clear the rider was heading for the house.

Logan pushed back the covers.

“That can’t be good,” Linnet muttered, and slipped from the bed. Grabbing the coverlet, she wrapped it around her nightgown.

Buttoning his breeches, Logan stepped into his boots, roughly tugged them on, snagged his shirt from the chair as he went past. His face was grim as, shrugging on the shirt, he opened the door.

Linnet followed him into the corridor. Other doors were, opening, both gentlemen and ladies venturing out in various states of undress.

No one asked what was happening, or who it was. Grimfaced, they all headed for the main stairs.

No one imagined it was good news.

They halted on the stairs and in the gallery above, all looking down into the front hall. Candles were burning on the central table. As they watched, Minerva lit a lamp. Royce was already at the door, tugging the bolts back.

Hamilton, Royce’s personal butler, arrived in his butler’s black just in time to swing the door wide.

They all saw the rider, exhausted and worn, trudging up the front steps.

Royce spoke with him, voice too low for any of them to hear, then he drew the man inside, Hamilton closed and bolted the door, and Royce consigned the drooping rider into his care.

Everyone saw the letter Royce held in his left hand. Minerva joined him, holding the lamp high as Royce raised the missive, broke its seal, unfolded the sheet.


They all held their breath. Waited.

Only Minerva was close enough to see her husband’s face. She laid a hand on his arm. “What’s happened?”

Royce looked at her, then up at all of them. A moment passed, then he said, “Carstairs has disappeared. He failed to meet his guards at Felixstowe, but two others of his party—his man and some lady’s maid—made it to the rendezvous. As matters now stand, no one knows where Carstairs, and the young English lady apparently traveling with him, are.”

Silence stretched.

Eventually, Charles broke it, putting their collective thoughts into words. “Carstairs is out there somewhere, and we still don’t know who the Black Cobra is.”

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