The Untamed Bride(5)

By: Stephanie Laurens

Rafe grinned. “I always knew there was a reason we agreed to form a troop with the Cynsters at Waterloo.”

Gareth smiled reminiscently. “They were damned fine soliders, even if they weren’t regulars.”

“In the blood.” Logan nodded sagely.

“And their horses were worth killing for,” Rafe added.

“We covered their backs often enough, so now they’re returning the favor.” Del held up his glass, waited until the others touched the rims of theirs to his. “To old comrades-in-arms.”

They all drank, then Logan looked at Del. “So has Wolverstone given us the required advice?”

Del nodded. “In detail. First, he confirmed that he’s willing to take any proof we turn up and present it through the proper channels—he has all the contacts and the standing to do that. However, he makes it plain that to take down Ferrar junior, said proof will have to be incontrovertible. It has to be clear, instantly obvious, unequivocal, not circumstantial, not something that requires interpretation, let alone knowledge of the situation, to make sense.”

Gareth mumured, “So it has to be something that incontestably implicates Ferrar directly.”

“Exactly.” Del set down his empty glass. “Once we have that proof—and Wolverstone was very clear there is no point in proceeding without the right proof—but once we have it, then he’s already put in place a…for want of a better word, campaign, a detailed plan of action for us to follow to bring the proof safely to England, and into his hands.” Del glanced at the others, lips curving wryly. “Looking over his plan, it’s not hard to see why he was such a success in his erstwhile occupation.”

“So what are the details?” Logan leaned his arms on the table, his interest plain. The others, too, were waiting.

“We’re to make copies of the proof, and then separate and independently make our way home—four carrying copies and one carrying the original. He’s sent five sealed letters—five sets of instructions—one for the original, the other four for the decoys. Each letter contains the routes each of us should take back to England and which ports we should use—once we land, there’ll be men of his waiting to escort us further. They—our escorts—will know where each of us is to go once in England.”

Logan’s lips had curved. “I take it Wolverstone’s a firm believer in sharing information only with those who need to know?”

Del smiled. “The way we’re to handle this, while each of us will know what we’re carrying—decoy or original—and what route we’ll be taking home, we won’t know what any of the rest of us have, or the others’ routes. Specifically, the only one who’ll know who is carrying the original, and what route they’ll be taking home, what port they’ll be heading for, is the one of us who draws the original.” Del eased back from the table. “Dalziel wants us to draw lots, then immediately part.”

Rafe nodded. “That’s safer all around.” He glanced around the table. “His way, if any of us are caught, we can’t give the others away.” Face and voice both uncharacteristically sober, he placed his empty glass carefully on the tray. “After the last months of chasing the Black Cobra’s gangs, seeing the results of their methods firsthand…it’s only wise to ensure that if they do take any of us, the others will be safe. We can’t tell what we don’t know.”

A moment passed in silence, each recalling the atrocities they’d seen while leading troops of sowars on raids into the hinterlands and hills, chasing the Black Cobra and the robber gangs that formed a large part of the cult’s forces, searching for the evidence—the incontrovertible, irrefutable proof they needed to bring the reign of the Black Cobra to an end.

Gareth drew a long breath, let it out with, “So, we find our proof, then we take it home.” He glanced at the others. “On leave, or are we finally resigning our commissions?”

Rafe passed a hand over his face, as if wiping away the stark memories of a moment before. “I’ll resign.” He, too, glanced at the others, reading faces. “We’ve all been thinking about it—chatting, joking, but considering nonetheless.”

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